Politics - Investor's Business Daily00:17 Текст источника в новой вкладке

 
 
1. Fix Nafta, Don't Break ItПт., 20 окт.[−]

Nafta: As anyone who regularly reads IBD knows, we take a back seat to no one when it comes to advocating free trade. That said, renegotiating Nafta to fix some of its flaws doesn't mean you're stepping away from free trade.

The Nafta renegotiation talks involving the U.S., Canada and Mexico have, not surprisingly, been contentious and at times even angry. Nafta, after all, was signed back in 1993, and has been a constant feature on the global economic landscape ever since.

But that's the problem. Its flaws have become permanent. And renegotiating it has been difficult, given the barely concealed hostility shown by both the Canadian and Mexican governments to the current occupant of the White House. Talks went so poorly this latest round that the negotiators decided to continue them in 2018's first quarter.

There are many things we don't like about proposals for "fixing" Nafta. One is the proposed "sunset clause" for Nafta under which it would expire every five years. How can businesses plan and invest when they can't know what the rules will be five, 10, 15 years down the road?

Moreover, President Trump's desire to erase the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico to create more factory jobs in the U.S. is, at best, misguided. Currently, 62% of all parts of a car sold in a Nafta country must come from one of the three countries. The U.S. has proposed raising that to more than 80%.

These kinds of things have a certain feel-good quality, but unfortunately won't bring back factory jobs. As multiple studies show, manufacturing jobs have been lost to automation, not to relocation to Mexico or Canada.

That said, some things probably can be done to bolster Nafta, make it fairer and boost all of our economies. Economist and frequent IBD contributor Stephen Moore, for instance, advocates greater protection for U.S. intellectual property rights. As he argues, this is a very real problem for an innovative economy like the U.S., where some 28 million jobs and $6 trillion in economic output comes from industries based on intellectual property rights.

Former Reagan administration member George P. Shultz and Mexico's former Finance Secretary Pedro Aspe argued recently that Nafta needs to incorporate rules for trade in the digital economy, which barely existed when the trade deal was signed in 1993. And rules regarding state-owned enterprises from nations outside the trade bloc, in particular China, likewise, could help level the competitive playing field.

But the main thing is, the idea of free and, yes, fair trade needs to be reaffirmed. And the idea that a country gets richer only when it runs a trade surplus should be disavowed. All people work so they can consume. Tariffs, duties and other trade levies make that harder to do, not easier. Fix Nafta, yes, but avoid protectionism.

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2. Congress Poised To Bail Out Insurers, Fleece TaxpayersПт., 20 окт.[−]

Democrats and some Republicans in Congress are pushing for a $10 billion a year payout to insurance companies that sell Obamacare plans. President Trump calls it " bailing out" the insurance industry. Truer words were never spoken.

The politicians backing this sweetheart deal claim it will protect consumers. Don't fall for it. The money will go straight to the bottom lines of insurers — who enjoy tremendous clout in Washington D.C., thanks to over $85 million in campaign contributions and over $150 million spent on lobbying every year.

The deal's authors — Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. — have taken hundreds of thousands in insurance contributions personally and through their PACs. No surprise the deal gives insurers everything they want: an estimated $10 billion a year cash plus $100 million in Obamacare ads. No other industry gets taxpayers to pay for their advertising. Meanwhile, consumers get nothing: no freedom to buy affordable plans without Washington-mandated benefits, no escape from onerous tax penalties for not enrolling.

In 2010, the powerful insurance industry worked hand in glove with Democrats to enact the Affordable Care Act, a scheme compelling everyone to buy their product. The ACA also steered tens of billions of dollars in backdoor payments to insurers through 2016 to insulate them from losing their shirts on Obamacare. It doesn't get any sweeter — a law making your product mandatory and forcing taxpayers to subsidize your bottom line.

The current $10 billion tug-of-war is more of the same — the Washington swamp exploiting the public. Insurers are fighting for more taxpayer largesse — and too many members of Congress are lining up to accommodate. But not President Trump. In the Rose Garden this week, Trump quipped that insurers " contribute massive amounts of money to political people. … Me, I'm not interested in their money."

The ACA requires insurers selling Obamacare plans to give low-income consumers a break on deductibles and copays. Insurers claim they lose money doing that, and want taxpayers to make up the shortfall. But Congress never voted for those payments, despite providing many others to the industry.

No problem, under President Obama. He paid the insurers without getting Congress's consent. But the U.S. Constitution says the president can't spend what Congress doesn't appropriate. The House of Representatives sued, and Obama lost. Federal judge Rosemary Collyer ruled the payments illegal.

Fast forward to October 12, when Trump announced he would halt the payments. Democrats howled that Trump was sabotaging the health law. Sen. Chris Murphy, D. Conn., accused the president of " health care arson," an inflammatory statement and untrue.

Trump's decision lobs the issue back to Congress, where it belongs. But tragically that's where insurers have more sway than taxpayers.

Denying it's a "bailout," Alexander claims "we have strong language in the Alexander-Murray agreement that consumers get the money, not the insurance companies." Those are weasel words. In truth, low income consumers are already guaranteed breaks on co-pays and deductibles under the ACA. This agreement gives them nothing extra. The money is paid directly to insurers, going straight to profits.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, one of 19 AGs trying to circumvent Judge Collyer's ruling by suing in the left leaning Ninth Circuit, claims that without the payments, millions of families " would be left in the cold without coverage." Nonsense. The law guarantees low-income families insurance. What it does not do is guarantee insurers a profit.

As for threats that without the payments, insurer will hike premiums, hurting consumers — don't buy that. State regulators have the final say on premiums.

Of course, bailing out insurers will keep them participating in Obamacare, propping up the failing system. That's the Democrats' goal, to preserve Obama's legacy. But Republicans are fools to go along. It's pouring taxpayer money down the rat-hole. Why would lawmakers do that unless they're in bed with the insurance industry?

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

3. The States Show Trump's Tax Cuts Will WorkПт., 20 окт.[−]

One reason the two of us were so confident that Donald Trump's economic policies would be positive for workers, the economy and the stock market, is that we've seen first hand these policies work in the states. Many liberal economists have been insisting that Donald ?Trump's promise of a 3% or 4% growth is a fantasy and that 2% growth is the best we can do.

But many red states that have already adopted Trumponomics have already been growing much faster than that. ?These include states like Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. Meanwhile, states like? New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Rhode Island — to name a few — that have followed the liberal playbook on taxes, regulation, energy, and labor policies, continue to struggle.

That is because states compete with one another. This competition is becoming more intense as businesses become more mobile. Toyota and Boeing are two high-profile employers in America that have crossed state borders because of the policy advantages of one state over another. Toyota moved from high-income-tax California to no-income-tax Texas, and Boeing, based in Washington, a forced-union state, opened a new plant in South Carolina, which has a right-to-work law.

In Connecticut things have gotten so bad with multiple tax hikes in recent years that General Electric moved it's headquarters to Boston to get away from the tax, spend and borrow cycle in Hartford. It's pretty dire in Connecticut when businesses move to Massachusetts for a more business-friendly environment.

We have 10 and 20 and 30 years of statistical evidence that low tax and lighter regulation states have been growing a lot faster than those that try to tax and regulate their way to prosperity. Our favorite example is Texas. The Lone Star state has no income tax, aggressively pursues pro-growth energy policies, and is a right-to-work state. Amazingly, from 2007 to 2013, more jobs were created in Texas than in all the other 49 states combined.

How did that happen? Pro-growth policies — the kind that Trump wants — that are pro-business and pro-worker.

In our new book with Rex Sinquefield and Travis Brown, "The Wealth of States: Volume 2," we measured just how much these policy differentials matter. Taxes have an enormous impact on where the jobs go.

We found, for example, that the lowest tax states consistently had more economic and job growth across the board than the highest tax states. Incredibly, the nine highest personal income tax states in total lost an average of almost 1,000 residents on net every day of the year.

The pro-growth states also had double the pace of job creation compared to the highest tax states like New York, New Jersey and California. And most amazing, total income growth — a good proxy for the pace of economic progress — was consistently 20% to 30% higher in the low tax states.

Of course not all low tax states — Mississippi and Kansas, for example — grow faster and some high tax states like Massachusetts grow faster than expected. But the statistical results are irrefutable: tax- and regulatory-cutting states get more growth over time.

This suggests that if the federal government could implement "red state" policies nationally, the growth rate would grow at least one half percentage points per year faster. And because the federal government's spending, taxing and regulatory authority is about three times more impactful than that of the states — for example, the highest federal income tax is 39.6% vs. a high of just above 13% in California — the results from getting federal policies aligned with growth could be much more powerfully felt.

Imagine for a moment, that the federal government adopted the economic model of a high growth state like Texas — and moved away from the economic model of New York and New Jersey. Could the Trump goal of 3% to 4% be sustained for a number of years. We look at the boom in Florida, Texas and Tennessee and ?ask: Why not this for the whole nation?

  • Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with Freedom Works.
  • Laffer is president of Laffer Associates. They are co-authors of the just-released book: "The Wealth of States: Volume 2." ?

4. Hollywood Never Apologizes for UltraviolenceПт., 20 окт.[−]

Hollywood's hypocrisy about Harvey Weinstein is only outdone by its hypocrisy about gun control.

We still don't know why Stephen Paddock unleashed his arsenal in an evil attack on an outdoor concert crowd in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, killing 59 people and injuring more than 500. But Hollywood's glitterati seem to know, apparently. They quickly and predictably jumped on Twitter and other media outlets to denounce the National Rifle Association as a terrorist and demand "common sense gun control" that, as usual, wouldn't have stopped Paddock in any way.

