The Path Forward on Health Reform for Conservatives

The Path Forward on Health Reform for Conservatives

Last week’s election results show that health care is still a top concern for many Americans. Members of Congress must now decide how to move forward. Their task: providing a coherent answer to our national anxiety over health care.

Americans care, immensely, about health care. A Washington Post study found that health care was the most Googled subject in nearly every single county. Polls repeatedly showed that the number one issue voters wanted their elected representatives to address was the high cost of health coverage.

Despite this dynamic, Republicans ran away from an issue that had been a source of political strength in recent years. Perhaps it was because of their failed attempt to repeal Obamacare, or perhaps it was because there was no consensus among them on how to protect individuals with pre-existing conditions. This gave the left an opening to attack conservatives as wanting to kill people with pre-existing conditions—an egregiously false slander.

Regardless, their silence allowed Democrats to retake the rhetorical high ground on health reform. Liberals used the opportunity to build the case for replacing Obamacare with even more government-run health care.

In other words, the same cadre that drove up health costs and cut health care choices for 15 million people by breaking the private market now want to do the same thing for the rest of the country.

We can expect repeated efforts to push various forms of a government-run health system over the next two years. More than half of the House Democrats have signed onto a bill implementing this vision, as have 16 senators—including some often mentioned as potential presidential candidates.

But new federal government health schemes will not bring better, more affordable care to most Americans. Most would lose their current coverage—be it from their employer, union, or school—because it would become illegal. Nor could individuals or families purchase coverage outside of the government’s system.

Make no mistake: Under these schemes, the government decides what gets covered, who gets what care, and when. It would reduce access to care and dramatically increase wait times. In Canada, where health care is government-run, some will wait nearly three months to get a simple MRI.

Politicians who reject that approach must also reject half-way measures like “public options” and new federal reinsurance programs—all of which double down on the problems we have today and would expand the government’s role, driving up costs and reducing choice even further.

But politicians need to do more than simply oppose. Instead, they must finally offer a compelling alternative for all Americans, including those with pre-existing conditions. Exit polls show that Americans care deeply about how this country will protect people with pre-existing conditions and make sure they have the care they need.

Fortunately, conservative policy experts, working together at the national, state, and grassroots levels, have developed just such an alternative.

The Health Care Choice Proposal would make coverage far more affordable—lowering premiums by up to 32 percent, according to the Center for Health and Economy. Moreover, it would ensure that everyone could access a quality, private coverage arrangement of their choice.

The proposal relies on a fresh framework. Patients would be able to choose the coverage arrangement that works best for them from a wide array of options, including direct primary care, short-term limited duration plans, catastrophic coverage, or “gold-plated Cadillac” coverage. Everyone who gets a government subsidy for health care would get new control over those dollars and be able to apply them to a plan of their choice rather than the one a bureaucrat picks for them.

The proposal also would do away with Obamacare’s flawed subsidy structure in which insurance companies receive taxpayer subsidies, dollar for dollar, as they raise prices. Instead, federal funds would be placed on a budget and sent to states to help people access a quality private coverage arrangement of their choice—including the vulnerable poor and sick.

Data show that this proposal builds on a promising emerging trend. A Heritage Foundation study found that, when states have been given even a little bit of freedom from Obamacare’s mandates, they’ve been able to lower projected 2019 premiums—in one state by up to 43 percent—while still ensuring that the sick retain access to care. And they’re able to do all this without new federal money or micromanagement of the market.

Ninety leading conservatives have already endorsed the Health Care Choice Proposal as the path forward on health reform. This is a sharp change from 2017, when Congress fell short and failed to unify behind an Obamacare replacement plan. Our families cannot afford continued failure.

That’s why conservatives created a strong framework on which to build. Efforts to refine and improve this proposal can and will continue. But even in its current form, it offers a way to help Americans suffering under high health costs and fewer choices, a clear alternative to the progressive agenda, and a serious plan to alleviate the health care anxiety in the country.

