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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 19, Issue 3: January 17, 2017

  1. The National Debt Menace
  2. Obamacare Amnesia in the Oval Office
  3. Prohibition—Then and Now
  4. Obama: A Successful Legacy?
  5. Independent Updates


1) The National Debt Menace

Congressional Republicans love to paint President Obama and his party as big spenders responsible for a national debt fast approaching $20 trillion. But America’s fiscal problem may worsen under the GOP’s watch. Republican lawmakers recently passed a budget resolution that would increase the national debt to $29 trillion in ten years. Although it’s touted as a short-term measure necessary to uproot Obamacare, it’s an open question whether or not the Republicans will revisit the issue in the months ahead and make good on promises to enact a long-term plan that balances the nation’s books, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland.

“Considering the budget resolution, Congressional Republicans may again go down the same path as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, cutting taxes but increasing government spending, thereby widening budget deficits and ballooning the national debt,” Eland writes in USA Today.

The economic and financial problems caused by excessive debt loads are worrisome in themselves, but the ocean of red ink on the national ledger also weakens U.S. national security, Eland argues, citing worries voiced by former Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mike Mullen. Trump’s criticism of the costly F-35 fighter jet program suggests the next president may be serious about wanting to cut wasteful federal spending, but to make more than a dent he must do much more than ground military aircraft; he must return U.S. foreign policy to a more defensive posture. Concludes Eland: “Sticking to the nation’s founders’ notion of a non-militaristic republic would both save money and help renew U.S. economic power, making America great again for the foreseeable future and beyond.”

National Debt Is Our Biggest Security Threat, by Ivan Eland (USA Today, 1/11/17)

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland

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2) Obamacare Amnesia in the Oval Office

They say few jobs will age someone as quickly as President of the United States. There’s much truth to this maxim, judging by Barack Obama’s faulty memory about health reform. In a talk on January 6, the president announced he would support Republicans in their efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act, if they can “put a plan together that is demonstrably better than what Obamacare is doing.” He also claimed he’d taken a similarly cooperative stance back in 2009 and 2010. According to Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman, however, the president’s fuzzy memory is playing tricks on him.

After Obama’s 2008 electoral victory, two advisors—Ezekiel Emanuel and Jason Furman—urged him to adopt the reform plan offered by his rival for the Oval Office, Sen. John McCain, or something like it that featured a universal tax credit to make coverage more affordable. However, at the behest of his consigliere David Axelrod, Obama stuck to his campaign promise to adopt the Democrats’ plan, rather than achieve bipartisan health reform. Had the president actually worked with the Republican opposition, as Bill Clinton did during his last two years in office, Americans would have been spared Obamacare’s mandates, ambiguities, and dislocations, and instead would have enjoyed a healthcare policy of simplicity and fairness.

Goodman writes: “Bottom line: Republicans did show Barack Obama a plan that people on the right and left agree was a better plan. They did that eight years ago. And he ignored them.”

Barack Obama’s Faulty Memory about Health Reform, by John C. Goodman (Forbes, 1/10/17)

The Sessions-Cassidy Health Plan, by John C. Goodman (8/25/16)

A Better Choice: Healthcare Solutions for America, by John C. Goodman

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

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3) Prohibition—Then and Now

January 16 marks the anniversary of the birth of Prohibition. On this date in 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified and a 13-year “war” on alcohol began. Its epic failures, ranging from corruption to gang violence to blindness from black-market bathtub booze, are well known. Remarkably, America is still addicted to a similar folly—the 40-year-old War on Drugs.

“The problems associated with U.S. drug policy have not lessened under the Obama administration,” writes Independent Institute Research Fellow Abigail R. Hall Blanco in The Hill. “It’s unclear whether drug policy will improve under the Trump administration, but many are pessimistic.”

Citing the concerns of drug policy reformer Ethan Nadelmann, Hall Blanco notes two warning flags: Trump’s nominations of John Kelley to run the Department of Homeland Security and Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general. “After 13 years, the failure of the 18th Amendment was clear for all to see,” Hall Blanco writes. “The drug war is now more than 40 years old. When will the prohibitionists learn?”

When Will Drug Prohibitionists Learn What Alcohol Prohibitionists Found Out?, by Abigail R. Hall Blanco (The Hill, 1/10/17)

Drug War Crimes: The Consequences of Prohibition, by Jeffrey A. Miron

Video: Drug War Crimes, featuring Jeffrey Miron, Joseph McNamara, and Ethan Nadelmann (Independent Policy Forum, 5/6/04)

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4) Obama: A Successful Legacy?

When Barack Obama hands off the presidential baton this week, pundits across the land will debate the meaning of his legacy. His opponents will call him a failure, but a more damning criticism involves noting his “achievements.” Some have spoken about Obamacare and others his foreign policy. They would be remiss if they overlooked his record–as opposed to his rhetoric—on matters of privacy, policy, and political intimidation.

Obama “surpassed other presidents in deploying the IRS and Justice Department against his domestic enemies, writes Independent Institute Policy Fellow K. Lloyd Billingsley in the Daily Caller. “He politicized the State Department and was very successful at getting the ‘Intelligence Community’ to tell him what he wanted to hear.”

Obama also succeeded—at least until November’s elections—in defanging his political opponents, who often looked like Keystone Cops to his Impossible Mission Force. “The old-line establishment media helped seal the deal, and Republicans, for all their talk of free enterprise, offered only token opposition,” Billingsley continues. “With help from the echo-chamber media and the ‘birther’ red herring, the president succeeded fabulously in protecting himself from scrutiny,” Billingsley continues. “The rest, as they say, is history.”

Is Barack Obama Our Most Successful President?, by K. Lloyd Billingsley (The Daily Caller, 1/9/17)

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5) Independent Updates


The Beacon: New Blog Posts
MyGovCost: New Blog Posts
Featured Video
News Alert

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