Week in Review: This will make you laugh

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


This will make you laugh

I received an email the other day from a friend and long-time NPRI supporter. Attached to the email was this image:

Come on, admit it — that one made you laugh. But it’s true, isn’t it? You can have an endless supply of something, but it won’t do you much good if you’re utterly clueless as to how to use it.

The world of public policy is certainly full of examples. And my friend was apparently reminded of one when he looked at that image. With his email, he included a simple sentence: “The only thing missing is the CCSD logo.”

He seems to have noticed the pattern.

For years, Nevada’s education establishment and its defenders have been clamoring for increased funding. The margin tax initiative, brought to you by the teacher unions and set to go before voters this November, is but the latest attempt to get their hands on the one thing they always want: more money. But what these folks don’t want is accountability for how they’re using the money they already receive. And their ongoing success in avoiding such accountability is a large and growing problem for Nevada’s taxpayers and students.

It needs to stop.

This week, we at NPRI released a new report that gets at the heart of the Silver State’s education challenges. Authored by Geoff Lawrence, the report documents how decades of shoveling more money into our public education system has failed to deliver the promised gains in student achievement. The problem, Geoff explains, isn’t a lack of resources. It’s the inability of our school systems to use current resources properly.

To address that problem, the report explores a number of policy reforms — 33, in fact — that have a proven track record of success in other states, and can be implemented here in Nevada without any increase in spending. These reforms would improve educational achievement not by blindly adding to the pile of resources, but by ensuring that existing resources are utilized more efficiently — something that, sadly, we rarely see in the public-education realm.

The report is a great read and a welcome addition to the education-policy debate. I strongly urge you to check it out (you can do so here). There’s a lot of material in there, but I hope the main thing you take away from it is this: We can throw all the money in the world at our education problems, but we’re not going to get anywhere until we start demanding that the recipients of that money use it wisely.

***

Speaking of accountability, we’re still within the window when dissatisfied teacher-union members can hold union bosses accountable for their performance. Teachers who want to leave their union can do so, but they must act by July 15. If that’s you — or if it’s someone you know — the place to get more information is www.nevadateacherfreedom.com.

In the past two years, more than 1,400 teachers statewide have decided to opt out of union membership, and for a variety of reasons. Many cite poor customer service. Others like the idea of saving hundreds of dollars a year in union dues, believing they can spend that money better than union officials can. And some don’t like the idea of belonging to an organization that uses their money to push job-killing proposals like the margin tax.

Whatever the reason, we at NPRI believe that teachers who want to leave the union should be able to. Unfortunately, the union makes it difficult to do so (witness the narrow, two-week opt-out window), but we’ll be working hard over the next few days to reach as many teachers as possible with this important information.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Week in Review: Our challenge

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


Our challenge

Tomorrow is Independence Day, and for most Americans, that means a day full of lounging by the pool, barbecuing in the backyard, watching fireworks shows and partaking in an array of other customs associated with the celebration of our nation’s birthday. For the vast majority of the population, it will provide a nice mental break from the concerns that typically occupy their minds.

And then, there are people like you and me.

Maybe I’m assuming too much, but my guess is that you feel it, too. The Fourth of July, in recent years, stirs up an odd mixture of emotions. There’s the strong, unshakable love for this country, and yet … the presence, everywhere we look, of so much to dislike about what it’s becoming.

Frustration, bitterness, pessimism — these feelings are all warranted as America drifts further and further away from its bedrock principles. Our nation’s founders were inspired by many ideals, but chief among them was individual liberty. And we’ve been losing it, never more so than in the past few years. I’ve been reading a lot from Judge Andrew Napolitano of late, as he’ll be keynoting NPRI’s 23rd Anniversary Celebration dinner this fall, and here’s what he wrote a year ago, on Independence Day 2013:

Regrettably, today we have the opposite of what the Framers gave us. Today we have a government that alone decides how much wealth we can retain, how much free expression we can exercise, how much privacy we can enjoy. And since the Fourth of July 2012, freedom has been diminished.

In the past year, all branches of the federal government have combined to diminish personal freedoms, in obvious and in subtle ways.

Is there any doubt that, of the past year, we can say the same?

That negative tone runs throughout Judge Napolitano’s piece. It’s essentially a 1,000-word lamentation on the state of our country, punctuated not with an offering of hope or advice, but with sour sarcasm: “Happy Fourth of July 2013.”