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A New Way of Tracking Trump’s Judicial Nominees

A New Way of Tracking Trump’s Judicial Nominees

Addressing a convention of labor commissioners in 1889, prominent government statistician Carroll D. Wright reminded his audience that “figures will not lie,” but warned that “liars will figure.” He urged them to “prevent the liar from figuring”—that is, from “perverting the truth, in the interest of some theory he is trying to establish.”

To that end, The Heritage Foundation has launched its Judicial Appointment Tracker, a tool to track judicial nominations and confirmations, not only currently but also compared to previous administrations.

The judges a president appoints may be his most important legacy. Judges serve long after the appointing president leaves office. They have the power to determine what our laws mean and to decide cases involving the most important issues of our time.

It was not supposed to be that way, because judges were never meant to be so powerful. America’s founders assigned a modest role for judges within our system, leading Alexander Hamilton to call the judiciary the “weakest” and “least dangerous” branch.

The conflict over judicial appointments today is really a conflict over judicial power—whether to maintain, or abandon, the judicial role as defined by the founders.

Evaluating and participating in the judicial appointment process requires good information. Not just random, carefully spun data points, but fair, accurate, and reliable statistics in proper context.

The Judicial Appointment Tracker provides this data for six elements of the judicial appointment process: vacancies, nominees, hearings, confirmations, cloture votes, and roll call votes. It provides the current data since President Donald Trump took office and comparable data for the previous five presidents.

Each of these categories can significantly affect what people know or understand about the process. For example, Trump’s 19 appointments in 2017 and President Bill Clinton’s 20 appointments in 1996 appear comparable until one realizes that vacancies averaged 127 in 2017, but only 61 in 1996.

The 65 judges confirmed so far this year surpasses the average of 56 appointed during previous presidents’ second year. But this year’s progress is even more significant in light of Democratic obstruction. Democrats forced the Senate to take a separate vote to end debate on 43 percent of judicial nominations, compared to fewer than 2 percent under previous presidents.

Some senators and activist groups, as well as media covering the appointment process, often paint a skewed picture when it comes to appointments, making false comparisons between apples and oranges or even worse. The Judicial Appointment Tracker will provide an accurate picture, using similar time periods and, when necessary, percentages rather than raw totals to maintain the validity of comparisons over time.

The tracker will also be updated immediately whenever there is a new development in these categories, such as new vacancy figures from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Court, hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee, or votes on the Senate floor.

Liars may figure, but this new resource will present accurate, reliable, and comparable data about the judicial appointment process so that the figures can speak for themselves.

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Xi’s Latest Promises of Economic Openness Ring Hollow

Xi’s Latest Promises of Economic Openness Ring Hollow

Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke at China’s first International Import Expo in Shanghai earlier this month, reiterating familiar promises that China will improve access to trade, facilitate investment, and protect intellectual property.

He and President Donald Trump will meet to discuss outstanding trade issues at the G20 Summit in Argentina later this month.

The expo, a brainchild of Xi himself, was designed to bring together 3,000 companies from 100 different countries to discuss and foster “economic globalization” among them. This was the first meeting of what’s proposed to become an annual conference.

According to its official purpose, the expo will “[facilitate] countries and regions all over the world to strengthen economic cooperation and trade, and to promote global trade and world economic growth in order to make the world economy more open.”

Xi began his speech by reiterating China’s support for multilateral trade and globalization. He emphasized China’s role in preserving the global trading order and went on to note the threat that protectionism poses to globalization. He described globalization as a historic and irreversible trend that each country should enthusiastically accept.

Thematically, his keynote statement emphasized globalism and protectionism as the central, mutually exclusive dichotomy of our times. The president brought up two leading trends to the world order: “global governance” (citing “multilateralism,” “openness,” and “the system of free trade” as its tenets) and “unilateralism.” He upheld global governance as ideal and characterized it as under attack by unilateralism.

