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Flake blasts Trump as 'erratic' in New Hampshire speech, fueling 2020 primary speculation

Fox News (Politics) - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 10:30
MANCHESTER, N.H. – Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake blasted President Trump as an “erratic leader” in a closely-watched speech in New Hampshire on Friday, fueling more speculation that the Arizona Republican may challenge the president in a 2020 GOP primary.

Who is Alex Azar, Trump's new health secretary?

Fox News (Politics) - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 09:30
What to know about Alex Azar, Trump's new secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

New York Rep. Louise Slaughter, top Democrat and only microbiologist in Congress, dies at 88

Fox News (Politics) - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 09:30
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY, who had served in Congress since 1987, died after being hospitalized with a concussion earlier this week, Fox News has confirmed.

Trump and the Russia investigation: What to know

Fox News (Politics) - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 09:08
Questions about Russia's involvement in the U.S. election have plagued the Trump administration.

GOP gubernatorial candidate collapses during event, gets CPR from fellow candidate

Fox News (Politics) - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 09:07
A Connecticut gubernatorial candidate collapsed during a campaign event Thursday night but a fellow candidate jumped to his rescue and applied cpr.

Why Sugar Taxes Won’t Dent Obesity

Cato Recent Op Eds - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 09:06

Ryan Bourne

Economists believe taxes can be designed to ensure prices reflect the social costs of activities such as alcohol consumption and smoking. But politicians all too often use the veneer of economic reasoning to justify nannying levies that won’t work or ignore damaging unintended consequences.

An example of this partial thinking arose this week when former chancellor George Osborne declared that the sugary drinks levy he introduced was “more effective than hoped”. His evidence was Office for Budget Responsibility analysis that producers are substituting sweeteners for sugar in their drinks’ recipes more quickly than expected to avoid the tax’s introduction in April. “That means less sugar and better health,” Osborne concluded confidently on Twitter.

Not so fast, George. The tax was designed to reduce obesity, and doing so should be the metric of its success. When he introduced the charge, Osborne believed it would work by encouraging companies to reformulate products to avoid it, increasing prices for remaining sugary drinks to deter consumption, and using the revenue — then expected to be £520m per annum — to fund school sports and other anti-obesity efforts.

That one of these mechanisms has proven stronger than predicted clearly tells us nothing about the overall impact of the policy.

Combined with the company changes to avoid the levy, these revenue shortfalls mean other taxes need to be raised to fund anti-obesity programmes or else they will not happen. Who knows whether the reformulated drinks or fewer funds for other programmes will have a bigger effect?

In fact, there are good reasons to think it unlikely that the tax will do anything meaningful to reduce obesity.

Taxing sugary drinks alone was always too narrow to have any significant impact. Campaigners justified the charge on the basis that the biggest source of sugar in children’s diets is soft drinks. But more of this comes from fruit juice (which is exempted) than sugar-sweetened drinks for small children. For adults, sugary drinks make up less than 2.5pc of our overall calorie consumption — a drop in the dietary ocean.

As the Institute of Economic Affairs’ lifestyle economist Christopher Snowdon never tires of saying, there is no evidence linking sugary drink consumption and overall obesity rates. The latter increased at a time when sugar sweetened drink consumption was falling. There is likewise no cross-country international correlation to suggest a link between the two. And this is not surprising, given there are so many other factors that determine how fat we are.

Even if we accept the role of sugary drinks on obesity, in order for the tax to reduce it, consumption of sugary drinks would have to fall, without people substituting exempted products also bad for their health. Yet evidence from around the world suggests that customers are relatively unresponsive to price increases for popular brands, such as Coca-Cola, and do substitute away to high-calorie alternatives (such as milkshakes) when the price is prohibitive. Again, the impact of the tax on obesity is smaller still.

This makes the business decision to reformulate by UK brands such as Ribena, Irn-Bru and Lucozade all the more interesting. They have wagered their bottom line will be less impacted by consumers potentially disliking their new taste than by having to face the tax itself. Yet if the reactions on Twitter to their new formulations are anything to go by, this is a gamble indeed. It is still perfectly possible they have misjudged their response and will have to readjust their recipes, or else face losing customers to rivals such as Coca-Cola, or other substitutes, who either stick to their guns or are unaffected.

