Phil Kerpen on June 28, 2019 | Reform Health Care Right

By Phil Kerpen

Just a decade after Democrats steamrolled Republicans and public opposition to upend the American health care system, they are ready to move on to the next phase on their plan to force every American into a government-run health care plan.  Some of them, led by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris (about half the time—she flops like a fish), openly advocate banning private health insurance (except for "supplemental coverage," meaning cosmetic surgery) and immediately forcing everyone into a government plan.  That's what the "Medicare for All" bill in Congress would do.  Others, led by Joe Biden, adopt a more subtle path to destroying private insurance developed by Yale professor Jacob Hacker called the "public option" – alternately called a "Medicare buy-in" or "Medicare X."

The "public option" strategy for ending private insurance is to set it up in a rigged competition with a government-run plan that can absorb losses indefinitely and can use the power of government to dictate below market prices to doctors and hospitals.  Simultaneously, private plans would be subject to regulations by the same government that is competing with them.

Americans would have the illusion of choosing to keep their private insurance for a while, but would all eventually end up in the single payer government plan.

Some have said that makes the public option a Trojan Horse for single payer, but Professor Hacker, the inventor of the plan, disputed that characterization to a 2008 audience at the liberal Tides Foundation: "Someone once said to me, 'Well, this is a Trojan horse for single payer.' I said, 'Well, it's not a Trojan horse, right? It's just right there! I'm telling you!'"

Hacker tried strenuously to walk those comments back ever since. 

But third-tier presidential hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand said it again at the Democratic debate: "We put into the transition period for our Medicare for All Plan. I believe we need to get to universal healthcare as a right, not a privilege to single payer. The quickest way you get there is you create competition with the insurers... So, what will happen is people will choose Medicare. You will transition. We would get to Medicare for All. And then your step to single payer is so short."

Pete Buttigieg agreed with her, adding: "Now here’s how I would do it. It’s very similar... People can buy in, and then if people like us are right that that will be not only a more inclusive plan, but a more efficient plan than any of the corporate answers out there, then it will be a very natural glide path to the single payer environment."

Biden reiterated his support for the "public option" at the debate when he called it adding a "Medicare like plan" to the Obamacare exchanges – as his campaign had tweeted the night before during the undercard debate: "The Biden Administration will give every American the right to choose a public option."

Notably, unlike his opponents who endorse the identical policy, Biden is...

Phil Kerpen on June 21, 2019 | Unlock American Energy

By Phil Kerpen

Puerto Rico is rebuilding its electrical grid, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Maria.  This process includes converting antiquated oil-burning power plants to natural gas, which will result in enormous savings in fuel costs and significant environmental benefits.  With American energy production booming thanks to President Trump’s American energy dominance agenda, Puerto Rico should soon be in a position to use American natural gas – but that win-win outcome will require the president to grant Puerto Rico’s request for a waiver from a World War I era law called the Jones Act.

The Jones Act requires movement of goods by water between points in the United States only by means of vessels that are U.S.-built, U.S.-owned and U.S.-crewed.  There are no such vessels capable of transporting LNG in bulk from U.S. sources to Puerto Rico.  So, without a waiver, Puerto Rico will have to buy the natural gas to run its power plants from more expensive foreign sources, reducing the economic benefits for ratepayers and enriching foreign rather than American producers.  It makes no sense.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from the United States are booming, and, in 2017, after 60 years of being a net importer of natural gas, we became a net exporter.  Ships are leaving American ports loaded with LNG for countries all over the planet, but they cannot deliver to Puerto Rico, specifically because it is part of the United States.  The 1920 Jones Act restricts the transportation of cargo between two American ports to ships that are U.S.-built, U.S.-crewed, U.S.-owned, and U.S. flagged.  However, as the government of Puerto Rico noted in its waiver request: "of the 478 LNG carriers that currently exist in the world, none are Jones Act eligible."  Thus, without a waiver, Puerto Rico simply cannot transport American LNG to Puerto Rico.

It is unlikely that an American company will build a Jones Act eligible LNG carrier.  As Cato Institute analyst Colin Grabow has noted, the economics simply are not there because building an LNG carrier in a U.S. shipyard would cost triple what it costs to build in other jurisdictions, such as South Korea.  The Government Accountability Office found that, because no LNG carrier has been built in the U.S. since 1980, a U.S. shipyard undertaking such a project would have to bring in foreign labor, specifically "250 to 300 skilled Korean workers for the duration of the build time to ensure the work is done correctly."

In the absence of a waiver, natural gas exports to foreign markets will keep booming, but Puerto Rico, an American territory, will be left out and forced to buy more expensive LNG from Trinidad and Tobago and possibly Russia.  Puerto Rico would have to pay around $100 million per year more for the privilege of purchasing foreign natural gas.

The opposition to granting this limited waiver to the Jones Act is being advanced by members of Congress who represent shipbuilding interests.  Shipbuilders have long feared that any...

