Burke’s ‘armed doctrines,’ ideologues, and Title IX

Central to the conservative critique of revolutionary movements is Edmund Burke’s charge that they promote “armed doctrines,” ideological principles imposed without reference to longstanding practice, current realities or countervailing principles. These are promoted by ideologues who “seek to impose on society and government an unvarying formula that is presented as the answer to every problem no matter how complicated. Ideology is hostile to reliance on experience and political compromise.”

Perhaps an example would help.

In 1972, Congress enacted Title IX of the United States Education Amendments. This law provided that any educational program receiving federal funding could not discriminate on the basis of sex.

Fast forward to April 2014, when the Department of Education issued “guidance” to schools on enforcing Title IX. This 46-page document includes a very new interpretation of the statute, specifically, that “sex” in the statute, hitherto understood to refer to the biological sex of a person, would now be interpreted to include “gender identity,” the decision of an individual to take on (through surgical means or dress) the appearance of a person of the opposite sex. The Department said its Office of Civil Rights (OCR) would accept complaints from individuals that they experienced differential treatment in their schools and investigate them as possible violations of the 1972 law.

Then, in January 2015, the OCR sent a letter specifying that the April 2014 document requires schools to provide all facilities and services based on the self-identified gender of students: “The Department’s Title IX regulations permit schools to provide sex-segregated restrooms, locker rooms, shower facilities, housing, athletic teams, and single-sex classes under certain circumstances. When a school elects to separate or treat students differently on the basis of sex in those situations, a school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.”

Six months later, the Department of Justice filed a “Statement of Interest” document in a federal case in Virginia which argues the OCR position was the appropriate interpretation of the requirements of Title IX. The case was brought by the ACLU on behalf of a student, born female, but who now identifies as male. The student alleges she was allowed to use the boys’ restrooms for a few weeks but the school district then enacted a policy that specified bathroom assignments follow biological sex. For students with “gender identity issues” the district designated private facilities. The ACLU says this “segregates transgender students from their peers.”

Interestingly, the federal District Court actually dismissed the claim, saying the OCR interpretation is not a plausible reading of the law and conflicts with an earlier Department of Education regulation which says schools may segregate based on sex, which this court said must include biological sex. The ACLU has appealed.

Schools, and others, want to temper this ideological commitment so as to balance interests of other students in modesty, privacy and safety, by designating private facilities for transgender students. This is hardly an extreme position but it is being rejected because reality and compassion are outweighed, for the government bureaucrats involved, by ideology.

This same dynamic seems to be at work in the defeat of a Houston ordinance that would have had the same effect on restroom policies and other discrimination laws but did not include basic religious liberty protections.

In many ways, the difficulties we face in finding fair and accommodating ways to live together when it comes to issues of sexuality are becoming more complicated. Unthinking and uncompassionate commitments to ideological purity threaten to make fairness and accommodation impossible.

We can learn a lesson from Houston that most people are just not comfortable with a winner-take-all ideological policy.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Dave Buer. Thanks for listening.

This post is a transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here


Strong families, prosperous states

Three weeks ago, Sutherland Institute was pleased to host and conduct the ninth World Congress of Families, in Salt Lake City. During the four-day conference, held for the first time in the United States, attendees received a wealth of information and perspective about the many issues confronting families in today’s world as well as insights and means by which the challenges can be addressed. Among numerous topics discussed is the connection between healthy families and prosperity, presented by authors of the recent and very significant study, “Strong families, prosperous states: Do healthy families affect the wealth of states?” In their preface, the researchers assert,

Economics has its roots in the Greek word oikonomia, which means the “management of the household.” Yet economists across the ideological spectrum have paid little attention to the links between household family structure and the macroeconomic outcomes of nations, states, and societies. This is a major oversight because, as this report shows, shifts in marriage and family structure are important factors in states’ economic performance, including their economic growth, economic mobility, child poverty, and median family income.

Published the week prior to the World Congress by the American Enterprise Institute, the report “documents four key sets of facts about the links between families and the economic welfare of states across the country.”

