Thursday, January 21, 2010 - The Best Thing About Orphanages

I found this very interesting, especially after reading the several reader comments in support of orphanages from those who were raised in one. - Opinion: The Best Thing About Orphanages


Last month, Duke University researchers issued the first report on their multiyear study of 3,000 orphaned, abandoned and neglected children in developing countries in Africa and East and South Asia. About half were reared in small and large "institutions" (or orphanages) and half in "community" programs (kin and foster care). Contrary to conventional wisdom, the researchers found that children raised in orphanages by nonfamily members were no worse in their health, emotional and cognitive functioning, and physical growth than those cared for in their communities by relatives. More important, the orphanage-reared children performed better than their counterparts cared for by community strangers, which is commonly the case in foster-care programs.

Critics of orphanages point out that children are always better off in loving and safe biological families. That's always been the case, of course, but many kids have no hope of access to such families. There are about 143 million orphaned children, and tens of millions more abandoned, in the world today. Over a half-million American kids are in foster care (which is often luxury care by the standards of orphanage care in poor countries), but still a sizable percentage of American foster-care kids will have their disadvantages compounded in one important way: They will spend their entire childhoods in the worst of all possible situations, "permanent temporary care," in which they will be moved from one placement to the next to the next, many losing count of their foster homes before they "age out" of the system at 18.

I wrote a column for this newspaper defending my own orphanage and others like it: "Most critics would like the public to believe that those of us who went through orphanages were throttled by the experience. No doubt, some were. However, most have charged on." The children at Barium Springs Home for Children worked a lot and didn't get the hugs many children take for granted, but we did get advantages that many children today don't get—a sense of security, permanence and home.

I was shocked by the number of orphanage alumni who called, faxed or emailed in agreement. What's more, many added, "My orphanage was better than yours," which made me wonder if the experts knew what they were talking about.




Wednesday, January 20, 2010 - To Help Haiti, End Foreign Aid

The timing of this article doesn’t match up well with the current need for massive humanitarian relief, but the point is well taken that traditional aid hurts much more than it helps.  Not mentioned in this article are the (much smaller) untraditional aid practices that deliver help directly to individuals, as opposed to governments, such as loans to individuals for education & small businesses, that do have a record of delivering real improvements.  But those successful aid programs tend to be administered by private organizations and charities and not national governments. - Opinion: To Help Haiti, End Foreign Aid


For actual Haitians, just about every conceivable aid scheme beyond immediate humanitarian relief will lead to more poverty, more corruption and less institutional capacity. It will benefit the well-connected at the expense of the truly needy, divert resources from where they are needed most, and crowd out local enterprise. And it will foster the very culture of dependence the country so desperately needs to break.

A better approach recognizes the real humanity of Haitians by treating them—once the immediate and essential tasks of rescue are over—as people capable of making responsible choices. Haiti has some of the weakest property protections in the world, as well as some of the most burdensome business regulations. In 2007, it received 10 times as much in aid ($701 million) as it did in foreign investment.

Reversing those figures is a task for Haitians alone, which the outside world can help by desisting from trying to kill them with kindness.





Tuesday, January 19, 2010 - The Message of Massachusetts - Opinion: The Message of Massachusetts


Whether or not Republican Scott Brown wins today in Massachusetts, the special Senate election has already shaken up American politics. The close race to replace Ted Kennedy, liberalism's patron saint, shows that voters are rebelling even in the bluest of states against the last year's unbridled pursuit of partisan liberal governance.

The real message of Massachusetts is that Democrats have committed the classic political mistake of ideological overreach. Mr. Obama won the White House in part on his personal style and cool confidence amid a recession and an unpopular war. Yet liberals in Congress interpreted their victory as a mandate to repeal more or less the entire post-1980 policy era and to fulfill, at last, their dream of turning the U.S. into a cradle-to-grave entitlement state.

Had Democrats modified their agenda to nurture a fragile economy and financial system, they could now claim their policies worked and build on them later.

Instead, their frenetic agenda has frightened voters and businesses about the vast expansion of government power and enormous tax increases to come. The resulting uncertainty and the anticipation of higher costs for labor, taxes and energy have undermined what ought to be a more robust pace of job creation and overall recovery.





Monday, January 18, 2010 - Keep on Truckin', Detroit - Opinion: Keep on Truckin', Detroit


The domestic auto makers' fuel-economy games start anew—this time with taxpayer help.

GM says it has new ideas on how to build its large trucks while still meeting Washington's tough new fuel-economy standards, but don't let the spin kid you: Its main way of meeting those rules will be simply to push small and electric cars into the market at a loss in order to create the "fleet average" freedom to sell larger vehicles.

This is exactly the Faustian compromise that kept the industry together for 25 years, albeit with one big difference today: Now GM will be counting on direct taxpayer subsidies added to the mix.

We hasten to add that one old and hidden subsidy will continue to prevail, as it has for four decades, namely Washington's 25% tariff on imported "light trucks," imposed by LBJ in response to a long-forgotten chicken dispute with Western Europe. Detroit and Washington worked together to exploit the chicken tax to create a protected niche for the Big Three to make large passenger cars, call them "light trucks," and thereby shield them from foreign competition as well as the stricter fuel economy rules that apply to cars that are called "cars."

But the chicken loophole is no longer sufficient, so taxpayers will have to pitch in too. They will do so with a $7,500 tax credit for buyers of electric cars like the forthcoming Chevy Volt, plus some $25 billion in direct loans to carmakers to retool plants dedicated to "green" cars.

If this is beginning to sound like the ethanol boondoggle writ large, the parallels (and perils) are impressive.




Monday, January 4, 2010 - Why the Health-Care Bills Are Unconstitutional

Finally – I’ve been waiting for a serious discussion of the constitutionality of this bill!  Not that most Americans (or even most Congress-critters for that matter) know squat about the U.S. Constitution and could have a serious discussion about it... - Opinion: Why the Health-Care Bills Are Unconstitutional


First, the Constitution does not give Congress the power to require that Americans purchase health insurance. Congress must be able to point to at least one of its powers listed in the Constitution as the basis of any legislation it passes. None of those powers justifies the individual insurance mandate. Congress's powers to tax and spend do not apply because the mandate neither taxes nor spends. The only other option is Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce.

Congress has many times stretched this power to the breaking point, exceeding even the expanded version of the commerce power established by the Supreme Court since the Great Depression. It is one thing, however, for Congress to regulate economic activity in which individuals choose to engage; it is another to require that individuals engage in such activity. That is not a difference in degree, but instead a difference in kind. It is a line that Congress has never crossed and the courts have never sanctioned.

A third constitutional defect in this ObamaCare legislation is its command that states establish such things as benefit exchanges, which will require state legislation and regulations. This is not a condition for receiving federal funds, which would still leave some kind of choice to the states. No, this legislation requires states to establish these exchanges or says that the Secretary of Health and Human Services will step in and do it for them. It renders states little more than subdivisions of the federal government.

This violates the letter, the spirit, and the interpretation of our federal-state form of government.

The federal government may exercise only the powers granted to it or denied to the states. The states may do everything else. This is why, for example, states may have authority to require individuals to purchase health insurance but the federal government does not. It is also the reason states may require that individuals purchase car insurance before choosing to drive a car, but the federal government may not require all individuals to purchase health insurance.

America's founders intended the federal government to have limited powers and that the states have an independent sovereign place in our system of government. The Obama/Reid/Pelosi legislation to take control of the American health-care system is the most sweeping and intrusive federal program ever devised. If the federal government can do this, then it can do anything, and the limits on government power that our liberty requires will be more myth than reality.