Politics - Investor's Business Daily02:58 Текст источника в новой вкладке

1. Net Neutrality Zealots Are Wrong — The Market Just Proved It00:45[−]

Regulation: The internet has 60 days left before it is destroyed by the lack of federal "net neutrality" rules. That's the claim, anyway. The truth is, the internet is on the cusp of a vast improvement.

X The 60-day clock started when the FCC's officially published its net neutrality repeal on Thursday. The repeal takes effect in two months, which means that, since its start in mid-2015, "net neutrality" will have been in effect less than four years — probably the shortest-lived federal regulation in history.

Nevertheless, its demise is being treated as a devastating blow to everyone who relies on the internet. Fortune declared that net neutrality supporters now have "60 days to save the web as we know it."

But other developments during the week show why the hue and cry about "net neutrality" is so utterly misplaced.

The same day the FCC issued its repeal, SpaceX launched test satellites for Starlink, a global broadband network envisioned by SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

The day before that, Dish Network ( DISH) told the SEC in its 10K filing that it plans to commit $1 billion to build out an ultra-high-speed 5G wireless network over the next three years.

The day before that, AT&T ( T) announced plans to roll out its 5G network in Dallas, Waco, Texas, and Atlanta this year. By the end of the year, it plans to have 5G in a dozen markets. Verizon also plans to start rolling out its 5G network this year.

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For those who don't know, 5G wireless is about 50 times faster than the average home broadband network today. And because it's wireless, providers won't have to dig trenches and lay cable to sign up customers.

That means there will be more competition for internet access than there is today, and at speeds that make today's broadband look like dial-up.

With more competition for customers, ISPs won't "block, slow down, or charge more for certain content as they see fit" as net neutrality zealots claim. More likely, they will be in a frantic race to provide the fastest, most comprehensive, and most reliable service around.

That is, after all, how the internet worked before net neutrality. Between 2011 and 2014, average internet speeds tripled.

What net neutrality advocates won't tell you is that the only companies actually guilty of blocking, slowing down, or charging more for certain content are big net neutrality advocates like Netflix ( NFLX) — which charges more if you want streaming HD — and Google ( GOOGL) — which charges $10 a month for the better YouTube Red — and social media companies — which have been repeatedly shown to hamstring conservative content.

So yes, the internet won't be the same after Obama's net neutrality rules disappear. It will be far better.

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2. Fed's Model Predicts Inflation — Here's Why It's Premature00:39[−]

Inflation: The Fed is fretting that the U.S. is now past "full employment," a condition it fears might soon trigger a major bout of inflation. The central bank should relax, and so should markets.

X With three, and possibly four, rate hikes penciled in for this year, the Fed is plainly worried about inflation caused by a tightening labor market and rising economic growth. From a current level of about 2.9%, some see 10-year Treasury rates jumping to 3.25% or higher this year.

Interest rates will no doubt rise in coming months, no matter what the Fed does. Tax cuts, deregulation and more people at work mean that demand for money will rise, and that inevitably leads to higher interest rates. That's normal.

What concerns us, however, is the Fed's view of things. In a report to Congress on Friday, it said: "The labor market appears to be near or a little beyond full employment at present. The unemployment rate is somewhat below most estimates of its longer-run normal rate, and the labor force participation rate is relatively close to many estimates of its trend."

It goes on: "While wage gains have likely been held down by the sluggish pace of productivity growth in recent years, serious labor shortages would probably bring about larger increases than have been observed thus far."

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So, with unemployment at just 4.1%, the Fed will closely watch wage growth to gauge its interest rate moves. The recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report that hourly rages rose 2.9% was a shot across the bow, as far as the Fed was concerned.

Based on the Fed's Keynesian model, dubbed the Phillips curve, low unemployment and higher wages inevitably drive up inflation. That's why some are now thinking four interest rate hikes instead of just three.

But we would caution the Fed to move cautiously in raising interest rates back to "normal" levels, for a number of reasons.

For one, the Phillips curve has been shown repeatedly to be a flawed predictor of inflation, and that's being kind. Indeed, the Fed's own research suggests that unemployment doesn't predict inflation. As The Economist magazine last year noted, "Since 2010, as the unemployment rate has fallen steadily from 10% to 4.4%, inflation has hovered between 1% and 2%."

In a word, the Phillips curve is broken and can't be fixed.

For another, the Fed has a very bad history of making policy from its flawed models. Typically, it overshoots the mark by raising interest rates too far, too fast. The result has almost always been recession. Indeed, as a Goldman Sachs study last year noted, "the most frequent contributors to modern recessions have been monetary policy tightening and oil price shocks."

Markets have become volatile due to inflation fears. But it really isn't inflation they fear so much as the Fed's response to any thing that even hints at a stronger economy. With inflation still low and more than 90 million adults out of the workforce, pushing interest rates up too far, too fast is the real threat.

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3. Fed's 'Unconventional' Monetary Policies Amount To A War On Saving00:18[−]

The Federal Reserve's unconventional monetary policies, which were launched in 2008 and designed to keep interest rates low for a long time, have devastated the savings of conservative investors. Yields on traditional savings accounts and money market funds have been inching up since the Fed began raising its policy rate in late 2015, but real (inflation-adjusted) rates are still negative, especially when taxes on interest income are factored in.

X For seven long years (Dec. 16, 2008–Dec. 16, 2015), the Fed held its policy rate, the so-called federal funds rate, within a target range of zero to 0.25%. Savers lost billions of dollars in interest income and pension funds took on more risk to meet their long-run commitments. Those investments are now at risk as interest rates rise and asset prices fall.

One popular money market fund, T. Rowe Price's "Government Money Fund" (formerly the "Prime Reserve Fund") had an average annual total return of 0.13% over the last 5 years and 0.30% over the last 10 years. Those ultralow nominal rates are in contrast to the Fund's 4.82% yield since its inception in January 1976. Nominal rates increase when inflation is high, as it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s. What matters to savers are real, after-tax rates. With expected inflation of about 2%, a nominal interest rate of less than 2% turns into a real rate of zero.

Bank of America currently pays 0.03% on its standard saving account, 0.04% on its gold account, and 0.07% on its 1-year certificate of deposit, all of which translate into negative real rates. So you might as well spend your money now on consumption goods — or try to get a much higher yield by going into risky assets like stocks. And that is what investors have done for more than nine years.

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Stocks have done extremely well: Last year the Dow surged 25%, but that surge is ending as investors realize rising fiscal deficits and Fed tightening will push interest rates higher and asset prices lower. Investors also recognize that there has been a disconnect between the real economy and the stock market.

When the market goes up by 25% in one year, as it did in 2017, but the economy grows by about 2.5%, it is reasonable to conclude that asset prices are overvalued and financial markets must adjust to that reality. In the past, the Fed has supported stock markets, but eventually policymakers will have to "take the punch bowl away" and let market forces determine market prices.

Myopic policymakers have a bias toward consumption and against saving. They view saving as antisocial and rely on crude Keynesian models that posit saving as an undesirable leakage from aggregate demand. In doing so, they ignore the social benefits that stem from forgoing current consumption: Savers gain from a positive return on their investments, but so do workers who are now more productive and consumers who have a wider range of choices in a growing economy.

The U.S. household saving rate reached a 12-year low last December as consumers spent more of their disposable income and saved only 2.4%. Underlying the war on saving is the idea that, at very low interest rates, people have a strong incentive to consume now rather than save for the future. Federal Reserve policymakers have had the goal of keeping rates low and using forward guidance to reinforce that goal.

Meanwhile, the Fed's large-scale asset purchases, also known as quantitative easing, were designed to increase asset prices and reduce yields.

However, those policies have penalized savers and increased risk taking, while having only a modest effect on real economic growth.The war on saving has been misplaced and policymakers must recognize that saving is beneficial. The only sure path toward future prosperity is to let free markets determine interest rates and the allocation of credit.

Economics is supposed to teach policymakers to look at the long-run effects of policy alternatives. Enacting policies that penalize saving always prove costly. Saving is a virtue, not a vice. It is the glue of civil society. It put millions of Americans on the path toward higher living standards and fostered a long-run perspective and an ethos of responsibility. In contrast, the Fed's myopic low-interest policy has fostered speculation, debt, and greater inequality of income and wealth.

  • Dorn is vice president for monetary studies and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC.

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4. Janus v. AFSCME: Should Workers Have To Pay Unions To Keep Their Jobs?00:12[−]

Should you have to pay a lobbyist just to keep your job? Of course not. But that's the reality for 5 million government workers across the country — and at the heart of a case that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this month: Janus v. AFSCME.

X Mark Janus, a child support specialist in Illinois, is forced to give part of his paycheck to a government union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, of which he is not a member, as a condition of working for the state. Not only is Mark forced to pay a government union that advocates policies and lobbies for legislation that he opposes, but he is also forced to pay for the union's collective bargaining for contract provisions that he personally opposes.

Forty years ago, in a case called Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment prohibited governments from forcing their workers to pay fees to a government union that went directly to political activities, but said that "labor peace" justified forcing such employees to pay for purportedly non-political costs, such as collective bargaining.

But Abood rests on a faulty assumption that it's possible to distinguish between political and nonpolitical activities of a government union. Political activities don't just consist of activities like endorsing a candidate or electioneering; political activities also include the pursuit of policy positions that the unions take and the way in which they use their position as workers' exclusive representative to advocate for these policy positions in bargaining negotiations.

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In reality, collective bargaining with governments, and government unions themselves, are inherently political.

Collective bargaining is a process of negotiation between the government and government unions by which the parties come to an agreement on employee compensation, benefits, and working conditions. We call people or groups that make demands on how governments should spend their money lobbyists. Government unions are lobbyists for increased government spending, specifically spending on government employees.

Increased government spending must come from increased taxes or increased borrowing, which is eventually borne by taxpayers. As former National Education Association General Counsel Robert Chanin has acknowledged "tell me how I can possibly separate NEA's collective bargaining efforts from politics — you just can't. It's all politics."

Through collective bargaining, government unions lobby for a myriad of political objectives in addition to increased salaries and benefits for government employees. For example, one organization of government unions called Bargaining for the Common Good promises to use collective bargaining to push for "progressive revenue solutions," affordable housing, and universal pre-k.

On its website, this organization notes that two of its associated government unions — the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Health Care of Illinois-Indiana — pursued a "Progressive Revenue Platform" during collective bargaining that included "reducing exorbitant bank fees, recovering money from toxic swap deals, passing a progressive income tax, closing corporate tax loopholes," and a "LaSalle Street tax on financial transactions in Chicago's exchanges."

Further, Bob Schoonover, President of SEIU Local 721 in Southern California, admitted that government unions influence matters beyond wages and benefits by, for example, advocating for single-payer health care, property tax reform, and increased school budgets.

Finally, the reaction of government unions to the possibility of losing Janus provides additional evidence of how government unions are innately political. If it was possible to separate political and nonpolitical activities of government unions, then a decision prohibiting unions from collecting "fair share" fees from non-members — which, remember, are only supposed to go to nonpolitical activities — should have no effect on government unions' political activities.

But Rob Weil, Director of Field Programs, Educational Issues for the American Federation of Teachers, recently lamented that, as a result of a Supreme Court decision prohibiting unions from collecting fees from nonmembers, the "progressive moment (sic) as a whole ... will lose resources ... which will lessen their impact."

Government unions are by their very nature political. Perhaps you support the political goals and vision of government unions.

But imagine that in order to keep your job the government took money out of your paychecks and gave it to an organization that pursued political policies you do not support. That violates the First Amendment and that is why Mark Janus and other government employees should not be forced to subsidize government unions that they do not wish to join.

  • Schwab is a senior attorney at Liberty Justice Center, which is representing Mark Janus in the Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME.

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5. ObamaCare Vs. TrumpCare: Latest News And AnalysisПт., 23 февр.[−]

When former president Barack Obama was pitching ObamaCare to Congress eight years ago, he said that "I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last."

X Like so many other things he said about his massive health reform legislation, Obama turned out to be totally wrong.

President Trump has vowed to make repealing ObamaCare top his agenda. So have Republicans, who with control of both the House and Senate can repeal major portions of the law without being blocked by a Democratic filibuster.

In between these two events lies a pile of broken promises (such as "keep your plan"), a disastrous and massively expensive launch of Healthcare.gov, massive insurance industry losses, less competition, huge price spikes and growing complaints about narrow networks and high deductibles. States that embraced ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion are now struggling with its huge cost overruns.

Sickly Support

Despite promises from Democrats that the public would grow to love ObamaCare once they knew what was in it, public support for the law rarely came close to 50%. And far more said they'd been harmed by ObamaCare than helped.

IBD has been closely tracking ObamaCare, and providing expert opinion and analysis about the law — both from our own editorial team as well as outside experts — ever since Obama was elected.

Below you will find many of these articles, starting with the most recent. IBD will continue to cover this critically important issue as the GOP repeal efforts get underway, and carefully assess any replacement plans put forward.

ObamaCare News & Analysis

HealthEquity Stock Plunges On HSA Enrollment FearsHealthEquity stock continued to fall Friday morning after crashing Thursday amid concerns over health savings account (HSA) enrollment growth. Research released Thursday by Devenir, an investment advisor and consultant for the HSA... Read More
Trump Throws A Lifeline To Millions Of ObamaCare VictimsHealth Care: Middle class families who no longer can afford health insurance thanks to the "Affordable Care Act" — aka, ObamaCare — are one step closer to getting some relief, courtesy of... Read More
California's Nurses Are Militant — And MistakenThe California State Assembly earlier this month heard testimony from proponents of The Healthy California Act, a bill that would establish a state-run, single-payer healthcare system. Among the most prominent witnesses testifying... Read More
Trump Is, In Fact, Taking On High Drug PricesDrugs: Health reform advocates complain that President Trump's budget doesn't do enough to tackle high drug prices, which they say are rapidly driving up health costs. Neither claim, it turns out, is... Read More
Hate High Drug Prices? Blame Foreign FreeloadersAmericans are suffering pharmaceutical sticker shock. But the remedy Democrats are backing — price controls on prescription drugs — would inflict more harm by halting new discoveries and dooming patients waiting for... Read More
Trump Is Not Killing ObamaCare — ObamaCare Is Killing ObamaCareDemocrats can at least thank Trump for keeping their name off ObamaCare's death certificate. Painful as Trump's victory proved, it gives them the opportunity to blame him — and absolve themselves —... Read More
Trump's Right: The U.K.'s Health System Is Broke And FailingHealth Care: Amid the news crush of the week, it would have been easy to miss President Trump's tweet blasting Britain's National Health Service. As with everything else he does or says,... Read More
Sally C. Pipes: God Save The Queen's Health Care SystemOn Jan. 23, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., hosted an online town hall to promote "Medicare for All." Over 1 million people tuned in to watch Vermont's junior senator tout his single-payer plan,... Read More
Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan Show How Health Care Reform Should WorkHealth Reform: The immediate reaction of the stock market to the news that Amazon is teaming up with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to form a new health care company suggests that... Read More
ObamaCare Is Fueling The Nation's Opioid Epidemic? Sure Looks Like ItWar On Drugs: We recently speculated that ObamaCare might have contributed to the nation's opioid epidemic, which has in turn driven down life expectancy in this country for the past two years.... Read More

6. Cheaters Prosper On CBSПт., 23 февр.[−]

CBS News has a strange way of marking Valentine's Day. On the Sunday after Wednesday's romantic dinners and flowers, "Sunday Morning" linked the day to a deep study of marital infidelity.

XReporter Tony Dokoupil found an expert: therapist Esther Perel, author of "The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity." He also found two cheating wives who explained their cheating ways without any guilt. CBS insisted we need to "rethink our attitude" toward the sin of adultery.

It happens in every period of time and every culture, CBS explained. So does murder, and it's uncertain whether CBS thinks we must "rethink" that, too. There should be no villains when infidelity happens, Perel lectured: "To think about them just as a good person and a bad person does not help the millions of people who are experiencing it -- the children, the friends, the family."

Perel found fault not with cheaters but with those who label them as such. "We do not claim moral superiority just because we haven't cheated," she insisted. "And just because we haven't had sex with somebody else, we think we are the mature, and the committed, and the superior? This has got to change, or we will never have an honest conversation about this."

An "honest conversation" is code for rewriting morality. Except morality can't be rewritten. It just is. Morality can't be altered, but it can be ignored, and that's what the "experts" want to accomplish.

Dokoupil announced a new equality of the sexes: "According to a survey by the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, female philanderers are catching up with their male counterparts for the first time on record." What is that? An achievement?

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CBS spotlighted "Kristie" and "Daphne," who wouldn't use their real names. They had one thing in common regarding their cheating. Each had used the "married dating" site Ashley Madison. It sounded like a tawdry commercial as CBS relayed, "The site is booming, with 20,000 new members a day."

Kristie went shopping for dates after her husband said something "very disrespectful, very hurtful" to her. "I pulled my phone out, and I went to my phone and I said, 'woman looking for men to have affairs with,'" she said. When her husband found text messages from her lover, Kristie says, she just ended it: "I didn't deny it. I'm like, 'Yup, and I want a divorce.'" There was no remorse, just relief.

Daphne, who also hid behind a screen, said she had a good marriage for 22 years, but her husband has Alzheimer's disease, and morality got in the way. "I wasn't going to be able to continue taking care of my husband if I didn't have some fun," she claimed. "(B)ecause I was impatient with him. I cried. I was just angry. And now I'm much more patient with him. I don't get angry. I'm a better wife now than I was."

She's a better wife ... now that she cheats. And he has Alzheimer's, so it's a win-win?

The CBS story ended on a high note, as the cheater Kristie announced that she married the boyfriend she found on Ashley Madison. She was asked how saying those vows felt. She said, "I know ... it's forever!" Or until she gets the hots for the next guy.

  • Bozell is the president of the Media Research Center. Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.

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7. Don't Take The Onion's Pessimism Too SeriouslyПт., 23 февр.[−]

"Study: 90% Of Americans Strongly Opposed To Each Other." That's the headline on a story in what, on some days, seems to be America's most reliable news outlet, The Onion.

XWe laugh (or at least I did) because it strikes a chord. Americans of many different political outlooks today seem united in believing that we are experiencing the worst times in the nation's history. President Donald Trump's detractors talk about how he's a neurotic neo-Nazi establishing a dictatorship. Trump's fans talk about the existence of a deep state that uses secret protocols to undermine voters' choices.

Both sides have some cause for complaint. But their claims are overheated. Anyone familiar with the long course of American history — perhaps a smaller category than in times past — knows that, whatever our problems, things have been worse, far worse, before.

Many of us look back to a time when Americans shared a consensus on cultural values and when we are told that high school graduates or even dropouts could easily snag well-paying blue-collar jobs. That's a reasonably accurate description of America in the 1950s on cultural values and of parts of America — the unionized industrial areas — on those jobs.

Trump's unspecific slogan, "Make America Great Again," probably strikes most listeners as a promise to restore the seemingly culturally unified America of the two decades after World War II. Democrats' calls for strengthening labor unions and job protections evoke the 1950s, the time of peak union membership.

But this was a short period — I call it the Midcentury Moment — and the exception rather than the rule in American history.

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That tends to get overlooked by those lamenting polls showing low confidence in institutions. The benchmarks against which they are measured are inevitably when pollsters first asked those questions in the 1950s.

But that was a time when big institutions — big government, big corporations, big unions — had just finished leading Americans to victory in a world war and to unanticipated prosperity in the years that followed. They had arguably earned the confidence they enjoyed.

If you had been able to ask Americans those questions in the years before George Gallup conducted his first poll in 1935, it's likely that they would often have expressed low confidence, as they did starting in the late 1960s.

The years of rapid industrialization and high immigration and farmer rebellion, the period after World War I, the Great Depression — all of which brought lots of discord and disillusion — would have made for negative marks. Not to mention the arguments over slavery that led to the Civil War — or the bitter Adams-Jefferson debates. Talk about 90% of Americans being opposed to each other!

Against these events, today's woes seem less fearsome. We are told that Russian internet trolling is the worst foreign attack since 9/11. But it's nothing like what we faced with the Soviet-controlled Communist Party, which, with many well-placed advocates, opposed Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 (during the Hitler-Stalin pact), supported him in 1944 (when the Soviets were U.S. allies) and opposed Harry Truman in 1948. Anti-Communist liberals as well as conservatives weighed in against this genuinely dangerous foreign interference.

What about the peculiarities of Donald Trump? I can remember other presidents who, despite impressive credentials, behaved very oddly, to say the least. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, for example, smart men with 30 and 20 years of high-level experience, respectively. And don't forget Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, whose misbegotten policies and ineptness led to civil war.

Then there's the notion that the almost universally unexpected result of the 2016 presidential election represents a giant popular upheaval. Not so much, when you look at the numbers. Trump got 46% of the vote, 1 point less than Mitt Romney did in 2012, and Hillary Clinton got 48%, the same as John Kerry in 2004.

What did happen is that Trump, in effect, traded off votes from some highly educated whites in return for about the same number from non-college-educated whites, in a way that netted him 100 extra electoral votes. Russian trolls had no more to do with that than a bunch of kids sporting MAGA hats at a rally.

It would be nice to get some aspects of the Midcentury Moment back (more two-parent families), but no one wants some others (racial segregation laws). In the meantime, read Steven Pinker's "Enlightenment Now," on human progress in reducing violence, improving health and increasing prosperity. Many important things are getting better.

And remember that The Onion is parody.

  • Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.

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8. CNN's Pro-Gun Control 'Children's Crusade' Exploited Grieving Students And ParentsПт., 23 февр.[−]

Media Bias: It's bad enough that the students of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School have been traumatized by the mass shooting by a former student that claimed 17 lives. But gun control extremists in the media, Hollywood and Democratic Party now are exploiting them to achieve their dubious agenda of eliminating the Second Amendment.

X Like the children who were used during the medieval Children's Crusades for cynical political and religious purposes, the kids of Stoneman Douglas are used as poster children for the anti-gun crowd and their liberal media advocates.

Last night, CNN had what it billed as a "nationally televised town hall" with students, parents, and citizens of Lakeland, Florida, where the shootings by Nikolas Cruz took place.

Showing that it really has nothing to do whatsoever with a "town hall," CNN called its instant gathering "Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action." That's a political slogan, not a call to have a reasoned discussion of violence in the schools and guns.

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CNN didn't want a cross section of kids and families, but a specific type. Apparently, supporters of either Trump or gun rights were discouraged.

Colton Haab, a Junior ROTC cadet at the school who helped other kids hide from the shooter, describes his experience over at Real Clear Politics.

"CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions and it ended up being all scripted," Haab told WPLG-TV in Miami. He didn't attend.

Things didn't go any better for those who braved what was intended to be a justifiably angry crowd, not exactly a place for a reasoned debate.

Sen. Marco Rubio was booed for saying the truth — that a ban on assault weapons wouldn't have prevented the attack by Cruz.

Meanwhile, Dana Loesch, spokesperson for the NRA, calmly answered questions and politely listened to those who spoke, despite being booed and heaped with abuse and, at one point, being denied the right to answer after one person in the audience spoke for four minutes and asked Loesch a question. After one attempt at an answer to another question, different hecklers in the crowd began to chant "murderer!" CNN did nothing to stop it.

Loesch, speaking one day after the CNN event at the CPAC Conference in Washington, said: "I had to to have a security detail to get out. ... There were people rushing the stage and screaming, 'burn her'."

CNN's attempt to whip up pro-gun control enthusiasm won't be the last.

Celebrities from Hollywood, who tolerated years of rampant sexual abuse and harassment in their own industry, have moved on to funding a pro-gun control "March for Our Lives" demonstration, set for March 24 in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere around the country.

Make no mistake. This "march" isn't a student-led, spontaneous event. It's been planned and funded by leftist organizers and far-left celebrities. George and Amal Clooney pledged $500,000 to support the march. Oprah Winfrey matched the donation, followed by Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg and directing legend Steven Spielberg, who also matched.

For Oprah, "these inspiring young people remind me of the Freedom Riders of the 60s who also said we've had ENOUGH and our voices will be heard."

Oprah must be confused. The Freedom Riders were demonstrating and organizing on behalf of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — including the Second Amendment.

Gun control is now the cause du jour in ever-trendy Hollywood, apparently. The disgraced former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, hoping to salvage something from his career, promised to "channel that anger" that made him a serial sex abuser toward the NRA. "I've decided that I'm going to give the NRA my full attention," Weinstein told the New York Times. "I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. I'm going to do it at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah."

We know there are angry people out there who have suffered horrible losses and who believe that abolishing guns is the only answer. We respect that, while disagreeing.

Yet we also know that the left-wing media, as exemplified by CNN, will continue their advocacy journalism of the worst sort, sticking microphones in the faces of grieving parents and kids, whipping up anger and seeking to use raw rage in their fight to curb Americans' constitutional rights. And, yes, they'll continue to exploit the students of Stoneman Douglas high school, at least as long as it serves their purpose.

But will the voices of anti-gun control students who survived the shootings also be heard? Like that of Brandon Minoff, a senior at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High, who said: "I whole-heartedly believe the media are politicizing this tragedy. It seems that gun control laws is the major topic of conversation, rather than focusing on the bigger issue of 17 innocent lives being taken at the hands of another human."

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9. Trump Throws A Lifeline To Millions Of ObamaCare VictimsПт., 23 февр.[−]

Health Care: Middle class families who no longer can afford health insurance thanks to the "Affordable Care Act" — aka, ObamaCare — are one step closer to getting some relief, courtesy of the Trump administration, in the form of a new, low-cost, short-term insurance option. Naturally, Democrats are furious.

X This week, Trump's Health and Human Services department issued regulations that will let insurers sell short-term insurance plans that don't have to comply with ObamaCare's onerous market regulations and benefit mandates.

To prevent people from escaping ObamaCare, President Obama limited these plans to just three months. Trump would let them last just shy of one year.

"Americans need more choices in health insurance so they can find coverage that meets their needs," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.

What could be wrong with that?

Democrats — along with the know-nothing liberal press — see it as a terrible idea because giving an affordable health care choice would, they say, jeopardize ObamaCare. Healthy people, they say, would drop out in favor of this new low-cost option.

But this argument fails on several levels.

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As it is, ObamaCare isn't working. Despite promises from Democrats that it would stabilize the individual insurance market, it's had the opposite effect. Where there was healthy competition, there is often one insurer. Where double-digit premium increases were a rarity before ObamaCare, they've become a grim routine since.

This option isn't likely to draw people away from ObamaCare, because millions aren't enrolled anyway because they don't want it or can't afford it.

Less than half of those eligible for subsidies have enrolled in an ObamaCare plan, according to industry analyst Robert Laszewski. Enrollment in the ObamaCare exchanges, as a result, has been flat or declining for years — and always well below expectations.

The young and healthy who were supposed to sign up to keep premiums low for everyone else stayed away.

So did many who don't qualify for subsidies — and face mortgage-sized premiums for plans that came with a $6,000 deductible and HMO-style restrictions.

This group alone represents about 40% of the individual market. And those annual double-digit ObamaCare premium hikes have put insurance increasingly beyond their reach.

In fact, "the unsubsidized individual market shrank by more than 20% during Obama's last year in office because the plans were so unattractive," Laszewski says.

The result has been that the ranks of the uninsured are creeping back up. In Minnesota, the uninsured population climbed by 116,000 in past two years, largely because people are dropping out of the individual market.

There is one part of the insurance market that's been thriving since ObamaCare took effect — the unregulated "health care sharing ministries" organized by religious groups.

These sharing ministries were exempted from ObamaCare's regulations, and people enrolled didn't have to pay the ObamaCare penalty.

Democrats were willing to exempt these health-sharing plans because before ObamaCare they were a tiny slice of the market — with only about 150,000 enrolled. Today, there are more than a million people in these plans.

No doubt Democrats would want to ban health-sharing ministries today, if they had a chance, to "save" ObamaCare.

Could Trump's plan further destabilize the already faltering ObamaCare? Sure, that's possible. But that's another argument for repealing ObamaCare, not denying families an affordable health insurance option in the meantime.

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10. Victor Davis Hanson: The Paradoxes Of The Mueller InvestigationЧт., 22 февр.[−]

Special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russian nationals for allegedly conspiring to sow confusion in the 2016 presidential election. The chance of extraditing any of the accused from Vladimir Putin's Russia is zero.

XSome of the Russians' Keystone Cops efforts to disrupt the election favored Donald Trump (as well as Bernie Sanders). Yet Mueller's team made it clear that the Russians neither colluded with any U.S. citizens nor had any material effect on the election's outcome.

But from here on out, there will be ironies, paradoxes and unintended consequences with just about everything Mueller does.

Is it now time to prosecute foreigners for attempting to interfere with a U.S. election? If so, then surely Christopher Steele, the author of the Fusion GPS dossier, is far more culpable and vulnerable than the 13 bumbling Russians.

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Steele is not a U.S. citizen. Steele colluded with Russian interests in compiling his lurid dossier about Donald Trump. Steele did not register as a foreign agent. And Steele was paid by Hillary Clinton's campaign to find dirt on political rival Trump and his campaign.

In other words, Steele's position is far worse than that of the Russians for at a variety of reasons. One, he is easily extraditable while the Russians are not. Two, his efforts really did affect the race, given that the dossier was systematically leaked to major media and served as a basis for the U.S. government to spy on American citizens. Three, unlike with the Russians, no one disputes that American citizens — Hillary Clinton, members of the Democratic National Committee, and anti-Trump partisan Glenn Simpson and his Fusion GPS team — colluded by paying for Steele's work.

Mueller's team has also leveraged a guilty plea from former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn for making false statements to FBI investigators. If the Flynn case is now the Mueller standard, then we know that a number of high-ranking officials are vulnerable to such legal exposure.

Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr deliberately omitted on federal disclosure forms the fact that his wife, an expert on Russia, worked on the Fusion GPS dossier.

Steele himself probably lied to the FBI went he claimed he had not leaked the dossier's contents to the media.

Hillary Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills likely lied to FBI investigator Peter Strzok (who had also interviewed Flynn) when they claimed they had no idea that Clinton was using a private and illegal email server until the story went public. In fact, Abedin and Mills had communicated with Clinton over the same server — as did then-President Barack Obama, who likewise denied that he knew about the improper server.

Former FBI Director James Comey likely lied to Congress when he claimed that his exoneration of Clinton came after he had interviewed her. We now know from documents that he drafted a statement about the conclusion of the investigation even before he met with her.

As far as obstruction charges go, Mueller has other possible targets. Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch met secretly with Bill Clinton on a jet parked on a tarmac in Phoenix shortly before the Justice Department closed the probe of Hillary Clinton and chose not to pursue charges against her. Comey said Lynch asked him not to use the word "investigation" when discussing the Clinton email probe. Text messages between Strzok and fellow FBI official Lisa Page suggest that Lynch knew in advance about the conclusions Comey would reach in the investigation.

What is going on?

Mueller is under enormous pressure to find collusion between the Trump team and Russia, or to find that the Trump team obstructed justice by trying to hide such collusion. But neither likely happened. Mueller was appointed at a time of national hysteria, brought on by partisan journalism based on a leaked dossier — itself a product of a discredited British agent working with Russian sources while being paid by the Clinton campaign.

Worse still, the effort to hide the origins and the use of that dossier to obtain court permission to spy on American citizens may be a classic case of obstruction of justice.

Mueller's existential problem has been with him from the start. Due to the shenanigans of his discredited friend Comey and a rabid media, he was appointed to investigate crimes that did not exist. But if they did exist, collusion and obstruction were committed by those associated with the Clinton campaign and even by members of the Obama administration.

Investigating any possible crimes committed by members of the Clinton campaign or the Obama administration apparently is taboo, given the exalted status of both. But every time Mueller seeks to find incidental wrongdoing by those around Trump, he only makes the case stronger that behavior by those involved in the Clinton campaign and the Obama administration should be investigated.

If such matters are not treated in an unbiased manner, we are not a nation of equality under the law, but a banana republic masquerading as a democracy.

Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author of the recently released "The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won," to appear in October from Basic Books. You can reach him by e-mailing authorvdh@gmail.com.

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11. Gun Control News And Second Amendment RightsЧт., 22 февр.[−]

Mass shootings and other forms of gun violence are an unfortunate reality in the U.S. And after each tragedy, the debate returns to whether lawmakers should enact more gun control legislation.

X The problem is that these debates always take place in the heat of a highly emotional moment, when the shock of multiple slayings at a school or a public place is still fresh, and as families, loved ones and communities grieve their losses. As a result, facts too often get brushed aside.

But what are the facts about guns and gun control? When you look into them, you see that blind calls for additional gun control laws won't solve the problem of gun violence in America, and could prove counterproductive.

First, it's worth noting that there are already some 270 gun-control laws on the federal books, to say nothing of state ordinances. In most of the shooting rampages, the public learns only later that none of the gun control proposals advocates want added to the list would have prevented the killer from carrying out his plans. Or that the problem was that public officials failed to properly enforce existing laws.

What's more, the evidence shows that there isn't a clear correlation between gun laws and gun crime, either among states in the U.S. or internationally.

As you can see from the stories below, IBD's approach to this issue has been to present the facts, simply, free of emotional turmoil, without fear or favor, in this highly charged debate.

Gun Control Debate

CNN's Pro-Gun Control 'Children's Crusade' Exploited Grieving Students And ParentsMedia Bias: It's bad enough that the students of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School have been traumatized by the mass shooting by a former student that claimed 17 lives. But gun control... Read More
Want To Reduce Gun Violence? Empower Families And CommunitiesThe reality is that if we knew what leads to mass shootings at high schools, the problem would already have been resolved — sadly, we don't. We need to address all of... Read More
Gun Stocks Struggle After Florida School Shooting; Sturm Ruger Earnings Fall 44%Shares of gun makers tend to jump following a mass shooting, as investors bet on a rush to buy firearms in anticipation of possible gun control measures. But Sturm Ruger and American Outdoor Brands,... Read More
Here Are Some Things We Can Do About GunsThe gun control debate is complex. It pits rights against duties. It pits individualism against communitarianism. It pits gun owners against anti-gun activists, and law-abiding citizens against one another. Most of all,... Read More
Sorry, Despite Gun-Control Advocates' Claims, U.S. Isn't The Worst Country For Mass ShootingsGun Deaths: It's become commonplace to hear after a U.S. shooting tragedy that, when it comes to guns, America is just more violent than other countries, especially those in Europe, where many... Read More
Deny Mass Killers The Attention They CraveAn orgy of mutual disgust now greets every mass shooting in America. Liberals despise conservatives who, they predict, will offer only insipid "thoughts and prayers" in the face of what they conceive... Read More
No, There Haven't Been 18 School Shootings This Year — Not Even CloseThe latest mass shooting, which claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, was a horrible tragedy. But that's no excuse for the flurry of stories parroting a gun... Read More

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12. Want To Reduce Gun Violence? Empower Families And CommunitiesЧт., 22 февр.[−]

The reality is that if we knew what leads to mass shootings at high schools, the problem would already have been resolved — sadly, we don't. We need to address all of the factors that contribute to these circumstances, methodically and as part of a systemic approach, not as a series of bullet point solutions.

XAre guns to blame, or is it mental illness that's often overlooked? This is the reoccurring question that we as a nation ask ourselves when innocent children die in high school mass shootings. Are we really serious about minimizing the most dangerous places for violence in America? What is our priority? Parents want to see change that leads to overwhelmingly positive outcomes, not the political rhetoric and grandstanding that often shape these conversations.

Within hours of the Florida shooting, some on the left were quick to call for massive gun control, arguing that it could have prevented what occurred. However, no evidence suggests that is ever the case. For example, Chicago has an assault-weapons ban in Cook County, and at one point, even banned handguns in the city limits altogether until a 2008 Supreme Court ruling.

However, despite Chicago's strict laws on the types of guns an individual can have, or even its attempts to outlaw guns in the city altogether, there were more than 4,000 shooting victims in the city of Chicago in 2016 according to NPR, and the city continues to suffer from a massive amount of gun crimes.

A study by the University of Chicago crime lab titled: "Gun Violence in Chicago, 2016" noted that the number of homicides sharply rose, a majority of which were the result of gun violence. Despite their attempts, gun crime in Chicago continues to be a major problem, which indicates that restricting guns isn't the issue, but a lack of opportunity in places like Chicago and mental illness in places like Florida should be where we place our focus. Much of mental health issues are related to how children are nurtured and how trauma is dealt with in the home.

Friends, co-workers, neighbors and even the family that took the shooter in knew he had been troubled all of his life, just like those before him who have committed similar mass shootings. Throughout high school, instead of the eventual terrorist being suspend or expelled, school officials and family members had the option to seek institutional treatment. Professional help would have voided him of his ability to legally purchase a gun, which could have at the very least prevented the carnage. While no violence committed is ever guaranteed when a person want's to cause harm, mental help early on could have been a viable solution.

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Why did the media unfairly lambast President Trump for accurately laying blame with parents and everyone else? Why is it that we do not want to do the emotional digging of exposing parents and their lack of parental controls in the household? Why is it we cannot talk about the fact that there are places such as New York, where if you even yell or discipline your child, the child can file charges against the parent? Why is there never a discussion to revisit laws that make it difficult for parents to properly discipline their children?

Granted, the families of these lethal killers are victims, too, and environment does play a vital role in the mental and emotional stability of everyone. For this individual and more like him that will soon unleash their mental instability on innocent people, making the schoolyard the true warzone of America, they desperately require psychological help sooner rather than later.

However, the questions must be raised: why didn't they do more to seek out treatment for this individual? A clinical psychologist says that if you haven't made your child, by the age of four, the type of child that other kids want to play with; then, you've failed as a parent and that child's life is going to suck in exponentially worse ways as they age.

It cannot be emphasized enough that there is a direct correlation between the arrival of social media and the number of mass killings at our schools. Young people's socialization skills are lacking and many family members feel helpless and see no recourse. The mental and emotional issues of their children is taking its toll and parents and the community have lost the battle.

Many families are privately confronting troubled kids and don't know what to do or where to look for help. We as a nation must pull back the veil and empower families and communities with the tools to minimize the damage of mental illness. If we don't, Florida is certainly the outcome of what's in our future. More deadly, more reckless and resulting in more children dying for no reason at all.

  • Williams is a nationally syndicated columnist and host of a daily radio show and a nationally syndicated TV program called "The Right Side with Armstrong Williams."

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13. Race and Sports: It's Not 1947 Anymore; Let's Not Pretend It IsЧт., 22 февр.[−]

ESPN recently re-aired a three-part documentary about the long rivalry between two storied NBA basketball teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, and their two marquee players, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, respectively.

XAfter another devastating Laker loss, this time in the 1984 finals, Laker star Magic Johnson said he felt so disappointed, in part, because he let down blacks. So many black fans were pulling for him, including, he discovered, many black residents of Boston.

As a Los Angeles native, I, too, wanted the Lakers to win. But how did the Lakers of the era become the "black team" and how did the Bird-led team become the "white team"? Sure, the Celtics were led by Bird — a white player — but the Celtics' coach, K.C. Jones, was black, as were several key players, including guards Dennis Johnson and Gerald Henderson, as well as center Robert Parrish and forward Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell. Meanwhile, the Lakers' head coach was Pat Riley, a white man.

No doubt many whites pulled for Bird because he's white. As a white friend and Larry Bird fan once told me, "White people have pride, too." And no doubt that many black people pulled for Magic Johnson over Bird because Johnson is black. Who cares? Something can be racial without being racist. One black Celtic player said it bothered him that some blacks considered him to be playing for a "white team." But another black player, M.L. Carr, said he could not have cared less about the black-versus-white nonsense and just wanted to beat Los Angeles.

It's also worth noting that Bird never played into the "Great White Hope" nonsense. When an opposing ballplayer, Isiah Thomas, suggested that if Bird were a black player he "would be just another good guy," Bird did not take the bait. He could have fired back and accused the black player of racism. But he wanted nothing to do with what he perceived as a media-made controversy. When the player apologized, Bird accepted it, and that was that. Bird said: ''The main thing is that if the statement doesn't bother me, it shouldn't bother anybody. If Isiah tells me it was a joking matter, it should be left at that. The NBA is sometimes not the easiest thing to be in, and after a game like that, in the heat of the locker room, it's probably not the best time to talk to us. I've answered a lot of questions about it, and talked about it to my family, and they still love Isiah Thomas."

Now how about a little perspective?

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In 1950, the first black player entered the NBA. The '60s saw the breakout of black superstars like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, Walt Bellamy, Hal Greer and many more. Fast-forward to today. As of 2017, 75% of the roughly 500 players in the NBA are black. Of the 30 coaches in the NBA, eight of them — 27% — are black.

Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player in the modern major leagues, said, he, too, felt pressured to live up to the expectations of black America. He had good reason. There were zero blacks playing in the major leagues at the time he entered in 1947. There was a belief among many whites, and probably blacks, too, that black ballplayers just could not compete against whites. That's pressure.

Robinson faced hostility from teammates and opponents, many of whom attempted to physically harm him while playing. At that time, pre-television, baseball — along with boxing and horse racing — occupied a much bigger stage for the attention of the American public. Excruciating pressure was on Robinson, because what he represented and what he meant to millions of black Americans transcended baseball.

Because of pioneers like Jackie Robinson, we can now pretty much sit back and just watch a good game. Politics can wait a few hours.

During their playing days, Johnson and Bird became good friends. Since their playing days, their friendship has deepened. Bird even stunned Celtics fans when, after a tough loss, Bird — during the post-game press conference — conceded that Johnson was "the best I've ever seen." Turns out, when the noise died down, Bird just wanted to beat Johnson, whom he respected as a player and as a man. Johnson just wanted to beat Bird, whom he respected as a player and as a man. And that's how it should be.

  • Elder is a best-selling author and nationally syndicated radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com.

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14. Is Trump Guilty, Or Does He Just Look Guilty?Чт., 22 февр.[−]

When absorbing news about the Mueller investigation, I can't help thinking of Saddam Hussein. No, I'm not equating our president with the late Iraqi dictator. I'm thinking more about our assumptions regarding Saddam's guilt. In the run-up to the Iraq War, the whole world was asking whether Saddam had a secret program for weapons of mass destruction. The head of our CIA said it was a "slam dunk." Our allies' intelligence agencies agreed. There were good reasons to think it was true.

XSaddam had used chemical weapons against the Kurds. He had threatened to "burn half of Israel." He had used nerve gas against Iran in the Iran-Iraq war. Following the first Gulf War in 1991, the coalition was surprised to find Iraq's nuclear program quite advanced. Throughout the decade of the 1990s, Saddam thwarted and harassed international weapons inspectors. In 1998, signing the Iraq Liberation Act, President Bill Clinton cited Saddam's long cat-and-mouse game with international inspectors and declared, "It is obvious that there is an attempt here ... to protect whatever remains of his capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction ... (and) the missiles to deliver them."

