Out of the Storm News
From the Daily Caller:
The idea of implementing a carbon tax in lieu of EPA regulations is also being pushed on the federal level by the R Street Institute — a group pushing a tax on carbon as a “conservative” solution to federal environmental regulations.
“While a revenue-neutral carbon tax would likely help reduce emissions, that’s not the primary reason the U.S. should consider one,” Andrew Moylan, a senior fellow with R Street, told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an email. “The top justifications are to allow for elimination of Obama’s expensive and heavy-handed EPA regulations and to improve economic efficiency.”
On the heels of certain reforms in Florida’s 2013 Legislative Session, the James Madison Institute and the R Street Institute released a policy study that outlines pragmatic reforms that would have a meaningful effect on stabilizing the Florida property insurance market without requiring big hikes in primary insurance rates…
When one thinks of ticket scalpers, one generally conjures a mental image of shady men waiting outside theaters offering scandalously overpriced tickets to late buyers from under several layers of trench coat. In Michigan, this less than savory image is only enhanced by the addition of criminality to a hypothetical ticket scalper. Yes, that’s right, in Michigan, reselling a ticket for even a penny over its face value is illegal, even for private citizens who can’t make events.
This unquestionably anti-market law limits who can sell particular commodities. It is, moreover, an odd example of an anti-market law in that it attempts to limit competition from more expensive sellers. There is no immediately obvious reason these sales would harm venues, who have already been paid for the tickets and fill their seats either way. The only question is who will ultimately pay the most for the privilege of sitting in those seats.
Michigan state Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw, recently introduced a bill that would lift the ban on ticket scalping, allowing free competition. Opposition has, so far been thin on the ground, though a few arguments have emerged against the idea, most of which are either plagued by inconsistency, or make little sense when applied to any other industry.
The first and most obvious complaint is that tickets might be counterfeited and sold at a ridiculously high rate. This, however, is not an argument for making scalping illegal, but for more aggressive fraud prosecution and better anti-counterfeiting measures. The existence of paperless tickets on sites like Ticketmaster (about whom, more in a moment) is one example of innovation rising to solve this problem without the necessity of law.
The second complaint is that venues have the right to attach whatever conditions to tickets they like — for instance, in the case of the National Football League attaching many anti-resale conditions to Super Bowl tickets. This is not an argument for a ban on scalping, although it relevant to the question of whether to ban restricted use tickets, as New Jersey does. Instead, it strips away a property right – the right to resell – from all event tickets, and thus would hurt those venues who would otherwise be fine with extended that right to ticket buyers.
In other contexts, the idea of a market middle man who profits from the resale of goods is not one we find inherently offensive. If we did, retailers wouldn’t exist.
The argument against permitting an open ticket market would be more resonant if there weren’t already major loopholes in the law that benefit powerful. Michigan bars the resale of tickets above face value, unless the reseller receives permission from the original seller. Sites like StubHub.com enter contracts with venues, promoters and sports teams that sanction them to resell tickets. Then there’s Ticketmaster, which already controls roughly 82 percent of the market for major venue ticketing services and is becoming a major player in the secondary market, as well. As Albert Foer, president of the American Antitrust Institute, pointed out in a recent New York Times op ed:
Ticketmaster says its restrictions on the resale and “gifting” of its paperless tickets act as safeguards against various practices: scalping; the bulk purchasing of tickets by automated software bots; and the use of counterfeit, stolen or lost tickets.
But in reality, the restrictions represent an effort to control the secondary-ticketing market and stifle competition from independent resellers and resale marketplaces like StubHub, where tickets are often sold for less than face value. (The American Antitrust Institute, of which I am president, received a modest contribution, in the form of sponsorship of a conference last year, from an advocacy group financed in part by StubHub.) Paperless tickets bought through Ticketmaster may be resold, for example, only through its own resale Web site, which often prohibits sales below face value, sets maximum sale prices and charges a fee for transfers.
Economist Mark Perry has been even more harsh, pointing out that in some cases, Ticketmaster’s fees end up adding as much as 29 percent to the face price of a ticket. This kind of skimming led comedian Louis CK to refuse to do business with the site, claiming its willingness to sell tickets for more than they actually cost hurts his fans, and by extension, him.
