The CBO Agrees: It’s the Spending, Stupid!

The Congressional Budget Office has released its 2018 report on the Long-Term Budget Outlook for the U.S. Government. In it, CBO analysts make surprisingly blunt assessments of the government’s worsening fiscal condition, which they confirm is primarily driven by excessive growth in government’s projected spending.

How blunt are they? They’ve directly inserted that message into several of the report’s graphics, starting with the cover page:

Victory for Public Workers at SCOTUS

Today in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees the U.S. Supreme Court held that government employees who decline to join unions may not be compelled to pay dues and fees against their will to cover matters such as collective bargaining. Here is how this landmark opinion begins:

Under Illinois law, public employees are forced to subsidize a union, even if they choose not to join and strongly object to the positions the union takes in collective bargaining and related activities. We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.

SCOTUS Ruling in Janus Gives Power to the Workers

Illinois state worker Mark Janus was not a member of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees but the powerful AFSCME had been grabbing $550 a year from Janus’ paycheck and, he contended, using it to support political candidates and causes with which he disagreed. On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that AFSCME can’t do that anymore. 

“This procedure violates the First Amendment and cannot continue,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion. “Neither an agency fee nor any other payment to the union may be deducted from a nonmember’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.” In the minority dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote, “the First Amendment was meant for better things. It was meant not to undermine but to protect democratic governance—including over the role of public-sector unions.”

Wishful Thinking on Fake News

In a New York Times op-ed, Bryan W. Van Norden argues that the ignorant do not have a right to an audience. Van Norden says “The invincibly ignorant and the intellectual huckster have every right to express their opinions, but their right to free speech is not the right to an audience.”

Two of the “ignorant and intellectual hucksters” Van Norden calls out are Charles Murray and President Trump. I note this to suggest that Van Norden may lean to the left, politically, but I’m setting this observation aside as a curiosity to look at where his arguments ultimately lead.

Van Norden accurately says “The media are motivated primarily by getting the largest audience possible.” Yes, that is how they make their money. But, he argues, “Justice requires that, like any finite good, institutional access should be apportioned based on merit and on what benefits the community as a whole.”

SCOTUS Ruling on Sales Tax a Gift for In-State Retailers

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in South Dakota v. Wayfair that the Mount Rushmore State can compel out-of-state sellers to remit any sales taxes paid by South Dakota consumers. The broader implication is that when people buy from online retailers, those retailers are obligated to remit sales tax to the purchaser’s state if the purchaser’s state law requires it.

That decision is faulty for (at least) three reasons.

First, regardless of how sales tax laws are worded, sales taxes are in fact collected and paid by sellers to the sellers’ state governments. If a resident of another state decides to take a vacation to South Dakota and buys things while there, the vacationer will pay South Dakota sales tax, collected by South Dakota sellers and remitted to the state of South Dakota. Why should it be any different if someone from another state buys online from a South Dakota seller rather than buying in person? Normally, sales taxes are paid to the seller’s government, not the buyer’s.

Paul Richard Theroux (1922 – 2017)

I had the distinct privilege of delivering the eulogy (with my brother Gary) at the memorial service for my late father, Paul Richard Theroux, on Saturday, June 23, 2018, at Sylvan Abbey Funeral Home, in Clearwater, FL. Here is an edited version of my presentation:

The Christian Sabbath is Sunday, the traditional first day of the week, and this past Sunday was Father’s Day. Hence, I am even more delighted and grateful to all of you for gathering with us here today to remember and honor my beloved father, Paul Richard Theroux, who passed away at the age of 94 on July 17, 2017, outliving two wives and six siblings.

Dad was born on December 15, 1922, in Ithaca, NY, the third of seven children of my grandparents, Frank and Louise Theroux, both of whom were born in Valparaiso, IN, and married after my grandfather was discharged from the Army after World War I in 1918. My father and all of his siblings graduated from Michigan State University, where my grandfather was a professor of civil engineering and Dad majored in chemical engineering. Incidentally, Dad and his brothers and a sister became the largest single family ever to all earn degrees from the school.

