Archive for the ‘Unemployment’ Category

President Obama follows the Koch brothers’ lead on criminal justice reform

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Originally published at Rare

In liberal circles, the libertarian Koch Brothers are often demonized as capitalist boogeymen out to increase their profit margin at the expense of the poor. Their defenders respond that free markets do more to alleviate aggregate poverty than redistributionary government schemes. This economic disagreement is likely to continue indefinitely, but there’s a strong area of common ground between liberals and libertarians on one key issue: criminal justice reform.

In fact, Charles and David Koch have been major players in promoting reforms to our penal system, not just by pushing for policy changes legislatively, but by living their values through Koch Industries. In April of this year, Koch Industries decided to “ban the box,” which means they got rid of the checkbox on job applications that force prospective employees to disclose their criminal records. This practice has made it extremely difficult for individuals who are no longer incarcerated to find work—particularly if they happen to be a person of color.

Mark Holden, general counsel for Koch Industries, explained that, “As a large United States-based manufacturing company that employs 60,000 American workers we shouldn’t be rejecting people at the very start of the hiring process who may otherwise be capable and qualified, and want an opportunity to work hard.” As data from the Department of Criminal Justice shows, up to 75 percent of inmates have difficulty finding work during their first year of reentry into society.

When a company chooses to “ban the box,” as Koch has done, the employer won’t know about a prospective hire’s criminal record by simply looking at their application. If a manager expresses interest in a résumé and interviewing begins, they’ll find out about the felony record as the process goes on. The key difference is that the interviewee has already gotten his foot in the door, and the employer is more likely to give him a chance.

This week, President Obama decided to follow suit, announcing on Monday that he signed an executive order that begins eliminating bias against those with criminal records in the federal hiring process. This comes in the wake of Obama’s recent focus on criminal justice reform, which included a summer visit with inmates at a federal prison, something no other president has done before. As Ari Melber of MSNBC reported of his decision this week:

Obama unveiled the plan on a visit to a treatment center in New Jersey, a state where Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a ban the box bill into law last year. Hillary Clinton endorsed ban the box last week, while Republican Sen. Rand Paul also introduced similar federal legislation, with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, to seal criminal records for non-violent offenders.

This speaks to the increasingly bipartisan nature of criminal justice reform, which is a surprising but good sign in a government divided by a fractious Republican Congress and Democratic executive branch. People from all walks of life are beginning to recognize that preventing individuals from effectively re-entering society after serving time in prison further inflames the cycle of poverty that in many cases drove criminals to use or sell drugs in the first place. And “ban the box” is just one of the many changes on the table. Focusing on treatment rather than incarceration has also gained steam, and reforms to largely arbitrary mandatory minimum sentences have gotten major hearings in Congress.

As President Obama said this week:

A lot of time, that record disqualifies you from being a full participant in our society — even if you’ve already paid your debt to society. It means millions of Americans have difficulty even getting their foot in the door to try to get a job much less actually hang on to that job. That’s bad for not only those individuals, it’s bad for our economy.

This echoes what Charles Koch wrote about overcriminalization earlier this year:

After a sentence is served, we should restore all rights to youthful and non-violent offenders, such as those involved in personal drug use violations. If ex-offenders can’t get a job, education or housing, how can we possibly expect them to have a productive life? And why should we be surprised when more than half of the people released from prison are again incarcerated within three years of their release?

With agreement like this between two warring camps, there’s hope for more meaningful and desperately needed criminal justice reforms in the near future.

Obamacare’s latest target: Low-income college students

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Originally posted at The Daily Caller

Much has been made of Obamacare’s “adult child” provision — the portion of the law that allows dependents to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26. Some have interpreted this to mean that all plans must cover individuals up to that age, but it actually just allows for the possibility if you’re fortunate enough to have a comprehensive plan. Ultimately, it’s a bone thrown to upper-middle class Millennials who can afford to sip hot cocoa in their onesies while mom and dad foot the bills. But not every “adult child” has that luxury.

What about families that lack the resources to fund their twenty-something’s health insurance? Or young adults who, like me, reject the condescending “adult child” concept outright? Advocates of Obamacare claim that the program’s subsidies should make up for a lack of dependency on our parents (ignoring, of course, market reforms that would actually make healthcare affordable). But like any taxpayer funded redistribution scheme, these subsidies create economic distortions and discourage the kind of competition that lowers overall costs.

Even worse, Obamacare has explicitly banned millions of plans people were happy with, offering in their place more costly, substandard insurance with narrower doctor networks. Sadly, one of the targets of this failed attempt at social engineering has been low-income college students. Across the nation, young people who purchased plans through their universities are now seeing sticker shock beyond their wildest dreams.

In some states, the situation is so bad that colleges have dropped the requirement that students be insured – putting a damper on Obamacare’s alleged goal of reducing the number of uninsured Americans. Take North Carolina as an example. Plans at the state’s public schools increased from $460 per semester to $709. At private schools, a hike of $668 per semester to $1,179 was seen. Unfortunately, this trend isn’t isolated to just North Carolina and a few of its campuses.

