MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
The chief justice releases his annual report on the judiciary. And the Supreme Court considers the nature of government agreements.
BREYER: It says “shall pay.” If you climb the pole, we’ll pay. They climbed the pole. Pay!
NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Legal Docket.
Also the Monday Moneybeat: new tensions with Iran stop the stock market’s big winning streak.
Plus, the WORLD Radio History Book. Eighty years ago this week, Great Britain begins rationing food due to war.
AUDIO: I do have to give a lot more thought to house keeping problems than I did before the war. That’s no easy job.
And about those tweets listing your accomplishments of the past decade—Megan Basham has some thoughts on that.
REICHARD: It’s Monday, January 6th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
REICHARD: Up next, Kent Covington with today’s news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: U.S.-Iran tensions continue to increase » AUDIO: [Sound of Iran parliament]
Members of Iran’s Parliament chanting “death to America” in the wake of a U.S. airstrike that took out the country’s top military commander.
Iran has vowed to take revenge, and on Sunday Iranian leaders said the country would no longer abide by any limits in the 2015 nuclear deal.
The airstrike killed General Qassem Soleimani, the man who coordinated Iran’s proxy wars across the Middle East. The Pentagon said he gave the green light for an Iran-backed militia to attack the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on New Year’s Eve.
The U.S. said there was plenty of American blood on Soleimani’s hands to warrant the action. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News Sunday…
POMPEO: We need to look no further than what he had personally done over the days before that when one American was killed on December 27th. There’s no surprise. There’s plenty of public evidence about the bad behavior of Qassem Soleimani. He was a designated terrorist, and we did the right thing.
Democrats in Washington are furious that the president did not consult any Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill before authorizing the strike. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Congress must assert its authority.
SCHUMER: We do not need this president either bumbling or impulsively getting us into a major war.
Meantime, some lawmakers in Iraq are also furious. Iraq’s Parliament voted on Sunday to call for U.S. forces to be expelled from the country. The majority of the 180 lawmakers present for the vote backed the measure—many were Shiite members. But nearly half of Iraq’s Council of Representatives abstained, including Sunnis and Kurds, who are thought to oppose the measure.
The resolution is non-binding, but Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has voiced support for resolution, saying the U.S. attack that killed Soleimani violated Iraq’s sovereignty.
Al-Shabab attacks U.S., Kenyan counterterrorism forces » Al-Shabab extremists overran a military base used by U.S. counter-terrorism forces in Kenya on Sunday killing three Americans.
One service member and two Defense Department contractors died in the attack which also destroyed several U.S. vehicles and aircraft. A large plume of black smoke rose above the airfield Sunday and residents said a car bomb had exploded.
Al-Shabab quickly claimed responsibility. The Kenyan government said security forces killed five attackers and authorities have arrested five other suspects.
There is no known link between al-Shabab and Iran.
At least 5 dead, 60 injured in crash involving passenger bus » A deadly crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike Sunday killed five people and hospitalized 60 others.
The crash occurred in the early morning hours roughly 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
Pennsylvania state trooper Stephen Limani said the bus was traveling on a downhill grade…
LIMANI: And the bus was unable to negotiate a corner. That bus went up an embankment, rolled over and then was subsequently struck by two tractor trailers. Another tractor trailer came and collided with those tractor trailers. And there was another passenger car that was also involved in this crash.
Photos from the scene show the passenger bus on its side next to twisted tractor trailers, including a mangled FedEx trailer with packages spilling onto the highway.
United Methodist Church announces church split proposal » United Methodist Church leaders from around the world have unveiled a plan to split the church and form a new denomination. The plan stems from a longstanding dispute over same-sex marriage and gay clergy.
A 16-member panel began working with a mediator in October and signed off on the plan last month.
The proposal would create a “traditionalist Methodist” denomination. The new denomination would receive $25 million, and member churches would retain their assets.
The next step could come at the church’s General Conference in May.
Court agrees to keep TX baby on life support » A Texas appeals court has delayed a judge’s ruling that allowed a hospital to remove an 11-month-old girl from life support.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Fort Worth ordered Cook Children’s Medical Center to keep Tinslee Lewis alive until it can make a final ruling in an appeal brought by the mother, Trinity Lewis.
Hospital spokeswoman Wini King said doctors are convinced there’s nothing more they can do for Tinslee.
KING: She is in pain. She is sedated. She is paralyzed. She can’t move, and we’re trying to keep her as quiet as we can so that she doesn’t get any worse. We’re doing things to her, not for her.
Tinslee was born prematurely in February with a heart defect and other severe ailments and has never left the hospital.
