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This Is How Far $100 Gets You in Your State

2 hours 28 min ago

How far does $100 get you? According to the Tax Foundation, which monitors tax policy at the federal, state, and local levels, that depends on where you live.

In Tennessee, for example, $100 buys residents what would cost $110.25 in another state where prices are closer to the national average.

“You can think of this as meaning that Tennesseans are about 10 percent richer than their nominal income suggests,” the Tax Foundation reports.

By using data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the nonprofit research organization created a map that reflects the real purchasing power of $100 in each state.

Folks in the District of Columbia get the least bang for their hundred bucks ($84.60), followed by Hawaii ($85.32), New York ($86.66), New Jersey ($87.64) and California ($88.57).

States where you get the highest purchasing power include Mississippi ($115.74), Arkansas ($114.16), Missouri ($113.51), Alabama (113.51) and South Dakota ($113.38).

In Mississippi,  in fact, $100 is worth almost 40 percent more than it is in D.C., where the cost of living is highest.

“The tax policy consequences of this data are significant,” write the Tax Foundation’s Alan Cole, Lyman Stone and Richard Borean:

A poor person in a high cost area – like Brooklyn or Queens – may be artificially boosted out of the range of income where they are eligible for welfare programs, despite still being very poor. At the same time, many people in low-price states may be eligible for welfare programs despite actually being much richer than they appear.

For example: After adjusting for purchasing power, the Tax Foundation found that Kansas has a higher average income than New York.

“Adjusting for prices can substantially change our perceptions of which states are truly poor or rich,” the researchers write.

Chart: The Tax Foundation

The post This Is How Far $100 Gets You in Your State appeared first on Daily Signal.

Mom Arrested for Cursing in a Grocery Store

2 hours 36 min ago

Cursing while shopping for frozen pizzas could send you to jail in North Augusta, S.C.

Danielle Wolf, a young mother, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after using profanity during a recent trip to her local Kroger’s.

The incident began when Wolf was shopping for groceries with her husband and children. She became frustrated with her husband throwing items into the shopping cart and yelled at him to be more careful, using “F–k.” Michelle Smith, another customer, overheard this remark and confronted Wolf, telling her not to use harsh language toward her children.

Wolf tried to clarify. “I said ‘No, I said that to my husband,’ that he was smashing the bread by throwing the frozen pizzas on top of it,” Wolf explained, according to a local Fox News report. Not content with an explanation or an apology, Smith alerted the local police to handle the situation.

A North Augusta police officer, identified as “Officer Smith” in the incident report, questioned Wolf outside the store about the details of the exchange and then arrested her for disorderly conduct, saying “’You’re under arrest’…right in front of my kids, in front of my husband, in front of customers,” Wolf recalled.

Parents should be discouraged from using harsh language toward their children or anyone else in public (or in private), but is the correct response to impolite, even vulgar, speech the threat of arrest or imprisonment? Police do have the authority to make arrests or issue citations when certain forms of speech cross the line and become dangerous. The U.S. Supreme Court in Chaplinsky v. State of New Hampshire ruled that the Constitution does not protect those words “which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”

Even so, Wolf’s language–although indeed profane–was directed to her husband, not passersbys or fellow customers in the store. Nothing in the police report indicates she was attempting to inflict injury or incite violence with “fighting words.” Indeed, this shopping trip never would had made it to the news had someone not intruded into a private family dispute.

Like it or not, the Supreme Court consistently has upheld the right to use profanity in public discourse. In Cohen v. California, a man was arrested after he was observed wearing a jacket that said “F**k the Draft!” in a Los Angeles courthouse. The Court overturned his conviction, noting “It is, in sum, our judgment that, absent a more particularized and compelling reason for its actions, the State may not, consistently with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, make the simple public display here involved of this single four-letter expletive a criminal offense.”

Even more troubling about this story is the statute under which Wolf was charged. The North Augusta City Code of Ordinances defines disorderly conduct as uttering “while in a state of anger, in the presence of another, any bawdy, lewd, or obscene words or epithets.” Under this broad standard, consider the types of ordinary speech that could be prosecuted. How many times have you heard profanity used during a heated sporting event? Half the attendees at a local football game—and almost all the players—would be put in jail if this statute were evenhandedly applied in this context.

Statutes that broadly prohibit profane language are deemed to violate the Constitution. In Lewis v. New Orleans, the Supreme Court reviewed a New Orleans ordinance that prohibited cursing or opprobrious language directed toward police officers. Because the language of the statute was found to be overbroad, it was invalidated. Justice Lewis Powell, in a concurring opinion, disapproved of such broadly written statutes where “[t]he opportunity for abuse, especially where a statute has received a virtually open-ended interpretation, is self-evident.”

The language used by Wolf at the grocery store is nothing to applaud—unless you’re a fan of George Carlin—but the actions by the North Augusta police are certainly worthy of condemnation. Unless Wolf was causing a severe disturbance using fighting words to incite violence, her arrest never should have occurred. Just how often does the Supreme Court need to make clear that the utterance of a profanity, even in public, without more cannot be made a crime? Do the police officers in North Augusta not receive any training in the law?

There is one silver lining in this debacle: Michelle Smith, the customer who originally called the police about Danielle Wolf, made an apology to her after she was arrested

Smith stated: “I apologize for getting into your business and being so, I guess, adamant about . . . I definitely hate that they put you in a police car.” Fortunately, Wolf was reasonably understanding about the incident and replied. “I can assure you that I will never say that word out in public again. I will never say it to my children. I will never say it to my husband again.”
You can listen to the entire apology here.

The post Mom Arrested for Cursing in a Grocery Store appeared first on Daily Signal.

George W. Bush Donates to ALS, His Wife Has a Better Idea

4 hours 53 min ago


Post by George W. Bush.

Video yourself dumping a bucket of ice on your head, challenge your friends and post it on social media, or donate $100 to help fund research on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gerhig’s disease.

“You have 24 hours.” This is the viral #StrikeOutALS message that’s dominating Facebook news feeds everywhere—and most participants are choosing the #IceBucketChallenge route to raise awareness.

But former President George W. Bush, after being nominated by his daughter and other famous participants, posted the video above announcing he would just donate to the ALS cause.

His wife, Laura, had a different idea.

The post George W. Bush Donates to ALS, His Wife Has a Better Idea appeared first on Daily Signal.