Jonathan Decker on May 20, 2019 | Fix the Tax Code

By Jon Decker

Thought experiment: If you were a mega-billionaire, how would you spend your earnings? Would you start a charity assisting those in need? Research and develop new cures for diseases?

Well, if you are former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, you would put that money to work to perpetuate corruption.

In 2017, Philadelphia enacted a tax on sweetened beverages – purportedly in the interest of improving "public health." But as we now know through a meticulously detailed 116-count federal indictment, city officials were less interested in reducing calories than the number of political opponents.

 NBC reported:

Powerful Philadelphia union leader John "Johnny Doc" pleaded not guilty in federal court Friday after being accused of using union coffers like his "personal bank account" and keeping Councilman Bobby Henon on his payroll to push his agenda at City Hall…

The FBI said that Dougherty pushed the passage of the city's soda tax solely to exact revenge on the rival Teamster's Union, which feared the loss of bottling and delivery jobs; had city inspectors hold up the non-union installation of an MRI machine at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; and had his ally on city council investigate a towing company that seized his car…

"Let me tell you what (Councilman) Bobby Henon's going to do," Dougherty told a union official in May 2015, according to the indictment. "They're going to start to put a tax on soda again, and that will cost the Teamsters 100 jobs in Philly."

The Philadelphia beverage tax is one of the most disturbing accusations of public corruption in recent memory. Working families in Philadelphia are paying more for groceries solely because they were collateral damage in an act of political retribution.

Many Philadelphians are outraged and demanding the immediate repeal of The Philly Mob Tax. But one obstacle standing in their way: New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg is dumping money into Philadelphia defending the corrupt tax. Last week that effort included a Bloomberg-funded study purporting to show a public health benefit. The study observes that sales of sweetened beverage purchases decreased within city limits and concedes they increase significantly in Pennsylvania ZIP codes bordering the city – but claims the latter effect only offsets about a quarter of the decline inside the city.

Notably, however, it entirely excluded purchases from all towns in New Jersey which is – literally – just over the river from Philadelphia. While there are tolls on the border crossings, there are also hundreds of thousands of people who are regularly on the New Jersey side for work or leisure activities and no doubt shifting their grocery purchasing to dodge the tax.

It is the poor – who are least mobile – who are most likely to pay the tax or cut their soda purchases.  But there is no evidence they shift to healthier options as opposed to say, ice cream or potato chips.

Indeed Bloomberg himself has openly celebrated the regressive effect of his beloved soda taxes:


By Phil Kerpen

With the $7500 tax credit for electric car buyers already in the phase out period for the two biggest manufacturers – Tesla and GM – it's no surprise that many Democrats in Congress are clamoring to lift the cap and keep the subsidies flowing.  Unfortunately, several Republicans are joining the effort, creating unfortunate bipartisan support for a piecemeal version of the crackpot Green New Deal they have been rightly mocking and ridiculing.

The so-called Drive America Forward Act would triple the existing cap on subsidies of 200,000 per manufacturer – massively expanding a program that was always supposed to be temporary and was originally premised on the national security rationale that it would lessen dependence on foreign oil – a now comically anachronistic concern when the United States has become a leading oil exporter.

Moreover, while the Green New Deal is a socialist income leveling exercise in the guise of environmental policy, electric vehicle subsidies use environmental delusion as a cover for a wealth transfer from poor and middle income Americans to the rich who buy electric hobby cars as their third or fourth vehicle.  Voters agree – with a recent poll showing 67 percent do not think their taxes dollars should help pay for electric vehicle subsidies.

The Pacific Research Institute looked at IRS data and found that more than half of the electric car buyers claiming the credit make more than $200,000 per year and nearly 80 percent make more than $100,000. Just 1 percent make $50,000 or less.

There is also a geographic dimension to the wealth redistribution.  The most recent industry data shows that nearly half of all electric vehicles sold in the United States are sold in California, which has its own lavish subsidies at the state level.

A September 2018 NERA Economic Consulting study looked at the economic impact of eliminating the cap and found that the costs outweigh the benefits.  The study finds total household income falling as a consequence of lifting the cap by $7 billion in 2020 and $12 billion in 2035, which is about $50 to $70 per household in lost income every year.

That's a cost of over $50 every year to middle-income Americans to pay for subsidies for rich people in California.

Orrin Hatch, the original sponsor of the bill, explained the logic behind the cap in 2007:

"I want to emphasize that like the tax credits available under current law for hybrid electric vehicles, the tax incentives in the FREEDOM Act are temporary. They are needed in order to help these products over the initial stage of production, when they are quite a bit more expensive than older technology vehicles, to the mass production stage, where economies of scale will drive costs down and the credits will no longer be necessary."

At the time, big subsidies for electric vehicles were justified based on the theory that they were needed to lessen American dependence on foreign oil.  A decade later, America...