But as we later learned, it was mostly a bluff. During interrogations in 2004, Saddam told the FBI that he had encouraged the world to believe he had WMDs so as to deter Iran. This isn't to say that Saddam's strategy was smart — he invited a U.S. invasion that could have been avoided if he had come clean — but it was a strategy. He was acting guilty for a reason other than being guilty.

Which brings us to President Donald Trump. He sure acts guilty. Let us count some of the ways. He chose Paul Manafort, well-known for shady Russia ties, as campaign manager. He picked Carter Page, a wannabee Russian agent, as a campaign foreign-policy adviser. Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Manafort met with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer. The president reportedly dictated a false statement about the meeting when it became public. With the Trump campaign's approval, Page traveled to Moscow in July 2016. WikiLeaks was in touch with Trump Jr. After Michael Flynn, who failed to disclose his lobbying for Russia and Turkey, was fired for lying to the vice president, Trump asked James Comey to go easy on him. The fact that Flynn lied to the FBI is odd. Why lie? It's routine for incoming administration officials to have contact with other governments.

Jared Kushner attempted to set up a back channel to communicate with Russia through the Russian embassy. Trump told the Russian ambassador in an Oval Office meeting that he had fired Comey, thus relieving "great pressure" regarding Russia. Trump resisted sanctions on Russia and, after they passed by veto-proof margins, failed to implement them. Trump suggested, after meeting the Russian leader, that the U.S. and Russia should set up a joint cyber security effort (causing security experts to spit out their coffee). He repeatedly said he believed Putin's denials of election meddling and fretted that he was insulting Putin by asking.

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He has obsessed about the Mueller investigation and taken every opportunity to impugn it. He reportedly ordered that Mueller be fired at one point. He colluded with Rep. Devin Nunes, talk radio, Fox News and other sycophants to discredit the FBI.

Among the president's nearly 100 tweets about Vladimir Putin, hardly any have breathed a word of criticism about the malign figure who daily attempts to sow discord in our country. Often painfully obsequious, Trump has indulged the idea that Putin's hostility was to Barack Obama personally. "Putin hates us," he told CNN in 2015; then he thought better of it and added, "He hates Obama. He doesn't hate us. I think he'd like me. I'd get along great with him I think. If you want to know the truth." There is always a suspicion with Trump that he cannot see beyond the end of his own nose. But I digress.

Trump publicly humiliated his attorney general for recusing himself from the Russia investigation — as if Sessions were his personal lawyer, but moreover, as if Trump had something to hide from an investigation into Russian meddling in our election. And there's more.

Does this add up to collusion with Russia to hack the DNC or otherwise affect the presidential election? Not by itself, no. It seems perfectly plausible to me that Trump was cultivating his Russia ties during the presidential race because he believed he would lose. He would then monetize this goodwill with business deals (to supplement the large share he already had, his persistent denials notwithstanding). But since holding office, some of his policies — including arming Ukraine and admitting Montenegro to NATO — have been objectively anti-Russian, not the actions of a Manchurian candidate.

He acts guilty in so many ways. He lacked the judgment to keep his distance from dodgy characters such as Manafort, Page, and Roger Stone. But recalling Saddam, I'm open to the idea — not convinced, but open — that he isn't as guilty as he seems.

Charen is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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15. What's The Biggest Threat To The Economy? The Answer Will Surprise YouЧт., 22 февр.[−]

Here's today's quiz: What poses the greatest threat to America's economy? (a) federal budget deficits; (b) China; (c) trade deficits; (d) ineffective schools; (e) the internet; (f) none of the above.

XThe correct answer is (e), the internet — the technological wonder of the age.

True, all the other threats are real. Runaway budget deficits could raise interest rates. China could overtake the United States in some high-technology industries. Inadequate schools could mean scarcities of skilled workers. All these developments could slightly slow economic growth or raise unemployment.

By contrast, the internet — if turned against us through hacking and cyberattacks — could conceivably shut down most of the economy. It represents a "potential threat to all Americans using any information and communications technologies" — that is, almost everyone.

We have this warning not from some obscure academic or business group but from the annual report of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, which devotes a whole chapter to the dangers of a hostile internet. It cites one study estimating $1 trillion worth of damage from an attack on "critical infrastructure" — say, the power grid or the payment system.

Even this figure seems far too low. Virtually everything depends on reliable electricity: elevators, lights, computers, refrigerators. The list goes on. A crippled power grid would broadly disrupt everyday activities and routines. The potential damage and disorder to the $20 trillion U.S. economy could be massive and, possibly, incalculable.

What we now know is that the internet has many warlike features. Curiously, the study has no discussion of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, but the omission reinforces the basic message: Despite the good it does, the internet makes possible destructive behaviors that, only a decade ago, were barely imaginable.

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Relying on data from Verizon, the CEA study classifies cyberwarriors into four major groups: (1) nation-states that spy on or disrupt their adversaries; the major players here are China, Russia, North Korea and Iran (the United States should probably be added to this list); (2) criminals engaging in identity theft and "ransomware" — the stealing of data that is promised to be returned upon payment of a given fee; (3) business competitors that steal proprietary technologies and trade secrets; (4) company "insiders," usually disgruntled workers "looking for revenge or financial gain." In addition, there are various freelancers: people with a political agenda or who hack for fun.

According to the Verizon data, about half the "threat actors" are criminals and about a fifth are groups affiliated with nation-states. Interestingly, about a quarter of cyberattacks are caused by insiders.

The CEA study provides many examples of computer breaches. In 2017, Equifax — one of the largest credit bureaus, rating consumers' financial reliability — was successfully hacked, with attackers gaining more than 140 million personal records (names, addresses, Social Security numbers). In 2014, hackers penetrated Home Depot's computers through the network of a supplier, compromising more than 50 million accounts.

For now, the internet's greatest threats are more theoretical than real. The costs can be huge for individual households, companies, government agencies (designs for the F-35 fighter were stolen and allegedly transferred to the Chinese, who incorporated some features in their newest fighter, the J-31). But the collective impact of these individual losses has yet to cause a breakdown of the broader economy through the widespread attacks on critical infrastructure.

Just how much of a burden computer crime now imposes on the United States is hard to know. In its report, the CEA estimated the cost in 2016 as somewhere between $57 billion and $109 billion. Though these are large amounts, they're less than 1% of the U.S. economy (gross domestic product). For 2016, the estimates were between 0.3% and 0.6% of GDP.

Whatever the most realistic figure, says the CEA, it's probably unrealistic. The reason: Many companies don't fully report cyberbreaches. "Underreporting is pervasive," says the CEA. Companies fear their stock prices will decline or that consumers will stay away from their brands or that their vulnerability to computer crime will invite more cyberattacks. And we are compounding our vulnerabilities by making more and more devices dependent on the internet (ex. driverless cars).

This is a treacherous moment. It may be that all the countries that have advanced cyberweapons are reluctant to deploy them fully against critical infrastructure for fear of retaliation. This self-restraint, if that's what it is, bodes well. But will it last?

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16. GOP Tax Cuts Are Turning Out To Be A Disaster ... For DemocratsЧт., 22 февр.[−]

Tax Reform: Not long ago, Democrats expected that the GOP tax cuts would be a political disaster for Republicans, just like ObamaCare was for Democrats in 2010. How's that prediction working out?

X Writing in the Atlantic in December, longtime political reporter Ron Brownstein argued that "President Trump and congressional Republicans have just taken the same leap of faith that Democrats did when they passed the Affordable Care Act."

He went on to note that after Democrats passed ObamaCare in early 2010 — despite strong public opposition — the backlash from voters "helped propel Republicans to the biggest midterm gain in the House for either party since 1938 and gave them a majority in the chamber they still haven't relinquished."

The left-wing news site Huffington Post echoed that sentiment — with a story headlined "ObamaCare Plagued Democrats In 2010. The GOP Just Voted For A Bill Even Less Popular" — predicting that the GOP would end up "hoping that when voters head to the ballot box next year, the tax bill isn't at the top of many minds."

It's true that ObamaCare contributed to the huge GOP gains in 2010. But the idea that the allegedly unpopular tax plan would likewise propel Democrats to victory this November was a fantasy.

It turns out that — unlike ObamaCare — the more people know about the GOP tax cuts, the more they like them.

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In fact, the latest poll from The New York Times finds 51% supporting it. That's up from 37% in December and 46% in January. Other polls, including the IBD/TIPP poll, have found similar shifts.

The growing support was the result of a raft of companies giving bonuses, raises, better benefits to millions of workers, along with new job-creating investments in plant and equipment, as a direct result of the tax cuts.

The New York Times poll came out just as workers were starting to get bigger paychecks, thanks to the lower federal tax withholding, also due to the tax bill. So public support is likely to climb even further.

ObamaCare, in contrast, was unpopular when it was passed, and was increasingly unpopular in the first two months when it took effect. (See nearby chart.)

The popularity of the tax cuts might have been a surprise to those in the liberal Washington bubble, but wasn't a surprise to us.

We noted in December — around the same time Brownstein, Huffington Post and others were predicting an ObamaCare-scale disaster for the GOP — that the tax bill was far more popular than the mainstream media let on.

Unlike most other polls — which simply asked people to give a thumbs up or down on the "Republican tax cuts" — the IBD/TIPP poll asked about specifics in the bill.

"When people are asked about key provisions in the tax bill, support rises across the board," we noted.

"The pundit class will continue to yammer about the political risks of this bill to Republicans, but it's Democrats who face the bigger challenge," we continued. "Once the public realizes the benefits of the tax plan, how do they explain that not one Democrat voted for it?"

And wouldn't you know, that's just what happened.

In fact, it's Republicans who are planning to run on the tax cuts in November, and Democrats who are fumbling about wondering what to do.

Priorities USA, a top Democratic super PAC, warned Democrats in a memo recently that the GOP tax bill was gaining in popularity, and then advised Democrats to "counter the narrative being pushed by the White House."

But how?

Democrats tried to dismiss the tax cuts, bonuses and raises workers were getting "crumbs," which made them look arrogant, rich and out of touch.

Pelosi's latest gambit is to call the tax cuts "unpatriotic."

Yeah, that will go over well with working families now benefiting from the extra take-home pay.

Julie Greene, who is heading up midterm campaign efforts for the AFL-CIO, was recently quoted as saying "if we spend all of our cycle running against the tax bill, it's probably going to be a mistake."

That's true, but what other choice do Democrats have?

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17. Competition In Technology Is More Vibrant Than It LooksЧт., 22 февр.[−]

The clamor is rising for Big Tech firms to be broken up. With Amazon and Alphabet, Google's parent company, reporting record profits, voices from both the political left and the right have called for the firms to be broken up using antitrust law. Both sides claim these companies use data they collect from customers to keep themselves big and powerful.

X At first glance, digital markets do seem fairly concentrated in just a few companies. Facebook owns the top three social media apps: Facebook, WhatsApp, and Messenger, all of which exceed 1 billion unique monthly active users. The company captures 20.9% of total U.S. digital ad revenue, putting it only behind Alphabet's 42.2%. And given the fast growth rate of Amazon, this looks like it is only a matter of time before the three control the entire market.

Viewing these numbers in perspective, however, makes the picture a lot more complicated.

Apple's native iMessage service, which does not show up in social media download statistics, shows much higher user engagement than Facebook Messenger, especially among younger demographics. Facebook is actually competing in messaging with a company whose interface it depends upon to gain access — and Facebook is losing.

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This reveals one of the difficulties in seeing who is competing against whom online. Facebook competes not only against other social media sites like Snap, but also against the likes of Google, Apple, and Microsoft in various domains. Online competition requires the firm to provide for a variety of user demands — or cede ground to rival startups. Unless a firm like Apple can provide a messaging service that its users enjoy, it would allow Facebook to gain ground, which weakens the long-term prospects of Apple's business.

These "platform wars" mean that competition between tech giants takes place over many different products and services, at various tiers. To understand the level of concentration properly, one cannot specify the market too narrowly. While Snapchat has less than one third of Instagram's users, those under the age of 25 use Snapchat much more heavily.

Taking a snapshot of one moment does not tell you about how demographics will affect market position in the next. The competition is fierce. Today's startups are tomorrow's giants, just like Facebook and Amazon once were — and not very long ago.

That means the current market positions of Big Tech firms are inherently unstable, despite the best efforts of these firms to prepare for the future. Facebook's attempt to kill off Snapchat with its Camera app is now regarded as a failure, as is Google's attempt to kill Facebook with Google Plus, and Amazon's attempt to branch into mobile with the Fire phone.

Having lots of data and users is not enough for these companies to branch out into new territories. If platforms fail to develop ecosystems that adapt to user demands, they can fall from seemingly dominant positions rapidly — as recent history amply demonstrates.

When the competitive pressure on these firms is put into perspective, they look less dominant. Amazon currently makes 2.5% of U.S. digital ad revenue compared to Alphabet and Facebook's near 70%, but looking at total U.S. ad revenue shows these firms together make only 20%.

Just consider that if tech giants are increasing their revenues to the detriment of newspapers, it still exaggerates the concentration to neglect newspapers' print ads entirely. It is also possible that some recent decisions, such as Facebook's news feed changes, will drive away users in the long-term. This is a dynamic market.

One thing, however, is perfectly clear. Consumers are by and large happy with their services. None of the Big 5 tech companies (Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook) have below a 60% approval rating. The companies may be large, but competition among them is as fierce as ever, allowing them to consistently innovate and provide consumers with new and better services.

Breaking up big technology companies in an attempt to force "competition" (according to a model developed in the pre-tech, 20th Century economy), without a clear understanding of the current market dynamics and the impact on consumers themselves, would leave their users worse off. And these days, that means all of us.

  • Murray is vice president for strategy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, where Khurana is a research associate.

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18. 'Keep It In The Ground' Movement Needs A Dose Of RealityЧт., 22 февр.[−]

Several weeks ago, the City of New York sued five big oil companies, including ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, for damages related to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, greenhouse gas emissions from the production and consumption of fossil fuels precipitated a change in global climate that caused the storm to hit the city.

XEight California cities and counties, including Richmond, which is home to a large Chevron refinery, have also filed lawsuits against a range of oil, gas, and coal companies seeking billions of dollars to help pay for past and future damages linked to climate change. Not to be outdone, on January 25 the city of Boulder, Colorado joined the fray by taking legal action to force fossil fuel companies to cover the costs of damages caused by severe past and future weather events.

Coupled with legal actions against energy companies, the divestment crusade continues apace. New York City is liquidating $5 billion of pension funds currently invested in oil and gas companies. San Francisco, Berkeley, Madison, Wisc., and a number of other cities have also pledged to reduce their pension funds' holdings of fossil fuel companies.

Several years ago, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced it would sell all of its fossil fuel company stocks (Is John D. turning in his grave?) Banks, insurance companies, foundations, faith-based institutions, and universities are also being pressured to get rid of their oil, gas, and coal company investments.

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The third leg of the "keep it in the ground" movement is opposition to energy infrastructure projects like pipelines, gas liquefaction projects, and export facilities. Though the fights against the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines have gained the most media attention, battles are being waged over dozens of other proposed infrastructure projects, especially in the Northeast and on the West Coast. Governor Andrew Cuomo's veto of the Constitution Pipeline that could bring cheap natural gas to New York consumers is a prime local example.

Regrettably, the a nti-fossil fuel movement suffers from both financial and political naivet?. The costs to local governments of pursuing legal actions of dubious merit against oil and gas companies will mean higher taxes or less revenue available for schools and other municipal services. Fossil fuel asset prices are unlikely to be affected by divestment, while numerous studies have shown that the pursuit of divestment strategies reduces returns to beneficiaries by decreasing portfolio diversification.

What's more, by potentially removing a large and profitable sector of the U.S. and global economies from their portfolios, financial managers may be disregarding their implicit fiduciary responsibilities.

Opponents of fossil fuels also fail to acknowledge how the oil and gas industry contributes to America's economic prosperity. The American Petroleum Institute calculates that more than 11 million jobs nationwide are supported by oil and gas production.

At the same time, all U.S. households and businesses benefit from relatively inexpensive and reliable energy supplies that help keep down the costs of heating and cooling, while powering a growing fleet of electronics and appliances in the typical home. Cheap energy also holds down manufacturing costs while enhancing the competitiveness of American goods in the global marketplace.

Finally, the "keep it in the ground" movement could use a dose of economic reality. Like it or not, according to the most recent forecast by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), despite the growing use of renewables oil and gas will still account for the lion's share of global energy supply in the year 2040. This offers tremendous opportunities to further enhance America's energy dominance, with all the attendant economic and security benefits, by expanding oil and gas exports even as domestic consumption moderates.

But the key to realizing this potential lies with building out the requisite infrastructure of pipelines, liquefied natural gas facilities, and export terminals — a task that has become more difficult and expensive as a result of the growing pushback by anti-carbon activists who are now focused on "shaming" financial institutions, foundations, pension funds, and endowments who hold assets or extend credit to fossil fuel companies.

  • Weinstein is associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute and an adjunct professor of business economics in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University.

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19. Billy Graham: Neither Prophet Nor TheologianСр., 21 февр.[−]

Asked in 1972 if he believed in miracles, Billy Graham answered: Yes, Jesus performed some and there are many "miracles around us today, including television and airplanes." Graham was no theologian.

Neither was he a prophet. Jesus said "a prophet hath no honor in his own country." Prophets take adversarial stances toward their times, as did the 20th century's two greatest religious leaders, Martin Luther King and Pope John Paul II. Graham did not. Partly for that reason, his country showered him with honors.

So, the subtitle of Grant Wacker's 2014 book "America's Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation" (Harvard University Press) is inapposite. When America acquired television and a celebrity culture, this culture shaped Graham. Professor Wacker of Duke's Divinity School judges Graham sympathetically as a man of impeccable personal and business probity.

Americans respect quantification, and Graham was a marvel of quantities. He spoke, Wacker says, to more people directly — about 215 million — than any person in history. In 1945, at age 26, he addressed 65,000 in Chicago's Soldier Field. The 1949 crusade in Los Angeles, promoted by the not notably devout William Randolph Hearst, had a cumulative attendance of 350,000. In 1957, a May-to-September rally in New York had attendance of 2.4 million, including 100,000 on one night at Yankee Stadium. A five-day meeting in Seoul, South Korea, in 1973 drew 3 million.

Graham's effects are impossible to quantify. His audiences were exhorted to make a "decision" for Christ, but a moment of volition might be (in theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer's phrase) an exercise in "cheap grace." Graham's preaching, to large rallies and broadcast audiences, gave comfort to many people and probably improved some.

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Regarding race, this North Carolinian was brave, telling a Mississippi audience in 1952 that, in Wacker's words, "there was no room for segregation at the foot of the cross." In 1953, he personally removed the segregating ropes at a Chattanooga crusade. After the Supreme Court's 1954 desegregation ruling, Graham abandoned the practice of respecting local racial practices. Otherwise, he rarely stepped far in advance of the majority. His 1970 Ladies' Home Journal article "Jesus and the Liberated Woman" was, Wacker says, "a masterpiece of equivocation."

The first preacher with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame was an entrepreneurial evangelical who consciously emulated masters of secular communication such as newscasters Drew Pearson, Walter Winchell and H.V. Kaltenborn. Wielding the adverbs "nearly" and "only," Graham, says Wacker, would warn that all is nearly lost and the only hope is Christ's forgiveness.

Graham frequently vowed to abstain from partisan politics, and almost as frequently slipped this self-imposed leash, almost always on behalf of Republicans. Before the 1960 election, Graham, displaying some cognitive dissonance, said that if John Kennedy were a true Catholic, he would be a president more loyal to the Pope than to the Constitution but would fully support him if elected.

Graham's dealings with presidents mixed vanity and naivete. In 1952, he said he wanted to meet with all the candidates "to give them the moral side of the thing." He was 33. He applied flattery with a trowel, comparing Dwight Eisenhower's first foreign policy speech to the Sermon on the Mount and calling Richard Nixon "the most able and the best trained man for the job probably in American history." He told Nixon that God had given him, Nixon, "supernatural wisdom." Graham should have heeded the psalmist's warning about putting one's faith in princes.

On Feb. 1, 1972, unaware of Nixon's Oval Office taping system, when Nixon ranted about how Jews "totally dominated" the media, Graham said "this stranglehold has got to be broken or this country is going down the drain." He also told Nixon that Jews are "the ones putting out the pornographic stuff." One can reasonably acquit Graham of anti-Semitism only by convicting him of toadying. When Graham read transcripts of Nixon conspiring to cover up crimes, Graham said that what "shook me most" was Nixon's vulgar language.

Of the My Lai massacre of Vietnamese civilians by U.S. troops, Graham said, "we have all had our My Lais in one way or another, perhaps not with guns, but we have hurt others with a thoughtless word, an arrogant act or a selfish deed." Speaking in the National Cathedral three days after 9/11, he said "it's so glorious and wonderful" that the victims were in heaven and would not want to return.

Graham, Wacker concludes, had an attractively sunny personality and was "invincibly extrospective." This precluded "irony" but also "contemplativeness."

20. Latest Trump Accusers Are Not #MeToo WomenСр., 21 февр.[−]

The media are jumping on stories of President Donald Trump's past dalliances with Playboy Bunny Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels. They're linking these women to the #MeToo movement. Don't buy it. Real #MeToo women, battling workplace harassment and domestic abuse, want to be judged by their achievements, not their bra size. They're the opposite of women who sell their sexuality.

XTurning McDougal and Daniels into poster women for the #MeToo movement shamelessly distorts an important cause.

New Yorker Magazine writer Ronan Farrow lionizes McDougal as a victim whose story exemplifies "abuses by high-profile men." McDougal, who claims she had a nine-month affair with Trump in 2006 to 2007 and later sold her story to a tabloid, once posed for centerfolds. Farrow has her posing as part of the #MeToo movement. "Every girl who speaks," he quotes her as saying, "is paving the way for another."

Not this "girl." McDougal says she met Trump In 2006 while he was taping "The Apprentice" at the Playboy Mansion. Anyone who read Playboy was familiar with McDougal's "body of work" as Playmate of the Month for December 1997 and 1998's Playmate of the Year. By her own account, she used her physical attributes to land Trump in bed and enjoy months of travel, entertainment and elbow rubbing with the glitterati before the affair ended. McDougal brags Trump was instantly attracted to her, even though he was married. After nine months, she broke it off, worrying what "her mother thought of her," Farrow reports.

A reasonable concern. But McDougal didn't let her conscience impede her profit-seeking instincts. Nine years later, when she saw Trump running for president, she sold exclusive rights to her story to American Media International, publishers of the National Inquirer, for $150,000. They chose not to publish. She claims AMI took away her "rights." Not so. She didn't have to sell to them. She could have peddled her story anywhere.

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So who's the abuser? McDougal, for converting her private consensual relationship into gold.

Now she's gone back on her word to AMI and given her story to Farrow, who says McDougal is troubled about "the moral compromises of silence." McDougal says, "I feel braver" about coming forward because of the #MeToo movement. Vox author Anna North repeats that absurdity, likening McDougal to other "survivors" who feel safe "going public" because of #MeToo.

NPR News, the Los Angeles Times, and other media outlets all repeat the spin that McDougal is courageously speaking out because of the #MeToo movement. New York Magazine reports that "McDougal said the #MeToo movement, in part, was why she wanted to come forward." CBS News reiterated Farrow's account that the "#MeToo movement emboldened" McDougal.

Baloney. What did McDougal survive, other than a big payoff? Maybe she regrets not getting more.

For McDougal and Daniels, it's about the money. Daniels took $130,000 to keep her 2006 sexual relationship with Trump a secret. Now that the Daniels secret is out — Trump's lawyer admitted paying her — she's launched a "Making America Horny Again" tour of strip clubs and offering a full account of her Trump tryst to the highest bidder.

Washington Post opinion writer Christine Emba suggests Trump might not have been elected had the news of his relationship with Stormy Daniels been known to voters. That's laughable. On the eve of the election, 63% of voters thought Trump was guilty of sexual misconduct. Yet a majority of churchgoing voters and 81% of evangelical voters supported him. "This is not a guy I want to be my pastor," says Frank Cannon, president of the conservative American Principle Project. "But being a pastor isn't the job."

Americans know Trump isn't a choirboy. But turning McDougal and Daniels into poster women for the #MeToo movement implies that the man they had sex with — Trump — harassed and abused them. Even by their own accounts, that's untrue.

  • McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and a former lieutenant governor of New York State.

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21. Desperately Hating Clarence ThomasСр., 21 февр.[−]

Of all the desperate and futile attempts at revisionist history, few are as careless as the attempt to destroy the reputation of one of the finest Supreme Court justices this country has ever produced.

XNow comes another volley. New York magazine has assembled "The Case for Impeaching Clarence Thomas." The author is longtime anti-Thomas journalist Jill Abramson. For more than 4,000 words, Abramson labors to relitigate Thomas accuser Anita Hill's dramatic loss in the court of public opinion. According to one poll at the time, only 24% believed her.

Again the argument falls on its face.

Justice Thomas has been a distinguished member of the Supreme Court for more than 26 years now. In the years since, Abramson has assembled ... well, nothing. Meanwhile, the case against Hill's unproven charges has grown only stronger, and Abramson's record of objectivity — if there ever was one — is evermore tattered. Liberals like her think you should impeach someone for allegedly lying under oath — but not if the person's name is Bill Clinton — and then lean heavily on "alleged" for protection.

Abramson's newest attraction is attorney Moira Smith, who claims she was groped by Thomas at a 1999 dinner party. Her accusation, delivered in the last days of the 2016 presidential campaign, flopped so badly that ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN never touched it.

The rationale for attacking Thomas all over again was the Harvey Weinstein expose. But just since then, Abramson has managed to hurt her own cause again. She has no credibility in this discussion. Indeed, she's on the wrong side of it. In October, the Washington Post reported that as executive editor of The New York Times and deputy to Michael Oreskes, she did nothing to stop Oreskes from allegedly sexually harassing a female news aide in the Washington bureau.

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"If I had to do it again, I would have told him to knock it off," she said. "I think I should have raised this with (the Times' human resources department). ... Maybe confronting him would have somehow stopped him from doing it to another woman."

In November, she wrote an editorial for the leftist British newspaper The Guardian that explicitly argued that feminist politicians shouldn't be ruined by sexual-harassment allegations. It said: "Casting out Al Franken, who has been a passionate, zealous defender of women's rights in a Senate grown ever more hostile to them, could remove an important weapon in the embattled Democratic arsenal.

"A reassessment of Bill Clinton's behavior era could have the same counter-productive effect."

That passage underlines that Abramson isn't really interested in stopping sexual harassment. She's interested in using sexual harassment against opponents of "women's rights," especially abortion on demand.

In fact, Abramson's tolerance for former President Clinton's sexual misconduct is this dramatic: A Nexis search of The New York Times for the terms "Jill Abramson" and "Juanita Broaddrick" brings up zero stories. When she finally acknowledged Broaddrick's existence in October 2016, she dismissed Broaddrick (and other Clinton accusers Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey) as part of a "Soviet show trial" before the second presidential debate.

Abramson's "new" case against Thomas is so unconvincing that the liberal media passed right over it. Oh, she still has a few die-hard friends on the left. Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan touted the New York magazine piece and lauded Abramson as a "badass" with "unparalleled expertise on the subject." They think alike. Last October, Sullivan also trashed Broaddrick & Co. as "a twisted version of 'The Last Supper.'"

Clarence Thomas has been recognized as a forceful legal mind on the Supreme Court, and he has staunchly argued against liberal barbarism like partial-birth abortion. It's obvious why liberal journalists with no real core principles on sexual harassment wished they had prevented his confirmation, and why Americans would have been denied an impressive justice.

Character assassination means never having to say you're sorry.

  • Bozell is the president of the Media Research Center. Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.

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22. Here Are Some Things We Can Do About GunsСр., 21 февр.[−]

The gun control debate is complex. It pits rights against duties. It pits individualism against communitarianism. It pits gun owners against anti-gun activists, and law-abiding citizens against one another. Most of all, it pits "common sense" against evidence.

XThe vast majority of gun control proponents keep talking about "common sense" gun control, as though Americans could simply blue-sky some ideas about curbing highly sporadic acts of violence and fix the problem immediately — and as though Americans were suffering from lack of will, rather than disagreement about method. That's simply not the case.

But there are things we can do.

Let's begin with the easiest thing: We can insist that our law enforcement agencies actually enforce the law. The Parkland, Florida, shooting occurred because the FBI failed to do its job. Not once but twice, the FBI was warned about the shooter. And not once but twice, it ignored the warnings.

That isn't rare. We know that law enforcement screwed up in the South Carolina black church massacre; we know it screwed up in the Texas church massacre; we know it screwed up in San Bernardino. We know that, as of 2013, out of 48,321 cases against straw buyers — people who buy guns for others, including those who aren't legally allowed to buy them — just 44 had been prosecuted. We know that as of 2013, there were nearly 20,000 people in California alone who weren't legally allowed to own guns but owned them anyway. Giving the government more legal power to confiscate weaponry or prosecute those who are dangerous means nothing if the government blows every available opportunity.

But we can do more.

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David French at National Review suggests an option: gun-violence restraining orders, or GRVOs. These would allow family members to apply for an order enabling the legal authorities to temporarily remove guns from those who are deemed to be a significant danger to themselves or others. Furthermore, we should ensure more transparency in the background-check system with regard to mental health records, and we should look to ease the regulations on involuntary commitment of the dangerously mentally ill.

We should also radically increase security in schools. I attended a Jewish high school that was regularly threatened with violence. Every student who attends that school is now checked in by security; the school has barriers on every side; armed security guards attend the campus. The same measures should be available at every public school. Complaints about the so-called school-to-prison pipeline created by the presence of law enforcement at schools seem to be overblown, according to the data — and, more importantly, it's the school's job to ensure the safety of students, not to protect students against their own criminal behavior.

These are simple measures that should be able to achieve broad agreement. But they probably won't, because it's too politically useful for the left to rail broadly about gun control. The biggest problem with the gun control debate has been its failure to boil down slogans to proposals. That problem won't be alleviated so long as the media insist on putting mourning teenagers on television with the chyron "DO SOMETHING." Something is nothing unless someone puts some actual proposals on the table.

  • Shapiro is host of "The Ben Shapiro Show" and editor-in-chief of DailyWire.com.

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23. Fixing America's 'Invisible' Infrastructure — The Wireless SpectrumСр., 21 февр.[−]

America's wireless spectrum — that long-neglected part of our vital national infrastructure – finally is receiving much needed attention by the Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

XChanges that are important for broadband modernization, however, could be short-circuited by Washington's continuing budgetary mess. The changes also could become an unintended victim to debates surrounding the creation of a new, "5G" network.

Citizens everywhere, especially those in rural parts of the country, have a stake in ensuring that neither contingency occurs.

Most of the attention paid to "infrastructure," including by President Trump in his recent state of the union address, focuses on our physical infrastructure — bridges, highways, water systems, and rail. Just as important, but far less noticed, is a vital but largely invisible component of America's infrastructure — the wireless spectrum.

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Just like a concrete interstate highway, the wireless spectrum has a finite capacity. Sooner or later, only so many users can "ride" its frequencies before it becomes overcrowded, clogged, and eventually, unusable.

Unfortunately, while a highway can be widened and more lanes added, the wireless spectrum used by broadcasters cannot.

There are only so many megahertz "lanes" or frequencies available for use. Because demand for space has skyrocketed in this digital age — with cell phones, social media, television, radio, law enforcement, 911 emergency systems, and more competing for signal strength — something had to be done to modernize the spectrum so it did not "collapse" under the weight of massively increased demand.

These problems demanded the attention of the federal government, which controls the wireless spectrum in the "public interest," and in 2012 the Congress responded appropriately, by authorizing the FCC to auction off large segments of the spectrum to private companies.

The plan was that, through such a process, a significant amount of wireless spectrum would be made available to businesses that could then provide new and improved services to consumers as market forces dictated.

This process — "repurposing" in government-speak — in fact accomplished its purpose when the auction concluded in March 2017; benefiting companies like T-Mobile, AT&T, and many others, as well as Uncle Sam, which took in nearly $20 billion and allocated $7.0 billion for "deficit reduction." The process, however, was not without a downside.

Costly upgrades are necessary for wireless broadcasters to modernize their equipment, realign broadcast channels, and incur other, related expenses. Congress in 2012 anticipated such a problem, and authorized $1.75 billion in what can be considered eminent domain reparations, so television broadcasters could adjust their equipment and facilities to operate on the realigned spectrum.

Unfortunately, that $1.75 billion has proved insufficient for necessary infrastructure improvements resulting from the spectrum realignment. Thus, nearly a thousand television stations — mostly locally owned — and more than 600 "forgotten" radio stations that use those same towers to broadcast their programs, are facing significant costs that the congressional planners failed to fully foresee nearly six years ago.

In other words, an unintended, but still costly, unfunded mandate.

The potential consequences for American consumers, especially those residing in rural America, are severe. The Rust Belt relies on these local TV and radio stations for business, especially farming.

Unlike the vast array of choices found in most cities, some local communities are entirely dependent on just one or two local stations. Consequently, without correction, the government's spectrum reallocation would unjustly select winners and losers within the country.

Fortunately, a bipartisan group of House and Senate members has addressed this shortfall by proposing legislation to allow these affected TV and radio broadcasters to use a small fraction of the auction's profits for ensuring they can continue broadcasting on the new wireless spectrum.

Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also has recognized that the Congress needs to authorize additional funding for these broadcasters so they can remain on the air.

Leaders in both the Congress and the administration recognize that the only fair thing to do is to provide funds for this overlooked unfunded mandate problem. Furthermore, the funds are there; in the form of the $7.0 billion "profit" the government realized from the auction.

Unfortunately, what would appear to be a no-brainer could fall victim to the ongoing budgetary stalemate in the nation's capital; and the waters in which these issues will be considered could be severely muddied by the recent debate about whether the government should be involved in the development of a new "5G" broadband network.

Either contingency would indeed be a shame, as it would undercut a rare instance in which the government is trying to do the right thing for the right reason at the right time. And time is running out.

  • Barr served as a congressman from Georgia from 1995 to 2003.

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24. Sorry, Despite Gun-Control Advocates' Claims, U.S. Isn't The Worst Country For Mass ShootingsСр., 21 февр.[−]

Gun Deaths: It's become commonplace to hear after a U.S. shooting tragedy that, when it comes to guns, America is just more violent than other countries, especially those in Europe, where many countries have stiff gun-control laws. It's a progressive shibboleth, but even some conservatives agree. The only problem is, it's not true.

X Yes, America does have a lot of gun violence. But more than other countries, especially in Europe?

To listen to America's politicians, you'd think that was the case.

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President Obama talked about it a lot, including in June of 2015, after a gunman shot nine people in a Charleston, North Carolina church: "Let's be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries," Obama said.

Days later, Sen. Harry Reid echoed his comments. "The United States is the only advanced country where this kind of mass violence occurs," he said.

More recently, the tragic, preventable slaying of 17 students by accused gunman Nikolas Cruz elicited similar sentiments from Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, speaking in the Senate just last Thursday: "This happens nowhere else other than the United States of America."

Powerful remarks, and no doubt heartfelt. But a study of global mass-shooting incidents from 2009 to 2015 by the Crime Prevention Research Center, headed by economist John Lott, shows the U.S. doesn't lead the world in mass shootings. In fact, it doesn't even make the top 10, when measured by death rate per million population from mass public shootings.

So who's tops? Surprisingly, Norway is, with an outlier mass shooting death rate of 1.888 per million (high no doubt because of the rifle assault by political extremist Anders Brevik that claimed 77 lives in 2011). No. 2 is Serbia, at just 0.381, followed by France at 0.347, Macedonia at 0.337, and Albania at 0.206. Slovakia, Finland, Belgium, and Czech Republic all follow. Then comes the U.S., at No. 11, with a death rate of 0.089.

That's not all. There were also 27% more casualties from 2009 to 2015 per mass shooting incident in the European Union than in the U.S.

"There were 16 cases where at least 15 people were killed," the study said. "Out of those cases, four were in the United States, two in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom."

"But the U.S. has a population four times greater than Germany's and five times the U.K.'s, so on a per-capita basis the U.S. ranks low in comparison — actually, those two countries would have had a frequency of attacks 1.96 (Germany) and 2.46 (UK) times higher."

Yes, the U.S. rate is still high, and nothing to be proud of. But it's not the highest in the developed world. Not by a long shot.

Yet, some today propose banning rifles, in particular AR-15s, because they've been used in a number of mass killings. It's important to note however that, according to FBI crime data cited this week by the Daily Caller, deaths by knives in the U.S. outnumber deaths by rifles by five to 1: In 2016, 1,604 people were killed by knives and other cutting instruments, while 374 were killed by rifles.

So is it not fair to ask: If we're banning rifles, why not knives, too?

The point is, guns aren't the problem; deranged killers that grow up in broken families often without positive male role models in their lives are the problem. So are political and religious extremists, in particular Islamists. If these people didn't have guns, they would find some other means to do the job.

Bombs are illegal in both the U.S. and Europe. Yet Europe loses far more people to bombings than the U.S. Doesn't that make them more violent?

In the most recent mass killing here in the U.S., what's upsetting is that Nikolas Cruz, as is usually the case, showed all the signs of a potential killer. He had been expelled from school. He made repeated violent threats. Deputies had made no fewer than 39 visits to his home. He left comments on a web video saying "I'm going to be a professional school shooter." After being notified about the disturbing message, the FBI looked into it, but did nothing.

In this, Cruz is typical. As columnist SE Cupp notes, "the stunning commonality in all these mass shootings ... is that the men who perpetrate them are sick — Las Vegas, Pulse nightclub, Newtown, Columbine, Charleston, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora — on and on, these killers were mentally ill and in almost every case, someone knew it."

Sweeping gun control laws may sound good, but they won't keep handguns and rifles out of the hands of criminals. They will make it even harder for honest Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights, however.

Rather than politicizing the deaths of 17 people, Democrats and others should instead be pushing for better school security, and for our law enforcement agencies to respond more aggressively to clear threats. Those who are severely mentally ill or psychotic or potentially violent need help. And those that kill for political or religious reasons often show clear signs of being violent. No amount of gun control can stop that.

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25. Seriously, Steel Industry Protection Is The Wrong Way To GoСр., 21 февр.[−]

Protectionism: A letter sent last week to President Trump by 25 steel industry moguls demonstrates once again that this group does not like competition. They request immediate action under the rarely used "Section 232" of a 1962 U.S. trade law that allows for import restrictions in order to protect national security.

It's a persuasive argument, if we're comfortable with a weak (yet well-fed) American steel industry and higher prices for the rest of us.

Their justification is that Chinese and other foreign steel producers benefit from unfair subsidies in their own countries. As a result of foreign competition, domestic steel's market share is down to 70%. Numbers like this would make any other business owner's head spin, but these executives think they deserve more.

No doubt, state interference by China and other foreign governments has caused tremendous increases in steel production worldwide.

But for years this industry has avoided competition. As a result, they have not taken the tough steps needed to lean up and succeed on their own. With decades of special protections, billions in subsidies, and bloated executive compensation packages, it is no wonder U.S. producers are not competitive in this market with a low-wage country like China.

Thanks to his statements like last summer's "Tariffs. I want tariffs," these well-organized domestic steel executives see an opportunity with a president overly sympathetic to their pleas.

In an ideal world, no government would bankroll domestic companies. The urge to protect our own people against aggressive foreign subsidies is understandable, but not all protections actually help our country.

In particular, import taxes are known to be a net negative for the overall U.S. economy, and with intermediate inputs like steel the costs are more severe. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 5.4 million workers are directly employed by steel-using sectors. The American Iron and Steel Institute reports that the steel industry directly employs 140,000 people in the United States.

In other words, for every steel worker that may be helped by the import tax, there are over 38 workers in steel-using sectors that may be harmed by it. Further, the vast majority of steel-consuming manufacturers are small businesses that don't command the ability to pass higher prices on to their consumers.

A study by the Trade Partnership Worldwide found the 2001 Bush-era steel tariffs created supply shortages by deterring imports, and gave U.S. steel producers massive pricing power. The authors found a significant impact on steel-consuming industries. "More Americans lost their jobs in 2002 to higher steel prices than the total number employed by the U.S. steel industry itself," they reported.

Meanwhile, there is little or no evidence that steel imports threaten our national security. As our colleague Dan Griswold has noted, domestic steel production far exceeds any foreseeable need by the U.S. military, which is actually a relatively small customer.

"The freedom to trade is the greatest economic freedom we have," said chairman of the Ways and Means Committee Kevin Brady, R-Texas, in January. "It is the freedom to buy and sell and compete anywhere in the world with as little government interference as possible."

But economic freedom and competition go hand in hand. And competition has never been for shrinking violets.

The steel industry's historic unwillingness to compete and the government's continued handouts are why they are in such poor shape today. It is why they are at the doorstep of the White House yet again asking the president, along with every American consumer, for help.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Trump's trade team should know that even without overproduction in foreign markets this industry would be in subpar shape due to its decades of government support. Import taxes have not solved and will not solve the industry's problem, and they will cause too much collateral damage here at home.

When it comes to foreign steel subsidies, U.S. industry can (and does) avail itself of the countervailing duty laws, which are aimed at neutralizing the negative effects of subsidies. They should not be allowed to abuse the national security process with Section 232 while the rest of the economy endures disproportionate costs.

  • De Rugy and McDaniel are senior research fellows with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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26. Russia Scandal: Mueller's Latest Indictments Point To Democratic CollusionВт., 20 февр.[−]

Scandal: For more than a year, Democrats have been pushing the story that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to steal the election from Hillary Clinton. But the evidence keeps piling up indicating that it was Democrats, wittingly or not, who've been helping Russia achieve its real meddling goals.

XThe latest comes from the indictments issued Friday by Special Counsel Robert Mueller against 13 Russians accused of illegally meddling in the U.S. political system. This has been taken by Trump critics as proof that Russia did, indeed, conspire to meddle in the election.

But if you read the indictments, look at the Facebook ads, the Trump "dossier" and other evidence, it becomes clear that the goal of this meddling wasn't to elect Trump, but to create anger, hostility, bitterness, and discord in the U.S.

Mueller Indictment

Consider what's quoted in the indictment as the goals of these Russians:

  • The Organization's stated goal was "spread(ing) distrust toward the candidates and the political system in general."
  • Specialists were directed to create "politician intensity through supporting radical groups, users dissatisfied with (the) social and economic situation and oppositional social movements."
  • The Organization controlled Facebook pages that "addressed a range of issues, including immigration (with group names including "Secured Borders"); the Black Lives Matter movement (with group names including "Blacktivist"); religion (with group names including "United Muslims of America" and "Army of Jesus"); and certain geographic regions.
  • In June 2016, the Russians used the Facebook group "United Muslims of America" to promote a rally called "Support Hillary. Save American Muslims."

Although not in the indictment itself, it's already been reported that in May 2016, two Russian-backed groups — "Heart of Texas" and "United Muslims of America" — organized both pro- and anti-Muslim rallies outside an Islamic center in Houston, where the two rallies squared off.