What he says is clear enough. And, regrettably, it’s true.

But what does it mean?

That part is up to us.

Judge Napolitano’s words — and the thousands upon thousands like them that have been written by freedom lovers in recent years — could very well serve as a somber obituary for American liberty. And we can choose to let them be thus.

Or we can choose to make them mean something else.

We can choose to see those words the way I believe Judge Napolitano intended them — as a wake-up call, and a challenge.

The course of human affairs is not preordained. As irreversible as our current trajectory may seem, it is only that — the way it seems.

We still get to decide what will be.

I was asked not long ago, by a good friend and comrade-in-arms in the policy battles, if I ever stopped and wondered if this was all really worth it. Had we already lost? Had our nation already reached the point of no return on the road toward statism?

And I’ll admit, the answer didn’t come as quickly as I would have liked.

But I’ll tell you now what I eventually told him then — that no matter how dire our situation, and no matter how long our odds of prevailing may appear, the principles we cherish are every bit as noble and just today as they were in the summer of 1776. No passage of time, no change in circumstances, and no shift in the political winds can alter that truth.

Those principles deserve and demand our tireless efforts to defend them. Now and always.

Challenge accepted.

***

I appreciate all the responses to last week's solicitation of suggestions for my summer reading list. Several of you echoed my praise for Bastiat’s The Law, and lots more of you offered up your own recommendations. The most common were, as one might expect, some of the classics — Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, Mises’ Human Action and Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom — but a couple of you also tossed in Heather Mac Donald’s The Burden of Bad Ideas. I haven’t read that one, but I’m a fan of her writing, so I’ll be sure to check it out.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to write. And have a safe and happy Independence Day!

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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What are you reading?

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


What are you reading?

Last summer I had a lot of fun putting together a list of summer reading suggestions, which I featured in one of my Week in Review columns. And, based on the feedback I received, many of you had a good time reading it — with several of you even taking the time to send me some recommendations of your own. So I’ve been looking forward to doing another list this year.

It probably won’t surprise you much when I tell you that I’m a pretty avid reader. And it won’t surprise you any further when I tell you that most of the books I read have something to do with the political and/or public policy worlds — though in the past year I’ve had occasion to branch out into some other genres here and there.

Still, I know my audience. And I know that if you’re reading this, it’s likely you share my passion for the wonky debates over public policy, political theory, etc. So with that, here are five books you should consider taking with you on that summer vacation this year.

Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt

Sixty-eight years after it was first published, this introduction to free-market economic principles remains one of the very best books ever written on the subject. Most remarkable about it is the way Hazlitt boils a set of seemingly complex ideas down into a simple, clear and easy-to-digest form. The book has drawn praise from the likes of Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, F.A. Hayek, H.L. Mencken, Steve Forbes, Ron Paul and many others. (No doubt that if Hazlitt were alive today, he’d be touched to see me join that list.) Economics books can be heavy (in both senses of the word) but this is one you’ll actually enjoy while you’re sitting on that beach in Maui.

Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics by Charles Krauthammer

For an insightful, intelligent and honest examination into contemporary American politics, you can’t do any better than Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton Things That Matter by Charles Krauthammer. Few have covered Washington, D.C., as closely over the past 30-plus years as Krauthammer (for which he is deserving of our deepest sympathies) and at long last all of that wisdom has been collected in a single volume. He’s been one of my favorite writers since I first started following politics and public policy (I actually remember where I was the day I heard this book was coming out) and even if you don’t agree with all of his views, I have full confidence that you’ll get a ton of enjoyment out of reading this book. What was really striking in going through this collection is that, despite the massive societal changes over the past three decades, so many of the core issues and assumptions driving our political debates have remained constant. As the French say, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The Law by Frédéric Bastiat

I included this one on last year’s list, but it makes the cut again this year because it’s impossible to overstate the value of this classic. Last year I wrote: “If you know a burgeoning conservative who’s ready to start grounding his political instincts in a deeper and more coherent philosophical argument, this is the place to point him.” Still is. And it’s still available for free online: http://www.constitution.org/cmt/bastiat/the_law.html.

The Weed Agency by Jim Geraghty

Looking for something a bit lighter this summer, but still want that political fix? Check out Jim Geraghty’s novel centered on the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agency of Invasive Species (not an actual agency … yet). I’m a long-time reader of Geraghty’s work for National Review, and his first foray into fiction is a welcome one. His send-up of our incompetent and inefficient federal bureaucracy will leave you wondering whether to laugh at the absurdity of it all, or cry because you know how spot-on it is. Either way, it’s a great read.