7 Harmful Side Effects Pot Legalization Has Caused in Colorado

4 hours 59 min ago

There is more bad news out of Colorado regarding the negative impact of marijuana legalization.

As I reported a few weeks ago, some professors published a peer-reviewed article on the negative social costs to outright legalization. I noted that although overall traffic fatalities in Colorado have gone down since 2007, they went up by 100 percent for operators testing positive for marijuana—from 39 in 2007 to 78 in 2012. (Colorado legalized marijuana for medical usage in 2009, before legalizing marijuana for other uses in 2012.) Furthermore, in 2007, those pot-positive drivers represented only 7 percent of total fatalities in Colorado, but in 2012 they represented 16 percent of total Colorado fatalities.

Now, there is even more proof from Colorado that legalizing pot, as I have argued before, is terrible public policy.

This new report paints an even bleaker picture of what is happening in Colorado since it legalized the possession, sale, and consumption of marijuana.

According to the new report by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area entitled “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact,” the impact of legalized marijuana in Colorado has resulted in:

1. The majority of DUI drug arrests involve marijuana and 25 to 40 percent were marijuana alone.

2. In 2012, 10.47 of Colorado youth ages 12 to 17 were considered current marijuana users compared to 7.55 percent nationally. Colorado ranked fourth in the nation, and was 39 percent higher than the national average.

3. Drug-related student suspensions/expulsions increased 32 percent from school years 2008-09 through 2012-13, the vast majority were for marijuana violations.

4. In 2012, 26.81 percent of college age students were considered current marijuana users compared to 18.89 percent nationally, which ranks Colorado third in the nation and 42 percent above the national average.

5. In 2013, 48.4 percent of Denver adult arrestees tested positive for marijuana, which is a 16 percent increase from 2008.

6. From 2011 through 2013 there was a 57 percent increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits.

7. Hospitalizations related to marijuana has increased 82 percent since 2008.

The report includes other data about the negative effect of legalizing marijuana in Colorado, including marijuana-related exposure to children, treatment, the flood of marijuana in and out of Colorado, the dangers of pot extraction labs and other disturbing factual trends.

Don’t expect this data to impact the push to legalize pot in Colorado, or elsewhere for that matter. Big pot is big business, and the push to legalize is really all about profit, despite inconvenient facts.

Drug policy should be based on hard science and reliable data. And the data coming out of Colorado points to one and only one conclusion: the legalization of marijuana in the state is terrible public policy.

The post 7 Harmful Side Effects Pot Legalization Has Caused in Colorado appeared first on Daily Signal.

Administrative Costs on the Rise in Tennessee Schools

11 hours 27 min ago

NASHVILLE — About a quarter of Tennessee’s public school districts, 33 in all, spend more on administrative costs — such as principals and school directors — than the statewide average of 10.5 percent, according to a new comptrollers’ report.

The report, written by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability, examined the 2012-13 school year.

Why does it matter?

Lindsay Boyd, director of policy at the free market-oriented Beacon Center of Tennessee, said the study shows what happens when schools fail to prioritize what happens in classrooms and instead focus on administrative offices.

“Despite an 8 percent increase in statewide enrollment since 1999, state spending in the classroom decreased by nearly 4 percent during that same time period while administrative costs increased by nearly 2 percent,” Boyd said, citing a 2013 Beacon Center study.

As for the Comptroller’s report, released Friday, it said school districts most likely to have higher rates of administrative spending are either very large or very small.

These are usually municipal or special school districts — as opposed to county districts.

Among the report’s other findings:

  • About two-thirds of the higher-spending districts fall into the bottom fifth or the top fifth of districts ranked by enrollment size.
  • Seventy percent of the higher spending districts had central office administrator-to-student ratios above the statewide median of 4.4 administrators per 1,000 students enrolled.
  • Higher administrative spending districts are likely to have more sources of local tax revenue.
  • In 2012-13, Tennessee districts spent $868 million on administrative costs, including school boards, superintendents, principals and other central office and support services.
  • Tennessee spent more, as percentages of total spending, on instruction (classroom spending), instructional supports, general administration and school administration than the percentages spent by districts nationally, and, except for school administration, more than the Southeastern states.

Read more on Watchdog.org.

The post Administrative Costs on the Rise in Tennessee Schools appeared first on Daily Signal.

‘We Know Our Needs Better Than D.C.’: States Drive to Control Highway Dollars

11 hours 28 min ago

Pennsylvania’s large transportation system is getting old.

Nearly 6,000 of the state’s bridges were deemed structurally deficient in 2008. Its 40,000 miles of state-maintained highway — making it No. 5 in the nation — shows critical signs of wear. Truck traffic on 1,754 miles of interstate highways is more than double the national average.

Last November, Pennsylvania tired of waiting for Washington to address its transportation problems and took matters into its own hands.

Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, signed a bipartisan transportation bill giving the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation $2.3 billion over five years to repair and maintain state roads and bridges, plus the mass transit system.

That’s on top of the $6 billion a year PennDOT was set to receive.

“The extra resources were critically needed,”  PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick says.

Although some conservative lawmakers criticized the bill because it raises Pennsylvania’s gas tax to pay for road improvements (the increase will be phased in at the wholesale level), the move represents an attempt by a state to regain control of its transportation destiny.

Lawmakers at the federal and state levels across the nation have grappled for years with shortfalls in highway funding.

The federal Highway Trust Fund gets its money from the federal gasoline tax. Not only has the tax held steady at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993, it produces less revenue today because Americans drive less and get better gas mileage.

Shortly before its August recess, Congress approved a 10-month patch to replenish the nearly exhausted Highway Trust Fund, but that only put off the debate until next year.

“Our transportation needs were underfunded, apart from what is happening in Washington, ” PennDOT’s Kirkpatrick says.

Pennsylvania lawmakers want to bring some certainty to the process now. Just before Congress passed its highway bill, a group of state legislators wrote to Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, urging him to support an alternative that they knew wouldn’t be voted on yet — the Transportation Empowerment Act.

‘It makes sense to keep the money here’: Pennsylvania State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe

The lawmakers, led by state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler County, chairman of the Pennsylvania House’s State Government Committee, said they preferred the approach of the Transportation Empowerment Act because it would “return the funding of transportation projects to the states.”

The bill’s sponsors, Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, say their plan would give block grants to states to pay for individual transportation needs and lower the federal gas tax to 3.7 cents per gallon from 18.4 cents over five years.