Throughout the speech, Xi repeatedly emphasized China’s openness, stating that “openness, innovation, and inclusiveness have become the hallmark of Shanghai. They are also a vivid reflection of China in the new era and its commitment to development and progress.”

Finally, in reference to increasing protectionism around the world, Xi said, “In a world of deepening economic globalization, practices of the law of the jungle and winner-take-all only represent a dead end.”

A number of observers see the Chinese president’s criticism of the isolationist, “beggar-thy-neighbor” approach as an implicit characterization of America First policies and a thinly veiled jab at Trump. Xi’s insistent characterization of China as the virtuous victim opposing American protectionism does not necessarily comport with reality. Xi has made a habit of toting the values of “free trade” as a means of catering supporters of market reform in China.

The Chinese government has made some effort to liberalize its markets in recent years through various pronouncements and initiatives. China reduced its tariffs on over 1,500 consumer products earlier this year and reduced tariffs on auto imports by 10 percent. In addition, its ranking in The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom has moderately improved over time.

Recent developments in intellectual property law, brought on by a mix of market incentives and political pressure, likely contributed to the improvement in China’s latest scores for government integrity and judicial effectiveness. Still, more than 46 percent of the value of all counterfeit items seized by U.S. Customs originate from China.

The Chinese government has established free trade pilot zones in various major cities along the coast, which are “intended as testing grounds for local authorities to support businesses and attract foreign investment with fewer restrictions.” But competition in these areas will only be allowed so long as they don’t compete with the interest of China’s state-owned enterprises.

In his closing remarks, Xi once again made a series of promises to stimulate the Chinese economy, which would include increasing imports, promoting the liberalization of investments, building a better business environment (especially improved intellectual property law), and promoting international cooperation. Yet even these proposals echoed the policy initiatives presented by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the Davos World Economic Forum earlier this year.

Given the expo’s high profile, it’s unsurprising that Xi avoided controversy in anticipation of his meeting with Trump at the G20 Summit at the end of November.

Yet the fact remains that many of Xi’s prior promises to expand market reform have proved empty. As such, both the U.S. business community and political leaders will likely be reticent to take China’s latest promises at face value.

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Places of Worship Are Increasingly a Target. Here Are Some Security Tips.

Places of Worship Are Increasingly a Target. Here Are Some Security Tips.

Attending religious services is both a family tradition and a religious necessity for us.

All our lives, we sat in the same seats—usually the front row on the left—no matter what church the family was attending. Our family has been involved in various ministries and events that made our church family as close as our real family.

The military forced us to be a part of different churches as we moved around, but we always found a “home church” where we were welcome and safe.

But things have changed.

The shootings at churches in South Carolina and Texas, and now the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, raises a question for all attenders: What can we do to make ourselves safer when participating one of the most common and sacred activities in America?

Philip shares:

“I had never been concerned for myself or my family’s safety at church primarily because we all fell prey to the willful ignorance of how exposed a place of worship truly is to nefarious purpose. After the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015, my pastor in Columbia, South Carolina, asked me to please carry my licensed concealed weapon to services, even though we have a uniformed county sheriff’s deputy at our door to protect the congregation during services. Thankfully, this deputy was well trained, and she insisted that any approved members that were carrying a weapon meet with her and receive training to use our weapons beyond a simple state carry permit class.”

All trained carry permit holders should follow a new model. In whatever church you attend now, alert the pastor that you are lawfully carrying a weapon and ask to join the church security team. If no team exists, offer to train them (or find training) and help build the team for the church—free of charge if you can.

Oddly, many churches will say no, choosing instead to assume the risk due to low probability based on local crime statistics, and faith that God will protect them. That is a wrong-headed approach.

Many people—including both authors—are now helping churches and schools do security assessments, planning for improved security methods, and even training teams of volunteers. It is unfortunate, but a trained, on-site response team is needed to appropriately address this security issue today. For leaders to deny this is to abdicate their responsibility to their flocks.

