Monday, October 31, 2011

Just say no to more predatory gambling.

Here's a follow up story by Doug Grow of MinnPost to the legislators' press conference opposing the expansion of gambling to fund a new Vikings' stadium.

He notes the suggested expansion of "charitable" gambling.
Best bet on a special session?

Dayton will call it. There will be a piece of legislation — calling for a myriad of user taxes to be applied to the stadium — and it will be voted down. There will be a series of amendments, proposing such things as gaming to fund the project.

A source for charitable gaming said today that he thinks that one form of gambling — pull tabs in bars and bar bingo — could slide through. The charitable gambling crowd believes it could substantially improve its business and therefore its contribution to the state if a bill allowing electronic pull tabs and bingo was passed.

Currently, charitable gaming puts about $40 million annually into the state general fund. Supporters of electronic forms of the old games believe that amount could double.

Even though this measure has support from a handful of powerful legislators, it seems unlikely it could wiggle through a special session.
Gambling interests want to expand gambling whether the Vikings stadium is in play or not. Again, Minnesota needs less gambling not more. Expanding gambling to pay for the stadium simply creates more social problems. Legislators should find some other revenue source if they want to help the Vikings build a new stadium.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Baby Trafficking and Surrogacy

CNN ran a story on designer babies and IVF/surrogacy. Two reproductive law attorneys were charged in an illegal surrogacy business.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Sandra Endo this week reported on the surrogacy business of Hilary Neiman and Theresa Erickson, two of the most prestigious reproductive law attorneys in the world, who impregnated surrogates before adoptive parents were found. If the baby survived to the second trimester, the attorneys auctioned him or her off to the highest bidder, up to $180,000 per baby.

Theresa Erikson was caught heading-up an illegal baby-selling ring.The line between legal and illegal surrogacy is not always clear: the CNN story notes that the attorneys offered “designer babies in race and gender,” an option advertised by several U.S. IVF clinics legally. The business’s only legal foul was its non-compliance with California law requiring adoptive parents to sign up before the baby - already created in a laboratory - was implanted in a surrogate, instead of after.

“Trafficking in human life without having a parent ahead of time is really, I think, quite troubling,” FBI agent Keith Slaughter told CNN.

The problem is with the underlying use of surrogacy and money which invariably involves "baby selling." Transfer of children from birth mother to another person for money.
But Jennifer Lahl, the founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, said the chilling aspects of Neiman and Erickson’s “baby trafficking” don’t only belong to illegal fertility operations. “Ms. Erickson and her co-conspirators violated a legal distinction without a difference,” said Lahl.

“Erickson broke the law by having the surrogate impregnated before the contracts were signed. But commercial surrogacy, whether done legally or Erickson’s way, is still selling babies. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it ethical.”

Lahl pointed out to LSN that the particular California statute violated by Neiman and Erickson was not universal, and that the loose network of surrogacy laws around the world “change[s] all the time.”

“Babies are being bought and sold. Women are being exploited. Non-traditional families are being made with no consideration for the children created by these technologies,” said Lahl. “And in this specific case, we see that greed trumps all.”

The IVF industry operates with a presumption that babies prior to viability are expendable, a viewpoint found in the CNN story: one surrogate mom complained that she wanted out of the deal, but could not end the situation because she was near viability.

“I wanted to separate myself form the situation and you can’t do that when you’re pregnant—with a baby that’s almost viable,” she said. “She’s kicking, she’s moving, she’s a constant reminder.’

Lahl is the creator of Eggsploitation, a documentary on the victims of underregulation in the fertility industry, a movie which Erickson had strongly attacked as agenda-driven against fertility treatments before she was arrested.

“She has hammered me personally again and again in her TV show, because she put herself forward as such an ethical, above-board person,” Lahl told in a telephone interview this week.

“The truth has now come out and as it turns out, it is Erickson who has been doing the lying,” she wrote in August. “The public relations damage to the industry has been done, and who better to do it than the industry darling.”