And, wouldn’t you know it, Ticketmaster has already come out against similar measures to this one, calling them “attempt[s] by out-of-state ticket scalpers to use legislation to shake the marketplace to protect their profits to the detriment of fans in Michigan.” Which is precisely what Ticketmaster itself, by virtue of selling paperless tickets which make competition harder, is doing. This kind of innovation on their part is not necessarily bad, but it is surely a stretch to ask Michigan to allow only one ticket resaler to operate within their state, while shutting out all the others.
Bottom line: The current law in Michigan is not merely anti-market, but inconsistent. Rep. Kelly;s bill is a step in the right correction with respect to both errors.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
In case you missed it, Vincent Orange and other District Council members want to commission a study to look into building an enormous, 100,000-seat stadium and recreational complex on the site that currently houses Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. Doing so would probably cost between $500 million and $1 billion, and, if recent moves are any indicator, such a deal would likely include hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars going directly into the pockets of a wealthy team owner.
Building another sports arena to replace RFK would also compound previous land-use blunders that the district is still paying for today. The current stadium is almost always empty, and surrounded by a sea of vacant parking lots. There are only a handful of soccer games held at the stadium each year, and it operates at a $1 million loss to the district government. Once the new D.C. United Stadium opens, RFK will be essentially useless. Building another stadium in its place sets us up to be in the same situation down the line, as teams vacate for a newer stadium elsewhere.
Nearly any other use for the land would be an improvement over a stadium. Given the extreme shortage of affordable housing in the district, the best policy would be to auction it off in small parcels, zoned for mixed-use residential development. If built at a density roughly equal to the surrounding neighborhoods, the land could become home for thousands of people while making rent more affordable throughout the district. Doing so would require working with the National Park Service and, perhaps, an act of Congress, but so would the Superdome boondoggle.
Razing RFK and building housing wouldn’t even mean that we won’t have a stadium to enjoy, either. If we don’t waste our own public funds, there are probably nearby suckers in Maryland who will subsidize a stadium for us.
Spending large amounts of public money on a stadium to create economic growth is more becoming of a dying city like Detroit, and doesn’t make sense for Washington. To adapt a recent quote from Councilman Orange: “We’re at a point where we don’t need sports teams. Sports teams need us.”
From the Daily Caller
“The wind industry has very little to show after 20 years of preferential tax treatment; it remains woefully dependent on this federal support,” wrote conservative groups, including the American Energy Alliance, FreedomWorks and the R Street Institute. “Yet despite this consistent under-performance, Congress has repeatedly voted to extend the PTC, usually in 1- or 2-year increments.”
R Street was one of 102 organizations to sign this coalition letter calling on Congress to oppose extending federal wind subsidies. The organizations listed on the letter are diverse in size and scope, but they share one thing in common: Agreeing that now is the time to end special tax treatment for wind energy production.
Today, if polls are any guide, two events are at least likely: First, we can probably say with absolute certainty that Chris Christie will be reelected governor of New Jersey. Second, we can say with relative certainty that Ken Cuccinelli will not be elected governor of Virginia.
Let me rephrase that. Today, we are likely to witness a Republican winning in New Jersey by a blowout and losing in Virginia by a hair. Reading this, those with even a halfway competent knowledge of national politics post-1964 might justifiably wonder if they’ve stepped into bizarro world, moreso when you consider Sean Trende’s observation on the state of the New Jersey race:
If Christie matches his current numbers in the RCP Average, he would have the fourth-best showing of any Republican in the state in the post-World War II era. Only Sen. Clifford Case in his 1972 re-election, Dwight Eisenhower in the 1956 presidential re-election, and Gov. Tom Kean Sr. in his 1985 re-election put up better numbers.
Three factors make this even more impressive. First, the state’s demographics have pushed it in a more Democratic direction over the past 50 years, as more Hispanics and African-Americans have moved there.
Contrast Cuccinelli, who, according to PolicyMic, is likely to lose precisely because he hasn’t reckoned with changing demographics in his state:
McAuliffe’s superior finances have no doubt contributed to the candidate’s polling numbers. Yet regardless of whether McAuliffe’s win is due to successful fundraising or to his liberal stance on social issues, the Virginia gubernatorial elections could become an example of the powerful energy lobby’s failed attempts to outweigh the political interests of millennials, women, and minorities.