Notice what's missing here? Any mention of electing Trump president. Over and over again, the stated goal of these groups, according to Mueller's indictment, wasn't to get Trump elected, but to set Americans at each other's throats.

Facebook and Social Media

The indictment makes much of the ads these Russians bought on Facebook, and it suggests that these efforts were designed to disparage Clinton and support Trump.

But the Facebook VP of Ad Product Rob Goldman reviewed every ad in question, and noted in a series of tweets over the weekend that " I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal."

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

Most of the ads didn't mention the election or any candidate. A quarter of them weren't seen by anybody. And, as Goldman notes, "The majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election."

How does this point to a Russian effort to elect Trump? It doesn't. But as Goldman notes with apparent frustration, nobody wants to hear that.

"We shared that fact, but very few outlets have covered it because it doesn't align with the main media narrative of Tump (sic) and the election."

We noted in this space last October that other examples of Russia's "meddling" didn't support the Democrats claims, either. One campaign was called "Don't Shoot Us." Among other things, tried to encourage those playing the augmented reality game Pok?mon Go to find and train Pok?mon near locations where alleged incidents of police brutality had taken place, and name their Pok?mon after the victims.

In case anyone has forgotten, police brutality and social justice reform were Democrat issues.

Anti-Trump Rallies

The Mueller indictment also points out that the Russians organized rallies in favor of Trump. But they also organized at least two anti-Trump rallies after the election.

The Russians "organized a rally in New York called 'Trump is NOT my President' held on or about November 12, 2016."

They "organized a rally entitled 'Charlotte Against Trump' in Charlotte, North Carolina, held on or about November 19, 2016."

It's worth noting that the New York rally received extensive coverage from the mainstream press, who were apparently uninterested in the rally's sponsorship.

Trump Dossier

Even the much-ballyhooed Trump dossier fails to support a claim that Russia was bent on getting Trump elected. If that were the case, why would top Russian officials have been feeding dirt to Christopher Steele, who then tried to peddle it to the press before the election?

"If any part of the Steele dossier is accurate, Russia was playing both sides of the fence," noted Real Clear Politics Washington bureau chief Carl Cannon.

Election Polls

The Mueller indictment does allege that these Russian operations were "primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump."

But think about this for a moment. No one in the U.S. or around the world thought Trump had any chance of winning the election. On the day of the election itself, the highly cited poll analysis group FiveThirtyEight gave Trump a 28.6% chance of winning the election.

When the Russian efforts were supposedly going on in earnest, FiveThirtyEight put Trump's odds in the teens. (In the end, the IBD/TIPP poll was one of the only national polls to show a Trump victory.)

It's more likely that those anti-Hillary efforts weren't designed to help defeat her, but to weaken her presidency after she got elected, just as the Russian-informed Trump "dossier" has weakened Trump's presidency.

The Real Co-Conspirators

So, to sum up: There's been no credible evidence presented so far — none — of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to sway the November election, despite more than a year-and-a-half of relentless FBI and media investigations.

But there is growing evidence that, as Facebook's Goldman put it:

"The main goal of the Russian propaganda and misinformation effort is to divide America by using our institutions, like free speech and social media, against us. It has stoked fear and hatred amongst Americans. It is working incredibly well. We are quite divided as a nation."

Indeed it has worked incredibly well.

The problem is that Democrats and the mainstream press will never admit any of this, because if they did, they'd also be admitting that they were co-conspirators in this nefarious Russian campaign to undermine America's democratic institutions.

During the Cold War, there was a label for Americans who unwittingly did Russia's bidding — "useful idiots."

Perhaps it's time to resurrect this label.

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27. Obama's Real Debt And Deficit LegacyВт., 20 февр.[−]

Congressional Republicans have been raked over the coals in the last two weeks for slamming through budget caps and inflating government spending and debt by another $300 billion. The criticisms are well-deserved. It's a historical truism that Republicans are much more fiscally conscientious when they are in the minority than when they run Congress. And Republicans tend to be much bigger fiscal hawks when there is a Democratic president than a Republican president — as we are now witnessing.

XThe only time in half a century that the budget has been balanced was in the late 1990s, when Bill Clinton was president and the Republicans ran Congress. It was a good combination. We ran four straight budget surpluses from 1998 to 2001, and government spending dropped gloriously, from about 20% of GDP to 17.6%. No wonder the economy boomed in those years. Government was less of a drag.

But now we are experiencing a historical revisionism — based on fantasy, not fact — about the fiscal record during the slow-growth Obama years. Amazingly, Barack Obama is being heralded as a deficit slayer who helped get our fiscal house in order. What's next? Richard Nixon was really a pussycat?

Obama and his supporters are saying that he "cut the deficit by two-thirds" while president. The left-wing group PolitiFact, which is supposed to be a fact-checker, even has rated Obama's claim as "mostly true." Last week, while I was talking about the fiscal outlook on CNN, the producers put a chart on the screen showing that the deficit dropped by 60% while Obama was president.

My jaw dropped — literally — when I saw the chart. This takes data torturing to new heights. The national debt skyrocketed from $11 trillion to nearly $20 trillion on Obama's watch. Is a diet successful if you start by weighing 200 pounds and eight years later you weigh 400 pounds? Would anyone in that position say, "I may be obese now, but at least I'm putting on the pounds at a slower pace"?

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

The national debt nearly doubled in eight years, which makes Obama the runaway Olympic gold medalist for fiscal incompetence. On this score Obama's record is by far the worst of any modern president.

So where does this fantasy come from that Obama lowered the deficit by 60%? Here are the official deficit amounts (in billions of dollars) in George W. Bush's last year in office and Obama's eight years in office:

2008 — $459
2009 — $1,413
2010 — $1,294
2011 — $1,300
2012 — $1,087
2013 — $680
2014 — $485
2015 — $438
2016 — $585

Here is some simple math for the Obama worshippers: $585 billion, the deficit at the end of the Obama presidency, is higher than $459 billion, the deficit at the beginning of the Obama presidency.

The left comes up with a different answer by dishonestly starting Obama's deficit meter in 2010, after he passed the fiscal stimulus bill, an $800 billion debt bomb. So they assigned the gargantuan deficit in Obama's first year to Bush. It is true that we were four months into fiscal year 2009 when Obama was sworn into office. And it is true that the deficit was going to be much higher no matter what Obama did in his first year because of the deep recession that ended in June 2009. So in fairness, some of the large deficit in 2009 was Bush's fault.

But Obama made the deficit hundreds of billions of dollars worse with a stimulus plan that by the administration's own admission didn't create a single new job. The number of jobs in 2009, 2010 and 2011 was lower than Obama's economists predicted we would get if we had done nothing and not wasted $800 billion.

Obama's failed presidency is being falsely lionized in other ways, as well. The new spin from the left is that Obama saved the U.S. from a second Great Depression, when in fact he gave America the weakest recovery from a recession since the Great Depression. He also left Donald Trump with an economy that was crawling at 1.6% — which is why many people thought we were headed into another recession.

No one thinks that today. If the latest Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta projections are right, we will have growth of 3.2% in the first quarter of this year, and we will have averaged 3% for the past year. This is almost twice the growth rate Trump inherited, and that number, ladies and gentlemen, is not fantasy; it is fact.

  • Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with Freedom Works.

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28. Inflation Is Back?Пн., 19 февр.[−]

Anyone looking for good economic news will be disappointed by the latest inflation report, which showed the Consumer Price Index (CPI) advancing by 0.5% in January. By itself, this isn't especially alarming — prices jump around month to month — but it has troubling implications for the future. To some economists, it suggests the possibility of another financial crisis on the order of the 2008-09 crash.

XUntil recently, inflation seemed to be dead or, at least, in a prolonged state of remission. It was beaten down by cost-saving technologies and a caution against raising wages and prices instilled by the Great Recession. From 2010 to 2015, annual inflation as measured by the CPI averaged about 1.5%, often too small to be noticed. In 2015 and 2016, the annual rates inched up to 2.1%. On an annualized basis, January's 0.5% would be 6%.

It's doubtful that many economists believe that inflation is now so high. Remember those erratic month-to-month swings. But the pervasive nature of the inflation suggests that supply is shrinking compared with demand. This enables businesses to raise prices. The January gains, wrote Ken Matheny of Macroeconomic Advisers, were "broad-based, with increases in ... apparel, used cars and trucks, shelter, medical care services and transportation services."

Inflation's rebound seems to vindicate former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who argued that price increases were in hibernation, not the mortuary. Now, her successor, Jerome H. Powell, faces the tricky task of containing inflation without killing the economy.

The traditional Fed response to rising inflation has been to cool the economy. Interest rates go up; money and credit growth go down. This is almost always unpopular.

Still, the Fed has already indicated it may raise short-term interest rates three times in 2018, and even if it balks, long-term rates on bonds and mortgages may rise anyway. The reason: The so-called "bond vigilantes" — bond buyers — will insist on higher rates to compensate for the inflationary erosion of the value of their money. Rates on 10-year U.S. Treasury securities have already moved to about 3%, up from 2.5% in early 2018.

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

What's scarier is the possibility that higher inflation and interest rates will trigger a global financial crisis — some mixture of stock market collapses, bond and loan defaults and banking failures. Yet, at a recent conference hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, some experts suggested this dismal outcome.

"Global debt levels (are) higher today than in 2008," said economist Desmond Lachman, a former official at the International Monetary Fund now at AEI. He contended that major central banks — the Fed, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan — kept interest rates too low for too long, pouring $10 trillion into the global financial system since 2007.

"Lofty (stock market) valuations only make sense at low interest rates," Lachman argued. This creates a dilemma for the Fed. If it raises interest rates to combat inflation, it risks depressing the stock market and triggering a recession. But if it does nothing, inflation may worsen and cause a broader crisis.

William White of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development sounded a similar theme. "In the last 30 years," he said, "the real driving force (of economic growth) was demographics — we had a combination of baby boomers coming (into the U.S. economy) and China" joining the world economy.

Now, these forces are ebbing, White said. The baby boomers are retiring; the biggest part of China's impact has already occurred. To sustain economic growth, governments have resorted to easy credit. But mixing higher debt and lower economic growth may be unstable; some borrowers may default on their loans and bonds.

The Fed may be trapped; whatever it does — or doesn't do — carries risks. Of course, these dire predictions may not come true. They may be undone by skillful policy, good luck and unforeseen circumstances. But whatever happens, we know from history that containing inflation is an urgent task.

There is something dangerously seductive in accepting "just a bit more inflation" as a tolerable cost for lower unemployment and more economic growth. These promises are illusory, but they were believed by economists and political leaders in the 1960s and 1970s.

It was a disaster. Inflation crept up from about 1% in 1960 to 13% in 1979. During these decades, we experienced four recessions (1969-70, 1973-75, 1980 and 1981-82) and the pervasive uncertainty of not knowing what our incomes and savings would be worth, month to month.

Most Americans hated high inflation. It was not only bad for the economy, it also subverted our self-confidence and faith in national leaders. Its defeat in the 1980s, albeit with a harsh recession, was a major triumph that we shouldn't have to repeat.

  • Samuelson has written about business and economic issues for the Washington Post since 1977.

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29. Why L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti Should Run For PresidentВс., 18 февр.[−]

LOS ANGELES — It was dicey being Jewish in a Russia that was tolerant of pogroms, and then came the threat of conscription into the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War, so one of Mayor Eric Garcetti's great-grandfathers headed West to America. Another Garcetti great-grandfather married a Mexican woman who, fleeing revolutionary ferment there, headed north to America. Which is why Garcetti, a fourth-generation resident of the world's most polyglot city, is as American as a kosher burrito, a delicacy available at Mexikosher on Pico Boulevard.

XTrim, natty — colorful socks are, alas, fashionable — and with the polish of one born to public attention (his father Gil was LA's district attorney who prosecuted O.J. Simpson), Garcetti, like dozens of Democrats who have noticed recent presidential history, is asking: Why not me?

Good question. Although presidents Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge had been mayors of Greeneville, Tennessee, Buffalo and Northampton, Massachusetts, respectively, no mayor has gone directly from a city hall to the White House. But the 44th president came from eight years in the nation's most docile and least admirable state legislature (Barack Obama effectively began running for president as soon as he escaped to Washington from Springfield, Illinois). The 45th came from six bankruptcies and an excruciating television show. So, it is not eccentric to think that a two-term mayor of one of the world's most complicated cities might be as qualified to be president as was, say, the governor of one of the 23 states (Arkansas) with a population smaller than this city's. And less challenging: LA's schools teach children whose parents speak Tagalog and 91 other languages.

Recent history does not suggest that America has such a surplus of presidential talent that it can afford to spurn an audition by a mayor who governs where over 40% of waterborne imports enter the country — through the LA and Long Beach ports. Where more than 50% of residents are immigrants or the children of immigrants. Where immigrants from more than 30 nations form those nations' largest overseas communities.

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

His immersion in immigration realities gives him standing to warn his party, which is addicted to identity politics, that "people do want a national identity." We are "not an ethnic nation but a civic nation," and Democrats must speak to "identity" rather than "identities." Also, he brings practicality to the ideological argument about "sanctuary cities": When a Korean immigrant who became a citizen and then an LA cop was shot, not fatally, witnesses and others in the neighborhood, many of them likely illegal immigrants, came forward with information that enabled the police to capture her assailant within hours. Such police-community cooperation is, Garcetti says, jeopardized when local police are viewed as closely allied with federal immigration enforcement.

Garcetti, 47, is a generation younger than some progressives' pin-ups (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden). And living far from Washington, he is positioned to deplore the Beltway, within which his party has been concentrating power for a century. He suggests a rule for those who are perpetually enraged about the president: "You only get five minutes a day to yell at your TV." Democrats, he says, sometimes are "the smarty-pants party" that does not "speak plain English." He seems, however, to be tiptoeing on egg shells when trying to avoid offending his party's easily offended keepers of litmus tests. When, last September, an interviewer asked him if gun manufacturers should be liable for the misuse of their products, he said, "I think you have to be open to that." Such mush (should we be "open to" distillers' liability for drunken driving?) does not move nominating electorates.

New York's mayor (1933-1945) Fiorello La Guardia, a Republican in a Democratic city, famously said, "There is no Republican or Democratic way to pick up the garbage." And mayors have what Garcetti considers "the luxury of doing." But LA mayors are not powerful — the schools are run by others — and he must get along with the mayors of 87 other cities in LA county. This is, however, training for the presidency, which is less powerful than those who seek it think it is until, in office, they must deal with Washington's rival power centers.

California's presidential primary, which usually has been a June irrelevancy, will occur in March 2020. This might benefit Kamala Harris, the state's freshman U.S. senator, too. Anyway, Garcetti deserves a hearing. America could do worse, it usually does and in 33 months it probably will.

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30. California's Nurses Are Militant — And MistakenСб., 17 февр.[−]

The California State Assembly earlier this month heard testimony from proponents of The Healthy California Act, a bill that would establish a state-run, single-payer healthcare system.

XAmong the most prominent witnesses testifying in support of the bill was Michael Lighty, director of public policy at the California Nurses Association. The Nurses' push for single-payer has grown more aggressive since California's Democratic State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon shelved the bill last year calling it "woefully incomplete". The Nurses have responded by crashing state assembly meetings, hanging banners inside the state capitol, and hurling insults at Rendon.

The Nurses and their progressive allies can yell as loudly as they want. But the Healthy California Act remains completely infeasible. The bill would bankrupt California and harm patients across the state.

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

The Healthy California Act originated in the state Senate as SB 562. The upper chamber approved it last June; Speaker Rendon has been sitting on it ever since.

The bill would upend health care in California. Everyone would have to give up their current health coverage — including those with private employer-sponsored plans, those who buy policies on the individual market, and those covered by Medicare and California's version of Medicaid, Medi-Cal.

The Act would enroll everyone in a new state-run plan — one without deductibles, copays, provider networks, or specialist referrals.

Providing everyone in California with "free" health care would cost a lot of money. Last year, the state Senate's Appropriations Committee estimated the cost of SB 562 at $400 billion — twice California's entire budget. To offset these enormous costs, the Committee predicted that the state would have to impose a new payroll tax of about 15%.

The Nurses claim that study is hogwash — and that Rendon is ignoring an analysis of the bill by Robert Pollin, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, that they commissioned. That study concluded that the bill would provide universal coverage at a cost of $331 billion a year.

That's wishful thinking. Pollin assumes that the state will be able to make massive cuts in reimbursements for hospitals and doctors — roughly 22% off what private insurers currently pay. He also posits that the state will be able to slash drug spending 30% by implementing the same price controls the Veterans Health Administration uses.

The VA does indeed pay about 40% less for drugs than do Medicare's privately administered prescription drug plans. But the agency can only do so by refusing to cover some of the latest medicines. Of the 200 most prescribed drugs, the VA's formulary covers 16% fewer than does Medicare's average drug plan. And the VA doesn't cover any of the most prescribed drugs in three classes.

What good are savings of 30% if Californians don't have access to the medicines they need?

Pollin's proposed cuts in payments to doctors and hospitals will similarly reduce access to care. For evidence, look no further than the state's trial run administering a healthcare system — Medi-Cal.

The program covers nearly 14 million Golden State residents — one-third of the state population. Medi-Cal pays physicians about half what they get through Medicare. And Medicare generally pays less than private insurance. California has the third-lowest Medicaid reimbursement rates in the country.

Doctors have responded by refusing to see Medi-Cal patients. In 2013, 69% of doctors accepted Medi-Cal patients. Two years later, that number had fallen to 63% — even though the number of people on Medi-Cal increased, thanks in part to Obamacare's expansion of the program.

Some Medi-Cal beneficiaries must travel more than 50 miles to find a doctor, according to Mark Dressner, a former president of the California Academy of Family Physicians. "If I have patients that need a rheumatology consultation, it can take two years for them to get an appointment," he said.

It's not that the doctors are greedy. Most can't cover the costs associated with running their practices on Medi-Cal's meager reimbursements. One doctor in Winters, Calif., reported that the program paid her $20 for a basic office visit — one-third the rate of private insurance.

If the state takes over the entire healthcare system, doctors are unlikely to just accept Medi-Cal-style payments. They'll leave the state — or the practice of medicine altogether. This will also make it significantly harder for California to attract and retain the best and brightest new medical graduates and specialists.

California can't afford an exodus of doctors. By 2030, the state will need an estimated 8,000 additional primary care physicians to meet the needs of its population.

Single-payer would endanger Californians' physical and financial health. The California Nurses Association's support of such a system is at odds with its stated commitment to advocating for patients.

  • Pipes is president, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her next book, "The False Promise of Single-Payer Health Care" (Encounter), will be published this spring. Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.

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31. GOP Seeks To Make Tax Cuts Permanent, While Dems Seek To Repeal Tax Cuts, Raise TaxesСб., 17 февр.[−]

The battle for tax reform is far from over. Rather, it is heating up all over again, and will be resolved only by the voters themselves this election year.

XPresident Trump and Congressional Republicans are proposing new legislation this year to make all tax reform tax cuts permanent. That includes the tax rate cuts for the middle class and working people, which had to be phased out after 8 years in the tax reform bill to fit into the arbitrary budget window, because not a single Democrat would vote for the tax cuts to break a Senate filibuster.

Democrats, by sharp contrast, are already campaigning to repeal the tax cuts, if elected to Congressional majorities, raising taxes. They proved during the Obama years they do not understand the fundamentals of economic growth, and are pledging to make America uncompetitive again by raising corporate tax rates.

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

That will snatch away the rising wages and new jobs that President Trump and Congressional Republicans restored in his first year. Gone too would be the $5 trillion in increased GDP over the next 10 years that tax reform will produce.

Other countries around the world have been cutting their corporate tax rates for 20 years. That is why the average corporate tax rate in Asia is 20.1%; in Europe 18.9%. When Trump entered office, American companies and their workers suffered the highest corporate tax rates in the world at nearly 40%, counting state rates.

That is why America suffered long term stagnation under President Obama, with growth rates of 2%, comparable to third world countries. After 50 years at those growth rates, America will be fundamentally transformed into just another third world country, like Peru.

Democrat Party bosses like that, because they think they can then more easily dominate America as a one-party state, with majorities of American voters begging Democrats for more government handouts. Third world countries can't finance globally dominant militaries either.

That is why to Democrats, tax reform's corporate tax rate cut that makes America competitive again is a "corporate giveaway." Democrats have bragged publicly that they are going to spend millions behind ads spreading the message, "The Republican tax scheme gives huge breaks to corporations but raises taxes on middle class families."

But under tax reform as passed over the opposition of every single Democrat in Congress, the first $24,000 in income is tax free, for all taxpayers. Tax reform cut the income tax rate for middle class singles earning the next $9,525 to $38,700 by 20%, from 15% to 12%. It cut the rate for middle class singles earning $38,700 to $82,500 by 12%, from 25% to 22%. For more prosperous workers earning $82,500-$157,500, the rate was cut by 14%, from 28% to 24%.

For middle class families earning $19,050 to $77,400, tax reform cut the income tax rate by 20%, from 15% to 12%. For middle-class families earning $77,400 to $165,000, tax reform cut the rate by 12%, from 25% to 22%.

Sad reality, but for Democrats to spend millions this year telling voters these tax cuts do not even exist means they will have to lie to voters. When their party controlled media echoes the Democrat Party line, democracy can be completely subverted, as it was in 2012. Mitt Romney proposed the largest middle class income tax cut in American history. But when the Democrats and their party controlled media got done with it, most voters in exit polls said they thought Romney was proposing middle class tax increases.

It is equally fallacious for liberals to claim the tax reform will increase long term deficits and debt. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation estimates the $5 trillion in higher economic growth produced by tax reform would reduce the revenue loss to $448 billion over 10 years. Indeed, the tax reform will be producing net federal revenue increases by the 6th year, just as tax reform/tax cuts increased federal revenue under Reagan and Kennedy.

Republicans this year should also propose to completely eliminate the unfair death tax. Taxes are paid on lifetime savings when the money is earned. It is double taxation to tax anything remaining at death again. Republicans should also propose to make "expensing," meaning immediate deductions, for capital investment in productivity enhancing equipment, permanent as well, because that investment is the foundation for increased jobs and higher wages.

  • Uhler is Founder and Chairman of the National Tax Limitation Committee and National Tax Limitation Foundation (NTLF). He worked with both Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman in California and across the country.
  • Ferrara is a senior fellow with the Heartland Institute and NTLF. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan and as associate deputy attorney general of the United States under President George H.W. Bush.

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32. Taxing Innovators To Pay For Universal Welfare Is A Terrible IdeaСб., 17 февр.[−]

Taxes: A new "study" in Britain suggests that by raising taxes sharply on Facebook, Amazon and Apple, the government could pay for a universal basic income (UBI) for all Britons. It's an absurd idea, which is why it can't be counted out.

X The so-called FANG companies — the above-mentioned three, plus Google and Netflix — have been vilified now for years in Europe and in the U.S. as "monopolies" and, worse, "predators." When such strident rhetoric is used by politicians, you know they're going in for the kill. There's money to be made in taking down big, successful companies.

In the case of Britain, the left-wing paper The Guardian reports, the Royal Society of Arts (that's right, Arts) recommends that "Britain could raise new taxes on Amazon, Facebook and Apple to give every citizen under the age of 55 as much as ?10,000 ($14,000) in a form of universal basic income ... helping to counter the growing risk of job losses from automation and artificial intelligence."

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

America's FANG tech companies look like easy victims. Inevitably, since they have little in the way of a domestic British constituency, they will come into the cross hairs of Britain's tax-happy, left-wing politicians. As of 2016, according to data from the British government, there were some 46.2 million Britons under 55 years of age. By our math, that's about $323 billion a year to fund a universal basic income.

Of course, the study's math is different: "Providing a ?5,000 annual payment for two years could cost about ?14.5bn ($20.6 billion) per year over a decade should there be full take-up, according to the RSA. While the cost could be as much as ?462bn ($647 billion), removing some benefits and tax reliefs from the people who claim money from the fund would save about ?273bn ($382 billion)."

Either way, it amounts to a massive, unpayable tax on innovation. Do they really think they can squeeze the tech companies for even a tenth of that amount?

Yet, this is how the far-left thinks. Money is magic. All you have to do is imagine a need, and you can take whatever you want from producers to satisfy that need. And don't worry: Like all bad ideas, this one will jump the pond and soon be discussed by the economically illiterate far-left in the U.S. as an "answer" to our welfare problems.

We don't like everything the FANG companies do anymore than anyone else. But the four titans of tech shouldn't be compliant victims to this kind of insane extortion.

Here's a modest proposal, should this tax nuttiness proceed to reality: Go on strike. Halt all operations in Britain, and stop selling to them. Yes, it'll hit their bottom lines, but not as bad as the extortionate taxes would. And Britain, sadly, would suffer far more, since it would be technologically isolated and no longer have any geese laying golden eggs to pay for their "basic income."

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33. Trump Is, In Fact, Taking On High Drug PricesСб., 17 февр.[−]

Drugs: Health reform advocates complain that President Trump's budget doesn't do enough to tackle high drug prices, which they say are rapidly driving up health costs. Neither claim, it turns out, is true.

X Concern about high drug prices are legion. But these stories often lack any context.

The Los Angeles Times, for example, reported last week that prescription drug prices are slated to climb 6.3% a year, on average, over the next decade, which is faster than overall health spending.

It goes on to say that drug prices are one of the "biggest drivers" of health costs and this, in turn, has sparked "growing calls by Democrats for more government regulation of prices."

But a look at the data the Times used actually tells a much different story.

Despite all of the hue and cry about drug prices, prescription drugs account for slightly less than 10% of national health spending. That share is almost identical to where it was in 1960, when the array of drugs available was far more limited. And in 2016 — the last year for which the government has data — drug spending as a share of overall health spending actually dropped slightly.

Because drugs constitute a small share of the nation's health budget, holding down costs won't make much of a difference. For example, if drug spending were to climb at just 4% a year, instead of 6.3% a year, over the next decade, it would shave just 2% off the nation's health care bill in 2026.

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is getting attacked because its budget plan, released last week, doesn't push to have the government set prices for Medicare drugs — something Trump himself once advocated — which would be tantamount to federal price controls on all drugs.

But Trump is tackling high drug prices.

Trump's FDA administrator, Scott Gottlieb, is focused on increasing price-lowering market competition. Gottlieb understands that the more choices there are, the more price competition there will be.

So he's pushed the agency to shorten approval times for generics, particularly when there's only one generic alternative on the market. He's also working to streamline the FDA's approval process for new drugs, and lifting the FDA's prejudice against so-called me-too drugs.

This sort of competition is already working. A few years ago, price-control advocates pointed to Sovaldi, a breakthrough drug that can cure hepatitis C but cost $80,000 to administer, as the poster child for price controls.

Instead, the FDA last year fast-tracked approval of a second hepatitis C drug — Mavyret — which cost less than a third of Sovaldi. Suddenly, there was a price war for Hep C treatments. Competition, not price controls, cut costs overnight.

By boosting competition, Trump will be far more effective at lowering dug costs than any regime of federal price controls could ever hope to be.


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34. North Carolina — Not Kansas — Is The Blueprint For State-Level Tax ReformПт., 16 февр.[−]

Now that tax reform has been achieved at the federal level, states across the country are itching to get in on the action. Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky and Pennsylvania are just a few of the states that are contemplating sweeping reforms of their tax laws this year.

X For inspiration, they should look to the transformative effect that state tax reform has had on North Carolina.

In 2012, North Carolina suffered from sluggish growth and an unemployment rate of almost 10%. So, state lawmakers did the obvious thing to kick-start the economy: They cut taxes. Starting in 2013, Raleigh legislators passed a series of reforms that reduced the personal income tax rate by 30% and the corporate tax rate by 63%.

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

Fast-forward to today, and the unemployment rate has been cut in half. The American Legislative Exchange Council now ranks North Carolina third in the nation for its economic outlook, up from 22nd in 2013. Over the same period, the state's business tax climate has shot up from 44th in the country to 11th, according to the Tax Foundation.

North Carolina is likely to fare even better after passing its latest budget, which should serve as a model to reformers across the country.

The budget trims the personal income tax rate from nearly 5.5% to 5.25% in January 2019 and increases the amount of income that is exempt from taxation, allowing the less fortunate to keep more of what they earn.

Meanwhile, the corporate income tax rate — already the lowest in the nation among states that have one — will fall from 3% to 2.5%. This will help attract even more businesses and jobs, while encouraging greater investment and higher wages.

Importantly, the budget couples broad tax cuts with restrained spending – a powerful economic combination. Overall, spending will increase just 3%, which is below the 3.8% combined growth of inflation and population this year. Keeping spending in check is key to ensuring that tax cuts will be sustainable in the long run, and North Carolina has done so every year since they began slashing taxes.

Opponents of tax relief don't like to talk about North Carolina and other states that have prospered after lowering taxes. They would much rather single out the experience of one state, Kansas, which has traveled a rockier road. But the lesson that Kansas offers isn't the one that tax reform naysayers think it is.

Like North Carolina, Kansas enacted a series of tax cuts that spurred growth and job creation. In 2012, the year Kansas launched the tax cut program, a record 15,000 small businesses opened. In 2013, the Kauffman Foundation gave Kansas an "A" for its small-business friendliness.

Unlike North Carolina, however, Kansas experienced repeated budget crises in recent years. In June, the Kansas legislature reversed the cuts by enacting the largest tax increase in state history.

What went wrong?

Here's a hint: The same year the legislature passed a $4.5 billion tax cut, they increased spending by $432 million. Total state spending continued to increase almost every year after the tax cuts were enacted — even when revenues declined.

Today, Kansas is spending $1.1 billion more than it would have been had expenditures simply kept pace with inflation over the past twenty years. The ongoing budget crisis is a painful reminder that lowering taxes is no excuse for profligacy.

By contrast, state spending in North Carolina has remained below the rate of population growth and inflation since 2013. Instead of revenue shortfalls, the Tar Heel State has seen three straight years of revenue surpluses, and its "rainy day" fund has reached a record $1.84 billion.

By pairing tax cuts with fiscally responsible spending, North Carolina is showing the nation the right way to do tax reform. Other states should take note — and follow their lead.

  • Glendening is the Kansas state director of Americans for Prosperity.
  • Gravely is the North Carolina deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity.

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35. Trump Needs A Return To King DollarПт., 16 февр.[−]

The Trump administration and the Republicans in Congress have passed one of the best pro-growth tax bills ever.

X The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act ranks in the all-time hall of fame along with Reagan's 1981 and 1986 Tax Acts and President Kennedy's posthumous tax cuts of 1964. The announcements by Apple, FedEx, AT&T, Fiat Chrysler and dozens of other Fortune 500 companies of multibillion-dollar investments in the United States are early lead indicators of good things to come from the tax rate cuts.

When this is combined with Trump's deregulation agenda, we see no reason why the economy cannot grow for a sustained period at 3%-4% growth — up from 1.6% in Obama's last year.

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

But there is still a missing pillar of prosperity in the Trump economic agenda and that is a sound dollar strategy. The dollar weakened in 2017, and we want it stabilized.

There's little in this world that can bring our economy to its knees faster than a weak dollar in the foreign exchange markets. Just ask people who served in the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations — all of which were undone by a weakening dollar and a surge ?in inflation.

Meanwhile, under Reagan the U.S. dollar increased by 67% in value in the foreign exchange markets through 1985. The price of gold, interest rates and inflation all fell as well from their double-digit inflationary highs, while the American economy reignited and the stock market launched its 18 year-bull market.

Or go back further in time. In May of 1962, President Kennedy's Revenue Act was passed and President Kennedy reaffirmed that the U.S. dollar was as good as gold, thus launching the incredible boom called the "Go-Go Sixties." A strong dollar is an essential pillar of economic prosperity, but we worry that the White House has not adopted this strategy. We once again need a dollar that is stronger than gold.

Devaluations and weak currencies do not create U.S. jobs. Instead, weakened currencies are accompanied by relative price changes leading to inflation in the devaluing country. (Americans can by definition buy less with weak dollars in their wallets than they can with strong dollars.) Weak currencies are also associated with rising interest rates, reflecting the higher expected inflation and weaker stock markets.

The market's big sell-off last week and the jitters may have been in part triggered by recent hints by the administration that it still wants the dollar weak, which would mean higher interest rate and inflation risks that have spooked the equity markets.

We also worry that the recent widening trade deficit numbers will further tempt the administration into a weak dollar strategy. The trade gap — imports over exports — widened by 12% last year to $566 billion. This was the highest level since 2008. But the widening trade deficit was actually a symptom of Trump's tax and deregulation policies working. The last time the trade deficit fell sharply was in 2009 and 2010 because of the steep recession.

Trump was right when he once acknowledged the irony that his pro-growth tax and deregulation policies are partly responsible for the higher dollar that he doesn't want. If the tax cut keeps working to suck in capital and jobs from other nations — sorry, Mr. President, but the dollar will rise.

This may even mean a higher trade deficit — but so what? A return to King Dollar will bring a lot more jobs, wage increases, and investment flows back into the United States. It will confirm that, as Trump told the world's leaders and CEOs in Davos, Switzerland, "America is open for business again."

Looking forward, the administration should speak of a sound, stable, strong dollar. A great country must have a reliable currency. In addition, if the dollar continues to trend lower, then the Fed should step in to retire reserves and withdraw excess money. That leaves us with lower tax rates, strong growth, and a low inflation prosperity.

And, if history is any guide, it raises the probability that he gets re-elected in a landslide.

  • ?Laffer, Kudlow and Moore are co-founders of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity.

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36. Imagine If Sarah Sanders Threw Hardballs At The PressПт., 16 февр.[−]

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is constantly hammered by "Gotcha!" questions from reporters in the briefing room. This was dramatically underlined when the story broke about former White House staff secretary Rob Porter being accused of domestic violence by two ex-wives, one of whom even brandished a picture with a black eye.

XBy the time it was over, Sanders had one, too. It didn't look good, and nothing Sanders said from the lectern was going to be good enough. The same outlets that couldn't muster more than one question regarding former President Bill Clinton's alleged rape of Juanita Broaddrick seem to ask 27 questions a day about Porter.

So we wondered: How much would reporters like it if Sanders were to question
them as aggressively as they question her? We know the Trump haters erupted when Sanders merely asked reporters to share what they were thankful for alongside their questions as Thanksgiving approached. Imagine an exchange like this:

NBC reporter Peter Alexander: "Sarah, how could you possibly not know about these charges, and how could Porter be praised as a good man? And why can't you offer us more transparency on the vetting process?"

Sanders: "OK, let me ask you: How could you at NBC possibly not know about the accusations of Matt Lauer aggressively propositioning women, even having a button under his desk that he could press to lock the door behind female employees? He worked at the top of NBC News for two decades, and nobody knew these women were suffering?"

Alexander: "Stop distracting. That's none of your business. We're a private company. We're not accountable to the public like you."

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

Sanders: "Why don't you try that defense at a Comcast shareholders meeting? 'We don't have to be vigilant about our female employees. We're a private company.' And while you're demanding transparency, how transparent was NBC in letting everyone know how it investigated Lauer's misdeeds? How transparent was NBC in investigating Brian Williams' lying on talk shows about all his amazing adventures in war zones? Next question."

Jim Acosta, CNN: "Hold on! Aren't you and the president putting democracy in danger when you try to undermine the respectability of the press corps?"

Sanders: "Jim, should we revisit the respectability of CNN? Your network accepted Saddam Hussein's claim that we bombed a baby-formula factory in Iraq. Your network's founder, Ted Turner, went to North Korea and then told Wolf Blitzer he didn't see any brutality, just thin people riding bicycles. Are you serving democracy with this kind of journalism?"

Acosta: "That's not fair. That happened long before I got here."

Sanders: "OK, Jim, how about the fact that your network let Hillary Clinton have some town-hall questions in advance of a presidential debate so she could ace the test? Or that three reporters had to resign from your network for spreading 'fake news' about Anthony Scaramucci having a secret meeting with the Russians? Your 'Facts First' apple is looking wormy and bruised."

This would probably drive the media further around the bend than they already are. But this is why Trump backers think it's smart for the president to avoid 27-question press beatings. Trump backers remember when CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny, then a New York Times reporter, asked President Obama at the 100-day mark of his presidency, "What has ... Enchanted you the most from serving in this office?"

We didn't invent that quote. Reporters will angrily deny there's a dramatic double standard in what they call "holding public servants accountable." Not even they believe it.

  • Bozell is the president of the Media Research Center. Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.

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37. Justice, FBI Russia-Trump Investigation Just Got Even More Corrupt — Why Does It Continue?Пт., 16 февр.[−]

Russia Scandal: Former high-level Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, a key cog in the Russia-Trump investigation, didn't let his employer know that his wife was being paid by Fusion GPS, the company that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee paid to dig up dirt on Trump. Nor did he seek a waiver for a possible conflict of interest. What is wrong with this investigation?

XIt's yet another indication of rot at the very core of this corrupt investigation whose only real aim has ever been to unseat Trump as president.

As the Daily Caller reports, "The (DNC) ...hired Fusion GPS to gather and disseminate damning info about Trump, and they in turn paid Nellie Ohr, a former CIA employee with expertise in Russia, for an unknown role related to the 'dossier.' Bruce Ohr then brought the information to the FBI, kicking off a probe and a media firestorm."

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

The media and progressives sneer at the idea of a "deep state." But if anything shows its nefariousness, this would be it. At minimum, it appears that Fusion GPS cynically hired Bruce Ohr's wife in order to get access to him and, by extension, to influence the U.S. justice system on behalf of its client, Hillary Clinton.

The Justice Department used the tainted information to get a wiretap on a Trump adviser, Carter Page. But it failed to tell the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the information came from Trump's 2016 presidential campaign opponent and the Democratic Party, and that they had paid for it.

He also continued to meet with former British spy Christopher Steele, the author of the so-called Trump Dossier, even after he was fired by the FBI for feeding the media with information from the investigation. The House Intelligence Committee memo released recently quoted Steele as telling Ohr he was "was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president."

These are criminal acts, and provable ones. Ohr lied about his wife's employment. And t he Justice Department lied by omission in its application to spy on the Trump campaign. Moreover, Justice and the FBI used what they knew was tainted information to gain a wiretap warrant.

Quite simply, these are the tactics of a police state, not a republic where citizens have due process rights.

But Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie aren't the only ones. The corruption reaches far deeper, to what American Thinker writer Monica Showalter calls "Deep State tag-teams" of inside-the-beltway bureaucratic power couples that used their positions of power for personal gain or political advantage.

"This shows the incestuousness of the Deep State, of course," Showalter, a former IBD staffer, wrote. "First, FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and his wife, then FBI counterintelligence big Peter Strzok and his mistress Lisa page, and now Bruce and Nellie Ohr. "

And what did they all have in common? "Not a one of them was afraid of the consequences that ordinarily come of blatant conflicts of interest, and some, apparently such as Bruce Ohr, felt they could get away easily with lying."

As we said, the rot at the very center of this investigation gets worse by the week. Despite Robert Mueller's silence, his investigation is now so hopelessly compromised by its political bias and its clear anti-Trump motivation, it should not go on any longer.

No American who respects due process and basic constitutional rights can view the results of the Russia-Trump investigation as anything but a thinly veiled political hit job. It's time to lay this distracting travesty aside and let our duly elected government get on with governing.

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38. What's Oozing Out Of College Campuses Is Polluting SocietyПт., 16 февр.[−]

In a 1989 article in New Republic, Andrew Sullivan made what he called "a (conservative) case for gay marriage." Today same-sex marriage is legal everywhere in America, supported by majorities of voters and accepted as a part of American life.

XNow Sullivan has cast his gaze on what he regards as a disturbing aspect of American life — the extension of speech suppression and "identity politics" from colleges and universities into the larger society. The hothouse plants of campus mores have become invasive species undermining and crowding out the beneficent flora of the larger free democratic society.

Sullivan can be seen as a kind of undercover spy on campuses, to which he is invited often to speak — because of his bona fides as a cultural reformer — by those probably ignorant of the parenthetical "conservative" in his 1989 article. As Jonathan Rauch did in his 2004 book, "Gay Marriage," Sullivan argued that same-sex marriage, by including those previously excluded, would strengthen rather than undermine family values and bourgeois domesticity. That now seems to be happening.

The spread of campus values to the larger society would — and is intended to — have the opposite effect.

Take the proliferation of campus speech codes. Americans of a certain age have trouble believing that colleges and universities have rules banning supposedly hurtful speech. They can remember when campuses were the part of America most open to dissent. Now students are disciplined for handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution outside a tiny isolated "free speech zone."

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, known as FIRE, keeps a tally of campus speech restrictions and challenges codes and actions that violate the First Amendment (in public institutions) or private schools' own commitments. Its 2018 list of the 10 worst colleges for free speech includes Harvard, Northwestern, Fordham and the University of California, Berkeley.

Campus administrators have infamously declined to restrain or rebuke mobs of student "social justice warriors" who press to block conservative speakers and violently protest if they dare to appear. Examples include Charles Murray at Middlebury and Ben Shapiro at Berkeley. Students at Brown asserted that conservative columnist Guy Benson isn't covered by the First Amendment.

The result, says Sullivan, is that "silence on any controversial social issue is endemic on college campuses" and, he adds ominously, "now everywhere." Last year, Google fired engineer James Damore for writing an internal memo that the CEO, with pathetic dishonesty, characterized as bigoted.

There is increasing evidence that Google, Facebook and Twitter — whose leaders flatter themselves as enablers of free communication and neutral disseminators of information — are suppressing conservative opinions as "fake news." Those aware of campus life will not be comforted with the knowledge that the decisions about what gets downplayed or deleted are being made by "social justice warriors" recently hired from campuses.

Corporate human resources departments are doing their part, as well. Anti-harassment rules are used to punish those uttering speech deemed politically incorrect, and actions of even the most anodyne nature are considered sexually improper.

Companies may have the legal right to do this. But their practices, amplified by bureaucratic empire building, tend to undermine what Sullivan calls "norms of liberal behavior," including "robust public debate, free from intimidation."

The campuses' encouragement of identity politics is seeping out into the wider society, too. Selective colleges and universities have long violated (and lied about violating) civil rights laws with racial quotas and preferences in admissions. And they routinely encourage blatant segregation — separate dormitories and orientations for black students, for example.

This fosters the habit of treating individuals as, in Sullivan's words, "representatives of designated groups" rather than individuals. It assumes that everyone with a certain genetic ancestry or gender has the same views and that no one who shares that characteristic can ever understand the group — especially someone born with "white privilege" or into "the patriarchy."

As one who has made a living for decades trying to understand the political views of people unlike me, I take umbrage. The more important points surely are that we are not prisoners of our genetic heritage and that as citizens of a democracy, it behooves us to try to understand others of all backgrounds and situations.

Sullivan is right; what is oozing out of campuses is creating a less free, less civil, less tolerant society. Can we reverse that as rapidly as — or more rapidly than — Sullivan, Rauch and others reversed opinion on same-sex marriage?

  • Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.