Lahl told LSN that prior to Erickson’s arrest, “everybody wanted her on their board, and the moment she was busted everybody pretended they didn’t know her.” “Needless to say, the fertility industry is reeling,” she said.
This issue has come up repeatedly at the state legislature. It started out years ago as an option for infertile married couples. It immediately morphed into a for money, hire by anybody not just married couples. I think it's problematic even for married couples where compensation isn't present. It breaks down the birth mother/child bond and injects a number of other problematic factors into the equation, like "embryo destruction" which another name for abortion.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Group of legislators say no to gambling expansion for new Vikings stadium.

A bipartisan group of legislators held a press conference to voice their opposition to an expansion of gambling to pay for a new Vikings stadium.

The group included Republican senators' David Hann, Warren Limmer and David Thompson, Democrat senators' Scott Dibble and Tony Lourey, and Democrat reps Ann Lenczewski, Diane Loeffler, and Frank Hornstein.

It attracted a lot of media attention because it's a hot issue, e.g. Vikings stadium, possible session on the issue and it brought together such an eclectic group of legislators.

It just goes to show how legislators one day will agree on one issue and the next will be on opposite sides of another issue.

Senator Hann pointed out that gambling revenues isn't free money but causes a lot of damage along the way.
In recent years, almost every budget challenge we’ve faced has been met with a call for more casinos,” said Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie. “The proponents of gambling describe this as harmless fun, entertainment and, in effect, free money.

“None of that is true. In fact, casino gambling is highly destructive to individuals, [and] to families,” he said.
I think it will be hard to pass a new stadium funding plan in a November special session. Some legislators don't want a special session period. Others oppose the gambling. Others oppose the stadium. And others are nervous about spending hundreds of millions on a new stadium when the state is likely to face additional budget shortfalls.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Disclosure of names on controversial issues means less free speech

Here's a very good summary of why the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board's overreach with disclosure of donors on ballot issues will hinder free speech.

Anthony Sanders, earlier this summer
points out that
The First Amendment protects anonymous speech. This is especially true when that speech is controversial. When a citizen comments on an issue, but fears retribution from those who disagree, it is that citizen’s right to be free from the government publicly “outing” her identity. That’s something the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized, from the NAACP not having to disclose its donors in 1950s labama, to anonymous pamphleteers remaining anonymous in the 1995 case McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission. These cases follow from the obvious proposition that disclosure chills speech.
The Campaign Finance Board is now changing the rules of the game midstream.
The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board, unfortunately, has chosen the opposite view. The board had a long-standing policy of not requiring organizations who donate to ballot campaign committees (committees that spend money to support or oppose ballot issues) to disclose their donors. The organizations’ donations are already disclosed by the campaign committees they give to, but the donor—the organization—did not have to say where it got its money from.

Until now. The board just announced it will adopt a new approach where nonprofit corporations who donate over $5,000 to ballot campaign committees must disclose donors of over $1,000. It is not a coincidence that this accompanies a very controversial ballot issue that Minnesotans will vote on in the 2012 elections: whether to adopt a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.

The rule will undoubtedly chill speech on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate. Many people may want to give to organizations who may in turn contribute to groups campaigning on the issue, but will chose not to because they don’t want their private political views broadcast on the internet (which is what disclosure means in this day-and-age).
And of course this raises the question of what purpose the rule services beyond a fixation with where individuals stand on the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment. None really.
What purpose does this rule serve? Voters can decide where they stand on the issue without knowing where others stand, and they have no more right to know who is financially backing speech about the amendment than they have a right to know which way anyone will vote on it. But that’s the whole point--outing people who disagree with you on the issue. Proponents of the disclosure law want to be able to demonize those on the other side, and they can’t do that without forcing them to disclose their identities.

