Archive for August, 2010

Gazette Says Amendment 63 “Protects Our Freedom”

Posted by on Aug 27 2010 | Amendment 63, Health Care, PPC

The Colorado Springs Gazette has an outstanding editorial on Amendment 63, the “Right to Health Care Choice” citizens amendment, calling it a “great idea” that has become certainty. One money quote out of many:

Amendment 63 would make Colorado an attractive haven for health care development, competition, and medical tourism, thus improving the health care options of Coloradans and boosting the economy.

This country hasn’t prospered and flourished because of federal mandates. We have flourished because of freedom. Amendment 63 will be one giant step in protecting freedom for Coloradans.

Read the entire terrific piece here.

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Denver Gets a Dose of More ‘Affordable Housing’ Bad Medicine

Posted by on Aug 27 2010 | Economics, PPC

Over at the Denver Daily News Independence Institute Senior Fellow Barry Poulson takes Mayor Hickenlooper to task for prescribing for Denver more of same bad federal “affordable housing” medicine that helped get us into our current financial mess:

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper recently signed on to “Take Root Denver,” a new affordable housing campaign sponsored by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, a “government sponsored enterprise” more commonly known as Freddie Mac. Hickenlooper touts this as a new program to assist residents with calling Denver “home sweet home.”

But the federal mandate to provide “affordable housing” is fundamentally flawed, and a significant cause of the financial crisis. In other words, Mayor Hickenlooper and Freddie Mac have prescribed for Denver more of the same bad medicine that got us into our current financial mess.

Freddie Mac subsidizes and guarantees mortgage loans to individuals who do not qualify for loans from private lenders. These loans have very lax standards. Individuals can qualify for loans making a minimal or zero down payment. They do not need a good credit rating, nor need to earn the minimum level of income that private lenders would require to qualify for the loan.

These lax standards induced many individuals to invest in homes they could not afford, loans that are now in default. The government guarantees and subsidies for these loans also induced many financial institutions to invest in mortgage-based securities at the heart of the financial crisis. The federal mandate that Freddie Mac subsidize and guarantee mortgage loans has saddled the institution, and ultimately American taxpayers, with hundreds of billion of dollars in debt.

The origin of the financial crisis can be traced to government policies encouraging unqualified borrowers to assume risky mortgages, and to government mandates that financial institutions extend loans to these borrowers. The Federal Housing Authority (FHA) loosened standards applied in non-prime lending. Through federal legislation such as the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), and agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the government pressured lending institutions to extend credit to unqualified borrowers.

The financial crisis was exacerbated by the quasi-governmental institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These institutions created a moral hazard by implicitly guaranteeing mortgages. By the time they collapsed in 2008, they together held $5 trillion in mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. They continue to incur billions in losses, requiring government bailouts.

If mortgage lenders had not been forced to abandon traditional underwriting standards on behalf of an ‘affordable housing’ policy, the financial crisis and taxpayer bailouts would not have occurred. Qualified mortgage borrowers would have purchased homes at competitive market prices. Now all homeowners, including qualified mortgage borrowers, must suffer the consequences of the mortgage meltdown and collapse in home prices

We must end the myth of “affordable housing.” As economist Thomas Sowell has argued, an affordable house is a house you can afford. This means restoring traditional market criteria for mortgage lending: meeting strict income standards to qualify for a loan, and requiring a minimum down payment from creditworthy borrowers.

Residents will call Denver “home sweet home” when the housing market stabilizes. That will only happen when lending institutions write off mortgage loans in default, when individuals are in homes they can afford, and when housing prices stabilize. The best way to achieve that objective is to return mortgage lending to the private marketplace. In the absence of government subsidies and guarantees, private mortgage lenders have an incentive to lend to creditworthy borrowers, and to require minimum standards for individuals to qualify for these loans.

The same Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae that are implementing the “affordable housing” agenda got us into the housing pickle and financial crisis. They should be gradually phased out of the mortgage market. Critics will argue that private lending institutions are not able to perform the functions of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. But that is the point: no lending institution should be promoting mortgage lending to individuals who cannot afford to own a home. The Federal Housing Administration should return to the original role of insuring mortgage loans to low-income borrowers who can meet minimum standards to qualify for such loans.

There is no reason why Denver should be the guinea pig in a repeat of failed housing policies promoted by the Obama administration.

