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To Counter Obamacare Repeal Pushback, Republicans Should Pass School Choice


The diminishing Democratic Party in Washington D.C. is stirring. With the unexpected victory of President-elect Donald Trump, liberals are scrambling to figure out just how they’ll use what little political capital they have to thwart congressional Republicans’ agenda, which is only days away from realization with control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and the White House.

In a recent feature story in New York magazine, Democrats broadcasted their first futile effort to be relevant in this new Congress: opposing the nomination of Rep. Tom Price, M.D. (R-Ga.) as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. According to reporter Jason Zengerle, they’ve already concocted their grand scheme:

“Senate Democrats appear to be unanimous in their opposition to Tom Price, Trump’s choice for Health and Human Services secretary, and they hope to raise such a ruckus about Medicare during Price’s hearings that at least three Republicans decide to vote against Price, too, thus handing Democrats their first scalp of the Trump era.”

Of course, the ridiculous delusion that Price, the chairman of the House budget committee who just so happens to be one of the country’s most successful orthopedic surgeons, wouldn’t receive unified GOP support for the job smacks of the same hubris that caused Democrats’ widespread, humiliating losses up and down ballots this cycle. Their strained efforts to derail the nomination of arguably Trump’s least salacious nominee signals their tantrum is less about his fitness for confirmation and more about convincing voters that Republicans are totally disinterested in their health or wellbeing.

It shows us, too, that Democrats will rely upon their trusted messaging playbook throughout the Obamacare “repeal and replace” fight that will dominate the first few years of the Trump Administration. They’ll wail about Republicans ripping health care from poor people, the elderly and the chronically ill. They’ll march across Washington in matching t-shirts, thrusting posters portraying women’s IUD-clad uteruses into the sky while chanting in unison that Republicans’ opposition to using taxpayer dollars to fund their abortions amounts to an assault upon their civil liberties.

The message coordination is stunning. Need proof? CNN is already running an on-air package about black lung victims and their families in coal country losing access to vital medical care and benefits once Obamacare is repealed.

The Washington Post’s liberal commentator Greg Sargent followed up with a written report calling the segment “fantastic” and asking if Trump’s voters in these states knew the harm he’d do to them when they cast their ballots. The storyline, naturally, is intended to make the GOP waiver in its commitment to repealing Obamacare by fomenting doubt among Republican lawmakers that the voters who put them in power really want the law replaced.

Despite the Democrats’ most frenetic organization, Republicans will not be deterred in their long-awaited quest to repeal and replace Obamacare with patient-centered reforms. They know that the law is not working for patients, families, doctors, hospitals, workers, employers or taxpayers.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, left, meets with Secretary of Health and Human Services-designate Rep. Tom Price, R- Ga., Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, left, meets with Secretary of Health and Human Services-designate Rep. Tom Price, R- Ga. Both leaders will be instrumental in the GOP’s plan to repeal and then replace Obamacare. | Photo: AP

Still, there is an assumption among many industry insiders that the road from repeal to replace necessarily includes a transition period between the two. This “delay” will inevitably invite an onslaught of Democratic attacks over the course of several months as the changes, whether delivered as a comprehensive bill or piece-by-piece reforms, take place.

From teary-eyed press conferences to cherry-picked fact sheets, Democratic lawmakers and their allies will do all they can to scare voters and vilify Republicans. They’ll ignore the true, painful human consequences of President Obama’s signature law, like quadrupled premiums and denied access to care, that affect far more families than they purport it helps.

With an eager press corps and a relentless activist base, the Democrats are armed and ready to win the public relations war. But are Republicans?

The GOP has the truth of the horrors of Obamacare on its side. Republicans also have sustained public opposition to the law, especially as Americans grow restless and exasperated by the unencumbered problems associated with its implementation and their compliance with it.

Even as they disapprove of Obamacare, most Americans believe that the status quo isn’t acceptable, either. Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. did not enjoy truly free market-based, patient-centered health care. That’s why most conservatives have long argued that any repeal of Obamacare must be complemented with legislation that actually repairs a broken system.

But the Democrats don’t care about the merits of Republican ideas for reform. They will simply frame any undoing of Obamacare as yet another example of heartless, corporatist Republicans feeding the least among us to the ravenous wolves of the medical industry. Any GOP policy proposal, no matter how sound or worthy, will be condemned as regressive and unfeeling, meant only to take something away from people that they feel is rightly theirs.

Republicans should not be deterred, but they also shouldn’t be foolish. While they work on reinforcing the current consequences of Obamacare and explaining the potential benefits of replacement legislation, they should concurrently promote and pass aspirational legislation that shows the GOP is serious about solving challenges facing the average American family.

Republicans should concurrently promote and pass aspirational legislation that shows the GOP is serious about solving challenges facing the average American family

The most obvious issue to address is our country’s crumbling public education system. And like Obamacare, the facts on this are on the Republicans’ side.

Here are just a few:

  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. spends 39 percent more on public education than the average for countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The average cost per pupil in an American public school is $12,054 annually.
  • Despite committing an abundance of taxpayer resources to educating young people, nearly 10 percent of all American public K-12 institutions are deemed “failing” by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • This means that approximately 3.5 million American children, the vast majority of whom come from low-income families, are without adequate education.
  • As of 2014, there were more minorities in public schools than white students. That means failures in public education disproportionately affect African American, Hispanic and Asian children.

Meanwhile, private schools, 79 percent of which are religiously affiliated, cost far less than their public counterparts. Catholic schools, which make up nearly half of all private educational institutions in America, cost an average of $6,890 across all grades, while other religious schools charge just $8,690 — 43 percent and 28 percent less than per pupil costs in a public system, respectively.

Despite costing less per pupil, private educational institutions consistently outperform their public counterparts, exceeding their test scores, graduation rates and college success rates.

In an October 2016 study by the College Board, researchers discovered parochial and independent private schools outperform public schools on their SATs by an average of 44 points in reading, 58 points in writing and 64 points in math. According to the NCES, just 42 percent of public school fourth graders and 38 percent of eighth graders were “proficient” or “advanced” in reading, compared to 63 percent of fourth graders and 67 percent of eighth graders in private educational institutions.

The National Catholic Education Association reported that in 2010, 99 percent of its students graduated high school, along with 98 percent of students from other religious schools and 96 percent from unaffiliated private schools. Just 76 percent of American high school students attending public schools enrolled.

Private schools also better prepare students for higher educational opportunities. A 2014 NCES study surveyed adults who were high school sophomores in 2002. By 2012, 61.9 percent of Catholic high school graduates and 57.1 percent of non-Catholic private high school graduates had received at least a bachelor’s degree. Only 31.1 percent of their public high school counterparts had done the same.

This is the result of a public education system that all too often lacks accountability, local oversight and parental control. It is notorious for putting the whims and desires of adults in teachers’ unions over the needs of children they’re meant to educate.

The current education system is notorious for putting the whims and desires of adults in teachers’ unions over the needs of children they’re meant to educate

True educational justice, also known as “school choice,” would allow money to follow the child to whichever educational institution her family chooses for her — whether it be public, charter, non-religious private or faith-based school. It would empower parents and students the freedom to decide for themselves what works and what doesn’t while simultaneously creating competition that improves the existing public options available.

This approach enjoys broad support across the political spectrum, and it’s somewhere Republicans can build trust among unlikely allies who share their commitment to reforming education in America. It also pressures Democrats to make the tough choice of either rewarding their political supporters in teachers’ unions or providing better opportunities for underserved families. As Democrats paint the GOP as eager to harm people by repealing Obamacare, Republicans can show they have the ideas and the courage to make things better for them by improving education.

