Howard Rich's Blog

August 11, 2009

Health Care “Compromise” A Poison Pill For Small Business

Much ado has been made of the tenuous “compromise” between President Barack Obama and “Blue Dog” Democrats in Washington on the issue of government-run health care. Sadly, the reality is that the latest version of “Obamacare” is still a poison pill for America’s small businesses and the millions of workers they employ.

Most small businesses spend between 60 and 80 cents of every dollar they earn on payroll, which is precisely where Obama’s plan would hit them. Not content with simply bleeding “the rich” to pay for the massive up-front costs of his $1.5 trillion socialized medicine proposal, Obama also wants to impose a massive new tax increase on American small businesses – one that will directly impede their ability to create jobs and stimulate economic activity.

In other words, Obama wants to choke off America’s number one job-creating engine in the depths of a recession that has already cost millions of jobs – all so he can create a government health care monopoly that will not only increase costs but also reduce the quality of care.


July 22, 2009

“Rangel Surtax Debate Exposes “Class Warfare” Myth

By Howard Rich

“Make the rich pay for it, they can afford it.”

For decades, this has been the /modus operandi/ of politicians and public officials who rely on unsustainable government growth and skyrocketing taxpayer debt to pad their patronage and expand their influence. It’s also the driving force behind House Ways & Means Chairman Charles Rangel’s new “health care surtax,” which the New York Democrat says will raise $540 billion over the next ten years to pay for part of “Obamacare.”

Who would end up paying Rangel’s surtax? All joint filers making over $350,000 – before deductions. Also, the surtax applies to all forms of income, including wages, dividends and capital gains.

This latest “bleed the (moderately) rich” scam comes from a tried-and-true big government playbook. In fact, it’s every bit as predictable as the blooming of the cherry blossoms, the naming of yet another government “czar,” or whichever Beltway sex scandal /du jour /is dominating the cocktail party chatter. And like countless other government schemes of its kind, it will no doubt be communicated to middle class mailboxes or televisions via slick advertisements that invoke how wealthy Americans are enjoying “faster jets or bigger swimming pools” while poor people lay “starving in the streets.”

Sounds familiar, right?…

June 16, 2009

The Restoration of Dependency

By Howard Rich

Multi-billion dollar bailouts. A new national energy tax. The return of socialized medicine.

Almost every day we’re seeing another big government offensive taking direct aim at the core ideals on which our nation was founded – and upon which rests our essential strength.

Yet of all the counter-capitalist pillars included in President Barack Obama’s new “Era of Obscenely Big Government,” the deliberate undoing of welfare reform is receiving a surprisingly small amount of ink.

Perhaps that’s because our sympathetic (if not sycophantic) mainstream media doesn’t want to throw a monkey wrench into the tired old “we’ve got to do something” refrain that has already seen $13 trillion spent, lent or pledged on “economic recovery” in the last year alone.

Or perhaps it’s because this “stealth’ dismantling of welfare reform doesn’t fit neatly within the “Post hoc, ergo propter hoc” framework often used to justify so many of Obama’s policies.

After all, you can’t pin an “after Bush, therefore because of Bush” tail on this issue – which has its roots in the administration of President Bill Clinton.

Passed in 1996, the bipartisan “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act” represented a fundamental shift in the way our nation approached welfare. Rather than incentivizing states to expand their welfare rolls, the new law sent money in block grants which offered incentives for taking people off of welfare – and encouraging them to find jobs.

Not surprisingly, when the federal government stopped rewarding the perpetuation of poverty, it stopped seeing so much of it.

Contrary to the doom and gloom, “death in the streets” pronouncements of government bureaucrats chained to the failed “War on Poverty” approach, the results of welfare reform (in conjunction with a reduction in capital gains taxes and other economy-empowering reforms) were nothing short of phenomenal.

Poverty rates plunged, welfare rolls were cut in half, unemployment fell and the government recorded its first annual surpluses in decades.

At the heart of this free enterprise success story was the fact that personal responsibility, not government dependency, had been incentivized – a fairly self-evident truth that nonetheless had been ignored for decades by Washington politicians.