But Trinity Lewis said she should be the one to decide whether to remove her from life support. She says her daughter sometimes smiles and squeezes her hand, though doctors contend those actions are not purposeful.
The court has not yet scheduled a hearing in the case.
I’m Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: the Supreme Court considers a dispute between the government and health insurers.
Plus, the beginning of the War on Poverty.
This is The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: It’s Monday morning and a fresh start to the work week for The World and Everything in It. Today is the 6th of January, 2020. Good morning to you, I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Well, it’s time for Legal Docket. Every year, the nation’s top jurist submits an annual report. And on December 31st, Chief Justice John Roberts did just that.
It’s just seven pages long and—dare I say?—fun to read.
Part of it is statistics about the workload in the court system.
I’ll mention just a few numbers from the three levels of courts in the federal system.
For the 12-month period ending in September, the total number of cases filed at the Supreme Court was close to 6,500, and the number represents about a 2 percent increase over the prior term.
The federal courts of appeals saw a 2 percent decrease in filings, at just shy of 50,000. And at the federal district court level—the lowest court level in the federal system where the vast majority of disputes are handled—the number of civil cases went up 5 percent, and landed just shy of 300,000 filings.
Criminal cases also went up 6 percent, ending up just under 100,000.
Lots of other numbers to consider in the report.
But the chief justice as per usual focused on a broader topic of concern to all of us.
He starts out with a rollicking tale from three of the Founders who wrote the Federalist Papers.
You’ve heard of one of them a lot in contemporary culture, thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stage production.
MIRANDA: Put a pencil to his temple, connected it to his brain and he wrote his first refrain, a testament to his pain. Well, the word got around. They said this kid is insane, man! Took up a collection just to send him to the mainland. Get your education, don’t forget from whence you came and the world is gonna know your name. What’s your name, man?
That was Miranda back in 2009 at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word.
EICHER: So, Hamilton was one who helped write the Federalist Papers. James Madison and John Jay were the others.
Chief Justice Roberts pointed out that of the 85 essays in the Federalist Papers, Jay penned only 5. Madison and Hamilton wrote the rest. The chief called these writings “America’s greatest civics lesson.”
I think we should stress that Jay wasn’t lazy. Far from it.
The reason he wrote relatively few may have been related to the rumor published in the local papers. Apparently, the papers reported, medical students were robbing graves for cadavers to practice operating on and dissect. A furious mob stormed the hospital and Jay, who lived nearby, went to help put down the riot. In all the tumult, someone threw a rock and injured Jay. It took him a while to recover.
REICHARD: The chief quipped that perhaps if Jay could’ve been more productive he might’ve gotten his own Broadway musical!
Humor aside, Roberts connected the newspaper rumor to the mob and our modern-day social media that spreads rumors faster than ever. What we need now to counter that, he wrote, is vigorous civics education. We need to once again, like the authors of the Federalist Papers, teach the virtues of the Constitution. A document that leaves no place for mob violence. And the chief justice lauded efforts against taking democracy for granted.
EICHER: If you want to read the year-end report by Chief Justice Roberts, we’ll put a link in the transcript, and that’s available at worldandeverything.org.
Well, on to an oral argument heard last month at the Supreme Court. It’s a familiar topic at the court: the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
This time, though, it’s not a direct challenge to undo Obamacare. This case has to do with government promises to insurance companies.
The stated aim of Obamacare was to insure people who weren’t insured. But insurance companies were reluctant to do that, and for rational economic reasons: insurers set premiums based on data. They predict future outlays and then set premiums to cover those accidents and injuries and illnesses for which people buy insurance.
But there is no such dataset for people who never bothered to buy insurance or were deemed uninsurable, for whatever reason.
REICHARD: So the government set about to entice insurers to cover these people anyway. The government would offset losses to insurers for plans sold on the individual insurance exchanges.
So for three years, this deal would protect insurers from catastrophic loss until they had enough data to set reasonable premiums.
It worked like this: If insurers set premiums too high, the insurers then fork over a portion of the profits to the government. And if insurers set premiums too low relative to the losses actually incurred, the government would reimburse.
Problem is, the government didn’t hold up its end of the deal.
So the insurance companies sued.
They hired former Solicitor General Paul Clement to argue their case. He starts with his typical catchy phrasing:
CLEMENT: This case involves a massive government bait-and-switch and the fundamental question of whether the government has to keep its word after its money-mandating promises have induced reliance.
Clement highlighted the plain text of Obamacare: it says the government “shall pay” part of the costs that insurers lost. Nothing equivocal about it; not “might pay” or “subject to something else.”