“This is a campaign to help people spend less time in traffic and more time enjoying life,” Graves told The Daily Signal in an email. “The Transportation Empowerment Act paves the way for better roads, easier commutes and more family time.”

Metcalfe says he opposed Pennsylvania’s transportation bill because “the state can’t afford it.”

But he does support states’ having more discretion over their transportation funding needs. He told The Daily Signal:

It only makes sense in Pennsylvania to keep the money here. We like to take care of our own. We know our needs better than D.C. I think a minority of states make out well in this deal [under the current system].

Under the current system, states send revenue from the federal gas tax to the Internal Revenue Service. The U.S. Treasury Department places the money in the Highway Trust Fund, then distributes portions to states based on a federal formula.

States and local metropolitan planning organizations work with federal transportation bodies to determine funding priorities.

Metcalfe calls the process a “horse-trading game” that benefits special interests.

For instance, he says, a $1.9 million project to repair the structurally deficient Graham Bridge, in his Butler County district, probably could have waited. A full 80 percent of the total cost is federal money.

“Certainly, that project was a priority, but there had to be some other projects that were more worthy,” Metcalfe says. “They [the agencies involved] barter back and forth.”

‘Time to build more awareness’: Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga. (Photo: Erik Lesser/Newscom)

The expiration next May of Congress’ temporary fix to the Highway Trust Fund provides another opportunity to enact more comprehensive reform.

The Senate last month voted on the Transportation Empowerment Act as an amendment to the Highway Trust Fund bill, and it got 28 votes, all from Republicans.

The Transportation Empowerment Act has gathered 51 co-sponsors in the House as of Monday. Graves says:

The May deadline has given us valuable time to build more awareness and broaden support. Right now, I’m working to bring state and local officials into the national transportation policy debate. We need their input on the policy and their voices in support of reform.

Regardless of whether Graves’ bill comes to fruition, Pennsylvania’s experiment likely won’t be the last attempt by states to take control of their transportation destinies.

Emily Goff, a transportation policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, says Pennsylvania represents a valuable practice run:

States will learn from one another about what is working and what isn’t. It will never be perfect. But voters can hold states more accountable than they can the federal government.

The post ‘We Know Our Needs Better Than D.C.’: States Drive to Control Highway Dollars appeared first on Daily Signal.

Why Do Democrats Win With War on Women Talk?

11 hours 28 min ago

“Democrats lie,” explains former California Republican senate candidate Carly Fiorina. “It’s propaganda. It’s shameless, baseless propaganda.”

Watch the full interview:

The post Why Do Democrats Win With War on Women Talk? appeared first on Daily Signal.

An Interactive Timeline of the Fallout in Ferguson

11 hours 28 min ago

On Saturday, Aug. 9, in a suburb of St. Louis, a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown. The death of the unarmed teenager sparked riots in Ferguson, reignited old controversies and exposed tensions in the community and around the country. Now, as police and protesters clash in Ferguson, President Obama has ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to lead an investigation. The following timeline offers a closer look at the event that have transpired since Brown’s death. Use the arrows to advance or jump to an event using the scrollbar at the bottom.

The post An Interactive Timeline of the Fallout in Ferguson appeared first on Daily Signal.

Most Americans Disapprove of Media’s Coverage of Ferguson

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 21:40

Most Americans say that things would be different in Ferguson, Mo., if the racial roles had been reversed. According to a Rasmussen Poll released today, many believe the media’s coverage of the incident would differ if a black police officer had shot a white teenager.

A majority, 54 percent, agree the media would have reported the death of Michael Brown differently according to the color of his skin. Regardless of race—white, black and other minority adults—most believe the shooting would garner less media attention.

As things stand now, however, only about 1 in 3 Americans approve of the media’s coverage of the incident.

Regardless of media dissatisfaction, 57 percent of blacks believe the police officer involved should be found guilty of murder. The majority of white and other minority Americans do not agree.

Allegations of systemic police racism aren’t widely accepted. Sixty-one percent of Americans say police are not racist as opposed to 14 percent who say they are.

A mere 34 percent believe race relations are at a favorable state in the nation today.

The Rasmussen telephone poll surveyed more than 1,000 individuals from around the country, and comes little more than a week after the untimely death of Michael Brown on Aug. 9. His death brought national attention to Ferguson, where riots have pitted police against protesters.

The post Most Americans Disapprove of Media’s Coverage of Ferguson appeared first on Daily Signal.

Why the Average Student Loan Debt Just Keeps Rising

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 19:48

New student orientations are kicking off at colleges across the country, and parents are busy buying mini fridges and dorm-sized bed sheets. As students head off this fall, many will also carry with them record-high levels of student loan debt.

This year, outstanding student loan balances reached an all-time high of $1.12 trillion – an increase of $124 billion since last year, according to the New York Federal Reserve. Nearly 11 percent of aggregate student loan debt was at least 90 days delinquent or in default, as Politico reported last week

College graduates now leave school with an average of $26,500 in student loan debt – $4,600 more than the average student graduated with in 2001. Federal subsidies now account for 71 percent of all student aid. According to the College Board, over the past 10 years, the number of students borrowing through federal student loans increased by 69 percent.

>>> Chart: How Student Loan Debt Has Increased in Recent Years

Increases in debt have been driven by increases in college costs. In the last 30 years, inflation-adjusted tuition and fees at private colleges increased by 153 percent. Tuition and fees at public universities for in-state students increased 231 percent.

College costs have risen more than health care costs—by some estimates, twice as much—and faster than increases in the price of food. State-level spending has increased 88 percent since 1999.

Increases in tuition and fees over the past 30 years suggest that growth in federal subsidies such as loans and grants has done little to mitigate the college cost problem. And all of this spending and debt is not producing adequate outcomes:

• The 6-year college graduation rate stands at 59 percent. Just 41 percent of undergraduates complete college within 4 years.

• According to the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, 48 percent of working college graduates held jobs that did not require a college degree in 2010. Thirty-seven percent were in jobs that only required a high school diploma.

Why is college so expensive? Maybe it’s the administrative bloat. As University of Arkansas professor Jay P. Greene found, “Between1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators per 100 students at America’s leading universities grew by 39 percent, while the number of employees engaged in teaching, research or service only grew by 18 percent.” Student enrollment, by contrast, grew just 15 percent over the same time period.

