Heritage expert evaluates significance of Texas voter ID ruling

Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation devotes a Daily Signal column to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Texas’ voter identification law.

On Saturday, the Supreme Court rejected an emergency petition filed by the NAACP and refused to overrule the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which had thrown out an injunction against the voter ID law issued by a federal district court judge. Voters will have to show either a Texas driver’s license or personal ID card, a Texas Election Identification Certificate (issued free to any voter), a Texas concealed handgun license, a U.S. military ID or a U.S. passport on Nov. 4.

It was no surprise when Obama appointee Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos of the federal district court in Corpus Christi issued an injunction against the state’s voter ID law. Ramos essentially ignored the fact that Texas successfully implemented the law in state elections in Texas in 2013 with none of the problems predicted by opponents and that evidence from other states, such as Georgia and Indiana that have had ID laws in place since 2008, show such laws do not suppress turnout.

Contrary to the claims made by the NAACP and other opponents in the Texas case (and believed by Ramos), 2013 voter turnout actually went up compared to 2011 levels. This held true throughout the state, including in heavily minority counties such as Webb and Fort Bend Counties.

Webb County is 95 percent Hispanic and 30.6 percent of the population is below the federal poverty level. Yet it experienced a huge jump in voter turnout among registered voters in 2013 when 10,600 voters turned out to vote compared to 2011 when only 1,285 residents voted–an increase of more than eight fold. In fact, turnout across Texas nearly doubled in 2013 over the 2011 election.

Ramos’s views that voter ID is discriminatory and unconstitutional is not in accord with numerous other federal courts in Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Tennessee that have upheld similar voter ID laws. Contrary to her conclusions, voter ID is neither discriminatory nor unconstitutional nor a poll tax.

On Oct. 14, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved the Ramos injunction “based primarily on the extremely fast-approaching election date.” With just 24 days before election day when Ramos issued her opinion, the injunction “substantially disturbs” the election process “on the eve of the election.” As Judge Edith Brown Clement said, the “Supreme Court has repeatedly instructed courts to carefully consider the importance of preserving the status quo on the eve of an election.”

Sowell takes on ill-informed reports targeting ‘predatory lending’

Thomas Sowell‘s latest column at Human Events takes media outlets to task for continuing to misstate the case against “predatory lending.”

Just what is predatory lending? It is lending that charges a higher interest rate than people like those at the New York Times approve of. According to such thinking — or lack of thinking — the answer is to have the government set an interest rate ceiling at a level that will be acceptable to third parties like the New York Times.

People who believe in government-set price controls — whether on interest rates charged for loans, rents charged for housing or wages paid under minimum wage laws — seem to think that this is the end of the story. Yet there is a vast literature on the economic repercussions of price controls. …

… Against this background of negative repercussions from various forms of price control, in countries around the world, why would anybody imagine that price controls on interest rates would not have repercussions that need to be considered?

Yet there is remarkably little concern on the political left as to the actual consequences of the laws and policies they advocate. Once they have taken a stance on the side of the angels against the forces of evil, that is the end of the story, as far as they are concerned.

Low-income people often get short-terms loans when they run out of money to meet some exigency of the moment. The interest rates charged on such unsecured loans to people with low credit scores are usually higher than on loans to people whose higher incomes and better credit histories make them less of a risk.

Crusaders against such loans often make the interest rate charged seem even higher by quoting these interest rates in annual terms, even when the loan is actually repayable in a matter of weeks. It is like saying that a $100 a night hotel room costs $36,500 a year, when virtually nobody rents a hotel room for a year. …

… Editorial demagoguery against “predatory” lending might well be called predatory journalism — taking advantage of other people’s ignorance of economics to score ideological points, and promote still more expansion of government powers that limit the options of poor people especially, who have few options already.

Without taxpayer subsidies, Obamacare will face a ‘death spiral’?

Sarah Hurtubise of the Daily Caller explores an interesting new report from the Obama administration.

The Obama administration has funded a new study by top consulting firm RAND Health that startlingly finds that if taxpayer subsidies are eliminated, Obamacare exchanges will fall into a “death spiral.”