Healthy Competition: What’s Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It by Michael Cannon and Michael Tanner

If I were a tad smarter, I would have written this column a few weeks ago, when I could have taken the opportunity to plug Tanner’s appearance at our June 18 Spring Celebration. Then again, the fact that I’m still promoting it today, despite the lack of any selfish reason to do so, should tell you how big a fan I am of this book. More important than simply bemoaning the problems plaguing our health care system is identifying the solutions that will address them. This book is chock-full of them.

Well, that’s it. I suppose it goes without saying that this list is hardly exhaustive. Which means the next few days are sure to invite upon my inbox a barrage of emails that start with “How could you possibly exclude….?!”

And since I’m a good sport, I invite you to do exactly that. Send me your suggestions, and I’ll note a few of the more popular ones in next week’s column. I’m off to Massachusetts to visit family for the weekend (and I’ll be re-reading The Weed Agency on the plane), so my response time to emails might be a bit slower than usual. But I promise to get to as many as I can.

As always, thanks for reading. Take care, and I’ll see you next time.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Margin tax foes greatly outnumber proponents

Teacher union virtually alone in pushing job-killing tax

The proposed margin tax — or Ballot Question 3 — has unified Nevada, a new infographic shows.

In an easy-to-view and shareable format, the graphic drives home the point that the proposed two percent gross receipts tax would be devastating to Nevada’s economy, and that just about everyone understands this. 

Take a look for yourself and see the overwhelming consensus.

Click here to download this infographic as a PDF.

 

Sick system

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


Sick system

In the wake of the VA scandal, the swap of five Taliban members for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the collapse of Iraq and the disappearance of years’ worth of IRS emails, it seems Obamacare has vanished from the headlines.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t vanished from our lives. It still exists, and it’s still causing serious problems for state budgets, individuals and families. And it stands to continue to cause those problems for most Americans in the years to come.

This week, The Manhattan Institute released an interactive Obamacare rate map revealing that Nevada is one of only a handful of states where health insurance rates have increased by more than 80 percent since the adoption of the Affordable Care Act.

In the Silver State, 27-year-old self-insured males have seen a 289 percent increase in the cost to remain insured, while 40-year-old men have seen their rates go up by 183 percent. At the age of 64, a Nevada male will have seen his rates increase by 124 percent. For 27-, 40- and 64-year-old self-insured women in Nevada, rates have gone up 106, 94 and 130 percent, respectively, from their pre-Obamacare levels.

Though President Obama and other Obamacare supporters promised Americans that passage of the ACA would save families $2,500 per year in insurance costs, we know now that the exact opposite has happened. As Cato Institute Senior Fellow Michael Tanner told radio host Dan Mason last week: “Almost everything we were told about [Obamacare] by the president turns out to be wrong.”

Tanner expanded on that comment during his keynote speech at NPRI’s Spring Celebration, which was held Wednesday night at the Eldorado Resort Hotel in Reno. The fundamental premise of Obamacare is that young, healthy people will overpay for insurance in order to offset the costs of insuring the older and sicker. That premise has turned out to be false, and it’s not just the young and healthy who will suffer the consequences.

In its current form, Tanner explained, Obamacare is in a “death spiral.” Because not enough young, healthy individuals have signed up for insurance (that demographic accounts for only about 27 percent of enrollees, far short of the 40 percent that even the Obama administration admits is needed to make the plan viable), premiums for all will be forced upward. In turn, the young, healthy people who’ve signed up for insurance, faced with those higher premiums, will drop coverage, leaving the insurance pool sicker.

This again, in turn, will cause premiums to rise further, forcing even more healthy individuals out of the pool, until Obamacare eventually collapses. The likely result? We may well see the entire insurance market — public and private — implode.

As Tanner put it: “We’re on the cusp of something that could be very, very bad in terms of the insurance market.”

The real problem with health care, which Obamacare does nothing to address, is that consumers are barely involved in the health insurance equation. Somebody else — the government or, through what is essentially government subsidization, an employer — is paying. And because consumers are so far removed from the actual costs of health care, those competitive dynamics that push costs down in other markets are missing.