But, they probably won’t convince anyone merely with statistics. The beneficiaries of school choice can be found in places like Louisiana, a state destroyed during Hurricane Katrina and whose vibrant rebirth is due, in part, to school choice offering a way out of poverty for its people.

Many of these children grew up sharing a rundown hotel room with a dozen family members in the aftermath of the nation’s worst natural disaster. Their earliest memories are of running out of clean towels after weeks of being crammed with relatives of all ages and not having homes after the flood waters finally receded.

Now, they are experiencing the joy of a quality education that is opening the doors of the world to them, whether at charter schools like Warren Easton or Catholic schools like St. Joan of Arc. Their teachers educate, nurture, discipline and love them.

And parents are thrilled with the results. According to the Louisiana Federation for Children, 91.2 percent of parents are happy with their child’s scholarship school, 91.6 percent believe that the program benefits their child academically, 99.1 percent say their child feels safe in his or her scholarship school and 98.4 percent of parents say their children feel welcome.

Their stories are true, compelling and found everywhere. Their voices deserve to be heard. And children across America deserve the same chance to get a quality education that prepares them to achieve their dreams.

Most importantly, Republicans should embrace school choice as their top domestic agenda priority not because it’s great politically, but because it meets the very purpose of government: to serve. There are children in every corner of America, many of whom are truly disadvantaged, whose opportunity at economic mobility hinges entirely upon a quality education. Republicans cannot delay.

Ellen Carmichael is a senior writer for Opportunity Lives. Follow her on Twitter @ellencarmichael.

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Kara McKee Explains Why She’s Optimistic About Health Care Reform Under Price And Ryan

Sen. Mike Lee: “I Want to Return Power Back to the People”


For the first time in nearly a decade, Republicans will control the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Now the GOP is under intense pressure to deliver and follow through on many of the promises they have made during the Obama administration and over the course of the most recent campaign.

Among those prepared to hit the ground running on behalf of the American people is U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah). Lee, who was reelected to second term last November, spoke exclusively to Opportunity Lives about what he hopes to accomplish as a member of the Judiciary Committee and as the Chairman of the powerful Senate Steering Committee that is largely responsible for deciding the legislative agenda for the upper chamber.

When asked what he hopes to accomplish most as a member of the Senate, the Utah lawmaker said, “I want to return as much power, as possible, to the people – that is my main goal.”

But what about the president-elect’s pick for Attorney General – Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)? What is Lee looking for? What are the most important qualities to lead the Department of Justice?

To find out, check out our conversation with Senator Lee below:

The post Sen. Mike Lee: “I Want to Return Power Back to the People” appeared first on Opportunity Lives.

The GOP’s Secret Weapon


Republicans are gearing up for a fight for the ages. And they have a secret weapon to aid them.

Well, it’s not entirely secret, just so obscure and arcane that it has escaped notice.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) spoke about this weapon last week in his opening speech to the Congress:

When I came into this job, I pledged to restore regular order. Get the committee system working again. Hold regular House and Senate conferences—because only a fully functioning House can do the people’s business. We’ve made great progress since then. Take our work on finding cures for deadly diseases . . . or beating back the opioid epidemic . . . or our work on mental health. These are all things we should be very proud of. These efforts were directed by the committees and crafted by the members—all through regular order. But there is still a lot of work to do—like a fully functioning appropriations process, for example…
[T]o our returning members, I want to say, ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’ This is the kind of thing that most of us only dream about. I know—because I used to dream about it. The people have given us unified government. And it wasn’t because they were feeling generous. It’s because they wanted results. How could we live with ourselves if we let them down? How could we let ourselves down? I have for many months been asking our members to raise their gaze and aim high. Now, let us not be timid, but rather reach for that brighter horizon.

The speaker is right. The House has accomplished a lot using this process. But what terrifies Democrats is the next step in the restoration of regular order — a fully functioning appropriations process that would give the GOP the chance to reshape government for a generation.

A fully functioning appropriations process means Congress would take up 12 spending bills that fund and direct government operations individually. This is a big deal because Congress hasn’t done this in 10 years. Less than a third of members of Congress have worked through a fully functioning appropriations process. For the past decade, government has been funded by omnibus spending bills and continuing resolutions. Congress has lurched from crisis to crisis with little review of government operations — a pattern that fueled voter anger even if voters weren’t tuned into the arcane procedural details.

In an article in The Hill that I coauthored with Tom Coburn, my former boss who mastered the art of using regular order, we argue:

Regular order isn’t a mere process or managerial goal. Instead, it could save taxpayers hundreds of billions — if not trillions — of dollars and potentially lives as well (i.e. by heading off scandals like the one at the Department of Veterans Affairs in which as many as 1,000 veterans died on waiting lists).

During his terms in the House and Senate, Coburn documented thousands of examples of waste and duplication. He estimated Congress could save taxpayers $1 trillion over 10 years just by making smart consolidations. In 2011, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office supported Coburn’s conclusion that these reforms would not merely save money but would help people. GAO said, “Reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could potentially save billions of taxpayer dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services.”

In “The Debt Bomb” (2013) Coburn described a few of these areas of duplication:

GAO identified a mother lode of government waste: 9 federal agencies spend approximately $18 billion annually to administer 47 separate job training programs (it was unclear if any worked); 20 separate agencies run 56 different financial literacy programs (why Congress believes it is qualified to teach financial literacy is beyond me); 10 agencies run 82 teacher training programs, while 15 agencies monitor food safety. One agency manages cheese pizza (FDA), but if you buy a pepperoni pizza, that’s another agency (USDA). In many areas the GAO found little evidence these programs were effective. And in the understatement of the year, the GAO said, “Considering the amount of program dollars involved in the issues we have identified, even limited adjustments could result in significant savings.”

As Ryan said last week, Congress has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use unified government to make the reforms Coburn and others have identified and taxpayers are demanding. Democrats will portray this as death by a thousand cuts but taxpayers will experience it as growth by a thousand consolidations and reforms.

During the Obama years, conservatives were right to complain about executive overreach. But a greater problem in the past two decades has been congressional under-reach. Members of Congress routinely complain about “bureaucrats,” but bureaucrats have no power apart from the power Congress delegates to them. The fact is Congress gave away far too much power to the executive branch while misusing its power during the earmark era. Restarting the earmark favor factory, which House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and even some in the GOP want to do, would be a grave error, as I argue here. Instead, Congress needs to do the hard and often tedious work of oversight and writing clear and specific legislation that tells agencies what to do and no more.

President-elect Trump would be wise to not repeat Obama’s mistakes and not rely too heavily on executive orders. Instead he should push his reforms through Congress and into law. He also should not expect his cabinet secretaries to fix everything that is wrong in government. With few exceptions, the handful of Congress members and staff who control the appropriations process will do far more to shape the future of agencies than the cabinet secretaries themselves.

Republicans in 2017 will benefit from the fact that this secret weapon sounds so innocuous. From a communication and branding perspective, the phrase “regular order” couldn’t be more blah and uninspiring. Regular. Order. Regular order. Whoever thought to merge those words wasn’t trying to write an ad. The phrase has no cultural resonance other than perhaps reminding people of the Star Wars universe’s First Order or the 1980’s band New Order.

But the public does understand results and that’s precisely what regular order is designed to achieve. If Congress takes Speaker Ryan’s charge to heart and focuses on the little things — the mundane and often thankless work of regular order — they’ll do big things: improve people’s lives and win a measure of respect and trust from voters who believe Washington politicians only think about themselves.

John Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @johnhart333.

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Taxpayers Need a Trump Tweetstorm on Earmarks


On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate will decide whether to follow Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s lead and keep its moratorium on earmarks. Some senators hope to lift the ban that has been in place since 2011 and restart the earmark favor factory. That would be an enormous mistake.