  • Higher levels of marriage, and especially higher levels of married-parent families, are strongly associated with more economic growth, more economic mobility, less child poverty, and higher median family income at the state level in the United States.
  • The share of parents in a state who are married is one of the top predictors of the economic outcomes studied in this report.
  • The state-level link between marriage and economic growth is stronger for younger adults … than for older adults …. This suggests that marriage plays a particularly important role in fostering a positive labor-market orientation among young men.
  • Violent crime is much less common in states with larger shares of families headed by married parents, even after controlling for a range of socio-demographic factors at the state level. …

In view of these notable relationships between strong families and the economy, the scholars “propose four policy ideas to strengthen the economic and cultural foundations of marriage and family life in states across the country.” Specifically,

End the marriage penalty in means-tested welfare programs. Today, a large number of low-income couples with children face substantial penalties for marrying. That is, because various social benefits (food stamps, housing assistance, child care subsidies, and welfare payments) decline as income rises, a single or cohabiting mother is more likely to receive benefits if she remains unmarried rather than marry a partner who is earning a steady income.

Strengthen vocational education and apprenticeships. One reason marriage is fragile in many poor and working-class communities is that job prospects and income are inadequate, especially for young adults without college degrees. This economic reality can be remedied, in part, by scaling up vocational education and apprenticeship programs.

Give couples a second chance. Research suggests that in about one-third of couples exploring divorce, one or both spouses express interest in the possibility of reconciliation. In light of this finding, we … [call] on states to consider [specific] steps to reduce unnecessary divorce …

Launch civic efforts to strengthen marriage. … We would like to see a civic campaign organized around
what … scholars … have called the “success sequence,” where young adults are encouraged to pursue education, work, marriage, and parenthood in that order.

Those interested are encouraged to read the full report at this link: “Strong families, prosperous states.”

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Stan Rasmussen. Thanks for listening.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here


How do we successfully fight poverty? Some answers

As we mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute gave testimony to Congress’s House Budget Committee recently on the topic of reducing poverty. The scholar’s story is a fascinating one. His name is Robert Doar, and he gained his expertise on the issue of poverty by working for 18 years administering safety net programs in New York City and New York state. In other words, Mr. Doar’s view was crafted by nearly two decades of working on the front lines to alleviate poverty, and doing so in one of America’s bastions of progressive liberalism.

So what are his recommendations to reduce poverty in our communities and society at large? Perhaps it’s best summed up by the title of his remarks: “Work and Family: The Keys to Reducing Poverty.”

Mr. Doar starts by stating that “in New York, we were most successful at fighting poverty when we maintained the proper balance of strong work requirements and government assistance that supported – but did not replace – work. We also were unafraid to talk honestly about both the consequences of raising children in single-parent households and the responsibilities for parents, including fathers, which come with raising a child.”

Contrast this emphasis on work and family to the typical progressive approach to poverty, which emphasizes redistributing wealth through tax policy and spending more tax dollars on new government programs, without much regard to either work or family status. That has been the progressive poverty prescription for five decades now – ever since President Lyndon Johnson declared his “War on Poverty.” Certainly, this progressive poverty approach has been followed ever since President Obama was elected – as shown through the president’s tax increases on America’s wealthiest, the administration’s willingness to loosen work requirements in state-administered welfare programs, and federal spending over that time.

And yet, as Mr. Doar notes, “the official poverty rate, now 14.8 percent, remains two full percentage points above what it was in 2007 and three and a half percentage points above rates seen in 2000.” Sadly, as has been the norm under the progressive poverty agenda, those hit the hardest have been the nation’s minorities, as Mr. Doar notes that the poverty rate for African Americans is 26.2 percent, which is 3.7 percentage points higher than in 2000. That’s not exactly change we can believe in.

So what does Mr. Doar suggest? First, “it is clear that the most reliable way to escape poverty is full-time work.” Not increasing the minimum wage, not Medicaid expansion, and not higher taxes on the uber- rich. No, the proven method for getting out of poverty is to help the poor get and keep a full-time job. The poverty rate for people working full-time, according to Mr. Doar, is a wonderfully low 3 percent.

