Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Bias Is Built Into Your Brain

There has been a lot of talk about racial bias in the media lately in the wake of the unfortunate events involving the police in Ferguson, MO and in New York City.  We continue to hear that the police have a racial bias and the "system" is stacked against African-Americans.

Of course, President Obama and the First Lady weighed in recently with their own experiences of racial discrimination bias. President Obama told the story of how he had been mistaken as a car valet while waiting for his own car outside a restaurant. Mrs. Obama told us how, when she was shopping incognito at a Target in Virginia in 2011, a lady asked for her help in taking something down from a high shelf. (By the way, Michelle Obama is 5'11"tall. Was she asked this question because she was black? Or just because she was tall?)

I don't want to diminish any of the feelings of the President or First Lady in these situations. There is no doubt in my mind that they have both had to deal with racial bias in their life. To argue anything else from my perspective as a white male would be ludicrous. I simply have not walked a mile (or a single step) in their shoes.

Bias exists all around us. Bias is built into your brain. We stereotype. We profile. We discriminate. What troubles me is that we seem to be incapable of accepting this fact of life. We can't change the bias in the brain. You can only affect the experience that creates the bias that gets built into your brain.

In fact, let me recount an experience that I had that was not much different than President Obama's valet experience. In the early 1990's I moved to New Jersey from Ohio and I had to get a new driver's license. I left work early one day and found the DMV office near Paramus, NJ. There was a mass of people standing in a variety of lines. As I tried to figure out which line to stand in on ( I quickly found out that in New Jersey that you stand "on line" rather than "in line" as I did in Ohio) I must have looked rather bewildered. As I was looking around trying to get my bearings in the chaos of that state agency office, another rather nervous looking young man came up to me and asked "if I was there for the chauffeur's exam?"

Why would this guy think I was at the DMV for the chauffeur's exam? After I politely told him I was not, I took a closer look at the crowd. Out of the hundred or so people in the DMV that day, he and I were the only two wearing a suit! It didn't matter that I was an attorney, CPA or anything else. He saw a suit and in his experience the most logical conclusion was that if you were wearing a suit at the DMV you wanted to drive someone around for hire. I was a victim of bias at the DMV!

The fact is that we all stereotype because all of our brains use shortcuts to make decisions. It is the way the brain is wired. These shortcut pathways make decision making easier. Our brain is a wondrous thing. A good portion of the calories we burn in a day go to fuel this enormous power plant. Therefore, the brain always tries to make decisions that use the least amount of effort and energy it can. These shortcuts are called heuristics.

It does not mean that the decisions based on these shortcuts are always right. But they have generally served the human species well for the most part because it helped us adapt and survive. We could make quicker and more efficient decisions even if we weren't right all the time.

For example, we learned early on that it was dangerous to go outside the cave at night because a higher percentage did not return as compared to when others left in daylight. We learned to avoid the plant with the funny looking berries. Uncle Abner made that mistake, may he rest in peace. Once we found a "safe" place we tended to stay there despite the fact that had we ventured over the hill we very well may have discovered an even better place.

If you are human you use heuristics, bias and stereotypes every day. If you don't know better you are going to start with a default position as you assess things. For example, if you are looking at a product you are not familiar with and you have two items to choose from, you are going to assume the expensive option is better. If you move to a new city and need to open a bank account, you are going to assume that the bank with 50 branches and the skyscraper downtown is better than the bank with one office. After all, if they got that big they must have done something right.

In both cases, a closer and detailed look may show you are totally wrong, but you will undoubtedly have an initial bias based on prior experience.  Your brain is not going to start from ground zero when there are already paths established previously to rely on. There is bias built into your brain based on your experiences since you were a baby.

Prior to the 1950's, Asians who lived in the United States were stereotyped as cheap, poor, uneducated laborers.  Products from Asia were derided as nothing more than cheap junk. That stereotype no longer exists. It literally has been turned on its head. Our actual experience has shown the prior generalization was wrong. It has been replaced with another stereotype that is also an overly broad generalization.