Criticizing those who disagree with you is perfectly valid in a free society. What’s not is the government forcing people to disclose information, including their identities, that they’d rather keep private.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Protest groups and "Railing Against Reality"

Here's an interesting piece "Railing Against Reality" by Victor David Hanson on the protests taking place around the world and in the US in response to our current economic malaise. While the situation is certainly more complex than can be addressed in a short article, he does make a number of interesting points.

He suggests there is a common denomination among all the protest movements. Frustation.
In the current left and right anger — somewhat analogous to the upheavals of 1848 or the 1930s — the common denominator is frustration that Western upward mobility of some 60 years seems to be coming to an end. In response, millions want someone or something to be held accountable — whether Wall Street insiders, or wasteful and corrupt governments, or the affluent, who have more than others.
He notes the inability of politicans to address the problems.
Unfortunately, political leaders — unwilling to risk their careers by irking the people — have offered few explanations for the root causes of all the various unrest. Instead, they assure us that Social Security is solvent, or that pensions and wages can remain sacrosanct, or that billionaires and millionaires are alone culpable. Sometimes they exploit race and class divisions in lieu of explaining 21st-century realities.
His explanation suggests government and people have lived beyond their means and the bills are now coming due.
So here goes an explanation for the multifaceted unrest. For the last six decades, constant technological breakthroughs and growing government subsidies have given a billion and a half Westerners lifestyles undreamed of over the last 2,500 years. In 1930, no one imagined that a few pills could cure life-threatening strep throat. In 1960, no one planned on retiring at 55. In 1980, no one dreamed that millions could have instant access to civilization’s collective knowledge in a few seconds through a free Google search.

Yet, the better life got in the West for ever more people, the more apprehensive they became, as their appetites for even more grew even faster. Remember, none of these worldwide protests are over the denial of food, shelter, clean water, or basic medicine.

None of these protesters discuss the effects of 2 billion Chinese, Indian, Korean, and Japanese workers’ entering and mastering the globalized capitalist system, and making things more cheaply and sometimes better than their Western counterparts.

None of these protesters ever stop to ponder the costs — and ultimately the effect on their own lifestyles — of skyrocketing energy costs. Since 1970 there has been a historic, multitrillion-dollar transfer of capital from the West to the Middle East, South America, Africa, and Russia through the importation of high-cost oil and gas.

None seem to grasp the significance of the fact that, meanwhile, hundreds of millions of Westerners were living longer and better, retiring earlier, and demanding ever more expensive government pensions and health care.

Something had to give.

And now it has. Federal and state budgets are near bankrupt. Countries like Greece and Italy face insolvency. The U.S. government resorts to printing money to service or expand entitlements. Near-zero interest rates, declining home prices, and huge losses in mutual funds and retirement accounts have crippled the middle classes.

Bigger government, marvelous new inventions, and creative new investment strategies are not going to restore the once-taken-for-granted good life. Until “green” means competitive renewable energy rather than a con for crony capitalists, we are going to have to create and save capital by producing more of our own gas and oil, and relying more on nuclear power and coal.

Westerners will have to work a bit longer and more efficiently, with a bit less redistributive government support. And they must confess that venture capitalists, hedge funds, and big deficit-spending governments are no substitute for producing themselves the real stuff of life that millions now take for granted — whether gas, food, cars, or consumer goods.

Otherwise, a smaller, older, and whinier West will just keep blaming others as their good life slips away. So it’s past time to stop borrowing to import energy and most of the things we use but have given up producing — and get back to competing in the real world.
He sees rising energy costs as an important factor. I'm not sure about that. I'd accent the rising debt and ballooning size of government and unsustainable rising cost of government programs.

Will the violent protests in Europe come to America? Certainly, if the economy stays in the doldrums, unemployment remains high, and people with an entitlement mindset start seeing their government social, welfare benefits cut back. This will cause people to lash out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Problems with Obamacare - Running into Reality

Obamacare is running into reality. It's effort, through government fiat, to expand access to healthcare without increasing costs won't actually work. The CLASS Act is one specific example.