These two portraits raise an interesting question: How did Christie, who in every way looks and sounds like the “angry white male” that liberals deride, end up being more successful in a Northeastern, presumptively blue state than a hard charging, socially conservative Obamacare crusader like Cuccinelli was in a Southern, presumptively red state?
The answer is just as counterintuitive as the question. Despite the perception among many Northeasterners that southern red states (like Virginia) are reactionary, backwards hotbeds of racial and cultural homogeneity, the truth of the matter is that demographically, Southern states have electorates that look much more like the recent (and more hostile) demographics of the 2008 and 2012 elections than their Northeastern counterparts. Indeed, despite the GOP’s reputation as the “white party,” it actually loses some of the whitest states in the union by catastrophic margins.
Take, for instance, Alabama and Massachusetts. Alabama, which went for Romney by more than 20 points in the last election, actually is a mere 67 percent white, whereas the deep blue Massachusetts, which went for Obama by pretty much the same margin, is 76 percent white. Looking at Roper Center statistics for 2008, one sees that the composition of the 2008 electorate was about 74 percent white, whereas the 2012 electorate was only 72 percent white. This is a pretty clear indicator that Massachusetts, despite being much more liberal, is much closer to the 2004 electorate in composition, whereas Alabama looks much more like 2012, and yet is as red as they come. This pattern persists in almost every state you might choose to contrast from the Northeast vs the Deep South.
In fact, you might even be able to get away with comparing New Jersey, which, according to the Census Bureau, is 73.8 percent white, with Virginia, which is only 71.1 percent white and reaching the same conclusion. However, this data elides one specific piece of information, and that is that in New Jersey, the percentage of Hispanics (18.5 percent) is higher than the percentage in Virginia (8.4 percent), hence the Virginia electorate is technically more white if you don’t count the Hispanic vote as separate from the white vote.
However, when it comes to broad cultural signifiers, whatever the composition of Virginia and New Jersey, one clearly resembles the deep blue (and bright white) Massachusetts, whereas another clearly resembles the deep red (and less white) Alabama. And indeed, if you look at the states where Democrats are trying to make their biggest gains, almost all of them are in the Alabama region, with the biggest prize at this stage being North Carolina, not to mention the eventual Democratic goal of turning Texas blue.
Republicans, on the other hand, have no idea where to turn for their electoral votes, and seem determined merely to hunker down and defend the bits of the country they already have. I would suggest that the probable results of tonight’s election render this precisely the wrong approach, especially if you buy into Sean Trende’s work on the “missing white vote.” If tonight’s election shakes out as expected, then the most vital lesson that Republicans can take from it is that they ought to make the Democratic stronghold that is the Northeast their next target. After all, they already conquered one of its more diverse states and now hold it with one of the most popular governors in America – a governor who combines the in-your-face pugilism and conviction that is so popular among the Breitbart-ite Right (and who even Glenn Beck used to refer to as a font of “common sense porn”) with the policies and discipline of the more establishment right.
And whatever you think of Christie, the idea that a so-called “moderate” can not only be a conviction politician, but that such a form of politics is deeply attractive in Democratic strongholds, is one worth exploring as the GOP attempts to broaden its demographic base.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Nov. 5, 2013) -– As Florida lawmakers ponder potential legislative responses to rising flood insurance rates, it is crucial no additional catastrophe risk burdens be placed on the backs of already-strapped taxpayers, R Street Institute Florida Director Christian Cámara argues in a new policy backgrounder.
Scheduled rate increases by the National Flood Insurance Program has led to the phase-out of premium subsidies for second homes, business properties and those that have seen severe repetitive losses, while other properties may see their rates increase due to updates in flood maps drawn by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The rate hikes have sparked some private sector interest in writing flood risks, from both the surplus lines market and admitted market insurers. As members of the Legislature gather in the state capital this week for interim meetings, Cámara suggested those concerned about flood insurance rates should look for ways to encourage this trend.
“Lawmakers should explore ways to establish a regulatory environment where private companies might consider offering flood coverage in Florida as an alternative to the NFIP by lifting the barriers to private sector innovation, which should include streamlining rate and form regulations,” Cámara wrote.