As Tanner explained, shifting to a market-based system in which individuals shop and pay for insurance themselves would drive costs lower. That’s because consumers, as they do with most purchases in their lives, would be able to demand better quality at a lower price, instead of having to settle for the reverse.

Government intervention is what prevents the improvement in goods and services that otherwise occurs in a free-market system. And the case of Obamacare is no different. The question of “how to fix Obamacare” misses the point. The way to improve our health care system is to get government out of it.

If you weren’t able to attend our Spring Celebration and hear Tanner’s speech — or if you’d just like to learn more of his insights — I encourage you to pick up a copy of his book: Healthy Competition: What’s Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It.

***

On a completely unrelated, but nevertheless important, note: If you’re planning to stop by next month’s FreedomFest— the event that bills itself as "the world’s largest gathering of free minds”— make sure to stop by the 2:30 panel in Melrose 3 on Friday, July 11.  The panel —“Stateside Success: Can State Think Tanks Make a Difference?”— will feature NPRI’s own Geoffrey Lawrence along with leaders of other state-focused, free-market think tanks across the country.

Also, John Stossel will be doing a live filming of his Fox Business show, “Stossel,” at Freedom Fest on Thursday, July 10 at 7 p.m., and Las Vegas locals can get tickets to participate in the audience for FREE! If you wish to attend the Stossel taping, email a request for tickets to Stosseltix@foxbusiness.com. Reference FreedomFest, provide your contact information, and you’ll get your tickets at no cost.

Thanks for reading!

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Summer getaway

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


Summer getaway

With school out for most Nevada students and summer rapidly approaching, many Nevada families are planning their summer getaway.

While most summer vacations last a few days to a week, for hundreds of Nevada teachers, this summer will mark the start of a permanent vacation — one from the Nevada State Education Association. And, unlike other vacations that cost families money, teachers who choose a teacher-union getaway will save hundreds of dollars in the short term and thousands in the coming years.

From July 1 to July 15, Nevada teachers may opt out of union membership by notifying their local union affiliate — and in some cases their school district — in writing of their desire to leave the teacher union. Nevada is a right-to-work state, but because of this small, ill-timed opt-out window, many teachers have no idea they’re able to make this important decision.

That’s why, for the third year in a row, NPRI has launched its summer teacher-union opt-out awareness campaign. Two weeks ago, we emailed teachers throughout the state to make them aware of the rights that their union tries to keep secret, and several days later, we unveiled electronic billboards throughout the Las Vegas Valley to raise awareness further.

The message is simple: Union membership is a choice, and teachers deserve to be able to make this choice on their own.

Since we launched this effort two summers ago, more than 1,400 teachers have left the Nevada State Education Association, taking with them over $1.1 million in annual dues. They’ve cited a number of motivators for leaving, including:

  • To save money: Teachers believe they can spend their union dues (more than $770 per year for Clark County educators) better than their union does. The money represents a mortgage payment for some, classroom supplies for others, back-to-school clothes for those with children, and much, much more.
  • To get out of politics: The vast majority of teachers teach because they have a passion for educating young minds, not because they want to play politics. And many Nevada teachers don’t agree with the NSEA politically and don’t want to see their hard-earned dollars working against them. Take the margin tax: The NSEA is the job-killing initiative’s only major backer. Why should teachers financially support an initiative they know would hurt Nevada’s economy?
  • To be heard: Nevada teachers report the union is unresponsive to their needs and disrespects them. For only $15 per month, teachers can find better representation through nonpartisan associations like the Association of American Educators.

The Heartland Institute — a premiere news source for legislators across the nation — and the Nevada Business magazine wrote about our efforts and the movement that has led union membership in the Clark County Education Association and Washoe Education Association — the NSEA’s two largest chapters — to drop to 59.5 percent and 60.5 percent, respectively.

It’s clear that, given the choice to leave or stay in the union, many teachers leave.

Presumably, the union recognizes the threat. Just days after we began emailing teachers, the CCEA turned to Twitter to promote reasons to stay in the union. And, on Monday, the NSEA emailed members encouraging them to participate in a phone bank, saying, “Your help with phoning is hugely important as we work to minimize drops and increase membership!”

Unlike the union that wants to keep this information quiet, we believe Nevada’s educators are intelligent enough to make their own choices for themselves and for their families — whatever those choices may be. For teachers who believe leaving the union is their best option, we’ve provided pre-written letters so they can opt out with ease.