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Amendment 63, “Right to Health Care Choice” on This November’s Ballot

Posted by on Aug 26 2010 | Health Care, PPC

Today the Colorado Secretary of State announced the approval of the “The Right to Health Care Choice” citizens initiative for this November’s ballot. The initiative is now officially titled Amendment 63. The Health Care Choice for Colorado Issue Committee collected a total of 135,000 signatures that were handed in on July 30th.

If approved by voters in November, Amendment 63 will amend Colorado’s Constitution in two meaningful ways. First, the State of Colorado would be prohibited from forcing its citizens to purchase a public or private health insurance product, either on its own, or on behalf of the federal government. Secondly, it would constitutionally protect fee-for-service health care by ensuring Coloradans the right to choose to pay out of pocket for health care services and products.

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Tortious refusal to supply hamburger fumes

Posted by on Aug 26 2010 | Uncategorized

(David Kopel)

Apparently a successful cause of action, according to today’s Wall Street Journal Law Blog:

Law Firm Hamburger War Heats Up

Powerhouse D.C. law firm Steptoe & Johnson has won an order to force a neighboring burger restaurant to stop omitting hamburger fumes into the firm’s air intake system.

See and Post Comments:

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2010/08/26/law-firm-hamburger-war-heats-up?mod=djemlawblog_t


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The AG and I Talk About Obama Care

Posted by on Aug 26 2010 | Health Care, Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC

Tune into this Friday’s Devil’s Advocate as Colorado Attorney General John Suthers joins me for a one on one discussion about the details, status and constitutional basis of the ongoing State Attorneys’ General lawsuit over the constitutionality of the health insurance mandate recently enacted as part as part of the federal health care bill, HR 3590, also known as Obama Care. That’s Friday, August 27 at 8:30 PM on Colorado Public Television 12. Re-broadcast the following Monday at 1:30 PM.

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Some skepticism about “UnemployedJD”

Posted by on Aug 24 2010 | Uncategorized

(David Kopel)

Today’s Wall Street Journal Law Blog has an article about the “UnemployedJD” blog of an unemployed law graduate. The website begins “My name is Ethan Haines.” The website features a picture of a trim white male who, according to the website, is on a hunger strike to protest his own unemployment and the unemployment of other law school graduates.

However, according to the WSJ, the website is operated by Ms. Zenovia Evans, who does not in any way resemble the profile of “Ethan Haines.” As reported by USA Today, Ms. Evans chose not to take the July bar exam, chose instead to study abroad in London, and is currently purusing a MBA. USA Today reports that she is not unemployed, but is instead an “independent contractor (which means no benefits) for a personal injury law firm, earning about $600 a week to hone her legal skills.”

UnemployedJD does not disclose where Evans/Haines attended law school. But a web search found a Zenovia Evans who attended the Auburn Hills campus of Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

The particular demands of the Evans/Haines hunger strike are that ten particular law schools provide certain information about the employment of graduates to an organization called Law School Transparency, and that the schools audit their career counseling programs “for effectiveness, resourcefulness, and accuracy.” [LST has no relation to Evans/Haines or the hunger strike.]

According to Evans/Haines, the ten schools to which s/he sent the hunger strike demands were “randomly selected law schools ranked in the Top 100 of the 2010 U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings. These schools were selected because they stand to gain the most from keeping the current rankings structure in place.”

The Cooley Law School has been a long-time critic of the US News ranking sytem, which Cooley analogizes to ranking college football teams based on the quality of their freshman recruits, rather than by the results achieved by the teams. Cooley favors an alternative rankings system, under which Cooley scores in the top-20.

According to USA Today, “She says she owes more than $150,000 in loans.” (On the blog, she says that she authorized USA Today to reveal her real name.) Cooley’s current annual tuition is $30,644, with discounts of 25–100% available for students with high LSATs (starting at 149, with an additional 10% discount for Michigan residents).

It does not seem prudent for a person with $150,000 in debt to postpone the bar exam, study in London, and then enroll in a different professional school program.

Haines/Evans does not allege that Cooley Law School misled her in any way, or that Cooley’s Career and Professional Development Office failed to function in a professional and appropriate manner.