“The advocates of (the old system) had no inkling that these good-hearted strategies would lead to enduring cycles of poverty and family disintegration that threatened to consume entire generations,” writes Dr. Hunter Baker, a professor at Houston Baptist University. “Wishing for good outcomes resulted in disaster. It was only when a more tough-minded view took hold (the idea that it is reasonable to expect productivity and initiative out of healthy, working age persons) that many managed to escape mere subsistence.”1

Sadly, Obama’s plans represent a nothing short of a complete U-turn back to the days of dependency and subsistence. In fact, one of the little-publicized components of the massive “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” is the unfortunate “reinvestment” it makes in poverty and dependency.

The “bounty system” of paying cash-strapped states to expand their welfare rolls is back, only this time with an even higher incentive – a whopping $4 to $1 cash bonus for every new family that state bureaucrats are able to hook up to the government dole.

“The original goal of helping families move to employment and self-sufficiency and off long-term dependence on government assistance has instead been replaced with the perverse incentive of adding more families to the welfare rolls,” a recent report from the Heritage Foundation states.2

This approach clearly benefits no one – well, except for government bureaucrats and Obama’s friends at ACORN, who rely on the perpetuation of poverty and dependence to keep their various scams up and running.

The sad, unavoidable reality is that the more one examines Obama’s position on welfare, the more obvious it becomes that his goal is not to help people who are poor, but rather to keep them dependent on his government to provide for their every need.



June 9, 2009

Defending the First Amendment

As limited government advocates fight to preserve individual liberties amid the onrush of President Barack Obama’s “Era of Obscenely Big Government,” one fundamental American freedom that we must be increasingly vigilant in protecting is the freedom of speech.

After all, every imposition of this basic right is a threat against our ability to protect all of the others.

Sadly, under the Washington banner of “campaign finance reform,” Americans have seen their right to free political speech materially impeded upon in recent years. Meanwhile, President Obama’s “Internet security” efforts could be the next politically-correct “buzz-term” for speech suppression.

And speaking of which, let’s not forget the so-called “P.C. police” – i.e. the TV talking head enforcers of our nation’s new lexicon of “P.C.” phraseology, who are always on alert for fresh “violations.”

Yet even as our leaders fail to recognize – and fully protect – free speech amid these evolving encumbrances, those who advocate for virtually every belief under the sun recognize its sanctity.

One reason for free speech’s unwavering public support is the relative inviolability of the First Amendment at all points along our nation’s political spectrum. As the expression goes, we may not like what others have to say, but we will zealously defend their right to say it.

And that’s how it has to be. Otherwise, one of our bedrock national freedoms would be left to the shifting sands of today’s “political discourse,” which is perhaps what many Washington politicians are hoping for.

Recently, though, another threat to Americans’ freedom of speech has emerged – this time from the other side of the ocean.

An egregious pattern of global “venue-shopping” on libel cases is taking shape, with Americans being sued for defamation in British courts – by people who aren’t citizens of either country.

These lawsuits are filed in Great Britain because of the nation’s notoriously backward libel laws, which start with the presumption of guilt against publishers. Making matters worse from an intimidation standpoint, British courts force those publishers who manage to successfully “prove their innocence” to pick up the tab for legal fees.

Neither of these concepts fit even remotely within the American definition of First Amendment jurisprudence– but that’s not stopping British courts from holding Americans liable all the same.

In fact, in a recent case an American author was convicted of libel in a British court and ordered to pay damages to a Saudi Arabian businessman – a ruling which has obviously had a chilling effect on American publishers.

According to this author’s attorneys, British libel law “is being used as a tool to silence critics and endanger (America’s) national security.” (1)

Far from hyperbole, if this trend is allowed to continue we could quickly find ourselves in a situation where terrorists are able to preemptively suppress investigations into their activities simply by filing “defamation” suits in British courts.

Also, any American individual or entity that makes even the most dubious connection to Great Britain could use the English courts as a speech suppression tool for domestic purposes.

Not surprisingly, the real medium of concern here isn’t published books, it’s the Internet.

“The global nature of the (Internet) means that anything published anywhere could quite easily be claimed to lead to damages under UK law,” one web forum recently noted. (2)

That’s a truly frightening prospect – whether you’re editing web copy for CNN or FOX News, writing a blog for Townhall or the Daily Kos, or simply posting an update to your social networking page. Do we really live in an information age where all it takes to wind up on the receiving end of a costly lawsuit is a single Briton accessing our Facebook page?