Second, Mr. Doar points out, “[W]e know that the married, two-parent family is one of the best weapons we have in the fight against poverty.” He points out that the poverty rate for families led by single mothers in 2014 was 30.6 percent, compared to 6.2 percent for married-couple families – nearly five times higher among single-mother families. This isn’t a commentary on the single mothers leading these poverty-stricken families. Rather, it is a logical outcome when half the family’s human capital is either weakly connected to the home, or not in the picture at all. The result when both parents are committed to home and family through marriage, says Mr. Doar, is that “a child is better prepared for life, on average … with two sets of hands to teach, help, provide, and love. This fact materializes in economic outcomes.” In my view, Mr. Doar’s experience suggests that you can’t credibly claim to be serious about addressing poverty without being serious about addressing family structure.

Mr. Doar’s anti-poverty prescription includes four parts: (1) making work a condition of welfare, (2) rewarding work by helping low-wages go farther, (3) talking honestly about the importance of the family in avoiding poverty, and (4) promoting economic growth that creates jobs. Some will recoil at one or another of these ideas, but it is hard to argue with Mr. Doar’s experience and expertise. It is the principles of work and family, not big government and wealth redistribution, which provide genuine hope for success in the fight against poverty.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Derek Monson. Thanks for listening.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here


Keep the momentum going for freedom and family

When I was 7 years old, my dad took me with him on a business trip to Europe. Of all of the things that I saw and did on that trip, one experience had an especially profound effect on me. My mom still says the experience moved me past boyhood.

In 1982, the Iron Curtain was a fixture of European existence. It divided democratic western Europe from communist eastern Europe. The socialists said the walls were intended to stop “fascist” elements from convincing “the people” to stop building their socialist state. But the Curtain’s obvious purpose was to prevent mass emigration of oppressed peoples “liberated” by communism.

I had no idea, I thought to myself, that a country could be a prison, wrapped in miles of concrete walls, barbed wire and guard towers overlooking a “death strip.” It was one thing to see it on the news, but quite another to see it in person. That experience sparked in me a desire to share freedoms I enjoyed with many people as possible.

As chairman of World Congress of Families IX, which concluded this past Friday, I made it a priority to give as many young people as possible the opportunity to learn about how they can help freedom grow in their homes, cities and countries. Through the generosity of many donors, we were able to extend WCF IX scholarships to 260 young people, ages 18-30. They came from across the United States and from 40 countries around the globe, and they were joined by hundreds of students from regional universities.

We’ve already received feedback from several Emerging Leaders. Irene, from China, said, in her best English, “I am very grateful that you have us as the emerging leaders in this congress. It is a life-change experience for me. This congress opens my eyes and thoughts to know the consequences for porn and abortion. I totally agree that silence is not golden, people should speak out and lead our communities to in the right path. I really want my people in China to know what I know from this WCF9.”

In all, more than 3,300 people from 52 countries and 47 states were able to attend World Congress of Families IX. More than 200 Utahns volunteered to help ensure a warm welcome was extended to all. Attendees were enlightened and energized by Nick Vujicic, who was born without limbs yet travels the globe inspiring millions; Elder M. Russell Ballard of the LDS Church; sociologist Brad Wilcox, Ph.D., from the University of Virginia; and Dr. Monique Chireau from Duke University. Gov. Gary Herbert and his wife Jeanette spoke about the importance of planting strong family roots, while Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, Operation Underground Railroad’s Tim Ballard, and Fight the New Drug’s Clay Olsen spoke about the harms of sex trafficking and pornography, and what we can do to fight back.

Sutherland Institute was honored to put this conference together, and humbled at the outpouring of support and participation. In the coming days and weeks, Sutherland Institute will be posting the speeches and presentations online at

The momentum built at this conference to strengthen families, protect life, and overcome our challenges needs to continue because, as I learned standing in a divided Germany more than 30 years ago, faith, family and freedom, unfortunately, aren’t universal values. But they are values with unique power and promise. We invite you to join us in strengthening and promoting these vital foundations of civil society, because where they flourish, so do human happiness and prosperity.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Stan Swim. Thanks for listening.