However, he also urged them to reject any proposal that calls for the creation of a state flood pool or fund. The expansion of any existing state-run insurance entity –such as on Citizens Property Insurance Corp. or the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund – to cover flood should also be rejected, even if it is crafted to be “self-sufficient.”
“Florida has a well-documented history of conceiving state-run insurance programs that are initially well-intentioned and seemingly well-designed, but are eventually corrupted by the infusion of politics,” Cámara wrote.
The full text of the backgrounder can be found here:
With various provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 taking effect this year, there is growing concern that scheduled rate increases by the National Flood Insurance Program will have adverse effects on hundreds of thousands of Floridians who must carry flood coverage. Elected officials at the local, state and federal levels already have called for a delay in the implementation of the rate increases, and the Florida Cabinet and Legislature have both convened hearings and workshops to discuss the reforms, their potential effects, and what, if anything the state could do to temper the law’s negative impacts.
These are all valid concerns, but the best solution to this problem is to offer consumers more choices, rather than halting changes to the program, which most agree are necessary. As Florida lawmakers work to find solutions to alleviate the impact on NFIP reforms, they should take the attached principles into consideration.
Over at the VICE Podcast, R Street Senior Fellow Reihan Salam interviews Mark Kleiman of the University of California-Los Angeles, author of the book When Brute Force Fails. The pair discuss the challenges that still face the marijuana legalization movement, as well as ways to pare down America’s record prison population while simultaneously reducing crime.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
A poll released last week by the Risk and Insurance Management Society — the trade association for risk managers of corporations, non-profits and local government agencies, who together are the major purchasers of commercial insurance — found the group’s membership deeply troubled by the scheduled expiration of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act at the end of 2014.
Roughly half the group’s membership expect the availability of affordable terrorism insurance to shrink should Congress fail to extend the $100 billion federal reinsurance backstop for terrorism risks. About a quarter of RIMS members, the survey found, expect the market to disappear altogether.
You hear similar things from all three of the trade groups that represent U.S. property/casualty insurers: the American Insurance Association, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. All have talked of TRIA expiration in nearly apocalyptic terms, warning that expiration would leave the government as effectively the only payer for terrorism coverage.
We take such concerns seriously. While a lot of our compatriots at other free-market oriented think tanks believe it’s obvious that TRIA should be abolished, we find the question to be thornier than that. There really are difficulties in modeling terrorism risks, particularly for their frequency, because human behavior doesn’t lend itself to simple models. Some big risks, like the infamous “nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological events,” really are probably uninsurable. State-level price controls makes it difficult for insurers to charge appropriate rates in some segments of the market and that’s especially true for workers’ compensation insurance, the one line of business that is required to cover all losses, regardless of cause.
All that said, we also see plenty of opportunities to improve the TRIA program. The industry’s co-payments and deductibles should probably be adjusted upward — especially for commercial property — to reflect the fact that industry appetite for writing terrorism has grown since the last extension. The backstop probably shouldn’t exist at all for commercial liability insurance. And we’d like to see the program charge an upfront premium, because there is no way to know how much capacity private reinsurers might theoretically extend in a competitive market so long as the government is giving it away for free.
That’s why it is heartening to see recent comments from Ed Noonan, chairman and CEO of Bermuda reinsurer Validus Re, during the company’s third quarter conference call that affirm our contention the industry is being somewhat disingenuous about whether it’s capable of underwriting conventional (that is, non-NBCR) risks:
We think the industry doesn’t service itself well by claiming that terrorism risk can’t be priced and modeled effectively, with the exception of NBCR. We’re one of the world’s largest terrorism insurers and reinsurers, and we’ve spent a tremendous amount of time creating robust risk modeling and management tools that do, in fact, enable pricing of conventional terrorism risk.
The question isn’t whether it can be priced, but rather, the precision of the parameters in a pricing model. There’s very good data on damageability from various blast sizes with secondary effects. And while frequency doesn’t have a rich data set, there are many other classes of risk that suffer the same shortcoming, and the industry uses simulation tools to help guide our judgment. In fact, the reinsurance market does price conventional terrorism today. It’s a $40 billion market in terms of limit purchase, and pricing is implicitly based on frequency assumptions.
