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

Volume 16, Issue 20: May 20, 2014

  1. U.S. Lifts Deportation Threat for Homeschooling Family
  2. HSAs Have Slowed the Growth of Healthcare Spending
  3. BART Boondoggle Takes Taxpayers for a Ride
  4. High School Students: Profit from the Challenge of Liberty Seminar!
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts


Priceless Banner


1) U.S. Lifts Deportation Threat for Homeschooling Family

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike—and their seven children—are breathing more easily after the Department of Homeland Security told them last month that it had reversed its earlier decision to deport them back to their native Germany, where they were in violation of laws that prohibit homeschooling. Their seven-year ordeal has finally ended. But until the decision was announced in April, the Romeikes were living a nightmare: repatriation could have meant criminal prosecution by German officials.

As Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger notes in the Daily Caller, the Romeike family had been granted legal asylum in the United States in 2010 only to see that status revoked by the Board of Immigration Appeals two years later. One year after that, on June 26, 2013, the Department of Justice told the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that Germany’s government had every right to prohibit homeschooling and therefore Uwe, Hannelore, and their kids did not warrant asylum in the United States. Ironically, the U.S. government’s lawyers asserted that deportation was justified because Germany’s homeschooling laws were designed to teach tolerance!

The reversal is great news for the Romeike family. “For the nation, this family’s saga serves as a refresher course on the true origins of our fundamental rights,” Alger writes. Their saga also teaches a negative lesson, Alger adds: “An administration that would deport a family for doing just that should leave all Americans unsettled.”

Nanny State Lessons from a German Homeschooling Family, by Vicki E. Alger (The Daily Caller, 5/15/2014)

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2) HSAs Have Slowed the Growth of Healthcare Spending

American healthcare spending has grown at twice the rate of real per capita income over the past four decades. Other developed countries have seen similar spending growth. For more than a decade, however, the healthcare-spending rate in the United States has mostly slowed. Independent Institute Senior Fellows John C. Goodman and John R. Graham believe that credit for the slowdown is due in large measure to the rise of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs).

In 2003, Congress passed legislation that enabled the creation of HSAs, the Medicare Modernization Act. Now an estimated 26 million Americans have health plans compatible with these accounts, with high deductibles often ranging from $2,000 to $6,000. Because they empower consumers to make their own health-spending choices, HSA-compatible plans have given consumers an incentive to be more prudent than third-party payers. A study by the RAND Corporation, according to Goodman, “found that people in HSA plans spend 21 percent less on average on health care in the first year.”

Because of their growing popularity, HSAs and HRAs may have also helped reduce the scope of government intervention in President Obama’s health reform law. “If the 2003 law had not given millions of us more control of our health-care dollars, they would have been in a stronger position to impose a more complete government takeover than they did,” Graham writes. “We can be grateful that Consumer-Driven Health Plans, Health Savings Accounts, and Health Reimbursement Arrangements have not been crushed by [Obamacare’s] regulatory onslaught.”

A 2003 Law Blunts the Worst of Obamacare, by John R. Graham (The Hill, 5/16/14)

Why Did Health Spending Slow Down Before It Sped Up?, by John C. Goodman (The Beacon, 5/13/14)

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

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3) BART Boondoggle Takes Taxpayers for a Ride

The extension of a BART rail line to Oakland International Airport later this year, with rates scheduled to be set far below operating costs, poses huge risk for taxpayers, according to Lawrence J. McQuillian, senior fellow and director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation.

The Airport Connector, as the 3.1-mile extension line is called, cost $29,576 per foot to build, compared to $1,495 per square foot to build the new One World Trade Center in New York, McQuillan explains in an op-ed published in the Oakland Tribune. With fares currently proposed to be $6 per trip and operating costs expected to average $11 per passenger trip, BART officials are predicting deficits amounting to $7.9 million in the Connector’s first year of operation and $7 million per year thereafter.

“BART’s Board of Directors will meet on Thursday for a public hearing on the Connector fares,” McQuillan writes. “Fares will be set on June 12. Critics who saw from the beginning that this project was a boondoggle—especially transit advocacy groups and social justice groups—should attend these public meetings, tell the board ‘I told you so,’ and demand that fares be set at a rate that will minimize the need for subsidies and taxpayer bailouts.”

People Should Insist That Fares Match Costs for BART Airport Boondoggle, by Lawrence J. McQuillan (The Oakland Tribune, 5/17/14)

Street Smart: Competition, Entrepreneurship, and the Future of Roads, edited by Gabriel Roth

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4) High School Students: Profit from the Challenge of Liberty Seminar!

Attention, high school students: Tired of the same old boring half-truths taught in most social-science classes? Want to make learning meaningful and exciting again? Want to learn about liberty and free-market economics from passionate professors?

Then sign up for the Challenge of Liberty Student Seminars (high-school session), July 14-18, at the Independent Institute’s headquarters in Oakland, Calif.!

This exciting five-day seminar is a terrific introduction to economics, public policy, and U.S. history. Trust us—the topics are anything but dry! They include: the role of prices in a free-market economy; the causes of the Great Depression; the 2008 financial crisis and the recent recession; wars and the growth of government; “market failure” vs. “government failure,” and so much more!

Our students have repeatedly called this seminar outstanding, and with such a top-notch faculty it’s not hard to understand why! Check out videos from past seminars, and see why many students consider this the highlight of their summer vacation—as well as a formative event in their intellectual development. It’s also a great opportunity to meet other students who are intellectually curious and excited about advancing a free society!

The Challenge of Liberty Student Seminars

High School: July 14–18 (Oakland, CA)

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

India—A New Beginning?
Alvaro Vargas Llosa (5/19/14)

Medicare’s Physician Payment “Data Dump”: Don’t Stop Now
John R. Graham (5/19/14)

Patent Litigation Is No Laughing Matter... Or Is It?
William Watkins (5/18/14)

Wait! You May Not Need to Lop Off So Many Heads
Robert Higgs (5/17/14)

Piketty’s Capital: III
Randall Holcombe (5/16/14)

Piketty’s Capital: II
Randall Holcombe (5/15/14)

http://blog.independent.org/2014/05/15/there-he-goes-again
There He Goes Again!
William Shughart (5/15/14)

More Evidence Suggests Obamacare Is Not Driving Hospitals Bankrupt
John R. Graham (5/14/14)

Piketty’s Capital: I
Randall Holcombe (5/14/14)

Why Did Health Spending Slow Down Before It Sped Up?
John C. Goodman (5/13/14)

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

USPS Still Losing After All These Years
K. Lloyd Billingsley (5/19/14)

Millionaire “Public Servants”
Craig Eyermann (5/18/14)

IRS Dishes Out $13-15 Billion in Improper Payments
K. Lloyd Billingsley (5/16/14)

The Incentives of Bureaucrats
Craig Eyermann (5/15/14)

The $6.4 Billion Bridge to No Accountability
K. Lloyd Billingsley (5/14/14)

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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