Last week, President-elect Trump effectively stopped a move by House Republicans who wanted to rein in the troubled Office of Congressional Ethics. It was the right fight at the wrong time, and Trump’s tweets played a major role in scuttling the effort. Trump needs to do the same on earmarks.

Some language Trump should consider:

“If Congress sends me bills with pork I’ll send them back Veto”

“Nancy Pelosi wants to bring back pork so she can increase the value of her husband’s properties. Sad!”

“Head clown Chuck Schumer wants more money for his Woodstock museum. Republicans shouldn’t give him a dime DrainTheSwamp”

“The losers in Congress want to bring back pork after millions of Americans just voted for change. No way!”

“Congress should be looking for news ways to save money, not new ways to spend money. Don’t be dumb. DrainTheSwamp”

“As president I’ll be asking Congress to build bridges to somewhere, not Bridges to Nowhere.”

If President Trump is serious about draining the swamp and prioritizing infrastructure projects that grow the economy instead of a politician’s campaign coffers, he can’t afford to be silent.

In 2014, when the Senate was seriously considering removing the ban, then U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) wrote in the Wall Street Journal that restoring earmarks would be like “opening a bar tab for a bunch of recovering alcoholics.”

Coburn explained:

The porkers’ core argument — that Congress needs earmarks to pass good bills that wouldn’t pass otherwise — is ludicrous. Pork crowds out higher priority needs. On transportation bills, for instance, the Transportation Department’s Inspector General told us in 2007 that the presence of earmarks meant members’ pet projects were funded ahead of more important projects such as repairing structurally deficient bridges, which now number 63,000 or 10% of our nation’s bridges. There is a higher chance the bridge you cross today on your way to work could collapse thanks in part to Congress’s legacy of perverse priorities.

Members like to say they know their district’s needs best but they are most skilled at putting their political needs first. Plus, we already have an institution dedicated to local projects. It is called local government …

The last major piece of legislation whose passage was greased with pork was the Affordable Care Act, a bill even ardent supporters like former Democratic Sen. Max Baucus admit was a poorly constructed “train wreck.”

Coburn also said earmarks were the “gateway drug” to Congress’s spending addiction. He was right. After the earmark ban was enacted, spending decreased from $3.46 trillion to 2010 to $3.45 trillion in 2013.

Coburn also refuted his colleagues who suggested earmarks had always been with us when earmarks reached ridiculous levels just a few years ago. In 1987, President Reagan vetoed a bill that contained 121 earmarks. By 2006, Congress was funding 16,000 earmarks.

As I argue here, Congress has an opportunity to use regular order to improve the effectiveness of programs and make people’s lives better while saving money. Bringing back earmarks would undermine this process while enraging and demoralizing voters who are giving Republicans a chance to win their trust.

In this piece from Stephen Dinan at the Washington Times, Coburn describes his colleagues as “very tone-deaf.”

It’s time for the president-elect to log on to Twitter and make Congress listen.

John Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @johnhart333.

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Tim Scott Endorses Jeff Sessions for Attorney General


U.S. Senator Tim Scott, the first African-American senator from the South since Reconstruction, officially endorsed his senate colleague Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for the position of U.S. Attorney General. The South Carolina Republican said in a press release that he took it upon himself to “do his homework” on Sessions’ record both as a Senator and as a U.S. Attorney from Alabama.

Scott said:

After his nomination, I invited Senator Sessions to Charleston, South Carolina in December of 2016 to meet with African-American pastors, law enforcement and leaders of color. We had what both the attendees and I believe to be a very productive conversation, which gave us all a clearer picture of not only Jeff’s policy positions, but what is in his heart. I have also talked on multiple occasions with leaders from Alabama, closely reviewed both the Congressional testimony and news coverage of Senator Sessions’ hearing in 1986, and studied Jeff’s career as a whole.

While many of the allegations brought up 30 years ago were and are disputed, there are many facts that are absolutely clear. Jeff is committed to upholding the Constitution of the United States. He joined multiple desegregation lawsuits while serving as a U.S. Attorney, protecting the civil rights of students seeking equal educational opportunity. He ensured a KKK murderer received the death penalty. He voted for the first black Attorney General of the United States, and championed the effort to award Rosa Parks the Congressional Gold Medal.

And Mike Warren of the Weekly Standard reports on the significance of Scott’s endorsement:

The announcement came just hours after it was announced that New Jersey senator Cory Booker, a Democrat, would testify as a witness against Sessions’s nomination—the first such time a sitting U.S. senator will testify against another senator for an executive confirmation. Scott and Booker are the only two black senators currently serving. In 1986, Sessions (then a U.S. attorney) was nominated for a seat on a federal circuit court, after which he was accused of making racially insensitive remarks by four Justice Department colleagues. Sessions denied these accusations and that he was a racist, but his nomination failed to move forward out of the Senate Judiciary committee.

You can read Scott’s full statement here.

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Would President Obama Truly Support a GOP Obamacare Replacement?


President Obama on Friday joined Vox.com to discuss the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). He made a number of claims that deserve close scrutiny.

The president said he would support a Republican replacement health law that works better than Obamacare. Insisting “If it works, I’m all for it,” Obama suggested a GOP replacement would need to include certain key components to earn his support. These conditions include affordable prescriptions and coverage of pre-existing conditions, preventative medicine, rural community health coverage and efficient use of government Medicare and Medicaid programs.

During his farewell address Tuesday night, the President reemphasized that pledge saying, “…. if anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we’ve made to our health care system – that covers as many people at less cost – I will publicly support it.”

But here’s the catch: President Obama knows that whatever Republicans propose to replace Obamacare, they’re intending to cover a similar number of Americans — at lower costs.

He knows this, because the contours of Republican plans are already public. While there are different GOP health care plans floating around Capitol Hill, the Republican Study Committee (RSC) offers an indicative example of their collective content. As with Obamacare, the RSC plan would cover pre-existing conditions (establishing a 200 percent of average plan price cap on pre-existing insurance plans).

But the RSC would also do things that Obamacare does not. It would allow Americans to buy insurance across state lines, while eliminating prejudicial tax treatment of self-employed and employer health plans. It would also increase cost transparency in the health marketplace. Each of these steps is crucial to lowering costs for consumers.

Still, the RSC proposal is just one of many. Other Republicans are pushing for greater action on the mental health front. And Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is focused on giving states far greater control over how they spend federal Medicaid and Medicare funds. Ryan’s approach would make government health programs much more efficient.

That speaks to something more.

While it’s true that the GOP has not finalized a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, it has offered enough collaborative detail to elicit President Obama’s concern. Put simply, I believe Obama knows his signature domestic policy achievement is failing, but he can’t admit it. To do so would be to repudiate his legacy. Consequentially, Obama is doubling down on government control of health care.

Consider two telling comments from the president during his Vox interview. First, he said that the real problem with Obamacare is that it doesn’t go far enough. Obama believes that government subsidies for individual insurance premiums are too small. Second, the president has said the U.S. health care system over-empowers the private sector. These comments matter greatly because Republicans adopt the opposite understanding.

For a start, Republicans believe that more government involvement in health care would be negative not positive. Instead, Republicans believe the market is the key to equitable outcomes.

The problem with government-run health systems is not that their doctors and nurses are less skilled, but that individuals must come second to the bureaucracy. Socialized medical systems fail to mitigate demand for health care because they do not give individuals a personal stake (personal choices and costs). But they also fail to fuel innovation. It is not coincidental, after all, that the newest medical treatments are mostly developed in America.

Yet Republicans also oppose socialized medicine for moral reasons. For one, as Western populations age, we’re seeing what happens in socialized systems. Just look at the United Kingdom. There, patients overwhelm under-resourced hospitals and overworked professionals. Read the stories of elderly Britons dying in hospital corridors and starving in hospital beds. These stories are exceptions, but they occur far more regularly in Europe than in America. Why? Because socialized bureaucracies force professionals to triage their patients.

