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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
Subscribe now, or browse Back Issues.

Volume 15, Issue 49: December 3, 2013

  1. The New Healthcare Contract with America
  2. Why Do Some Hawks Hate Iran’s Interim Nuclear Deal?
  3. How the Nazis Used Gun Control
  4. Presidential Priorities and Poor Performance
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts


1) The New Healthcare Contract with America

At 33 percent, the public approval rating of the Affordable Care Act is at an all-time low, according to survey results reported in November from the monthly Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll. How should genuine healthcare reform move forward? The Independent Institute has partnered with the National Center for Policy Analysis to develop and promote The New Healthcare Contract with America. This manifesto, written by John C. Goodman and John R. Graham, outlines policy principles to help empower patients, foster beneficial competition, and minimize the distorting role of government in the medical marketplace.

“Senior Fellows Goodman and Graham are committed to achieving true healthcare reform in the next legislative battles, which requires freeing caregivers and patients by allowing them to interact in innovative ways to help individuals meet their unique medical needs,” the Contract reads. “The time to repeal and replace is now, with the problems with this massive government overreach clearly exposed.”

Here’s a quick sketch of the Contract’s six elements of a free-market solution. (1) Choice: Eliminate the coverage requirements that tell insurers what provisions they must include in their policies. Had we embraced this principle earlier, millions of consumers would not be at risk of having their policies cancelled. (2) Fairness: Any refundable tax credits should be the same amount for the same level of income, regardless of whether a policy is obtained through work, in the marketplace, or in an exchange. (3) Universality: Unclaimed tax credits should be sent to local safety-net institutions to pay for “uncompensated care.” Universality of coverage would also be helped by allowing people to apply their tax credit to “buy” into Medicaid. (4) Portability: Employers should be free to purchase individual policies for their employees, not just group policies. This would promote portability of coverage as employees move from job to job. (5) Patient Power: Make Health Savings Accounts completely flexible, allowing accountholders to apply the savings for any third-party insurance plan. (6): Real Insurance: Let people insure against the cost of getting a pre-existing condition. Such a policy would prevent insurers from dumping their costliest enrollees onto another insurer without paying the full cost of the transfer.

The New Healthcare Contract with America, by John C. Goodman and John R. Graham (12/2/13)

Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, by John C. Goodman

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2) Why Do Some Hawks Hate Iran’s Interim Nuclear Deal?

The interim freeze of Iran’s nuclear program announced last month seems to be a win-win deal: “Iran gets some slight sanctions relief, and the West gets a verifiable freeze on Iran’s nuclear program while an attempt is made to negotiate severe permanent constraints on Iran’s ability to make a nuclear bomb,” Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland writes in the Huffington Post. So, why are Israel, Saudi Arabia, and their congressional allies in both parties opposed to it?

The answer has little to do with the provisions of the accord itself. According to Eland, the agreement takes several steps to keep Iran from obtaining the fissionable material needed to build a nuclear bomb: It eliminates uranium enriched at the critical 20 percent level. It stops the use of fast centrifuges to enrich 3.5 percent uranium. It freezes processes used to make plutonium. It provides for strict international inspections to ensure compliance with the freeze. It also maintains the West’s bans on Iran’s participation in the world banking system and on the importation of Iranian oil. These measures appear to be extremely favorable for those who fear Iran’s development of a nuclear arsenal. So, what is the basis for criticisms of the accord?

Critics of the interim deal say it undermines efforts to completely dismantle Iran’s nuclear program, but Eland argues that a full dismantling was never a realistic goal. Thus, the accord’s critics have ulterior motives: They believe—correctly—that the freeze removes the imperative of military strikes against Iran. And they’re worried that if the deal leads to better relations between Washington and Tehran, then Israel and Saudi Arabia will see their influence on U.S. policymakers wane. “That explains the hawks’ white-hot opposition to a rather benign interim agreement, which could eventually lead to peace, instead of war, with Iran,” Eland concludes.