But the government argues that it can’t pay what it doesn’t have. Its argument is that Congress has to appropriate funds, and it didn’t. During the 2014 budget negotiations, lawmakers included a provision (called a “rider”) that prevented the government from making the payouts. (That whole process of course infused with lots of partisan politics.)
Lawyer for the government, Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler, argued everybody knows government payments depend on government appropriating the money.
KNEEDLER: … the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution is central to this case. This court has described it as a straightforward and explicit command …That command is a central feature of the separation of powers under the Constitution, and it’s reinforced by the requirement that appropriations bills originate in the House of Representatives, which was designed to ensure that the representatives of the people would have and would jealously guard the power of the purse.
Besides, Kneedler argued insurers were pursuing a new market and using incentives to do it for their own business advantage.
But Kneedler got swift pushback from opposite ideological sides of the bench. Justice Stephen Breyer, a liberal, hearkened right back to year one of studying contracts in law school.
BREYER: Day one of contracts. Jack Dawson. I say to you: My hat’s on the flagpole. If you bring it down, I’ll pay you $10. You bring it down. I owe you $10. Now how does this differ? And why does the government not have to pay its contracts, just like anybody else? And that’s—is there some language? I guess they could pass a statute and say we won’t pay our contract. Okay? Then you have to follow the statute, until—unless the court sets it aside. They didn’t say that.
Then Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a conservative, got down to brass tacks.
Lots of federal laws say the government “shall pay” subject to something else, but the ACA didn’t say it that way. So he wanted to get Kneedler’s understanding of how all this works:
KAVANAUGH: So is every congressional promise to pay therefore subject to an implicit appropriation, subject to an appropriations caveat?
KNEEDLER: I believe that by and large that is correct, yes.
Justice Elena Kagan noted the lopsided nature of this “deal.”
KAGAN: Are insurers obligated to pay in if they have excess profits?
KNEEDLER: Yes, it is a user fee.
KAGAN: So this is one where the “shall pay in” is obligatory, but the “shall pay out” on the part of the government is not obligatory?
KNEEDLER: The pay in is not an appropriations question. It is an obligation. And the reciprocity in the program still exists, the payments in and payments out, which is how I think most—
KAGAN: I mean, you pay in, that’s obligatory. We commit ourselves to paying out, it turns out, if we feel like it. What kind of a statute is that?
KNEEDLER: I don’t think that’s a fair characterization…
Still the insurance companies’ lawyer Clement got some hard questions, too. Listen to this from Chief Justice Roberts:
ROBERTS: You make a case at some length about the reliance of the insurance companies. They were basically seduced into this program. But they have good lawyers and the Constitution says no money shall come out of the treasury except pursuant to an appropriations clause. And I would have thought at some point they would have sat down and said well why don’t we insist upon an appropriations provision before we put ourselves on the hook for $12 billion?
Clement agreed the insurance companies’ lawyers are very good, and they’d found plenty of Supreme Court precedent to form a conclusion. And that is, that Congress can open the purse in many ways other than by specific appropriation.
But Kneedler argued that to obligate the federal government like this goes too far.
KNEEDLER: And that would impose unprecedented liability on the United States of billions of dollars. Nothing in Section 1342 requires that extraordinary result.
Confession: I laughed out loud at the prospect of the federal government worrying about spending too much money, given that Washington adds a trillion dollars of debt per year on top of the 20-trillion-plus we’ve already racked up. Money, money, money … but I digress.
I think this one leans heavily in favor of the insurance companies, based on questions asked, which I know is a risky proposition upon which to conjecture.
But for the Supreme Court to have taken the case in the first place also leans in favor of the insurers. After all, the court could have just let the lower court rulings against the insurers stand and left it alone.
Options for the justices include somehow limiting how much money the insurers get reimbursed, such as only for certain years.
That, based on the theory that as the program aged, the insurers could gather solid data on how to set premiums and not lose money.
And that’s this week’s Legal Docket.
MARY REICHARD: Coming next on The World and Everything in It, the Monday Moneybeat.
NICK EICHER: Well, even if the Western world cheered the death of a terrorist mastermind, it was a cause for concern on Wall Street, at least the prospect that Iran wouldn’t let it go by without retaliation. The stock market snapped a five-week winning streak for the Standard & Poor’s 500, with losses on Friday wiping out another holiday-shortened week’s worth of gains—just 24 hours after all the major indexes once again hit new record highs.