But don’t take my word on this moral question. Just consider the contrast between how Americans perceive Obamacare and how President Obama perceives it.

In his response, the president simply blamed Republicans for the law’s inadequacies. That suggests Obama would never support a GOP replacement plan

In particular, watch this moment from the Vox interview in which a Kentuckian explains to the president why many Americans dislike his law. He notes how Obamacare deprives Americans of choices while increasing premiums and deductibles. The questioner was passionate and polite. But in his response, the president simply blamed Republicans for the law’s inadequacies. That suggests Obama would never support a GOP replacement plan.

President Obama is right about one thing, however: Republicans will soon own the health care issue. Policy ownership requires honest leadership. America’s health care system was too expensive before Obamacare, and it remains too expensive and inefficient today. And before Obamacare, too many of the poorest and most-ill Americans received inadequate care. To make things better, Republicans will have to unleash the market but also challenge vested interests that manipulate the market (for two, the pharmaceutical export industry and price-colluding hospitals).

But Republicans should also be clear sighted. Obamacare has failed because it puts government before people. The Affordable Care Act’s replacement must turn that principle on its head.

Tom Rogan is a senior contributor for Opportunity Lives, a former panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.

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Bob Woodson: Lewis and Booker are Betraying the Civil Rights Movement


U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has done his best to rest any notion that he’s a racist and bigot in his Senate confirmation hearings for Attorney General.

“Let me address another issue straight on, I was accused in 1986 of failing to protect the voting rights of African-Americans . . . and of condemning civil rights advocates and organizations and even harboring, amazingly, sympathies for the KKK. These are damnably false charges. I abhor the Klan and what it represents and its hateful ideology,” Sessions said yesterday.

He added, “I deeply understand the history of civil rights and the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters.”

Sessions also said that under his leadership the Department of Justice will, “never falter in its obligation to protect the rights of every American, particularly those who are most vulnerable.’’

Sitting behind Sessions for part of the hearing was Bob Woodson, who I’ve described as a four-star general in the war against poverty. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) considers Woodson his “mentor.” After the 2012 election Ryan toured anti-poverty groups Woodson has helped connect and empower. Ryan’s tour is captured in our Comeback series at OL.

Writing in National Review, Woodson called Sessions a friend of underprivileged minorities:

I have known and worked with Senator Sessions for more than 15 years and know firsthand that his leadership, his compassion, and his actions to uplift “the least among us” far outweigh the weak allegations brought against him.

In an interview with ABC News, Woodson said Sessions was a strong supporter of local poverty groups. Woodson said Sessions has, “demonstrated by his actions that he cares for the least of these.” Woodson, himself a veteran of the civil rights movement, said Sessions critics are “abusing the civil rights legacy” by calling him a racist and said civil rights leaders have a “double standard” by lauding the late Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.V.), a former Klan member, while vilifying Sessions who was never a member of the Klan and has disavowed the Klan.

Woodson said the people who will be testifying against Sessions today are part of the “the race grievance industry” who use race to “bludgeon” ideological opponents.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) are among the African-American members of Congress to testify against Sessions during the hearings. Booker’s choice to testify against Sessions has come under criticism, as he is the first sitting Senator to testify against a colleague’s nomination.

Sessions’ hearing continues today.

John Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @johnhart333.

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Everything You Need to Know About Betsy DeVos


Betsy DeVos, the president elect’s choice for education secretary, has spent decades fighting to increase educational opportunities for all students through her philanthropic and advocacy work. This week, the former businesswoman and philanthropist will testify before the Senate Health, Education and Labor (HELP) Committee, answering questions and providing senators with a better sense of how she intends to run one of the biggest government agencies.

Her confirmation is not without controversy, however. Critics contend that she lacks the experience for the job and worry that she will enact reforms that will lead to the demise of public education.

To make sense of this all, here is what you need to know.

Betsy DeVos has spent a fortune fighting for parents and students

DeVos has literally spent millions of her own money to help parents, families and students mobilize to demand greater access to good schools. Thanks to her generosity, individuals and groups have been able to fight an educational status quo that is slow to act and continues to leave far too many students behind — particularly low-income, African American and Latino students.

Maria Salazar, a single mother and a native of Peru, was able to send her daughter to a high school of her choice thanks to DeVos’s efforts in helping to create a tax credit scholarship program in Arizona.

In a recent letter to her hometown paper, Salazar wrote: “I don’t claim to know Betsy DeVos personally but her work to provide opportunities is very personal to me.”

Lack of teaching experience is not a liability

Critics of Betsy DeVos are desperate to block her nomination. As the Wall Street Journal editorialized over the weekend, DeVos is one of the nation’s most successful education reformers. Thanks to her leadership and insight, supporters of school choice have been able to make great strides at both the state and the federal level.

This is why critics are looking to undermine her credibility by seizing on her lack of educational experience. But what critics fail to mention is that she has spent decades working in education policy circles, crisscrossing the country meeting with lawmakers, educators, parents and, most importantly, students to learn and apply lessons that are working. DeVos is no education policy novice.

Her lack of teaching in a classroom is a distraction by defenders of the status quo.

DeVos supports expanding charter schools that are popular with minority families

As Opportunity Lives has been reporting, many low-income families are sending their children to charter schools — public schools that operate with greater freedom and autonomy. Among those benefitting from this choice includes many African American and Latino families that are escaping crime-ridden and struggling public schools.

Recent polls confirm strong support among minority communities for greater parental choice in schooling. Polls like this reveal a deep disconnect among the advocacy groups that claim to represent minority communities and the parents and students that benefit from more choices.

Here’s the truth about DeVos’s support for charter schools in Michigan

Teachers’ unions and special interest groups are no fans of charter schools because the vast majority of those schools aren’t unionized. They also don’t like that charter schools operate with greater autonomy and freedom than their traditional public school counterparts.

This explains why critics are eager to attack DeVos’s support for charter school expansion in her home state of Michigan. But they are cherry picking numbers while failing to describe an alternative to charter schools that is failing to educate many students in the Great Lakes state.

“Detroit charters are low performing—only 19% of students are proficient in English—but they’re better than the alternative,” writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board. “Charter students in Detroit on average score 60% more proficient on state tests than kids attending the city’s traditional public schools. Eighteen of the top 25 schools in Detroit are charters while 23 of the bottom 25 are traditional schools.”

What’s the Government’s Role in Education? Listen for Betsy DeVos’s Answers

For decades, the federal government has been exerting greater ownership in crafting education policy. Educational achievement remains stagnant and according to the latest global surveys, most U.S. students are failing to keep pace in math and reading assessments, when compared to other countries.

Still, there is hope. A number of states are experimenting and pushing for increased choice, competition and transparency. In some places, this is yielding positive results.

Where does DeVos come down on the government’s role in education? There is a long to-do list to enact bold and sweeping reforms to shake up the educational status quo. How committed is DeVos to a devolving greater authority and responsibility to the states when it comes to education policy?

These are the central questions. Not her net worth or lack of experience teaching in a classroom. Look beyond the spin and the grandstanding of senators playing up before the television cameras and listen for the vital questions and answers.

Israel Ortega is a Senior Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter: @IzzyOrtega.

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DeVos to Senators: “I Trust Parents… and Believe in Our Children”


Despite repeated attempts by Democrats on the Senate Health, Education and Labor (HELP) Committee to bait Betsy DeVos into attacking public schools, the president-elect’s choice for education secretary delivered a measured performance that will likely result in her confirmation.