While our efforts are garnering national attention, we can only reach a fraction of Nevada teachers by email, and our billboard ads will likely only be seen by teachers in CCSD. So, if you know a teacher in Nevada, let him or her know that union membership isn’t mandatory, but that to opt out, one must do so during the first two weeks of July.

It might be the best vacation tip they’ve ever received.

***

On an unrelated note, be sure to get your tickets for our annual Spring Celebration in Reno before they’re gone. The event is this coming Wednesday, June 18, at the Eldorado, and we’re fortunate to have Cato Institute Senior Fellow and health care expert Michael Tanner as our keynote speaker. I assure you: It’s not to be missed!

Have a great weekend,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Reading Rainbow

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


Reading Rainbow

If you had children who grew up in the ’80s or ’90s, you probably remember the power that the television show “Reading Rainbow” had in teaching kids to read and fostering a love of reading in youths across the nation.

Now, the former show is teaching adults the power of free markets. Over the past week, it has become a perfect case for how government isn’t needed to make a good idea successful.

In case you missed it, “Reading Rainbow” host LeVar Burton launched a Kickstarter campaign last week in an effort to raise enough money — $1 million — to create a revamped, online version of the show that ran for more than 25 years on PBS before it was abruptly canceled in 2009. In the campaign’s first day, it met its initial goal, and it actually crossed the $2 million mark on day two.

By raising $2 million over two days from people eager to see the show return, “Reading Rainbow” debunked the common liberal view that good endeavors need the helping hand of government to succeed. Voluntary donors have not only supplied the funding to get the program off the ground, but have positioned it to be sustainable.

And Burton is demonstrating the kind of innovation that’s only possible through free markets, by bringing the show back in a format better suited for today’s youths. While the show’s publicly funded version failed to adapt to today’s internet and mobile age, the new “Reading Rainbow” will reach children where they are: on computers and mobile tablets and, if enough money is raised, on smartphones.

Unlike government-provided programs, which lack the incentives to innovate because their funding is guaranteed through force, privately funded efforts face competition, and thus have to constantly adapt and improve if they’re to survive.

As the New York Post’s editorial board put it, “Reading Rainbow” is returning “thanks to technological innovation and the free market.”

There is an undeniable demand for a new-and-improved “Reading Rainbow.” In the first week of the campaign, more than 75,000 individuals contributed to the project, with higher-level donors receiving various incentives in exchange for their gifts. Each of those people saw enough value in the product to back it voluntarily.

Beyond serving as an example of the benefits of free markets, the “Reading Rainbow” campaign also demonstrates how private groups and individuals can offer innovation in education. NPRI frequently discusses the benefits of school choice, and while that usually means bringing the private sector into the process through charter schools, homeschooling or education savings accounts, it also means allowing private companies that have quality educational products to provide them to public schools.

In the case of the new “Reading Rainbow,” Burton plans to not only have a web-based show, but also to provide materials to teachers and offer them to the country’s most needy schools free of charge. Even children who are stuck in failing public schools, as too many Nevada students are, will have a new chance to learn to read thanks to this new, private endeavor.

Liberals recognize this, too — and amazingly, they are now attacking Burton for his efforts.

Within hours of the campaign’s launch, the Washington Post slammed Burton for daring to create a business out of an abandoned program that clearly has a market strong enough to be resurrected without government handouts. How could a business fueled by a desire for profit teach a child to read? In the minds of some liberals, only bureaucrats can provide services to the neediest among us. How’d those high-minded bureaucrats at the VA work out?

We should commend LeVar Burton and the others working to bring “Reading Rainbow” back to American households. They saw a need and took the initiative to fill it without turning to our cash-strapped country to pay for it.

There’s much more to “Reading Rainbow” than a literary lesson. I hope adults are as willing to hear its message about the free market as children are its stories.

Thanks for reading and having a great weekend.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Culinary Union found guilty of engaging in unfair labor practices

Have you ever been lied to by a colleague at work?

It’s something that should never happen, but unfortunately does. And for employees on the Strip, the one who is lying or threatening them is all too often a union official. The Culinary Union committed the most recent violations, and on May 2, a judge with the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the Culinary Union engaged in unfair labor practices and ordered the union “to cease and desist.”

What happened is this. Five years ago, a snack-bar attendant at the Paris Hotel opted out of the Culinary Union. In order to try and get her back in the union, a shop steward threatened her with the loss of her benefits and seniority, unless she re-joined the union.