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39. Deny Mass Killers The Attention They CraveПт., 16 февр.[−]

An orgy of mutual disgust now greets every mass shooting in America. Liberals despise conservatives who, they predict, will offer only insipid "thoughts and prayers" in the face of what they conceive to be preventable massacres. Conservatives scorn liberals who, they believe, will propose "feel-good" gun measures that would have no effect on any mass shooting.

XBut there is something that we can try to prevent these horrific killings. It doesn't require legislation. It won't cost a penny. It doesn't require compromising anyone's gun rights, and it's more concrete than "see something, say something."

First, the scale of the problem. While overall gun deaths have been declining in recent years, mass shootings have been increasing. According to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, the number of days separating mass shootings declined from an average of 200 between 1983 and 2011 to 64 between 2011 and 2014. The five deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history have occurred in the past 11 years. These shocking attacks have become so common that their locations and dates blur — Sutherland Springs, Blacksburg, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Orlando, Binghamton, Aurora, Dallas, Washington Navy Yard. The randomness of these massacres, and their quotidian locations — schools, movie theaters, concerts — amplify the horror.

Every possible cause is considered to explain the epidemic of violence: the overabundance of guns, violent video games and films, family decline, the waning influence of churches, inadequate mental health policies. Perhaps all of these contribute, and all require long-term social reforms.

But then there is this insight: Mass killings, like viruses, seem to be contagious. It isn't news that behaviors are catching. Sociologists have long known that suicide, for example, prompts imitators, especially among the young. Researchers at Arizona State University have studied mass murders (particularly school shootings) and found that each new episode does inspire copycats.

Check Out IBD's Complete Coverage Of The Gun Control Debate

We also know that some of the mass shooters have expressed fascination with their predecessors. The Oregon shooter, for example, had written of another: "A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. ... Seems the more people you kill, the more you're in the limelight."

The second Fort Hood shooter, weirdly enough, seemed to decry the attention paid to killers. He posted on Facebook: "These bastards have perfected their way of attacking by studying previous massacres to gain publicity and their minute of fame as a villain." He then went on to commit a mass shooting himself. An Everett, Washington, man was arrested on Wednesday after his grandparents reported to police that he was "learning from past shooters."

The sick desire for fame — even when purchased through atrocity — seems to be at work in many of these cases. Would denying them the attention they seek diminish the attraction?

The proposal is straightforward. It's outlined at https://www.nonotoriety.com. News organizations and law enforcement officers should voluntarily limit the use of the names of mass killers. It's not possible in the internet era to keep the names secret, but news organizations can dramatically reduce the attention a killer receives. There is no need, for example, for cable news to feature images of the accused, nor to repeat his name dozens of times within 24 hours. Newspapers should not publish the manifestos of diseased minds. Investigators can comb through his social media rants, but the media should shun them. TV channels may get ratings by repeating the grievances of killers, but they are also providing a platform that other borderline personalities may find irresistible.

We expect our presidents to serve as national grief counselors in these moments. But it's just possible that this attention is also putting too much power into the hands of mass killers. While a presidential visit may comfort the grieving, is it worth it if it also gratifies the murderer's rage for attention — and spurs some future attention-seeking monster?

Some homicidal types are motivated by political objectives. Of the 69 mass shootings since Columbine High School, four were committed by Islamic extremists, and others (the Sikh temple, Charleston) by racists. But the overwhelming majority were the work of men whose motivations probably include a lust for fame.

Perhaps this is wrong. Perhaps denying mass killers the attention they seek won't have any effect on this epidemic of violence. But what would be lost by trying?

  • Charen is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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40. No, There Haven't Been 18 School Shootings This Year — Not Even CloseЧт., 15 февр.[−]

The latest mass shooting, which claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, was a horrible tragedy. But that's no excuse for the flurry of stories parroting a gun control advocacy group's false claims about school shootings.

X In the immediate wake of the shooting, headlines starting appearing at major news sites:

  • "There have already been 18 school shootings in the US this year" — ABC News
  • "18 school shootings in 45 days — Florida massacre is one of many tragedies in 2018"—CNBC
  • "18 school shootings in US in 2018"— AFP
  • "U.S. averages a school shooting every 2.5 days in 2018" — Politico
  • "We're Averaging One School Shooting Every 60 Hours In 2018" — Huffington Post

When not in the headline, this claim shows up in just about every story about the Florida shooting.

So, it must be true, right? Why else would every news outlet be reporting this?

It's not true.

That number comes from a gun control advocacy group — Everytown for Gun Safety — which arrived at 18 only by shoving everything it possibly could into the category of "school shooting."

The simplest check of its list shows how misleading the group is being.

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One of the "school shootings" on the list, for example, involved a Greyson College, Tex., student who accidentally discharged a weapon at the school's Criminal Justice Center during a class supervised by a police officer on how to use handguns.

Another on the list involved a third grader who accidentally pulled the trigger of a police officer's holstered weapon.

Two were suicides that happened to take place on school grounds. One of them was a 31-year-old man who shot himself while parked in his car, which happened to be on a school lot— at a school that had been closed for seven months. Another was a student who shot himself in the head in the school's bathroom.

Three "school shootings" involved fights that broke out between either adults or students in school parking lots — one of them at a college in North Carolina — in which one of the people arguing pulled a gun on the other.

Another student was shot by a robber, during a robbery that happened to take place in a school parking lot.

One involved a gun that a 12-year-old brought to school, which accidentally went off inside her backpack.

In fact, of the 18 "school shootings," only five occurred during school hours, and only four — including the latest — are what most people would consider a school shooting; in which someone brings a gun to school with the intent of shooting students.

Of those three previous shootings, only one resulted in deaths, when a 15-year-old boy armed with a handgun opened fire inside a Kentucky high school and killed two fellow students while injuring 14 others. The two others resulted in two injuries.

This is by no means meant to downplay the seriousness of this issue. These are all terrible tragedies, and parents have the right to expect that their children are safe at school.

But it's clear that by lumping all these together under one misleading headline, Everytown for Gun Safety wanted to make this problem sound far more ominous and far more frequent than it actually is.

In other words, the gun control advocacy group was trying to unduly scare people. And the press, most of whom enthusiastically embrace gun control, simply went along with the deception.

(These journalists, by the way, have no excuse for taking this group's data at its word. The Washington Post fact checker blasted it two years ago for using shoddy methods to inflate the number of school shootings. And when it reviewed the current list, it came to the same conclusion we did. The Daily Wire also did what other most journalists haven't and looked at the list.)

It's not uncommon for gun control advocates to distort or hide facts, or point the finger of blame at Republicans, or the NRA, or the lack of certain gun control measures (that wouldn't have prevented the shootings if they had been on the books).

But in the most recent shooting, this play on gun-control emotions is particularly troublesome because it takes the spotlight off of what is really worrisome.

In this case, the shooter was well known to the school, known to the FBI, and known to many others as a deranged person with a serious violent streak.

So why isn't the focus of the public debate on what went wrong? Why didn't law enforcement intervene? Or the local education system? How did the school let the shooter get back into the building after he'd been expelled from that same school for violent behavior? Why wasn't the armed security guard on the scene sooner?

More broadly, there's the question of whether a lack of resources, or legal impediments, or inadequate parental involvement needlessly hamper our ability to identify such people and defuse their hatred or treat their mental illness before they go on a murderous rampage.

Pushing for one more piece of pointless gun control legislation, on top of the 270 federal laws already on the books, while misleading the public about the scope of the problem or what solutions will actually work, does no one any good.

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41. What Left-Wing Educators Don't Teach During 'Black History Month'Чт., 15 февр.[−]

When will Black History Month be ... history?

Apart from the bizarre notion that educators should set aside one month to salute the historical achievements of one race apart from and above the historical achievements of other races, Black History Month appears to omit a lot of black history.

  • About slavery, do our mostly left-wing educators teach that slavery was not unique to America and is as old as humankind?

As economist and author Thomas Sowell says: "More whites were brought as slaves to North Africa than blacks brought as slaves to the United States or to the 13 colonies from which it was formed. White slaves were still being bought and sold in the Ottoman Empire, decades after blacks were freed in the United States."

  • Are students taught that "race-based preferences," sometimes called "affirmative action," were opposed by several civil rights leaders?

While National Urban League Executive Director Whitney Young supported a type of "Marshall Plan" for a period of 10 years to make up for historical discrimination, his board of directors refused to endorse the plan. In rejecting it, the president of the Urban League in Pittsburgh said the public would ask, "What in blazes are these guys up to? They tell us for years that we must buy (nondiscrimination) and then they say, 'It isn't what we want.'" A member of the Urban League in New York objected to what he called "the heart of it — the business of employing Negroes (because they are Negroes)." Bayard Rustin was one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s key lieutenants and helped to plan and organize the civil rights march in D.C. that culminated in King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Rustin, an openly gay black man, also opposed race-based preferences.

  • Do our left-wing educators, during Black History Month, note that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's celebrated New Deal actually hurt blacks?

According to Cato Institute's Jim Powell, blacks lost as many as 500,000 jobs as a result of anti-competitive, job-killing regulations of the New Deal. Powell writes: "The flagship of the New Deal was the National Industrial Recovery Act, passed in June 1933. It authorized the president to issue executive orders establishing some 700 industrial cartels, which restricted output and forced wages and prices above market levels. The minimum wage regulations made it illegal for employers to hire people who weren't worth the minimum because they lacked skills. As a result, some 500,000 blacks, particularly in the South, were estimated to have lost their jobs. Marginal workers, like unskilled blacks, desperately needed an expanding economy to create more jobs. Yet New Deal policies made it harder for employers to hire people. FDR tripled federal taxes between 1933 and 1940. ... By giving labor unions the monopoly power to exclusively represent employees in a workplace, the (1935) Wagner Act had the effect of excluding blacks, since the dominant unions discriminated against blacks."

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

  • Are students taught that gun control, widely embraced by today's black leadership, began as a means to deny free blacks the right to own guns?

In ruling that blacks were chattel property in the Dred Scott case, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney warned of that the consequences of ruling otherwise would mean that blacks would be able to own guns. If blacks were "entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens," said Taney, "it would give persons of the Negro race, who were recognized as citizens in any one state of the union, the right ... to keep and carry arms wherever they went ... endangering the peace and safety of the state."

  • Are students taught that generations of civil rights leaders opposed immigration — both legal and illegal immigration?

After the Civil War, black abolitionist Frederick Douglass implored employers to hire blacks over new immigrants. Twenty-five years later, Booker T. Washington pleaded with Southern industrialists to hire blacks over new immigrants: "One third of the population of the South is of the Negro race. ... To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South: Cast down your bucket where you are. Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your fireside."

About illegal immigration, an issue that nearly all of the today's so-called black leaders simply ignore, Coretta Scott King signed a letter urging Congress to retain harsh sanctions against employers who knowingly hire illegal workers. The letter said: "We are concerned ... that ... the elimination of employer sanctions will cause another problem — the revival of the pre-1986 discrimination against black and brown U.S. and documented workers, in favor of cheap labor — the undocumented workers. This would undoubtedly exacerbate an already severe economic crisis in communities where there are large numbers of new immigrants."

These are just a few historical and inconvenient notes left on the cutting room floor during Black History Month.

  • Elder is a best-selling author and nationally syndicated radio talk-show host.

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42. No, Infrastructure Spending Won't Transform AmericaЧт., 15 февр.[−]

"MASON CITY. To get there you follow Highway 58, going northeast out of the city, and it is a good highway and new." — Robert Penn Warren, "All the King's Men" (1946)

XAppropriately, Warren began the best book about American populism, his novel based on Huey Long's Louisiana career, with a rolling sentence about a road. Time was, infrastructure — roads, especially — was a preoccupation of populists, who were mostly rural and needed roads to get products to market, and for travel to neighbors and towns, which assuaged loneliness. Today, there is no comparably sympathetic constituency clamoring for "internal improvements," as infrastructure was known in the 19th century when canals, and then railroads, transformed America.

What rural electrification was eight decades ago, broadband access might be today: a blessing not widely enough enjoyed. But infrastructure spending will not have the economically and socially transformative effect that it had before America became a mature urban society. Princeton historian James M. McPherson writes that before all-weather macadamized roads, it cost the same to move a ton of goods 30 miles inland as it cost to bring a ton across the Atlantic. The person who would become the 16th president began his public career advocating canal construction in Illinois, and in 1849, before he became a prosperous railroad lawyer, he received U.S. patent 6469 for a device to facilitate boats' passages over sand bars and shallow water.

Some historians even suggest that there might not have been a Civil War for him to win if the fourth president, James Madison, had not vetoed (on constitutional grounds; he thought that no enumerated power authorized Congress to do such things) the infrastructure bill of South Carolina's Sen. John C. Calhoun, who became a secessionist firebrand. Their theory is that improved infrastructure might have moved the South away from reliance on a slavery-based agricultural economy.

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

Today, the nation needs somewhat increased infrastructure spending to increase productivity by reducing road and port congestions and boosting the velocity of economic activity. Unfortunately, this subject is not immune to the rhetorical extravagance that infects all of today's political discourse.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has not actually programmed the computers of politicians and journalists so that whenever the nouns "roads" and "bridges" are used, the adjective "crumbling" precedes them. But the ASCE might as well have. It constantly views with high-decibel alarm the fact that governments at all levels do not buy as much as the ASCE thinks they ought to buy of what civil engineers sell. A calmer assessment of current conditions comes from the RAND Corporation's study "Not Everything Is Broken":

Since the mid-1950s, public infrastructure spending "has generally tracked the growth of the U.S. economy." In 2014, state and local governments — they always have done, and always should do, most infrastructure spending — made 62% of the nation's capital expenditures and 88% of operations and maintenance for transportation and water infrastructure. Federal capital spending on highways has been declining since the Interstate Highway System was mostly completed, but at the end of 2016, municipal bond issues to finance infrastructure were the highest in history, more than double the 1996 level. Actually some infrastructure spending is probably too high (e.g., mass transit operating subsidies; users should pay). And although the construction industry and unions might disagree, not everything ever built merits maintenance in perpetuity.

The last surge of infrastructure spending, in the Obama administration's stimulus, taught a useful lesson: Because of the ever-thickening soup of regulations, there are no "shovel-ready" projects. So, such spending cannot be nimble enough to ameliorate business cycles. This is just as well: Government attempts to fine-tune the economy are folly. America got many marvels — e.g., the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge — from New Deal infrastructure spending. It did not get what the spending was supposed to provide: a cure for unemployment, which never fell below 14% until the nation prepared for World War II.

Bipartisanship, the absence of which is lamented until its recurrence reminds us of its costs, this month produced the budget agreement. It put the nation on a path to trillion-dollar deficits during brisk economic growth and full employment. So, Democrats face a disagreeable decision. They tend to regret private-sector involvement that taints the purity of government's undertakings. Democrats might, however, have to embrace public-private partnerships that generate revenue streams — from tolls, user fees and other devices — for investors. That is, Democrats, whose euphemism for government spending is "investments," might have to tolerate real ones.

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43. This Is What A Police State And 'High Crimes And Misdemeanors' Really Look LikeЧт., 15 февр.[−]

As ever more deliberately concealed evidence is being uncovered of factual "collusion" between the Obama White House, the failed presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton and Russia; of professional operatives in our intelligence services openly trying to first, cripple the campaign of Donald Trump, and then, having failed at that criminal objective, to delegitimize his presidency; and of secretly funded far-left anarchist groups proudly preaching violence against those they oppose, it seems the perfect time to ask three questions:

X First, what is the definition of a "Police State?"

Second, what is the definition of "Treason?"

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

And last, what – as defined in the Constitution of the United States of America – is the meaning of "High Crimes and Misdemeanors?"

A "Police State" is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as being "A political unit characterized by repressive governmental control of political, economic, and social life usually by an arbitrary exercise of power by police and especially secret police in place of regular operation of administrative and judicial organs of the government according to publicly known legal procedures."

That definition seems to be a perfect match for the conduct of some in the Obama White House, the Clinton campaign, the Department of Justice, and an unknown number of intelligence operatives who banded together to instigate the creation of a knowingly false "dossier," pay for it, and then use its false contents to try to alter an election.

Next, we have "Treason." As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is: "The offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance."

At the very least, it would be enlightening to have some in the Obama White House, the Clinton campaign, and certain members of the "Deep State" explain how knowingly spreading false information to try to bring down a legally elected President of the United States differs from the "Overt Acts" in the definition of treason.

Last, we have Article II, Section 4 of The Constitution which simply states: "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors."

Again, who from the Obama White House, the Justice Department, and our intelligence services might fall under the shadow of that definition?

When you collude with foreign espionage agents to manufacture evidence to obtain a warrant to spy on citizens of the United States for purely political and ideological reasons, you are not only breaking the laws of the United States, but are introducing those very questions of treason, bribery and high crimes and misdemeanors into the conversation.

One of the overriding fears of our Founding Fathers was the possibility of corrupt American citizens attempting to illegally use the potentially unchecked power of their own government to smear, indict, convict, or even condemn to death, innocent American citizens who stood in the way of their personal or partisan goals.

What is happening now is not only chilling to the bone, it's dramatically more dangerous because these crimes are being aided, abetted and covered-up by a number of partisans in the mainstream media.

Men and women whose duty as professional journalists is to expose these plots and then honestly report them to the American people.

Instead — and quite predictably — these "journalists" who long ago crawled into bed with the Obama, Clinton and far-left anarchy camps have been desperately trying to fan the flame of impeachment against Trump

What are President Trump's "crimes?"

First and foremost is the fact that he is not only connecting with an increasing number of Americans, but actually beginning to succeed across the board.

Next, the compromised media, the Democrats, the Deep-Staters and Never-Trumpers want him gone because he won't stop correctly tweeting about the illegal activities being used to try and bring him down.

How dare he contradict their lies, deceit and criminality?

Last, they want him gone because he is exposing each and every entrenched establishment these jackals belong to as irrelevant frauds acting as one against the welfare of the American people.

Thanks in large part to the stubborn independence of President Trump, the American people are beginning to see the outline of a Police State and its operatives within our borders.

Hopefully, it's not too late to stop it.

  • MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and an author.

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44. Tax Cuts Work — Just Ask Small BusinessesЧт., 15 февр.[−]

Employers have until Thursday to implement new tax withholding guidelines, which determine how much they withhold from pay for federal taxes.

X Fortunately for many Americans, job creators are already seeing lower rates and distributing larger paychecks. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin estimates more than 90% of working Americans will see greater take-home pay because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act's new withholding guidelines.

It's further proof that tax cuts are working for the middle class. To date, more than 330 U.S. employers have publicly announced tax-induced wage hikes, 401(k) increases, and generous bonuses. While Apple and Wal-Mart grab the headlines, many beneficiaries of the Republican tax bill are small businesses, which account for two-thirds of new jobs in the country.

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Missouri-based Dynamic Fastener, a construction hardware supplier, is rewarding employees with bonuses of up to $1,000, while also opening a paint shop, buying new equipment and hiring more employees to make the expansion possible. Montana-based Rod's Harvest Foods, a local grocery store, is giving out 3% to 5% raises, increasing base wages to $11 an hour, and distributing $500 bonuses. Sun Community News and Print, a weekly newspaper in Upstate New York, is dishing out pay raises averaging $1,000 each, boosting IRA contributions, and investing in software and equipment upgrades.

The newspaper's publisher had the following to say: "It feels good to get our economic engine running again and create a winning attitude for our small firm."

He's right. Lower rates and increased deductions have created a winning attitude for countless small business owners, who now have more resources to invest in the business expansion and job creation that supports their local communities. More than 3 million employees have already benefitted from new tax-related investments.

As the owner of Brooktree Capital Management, a financial advisory firm in Michigan, I'm a small business owner myself. And I'm rewarding the workers who make our success possible. Employees have more take-home pay now and I'm incentivized to keep reinvesting in my business — everyone benefits.?

Small business owners — some of our nation's most dedicated job creators — have never experienced such broad-based economic optimism. And they have President Trump, who has prioritized job creation since his inauguration, to thank for their renewed confidence. Nearly two-thirds of small business owners believe the Trump administration's economic agenda has helped their businesses? and they? view the new tax cut legislation favorably, claiming it gives them more financial breathing room.

Their optimism should only encourage the employees who depend on small businesses for financial security. When small business owners are upbeat and ready to expand, the primary beneficiaries are working Americans who see greater take-home pay and more career opportunities.

The positive impact will be felt across the country in 2018. America is home to nearly 30 million small businesses, which employ just under 60 million workers — half of the U.S. workforce. In fact, small businesses account for 99.9% of all American companies.

It's no understatement: When the small business community succeeds, the U.S. economy is better off. Millions of working Americans are better off.

The proof is in the paycheck.

  • Ellis is the owner of Brooktree Capital Management in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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45. That Democrat 'Blue Wave' Is Starting To Look More Like A RippleЧт., 15 февр.[−]

Election 2018: Two months ago, Democrats were giddily talking about an anti-Trump-fueled "Blue Wave" that would sweep them into power in the November mid-terms. Now with less than nine months to go until election day, that wave may be petering out.

X A "wave election" was easy to believe in December. Republicans had lost a series of special elections, saw more than 30 state legislative seats flip from red to blue (this week's loss in Florida made it 36) and lost five state-wide races, including governor races in Virginia and New Jersey. Republicans even lost a Senate seat in Alabama.

At the same time, "generic ballot" poll results in December showed Democrats with a double-digit lead. Poll-watching site FiveThirtyEight noted that Republicans were "in worse shape right now than any other majority party at this point in the midterm cycle since at least the 1938 election."

After the Alabama election, Former DNC head Tom Perez declared "There is a blue wave sweeping the country. …Voters are rejecting Donald Trump and the Republican Party's radical agenda and electing Democrats up and down the ballot."

But in the weeks since, something has changed in the country — something the Trump-obsessed media are ignoring.

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

For one thing, the public's mood continues to improve. The closely-watched IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index hit 56.7 in February, the highest it's been in 13 years.

Other signs of economic gains — continued job growth, wage gains, the stock market, which despite its recent turmoil is still way up from a year ago — have also became more obvious.

In addition, the Republicans passed a massive tax reform, which has resulted in millions of workers getting unexpected bonuses and raises that their employers directly attributed to the corporate tax cuts. This month, millions more workers are seeing bigger paychecks, as their federal withhold rates go down.

While Democrats continue to believe that attacking these tax cuts is a winning issue for them, the IBD/TIPP poll, along with others, shows that the public is seeing through their lies and distortions.

Worse for Democrats, the public is starting to credit Trump for the good economic news.

And that generic ballot? The Democrats' huge lead has collapsed. The IBD/TIPP poll had them up by just 5 points. In December, by way of contrast, a CNN poll had Democrats up by 18 points.

The Morning Consult poll released this week shows Republicans with a lead of one point on its generic ballot question.

As for Trump, it's looking as though banking solely on Trump hatred to bring out the vote might not be such a good idea after all.

Morning Consult finds Trump's approval rating hit 47% in February, which is where Rasmussen has him. These polls, it's worth noting, were taken after Trump's widely praised State of the Union address.

The Real Clear Politics average has Trump at 42%, which is up from 37% in mid-December. The highest Trump has ever been in the RCP average is 46%.

(The IBD/TIPP poll still has Trump at a 35% approval, but the bulk of the poll was completed before Trump's speech, and those surveyed after were more positive about Trump than those polled before.)

None of this is to say that Democrats won't gain seats in November. The party out of power usually does well in mid-term elections. Trump also remains an unpopular president, despite his recent gains. And mid-term elections depend heavily on which base is more energized, which also favors Democrats.

But if current trends continue, all those counting on a tsunami-sized anti-Trump Blue Wave could very well be in for big disappointment on Nov. 6.

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46. Why Fed Shouldn't Panic Over Inflation Yet — And Neither Should YouЧт., 15 февр.[−]

Inflation: Suddenly, inflation is relevant again. In recent weeks, following a strong January jobs report, data showing wages rising rapidly and, now, a half-percentage point rise in consumer price inflation, markets have been spooked. It's good to fear inflation, but wrong to overreact.

X The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the consumer price index, the widely followed inflation indicator, rose a surprisingly strong 0.5% in January, or 2.1% year over year. That's still fairly modest inflation pressure, but it's plainly picking up, with five months in a row now of consumer inflation over 2%.

More worrisome still is the fact that the annualized rate for the past three months is 4.4%. There's no reason to think that's permanent, but it does get your attention if you own stocks, financial instruments, own a credit card, or have an adjustable rate mortgage.

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

Of particular concern is what will the Fed do? The nation's central bank spent the Obama years with interest rates set at zero. Now, they're in aggressive tightening mode. This year, based on Fed comments in its most recent meetings, the bank is likely to raise U.S. interest rates at least three times. A fourth hike can't be counted out.

And that's just this year. Fed policymakers have said they would like to "normalize" interest rates, which means a fed funds rate somewhere north of 2% — compared to 1.5% currently. It further hopes to raise it to 2.5% in 2019 and 3% in 2020.

Don't let anyone tell you that inflation doesn't matter. It does. At an annual rate of 2%, it will take prices for goods and services 36 years to double. At just a bit higher, 3%, prices double in 24 years. This has an impact on everything, from wages to housing prices to stocks and bonds. Keeping an eye on inflation and making sure monetary policy isn't making it worse is one of the few truly legitimate jobs that the Fed has.

Now here's the "but." Yes, consumer inflation has picked up. But is it officially a "problem"? Hardly. The biggest reason for the rise of inflation was a 5.5% jump in energy costs, mainly from a 22.5% spike in fuel oil. Take that out and inflation is up a tame 1.8% year over year.

By the way, there are many inflation indicators, the CPI being just one. And the CPI isn't the one the Fed usually follows when it makes its decisions on interest rates. Since at least the time of Alan Greenspan, the Fed has used another inflation indicator it sees as better suited to policy-making: the personal consumption expenditures deflator, or PCE.

What it shows right now isn't much. The PCE deflator rose just 1.7% in the final three months of 2017. The average for that measure, by the way, since 2000 is 1.8%, so it's actually below average. Meanwhile, the Fed's own target for this inflation indicator is 2%. So we shouldn't be ready to push the inflation panic button yet.

What's more, inflation fears right now are due to concern over higher wages. As the argument goes, declines in unemployment and sharp gains in wages will push up consumer demand, driving prices up and forcing the Fed's hand. So the Fed often tries to pre-empt inflation with a series of quick interest rate hikes.

The problem with this is two-fold: One, wage hikes are not getting out of hand and, two, rising wages do not cause prices to go higher. It's a Keynesian myth, and perhaps the most pernicious one, since it has led the Fed to make repeated mistakes in monetary policy, leading to recessions, financial crises and panics.

Yes, in January it was reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that average hourly earnings rose 0.3% for the month, or 2.9% from a year earlier. That was the highest since June 2009, the month that the Great Recession ended, and it sparked a major stock market sell off.

But that strength deceives. Look more closely, and the hourly earnings increase for production and non-supervisory workers was just 0.1%, suggesting that the biggest part of the 0.3% monthly wage gain came from one-time bonuses. Moreover, the average work week fell from 34.5 hours to 34.3 hours, which doesn't suggest a hyper-tight labor market.

Yes, inflation is always a problem and bears watching. Anyone who lived through the 1970s stagflation nightmare will tell you that. It stems from a weaker dollar, low productivity and a Fed that prints more money than the economy demands. Right now, many of the major trends in the economy remain disinflationary — tax cuts, deregulation, more workers leaving the rolls of the unemployed, the fracking and oil boom, and the continued impact of new technologies on the economy, to name a few.

We're not in the predicting business. But concerns that GDP growth over 2% a year will lead to a surge in inflation are overblown. Until clear warning signs of inflation emerge, we would hope the Fed, under new chairman Jerome Powell, would take a measured approach to interest rates and not push the panic button "to get ahead of the curve," as many past Fed chiefs have done to the economy's detriment. We hope it's learned its lesson.

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47. The Sickening Celebration Of North KoreaСр., 14 февр.[−]

Every two years, Americans unite around the television to root for U.S. athletes, to see their dreams of gold medals come true — unless you're a journalist, in which case the Olympics are a time to root against your country on the world stage.

XAt the opening ceremonies in Pyeongchang, South Korea, organizers strangely seated Vice President Mike Pence just a few feet from Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea's communist dictator, Kim Jong Un. To American reporters who hate President Trump, a star was born. The summaries of Jong on Twitter alone were enough to make you throw your phone across the room.

Start with the wire services. The Associated Press gushed, "The trip by Kim Yo Jong is the latest move in an extraordinary show of Olympic diplomacy with Seoul that could prove to be a major challenge to the Trump administration's hard-line Korea policies." Reuters echoed, "North Korea has emerged as the early favorite to grab one of the Winter Olympics' most important medals: the diplomatic gold."

The newspapers also claimed that Pence lost to the woman who serves as the North Korean deputy director of propaganda. A New York Times headline read, "Kim Jong Un's Sister Turns on the Charm, Taking Pence's Spotlight." It turned to history professor Alexis Dudden, who specializes in Asian countries, for the slam dunk. She said, "The fact that he and Mrs. Pence didn't stand when the unified (Korean) team came in was a new low in a bullying type of American diplomacy."

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The Washington Post front page on Sunday declared that it had found the "Ivanka Trump of North Korea." Jung "has enraptured people in looks-obsessed South Korea with her sphinxlike smile and low-key beauty," the story read. And her attendance at the Olympics was "a signal that North Korea is not this crazy, weird former Cold War state — but it too has young women that are capable and are the future leadership."

This kind of truth-shredding article makes a mockery of all the Post's indignant "Democracy Dies in Darkness" bravado. One might totally forget that last May, when Trump called the North Korean dictator a "pretty smart cookie," the Post ran a story headlined "Praise for Strongmen Alarms Rights Advocates" with the subheading "Trump's vocal affection for totalitarians marks major U.S. policy shift."

The biggest target for outrage on Twitter was CNN, which announced, "Kim Jong Un's sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics," and included a link to an article. It began, "If 'diplomatic dance' were an event at the Winter Olympics, Kim Jong Un's younger sister would be favored to win gold."

That was in addition to a piece CNN ran with the headline "North Korea Is Winning the Olympics — and It's Not Because of Sports." It insisted, without the slightest hint of irony or introspection, that "the North has gotten the kind of publicity money can't buy."

CNN also brought its academic expert. "The North is masterful at getting something for nothing," David Maxwell of Georgetown University proclaimed. "They're going to get recognition, legitimacy, resources, without giving anything up."

This is a complete flip-flop from last May. When Trump called the North Korean tyrant a "pretty smart cookie," CNN anchor Jake Tapper brought the brutal facts, saying: "Kim Jong Un had his uncle murdered. That does not make Kim Jong Un a smart cookie. That makes him a murderer."

If our media elite truly revered democracy and loathed totalitarianism, none of this sugar-coated nonsense on North Korean "mastery" would have been uttered or published. Their bitter hatred of the Trump-Pence ticket colors everything they say and write.

  • Bozell is the president of the Media Research Center. Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.

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48. Hate High Drug Prices? Blame Foreign FreeloadersСр., 14 февр.[−]

Americans are suffering pharmaceutical sticker shock. But the remedy Democrats are backing — price controls on prescription drugs — would inflict more harm by halting new discoveries and dooming patients waiting for cures.

XSince 1950, our increasing longevity — an amazing 10 extra years of life for the average American — has been mainly the result of pharmaceutical breakthroughs. If someone in your family has an incurable illness — cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's — the idea of slowing the pace of new cures is unthinkable.

On Friday, President Donald Trump's Council of Economic Advisors proposed a safer way to make drugs affordable here: negotiate trade deals that compel foreign countries to pay fairer drug prices.

Americans consume about 46% of the world's brand-name drugs but supply 70% of patented drugmakers' profits. France, Norway, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Italy and other government-run health systems buy identical drugs at bargain prices — usually half what Americans pay. These state-run health systems often threaten to exclude a drug from their country entirely, even if it could save lives, to extract a deep discount. Norway barred Roche's breast cancer drug Perjeta until the company slashed the price far below what Medicare pays.

These foreign governments know that when push comes to shove, a manufacturer will sell for a price that barely covers the cost of production, rather than not sell at all. That leaves American consumers stuck paying exorbitant prices to cover the sunk costs of researching and developing a new drug.

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R&D costs are staggering: nearly $3 billion and 10 years of clinical trials, and then government approvals for each drug, with failures along the way. Drug companies like Pfizer in the U.S., Novartis in Switzerland and AstraZeneca in France have hefty profit margins — 25% on average — the same as Silicon Valley companies and other high-risk industries.

But not just shareholders benefit. Patients have a better chance of surviving their illnesses and living longer in countries that rapidly adopt new drugs and treatments. Almost all gains in longevity since WWII are due to these innovations, reports Stanford economist Victor Fuchs. Some newer drugs also curb overall health costs, according to Columbia University economist Frank Lichtenberg. Anesthesia reversing drugs, for example, shorten hospital stays or keep people out of the hospital altogether.

Yet it is drug prices Americans experience directly. Patients are eight times likelier to fill a prescription than be hospitalized. And their high-deductible plans are clobbering them with out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy.

No wonder drug prices are a politician's easy target. The left demands that Medicare and other U.S. government programs "negotiate" with drug companies. Who can haggle with the federal government? "Negotiate" is a euphemism for price controls that will shortchange drugmakers, dulling their incentive to innovate.

The U.S. is the biggest free market for pharmaceuticals — the only place left where pharma companies can recoup their innovation costs.

Price control advocates would rather settle for the current state of medical knowledge than pay for drug discovery. "We cannot all have it all," says economist Austin Frakt, pointing to new, expensive drugs for hepatitis C. "The rate of innovation will eventually exceed our ability to pay for it."

Tell that to parents of infants with spinal muscular atrophy, afflicting 10,000 Americans. Or 25 million Americans suffering from other rare, incurable illnesses. For them, President Trump has a far better approach.

In his State of the Union Address, Trump decried the "very, very unfair" gap between American and foreign drug prices. He has also promised to overturn "decades of unfair trade deals." Memo to the president's trade negotiators: Start requiring foreign countries to pay fair drug prices. George W. Bush's administration made headway in a bilateral trade agreement with Australia. Ending the foreign freeloading will keep the engine of medical innovation running and save lives.

That's the choice: Accept slower cures or spread the cost fairly.

  • McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and a former lieutenant governor of New York State.

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49. Trump Might Not Be Normal, But His Critics Are Often Far WorseСр., 14 февр.[−]

You've heard the phrase over and over again: "This isn't normal." We've heard it about President Trump's rhetoric, and his Twitter usage. We've heard it about his attacks on the media, and we've heard it about his legislative ignorance. We've heard it about his running commentary on the Mueller investigation, and we've heard it about his bizarre stream-of-consciousness interviews.

XThere's some truth to all of this. Trump has said some incredibly awful things (e.g. his comments on Charlottesville, Virginia, and Haitians). He's not a predictable, stable genius.

All of this "non-normality," however, has resulted in ... a relatively normal situation. The economy's booming. We're on more solid foreign-policy ground than we were when President Obama was in office -- by a long shot. The constitution hasn't been torn asunder. The structures of government are still in place. Trump may be toxic rhetorically, but his presidency hasn't annihilated the norms that govern our society.

The same can't be said, however, of the media institutions that seem so consumed with saving the republic from the specter of Trump. Like self-appointed superheroes so intent on stopping an alien monster that they end up destroying the entire city, our media are so focused on stopping Trump that they end up undermining both their credibility and faith in American institutions.

Take, for example, the media's coverage of North Korea at the Winter Olympics. Suddenly, the worst regime on the planet has been transformed into a cute exhibit from "It's a Small World." Those women in red forced to smile and cheer on cue? Just an example of the brilliance of revolutionary North Korean "juche" ideology. Kim Jong Un's sister, a member of the inner cabinet of a regime that imprisons thousands of dissenters and shoots those who don't properly worship the Dear Respected? She's an example of Marxist humility and stellar diplomacy.

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It's not just the media. This week, we learned that former FBI Director James Comey, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former Vice President Joe Biden and former President Obama held a last-minute meeting at the White House to discuss the possibility of Trump-Russia collusion. At that meeting, Rice wrote in an email, Obama reportedly asked whether there was any reason "we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia." That means that Obama asked his top staff, including the FBI, whether he could hide intelligence information from the incoming Trump team.

That amounts to a massive breach in the constitutional structure. The FBI is not an independent agency. It is part of the executive branch. The incoming Trump administration was duly elected by the American people and had every right to see all intelligence information coming from the FBI and the CIA. Yet it was the supposedly normal Obama White House exploring means of preventing that transparency.

Trump isn't a normal president. But the threat to our institutions doesn't reside only at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. -- or even primarily there. It resides with those who are willing to side with any enemy and violate every rule in order to stop the supposed threat of Trump.

  • Shapiro is host of "The Ben Shapiro Show" and editor-in-chief of DailyWire.com.


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50. Media Bias: Hatred Of Trump Brings Disgraceful Fawning Over Kim Jong-un's Sister At Winter OlympicsСр., 14 февр.[−]

Media Bias: Of all the many recent examples of glaring media bias, none stands out so much as the rank politicization by the U.S. media of the South Korean Winter Olympics. What should be a happy, come-together moment for all of America rooting for its athletes, instead became a hate-Trump, #Resistance moment for the far-left media.

XThe trump-hatred has metastasized so far that today many journalists have completely abandoned any pretense of fairness and objectivity in their coverage of the world, so long as what they do makes Donald Trump and his administration look bad, stupid or ridiculous.

Sorry, but fawning over the evil representatives of a country we are still technically at war with is really too much.

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Let's start with a basic premise: Kim Jong-un, North Korea's leader, is one of the most evil people on Earth. He and his family, as the murderous tyrants that rule the Hermit Kingdom, have been implicated in the deaths of millions by starvation, overwork, torture, execution and outright murder.

As mass murderers, the Kim family is as morally culpable as Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong or Joseph Stalin — though, admittedly, North Korea's killing fields are much smaller than those in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia or Mao's China.

The Kim family regime — there has been no other since the nation was created in 1948 — deny their citizens all of the rights that we in the West take for granted: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of choice, freedom of association, freedom of political affiliation, and freedom to own property and live your life as you see fit.

As part of its effort to restart talks with North Korea, South Korea invited North Korea to send its athletes to compete as one team. North Korea sent athletes, but also "cheerleaders", and Kim Jong-un's sister, along with a bevy of high-level North Korean officials, as official representatives.

Never mind that terrrorist-supporting North Korea has been using the Games to "normalize" itself as a nation among nations. But what was so irksome was the respectful, fawning coverage the U.S. media gave to the North Koreans, in particular Kim Jong-un's sister, while ridiculing the U.S.' official delegation, headed by Vice President Pence and his wife, Karen.

It was unclear whose idea it was, but Kim, South Korean President tk and Pence all shared a viewing box. The media tsk-tsked when Pence refused to stand as the North Korean slaves, er, athletes entered the Olympic stadium. Meanwhile, their mass media crush on Kim Yo-ong was tough to hide.

Below a flattering picture of Kim, CNN ran the disgraceful headline, "Kim Jong Un's sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics."

The New York Times tweetsmiths issued this dictator-friendly tweet: "Without a word, only flashing smiles, Kim Jong-un's sister outflanked Vice President Mike Pence in diplomacy."

Think that's it? Ben Domenech at The Federalist runs down some of the greatest hits, with headlines that look like they were written by the satirical web site The Onion rather than a reputable news agency:

Yahoo: "All swagger and smiles, Kim Jung Un's mysterious sister gets her star turn at Winter Olympics."

Associated Press: "At Olympic Games, Kim Jong Un's sister takes VIP seat."

Washington Post: "The 'Ivanka Trump of North Korea' captivates people in the South."

Then there was this Reuters gem: "North Korea has emerged as the early favorite to grab one of the Winter Olympics' most important medals, the diplomatic gold."

Virtually none of the accounts said who Kim Yo-jong really is. She's not just another pretty face. Since at least 2011, when her father died, Kim Yo-jong has been a key confidante and aide to her brother Kim Jong-un.

Since 2015, she has been head of the Communist Party's Propagannda and Agitation Department, and also holds a post as vice minister in the government of her brother.

As such, she is every bit as complicit in the North Korean government's crimes — including vicious murders of anyone who dissents and the torture death of Otto Warmbier, whose father was a guest of Vice President Pence in Korea — as her brother.

Just last year, she was one of seven North Korean officials to be added to the U.S. sanctions list for her part in the regime's "severe human rights abuses" and "rigid censorship policies."

So calling Kim Yo-jong the "Ivanka Trump of North Korea" is like calling Ilsa Koch, the She-Wolf of the SS, the "Shirley Temple of Nazi Germany." The media that laud her and insult Pence are despicable. There is no other word that fits.

This is a serious business. Most of the reporters don't understand that the world almost went to a World War III over Korea in the early 1950s. If not for North Korea's Communist Chinese patrons, it would have collapsed years if not decades ago.

Instead, it's menacing the world and its closest neighbors with its burgeoning nuclear arsenal, courtesy of former President Clinton's foolish "deal" that let North Korea back into the nuclear game in the early 1990s.

As Fox News noted, "Top U.S. intelligence officials warned lawmakers Tuesday not to be fooled by North Korea's diplomatic outreach at the Olympic Games, reminding Congress at a high-profile hearing that the dictatorship still represents an 'existential threat' to the U.S."

So thanks, biased media. You even made the Winter Olympics, which should be a celebration of the joy of sport, into an opportunity to bash Donald Trump and the nation he leads. Your nation.

There's a reason why thousands and thousands of people are cancelling your papers, turning off your TV news feeds, unfriending you on social media and holding you in such low esteem that you're at the rock-bottom of most opinion polls. And it's not because you're doing your job.

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51. The Trump, Clinton Scandals Are Claiming A Lot Of Bodies — At FBI And JusticeСр., 14 февр.[−]

Whenever anyone suggested that officials at the FBI and Justice Department might have had a political bias that severely tainted both the investigation into the Trump-Russia and Hillary Clinton email scandals, they were called conspiracy-mongers or worse.

XBut if the FBI and Justice are so squeaky clean of political bias, what accounts for the growing pile of top officials deeply involved in those supposedly aboveboard investigations who've been reassigned, demoted or have suddenly quit their jobs? There have been nearly half a dozen in just the past few weeks. Thankfully, reporter Sharyl Attkisson has been keeping a running tally.

Here's a rundown.

David Laufman: Abruptly Quit

Laufman was Deputy Assistant Attorney General in charge of counterintelligence, cybersecurity, counterespionage and export controls. As the Washington Post put it, Laufman "had a key role in the Justice Department's investigations of Hillary Clinton and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election." He was one of the Justice officials who interviewed Hillary Clinton about her email use. Laufman suddenly quit his job last Wednesday, citing "personal reasons."

His resignation came one day after the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee issued a scathing interim report on the FBI's handling of the Clinton email scandal, in which it said that "a number of actions by high-level FBI officials" have called the bureau's integrity and impartiality "into question."