Withstanding a marathon confirmation hearing that lasted well over three hours, Democrats led by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) peppered DeVos with leading questions in the hopes of discrediting her. DeVos’s nomination is opposed by a number of special interest groups, including the powerful National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers. Early on, it became clear that Democrats on the committee would stick to the script of attacking DeVos on her lack of teaching experience, failure to attend a public school and her vast wealth.

Through it all, DeVos remained poised, respectful and substantive in responding to committee-members, including former Democratic-presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

In one of the sharpest and most memorable exchanges in the hearing, Sanders was forced to admit that free college (one of the senator’s signature proposals during his presidential campaign) would not in fact be free. “Nothing in life is truly free…. Someone is going to have to pay for it,” DeVos retorted, to which Sanders replied: “…. Uh, yes, you are right.”

Besides expressing support for improving all public schools, the philanthropist, businesswoman and activist talked persuasively about changing the paradigm of an education establishment that believes in “one size fits all.” Drawing from her own personal experience of meeting and working with parents and students, DeVos told the committee, “It’s time to shift the debate from what the system thinks is best for kids to what moms and dads want, expect and deserve.”

To make her point, DeVos talked about her personal involvement in helping parents access high quality schools to fit the specific needs of a student. Parents like Maria Salazar, a single mother and a native of Peru that was able to send her daughter Nydia to private school in Arizona, thanks in part to efforts by DeVos. Nydia, the first in her family to attend and graduate from college, sat in the gallery during Tuesday’s hearing.

“Why, in 2017, are we still questioning parents’ ability to exercise educational choice for their children? I am a firm believer that parents should be empowered to choose the learning environment that’s best for their individual children,” the nominee pleaded in her opening remarks.

A number of leading education policy experts took to Twitter expressing support for DeVos’ testimony and exchanges with Senators on the committee. Lindsey Burke, an education policy expert at the Heritage Foundation tweeted:

Meanwhile, former governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) heaped praised on DeVos following the hearing, saying in a release: “Betsy DeVos showed today why she is a hero of the education reform movement. She passionately articulated the case for school choice and parental control and expressed a deep commitment to children, especially at-risk students who are the biggest victims of failing K-12 schools.”

Former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), who sits on the board of the American Federation for Children, spoke on DeVos’s behalf at the beginning of the hearing, saying she is “ready to take on this assignment and do it very well.”

Josh Kraushaar, the politics editor at National Journal, tweeted:

Calls to allow for an additional round of questions by Democrats on the committee were rebuffed by the chairman, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). The committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination Jan. 24, where she is expected to win approval in what will likely be a party line vote.

Israel Ortega is a Senior Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter: @IzzyOrtega.

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6 Things to Know About HHS Nominee Tom Price


On Thursday, Rep. Tom Price, M.D. (R-Ga.) will testify in his first of two Senate confirmation hearings on his appointment by President-elect Donald Trump as Secretary of Health and Human Services. The second hearing, which will take place with the Senate Committee on Finance, is slated for Wednesday, January 24.

As his former press secretary, I’ve been very public about my admiration and loyalty to Dr. Price. I’ve seen firsthand his intellectual curiosity, earnest decency and overall competency to successfully fill this important role during a chaotic time for health care in America.

Opportunity Lives is pleased to share an insider’s view of the six things you should know about HHS nominee Tom Price:

1. Dr. Price is one of the country’s most successful orthopedic surgeons

Rep. Tom Price, M.D., is a third generation physician. His wife, Betty, is an anesthesiologist he met in the operating room. Dr. Price founded his own orthopedic surgery practice, which would go on to be the largest in the U.S. He also served as the chair of the orthopedic surgery department at Emory University, where he was an associate professor teaching students at a hospital that provided care for many low income people in the metro Atlanta area. His ingenuity and thorough understanding of medicine proved crucial to saving patients’ lives when other doctors had dismissed their symptoms as routine.

2. Dr. Price led a GOP takeover of the Georgia State Senate, and as a result, he was elected Majority Leader

Friends encouraged Dr. Price to run for the Georgia State Senate. In 1996, he won his first election, defeating his Democratic challenger 71 percent to 29 percent. At that time, Democrats held the majority in the state’s legislature. Dr. Price took the initiative to organize efforts to elect conservatives across Georgia, helping the GOP take control of the chamber. In recognition for his leadership, his colleagues elected Dr. Price the first Republican Senate Majority Leader in Georgia history.

3. In 2004, Dr. Price was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He has since won every election in a landslide

Dr. Price won his first election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004. After defeating several primary challengers, he ran unopposed in the general election. He has since been reelected by his constituents six times, garnering no less than 62 percent of the vote each general election contest, even as his district drastically changed due to post-2010 census redistricting.

4. Dr. Price’s Congressional work spans multiple subject areas, and he most recently served as the chairman of the House Budget Committee

Since 2005, Dr. Price has served on a variety of Congressional committees, but his work has primarily focused on economic policy. He has served on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the House Committee on Ways and Means, the House Committee on Financial Services and, most recently, as the chairman of the House Committee on the Budget. He has been instrumental in the creation of several fiscal reform packages on labor relations, tax reform and budgetary procedure. He has passed balanced budgets that eliminate the deficit, pay off the national debt and bring fiscal sanity to Washington.

5. Dr. Price was the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, and he introduced an alternative to Obamacare before it even passed

Dr. Price was one of the original conservative leaders in the House. During President Obama’s first two years in office, he chaired the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative congressman whose membership rolls have swelled in recent years. During this time, Dr. Price introduced a patient-centered alternative to Obamacare, The Empowering Patients First Act, before President Obama’s law even passed. Dr. Price has been a vocal opponent to Obamacare, countering that Republicans had solutions to improve health care by removing governmental interference in patients’ care and empowering individuals, families and doctors instead of Washington. He has re-introduced the legislation in every Congress since, offering four revised versions of the original bill since its initial filing in the 110th Congress.

6. Despite all of the Democrats’ efforts, it is widely expected he’ll enjoy solid GOP backing

Even though Democrats have launched a dishonest campaign against Dr. Price, Congressional watchers predict he’ll receive unanimous or near-unanimous support from Senate Republicans during his confirmation hearing. Once he becomes HHS Secretary, Dr. Price will be instrumental in finally repealing Obamacare and replacing it with solutions that actually work for patients. At a time when so many Americans are hurting because of this law, Dr. Price’s ideas, record and expertise are a welcome relief.

Ellen Carmichael is a senior writer for Opportunity Lives. Follow her on Twitter @ellencarmichael.

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Everything You Need to Know About EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt


If Scott Pruitt’s critics are to be believed he’s a mythical dark god of destruction. He’s Poseidon in a bad mood. As Time warns, he’ll “Imperil Science — And Earth.” He’ll spin up hurricanes and trigger earthquakes. He’ll submerge islands and ignite forests. He’ll turn water into mercury, or at least turn it brown.

Of course, if Pruitt is confirmed, the Marvel Comic villain caricature his critics have conjured up surely won’t materialize. Instead, America will see a humble, measured and thoughtful public servant who will rein in an out-of-control federal agency.

Pruitt Will Put Federalism First

Pruitt’s critics are embarrassing themselves with their over-the-top warnings because they know their days of using the EPA to harass states and businesses are about to come to an end.

Unlike the Obama Administration, Pruitt believes the prerogatives of the states, not the federal government, should come first. That means federal agencies should set minimum standards states can exceed instead of empowering the federal government to impose heavy-handed mandates from on high.

Kim Strassel at the Wall Street Journal describes the Obama administration’s overreach:

Under the Clean Air Act, states are allowed to craft their own implementation plans. If the EPA disapproves of a state plan, it is empowered to impose a federal one—one of the most aggressive actions the agency can take against a state, since it is the equivalent of a seizure of authority. In the entirety of the presidencies of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the EPA imposed five federal implementation plans on states. By last count, the Obama administration has imposed at least 56.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA 13 times to block its power grabs. Pruitt also antagonized his detractors by suing the federal government over Obamacare’s usurpation of states rights.