The price of oil shot up more than 3 percent on Friday, driven by concern about a disruption in global supply if a new war should break out. Another concern is the likelihood of a cyber terror attack. Back in 2012 and 2013, after the United States sanctioned Iran, Iranian hackers launched denial-of-service attacks that shut down financial websites, including Bank of America, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Nasdaq.
REICHARD: Consumer confidence remains at historic high levels. But it did slip back a bit in December, according to an index by the economic think tank The Conference Board. Confidence dropped slightly in December two-tenths of a percent, to 126.5 from 126.8.
So what does that really mean? Here’s a baseline. The index goes back to 1967, and it hit an even “100” in the year 1985, the year President Reagan was beginning his second term. So any number above 100 is better than Reagan and below that, of course, worse.
For comparison, the highest consumer confidence measured was 144.7, right at about the end of the Clinton presidency. The lowest was after the financial crisis of 2007 when consumer confidence hit just 25.3.
So that puts December’s 126.5 in context.
EICHER: Here are reports from three key sectors in the economy: car sales, down a little bit; home sales, up a lot; and manufacturing, way down, about as bad now as it was in June 2009, around the depth of the financial crisis and recession.
First, the auto industry. It recorded a little more than 1 percent fewer sales in 2019 than the previous year, but unit sales did exceed 17 million vehicles.
REICHARD: On home sales: The National Association of Realtors measure of purchase-contracts-signed went up more than 1 percent in November. Year-on-year, home sales are up almost 7-and-a-half percent.
Also, new building permits hit the highest level in more than a decade. That’s a sign the building boom will continue into 2020.
EICHER: We’ll end on a downer, manufacturing: The Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index was at just a little over 47 for December, down from more than 48 November. That December figure is the lowest since June 2009.
A 50 on that index is the dividing line: above it indicates manufacturing growth and below it indicates contraction. Manufacturing has been in contraction since August. The weak global economy and trade disputes have had a big negative effect.
And that is today’s Monday Moneybeat.
NICK EICHER: It’s easy to capture special moments in life on video these days, thanks to cell phone cameras.
But sometimes things don’t go quite as you might expect. Especially when you’re using someone else’s phone.
Take Susan Griego. Her future son-in-law, Benjamin Bacon, asked her to record daughter Amber’s reaction as he prepared to pop the question.
They gathered at one of the couple’s favorite spots at the Albuquerque zoo. Mrs. Gray-go told her daughter she just wanted to snap a few pictures of them in front of the penguins. Amber was none the wiser.
But as she told KOB tv—that’s when the plan went off the rails.
SUSAN: My camera phone wasn’t working well enough, so I said oh let me have your phone, Amber, and I’ll take some film. I can’t figure out how to work it!
The good news is, she figured it out and successfully recorded the reaction!
Except Susan recorded her own reaction.
She recorded the big moment in selfie mode, capturing her own elation instead of her daughter’s.
But Amber said the goof only made the event even more memorable.
AMBER: I feel like that’s kind of our relationship, that’s something wacky and random, so it’s the perfect start to this.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: Today is Monday, January 6th. This is The World and Everything in It. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next: the WORLD Radio History Book.
Today, a declaration of war—on poverty, that is.
Plus, the start of food rationing in Britain during World War II.
EICHER: But first, an American pilot sets two world records with one adventurous flight. Here’s Paul Butler.
PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin today on January 11th, 1935.
NEWSREEL: Roaring into the Oakland Airport, she brings to a triumphant finish the 2,400 mile hop from Hawaii after 18 hours in the air. 10,000 cheer the end of the epical flight as the Lady Lindy slides into a perfect landing.
Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly over the Pacific Ocean, and the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California. As she climbs out of the cockpit a well-wisher hands her a large bouquet of roses. A reporter asks her how it feels to successfully fly across both oceans:
NEWSREEL: Well, it was very interesting to me to fly in southern waters instead of the north. On the Atlantic flight, I had ice conditions, and general storm. On this flight, really no bad weather at all except a few little rain squalls.
Four months later, National Geographic publishes Earhart’s first-hand account of the flight. She writes that one of the most memorable moments occurred after dark. She says: “The night was a night of stars. They seemed to rise from the sea and hang outside my cockpit window, near enough to touch, until hours later they slipped away into the dawn.”
She closes her article predicting that regular air transport across both oceans was “inevitable, and will probably come sooner than most people suspect.” She was right. Pan American Airways began flying the Hawaii Clipper just one year later, and the world’s first transatlantic passenger service began in 1939.