Today, students in high school and college cringe when they see Asian-Americans entering their classrooms on the first day of class. American businesses have learned some hard lessons from their Asian counterparts.  The old stereotype is gone.  That change did not occur because people just started to think differently one day.  It changed because people were forced to change their thinking because of what they experienced and the behaviors and results they saw from greater and greater numbers of Asians they came in contact with.

Any bias that the police may have in dealing with young, black men is rooted in their brains. It is based on their experiences in their field of duty.  Look no further than the crime statistics if you have any doubts why a police officer might be quicker to draw a gun against a young black man compared to a White or Asian man.

The incidence of arrests for Blacks is over twice what it is for Whites on per capita basis.

Blacks commit almost 5 times as many violent crimes (murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault) per 1,000 population as Whites according to FBI data based on arrests for violent crimes.

Blacks commit eight times more crimes against Whites than Whites do on Blacks.

Consider what President Obama said about the very grandmother who supported and raised him.

"...my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."

Was Madelyn Dunham a racist?  Of course not.  She loved for and cared for Barack Obama when his own mother could not or would not as she pursued her own life. His race did not matter to her, she loved his soul.

Would Madelyn Dunham or Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson act the same way if most of the young black men they had prior experience with were more like Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Ben Carson, Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell or Col. Alan West?  Of course not.

Discrimination and bias exists against Blacks in the criminal justice system and in their daily lives. It is disingenuous for anyone to deny this. However, when you look at the facts it should also be understandable of why that bias can occur. It is not right, but it is reality.

However, all of the energy of the African American community about this problem seems to be only directed outwards. It seems that it is the fault of everyone else in society. I don't see much energy devoted to looking inward for solutions to the problem.

There will be no change in bias in the system until the systemic problems in the Black community are addressed. Poverty is at the root of the problem but that is largely driven by too many children born out of wedlock, too many high school dropouts and too many drugs and gangbangers on the streets.

Where are the voices talking about the nearly three out of four African American children born out of wedlock? Where are the voices decrying the culture among black youths that seems to glorify drugs and violence? Where are the voices speaking out about the fact that only 54 percent of African Americans are graduating from high school?

Crime is largely a function of poverty and poor home environments.  The absence of a father in the home is a significant factor in this equation.  That is why I think it is especially ironic that there is so much energy being devoted to enabling gay marriages in this country but you hear almost nothing about encouraging African Americans to marry before having a child.

Failure to complete high school is almost a certain path to poverty in this day and age.  We are spending massive amounts of money on welfare and other programs to help the poor but you hear little about the massive failure of young African Americans to graduate from high school.  We are spending enormous sums of money on the symptoms but pay little attention to the underlying disease.

African Americans need to look to the lessons of Asian Americans in this country. Asians in this country have taken a negative bias and turned it into a positive bias within my lifetime. They got the chance and they proved over and over that they were nothing like the stereotype they were being portrayed as.

At one time we were also told that Black athletes could not compete with White athletes. Jesse Owens, Oscar Robertson, Jackie Robinson and Marion Motley were among those who broke the bias. Black athletes got the opportunity, worked hard, excelled on the playing field and all the old stereotypes were gone. .

Unfortunately, too many African Americans protestors are playing righting into the stereotyping that exists when they are chanting "Burn this b##ch down" and "Death to cops".  Rather than improve their situation, they are just burning more bias into more brains.

It is not going to happen by shouting "Burn, Baby, Burn."

It will happen by changing the bias that gets burned into the brain with positive, reinforcing experiences every day and in every way.  I doubt Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson are the leaders who we need to change the paradigm. Let's hope we find the leader that can do it. Barack Obama, you still have the greatest opportunity to be that person. We can only hope that you will change.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Shores of Tripoli

You have probably heard the Marine Corps Hymn sung many times. Its first verse is...

From the Halls of Montezuma,To the Shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country's battles In the air, on land and sea;

First to fight for right and freedom And to keep our honor clean;

We are proud to claim the title of United States Marine.