So why does America have this problem with mass shootings? Will Hollywood ever look inward on this question and explore its role? Four of the biggest box-office successes in the week leading up to the shooting demonstrated the degree to which Tinseltown is aggressively promoting a culture of gun ultraviolence in America.

Matt Philbin of the Media Research Center reported that an astounding 589 incidents of violence were featured "Kingsman: The Golden Circle," "American Assassin," Stephen King's "It" and "mother!" And that's just four movies. It gets worse: There were no less than 212 incidents of gun violence, and the body count is at least 192. In over 100 incidents of gun violence, some kind of automatic weapon is used (which is why the numbers are undercounted — researchers literally couldn't count fast enough).

There are plenty of other forms of violence as well.

"It" is the monster hit of the fall, with a reported domestic box-office take of $315 million and counting. The movie has only three gun scenes, but one features a penetrating captive bolt pistol, which is traditionally used to stun animals prior to slaughter. Victims are stabbed and bludgeoned, and the killer clown even bites off the arm of a little child. "Mother!" includes an atrocious scene in which a crowd dismembers and eats a baby.

"Kingsman: The Golden Circle" was the No. 1 film that weekend. It's the sequel to the hyperviolent "Kingsman: The Secret Service," which contained one of the grisliest murder scenes that Hollywood has ever produced; in it, the antagonist activates some kind of demonic neurological wave that causes church parishioners to slaughter one another until they're all dead.

"Kingsman: The Golden Circle" includes 118 incidents of gun violence (70 of them with automatic weapons) and another 164 incidents of other violence. Philbin lists the instances, saying, "There are body slams, punches, explosions, ripping off limbs, ripping out vocal cords, putting people in meat grinders, cannibalism, lasso violence, slicing people in half and eyes randomly exploding from people's heads."

The Hypocrite in Chief of this production is actress Julianne Moore, who plays the drug-lord supervillain. Moore went on Jimmy Fallon's late-night show to receive the usual love bombs. Fallon said, "'Kingsman' alone is fantastic!" Moore responded: "Thank you! It's a fun movie, right? It's really, really fun."

Since the Vegas mass shooting, Moore's Twitter feed has been stuffed with tweets in which she attacks the NRA and demands gun control legislation. Naturally, nowhere in this October Twitter festival is there any mention of her "really fun" hit movie.

The Hollywood Reporter, to its credit, asked Moore, "Do critics who accuse Hollywood of glorifying gunplay have a valid point?" Moore shot back, "It is impossible to be killed by watching a violent movie, but unfortunately, it is all too possible to be shot and killed while sitting in a theater and watching any kind of movie."

Hollywood might point the finger of blame for all this violence back on the audience, and there's merit to that argument. The "Kingsman" sequel won the weekend box office for two weeks. Before that, "It" won for two weeks. And before that, the winner for three consecutive weekends was ... "The Hitman's Bodyguard."

But does that exonerate Hollywood for feeding the beast?

Movie stars have no problem mudslinging against the NRA and blaming it for mass shootings. But they have demonstrated a complete lack of moral introspection about their own glamorization of over-the-top violence with guns ... and everything else. Until they get serious about their own responsibility, they have no right to judge anyone else.

  • 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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5. Obama Administration, Hillary Clinton Covered Up Their Deep, Corrupt Ties To RussiaПт., 20 окт.[−]

Russian Scandal: As the old saying goes, it's not the crime, it's the cover-up. That's certainly true with the growing scandal over the Russians' extortion racket in the U.S., possible bribes to the Bill and Hillary Clinton Foundation, and the FBI's curious decision not to reveal the Russians' activities and ties to the Obama administration.

This week, IBD discussed new reports from the Daily Caller, The Hill and Circa.com, of how the Russians, through their state nuclear company Rosatom, engaged in a campaign of bribery, extortion, money laundering and racketeering to gain control over U.S. nuclear assets in the private sector.

Aided by an American informant, the FBI gathered a mountain of evidence that showed, for instance, that Russia had corrupted an American uranium trucking company through bribes.

But that was the least of it. As The Hill reported, eyewitness accounts and documents indicate that the Russian nuclear pirates spent millions of dollars to "benefit former President Bill Clinton's charitable foundation."

At the time this was happening, Rosatom was seeking to acquire a stake in Canadian-based Uranium One, which then controlled close to 20% of U.S. uranium supplies.

XAutoplay: On | OffSo why would Russian nuclear officials send money to the Clinton Foundation? As we've pointed out, Hillary Clinton was then secretary of state. In that position, she sat on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the panel that decides whether strategic foreign investments such as Rosatom's will be allowed to proceed.

Despite the FBI's evidence of bribery, extortion and racketeering, Hillary Clinton and then-Attorney General Eric Holder and other members of the Obama administration approved of Rosatom's takeover of Uranium One.

One hand washes the other. The money flowed, and what remained of the investigation was hushed up. The investigation ran for two years, from 2009 to 2010, and then went quiet, right after CFIUS approved of Rosatom's purchase of Uranium One assets. In 2014, the Justice Department issued a few hand-slaps in what appeared to be major crimes, but that was all. By then, Hillary had already left office, and Holder was about to.

The question, as always, is why?

Well, certainly greed. The Clinton Foundation lined its pockets. By one estimate, it took in $145 million from investors linked to Uranium One.

But there was also politics. President Obama, despite his rocky political beginnings in 2009, remained popular with average Americans. He wanted a legacy of success, and knew that Hillary Clinton could help ensure that.

But Clinton, his presumed successor, had to appear clean if she had any hope of being elected president herself. So a blanket of silence was thrown over the whole criminal enterprise.

Unfortunately, it goes even deeper than that.

As we wrote in 2016, based on Peter Schweizer's well-documented book, "Clinton Cash," Clinton and her associates were deeply involved with the Russians on many levels. That's what makes her recent protestations about being cheated out of the presidency by a Russian-Trump conspiracy so laughable.

Hillary Clinton's campaign chief, John Podesta, served on the board of a small Russian energy company, Joule Unlimited, along with Russian officials. It took in $35 million from a Russian government fund, of course linked to Vladimir Putin. That money came just two months after Podesta joined the board.

Podesta's own Center for American Progress took in $5.25 million from the Sea Change Foundation from 2009 to 2013. What was the Sea Change Foundation? A somewhat questionable group that received a chunk of cash from a Bermuda-based group called Klein Ltd., which appears to have ties to the Russians.

Didn't know that? Neither the Democrats nor media bothered to tell you.

Nor did Podesta. He was required by law to inform the government of that relationship, but it slipped his mind.

But even more troubling is the fact that Hillary Clinton recruited U.S. high-tech biggies such as Google, Cisco and Intel to help Russia set up a high-tech hub under the questionable auspices of the Russian Skoldovo foundation.

That group seems to have been set up by Putin-crony and Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg explicitly for the purpose of sending advanced U.S. technology to Skoldovo, a kind of Russian Silicon Valley that Putin wanted built.

But its aims weren't altruistic.

Of the 28 U.S., European and Russian firms that took part in that effort, 17 were donors to the Clinton Foundation.

FBI Assistant Special Agent Lucia Ziobro in 2014 sent a letter to those private U.S. companies taking part, which stated: "The FBI believes the true motives of the Russian partners, who are often funded by the government, is to gain access to classified, sensitive, and emerging technology from companies."

If Hillary Clinton's State Department ever objected to this arrangement, we're unaware of it.

There's of course much more. We've written on it extensively, following the lead of many diligent news organizations that have worked hard to uncover the details. But, curiously, the mainstream media remain mum, or report only perfunctorily on the details.

The fact is, as we've said repeatedly, there is a Russian scandal of epic proportions, one involving bribery, racketeering, money laundering, extortion and control of the nation's nuclear assets.

But, no, it doesn't involve Donald Trump. It involves the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton and President Obama, under whose administration the Russians felt emboldened to openly give money to government officials and their allies to gain favors and control over a vital national security resource.

Given all this, it's time to end the farcical investigation currently being conducted by Robert Mueller. A new investigation should be started of the very probable violations of the law committed by the Obama administration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.

Neither Obama, nor Clinton, nor the Democratic Party have been forthcoming on this troubling dalliance with a country that has never been friendly to the U.S., and which even today has nuclear weapons pointed in our direction. It's time that the Justice Department and Congress get to the bottom of this.

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6. Democrats Yelp As Trump Upholds ConstitutionПт., 20 окт.[−]

Donald Trump is criticized, often justly, for misstatements of facts and failure to understand the details of public policy. But in two of his most recent controversial actions, he has taken stands upholding the rule of law and undoing the lawless behavior of his most recent predecessor.

The question now is whether the author of "The Art of the Deal" — and congressional Republicans and Democrats — can maneuver and compromise on these issues in ways that produce sensible public policy.

The first action in question was Trump's Sept. 5 announcement that he would withdraw Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gave immigrants brought to the United States illegally when they were children protection from deportation.

Obama acted despite his initial explanation that the president only has the authority to faithfully execute laws, not to make them. So DACA was dressed up with a fig leaf argument that he was only exercising the kind of discretion prosecutors employ when they choose to bring one case and not another.

A nearly identical argument was rejected by federal courts considering the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program — which extended protection to undocumented immigrants with kids who are U.S. citizens — decisions left in place by the Supreme Court last year. So both DAPA and DACA looked like dead ducks legally anyway.