GREENBRIAR BOYS – AMELIA EARHART’S LAST FLIGHT
Next, January 8th, 1940. Four months into the war with Germany, Great Britain introduces food rationing:
RATIONING FILM: Mr. W.S. Morrison is here to explain. Now that you’re receiving your ration books, he tells you what you should do now, and what you might have to do if the need should come. These little books may seem a little complicated at first…
Every British citizen is issued a ration booklet for use with a registered shopkeeper. Some items are rationed by weight:
RATIONING FILM: Two pounds of sugar…Half a pound of tea. Half a pound of butter. Three ounces of cheese for each person, a box of dried eggs, and finally, a full pound of bacon.
Other foods are rationed on a point system. Price controls guarantee universal access to limited food stores and help prevent price gouging.
RATIONING FILM: I do have to give a lot more thought to house keeping problems than I did before the war. The rations have to be evened out over the week. That’s no easy job…
Fruits and vegetables are never rationed, but are often in short supply. The government encourages Brits to grow their own produce in “Victory Gardens.” Food rationing continues for more than 14 years. Meat is the last item to be de-rationed in 1954.
And finally, January 8th, 1964. Just two months into his presidency, Lyndon B. Johnson delivers his State of the Union Address:
JOHNSON: This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.
Johnson says “poverty is a national problem” that requires federal legislation and government programs—but adds the fight must be organized on the state and local level if it’s to succeed.
JOHNSON: For the war against poverty will not be won here in Washington. It must be won in the field, in every private home, in every public office, from the courthouse to the White House.
Johnson wants to do more than just relieve what he calls the “symptom of poverty.” He says he wants to cure and prevent it.
JOHNSON: A world of peace and justice, and freedom, and abundance. For our time and for all time to come. (APPLAUSE)
Johnson’s speech successfully launches a slew of new federal programs and government departments. But 56 years later, the desired paradise has yet to arrive. The war against poverty rages on. Estimates of its cumulative price tag well exceed $15 trillion—and despite decades of campaign promises to the contrary, there’s no end in sight. Perhaps it’s time to try something else.
That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book. I’m Paul Butler.
NICK EICHER: Today is Monday, January 6th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Here’s WORLD’s Megan Basham with some thoughts on that Twitter trend of tweeting a list of all your accomplishments in the past decade.
MEGAN BASHAM, COMMENTATOR: The moment I saw the hashtag pop up on social media, I felt a little coal of irritation flare in my chest. The decade challenge.
Now, I’m not talking about the photo version—where you post two pictures side-by-side from 10 years apart. I’m talking about the one where people list things they accomplished between 2009 and 2019.
Though little of what my friends posted was news to me, seeing some of their achievements roll through my feed left me wanting to resurrect the ice bucket challenge and pour cold water all over the trend.
Two became contributors on network news programs. One became a nationally syndicated columnist. Others published best-selling books. Some did more than one of those things.
In contrast, I added two beautiful children to the world’s population—but, let’s be honest, even that accomplishment was only half mine. Professionally, the last 10 years found me pretty much treading water. Even moving backwards in some respects.
Suddenly that terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad hashtag had me making an opposite sort of list—of what I hadn’t accomplished. Those early career milestones I neglected to capitalize on. The goals I gave a great deal of effort to yet failed to achieve.
Finally, in a fit of pique, I half-jokingly posted my own #decadechallenge brag. “Look,” I groused, “I had some kids in the first few years, and they’re now moderately bigger and better educated!” Then, in all caps, “CAN’T THAT BE ENOUGH?”
It got a lot of likes, which made me feel a little better. But the truth was, nobody was telling me it wasn’t enough…except me.
In the quietness of my heart, there was more than a tinge of anger behind my humor. Not with these friends. But with God.
Because I’d spent the decade counseling myself with many of the same verses that had carried me, as a new believer, into blessings I would never have expected. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him.
But those steps that felt so firm and straight before 2009—when God was saying yes even to things I hadn’t thought to ask—began to feel wandering and timid when He started saying no. Or possibly, not yet.
He’s felt like a new kind of Lord in the last decade. That Lord has been asking me: Do you believe my promises when it’s not obvious that I’m blessing the work of your hands? Do you trust me when you cast bread on the water and after many days nothing has returned? Do you still believe I’m prospering you, when I choose to take away rather than give?
I’ll confess I’m still fighting to answer yes. Too often, my heart, like Peter’s in John 21, wants to ask, but what about that man, that woman?
He answers, what is that to you—whatever the next decade brings, you can know, in the light of eternity, it will have been for your good and my glory.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Megan Basham.
NICK EICHER: Tomorrow: U.S. lawmakers are calling for a review of the nation’s organ donation system. We’ll tell you why that is.
And, we’ll recommend a classic book to start off your 2020 reading resolutions.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
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