This post is a transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

Photo credit: William Bartlett via Wikimedia Commons


The evidence piles up: Marriage still matters

This week, the World Congress of Families meets in Salt Lake City, Utah. This is the ninth meeting of the Congress and the first to be held in the United States. It is appropriate that the milestone would take place in Utah, a state so firmly committed to the centrality of family.

In his opening remarks at the Congress, Elder M. Russell Ballard, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, noted that in today’s world “marriage and children are increasingly marginalized.”

That reality is ironic, perhaps tragic, when, more than ever, we know more and more about why marriage is central to a decent, humane and robust society.

Recently, writing in National Review Online, family scholar W. Bradford Wilcox noted: “It’s been a rough two weeks for the family-structure denialists, those progressive academics, journalists, and pundits who seek to minimize or deny the importance of marriage and family structure. That’s because three new pieces of scholarship — a journal, a report, and a study — were released this month that solidify the growing scientific consensus that marriage and family structure matter for children, families, and the nation as a whole.”

The journal he is referring to was a special issue of The Future of Children, published by Princeton University and the Brookings Institution. It includes half a dozen scholarly articles about marriage and family.

In that issue, Dr. David Ribar of the University of Melbourne argues “the advantages of marriage for children’s wellbeing are likely to be hard to replicate through policy interventions other than those that bolster marriage itself.” In another important article, Dr. Wilcox and his colleagues describe how “growing individualism and the waning of a family-oriented ethos, the rise of a ‘capstone’ model of marriage, and the decline of civil society” have contributed to a “retreat from marriage and the growing class divide in marriage.”

Dr. Wilcox was also a co-author, with Robert I. Lerman of the Urban Institute and Joseph Price of Brigham Young University, of the recently released report “Strong families, prosperous states: Do healthy families affect the wealth of states?” published by the American Enterprise Institute. The report explains: “Higher levels of marriage, and especially higher levels of married-parent families, are strongly associated with more economic growth, more economic mobility, less child poverty, and higher median family income at the state level in the United States.”

In addition, “The share of parents in a state who are married is one of the top predictors of the economic outcomes studied in this report. In fact, this family factor is generally a stronger predictor of economic mobility, child poverty, and median family income in the American states than are the educational, racial, and age compositions of the states.”

Highlighting one particular result: “Violent crime is much less common in states with larger shares of families headed by married parents, even after controlling for a range of socio-demographic factors at the state level. … This is noteworthy because high crime rates lower the quality of life and real living standards and are associated with lower levels of economic growth and mobility.”

The study Dr. Wilcox referred to was conducted by MIT professor David Autor and his colleagues. Dr. Wilcox explains that the study showed:

… that less-advantaged boys are floundering in school and society — and more so than their less-advantaged female peers — in part because, compared with more-advantaged boys, they are less likely to grow up in a married home with their father. In particular, compared with their sisters, less-advantaged boys “have a higher incidence of truancy and behavioral problems throughout elementary and middle school, exhibit higher rates of behavioral and cognitive disability, perform worse on standardized tests, are less likely to graduate high school, and are more likely to commit serious crimes as juveniles.”

One big reason for this growing gender gap in educational, behavioral, and social outcomes between less-advantaged boys and girls is that boys are often hit harder by the absence of married parents and of a father than are girls, according to Autor’s new study.

With all of this, it is clear that marriage still matters, and strengthening marriage and family remain important social priorities.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Dave Buer. Thanks for listening.

This post is a transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here


A constitutional right to government-funded disgrace?

In the wake of videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood employees are engaging in the sale of body parts obtained through abortions, Governor Gary Herbert’s administration decided to end state contracts with the organization’s Utah affiliate. Planned Parenthood sued the governor, arguing that its constitutional rights had been violated, and a federal court in Utah recently heard arguments in the lawsuit. Sutherland Institute supports Governor Herbert’s conservative leadership on this issue, and we think he should be commended for his strong stance against the morally repugnant business practices of Planned Parenthood.

The federal judge, on the other hand, has yet to make a final decision in the case. The initial ruling by the court required the state’s contracts with Planned Parenthood to continue. The court assumed the governor’s reason for ending the state’s contracts with Planned Parenthood must have been motivated by unconstitutional reasons and the judge ordered the governor “to state in writing a legitimate basis” for defunding, declining to renew, or not to issue a contract to the organization.