One of the law’s more blatant gimmicks just died after the administration ran smack into the adamantine rules of basic accounting, and one of the law’s central provisions might be overturned by the Supreme Court. The Obama administration’s signature legislative accomplishment is a standing testament to the foolishness of saying and doing anything to pass a bill as complex and sensitive as one remaking the American health-care system.

The expiring budgetary gimmick is the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports, or CLASS, Act. This new entitlement for long-term care was going to collect premiums for five years before paying out benefits. In the highly theoretical bookkeeping of the Congressional Budget Office, this made it a deficit-reduction measure; the program would collect $70 billion over the first ten years of Obamacare, the window for CBO estimates. Thereafter, it would pay out benefits at an unsustainable clip.

Only in Washington could lighting a fuse on an exploding entitlement be considered an act of fiscal rectitude, but the CLASS Act accounted for almost half of the official deficit reduction of Obamacare. Everyone knew it was shameless legerdemain. In 2009, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee pronounced the CLASS Act a “Ponzi scheme of the first order.” The actuary for Medicare warned during the drafting of the program, “Thirty-six years of actuarial experience lead me to believe that this program would collapse in short order and require significant federal subsidies to continue.”

The Obama administration persisted anyway. The long-term-care program had been a cherished priority of the late Ted Kennedy, and besides, it helped with the numbers. Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services wrestled to make the program workable before giving up last week. An HHS official with a gift for understatement explained that putting the program on a sound actuarial footing during the next 75 years and implementing it as written were goals in “some tension.”

To work, the CLASS Act needed a mandate. Otherwise, young and healthy people wouldn’t sign up for it, and the cost of premiums would spiral out of control. This is why, more broadly, the individual mandate is so important to Obamacare. Without it, the health-insurance system will experience the same “death spiral” that prospectively doomed the CLASS Act.
The basic problem is reality. Government is simply incapable of making the millions, billions of health care decisions individuals need to make. The only way to truly control costs is by having individual American's make these decisions. Government has distorted our health care market for generations through mandating services and expanding government health care programs. To dramatically expand government control of health care during a time of economic difficulties will only make the situation far worse.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Power Grab by Minnesota Campaign Finance Board

Here's a great article highlighting efforts by the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board to rewrite state law on ballot question disclosure, circumventing the state legislature.

It points out opponents of the Board's actions aren't opposed to disclosure.
Nobody disagrees that voters are entitled to know who contributes to the marriage campaign. But the changes the Campaign Finance Board proposes are not authorized by law and would mislead the public, resulting in the disclosure of people who did not contribute to the campaign.

Nonprofit organizations, including churches, raise money from supporters who agree with their missions. If "Sally," a member of Meadowside Church, contributes money to support the work of her church, and Meadowside Church decides to contribute to the marriage-amendment campaign, it is wrong to claim that Sally has contributed to the marriage campaign. She has not; Meadowside Church has. The church's contribution should be disclosed, but it should not be attributed to Sally or any other individual church member. How the board is changing the rules of game midstream, after they failed to obtain legislative changes in the law.

For at least the past 15 years, this is how Minnesota law was regulated by the Campaign Finance Board, and it was the regulatory scheme in place for several other past constitutional amendments. Now that the marriage amendment has qualified or the ballot, the board is suddenly trying to change the rules, despite the fact at there has been no change in state disclosure laws....

An additional issue regarding the Campaign Finance Board's new regulations is that the board simply does not have the legal authority to arbitrarily change Minnesota campaign reporting laws. That is the job of the Legislature.