Montezuma refers to the Marines storming into the castle at Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War. This was the same battle that a young Army officer named Ulysses S. Grant distinguished himself in war not long after he graduated from the United States Military Academy.

What about the Shores of Tripoli? What is that about?

Most Americans are unaware that over two hundred years ago we were also dealing with a threat from radical Islam. In fact, President Thomas Jefferson refused to sit back and let the Islamists threaten our interests. He sent our Navy and Marines to confront them and teach then a lesson they would not soon forget. These days it appears that we are not the only ones who have forgotten the history lesson.

Let's go back in time to learn a little history of the United States of America and our previous interactions with Muslim terrorists.

At the end of the eighteenth century, Muslim pirates were terrorizing large swaths of the Mediterranean Sea.

These Barbary Pirates (so named because they hailed from the Muslim nations of Tripoli, Tunis, Morocco and Algiers along the Barbary Coast) attacked every ship in sight and held the crews for exorbitant ransoms. The captured crews were held in barbaric conditions and sent letters home pleading that payments be sent for their release.

Before the United States won its independence Great Britain, and later France, provided protection to the American merchant ships sailing in the Mediterranean. Beginning in 1784 the United States was on its own as France stopped protecting U.S. ships from the Muslim pirates.

The initial strategy of the United States in dealing with the Muslim pirates was one of appeasement similar to what many European countries were doing at the time. It was deemed prudent to pay bribes to the Islamists rather than engaging them in war. After all, we had just finished a long war with the British and no one had much appetite to go to war again.

In July of 1785 two U.S schooners off the Barbary Coast were captured and the crews held for ransom. Other ships were soon also captured and Thomas Jefferson (the U.S. Minister to France) and John Adams (the U.S Minister to Great Britain) were dispatched in an attempt to negotiate with the Muslims.

Jefferson and Adams argued that the United States was not at war with Tripoli, or the other Barbary Coast nations, so in what way had the U.S provoked the Muslims?

This is how Jefferson explained the position of the Muslims in a letter to John Jay shortly after a meeting he had with the Ambassador of Tripoli.

"The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise."

Despite this stunning statement about pre-meditated violence against non-Muslim nations, and against the counsel of both George Washington and Jefferson who believed that paying extortion would merely provoke demands for more money, the U.S. Congress agreed to pay "tribute" to the Muslim nations in order to keep the peace.

Over the next 15 years the United States paid the Muslims millions of dollars in bribes to secure safe passage for American ships or the release of American crews that had been captured.

By 1800, when Jefferson was elected President, the total amount of bribes and ransom being paid to the Muslim nations was as high as 20% of the U.S. budget according to some reports I have seen.

In 1801 President Thomas Jefferson was in no mood to continue with the status quo. Shortly after he was sworn in he had received a demand from Tripoli for an immediate payment of $225,000 and a continuing payment of $25,000 per year in perpetuity to keep U.S. ships safe. He refused the demand and made plans to "effect peace through the medium of war". His actions as President seemed to be consistent with what he wrote in a letter in 1786 to the President of Yale College on the best way to deal with the Muslim extortion.

"From what I learn from the temper of my countrymen and their tenaciousness of their money, it will be more easy to raise ships and men to fight these pirates into reason, than money to bribe them."

Tripoli, Tunis, Morocco and Algiers soon declared war on the United States and Jefferson convinced Congress to fund a naval force to confront the Muslims.

The war against the Muslim nations (referred to today as the First Barbary War) lasted four years. The turning point of the war occurred in the Battle of Derna in April-May, 1805. This is how the battle is described in Wikipedia.

Ex-consul William Eaton, a former Army captain who used the title of "general", and US Marine Corps First Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon led a force of eight U.S. Marines, 500 mercenaries—Greeks from Crete, Arabs, and Berbers—on a march across the desert from Alexandria, Egypt to assault and to capture the Tripolitan city of Derna. This was the first time in history the United States flag was raised in victory on foreign soil. The action is memorialized in a line of the Marines' Hymn—"the shores of Tripoli"

Soon after that victory, Tripoli signed a peace treaty but the Barbary pirates once again resumed their attacks when the United States was preoccupied with the War of 1812. At the conclusion of that conflict the United States embarked on a Second Barbary War in 1815 that ended the threat for good for almost two hundred years.