This is precisely the sort of speech suppression that American libel laws are designed to safeguard us against – but if censors have found a way around those laws, can our freedom of speech truly be called safe?

It can’t – which is why Americans of all political persuasions must demand that their right to free speech be preserved, protected and defended against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

“To me this isn’t about control switching from one party to another. It’s about making sure Western New York is treated fairly so we can rebuild our economy,” he said. “I have been a tough critic of others these last few months when I didn’t think they were delivering for our community. Well now, given the events of today, the people of Western New York can count on me to walk the walk.”

  1., web-accessed May 30, 2009
  2., web –accessed May 31, 2009

June 5, 2009

The Inevitability of Parental Choice

A year ago, the nation’s largest newspaper wrote in an editorial that it was time to “move beyond vouchers” in the debate over America’s educational future.

Although it did not reject any particular solution outright, the paper’s recommendation at the time was that America focuses its energy and attention on less controversial education reforms. In other words, it was a victory for those who have spent years – and expended untold taxpayer resources – in an effort to demonize parental choice and its supporters.

Then, two weeks ago, USA Today suddenly changed its tune.

Not only did the paper enthusiastically embrace parental choice – it also roundly criticized our nation’s teachers’ unions for “protecting failing schools.”

“Twenty million low-income school kids need a chance to succeed,” the USA Today editorial board wrote. “School choice is the most effective way to give it to them.”

What caused the turnaround?

While there’s certainly no shortage of reasons, the initial impetus for the shift appears to stem from President Barack Obama’s rank hypocrisy in closing an effective parental choice program in Washington D.C. to new applicants.

“Teacher unions, fearing loss of jobs, have pushed most Democrats to oppose vouchers and other options that invite competition for public schools,” the USA Today editorial board wrote. “Put another way, they oppose giving poor parents the same choice that the president himself — along with his chief of staff and some 35% of Democrats in Congress — have made in sending their children to private schools.”

Of course, it’s not just about failing schools and low-income students. It’s about giving all parents a choice in their child’s academic future, no matter where they live.

With each passing day, the mountain of evidence attesting to the futility of our nation’s failed status quo grows higher. Correspondingly, in those rare instances where choice has been permitted to take root and flourish, its success is undeniable.

According to the most recent data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), America’s per pupil expenditure on public education is the highest of any industrialized nation in the world.

Unfortunately, we are not receiving anywhere near a commensurate return on our investment.

On the most recent Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, American students scored well below the average of other industrialized nations on both the math and science portions of the exam – just as they did the last time the tests were administered. And the time before that.

And in a telling nod to the sort of institutional incompetence that has long plagued our public system, America’s reading scores on the most recent PISA exam had to be thrown out due to a printing error by the company that the U.S. Department of Education hired to administer the tests.

But our crisis is much bigger than poor standardized test results and bureaucratic errors. Over 12,000 schools across America currently rate as failing or below average – with hundreds of thousands of children trapped inside of them. Of course, each year when organizations like “Teach for America” try to place talented, highly-motivated college graduates in teaching positions within higher-risk school districts, their efforts are always rebuffed by the unions.

Each year, the purveyors of this country’s education monopoly continue failing children at a record clip – and yet in a perfect example of precisely what’s wrong with our system, they are rewarded for their poor performance with additional taxpayer resources.

In fact, according to President Obama’s plan – the more children you fail, the more money you get.

This self-perpetuating cycle serves no one. It doesn’t serve our children, it doesn’t serve their parents, and it doesn’t serve the best interests of our country.

Nor are we well-served by pretending that our “average” public schools are meeting the needs of most middle income children.

In an increasingly competitive global economy, we cannot afford to maintain a failed status quo on one hand and mediocrity on the other.

USA Today’s acknowledgment of this fact – and its support for parental choice – is yet another example of the inevitable march toward a system of education that promotes true academic achievement, a system built around a competitive, parent-driven marketplace where schools are held accountable for their performance.

May 19, 2009

Audit the fed

I’ll be the first to admit that the notion of Washington politicians auditing the Federal Reserve initially struck me as a little bit kooky – and more than a little bit backward.