Andrew McCabe: Abruptly Quit

McCabe, the No. 2 at the FBI, had been planning to leave later this year, but unexpectedly resigned on Jan. 29. McCabe was one of the officials who signed off on the controversial FISA warrants for Carter Page, a warrant based largely on the tainted, Clinton-financed Trump dossier.

It turns out that McCabe has been the focus of the Justice Department Inspector General's investigation into how the FBI handled the Clinton email scandal. In late January it came to light that for three weeks he'd apparently sat on information about piles of Hillary Clinton's emails showing up on the laptop of Anthony Weiner — the disgraced former congressman who was married to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

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According to the Washington Post, "the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, has been asking witnesses why FBI leadership seemed unwilling to move forward on the examination of emails found on the laptop of former congressman Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) until late October."

James Baker: Reassigned

The FBI's general counsel was reassigned in late December amid an investigation by House Republicans into whether he was in contact with David Corn, a reporter for the leftist Mother Jones magazine, about the Trump dossier.

Politico quoted sources as saying that documents showed Baker had been in contact with Corn, who was the first to report on the politically motivated dossier.

Peter Strzok: Removed From Mueller Investigation, Demoted

Strzok, the No. 2 official in the FBI's counterintelligence division who had been instrumental in both the Clinton email and Trump-Russia investigations, was kicked off the staff of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and sent packing to the FBI's human-resources division, after a series of explosive texts with FBI lawyer and paramour Lisa Page — in which he expressed his utter disdain of Trump.

Among other things, Strzok was responsible for watering down how the FBI described Clinton's actions, from "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless." Page had also been on Mueller's team, but had moved off that before the texts came to light, according to Mueller's office.

Bruce Ohr: Demoted

Ohr had been associate deputy attorney general at Justice, a top-level position, and was director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces. In early December, after a House investigation turned up evidence that Ohr had met with Trump dossier author Christopher Steele and later with the founder of Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired Steele — meetings Ohr failed to disclose— he was demoted. It also turned out that Ohr's wife had worked for Fusion GPS

James Rybicki: Resigned

Rybicki had been chief of staff to FBI Director James Comey; he resigned in late January to "accept an opportunity in the corporate sector." Republican lawmakers had been looking into Rybicki's role in the FBI's handling of the Clinton email scandal.

Curiously, the mainstream press appears to be completely uninterested in the implications of these staff shake-ups, and the questions they raise about what it was exactly that the FBI and Justice were doing in the run-up to the November 2016 elections.

Why would they? The Trump-hating press are entirely wedded to the idea that the Russia story will someday pay off. Whatever doesn't fit that narrative just gets ignored.


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52. Will The Olympics Go Bust?Вт., 13 февр.[−]

Whatever the virtues of the Olympics, economics is not one of them. As we enjoy this year's winter games in South Korea, we ought to ponder the possibility that the Olympics will one day price themselves out of existence. It will cost so much to host the Olympics extravaganza that no one will want to do it.

XAlthough that may seem far-fetched, the number of cities vying for future Olympics has already dropped dramatically. Here is what Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College, an expert in sports economics, has to say:

"Not so long ago, cities lined up to bid the moon and the stars to secure the Games. But daunted by the escalating demands of Olympic organizers and a recent history of huge budget deficits, environmental and social dislocations, and rampant corruption, bids to host both the summer and winter Olympics have sharply declined."

The numbers are (as they say) eye-popping. In 1997, there were 12 cities competing for the 2004 Summer Games, which were ultimately hosted by Greece. By contrast, the bidding for the 2024 games ended with two contenders — Paris and Los Angeles — after Boston, Toronto, Rome, Hamburg and Budapest dropped out.

The story is the same for the winter Olympics. In 1995, there were nine candidates for the 2002 Winter Games. By 2011, there were only three for the present 2018 games.

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What's happened is no secret, writes Zimbalist in the current issue of the Milken Institute Review. To host either the summer or winter games requires massive construction projects for new stadiums, dormitories and local transportation systems. But the prospective revenues from the games don't come close to covering the costs. As a result, the games impose a permanent burden on the host country's taxpayers.

Zimbalist roughly calculates the cost of the next Summer Olympics at $15 billion to $20 billion against prospective revenues of $4 billion to $5 billion. While costs are going up, the prestige and long-term economic benefits — in increased tourism and investment — seem to be going down.

What about the funds from selling television rights and corporate sponsorships? It turns out that they don't go primarily to the host cities but to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which channels most of its money to national Olympic committees and international sports federations. Zimbalist says that host cities now get 20% to 25% of the sales of TV rights.

Confronted with these unhappy realities, the IOC has taken steps to curb costs. But they're not sufficient, Zimbalist argues. The basic problem, he contends, is that the facilities constructed for each Olympics are largely obsolete once the Olympics are over. These huge investments can't generate returns to cover their costs.

One solution touted by Zimbalist and others is to reduce wasteful investment by designating permanent locations for the summer and winter games. The potential for savings is considerable, as the case of Los Angeles shows. Designated host for the 2028 Summer Olympics, it has managed to keep its projected budget below $6 billion.

"Since L.A. is home to many professional sports teams and several universities that invest heavily in athletics, Los Angeles already has a full complement of sports arenas and stadiums," Zimbalist writes. The same is true of dormitories. The need for new construction is modest.

It's not clear that Los Angeles would want to be a permanent host to the Olympics — or that any American city would satisfy global opinion. Still, this is a problem with a solution: Build one or two permanent sites. The obstacle is politics. It may be impossible to construct a new system unless the current system breaks down by failing to produce a host city.

  • Samuelson has written about business and economic issues for the Washington Post since 1977.

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53. Liberals And Conservatives Are Unhappy For Different ReasonsВт., 13 февр.[−]

One of the most important differences between the right and the left — one that greatly helps to explain their differences — is the difference between unhappy liberals and unhappy conservatives.

XUnhappy conservatives generally believe they are unhappy because life is inherently difficult and tragic, and because they have made some unwise decisions in life.

But unhappy liberals generally believe they are unhappy because they have been persecuted.

Ask unhappy leftists why they are unhappy and they are likely to respond that they are oppressed. This is the primary response given by unhappy leftist women, blacks, Latinos and gays.

For example, the more left-wing the woman, the more she will attribute her unhappiness to American society's "patriarchy," "sexism" and "misogyny." She therefore considers herself oppressed — and believing one is oppressed makes happiness all but impossible.

Likewise, the more left-wing the black, the more he or she will attribute his or her unhappiness to racism. And how is a black person living in a racist white country supposed to be happy?

If you have ever spent time with black conservatives, one of the first things you will notice is that they have a much happier disposition than left-wing blacks. I receive many calls to my radio show from black listeners. I almost always know immediately whether they are on the right or the left solely by their tone of voice. The cheerful black caller is almost always a conservative.

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The left cultivates unhappiness by cultivating anger. It does this for the same reason wine growers cultivate grapes: No grapes, no wine; no anger, no left (and no Democratic Party). And angry people are not happy people.

Last week in Atlanta, I spoke for about 40 minutes to six randomly chosen black students from a local black college (for the upcoming film "No Safe Spaces" that Adam Carolla and I are making). Each one said he is oppressed. When I told them I didn't think blacks in America are oppressed, I sensed that they had never actually been told that by anyone. It was akin to telling physics students that gravity doesn't exist. And when I added that I don't think women are oppressed either, they were equally shocked.

Ask yourself this question: Is a black child likely to grow up happy if he is told by his parents, his teachers, his political leaders and all his media that society largely hates him?

Of course not.

Raising a black child to regard America as racist and oppressive all but guarantees an unhappy black adult.

Let me offer a counterexample. My father, an Orthodox Jew, wrote his college senior thesis on the subject of anti-Semitism in America. In it he described quotas on Jews in college admissions, Jews prohibited from joining from country clubs, Jews prohibited from law firms, etc.

In other words, my father fully acknowledged the existence of anti-Semitism in the United States. Yet he raised my brother and me in an America-loving home and told us that he believed American Jews are the luckiest Jews in history — because they are American.

I therefore never knew what it was like to walk around thinking most of the people I met hated me. That alone contributed to my happiness.

Leftism makes one other major contribution to leftists' unhappiness: It promotes ingratitude. In my book on happiness ("Happiness Is a Serious Problem") and my talks on happiness, I emphasize the central importance of gratitude to happiness. Without it, one cannot be happy. There isn't one ungrateful happy person on Earth. Yet ingratitude toward America is central to the left's worldview — further reinforcing the unhappiness of its adherents.

Unhappy Americans on the right blame the problems inherent to life, and they blame themselves. Unhappy Americans on the left blame America.

That alone goes far in explaining the unbridgeable differences between right and left.

  • Prager's latest book, "The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code," was published by Regnery. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.com.

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54. Let's Make America A Mineral SuperpowerВт., 13 февр.[−]

Why is the United States reliant on China and Russia for strategic minerals when we have more of these valuable resources than both these nations combined?

XThis has nothing to do with geological impediments. It is all politics.

This is an underreported scandal that jeopardizes American security. As recently as 1990, the U.S. was No. 1 in the world in mining output. But according to the latest data from the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. is 100% import dependent for at least 20 critical and strategic minerals (not including each of the "rare earths"), and between 50% and 99% reliant for another group of 30 key minerals. Why aren't alarm bells ringing?

This import dependency has grown worse over the last decade. We now are dependent on imports for vital strategic metals that are necessary components for military weapon systems, cellphones, solar panels and scores of new-age high-technology products. We don't even have a reliable reserve stockpile of these resources.

Fortunately, the Trump administration is working to reverse decades of policies that have inhibited our ability to mine our own abundant resources, mostly in the western states — Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and the Dakotas. In December the Trump administration issued a long-overdue policy directive designed to open up federal lands and streamline the permitting process so America can mine again.

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No nation on the planet is more richly endowed with a treasure chest of these metals than the U.S. The U.S. Mining Association estimates there are more than $6 trillion in resources. We could easily add $50 billion of GDP every year through a smart mining policy.

Environmentalists are threatening to file lawsuits and throwing up other obstacles to this pro-economic development mineral policy — just as they oppose more open drilling for oil and gas. The stupidity of this anti-mining stance is that the green energy sources that they crave — solar and wind power — are dependent on rare metals to be viable.

Rare earth minerals are the seeds for building new technologies, and a strong case could be made that these strategic metals are the oil of the 21st century.

The suite of 15 primary minerals — which the U.S. has in abundance domestically — has been referred to as "the vitamins of chemistry." They exhibit unique attributes, such as magnetism, stability at extreme temperatures, and resistance to corrosion: properties that are key to today's manufacturing. These rare earth elements are essential for military and civilian use for the production of high-performance permanent magnets, GPS guidance systems, satellite imaging and night vision equipment, flat screens, sunglasses and a myriad of other technology products.

Thanks to hostility to mining, huge portions of public lands in the west have not been explored or mapped in nearly enough detail to satisfy the hunt for minerals. It takes seven to 10 years to get mining permits here, versus two or three years in Australia and Canada. The nation must also map and explore again as was done in the Old West, when mining for gold, copper, coal and other resources was common.

Mineral imports from China and Russia are providing enormous geopolitical leverage to these countries at precisely the wrong time in global events. China, Russia and others have used their mineral wealth to hold importing countries hostage. Do we want Vladimir Putin to hold the commanding heights on strategic minerals?

We need a change in strategy and philosophy when it comes to mining. For federal land development, the 20th-century philosophy of "lock up and preserve" needs to be replaced with an ethic of "use and explore." We have hundreds of years of these resources with existing technology.

China's leaders have been known to boast that the Middle East has the oil and China has the rare earth minerals. But that's false. We do. With a pro-mining policy, we can make America a mineral-exporting superpower, not an importer reliant on our adversaries. This strategy has worked like a charm when it comes to energy; it should be employed to yield the same America First results for strategic minerals.

  • Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with Freedom Works. Mamula is a geoscientist and adjunct scholar at the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute.

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55. Sorry, Foreign Trade Is Not Bad For America — Restricting It IsВт., 13 февр.[−]

According to the roundup of histrionic headlines this week, we've just hit a " record high" trade deficit with China. Commentators from across the political spectrum are speculating about what this might mean in the months to come, but before we buy into any narratives of worry or dismay, we should take a closer look.

X First, people trade with one another — countries do not. If I choose to purchase Mexican tomatoes, then I trade with someone in Mexico.

Granted, it is a little more complicated than that, but ultimately I am trading with someone else for those tomatoes. You might be told that the United States is trading with Mexico, but only if you could give me Mexico's email address would I believe such a thing could happen.

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Mechanically, how trade works is I trade my dollars to the owners of the grocery store, who then trade these dollars for pesos and use these pesos to trade with someone in Mexico who has produced the tomatoes. Notice that trade is a voluntary exchange, so both parties are better off. I am better off with the tomatoes and the tomato grower is better off with the pesos; otherwise, the trade would not have happened.

A second observation is to recognize the language of trade. Suppose I told you the U.S. was running a massive capital surplus, and had been for years. This would mean that people in other countries have been finding that the U.S. is a good place to build a factory, or to buy shares of stock, or that our government's bonds were preferred to the debt of other governments.

You would probably think that is a good thing, and you would be correct. A capital surplus is an indication that investing in the U.S. economy is preferred to investing in other countries.

But the only way a country runs a capital surplus is to run a trade deficit. How does someone in China get the $500 million they need to build the factory they are planning on building? They must be trading yuan for dollars.

How is this happening? The dollars must be available in China because the Chinese must be selling us more goods than we are selling them. Technically, what is called the current account and the capital account must balance to zero; the only way a country can run a capital account surplus is to run a trade deficit.

Third, the loss in manufacturing jobs in the U.S. is no more due to trade than is the historic loss of agriculture jobs has been. Less than 2% of our labor force is engaged in agriculture, and yet we produce a lot more agricultural products than in 1780.

Manufacturing production is at an all-time high today. We have simply replaced labor with machinery. There are 5 million fewer manufacturing jobs than in 1987, while manufacturing output is up 80% over that same time.

Finally, what about the idea of "fair trade" vs. "free trade"? First, why would it not be fair to allow you to make a trade with someone in Mexico? We think it is fair for you to be able to trade with someone in Ohio or Indiana. Does the fact that the other person lives on the other side of the Rio Grande somehow make it OK for the U.S. government to tell you that you are not free to make that trade?

Often, it would not be considered "fair trade" if another country let their citizens sell you their goods for dollars, but would not let their citizens buy something from you with those dollars. And I agree, that would not be fair. But it would not be fair to their citizens. They are making products and sending them to us and we are trading them pieces of paper.

Imagine we all woke up on Christmas morning and BMW had given us all a new car for Christmas. We would each have a major trade deficit with Germany. Would we be worse off? If you worked in a Ford plant you would be, and you would have to find a new job. But this problem is best solved by improving labor mobility rather than the government forcing us all to give back our BMWs.

  • Wolfram is the William E. Simon Professor in Economics and Public Policy at Hillsdale College.

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56. Despite What You've Heard, 'Crumbling Infrastructure' Is A MythВт., 13 февр.[−]

Expect to hear the term "crumbling infrastructure" a lot in the days ahead, as Washington debates the merits of President Trump's plan to boost spending on the nation's roads, bridges, airports, railroads and whatnot by $1.5 trillion.

X What's unlikely to come up in these discussions, however, is the question of whether the nation's infrastructure is really "crumbling" at all.

For the past four decades, there's been a steady stream of dire warnings about how our aging infrastructure was rapidly falling apart, and that without a massive influx of federal spending, roads would be impassable, bridges would collapse, ports would be unusable, and so on.

Back in 1978, for example, the Government Accountability Office reported that the "nation's highways are deteriorating, the Interstates most rapidly."

In 1984, the Transportation Research Board warned that 150,000 bridges were considered structurally deficient. In 1988, the Federal Highway Administration said the country faced a "bridge crisis."

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The New York Times ran a piece in 1986 arguing that "the neglect of our crumbling infrastructure is a national disgrace." Twenty-three years later, the Times said that "U.S. infrastructure is in dire straits."

Since 1998, the American Society of Civil Engineers has given the country's infrastructure a grade of no better than "D." Twenty years ago, the ASCE said the country needed to pony up an additional $1.3 trillion to avoid catastrophe. Last year, that number was $2 trillion.

So, what happened? Those huge spending increases never materialized. In fact, over the past 40 years, total federal, state and local government spending on infrastructure has remained right around 2.5% of GDP.

Yet despite all those urgent warnings about how we were vastly underspending on roads and bridges and such, the country's infrastructure never actually crumbled.

In fact, according to the Government Accountability Office, the share of structurally deficient bridges dropped from 13% to 10% between 2006 and 2015. Highways continue to be drivable, and states are increasingly experimenting with innovative public/private initiatives — such as "high-occupancy toll lanes" — to finance new highway capacity. Waterways and ports are still in working order. And anyone who's traveled by air recently has likely noticed that many major airports have been revamped and revitalized.

It is true that, at any given time, some portion of roads, bridges, ports and so on will be in need of repair. But the claim that this amounts to a crisis requiring a massive new investment is highly misleading.

The problem isn't so much the amount of money being spent on infrastructure, but how the money is spent.

Trump seems to get this. Rather than simply shoveling more federal funds into wasteful infrastructure projects — ? la President Obama's failed stimulus — Trump wants to streamline approval processes that endlessly bog down construction.

"We used to build (roads) in three months, and now it takes years and years of approvals. We're going to bring that down, ideally, to one year," he told Republicans at a retreat last week.

And to encourage more local control, Trump proposes to shift more authority and responsibility back to the state and local governments, leveraging $200 billion in new federal spending over a decade to support projects they deem most urgent.

Congress could make taxpayer dollars go further still if it repealed the Depression-era Davis-Bacon law that requires federal contractors to pay "prevailing union wages."

The problem is that these kinds of prudent reforms tend to go out the window when the situation is described as a crisis in need of an immediate cash infusion. If we want to keep our infrastructure working well — without wasting taxpayer money — leaders need to permanently retire the "crumbling infrastructure" line.

  • Merline is Deputy Editor of Commentary and Opinion at IBD.

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57. Reforming The Bureaucracy: How Trump Is Taming The LeviathanВт., 13 февр.[−]

Governing: While our distracted national media fawn over a murderous dictator's evil sister and pretend that the Rob Porter White House scandal means something, President Trump continues to remake our government.

X Quietly, Trump has begun to whittle away at the power and permanence of our nation's bureaucratic ruling class by slashing regulations and limiting powers that Congress foolishly has allowed it to take over.

It's not merely the size of the bureaucracy that matters. It's the increasing power that gives the anonymous men and women who toil in the U.S.' unofficial fourth branch of government immense say over nearly every aspect of American private and commercial life — with virtually no accountability.

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This has long been a big issue for businesses. They often find themselves operating under federal bureaucratic "guidance documents" that, while they aren't law, are virtually indistinguishable from law as far as businesses are concerned.

The documents provide businesses with directions as to how to comply with the law. Sounds innocent, but in fact Congress often writes the laws broadly and leaves it up to the bureaucracy to implement them. The "guidance" they offer therefore has the power of law.

Unfortunately, the "guidance" offered by federal bureaucrats tends overwhelmingly to be left wing in its political orientation, given the political make-up of our bureaucracy.

As the New York Times wrote, "Guidance documents offer the government's interpretation of laws, and often when individuals or companies face accusations of legal violations, what they have really violated are the guidance documents."

That is not the rule of law. It's the rule of bureaucrats.

The White House took a huge step toward restoring Americans' rights when Rachel Brand, the Justice Department's No. 3 official, issued new rules last week saying the Justice Department would no longer "use its enforcement authority to effectively convert agency guidance documents into binding rules."

In addition, Justice Department lawyers won't use "noncompliance with guidance documents as a basis for proving violations of applicable law."

This is in itself a welcome change from the previous rule, which gave the federal government virtually carte blanche in bringing suit against companies, even if they didn't actually violate the law.

So the bureaucrats' reign of legal tyranny ends.

Meanwhile, Trump has moved to clip the bureaucracy's wings in one other significant way: giving agency heads the right to, as Trump put it, " hire the best and fire the worst."

To those operating in the private sector, it seems almost insane that those who are responsible for some of the most powerful agencies in our government wouldn't be able to hire and fire as they wished. In the private sector, that's how productivity improves. In the government, accountability is all but nonexistent.

But those days, too, are coming to an end.

As Trump foreshadowed in his State of the Union speech, "Tonight, I call on Congress to empower every Cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people."

This follows the recent VA Accountability Act, which gave the VA's chief greater power over firing and disciplining workers.

According to the White House, under that new act, 1,470 employees have been dismissed, 443 have been suspended and 83 others have been demoted for poor performance or improper conduct.

These changes have been a long time coming. Unfortunately, the next president, whether that's in 2020 or 2024, can undo these changes with the stroke of a pen and a little help from a friendly Congress.

Trump is right. To make these changes permanent, it would be best for Congress to pass sweeping bureaucracy reform that would make these changes not just a political preference, but the law of the land.

Unfortunately, Congress' focus right now isn't on any reform, but on getting elected. With the 2018 midterm elections coming up, it might be hard to pass such a reform. No doubt it would be almost impossible to get Democratic support.

Republicans should raise the issue anyway. The bureaucracy is an unelected Leviathan that is resented by many Americans for its unaccountable power. It's time to tame this beast once and for all.


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58. With A Budget Like This, Can Tax Hikes Be Far Behind?Вт., 13 февр.[−]

Fiscal Policy: Unlike in previous years, when the president's budget was declared dead on arrival as soon as it was released, President Trump's budget was dead before it arrived, killed by a spendthrift Congress. Nevertheless, the budget does serve a purpose, if only to show how Republicans are paving the way for massive tax hikes down the road.

News reports naturally are focusing on the "cuts" in Trump's budget. But even if Congress hadn't already upped the spending ante, Trump's budget is hardly a testament to fiscal austerity.

His budget has federal spending climbing by 5.8% this year, and 4.6% in 2019. Over the next decade, spending will, under his plan, climb by an average of 4% a year.

As a result, federal spending as a share of GDP will hit 21% in 2019, which is alarmingly close to where it was under President Obama. And at 4.7% of GDP, the deficit next year will be higher than all but eight years since World War II, four of which were under President Obama.

These numbers will be higher thanks to the bipartisan budget deal Republicans made with Democrats, which sharply hiked defense and domestic spending next year.

Over the coming decade, Trump's budget projects deficits will total more than $7 trillion — nearly double what his budget called for last year. Instead of the small surplus in 2027 that Trump promised to deliver in his first budget, there's a $450 billion deficit.

As a result, national debt in 2027 will be $23.2 trillion under Trump's budget, a $7.4 trillion increase over this year.

These numbers not only fail to take into account the sharp boost in spending on domestic programs Congress just approved, they also assume that Congress repeals ObamaCare and reforms welfare, student loans and disability programs — things that Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said Republicans won't touch this year.

What's more, Trump's budget continues an unfortunate pattern in Washington, where spending shoots up in the next year or two, on the promise that after this splurge, the government will go on a strict diet.

What happens instead is that today's spending hikes get built into the "baseline" for future spending, which makes cutting back even harder down the road.

Naturally, Democrats and the press are blaming the substantial deficits entirely on the Trump tax cuts. It's true that Trump's budget shows a sharp decline in revenues as a result of the tax cuts. In 2019, for example, revenues will come in roughly $390 billion below what last year's budget had projected.

But in truth, the tax cuts simply put the federal government's tax grab back on track with the long-term trend. Since 1948, federal revenues equaled an average 17.2% of GDP. Under Trump's budget, they will average 17.1% over the next decade.

The problem, as we have long asserted in this space, is not that the government taxes too little, but consistently spends too much. The current willingness by both parties to run massive deficits in the midst of a growing economy has removed what little motivation there was to check such profligacy.

More troubling is that this spending spree will likely choke off at least some of the economic growth being spurred by Trump's tax cuts and deregulation. As First Trust Advisors chief economist Brian Wesbury put it, "unless the Congress gets control of federal spending, the benefits from the tax cuts and deregulation will be short-lived."

So what happens next? You can expect that Democrats will use the resulting increase in deficits to call for tax hikes, trotting out their shopworn claim that the rich aren't paying their "fair share."

Who could blame them? By losing their grip on spending, Republicans are practically clearing the path for future tax hikes.


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59. The Nazi Roots Of The Global Warming ScareПн., 12 февр.[−]

Generally speaking, the first person in a debate who compares their opponent to Hitler or the Nazis at that moment loses the argument. When the Third Reich is invoked, it's usually clear evidence that that person's position is so weak that they have had to resort to a gross misrepresentation of the other's position.

X There are exceptions, of course, because sometimes the Nazi label fittingly applies. Sometimes the lineage of a movement, institution or political figure can traced right back to the German fascist regime.

This is the case with today's environmentalism, according to a one-time British investment banker.

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"If you look at what the Nazis were doing in the 1930s, in their environmental policies, virtually every theme you see in the modern environmental movement, the Nazis were doing," said Rupert Darwall, author of "Green Tyranny," in a recent interview with Encounter Books.

"I think actually the most extraordinary thing that I came across was this quote from Adolf Hitler where he told an aide once, 'I'm not interested in politics. I'm interested in changing people's lifestyles.' Well, that could be ... that's extraordinarily contemporary. That is what the modern environmental movement is all about. It's about changing people's lifestyles," said Darwall, who is no crackpot on the fringe and whose background includes duties as a special advisor to the United Kingdom's Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The Fuhrer's interest in "changing people's lifestyles" is, not at all shockingly, similar to the goals of today's climate fanatics who want to destroy capitalism and replace it with an economic system — run by them, naturally — that would certainly change lifestyles in the West.

Darwall further notes in the interview that "the Nazis were the first political party in the world to have a wind power program," and were also opposed to eating meat, a delightful and nutritious activity that the warming alarmists consider a sin.

When interviewer Ben Weingarten asks Darwall about the "link between Nazism and Communism, and the trajectory from that (initial) union to today's climate movement," the author provides a brief history lesson that is inconvenient for the alarmist community.

The union fits perfectly, of course, with the watermelon analogy that explains today's environmentalist excesses — green on the outside, red on the inside.

It also reminds us of the validated-many-times-over aphorism that when a socialist or communist is thrown out of the window of polite society, he returns through the front door as an environmentalist.

Darwall, who seems uninterested in sugarcoating his observations, also discusses "the 'shock troops' of the climate industrial complex," which he identifies as nongovernmental organizations such as "Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth," and other "large foundations," as well as "the Bill McKibbens of this world."

Other Nazi parallels with climate alarmists and radical environmentalists include their efforts "to delegitimize dissent" and bully "people into silence," and suppressing arguments "not by having an argument but just making sure you don't have an argument," Darwall says.

In other words, brand skeptics as "deniers" and "anti-science" rubes so they'll shut up.

Accusing its political opponents of being Nazis is an exhausted trick of the left. Think of how many times that President Trump has been called Hitler of late. It doesn't tax the imagination greatly, though, to presume that this could be done to cover the left's own kinship with fascism.


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60. News Of Retailing's Death Has Been Greatly ExaggeratedПн., 12 февр.[−]

Wherever one turns these days, there appear to be signs that a retail apocalypse has descended on the United States.

X Department stores like Sears, K-Mart, J.C. Penney and Macy's are closing locations in droves. Retail brands like Bebe, Family Christian Stores and American Apparel have disappeared from storefronts.

Nearly every major newspaper and business magazine has run stories about the supposed decline in retail.

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While this narrative may seem to hold water when one drives past shuttered big-box stores and observes empty mall storefronts, it's almost entirely lacking in factual basis.

Quite simply, America's retail sector is healthy overall and the areas that are declining can count e-commerce as only one cause of their decline.

Here are the facts: Retail sales are up ( a healthy 4.9% for the 2017 holiday season) and retail vacancy rates are down and projected to continue falling.

Total employment in the retail sector did fall slightly in 2017 and will probably continue the decline in 2018, but, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the sector's unemployment rate — people previously employed in retail and looking for work — also fell.

Meanwhile, productivity in the retail sector rose along with both capital investment and wages.

Put together, these statistics paint a picture of a healthy economic sector where store owners can't find the workers they might want and, instead, are investing in higher wages and new technology to make more money and serve more customers with a very slightly smaller labor force.

This is prosperity, not apocalypse.

But what about the shuttered big-box stores and dying malls? They're real, of course, but hardly anything new.

Enclosed malls have been in decline for a long time, along with the department-store chains that traditionally anchored them. Only two large enclosed malls are under construction right now anywhere in the United States, and fewer than 10 have opened in the last 10 years.

For decades now, new shopping complexes all around the country have overwhelmingly been town-center designs that combine traditional urban aesthetics with outdoor amenities, ample parking, and mixed uses like residences and offices.

Anchors are more often destination retail than multiline department stores. This simply reflects changing tastes and business models similar to those that saw most downtown department stores replaced with enclosed malls between the 1960s and 1980s.

E-commerce is a small part of the reason for the decline of these traditional malls. According to the Department of Commerce's most recent statistics, only 9.1% of retail sales take place online and, while they are likely to continue significant growth, such sales probably won't ever make up even half of all retail sales.

Seven of the top 10 American online retailers are companies like Home Depot, Best Buy and Macy's, which do the overwhelming majority of their business offline. All of these brands make some "online" sales via pickup at traditional stores.

Furthermore, many stores found in shopping centers like sit-down restaurants and hair salons do business that can't move online ever as they are currently conceived.

Important products that make up a sizable share of retail sales like fuel, building materials, tires and ready-to-eat hot food are more or less impossible to sell online and ship to homes from centralized distribution centers in the way people want.

And others like fresh groceries, medicines, grooming products, automobiles, furniture, appliances and clothing are things that many people will want to touch, smell, feel and try before buying and will often want to have right away rather than waiting even a few hours for delivery.

Many sales for these items will probably never take place online.

While there are a few sizable companies like Overstock.com and Zulily.com that do sell their wares only online, many of the large e-commerce companies are actually moving offline: E-tail giant Amazon.com has not only purchased Whole Foods' 450 or so stores but is also opening a few shops under its own brand.

Retail will continue to change. Traditional midrange department stores may well soon go the way of video rental stores, music stores, muffler shops, and horse-buggy technicians.

More malls may close. Other types of stores may have to provide more services, human expertise and entertainment to keep customers coming in. Some storied retail names will surely vanish from the American consciousness.

But that doesn't mean retail is on its way out. Humans tend to be tactile, so when they buy stuff, they'll often head to a store.

  • Lehrer is the president of the R Street Institute.

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61. Don't Cheer Minimum-Wage Hikes — They're Killing Millions Of JobsПн., 12 февр.[−]

Wages: A large number of states and cities are raising their minimum wage this year, part of a wave of recent actions to help low-income workers. Sadly, not only will it not help, it will devastate many of them.

X Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., will raise their minimum wage this year, under the misbegotten notion that it will help the poor, in particular struggling minority youth. It won't.

As a new study from the American Action Forum shows, not only will most workers not be better off, they will take a huge hit.

Why? Common sense tells you that when you raise the cost of something, anything, less of it will be used or consumed. It's a fundamental precept of economics. And labor is no different.

Coercive minimum-wage hikes this year, the AAF estimates, will kill 261,000 jobs held mostly by poor, undertrained, undereducated, young suburban millennials and minority teens.

But it's even worse than that: Once the minimum-wage increases are fully phased in, some 1.7 million jobs will be lost. As the Daily Caller helpfully notes, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated last year that the U.S. economy will add 11.5 million jobs over the next 10 years. So that's roughly 15% of a decade's worth of jobs destroyed.

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The two states with the biggest planned minimum-wage hikes — California and New York, which are both moving to a $15-an-hour minimum — will take 75% of the job losses.

Yes, some people will do better because of the "Fight for $15," the organizing shibboleth used by activists who want a national minimum wage. But many small businesses struggle to stay open. Labor is their No. 1 cost, taking up more than two-thirds of total costs. If you raise the minimum wage sharply, they have to lay off people or raise prices to stay in business. And some won't make it.

The job losses are already happening. Just last month, the food chain Red Robin announced it would eliminate busboys at 570 restaurants to "address the labor increases we've seen." For "labor increases," read "minimum wage hikes."

Other restaurant chains take a slightly different approach, automating to offset rising labor costs. Neighborhood mainstays Chili's and Applebee's, for instance, are replacing front-end wait staff with computer tablets for placing orders. Since a tablet entails a one-time expense of roughly $200, the investment pays for itself in a little over 13 hours at minimum wage.

It's sad that just as the tax-cut boom gets going, one big group is going to be cut out of the action entirely. Whenever government sets the price of anything, distortions occur. In this case, the "distortion" is millions of lost jobs. It's cruel, racist and devastating to lower-income people who depend on entry-level jobs to make ends meet.


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62. America's Prudence DeficitПн., 12 февр.[−]

Well, we just kicked the can down the road again — to quote former President Barack Obama, who developed into an expert can-kicker during his eight years in the White House.

XThe bipartisan budget agreement reached last week by Congressional leaders is nothing if not a huge evasion of responsibility. Neither party will make the unpopular choices necessary to pay for an aging society and essential government. Ever-larger budget deficits have become their means of making policy and practicing politics.

Under the agreement, the federal debt will grow by $1.7 trillion or so over the next decade, estimates the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, or CRFB. (The spending figures announced by the Congressional leaders are smaller because they mostly cover only two years. But it strains credulity to think that Congress will soon reduce the spending it's just increased.)

Now, recall that Congress recently passed the Republican/Trump tax program, which may add another $1.5 trillion to annual deficits over the decade. All these deficits come atop the pre-existing deficits that the new president, whoever won, would have inherited. This figure is nearly $11 trillion, estimates the CRFB.

Altogether, we face cumulative deficits of about $14 trillion over the decade. These can't be blamed on an economy operating at less than full capacity. Just the opposite: The economy is close to "full employment" with a 4.1% unemployment rate.

Deficit-financing has become the mother's milk of politics. Compromise occurs by mutual forbearance. "Each party is giving the other its wish list (of spending) with all the bells and whistles included and asking future generations to pick up the tab," notes the CRFB's Maya MacGuineas.

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Of course, last week's agreement has some virtues. You can't spend so much money and get nothing in return. We may be spared another government shutdown over the budget, because the agreement sets spending levels for two years. Similarly, the agreement suspends the federal debt ceiling — how much the government can borrow — through early 2019. This presumably postpones another self-destructive debate over whether the government should default on its debt, damaging its credit rating and flirting with a financial crisis.

In truth, much of the spending authorized by the agreement is desirable. Future deficits have been wildly underestimated, because projections for defense and non-defense "discretionary" spending were unrealistically low. On defense, Obama's budgets reduced readiness, left the services too small and made it harder to counter new technological threats, most notably cyberwarfare. There was a similar squeeze on many vital domestic agencies, from the Internal Revenue Service to the National Parks.

To some extent, the new agreement represents a catch-up from this stringency. Meanwhile, so-called "entitlement" programs such as Social Security and Medicare — for which people automatically qualify — were largely untouched. They represent about 70% of federal spending. Together, costly entitlements and expanded discretionary spending produce enormous deficits, exceeding $1 trillion a year, as far as the eye can see.

That's a huge gap — roughly 5% of our gross domestic product — to close or shrink. Most politicians are can-kickers. They want nothing to do with the necessary tax increases or spending cuts, including possible reductions in Social Security, to curb the out-of-control deficits.

Ignoring them seems to involve few economic or political costs. The extra borrowing caused by deficits hasn't sent interest rates sky-high. Indeed, after the Great Recession, deficits helped the economy recover. Now, despite our political and social problems, foreigners still seem happy to hold U.S. Treasury securities as "safe" financial assets. In general, the public doesn't seem aggrieved by big deficits, especially when compared with the alternatives.

All this feeds a culture of nostalgia in both parties: They act as if nothing's changed. Republicans congratulate themselves on new tax cuts; Democrats are always eager to increase social spending — witness the Affordable Care Act ("ObamaCare").

So, why should we worry about escalating debt? The answer in a word: prudence.

We don't know how much federal debt is too much. It could be "a lot more" or "not much more." What we do know — from previous financial crises in many countries and at many times — is that once investors, traders and speculators lose confidence in a country's debt, the economic, social and political consequences can be devastating. Interest rates may soar; inflation may surge; governments may raise taxes sharply and cut spending deeply.

But once you cross that line, it's hard to get back to the other side. The prudent thing to do is never to get close to the line. We aren't being prudent.

  • Samuelson has written about business and economic issues for the Washington Post since 1977.

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63. Play Ball, With Informed IntelligenceВс., 11 февр.[−]

Even if, inexplicably, you occasionally think about things other than major league baseball, consider this: Why are many premier free agents, particularly sluggers and starting pitchers, unsigned even while we are hearing the loveliest four words, "Pitchers and catchers report"? The Major League Baseball Players Association angrily says some teams are more interested in economizing than in winning. The real explanation is that teams are intelligently aligning their behavior with changing information.

XTeams increasingly behave alike because increasingly they think alike. They all have young graduates of elite colleges and universities whose data support the following judgments:

Players become eligible for free agency after six years of major league service, which comes close to coinciding with the beginning of the downside of most careers. Besides, baseball has become younger since banning performance-enhancing drugs (amphetamines as well as steroids) that extended some careers. Thirty-two is the new 36.

Baseball today is played as an all-or-nothing, strike-out-or-home-run game. This will not last — baseball strategy, like everything else in life, constantly evolves — but for now more batters are elevating their swings' trajectories. So, the market is saturated with home-run hitters, some of whom have spurned nine-digit offers. Their agents should have anticipated softening demand for a surplus commodity.

Baseball "analytics," aka information, demonstrate that most starting pitchers are most effective when constantly throwing hard, and are significantly less effective the third time through the opponent's lineup. Hence relief pitchers are increasingly important — and increasingly well paid in even today's severely rational market.

Several high-revenue, high-spending teams (e.g., the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox) might be saving their money for a splurge eight months from now on the best free-agent class ever — the Nationals' Bryce Harper, the Orioles' Manny Machado, the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and others. Furthermore, in the collective bargaining agreement negotiated just 15 months ago and running through 2021, the MLBPA agreed to a competitive balance tax of 20% on any portion of a payroll over $197 million, with the rate rising to 30% and 50% on second and third consecutive seasons over the threshold. This is what the MLBPA knew it was designed to be: a disincentive for spending, especially by the wealthiest teams, for the purpose of enhancing competitive balance.

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MLB and the MLBPA collaboratively devised a system whereby the teams with the worst records get advantages in drafting young talent. The Cubs and Astros lost 288 and 324 games, respectively, in recent three-year spans, reloaded, then won the 2016 and 2017 World Series, respectively. Their fans, and most teams, think those two successes validated the strategy of accepting short-term pain for long-term gain. Not, however, for constant success.

Competitive balance exists when every well-run team has a regularly recurring reasonable hope to be among the 10 teams in the postseason. But "regularly recurring" does not mean "uninterrupted." Change is a baseball constant as veterans' careers pass their apogees and younger players' approach theirs. So, cycles of success are, if not inevitable, always the norm. In the previous 25 seasons, 22 of the 30 teams have played in the World Series and 14 have won it. No team has won consecutive World Series since the 1998-2000 Yankees.

The Cubs' and Astros' successes have encouraged other teams to engage in what the MLBPA says is a "race to the bottom." Actually, teams that are tearing down old and mediocre rosters are accepting a plunge in order to produce momentum for a surge to the top. What fans most dislike, and what constitutes baseball malpractice, is consistent mediocrity — teams not talented enough to play in October but not bad enough to receive the right to draft the best young talent.

Before 1994's cataclysm — the strike-shortened season, the canceled World Series — baseball had suffered seven work stoppages (including spring training) in 22 years. Since then there have been none, baseball has gone from a $2 billion to a $9 billion-plus business and the average salary has risen from $1.2 million in 1994 to $4.1 million in 2017, when 50% of MLB revenues went to players' salaries and benefits (56% including minor-league signing bonuses and salaries).

Baseball, like the American economy generally in this era of high-quantity, high-velocity information, is more efficient at pricing assets and allocating resources than it was until recently. This intensified dynamic has winners and losers, but many more of the former than the latter. And to oppose this churning, in the national pastime or the nation itself, is to oppose the application of informed intelligence.

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64. Student Loans Will Cost Taxpayers $36 Billion: Thanks, ObamaСб., 10 февр.[−]

Debt: The federal student loan program was supposed to make money. Instead it will cost tens of billions of dollars, forcing hardworking Americans to subsidize college-educated deadbeats. Who do we have to thank for that?

X A report from the Department of Education notes that the net cost of the federal government's direct loan program is quickly heading into the red. This program, mind you, was supposed to be a moneymaker for the government, as students paid back federal loans with interest.

But as it turns out, borrowers have been flocking toward various loan forgiveness programs, by which the government will lose money, erasing gains from other loans. The report shows that the direct loan program went from a $25 billion surplus in 2012 to less than $5 billion by 2015.

A separate report says that this program ran a $36 billion deficit last year, up from $8.4 billion in 2016.

This is not how this federal loan program was supposed to work when President Obama launched it eight years ago.

In 2010, President Obama effectively nationalized student lending by cutting banks — which had been offering government-backed loans to students — out of the equation and having the government make the loans itself.

"By cutting out the middleman, we'll save the American taxpayers $68 billion in the coming years," Obama said when he signed this change into law. "That's real money."

As a result, federal student loan debt shot up from $154.9 billion in 2009 to $1.1 trillion by the end of 2017.

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The problem is that at the same time Obama was getting the government into the lending business in a big way, he was making it easier for students to avoid paying back their loans.

One program, called "income-driven repayment," lets borrowers avoid payments if their income falls below a certain threshold, and then caps payments as a percentage of total family income. Any debt left over at the end of 25 years is forgiven.

Not surprisingly, students flocked to these and other programs that let them avoid paying back all their loans, even though the interest rates they had to pay were already subsidized.

Between 2011 and 2015, the portion of loans being repaid through these IDR plans shot up 625%, according to the report.

The direct lending program even earned the nickname "Obama Student Loan Forgiveness," and surveys of student borrowers by LendEDU found that half of them don't expect to have to pay back all their debts because the federal government would forgive them.

The rising expectation that loans wouldn't have to be paid back in full also had the perverse effect of making students increasingly indifferent to college costs, thereby fueling tuition inflation.

As the Education report says, "Decision makers and others may not be aware of the growth in the participation in these IDR plans and loan forgiveness programs and the resulting additional costs."

Given the $1 trillion in loan debt on the federal books, one hopes that awareness comes soon. Otherwise, the student loan program will quickly turn into one of the most regressive taxes on the books.


The Federal Government's Student-Loan Fraud

Obama's Legacy: Half Of College Students Now Expect Taxpayers To Bail Them Out

'Higher' Education: College Students Spend Loans On Booze And Drugs, Expect Taxpayer Bailout

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65. Trump Is Not Killing ObamaCare — ObamaCare Is Killing ObamaCareПт., 09 февр.[−]

Democrats can at least thank Trump for keeping their name off ObamaCare's death certificate. Painful as Trump's victory proved, it gives them the opportunity to blame him — and absolve themselves — for ObamaCare's seemingly fatal flaws.