The second of Trump's actions was his Oct. 12 statement that he would suspend cost-sharing reduction payments to health insurance companies. The Obama administration had been making CSR payments since 2014 even though Obamacare's Section 1401 does not appropriate the money for the payments authorized in Section 1402.

This was blatantly unconstitutional. "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law," states Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution. The House of Representatives sued, and in May 2016, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled that the billions paid in subsidies were illegal.

Administration lawyers made complex, sophisticated arguments that Obama's clearly illegal actions were actually legal. I'm a graduate of Yale Law School; I know how this is done. Many Americans suspect that condescending elite law school graduates are contemptuous of them and their naive belief that words mean what they say. My experience is that those suspicions are well-founded.

So what to do now about DACA recipients ("dreamers") and insurance companies denied their CSRs?

Trump has made clear that he would sign a DACA-like bill together with some 70 other immigration law changes, including mandatory E-Verify for job applicants, creation of the "southern border wall," hiring more immigration judges and replacing extended-family "chain migration" with a skills-based point system.

Democrats are bridling at these demands, and mainstream media quickly declared any deal impossible. But polls show that most are highly popular, and Democrats can't pass legislation by themselves.

Trump's list is obviously an opening move in a negotiation, so the question is whether Democrats are willing to negotiate.

Trump's decision to follow the Constitution on CSRs raises the possibility of short-term hurt for some insurers and higher premiums for non-subsidized people with health insurance. Other proposals he has told his appointees to explore, such as expanding the Obama-imposed three-month limit for short-term insurance policies with less coverage than ObamaCare requires, might help.

On Monday, Trump encouraged compromise efforts by Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray. But when the senators agreed on a plan to appropriate CSR payments, though he originally said nice things about it, he rejected it Tuesday. So did House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Democrats have naturally complained that Republicans, having failed to repeal or replace ObamaCare, are trying to wreck it. There's some basis for that, but one could also say it's Democrats' own fault because they passed ObamaCare in a form even they knew was flawed.

After it passed, as Bloomberg's Megan McArdle writes, Obama resorted to "dubious executive measures that temporarily shored up the program, but weakened even further the slim foundations of political legitimacy that held it up. And here we are seven years later, watching as one by one, those supports sway or snap."

One lesson: It's hard to make complex one-size-fits-all laws work. Another: If you don't obey the law, even the cleverest lawyers may not be able to keep you out of trouble.

  • 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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7. Harvey Weinstein And FeminismПт., 20 окт.[−]

What makes Harvey Weinsteins?

The chief of Amazon studios, Roy Price, has now resigned in the wake of allegations that he made lewd comments and propositioned a producer. Lists of accused sexual predators in Hollywood and journalism are circulating on social media. President Donald Trump's long history of pawing and gawking at women has again reached center stage.

Actress Alyssa Milano, one of Weinstein's targets, fumed, "This is not an uncommon occurrence. This is a sick culture. Men like Harvey Weinstein are around every corner. Men who undermine women and their strength, ability and intelligence exist everywhere."

This is a common theme you find in feminist thinking. Harassment and even sexual assault are seen as part of the spectrum of sexism. It begins with disparagement of women's abilities and intelligence; then progresses to making them sexual objects; and finally results in abuse and even rape.

The "MeToo" hashtag and related posts on Facebook are intended as a feminist rallying cry. The Feministing website explains, "Gender violence doesn't exist without white supremacy (such as racism, colonialism, zionism (sic), militarism."

That's hard to beat for dimness. In China, according to a UN study, 23% admit to rape. In Papua New Guinea, 61% of men say the same.

What if boorishness isn't a form of sexism, but merely bad behavior? Let's face it, many a flagrant lecher — Bill Clinton, anyone? — has been a stalwart and possibly even sincere feminist. Many a womanizer seeks absolution for his grubby conduct by ostentatious displays of political correctness. The louts seem to calculate that they earn gropes for every contribution to Emily's List or the National Organization for Women. Weinstein offered a particularly pathetic appeal to left-wing sympathies by declaring that he would train even more fire on the NRA.

Feminism made a critical misstep when it joined forces with the sexual revolution in the 1970s. Women needed more outlets for their sexuality, they claimed. Traditional notions about women being more interested in relationships than in casual encounters were outmoded. In 2014, feminist Hanna Rosin looked forward, only slightly tongue-in-cheek, to an era when women would surpass men in sex scandals.

For decades feminists have made abortion the signature feminist issue — thus signaling that consequence-free sex for men (who don't undergo the surgery and heartbreak) was a key goal. Feminists may not have intended to thereby send the message that they were all in on the sexual free-for-all, but some men concluded as much nonetheless. Feminists set themselves a contradictory task — to insist that men and women were indistinguishable in their sexual tastes and appetites but then to demand that men respect women's particular reserve.

It would be healthier for our culture — about which Alyssa Milano is not wrong — if feminism were more realistic about human nature. Male sexual aggressiveness has been a challenge every civilization has had to manage. Among some Orthodox Jews, one answer is to set such strict limits on contacts between the sexes that men do not even touch women they are not related to — not even to shake hands. This can lead to other problems when Orthodox men's reticence is misunderstood by others, but it isn't crazy. How many of us have been hugged a little too long and a little too aggressively by men taking advantage of the fact that they can get away with it?

I could easily sign on the #MeToo campaign. Sexual harassment cost me a summer job in college. But the "men equal bad, women equal good" slogan is a bit too simplistic. I've seen my share of women behaving badly, too. Older women very seldom demand sexual favors from younger men (sorry, Hanna Rosin), but I've seen young women use sex to get ahead in workplaces, sometimes targeting other women's husbands. And I've known men of all backgrounds, religious affiliations and political views who were perfect gentlemen not because they were feminists but because they were raised right.

A more realistic approach to sexual misbehavior would be to acknowledge that the temptation is always there. Most men aren't predators — but why make it easier for those who are by pretending that a business meeting in a hotel room is anything other than wrong? Even in offices, an open door is a good policy when a man and woman are alone.

Perhaps the slogan we need — for both sexes — is #BeDecent.

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

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8. Trump Bends The Knee To King CornПт., 20 окт.[−]

Corny Capitalism: This is one campaign promise we wish President Trump would break. But alas, he just told his EPA to give up any thought of cutting back on the federal government's anti-consumer, anti-environment ethanol mandate. Sad.

The story begins in 2005, when President Bush approved the Renewable Fuel Standard program as part of an energy bill, which required oil refiners to blend in predetermined amounts of "biofuels" into their gasoline, starting at 4 billion gallons in 2006.

A revised version of the RFS, which Bush signed in 2007, expanding the program, requiring ethanol levels to climb steadily to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

The argument at the time was that forcing ethanol into the market — which is mainly derived from corn — would cut energy imports, improve energy security, reduce pollution, lower fuel costs and create jobs.

Even if those reasons were sufficient at the time to justify this heavy-handed government intervention in the energy market — and we don't think they were — today's energy picture makes the ethanol mandate entirely obsolete.

Thanks to the fracking revolution, the U.S. is now awash in domestic supplies of oil and natural gas. Oil prices have dropped and net imports are lower than they've been in more than 30 years. The U.S. could become a net exporter of oil within a decade.

So the idea that replacing some oil with ethanol is vital to national security or stable energy prices is a relic of a bygone era.

Nor is the RFS a win for the environment. In fact, various studies have shown that, when you consider the entire life cycle of each energy source, ethanol is a bigger polluter than gasoline. A 2014 University of Minnesota study, for example, found that "corn ethanol is about twice as damaging to the air quality as gasoline." The Environmental Working Group has called ethanol "a disaster for the climate."

Ethanol is also bad for fuel economy because it is less energy dense than gasoline. The Department of Energy says that mixing 10% ethanol into gasoline cuts vehicle mileage by up to 4%. The more ethanol, the worse the mileage.

But here's the worst part about the Renewable Fuel Standard — it threatens to wreck millions of cars on the road.

At the moment, the standard for ethanol blends is 10%. There's good reason for that. Studies have shown that higher levels of ethanol can damage engines and fuel systems in existing cars, to say nothing of lawn mowers, boats and other equipment. In fact, several carmakers have said that using a 15% ethanol blend could void a car's warranty, if the car isn't specifically designed to handle higher ethanol levels.

The problem is that when lawmakers set the annual RFS amounts back in 2007, they assumed that gasoline use would continue to climb at a rapid pace, and so ethanol would remain a small percentage of the total gasoline consumed.

Gasoline sales, however, climbed far more slowly than expected. And refiners say that they won't be able to meet the rising RFS annual mandates without breaching that 10% limit.

When the EPA under Scott Pruitt announced in early October that the agency was considering slightly lowering the mandated level for ethanol next year, it sparked a firestorm from Republicans. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley accused Trump of a "bait and switch." He and Iowa's other senator, Joni Ernst, threatened to block Trump's EPA appointments. Several Republican governors from the Corn Belt sent a letter to Trump warning him than any cutback in the RFS would be "highly disruptive, unprecedented and potentially catastrophic."

This week, Trump told Pruitt to back off any talk of cutting the RFS mandate.

It's a shame that Trump caved on this issue. He, more than anyone else, should know that the free market is the best way to determine how much, if any, ethanol should be added to gasoline.

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9. Yes, Weinstein Accusers Are Brave — So Were Jones, Willey and BroaddrickЧт., 19 окт.[−]

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among others, praised the Weinstein accusers for their "courage." For decades, Weinstein, a big Democratic donor who could make or break Hollywood careers, apparently preyed on young women. Over 30 women have now come forth, with five alleging rape.

