The Associated Press
Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, on flood insurance increases:
You really need to know only two things about the federal flood-insurance program to evaluate its wisdom. First, many owners say they couldn't afford to have homes so close to the shore without the substantial subsidy. Second, the Obama administration considers it too socialistic.
Last year, Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency that runs the program, said the administration wanted to move away from "subsidizing rates" to "a capitalist, private-sector model of managing risk." You know things have gone too far when the current White House wants a greater degree of laissez-faire.
Two years ago, Congress considered legislation that would have raised rates rapidly to market levels. Beneficiaries raised unholy heck. The other day, President Barack Obama signed legislation to increase rates more gradually.
Those hikes are still steep -- as high as 18 percent a year. But their very steepness testifies to how out of tune the subsidized policies had become. Washington -- meaning the taxpayers -- is $24 billion in the hole because of them. In essence, that means the federal government has spent $24 billion encouraging riskier choices than people would otherwise make.
Homeowners faced with whopping premium increases -- including a few hundred of them here in central Virginia -- deserve sympathy. Politicians put down a rug and are now pulling it out from under them. That is the painful price of correcting a policy that never should have existed in the first place.
The Detroit (Mich.) News, on religious liberty and health insurance:
Hobby Lobby is the kind of business President Barack Obama says he loves. The family-owned company is successful, and its owners treat their employees like family. They receive better pay and benefits than many others in retail jobs, including wages well above the federal minimum.
But through Obamacare, the Health and Human Services Department is requiring all businesses provide a wide range of contraceptives free of charge to employees through their insurance plans. Part of that requirement goes against the religious beliefs of the family who owns Hobby Lobby, and they've brought a lawsuit against the Obama administration.
The company was founded by David Green in a garage in 1972. The family business has grown into more than 556 stores in 41 states with 16,000 full-time employees. Hobby Lobby pays its hourly employees 90 percent above the federal minimum wage and offers them generous insurance and retirement plans for a retail chain.
(Tuesday), the U.S. Supreme Court (heard) oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case. This case was combined with a similar one out of Pennsylvania. The Greens are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit legal and educational institute.
The contraceptive mandate has created an uproar throughout the Catholic Church and beyond to the private sector. So far, 94 cases have been filed challenging the mandate -- half are from for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby. The rest are from nonprofits. Eleven of the lawsuits are out of Michigan.
And the Hobby Lobby owners do offer birth control to employees in their insurance plans. It's the drugs and devices that may induce an early abortion that they object to -- only four out of 20 contraceptives the Obama administration wants employers to include.
Lori Windham, a Becket Fund attorney who is representing Hobby Lobby, says the law is on the side of Hobby Lobby. For instance, in a decision last June, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the religious rights of the Greens. Many of the other businesses and organizations challenging the mandate have had similar favorable rulings.
"We are hopeful," Windham says. If the Green family doesn't win, Windham says this will set a "very disturbing and troubling precedent" that if you open a family business you forfeit your religious rights. And with that precedent, there would be few limits as to what the government could tell companies to do.
In a country that was founded on protecting basic, individual freedoms, that would be a significant setback -- not to mention an affront to the Constitution ...
Churches are exempt from the mandate, but the administration didn't rule out religiously affiliated hospitals, charities and colleges ...
The Supreme Court should uphold the ability of people like the Greens to run a business without violating their conscience.