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The Lighthouse


The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 16, Issue 48: December 2, 2014

  1. Obamacare’s Big-Business Loophole
  2. Does Gun Control Really Protect the Public?
  3. Afghanistan and the Familiar Face of Failure
  4. Let the Market Tackle the Redskins
  5. Make ‘Giving Tuesday’ Count!
  6. New Blog Posts
  7. Selected News Alerts



1) Obamacare’s Big-Business Loophole

Small-business owners often criticize Obamacare, but why do the largest employers almost never voice complaints? One answer may be that big companies that pay their employees’ healthcare costs directly—so-called self-insurers—also enjoy a significant loophole that most medium and large firms don’t get. According to Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman, author of a new study on healthcare reform, so long as they cover 60 percent of their employees’ expected healthcare costs, these self-insured companies can avoid having to pay for hospital stays, specialist services, CT and MRI scans, and even visits to the emergency room—health benefits that other employers are required to cover.

“In a nutshell, the largest firms can offer the skimpiest plans,” Goodman writes in the Daily Caller. Moreover, “Once the employer offers compliant insurance, the employee is ineligible for subsidized insurance that does cover these services in the (Obamacare) health insurance exchange.”

These loopholes are so wide that, on the eve of the midterm elections, the Obama administration hinted it will narrow them. The next day, the Treasury Department announced that, going forward, all employer health plans that are not yet finalized will be required to cover hospitalization and doctor services. Self-insured companies will face higher coverage costs, and some may still elect not to offer the coverage but instead pay a $3,000 per employee fine. “In all these cases,” Goodman concludes, “what’s good for the employer is bad for the employee and vice versa.”

Obamacare’s Gift to Big Business: The Largest Firms Can Offer the Skimpiest Health Plans, by John C. Goodman (The Daily Caller, 11/25/14)

Healthcare Solutions for Post-Obamacare America, by John C. Goodman

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

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2) Does Gun Control Really Protect the Public?

In the aftermath of last month’s deadly terrorist attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, Israeli officials have relaxed their restrictions on gun ownership. Unfortunately, the change doesn’t go far enough. Because it applies only to security guards and others already authorized to carry firearms, the new policy likely would not have prevented the slaughter. According to Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen P. Halbrook, the attack—and the government’s feeble response—should prompt policymakers to remember the strict gun restrictions enacted in Weimar Germany, which served as a prelude to the horrors inflicted by the Nazi regime.

“Free people throughout the West, and especially in Israel, should remember the bitter lessons of Weimar gun control,” Halbrook writes in a new op-ed for Newsmax.

As Halbrook explains, to quell ideologically motivated violence, the Weimar Republic issued strict gun control laws that authorized the government to seize firearms if it deemed this necessary to ensure “public security.” It also required gun owners to register their firearms with the authorities. Both measures made it easier for the Nazi regime to oppress Jews and “enemies of the state,” as Alfred Flatow learned. When the former Olympic gold medalist surrendered his lawfully owned firearms to the Berlin police department, he was arrested and turned over to the Gestapo; later he was sent to a concentration camp where he died of hunger. The lesson, according to Halbrook, is clear: “Democratic governments that wish to protect their citizens by depriving them of firearms sometimes accomplish the very opposite—and leave the law-abiding at the mercy of those who will flout any statute, tell any lie, engage in any conspiracy, to gain power over the innocent,” he writes. “Good people, rendered helpless, are history’s victims.”

Gun Control Measures Hazardous for Citizens, by Stephen P. Halbrook (Newsmax, 11/26/14)

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

Stephen Halbrook’s Gun Control in the Third Reich reviewed in Catholic Insight

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3) Afghanistan and the Familiar Face of Failure

U.S. troops are moving ahead with their formal withdrawal from Afghanistan by year’s end, but don’t call it an American victory. The Afghan military and police are slowly imploding, and the Taliban is gaining ground. In a recent op-ed in the Huffington Post, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland examines the causes.

That the world’s greatest superpower has failed to pacify Afghanistan shouldn’t be too surprising. No occupying force has been able to do so since Persia’s Cyrus that Great pulled it off more than 2500 years ago. One reason, according to Eland, is that many locals don’t look kindly on foreign invaders, even if they happen to treat the native population better than their homegrown rulers did. “When fighting indigenous insurgents, the foreign invader never gets the benefit of the doubt,” Eland writes.

In addition, American policymakers are unrealistic about the capabilities of their armed forces. Ignorant of Afghanistan’s history and culture, the U.S. military is astonishingly ill-equipped to perform what amounts to social work. But even a scorched-earth campaign—like that of the Soviet occupiers—would likely have failed (and would have been morally bankrupt, besides). The U.S. experiment in Afghanistan therefore offers a valuable lesson: “Sending the military to war should only be done in the most dire cases of national security,” Eland writes. “Military restraint was the founders’ vision, but we have drifted far from it into a militaristic society in constant war.”

Afghanistan: A Similar Pattern of Military Incompetence, by Ivan Eland (The Huffington Post, 11/24/14)

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty (Updated Edition), by Ivan Eland

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4) Let the Market Tackle the Redskins

Should the Washington Redskins football team have its federal tax-exempt status pulled? A bill submitted to the House of Representatives would do exactly that. Its sponsor, District of Columbia congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, believes that government action is the best way to treat Native Americans with dignity. Apparently, Norton hasn’t been following the commentary of Independent Institute Research Director William F. Shughart II.

“As I and many other commentators have written over the past year or so, ‘Redskins’ was adopted long ago as a nickname intended to honor the memory of the head coach’s mother, who was a member of the Sioux nation,” Shughart writes in the Washington Times.

Shughart counsels against government action and offers a market-based alternative: “The obvious policy to follow is to allow the fans of the Washington Redskins to determine the nickname’s fate,” he writes. “If enough of them truly are offended, the market will determine its fate. Fewer ticket sales and viewers of live game broadcasts would have more influence on the team’s owner and on the NFL itself than the opinion of one non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, especially if she represents only a minority, politically correct point of view.... At the end of the day, the team’s nickname is a private matter for its owner and the National Football League, and not one that rises to the level of the U.S. Congress.”

‘Redskins’—For Want of a Politically Correct Name, by William F. Shughart II (The Washington Times, 11/17/14)

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

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5) Make ‘Giving Tuesday’ Count!

Attention, Lighthouse readers: Want to help advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity? Then please lend a helping hand to the Independent Institute this holiday season.

And if you wish to make your dollar donation count for even more than a dollar, please donate on Giving Tuesday, December 2.

Thanks to a generous dollar-for-dollar matching grant, donations made through December 2 will go twice as far!

Donation information

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6) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Government Gasbag Punishes the Working Poor
K. Lloyd Billingsley (12/1/14)

Debt Death Spiral Watch
Craig Eyermann (11/29/14)

Pillage People Hold Lifetime Contract
K. Lloyd Billingsley (11/26/14)

When Will the U.S. National Debt Exceed $18 Trillion?
Craig Eyermann (11/25/14)

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

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7) Selected News Alerts

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  • MyGovCost.org
  • FDAReview.org
  • OnPower.org
  • elindependent.org