But where were Hollywood's social justice warriors the past 30 years?

After all, Hollywood insiders call Weinstein's behavior Hollywood's worst kept secret. The television series "Entourage," based on the world of Hollywood agents, portrayed an obnoxious, browbeating character, Harvey Weingard, clearly based on Weinstein. On NBC's series "30 Rock," one character made the following joke: "I turned down intercourse with Harvey Weinstein on no less than three occasions — out of five."

At the 2013 Oscar awards show, host Seth MacFarlane, after reading the names of the five nominees in the supporting actress category, joked, "Congratulations. You five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein." Today MacFarlane says, "I couldn't resist the opportunity to take a hard swing in his direction," after his friend, actress Jessica Barth, confided that she had been sexually harassed by Weinstein in his hotel room in 2011.

So, many in the Hollywood industry said and did nothing — until now. The courageous women coming forward deserve praise and encouragement for speaking out. But where was this support for the accusers of Bill and Hillary Clinton?

Former Arkansas staffer Paula Jones accused then-Gov. and presidential candidate Bill Clinton of sexual harassment. Clinton aide James Carville famously said, "If you drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you'll find." Jones said she sought help from the National Organization for Women, but they refused to support her.

Kathleen Willey, on "60 Minutes," described being a victim of alleged sexual battery by Clinton in the Oval Office. Willey, a Clinton campaign volunteer, says that Clinton took her hand and placed it on his aroused genitalia: "He touched my breasts with his hand ... and then he whispered ... 'I've wanted to do this ever since I laid eyes on you.' ... He took my hand, and he put it ... on his genitals." Willey said she managed to push him away. Not only did the left's social justice warriors refuse to support her, feminist Gloria Steinem actually defended Clinton! Days after Willey's appearance, Steinem wrote, "Even if (Willey's) allegations are true, the President is not guilty of sexual harassment. ... (Willey) pushed him away, she said, and it never happened again. In other words, President Clinton took 'no' for an answer." Incredible.

Juanita Broaddrick, on "Dateline NBC," accused Clinton of raping her when he was Arkansas attorney general and a gubernatorial candidate: "I first pushed him away. I just told him 'no.' ... He tries to kiss me again. He starts biting on my lip. ... And then he forced me down on the bed. I just was very frightened. I tried to get away from him. I told him 'no.' ... He wouldn't listen to me."

Broaddrick also claims that two weeks after the alleged rape, Hillary Clinton verbally intimidated her. According to Broaddrick, Hillary approached her at a political event: "She came over to me, took ahold of my hand and said, 'I've heard so much about you and I've been dying to meet you. ... I just want you to know how much that Bill and I appreciate what you do for him.' ... (Hillary Clinton) took ahold of my hand and squeezed it and said, 'Do you understand? Everything that you do.' I could have passed out at that moment, and I got my hand from hers and I left. ... She was just holding onto my hand. Because I had started to turn away from her and she held onto my hand and she said, 'Do you understand? Everything that you do,' I mean, cold chills went up my spine. That's the first time I became afraid of that woman."

What was the media's response to Broaddrick's accusation?

It appears that the only national reporter to ever ask Bill Clinton about Broaddrick's allegations was Sam Donaldson. After Donaldson's question, Clinton said, "I have decided ... that I would allow all future questions to be answered by my attorneys." Donaldson quickly tried again, asking the then-President to "simply deny it." Clinton responded, "There's been a statement made by my attorney. He speaks for me, and I think he spoke quite clearly." And that was that.

Where were the Hollywood social justice warriors back then, when the accused was Bill Clinton? After all, Hillary Clinton once said that when women make allegations of abuse, "everyone should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence." Didn't Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state, repeatedly say, "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other!"?

Based on the way the left treated Jones, Willey, Broaddrick and other Bill and Hillary Clinton accusers, that "special place" could get rather crowded.

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

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10. North Korea's Cyber ArmyЧт., 19 окт.[−]

It turns out that North Korea isn't just a nuclear threat. It's also a cyberthreat, and in some ways, this may be more frightening. Launched largely anonymously, cyberattacks can cripple essential infrastructure — power grids, financial networks, transportation systems — and inflict social disorder and political anarchy. Immediate retaliation is difficult.

All this now seems plausible.

Until recently, cybersecurity experts dismissed North Korea's attack capabilities. It was too backward to pose a serious threat. No more. In a lengthy front-page story on Oct. 16, The New York Times reported that cybersecurity experts admit that they underestimated North Korea, which has now been tied to some major cyberattacks. This includes the heist of an estimated $81 million of funds from the central bank of Bangladesh.

The Times' story ought to command everyone's attention. It alters the military balance between the United States and North Korea — and not favorably for the United States. Written by journalists David Sanger, David Kirkpatrick and Nicole Perlroth, the article reported that North Korea has more than 6,000 hackers whose performance is "undeniably improving," according to American and British security experts.

North Korea "can hold large swaths of nation-state infrastructure and private-sector infrastructure at risk," said former deputy director of the National Security Agency Chris Inglis. In part, the North Koreans were instructed and encouraged by Iran, the Times said. But mostly, their gains reflected persistence.

"How can such an isolated, backward country have this capability?" asked a former British government official. "Well, how can such an isolated backward country have this nuclear ability?"

In the Times story, the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is quoted, based on the testimony of a defector, as saying in 2003: "If warfare was about bullets and oil until now ... warfare in the 21st century is about information."

Here are some other takeaways from the article:

  • The goal in the Bangladesh heist was to divert $1 billion through electronic fund transfers. A clerical error stopped most of the transfer. Still, North Korea allegedly reaped $81 million and earns up to $1 billion annually from ransomware and other digital techniques. These funds dilute the effectiveness of sanctions against Kim's regime.
  • North Korea was behind the so-called WannaCry hack — one of the largest to date — in May. The ransomware attack shut down hospitals in Britain and affected "banks and transportation systems across dozens of countries." Even now, it's not clear what the hack's intent was, except possibly to stir chaos. Another fortuitous discovery of a software error shut down the hack.
  • North Korea is reported to have penetrated South Korea's military computers "to steal war plans." It may also have planted "sleeper cells" in South Korea that, in the event of war, "could be activated to paralyze power supplies and military command and control networks."

By the Times' telling, North Korea's capabilities go well beyond its angry response to the 2014 movie satire, "The Interview," when it hacked Sony Pictures, the studio that produced the movie. Still, North Korea continues to resort to hacks to deter criticism of Kim.

Just how the United States can react to North Korea's cyberprowess is unclear. According to the Times, "Hundreds, if not thousands, of American cyberwarriors spend each day mapping the North's few networks, looking for vulnerabilities that could be activated in time of crisis." By some accounts, the United States has planted sleeper cells in North Korea's networks.

But the United States is constrained by its huge commitment to the internet. We are more dependent on the web than the North Koreans. In practice, this means that we are more vulnerable to attacks on it. More systems can be shut down and crippled than in North Korea. Americans think that technological superiority works to our benefit. Here, the opposite may be true.

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

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11. In Blocking Abortion Legislation, Democrats Will Display Their Cultural ExtremismЧт., 19 окт.[−]

What would America's abortion policy be if the number of months in the gestation of a human infant were a prime number — say, seven or eleven? This thought experiment is germane to why the abortion issue has been politically toxic, and points to a path toward a less bitter debate. The House of Representatives has for a third time stepped onto this path. Senate Democrats will, for a third time, block this path when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brings the House bill to the floor, allowing Democrats to demonstrate their extremism and aversion to bipartisan compromise.

Democracy, which properly is government by persuasion rather than majority bullying or executive or judicial policy fiats, is a search for splittable differences. Abortion, which supposedly is the archetypal issue that confounds efforts at compromise, has for two generations — since the Supreme Court seized custody of the issue in 1973 — damaged political civility.

Pro-abortion absolutists — meaning those completely content with the post-1973 regime of essentially unrestricted abortion-on-demand at any point in pregnancy — are disproportionately Democrats who, they say, constitute the Party of Science. They are aghast that the Department of Health and Human Services now refers to protecting people at "every stage of life, beginning at conception." This, however, is elementary biology, not abstruse theology: Something living begins then — this is why it is called conception. And absent a natural malfunction or intentional intervention (abortion), conception results in a human birth.

In 1973, the court decreed — without basis in the Constitution's text, structure or history, or in embryology or other science — a trimester policy. It postulated, without a scintilla of reasoning, moral and constitutional significance in the banal convenience that nine is divisible by three. The court decided that the right to abortion becomes a trifle less than absolute — in practice, not discernibly less — when the fetus reaches viability, meaning the ability to survive outside the womb. The court stipulated that viability arrived at 24 to 28 weeks.

On Oct. 3, the House passed (237-189) the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act banning abortions (with the usual exceptions concerning rape, incest and the life of the mother) after the 20th week. The act's supposition is that by then the fetus will feel pain when experiencing the violence of being aborted, and that this matters. Of course, pro-abortion absolutists consider the phrase "unborn child" oxymoronic, believing that from conception until the instant of delivery, the pre-born infant is mere "fetal material," as devoid of moral significance as would be a tumor in the (if they will pardon the provocative expression) mother.

Whether a 20-week fetus has neurological pathways sufficient for feeling pain is surely a question that science can answer, if it has not already. Already there are myriad intrauterine medical procedures, some involving anesthesia: Doctors can heal lives that America's extremely permissive abortion law says can be terminated with impunity. Only seven nations allow unrestricted abortion after 20 weeks. Most European nations restrict abortions by at least week 13. France and Germany are very restrictive after 12, Sweden after 18.