You might also be interested to know that the Barbary Wars against the Muslims also gave rise to the Marines being called "Leathernecks." This is because Marines of that day fighting the Islamists wore a leather neck collar that improved their military bearing by forcing the chin high which also had the added benefit of protecting one's neck from sword blows by Muslim pirates.

As we see reports of ISIS beheadings, attacks on Canada's parliament, hostages behind held in a Sydney cafe and a man running down a NYC street with a hatchet in hand attacking a policeman, we ask what is going on?

We ask why are we seeing these barbaric actions?

We ask what has happened to civilized society?

We are asking the same questions that Thomas Jefferson asked.

Nothing much seems to have changed in 200 years.

"Those that don't know history are doomed to repeat it".
                                                                 -Edmund Burke

You now know history you may not have known before about the Shores of Tripoli.

If you have any doubts about the accuracy of these facts please refer to:





Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Perception Misconceptions

I used to do some tax lobbying work in Washington, D.C.. Early in my exposure to the world of Washington the head of Government Relations for a Fortune 500 company, who previously had been a top House staffer, told me, "Facts don't matter. Logic doesn't matter. Perception is reality. You always need to remember that in this town".

Perception is reality. It is true in politics. It is true in almost everything else as well.

If the perception is based on real facts, this is not a problem. However, perceptions are often based on misconceptions. This is a problem as studies have shown that 90% of errors in thinking are due to errors in perceptions. The facts are far different than the perception.

Look no further than the events surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. The perception that the protestors have of that event are far, far different than the facts that came out of the grand jury proceedings. Facts and logic cannot compete with perception and emotion. That is simply the way the human brain operates.

Misalignment between facts and perceptions is also a recipe for bad public policy decisions. If people have the wrong perception they will often gravitate to the wrong policy prescription.

For example, I have little doubt that the increased momentum for gay marriage is driven by a perception that homosexuality is much more common than it is.  I have written about this before in my blog post, Where Is The Bias?

When asked what percentage of the United States population is homosexual, most people estimate 25%.

The actual number is 1%-2% according to most studies.

How can the perception be so far from the facts?  As I wrote before,

I think it derives from the heavy influence of Hollywood and the news. Consider the number of movies and television shows that have gay characters and the disproportionate number of news stories that focus on gay rights, gay marriage or other gay issues.  It is truly a situation where the loudest single person in a room of 50 gets all the attention.  You never even get to hear from the other 49.
It also derives from the inability of most people to use the analytical portion of their brain.  I call it the reflective side of the brain.  On this and many other issues the reflexive side of the brain simply overwhelms logic.  For example, if you really stop and think, do you really think that 1 in every 4 or 5 people you see in a day are gay?  The people you work with?  Your family members?  Your friends? Walk down the street.  1 in every 5?  No way. 
People reach the conclusion they do because of what is called "availability" bias.  In simple terms, we estimate frequencies or numbers based on the ease with which instances come to mind.  If retrieval from the brain is easy and straightforward we tend to judge the numbers in the category to be large. People see and hear a lot of stories about gays and gay rights, therefore, when asked to guess a percentage it is high.

I recently came across an international study involving 14 countries (including the U.S) in which people were asked to estimate basic facts about their population or social issues. This results of this study clearly shows the huge gap we often find between perception and reality.

A few examples from that study about the perceptions that Americans have compared to actual reality. The numbers below are the average guess to the question (perception) compared to the actual fact (reality).

What percentage of girls aged between 15 and 19 give birth each year?

Perception  24%        Reality  3%

What percentage of the population do you think are immigrants in your country?

Perception  32%        Reality  13%

What is the percentage of Muslims in your country?

Perception  15%        Reality  1%

What is the percentage of Christians in your country?

Perception  56%         Reality  78%

What percentage of people are over age 65?

Perception  36%         Reality  14%

What percentage of working people are unemployed and looking for work?