Underlying all this is the question of whether the state of Utah actually has a constitutional obligation to fund certain organizations or contract with them. Can a vendor legitimately claim a constitutional right to the government’s business?

Such a rule would require the state to implicitly approve of activities the governor (and likely the overwhelming majority of citizens of the state) finds shocking and reprehensible. How so? Imagine someone sending a donation to a Planned Parenthood in the wake of the video disclosures. It seems reasonable and fair to assume that they either approve of the behavior of the employees, or at least thought the behavior was not bad enough to justify distancing themselves from the organization. Similarly, a person announcing they would no longer donate because of the videos would be understood to be expressing disapproval.

Why should the state of Utah be denied this opportunity? The U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled that it’s not unconstitutional for Congress to set conditions of “decency” in funding art. It has also said that the federal government need not fund activities promoting abortion and has allowed the states to fund childbirth but not abortion. These policy judgments are surely the kind states should be free to make when they decide with whom they will do business.

Quoting Supreme Court and 10th Circuit decisions, the attorneys representing Governor Herbert get right to the heart of the issue: “Utah ‘needs to be free to terminate both employees and contractors … to prevent the appearance of corruption.’ A contactor’s undisputed affiliation with a group alleged to be engaged in such illegal activity is ‘a reasonable justification’ for terminating the contract, to prevent the very ‘appearance of corruption’ Utah is entitled to avoid. There is nothing objectively unreasonable about the State of Utah terminating a contractual relationship with a local affiliate of a national organization alleged to be engaged in such illegal activity.

Planned Parenthood says it has done nothing wrong, or at least nothing illegal. There appears to be no dispute, however, that executives of Planned Parenthood have been recorded speaking in callous and shocking ways about a callous and shocking business they have been engaged in – accepting financial reimbursement for body parts obtained through abortions of unborn children.

Is it really the case that the state of Utah cannot distance itself from this? If a national company were engaging in some other form of human trafficking, would we really be unable to stop doing business with its local affiliate, just because the local affiliate was not directly involved?

Along with several other state governors, Herbert has decided that Utah will no longer do business with an organization tainted by these practices. He has made the correct decision, as trafficking in body parts of unborn children is fundamentally at odds with basic standards of human decency. His decision is consistent not only with the Constitution, but with basic moral sanity.

This post is a transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here


The Medicaid expansion alternative

Today [Tuesday], members of the Utah Legislature are deliberating Utah Access+, the latest proposal to expand Medicaid under Obamacare in Utah. We don’t know for certain what the outcome of their deliberations will be, but one Salt Lake Tribune headline has stated that the plan is “likely doomed.”

While I’m not going to celebrate another’s failure, the defeat of another plan to expand Medicaid under Obamacare in Utah – I think this is the third or fourth proposal, but honestly it’s hard to keep track anymore – anyway, the defeat of another plan is a positive development from Sutherland’s perspective. As I have argued on many occasions on this station and elsewhere, expanding Medicaid under Obamacare ignores the moral issue of poverty and will make the lives of disabled Utahns and the state’s poorest children worse by forcing them to wait longer to get a doctor’s appointment or a needed surgery. And giving access to able-bodied, low-income Utahns at the expense of the lowest-income children and the disabled is bad policy and not really justifiable.

But if we aren’t going to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, then what should we do? The answer will not be found in creative attempts to conform to the misguided rules of Obamacare to get federal funding. Instead, the answer is more likely to be found by answering a more basic question: how do we best help people lift themselves out of poverty? For all of the legitimate concerns that being uninsured creates, that status is only a symptom of poverty in the Medicaid expansion population.

Now, for about 6,400 people in this population, commonly referred to as the “medically frail,” a lack of health coverage is the primary reason they are in poverty. So for this group, a targeted expansion of Medicaid could be justified. Perhaps this is a simple expansion of Medicaid eligibility to the medically frail, or perhaps it could be a genuine Healthy Utah-style pilot project for this group.

