Week in Review: Answering the Bell

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.


Answering the Bell

I’ll confess to having never heard of Kristen Bell before this video of her surfaced recently (such is my familiarity with modern-day pop culture). Apparently she’s an actress and a singer — and also, if that video is any indication, an aspiring economist.

The video is entertaining, if for no other reason than it calls to mind the common joke at the expense of those who sing poorly, in which they are advised against quitting their day job. This time, of course, the scenario is reversed. Singing is her day job, and she does it quite well. So well, in fact, that I’m going to go ahead and suggest she stick to it.

Watch the video for yourself (be advised that there’s a bit of bad language at the end), but here’s the gist of it: Ms. Bell, dressed as Mary Poppins, performs a little number to the tune of “A Spoonful of Sugar.” Except the lyrics are changed so that she’s calling for “just a three-dollar increase” in the federal minimum wage. The current floor of $7.25 an hour simply isn’t enough to live on, she melodiously explains, but one stroke of the government pen can make everybody’s financial worries melt away.

For a retort to all this, I couldn’t possibly do better than this video from our clever friends at Reason, who trot out Bert the chimney sweep to suggest that “just three pages of econ” might help Ms. Bell see the flaws in her reasoning.

I did, however, visit this topic in the not-too-distant past, in a column I wrote in response to cries, both nationally and here in Nevada, for a minimum-wage hike. As I wrote then:

Minimum-wage laws kill jobs. And increasing the minimum wage would kill even more of them. This is true for a very simple reason: If you increase the cost of something to an employer, he will be able to afford less of it. This means that entry-level jobs will disappear or, as we’re seeing already, human workers will be replaced by machines. In other words, minimum-wage laws hurt the very people they’re intended to help by pricing those people out of the labor market.           

Ms. Bell would have us believe that providing current low-wage employees a life of abundance is as simple as legislating more money into their pockets. But as I noted in that excerpt (and as the Reason video points out as well), her policy prescription would actually do serious harm to many of those same employees — by turning them into former employees.

But the most obnoxious line from Ms. Bell’s ditty refers to “the CEOs in fancy suits each giving their own trumpet toots” who “forget how hard it is to work a shift.” And she’s just getting warmed up. “They don’t like to break a sweat,” she informs us. “They prefer to just collect.”

Now, I find this maddening — and not just because I’m a CEO who wears fancy suits (they’re not actually all that fancy).

Only someone completely detached from the real world (as Hollywood types can often be) could fail to appreciate how much “sweat” goes into building and growing a business. Ms. Bell’s casual and ignorant dismissal of the tireless effort entrepreneurs put forth in order to earn their success would be insulting — if the source weren’t far too comical to take seriously.

No fair-minded person would deny that some people in this country are worse off than others, especially during these tough times. But the way to create economic opportunity for all is to remove governmental barriers to business development and job growth, not erect new ones.

Raising the minimum wage would only make things more difficult for those who are now struggling — and no amount of lyrical wit or musical talent can alter that reality.

•••

Speaking of musical talent (see what I did there?), last week I offered to buy a cup of coffee for the first person who wrote in and accurately identified the first song I learned to play on guitar, and I noted that I’d referenced some of the song’s lyrics somewhere in that column.

Some of our staff warned me that the hint wasn’t obvious enough, and it seems they were right, because nobody came up with the correct answer. However, there were lots of great guesses, my favorites including Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business” and Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” (I have to admit, that last one gave me a chuckle). Anyway, I’m going to give you all another shot at it, but this time I’ll help you out a bit more. The artist is Pink Floyd, and the relevant line from last week’s column referred to teachers trading the “hot air” of union rhetoric for the “cool breeze” of reason and logic.

No winner this time, and I’m drinking all the coffee myself.

Have a great weekend!

 

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Week in Review: For my next number ...

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.


For my next number...

Seriously, I love you guys, but you’re killing me here.

Last week I wrote what I thought was one of the more important Week in Review columns of the year. I discussed NPRI’s brand-new study on the dangers of the margin tax, and shared with you some of the extensive media coverage of our domino-toppling spectacle, which we used to illustrate the 3,610 jobs the study found would be wiped out if the tax were to go into effect. Lots of useful, substantive stuff in there.

So which line from that 700-word column triggered the most email responses? A reference I made in passing — parenthetically, no less — to my acoustic guitar. It’s really encouraging to see you all have your priorities in order.

All right, all right. I’m just giving you a hard time. Actually, I get it. Sometimes our minds need a break from the worrisome world of public policy. So let’s do this: I’ll reserve some space at the end of this week’s column to answer some of your questions on my burgeoning career as a rock star. Sound good?

For now, though, let’s get down to business.

***

Pop quiz: What’s better than quitting an organization you don’t wish to belong to? Answer: Never joining in the first place.