The commercial terrorism models have only limited value, not least because of their limited coverage areas. To counter this, we and many other companies use spider mapping to track exposures. And we’ve gone further, and we’ve built a database that divides the world into 4.4 million individual grids for aggregate and total insured value tracking.
The argument that we can’t underwrite conventional terrorism was a classic example of driving business out of the market and into governmental solutions, think about the National Flood Insurance Program. With better discipline around data collection, data scrubbing and exposure tracking, the industry can and should take on the risk of conventional terrorism.
The industry can’t address NBCR today as the breadth of the potential events are either unknowable or could potentially bankrupt the market. I would include cyber terrorism in this category, different from cyber liability currently written in the market. The scope, duration, potential damage and economic loss from cyber terrorism is currently unknowable and therefore, uninsurable. So we’ll watch Washington closely.
Later in the call, during the question and answer period with equity analysts, Noonan expounded on his position, saying he doesn’t “see any reason why the U.S. government needs to cover conventional terrorism anymore.” Moreover, he projects that the catastrophe bond market could soon be taking on terrorism risk, as well.
Perhaps not on day one, but it won’t take too long before you can start packaging it up into the (insurance-linked securities) market. We do know investors in the ILS market today who would like to take that risk. And so it won’t take very long, I think, for that to start to provide the high-layer type of capital required.
So we don’t know what Congress will do, but I think it’s almost a certainty that there’s more opportunity for us because the two likely options, I think, are renewing the TRIA with higher-scope participations and industry retention, and that means that people will look to buy more reinsurance to protect their risk, or the approach that we think makes sense and that is, get the government out of conventional terrorism and let the government just deal with nuclear biological, chemical and cyber terrorism, which creates a lot of demand for reinsurance.
Responding to a question about whether, even if the private market could provide terror coverage, the government would nonetheless probably provide it cheaper, Noonan acknowledged that the federal government would provide coverage cheaper — noting “it’s free now; it’s hard to compete with that” — but also explained the unique position he was in as both the head of a Bermuda reinsurer and an American taxpayer:
When I come to work in Bermuda, I get paid for taking terrorism risk. When I go home at night, I’m actually providing terrorism reinsurance to the world for nothing. I like coming to work for that reason. So it may be cynical, and I think there’s a cynical aspect of the industry position and say, “No, we can’t deal with this risk.” When, come on, in fact, we can, with the conventional terrorism risk.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Recent news reports on the roll-out of reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program have focused on astronomical increases in rates faced by some home and business owners. This language from an ABC News report has been fairly common:
New flood maps threaten to saddle some homeowners who are paying a few hundred dollars a year now with annual premiums of more than $20,000.
There also have been anecdotal reports of rate rising to $30,000, $45,000, even $60,000 a year. That’s particularly shocking when you bear in mind that the NFIP only offers up to $250,000 of coverage.
But how common are these sorts of increases, really? Unfortunately, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has not been terribly transparent about its rate map project, which the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act requires the agency to complete by next year. Many properties of the NFIP’s 5.6 million properties will see rate reductions under the updated, hopefully more accurate maps. Those that require rate increases will see them phased in over a five-year period.
But the Biggert-Waters Act also calls for long-standing subsidized rates to be phased out over a four-year period for some of the 1.1 million NFIP policyholders who currently receive them. The phase-out started in January for 345,000 second homes, while 87,000 business properties and 9,000 repetitive loss properties saw their subsidies begin to be phased-out in October. The remaining 715,000 subsidized policies will revert to actuarial rates when the properties are resold.
Coverage of a recent hearing on the law further offers this nugget:
Testifying at the same hearing, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate defended the law, saying FEMA estimates subsidized policy holders should be paying $1.5 billion more than they do now. About 1.1 million of the 5.6 million policy holders pay subsidized rates, he said.
If ending subsidies on all the 1.1 million subsidized policies would raise an additional $1.5 billion annually, that comes out to about $1,363 per year, or $113 more per month. And that’s an average. If there are some policies that really should be paying $25,000 a year, that means many more policies that would see increases of significantly less than the average.
This is not to minimize the impact of a $25,000 annual premium. Very few people could make those sorts of payments. But thankfully, very few people are being asked to.