Getting a scientific answer to the pain question, even if it is "yes," should gratify the Party of Science. If the answer is "yes," those who think fetal suffering is irrelevant can explain why they do.

New medical technologies and techniques are lowering the age of viability. And increasingly vivid sonograms, showing beating hearts and moving fingers, make it increasingly difficult to argue that the "fetal material" is at no point, in any way, a baby. Science is presenting inconvenient truths to the Party of Science, truths that are the reasons the percentage of pregnancies aborted is the smallest since 1973.

In 1973, the court bizarrely called the fetus "potential life"; it is, of course, undeniably alive and biologically human. A large American majority is undogmatic, because uncertain, about — and the House bill does not address — the question of when the living thing that begins at conception should be held to acquire personhood protectable by law. This majority's commonsensical, prudently imprecise, split-the-difference answer is: Not at conception but well before completed gestation. Hence this majority, its vocabulary provided by the court's arbitrary jurisprudence, thinks first-trimester abortions (more than 90% of abortions) should be legal. After which, approximately a two-thirds majority supports restricting abortions.

When — the sooner the better — the House bill comes to the Senate floor, Democrats will prevent a vote on it. This will be a tutorial on the actual extremists in our cultural conflicts.


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12. Senate Investigates Russia, Hillary Clinton, Obama, Uranium And Bribes — And It's About TimeЧт., 19 окт.[−]

Obama Scandals: We now know, thanks to an investigation by The Hill, that the Russian scandal's roots go far deeper than first thought, extending all the way to the start of the Obama administration. Many people seemed to know about it: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder and, even, President Obama himself. Now, a Senate committee wants to know how much they knew, and why no one stopped the criminal behavior.

The scandal over Russia has suddenly, weirdly morphed from being about "Russian meddling" in the 2016 election to actual criminal behavior by Russian nuclear industry officials who were involved in bribes, extortion, kickbacks and money laundering here in the U.S. — all part of Russian leader Vladimir Putin's efforts to elbow his way into the U.S. uranium market.

It's finally dawning on people: The Russian nuclear racketeering was an Obama administration scandal, which Congress ignored and the Justice Department investigated but did nothing to stop. Justice looked into the Russian crimes in 2009 and 2010, but waited until 2014 to do anything about it. And even then, it didn't answer any of the larger questions. It can't be ignored any longer.

"According to government documents and recent news reports, the Justice Department had an ongoing criminal investigation for bribery, extortion, money laundering, into officials for a Russian company making purchase of Uranium One," said Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. "That purchase was approved during previous administration and resulted in Russians owning 20% of America's uranium mining capacity."

XAutoplay: On | OffAs Grassley noted, the Russian takeover of a significant portion of our uranium assets took place despite what appears to be Russia's blatant criminal conduct — conduct more befitting of an organized crime syndicate than representatives of a responsible national government.

For the record, as has been extensively documented, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seems to be the nexus of much of this Russian criminality — ironic, given her current "What Happened" book tour, and her ongoing complaints that the Russians sabotaged her campaign.

Even as the Justice Department was looking into Russia's criminal activity, in 2010 President Obama's interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) curiously cleared Russia's state-owned Rosatom to buy Uranium One, a Canadian mining company. Uranium One had extensive holdings in U.S. uranium, so the purchase required U.S. government approval.

Does it seem strange that an American administration would OK the acquisition of 20% of America's uranium resources by a hostile nuclear power? How could that be?

It only makes sense if you understand what else was going on, namely Hillary Clinton's aggressive use of her State Department perch to raise money for the family "charity," the Clinton Foundation. That Clinton used her office to the foundation's advantage, there can be little doubt.

The Clinton Foundation took in some $145 million in contributions from Uranium One shareholders, much of it coming at about the time that deal won approval from CFIUS — the investment panel on which both Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder conveniently sat. Is that a coincidence? Or that the Justice Department waited until 2014, the year after Hillary left office, to take any action in the Russian criminal matters? Or that details of the Uranium One deal didn't come out until 2015, the year Eric Holder left office? Was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's "reset" with the Russian government in 2009 just part of a wider plan to enrich her own family foundation with Russian cash?

We'd sure like to know the answers to these and other questions. At the very least, there is a clear prima facie case to be made for an investigation into the pay-for-play behavior in the Obama administration. We would hope that Sen. Grassley, whose investigation is just getting underway, would issue subpoenas to all the relevant parties — former President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, and former Attorney General Eric Holder.

Then and only then will the American people discover the true dimensions of Russian meddling in the U.S. — and whether high officials in the Obama administration, in particular Hillary Clinton, committed crimes in office.

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13. The Volkswagen Emissions Scandal And The Bureaucratic Pursuit Of PowerЧт., 19 окт.[−]

Never let a crisis go to waste, say the politicos, a stance adapted for its purposes by the permanent regulatory bureaucracy: Never let a corporate scandal go to waste.

That is what comes to mind as we behold the investigations and regulatory stances following in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal that emerged in 2015, a truly brazen act of business malfeasance that will cost VW at least $15 billion in fines and other costs.

And it is likely to alter little that the behavior and technology choices of Volkswagen and the rest of the industry differ diametrically, to which point we return below.

To a degree greater than that for gasoline engines, the design of diesel engines must confront the problem of reducing emissions of both nitrogen oxides (NOx) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Lower engine-combustion temperatures reduce emissions of NOx but increase emissions of PM2.5, while higher engine-combustion temperatures increase NOx emissions and reduce those of PM2.5.

A regulatory change in 1999 required both diesel and gasoline engines to meet the same NOx emissions standards, making necessary the installation of additional diesel emissions-control equipment.

Two NOx-control technologies are both practical and economic for diesel engines. A selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system adds urea and water ("diesel emissions fluid") to the exhaust flow, which breaks the NOx down into nitrogen and carbon dioxide. This system requires a reservoir for the diesel emissions fluid, a pump and a delivery system for the exhaust flow.

A nitrogen oxide trap "absorbs" nitrogen oxides during the fuel combustion process; when the trap is saturated to capacity, some diesel fuel is injected into the trap, converting the NOx into nitrogen and regenerating the trap system. Crucially, this use of diesel fuel does not power the engine, thus degrading fuel economy.

Unlike the rest of the industry, which adopted the SCR system for its diesel vehicles, VW opted for the nitrogen-oxide trap, because the space requirements for the SCR system would interfere with the need for other equipment demanded by many consumers, particularly in the small passenger cars incorporating the VW diesel engines. The floor plan would have to be changed, a second filler would be needed for the diesel emissions fluid, a quarter-panel might have to be redesigned, and the re-engineered vehicle would have to go through full crash certification.

The costs of such a redesign made no business sense for the small passenger diesel market in the U.S. Nonetheless, VW advertised its "clean diesel" technology as highly fuel efficient while meeting "the strictest EPA standards in the U.S."

Those promises proved very difficult to achieve: Independent testing found a "noticeable decline in fuel economy" for the VW models when the nitrogen oxide trap systems were operating properly. Nonetheless, VW certified its compliance with the NOx standards, and the EPA issued a Certificate of Conformity allowing the sale of its diesel passenger cars in the U.S.

Subsequent vehicle testing by the EPA revealed that VW had installed software in the vehicles' computer systems that sensed when the vehicles were being tested, activating the nitrogen oxide trap systems. When being driven on the road the software simply shut down the traps, thus "defeating" the emission control systems.

Note that VW is the only auto manufacturer accused of explicitly installing such systems to defeat the NOx emissions control systems.

There is the further problem that on-road emissions greater than those measured on dynamometer tests are not necessarily evidence of cheating. The specific protocols of the dynamometer tests, however honestly and diligently designed, may not replicate actual on-road driving behavior and conditions by vehicle owners and operators.

A large number of variables affect emissions performance, and it is extremely difficult to choose among the myriad sets of relevant conditions. Accordingly, emissions observed as greater in on-road conditions than those measured in dynamometer tests may substantially or wholly result from biases in the latter. That disparity can be observed even if the emissions control equipment is operating as designed, as certified to the EPA, and as advertised to the public.

Nonetheless, the VW scandal reportedly has yielded a series of other investigations. Perhaps actual cheating will be discovered, although none has been made public.

But it is worth bearing in mind that the regulatory bureaucracy itself has incentives that are not entirely salutary, as the VW cheating scandal has provided a rationale for what can be described as fishing expeditions in pursuit of objectives not at all environmental.

The investigations provide an argument for increases in the regulatory agencies' budgets. Fines and settlements can further the ideological goals of the regulators, as the manufacturers are forced to fund particular projects not approved by Congress in the budget process, a perverse system that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has begun to constrain.

There is the further matter that the Trump administration has reinstituted the midterm review of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for model years 2022-2025, after the Obama administration had canceled that review just before leaving office. It's possible that the VW cheating scandal has given the federal regulators a bargaining chip with which to induce the manufacturers to agree to a higher, rather than lower, CAFE standard.

In short, it is perverse to fail to distinguish between the behavior of VW and that of the rest of the industry. Such a distinction is easy to miss in the public discussion, but policymakers must keep it very much in mind.

  • Zycher is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

14. This Is An ObamaCare Bailout, Pure And SimpleСр., 18 окт.[−]

Health Reform: Although pitched as a bipartisan plan to "stabilize" the ObamaCare insurance markets, the bill now being talked up in the Senate would hand $14 billion over to the insurance industry and do nothing to fix ObamaCare's underlying problems.