Those of you who follow NPRI’s work know that for three straight years now, we’ve been informing teachers throughout Nevada of their right to leave their union if they want to. The unions try to keep that right a secret, of course, but thanks in part to our efforts, more than 1,400 teachers across the state opted to leave their union between 2012 and 2013. This year’s opt-out window just closed, and we should know in a couple months how many teachers followed suit in 2014.

Teachers who have left their union cite all kinds of reasons for doing so. But the fact is that many of them only joined the union to begin with because they thought they didn’t have a choice. In actuality, they do. And for new Clark County teachers, the coming weeks will provide an opportunity to make the choice that’s right for them.

On August 13 and 14, representatives from the Clark County Education Association will be at the school district’s new-teacher orientation, in an effort to get those new teachers to sign up. From what we’ve been told by some teachers, these union reps can make it seem as though joining the union is a requirement. Teachers should know, however, that joining the union (and paying the $780-plus a year union membership will cost) is entirely optional.

And here are a couple other things the union doesn’t want new (or any) teachers to know: In Nevada, non-union members and union members enjoy the same compensation, and for teachers concerned about liability insurance, there are alternatives to the union — such as the Association of American Educators — that offer better coverage for a fraction of the cost.

There are plenty of other reasons why belonging to the union might not be the best option for some teachers. But the bottom line is that each individual teacher should be trusted to make an individual decision regarding union membership. It’s been humorous these past few years to see union leaders accuse NPRI of being “anti-teacher” simply for informing teachers of their rights. Increasingly, however, teachers aren’t buying it. They’re showing an eagerness to trade the hot air of union rhetoric for the cool breeze of reason and logic, and are recognizing that whether to belong to the union is a decision they can and should make for themselves.

So if you’re a new teacher, remember: Union membership is a choice, not a requirement. We won’t tell you what to do, and neither should a union official. Keep that in mind at your orientation.                                      

***

OK, so … I bought my guitar (a steel-string acoustic, for those of you who asked) a few years ago, after a conversation with our own Joe Becker, actually. We were at a conference together, and Joe had his guitar with him. He’d been playing for about 15 years at that point, and as we got talking, it brought back fond memories of a Fisher-Price four-string I had as a kid, and I thought it might be a nice thing to take up. So I bought my guitar, and then — life being full of so much other stuff — I stuck it in a closet and pretty much forgot I even had it for a while.

But over the past few months, I’ve been playing pretty often, and it really is a lot of fun. I’m still getting the hang of it — I’m not sure what the technical names for the various skill levels are, but I’d guess I fall somewhere between “terrible” and “I think maybe you’re holding it upside down.” But I’m one of those artists who’ve never cared much for what the critics think.

In all seriousness, I do appreciate those of you who wrote in on that subject. A bunch of you asked what kind of stuff I like to play, so let’s have some fun here. I’ll buy a cup of coffee for the first person who can write in and accurately guess the first song I learned. (Hint: There’s a reference to some of the song’s lyrics somewhere in this column.) Good luck to you all!

Take care, and I’ll see you next time…

 

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Week in Review: Dominoes

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.


Dominoes

We all know the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

But this week, at NPRI’s Las Vegas office, we created a picture worth a whole lot more than that.

You’ve probably seen some of the widespread coverage of this already, but on Tuesday, we released a new study on the impact the proposed margin tax would have on Nevada’s economy. To illustrate that impact, we set up, and then toppled, 3,610 dominoes — one for each job the study finds will be destroyed if voters pass the margin tax this November.

Problems with this tax proposal run deep, but even a cursory review reveals why it would be so devastating. If it passes (it’s Question 3 on the ballot), it would result in a new, 2 percent tax levied on the revenue of Nevada businesses that gross more than $1 million a year. A million bucks may sound like a lot, but that breaks down to just $2,739.73 a day in sales, which means it would encompass most mom-and-pop restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, etc. And because it’s a tax on revenue, and not on profit, struggling businesses — and even those already losing money — would be forced to pay it.

That’s not all. The study also finds that the margin tax would decrease Nevadans’ real disposable income by $240 million in its first year (and by more in future years), while investment would drop by more than $7 million annually.

These numbers are important. But what matters far more is what they stand for. Each of those 3,610 dominoes we knocked down this week represents the job of a member of our community that will be wiped out if the margin tax goes into effect. That number could include your job, or that of someone you know. Just think about the stress and hardship you’d endure if, just like that, your job were to suddenly vanish.

And for what? To throw more money at a public education system that is failing not because of insufficient funding, but because of systemic problems that can only be solved through structural reform? A job-killing tax that would do nothing to accomplish its purported goal? Talk about a lose-lose.

You and I know all this, of course. Our challenge is to get that message out, and to help citizens all across our state understand the real-life effects the margin tax would have on themselves, and on their neighbors, friends and family. The release of our new study is a crucial part of that effort, but we also knew that creating a powerful visual would generate attention and interest on a much grander scale.