Indeed, what’s important to bear in mind is that a $25,000 premium suggests a home that would suffer a complete loss roughly once every ten years. If there exist policyholders who evaluate that risk-reward trade-off and find it compelling, more power to them. But it would be (and indeed, it has been) remarkably unwise public policy to in any way subsidize such an arrangement and put that risk on the backs of taxpayers.
A $25,000 premium offers a price signal that one should strongly consider mitigating one’s risk, or getting out of harm’s way.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
This week’s election will be an important one for the future of the GOP. In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie is up for re-election, and by all accounts, he is set to defeat his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono, by a wide margin. Christie is widely considered a serious candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, and his ability to win support among independents and Democrats in his home state will be a central part of his appeal.
But in Virginia, it increasingly looks as though Terry McAuliffe, an entrepreneur and investor best known as a political ally of former President Bill Clinton, will defeat Ken Cuccinelli, a staunch conservative much admired by the Tea Party right. At least some conservative activists saw Cuccinelli, who as Virginia’s attorney general played a leading role in constitutional challenges against the Affordable Care Act and other Obama administration initiatives, as a potential presidential contender. A bruising defeat against McAuliffe will put an end to such talk.
There are many things that separate Christie from Cuccinelli. Having served as governor for the better part of the last four years, Christie is a familiar figure. He began his tenure with a series of polarizing confrontations with New Jersey’s powerful public employee unions, yet he has spent the last year on a more conciliatory note, motivated in part by a desire to help his state recover from the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy. In a heavily Democratic state, Christie has distanced himself from congressional Republicans, and he has framed himself as a pragmatic reformer who stands above the political fray. This position is particularly valuable in light of the parlous state of the GOP brand. The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds that the Republican Party now has a 22 percent positive rating and a 53 percent negative rating across the country, and it’s a safe bet that the picture is even worse in New Jersey.
Cuccinelli, unlike Christie, has long been an unapologetically ideological conservative, and in the wake of the government shutdown, Democrats have succeeded in characterizing him as politically extreme. Whereas Virginia’s current governor, Republican Bob McDonnell, fought his Democratic opponent to a standstill in Northern Virginia’s populous suburbs, Cuccinelli is running far behind Cuccinelli in this same all-important region.
There is one difference between Christie and Cuccinelli that has yet to attract enough attention, and that is how both Republicans are faring with African-Americans. A new survey of Virginia voters from the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy finds that while Cuccinelli wins a plurality (44 percent) of the white vote, he has the support of only 4 percent of black voters. Meanwhile, recent polls have found that Christie attracts around 30 percent of black voters. Even if Christie doesn’t perform quite as well with African-Americans on Election Day, there is little doubt that he’ll break into double-digits.
Since the New Deal era, Democrats have tended to outperform among black voters, compared to Republicans. Yet the gap has become particularly pronounced over the past decade. In 2004, George W. Bush won 11 percent of black voters, roughly in line with how Republicans fared with African-Americans since the late 1970s. In 2012, however, Mitt Romney won a mere 6 percent of the black vote. Jamelle Bouie of the Daily Beast has thus argued that Republicans would be well-advised to focus on wooing black voters, as doing so would greatly damage Democratic prospects in swing states like Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio and Florida.
And while Republican political strategists have tended to focus on the growing Latino electorate, it is important to keep in mind that while African-Americans represent a smaller share of the U.S. population than Latinos (13.1 percent compared to 16.9 percent), they represent a slightly larger share of the electorate. This reflects the fact that African-Americans are more likely to be eligible to vote than their Latino counterparts, a disproportionately large share of whom are not citizens, and turnout rates among eligible African-American voters are higher than turnout rates among eligible Latino voters. So while blacks represented 12 percent of the population of eligible voters in 2012, they represented 13 percent of the voters who turned out that year. Latinos represented 11 percent of the eligible population and 10 percent of the voting population.
The harder question is how Republicans might appeal to black voters. The party has embraced a wide array of conservative African-American candidates in the hope that they would have crossover appeal. After Jim DeMint resigned from his U.S. Senate seat, he was replaced by South Carolina Rep. Tim Scott, an African-American aligned with the South Carolina GOP’s tea party wing. Former congressman Allen West and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson have also garnered great enthusiasm in conservative circles, and the retired corporate executive Herman Cain was briefly one of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. So far, at least, black tea party candidates have failed to make deep inroads among black voters. For example, Cuccinelli’s running mate, E.W. Jackson, is an African- American Christian minister known for his apocalyptic tone, and the Wason Center finds that he has the support of only 1 percent of black voters in Virginia, a number well within the margin of error.