But as I said in my Sutherland Soapbox a few weeks ago, the reasons most people are in serious poverty aren’t health-related. They are related to insufficient employment, inadequate education or family structure. So what is an alternative to expanding Medicaid under Obamacare that addresses these causes of poverty? Well as you can probably surmise, we aren’t going to solve this huge problem in a short radio segment like this. But, we can start laying out some principles to guide our efforts.

First, we ought to help those in serious poverty get needed job training or formal education so they can get a better job. In many cases, this better job will also solve the uninsured problem. Second, we should properly incentivize progress for these individuals, while being compassionate enough to offer them a second chance if they struggle to make progress. For instance, state benefits for job training or education could be time-limited and include benchmarks for an individual’s progress toward completing their training or education. When an individual fails to make adequate progress toward lifting themselves out of poverty, the benefit could be temporarily suspended and they would have an opportunity to collect themselves until they are ready to try again.

Third, we should empower those in poverty with the human dignity that comes from being responsible for your own success. For example, an individual who completes their training or education and gets a better job could be asked to pay back some of the cost of their benefit over time. This would offer them the satisfaction of self-reliance that forms a happy, productive life, and would perpetually defray some of the cost of these anti-poverty benefits, since the paid-back funds could pay for the benefits of future enrollees. Finally, we should encourage those in serious poverty to marry and remain married. For instance, we could offer to temporarily suspend a portion of the payback when an individual gets married, and ultimately forgive that portion if they remain married for long enough that research suggests divorce is unlikely. This final principle will help ensure that a temporary jump out of poverty becomes a permanent one.

Now, are these ideas the “silver bullet” alternative to Medicaid expansion? Of course not. But are they a better approach to the uninsured problem? Well, for those of us who believe that we have a moral responsibility to address poverty and help improve the lives of Utah’s most vulnerable people, while also protecting their human dignity, I think they are.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Derek Monson. Thanks for listening.

This post is a transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here


How elastic can the Constitution be?

With serendipitous timing, [Tuesday] morning the online journal Public Discourse published an excellent article by Professor Steven Smith, a law professor at the University of San Diego. In the article, Professor Smith notes that while during the middle period of the Roman Empire, “the outward forms of the ancient republican constitution were largely preserved … these forms were a mere façade.” He quoted Edward Gibbon’s observation that what was left was the “image of liberty.”

The timing of the article is striking because [Tuesday] a federal court judge in Utah has ruled that the state’s governor is barred, by the Constitution(!), from declining to have the state serve as a middleman in funneling federal tax dollars to the local Planned Parenthood affiliate.

This may seem like a pointless question when the U.S. Supreme Court has decided it has the power to decide for the states how they will define marriage, but where in the Constitution is the provision that requires states to give funding to Planned Parenthood? Is there really a constitutional right to government funding?

Put another way, how elastic can the Constitution be?

Its Framers might actually have answered that it can be quite elastic but in a very different sense. One of the many elements of real genius in their design was that the Constitution could be changed to address varying circumstances. To this end, they included Article Five, which provides two ways to change the Constitution. In doing so, they wanted to ensure that the Constitution’s true authors, the people, would be involved in the change. Thus, the people themselves must either convince their state representatives to call for a convention to propose amendments or convince their representatives in Congress to propose amendments. Then, these amendments would have to be ratified by the states, again through representative bodies.

Since the Constitution would be the fundamental law of the land, the Framers ensured major changes would be made deliberately. They required supermajority votes both to propose amendments and to ratify them. The two-step process also ensured broad participation in the decision.

In contrast, in our current system, when many would prefer not to follow this cumbersome process, we have acceded to an extra-constitutional process whereby a super-minority of federal judges may make significant changes in the constitutional order.

The “amendments” in this new system are “proposed” by litigants, often recruited for that purpose by activist groups.

Take this new lawsuit. According to news reports, the judge accepted the argument of Planned Parenthood, represented by the attorneys who successfully sued to have same-sex marriage mandated in Utah, that the governor’s decision to stop funding the group deprives them of equal protection of the laws and due process of law guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

To assess this claim, imagine a different scenario. Imagine a company that contracts with the state to provide weapons used by law enforcement officers. Then, imagine this company was discovered by investigative reporters to be running a human trafficking operation. Would anyone believe that a subsequent decision by a state not to do business with that company somehow violated a constitutional right? How different is this situation?