Surprisingly, Evans is also the proprietor of the J.D. Lifeline website, which sells a book for pre-law students, and another book for 1Ls. According to J.D. Lifeline, “now is the perfect time to go to law school.”

Regarding the progress of the hunger strike, Evans/Haines writes: “As of today, August 24th, I am officially at the end of the second stage of starvation. I have rejected all food thereby limiting myself to water and fruit juice for the past 12 days. Stage three – where death is highly probable – is in the very near future, but I have yet to receive any communication from law school officials regarding my Notice of hunger strike.  As of today, I have lost 15 pounds! I am at a loss for words…”

Given the near-death situation, one wonders if Ms. Evans is still able to perform her duties effectively at the law firm where she works.

Constant improvement of post-graduation data, and constant improvement of law school career counseling offices are both worthy goals. Certainly there is room for debate about the merits of the US News ranking system versus alternative ranking systems. To me, however, Mr. Haines and Ms. Evans do not appear to be particularly persuasive spokespersons for those causes.


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Stop Criticizing President Obama for Playing Golf

Posted by on Aug 23 2010 | Eisenhower, golf, obama

(David Kopel)

In this polarized period of American politics, many people on the Right have been taking cheap shots at President Obama because he plays golf so much.

These golf-related criticisms are at least factually accurate, in contrast to the lies that Michael Moore told about George Bush supposedly vacationing much of the time. However, the criticisms of President Obama are misguided.

Of American Presidents since World War II, the one President who is now almost universally regarded as highly successful and constructive, by persons of all political persuasions, is President Dwight D. Eisenhower. While serving eight years as President of the United States, Eisenhower may have played over eight hundred rounds of golf. In other words, about twice a week.

Like President Obama, President Eisenhower was criticized by partisan opponents for his avid interest in golf.

Obviously there are many differences between President Eisenhower and President Obama. To begin with, the former came into office with demonstrated success in a very difficult executive job, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, defeating Hitler and Mussolini. By contrast, Obama was apparently successful as President of the Harvard Law Review, but was a failure at his only latter significant executive position, Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which attempted unsuccessfully to improve education in selected Chicago schools.

However, President Eisenhower demonstrated beyond any doubt that there is no inherent contradiction between being a good President and being an avid golfer. Indeed, golf helps clear the mind, and hardly any sport is better at fostering humility in participants.  So unless President Obama’s critics are willing to state that President Eisenhower golfed too much, they should stop carping about President Obama’s golfing.


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What Will You Do to Preserve Liberty?

Posted by on Aug 20 2010 | Events, PPC

Here is an opportunity to be apart of something that will help you advance liberty and freedom in Colorado and around the country. The Leadership Program of the Rockies is an all encompassing training program that gives its students both the knowledge and the know-how to positively affect public policy in our state and nation. As they put it,

The Leadership Program of the Rockies (LPR) trains emerging leaders in America’s founding principles-why they were important in the beginning, and how they apply to the challenges of today. Then it teaches and fine-tunes the leadership skills necessary to impact public policy.

Take a look at how LPR can change your life and the lives of those around you. Those who have graduated from the program have gone onto incredible things – just look at this impressive list of names! Don’t miss the deadline to participate in this life changing experience. You can apply online here. Classes begin for the 2010/11 session in October.  If you have any questions at all about the program or how to apply, please contact them here.

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Will a Balanced Budget Amendment Solve Our Debt Crisis?

Posted by on Aug 19 2010 | Economics, Government Largess, Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC

Is a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution the solution to out of control federal spending? Check out this week’s Devil’s Advocate as Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman and Independence Institute Senior Fellow Fred Holden join me to debate the potential merits, and pitfalls, of amending the Constitution to require a balanced federal budget. That’s Friday, August 20 at 8:30 PM on Colorado Public Television 12. Re-broadcast the following Monday at 1:30 PM.

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Teachers Unions Control Over Non-Union Members Paychecks

Posted by on Aug 18 2010 | education, PPC

My main minion created this brand new education video about Colorado teachers unions. In it, you’ll hear the emotional story of a mother struggling with massive medical bills who unfortunately missed a deadline to opt-out of union fee paycheck deductions. As a result, she was charged hundreds of dollars that she did not want and could not afford to pay. For more information about opting out of union membership dues, visit IndependentTeachers.org. Please take a few minutes to watch this heart-breaking story.

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