Washington Beyond the Headlines: Time to Reopen Schools!
By Andy Blom, TES Washington Editor
Washington is even more bizarre than usual as we write this week. Armed military sleep on the floors in the corridors of power and we’re impeaching a president no longer in office. Well, no matter how strange or silly the people in power get, free market thinkers and doers will continue working on the things that actually affect you, your business and your life. Here’s this week’s practical news you can use:
It’s Basic Math. Studies Show Kids Should be in School. The party’s over children. CIDRAP, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, has published three studies that show low COVID risk for in-person school attendance. Research from Sweden, Norway and North Carolina lay out the simple fact: it is safe for our children to be back in school. It also is not merely safe, it is most probably better for their intellectual, physical and social development. Oh, and for taking a little bit of pressure and worry off of mom and dad. Now if only our leaders can read…
Hoping This One Will Last — HHS “SUNSETS” Regulations. President Biden issuing 17 Executive Orders on his first day in office hints at a heavy load of regulations to come. Let’s hope one of the Trump Administration’s last efforts survives. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has announced the Securing Updated and Necessary Statutory Evaluations Timely (SUNSET) Final Rule. In brief, it requires regulations under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) to be assessed every ten years as to whether they are still needed and having appropriate impacts. If not, or the regulation is failed to be reviewed, it will be SUNSET-ED. A definite boom to taxpayers as well and businesses and individuals suffering from oppressive regulation. Read more about this much needed and positive step here.
Net Metering…You’re Paying Too Much for Your Neighbors Solar Power. What a good idea: people with excess energy generated by their solar units can sell it back to the power company, who then sell it to you. Except…in states where that power is measured and priced by Net Metering, the power company is buying that excess energy at retail prices. Prices that include little details like delivery, administration, etc. So the power company is buying that energy, essentially with your money because that’s where they get their money, at premium rates and then selling it back to you at the same premium rate. The State Government Leadership Foundation has done a study of this regressive and unfair practice and identifies states where reform is needed.
COVID-19 Killed…Regulations? Strange but true. Of course, the Pandemic resulted in a bunch of sometimes arbitrary regulatory acts by governments large and small. But there was good news, too. In responding to the COVID Crisis states loosened, or abandoned regulations that created unnecessary burdens. Over 846 Federal and State regulations in fact. That meant everything from easing or killing Certificate of Need laws to opening up telemedicine to permitting food trucks to operate at rest areas. Joe Luppino-Esposito of the Pacific Legal Foundation has the good news of common sense leading to less government here. Now if only we can continue the trend.
Speaking of Climate Change and Common Sense… If we pause the hysteria for a moment (sad goodbye to the Keystone Pipeline) there is a lot to be said about climate change, on both sides. For an in-depth and rational look at the issue, consider the Heartland Institute’s 14th International Conference on Climate Change. It takes place April 16-17 at Paris Las Vegas although there may be virtual attendance if Las Vegas is locked down. Get information and register here. Pro Tip: if you go to the About page on the website there is a link to watch presentations from previous conferences.
And if You Want a Climate Primer…If you’re not up to speed on all things climate here’s a simple, relatively painless way to get informed. Climate at a Glance offers 1-2 page summaries of frequently argued climate issues. Each starts with bullet points to provide quick, easy information. An intelligent and useful resource for a difficult conversation.
Hooray for Texas! Again. The Texas government seems to take less government, and protecting their taxpayers, seriously. Their latest effort promises to end taxpayer funded lobbying this year. Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars are spent every year by local governments hiring lobbyists to lobby state legislatures. Often for things not advantageous to taxpayers. Texas plans to stop that for good this year. More good news? They expect other states to follow suit. Cheerful signs here!
Shut Up! Why You Shouldn’t Like H.R.1. H.R. 1, commonly known as the “For the Politicians Act” drastically changes the rules by limiting political speech and donations for individuals and organizations. To help you understand this Draconian law, the Institute for Free Speech has prepared a resource guide telling you everything you want, and don’t want, to know about the issue. Think it’s only a conservative issue? Read the ACLU’s (American Civil Liberties Union) letter opposing H.R. 1.
Helping Already Strong Texas Recover Better. Okay, businesses and individuals are fleeing California, Illinois, New Jersey and New York for Texas. Why? Better economy. Better government, less lockdown and restriction. But that’s not good enough for the Texas Public Policy Foundation. TPPF has released a five step strategy for responsible recovery from COVID-19. It’s smart, it’s tough, it’s practical and it should result in immediate and long term growth. Unless new liberal voters from the above mentioned states muck things up.
We Warned You…This Week’s Antitrust News. We’ve mentioned that antitrust, particularly in regard to Big Tech, will be a hot topic this year. It has particular resonance, on both sides of the issue, among America’s conservative thinkers and doers. Keep up to date? Take a look at a letter to the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust signed by 23 conservative leaders that details issues and concerns. If you are new to the issue it’s a great way to immediately get up to date.
Radical Rule from the EPA: Scientific Transparency. Boy, have we heard a lot about SCIENCE this year. Well here’s some good news. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a Final Rule requiring the science used for legislative and regulatory decisions be made available to the public. In short, no longer can Washington wave a magic wand and say “It’s because of science” without actually giving you access to the science they are citing. Americans for Tax Reform has the good news. Or you can see it in the EPA’s own words here. Want it straight from the horse’s mouth? You can listen to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler discuss the rule at the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s forum.
Intelligent Discourse. It Shouldn’t Be So Rare. We have praised the Mercatus Center’s interesting and thoughtful publication Discourse previously in this column. More good news: their latest issue is out and we recommend two articles to get started…Elise Amez-Droz and Lyndi Schrecengost examine Certificate of Need Laws, their true cost and the difficulty in gaining state approval, and, in a dramatic change of pace, Daniel Griswold takes a look at the popular TV series The Crown and its treatment of Margaret Thatcher. He is not entirely pleased.
Bad Moon Rising: Earmarks. One of the predictions of what’s to come with a Democrat House, Senate and Presidency is the return of Earmarks…a provision inserted into a discretionary spending appropriations bill that directs funds to a specific recipient while circumventing the merit-based or competitive funds allocation process. In short, a sneaky way to fund pet projects of powerful legislators without following the normal processes. Tom Schatz, President of Citizens Against Government Waste, speaks out against the return of earmarks and why pretending they can be modified is not the answer.
Surprise! Congress Acts on Surprise Medical Bills. No Surprise — They Botch It. Surprise medical billing, when a patient is surprised by a healthy unexpected charge for medical services they thought covered by insurance, is a growing problem in the world of COVID-19. Congress rushed a solution into the end of year spending bill but the No Surprises Act could still hold some unpleasant shocks for patients and health care providers. Seems hasty treatment of health care might not be the best idea. Solving the problems now becomes the job of the regulatory implementation process. Oh good, put things in the hands of Federal Regulators. Mario Lopez, President of The Hispanic Leadership Fund, waves red flags for the Biden Administration.
Are Government and Efficient, Cost-Effective Management Incompatible? Did you know Ronald Reagan first referred to “draining the swamp”? Way back in 1982 he called for studying and controlling the cost of the Federal Government. Good luck to that. But the group he put together, commonly known as the Grace Commission, made recommendations on Reducing the Size of Government, Financial Management, Eliminating Federal Duplication and Earmarks that still make sense today. Citizens Against Government Waste has taken a look at the Grace Commission reports and updated them in an important, and sobering review.
Andresen Blom is a Washington based policy and political analyst and author who has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Hill, and Politico.