Executives of Planned Parenthood have been recorded speaking in callous and shocking ways about a callous and shocking business they are engaged in—selling body parts obtained through abortions of unborn children. The governor of Utah has decided, as have other states, that Utah will no longer do business with a company tainted by such practices. (Parenthetically, it would seem that it need not have taken this additional disclosure for the state to know that doing business with an abortion provider was sketchy.)

Now, is it really possible that an organization like this has a constitutional right to public financial support and to have the state of Utah facilitate that support? Such an assertion beggars belief.

It’s even more surprising that a judge would apparently give credit to such an argument.

Reports on the lawsuit portray Planned Parenthood as trying desperately to establish some sympathy by claiming that they are just looking out for the welfare of their female clients and suggesting the governor’s decision hurts these people. Yet the same reports say the contracts at issue have been awarded for STD testing and providing sex education (interesting choice of vendors).

Surely, the state is entitled to find vendors for these projects who are not tainted by their association with practices so fundamentally at odds with basic standards of human decency. Perhaps – novel thought – the education could be done by parents and save a lot of money all around.

For the sake of the rule of law, and indeed for the sake of moral sanity, we can only hope that the judge will rethink this decision or that cooler heads will prevail on an appeal. A right to government funding for Planned Parenthood would make the Constitution unrecognizable.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Dave Buer. Thanks for listening.

This post is an expanded transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here


New Medicaid expansion framework ignores the moral issue

What is the moral issue behind Medicaid expansion under Obamacare? Is it a lack of health coverage or access to health care? At Sutherland Institute, we believe that the moral issue is not health coverage, but poverty.

I mean, think about it: Is the source of moral outrage on Medicaid expansion the fact that some people are uninsured, or the fact that uninsured are in poverty? Let me ask it differently. If millionaires or the children of millionaires were uninsured and would be covered by Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, would the moral outrage exist? Of course not, because it is the poverty of Utah’s uninsured, not their lack of insurance, that makes Medicaid expansion a moral issue.

So how does expanding Medicaid under Obamacare address the moral issue of poverty? Well, it doesn’t really. I mean, having state-subsidized health insurance just doesn’t translate into a better job or a big raise for most people in poverty. Of course, there is a group of Utahns in poverty who are there because a lack of health insurance and a health condition that takes away from their economic opportunities. But as national poverty scholars* recognize and as state government reports confirm, the reasons most people end up in serious poverty are a lack of formal education, insufficient employment, and family structure issues, such as single parenting before marriage. For example, according to state reports, most Utahns in multigenerational poverty are unmarried women with children, and the most prevalent risk factors for children in these poverty scenarios are “living in single-parent households and households in which the parent(s) lacked employment in the past twelve months.” Additionally, only a small portion of adults in multi-generational poverty have any amount of college or technical education, and one-third have not completed high school.

So what does Medicaid expansion do about the lack of education, employment problems, and family struggles of Utah’s poor? It pretty much ignores them, except perhaps through indirect means. The primary direct impact of Medicaid expansion is to make poverty more livable by ensuring that uninsured Utahns in poverty have access to health insurance. But is that really the moral thing to do? Let’s think through a few examples to see if we can find the answer to that important question.

Imagine you had a sister who had been abused by her boyfriend and was at risk for further abuse. Would the moral decision be to make her more comfortable in her dangerous relationship, or help her get herself out of it? Or imagine you had a child who thought lying or stealing was acceptable. Would the moral decision be to make your child more comfortable in his mindset, or help lift him out of it? Clearly, making your sister or your child more comfortable in these harmful situations would not be the moral thing to do. That would be the immoral thing to do, in fact, from the perspective of someone with compassion for their sister or child.

But that is the exact path of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare when it comes to Utahns in poverty. And then we are told by Medicaid expansion supporters that making poverty more comfortable in this way is what compassion and “doing the right thing” looks like.

