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Jul 282014

Hans von Spakovsky is an authority on a wide range of issues—including civil rights, civil justice, the First Amendment, immigration, the rule of law and government reform—as a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and manager of the think tank’s Election Law Reform Initiative.

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen: two different federal courts of appeal, issuing completely contradictory rulings on the very same day, on the very same issue.

That’s what happened Tuesday. If nothing else, the dueling rulings should hasten the day when the next phase of litigation involving the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act reaches the Supreme Court.

In Halbig v. Burwell, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against the administration, voiding an IRS regulation that provided tax credits in the form of a subsidy to individuals purchasing health insurance through exchanges run by the federal government.

Meanwhile, in Richmond, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held the exact opposite: In King v. Burwell, it concluded that the IRS had the power to authorize such subsidies. Continue reading »

Jul 272014

American Dream

Virginia Prodan, a Dallas immigration attorney, escaped Communist Romania and was granted political asylum by the United States. She immediately fell in love with the freedom and possibility in America. This is the story of her journey to become an American citizen—and why she is committed to helping immigrants come to the United States legally.

Continue reading »

Jul 272014

The character of our culture has a lot to do with opportunity in America. I learned early on, from personal experience, that these two notions are intertwined. My two brothers, my sister and I were reared by our single mom with a work ethic that shaped who I am today.

We struggled economically but my mother provided a model that showed us the importance of work and personal responsibility. To sustain our family, she started a ballroom dancing business in our home. She worked all the time but also expected us to do our share. So each morning, we would get up at 6 a.m. to find our personal list of duties for the day. Passing the time without doing something constructive was not an option.

While we each pulled our weight, the more we did, the more we felt we could do and the more confidence we gained. Growing up in Greenville, S.C., a small textile town, strengthened that feeling. There was a general understanding that each person was important and could make a difference in the lives of others.

My story, and similar stories shared by so many Americans, reveals a fundamental truth about our nation: The presence of opportunities may influence an individual’s prospects for the future, but the culture of a family or community affects the extent to which the individual takes advantage of those opportunities.

A brand new publication from The Heritage Foundation, the 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity, presents an at-a-glance view of cultural trends in America such as the marriage rate, religious participation and community involvement. These trends are presented alongside data on poverty, dependence, workforce participation, and educational and employment opportunities.

Many of the indicators in the 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity are not heading in the right direction. Unwed childbearing is increasing. The marriage rate has fallen. The poverty rate is about the same today as it was when President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the War on Poverty 50 years ago. Continue reading »

Jul 272014

In the shipping and packing department, Daniel Matos, 32, pulls cigar boxes off the shelves to fill orders at the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. (Photo: St. Petersburg Times/

I’ll admit it. I enjoy an occasional cigar.

So do a lot of other Americans. Some like to indulge in a pricier smoke, while others opt for a less-expensive brand. The ones made by the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. of Tampa, Fla., which retail for less than $10 apiece, fall into the latter category.

J.C. Newman, which was founded by a Hungarian immigrant in 1895, uses 1930s vintage equipment to roll its cigars. “It takes us four months to teach a cigar maker how to use our hand-operated machines,” company president Eric Newman says. “We’re making cigars the samI’ll admit it. I enjoy an occasional cigar.

I’ve never had a J.C. Newman cigar, but thanks to the federal government, it doesn’t look like I ever will. A new 67-page rule published in April is threatening to undo more than a century of hard work and family tradition — and send the business up in smoke. Continue reading »

Jul 272014

The International Monetary Fund’s report on its 2014 Article IV Consultation with the United States risks encouraging inaction by U.S. lawmakers on adopting structural entitlement reforms to control U.S. spending and debt growth. The IMF report suggests institutional budget reforms to “lessen fiscal policy uncertainty,” citing “recent experience of debt ceiling brinkmanship and the government shut down.”[1] Although the political fights of recent years are dwarfed by the giant colossus that is the looming entitlement spending crisis, the IMF pays much less attention to addressing this critical U.S. budget challenge.

The IMF’s suggestions follow the Obama Administration’s federal budget playbook by focusing on immediate spending and tax increases with very moderate entitlement tweaks in the future.[2] Despite the U.S. public debt doubling since just before President Obama came into office,[3] the IMF calls for “expand[ing] the near-term budget envelope”—i.e., increasing spending. The IMF also recommends adding a value-added tax and new carbon taxes on top of the current U.S. tax burden, which would help to fuel higher spending.

It is within this context that the IMF proposes several institutional fiscal reforms, including the following:

IMF Recommendation: Bipartisan agreement on a clear, simple, medium-term fiscal objective (with an integrated view of all budget functions and numerical targets for the debt and deficit).