Perception  32%         Reality  6%

As an educated reader of BeeLine you are probably looking at these answers with the same disbelief than I did. How could people be so ignorant and so wrong? How could they be so far off base?

It becomes even more troubling when you consider that all of these people have a vote, just like you and I do. And these perceptions are their reality.

However, the reality is that you really can't blame people for having these perceptions. A lot of these perceptions (as is the same with the percent of gays) are driven by the media, movies and availability bias. How often do we hear about teen births? Immigration reform is constantly in the news. We seem to hear much more about the Koran than the Bible in the media. Social Security. Medicare. Unemployment. We hear about these things often. It is very available and it creates perceptions in people that are not based on facts.

People are not stupid despite what Dr. Jonathan Gruber may think. However, their perceptions and emotions can be manipulated when they get distorted information, biased media reports or facts that lack context.

You also begin to understand some of the misplaced priorities we see in our public policy that are based on false perceptions when you think about it.

Out of the 14 countries surveyed, the United States placed 2nd in the study's "Index of Ignorance". This means that our perceptions are the 2nd furthest from reality. The Italians are the only ones who are further removed from reality than we are. Thank goodness for that!

We cannot begin to solve our problems in this country until we can do a better job of matching perceptions with reality.

That is a big reason that I write BeeLine. The Shortest Route To What You Need To Know.

Keep passing it on.

We need fewer perception misconceptions in this country.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Constitutional Lawyer Who Ignores The Constitution

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

That is the oath of office of the President of the United States.

Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states that the President,

"shall take Care that the Laws are faithfully executed."

It is also of note that the powers and duties of Congress are enumerated in Article I of the Constitution before those of the President in Article II.

It seems hard to believe that Barack Obama has even read the Constitution let alone taken an oath to "preserve, protect and defend it" when you view his actions as President. He is also considered by some to be a "Constitutional scholar" if you can believe that.

Consider the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" which he considers his most significant accomplishment as President.

Despite being given a period of time to implement the law that was longer than the time it took the United States to win World War II (from Pearl Harbor to VJ Day), the Obama administration was totally ill-prepared to implement the law. Chaos ensued and one statutory provision after another was ignored, delayed or manipulated to limit public outcry and political blowback.

The Galen Institute counts 24 significant changes have been made to the Obamacare statute by way of administrative action including delaying the individual mandate, the employer-mandate and the small business exchange. Obama also exempted unions from the reinsurance fee (which cost my employer almost $1 million) and provided subsidies to members of Congress and their staffs that the law does not provide.

The President's actions in failing to enforce the immigration laws are well known over the last six years. He has now gone even further in his lawlessness and is attempting to create laws on his own.

The President's rationale is that since the House of Representatives had not acted on the Senate-passed immigration reform bill that he was free to implement his own immigration fix. He further stated that if the House Republicans did not like his executive order they could pass legislation to rescind it.

Where is it in the Constitution that the President passes the law and the Congress has veto power? The President has it exactly backwards.

He later said to a crowd in Chicago, that included some immigration protestors who were heckling him because he hadn't gone even further in his "executive action",

“Now, you’re absolutely right that there have been significant numbers of deportations. That’s true. But what you are not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law.”

Unfortunately for President Obama, he does not have any such authority to do these kinds of things under the Constitution.

The constitutional lawyer himself admitted 22 times that he did not have the authority, before he did it anyway.

If you want to review the legal issues underpinning all of this I recommend you read this article by Jan Ting who teaches immigration and tax law at Temple University and was Assistant Commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1990-1993. He knows something about what the Executive brand can and cannot do on immigration under the Constitution.

President Obama's "Deferred Action" Program for Illegal Aliens is Plainly Unconstitutional

Another troubling aspect of our President is his propensity to take sides on issues in the legal system, such as the Trayvon Martin case ("he could have been my son") or Ferguson, MO, when he should be a neutral party with no interest beyond seeking truth and justice for all.

Where does all of this lead us?

A very dangerous place.

Victor Davis Hanson writes what happens "When the Law Is a Drag".