In truth, the moral and compassionate approach to Utah’s low-income uninsured population is to craft an anti-poverty agenda that helps lift Utah’s poor out of poverty, through what poverty scholars call the “success sequence.”** That sequence includes getting through school, going to work, getting married and having children … in that order. If Utah policymakers are seeking the compassionate and moral approach to uninsured Utahns in poverty, then Medicaid expansion is really just a waste of time because it ignores the real problem while fooling us into thinking we’ve solved it.

In fact, helping Utah’s poor feel more secure in poverty is not compassionate or moral, but just the opposite. As in our hypothetical about our sister or our child, the moral approach to poverty is to help lift people out of a bad life situation. And as they say in that classic movie Princess Bride, “Anyone who says differently is selling something”— Obamacare, in this case.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Derek Monson. Thanks for listening.

This post is a transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

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*Lawrence M. Mead, From Prophecy to Charity: How to Help the Poor, 2011, American Enterprise Institute: Washington, D.C.

**Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill, Creating an Opportunity Society, 2009, Brookings Institution: Washington, D.C.

Arthur Brooks at U.

Arthur Brooks – a new vision for conservatism: head and heart

Last week, Sutherland Institute was pleased to welcome Arthur Brooks to Salt Lake City. A frequent traveler to our great state, during this visit Dr. Brooks was the featured speaker at a University of Utah Hinckley Institute Forum, co-sponsored by Sutherland. Arthur C. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute, in Washington, D.C. He has been published widely in publications that include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post and is the author of 10 books. In his 2012 best-seller, The Road to Freedom, Brooks focused on three traditions at the heart of the free enterprise system: entrepreneurship, personal responsibility and upward mobility.

In his remarks last week, Brooks offered a new vision for conservatism, referencing his most recent book, The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America, released in July.

I want to talk about the conservative movement in America today. I’m not going to make the assumption that you’re all political conservatives – you might be or you might not be; either way, it doesn’t really matter. I know that we live in a country that has a conservative movement in it and it’s a troubled movement. And I want to talk about how the country could be a lot better off if it [the conservative movement] were more effective. What I’m going to do today is try to convince you, even if you’re a progressive, even if you’re a liberal, that this would be a good thing – if we had a competition of ideas around a fundamental moral consensus about how to lift people up more in America…. That’s what’s in the book and why I wrote it.

Brooks then shared insights captured in a recent distillation of The Conservative Heart.

Many Americans feel caught between two dispiriting political choices: ineffective compassion on one hand and heartless pragmatism on the other.

Progressives have always presented themselves as champions of the poor and vulnerable. But they have not succeeded – more and more people are hopeless and dependent on government. Meanwhile, conservatives possess the best solutions to the problems of poverty and declining mobility. Yet because they don’t speak in a way that reflects their concern and compassion, many Americans don’t trust them.

Americans know that outmoded redistribution yields poor results and does little for the pursuit of happiness. But there seems to be no conservative alternative that looks out for those struggling to get by.

These ideas will sound familiar to those paying attention to the messaging and efforts of Utah’s Senator Mike Lee. For example, in An Agenda for Our Time, the published transcripts of four speeches wherein Sen. Lee presents a diagnosis of current government dysfunction and some potential remedies.

As also noted in the summary of the message Brooks is sharing, by means of his presentation last week and in The Conservative Heart:

Drawing on years of research on the sources of happiness and the conditions of human flourishing, Brooks presents a social justice agenda for a New Right. He extols the four “institutions of meaning” – family, faith, community, and meaningful work; lays out the kind of constructive government safety net that works to lift people up; and designs a policy agenda of true hope through earned success. [He] argues that it is time for a new kind of conservatism – a conservatism that fights poverty, promotes equal opportunity, and extols spiritual enlightenment. It is an inclusive, optimistic movement with a positive agenda to help people lead happier and more fulfilling lives.

Listeners are encouraged to view and listen to the complete Sept. 8 Arthur Brooks Hinckley Forum address, available on the Sutherland website.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Stan Rasmussen. Thanks for listening.

This post is a transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found at the bottom of this post.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here