For almost a decade, the board has been asking the Legislature to expand or change the definition of "association" to be able to regulate nonprofit corporations in this manner, and the Legislature refused to grant it. The board has acted illegally in claiming legal authority it does not possess.How outlandish and intrusive their demands for disclosure have become.
Let's look at this issue a different way. The Star Tribune published the editorial I'm writing about. The paper has hundreds of employees, paid through a revenue stream from thousands of subscribers and advertisers. Isn't it enough that the public knows the Star Tribune has spoken out about this issue, or should the Star Tribune be forced to disclose which of its employees wrote the editorial and which of its advertisers' revenue paid for the publishing of the editorial?
The consequences of the sort of disclosure the Board is expecting.
Not only is the public misled when it is reported that Sally has contributed to the marriage campaign, but we know from experience that Sally will very likely be subjected to harassment as a result of the erroneous claim that she contributed to the campaign. The Heritage Foundation produced a report documenting the extensive harassment that supporters of California's marriage amendment (Proposition 8) faced, including loss of employment, death threats and property destruction. Regrettably, some gay-marriage activists have seen that intimidation can be an effective campaign tactic, and it has become standard fare in any marriage campaign.

The group "" has published private information about traditional marriage supporters in numerous states and advocated that they be confronted with "uncomfortable conversations." In California, the group "" published Google maps showing the home addresses, donation amounts and employers of contributors to Proposition 8 -- all of which they obtained from campaign finance reports. Evidence in various court proceedings document case after case of harassment -- phone calls at home and work, calls and e-mails to employers, boycotts of someone's employer, calls to clients, etc.
Not only are the Board's actions outside the scope of their legal authority but are also likely violations of the US Constitution.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Star Tribune editorial board and secular, liberal orthodoxy.

Secular, liberal orthodoxy reared it's head recently when a Star Tribune editorial attacked the Catholic Church for having the temerity to take a public stand in support of marriage and the Marriage Protection Amendment which will be on the ballot in Minnesota in November 2012.
Some Catholic leaders, both locally and nationally, are actively campaigning against gay marriage; they consider it a direct assault on church teaching that defines marriage as only between heterosexuals.

Framing gay marriage as a civil right, they say, can cause discrimination against Catholic believers.

But church doctrine and federal laws are two separate considerations. In a country with free religion and speech, any religious group can adopt its own rules. It cannot, however, impose those rules on civil society.

And though some church leaders hold antigay views, there is significant dissent even among their own parishioners. According to Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, a recent poll of local Catholics showed that a majority favored equal marriage rights.
It's interesting how the Star Tribune seeks to redefine free speech and religious freedom. You're free to speech but just not in public, only in the privacy of your church.

And it approvingly mentions the efforts of Catholics who oppose the church's position, presumably it's alright for them to speak out publicly in support of marriage redefinition.

What drives the anti-freedom speech, anti-civic involvement of conservative, religious groups is of course ideology. The Catholic Church's position in favor of marriage is at odds with the left's efforts to redefine a fundmental social institution - marriage between a man and a woman.

The suggestion that religious voices have no right to be voiced in the public square is of course selective. It's targeted at religious voices espousing views at odds with secular, liberal orthodoxy. You won't hear them take after religious voices on the left. Like for instance, religious groups which support the redefinition of marriage or abortion.

Of course, the Star Tribune's hostility to involvement of the Catholic Church in the public square is at odds with the principles underpinning our Constitution and founding and historical precedent. The founders understand the fundamental importance religious principles played in our nation's establishment and well-being. Some of our nation's most important social reform movements were motivated by religious sensibilities. Just look at the anti-slavery and civil rights movements which were given impetus by religious voices.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Disclosing donors -- Infringing on free speech.

There's been an ongoing debate with the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board over their changing financial disclosure requirements for nonprofits organizations and ballot question committees.

Here's a good opinion piece in the Star Tribune by Peter Nelson of the Center of the American Experiment on the topic which makes several good points. One is the proposed changes are so ambiguous they'll be hard for groups to comply with. And second, requiring nonprofits to disclose their donors will infringe on their free speech rights. It will subject some people to harrassment and threats which will have a chilling effect on free speech.
Donor disclosure regulations can infringe on First Amendment rights in at least two ways. First, compliance with the regulations can be so burdensome that people decide any effort to organize people to speak out isn't worth the hassle. Reporting requirements can be expensive, complicated and just plain intimidating.