Regarding Ferguson...

In the Ferguson disaster, the law was the greatest casualty. Civilization cannot long work if youths strong-arm shop owners and take what they want. Or walk down the middle of highways high on illicit drugs. Or attack police officers and seek to grab their weapons. Or fail to obey an officer’s command to halt. Or deliberately give false testimonies to authorities. Or riot, burn, and loot. Or, in the more abstract sense, simply ignore the legal findings of a grand jury; or, in critical legal theory fashion, seek to dismiss the authority of the law because it is not deemed useful to some preconceived theory of social justice. Do that and society crumbles.

Regarding executive actions on illegal immigration...

Nor can a government maintain legitimacy when it presides over lawlessness. The president of the United States on over 20 occasions insisted that it would be illegal, dictatorial, and unconstitutional to contravene federal immigration law — at least when to do so was politically inexpedient. When it was not, he did just that. Now we enter the Orwellian world of a videotaped president repeatedly warning that what he would soon do would be in fact illegal. Has a U.S. president ever so frequently and fervently warned the country about the likes of himself?
What is forgotten about amnesty is that entering the U.S. illegally is not the end, but often the beginning of lawlessness. Out here in rural central California we accept a world where thousands drive without insurance, licenses, and registration. Fleeing the scenes of traffic accidents earns snoozes. There is no such thing as the felony of providing false information on government affidavits or creating made-up Social Security numbers. Selling things without paying taxes and working off the books while on assistance are no longer illegal. The normative culture is lawlessness.

Regarding President Obama...

The fuel of lawlessness is untruth. What amazes about President Obama is not that he occasionally misstates facts — every president has done that — but that he so serially says things that are untrue and yet he must know are so easily exposed as untrue. When the president on over 20 occasions swears he cannot legally grant amnesty and then does so, or when he swears he cannot comment on an ongoing criminal case when he habitually has done just that, or when he insists that Obamacare will not result in higher premiums and deductibles or loss of doctors and health plans when it does precisely that, or when he asserts to the world that a mere demonstration over a video caused an attack on our consulate in Benghazi when he knew that it did not, or when he utters iron-clad red lines, deadlines, and step-over-lines that he knows are mythical or denies he has done just that — when he does all this, then almost everything he asserts must be doubted.

Regarding the "Redistribution of the Law"...

More disturbingly, we have engendered a strange culture of justifiable lawlessness: those who are deemed exploited in some ways are exempt from following the law; those without such victim status are subject even more to it. Executive authorities compensate for their impotence in not enforcing statutes for some by excessively enforcing them on others. 

What it all means...

For this administration, the law is a drag.
Indeed, the problem with the Obama administration is that the government’s own bureaucracies — the IRS, VA, Secret Service, GSA, EPA, Justice and State Departments — have so serially broken their own statutes and lied about their misconduct, that it is now almost impossible to reassure Americans that they, too, cannot do what their own government sees as some sort of birthright.
What separated the United States from a Peru or Nigeria or Mexico or Laos or Russia was the sanctity of the law, or the idea that from the highest elected officials to the least influential citizen, all were obligated to follow, according to their stations, the law. Under Obama, that sacred idea has been eroded. We live in a world of illegal immigration and amnesties, Ferguson mythologies, and alphabet government scandals, presided over by a president who not only does not tell the truth, but also seems to be saying to the public, “I say whatever I want, so get over it.”

All of this from a "Constitutional Lawyer"?

James Madison he is not.

Monday, December 1, 2014


There is no better example of the insanity of government bureaucracy than the recent actions of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) in attempting to eviscerate workplace wellness programs.

Over the last decade thousands of employers have implemented worksite biometric screenings to provide their employees with better knowledge of their health status and to be more proactive in preventing serious health conditions from developing. The employee benefits from the convenience of the on-site screenings and the employer has an effective tool to better control group health care costs and to better understand the overall health issues confronting its employee population.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) encouraged these workplace wellness programs and even established safe harbor rules for employers who established incentives within their health plans in order to encourage employee participation. After all, it is an accepted fact that human beings often do not do those things that they should do. Therefore, incentives are often necessary to "nudge" people in the right direction.