In short then, it is far too early to judge Osborne’s sugar tax a “success”. Reformulation is one mechanism through which the tax could reduce sugar intake, with a marginal impact on obesity. But without considering sales of other products, or the impact of lost revenues on the anti-obesity program funding, we cannot draw any firm conclusions at all.

Sadly, the tendency to declare victory early with sin taxes is common. News that thin plastic bag use fell by between 75 and 90pc at major UK supermarkets following the plastic bag tax introduction is widely heralded as a slam-dunk policy success.

Yet economists never doubted use would fall significantly. The trade-off was always about the overall environmental and economic impact, given that substitute bags tend to be more energy-intensive to produce, likely to have a greater landfill impact and worsen 
food-associated hygiene. Without long-term data on these issues, and some way of weighing them against each other, it would be premature again to claim success.

Remember that too as calls for single-use plastic taxes amplify. Even the Green Alliance has warned that major action could have unintended consequences, such as increasing global carbon emissions if it causes more agricultural waste, or leading to more deforestation if it encourages paper-based packaging instead.

It’s not surprising that politicians reach for statistics to claim their policies are working, of course. But good economic analysis goes beyond direct effects, considering both the welfare on customers and other consequences in related markets.

Before we rush headlong into more nannying interventions, emboldened by recent forays, we would do well to remember that.

Ryan Bourne holds the R Evan Scharf chair for the public understanding of economics at the Cato Institute

Who is H.R. McMaster? 3 things to know about Trump's national security adviser

Fox News (Politics) - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 09:01
H.R. McMaster was appointed as President Trump’s national security adviser in February 2017.

California teacher put on leave for asking if schools would allow walkouts to protest abortion

Fox News (Politics) - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 06:34
California high school history teacher Julianne Benzel was put on paid leave after questioning in front of her students whether school administrations would let a group of students protesting abortion walk out of class in the middle of the school day like they did with students who did so on Wednesday in protests over school shootings.

Arizona's Flake, in New Hampshire, mulls 2020 challenge to Trump

Fox News (Politics) - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 04:45
Retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, an inveterate critic of President Donald Trump, charged in a Thursday speech to the National Press Club that his fellow Republicans “might not deserve to lead” because of their blind loyalty to the president.

Arm homeless with shotguns to reduce crime, US Senate hopeful says

Fox News (Politics) - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 04:30
A U.S. Senate candidate in Michigan has proposed a plan to arm homeless people with shotguns in a bid to reduce crime.

Nobody knows anything: Why White House shakeup stories are, well, shaky

Fox News (Politics) - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 03:00
It’s one of the most honest headlines I’ve seen in quite awhile: “In Trumpworld, nobody knows anything.”

Report on Mnuchin's travel expenses is misleading, Treasury Dept. says

Fox News (Politics) - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 01:45
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin cost taxpayers roughly $1 million for military aircraft he used last year to travel, according to a newly published report.

ProPublica retracts key claim against Trump pick for CIA director

Fox News (Politics) - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 22:15
The online news site ProPublica said Thursday night that it had retracted part of an article alleging Gina Haspel, President Trump's new choice to head the CIA, oversaw the waterboarding of an Al Qaeda suspect at a so-called agency "black site" in Thailand.

Hillary Clinton fractures wrist after slipping in India resort bathtub, report says

Fox News (Politics) - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 20:30
Hillary Clinton's visit to India suffered another setback this week as the former secretary of state fractured her wrist after slipping in the bathtub at the five-star resort where she was staying, according to a report by DNA India.

Donald Trump Jr.'s wife, Vanessa, files for divorce

Fox News (Politics) - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 19:15
Vanessa Trump filed for divorce from her husband, President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., on Thursday in New York City.

Let's Hope Bannon Never Comes Back From European Tour

TownHall Latest columns - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 19:01
Let Bannon stay in Europe and hand out torches for the marchers. His un-American shtick has no place here.

Expect an 'After Easter' Bombshell Announcement From Speaker Ryan

TownHall Latest columns - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 19:01
As if there isnt enough daily drama swirling around Washington, in early or mid-April there is likely to be an announcement that will titillate the nations capital more than a Stormy Daniels interview on 60 Minutes.

Luck of the Irish

TownHall Latest columns - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 19:01


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