In Minnesota, any "political committee" -- meaning two or more people supporting or opposing a candidate or ballot question -- receiving more than $100 must file a number of reports. Imagine filing your own taxes five times a year and then imagine a nosy neighbor looking for mistakes to report. These disclosure requirements pose particular burdens on small organizations unable to afford a campaign finance attorney.

Second, disclosure can expose people to public harassment, economic reprisal, loss of employment and even violence. Just the threat of these responses poses a substantial burden on the exercise of First Amendment rights.

Peter also points out the distinction between candidates and ballot questions, issue advocacy. With the former there's potential for corruption, buying votes. That concern doesn't exist with ballot questions. People are simply stating their view on an issue which they support or oppose.

In Buckley v. Valeo, a landmark Supreme Court campaign finance case, the court did cite a government interest in providing the electorate with information on donations "in order to aid the voters in evaluating" candidates.

However, evaluating candidates is different than evaluating issues. As the court explained, disclosure of donations to candidates helps voters "place each candidate in the political spectrum more precisely" and "alerts voters to the interests to which a candidate is most likely to be responsive."

In the case of a ballot question, there is no lack of precision. The issue is
spelled out on the ballot.

Despite the heavier burden on First Amendment rights and the smaller government interest in disclosure, contributions to ballot questions are treated just like contributions to candidates under Minnesota's campaign finance disclosure requirements. The fact that Minnesota law does not distinguish a difference suggests the law, as it relates to ballot questions, is unconstitutional.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Few socially liberal republicans oppose MN Marriage Protection Amendment -- no new news.

The press conference by some socially liberal Republicans who came out against the marriage amendment is really no news. Representatives' Kriesel and Kelly have made known their opposition this past session. And Wheelock Whitney is know for his pro-gay positions. And Susan Kimberly had a sex change so Susan's opposition comes as no surprise as well.

Representative Kelly was quoted as saying that opposing the amendment is the conservative thing to do. Nothing could be further from the truth. Redefining marriage will only usher in a greater expansion of government to address the needs of greater family and marriage dissolution resulting from the devaluing and watering down of marriage. And government will grow as it seeks to impose upon society, an unnatural understanding of marriage on the rest of an unwilling society. This isn't about allowing a miniscule number of gay couples to get married but the rather redefinition of marriage for all society.

Representative Kelly is certainly free to hold whatever position he wants on the marriage protection amendment. But he needs to know that redefining marriage is anything but conservative.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dependency on government. Part of reason for problems we're facing.

One of the reasons we have massive government deficits and difficulty cutting spending is nearly half the US population lives in a household where somebody receives government benefits. Up from just under 30% in 1983.

A Wall Street Journal story notes:
Nearly half, 48.5%, of the population lived in a household that received some type of government benefit in the first quarter of 2010, according to Census
data. Those numbers have risen since the middle of the recession when 44.4% lived households receiving benefits in the third quarter of 2008.

The share of people relying on government benefits has reached a historic high, in large part from the deep recession and meager recovery, but also because of the expansion of government programs over the years.

Means-tested programs, designed to help the needy, accounted for the largest share of recipients last year. Some 34.2% of Americans lived in a household that received benefits such as food stamps, subsidized housing, cash welfare or Medicaid (the federal-state health care program for the poor).

Another 14.5% lived in homes where someone was on Medicare (the health care program for the elderly). Nearly 16% lived in households receiving Social Security.