Perhaps it’s all the college football coaches making more than $1 million. Here’s a handy list of the top ten highest paid college football coaches, compiled by USA Today. Alabama’s Nick Saban tops the list, taking home over $5.5 million in 2013.

The most likely culprit, however, is the open spigot of federal student aid that has enabled such profligacy. According to a new report from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, federal student aid “contributes to skyrocketing costs, finances a wasteful academic arms race, weakens academic standards, lowers educational opportunity, and worsens the underemployment/overinvestment problem.”

Congress has long tried to help students afford a college education. It has cut interest rates on federal student loans, vastly expanded federal lending and lifted caps on borrowing. In the 1980s, it even let parents borrow directly from the feds — through the Parent PLUS program — to pay for their children’s college. Each effort has only enabled universities to continue to raise tuition.

Innovative approaches to limiting federal intervention in higher education through accreditation reform hold the promise of dramatically reducing college costs. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., have put forward proposals that would do just that. By enabling states to take the lead on accreditation, the HERO Act creates a promising way to drive down costs and increase customization and opportunity in higher education.

The post Why the Average Student Loan Debt Just Keeps Rising appeared first on Daily Signal.

Historical Tensions in Northeast Asia: An Obstacle to Improved Security and Policymaking in the Asia Pacific

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 18:01

Tensions in Northeast Asia are at an all-time high, particularly between South Korea and Japan. North Korean belligerence and Chinese aggression contribute to rising tensions in the region, while animosity from historical issues, recent insensitive commentary, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Yasakuni shrine in December 2013 have exacerbated tensions between Japan and Korea.

An event Tuesday at The Heritage Foundation brought together a group of Asia experts, including Admiral Dennis Blair and South Korean Ambassador Ahn Ho-Young, to outline the way forward.

Since both South Korea and Japan are allies of the United States, the fate of their relations have significant implications for U.S. policy in the region. There was agreement among the panelists that Seoul and Tokyo were equally to blame for their faltering relations, but panelists also noted that there were clear steps that each party could take to address ongoing issues.

“History is important, and historical ignorance can cause a country to repeat the same mistake twice,” stated Blair. “However, remembering too much history, and understanding too little of the difference between the past and the present can conjure up false historical analogies, restrict a country’s ability to make progress, and cause it to miss opportunities for positive change.”

Concerned that South Korea and Japan are missing an opportunity for positive change, Bruce Klingner, senior fellow for Northeast Asia at The Heritage Foundation, noted particular steps the two countries could take to achieve reconciliation.

For Japan, Klingner recommended establishing a workable reconciliation process, issuing new statements (similar to the Kono and Murayama statements), admitting responsibility for past transgressions, and pledging that Japanese prime ministers will not revisit Yasakuni. For South Korea, he recommended a policy of trustpolitik, a policy that recognizes impending security concerns and initiates reconciliation between the two countries. He also recommended that South Korea host a bilateral summit if the previous objectives are met.

Victor Cha, senior adviser and Korea Chair at Center for Strategic and International Studies, agreed that high-level diplomatic exchanges between Japan and Korea should not be put on hold due to history issues. He further asserted that Korean officials should be willing to meet with Prime Minister Abe on the sidelines of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly meeting in September.

“Those who dwell solely on the past are condemned to stay there.” said Evans Revere, senior advisor at the Albright Stonebridge Group. His warning rings true. If Japan and Korea are unable to establish reasonable standards for reconciliation, their relations are destined to stagnate, damaging both Japan and South Korea’s shared security and economic interests in the long-run.

The post Historical Tensions in Northeast Asia: An Obstacle to Improved Security and Policymaking in the Asia Pacific appeared first on Daily Signal.

Government to Farmers: Host Same-Sex Wedding or Pay a $13,000 Fine

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 16:07

Should the government be able to coerce a family farm into hosting a same-sex wedding?

In a free society, the answer is no. Family farms should be free to operate in accordance with the beliefs and values of their owners. Government shouldn’t be able to fine citizens for acting in the market according to their own—rather than the government’s—values, unless there is a compelling government interest being pursued in the least restrictive way possible.

But the New York State Division of Human Rights doesn’t see things this way. On August 8, it fined Cynthia and Robert Gifford $13,000 for acting on their belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman and thus declining to rent out their family farm for a same-sex wedding celebration. The Human Rights Commission ruled that “the nature and circumstances of the [Giffords’s] violation of the Human Rights Law also warrants a penalty.”

This is coercive big government run amok.

Here’s the back story. In 2012, Melissa Erwin and Jennie McCarthy contacted the Giffords to rent the family’s barn for their same-sex wedding ceremony and reception. Cynthia Gifford responded that she and her husband would have to decline their request as they felt they could not in good conscience host a same-sex wedding ceremony at their home. The Giffords live on the second and third floor of the barn and, when they host weddings on the first floor, they open part of the second floor as a bridal suite.

The Giffords have owned and operated Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, New York for over 25 years. Like many small farm families, they often open the farm to the public for events like berry picking, fall festivals, and pig racing.

Should the government be in the business of “re-educating” its citizens to change their moral beliefs?

They also open their home for weddings and receptions. When the Giffords host weddings, they are involved in every aspect of the wedding planning and celebration: they greet and drive guests in their farm trolley, decorate the barn, set up floral arrangements, arrange fireworks displays, and provide catering. As the Human Rights Commission ruling even points out, “the only wedding-related service Liberty Ridge Farm does not offer is providing the official for the wedding ceremony.”

As many brides know, planning a wedding requires hours of careful work to organize in order to pull off the celebration—hours during which family businesses operating venues like the Giffords’ actively participate in the weddings they host. The Giffords believe that as free citizens running a business, they should have the right to decline to participate in an event that does not reflect their values.

Unfortunately, New York’s Human Right’s law (Executive Law, art. 15) creates special privileges based on sexual orientation that trump the rights of business owners. Because the Giffords’ family farm is open to the public for business, New York classifies it as a “public accommodation” and then mandates that it not “discriminate” on the basis of sexual orientation.

Of course the Giffords were not engaging in any insidious discrimination—they were acting on their belief about the nature of marriage. They do not object to gay or lesbian customers attending the fall festivals, or going berry picking, or doing any of the other activities that the farm facilitates. The Giffords’ only objection is to being forced to abide by the government’s views on sexuality and host a same-sex wedding. The Human Rights Commission has now declared this historic belief about marriage to be “discrimination.”