The study comes in the wake of a number of lawsuits which are challenging the Obama administration’s implementation of Obamacare subsidies. Three lawsuits have made it to U.S. Circuit Courts, just one step from the Supreme Court, arguing that the text of the Affordable Care Act allows premium subsidies for state-run exchanges only.

The report was sponsored by HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, which, among other duties, compiles the enrollment statistics each month during open enrollment for Obamacare exchanges. Given the ongoing controversy over Obamacare subsidies, HHS sponsoring the study could be a sign that the administration is beginning to worry about its prospects.

The administration’s motivations aside, the key finding from the report belies HHS’s pro-Obamacare position. Eliminating premium subsidies entirely would “cause large declines in enrollment and substantial increases in premiums,” RAND Health concluded. In short — Americans are far less likely to want Obamacare coverage, or to be able to afford it, when taxpayers aren’t footing the bill.

“In scenarios in which the tax credits are eliminated, our model predicts a near ‘death spiral,’ with very sharp premium increases and drastic declines in individual market enrollment,” the study concluded.

Obamacare supporters will tout that well-intentioned premium subsidies are working. But if the health-care law can’t survive without taxpayers supporting Obamacare enrollees, the point remains that the Affordable Care Act is failing in its promise to control the actual cost of health care and health insurance.

National Review columnist says Americans seem to have figured out Obama doesn’t care

Mona Charen explores for National Review Online readers what she labels President Obama’s “empathy problem.”

Democrats are struggling not just because the economy is stagnant and the world is in chaos. They are paying the price for something else: President Obama has squandered the greatest asset he had — the perception among Americans that he cared about their problems.

President Obama telegraphs indifference to Americans’ well-being. When the Benghazi compound was overrun and our ambassador killed, he first dissembled (blaming a video) and then thundered about retribution and justice, but what happened? With the exception of one arrest, Benghazi has been dumped. No one has paid a price for that attack on the U.S.

The president permitted the Islamic State menace to metastasize and dismissed the terrorist army as “jayvee,” even as his national-security advisers were testifying before Congress that the group was a profound worry. When stories surfaced later that the president attended only 40 percent of his intelligence briefings in person, it fed the impression that President Obama doesn’t take the time to evaluate threats to the country. He now blames the intelligence community, but a man who goes golfing after an American is beheaded is signaling a certain coldness.

The response to Ebola underlines all of these tendencies in thick, black ink. His instinct has been to tamp down fears rather than address threats with alacrity. He is willing to send U.S. troops to Africa to fight Ebola but not to Iraq to fight the Islamic State. The administration’s resistance to a travel ban makes no sense if the top priority is the safety of Americans.

In 2012, most people still believed that Obama cared. How many do today?

Hanson ponders the NY Times’ re-emerging interest in weapons of mass destruction

Not since the days of its incessant Bush-bashing has the New York Times shown much interest in weapons of mass destruction. Victor Davis Hanson‘s latest column for National Review Online investigates the Times‘ rediscovery of WMD as a newsworthy subject.

The very mention of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and Iraq was toxic for Republicans by 2005. They wanted to forget about the supposed absence of recently manufactured WMD in great quantities in Iraq; Democrats saw Republican defensiveness as key to their recovery in 2006. By the time Obama was elected, the issue had been demagogued to death, was no longer of any political utility, and so vanished.

So why all of a sudden is the New York Times strangely focused on old WMD stockpiles showing up in Iraq? Is the subtext perhaps that the rise of ISIS poses an existential threat in such a dangerous landscape (and by extension offers an explanation for the current bombing)? Or are we to be reminded that Bush stirred up a WMD hornets’ nest that Obama was forced to deal with? Or is the sudden interest intended to preempt the story now before we learn that ISIS routinely employs WMD against the Kurds? How strange that Iraq, WMD, bombing, and preemption reappear in the news, but now without the hysteria of the Bush era.