And so it did. Our domino spectacle earned an abundance of media coverage, not just from almost all of the Las Vegas media, but also from multiple TV stations in Reno. Take a look over at the right column of this bulletin for a more comprehensive overview, but I thought this story from Las Vegas’ Channel 8 and this one from the Las Vegas Review-Journal (which also ran the story as the lead in Wednesday’s hard-copy Nevada section) captured the events particularly well.

It’s great to see our work being disseminated so broadly. (I have to admit, Tuesday evening brought me a good deal of satisfaction, as I sat out on my back patio, enjoying a cigar and a scotch while playing my acoustic guitar and checking out all the coverage online.) It’s invigorating to know that in the past few days, hundreds of thousands of voters have been exposed to the crucial findings of our study, many of them no doubt learning of the dangers of the margin tax for the very first time.

But what happened this week marks the beginning of our task, not the end.

Between now and November, our job — yours and mine — is to continue to reach as many Nevadans as possible with the truth about what the margin tax would mean for our state.

I know you’re up to it. And I look forward to fighting alongside you in the weeks and months ahead.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you at one of next week’s Friedman Legacy Day luncheons.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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The emerging school choice consensus

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.


The emerging school choice consensus

Last week I used this space to talk about a report NPRI had just released, which focused on the many ways Nevada policymakers could improve the state’s failing education system without spending more money. The report offers an abundance of policy recommendations — 33 of them, in fact — and each is highly meritorious.  

But of all the policy options available, there’s one that stands out above all others in its potential to help the state realize profound gains in student achievement. What Nevada needs, ultimately, is school choice.

As Geoff Lawrence, the report’s author, writes:

The evidence that school choice is among the most cost-effective strategies for elevating student outcomes … grows by the day. In particular, school choice tends to benefit minority students and students from low-income households. No serious academic study has ever found that school choice harms any group of students.

The evidence to which Geoff refers, of course, simply confirms what ought to be obvious. Allowing parents to choose which schools their children attend would force schools to compete for enrollees and tuition dollars, and would therefore give them a powerful incentive to provide a high-quality education. It’s a concept that we apply, without even thinking about it, to nearly every other facet of our lives. Just consider how absurd it would be if the government began dictating, based on your zip code, which restaurants, shopping malls or movie theaters you could go to. Do you think your local Applebee’s would work as hard to satisfy you if management knew you had no choice but to eat there?

Fortunately, the arguments for school choice — advanced most articulately and passionately by the late Dr. Milton Friedman and echoed today by devotees of the movement he inspired — are resonating. And not just among those identified with the political Right, the constituency one might expect to most naturally gravitate toward policies rooted in market-based principles.

Earlier this year, we at NPRI hosted a screening of a film called “The Ticket,” which documented a number of successful school-choice programs around the country that have drawn backing from Republicans and Democrats alike. These stories indeed reflect a trend that has seen the fight for school choice garner support from across partisan lines.

Among the latest to join the chorus is a group of high-profile figures from the sports and entertainment industries. While we’re used to celebrities unabashedly speaking their minds on political issues, typically the views expressed come from the Left (a source of constant irritation for many of us). However, the American Federation for Children has released a series of videos featuring the likes of sports stars Jalen Rose, Lisa Leslie and Deion Sanders, TV host/entertainer Kathie Lee Gifford and actress/producer Vivica A. Fox, among others, expressing their support for giving parents more choice in how and where their kids are educated.

Promoting education reform generally, and school choice specifically, has been at the heart of NPRI’s mission since our founding nearly 23 years ago, and it’s heartwarming to see this effort attract such widespread support. There’s a lot of momentum on our side — and we need to keep pressing onward.

You’ve probably seen some of our emails on this already, but I want to take a moment to remind you again that in a couple of weeks, we will be holding a couple of policy luncheons — one in Las Vegas (July 30) and one in Reno (Aug. 1) — that will focus on the power of school choice to transform lives and provide hope to those children most in need.

The speaker at each event will be Virginia Walden-Ford, a long-time school-choice advocate who has seen first-hand the ability of educational freedom to create opportunities for our nation’s youth, and particularly the most underserved members of the population. Her story is truly inspiring, and I hope you’ll read this profile of her that Townhall published a few years back. It’s the kind of courage and determination she has displayed that will ultimately ensure that we win on this critical issue.

And of course, I hope you’ll take the time to attend one of our luncheons and hear her story in person. I assure you, you won’t be disappointed. You can register for either event here.

It’s said often, but it’s worth repeating. School choice isn’t about Republicans or Democrats, or even conservatives or liberals. It’s about our children and their hopes for the future. We’ve made great progress on this issue, and I hope you’ll join us in a couple of weeks to help us keep it going.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you soon.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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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


Remember, if you'd like to receive the latest from NPRI, sign-up for our emails here.

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