At this point, no one can say why the synagogue in Pittsburgh did not have a security team. They probably would point to statistics saying they didn’t need one—until the sad day they did.

Don’t hear us finger-wagging, “If I had been there with my gun it would have been very different!” Quite the contrary. Shooting in a room full of panicking people, running and screaming in every direction, is incredibly difficult. The reason the military has “Tier 1” units to deal with this sort of scenario (such as SEAL Team 6 and Operational Detachment Delta) is because they recognize it takes extensive training, literally thousands of hours and millions of rounds of ammunition, to ensure that soldiers can successfully make that kind of shot.

A local security team won’t reach that same level, but it can still do a lot to enhance safety—and we all have a role to play.

This is the first in a series of articles about what to do if you find yourself in your seat when your church becomes a target.

The best way to survive a crisis is to avoid it in the first place. If it can’t be avoided, be prepared for it. This means a little thinking and mental preparation.

Everyone should take the time to think about where the exits of your sanctuary and building are. What hallways connect to what doors? From where might danger come if it were to happen? Can you reach you kids and then exit the building without having to move toward the danger?

Once you have identified the ways to escape danger—whether it’s a fire, an unruly person, or a deadly shooter—you can begin to do simple rehearsals. Walk the various hallways and experiment to find out the best places to sit or park so that you can escape if you need too. Make it a game for your kids, like an adventure to find the way out of a maze, so they know what to do as well.

The mind is a powerful tool. It sees patterns and attempts to make sense out of unusual situations. By doing rehearsals, the brain will identify the best option in a given situation far more quickly and with less panic because you have “already done this,” even if not “for real.”

The next step is to continue playing through scenarios. You’re in your seat and a shooter enters the rear of sanctuary—what do you do? Best advice is to get what matters most to you (your family, not your stuff), and get away from the danger. If possible, help others retreat and find a safe place if you can. If you are armed, position yourself to protect those attempting to flee.

What if you can’t flee or are near the shooter? This is where a serious look at your inner will and strength needs to take place.

If you can reach the shooter and potentially end the threat, should you? If you have a weapon and are absolutely 100 percent sure you can put rounds on the target, should you?

My best advice is, it depends. Countless witness statements, from school shootings to military after action reports, note that moving toward your threat is not what your enemy expects. Witnesses of the shooting at the recent Florida yoga studio shooting on Nov. 2 noted that an unarmed studio member charged the shooter and helped end the threat.

We would tell you to press your attack, but understand that this makes you target number one for the attacker. You will likely get hurt. Given whom or what you are protecting, is it worth it? Could you actually get yourself to do it? Most of us think so, but few know for sure until the situation arises.

One fact remains indisputable: We must do more to prepare. This series is designed to raise important issues and give some baseline advice to help. We will cover a range of subjects like organizational security assessments and training, what equipment to select (including some questions you should answer when selecting a personal firearm), and what sort of first aid training is best to have.

We look forward to providing what will hopefully be helpful recommendations.

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A Replay of 2000? Florida Recount Stirs Concerns.

A Replay of 2000? Florida Recount Stirs Concerns.

MIAMI — Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., had the best line when it comes to the latest Florida election in which contests for governor and the U.S. Senate are still undecided.

Rubio tweeted: “Bay County was hit by a Cat 4 Hurricane just 4 weeks ago, yet managed to count votes & submit timely results. Yet over 41 hours after polls closed #Broward elections office is still counting votes?”

With lawyers descending on the state in what looks to some like a replay of the 2000 “hanging chad” presidential election, an automatic recount has been triggered for both contests.

President Donald Trump and other Republicans are crying foul and accusing Democrats of trying to “steal” the election. Given the history of voter fraud in this country and the heavily Democratic makeup of Broward and Palm Beach counties, their suspicions may be justified.

Vote-stealing isn’t new. After the initial vote count in the 1948 Texas Senate race, which saw Lyndon Johnson losing to his opponent Coke Stevenson by 20,000 votes, previously “unreported precincts” and other “adjustments” were made in the vote totals. Johnson came out the winner by a mere 87 votes, earning him the derisive title “Landslide Lyndon.”