The proposal, developed by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, would restore the roughly $7 billion in annual "cost sharing reduction" subsidies paid to insurance companies through 2019.

This money is meant to offset the cost of providing plans with reduced deductibles and co-payments to low-income families. Insurers say that without the subsidy payments, they'd have to hike insurance premiums on everyone in the ObamaCare exchanges even more.

ObamaCare required lawmakers to authorize the CSR payments each year, but they never did so. The Obama administration simply paid them out anyway. But last week, President Trump announced that he was cutting off these illegal subsidy payments. By doing so, he gave Republicans some leverage to force more changes to ObamaCare; they could offer to restore them, temporarily, if Democrats agreed to some significant changes to ObamaCare.

The "compromise" Senate plan worked up by Alexander and Murray squanders that leverage.

In exchange for restoring the subsidies — as well as reinstating wasteful ObamaCare ad funds the administration rightly nixed — Alexander and Murray offer Republicans ... nothing. Or about as close to nothing as you can get.

States would supposedly get more flexibility. But that's a facade. The bill would merely "streamline" ObamaCare's existing and extremely limited waiver process, for whatever good that will do. The bill would also expand eligibility to ObamaCare's "catastrophic" health plan — which is currently only available to those under 30 and which almost no one buys. But even that meager change wouldn't kick in until 2019.

Meanwhile, states would still be required to comply with all the ObamaCare rules and regulations and benefit mandates that caused the market turmoil in the first place. That means more rate hikes, more insurance defections, and more middle-class families priced out of the insurance market.

Remember: Even when the Obama administration was (illegally) making CSR subsidy payments, insurers were hiking premiums by double digits and dropping out of ObamaCare markets left and right, leaving vast swathes of the country with a monopoly market.

In fact, before Trump was elected, the number of counties with just one ObamaCare insurer jumped from 2% in 2015 to 21%. Arizona had 11 insurers in the ObamaCare exchanges in 2015, but just two this year. Even before Trump announced he was cutting off the CSR funds, insurers announced they were leaving still more markets next year.

ObamaCare backers say the ObamaCare exchanges were finally starting to stabilize before Trump messed things up. But we've heard this refrain every year, only to see another round of premium hikes and insurance exits. Had Trump not ended the CSR payments, premiums for 2018 would still have climbed by double digits — hardly the sign of a healthy, stable market.

Even the New York Times admitted as much, saying that "If approved, the agreement could provide a reprieve for the Affordable Care Act. ... But consumers in many states will still face double-digit rate increases, and in many counties, health plans will be available from only one insurance company."

Sen. Alexander says that protecting ObamaCare for two years is a big win because "After that, we can have a full-fledged debate on where we go long-term on health care."

So, we're supposed to believe that after seven years spent promising to repeal ObamaCare and then failing to do so, the GOP's hand will be strengthened by letting ObamaCare run for another two years — with the added complication that Republicans will have "temporarily" put their stamp of approval on every one of ObamaCare's key features.

Trump has sent mixed signals about this deal. But on thing should be clear: If Republicans are going to agree to pony up an additional $14 billion worth of ObamaCare protection money, they should at the very least get some meaningful free-market fixes in return.

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15. Free At Last!Ср., 18 окт.[−]

Free at last! Free at last! That's the message for millions who don't get health coverage at work and, until now, faced two dismal options: going without insurance or paying ObamaCare's soaring premiums. Last week, President Donald Trump announced regulatory changes that will potentially allow consumers to choose coverage options costing half what ObamaCare's cheapest bronze plans cost. Democrats are already accusing the president of kneecapping ObamaCare, but in fact these changes will actually reduce the number of uninsured — something Democrats claim is their goal.

The Affordable Care Act requires everyone to buy the one-size-fits-all Washington-designed benefit package. You have to pay for maternity care, even if you're too old to give birth. You're also on the hook for pediatric dental care, even if you're childless. It's like passing a law that the only car you can buy is a fully loaded, four-door sedan. No more hatchbacks, convertibles or two-seaters.

Trump's taking the opposite approach — allowing consumers choice. His new regulation would free people to once again buy short-term health plans that exclude many costly services such as inpatient drug rehab. These plans are not guaranteed renewable year to year. The upside is they cost much less.

Short-term plans have been around for years. But after ObamaCare premiums began soaring, these plans became very attractive to people who were not eligible for an ObamaCare subsidy and balked at paying full freight. Hundreds of thousands of customers signed up for these short-term plans — that is, until the Obama administration slammed the door shut. A year ago, Obama slapped a 90-day limit on these plans, as a way to force people into ObamaCare, no matter how unaffordable. His way or the highway.

Trump is removing Obama's 90-day limit, reopening that low-cost option. That's good news for some 8 million people currently getting whacked with an ObamaCare tax penalty for not having insurance, and another 11 million uninsured who avoided the penalty by pleading hardship. Count on many of them to buy coverage when they have an affordable option. That will reduce the number of uninsured.

Yet, Democrats are ranting that Trump's regulatory changes are sabotaging the Affordable Care Act. They warn that healthy people will abandon the ObamaCare exchanges to buy these low-cost plans, destabilizing the system.

Of course they will. Why shouldn't they? After all, ObamaCare unfairly forces the healthy to pay the same for insurance as the chronically ill. Healthy people never reach their sky-high deductibles. Instead, the premiums extorted from them are used to cover huge medical bills for the sick, who consume 10 times as much health care. Of course, people with pre-existing conditions should be subsidized, but instead of burdening healthy insurance buyers in the individual market, the entire nation should chip in. That's what Republican ObamaCare replacement bills proposed.

Obamacare's community pricing is the biggest reason premiums have soared since 2013.

That hasn't been a problem for the millions getting subsidies. But it is clobbering the 8.8 million people who get no subsidies from Uncle Sam. Their premiums have more than doubled since 2014 and are set to go up another 25% to 35% this winter. Expect many of these customers to bail out and buy the cheaper options available because of Trump's new regulation.

A less-detailed part of Trump's announcement gives the green light to so-called association insurance plans, which would allow small employers and perhaps even individuals to group together across state lines. The purpose would be to give them the same purchasing clout as large, multistate employers. Time will tell whether these work out.

Yesterday, Trump seized the initiative after Congressional Republicans fell flat on their faces and failed to address the pain ObamaCare is inflicting on consumers stuck in the individual insurance market.

The president should keep going with his regulatory pen. What's next? Trump should use his discretion to stop enforcing the tax penalty on those who don't buy Obamacare-compliant plans, including people seizing the chance to buy affordable short-term plans.

Then Trump should cancel the sweetheart deal his predecessor weaseled for members of Congress and their staff members. Even though the Affordable Care Act requires them to purchase their coverage on ObamaCare exchanges and follow the same rules as the rest of us, Obama arranged for them to have a choice of 57 gold plans and have John Q. Public pick up most of their costs. It's an outrage.

Once members of Congress are feeling the same pain as everyone else, they'll be more focused on repealing and replacing the dysfunctional health law. In the meantime, Trump is wisely providing relief where it counts the most — in people's wallets.

  • 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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16. Liberal Billionaires Are Never VillainsСр., 18 окт.[−]

Charles Pierce, the resident radical-left political pundit at Esquire magazine — that intellectual powerhouse best known for its Sexiest Woman Alive award — is lamenting the role of Steve Bannon in electing President Trump, as well as Trump financial backers "Robert and Rebekah Mercer, the reactionary New York gozillionnaires."

Pierce wanted everyone to read about a lawsuit filed in May (news that's almost half a year old is "breaking" if the targets are conservatives) by a former Bob Mercer employee named David Magerman who, reportedly against company policy, felt compelled to tell The Wall Street Journal that his boss had "contempt for the social safety net" and wanted "government be shrunk down to the size of a pinhead." (Horrors!) In his lawsuit, Magerman upped the ante and claimed that Mercer held racist views.

Full disclosure: The Mercers are not just supporters; they are friends. That kind of repugnant slur is undeserving of a response and will get none here.

Magerman is irrelevant. That lawsuit being described as "news" is silly. So, why the story? It's all about "gozillionaires."

Left-wingers in the media believe gozillionaires are a malignant force in politics — unless they are on the "right side of history." The Mercers get an amazing amount of media ink — most of it predictably negative — because they aren't. They are conservatives. Worse, they are rich conservatives. Their wealth is dangerous. They are dangerous. They must be exposed!

But check out the Forbes list of top billionaires. At the top of the pile sits Bill Gates, a liberal. Next in line is Warren Buffett, who's also a liberal. He's followed by Jeff Bezos, another liberal. No. 5 is uber-liberal Mark Zuckerberg. No. 10 is Michael Bloomberg, another leftist. George Soros, a radical leftist if ever there was one, registers at No. 30. In fact, there are liberals all over the Forbes World's Billionaires list.

You won't find the Mercers in the top 1,000.

Quick: When was the last time — or when was there ever a time — you remember a media story that focused on the controversial views of Gates, Buffett, Bezos, Zuckerberg, Bloomberg or Soros?

It's quite the opposite. A few months ago, the very same Esquire writer mocked the Trump people for objecting to liberal gozillionaires. According to Pierce, conservatives thought anti-Trump protesters in Washington, D.C., were "some sort of a plot concocted by George Soros." To object to political activity by wealthy people on the left is to dabble in cockamamie conspiracy theories, this being just another one of them.

Except it was true. The Media Research Center documented that Soros and his Open Society Foundations had contributed $246 million between 2010 and 2014 to 100 of the 544 groups listed as partners of the Women's March on Washington the day after the inauguration. Did the liberal media care? Were they alarmed? They yawned. Soros is on the "right side of history."