Shouldn’t the financial geniuses be auditing the politicians, not the other way around?

In fact, one of the reasons that the Fed has been given such wide latitude throughout its history is the widely-held belief that our nation’s monetary policy should be conducted free from political “interference.”

Continue Reading: Audit The Fed

April 29, 2009

No “Change” on Pay-to-Play Corruption

A little over 100 days ago, California Sen. Diane Feinstein called the inauguration of Barack Obama “a turning point for real and necessary change” in America.

But the more things were supposed to change, the more they have stayed in the same in Washington D.C., where the culture of corruption is more pervasive now than it ever was.

Today, Senator Feinstein finds herself at the heart of a massive conflict of interest scandal involving billions of taxpayer dollars.

What did she do…?

No “Change” on Pay-to-Play Corruption

April 22, 2009

Greatly Depressing

History is written by many people, but those who write government school textbooks tend to hold disproportionate sway.

Sadly, their vision of America – which has driven conventional wisdom and popular opinion for decades – is built on many myths.

The biggest myth of them all?

That capitalism and our free market system caused the Great Depression – and that only a massive expansion of the federal government saved America from permanent economic ruin….

Greatly Depressing

October 30, 2008

Op-Ed by Howard Rich in the Memphis Commercial Appeal

Filed under: Uncategorized — howierich @ 3:35 pm
Tags: , , ,

Guest Column: Term limits bring fairness to government

Too often, more “experience” in office means corruption. Limiting that would give the disenfranchised a greater voice in public policy.

Memphis voters have an opportunity next week to join dozens of other state and municipal governments across the country in enacting term limits for the mayor, City Court clerk and City Council.

A “yes” vote for the Memphis Charter Commission’s Referendum No. 1, however, is about much more than just setting a limit of two consecutive four-year terms for the elected officials who hold these positions of public trust.

It’s about answering a much more important question: Who’s in charge — the people or politicians?

It’s also about making sure that disenfranchised communities have a true voice in the political process — a voice that represents their needs, not those of political donors and wealthy special interests.

Government in this country is built on the idea that authority belongs to individual citizens, which means that the people’s business ought to always be conducted in the people’s best interests.That means when government contracts are being handed out, all qualified companies should have a fair chance at getting public business, not just companies that donate to the re-election campaigns of entrenched politicians or hold cocktail parties at expensive restaurants in their honor.

Sadly, that almost never happens these days.

In fact, it seems the longer politicians are in office, the more likely they are to rip us off for their own benefit — rewarding the donors who funded their campaigns and the special interests who keep them in power rather than the people they should be serving.

Politicians like to brag about the value of their “experience,” but in far too many governments, political “experience” is really another word for corruption.

That’s why term limits are so popular — and so effective.

Instead of counting on politicians to do the right thing, term limits force them to represent the people instead of advancing their own careers.

Part of a broader set of anti-corruption and accountability reforms offered by the City of Memphis Charter Commission, a “yes” vote on Referendum No. 1 is about restoring a system of checks and balances that politicians have thrown decidedly out of balance.

It’s about applying the same term limits for Memphis city officials that have been in place for Shelby County commissioners since voters first approved them in 1994.

It’s also about bringing fresh ideas, new solutions, more competitive elections and more diverse representation to government — and doing so in a way that affects all political parties equally.

But most important, it’s about reminding career politicians that no matter how “experienced” or “important” they may think they are, no elected official’s political aspirations will ever be more important than serving the greater good.

Memphis voters have an opportunity on Tuesday to send precisely that message, and to reclaim their city government for the people it was created to serve in the first place.

Everyone’s community deserves fairness and openness in how government addresses their needs, which is exactly what term limits will bring to Memphis.

Howard Rich is chairman of the Fairfax, Va., advocacy group U.S. Term Limits.

Click here to read Howie Rich‘s Op-Ed on the Memphis Commercial Appeal Website.

and of course, don’t foget to visit Howie Rich dot net.


October 29, 2008


U.S. Markets Surge As Credit Starts to Thaw

Washington Post


2 Rivals’ Plans on Fiscal Issue Add to Deficits

New York Times


Dems fish for 60 in the Mississippi Delta

The Hill


And of course don’t forget to visit Howie Rich‘s website.

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