Indeed, for the last two years, reports of WMD of some sort have popped up weekly in Syria and Iraq. Bashar Assad has used them, apparently with strategic profit, both in deterring his enemies and in embarrassing the red lines of Barack Obama, who had threatened to bomb him if he dared use them.

ISIS is rumored to have attempted to use mustard gas against the Kurds. Iraqi depots are periodically found, even as they are often dismissed as ossified beyond the point of easy use, or as already calibrated and rendered inert by either U.N. inspectors or U.S. occupation forces. But where did all the WMD come from, and why the sudden fright now about these stockpiles’ being deployed?

New Carolina Journal Online features

Joe Johnson profiles for Carolina Journal Online the rematch in North Carolina’s Senate District 1 election.

John Hood’s Daily Journal notes the importance and effectiveness of advertising in election campaigns.

Canada shows the way on USAs

Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute highlights some positive news from our neighbors to the North.

A tax reform is spurring a savings revolution in Canada. Amity Shlaes and I wrote about Canada’s Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) in the Wall Street Journal in August. We think that such accounts would be a fantastic policy reform for America. They would simplify the taxation of savings, encourage families to save more, and spur stronger economic growth.

Toronto firm, Investor Economics, has released new data confirming the popularity of TFSAs. In just the past year, TFSA account assets increased 34 percent, and the number of accounts increased 16 percent. In June 2014, 13 million Canadians held $132 billion in TFSA assets. Given that the U.S. population is about 10 times that of Canada, it would be like 130 million Americans pouring $1.3 trillion into a new personal savings vehicle. …

… There are 27.7 million Canadian adults, so about 47 percent of them own a TFSA, according to the data from Investor Economics. A 2013 survey by a bank found a similar figure of 48 percent. In just five years, TFSAs have become the most popular savings vehicle in Canada, outstripping the Canadian version of 401(k)s. TFSA growth is expected to continue, and the accounts may soon play a central role in virtually every family’s financial planning.

The American vehicle most similar to the TFSA is the Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA). But Roths are far inferior, and thus just 16 percent of U.S. households own them. Indeed, just 38 percent of U.S. households hold any type of IRA, even though these accounts have been around a lot longer than TFSAs. …

… Why are we letting Canadians have all the fun? Everyone agrees that Americans don’t save enough, so why don’t we kick-start a home-grown savings revolution with a U.S. version of TFSAs? Former Treasury official Ernest Christian has long championed similar accounts, which he and I call “Universal Savings Accounts (USAs). Canada has now run the real-world experiment on such accounts, and it has succeeded brilliantly.

TFSAs, or USAs, are a better way to handle savings in the tax code. Currently, many people are scared off by the complexity of U.S. savings vehicles and by the lack of liquidity in retirement accounts. TFSAs solve these problems. Members of Congress and presidential aspirants for 2016 who are interested in a popular, pro-growth, and pro-family reform to champion—this is what you are looking for.

Nursing degrees: Get ‘em while they’re hot

Becoming a nurse is probably a great idea. You can do it with minimal credentials (associate degree or less), it’s a fast-growing field, and in 2012 the median registered nurse made upwards of $65,000.

It’s such a great idea that it would be a shame for special interests and policymakers to ruin it for everyone. In my latest piece at the Pope Center, I report on how various advocacy groups insist on the need to credentialize the profession, just as the law establishment rid itself of the LL.B in favor of the J.D. An influential 2010 report called for 80 percent of nurses to get a bachelor of science in nursing or higher by 2020.

The report’s influence has extended to the North Carolina Community College System, – the State Board of Community Colleges is undergoing a six-month study to consider offering four-year BSNs to meet the expected demand, something five other states have begun doing. This would mean a mission change and name change for any college participating, according to accreditation expert Marcy Stoll. Maybe the UNC system could use some good, hard competition, but we could be heading down a slippery slope of degree inflation and increased costs.

Any potential crisis isn’t likely going to be immediate, but one thing North Carolina could do now to create a healthier environment for nursing jobs is to ease up on nursing practitioners — our “scope of practice” regulations put us among the most restrictive states, as JLF’s Katherine Restrepo tells me.