After his nomination Pruitt vowed in a statement, “The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.”

Pruitt Will Protect the Environment

Pruitt’s critics also don’t like to acknowledge that as he did act to protect Oklahoma’s environment as state attorney general. Writing in The Hill, former U.S. Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) says:

Pruitt negotiated a historic water rights settlement with his state’s Indian tribes that preserved the ecosystems of scenic lakes and rivers for generations to come.

He also commissioned a fresh study of phosphorus load data for an agreement between Arkansas and Oklahoma to reduce pollution in the Illinois River. In addition, he’s represented Oklahomans in numerous actions against industrial polluters and in utility rate cases.

The hysteria surrounding Pruitt is ironic. The very traits his critics despise — his firm belief in federalism, constitutional government, and the rule of law — are the same traits that will make him a responsible EPA administrator. Pruitt would be an evidence-based administrator who respects the law. Period. That’s what worries critics. Under Obama, they grew accustomed to an EPA that bent science, and the law, to accommodate ideology.

Pruitt’s hearing will show he isn’t a threat to the world, just their world.

John Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @johnhart333.

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Price Exposes Democratic Fear of Competence at HHS


U.S. Rep. Tom Price, M.D. (R-Ga.) on Wednesday appeared in his first of two confirmation hearings as President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary-designate of Health and Human Services. Price’s testimony before the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was merely a courtesy, as the Senate Finance Committee maintains the authority to push his nomination to a vote by the full body.

But that didn’t stop the committee’s Democrats, including the most liberal  Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), from using their television time to engage in a character assassination of one of the most qualified HHS nominees in recent history.

In between frantic shouting and constant interruptions of the nominee they were supposed to be interviewing, Democrats checked all their interest group boxes, from climate change to Planned Parenthood, in characteristically hyperbolic rhetoric and periodic meltdowns for the American public to see.

The most dramatic example was what could be reasonably described as a temper tantrum by Warren, the liberal standard-bearer who also happens to be the senior senator from the Bay State. Despite repeated refutations of a now-debunked insider trading smear promulgated by the Left and happily spread by the media, Warren spent her seven minutes of hearing time yelling, interrupting and talking over Price, ultimately declaring that with, in her words, a “wink, wink, nudge, nudge,” he engaged in illegal activity concerning his personal investment portfolio.

For the orthopedic surgeon, who kept his cool throughout the entire hearing and happily answered even the most malicious “question” posed by Senate Democrats, they had taken it too far.

“I am offended by the insinuation [of corruption],” Price countered in an uncharacteristically forceful tone.

The behavior of Senate Democrats was so poor, in fact, that Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) ended the 4-½ hour hearing by apologizing to Price for their incivility and melodramatics that distracted from the substance on policy disagreements.

Democrats checked all their interest group boxes in characteristically hyperbolic rhetoric and periodic meltdowns for the American public to see

Throughout the afternoon, Republicans including Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) expressed their disgust at the sinister smear campaign launched by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and carried out by rank-and-file liberals in his caucus.

Yesterday, Price exposed their very simple motivation: they fear him.

They fear Price, not because they actually believe he’s going to kill thousands of Americans (as one former Democratic National Committee staffer proclaimed on Fox News) or because he’ll leave cancer patients without care. Nor do they really think he will rip birth control out of the purses of low-income women or feed children unchecked produce riddled with hepatitis. They don’t worry that Price will turn seniors into beggars, nor do they lie awake at night nervous that he’ll shutter indigent care hospitals.

They fear Price because they know he’s competent.

He proved that Wednesday with each question he answered calmly, expertly and cheerfully. From rare diseases cures to the challenges in transitioning to electronic medical records to the mechanics of insurance pooling mechanisms, he fielded every single inquiry with the expertise that could be developed only after three decades as a doctor and many years developing health care policy.

He explained in great detail how Republicans were committed to finding solutions that lowered costs, expanded access and preserved patients’ rights. He also shared how his experiences as a physician sparked his passion for delivering quality health care choices for all people, no matter who they are or how much money they had. He reminded lawmakers that his record reflects his heart for service, both as a doctor and a statesman, and that his primary goal at HHS would always be to ensure no one is left behind.

They fear Price because they know he’s competent

If he weren’t as smart or as convincing as he was, Democrats wouldn’t bother with him. They’d let his nomination sail through, eagerly awaiting any opportunity to mock him or destroy him a few months into the Trump Administration. They’d perceive any weaknesses as openings to undermine any repeal-and-replace efforts to protect the Obama Administration’s only remaining legacy item in a record crumbling behind him as he closes the door to the White House.

But Price represents the well-informed, highly capable opposition to Obamacare that has developed since before the law was even passed. It is rational, it is compassionate and it is resolute. It is not easily deterred by the Democrats’ histrionics, scare tactics and — in the unjust case of the smear on Price’s blemish-free record — character assassination.

In Wednesday’s hearing, the Democrats showed the country what they were: hypocrites hiding their own shady investment deals, groupthink junkies who would not dare diverge from the Schumer-directed smear campaign against a man they know to be decent and policy dwarfs too cowardly to face head-on the painful human costs of President Obama’s signature law. For Democrats whose first love is power, Price represents a grave threat.

But they also showed us who Dr. Tom Price is, too: a competent, ethical and qualified leader who stands ready to reform health care in this country to actually offer hope for patients, families and doctors. With unified Republican support for his nomination, he’ll get his chance.

Ellen Carmichael is a senior writer for Opportunity Lives. Follow her on Twitter @ellencarmichael.

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Ellen Carmichael Debunks Democrats’ Character Assassination of Tom Price

Five Key Takeaways From Trump’s Inaugural Address


Now that Donald Trump has been sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, here are five key takeaways from his inaugural address:

1. Paul Ryan is Very, Very Happy (and Relieved)

Throughout the speech and the proceedings House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was smiling. When others looked solemn and serious he was smiling. He couldn’t stop smiling.

Some have asked why he was smiling as Trump was trashing Washington and the “establishment.” The answer is Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put their ideas into action. Trump offered big themes but not a policy agenda or laundry list of legislation. Congress has a blank slate to craft a center-right solutions agenda that gives meaning and substance to Trump’s New Patriotism.

2. We Can’t “Bring Back” Jobs, but Republicans Can Help Create New Ones

Trump said, “We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.”

While Trump and Congress can secure or “bring back” the border, they can’t “bring back” jobs and wealth. There is no lost jobs diaspora or displaced people group that can be rounded up and brought back. The jobs we’ve lost are essentially gone forever, but what Trump and Congress can do is create the conditions for new and better jobs in a changing economy.

The economic future of the country will be shaped less by marginal corrections in trade policy and more by big changes in health care, tax reform, regulatory reform and overall federal spending. Trump and Congress will disagree at times on trade, but they’ll largely be in agreement on the big things that will achieve the result Trump and the American people are looking for.

3. Trump is Not Hitler or Mussolini

Throughout his speech, patriotism trumped nationalism. As I wrote at Forbes, Trump’s critics and skeptics have been eager to see what kind of president he would be: One who tried to unite people around patriotism – a love of one’s country – or one who would unite people around nationalism – the fear or hatred of another country. Trump clearly appealed to mainstream patriotism and core American ideas about freedom, equality, and pluralism.

If there was a thematic villain in Trump’s narrative it wasn’t another nation-state or even globalization per se, but career politicians in Washington who insulated themselves from the adverse effects of globalization through cronyism and self-protection.