X However, despite their claims, ObamaCare's demise was self-inflicted; the poorly designed, implemented and patronized system is killing itself.

In 2016, ObamaCare was failing and Clinton was winning. Despite virtual certainty Hillary would win in November, Democrats faced the reality that ObamaCare was fatally foundering (coverage declining and premiums skyrocketing) and saving it meant working with a Republican Congress bent on killing it. Without massive changes — most of them expensive — Democrats faced Obama's failure landing on Clinton's doorstep.

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If there were a silver lining to Democrats' dark cloud of defeat in Trump's upset, it was being spared having to sign the coroner's report on ObamaCare. Trump even played into this blame-shifting by reducing its advertising and sign-up periods. Where Democrats once had a problem they could neither escape nor fix, with Trump's sudden upset, their problem became his.

However before revision becomes history, we should remember reality. A Congressional Budget Office report released just last month shows where ObamaCare was — and more importantly, where it was not going — before Trump even took office.

CBO estimated in 2013 that ObamaCare would have 7 million enrollees in 2014, 13 million in 2015, and 22 million in 2016. Actual 2016 enrollment came in at just 11 million — half of CBO's earlier estimate. Four-fifths of that shortfall came in the estimate for subsidized enrollees — those for whom the government was making some premium payment.

Conversely, CBO underestimated how much ObamaCare's expansion of Medicaid would cost. In 2013, it estimated that ObamaCare's Medicaid tab would be $9 billion in 2014, $24 billion in 2015, and $44 billion in 2016. Instead, it amounted to significantly more — $23 billion in 2014, $57 billion in 2015, and $65 billion in 2016.

And this happened in spite of ObamaCare's Medicaid enrollment being lower than projected — spiraling per patient spending more than made up the difference.

Finally, CBO projected that ObamaCare would cause the uninsured population to plummet. In 2013, it estimated that America's uninsured population would drop by 23 million. Actual 2016 figures show it dropping just 16 million, over one third less than projected.

CBO's review of actual data shows that ObamaCare had enrolled half the amount projected, its Medicaid expansion was proving far more expensive per patient than expected, and the drop in overall uninsured was well below projections.

As Doug Badger of the Galen Institute pointed out, ObamaCare's enrollment figures were ready to drop further. Although the individual mandate — ObamaCare's requirement that individuals buy insurance or pay a penalty — had proven wildly unsuccessful in forcing people to buy coverage, its impact was about to fall further still.

The reason: ObamaCare coverage was proving so costly that the penalty no longer applied to increasing numbers. And as ObamaCare coverage costs shot up still more, more and more were going to be exempt from the penalty. The result: Enrollments would fall further behind projections.

As Badger stated in National Review, "the individual mandate (was) repealing itself." The same thing can be said about ObamaCare overall.

It is important to remember that all these failures were occurring while Obama was still in office. And they were going to continue occurring because of flaws in ObamaCare's design — not because of anything Trump — who still was not elected, let alone in office — did. Even the subsidies Trump has promised to cut off will not take effect until (later in) 2018 — two years after the failing results CBO found.

Far from killing ObamaCare, Trump inherited the task of burying it. As CBO showed, ObamaCare was killing ObamaCare. And it was doing it faster and more effectively than Republicans have proven capable of. And well before Trump even got the chance.

  • Young served under President George W. Bush as director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He was a congressional staffer from 1987-2000.


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66. Don't Bail Out The Postal Service For Missing The Bull MarketПт., 09 февр.[−]

With the stock market taking a hit recently, many investors are thankful they have been diversified and in the equity markets over the past 10 years. The U.S. Postal Service, though, is not one of them.

X In fact, taxpayers may soon be handed a bailout bill because the U.S. Postal Service has missed out on the bull market while amassing a deficit of more than $73 billion on its retirement plans.

Yet had the Postal Service matched the typical returns of state-wide government employee pension funds over just the past five years, it would now be in a solid financial position with little or no deficit.

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By law, the Postal Service can only invest in special-issue Treasury bonds, whose returns have been 3% to 4% in recent years. Even the Postal Service's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recognizes the benefits of having equities in its retirement plans.

In September, the OIG reported that if the Postal Service continues with its current approach, its retirement plans will continue to significantly underperform. Management's only feedback in the report is a terse three paragraph statement that "legislative change" would be necessary.

The Postal Service says it will pay the under-funded pension amounts in the future, provided Congress enacts a bill to lower its liabilities on the Retiree Health Benefits Fund, one of its three retirement plans. But its recent track record is disturbing.

In fiscal year 2017 (ended September 30), the Postal Service did not pay any of the $6.9 billion due to three retirement plans providing pension and health benefits to postal retirees. Yet, in its fiscal year 2017 Form 10-K, the Postal Service reported holding $10.5 billion in cash and cash equivalents. The Postal Service has also defaulted on $33.9 billion of retiree health benefit payments since fiscal year 2012.

The Postal Service was once less audacious in its calls for federal assistance and recognized the benefits of investing in equity markets.

In an August 12, 2011 press release and related information sent to Congress, the Postal Service proposed that it should administer its own retirement plan, as states administer pension plans for government workers.

At the end of fiscal year 2016, the Postal Service had cumulative assets of $338.4 billion in its three retirement plans and a cumulative funding shortfall of $73.4 billion. While Postal Service plans are returning a steady but low rate of less than 4%, state retirement pension plans for government workers using diversified portfolios are doing much better.

The California Public Employees' Retirement System earned 11.2% for its fiscal year ending June 30, 2017. Massachusetts state pension fund earned 12.8% during the same period. New York, which is rather unique in that it publicly reports quarterly returns, is also performing solidly.

For the 12 months ended September 30, 2017, the New York State Common Retirement Fund returned 12.4 percent compared with a maximum of 4 percent for the Postal Service's retirement accounts.

Had the Postal Service invested its $338 billion in retirement assets the way New York State did, it would have accumulated an additional $28.7 billion in this 12-month period alone, reducing its funding shortfall by 39%.

Furthermore, the Postal Service's underperformance is chronic.

State pensions earned a 6.8% median annualized return for the 10 years ending June 30, 2015, according to a 2016 study by Cliffwater, an independent investment advisory firm. By contrast, government bonds, the sole components of the Postal Service's plans, had yields of well under 5% annually throughout this 10-year period.

The stock market may be high and portend caution. But few investment advisers would endorse continuing the Postal Service's investment approach.

The good news is that the Postal Service has a $70 billion annual business, with 70% of it in monopoly products, and nearly $350 billion of retirement assets. By investing these assets better, and right-sizing its business, the Postal Service can be profitable, even in the age of e-mail.

As such, the Postal Service should urge Congress to let it invest as state pension funds do and stop trying to offload these obligations onto taxpayers.

  • Steidler is a senior fellow with the Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank based in Arlington, Virginia. @Lex_Logistics and @PaulSteidler


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Unblocking Logical Postal Reform

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67. 'Gentry Liberals' Now Own The Democratic PartyПт., 09 февр.[−]

Amid the brouhahas about the Nunes memo and immigration, an item from Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business caught my eye. Demographers crunching census data estimate that Chicago's black population fell to 842,000, while its white non-Hispanic population increased to 867,000. National political significance: In our three largest cities — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — gentry liberals have become the dominant political demographic.

XThat's consistent with election results. Gentry liberals — the term is urban analyst Joel Kotkin's — are the political base of those cities' mayors, Bill de Blasio, Eric Garcetti and Rahm Emanuel. That's something new in American politics. Modest-income Jews used to be the key group in New York. White married homeowners were it in Los Angeles. "Bungalow ward" ethnics dominated in Chicago. In time, they faced challenges from candidates with nonwhite political bases — blacks, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in New York, Mexicans in Los Angeles, and blacks and Hispanics in Chicago. Now gentry liberals are on top.

This reflects demographic change. Blacks have been moving from central cities to suburbs and the South. Mexican immigrant inflow largely shut down circa 2008. Affluent professionals and single college graduates have colonized — gentrified — neighborhoods such as Park Slope, Silver Lake and Wicker Park, with bedraggled but potentially attractive housing stock convenient to downtowns.

The trend is visible elsewhere — not only in San Francisco, Seattle and Portland but also in Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and even Cleveland and Detroit. It's widespread and strategic enough to be changing the face of the Democratic Party.

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There's irony in this. Gentry liberals have produced the metropolitan areas with the highest income inequality in the nation. They decry gentrification — and the accompanying movement of low-income blacks and Hispanics out of their neighborhoods — even as they cause it. They sing hymns to diversity even as they revel in the pleasures of communities where almost everybody believes and consumes exactly the same things — and votes Democratic.

Gentrification thus inevitably reshapes the Democratic Party, which, from its beginnings in 1832, has been a series of coalitions of people regarded as somehow unusual Americans but who, taken together, are a national majority.

Consider two of Democrats' priorities during the presidency of Barack Obama, who has lived all his adult life in gentrified neighborhoods: increased taxes on high earners, which gentry liberals are happy to pay (if they weren't, they would have joined other affluent folk moving to Florida and Texas), and an infrastructure bill that was, as the American Enterprise Institute's Christina Hoff Sommers documented in The Weekly Standard, titled and tailored at the behest of feminists to invoke higher pay for teachers and nurses rather than new jobs for "burly men."

Similarly, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed through passage of cap-and-trade legislation, a priority of her fellow Bay Area gentry liberals, which predictably cost Democrats multiple Rust Belt House seats.

This year, New York's Andrew Cuomo and California's Jerry Brown have been bellowing against the Republican tax reform for eliminating most of the deduction for state and local taxes. But that provision has virtually no impact on people who aren't in high-tax states and don't make over $100,000 a year — i.e., who aren't gentry liberals. First constituencies first.

And whom are Democrats eyeing as possible 2020 presidential nominees? Identity politics, a favorite talking point of gentry liberals, have them focusing mainly on women and minorities — e.g., Kirsten Gillibrand, who met her husband while working in Manhattan, Elizabeth Warren of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cory Booker, raised in Harrington Park, New Jersey, and Kamala Harris, who is from San Francisco.

Not often mentioned is Sen. Sherrod Brown, who has won nine elections for national office in the classic swing state of Ohio. Brown has been a consistent critic of trade agreements, an issue that strikes gentry liberals as vulgar. Similar repugnance may explain the disinterest in Sens. Mark Warner, whose early victories were won by appealing to rural Virginians, and Michael Bennet, whose record as Denver school superintendent was not in lockstep with teachers unions. Gentry liberals may seek to appease other party constituencies, including blacks and Hispanics, but they insist on their own priorities.

Dominating the party is one thing; producing candidates and issues with appeal to the broader national electorate is another. Gentry liberals have the microphone and the money to dominate the Democratic Party. Whether they can overcome their snobbish disdain and bitter contempt for those beyond their comfortable enclaves and come up with a winning national strategy is unclear.

  • Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.

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68. Russia-Trump Investigation: How Did Hillary Clinton Get FBI, FISA To Do Her Political Dirty Work?Пт., 09 февр.[−]

Russia Scandal: Bit by bit, piece by piece, the growing scandal of the FBI's spying on the Trump campaign is being revealed for what it is: an effort to weaponize the federal intelligence bureaucracy for use by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

XRecent revelations point to former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and a secretive group of supporters and hangers-on both inside and outside of the FBI and Justice Department as having a far deeper personal involvement in the investigation than first thought.

Fears of a politicized and manipulative "deep state" are looking less paranoid by the day.

The involvement of Hillary Clinton campaign aides in both the FBI's and Robert Mueller's investigation of Russia's supposed ties to the Trump campaign in 2016 now seems deeper, and more nefarious, than first thought.

The British left-wing newspaper the Guardian reported this week that the FBI has a second Trump dossier, in addition to the one compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.

This second dossier allegedly was put together by Cody Shearer, a long-time aide and fixer for both Bill and Hillary Clinton going back to the 1990s.

The Steele dossier, upon which the FBI's investigation appears to have been based, was financed by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee. The second dossier, the one allegedly collected by Shearer, likewise was a Clinton team production.

So was the entire Russia election scandal and the ensuing investigation nothing more than a Clinton operation all along? Starting to look that way.

Last month, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina made a criminal referral on Steele to the FBI. A heavily redacted version of that letter was released this week.

The letter refers to "a foreign source (who) gave information to an unnamed associate of Hillary and Bill Clinton, who then gave information to an unnamed official in the Obama State Department, who then gave the information to Steele."

It's unclear who the "unnamed associate of Hillary and Bill Clinton" was, since the name was redacted.

However, in a subsequent interview with Fox News, House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Trey Gowdy all but spilled the beans: the "associate" was longtime Hillary aide Sidney Blumenthal.

So Hillary Clinton covered all the bases, having her own long-time associate, Cody Shearer, put together a dossier and at the same time, having Blumenthal and possibly also Shearer feed questionable information to Steele.

The referral letter is important for another reason. It suggests that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was duped by the "apparent deception" of Steele and, of course, Shearer.

Using questionable information, Clinton, Steele, Blumenthal and Shearer were able to get the government to launch an intelligence surveillance operation against her political foe — something that should never happen.

The letter says that the "bulk" of the application for surveillance against Carter Page, a fringe adviser to the Trump campaign, came from the Steele dossier. But it was never made clear to the court that the dossier was financed by Hillary Clinton's political campaign.

So Clinton got the FBI's counterintelligence apparatus and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in essence, to do her political dirty work.

Grassley and Graham tread lightly in their referral on the apparent ineptitude of FISC in assessing the quality of the information that the dossiers provided. It was, the referral letter said, "only minimally corroborated." Even former FBI Director James Comey called it "salacious and unverified."

So, to sell FISC on the idea that the information was widely known, the FBI supplied a Yahoo News piece written by Michael Isikoff that contained many of the same details as the Steele dossier. What they didn't say was that the Isikoff piece was based on information given to him by Steele.

It was an evidentiary echo chamber.

But while Grassley and Graham spared FISC from criticism for its slapdash work, it's clear, as The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway writes, that the FISC verification of the information was "so inadequate it resembles a concerted effort to conceal information from the (FISA) court."

Questions naturally arise, especially about a number of things that had previously been mysteries:

Was former President Bill Clinton's impromptu meeting with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch at a Phoenix airport in June of 2016 to coordinate strategy on Hillary's email scandal or the Russian investigation — or both?

Most importantly, it now looks as if the FBI's "Russian collusion" case was based almost entirely on information doled out by Hillary Clinton operatives and a foreign spy, Steele, who was paid by Clinton and the Democratic Party and who had openly expressed an intense loathing of Donald Trump.

The big question is just how deeply did Clinton get involved in pushing a politicized investigation whose increasingly clear intent was to take down, first, a major political foe, and, second, a sitting president?

Hillary escaped charges in the email scandal, largely due to favorable handling by the FBI and by prejudicial remarks made by President Obama. Will she be charged with crimes this time if her direct involvement is further corroborated by facts, testimony and emails?


The Trump-Russia 'Dossier' Scandal Deepens

The FBI Is Looking Guilty As Hell In Russia Probe

Fusion GPS' 'Fake Investigation' — And Hillary Clinton's Real Russian Collusion

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69. The Coming Cryptocurrency Lobbying WarПт., 09 февр.[−]

Bitcoin prices are plummeting. Governments everywhere are banning digital currencies and their exchanges. Hackers and rogue nations such as North Korea are plundering cryptocurrency accounts, stealing billions of dollars for their nefarious aims. Banks, credit card companies and even Facebook are terminating Bitcoin transactions.

X The cryptocurrency world is in turmoil and it is hard to comprehend just how much this world has changed in less than two months. Just before Christmas last year, the price of Bitcoin was soaring toward $20,000. Today, its value has been more than halved. Since New Year's Day, the total market capitalization of digital currencies has fallen almost $500 billion. Compared to the fall of Bitcoin, the Dow Industrials are having a pretty good week.

To be clear, I own Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin, because I believe that these currencies are the future of transactions that cut out banks and credit card companies from everyday transactions. They are great technologies and no government should use the pretext that they are securities or commodities for the purposes of regulating these instruments of commerce out of existence.

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

That being said, there need to be other competing instruments and business models that prevent the truly bad guys, and bad governments, from using them for nefarious purposes.

Against this tumultuous backdrop, the U.S. Senate Banking Committee held a hearing titled " Virtual Currencies: The Oversight Role of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission" on February 6 to explore how our government can regulate digital currency.

Congress is grappling with the same conundrum every nation faces in reacting to the arrival of digital currencies.

On the one hand, digital currencies are widely believed to be the next wave of innovation that will power the world to greater technological heights.

The flip side of this coin is the potential of digital currencies to facilitate the invasion of criminal and terrorist cash into the world's financial systems. It is likely that governments will overreact and attempt to regulate all digital currencies in a way that will slow growth and stifle innovation.

Many countries, including India, South Korea and China, have openly contemplated banning digital currencies. Elsewhere, key financial leaders — such as Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin — have called for regulation to impede the arrival of a digital currency world. These governmental assaults are driving down the price of digital currencies.

But banning cryptocurrency would not only harm millions of coin holders — it would be a tragic and foolish response to the challenges presented by the emergence of digital currency, especially since a real solution to the problem of non-compliance with financial safeguards has recently arrived on the scene.

The problem vexing leaders stems from bad actors using the anonymous nature of cryptocurrency to conduct human trafficking and other terrible transactions. Bitcoin and virtually all alt-coins cannot identify their buyers and sellers, nor monitor criminal activity, and this panics regulators.

The solution is a vital upgrade to the cryptocurrency world, bridging the exciting Bitcoin of the past and the digital currencies of the future and facilitating voluntary digital currency compliance with international financial laws. One case study in the next generation of digital currency is being rolled out by a new company, AML BitCoin.

A look at the company's business model is a view into the future of digital currencies. The core structure of the AML BitCoin features compliance with anti-money laundering (AML), know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-terrorist financing laws, as well as conformity with international financial and banking security laws.

This is a self-policing, self-regulatory business model that reduces government worries about digital currencies being used for illegal purposes. The business model also preserves anonymity, yet uses technology to remove the need for government intervention.

Moreover, because of its biometric, digital identity blockchain-based wallet structure, AML BitCoin cannot be stolen by ransomware thieves, terrorists or rogue regimes. In a world where Bitcoin is stolen almost as often as it is sold, this feature is vital, and is even the subject of AML BitCoin's hilarious recent viral ad spoof of North Korea's Kim.

As we find increasingly in every industry, entrenched interests with a policy agenda and turf to protect are trying to prevent the upgrade. These "Bitcoin Elite" have empowered a small Washington lobbying organization to fight against competition.

They don't want the Bitcoin business model to evolve and experience competition, even at the risk that digital currencies will never become useful in commerce.

It is more important for these elites to protect the Bitcoin business model that has been used to transact drugs and human trafficking, and by rogue regimes to avoid sanctions. No soccer mom will use digital currency to pay for the snacks or pizza after a game with a digital currency notorious for use by really bad actors.

The Bitcoin elite, represented by Washington lobbyists such as Coin Center, should embrace the compliance upgrade offered by AML BitCoin, and work to avoid regulations by nations' leaders and ensure that digital currencies can soon fulfill their potential of becoming ubiquitous in our economy and governmental interactions.

  • Darling is a former senior communications director and counsel for Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and founder of the firm Liberty Government Affairs.


Bitcoin And Cryptocurrency News And Trends

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Just How Many More 'Blockchain Pretenders' Could 2018 Bring?

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70. The Senate Budget Deal Is Bipartisanship At Its WorstЧт., 08 февр.[−]

Big Government: Nothing brings together the two political parties in Washington like a bill that lets them spend more taxpayer money. Just look at the back slapping going on after the Senate agreed to a budget-busting bill.

X Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell crowed about how the Senate leadership "worked hard to find common ground."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer added that "I believe we have reached a budget deal that neither side loves but both sides can be proud of. That's compromise. That's governing."

If this budget agreement is what passes for governing in Washington, we'd like to see less of it, not more.

Mainly what this bill does is blow up the 2011 spending caps — imposed by Republicans in Congress in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling — that have served as an effective check on lawmakers' unquenchable desire to spend more money, a desire equally shared on both sides of the aisle.

As Stephen Moore, who's column appears on these pages, put it recently: "The pro-spending lobby in both parties has come to despise the fiscal handcuffs of budget caps and the threat of across-the-board sequester cuts."

Under the Senate budget agreement, the caps on military spending will go up $80 billion in the current fiscal year — which started last October — and $85 billion in the next. In exchange for that, Republicans agreed to lifting the caps on nondefense spending by $63 billion this year and $68 billion next.

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That's a $296 billion increase in spending authority over two years, which, for those keeping score, is roughly half as big as the spending hikes in President Obama's ill-fated "stimulus" package.

And that's to say nothing of the $80 billion or so thrown in as disaster relief for last year's natural disasters, or the $70 billion for "Overseas Contingency Operations."

We're not opposed to the increase in military spending, per se, but the defense increase is more than even President Trump had requested. And it comes at a high price, since the new spending limits aren't likely to last long, which means we're back to annual orgies of spending cloaked as hard-fought bipartisan agreements.

Not only does the bill open the spending floodgates — Kaiser Health News reports, for example, that the agreement appears "to include just about every other health priority Democrats have been pushing the past several months" — it suspends the debt ceiling for a year, without getting any sort of spending restraint in exchange. It's also "riddled" with corporate welfare goodies, according to one analysis.

In other words, it violates just about every principle "fiscally responsible" Republicans claim to hold dear. The extra spending will result in higher deficits, but not more economic growth. Democrats will, in turn, pin those higher deficits on Trump's tax cuts, and lawmakers will be under increased pressure to raise taxes down the road, in the name of fiscal responsibility.

"This is reckless spending, and a massive tax hike on future generations, made under the guise of 'bipartisan negotiations,' " is how FreedomWorks, which is urging lawmakers to vote no on the bill, put it.

Republicans made this mistake before when President Bush was in the White House. Spending surged during his administration so fast that Barack Obama, of all people, was calling Republicans spendthrifts when he ran in 2008. But with support from the White House, the bill is all but certain to pass both the Senate and the House.

This unfortunate turn of events reminds us of a quip from conservative author and journalist M. Stanton Evans, who once observed that:

"We have two parties here, and only two. One is the evil party, and the other is the stupid party. Occasionally, the two parties get together to do something that's both evil and stupid. That's called bipartisanship."


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71. Why FISA-Gate Is Scarier Than WatergateЧт., 08 февр.[−]

The Watergate scandal of 1972-74 was uncovered largely because of outraged Democratic politicians and a bulldog media. They both claimed that they had saved American democracy from the Nixon administration's attempt to warp the CIA and FBI to cover up an otherwise minor, though illegal, political break-in.

XIn the Iran-Contra affair of 1985-87, the media and liberal activists uncovered wrongdoing by some rogue members of the Reagan government. They warned of government overreach and of using the "Deep State" to subvert the law for political purposes.

We are now in the midst of a third great modern scandal. Members of the Obama administration's Department of Justice sought court approval for the surveillance of Carter Page, allegedly for colluding with Russian interests, and extended the surveillance three times.

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But none of these government officials told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the warrant requests were based on an unverified dossier that had originated as a hit piece funded in part by the Hillary Clinton campaign to smear Donald Trump during the current 2016 campaign.

Nor did these officials reveal that the author of the dossier, Christopher Steele, had already been dropped as a reliable source by the FBI for leaking to the press.

Nor did officials add that a Department of Justice official, Bruce Ohr, had met privately with Steele — or that Ohr's wife, Nellie, had been hired to work on the dossier.

Unfortunately, such disclosures may be only the beginning of the FISA-gate scandal.

Members of the Obama administration's national security team also may have requested the names of American citizens connected with the Trump campaign who had been swept up in other FISA surveillance. Those officials may have then improperly unmasked the names and leaked them to a compliant press — again, for apparent political purposes during a campaign.

As a result of various controversies, the deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, has resigned. Two FBI officials who had been working on special counsel Robert Mueller's team in the so-called Russia collusion probe, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, have been reassigned for having an improper relationship and for displaying overt political biases in text messages to each other.

The new FBI director, Christopher Wray, has also reassigned the FBI's top lawyer, James Baker, who purportedly leaked the Steele dossier to a sympathetic journalist.

How does FISA-gate compare to Watergate and Iran-Contra?

Once again, an administration is being accused of politicizing government agencies to further agendas, this time apparently to gain an advantage for Hillary Clinton in the run-up to an election.

There is also the same sort of government resistance to releasing documents under the pretext of "national security."

There is a similar pattern of slandering congressional investigators and whistleblowers as disloyal and even treasonous.

There is the rationale that just as the Watergate break-in was a two-bit affair, Carter Page was a nobody.

But there is one huge (and ironic) difference. In the current FISA-gate scandal, most of the media and liberal civil libertarians are now opposing the disclosure of public documents. They are siding with those in the government who disingenuously sought surveillance to facilitate the efforts of a political campaign.

This time around, the press is not after a hated Nixon administration. Civil libertarians are not demanding accountability from a conservative Reagan team. Instead, the roles are reversed.

Barack Obama was a progressive constitutional lawyer who expressed distrust of the secretive "Deep State." Yet his administration weaponized the IRS and surveilled Associated Press communications and a Fox News journalist for reporting unfavorable news based on supposed leaks.

Obama did not fit the past stereotypes of right-wing authoritarians subverting the Department of Justice and its agencies. Perhaps that is why there was little pushback against his administration's efforts to assist the campaign of his likely replacement, fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Progressives are not supposed to destroy requested emails, "acid wash" hard drives, spread unverified and paid-for opposition research among government agencies, or use the DOJ and FBI to obtain warrants to snoop on the communications of American citizens.

FISA-gate may become a more worrisome scandal than either Watergate or Iran-Contra. Why? Because our defense against government wrongdoing — the press — is defending such actions, not uncovering them. Liberal and progressive voices are excusing, not airing, the excesses of the DOJ and FBI.

Apparently, weaponizing government agencies to stop a detested Donald Trump by any means necessary is not really considered a crime.

  • Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author of the recently released "The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won," from Basic Books. His email is: authorvdh@gmail.com.

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72. Snakes On A Plane For Emotional Support?Чт., 08 февр.[−]

When next you shoehorn yourself into one of America's ever-shrinking airline seats, you might encounter a new wrinkle in the romance of air travel. You might be amused, or not, to discover a midsize — say, 7-feet long — boa constrictor named Oscar coiled contentedly, or so you hope, in the seat next to you. Oscar is an "emotional-support animal." He belongs to the person in the seat on the other side of him, and he is a manifestation of a new item, or the metastasizing of an old item, on America's menu of rights. Fortunately, the federal government is on the case, so you can relax and enjoy the flight.

The rapid recent increase of emotional-support animals in airplane cabins is an unanticipated consequence of a federal law passed with the best of intentions, none of which pertained to Dexter the peacock, more about whom anon. In 2013, the Department of Housing and Urban Development told providers of public housing that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) mandates "reasonable accommodations" for persons who require "assistance animals."

The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 allows access to animals trained to provide emotional support. Federal guidelines say airlines must allow even emotional-support animals that have a potential to "offend or annoy" passengers, but that airlines are allowed to — let us not sugarcoat this — discriminate against some "unusual" animals.

Yet a New York photographer and performance artist named, according to The Associated Press, Ventiko recently was denied the right to board her Newark-to-Los Angeles flight with her "emotional-support peacock," for whom Ventiko had bought a ticket. And there is a 29-year-old traveler who insists that she cannot "think about life without" Stormy, her emotional-support parakeet. So, if Oscar's owner says Oscar provides support, and the owner lawyers up ...

In contemporary America, where whims swiftly become necessities en route to becoming government-guaranteed entitlements, it is difficult to draw lines. Besides, lines are discouraged lest someone (or some species?) be "stigmatized" by being "marginalized." The line JetBlue has drawn dehumanizes snakes. Yes, they are not technically human, but don't quibble. Anyway, soon enough there will be a lobby ("Rights for Reptiles"?), and lobbies are precursors to entitlements.

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JetBlue is attempting to fly between the Scylla of passengers discomforted by a duck waddling down the aisle (even though it is wearing a diaper; this has happened more than once) and the Charybdis of animal advocates who are hypersensitive to speciesism, aka anti-pet fascism. JetBlue says that "unusual animals" such as "snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents and spiders" are verboten, even as emotional-support animals. Southwest rather sternly says that passengers accompanied by emotional-support animals had better have papers from credentialed experts certifying "a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — Fourth Edition." But the DSM already accords the status of disability to almost every imaginable human trait or quirk and is eager to imagine new ones.

Delta experienced a nearly one-year doubling of what it delicately calls "incidents" (urinating, defecating, biting). "Farm poultry," hedgehogs and creatures with tusks are unwelcome on Delta, which is going to be alert regarding the booming market for forged documents attesting to emotional neediness. The Association of Flight Attendants is pleased, perhaps because one of its members was asked to give a dog oxygen because the dog's owner said it was having a panic attack.

Now, let us, as the lawyers say, stipulate a few things. Quadrupeds, and no-peds like Oscar, have done a lot less damage to the world than have bipeds, and often are better mannered than many of today's human air travelers. Animals can be comforting to anyone and can be therapeutic to the lonely, the elderly with symptoms of senescence, and soldiers and others suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. Studies have purported to show that people living with pets derive myriad benefits, including lower cholesterol. A Washington Post report says "horses are used to treat sex addiction." Thank you, Post, for not elaborating.

But the proliferation of emotional-support animals suggests that a cult of personal fragility is becoming an aspect of the quest for the coveted status of victim. The cult is especially rampant in colleges and universities, which increasingly embrace the therapeutic mission of assuaging the anxieties of the emotionally brittle. There, puppies are deployed to help students cope with otherwise unbearable stresses, such as those caused by final exams or rumors of conservatism.

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73. Take The 'Racist Xenophobe' Quiz: Who Said This About Illegal Immigration?Чт., 08 февр.[−]

Which alleged "racist xenophobe" made these statements about illegal immigration?

"Those who enter the country illegally and those who employ them disrespect the rule of law, and they are showing disregard for those who are following the law. We simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented (and) unchecked, and circumventing the line of people who are waiting patiently, diligently and lawfully to become immigrants in this country."
A) Adolf Hitler
B) Donald Trump
C) Barack Obama
Answer: Then-Sen. Obama, news conference, 2005

"Our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens."
A) Josef Stalin
B) Donald Trump
C) Bill Clinton
Answer: President Clinton, State of the Union address, 1995

"If making it easy to be an illegal alien isn't enough, how about offering an award to be an illegal immigrant. No sane country would do that, right? Guess again."
A) Jack the Ripper
B) Donald Trump
C) Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Answer: Reid, Senate floor, 1993

"In approaching immigration reform, I believe we must enact tough, practical reforms that ensure and promote the legal and orderly entry of immigrants into our country."
A) Idi Amin
B) Donald Trump
C) Barack Obama
Answer: Sen. Obama, Senate floor, 2007

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"We all agree on the need to better secure the border, and to punish employers who choose to hire illegal immigrants."
A) Pol Pot
B) Donald Trump
C) Barack Obama
Answer: Sen. Obama, 2005

"All Americans, not only in the states most heavily affected but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public services they use impose burdens on our taxpayers."
A) Michael Myers
B) Donald Trump
C) Bill Clinton
Answer: President Clinton, State of the Union address, 1995

"We will try to do more to speed the deportation of illegal aliens who are arrested for crimes, to better identify illegal aliens in the workplace."
A) Jeffrey Dahmer
B) Donald Trump
C) Bill Clinton
Answer: President Clinton, State of the Union address, 1995

"I continue to believe that we need stronger enforcement on the border and at the workplace. And that means a workable mandatory system that employers must use to verify the legality of their workers."
A) Kim Jong Un
B) Donald Trump
C) Barack Obama
Answer: Sen. Obama, Senate floor, 2007

"If you break our laws by entering this country without permission and give birth to a child, we reward that child with U.S. citizenship and guarantee full access to all public and social services this society provides — and that's a lot of services. Is it any wonder that two-thirds of babies born at taxpayer expense (in) county-run hospitals in Los Angeles are born to illegal alien mothers?"
A) Kim Kardashian
B) Donald Trump
C) Harry Reid
Answer: Sen. Reid, Senate floor, 1993

"We need to start by giving agencies charged with border security new technology, new facilities and more people to stop, process and deport illegal immigrants."
A) Rasputin
B) Donald Trump
C) Barack Obama
Answer: Sen. Barack Obama, 2005

"Right now we've got millions of illegal immigrants who live and work here without knowing their identity or background."
A) Freddy Krueger
B) Donald Trump
C) Barack Obama
Answer: Sen. Obama, 2005

"We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it."
A) Vlad the Impaler
B) Donald Trump
C) Bill Clinton
Answer: President Clinton, State of the Union address, 1995

"Let me repeat: We need strong border security at the borders."
A) Hassan Nasrallah
B) Donald Trump
C) Barack Obama
Answer: Barack Obama, 2005

"If only everyone (in the Middle East) could be like Scandinavians, (achieving peace) would all be easy."
A) Al Capone
B) Donald Trump
C) Barack Obama
Answer: President Obama, 2016

"There are too many (migrants) now. ... Europe, for example, Germany, cannot become an Arab country. Germany is Germany. ... From a moral point of view, too, I think refugees should only be admitted temporarily."
A) Joseph Goebbels
B) Donald Trump
C) Dalai Llama
Answer: Dalai Llama, 2016

Not long ago, both Democrats and Republicans advocated safe, secure borders and an immigration policy of admitting immigrants who benefit, not burden, Americans. Que pas??

  • Elder is a best-selling author and nationally syndicated radio talk-show host.

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74. Go Figure: Tax Revenues Climbed $18 Billion In First Month Of GOP Tax CutsЧт., 08 февр.[−]

Fiscal Policy: The Congressional Budget Office says that federal revenues in January added up to $362 billion. That's an increase of $18 billion— or 5.2% — from the year before. As a result, the government ran a surplus of $51 billion that month, which is equal to the previous January.

X Wait, weren't the tax cuts supposed to bankrupt the country to benefit the rich? It almost looks like the tax cuts — which took effect in January — are paying for themselves.

That wouldn't be fair, either. As the CBO notes, the new payroll withholding scheduled hadn't fully taken effect in January; companies don't have to update their employee tax withholdings until the middle of this month. When that happens, monthly revenues from individual income taxes will likely slip.

But the latest CBO report does show how a growing economy can make up a lot of the difference between the advertised price of a tax cut and the actual impact on revenues.

The same report says that revenues for the first four months of the current fiscal year — which started last October — were $46 billion higher than the same period the year before.

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Individual income and payroll taxes, it says, rose by $68 billion. "That change largely reflects increases in wages and salaries," the CBO says.

Those gains in wages and salaries are likely to continue, if not accelerate, under the tax cuts.

Think about it this way. Those 3 million-plus workers who are getting bonuses and raises thanks to the Trump tax cuts will end up paying more in taxes on those extra earnings, offsetting at least some of the tax cuts they will enjoy this year.

What's more, the fact that employment gains continue to be strong means more people will be earning taxable wage income. It also means fewer people collecting government benefits, which will mean less government spending than would otherwise be the case.

In fact, the CBO report says that "Medicaid spending has slowed slightly this year, perhaps related to declining unemployment and a number of other factors."

In addition, companies that are bringing money they had parked oversees — because of the excessively high U.S. corporate tax rate — back into the U.S. because of the corporate tax cuts, will be making tax payments they wouldn't have otherwise.

This doesn't mean the tax cuts will "pay for themselves." But don't be surprised if revenues come in higher than the CBO had expected. The CBO forecast a measly 2.2% GDP growth for this year, and an even more anemic 1.7% for 2019, when it calculated the impact of the tax cuts. Any tax-cut-fueled economic growth above that will mean more revenues than expected.

No matter what happens on the revenue side, the CBO report also makes it clear that federal spending must be brought under control. While revenues climbed by $46 billion so far in the fiscal year, spending shot up by $62 billion.

That's an unsustainable trajectory in anybody's book.


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75. With Tax Reform Done, Trump Should Set Record Straight On 'Climate Change'Чт., 08 февр.[−]

When President Trump calls the alarm surrounding climate change a hoax, he is fundamentally correct: there is no valid scientific basis for climate alarm. Climate alarmism is made possible by equal parts data manipulation and worthless climate models.

XNow that Congress and the president are done with tax reform, many expect spending cuts and debt reduction to be up next. Given the huge and still increasing economic costs being imposed on the nation for no scientifically valid reason, we suggest a renewed focus on rapidly eliminating destructive carbon dioxide emission regulations.

For the last year, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been mulling a decision about whether (and how) to reconsider something called the Endangerment Finding (EF).

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For those not familiar, in December 2009 the Obama administration issued a report (the EF) that claimed to find atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHG) pose a "danger" to human health and welfare.

Despite President Trump's statement that climate alarm is a "hoax," nearly everyone Pruitt talks to — holdover officials at EPA, legions of academics receiving government funding, lobbying organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers, and even many energy industry executives — tells him that reconsidering the EF is a huge mistake because the scientific evidence supporting it is overwhelming.

Pruitt has proposed a year long, perhaps televised, Red/Blue debate to clarify the scientific situation. But before this lengthy process has even started, environmental groups and blue state AGs are already pummeling EPA in court with its own EF, winning victories that obstruct the administration's efforts to grow America's energy sector, and to enhance its economic and national security.

So, what is the actual science behind the EF? We confidently assert that in any Red/Blue evaluation of the science, where the Blue team supports the EF, the Blue team will lose badly.

"Warmists" claim a 97% scientific consensus regarding the hypothesized catastrophic impact of increased atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and other GHGs. But this illusion of consensus has only come about through misrepresentation of global temperatures and research results plus rigid enforcement of orthodoxy and refusal to debate for some two decades.

In accordance with the scientific method, the EF has been shown to be invalid at least three separate times over the past two years. One of us (Wallace) is the lead author of three scientific research reports that, each in a unique fashion, invalidated all of the lines of evidence on which EPA claimed to rely for its EF.

All three of these reports meet two criteria fundamental to the scientific method: (1) the authors' mathematical/statistical modeling work can be easily replicated since the model results are shown, and all of the data utilized are stated in the research reports to be available from one of the authors; and (2) extensive peer review, with the distinguished, highly credentialed reviewers being publicly identified.

By contrast, the vast majority of the work on which EPA relied for the EF does not meet these two criteria, and therefore would be excluded from consideration in a scientifically proper reconsideration. Most important, our findings have never been invalidated by the massive climate alarm community.

As an illustration of the relevance of these findings, our June 2017 Research Report sought to validate the estimates of current and historical global average surface temperature (GAST) from NOAA, NASA, and the UK's Hadley CRU, using the best available empirical data.

These official GAST estimates are a necessary foundation for EPA's "lines of evidence" for its EF and are also the foundation for frequent government claims of record-setting temperatures. But this research found it impossible to conclude from the three GAST data sets that recent years have been the warmest ever. Instead, the conclusive findings were that the GAST data sets are simply not a valid representation of reality.

More specifically, in this research report, past changes in the previously officially reported historical data are quantified. It was found that each new version of GAST has nearly always exhibited a steeper warming linear trend over its entire history.

And, it was nearly always accomplished by each entity systematically removing the previously existing cyclical temperature pattern. This was true for all three entities providing GAST data measurement, NOAA, NASA and Hadley CRU.

Given the magnitude of each of the three entities' historical data adjustments, and their removal of the previous officially-reported cyclical temperature patterns, the officially-reported data are now totally inconsistent with very considerable current, published and credible U.S and other temperature data.

With GAST data set validity being a necessary condition for the EF, it too is invalidated by these research findings. Therefore, EPA's 2009 claim that CO2 is a pollutant has been decisively invalidated. The same conclusion is reached based on separate analyses in the other two research reports. Thus, the likelihood of this EF invalidation result being in error is nil.?

For there to be a real global warming crisis, it is necessary that rising atmospheric GHG concentrations be proven to have a statistically significant impact on GAST. Collateral claims of danger from things like extreme weather events, droughts, floods, hurricanes and rising seas are fundamentally based on proof of that impact. But that proof has not been made.

The regulations based on the EF that President Obama imposed (e.g., the Clean Power Plan) cause huge and totally unnecessary costs to the economy in the range of hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

Given the vast economic costs to America of pursuing the suppression of fossil fuels, it makes no sense to insert a further one-year plus Red/Blue debate delay in granting reconsideration of the EF. Instead, the Red/Blue exercise should be held as a prompt, on-the-record legal reconsideration of the EF.

When this exercise is over, the American people finally will have been shown the truth about the shoddy, tendentious, and unscientific mangling of data that's necessary to sustain the cult of climate alarm.

  • Wallace, Ph.D., is the lead author of numerous papers and legal briefs regarding EPA's Endangerment Finding.
  • Menton is a lawyer who has submitted a petition calling on EPA to reopen its Endangerment Finding.

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76. What Trucking Can Tell Us About The Future Of WorkЧт., 08 февр.[−]

The future of trucking may tell us a lot about the future of work. It's no secret that many Americans fear losing their jobs to automation. In a Pew Research Center poll last October, nearly three-quarters of respondents worried that "computers and robots could do most of the work currently done by humans." And yet the job market seems to be sending the opposite message: With a low unemployment rate of 4.1%, many companies say they can't find good workers.

XTrucking symbolizes the contradiction. Trucking companies complain they can't hire enough drivers, and the situation will get worse before it gets better. Why? The nation's 3.5 million truck drivers are aging. More than half (55%) are 45 and over, and only a quarter are younger than 35.

Not to worry, experts say: Trucks can be automated into driverless vehicles. Presto, the shortage vanishes. But this creates its own problems, more for society than for the trucking industry. Yet another source of jobs for blue-collar workers, mainly men, withers. This bodes ill for economic equality and family stability, as men have a harder time finding well-paying jobs.

Not surprisingly, truck drivers are often cited as an example of impending job destruction wrought by automation. But the reality is more complicated. A new study by Uber argues that millions of driver jobs will survive well into the future and that the spread of driverless trucks may actually stimulate the need for more — not fewer — drivers.

The explanation lies in the plausible limits of driverless technologies. Here's what the Uber study says:

"The biggest technical hurdles for self-driving trucks are driving on tight and crowded city streets, backing into complex loading docks and navigating through busy facilities. ... These maneuvers require skills that will be hard for self-driving trucks to match for a long time."

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Based on this view, Uber argues that the trucking industry will split into two parts. Long-haul transportation over major highways will be performed increasingly by driverless tractor-trailers that will deliver freight to "transfer hubs" on the edges of major cities. There, local workers and drivers will reload the cargoes and make delivery to final customers.

This system, Uber argues, will be more efficient for shippers and more attractive to drivers. The study assumes that "each self-driving truck could do the work of two of today's trucks because they can operate at all hours of day and night." Now, trucks spend only about a third of their time on the road. By doubling this, self-driving trucks would cut costs. Lower costs in turn would stimulate more shipping. Combined with normal growth, this would require more drivers, despite the increase in driverless trucks.