The Giffords must pay a $1,500 mental anguish fine to each of the women and pay $10,000 in civil damages penalty to New York State. If they can’t pay in 60 days, a nine percent interest rate will be added to that total. Like Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Giffords must also institute anti-discrimination re-education classes and procedures for their staff.

The question before all citizens is whether this law and this fine are just. Should the government be able to force family businesses to betray their consciences and participate in ceremonies that violate their beliefs? Should the government be in the business of “rehabilitating” consciences or “re-educating” its citizens to change their moral beliefs about the definition of marriage?

Government should not create special legal privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Instead, government should protect the rights of Americans and the associations they form to act in the public square in accordance with their beliefs. The Giffords’ case illustrates the growing conflict between religious liberty rights and laws that grant special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In a nation founded on limited government and religious freedom, government should not attempt to coerce any citizen, association, or business into celebrating same-sex relationships.

The post Government to Farmers: Host Same-Sex Wedding or Pay a $13,000 Fine appeared first on Daily Signal.

Nuclear Weapons: What Is the NDP Missing?

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 15:02

The bipartisan National Defense Panel (NDP) provided a well-articulated argument for the types of forces the U.S. needs to meet its national security demands. However, the panel comes up short when it comes to making a case for U.S. nuclear weapons.

Granted, the panel’s task wasn’t to articulate what the U.S. strategic posture should be. As its distinguished members sum up, “Our panel did not have the time or scope to study the nuclear force modernization issue, but we understand its importance.”

However, the panel recognizes the importance of credible nuclear forces that play “a cornerstone in broader U.S. defense strategy” vis-à-vis an uncertain strategic environment where nuclear-related technologies and capabilities are spreading. It also recognizes the importance of strategic forces modernization considering that “the United States faces the looming obsolescence of the suite of nuclear forces procured in the latter half of the Cold War.”

The panel asserts that the U.S. nuclear triad—bombers, intercontinental-range ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles—“under current budget constraints is unaffordable.” This is a case of the budget driving strategic considerations. Nuclear forces recapitalization is a fairly miniscule part of the U.S. defense budget. Currently, the U.S. spends about 2 percent of its defense budget on nuclear forces. This percentage will increase to about 4 percent of the budget at the peak of new systems’ recapitalization.

It is clear that the nation cannot solve its fiscal woes on the back of the nuclear budget (or the defense budget, for that matter). The panel estimates recapitalization at between $600 billion and $1 trillion over a 30-year period, but this estimate is problematic because the bombers and the nuclear weapons complex and command and control have conventional and nuclear purposes. The U.S. nuclear weapons complex even serves civilian purposes and is responsible for the dismantlement of U.S. nuclear warheads.

The panel strongly states that any future nuclear posture “should be at least as capable in terms of its relevant attributes (such as survivability, flexibility, controllability and discrimination, and penetration capability) as the current posture.” The U.S. nuclear triad is the only configuration that offers such attributes at the levels required by assurance and extended deterrence. Absent U.S. nuclear security guarantees, other nations—especially those facing hostile nuclear-armed adversaries—will be more compelled to develop their own nuclear weapon capabilities.

U.S. nuclear weapons make a critical contribution to the security of the nation and its allies. They are meant to prevent a large-scale conflict and nuclear exchanges, which they have done marvelously since the dawn of the nuclear age. U.S. adversaries are dangerous, and the nation cannot afford to let go of its national security capabilities, a notion that the panel strongly endorses.

The post Nuclear Weapons: What Is the NDP Missing? appeared first on Daily Signal.

Japan in a Virtuous Cycle to Nowhere

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 14:54

Preliminary data from Japan show a 6.8 percent drop in quarterly gross domestic product.

Although a drop in consumption was expected after Tokyo raised the consumption tax rate from 5 percent to 8 percent in April, the decrease is more than experts had expected. And while the government of Japan sees increasing the consumption tax rate as one way to tackle its mountainous public debt, counterproductive quantitative and qualitative easing (QQE) may not be what’s best for Japan or Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Some of the largest decreases were in domestic demand, with private and household consumption down over 18 percent each. Both imports and exports were down, despite the Bank of Japan’s continuous QQE bond buying of 6 trillion to 8 trillion yen per month and the value of the yen down to the equivalent of what it was during the 2008 financial crisis. Government consumption was the only indicator with positive growth.

In 1997, the government of Japan increased the consumption tax from 3 percent to 5 percent. Japan ended up in falling into recession afterwards with little to no growth in private consumption. Nominal spending is already lower that it was in 1997.

The validity of Abe and the Bank of Japan’s “virtuous cycle” of increasing inflation in the hope of increasing economic output has become more of a concern. Inflation continues to increase while real wages continue falling, running 3.8percent lower in May than a year earlier.

Abe will decide sometime in December whether he will continue with the planned consumption tax increase of 8 percent to 10 percent in 2015. Much of the decision will rest on the third-quarter report of July to September, which is to be released in November. But because the decline was so severe in the second quarter, any growth in the third quarter may be used as an excuse to continue with the tax increase and QQE. A recent poll showed 75 percent of residents oppose the next consumption tax increase.

Recent research has shown an increase in taxes is more damaging to an economy than cutting spending.

Abe’s approval ratinghas been slowly falling, making it harder (if not nearly impossible) for him to pass meaningful structural reform highlighted in his “third arrow.” Abe should focus less on herding Japan’s animal spirits with monetary and fiscal policy and, while his approval rating is still strong, take on bigger tasks such as seeking more foreign investment in Japan by increasing domestic competition, continuing to push for a meaningful Trans-Pacific Partnership, and opening up Japan’s workforce to more women and immigrants.

The post Japan in a Virtuous Cycle to Nowhere appeared first on Daily Signal.

Why the White House Is Now Trying to Be Besties with Big Business

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 14:24

Ready for a backroom deal brokered by the White House?

White House officials met Monday with business leaders and interest groups to talk about executive actions President Obama should consider on immigration, per press reports. Instead of working to secure the southern border, the White House appears to be looking to obtain allies for its administrative amnesty approach that is unjust, costly, and will increase illegal immigration.

Unfortunately, government and big business collusion is nothing new. We’ve seen them team up to support the Export-Import Bank and back a nearly 1,000 page comprehensive immigration bill that purported to have something for everyone.