She immediately asked her supervisor about the validity of the Culinary Union’s threats and then filed a complaint.

This story shows why it’s so important to remind employees about what their rights are when it comes not joining or leaving a union.

Because Nevada is a right-to-work state, any employee can leave their union without penalty. That’s right. You can save several hundred dollars a year in dues and still receive the same pay, benefits and seniority.

No worker has to join a union, but many unions restrict when members can leave. For instance, Culinary workers have to submit written notice within two weeks of anniversary of the day they joined the union to leave.

Despite untrue threats from union officials, every worker in the Nevada has the right to leave their union without facing any penalty or discrimination. 

 

Model the good things about Texas, not the bad

It seems like every day Texas makes headlines for its booming economy.

If it’s not making room for Toyota and its 3,000 jobs, the Lone Star State is welcoming thousands of hard-working new residents eager to live the American Dream that so many other states try to squash with high taxes and onerous regulations.

In most ways, Texas is a model state, and one that more states — including Nevada — should emulate.

Except in one way.

Just a few days ago, Texas State Senator Craig Estes came to Nevada to warn us about one major blunder his state has made: passing a margin tax. This message is timely, because in November, Nevada voters will consider a margin tax proposal based on the Texas tax.

Senator Estes put it bluntly when he said Nevada shouldn’t follow Texas when it comes to the margin tax. In Texas, the margin tax has forced businesses to close and others to lay-off workers, hit small and medium businesses the hardest and has been an administrative nightmare for mom-and-pop shops.

And the Nevada tax would two to four times as high as the Texas tax.

The Texas margin tax has been so destructive that Texas legislators are now working to repeal it.

Wouldn’t it be a sad irony for Nevada to pass a margin tax because Texas has one, while Texas is currently working to eliminate its margin tax?

 

VA: Government health care runs its course

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


VA: Government health care runs its course

Overwhelming evidence now shows that the Department of Veterans Affairs has for years manipulated records to give the appearance of satisfactory performance. The manipulated records left dozens of veterans to die without receiving the treatment they were promised, thousands made to wait for months or years, and Paul Krugman writing that the VA is a “huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform.”

Krugman’s actually right about one thing. The VA scandal offers a very important lesson for health care reform: Government-run health care is a failure. A failure that has literally killed our nation’s heroes, our servicemen and women.

Dr. Ben Carson recently described this failure as, “what happens when you take layers and layers of bureaucracy and place them between the patients and the health care provider.” 

Dr. Carson’s statement highlights how liberal big-government policies fail to account for the two big problems facing every sector of the economy: the information problem and the incentive problem.

The information problem is a recognition that no one person or agency or government has all the information needed to make the “right” decision. In this situation, this is most obviously seen with the 1,700 names that disappeared from the Phoenix-VA waiting list.

In a free market, the information problem still exists, but prices — outside of government interference, of course — synthesize millions of data points into a concrete indicator showing the supply and demand of a certain product.

And if prices — and profits — rise, that price increase is an indispensible signal to companies and entrepreneurs to start creating more of that good or service. In the long term, higher prices are actually what ensure an adequate supply of a given good or service, especially since higher prices also decrease demand.

And what about the incentive problem? For too many workers in the VA bureaucracy, their incentives led them to keep their heads down to protect their jobs and pensions, instead of providing better service to those who’ve served us.

How are incentives different for private-sector workers? Because of competition. If you don’t like the service you receive at your doctor’s office, you’ll go to another one. This means that if workers want to keep their jobs, they have to provide good service to you, the customer. They have many incentives to find problems and eliminate them.

Too often in government, workers who find problems in the system and try to change them are ostracized for “rocking the boat” or attacked for trying to eliminate someone’s job. Without the pressure of competition, though, government bureaucracies become bloated and focused on inputs, instead of outcomes.

The VA failures are not isolated; they’re systemic. These problems have lasted for years, spanning both Democratic and Republican presidencies. These problems aren’t just the result of managerial or administrative incompetence; they’re the inevitable outcome of modern-day liberalism.

We will continue to see such failures so long as government is the source for services, instead of the free market.

By the way, yesterday, I was a guest for the full half-hour on Las Vegas Channel 3’s What’s Your Point show with Amy Tarkanian. We talked about the VA scandal, the proposed margin tax, Metro’s subsidies of the Culinary Union’s protests, and more. I encourage you to check it out here.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Total Records: 1833

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