Meanwhile, many drivers might prefer local employment. "Driving a truck is a tough job," says the report. "The hours can be long and grueling. ... In some cases, trucking can keep drivers away from home for up to 200 nights a year."

Of course, we ought to take all this with some skepticism. Uber hopes to make a business of long-distance driverless freight transportation. Its intriguing analysis is not entirely disinterested. Presumably, it wants to defuse opposition to driverless trucks.

Still, the study makes a broader point: Automation — meaning almost any technology that promotes efficiency — has been eliminating jobs for decades without crippling the economy's ability to create new jobs. Recent examples include: kiosks in supermarkets and drugstores; automated parking lots and garages; automated teller machines. Although jobs were lost, others have taken their place.

Economist Timothy Taylor, who posted the Uber study on his useful blog ("Conversable Economist"), puts it this way: "A simple 'technology replaces jobs' story ... is always more complex and sometimes even counterintuitive to how it may appear at first."

  • Samuelson has written about business and economic issues for the Washington Post since 1977.

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77. Trump's Right: The U.K.'s Health System Is Broke And FailingЧт., 08 февр.[−]

Health Care: Amid the news crush of the week, it would have been easy to miss President Trump's tweet blasting Britain's National Health Service. As with everything else he does or says, Trump managed to get people riled up. This time, it was for telling the truth.

X On Monday, Trump tweeted that "The Democrats are pushing for Universal HealthCare while thousands of people are marching in the UK because their U system is going broke and not working. Dems want to greatly raise taxes for really bad and non-personal medical care. No thanks!"

The usual suspects expressed shock and horror that Trump would say such a thing, including outraged members of the British government, who said that the protesters love the NHS, they just want the government to spend more money on it.

The New York Times even devoted 1,000 words "fact-checking" Trump's 41-word tweet, but ended up admitting that in Britain, "patients often wait months, even for essential procedures" and that "some patients wait up to 12 hours in emergency wards before being seen." Isn't that what Trump was saying?

In any case, the problems at the NHS are far worse than the Times lets on.

Just a few months ago, in fact, the British Red Cross described conditions in U.K. hospitals as a "humanitarian crisis." The president of the Royal College of Medicine recently said the emergency care system was "on its knees."

The Times, like everyone else reacting to this story, says that recent funding cutbacks and a flu outbreak are to blame for the NHS' current crisis.

But it turns out that the Times, along with others busy defending the NHS, have their own facts garbled.

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First, the problems with the NHS are not the result of any recent austerity programs.

Health spending per capita in the UK climbed 160% between 2000 and 2015, according to the World Health Organization, 60% faster than in the U.S. As a share of GDP, health spending increased 50% over those years, compared with 36% in the U.S.

In her reaction to Trump's tweet, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May bragged that the U.K. recently announced $8.2 billion in new NHS funding.

While the flu outbreak is exacerbating problems with the NHS at the moment, chronic and often deadly shortages have plagued the British system for many years.

Back in 2000, for example, the BBC reported that the NHS has been "trying to tackle a major shortage of staff for many years." It's still tens of thousands short of doctors and nurses.

In 2009, the Daily Telegraph reported that hundreds of thousands of patients had been "left in pain, in soiled bedclothes, denied adequate food and drink, and suffering from repeatedly canceled operations, missed diagnoses and dismissive staff."

Three years ago, NPR reported that "the horror stories just keep coming in: long lines outside emergency departments — just to get into the waiting room — and of hospitals locking their doors to keep new arrivals away."

Last year, British hospitals had to close their ER departments 42 times because of overcrowding.

That is a just a tiny sampling. These problems aren't the result of too little taxpayer money. They are the inevitable outcome of a government-run health care system.

By making health care "free" to consumers, the NHS ignores a basic tenet of economics: the lower the price for something, the greater the demand. By eliminating prices entirely, the only way to control costs is by rationing care — either by imposing interminable delays or denying treatments outright — and by underpaying providers.

That's why Canadians face the same problems as do the British. And it's why veterans face the same problems in the U.S.' version of socialized medicine, the Veterans Health Administration.

As Britain, Canada and the VA have shown, ever-increasing amounts of money won't solve this basic flaw.

As a result, people stuck in these systems are increasingly looking for private options to get the care their governments are denying them. In the U.K., private spending has been skyrocketing. In fact, per-capita out-of-pocket spending in the U.K. shot up 233% from 2000 to 2015, according to the World Health Organization. In the U.S., it went up just 50%.

Single-payer advocates counter that, despite its problems, the NHS has better health outcomes than the U.S., relying on infant mortality and longevity statistics to make their case. These two measures, however, are notoriously unreliable ways to measure the quality of health care, since lifestyle choices and demographics are the main factors influencing them.

When you look at actual health outcomes from medical interventions, Britain doesn't measure up.

In fact, out of seven major industrial nations, the U.K. had the lowest cancer survival rates for colon, lung and prostate cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The mortality rate for heart-attack and stroke patients is higher there than in the U.S.

Whatever the British leaders say about their health care system, it is failing patients every day, and it will continue to do so as long as the government continues to run it.

Trump is also right that an increasingly radicalized Democratic Party wants to import this disaster into the U.S., under the guise of "Medicare for all."

No thanks.


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The Uninsured Rate Jumped Last Year — But Don't Blame The GOP

Sally C. Pipes: God Save The Queen's Health Care System

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78. Senate Budget Deal Would Avoid Shutdown As Fight Turns To HouseСр., 07 февр.[−]

Senate leaders announced a bipartisan two-year budget agreement Wednesday that would provide nearly $300 billion in additional funding, a step likely to avert a Friday government shutdown and end a months-long impasse on spending priorities.

X The plan would also suspend the federal debt ceiling until March 2019, according to Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of the GOP leadership team. It also would provide hurricane and wildfire disaster aid. Blunt said he expects a Senate vote on Thursday.

The dollar rose on the deal, as did yields on the 10-year U.S. Treasury.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called the plan a "significant agreement" that gives both parties what they want. It includes a long-sought defense spending boost that was the top goal of Republicans who lead both chambers in Congress and gives more funding for domestic programs sought by Democrats.

Defense spending would increase by $80 billion over current law in this fiscal year and $85 billion in the one that begins Oct. 1, according to a congressional official familiar with the plan. Non-defense spending would rise by $63 billion this year and $68 billion next year.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters at the White House that he's optimistic that Congress will give the Pentagon the funding it needs.

Lawmakers intend to combine the two-year spending deal with a short-term measure to keep the government operating when current funding runs out at the end of the day Thursday. Like the House-passed short-term bill, the Senate measure would fund the government through March 23 while lawmakers fill in the details on longer-term spending.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, speaking on the floor after McConnell, said the agreement was completed "without a great deal of help from the White House."

"I believe we have reached a budget deal that neither side loves but both sides can be proud of," Schumer said.

One complication is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who was part of the negotiations on the agreement. She said earlier Wednesday that House Democrats won't back the plan without a commitment from Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to allow an open debate on immigration legislation, similar to a promise made by McConnell.

Some conservative Republicans, including members of the House Freedom Caucus, are threatening to vote against the deal because of the higher spending for non-defense programs. That means as many as 100 Democratic votes may be needed to get it through the House.

GOP Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama said he'll vote "hell no" on the measure.

"The Republican Party seems to be the party of big government in this day and age," said Brooks, though he added he doesn't think there's enough opposition to sink it.

'Complete Betrayal'

Pro-immigration Democrats pushed Pelosi to demand an open debate on immigration legislation rather than being forced to vote on a Republican-only proposal.

Representative Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, said a budget deal is unacceptable without protection for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, who have been covered under the soon-to-end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

"That would be a complete betrayal," he told reporters, adding that "a lot" of Democrats would feel the same.

McConnell reiterated his promise to allow an open debate on immigration legislation "that will be fair to all sides." He said it will start with essentially a blank slate and both Democrats and Republicans will be able to offer amendments for a vote.

Federal Deficit

The higher spending would add to an expanding federal budget deficit that Steve Bell, a former Senate Budget Committee staff director, forecast would reach as much as $1 trillion next year.

Second-ranking Senate Republican John Cornyn of Texas said the disaster relief package will be between $80 billion and $90 billion.

The deal would repeal an Obamacare board charged with controlling health-care costs, which has long been criticized by Republicans.

Schumer said the deal would extend the Children's Health Insurance Program for 10 years, four more than the extension Congress just enacted.

The plan includes $20 billion for infrastructure over two years, including roads and drinking water, he said. There's also $6 billion to combat opioid abuse and improve mental health, $2 billion for research at the National Institutes of Health, and $4 billion for college affordability.

The deal would be at least partly paid for by cuts to mandatory spending programs elsewhere in the budget, according to the Republican summary.

79. CDC Should Put America FirstСр., 07 февр.[−]

Under President Obama, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent money and staff to distant parts of the globe while neglecting life-threatening health crises under our noses. Dr. Thomas Frieden, who headed the CDC then, is joining a chorus of globalists bashing President Trump's decision to end funding for the CDC's overseas projects in dozens of countries. Frieden charges the cuts will "endanger lives in our country." Sounds scary, but the facts prove otherwise. Trump will spend the money here instead, where it's urgently needed. As Trump searches for a new CDC director, it's time to put America first — something the agency has neglected.

XOn its core mission — protecting American health — the CDC is an abject failure. It dithered while opioid overdose deaths topped 42,000 and obesity deaths soared to 186,000, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Obesity and opioid overdosing are largely to blame for the sudden drop in American life expectancy.

Year after year, the CDC also pays lip service to curbing hospital infections, but the common infection C. diff now kills 29,000 Americans each year. No progress there.

Add flu deaths to the toll from the CDC's subpar performance. Emergency rooms are overwhelmed during the current outbreak, and 53 children have died. The vaccine is less effective than in some past years, but the bigger problem is how few Americans get vaccinated — only 46%. Dr. Peter Hotez of Baylor College of Medicine points to a "poor level of vaccine advocacy" from the federal government. "This could haunt us for the current season," he adds. Nearly all the children who died never got the vaccine. A new study shows getting it can prevent 65% of child flu deaths.

While the CDC neglected its mission here, Obama committed billions to build labs and train health personnel in Africa during the Ebola scare. Billions for a disease that killed only one person in the U.S., and even he got infected elsewhere.

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Obama also allocated $582 million for the CDC's Global Health Security Agenda serving 49 countries. That fund is running out, and Trump refuses to renew it. Alleluia.

The help is needed right here. The CDC intensively tracks polio, hepatitis and influenza in Pakistan, in real time, and sends teams to find unvaccinated "underserved" children. But in the U.S., data on hospital infections and other killers are years out-of-date and vaccination rates are abysmal.

A new report by the nonprofit Trust for America's Health, "Ready or Not? Protecting the Public's Health from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism, finds that public health readiness is a shambles in half the states, due partly to federal funding cuts by Obama. States lack modern, equipped labs and trained personnel.

Trump's budget proposal calls for a Federal Emergency Response Fund — $500 million in public health block grants to the states — almost the same amount being slashed from the CDC's overseas activities.

The Zika crisis shows the need for this state funding. Early in 2016, Americans heard about Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that causes horrifying birth defects. Florida's Governor Rick Scott and county health authorities across the South begged the federal government for help eradicating the Zika-carrying Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes as summer neared. The CDC sat on its hands. Worse, the Obama administration stubbornly demanded that emergency Zika funding include $355 million in foreign aid for Latin America. Months went by before money was cobbled together to help states combat the deadly mosquitoes. Too late for some families.

A new CDC report documents heartbreaking cases of hundreds of women in Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas who gave birth to infants with severe Zika-like defects in 2016. A forthcoming report on 2017 births is expected to be even worse.

Trump needs to replace CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, who resigned last week. The new chief should focus on what's killing large numbers of Americans — obesity, opioids and infectious diseases. Not curing the world.

  • McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and a former lieutenant governor of New York state.

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80. Who Are Liberals To Complain About Trump Talking Treason?Ср., 07 февр.[−]

At a speech in Cincinnati, President Trump heard someone in the audience yell "treasonous" as he mentioned the Democrats' pouting at the State of the Union address. "Somebody said, 'treasonous,'" he mused. "I mean, yeah, I guess. Why not?"


The media outrage was summarized by CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin: "It is so grotesque! It is so appalling. ... I just wonder what the cost is, in terms of the future of our civic discourse!"

At this point, we should just start laughing at the press. These self-appointed watchdogs of the "civic discourse" weren't a bit outraged when liberals tossed that T-word like a Frisbee at anyone criticizing former President Obama. Here are just a few examples.

  • June 11, 2014: Then-CNN anchor Carol Costello brought on leftist Cliff Schecter to promote his article suggesting leaders of the National Rifle Association are "treasonous and murderous." Costello could only add: "I don't know. ... That's really strong."
  • July 9, 2014: MSNBC political analyst Michael Eric Dyson went ballistic over former Gov. Sarah Palin's suggestion that Obama be impeached: "The president's push towards positive and crucial change was met with treasonous accusations."
  • June 27, 2015: The Daily Beast posted an article on dissenters of the Supreme Court's same-sex-marriage decision. The headline read: "Did the Four Dissenting Justices in Gay Marriage Case Just Suggest Treason?" Columnist Jay Michaelson suggested that those criticizing the court majority created a "shocking display of treason."
  • Oct. 1, 2015: Leftist radio host Thom Hartmann was incensed that anyone could consider then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy for House speaker, citing some Republican inauguration-night conspiracy to deny Obama any success. He said, "(T)hey have committed treason, maybe not the kind of treason that is elevated to the level of ... prosecution or firing squad ... a moral treason."

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In fact, this liberal treason talk just kept going once Trump took office, but he became the perpetrator.

  • March 2, 2017: On Attorney General Jeff Sessions, CNN political commentator Maria Cardona said: "He knows that he is smack in the middle of this investigation having to do with, perhaps, treasonous activities by the Trump campaign."
  • March 28, 2017: MSNBC anchor Kate Snow brought on liberal CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley to discuss the Trump-Russia investigation and promoted his quote: "You told the Washington Post last week that ... 'There's a smell of treason in the air' when it comes to this investigation."
  • May 11, 2017: On ABC's "The View," co-host Joy Behar screeched about the press having been barred from a Trump meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: "This is ... treason to me! This is un-American ..."
  • June 25, 2017: Hollywood director Rob Reiner uncorked treason as a Twitter hashtag, tweeting: "When Fox says that (Trump) colluding with the enemy is not a crime, the fight to save Democracy is now an all out war. US-Stay strong. #Treason."
  • July 18, 2017: In reply to the president asserting that most politicians would have met a foreign official to get negative information on their opponent, as Donald Trump Jr. had, then-MSNBC star host Keith Olbermann tweeted: "Sure! Benedict Arnold would have. And Aaron Burr. And Charles Lindbergh. And Quisling. And Marshal Petain. That's politics! Annnnnd treason!"

Speaking of "grotesque" and "appalling" overstatements, let's consult the accuser himself, Jeffrey Toobin. On CNN on Jan. 3, 2018, he referenced former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon's suggestion that Trump Jr. is treasonous, saying, "the idea that people involved in an American presidential campaign would greedily reach out to the Russian government for dirt on their opponent, as Donald Trump Jr. and company did, does feel treasonous in a sort of colloquial sense."

Liberals are the worst hypocrites on "civic discourse."

  • Bozell is the president of the Media Research Center. Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.

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81. Blaming Trump For Stock Market Drop And, Well...EverythingСр., 07 февр.[−]

Trump's Crash?: The media have used the stock market plunge not as an opportunity to enlighten readers how our markets work, but as yet another occasion to bash Trump. Don't they ever get tired of it?

XGiven Trump's brash, take-no-prisoners nature when it comes to the media, it's probably not surprising they might want some payback. But they do their readers no favor by politicizing yet another essential part of American life — the stock market.

After three days in which the bellwether Nasdaq stock index fell 6.7%, anti-Trump schadenfreude was pervasive on the web and in the media.

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We ran a quick Google screen of "trump stock market crash" and in less than a second got 1.62 million hits.

CNN's headline was typical: "A stock market lesson for Trump — the hard way."

USA Today's headline on a piece by William Cummings asked: "Trump Has Often Taken Credit For The Stock Market's Climb. Will He Own The Drops Too?"

Another USA Today column by Herb Jackson featured an almost identical theme: "Politicians Who Crow About Stock Market Gains Face Hazard When Market Drops."

Meanwhile, in The New York Times, Nobel-winning Trump-basher Paul Krugman wrote under this headline: "Has Trumphoria Finally Hit A Wall?"

Krugman doesn't exactly blame Trump for the market drop, but suggests gullible market investors are guilty of falling for Trump's childish idea that the economy can grow 3% a year, not the 1.5% pace that Krugman believes is the speed limit.

When the January jobs report came in last Friday showing a strong jobs gain and a sharp 2.9% annual rise in hourly wages, the largest in years, and then was followed by a steep three-day stock market decline, it suggested to Krugman that Trump's 3% growth target is a fantasy, nothing more.

"So are we heading for trouble? Too soon to tell," he wrote. "But if we are, rest assured that we'll have the worst possible people on the case."

There are other examples from the media, to be sure. And some, even economists, dragged out the old "overheating" metaphor, as if the economy were a Model-T Ford always on the verge of steaming over. But in economics, there is no such thing as "overheating."

And for the record, if you'd like to go back and look, the data are clear: Higher wages do not cause inflation, which is the fear du jour that the media are selling and that the Fed will possibly respond to by jacking up interest rates.

Don't readers deserve to hear a little more about how the stock market really works than just anti-Trump snark?

It's true that Trump has often played up Wall Street's gains. Last week's State of the Union Address was a great example.

"The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion in value," the president said. "That is great news for Americans' 401(k), retirement, pension, and college savings accounts."

But what Trump said is absolutely true. And people forget that not only were prognosticators predicting that the stock market would plunge if Trump were elected president, but they seemed at times to actually be hoping for it to happen.

Again, Krugman's famous comment, published the day after Trump's election, is instructive: "It really does now look like President Donald J. Trump, and markets are plunging. When might we expect them to recover? ... If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never."

Got that? Never. For the record, since those words were published, the S&P 500 Index has risen 26%. And that's after the recent big market drop.

Again, it's unfair to single out Krugman, though he's a tempting target. In the lead-up to the presidential election, many others in the media warned of a market crash to come if Donald Trump were to win.

So what happened? On election night, Nov. 8, 2016, as IBD wrote a week and a half later, "fear consumed traders. At one point futures on the Dow Jones industrials index plunged 800 points." Democrats were everywhere in the media, gloating.

Oops. "By Friday, the index finished the week up 959 points, more than 5%," IBD wrote back then, making the case for a Trump bull market that later became reality.

Yes, Trump can claim credit for the stock market's general turnaround. But is every blip upward in the major stock indexes due to him? Is every slip down in share prices his fault too?

No. That's absurd. Just as with any president, Trump sets the broader policies and hopes that they boost the economy, which underperformed during the Obama years. That's exactly what has happened.

Trump set in motion economic policies premised on deregulation, low taxes and the rule of law. These three things alone have convinced corporations, small businesses and entrepreneurs that it's a good time to be investing and building things in America.

In short, the stock market's rise has been driven by the anticipation of higher productivity and greater profits to come for America's makers and those who invest in them.

So why did markets tumble in recent days? The jobs data showed a surprisingly solid 200,000 gain in jobs and the best wage gains in years. This terrifies the inflation-averse bond market.

Inevitably, the bond vigilantes will pressure the Fed to raise interest rates more than the three to four times expected this year, to "cut-off" future inflation. That's why the market panicked — not because Trumponomics is a fraud.

The point is, markets respond to existing conditions. Not to wishes or hope or change.

But they also anticipate trends in the near future. Given the market's gains of the last 12 months and economic changes in the works, that future is much brighter than the media are telling you.


To learn more about the markets and investing, follow the links below:

How To Invest

IBD's Market Trends

The Case For A Bull Market (2016)

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82. America's States Of (Fiscal) SiegeВт., 06 февр.[−]

America's states and municipalities should be awash in good budget news. Unemployment remains below 5%, inflation is tame, and the stock market rose more than 20% in 2017 — the ninth year of a bull market. Yet many local governments faced intense struggles last year to balance their books.

XLocalities have confronted unrelenting fiscal pressure since 2008, a result of the weakest recovery since World War II of tax revenues combined with ever-escalating costs. Many states and localities have had to rewrite budget books in ways that leave taxpayers paying more — and receiving less.

"U.S. states have entered a new era characterized by chronic budget stress," the financial analyst Gabriel Petek, a managing director in the U.S. Public Finance group at S&P Global Ratings, wrote last April.

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President Trump has promised $1 trillion in infrastructure spending that could provide some help to localities, but what governments across the country really need is a return to economic growth rates of 3% or higher.

Tax reform passed in December looks like it will help but states and cities will also need to become more efficient and innovative in delivering basic services, or else face a future of tax hikes and service cuts to keep up with their mounting bills.

Local governments got a sense that something might be different starting in 2009, when state tax revenues, hammered by the steep recession, collapsed by nearly 9% — only the second time in the postwar era that state revenues had declined from one year to the next.

Then revenues slumped again in 2010, by 4% this time, leaving governments tens of billions of dollars short of where they'd been just two years earlier.

Regaining Lost Ground

It took states until 2016 to regain everything that they had lost in the recession, on an inflation-adjusted basis. They needed only slightly more than half that time to rebound after the recessions of the early 1990s and 2001–02.

Meanwhile, according to a recent National League of Cities survey, America's major cities still haven't seen revenues return to pre-recessionary levels. The pressure on cities and states has been so great that in 2016, eight years into the recovery, ratings agencies downgraded the credit of 489 state and local governments.

Some of the weakness in tax receipts results from structural demographic and economic changes, including the aging of the population and a decline in work participation rates that local officials knew were coming but have done little to prepare for.

States should have spent cautiously but piled on new obligations that they likely would have had trouble financing even in a stronger recovery.

Medicaid has been the biggest driver. Last year, states spent $211 billion on Medicaid, out of $1.29 trillion in total expenditures. That sum represents a nearly 70% rise in spending on the program in ten years and a 220% increase over 20 years. Including federal dollars that flow to states, Medicaid now eats up more than a quarter of state budgets.

And more is coming. Thirty-two states expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to previously ineligible households. Though the federal government initially picked up most of the Obamacare costs, states must gradually start paying a share.

A 2016 Boston Globe story reflects typical exasperation over the state's seemingly perpetual Medicaid-related fiscal crisis. "Why does Massachusetts, which has been in an economic recovery for seven years, constantly careen from one state budget gap to another?" the paper asked.

Health Care's Cost Pinch

Blame in large part runaway health-care spending, which, the Globe notes, is "generally outpacing inflation, personal income, and tax revenue growth" — and thus "constraining the cash available for everything else, from education to support for cities and towns."

Medicaid accounts for one-third of the state budget, up from one-quarter in 2000. Originally designed as an insurance program for the poor, Medicaid now covers one-quarter of all Massachusetts residents — though the state's poverty rate is 12%.

Exploding Medicaid costs are being felt in many other states. In its early days in the mid-1970s, Nevada's Medicaid program covered about 23,000 poor residents.

Today, 638,000 Nevadans get insurance through the program; officials had underestimated by more than 130,000 the number of residents who would apply for the subsidy once the state expanded it under the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid costs twice as much in Nevada as it did ten years ago, and the state's contribution of tax dollars has swollen by more than two-thirds over that time period.

An immense pension crisis also looms over local governments. States and municipalities have amassed at least $1.5 trillion in this debt — equal to what states collect in taxes in one year—though some estimates put the real cost at three times that much.

Most states and localities struggle to put enough money aside yearly to stop the debt from climbing, much less reduce it.

A recent Bloomberg study found that, from 2014 through 2016, only six states managed to reduce pension debt, despite the national economic expansion. On average, state pension systems were less than 72% funded at the close of 2016. Although that number has risen with the market in the last 15 months, funding is still not near levels before the market crash of 2008.

Threat Of Underfunded Pensions Looms

Nearly two dozen states have less than 70% of the money they need to fulfill their obligations, and a dozen are less than 60% funded, including Massachusetts, Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota, South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Louisiana. The Financial Accounting Standards Board, which sets policy for private-sector pensions, defines the status of a system less than 80% funded as "critical."

Governments are struggling to make the necessary payments. In a September meeting with CalPERS, the giant California public pension fund, representatives from a dozen California localities complained that dramatically rising pension costs — projected to triple for some cities and school districts — will lead to a "gradual strangulation" of public services.

"We have been saying the bankruptcy word, which is not very popular," the finance director of Oroville testified.

The added burden couldn't come at a worse time for cities, with states pushing their own financial woes down to their municipalities in the form of significantly curtailed local aid. State aid to counties, cities, towns, and school districts averaged an annual growth rate of just 1.1% from 2009 to 2015 — a major comedown from the 4.1% average growth rate that had previously prevailed.

Local governments have also cut investments in the once-basic category of infrastructure. Adjusted for inflation, construction spending on infrastructure is down by $47 billion, or 18%, since 2009.

How can states and localities escape chronic budget stress? Seizing control of Medicaid spending is perhaps the No. 1 task. Though efforts to repeal or modify the Affordable Care Act have thus far failed because some congressional Republicans worry about the impact on state budgets, the numbers are inexorable: allowing Medicaid spending to keep escalating at its current rate will utterly drain state and federal budgets.

A far better alternative is to pare Medicaid back to its origins as a program for the poor, and let each state experiment with private insurance innovations to cover many of those recently put on Medicaid who aren't destitute.

Serious Health Care Reform Needed

The solution would also entail ending Obamacare-mandated high-cost, low-deductible insurance plans, which force insurers to pay for many services at prices that discourage people from purchasing private insurance.

Instead, the federal government should allow states to experiment with low-cost, high-deductible plans that protect patients from catastrophic costs — the kinds of plans that many states were exploring before Obamacare eradicated them.

Grappling with pension debt is also essential. Since 2009, virtually every state has claimed to make some kind of reform to its pension system, but the basic math of most defined-benefit retirement systems still doesn't work.

As most pension systems keep accumulating debt, states must stop the bleeding by switching to some form of defined-contribution or hybrid pensions, which reduce costs and don't expose taxpayers to unlimited long-term debts. Rhode Island, which created just such a system, has shown the way.

Local governments also need to do more than rely on debt and higher taxes to boost their infrastructure efforts. In a more technologically sophisticated environment, local governments should focus on a private-enterprise model for financing transportation through user fees, which ultimately direct responsibility for paying for new projects — whether toll roads, airports, or bridges — to those who will use the facilities, rather than forcing everyone to pay through general taxes.

"One of the few great inescapable facts in the field of economics is the reality of the business cycle," Moody's recently observed. "No matter how high-flying an economy might appear, another recession is coming sooner or later."

The only way to prepare is to face up to the fact that public-sector budget math has changed—and that governments have to change with it.

  • Malanga is the George M. Yeager Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and senior editor of City Journal from which this was adapted.

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83. How The Hospitality Industry Can Fight Human TraffickingВт., 06 февр.[−]

The fight to end human trafficking worldwide recently gained a powerful ally. In November, Marriott International — the world's largest hotel chain — announced plans to train 100% of their hotel associates in human trafficking awareness.

XThe rest of the hospitality industry should get on board. Hotels and motels are especially vulnerable to cases of human trafficking. Training employees worldwide to spot the telltale signs of human trafficking will be a tremendous force in stopping the practice altogether.

Despite popular belief, human trafficking is a burden shared by every nation. Each year millions of men, women, and children are trafficked into countries around the world — including the United States — according to the Department of Homeland Security.

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Victims are often subject to heinous acts such as sexual exploitation, violence, domestic servitude, forced labor, and sometimes death.

Tragically, these human rights violations are extremely lucrative. The human trafficking trade is a multi-billion-dollar industry. It is the second most profitable form of transnational crime, right behind drug trafficking.

There are an estimated 20.9 million victims of human trafficking around the globe, according to the International Labour Organization. More than half of these victims are female — and a quarter of them children.

Human trafficking here in the United States is on the rise. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were 7,500 cases of human trafficking reported in 2016. That's a nearly 36% increase from 2015.

The hospitality industry is uniquely positioned to address these crimes. Perpetrators of human trafficking often utilize the industry to transport victims — between cities, states, and countries — with ease under the guise of normal tourism. Once finished, the traffickers take their trade elsewhere without suspicion.

Hotels and motels are also hotspots for trafficking activity. In addition to housing, pimps utilize these temporary spaces as venues to abuse victims and force them to engage in sexual acts for money.

According to the nonprofit organization End Child Prostitution and Trafficking, the growth of the internet has largely taken trafficking off the streets. Instead, much of this activity occurs behind closed doors.

In 2016, motels and hotels topped the list of industries in which victims are trafficked and harbored, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Unfortunately, some companies within the hospitality industry are also complicit in these crimes. Victims can frequently be found working the behind-the-scenes jobs in the industry through a slave-like practice known as "labor trafficking." This means that workers are falsely promised jobs or wages when, in reality, they would be forced to work exceedingly long shifts for little or no pay.

Researchers predict that there are 14.2 million people trapped in this modern-day slavery worldwide. Since 2007, there have been more than 5,400 cases of labor trafficking in the United States. Roughly 300 of these cases occurred in hotels and motels.

Many hotels brands have already begun fighting back against human trafficking. Hyatt, for instance, requires that all their managed hotels offer a mandatory global human trafficking training program. They also offer the training to their franchise partners.

Hilton, as another example, partnered with The Global Fund for Children in 2014. Through this alliance, the brand supports local organizations that are on the front-lines in protecting men, women, and children from exploitation.

Marriott's latest announcement is one of the most comprehensive trainings in the industry to date. Marriott collaborated with leading human rights nonprofits ECPAT-USA and Polaris to develop trainings in both sex and labor trafficking to educate every associate — at hotels in 125 countries — in identifying and responding to the signs of human trafficking. Indeed, their training is available in 15 languages.

By the end of 2018, the company plans to equip at least 80% of associates with the tools to prevent human trafficking. By 2025, that number will be 100% of employees, complete with additional training on responsible sourcing and recruitment policies and practices.

These are positive steps forward towards the goal of ending human trafficking for good. Instead of being complicit in these heinous crimes, the industry should be taking active steps to change the status quo.

Without these initiatives, it's far too easy for perpetrators to slip through the cracks. Major hotel brands would be wise to follow Marriott's lead.

  • Gomez, a former congressional staffer for Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is a communications specialist based in Washington, D.C. The opinions expressed are her own.

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84. Hillary Reprises Obama's 'Bitter Clingers' Line To Explain Her LossВт., 06 февр.[−]

Democratic Elitism: It was nearly 10 years ago now that Barack Obama uttered his infamously arrogant "bitter clinger" comment to explain why Democrats don't win every election. It didn't go well.

X In April 2008, Obama was speaking at a private fundraiser in San Francisco and, assuming no one outside the room would hear what he had to say, stated the following: He said that jobs in small towns "have been gone now for 25 years. They fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate. And they have not.

"And," he concluded, "it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

The remarks, captured by a Huffington Post blogger, created a firestorm.

Hillary Clinton, then running against Obama for the party's nomination, seized on the comment to attack Obama for his unbridled arrogance. "I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small-town America," she said. "His remarks are elitist and out of touch."

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That was then.

Now, Clinton is dredging up the same lame elitist, out-of-touch excuse to explain why she lost the 2016 election to underdog Donald Trump.

At a panel discussion this week at Georgetown University, Clinton said her loss was a reaction that was driven by lots of different motives, some of them having to do with people feeling insecure, frightened, disappointed, discouraged — name whatever emotion you want — about their lives and the ongoing globalization of the economy, which is leaving many people out.

"And we haven't seen anything yet. Wait until robotics and AI, artificial intelligence, really takes off. So when people are insecure and anxious, they often defend against their own feeling by rejecting others. That often happens with minorities. It happens with ethnicities, races, religion and it also happens with respect to women …. it was an outgrowth of all this anxiety and insecurity that is playing on people and leading them in a hunt for scapegoats."

All you have to do is add the word "cling" in there somewhere to see that it parallels Obama's sentiment exactly.

Clinton's own arrogance toward a huge swath of Americans came through during her 2016 campaign, when she called Trump supporters a "basket of deplorables."

How is it that Democrats keep getting cast as champions of the people when, in unguarded moments, they show such disdain for the needs and views of so many of them?


Dems Vow To Repeal 'Parts' Of GOP Tax Cuts; But Which Ones? They're All Popular

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Democrats Dig Themselves Into A Hole After Trump's Speech

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85. What's Wrong With Evangelicals Supporting Trump?Вт., 06 февр.[−]

It is usually easier for an outsider to defend a person or a group that is attacked than for the person or group.

XIn that vein, this Jew would like to defend evangelicals and other Christians who support President Donald Trump. They are regularly attacked as religious hypocrites who give Christianity in general, and evangelical Christianity in particular, a bad name.

The people writing such things are often Christians, including evangelicals.

Ross Douthat, New York Times columnist, wrote: "Whether the subject is the debauched pagan in the White House, the mall-haunted candidacy of Roy Moore or the larger question of how to engage with secular culture, there is talk of an intergenerational crisis within evangelical churches, a widening disillusionment with a Trump-endorsing old guard, a feeling that a crackup must loom ahead."

Jared Wilson wrote on The Gospel Coalition website: "From the same believers who raised us to believe that standing for the truth was more important than anything, that being persecuted for your integrity was better than compromise, that morality was not relative, that ethics are not situational. And now these same teachers are wanting us to believe that a little "R" by a man's name covers a multitude of sins."

Robert P. Jones wrote in USA Today: "White evangelicals . . . are, in many ways, a community grieving its losses. ... Thinking about the white evangelical/Trump alliance as an end-of-life bargain is illuminating. It helps explain, for example, how white evangelical leaders could ignore so many problematic aspects of Trump's character."

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

Shortly before the election, Marvin Olasky and the editors wrote in World magazine: "Glorifying God by honoring His standards is worth more than political gain."

Jay Caruso, a Dallas Morning News editorial board member, wrote a column titled "Evangelical Leaders Expose Their Hypocrisy By Playing Palace Guard to Trump."

In The Arizona Republic, Jon Gabriel, an evangelical, wrote a column titled "Evangelicals Are Hypocrites to Support Donald Trump." In it he wrote, "As an evangelical myself, one of the strangest developments of the Trump era has been the abandonment of moral character as a political essential."

I could give dozens more examples of attacks on evangelical Christians who support President Trump.

I believe these attacks are not biblical, moral or wise. Religious Christians and Jews who support Trump understand that the character of a public leader is quite often less important than his policies. This is so obvious that only the naive think otherwise. Character is no predictor of political leadership on behalf of moral causes. I wish it were. Then, in any political contest, we would simply have to determine who the better person is and vote accordingly.

Therefore, I would like to pose some questions to critics of evangelicals who support Trump:

1. Former President Jimmy Carter has been married once (virtually all critics of Trump note that he is thrice married, as if that were ipso facto a character defect), and to the best of anyone's knowledge, he has been faithful to his wife all those years. If you are conservative, religious or secular, would you vote for Jimmy Carter over Donald Trump?

2. Do you believe that Hillary Clinton has a finer character than Donald Trump? For the record, I believe his character is superior to hers. And the choice in the 2016 was between Trump and Clinton. A Republican who voted for anyone else or didn't vote voted for Clinton.

3. Who should pro-choice voters support: a pro-life activist of fine character or a pro-choice activist of dubious character?

4. Who should pro-Israel voters support: an anti-Israel activist of fine character or a pro-Israel activist of dubious character?

5. If they were to have cancer, would any of the evangelicals' critics choose an oncologist based on character? If not, why not?

One of the few moral heroes of the Holocaust was the German industrialist and member of the Nazi Party Oskar Schindler. He personally saved more than a thousand Jews' lives. He was also a serial philanderer. I suspect many leading Nazis never cheated on their wives. Character is a complex issue.

I have spent my life making the case for good character: that God wants us to be good more than anything else; that our children's character is way more important than their grades; and that the most important question a society can ask is how to make good people (since we are not born good).

Evangelicals realize that the moral good of defeating the left is of surpassing importance. It can feel good to oppose the president, but religious supporters of the president are more interested in doing good than feeling good. On issue after issue -- religious liberty, the unborn, Israel, the American flag and free speech, to cite just a few -- the president and religious Americans have made common cause.

Like evangelicals, I look to the Bible for moral instruction. I also look for wisdom. And in that book, God chooses, of all people, a prostitute (Rahab) to enable the Israelites to enter the Promised Land.

There's a lesson there.

  • Prager's latest book, "The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code," was published by Regnery. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.com.

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86. Making American Infrastructure Great AgainВт., 06 февр.[−]

The Trump administration is hoping for its first bipartisan legislative victory with its proposed plan to make America's infrastructure great again with shorter project-approval periods and an infusion of $1 trillion in spending, much of it coming from public-private partnerships.

But more important than simply agreeing to spend more on infrastructure is passing the right program. The guiding light of any plan should be the "fix it first" principle. With the country's aging roads, highways, bridges, ports, airports, electric grid, and water and sewer systems in such disrepair, the last thing taxpayers need is ribbon-cutting ceremonies for fancy new projects or wasteful "bridges to nowhere."

How bad is existing infrastructure? The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that if America's failure to invest in its ailing infrastructure is not addressed by 2025, the U.S. economy can be expected to "lose almost $4 trillion in GDP, resulting in a loss of 2.5 million jobs in 2025." The total cost of repair? At least $3.6 trillion.

If there is a silver lining, it is that unlike Brazil, India or China, the U.S. doesn't need a vast new infrastructure footprint. We need to repair, rebuild and modernize what we already have.

Moreover, given America's more advanced state of development, new infrastructure no longer offers the spectacular returns of yesterday. The Erie Canal, for example, completed in 1825, reduced transportation costs by 90% vs. overland hauling. But after two centuries of infrastructure development, those kinds of returns are gone.

Take America's still impressive highway system, built largely after President Eisenhower signed the 1956 Federal-Highway Act into law. As my Manhattan Institute colleague, Ed Glaeser, wrote in City Journal in 2016, by the 1990s the rate of return on new U.S. highways had fallen to less than 5%. By contrast, highway maintenance produces returns of 30%-40%.

Sadly, politicians on both sides of the aisle often prefer cutting ribbons on new projects over maintaining what we already have. But earmarking the majority of a new infrastructure spending for maintenance instead of expansion would do a lot to drive better decision making and save taxpayers money in the long run.

A maintenance-focused program would also be more equitable. Many Rust Belt cities are working to upgrade aging water and sewer systems, for example, a far more pressing need than new construction. Costs can run into the billions simply to comply with legally mandated updates, such as the St. Louis region's $4.7 billion sewer remediation project.

If we as a nation want to help our struggling communities, helping them overcome the legacy cost of deferred infrastructure maintenance is one good way to do it. We can't wave a magic wand and restore the economy of Flint, Mich., not even with new highways. But we can rebuild its water system and ensure clean, safe drinking water for its citizens.

Even in growing urban areas, maintenance is critical and has been neglected in favor of less urgent expansion projects. New York City, for example, plans to build new train tunnels under the Hudson River. It also recently built two new subway extensions and is in the process of building a new $11 billion commuter rail connection between Long Island and Grand Central Terminal. Yet the existing subway system has been losing riders despite a jobs boom, as breakdowns and delays soar due to antiquated signals dating to the 1930s and other deferred maintenance items.

States and localities also need flexibility to match spending to needs. Many states might focus on highway rehabilitation, whereas Boston and New York might instead upgrade transit infrastructure. Some states might instead want to invest in water and sewer needs. So, while the plan should be maintenance-focused, much decision-making should be decentralized.

As Japan learned to its chagrin in the 1990s, pouring billions into new infrastructure to try to revive a sagging economy only ended up drowning the country in debt. The U.S. should choose a more economically rational, and equitable, path by focusing its infrastructure investment on critical maintenance needs.

  • Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal.


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87. Stephen Moore: Why Liberals Root Against AmericaВт., 06 февр.[−]

The unseemly sight of nearly the entire Democratic congressional delegation sitting on their hands and clinging to their chairs throughout Donald Trump's State of the Union speech is further evidence that they want America to fail on Trump's watch.

XHundreds of American companies are bringing jobs to America and paying American workers bonuses. Democrats sat stone faced. The lowest black unemployment rate in 40 years. Democrats smirked. We are defeating ISIS in the Middle East. Ho hum. They acted like petulant 12-year olds who fold their arms in defiance and pout miserably when things don't go their way.

Many on the left are suffering from a severe case of anti-Trump derangement syndrome. ATDS sufferers crave bad news. In a bright sunny ?economic sky, they point to the single cloud. This is why Nancy Pelosi could only sniff that the bonuses workers are getting from the tax cuts are "crumbs."

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

The other day I was on CNN and was sparring with April Ryan of the American Urban Radio Networks — who is to say the least not friendly to Trump. When I mentioned all of the companies that are hiring more workers and paying bonuses or raises to their employees, including as many as one million Walmart employees, I thought this might elicit some positive reaction.

Instead, she rolled her eyes. "Look at all the stores they are closing and all the layoffs?" she complained. Yes 5,000 Walmart workers will be mostly reassigned, while about 200 times that number will get raises. ?

Liberals have been protesting Walmart pay scales for years agitating for higher wages, and now Walmart is raising their minimum wage by $2 an hour. But the left still is unhappier than ever. ?

For at least two weeks the TV networks on the left praised to the hilt ? Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fury." They obsessed over the charge of whether Trump was mentally competent to hold office, and even called for his ouster under the 25th Amendment — all based purely on unsubstantiated charges in a book that has now been exposed as mostly a work of fiction, not fact. Many of the ATDS crowd don't even care whether the information is true or false. They are the "Birthers" on the left.

Trump's successes one year into office are now dismissed as a result of Obama policies, which is rich since Trump has one-by-one reversed Obama's economic policies. If the economy and stock market had tanked in 2017, liberals would have seized upon the bad news as evidence that his policies are abject failures. Now that the policies are working, Obama gets the credit. They are so blinded by ATDS, they can't even acknowledge the double standard.

I remember at a Wall Street Journal editorial meeting when Barack Obama was first elected president and he was rolling out ObamaCare, the stimulus plan, tax increases, a regulatory assault, and a litany of other dimwitted economic policies, one of the writers said what we were all thinking: If this program works, everything we believe on the economy is wrong.

We opposed the policies, not the man, and in the end the Keynesian big government policies were indeed a failure. We ended up with the weakest recovery from a recession since the Great Depression.

It is true opposition to Obama on the right prompted some conservatives to similarly root against American success on his watch. When the International Olympics Committee snubbed Obama's hometown of Chicago, there were videos of conservatives celebrating the bad news. The cascade of disappointing economic data on Obama's watch was too-often cheered by Republicans.

"Some of these people on the right are starting to put politics first and country second," observed then-Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who is now a Senator from that state. "The American people are starting to wonder if they are rooting against America," he charged.

