Senate should approve Steven Menashi for Court of Appeals

I disagree with Daniel Cotter’s essay i The Des Moines Register urging our U.S. Senators to reject Steven Menashi’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals.  (See link below to Register “Your Turn” essay.)    What I’ve learned by watching Steven Menashi’s Senate testamony and reading his writings makes me think he would be a very good appellate judge.
The fact that the two Democratic Senators from his home state of New York don’t support him should be considered irrelevant, regardless of precedent.  The Senate “blue slip” tradition which permitted a Senator from the home state of the nominee to veto the nomination, is the remnant of a good-ol’-boy’s-club attitude that should be discarded.
His opponents take his comments out of context and make them appear to have the opposite meaning of his actual position.  For example, nine years ago he wrote that it was okay for Israel, a democratic country, to have an official state sanctioned dominant religion.  The Left says this means he is a white supremacist.  No, he is simply a defender of Israel’s right to exist, and of the right of the people of that nation to decide how they will be self-ruled. He testified before the Senate that the United States is not a country that is based on a single religious or ethnic tradition.  He also testified that he values our, “…country’s tradition of tolerance and equality before the law…”
So, I ask Senators Grassley and Ernst to support the nomination of Steven Menashi to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Our federal legislators should oppose reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank

I urge our elected federal representatives to oppose the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.  (The Ex-Im Bank provides taxpayer guarantees to U.S. companies that export and sell products to international customers.  Authorization is set to expire on 9/30.)  This has been and continues to be a quintessential example of crony capitalism.  If a U.S. exporter has customers who find it difficult to find financing, the seller can always guarantee a loan and get a security position to get the asset back in a worst case.  If they still cannot get financing, the seller could provide direct financing.  In any case, our government should not guarantee such loan private companies.

I’m sure that small and large Iowa export companies are heavily lobbying for reauthorize the Bank.  I hope our representatives resist the pressure and vote against this bad policy where taxpayers are asked to take the risk and private companies reap the profits.

Need to wean energy producers off of government support.

There has been a recent outpouring of letters to the editor and paid advertising in The Des Moines Register thanking President Trump for the EPA’s decision to allow E15 (gasoline with 15% ethanol) to be used year round.  Many go on complain about the hardship waivers being granted to small refineries that exempt them from being forced to add ethanol to their gasoline under the Renewal Fuel Standard (RFS).  They say the exemptions are costing corn farmers and ethanol producers billions of dollars and are undermining growth of the ethanol industry.
Since 2006, the RFS has required petroleum refiniries to add more and more ethanol to gasoline.  (For 2019 the requirement is over 19 billion gallons.)  Investment in and growth of the ethanol industry (and related corn purchases) have been greatly dependent on this use of government force.  After 13 years, the industry has billions of dollars invested in over 200 production facilities, revenues of over $16 billion per year.  Any yet, not only can it not wean itself off of government assistance, it continues to press government for more and more support.
Public Choice Theory tells us what to expect when government and special interests create an artificial market using government force.   As investment and revenues reach billions of dollars, vested interests easily justify spending millions of dollars lobbying Congress to make sure the support continues.  At the same time, each taxpayer pays such a relatively small amount that it is very difficult to raise money to lobby in opposition to these government programs.
But we must do what we can, so now is the time to urge Presidential candidates as well as elected representatives to work toward ending government subsidies and special support for all forms of energy.

Benefits of civil society should not be called “Rights”.