Analysis: Many analysts suggest that Congress adopt a budget that puts the U.S. debt on a downward trajectory. A carefully designed budget would pursue a path to balance with spending control. The IMF’s recommendations are much broader than that. In conjunction with the IMF’s suggestion to implement some of President Obama’s spending initiatives, a harmful bipartisan agreement would increase spending and taxes today and leave the U.S. on its dangerous fiscal trajectory. Adopting a budget agreement is important, but it cannot be just any budget agreement. Continue reading »

Jul 272014

Opinion-lgAt the heart of public anger with Wall Street is the sense that accountability is lacking. The largest banks seem to live in a ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ world in which they keep their gains but receive a bailout to prevent their failure.

It is impossible to read the proposal and see how it limits Federal Reserve discretion.”

The most publicized bailout of the financial crisis was the TARP bill that provided capital injections to a wide range of banks. But most of the assistance to financial firms was provided through a less publicized set of emergency lending programs authorized by Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act. This emergency lending authority supported the Fed’s rescue of AIG, a massive set of guarantees for Citibank, which would have failed without them, and an alphabet soup of lending ‘facilities’ that supported a small set of Wall Street dealers with almost unlimited cheap credit for a period of years. Continue reading »

Jul 262014

Photo: Susan Sermoneta/Creative Commons

Over 4,000 Americans have signed a petition to boycott Chase bank over a company survey that probed employees about their sexual orientation and personal beliefs.

The National Organization for Marriage’s campaign, “Void Chase,” urges customers across the globe to take their banking business elsewhere until JPMorgan Chase apologizes and promises “never again to invade the privacy of your employees in this way.”

The effort is the result of  what critics call an invasive survey that asked whether Chase employees identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, or as an “LGBT ally.” Continue reading »

Jul 262014


House Speaker John Boehner believes he has found the key to reining in the executive branch: suing President Barack Obama. But while the merits of any lawsuit against the President for abusive unilateral actions may seem clear, the issue of congressional standing is anything but that. The House will have to demonstrate to a court’s satisfaction that as an institution, it has been personally harmed by President Obama’s actions, which have effectively nullified the votes of its members, leaving it little recourse to rectify this injustice without court intervention. Such a lawsuit would require the courts to police the limits of the political branches’ powers, and overcoming the courts’ natural reluctance to get involved in disputes with political overtones involving the other branches of government will not be easy.

A‌rticle I of the Constitution vests “All legislative powers herein ‌granted” in Congress, while Article II, section 3 requires that the President “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” But what happens when the President fails to execute the law?

Time and again, President Barack Obama has pushed the limits of this duty, acting unilaterally to change or ignore the law. From refusing to abide by statutory deadlines, waiving requirements written into laws that he does not like, and choosing not to enforce laws against whole categories of offenders, President Obama has not been shy about circumventing Congress and essentially rewriting laws. Through unilateral actions, President Obama has effectively amended the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), the 1996 welfare reform law, the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, and the WARN Act, and he has “enacted” certain “laws,” such as the DREAM Act, that Congress never passed.[1] Continue reading »

Jul 262014

President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Solicitor General Donald Verrilli in the Oval Office, after learning of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” June 28, 2012. (Photo: Pete Souza/White House)

This has not been a good week for President Obama: Obamacare is back on the front burners and back in trouble.

This week, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that another aspect of Obamacare is unconstitutional. In this case, an IRS rule (one of over 20 such executive orders related to Obamacare whereby the administration created a new rule/law without legal authority) called for subsidies to flow through both state and federal exchanges.

The problem? The law clearly states only plans obtained through state exchanges qualified for subsidies. And the problem with this? When Obamacare took effect, over 30 states said “no thanks” to creating their own exchanges. That means many Americans will have to get a plan through the federal exchange and, if this ruling holds, they won’t qualify for a subsidy —which likely means their premiums will be much more expensive. Continue reading »

Jul 262014

NOT IN WISCONSIN: State Rep. David Craig and three other Republican state lawmakers have asked the federal government not to bring undocumented children to Wisconsin.

That’s one of the reasons he and three other state GOP lawmakers wrote a letter Thursday asking the Department of Homeland Security to withdraw its request for Wisconsin to shelter hundreds of undocumented children who have crossed the Mexican border illegally.

“What are we bringing into our state when we have so many diseases internationally that used to be dormant and are now on the resurgence with some strain?” Craig, R-Vernon, told Wisconsin Reporter on Friday. “Is the federal government going through any review whatsoever of the health condition of the children, given the sheer volume of children that we are talking about?”

The Obama administration estimates it will catch 90,000 undocumented minors trying to cross the Mexican border without their parents by the end of the current budget year in September.

But the health implications are unclear to some parties because the federal government is “neglecting its obligation to uphold the law while failing to provide adequate information to state officials,” according to the letter, which was also penned by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington; and state Reps. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, and John Nygren, R-Marinette. Continue reading »