Health care policy analyst Avik Roy warned that because Obamacare bans the sort of affordable policies that low-income college students depend on, we could expect price hikes as high as 1,112 percent. This cost increase has profoundly damaged young people attempting to better their economic prospects. College students are already dealing with tuition costs that have risen by 6.5 percent each year for the past decade due in large part to federal loan subsidies. Despite this, the government continues to pile on while politicians feign confusion over the 15.8 percent youth unemployment rate.

As Roy noted at Forbes, these cost increases for students are happening virtually across the board. A couple of particularly egregious examples include the State University of New York in Plattsburgh, where for the entire school year, premiums were $440 per student. Now, they’re between $1,300 and $1,600. The University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington is facing an even bigger disparity: a jump from $165 per year to somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000 annually, and will no longer be offering coverage through the college. Cornell College in Iowa, Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina, and Bethany College in Kansas are also among many institutions of higher education that will no longer provide school-based coverage due to Obamacare.

If the above instances aren’t bad enough, it’s become clear that those most adversely impacted by Obamacare’s gutting of their university plans are students at historically black colleges and community schools. As Eugene Craig, the President of Young Americans for Liberty at Bowie State University in Maryland noted during an appearance on Fox News, the school’s plans that many of his peers were dependent on were suspended after Obamacare increased rates from $100 to $1,800 per year.

In New Jersey, the state’s entire network of community colleges has suffered as costs increased up to $1,700 per year. Students are struggling so much that the state’s legislature repealed a longstanding law that required all university students to have coverage. Perhaps the fact that Obamacare has banned affordable university health insurance won’t impact students who are able to depend on their families. But minorities, recent immigrants, unskilled workers, and low-income students are being pushed into uninsured status or forced to rely on substandard Medicaid plans they could’ve avoided had Obamacare not made the private insurance they used to have illegal.

Creating government dependency when an existing system was working for both the university and student body speaks to the trouble with Obamacare and other programs like it. Most Americans agree that some form of a safety net to eliminate the possibility of absolute poverty is a favorable concept. But when politicians ban cooperation between consenting parties in order to foster a reliance on government, they’re discouraging personal responsibility and social mobility: two hallmarks of the American Dream. Young Americans have had enough of being treated like children who need to be dependent on either our parents or the government, when all we really want is the same opportunities past generations have been afforded as a result of economic freedom. It’s time for government to step out of our way once and for all, and let us thrive.

The “Unanticipated” Consequences of Obamacare

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Originally posted at The Daily Caller

Stop the presses! Obamacare is going to be trillions more expensive than originally projected and will destroy millions of jobs? That’s what last week’s report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) declares, coupled with some almost humorous commentary about how these results were “unanticipated.” As the CBO states in making projections through 2017, “Reduced incentives to work attributable to the Affordable Care Act – with most of the impact arising from new subsidies for health insurance purchased through the exchanges – will have a larger negative effect on (labor force) participation toward the end of that period.”

This was far from the only observation the CBO made about Obamacare – but it’s the most important one philosophically. It begs the question, what kind of country are we leaving to American youth? One that encourages hard work as a prerequisite for fulfilling boundless potential? Or a nation where we’re artificially “free” from obligation through regulations that discourage wealth creation and social mobility? Unfortunately, Obamacare is promoting the latter. Even worse, there are people defending the outcome.

The New York Times’ editorial board didn’t try to spin the truth of how severely Obamacare is impacting job growth, but rather chose to celebrate the alleged positivity of elevating government handouts over employment. In their own words, “The Congressional Budget Office estimated on Tuesday that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the number of full-time workers by 2.5 million over the next decade. That is mostly a good thing, a liberating result of the law.”

Apparently, liberation doesn’t mean freedom from a government that limits one’s ability to enhance their well-being. Instead, “liberation” is a luxury afforded to some, while others subsidize the programs they depend on. This is not an outlook steeped in long-term sustainability. It’s actually a disturbing indication of the fact that there are Americans willing to trade the incentives that encourage social mobility for government-induced mediocrity that has the net effect of dragging the entire economy down.

Physician and scholar Scott Gottlieb put it well when he said, “The old employer sponsored system forced people to stay in jobs they didn’t like because they needed the health insurance coverage. The new Obamacare system will force people to stay out of jobs they do want because they need to maximize their subsidies. And this is social progress?” A crucial inquiry indeed.

Most advocates of a free-market health care system recognize the problems with insurance being tied to employment and care being tied to insurance. Portable, affordable plans tailored to meet the needs of consumers are what’s desperately required, but they have been banned by Obamacare. Moreover, health insurance should specifically be geared toward coverage for catastrophic events – not utilized to pay for basic care.

This is the route young people who have chosen to opt out of Obamacare are taking. Whether they sign up for a short-term plan or purchase any one of the many of private options still available, it’s wholly possible to reject Obamacare and act responsibly. Ultimately, the better understanding consumers have of actual health care costs, the morecompetition will bring prices down. These concepts are simple – but they seem to evade politicians who refuse to acknowledge the value of policies that shift power out of their orbit and back toward the people.