Christie’s re-election effort offers a different model for appealing to African-Americans. Rather than rely on surrogates, Christie has spent considerable time campaigning in New Jersey’s heavily black urban cores. His praise of President Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy earned him the respect, if not the support, of many black Democrats last year, and he’s won at least some of them over to his side by championing school reform, criminal justice reform and other measures that will have a palpable impact on African-American communities. And though Christie has often emphasized the importance of spending discipline, he has been open to state and federal policies, like the new Medicaid expansion, that are seen as beneficial to low-income households.
It’s not at all clear that a Republican presidential candidate could win over African-American voters across the country quite as successfully as Christie has won them over in New Jersey. But Christie has demonstrated that shifting to the center can pay off.
For most of last month, a group of committed tea party Republicans helped shut down the government to hold back a wave of subsidies and regulations set to take effect under Obamacare. But now, in a clear irony, many of those same members are standing up to expand the subsidies offered by the one outright socialist insurance program the federal government maintains: The National Flood Insurance Program.
While I’m no fan of Obamacare, to say the least, the truth is that it’s not really accurate to call the law “a government takeover of health care,” no matter how often conservative commentators say it is. In the end, the law merely adds poorly conceived and counter-productive regulations and subsidies to a market that was already shot through with them. Indeed, mixed with its plethora of bad ideas, there are even a few good ones, like cutting back the awful Medicare Advantage program and letting small employers purchase health insurance on terms similar to big ones.
The 45-year-old NFIP is another story altogether. Unlike Obamacare — which essentially leaves doctors, hospitals and insurers to operate in a (more highly regulated) private market — the NFIP is a single-payer government program, in which federal officials in Washington set rates and taxpayers assume all the risks.
The program currently owes U.S. taxpayers almost $28 billion, hasn’t made a payment against principle in three years and has no feasible way to ever pay back its debt. In the process of ringing up that debt, the NFIP has provided direct subsidies to build and live in the most flood-prone regions of the country, including by draining sensitive wetlands and developing barrier islands that would otherwise serve as natural storm buffers.
There’s no clear reason why the government should be providing anybody with flood insurance at subsidized rates. The program’s manifest problems are a reason why, in 2012, overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress passed a series of modest reforms to the NFIP: raising rates on vacation homes, businesses and properties taxpayers have already rebuilt, while also ensuring that the program’s maps are accurate and up-to-date.
But now that higher bills are coming due, plenty of members of Congress are crying foul and trying to roll back the reforms. This wouldn’t be so surprising if the complaints emerged solely from the likes of Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. (who actually co-authored the reforms), a down-the-line liberal with a long history of supporting government giveaways.
But the pushback caucus also includes plenty of so-called “fiscal conservatives” from coastal states, whose constituents are finally being asked to pay flood insurance bills that reflect their actual risk. In the Senate, those signing on to delay or roll back NFIP reform include tea party favorites like Sens. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and David Vitter, R-La. In the House, Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., has taken the lead on flood insurance rollback, and enticed tea party Republicans like Reps. Renne Ellmers, R-N.C., and Gregg Harper, R-Miss., to sign on as well.
If Republicans attacked subsidized flood insurance with anything near the same ferocity they have devoted to Obamacare, the program would have been abolished years ago. Instead, many of them — including many who claim strong conservative bona fides — are defending it. That’s a disgrace.
Regarding “Maintaining a healthy Gulf Coast is key to local economy” (Page B7, Wednesday), Sinclair Oubre is absolutely correct when he argues that the RESTORE Act presents an opportunity for both economic and environmental restoration in Texas and across the Gulf.
But this will only happen if the funds are spent responsibly and in a way that focuses on long-term outcomes, not scoring political points. That means spending should focus on providing public goods for coastal communities that create real economic value and opportunity, including protecting natural resources.
Funds must not be covertly channeled to politically connected businesses or squandered on jobs programs of dubious economic merit.
Projects funded through the RESTORE Act should be able to quantify where and how they will create environmental and economic value and benefit-cost analyses must be subject to public scrutiny.