High unemployment and increased reliance on government programs has also shrunk the nation’s share of taxpayers. Some 46.4% of households will pay no federal income tax this year, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. That’s up from 39.9% in 2007, the year the recession began.
This is part of the reason we're running up our massive deficits. It's too difficult politically to cut back on massive social programs because so many people are dependent on some form of government benefit.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Modern economies 'rise and fall' based on family"

That's a quote from a new study pointing out the fundamental importance marriage and intact families play in society. The study takes aim at cohabitation, easy divore and too few children as detriments to the economy.

If the wealth of a nation is tied to both the quality and the quantity of its people, then modern trends toward cohabiting instead of marrying, easy divorce and fewer children born to couples will have sweeping economic consequences, a new report says.

The "long-term fortunes of the modern economy rise and fall with the family," the Social Trends Institute says in its new report, "The Sustainable Demographic Dividend: What Do Marriage and Fertility Have to Do With the Economy?"

This is because economic growth, viability of welfare programs, size and quality of a workforce, and profitability of large sectors of an economy - health care and food, for instance - are intertwined with the family decisions of the populace, says the report, which is co-sponsored by six international institutions and the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.

Countries should strive for "sustainable fertility" of at least two children per woman or a total fertility rate of 2.1, the report says. Among developed countries, it adds, the U.S. is an "outlier" with its relatively stable 2.0 fertility rate. Elsewhere, "the average woman in a developed country now bears just 1.66 children," New America Foundation scholar Phillip Longman writes in the report.

Marriage also matters, the report says. Children raised in married, mother-father homes are the most likely to acquire the skills and behaviors conducive to becoming a "well-adjusted, productive" workforce. Also, "men who get and stay married work harder, work smarter, and earn more money than their unmarried peers."

Married couples with children are also economic "drivers" because they consume many services and goods, especially in child care, groceries, health care, home maintenance, household products, insurance and juvenile products, says W. Bradford Wilcox, associate sociology professor at UVa. and director of the National Marriage Project.

Married parents outspend childless singles and single parents in all these categories, and outspend married-but-childless couples in all but one category - "pets and toys," adds Mr. Wilcox. That's "probably because they are laying down big bucks for Fido."

The new report urges countries to find ways to encourage strong marriage and family cultures as an economic strategy, and, as if on cue, the Obama administration Monday announced grants of $119 million to promote "healthy marriage" and "responsible fatherhood."

"A strong and stable family is the greatest advantage any child can have," said George Sheldon, acting assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human Services. The agency awarded about $60 million to 61 marriage-strengthening groups, and $59 million to 59 fatherhood programs, including some that assist men leaving prison.
Frankly, marriage should be a top priority for policy makers. They shouldn't try to take over parenting or marriage counseling but they should eliminate policies which penalize people who marry and protect the commitments people make when they do marriage. And they should promote the positive message that marriage is good. The direct opposite from what we see in the entertainment world.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Another brewing crisis? Health care and out of control cost increases.

We didn't need another economic related crisis, we have another one with Obamacare -- the attempt to expand government control and relationship of our nation's health care system, which is about 18% of our nation's economy.

Obamacare house of cards is crumbling before our eyes. The Obama administration’s signature piece of legislation brings a sixth of the U.S. economy under federal control, and the writing is on the wall: Obamacare will collapse under the weight of its own false promises. The only mystery left is whether we will allow America to go down with it.

Remember when President Obama claimed over and over again that his health care plan would “bend the cost curve downward”? He even declared resolutely that he would not otherwise sign the bill. Well, add that to the growing list of Obamacare lies.

This is going to be a bumpy flight.

The nonprofit and nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation recently released the results of a survey that shakes the president’s health care law right down to its core. Health insurance premiums rose in 2011 to more than $15,000 per family for the first time in American history. Not surprisingly, Obamacare itself is to blame for much of the increase. The forced requirement to include adult “children” on their parents’ insurance up to the age of 26, as just one example, contributed to 20 percent of the increase.