Thanks to The Des Moines Register for publishing the essay by Peter Funt about the misuse of the term “rights” by Democratic candidates for President.  (See link to Register essay below.)  The term “right”, without qualification, should be reserved for natural or fundamental rights that are also called “negative rights” – rights that place no burder or obligation on others.  The most notable of these negative rights are those included in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution.  They include freedom of the press and of speech (You can print or say anything but I don’t have to read or listen it or pay for it.); and freedom of association (You can associate or not associate with whomever you please, but you can’t force me to associate with you.); among others.
On the other hand, we also have “civil rights” or “government granted rights”.  These are called “positive rights” since they do impose a burden or obligation on others.  These rights are granted by governments through our legislative processes, and may be taken away in the same manner.  They are often granted based on the wealth of a society and its ability to pay the cost.  Common examples of these government created rights include basic education, medical care, and food.  In order for a person to receive these benefits, the force of government is used to make others pay the cost.
I would prefer that these government created positive rights be instead called “benefits” of a civil society.  Positive rights can be granted by government only if and when society has the ability to pay, and society’s ability to pay is not unlimited.  For example, I don’t think any reasonable person believes they have a right to unlimited health care paid for by taxpayers, So if our Democratic candidates for President want to be completely honest, they should talk about the benefits they believe should paid for by a civil society, not simply about rights that should be conferred without regard to cost or limits.

Trump administration and CMS capitulate to Big Pharma on efforts to reduce Medicare Part D drug costs

Recently, Gloria Mazza wrote, (and other Iowa Republicans signed), an essay in The Des Moines Register that urged President Trump and Iowa’s Republican Senators to oppose recent proposals by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Serivces (CMS) that would have taken reasonable steps to reign in increasing drug cost under Medicare Part D.  It has now been reported that CMS and the Trump administration have backed off of important parts of the proposed changes.

Currently, Medicare Part D regulations require patient access to “all or substantially all” medications within “six protected classes” of drugs regardless of price. (Protected classes include drugs for HIV, mental illness, cancer, epilepsy, and organ transplants.)

Among other things, the proposed new rule would have allowed Medicare Part D plans to exclude a drug from coverage, 1) for an existing drug if the price increased more than the rate of inflation, or 2) for a new drug if it was simply a reformulation of an existing drug.  Apparently, lobbying efforts were successful in getting these two provisions removed from the final new rule.

We don’t have a free market for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D.  We should not allow drug makers to set their own price and still require coverage.  It is unfortunate that the Trump administration caved-in to the lobbying pressure.

Link to Register essay by Gloria Mazza: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/2019/05/16/pro-life-advocates-dont-reduce-medicare-part-d-protection-drugs-congress-chuck-grassley-joni-ernst/3685349002/

Gender reassignment surgery should not be required to be covered by health insurance.

As reported in the Des Moines Register, a jury recently found the State of Iowa guilty of illegal discrimination against a transgender man.  He had not been allowed to use the men’s bathroom or locker room, and he had been denied health insurance coverage for gender re-assignment surgery.  (See link below to Register article.)

It is morally correct and good public policy that our government not discriminate against a people based on their gender identity.  But refusal by government or private employers to cover gender reassignment surgery under their health insurance plans should not be considered wrongful discrimination, unless the plans cover other types of cosmetic procedures for people who feel similar dysphoria.  People may feel mental distress over their teeth being crooked, or their nose being too big, or many other aspects of their body, but that does not mean health insurance plans should be required to cover procedures to make people feel better about their appearance.  We have already seen that requiring health insurance plans to cover almost everything makes the premiums unaffordable for many people.  There is nothing inherently wrong with expecting people to pay their own way for cosmetic procedures.

Link to Register article: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/local/columnists/courtney-crowder/2019/02/13/transgender-prison-nurse-sues-iowa-alleged-discrimination-aclu-state-civil-rights-corrections/2863854002/

Congress has the power to prohibit states from giving special incentives to specific businesses.

The Des Moines Register recently published an editorial that showed how out-of control Iowa and other states are in giving incentives to businesses to locate in their state.  To help reverse this situation, Congress should exercise its Constitutional power to “…regulate commerce… among the several states…” and should limit states’ ability to bribe companies to locate in their state.  States should be prohibited from giving custom incentives to specific businesses to locate in their state.  They should only be allowed to use schemes that provide uniform incentives to all companies that locate their business or otherwise create new jobs in that state.

Link to Register editorial:  https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/editorials/2018/11/20/amazon-apple-corporate-iowa-workers-education-environment-bribing-business-workforce-jobs-money-tax/2061418002/