The RESTORE Act gives an unprecedented level of flexibility to Gulf Coast states and local governments to develop and implement programs that take advantage of local knowledge to address local needs. Policy makers must be careful not to squander that opportunity.
- Chairman Lucas says farm bill conference schedule still up in the air: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
- How Florida Citizens’ new clearinghouse will work: Sun-Sentinel
- Commercial real estate market starting to get spooked about TRIA renewal: Commercial Mortgage Alert
- Emergence of e-cigarettes a win for retailers and public health: Convenience Store Decisions
- Tennessee prosecutor resents being called “the government”: Lowering the Bar
This action cascaded into support across the right from Freedomworks, R Street, Tea Party Nation, Young Americans for Liberty, National College Republicans, Consumers Advocacy, the Competitive Carriers Association, and scholars from Mercatus and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Today, no group can be found in favor of the ruling, even those that lobbied for it; it has become politically toxic.
From Triple Pundit:
“The report shows that dealing with climate change doesn’t require large-scale schemes or a total restructuring of our global economy,” said Eli Lehrer, president of the R Street Institute, a nonprofit think-tank that advocates for free market solutions. “The ideas outlined here are the basis of a true ‘no-regrets’ strategy for dealing with a significant problem.”
I am honored to join Drs. Riccardo Polosa and Pasquale Caponnetto and their colleagues at the University of Catania in Italy as a coauthor of a new scientific article on e-cigarettes published in Harm Reduction Journal. We disprove the stated premise of a recent National Public Radio broadcast, “little is known about the potential health effects [of e-cigarettes].” NPR “expert” Stanton Glantz stated that “e-cigarettes today are the triumph of wishful thinking over data.” Our publication shows that e-cigarettes are the triumph of scientific evidence over feigned ignorance.
For the benefit of members of the Flat Earth Society, I reproduce our summary here:
The dream of a tobacco-free, nicotine-free world is just that—a dream. Nicotine’s beneficial effects include correcting problems with concentration, attention and memory, as well as improving symptoms of mood impairments. Keeping such disabilities at bay right now can be much stronger motivation to continue using nicotine than any threats of diseases that may strike years and years in the future
Nicotine’s beneficial effects can be controlled, and the detrimental effects of the smoky delivery system can be attenuated, by providing the drug via less hazardous delivery systems. Although more research is needed, e-cigs appear to be effective cigarette substitutes for inveterate smokers, and the health improvements enjoyed by switchers do not differ from those enjoyed by tobacco/nicotine abstainers.
It is of paramount importance that government and trusted health authorities provide accurate and truthful information about the relative risks of smoking and alternatives to smoking. If the public continues to be misled about the risks of THR products, millions of smokers will be dissuaded from switching to these much less hazardous alternatives. One of us recently wrote that, “It’s time to be honest with the 50 million Americans, and hundreds of millions around the world, who use tobacco. The benefits they get from tobacco are very real. It’s time to abandon the myth that tobacco is devoid of benefits, and to focus on how we can help smokers continue to derive those benefits with a safer delivery system” [reference here].
In the absence of regulatory standards, it is important that currently marketed products are of high quality. For example, the hardware should be reliable and should produce vapor consistently. The liquids should be manufactured under sanitary conditions and use pharmaceutical grade ingredients, and labels should contain a list of all ingredients and an accurate and standardized description of the nicotine content.
According to a recent article by CDC researchers, the proportion of U.S. adults who have ever used electronic cigarettes more than quadrupled from 0.6% in 2009 to 2.7% in 2010 with an estimated number of current electronic cigarette users of about 2.5 million [reference here]. Although rigorous studies are required to establish THR potential and long term safety of electronic cigarettes, these figures clearly suggest that smokers are finding these products helpful. If they were ineffective one would not expect the market to take off as it is. Most importantly, even if this THR product proves to be effective for only 25% of the smoking population, it could save millions of lives world-wide over the next ten years.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
- Michigan auto reform is a must: Michigan Capitol Confidential
- Tea party groups targeting ending federal terror backstop: The Hill
- Cleveland’s catalog king says Internet sales tax would kill his business: Plain-Dealer
- Crop insurance to blame for lost pheasant population: Bloomberg
- Krugman reviews new book from Nordhaus: New York Review of Books