National Council of La Raza Cronies Bag Big Bucks Warehousing Kids at the Border

Back in 2011, White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Muñoz, formerly vice president of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), told PBS “even if the immigration law is executed with perfection, there will be parents separated from their children.” So the separation policy was intentional, and it turned out to be very profitable for the politically connected. 

As Fox News reports “Texas-based Southwest Key Programs has taken in roughly $1 billion in federal contracts since the Obama administration and is expected to receive about $500 million this year to house and provide services for immigrant children.” Southwest Key holds a total of “more than 5,000 immigrant children, about 10 percent of whom are said to have been separated from their families since May when the new policy was announced. Its shelters for immigrants minors are in Texas, Arizona, and California.”

Southwest Key CEO Juan Sanchez and board member Anselmo Villareal both served with the National Council of La Raza, now rebadged as UnidosUS. According to CNN, Juan Sanchez bags $1.47 million a year, “which makes him one of the highest paid charity CEOs in the country.”

KXAN of Austin reports that Southwest Key has received $995 million in federal funds since 2015. Over a three-year period, Southwest Key had “more than 200 violations at its facilities,” including a resident failing to receive proper care for an STD. Sanchez says the issues were corrected and tells anybody who will listen “We’re the good guys.” 

As Fox reports, Southwest Key Programs operates “the largest licensed shelter for immigrant children in the United States. A 250,000-square-foot facility at a former WalMart superstore in Brownsville, Texas, today houses some 1,500 boys between the ages of 10 and 17 who illegally entered the U.S.” As illegal entry continues, a few realities are clear. 

The separation policy pre-dates the Trump administration and the kids have become cash cows. A politically connected non-profit can bag $1 billion and the boss can pull down $1.5 million a year. But remember, taxpayers, it’s all for the children. Remember too that when Illinois governor Rod Blagoyevich broke the law and went to prison, his children Amy and Anne didn’t go to prison with him. 


K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at The Daily Caller. 

Growing Public Employee Benefits to Force School Cuts

By and large, Americans support spending more money on public education and schools.

That general rule of thumb comes, however, with a caveat. Americans expect that when they give public schools more money, this will help to fund the education of their children and to support programs that promote their children’s development, such as athletics or the arts.

What they don’t expect is for the money they give to be siphoned off in ways that will either never show up in a classroom or that will never benefit their children.

EpiPen Pricing Controversy Reveals Ignorance about Market Competition

A recent episode of CNN’s Boss Files podcast featured Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan and the first woman to run a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company. The podcast focused primarily on her journey to success. However, roughly 40 minutes in, Bresch was questioned about her pricing strategy for EpiPen, the epinephrine auto-injector for treating emergency allergic reactions.

Mylan acquired the right to sell EpiPen in 2007 and, under Bresch’s leadership, EpiPen prices were raised nearly 400 percent in late 2015. In mid-2016, Mylan released a generic EpiPen, which sold for about $300 for a 2-pack (50 percent less expensive than the name-brand version). When questioned about Mylan’s pricing and promotion strategy, Bresch explained that patients “needed a solution and wanted a solution” and that her generic device provided both.

An Ugly Hockey Stick of Student Loan Debt

On May 31, 2018, the total public debt outstanding of the U.S. government stood at $21.145 trillion dollars. Of that amount, $1.211 trillion was borrowed so that Uncle Sam could be in the business of making student loans.

Over $1 trillion of that subtotal was borrowed after President Obama took over the student loan industry on March 30, 2010.

Amount Borrowed by U.S. Government to Fund Federal Direct Student Loans, FY1998 to FY2018 (YTD May 2018)

As trends go, the chart of the history of the U.S. government’s borrowing to fund student loans looks like an ugly hockey stick, the kind that can have negative implications for the population, particularly those Americans who have a crippling level of student loan debt.