So what opportunities are up for grabs on immigration? The president will likely insist on an administrative amnesty for perhaps as many as five million illegal immigrants. According to Politico, business leaders and interest groups are advocating for measures that include “allowing spouses of workers with high-tech visas to work, recapturing green cards that go unused, and making technical changes for dual-purpose visa applications.” The implication is that if the White House gives them some of these goodies, they will support Obama’s inappropriate administrative amnesty.

Lost in the conversation are those who lose out or who aren’t shown the same favoritism as the involved players, such as the American taxpayer who has to foot the bill for illegal immigration. Legal immigrants and those waiting patiently in line to immigrate from abroad legally also will lose

Other business interests are being left out, too. For example, as Politico mentions, representatives of the construction industry would like their slice of the pie by incorporating a low-skilled worker provision into any executive action agreement.

This semi-comprehensive approach is frustrating the left. “All bets are off” for broader immigration reform if Obama continues down this road, said Tamar Jacoby of Immigration Works USA, a pro-immigration reform group,adding that “Obama will poison the well” if he continues excluding their members—many of which are builders and contractors—from private discussions and neglecting to include their own carve outs in Obama’s final orders.

With similar negative responses from other groups, it’s easy to see why the administration continues to communicate that everything is still up for consideration

So why is Obama pursuing this partnership with Big Business?

For the administration, such a partnership would help blunt criticism. Instead of faithfully enforcing our immigration laws, the administration has gone out of its way to undermine them, making promises to supporters of amnesty that Obama will do everything within his power to address immigration through executive action.


Unfortunately for them, a recent CNN poll indicates that 45 percent of Americans believe Obama has gone far enough with executive action, leaving one to believe that handling the immigration issue unilaterally may prove unpopular.

As the New York Times points out, the administration is “essentially making policy from the White House, replacing congressional hearings and floor debates with closed meetings for invited constituents.” This “go-it-alone” approach is a far cry from an administration that “claims to be the most transparent in United States history.”

With the November elections quickly approaching, the Obama administration is likely trying to both appease its supporters and also be able to show. a collective front from business. So instead of focusing to secure the border and properly address the crisis of young accompanied minors, the White House appears to be pursuing business as usual in Washington—something we have unfortunately grown to expect.

The post Why the White House Is Now Trying to Be Besties with Big Business appeared first on Daily Signal.

Poll: Teachers, Public Sour on Common Core Education Standards

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 13:14

Public support for the national education standards known as Common Core is falling, though a slight majority remains in favor, a new poll finds.  Less than half of teachers surveyed back Common Core, however.

The poll by Education Next, a journal from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, found that public support for the Common Core standards in reading and math dropped from 65 percent last year to 53 percent now.

Opposition to the education standards doubled, from 13 percent to 26 percent.

The number of teachers who oppose Common Core plummeted: Last year, 76 percent of teachers supported the national standards, with 12 percent opposed. Today, 46 percent of public school teachers say they support Common Core, with  40 percent opposed.

The results are based on a nationally representative, stratified sample of adults 18 and older, as well as representative oversamples of three subgroups: teachers, blacks, and Hispanics.

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers developed Common Core in 2009.

Brittany Corona, an education expert at the Institute for Family, Community and Opportunity at The Heritage Foundation, says state officials were “enticed” to adopt the national education standards through stimulus funding and waivers from provisions of the No Child Left Behind law.

Last year, a Gallup poll found that most Americans had no idea what the national standards even were, although Common Core arguably is one of the most important education initiatives in decades.

A total of 45 states originally agreed to sign on to Common Core. Since the results came under public scrutiny, though, Indiana, Louisiana, South Carolina and Oklahoma have dropped out and reclaimed their authority to implement state standards that reflect the input of academic experts, teachers, and parents.

Other states have downgraded their involvement, and education experts predict Ohio will be the next to buck Common Core.

The post Poll: Teachers, Public Sour on Common Core Education Standards appeared first on Daily Signal.

Q&A: Is It Legal to Use the National Guard in Ferguson?

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 09:48

The decision by Gov. Jay Nixon, D-Mo., to deploy the National Guard to the troubled community of Ferguson has raised a lot of questions about these citizen soldier units. After serving with distinction numerous times in both Iraq and Afghanistan, units of the National Guard are well thought of as military fighting men. Can they also be helpful in situations like Ferguson? Here is some information to help increase understanding of these direct lineal descendants of the Minute Men.

Q: Why would the governor send the Missouri National Guard to Ferguson?

A: The National Guard have specialized training in crowd control and civil disturbances.   Additionally, the message that is sent by the presence of the military units generally have a sobering effect on crowds that police (local or state level) might not have. They are the governor’s “biggest stick” and the final resort.

Q: How is the National Guard different from the Active Duty Military?

A: The Active Duty (also called “Title 10” for the U.S. Code article that authorizes it) works for the Department of Defense all the time. They are full time military, funded by and commanded by the federal authorities. The National Guard are citizen soldiers (or airmen) who serve part time. They are normally funded by the state, and commanded by the governor through the state adjutant general. This status is called “State Active Duty.” They can also be federalized and call to federal active duty. In this status they are exactly the same as active duty troops, with the same rules and restrictions. There is also a status called “Title 32.” This status is a hybrid: the National Guard is still under the command of their governor and has the same authorities as State Active Duty, but is funded by the Department of Defense.

Q: Isn’t it illegal to use the military domestically?

A: This refers to Posse Comitatus Act, which only forbids the use of the federal military (the active duty units) for acting in a law enforcement role. The National Guard, when serving under the governor (in either State Active Duty or Title 32) specifically can support police in exactly this sort of situation. In Ferguson, the Missouri Guard is serving in their most common status, State Active Duty. They are therefore perfectly legal in the role of civil disorder control.

Q: Is the National Guard the right solution for maintaining control in Ferguson?

A: Only time will tell. The governor chose to remove the authority for policing the streets of Ferguson from local law enforcement. He first tried to use his state police. They also failed to deal with the situation adequately, and disorder continued. His next option was to call out and deploy the Guard. The entire nation hopes that this will work, the situation will begin to defuse itself and order will return to the suburbs of St. Louis.

The post Q&A: Is It Legal to Use the National Guard in Ferguson? appeared first on Daily Signal.

‘Big Green’ Lobby Wants to Cut 2 of 3 Forestry Branches

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 03:01

Pay your protection money. Do the secret handshake. And, kiss the ring.