4. A Golden Age for Civil Society?

Trump and Yuval Levin have very little in common, but Trump’s speech created a big opening for conservatives to describe what they mean by civil society.

At OL, this is how we’ve described civil society:

In America, most of life happens – as the conservative intellectual Yuval Levin puts it – in the space between the individual and government. We call that space civil society, and we fill it with families, churches, schools, hospitals, cultural organizations, professional associations, businesses, clubs, and on and on. All of these groupings must constantly adapt: learning from trial and error, building on what works and abandoning what doesn’t.

Trump offered a non-wonky but complimentary vision in his speech. Trump talked about “transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you” and called for “solidarity” and patriotism. He essentially said it’s not the government’s job to heal communities. It’s your job. Government can be a partner but Trump is more interested in sending power out of Washington.

5. Trump is Not a Racist and is More Tolerant of Dissent Than Many of His Critics

Trump said, “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”

Later he added, “It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.”

Inauguration days are important, as many speakers noted, because we’re not celebrating or glorifying a new president. Instead, we’re celebrating the peaceful transition of power in our country, which was made possible by the sacrifices of many thousands of Americans. Peaceful transfers of power are the exception rather than the norm in history. Transfers often involve war, bloodshed, upheaval and dislocation. Democrats who skipped the Inauguration weren’t protesting Trump but were betraying an ignorance of our basic American ideals.

John Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @johnhart333.

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The First Hundreds Days – Four Areas That Matter to You


Few expected this to happen. But here we are. Donald Trump is President of the United States and Republicans are in control of both houses of Congress.

Regardless of how you feel about Trump or Republicans, at OL, we’re excited about this moment because we exist to cover solutions. For the next hundred days – and hopefully much longer – Congress and the administration will be preoccupied with solutions. Yes, unforeseen events and unforced errors will no doubt create distractions, but Washington will be focused on real work. That alone is change.

This is an exciting moment for the country because people are genuinely thirsting for change. The fact is change happens between elections, between speeches and between marches. Now is a moment for such change.

We see four areas of consensus that can produce big changes for the country – tax reform, regulatory reform, healthcare reform and nominations (because personnel is policy).

Other areas obviously are important such as trade, immigration and government spending. Republicans tend to be less united in these areas, which makes immediate action (other than executive orders) less likely. Still, we want to bring more light than heat to these topics and offer competing perspectives.

In the meantime, visit this section regularly for updates on what Congress and the administration are doing in these key areas. Buckle up. It’s going to be quite a ride.

John Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @johnhart333.


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Why Puzder Is the Right Pick to Help Fix America’s Labor Problems


Andrew Puzder, the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants, is President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor.

But Puzder has a problem: Senate Democrats are reluctant to confirm him, pushing his hearing into February at the earliest.

The delay matters. After all, labor policy is a crucial concern for all Americans. Whether you’re the president, or a high-schooler on a paper delivery round, labor law defines how you work and what you are paid. And today, facing globalization, automation and income inequality, labor policy is particularly contentious.

That said, I believe Puzder is the right pick to lead America to a better labor market future.

Puzder’s private sector experience means he puts economic reality before base populism. To understand why this matters, consider the minimum wage debate.

On paper, efforts to raise the minimum wage seem economically reasonable and morally rational. Democrats claim that minimum wage laws foster equality and growth. And it always sounds good when a politician tells a voter that his or her life can be made better by getting the rich to pay more.

But there’s a big catch. Because minimum wage laws set artificial values on productivity, they force employers to pay employees more than the employee’s productive value. As Puzder put it, “How do you pay somebody $15 an hour to scoop ice cream? How good could you be at scooping ice cream?”

Puzder’s private sector experience means he puts economic reality before base populism

Puzder recognizes that if a business is forced to pay an employee more than the value of their output, two effects will follow. First, business prices will have to rise to offset the new cost. Second, businesses will look to save money elsewhere. And when it comes to the restaurant industry — where Puzder has made his mark — minimum wage laws push employers to replace human workers with machines. It is in this sense that minimum wage laws hurt the least-skilled and lowest-paid Americans the most.

Puzder prefers a better approach: giving employees the skills to earn more.

CKE Restaurants, which operates the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast-food chains, places premium importance on equipping employees with the experience, skill and opportunities for promotion. Puzder is also well known for cutting bureaucratic red tape. He encourages dissatisfied staff to reach out to him personally with ideas for change. That kind of creativity would do wonders in the U.S. government.

But it would also serve a broader interest: helping America build a more skilled workforce.

As I’ve noted before, while globalization benefits Americans by keeping more money in our pockets, it also increases competition for well-paid jobs. But Puzder recognizes that if more Americans have greater skills, their productivity will also increase. And as productivity grows, wages and economic growth will also grow.

Puzder also understands that American innovation is the great servant of individual opportunity. Supporting innovation might seem like something both Democrats and Republicans would agree on, but it is not.

Consider the sharing economy. Today, many on the American Left are pushing tougher regulations on innovative sharing economy companies such as Uber and Airbnb. These regulations would reduce American earning potential and employment freedom. But Puzder’s solution here is simple: get government out of the way, and let the market provide the answer. This isn’t complicated. We like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb and similar services for a reason: they work for users and providers.


Americans need bold action to shake up our labor market. Don’t believe me? Just look at the labor participation rate. Since 2009, more and more working age Americans have given up look for work. Too many of our fellow citizens lack the skills, or the opportunities to find a good job. Over the past eight years we’ve tried the pro-regulation approach to boosting opportunity. The results have not been good.

Let’s give Puzder a chance.

Tom Rogan is a senior contributor for Opportunity Lives, a columnist for National Review, a former panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.

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How Tom Price Can Waive Obamacare Goodbye


My old boss, doctor and former U.S. Senator (he preferred those titles in that order) Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Paul Howard of the Manhattan Institute have a fantastic op-ed in USA Today about how the Trump Administration can take a big step toward fixing the Obamacare mess they inherited.

Essentially, Tom Price, in his anticipated role as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, can use “state innovation waivers” written into the Affordable Care Act to give states the freedom to innovate. Coburn and Howard say this would help states escape “many of the law’s most expensive and onerous regulations.” They continue:

The Trump administration can immediately signal its commitment to promoting market competition and empowering patients and consumers by offering such waivers. Along with new reforms to promote transparency on pricing and quality, the administration and Congress can facilitate a health care revolution from the ground up …

With states encouraged to pursue essentially 50 different health-care innovation zones within a predictable budget framework, Congress and the Trump administration would have a stable platform for debating and passing additional reforms to empower patients and consumers, one bill at a time.

The Republican case for reform is ironclad. Even when fully implemented, Obamacare will leave 25 to 30 million Americans uninsured. Insurance premiums are spiraling out of control, and entitlement spending on health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid remains on course to sink state and federal budgets.

Coburn and Howard are echoing House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) argument that Obamacare is collapsing and that policymakers have a moral obligation to act with haste. They’re right.

Congress and the Trump administration also have to make this healthcare battle about people, not process. The public is souring on the legalistic “repeal and replace” mantra. In the real world, Congress and the administration are facing a rescue and recovery operation. Yet, at the same time, Congress and the administration need to be advancing a solution.

The truth is the Obamacare fix will be a process more than a moment. Asking Price to waive Obamacare’s onerous regulations is a great place to start.

John Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @johnhart333.

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Hundreds Rally in U.S. Capitol in Support for School Choice


It’s not often that a dance party breaks out in the U.S. Capitol, but that’s exactly what happened as hundreds of students, parents and educators rallied in support for school choice on Tuesday. As part of National School Choice Week, an annual celebration in support of parents exercising all of their educational options, the rally was just one of thousands of events taking place across the country.

Joining the hundreds rallying for school choice included senators and congressmen, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who spoke passionately about their support for school choice and educational freedom. Led by Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the rally was the second annual national school choice rally on Capitol Hill.