Indicative of that problem, Obamacare has exasperated what was wrong with the health care market prior to its enactment. Instead of creating more choice, it has restricted doctor options. Instead of making health care more affordable, it has disproportionately burdened the middle class. Instead of increasing options, it has banned millions of plans. Instead of “freeing” young people, it has pushed several trillion dollars more in government debt on our shoulders. Instead of reining in corporate excess, it has guaranteed insurance companies bailouts.

Nothing about Obamacare represents a “step in the right direction,” unless one believes the government is a self-sustaining entity upon which everyone can depend without contributing. That outlook has collapsed many an economy and been the catalyst for vast social unrest. We’ve already seen problems of this nature in countries like Spain andGreece recently.

The United States must avoid going down the same path and ultimately handing young Americans a country where instead of pursuing our dreams, we’re forced to pay for the mistakes of those who thought mortgaging our futures for their personal gain was acceptable. In these trying times, it would be wise to heed the words of French philosopher Frédéric Bastiat:  ”Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state lives at the expense of everyone.”

State of the Youth

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Originally posted at The Daily Caller

Enduring the pomp and circumstance of the State of the Union can be an ordeal in and of itself. For those of us inherently skeptical of the president being presented in too king-like a fashion, Barack Obama’s latest exhibition did nothing to moderate our doubts. In fact, we were fed a vision of the president as supreme legislator, in which a compliant Congress enacts his schemes or is cut out of the governing process. In the second year of his final term, as his signature legislation unravels before the nation’s eyes, it appears that Barack Obama cannot abide the divided government the American people intentionally installed. And so we contend with his agenda.

When one listens to Barack Obama, it’s hard to dismiss the unsettling feeling that he believes government is the economy. That any cut to federal spending chips away at growth potential. That progress is achieved through “investments” made by politicians with assets they stole from us. Surely, without the benign hand of government directing our resources toward commitments it deems laudable, we peasants would drown in a sea of decentralized incompetence. You and I cannot be trusted with the fruits of our own labor, lest the bureaucratic machine miss an opportunity to regulate more of our voluntary interactions with one another.

Naturally, it’s terrifying to think that the leader of the free world could even hint at subscribing to such an authoritarian outlook. It is especially troublesome for those of us under thirty, who will bear the consequences of policies crafted under this vision. We are already inordinately burdened by a government keen to enact new “youth jobs training programs,” but never considers reforming the regulatory regime that strangles would-be Millennial entrepreneurs. Just so, Obama’s address doubled down on the debt-fueled policies that have contributed to the 15.9 percent unemployment rate 18-29 year olds currently face.

The manner in which the President chose to discuss issues like the minimum wage, Obamacare, and income inequality clearly demonstrates his inability to see solutions implemented outside of Washington as viable. His command-and-control approach is tiresome to young people who have heard this rhetoric before, yet feel disempowered due to the lackluster economic results it yields. Ultimately, words don’t create jobs, and results do matter more than intentions.

(more…)

Do You Got Insurance, Bro?

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Originally posted at Generation Opportunity

Good news, bros and hos!  There’s a new ad campaign geared toward fulfilling your wildest government-funded fantasies! At the grammatically challenged DoYouGotInsurance.com, you can browse through a compelling selection of hard hitting pro-Obamacare ads, just like the classy and clearly not condescending one below.


This, ladies and gentlemen, is the level Obamacare advocates have stooped to. They know that millennials are opting out of the expensive, creepy Obamacare exchanges in droves, and their desperation is showing. As a woman in her twenties, I can’t imagine this message resonating with any sane female, regardless of her political views. I’m sorry, but there is no young lady on earth who says to herself, “Wow, if only the government made me pay more for insurance before, I could’ve had access to ‘free’ birth control and fulfilled my dream of getting with a bunch of tequila-shot-wielding-bros!” Also, the use of the term “hot to trot” in the ad? Really? Disparagingly treating women like sex objects and encouraging government dependency? So totally empowering! Or something ….

I have to imagine that you won’t be seeing these sophisticated purveyors of “brosurance” make ads about recent news that Obamacare has actually banned the affordable insurance plans of over 3.5 million Americans and counting. After all, that’s a pretty devastating statistic considering only 50,000 people have allegedly signed up through the exchanges. But wait, there’s more! The official number we expect the White House to release soon will count individuals who have merely kept a plan in their online shopping cart. Yes, seriously. HealthCare.gov wasn’t operational when I tried out of curiosity to see if I could get a quote. If I had saved a plan to review later, the government would consider me enrolled in Obamacare? Really? Earth to the White House: Attempted research on a dysfunctional website doesn’t constitute someone purchasing your sub-par, corporatist product. After all, there are better options for insurance procurement – especially if you’re a young person.

Oh and additionally, as if the aforementioned ad that implies females are the are brain-dead sums of our lady parts isn’t bad enough, there’s this:

(more…)