Otherwise, forget having green activists attach their environmental seal of approval to the wood products harvested from your forest.

That’s essentially the message organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace will be in a position to transmit if the U.S. timber industry submits to a monopoly in forest certification, free market economists argue.

The “Big Green” lobby—mainly the organizations listed above plus the World Wildlife Fund, Rainforest Action Network, and a few others—wants a relatively new player to assume monopoly control of the market.

Pay your protection money. Do the secret handshake. And, kiss the ring.

Today, three share the action: the Sustainable Forest Initiative, seen as the closest to the forest industry of the three, the American Tree Forest System, and the new guys — the Forest Stewardship Council.

The concept of forest certification initially gained traction during the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when it was adopted as part of a “smart growth” strategy known as “sustainable development.”

If the Forest Stewardship Council takes over all forest certifications, it would mean higher prices, more jobs lost, and reduced economic output, according to a study last year from George Mason University’s EconoSTATS program.

The report compared Forest Stewardship Council  standards with those of the two other leading competitors. Since the Forest Stewardship Council uses two different standards—one for naturally formed forests and another for man-made plantations common in the South—the study took into account four methods.

The authors concentrated their case studies on forests in Arkansas, which accounts for about 14 percent of private forest lands in the South, and Oregon, which accounts for about 10 percent of those in the Pacific Northwest.

The study found the Forest Stewardship Council imposed far higher costs than did the Sustainable Forest Initiative or the American Tree Forest System.

In Oregon, it would result in the loss of more than 31,000 jobs and reduce annual severance taxes by more than $6 million. In Arkansas, it would reduce forest industry employment by up to 10,000 jobs and reduce annual severance taxes by more than $600,000.

“Part of the problem with the FSC is that it takes more property off the market so that it can’t be harvested,” Wayne Winegarden, an economist and contributing editor to EconoSTATS, said of the Forest Stewardship Council adding:

FSC is more restrictive than the other standards. This is why it’s always better to have a competitive regulatory scheme. If consumers decide that higher costs that come with the FSC are worthwhile, then that’s the direction they will go. But if not, then we have other alternative standards that can balance economic and environmental concerns.

A multilevel, prefab green home in Santa Monica, Calif., uses recycled materials and Forest Stewardship Council cedar. (Photo: Newscom)

Discrediting Competitors

Environmentalists devised forest certification to fight forest depletion in developing countries. The process, they say, assures consumers that wood products originate in “sustainably managed” forests. The three competing certifiers apply their “independent” standards to assess whether a company’s forest-management practices are worthy of certification.

The non-binding agreement that grew out of the 1992 UN Earth Summit, known as Agenda 21, promoted ecologically responsible methods of harvesting that were supposed to allow for economic development but avoid harmful levels of deforestation.

More than 31,000 jobs are at stake in Oregon and another 10,000 in Arkansas.

When the summit failed to produce any legally binding agreement on forest management, environmental groups stepped in to form a non-profit organization called the Forest Stewardship Council. The German-based organization, founded in 1993, now boasts more than 800 members.

Green groups with close ties to the Forest Stewardship Council have moved aggressively to discredit its competitors, especially the Sustainable Forest Initiative. The Dogwood Alliance, for example, organized campaigns against businesses that used SFI standards, including OfficeMax, Office Depot, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Staples.

Danna Smith, Dogwood’s executive director, holds a seat on the Forest Stewardship Council’s 15-member board of directors.

In 2009, a non-profit group called ForestEthics increased the stakes by filing complaints against the Sustainable Forest Initiative with the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Trade Commission. In the FTC complaint filed last year, ForestEthics accused SFI of violating the agency’s guidelines by “greenwashing” destructive forest practices.

Winegarden said:

The criticism of SFI is that it is too close to industry, and it is fine to make that argument. But the environmental groups that favor the FSC certification standard are closely tied in with the FSC and many are members. This is why it’s best not to have a monopoly in one direction or another. Let them compete with one another.

Despite pressure from environmentalists, the U.S. Forest Service has declined to endorse the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council over those of the Sustainable Forest Initiative and the American Tree Forest System.

What Consumers Demand

Corey Brinkema, president of the Forest Stewardship Council, told The Daily Signal that George Mason University’s EconoSTATS study is “deeply flawed.”

The FSCl, Brinkema said, is “a voluntary approach that is designed to use the market as a way to help forests, wildlife, and the people who depend on them for their livelihoods.”

He said interest groups that typically oppose government regulation now call on government to regulate green construction:

Consumers are demanding higher levels of environmental and social performance from business, and leading companies are responding.

FSC has another issue. It implements 38 standards around the world, many of them “interim” and not fully developed. U.S. timber companies would face far more stringent requirements than those of Brazil, Russia, and other nations.

Weingarden said this creates an incentive for U.S. customers to shop for timber abroad, where lower environmental standards mean lower costs:

The consumer who cares about the environment doesn’t know they are getting an inferior product from say, Russia, that also contributes to environmental degradation.

Ideally, suppliers should have the opportunity to substitute the Sustainable Forest Initiative’s standards, or those of  the American Tree Forest System.

But, the EconoSTATS study warns, environmental groups are trying to get into a position where they can block access to green markets  by green building certification program such as LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

An FSC-branded comb. (Photo: Forest Stewardship Council Facebook via Olivia Harmon)

Making the Connection

The Sierra Club, Greenpeace and the Earth Island Institute formed a joint initiative in April called Greenwash Action to promote LEED standards for building energy efficiency and to attack Green Globes, which offers an alternative assessment program.

The U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit based in Washington, D.C., developed the rating system used by LEED as a way to advance “sustainability” in building projects.

The Green Building Council counts more than 4,000 LEED-certified government buildings and another 8,000 registered projects. LEED has been accused of offering green points in exchange for accommodating design adjustments that do little to protect the environment. Builders can secure LEED approval “through simple purchasing decisions” that “sidestep labor-intensive options,” a report in USA Today said.

Green activists are connected to LEED as well as to the Forest Stewardship Council.

For starters, Greenwash Action Executive Director Jason Grant is identified as an accredited LEED professional. His company, Jason Grant Consulting, promotes Forest Stewardship Council products in the green building market, according to the Green Building Council.

Another well-connected figure is Denis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation and chairman of Earth Day Network.

“Greenwashing is a major impediment to environmental progress on climate, forests, toxics, and many other problem areas,” Hayes has said. “I have been tracking Greenwash Action since its conception, and I believe this is the right initiative at the right time.”