The Real Reason Hawks Are Trying to Kill the Interim Nuclear Agreement with Iran, by Ivan Eland (Huffington Post, 11/25/13)

No War for Oil: U.S. Dependency and the Middle East, by Ivan Eland

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3) How the Nazis Used Gun Control

In the late 1920s and early ‘30s, Germany was in political turmoil, with Communists and Nazis committing acts of violence. In 1931, after discovering a Nazi plan to starve and disarm Jews, government officials thought it wise to keep tabs on extremists by authorizing the registration of firearms. The plan backfired. When Adolph Hitler took over, he used the gun registry to disarm Jews and “enemies of the state.” Drawing on his recent book on this subject, Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen P. Halbrook sketches the history of this confiscation—and its relevance for today—in a new piece for National Review.

Hitler stepped up restrictions on firearm ownership. He prohibited independent gun clubs and banned Jews from working for firearms manufacturers and from obtaining permits to own guns. In 1938, German Jews were ordered to turn in their firearms at police stations. In November, Hitler instructed Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels to launch attacks against Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues—ostensibly to confiscate weapons. Following this raid—known as Kristallnacht (“the Night of Broken Glass”)—SS chief Heinrich Himmler ordered Jews found in possession with firearms to be sentenced to a concentration camp for 20 years.

Halbrook suggests that this episode offers important lessons but urges caution when trying to apply them to current policy debates. “As in Weimar Germany, some well-meaning people today advocate severe restrictions, including bans and registration, on gun ownership by law-abiding persons,” Halbrook writes in National Review. “Such proponents are in no sense ‘Nazis,’ any more than were the Weimar officials who promoted similar restrictions. And it would be a travesty to compare today’s situation to the horrors of Nazi Germany. Still, as history teaches, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

How the Nazis Used Gun Control, by Stephen P. Halbrook (National Review, 12/2/13)

Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming Jews and “Enemies of the State,” by Stephen P. Halbrook

VIDEO: Stephen B. Halbrook Interviewed on CBN

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4) Presidential Priorities and Poor Performance

President Obama recently weighed in on the question: Should the Washington Redskins change their nickname? Independent Institute Research Director William F. Shughart II argues that the federal government’s chief executive has better things to worry about. “For starters, the U.S. Congress has not passed a single federal government budget on President Obama’s watch,” Shughart writes. “And so, American has been poised on the edge of a ‘fiscal cliff’ twice in the past year.”

In addition to the national fiscal mess, Shughart, in an op-ed that ran in at least 23 newspapers nationwide, names eight important policy topics that merit the president’s attention. Among them are the problems of the Affordable Care Act, the scandal of federal surveillance, the looming Medicare and Social Security train wrecks, the ongoing economic malaise, and trouble in the Middle East. If the news media would ask more penetrating questions about these and other problems of government failure—and fewer about the names of sports teams—this would be progress.

With President Obama’s approval rating heading south, it’s tempting to consider this “what if” scenario: What if John McCain had been elected president in 2008 and reelected in 2012? Independent Institute Research Fellow Anthony Gregory, author of The Power of Habeas Corpus in America, answers this in an op-ed for the Huffington Post. “Had McCain been president for the last five years, a lot of things would probably be the same, and some would be different,” he writes. “The biggest difference would be that many Republicans would stand by the president, and just as many Democrats would be calling for impeachment.”

Name Change for NFL’s Washington Franchise Is a Trivial Issue, by William F. Shughart II (GazetteXtra, 11/25/13)

Pretend It Was President McCain, by Anthony Gregory (Huffington Post, 11/22/13)

The Power of Habeas Corpus in America, by Anthony Gregory

Taxing Choice: The Predatory Politics of Fiscal Discrimination, edited by William F. Shughart II

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Visualizing Public Debt per Person
Craig Eyermann (12/1/13)

Subsidizing Thanksgiving Dinner
Craig Eyermann (11/28/13)

You can find the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language website here and blog here.

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6) Selected News Alerts

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