He had a point back in 2009. But, Senator, look in the mirror.

Why does no national Democrat stand up to the leftist Trump haters, who have morphed into America haters? He or she would be hailed as a hero. The Democrats desperately need a Sister Soulja moment.

Most Americans are not especially ideological. We are for what works. The United States is on a roll right now and the good economic news transcends political spin. Tens of millions of Americans are starting to see the benefits in their paychecks of the tax cuts that Democrats lied would raise people's taxes.

If Trump haters continue to sit on their hands and oppose America's comeback, voters will see they are putting political ideology over patriotism. That's no winning ticket and it means they are in for a miserable next seven years.

  • Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with Freedom Works. He served as senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign.


Do The Media Hate Trump (Part II)? Yes, The Numbers Don't Lie

Love Him Or Hate Him, Trump Deserves Credit For Booming Economy

The Trump Economy, One Year In: A Success By All Measures

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88. Most Think Obama White House Spied On Trump Campaign, Want Special Counsel: IBD/TIPP PollВт., 06 февр.[−]

Spying On Trump: Americans overwhelmingly believe the Obama administration "improperly surveilled" Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and a majority say they would like to see a special prosecutor appointed to look into possible misconduct by the FBI and Department of Justice in spying on Trump, the latest IBD/TIPP poll shows.

X One fact emerges from the poll of 900 people conducted from Jan. 25 to Feb. 2: The public doesn't necessarily buy into the Democratic narrative that the Trump campaign "colluded" with Russia to tamper with the 2016 presidential election.

The poll also suggests that many Americans think the roots of the allegations made against Trump extend beyond the two major party campaigns in the last presidential election and deep into the Obama era's intelligence and law enforcement bureaucracies, and may involve active political bias on the part of supposedly nonpartisan employees of both the Justice Department and FBI.

No Hidden Agenda: Get News From A Pro-Free Market, Pro-Growth Perspective

In the IBD/TIPP survey of public opinion, we asked respondents "How closely are you following news stories about the role played by the FBI and the Department of Justice during the 2016 presidential election?" Of those who responded, 72% said they were following the story either "very closely" (39%) or "somewhat closely" (33%). Our responses were taken only from those who were following the story closely.

Some 55% of those said it was "likely" that the Obama administration "improperly surveilled the Trump campaign during the 2016 election." There was an obvious partisan split among the responses, with 87% of Republicans and 55% of independents saying the improper spying took place, but only 31% of Democrats.

On the question of whether a special counsel was needed to "investigate whether the FBI and the Department of Justice improperly surveilled the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election," 54% responded "yes," and 44% "no." Again, 74% of Republicans and 50% of independents wanted a special counsel appointed. But even 44% of Democrats thought it would be a good idea.

If so, a full-on investigation might be in the cards, not just of the so-called Steele dossier on Trump, which was funded by Hillary Clinton's campaign and by the Democratic National Committee, but of key members of the Obama administration, including former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former FBI Director James Comey.

We further asked Americans whether they thought "some senior career civil servants at the FBI and Department of Justice knowingly coordinated to frame the president with allegations of Russian collusion in order to cast a cloud over his presidency."

There, the readings were not as definitively strong as with the other two questions. Of those queried, 35% said yes, Justice and FBI officials coordinated their actions to frame the president for colluding with the Russians, while 60% said no. This had by far the biggest partisan split of all, with 77% of Republicans saying yes, but just 11% of Democrats and 30% of independents agreeing.

Plainly, Americans are concerned by what they've read and heard of the surveillance of the Trump campaign and would like a full investigation.

The poll's contents are troubling for those in the Democratic Party and the left-leaning media who had hoped to make a case with the American people that President Trump worked with Russian officials to win the 2016 election. The American people don't seem to believe it.

More seriously, recent revelations suggest that the Obama administration FBI and Justice Department "basically conspired with the Democratic Party, the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign to exonerate her of violations of the Espionage Act and, in the course of trying to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president, to frame him for a nonexistent crime of collusion" with the Russians, as former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova told Fox News.

Using the Hillary-funded Steele dossier on Trump, which included false and outrageous claims that couldn't be verified, the FBI and Justice Department convinced the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to spy on sometime Trump volunteer Carter Page. In doing so, they were able to spy on much of the rest of the Trump campaign, as well. However, the initial application for the surveillance in October 2016 did not mention that the source for the surveillance request was a political campaign. If it had, it might well have been rejected.

The possibility that an administration used the federal apparatus to spy on a political foe reeks to high heaven. As House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes noted last week, "The American people understand the FBI should not go to secret courts, using information that was paid for by the Democrats to open up investigations with warrants of people of the other political party." It's the stuff of banana republics and totalitarian dictatorships.

With so many Americans having questions about the Russia collusion scandal, we won't be surprised if it leads not just to an investigation of the events of late 2016, when much of the activity took place, but to the time before that — when the Obama administration, keen on protecting Hillary Clinton's presidential prospects, began to use the federal bureaucracy for what appears to be political purposes. For the record, that's against the law.

The question going forward may well become: What did President Obama know about the dossier, and when did he know it?


FBI Scandal: McCabe's Resignation Is Only The Beginning

As Investigations Of Misconduct Mount, Can Hillary Clinton Avoid Jail?

Memo: FBI Used Tainted Steele Dossier, Paid For By Hillary Clinton, As Reason To Spy On Trump

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89. Tax-Cut Popularity Surges, Dem 'Blue Wave' May Have Crested: IBD/TIPP PollВт., 06 февр.[−]

The more the public learns about the Republican-passed tax cuts, which took effect in January, the more they like them, according to the latest IBD/TIPP poll, which also found President Trump's favorability continuing to climb, as the Democrats' chances of a wave election in November appear to diminish.

X The poll found a sharp turnaround in public opinion on the tax cuts, which were universally derided by Democrats, none of whom voted for it. Of those following news about the tax cuts closely, a plurality now says the tax cuts will help their own households and the economy.

On the impact on their own household, 44% now think it will be positive, with 32% saying the effect will be negative. One month ago, only 36% thought it would be positive and 36% negative.

In the latest poll, 48% say the impact of the tax cuts on the economy will be positive, and 36% negative. That's an almost complete turnaround from a month ago, when only 41% said the impact on the economy would be positive, with 46% saying it would be negative.

Even Democrats, who still overwhelming oppose the tax cuts, are more upbeat about their impact. Last month, only 9% of Democrats surveyed said the tax cuts would improve the economy. This month 16% say it will.

"More Americans think that the tax reform will benefit their family and the U.S. economy, and tax reform has lifted Americans' confidence on the economy," said Raghavan Mayur, president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which conducts the IBD/TIPP poll. "Many think that the tax reform will boost corporate investment in the economy and create jobs."

As history shows, Republicans, just like any other incumbent administration, face headwinds for the midterm. At this point Democrats have an advantage.

The nationwide poll was conducted from January 25 through February 2, and includes responses from 900 adults, giving it a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.

Other polls have shown increasing support for the tax cuts as companies have started handing out bonuses and raises and announced new investments because of the tax cuts. The survey was conducted before the new, lower federal tax withholding schedules take effect, which could boost support still further.

This could potentially cause trouble in the fall for Democrats, who opposed the tax cuts and say they plan to run in November on the promise to "repeal and replace" them.

President Trump's approval rating remained unchanged in February: 35% approve of the job he's doing, with 58% disapproving. Most of the poll was completed before Trump's well-received State of the Union Address. However, among those polled after the speech, Trump's approval rating was much higher than those polled before the speech.

"Three-fourths of our poll was conducted before the State of the Union address, which explains his relatively lower rating in our poll compared to others," said Mayur. "Most Americans liked Trump's speech, which lifted his approval ratings significantly."

Meanwhile, Trump's net favorability climbed two points, going from -21 in January to -19 in the latest poll. That's up sharply from last August, when his net favorability was -28.

And the IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index climbed for the second month in a row to 40. The highest score Trump has ever received on this index was 49.2, shortly after he assumed office.

As IBD has noted, Trump has plenty of upside potential in his poll numbers, given the public's more optimistic view of the economy. Since IBD/TIPP first started tracking them in 2001, presidential approval and economic optimism have generally tracked each other. Under Trump, however, they have widely diverged, with optimism climbing as Trump's approval has either stagnated or fallen.

Meanwhile, the "blue wave" that Democrats have been hoping for in November, which pundits believed would give them sweeping victories in the midterm elections and result in a majority in the House and possibly the Senate, might be breaking long before the elections are held. The IBD/TIPP poll finds that Democrats enjoy only a 5-point advantage on a generic ballot matchup, with 46% saying they'd prefer that Democrats control Congress, and 41% saying they'd prefer Republican control.

This tracks with what other polls have found. The Real Clear Politics average has Democrats up 6.6 points in a generic ballot matchup. That's down significantly from December, when Democrats had a 13-point advantage.

Since midterm elections tend to favor the party that isn't in the White House, Democrats are expected to gain seats. The question is how big those gains will be.

In other poll findings:

  • Only 15% say the economy is in a recession, and 58% say the economy is improving. One year ago, those numbers were 25% and 55%, respectively.
  • In a further sign of an improving job market, the poll finds that the share of households considered "job sensitive" — because either someone in the household is looking for work or worried about getting laid off — dropped to 26%, the third monthly decline in a row. At the start of last year, that figure was 31%.
  • The Direction of the Country Index climbed to 43.1 in February, which is the second monthly gain in a row. Under President Obama, this index averaged only 37.
  • The IBD/TIPP Financial Stress Index was basically unchanged at 51.7. Under President Obama, this index averaged 59.4. (The higher the number, the greater the stress.)

Methodology: The February IBD/TIPP Poll was conducted on Jan. 25 to Feb. 2. It includes responses from 900 people nationwide, who were asked questions by live interviewers on phones. The poll's margin of error is +/-3.3 percentage points.

The IBD/TIPP Poll has been credited as being the most accurate poll in the past four presidential elections, and was one of only two that correctly predicted the outcome of the November presidential election.


IBD/TIPP Poll: Economic Optimism Index

IBD/TIPP Poll: Presidential Approval, Direction Of Country

90. Public Backs Trump, Not Democrats, On Immigration: IBD/TIPP PollВт., 06 февр.[−]

In his State of the Union speech, President Trump said he was willing to make a deal with Democrats. He'd create a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal aliens who came to the country as children, in exchange for funding for a border wall and a shift toward a skills-based immigration policy.

X Democrats flat-out rejected Trump's overture, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling it "an act of staggering cowardice which attempts to hold the Dreamers hostage to a hateful anti-immigrant scheme."

In remarks at the Customs and Border Protection National Targeting Center in Virginia on Friday, Trump said that "We want to make a deal. I think they want to use it for political purposes, for elections. I really am not happy with the way it's going from the standpoint of the Democrats negotiating."

But it turns out that it's the Democrats who are on the wrong side of public opinion on the immigration issue, according to the latest IBD/TIPP poll.

The poll found that 50% approve of "the construction of physical and electronic barriers along the southern U.S. border" — which is what Trump is actually proposing to build. When you look only at Republicans and Independents, support is 65%. But among Democrats, just 21% back funding for Trump's border wall.

Trump also called for limits on so-called chain migration, in which immigrants can bring in extended family members, and which has accounted for more than 60% of all immigrants coming into the U.S. over the past 35 years.

Instead, Trump wants to refocus immigration policy toward those with education and skills needed in the country.

Overall, 55% back "limiting immigration based on family ties in favor of an immigration system that prioritizes the skills and education background of potential immigrants," the IBD/TIPP poll found. Combined, Republicans' and independents' support is at 60%. But fewer than half of Democrats (48%) say they back this change.

The only area where Democrats are in sync with the general public is on the question of granting legal status to immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.

Overall, 71% back this plan. Among Democrats, support is 86%. But a majority of Republicans (55%) also back this proposal, as do 69% of independents.

President Obama signed the so-called DACA executive order in 2012 allowing hundreds of thousands of them to stay in the country. Trump, arguing that Obama did not have the Constitutional authority to unilaterally change the country's immigration policies, rescinded that order last fall. He gave Congress until March to pass a bill authorizing such a policy. Trump's latest proposal would go much farther, and affect more illegal immigrants, than what Obama had done by executive fiat.

The IBD/TIPP results on immigration are in line with those from a recent Harvard-Harris poll, which found that 79% support skills-based criteria for new immigrants, 68% support Trump's call to end the "diversity" lottery, and 54% back building a border wall.

But with Democrats having staked out an extreme and uncompromising position, it's unclear how, or whether, the DACA issue will be resolved.


IBD/TIPP Poll: Presidential Approval, Direction Of Country

91. IBD/TIPP Poll: Presidential Approval, Direction Of CountryВт., 06 февр.[−]

Each month, the IBD/TIPP Poll, a collaboration between Investor's Business Daily and TechnoMetrica, produces an exclusive Presidential Leadership Index. This index combines results from several questions in the monthly IBD/TIPP Poll to gauge how well the president is viewed when it comes to leading the country, both domestically and internationally.

X The index includes questions on presidential approval, favorability measures on the president's handling of domestic and foreign-policy issues, and whether the president is providing strong or weak leadership.

In addition, IBD/TIPP each month asks questions focused on the public's outlook overall. These questions gauge satisfaction with the direction of the country, respondents' quality of life and the United States' standing in the world.

IBD/TIPP also produces the Economic Optimism Index at the beginning of each month.

See the schedule of upcoming IBD/TIPP poll releases.

IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index: News & Analysis

Don't Take The Onion's Pessimism Too Seriously"Study: 90% Of Americans Strongly Opposed To Each Other." That's the headline on a story in what, on some days, seems to be America's most reliable news outlet, The Onion. We laugh... Read More

Presidential Leadership Index: Overall

View Questions And Full Results

The IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index edged up again in February to 40, marking a two-month gain in this index. It's President Trump's highest index reading since last September.

The Leadership Index comprises three subindexes measuring the president's favorability (up 2.8% in February), job approval (down 0.3%), and whether he is providing strong leadership (up 0.5%).

Presidential Job Approval

The February poll found that 35% approve of the job President Trump is doing, which is unchanged from last month. Trump's approval number has been below 40% for 11 straight months. These low approval ratings come despite continued signs of a strengthening economy and increased consumer optimism.

Direction Of The Country

The Direction of the Country Index climbed again in February by 1.7%, after a sharp gain in January. At 43.1, this index is up 25% since October 2017, and it is well above the 37 average during President Obama's eight years in office.

Quality Of Life

The Quality of Life Index dipped slightly in February to 60, after a strong gain in January. The average for this index under President Obama was 53.7. Unlike other measures, the Quality of Life Index has been relatively steady for the past 16 years. It peaked at 63.1 in January 2004. Its lowest level was 43.5 in June 2008.

Standing In The World

Another measure included in the monthly IBD/TIPP Poll tracks the public's view of the United States' standing in the world. The Standing in the World Index posted a strong 4.2% gain in February to reach 42.4. Over the past 17 years, the highest this index ever got was in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when it hit 74.9.


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92. Common Sense Immigration For The 21st CenturyПн., 05 февр.[−]

We are a nation of immigrants who are uneasy about immigration. There is a long history of resentment against immigrants, dating to the Irish immigrants in the 1840s and the Chinese a few decades later. This contrasts with our demonstrated ability to absorb newcomers. It's time to overcome this two-headed legacy with an immigration policy for the 21st century.

XWhat would such a policy look like?

Most of the so-called "Dreamers" would receive legal status, as would many other undocumented residents who had led law-abiding lives. In return, there would be tougher border security (including a "wall" or its equivalent) and a requirement that most employers check immigration status through an electronic network (such as E-Verify). These steps would dramatically reduce the number of illegal immigrants.

As for legal immigration, there would be a ceiling of about 1 million annually, which until recently was roughly the level of admissions. But there would be a fundamental change in the criteria for legal immigration, from family connections to workplace skills. The better educated immigrants are, the easier for them to adapt to a new society.

There are at least three reasons to support this sort of system.

First, the existing system has increased U.S. poverty, driven by inflows of poorly skilled legal and illegal workers. It's as if there were an agency called the Unskilled Workers Bureau dedicated to increasing U.S. poverty.

RELATED: IBD's complete coverage of the immigration debate.

Consider. From 1980 to 2016, the number of people with incomes below the government poverty line rose by 11.3 million (from 29.3 million to 40.6 million). Fully two-thirds of those, or 7.6 million, were Hispanic. Much of this increase clearly reflected the impact of immigrants and their children.

Second, the status quo promotes lawlessness and repression that, rightly, offend — for different reasons — those on all sides of the immigration debate. One side sees undocumented immigrants as lawbreakers who should admit their crime and suffer the consequences by being deported. Given the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, this seems unlikely. The other side views the unending enforcement actions — raids on homes and businesses — as the terrifying tactics of a police state that are unworthy of the United States. There is no real way of breaking this stalemate except by starting anew.

Third, skilled immigrants are good for the economy. True, they can't single-handedly boost annual economic growth to 3% or 4% from the 2%-plus of recent years. But every little bit helps. One area where immigrants shine is entrepreneurship. In a study of new firms, the husband-wife team of economists William Kerr of Harvard and Sari Pekkala Kerr of Wellesley College found that about one-quarter of company founders were immigrants.

All this is increasingly relevant, because after declining for a few years, immigration is again growing. Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group favoring tighter immigration policies, estimates that new immigrants in 2016 totaled nearly 1.8 million, which — if confirmed by the final count — would tie with 1999 as the highest in history.

As a group, there are now more than 43 million immigrants in the United States, legal and illegal, representing about 13% of the population, reports the Migration Policy Institute, which generally supports looser policies. The U.S.-born children of immigrants constitute a group almost the same size. This means that about a quarter of the total U.S. population are either immigrants or their offspring.

What matters is how easily these new Americans integrate with the old Americans. There's some good news. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently released two studies reporting significant gains among immigrants. Compared with U.S.-born workers, they are experiencing rising wages. More are going to college. Their English proficiency is advancing at historic rates.

But there's a paradox. To make past immigration succeed, you need to limit present immigration. Otherwise, the pressures of coping with new groups becomes more contentious. How is poverty to be reduced if the ranks of the poor are constantly replenished with new immigrant poor? Admitting more low-paid workers makes it harder for the last wave of low-paid immigrants — their main competitors — to advance.

Similarly, more poor immigrant children will strain state and local school budgets. And there's a whole array of cultural and historic differences between natives and immigrants — and among immigrants themselves. The ability to absorb new immigrants is one of the glories of the American project, but it is not infinite. It must give way to practical realities.

The outline of a commonsense immigration policy exists. What's unclear is whether the Trump administration and its critics have the political courage to translate the general principles — many of which seem to command support — into a workable system that balances the needs of new and old Americans.

  • Samuelson has written about business and economic issues for the Washington Post since 1977.

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93. Why Good Economic News Is BadВс., 04 февр.[−]

In 1930, John Maynard Keynes was worried, but not about the unpleasantness that had begun the previous year and would linger long enough to become known as the Great Depression. What troubled the British economist was that humanity "is solving its economic problem."

XIn his essay "Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren," Keynes, seeking to dispel pessimism, predicted that, "assuming no important wars and no important increase in population," the "permanent problem of the human race" — the "struggle for subsistence" — "may be solved." This, Keynes warned, could discombobulate the human race's neurological wiring, because mankind has evolved through many millennia for toil and stress. Basic "habits and instincts" are unsuitable for a future of leisure and abundance. Because we have evolved as creatures designed by nature "to strive and not to enjoy." So, work would have to be apportioned, perhaps in three-hour shifts and 15-hour workweeks, to keep people preoccupied.

Then history's worst war came, as did a huge increase in population — and an enormous, planet-wide enrichment. And today people still toil and strive. In 1943, Paul Samuelson, who would become one of America's leading economists and win a Nobel Prize, anticipated peace with foreboding. Good things — demobilization of more than 10 million from the armed services, the economy no longer busy producing instruments of destruction — would cause bad things. There would be "the greatest period of unemployment and industrial dislocation which any economy has ever faced." Any economy. Ever. What actually happened is remembered as the Postwar Boom.

This stroll down memory lane suggests this rule: All news is economic news, because everything affects the economy, or reveals attitudes or behaviors that soon will affect it. And all economic news is bad — especially good economic news, because it gives rise to bad behavior.

Consider this recent Wall Street Journal front-page headline: "Americans Save Less As Good Times Roll." The story began: "Soaring stock prices and improving job prospects" — good news? good grief — "have set Americans off on a spending splurge that is cutting into how much they sock away for retirement and rainy days." Between 2008 and the third quarter of 2017, the net worth of U.S. households surged from $56 trillion to $97 trillion (good news? remember, that's an oxymoron) but "previous busts — in the mid-2000s and the late 1990s — were preceded by periods of rising asset values and especially low saving."

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In December, America's household savings rate was the lowest (2.4% of disposable income) since the negative savings rate in 2005 and 2006, before the housing bubble burst. Many Americans, forgetting the most intractable fact — that nothing lasts — turned the equity in their homes into cash to fund immediate consumption. Today, 104 months after the recovery from the Great Recession began in June 2009 (when the savings rate was 6.6%), 2.5 million homes are still worth less than is owed on their mortgages.

As of 2013, 45% of working-age households had no retirement savings. Social Security (average annual payment, $15,500), which provides 33% of seniors' annual income, and 90% for the bottom third of retirees, but only about 35% of a typical household's pre-retirement income, last year became America's first trillion-dollar-a-year program. Absent reforms, its trust fund will be exhausted by 2035 and benefits will have to be reduced 23%.

A 2015 Federal Reserve study revealed that half of those surveyed said they could not gather $400 to cope with an emergency; one-third said they could not sell assets, tap retirement savings or turn to family and friends to pay three months of expenses. By 2017, median household savings ($14,500) for those near retirement age had declined 32%t in a decade, and for the first time, older Americans had more credit card debt than younger Americans. Between 2003 and 2015, the indebtedness of those between ages 50 and 80 increased 60%. Today, those between 65 and 74 have five times more debt than that age cohort did two decades ago.

Do you wonder how such behavior became to seem normal? A partial answer might be:

Americans consider deferral of gratification unnatural, which it is. Time was, however, thrift was considered a virtue. People sat at kitchen tables, calculating how to bring their outlays, for living and retiring, into alignment with their incomes. But eventually many people decided: This is no fun. Instead, let's disconnect enjoyable spending decisions from tiresome facts about resources, thereby living the way the federal government does.

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94. Memo: FBI Used Tainted Steele Dossier, Paid For By Hillary Clinton, As Reason To Spy On TrumpСб., 03 февр.[−]

FBI Scandal: The controversial congressional memo that alleges abuse of the government's surveillance program has now been released to the public. A close reading of the four-page document reveals potentially damning evidence that the FBI and Department of Justice used an anti-Trump dossier funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign as the basis for spying on the Trump campaign.

X GOP members of the House Intelligence Committee, led by Chairman Devin Nunes, released the declassified memo Friday, but only after President Trump's approval and after both DOJ and FBI protested release of the document, which served as the backbone of the government's investigation into alleged collusion in the 2016 presidential campaign between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Not surprisingly, President Trump had an immediate hot take for his Twitter feed: "The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans — something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!"

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The memo's findings are, at minimum, disturbing and, at worst, suggest the law was broken. Assuming the memo's factual accuracy, it paints an unflattering picture of the Obama-era FBI and Justice Department and their conduct in investigating the Trump campaign. To wit:

  • The DOJ and FBI asked for and received approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to spy on Carter Page, a fringe volunteer adviser to the Trump campaign on energy and foreign policy. The basis for the approval was the now-famous "dossier" on Donald Trump compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, who was working for the Fusion GPS political research firm. The dossier's contents were used multiple times as grounds for surveilling Page, with then-FBI Director James Comey signing his name to three, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signing off on one. It was a group effort: Then-acting Deputy Attorney Generals Sally Yates and Dana Boente, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, all signed off on one or more of the requests.
  • Steele was paid $160,000 to create the Trump dossier for Fusion GPS. The Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and Democratic National Committee financed the work. So the FBI and Justice Department used opposition research from a presidential campaign to launch an investigation into that campaign's political opponent — a likely illegal use of federal government surveillance for political purposes.
  • The FBI also agreed to pay Steele for his dossier and other research, but rescinded the offer in October of 2016, shortly before the presidential election, after discovering that Steele had shared the dossier's contents with journalists in a number of briefings, a violation of FBI rules. But neither the FBI nor Justice informed FISC that the information had in fact been paid for by the Democrats, which would have immediately raised doubts about the surveillance request's legitimacy.
  • Steele, the memo claims, continued to talk to the Justice Department even after he was cut loose by the FBI through then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr. Ohr is key, since he worked closely with both Yates and Rosenstein and was a potential conduit into then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch's office. More importantly, perhaps, Ohr's wife, Nellie, is a former CIA researcher who was hired by Fusion GPS to collect anti-Trump material.
  • According to the memo, Steele relayed to Ohr that he was "desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president." None of that, apparently, was told to FISC when Justice and the FBI made their requests to spy on the Trump campaign.
  • The supposed justification for the application to FISC was a September 23, 2016 Yahoo News article by journalist Michael Isikoff purportedly detailing ties between Trump campaign representatives and Russian officials. The only problem is, Isikoff got all of his information from Steele's so-called Trump dossier.

Let us stipulate that this memo is itself a partisan product of a Republican-dominated committee of Congress. Democrats, for their side of the matter, have their own memo and claim that essential facts have been omitted from the GOP's. But none of the central facts of the memo, so far, have been disproved.

Being charitable, it's possible to conclude that, during an intensely contentious presidential campaign, Obama administration Justice and FBI officials innocently sought FISA warrants against a peripheral Trump campaign volunteer based on a document they knew — or should have known — was paid for by Hillary Clinton and the DNC. And that their decisions later to withhold information from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court were equally innocent of any malicious political intent.

Even if you grant that very generous reading of the facts laid out in the memo, it's clear there was at minimum a conflict of interest and, possibly, a violation of the 1939 Hatch Act, which forbids federal employees from political activities while on the job. If that weren't the case, why would a spate of Justice and FBI officials — including McCabe and Ohr — be either demoted, reassigned or let go in recent weeks?

Yet, former FBI Chief James Comey, apparently vying for Twitter dominance over Trump, tweeted out: "That's it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs."

Well, Comey's disingenuous "That's it?" includes the FBI colluding with a political party against another, while withholding material information from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court about the source of its information and how it was paid for. Ethically questionable, certainly; illegal, quite possibly.

The House Intelligence Committee's Democrats, in a statement, also criticized the memo: "The premise of the Nunes memo is that the FBI and DOJ corruptly sought a FISA warrant on a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, and deliberately misled the court as part of a systematic abuse of the FISA process ... The FBI had good reason to be concerned about Carter Page and would have been derelict in its responsibility to protect the country had it not sought a FISA warrant."

Claims that release of this memo was inappropriate or dangerous are absurd. No intelligence methods were revealed. No big secrets, just the facts of an investigation that has gone on too long and has been used by political opponents and their Deep State allies to weaken a presidency. And it certainly calls into question the tortuous, now year-and-a-half long investigation into alleged Trump-Russia collusion during the 2016 election, spearheaded by former FBI chief Robert Mueller.

As always with these issues, it's useful to imagine turning it all on its head: That instead of Republicans, the Democrats had been spied upon; that a Republican presidential candidate had funded the research on which the spying was based; and that it was all part of a deep-dive investigation, again, instigated by the Republicans to tie the Democrats to various Russian officials and their efforts to subvert a U.S. election.

We would be told the nation was in grave danger. They would call it a silent coup. The liberal media would jump in. They would call it highly questionable and possibly illegal. And you know what? They might be right.


Democrats May Come To Regret Mueller Investigation Into Trump-Russia Ties

Fusion GPS' 'Fake Investigation' — And Hillary Clinton's Real Russian Collusion

As Investigations Of Misconduct Mount, Can Hillary Clinton Avoid Jail?

FBI Scandal: McCabe's Resignation Is Only The Beginning

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95. Just Say No To A Gas-Tax HikeПт., 02 февр.[−]

Taxes: A new report says the White House and GOP members of Congress are discussing raising the federal gas tax to help pay for infrastructure rebuilding. It's a very bad idea, one that will erase much of the goodwill that came from cutting Americans' taxes.

X It's inevitable that whenever you put a group of politicians in a room, they'll always try to find a way to impose new taxes to "pay for" something they want.

President Trump, in his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, put forth a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan that would be funded in part by the federal government. It would require about $200 billion in total federal spending, or $20 billion a year. At least that's the initial estimate.

So how do you pay for it? A gas tax, of course. A number of Republicans support it. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce thinks it's a neat idea.

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There are problems with this, however. Gasoline taxes are regressive, meaning they hit the middle class and poor the hardest.

We already pay an 18.3-cents-per-gallon federal tax on gasoline, collecting roughly $35 billion or so a year. The 25-cents-a-gallon hike that has been proposed by the Chamber of Commerce would be a 137% increase, or about $48 billion a year.

To hear politicians speak, you'd think all that money goes to "infrastructure." It doesn't. As columnist Jake Novak noted at the CNBC website, for the first four years of the current gasoline tax, which was put in place in 1993, the money went entirely to deficit reduction. Even today 16% of it goes to that. Moreover, "Millions of dollars also go to everything from somewhat related transportation programs like mass transit to totally unrelated pork-barrel nonsense like hiking trails and a museum in honor of the defunct Packard luxury car in Ohio."

A Government Accountability Office report discovered that less than half of all Highway Trust Fund spending goes to actual roads and bridges.

One of the biggest problems in government is waste, fraud and abuse, as President Reagan pointed out decades ago. It's still the case. And some of the worst areas of waste, fraud and abuse are in infrastructure spending, where cost overruns are common and racist regulations like the 1930s-era Davis-Bacon act add billions of dollars in costs to federal construction projects.

If those aren't enough, there are plenty of government agencies and departments that could be cut without any decline in the quality of American life whatsoever. We don't need an Energy Department (doesn't create a watt of energy) or an Education Department (which educates no children at all). And those are just two examples.

Rather than undoing the favorable image Trump has won as a tax cutter, Republicans would do far better to find other ways to fund infrastructure spending — which we support — than imposing another tax on average Americans.


Is $1.7 Tril Too Much To Rebuild America? Not At All

GOP: Obama's $65 Bil 'Tax On Oil' Is Really On You

Taxifornia Does It Again

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96. The Economy Is Thriving And Jobs Are Booming: Why Trump Deserves CreditПт., 02 февр.[−]

President Trump delivered a plea for bipartisanship and unity in Tuesday night's State of the Union address, asking leaders on both sides of the aisle to partner with him to create "a safe, strong and proud America."

Beyond the president's call for bipartisanship, he has also delivered on his promise to continue to take steps to boost our economy.

And so far, his plan is working.

Since President Trump was elected, more than 20 Consumer Technology Association (CTA) member companies have made 40 major job announcements and shared plans to create more than 250,000 U.S. jobs. Most recently, as the president highlighted in his speech, Apple announced a $350 billion investment into our nation's economy and plans to create 20,000 jobs.

There's no question President Trump helped spur this job creation and economic growth. Here are three reasons that, thanks to President Trump, the tech industry is creating jobs:

  1. Tax reform

It was the best holiday gift the business community could receive. We've already seen the impact of the historic tax legislation that Trump signed on the stock markets, and corporations of all sizes will also see a difference. Large, multinational corporations have started to create more jobs in the U.S., and small business owners will find it easier to create and maintain their businesses. This growth will spur investment in the U.S. economy and U.S. innovation.

  1. Cutting rules

Soon after taking the oath of office, the president enacted significant regulatory reform, ending more than 400 unwieldy rules. This is a radical change from what we experienced under the previous administration. Although the two-for-one rule introduced by the president is hardly a nuanced approach to reform, it is certainly an effective one. It lowers barriers to entry for American entrepreneurs: No longer crippled by the weight of rules and crushed by the costs of hiring lawyers, innovators and manufacturers can build new companies and create new jobs.

Such changes indicate the government is actually on the side of business growth and job creation. Thanks to the capable leaders President Trump has put at the helms of key federal agencies, business meetings with federal government officials are now discussions about how the government can fulfill its responsibilities of ensuring a clean environment, a safe workplace or providing security while eliminating archaic, often redundant rules and procedures. In short, our federal government is becoming more efficient and helpful, supporting enterprising Americans as they develop new innovations and create jobs.

  1. Bully pulpit

Because of the Trump administration's bully pulpit, CEOs across America have been able to reconsider what it means to lead responsibly. After countless years of morality being defined by legality and increasingly complex rules, business leaders are considering how they can use their brand, their voice and their platform to promote good. Sometimes, this means challenging federal leadership, speaking up where they are not acting in the best interests of the economy and the nation. But the fact that it's a conversation — not a monologue — is largely due to President Trump.

Political issues have always had an impact on industry and economy — but never as quickly as under this administration, where one tweet has the power to tip the balance of the markets. These realities have forced companies to not only engage politically in ways that they wouldn't have before, but also consider the interests of the demographics and groups that they serve.

Our nation is thriving under President Trump. Our unemployment rate is remarkably low. The economy is strong. And more than 3 million Americans will receive bonuses due to the tax cuts. Even more will see pay increases in the coming weeks. We are in a euphoric economic moment, and pulling along the rest of the world.

This president has, in many respects, done what an American government should do: Allow citizens to leverage their freedom and creativity to build a brighter future. I'm excited to see what will happen in the year to come, as leaders from different sectors, branches and parties join the president in working toward the "new American moment" and revitalizing the American dream.

97. 'Settled Science' Behind Dietary Guidelines Just Got Blown UpПт., 02 февр.[−]

Public Health: For decades, the federal government's official dietary guidelines told people to cut fats and increase carbs in their diet, relying on supposedly settled nutrition science. A new study shows that the advice has been completely wrong.

X In Woody Allen's 1973 comedy, Sleeper, his character wakes up 200 years after routine surgery, and two doctors discuss his health status. The conversation goes like this:

Dr. Melik: This morning for breakfast he requested something called "wheat germ, organic honey and tiger's milk."

Dr. Aragon: (chuckling) Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.

Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or ... hot fudge?

Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy ... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.

Dr. Melik: Incredible.

Incredible, indeed, since it turns out that Allen had it exactly right.

That's the conclusion of a massive new study published in Lancet that followed 135,335 people in 18 countries on five continents.

The study found that consumption of fat was associated with a lower risk of mortality, while consumption of carbohydrates was associated with a higher risk.

It found that the kind of fat didn't matter when it came to heart disease, and that saturated fat consumption was inversely related to strokes.

The researchers say, ever so politely, that "dietary guidelines should be reconsidered in light of these findings."

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This research adds to a growing body of evidence that the government's war on fats has been dangerously misguided, if not deadly.

For example, a 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, after looking at years of research, concluded that "there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease."

Other studies have found that whole milk lowers the risk of obesity.

Yet the government still admonishes against saturated fats and tells people to drink skim milk.

Meanwhile, government's push for a low-fat, high-carb diets has contributed to the explosion in obesity in the U.S.

The national obesity rate had been relatively flat between 1960 and 1980 — the first year the USDA issued its dietary guidelines. But less than a decade after 1980, obesity rates shot up from 15% to 23%.

But don't expect the USDA to "reconsider" its guidelines, much less admit it was wrong, based on the new findings, since doing so would undermine the government's credibility.

This is the problem when science becomes politicized. And it's a prime example of why the public should be extremely wary of any claims that science is "settled" on any issue as complicated as health, nutrition, or, say, predicted changes in global climate 100 years from now.


It's Time To Flush Federal Dietary Guidelines Down the Drain

How 'Settled Science' Helped Create A Massive Public Health Crisis

Got Incompetence? The Federal Gov't Has Misled Public About Milk For Decades

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98. Sally C. Pipes: God Save The Queen's Health Care SystemПт., 02 февр.[−]

On Jan. 23, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., hosted an online town hall to promote "Medicare for All." Over 1 million people tuned in to watch Vermont's junior senator tout his single-payer plan, which he promised would "guarantee care for all Americans."

X His pledge is about as sound as a Venezuelan bolivar. Socialized medicine inevitably leads to deadly rationing. Americans need look no further than the United Kingdom to see why single-payer is an awful idea.

The government-run National Health Service, established in 1948, is currently experiencing a nationwide crisis. Earlier this month, the NHS postponed over 50,000 non-urgent surgeries until at least February. Even after delaying the operations, many hospitals were still filled to capacity. Patients were forced to wait for hours in emergency wards.

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Doctors warned the overcrowding had reached "third world" conditions. At least 20 hospitals declared themselves on "black alert," which means they were unable to provide routine care or guarantee patient safety.

The reason for this health care fiasco? The flu season has been a bit nastier than anticipated.

Here in the United States, it's laughable to think the flu could gum up the entire health system. But in the United Kingdom's single-payer system, it's no surprise.

Single-payer systems control costs by paying doctors a pittance. The low salaries discourage people from pursuing careers in medicine. The average starting salary for British nurses, for instance, is just under $22,000. That's one-third the average starting pay for an American nurse.

The pay for salaried British general practitioners runs from just over $80,000 to just under $121,000. In the United States, the average salary for a primary care physician is $217,000.

Meanwhile, patients face no co-pays or other forms of cost-sharing. Since health care is "free," at least at the point of sale, people visit the doctor whenever they feel the least bit ill.

This combination of high demand for medical services and low supply of physicians and nurses leads to chronic delays. In December, nearly one-third of NHS regional divisions reported they were either "experiencing major pressures" or were "unable to deliver comprehensive care" altogether. That left countless patients waiting for beds to open up. Some patients were even stranded on stretchers in hallways.

Even before the flu struck, long wait times were the norm in the United Kingdom. Over 2 million people waited more than four hours in emergency wards last fiscal year, according to NHS data. By 2020, that figure could climb to 3.7 million patients, according to a recent analysis by the British Medical Association.

Senior patients seeking emergency care are particularly vulnerable to NHS negligence. The number of seniors who waited at least 12 hours in emergency wards more than doubled during the last two fiscal years.

Emergency ward delays leave patients in considerable pain and often lead to complications or even death. One patient in western England recently died from cardiac arrest — after waiting 35 hours on a stretcher for a bed to open up.

Patients seeking non-emergency treatment also face ridiculously long waits. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of patients who waited more than 18 weeks for non-emergency treatment rose 163% in England.

How did the NHS react to this explosion in wait times? Surely, administrators redoubled their efforts to speed up procedures, right?

On the contrary, they simply gave up. Last year, the NHS simply scrapped its goal of performing non-emergency surgeries within 18 weeks. The change gave hospitals more leeway to delay operations like knee and hip replacements, gallstone removals, and hernia repairs.

The NHS has also abandoned its efforts to treat people in cheaper, more convenient settings. It has closed about 40% of walk-in clinics since 2010. The dwindling number of clinics means people with minor injuries and illnesses often seek care at hospitals — which further overwhelms NHS emergency services.

Britons openly admit the NHS is in dire straits. The British Red Cross declared the NHS situation a "humanitarian crisis." The president of the Royal College of Medicine recently said the emergency care system was "on its knees."

The United Kingdom's long wait times debunk the myth that single-payer provides high-quality, universal health care. Americans must not fall prey to Sen. Sanders' siren song.

  • Pipes is president, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her next book, The False Promise of Single-Payer Health Care (Encounter), will be published this spring. Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.

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99. New York's Pensions Should Focus On Financial Returns — Not PoliticsПт., 02 февр.[−]

The recent push by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer to divest the city's pensions from fossil fuels is playing politics with retiree savings at a time when they can least afford it.

X Both Mayor de Blasio and Comptroller Stringer said multiple times during their announcement that divesting will "send a message" for others to follow. But in a new report we examine how previous efforts to insert politics into pension investing has meant advancing social causes at the expense of financial results.

The city will soon spend more on pension liabilities than most social services excluding education. Conservative estimates place New York City's five public pension funds' unfunded liabilities at $65 billion as of fiscal 2016, and nearly 80% of all funds collected by New York City's personal income tax are put toward paying down the pension system's liabilities, representing a staggering 567% increase over the past 15 years.

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This alarming financial situation at New York City's public pensions today makes the decision to divest all the more concerning.

Our research finds that the New York City comptroller has poured significant resources into underperforming investments, like the $22 billion invested in the "Developed Environmental Activist" asset class, which has lagged overall returns by an average of 600 basis points over the last three calendar years when full data is available.

On the West Coast, the situation isn't much better. A similar focus on politics at the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) — the nation's largest public pension — has helped turn a surplus of $2.9 billion in 2007 to a deficit of more than $138 billion today, despite the broader bull market. Over at CalPERS, four of the nine worst performing private equity funds last year were environmental-related investments. Somewhat tellingly, none of the system's leaders put their own money into these environmental investments.

The activists who continue to push for divestment are not elected by the public and therefore don't have a direct responsibility for the fate of pensioners. But as comptroller, Stringer is the fiduciary of New York City's five funds, which means his responsibility is to maximize financial returns for the city's more than 730,000 beneficiaries.

Comptroller Stringer has been very active when it comes to exerting considerable clout on shareholder resolutions, sponsoring 92 in fiscal year 2017. However, we found that the vast majority of these efforts were focused on activism and social engagement rather than generating value. All the while, overall returns have declined and liabilities increased.

The data show that his commitment to using the $190 billion funds as a tool to achieve political ends has hurt financial performance, and consequently, the pensioners themselves. We're seeing the same debate play out at the state level, as Governor Andrew Cuomo endorsed divestment in his recent 2018 State of the State Address. Fortunately, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has rejected all efforts to divest thus far, citing his fiduciary duty to pensioners.

It's important to remember that divestment is not as simple as selling a few stocks and going home. Economic reports have totaled the cost of doing so at more than $1 trillion over 50 years for New York City's funds. Another study commissioned by the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees found that divesting from fossil fuels could mean losses of almost $3 billion over two decades for the New York State Common Retirement Fund.

Any decision to divest ultimately rests with the pension trustees and will depend on lengthy analysis to ensure divestment is in line with fiduciary duties. But the purpose of pensions is to ensure a secure retirement for public workers. These funds are not tools for making political gestures or symbolic statements — however noble the cause may be. New Yorkers deserve better and should demand that Stringer adhere to his fiduciary duty. Leave the politics to the politicians.

  • Doyle is vice president of policy and general counsel at the American Council for Capital Formation. Learn more about ACCF's research on these issues by visiting ACCFcorpgov.org.


The States' Unfunded Pension Nightmares

Fossil Fuel Divestiture Movement Suffers From Fallacies

Other People's Money: The Immorality Of The Fossil-Fuel Divestment Campaign

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100. Read The House FISA MemoПт., 02 февр.[−]

On Friday, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released an explosive four-page memo detailing how the FBI and the Department of Justice under President Obama secured a FISA warrant targeting Carter Page, including how they relied on the discredited "dossier" paid for by Hillary Clinton's campaign to be president and the Democratic National Committee, but failed to tell the court this when making the request. You can read the entire memo here.

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