The dance party took place in between speeches by congressman, senators and school choice advocates who are feeling optimistic about the chances of boosting educational options for parents after a historic election that saw Republicans holding Congress and winning back the White House. Republicans have been generally supportive of school choice at the state and federal level over the years.

And although support for school choice remains high among African American and Latino families — two groups that are benefiting from greater educational freedom — no Democratic member of Congress spoke at Tuesday’s rally. Messer told Opportunity Lives that “scheduling conflicts” may have played a role in the lack of Democratic members of Congress participating in this year’s festivities, but said that there is support in Congress for the general idea of greater educational options.

paul ryan school choice

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) addresses the National School Choice Week rally in Washington, D.C. | Photo: NSCW

Scott, who is just one of three African-Americans serving in the U.S. Senate, told the crowd that his support for school choice is grounded in his belief that every child should have a chance to receive a quality education. The junior senator from the Palmetto State talked about his difficult upbringing, including living in poverty and being raised by a single mom, but was able to see his fortunes change thanks to a quality education.

“Education is the closest thing to magic in America,” Scott said.

A number of members who were on hand spoke favorably of Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s pick for education secretary and a philanthropist and education reform advocate currently awaiting confirmation. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who served as education secretary under President George H. W. Bush, was among the members speaking glowingly of DeVos and questioned why anyone would fight her nomination.

“Democrats are in a fit because the president has nominated someone that has spent 30 years fighting to give low-income kids a quality education,” Alexander said.

Scott was also supportive of DeVos’s nomination. He told Opportunity Lives that he remains committed to her nomination following a contentious confirmation hearing that saw Democrats on the committee question her commitment to supporting public education—including educating children with disabilities—even as school choice options grow.

“Betsy DeVos will be an advocate for all children…including children with disabilities,” Scott said.

School of Choice Event on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 24, 2017. Credit: Chris Kleponis

House School Choice Caucus chairman Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.), left, shakes hands with U.S. Senator and former education secretary Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). | Photo: NSCW

Ultimately, DeVos’s nomination is seen by many school choice advocates as an opportunity to expand educational choice options that have allowed many low-income students to opt-out of low-performing schools to attend a school of their choosing. Programs such as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP), which has allowed parents to send their children to a private school in the District of Columbia.

Adrienne Rich is among those that has benefitted from the DCOSP. Rich tells Opportunity Lives that opponents of greater educational choice fail to understand just how vital these opportunities are for families in need.

“As a parent, I did not want my child in a school system that was broken and trying to fix itself,” she said. “I had a choice [to leave] and I took it.”

More of this is what’s needed according to Messer that believes that a complete reorientation about how the government views federal education dollars is needed.

“As long as we stay focused on the student,” Messer said, “we are going to be just fine.”

Israel Ortega is a Senior Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter: @IzzyOrtega.

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Why This Prominent Economist Believes Trump Can Enact Bipartisan Economic Reforms


Legendary economist Art Laffer, famous for illustrating the perils of over-taxation with the “Laffer Curve,” is optimistic about the Trump Administration’s economic plans. With the stock market hitting record highs, business leaders echo Laffer’s optimism that Republicans in Washington could usher in lower taxes and more business-friendly policies.

Laffer emphasizes that Trump has the ability to usher in sweeping economic improvements while appealing to a middle ground.

“I believe that President Trump can and should win over lots of Democrats without sacrificing good economics just as we did under President Reagan,” Laffer told Opportunity Lives. Reagan negotiated the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which won overwhelming support in the U.S. Senate, passing with by a vote of 97-3.

The economist said that the essential characteristics of the successful Trump campaign last year and the Reagan campaign of 1980 are surprisingly similar. The poor state of the current economy, the ratio of employment-to-adult-population and new home sales, among other measures, strongly indicated a Republican victory.

Laffer was a key Trump adviser during the 2016 campaign. He currently lives in Tennessee, in part for its tax policy, and doesn’t have an official role in the new administration. But, he joked, “I know most of the players well and I’m not shy.”

Indeed, leading up to the election, Laffer was critical of the protectionist trade policies Trump advocated on the campaign trail. Yet he offered a qualified defense of Trump on the issue.

“I believe that President Trump can and should win over lots of Democrats without sacrificing good economics just as we did under President Reagan” – Art Laffer

“I know of no politician who understands a single word of the benefits of trade or even how to think about trade,” Laffer wrote in a research brief ahead of the election, which he shared with Opportunity Lives. He continued:

Trade and taxation are the two fields of the political economy where politicians can blather nonstop without having the slightest idea of just how ignorant they are or how much damage their words cause. In my lifetime, Ross Perot personified the absence of knowledge of international trade when he coined the phrase, ‘the giant sucking sound coming out of Mexico,’ by which he meant the loss of U.S. jobs to Mexico’s cheap labor market. While Perot’s turn of phrase was unique and catchy, his content was no different than the content of Bernie Sanders’ rants, or Hillary Clinton’s tirades.

Laffer said that for a politician, trade means jobs: jobs in manufacturing, jobs in Ohio, jobs in agriculture, jobs for America’s downtrodden, jobs in mining, jobs for college graduates, and jobs in energy. And to the politician, tariffs, quotas, embargoes, sanctions, non-tariff barriers, and currency manipulations are all instruments governments use against trade to take an unfair advantage over other countries’ economies.

Yet for Laffer and his colleagues, trade is not about jobs at all or even about total employment, but instead, trade is about the value of income.

While too often politicians like Clinton make foreign countries the boogeyman (even though Clinton was more than happy to accept foreign money for her family’s foundation), Laffer points out that without China, there is no Wal-Mart, and without Wal-Mart, there is no middle-class or working-class prosperity.

“If you’ve never been in a Wal-Mart, you have to go,” Laffer said. “There are vast numbers of wonderful products that are incredibly inexpensive. I only have to imagine how difficult it would be for me to produce a simple shovel that is imported from China and I break out in a cold sweat. And yet, I can buy any number of different shovels at Wal-Mart for $19.99. How’s that for an amazing use of a $20 bill?”

Laffer points out that without China, there is no Wal-Mart, and without Wal-Mart, there is no middle-class or working-class prosperity

The real question, Laffer says, is how America should respond to inappropriate protectionist measures by Japan, China, Mexico and others. The answer is far from obvious, he said.

“While no system is perfect, our overriding goal should be to make sure that we don’t make an already imperfect system even less perfect,” Laffer wrote. “What I hope is obvious to the reader is that we shouldn’t respond by retaliating with protectionist measures of our own. Retaliation with countervailing duties only makes the problems worse.”

Yet even though Trump has now opted out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Asia and South America and has spoken out against NAFTA, Laffer said he believes Trump was best positioned in November to represent America’s interests. He called Trump “the least dangerous candidate when it comes to international trade and protectionist measures.”

“Donald Trump, being America’s biggest promoter, is willing to talk about issues like trade,” Laffer said. “He is also one of the few people who, on a personal level, understands trade. He has investments all over the world and has experience in doing business across the world as well. And, even in his domestic businesses, he relies heavily on foreign products, foreign labor and foreign customers.”

Laffer said Trump’s win is part of a broader global phenomenon.

“There’s a lot of similarity between Brexit, Matteo Renzi’s resignation in Italy, the vote in Austria, the politics in France, Greece, and the election of Donald Trump in the U.S.,” Laffer said. “The best description for what is happening in America—one that went viral during the election, but is certainly true—is that the mainstream press and politicians take Trump literally but not seriously, while the electorate takes Trump seriously but not literally. It’s going to be a fun ride.”

Carrie Sheffield is a senior contributor for Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter @carriesheffield and on Facebook.

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