Honeywell International, Inc. has implemented a program of biometric screenings in its wellness
programs as has become the norm for many employers today. In fact, it is estimated that as many as half of all employers with 200+ employees now have some type of screening programs in place as result of the provisions of the ACA which encourages the adoption of these wellness and prevention efforts.

This is how Honeywell describes its program as well as the incentive it provides to those employees who participate in the screenings.

Biometric testing provides valuable private information to each employee about potentially life threatening issues.  Honeywell wants its employees to be well informed about their health status not only because it promotes their wellbeing, but also because we don’t believe it’s fair to the employees who do work to lead healthier lifestyles to subsidize the healthcare premiums for those who do not. Biometric information will help all employees make healthier decisions.  Over 60% of Honeywell biometrics participants have reduced at least one health risk, and encouraging more participation is the right thing to do.  For employees with single coverage who voluntarily decide to take a biometric screening, their monthly premiums will be $125 lower than the employees who decide not to take a biometric screening.  Biometric results are strictly confidential and not shared with the Company.

You might ask how the EEOC could find any fault with this, especially since this program is in strict compliance with the law and regulations under both the "Affordable Care Act" and the "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act" ("HIPAA")?

It seems that the EEOC has decided that the Honeywell wellness program (and by extension all other programs like it) is unlawful because it discriminates under the Americans With Disabilities Act since it "penalizes" employees who do not want to participate in the health screenings. 

You might ask how the EEOC can rule that a company is engaging in "unlawful" activity when it is in full compliance with Obamacare and HIPAA?

Because they can. That is what government bureaucracies do. It is because they say it is. It doesn't have to make sense.

The EEOC's actions have gained the attention of The Business Roundtable, a group of large company CEO's, which has a history of being more supportive of Obamacare than most business groups. This Reuters story by Sharon Begley indicates that the CEO's are as confused by the Obama administration's actions as you probably are as well. They don't seem happy with this nonsense.

Leading U.S. CEOs, angered by the Obama administration's challenge to certain "workplace wellness" programs, are threatening to side with anti-Obamacare forces unless the government backs off, according to people familiar with the matter.
Major U.S. corporations have broadly supported President Barack Obama's healthcare reform despite concerns over several of its elements, largely because it included provisions encouraging the wellness programs.
The programs aim to control healthcare costs by reducing smoking, obesity, hypertension and other risk factors that can lead to expensive illnesses. A bipartisan provision in the 2010 healthcare reform law allows employers to reward workers who participate and penalize those who don't.
But recent lawsuits filed by the administration's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), challenging the programs at Honeywell International and two smaller companies, have thrown the future of that part of Obamacare into doubt.

In that article Ms. Begley also has written a sentence that is undoubtedly the most inane statement that I have read during the entire year 2014. I am not certain whether this is the opinion of Ms. Begley or she is merely reporting on what someone from The White House told her. In either case, it is an exceedingly silly and stupid thing to say irrespective of the source, especially when placed into historical context with this President and this White House.

" It is also not clear if the White House can stop the EEOC from challenging wellness programs."

What? It is not clear if the White House can stop the EEOC from doing something?

This is a White House which unilaterally modified, delayed and deferred most of the key provisions of Obamacare from being implemented because it was more concerned about the politics of the issue than "faithfully executing the law". It implemented subsidies for health plans in the federal exchanges in clear contravention of the ACA statute as written. Further, President Obama just granted amnesty to 5 million illegal immigrants in direct violation of federal law.

And it is not clear that the White House can stop the EEOC from challenging wellness programs that are in full compliance with Obamacare and HIPAA?

Are we living in The Twilight Zone?

It actually is worse.

We are living in the Obama Zone.

Credit: www.sodahead.com

You are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not of facts, truth and the rule of law but of contradictions, prevarications and executive orders. A journey into a wondrous land of political calculation, manipulation and intimidation. Next stop, the Obama Zone!