1889 Institute has been busy: Critical reports focus on attorney regs, state job skills, and Medicaid expansion
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Published: 07-Apr-2019


Oklahoma City – The 1889 Institute had a busy time in February and March, framing sate policy discusssions from a free-market, limited government perspective.
In widely-promulgated February report, “The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s Unchecked Abuse of Power in Attorney Regulation,” the Institute focused on the free speech issue over which Mark Schell, a Tulsa attorney, is suing the Oklahoma Bar Association.

That lawsuit, and 1889’s report, argue that requiring attorneys to be members of, and pay mandatory dues to, the Oklahoma Bar Association violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The strictures amount to forced speech because the Association uses some dues to advocate political positions many attorneys find objectionable.
The report identified another issue not being litigated, but that conservative and libertarian advocates contend should be urgently addressed. The publication contends the state High Court has violated the principle of the separation of powers, by commandeering legislative and executive powers, declaring for itself sole power to authorize and administer attorney licensing in Oklahoma. 

The Court declared, 1889 believes, it had the power to control all aspects of the practice of law in Oklahoma, not just practice before state courts. The other two branches did nothing to protect their usurped constitutional powers.

“My hope is that this lawsuit will spark a wider discussion and ultimately, more extensive reform in both how Oklahoma regulates attorneys and in how we select our judges,” said Ben Lepak, Legal Fellow at the 1889 Institute. “Judges and attorneys in Oklahoma are part of a system of regulation that violates the Oklahoma and U.S. Constitutions, undermining the Rule of Law.”.
Lepak continued, “The federal lawsuit is attempting to tackle one narrow aspect of the problem. That is a positive development, but far more fundamental reform is needed. If the state Supreme Court won’t act on its own to remedy these constitutional violations, the state legislature and governor should re-assert their authority and override the Court.”

Also in March, the 1889 Institute distributed to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations this study: “The Need for a Knowledge and Skills Audit of State Government Jobs.” It finds that state job postings often require, or express a preference for, levels of education for applicants that are greater than necessary.
Credential inflation (wherein employers demand credentials and degrees of applicants that require more formal education than is necessary to perform an advertised job) is a problem in the private sector as well as the public sector. 

Negative effects of credential inflation include 1) waste in gaining degrees to obtain jobs, 2) underuse of skills, 3) loss of opportunity for those without college degrees, and 4) higher personnel costs. Credential inflation is especially damaging in the public sector where the cost of inefficiencies str often passed on to taxpayers.
“In reading the state’s job postings, I can imagine the frustration of some, who have the experience and skills needed for the job described, but not the degree that is unnecessarily required,” said Dr. Byron Schlomach, one of the authors of the report and Director of the institute.

Credential inflation problem partly arises from outdated notions of what constitutes an education. Private companies offer specialized skills training and grant certifications and nano-degrees increasingly accepted as valid credentials, especially in high-tech.
“Many computer science degree requirements for state agency jobs are unnecessary. In fact, someone with a degree may have a lower level of job specific technical skills than someone with an alternative credential,” said Vance Fried, 1889 Institute Senior Fellow, and professor emeritus at Oklahoma State University.

In addition to a job and skills audit of state positions, the authors suggest that job skill requirements be evaluated for how much formal education is needed. Only if more than 60 hours of college education is required should a full degree be even mentioned as a preference, in the view of the report’s authors.

The 1889 Institute report garnering the most attention was likely “Obamacare Medicaid Expansion: Still a Bad Idea” asserting there are drawbacks for state expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
The analysis of possible Medicaid expansion pointed to three three broad issues. First, advocates exaggerate need but minimize fiscal risks. Second, Obamacare Medicaid expansion would only exacerbate the health care price spiral above general inflation. Third, while expansion would enrich the already-rich health industry, Oklahoma would be prevented from efficiently and effectively solving problems.

“What has always galled me about Obamacare is it was sold as a solution to high health care prices, but it doubled down on the very policies that caused the high prices in the first place,” said author Dr. Schlomach. He blamed poor incentives that arise when consumers rely on “third-party payers” to pay for services – Medicaid, Medicare, and health insurance – causing high health care prices.

The 1889 Institute’s publication (http://www.1889institute.org/health-care) refutes three main arguments of advocates for Medicaid expansion, disputing that more federal money will have a significant economic impact or that Oklahomans are truly paying taxes for other states’ expansions; disputing whether most hospitals need additional funds while acknowledging that there might be a need to help specific rural hospitals; and it disputing alleged benefits from expanded health coverage.

Schlomach argues that Obamacare Medicaid expansion would make Oklahomans more dependent than citizens of other states and that expansion risks larger cuts in education and other programs when the state suffers revenue shortfalls. The publication also posed what it called tough questions, including: Already consuming 1/7th of the economy, how much greater of a share does health care need? And, if all hospitals need financial help, why are so many constructing new facilities and expanding right now?

About the 1889 Institute: The 1889 Institute is an Oklahoma think tank committed to independent, principled state policy fostering limited and responsible government, free enterprise and a robust civil society. 

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