The Bullitt Foundation has made grants to the Forest Stewardship Council since 1993, Hayes said in media interviews.

So far, though, the Forest Service hasn’t given a nod to the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council and brushed off those of the Sustainable Forest Initiative and the American Tree Forest System.

Urging Awareness

Timothy H. Lee, senior vice president of legal and public affairs at the Center for Individual Freedom, hopes it stays that way.

Lee told The Daily Signal that Greenwash Action has demonstrated a “willingness to misinform environmental stakeholders and the general public” in pursuit of an “extremist agenda.”

Greenwash Action may present itself as a disinterested party, he said, but the facts show the organization is an advocate for LEED and a monopoly for Forest Stewardship Council wood products.

He said Grant, executive director of Greenwash Action,  “has made a living providing consulting services for businesses attempting to get FSC and LEED certification.”

The participation of other building certification programs would mean “more competition for certified wood, and in turn a smaller market share for FSC timber and LEED projects,” Lee said:

 That would obviously run contrary to the interest of his clients, so it’s unsurprising to witness him promoting the mission of Greenwash Action.

Other board members of Greenwash Action hold, or have held, official positions with LEED and the Green Building Council, Lee said, and that does not inspire confidence:

Greenwash Action’s supporters spread misleading information about sustainable forestry practices, work to block competition in building markets and have direct financial ties to the causes they support. But the more people become aware of these facts, the better the chances of an informed debate about developing policies that benefit more than just those in positions of authority who possess a vested financial stake in the green cause they advocate.

The post ‘Big Green’ Lobby Wants to Cut 2 of 3 Forestry Branches appeared first on Daily Signal.

Local Law Enforcement Defend Use of Armored Military Vehicles

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 03:01

Amid heightened attention about the militarization of police, law enforcement agencies across Mississippi are continuing to stock up on military-grade armored vehicles from federal surplus.

Two sheriffs in Mississippi who are beefing up their vehicle fleets with armored vehicles say they’re doing so to protect officers and save tax dollars by acquiring the vehicles at little or no cost. They say the vehicles, designed to protect military troops from improvised explosive devices and mines, can shield their officers from even the most high-level threats.

“I know an MRAP is overkill for public law enforcement, but I know that I don’t have to worry about anything in Rankin County penetrating it,” said Sheriff Bryan Bailey, whose department has applied to receive one of the surplus Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles via the Department of Defense 1033 program.

>>> ‘Thunderstruck?’: Missouri Governor Helped Ferguson Get Surplus Military Equipment

DeSoto County in north Mississippi was the first in the state to receive a MRAP.

“I know an MRAP is overkill for public law enforcement,” acknowledges one sheriff.

DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco said the acquisition of the MRAP was a months-long process with the Defense Logistics Agency’s Law Enforcement Support Office. The office is the conduit by which law enforcement agencies can acquire surplus military equipment such as weapons, vehicles and even aircraft at little or no cost.

Taxpayers paid for the equipment when the military purchased it. Local taxpayers will pay for maintenance and fuel.

“We felt like this was a good way to get a vehicle of this caliber that’d benefit our department,” Rasco said. “Whatever we can do to protect our men, that’s what we’re going to do.”

>>> Rand Paul: ‘Big Government Has Been at the Heart of the Problem’ in Ferguson

Bailey said his department’s desire for an MRAP is to protect his deputies and save the county money instead of buying an armored vehicle commercially. Bailey said the MRAP would be used in a few scenarios, such as hostage or officer-down situations.

“There have been numerous incidents where people were threatening suicide and a vehicle like this could help us get an officer close enough to talk them out of it,” Bailey said. “I could pull right up to the house with this and not worry about my officers’ safety.”

Read more on Watchdog.org.

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Want a Happy Marriage? Avoid These Three Behaviors

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 03:01

Whether you live happily ever after could have more to do with what happens before you say “I do,” than people may realize

What men and women do in their single lives makes a difference in their marriages down the road, according to a study released Tuesday by the National Marriage Project. Those with more sexual experience, who have cohabited with others prior to marriage, and who are raising children from previous relationships all tend to have lower quality marriages.

Researchers Galena K. Rhoads and Scott M. Stanley found that both men and women who only had sex with the person they married reported higher marital quality. However, on average, people had five sexual partners before tying the knot.

>>> Read National Marriage Project director W. Bradford’s Wilcox’s essay, “As Marriage Goes, So Goes the American Dream” in the the 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity.

When a couple first has sex in their relationship also affects marital satisfaction. Married couples who began their relationship as a “hook up” reported lower marital quality. Other studies show similar findings: couples who become sexually involved early on in their relationships tend to have lower relationship quality later when it comes to communication, stability, satisfaction, and sexual intimacy.

Living together unmarried, or “cohabitation,” also matters. Those who had ever cohabited with someone other than their future spouse reported lower marital quality. But even those who had cohabitated with their spouse before making a commitment to marriage reported lower marital quality.

Why is cohabitation before a commitment to marriage linked with lower marital quality? Cohabitation may make it harder to end a poor relationship, say the researchers. Couples may be more likely to “slide” into marriage rather than make a deliberate decision. “Living together creates a kind of inertia that makes it difficult to change course,” the researchers note.

Raising children from a prior relationship also takes a toll on marriages, at least for women. Only 25 percent of women who had a child from a previous relationship reported high marital quality, compared to 43 percent of women without a child from a previous relationship.

Interestingly, the wedding itself also mattered. Couples who had a formal wedding and those who had more guests at their wedding reported happier and more stable marriages. The researchers attribute this finding to two factors: symbolic commitment and community support. A wedding symbolizes public commitment of a decision and may strengthen commitment to that choice. And having more friends and family who witness that commitment may likewise help increase that commitment. A greater social network supporting the couple may also contribute to the connection between more guests and higher marital quality.

Marital quality matters not only for adults’ happiness, but also children’s wellbeing. Children do best when raised by their married, biological parents in a healthy marriage. Marital breakdown is costly for everyone involved and for society as a whole.

Most young adults say a successful marriage and family is very important to them. As this report shows, however, the road to marriage today is often paved with experiences that may not make for the highest quality marriages. The good news is that this doesn’t have to be the case. Rebuilding a culture of marriage is crucial to helping people achieve their dreams of a happy marriage and family life and for building the foundation of a strong society.

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