Before Obamacare, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) projected annual health care spending would increase an average of 6.1 percent per year over the next decade. Despite the promises, after Obamacare passed, CMS recalculated its projections upward to 6.3 percent. Huh? Now the Kaiser survey shows that the actual results for the first year amounted to a 9 percent increase. Mr. Obama bent the cost curve all right - upward.

Are the increased costs justified, even if it does break the president’s cost-curve promise because, after all, Obamacare finally was going to provide insurance for 46 million uninsured people? Brace yourself. According to Gallup, the percentage of adults in America without health insurance has increased since Mr. Obama took office and since he signed Obamacare into law.

Please return your seat backs and tray tables to their full upright position. We are hitting some major turbulence now.

OK, so health care costs are going up because of Obamacare, and more adults are uninsured since it began - mostly because of Obamanomics (that’s another story) - but at least Mr. Obama promised it would reduce the deficit, right? Well, that was then, and this is now. Administration officials are quietly abandoning the so-called CLASS Act portion of Obamacare, supposedly meant to provide long-term elderly care. In reality, this was the mother of all accounting gimmicks, which counted 10 years of tax revenues but just five years of expenditures to give a false sense of fiscal sanity. Democratic senator and Obamacare supporter Kent Conrad of North Dakota called this “a Ponzi scheme of the first order, the kind of thing Bernie Madoff would have been proud of.” Absent the accounting gimmicks, the Congressional Budget Office now acknowledges that Obamacare actually increases the national deficit by $540 billion over the next 10 years.

Should we be surprised that a promise of more health care, lower costs and no addition to our federal deficits is resulting in higher health care costs, higher taxes, and additions to our government's deficit? Some would argue this was the known outcome from the get go. It would lead to a greater crisis with calls for more government to solve it. But that's a topic for another day.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fewer divorces, reconciliation and the reasons for divorce.

The economic hard times are keeping more married couples together and causing many to reconsider. This was pointed out in a recent USA Today story:

The Census bureau counted 65,000 fewer divorces in 2010 than in 2008, a 7% drop. The Census bureau counted 65,000 fewer divorces in 2010 than in 2008, a 7% drop. Observers say tough economic times mean many delay divorce; it's expensive to maintain separate households and pay attorney costs. It also may be difficult to sell the house to divide assets.

Observers say tough economic times mean many delay divorce; it's expensive to maintain separate households and pay attorney costs. It also may be difficult to sell the house to divide assets.

Also, 12% of parties in the process of divorce are still interested in reconciliation.

Doherty's survey of 2,484 parents who filed for divorce in Minnesota offers new insight into how people decide whether to call it quits or try again. About a quarter of those surveyed thought there was still hope for the marriage; in 12% of a subset of 329 couples, both partners independently indicated interest in reconciliation.

It was interesting seeing that the top reason for divorce wasn't abuse or infidelity but simply "growing apart". It points out the lack of commitment to marriage from the get go. From an understanding that marriage is a lifelong commitment to a relationship that can be discarded because "I've moved on".

Additional surveys in 2009-10 of 886 Minnesotans who filed for divorce dug deeper into contributing factors. "Growing apart" was the top reason, cited
by 55%, followed by "not able to talk together" (53%). Infidelity was cited
by 34%, the same percentage who cited "not enough attention."

Doherty says lack of attention from one's spouse and in-law problems were among reasons associated with partners thinking the marriage could be saved. Also, infidelity wasn't a factor in whether someone was open to reconciliation, he says.

Alan Hawkins, a professor of family life at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, says there's a lot of research on factors that predict divorce but "virtually no research on the thinking process."

Iris Krasnow interviewed more than 200 women for her book, The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married. "Splitting up crosses people's minds more than I imagined," she says. And "those on second marriages were not any happier than they were in their first. Many times, you're trading in one set of problems for another."

I've been saying the biggest long term crisis facing American society is the breakdown of marriage and families. If this continues unabated, the future of nation is at stake, because marriage and family are the foundation of society.