These self-righteous attacks on the Mercers are nothing new. Before Bob and Rebekah Mercer, there were David and Charles Koch. And before them, there was Richard Mellon Scaife, dubbed the "godfather of the vast right-wing conspiracy" by some liberals. Twenty years ago, Time magazine's list of the 25 most influential people identified Scaife as a "conservative agitator" who controlled foundations that help subsidize "rabidly anti-Clinton magazines." Pages later, Time described Soros as a "philanthropist" with an "iconoclastic critique of free-market capitalism."

Liberal gozillionaires are hailed as Time's "Persons of the Year" (Bill and Melinda Gates) or get a Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Obama (Buffett). It doesn't hurt that liberal journalists can often thank these billionaires for jobs — or be grateful that their colleagues are employed by them. Buffett, Bloomberg, Zuckerberg and Bezos are all in the left-wing media business now.

The same trend applies to leftist foundations like the Ford Foundation (with a $12 billion endowment), The Pew Charitable Trusts ($5 billion-plus endowment) and the Rockefeller Foundation ($4 billion-plus endowment). Toss in the Carnegie Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and so many more. Is there controversy? Anywhere? Conservatives have nothing to match any of them.

As we type these words, it has just been announced that Soros has transferred a cool $18 billion to his radical Open Society Foundations in recent years, making it instantly the second largest foundation in the world after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

But it's still all about the Mercers.

  • 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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17. 'Raising Awareness' Isn't Helping MuchСр., 18 окт.[−]

"Awareness must be raised."

"A spotlight must be brought to this crucial issue."

"We must all think about our own culpability."

These tired nostrums are repeatedly deployed in our politics to explain why someone complains about a broad problem or tells a specific story of victimization without accompanying evidence that would allow us to act. Accusations of institutional racism rarely come along with specific allegations regarding specific police officers. If allegations and names were included, we could all look at the evidence and determine whether or not to call for consequences. Stories of sexual assault and harassment at work are often told without naming names. If those names were named, authorities could investigate; the media could begin collecting data; and we could do something about it.

But that would be useful. We don't want useful measures. We want to note how terrible things are generally.

Why?

What drives us to ignore the obvious fact that most Americans oppose specific evils and would side against those evils when presented with evidence of them occurring?

Perhaps it's our innate drive toward establishing a feeling of moral superiority. You don't get to feel morally superior when you name someone who acts in criminal fashion; you're just a witness, and witnesses are useful members of society, bettering society actively rather than criticizing it from the outside.

Or perhaps it's the burden that comes along with evidence. It's much easier to gain sympathy by telling a story about victimization without naming names — a story nobody can contradict, since you're not getting specific. In fact, if you do get too specific about allegations of sexual assault, as actress Lena Dunham did, your allegations might be called into question. And if you do get too specific about allegations of police racism and brutality, as the Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett did, your accusations might be debunked.

So, is it worthwhile to complain about generalized problems without providing specific instances upon which we can agree and against which we can fight? Only on a marginal level — and in some ways, it's actually tremendously counterproductive. It may be useful to "raise awareness" among police officers about being careful in their procedures so as not to be accused of racism, for example. It may be useful to "raise awareness" among men in offices about being careful around female employees so as not to be accused of harassment. But it may also be counterproductive to rage against the system generally because it leads to false and widespread perceptions that all police officers are cursed with the original sin of racism, or that all men are cursed with "toxic masculinity."

So, here's an idea: Let's all call out bad action when we see it and be as specific as possible about it. We can all agree on what a bad guy looks like; there isn't much debate about Harvey Weinstein. But if we continue to promote the importance of "raising awareness" rather than providing evidence, our groundless distrust for one another is bound to grow and metastasize.

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

18. Yes, The Russia Scandal Is Real — And It Involves Hillary ClintonСр., 18 окт.[−]

Clinton Scandals: For well over a year now, the progressive left in the Democratic Party have tried hard to sell the idea that, a) Russia meddled in our election, and, b) that it was to the detriment of Hillary Clinton. After nearly a year and a half of investigating, neither appears true. What is true, and now documented, is that Hillary Clinton and her family foundation both benefited handsomely from Russian corruption.

Citing federal officials and government documents, The Hill details the Russians' nuclear-industry corruption here in the U.S., citing extensive evidence that "Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin's atomic energy business" in the U.S.

But that's just the beginning. Based on both an eyewitness account and documents, The Hill report goes on to say that federal agents found evidence "indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton's charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow."

Isn't that called bribery?

XAutoplay: On | OffStrangely, the Department of Justice first discovered the Russian racketeering scheme and the links to Clinton in 2009. But it failed to bring charges, and dragged its investigation out for four years with no substantive action.

Meanwhile, in October of 2010, the State Department and the interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) curiously — and unanimously — approved the sale of part of Uranium One, a Canadian-based company with uranium interests in the U.S., to Rosatom, a Russian state holding company.

Why is this significant? That sale gave Russia, a potential nuclear foe, defacto control over 20% of the U.S.' uranium supply. Let that sink in for a minute.

Then there's this: The CFIUS that approved the Rosatom deal had two key members: Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in a clear conflict of interest materially benefited from the deal, and Attorney General Eric Holder, the man responsible for slow-walking the investigation into Russian nuclear racketeering.

So the Obama administration knew of the Russian racketeering, extortion, money laundering, and the rest, as Vladimir Putin's minions elbowed their way into the U.S. nuclear market. The Obama administration did nothing. The administration knew, too, that Hillary was selling access and influence in the State Department via donations to the family charity. But, again, it did nothing.

And these donations weren't just peanuts.

The Clintons and their foundation raked in a cool $145 million in donations and "speaking fees" just from Uranium One- and Rosatom-affiliated donors while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was supposedly keeping all Clinton Foundation business at "arm's-length." As we reported in July, Clinton official emails show extensive connections between Hillary, the Clinton Foundation and donors during her time as secretary of state, a kind of criminal conga-line of people asking for favors from Hillary and donating to the foundation.

Peter Schwiezer, the author of "Clinton Cash," questioned this "spontaneous outbreak of philanthropy among eight shareholders in Uranium One" who "decide now would be a great time to donate tens of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation."

Nor was this just a Russian thing. It was a much-broader pay-for-play scheme by Hillary Clinton. Consider this: Of the 154 private interests that were given official access to Hillary Clinton during her tenure at the State Department, at least 85 donated to the Clinton Foundation or a program affiliated with it. The secretary of state's office in Foggy Bottom might as well have had "For Sale" painted on it.

That the Clintons and their eponymous foundation got away with their corrupt arrangement for so many years without interference or censure speaks to a deep political corruption in the Obama administration. It's strange that an investigation continues into the inconsequential ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russian officials, while solid evidence of bribery of the Clinton family by the Russians and many others is completely ignored.

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19. As Nafta Talks Crash, Trump's Art Of A Presidential Deal Becomes ClearСр., 18 окт.[−]

Mexico and Canada are flatly rejecting the Trump administration's demand to transform Nafta by shifting a lot more auto production to the U.S., and the White House refuses to back down, despite the objections of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Automotive Policy Council, representing General Motors ( GM), Ford ( F) and Fiat Chrysler ( FCAU).

XAutoplay: On | OffSo are we really headed for a disruptive breakup of one of the world's biggest free-trade zones?

While trade negotiators from the three nations unsurprisingly agreed on Tuesday to extend their talks into early 2018, expect things to go right up to — but not past — the breaking point, based on the way all White House decision-making has proceeded.

Trump's top four rules for a presidential deal are becoming obvious.

Rule No. 1: Go For The Big Headline.

Right now, Trump is getting exactly the Nafta headlines he wants. Probably the only thing better, in his view, would be a much bigger news story that he's declaring that Mexico and Canada have six months to reach a deal, or else the U.S. will walk away from Nafta.

If there isn't sufficient movement in the talks, and there probably won't be, it's a pretty good bet that at some point next year, Trump will inform Congress that he intends to back out of the trade agreement within six months. In fact, Trump weighed giving that ultimatum last spring, before deciding to head to the bargaining table. Throwing down the gauntlet in 2018 may deliver political benefits in the midterm elections.

Rule No. 2: Avoid Looking Weak

Trump decertified the Iran nuclear deal earlier this month, without actually withdrawing from the agreement. The prime effect, other than to serve as another data point casting doubt on the ability of the U.S. to stand by international agreements, was to take the onus off Trump to periodically attest that the deal was in the interest of the U.S.

Trump's rejection of a deal to curb steel imports from China over the summer offers the closest parallel to the Nafta negotiation. The takeaway: Trump would rather have no deal than one that appears to give away too much.

Trump spent the early months of his presidency talking about imposing tariffs on steel imports and directing the Commerce Department to conduct an investigation into whether national security justified such tariffs. But the effort ran into a wall of resistance among steel purchasers as well as international trading partners.


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The problem was that China is the main source of steel overproduction, but it accounts for only a tiny slice of U.S. imports. Tariffs aimed at Chinese steel would have little impact, but broad steel tariffs would unfairly target producers from other nations that were playing by the rules.

Eventually, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross brought Trump a deal: China would cut steel overcapacity by 150 million tons by 2022, according to the Financial Times. But Trump rejected the deal because he preferred a solution that included tariffs, not just quotas. Steel makers such as Nucor ( NUE) have been pleading for more tariffs, but the question isn't expected to come back up before tax reform is complete.