In the 1960 presidential race, which saw the tightest popular vote margin since Grover Cleveland defeated James Blaine in 1884 by just 23,000 votes, Republicans claimed Richard Nixon was robbed. As Politico reported in a 2016 article, “In Illinois, (John F. Kennedy) won by just 8,800 votes, largely due to margins in Chicago, where Mayor Richard Daley — a Kennedy stalwart — tightly controlled the Cook County organization. In Texas, home of his running mate, Lyndon Johnson, the Kennedy-Johnson ticket won by a margin of 46,000. Had Nixon carried both states, he would have won the Electoral College, 270 to 252.”

In the 2008 Minnesota Senate race between Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken, Coleman won the election by the narrowest of margins. According to CNN, “The initial count from the November 4 election put Coleman, a first-term senator, 215 votes ahead of Franken.” The slim margin triggered an automatic recount. The canvassing board finally determined that Franken “won by 225 votes.”

After Franken was sworn in, a conservative group called Minnesota Majority began investigating claims of voter fraud. The group found 1,099 felons, all of them ineligible, had voted. As John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky note in their book “Who’s Counting?: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk,” most felons favor Democrats when they can vote.

Which brings us back to Florida. With vote margins in the races for governor and Senate so tight, Republicans are worried that history will repeat itself.

Brenda Snipes, the supervisor of Elections in Broward County, has held her job for 15 years. Her history, to put it charitably, has been checkered. Last May, a judge ruled that Snipes violated federal and state election laws when she destroyed ballots in the 2016 congressional race in which Tim Canova lost a primary contest to incumbent Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

In August, a judge ordered Snipes to stop opening mail-in ballots in secret. Snipes has engaged in other behavior that has raised concerns about her competence and nonpartisanship, including again in 2016 when she “accidentally” posted election results 30 minutes before polls closed.

The recount process will be anything but pleasant. Snipes and others who are responsible for this dysfunctional, incompetent and possibly criminal behavior should be replaced, the sooner the better for Florida and for the country.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at

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A Day to Honor All Who Have Served

A Day to Honor All Who Have Served

Our national holiday of Veterans Day did not start with that name.

In 1918, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, hostilities on the Western Front ceased and World War I came to an end. That day became internationally known as Armistice Day.

But the name eventually changed in the United States, and there has been some controversy and confusion ever since.

Armistice Day was designed to help us remember the horrors of the First World War and to keep us from repeating the massive conflict. That was a nice thought, but clearly it did not do what was intended.

The “war to end all wars” did not do so, and after a period of relative peace, mingled with the Great Depression, the world was once again at war, this time on a scale that dwarfed World War I and really did encompass “the world.”

The Korean War followed on the heels of World War II before all the mobilized forces had been completely separated, and once again, U.S. troops were fighting to secure the freedom of others.

No one should ever discount the impact of WWI and the sacrifices of those who fought in that horrific war. The move to alter the focus of Armistice Day did not intend that at all.

In the 1950s, the people of Emporia, Kansas, recognized that America now had an entirely new group of young men and women who had sacrificed in two additional wars, and they wanted to honor and remember their sacrifices as well.

President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower agreed, and issued an executive order in 1954 to change the name of the holiday to Veterans Day. On Memorial Day, we remember the fallen. On Veterans Day, we remember all those who have served—living and dead.

Veterans Day does not celebrate war in any way. It celebrates service to country, and willingness to sacrifice for one’s fellow man. It is not just a day to thank vets, it is a day to thank the Lord that some people have in their hearts the courage to stand between innocent people and evil, whatever its origin.

As you consider the meaning of Veterans Day and its origins, remember the words of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in his final speech to the Corps of Cadets at his beloved West Point: “The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

Thank the vets you meet, and understand that there is much they have given that you might never understand—and then appreciate their willingness to serve.

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