Rule No. 3: Control Damage From Rule Nos. 1 And 2

Trump's decision in early September to end President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that protects so-called "Dreamers" from deportation avoided a headline he didn't want. Republican state attorneys general were ready to challenge the program in court unless the Trump administration confirmed that it wouldn't defend DACA.

But the move threatened to unleash chaos once Dreamers became unable to renew their two-year visas beginning in early 2018. Trump quickly signaled that he would sign legislation that preserves DACA in exchange for border security funding, even though Democrats are unlikely to agree to funding for a wall.

Rule No. 4: Take Credit

Assuming Congress can reach a deal to extend DACA, Trump will surely take credit for any additional border security and for prodding the legislative branch to act, rather than relying on executive action, as Obama did.

Likewise, Trump reportedly basked in the positive media coverage that followed his deal with top Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to extend the debt ceiling and fund the government for a mere three months.

After vowing in recent days to kill ObamaCare cost-sharing subsidies paid to insurers to shrink deductibles and medical bills for low-income policyholders, Trump criticized the subsidies for making insurers "rich" and said that his actions would force Congress to reach a deal to provide better health care coverage.

On Tuesday, after Sens. Lamar Alexander, a Republican, and Patty Murray, a Democrat, announced a legislative agreement to extend the subsidies for two years and give states more flexibility to opt out of Affordable Care Act regulations, Trump quickly signaled his support.

When faced with a potentially destabilizing deadline, as may happen in the Nafta negotiations, Trump finds a way to pivot, take the best deal he can get after all of his cards are played, and declare that the outcome is really positive.

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20. Trump Defeats ISIS In Months — After Years Of Excuses From ObamaСр., 18 окт.[−]

Terrorism: Nine months after President Trump promised to defeat ISIS "quickly and effectively," U.S.-backed forces captured Raqqa, which until Tuesday had served as the ISIS capital. The battle now is over who deserves credit: Trump or President Obama.

Trump, not surprisingly, claims it for himself: "It had to do with the people I put in and it had to do with rules of engagement," Trump said in a radio interview.

Before dismissing this as typical Trump self-aggrandizement, consider that for several years Obama insisted that a quick and decisive victory against ISIS was all but impossible.

After belittling ISIS as a "JV" team and then being surprised by its advances, Obama finally got around to announcing a strategy to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the militant Islamic group.

As his strategy dragged on and seemed to go nowhere, Obama kept telling the country that this was just the nature of the beast.

"It will take time to eradicate a cancer like (ISIS). It will take time to root them out."

"This is a long-term and extremely complex challenge."

"This will not be quick."

"There will be setbacks and there will be successes."

"We must be patient and flexible in our efforts; this is a multiyear fight and there will be challenges along the way."

XAutoplay: On | OffAnd he kept insisting that winning the war against ISIS has as much to do with public relations as it did weapons. "This broader challenge of countering extremism is not simply a military effort. Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they are defeated by better ideas."

What Obama didn't say is that reason defeating ISIS was taking so long was of how he was fighting it.

A former senior military commander in the region told the Washington Examiner that the Obama White House was micromanaging the war "to the degree that it was just as bad, if not worse, than during the Johnson administration." Johnson, you will recall, once bragged that "they can't bomb an outhouse in Vietnam without my permission."

Contrast this with Trump. Rather than talk endlessly about how long and hard the fight would be, Trump said during his campaign that, if elected, he would convene his "top generals and give them a simple instruction. They will have 30 days to submit to the Oval Office a plan for soundly and quickly defeating ISIS."

Once in office, Trump made several changes in the way the war was fought, the most important of which were to loosen the rules of engagement and give more decision-making authority to battlefield commanders.

Joshua Keating, writing in the liberal commentary site Slate, noted that Trump had "instructed the Pentagon to loosen the rules of engagement for airstrikes to the minimum required by international law, eliminated White House oversight procedures meant to protect civilians, and ordered the CIA to resume covert targeted killing missions." (He meant it as a criticism.)

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who can hardly be called a Trump lap dog, praised what he said was "a dramatic shift in a very positive way — away from the political micromanaging of the Obama years to freeing up generals and troops to destroy ISIS."

The result of this shift seems pretty obvious. In July, ISIS was booted from Mosul, and this week Raqqa was liberated. For all intents and purposes, ISIS has been defeated. Trump did in nine months what Obama couldn't in the previous three years.

Trump's critics will insist that victory was inevitable, given that Obama had severely degraded ISIS over the previous years, and that all Trump did was continue Obama's strategy.

But the bottom line is that while Obama preached patience, Trump promised a swift end to ISIS, and then delivered on it.

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21. To Fix Everything Wrong With Obama's Failed Iran Nuke Deal, Trump Had To Decertify ItВт., 17 окт.[−]

Nuclear Threat: As usual, the big media and Democrats are falling all over themselves in criticizing President Trump's decision to decertify Iran's compliance with President Obama's nuclear deal. But in truth, Trump's move was a clever one that will force both Iran and Congress to move beyond the failed status quo.

In decertifying the Iran nuclear deal, which Obama concluded in 2015 without Congress, Trump now puts the ball in Congress' court. Under legislation passed by Congress in response to Obama's deeply flawed Iran treaty — a deal so bad he didn't even dare submit it to Congress for approval — Congress now has 60 days to determine whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran, to withdraw from what most unbiased observers would agree is a very bad deal, or to come up with a plan that will actually work to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

Trump calls this "phase two" of the Iran deal.

"We'll see what phase two is. Phase two might be positive. It might be very negative. Might be a total termination," Trump said. "That' a very real possibility. Some would say that's a greater possibility. But it also could turn out to be very positive. We'll see what happens."

While once again irritating to his political foes, this is a smart move for a number of reasons.

One, there's been ample evidence that Iran has been violating the deal.

As former Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton wrote last summer, "Over the past two years, considerable information detailing Tehran's violations of the deal have become public, including: exceeding limits on uranium enrichment and production of heavy water; illicit efforts at international procurement of dual-use nuclear and missile technology; and obstructing international inspection efforts (which were insufficient to begin with)."

Obama vowed that there would be comprehensive inspections of questionable Iranian nuclear sites; but his "deal" left military sites off-limits, and some secret research sites haven't been investigated at all by international inspectors.

Two, Trump's move will force Congress to step up to the plate and live up to its constitutional responsibilities. Congress has largely been content to sit back and defer to Obama and to Trump on the Iran deal. Now it's being asked to become a full partner in strengthening the deal or crafting an alternative.

Remember, contrary to what some feared, this is not a withdrawal from the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, or JCPOA, as the Iran nuclear deal is formally called. It is rather a warning that Iran is out of compliance with the letter and spirit of the deal.

And it's also a goad to get Congress to act to make the deal stronger so that Iran doesn't continue to develop nuclear warheads and missiles with which it can threaten the U.S., Europe, and our only true regional ally, Israel. And make no mistake, Iran is doing just that. At a military parade just last week, Reuters reported, an Iranian news service boasted that "one of the weapons on display was a new ballistic missile with a range of 1,200 miles, capable of carrying several warheads."

Is that the "peaceful" use of nuclear technology Iran always says it's pursuing?

And, three, as Trump has said before, Iran took advantage of Obama, who was desperate for a deal and foolishly kept talking about a "partnership" with Tehran's mullahs. Well, objectively speaking, that "partnership" has led to increased terrorism and political instability, while giving Iran increased strategic control over a broad swath of the Mideast. It has not made the U.S. a bit safer. In fact, it has increased the danger. As part of Obama's deal, the U.S. delivered $1.7 billion to the mullahs, who even now are spending that money on weapons of mass destruction and on terrorist activities around the world.

What most people don't realize is that many of the JCPOA's limits on Iran's nuclear weapons program start to end in as few as three years from now. Within 10 years, there will be little if anything left in place under the Obama nuclear deal to rein in or even restrict Iran's nuclear ambitions. In short, it's a deal that makes nuclear war or an act of nuclear terrorism in the near future not less likely, but more so.

As Y.J. Fischer, who as a State Department official in the Obama administration helped implement the Iran deal, wrote this week in USA Today: "Based on everything I saw, President Trump is right that now is the time to be seeking new concessions."

We agree. We've pushed to withdraw from the deal entirely. So President Trump, Congress, the five permanent U.N. Security Council members, and Germany need to come up with a better nuclear deal with Iran, one with teeth but also one that gives Iran incentives to behave. It would be a foolish, perhaps even fatal, mistake to let this opportunity pass. President Trump has made the first, most necessary move.

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22. Global Warming Hypocrites: Their Carbon Footprint Is OK, But Yours Must Be EliminatedПн., 16 окт.[−]

Scientists, identified as "conservation scientists" who presumably oppose human greenhouse gas emissions, have looked into their own lifestyles, as well as the lifestyles of other "conservation scientists," and found that they are preaching one thing while practicing another.

"Most" of these scientists, the British Telegraph reports, "have a carbon footprint which is virtually no different to anyone else." Those are the findings of a new study from Cambridge University published by researchers who were "were keen to find out whether being fully informed about global warming, plastic in the ocean or the environmental impact of eating meat, triggers more ethical behavior."

What they found was "conservation scientists," 300 of them, "still flew frequently — an average of nine flights a year — ate meat or fish approximately five times a week and rarely purchased carbon offsets for their own emissions."

"They were also less green in traveling to work than medics, and kept more dogs and cats. A recent study suggested pets are a hefty ecological burden. It takes more than two acres of grazing pasture to keep a medium-sized dog fed with meat, while the eco-footprint of a cat is similar to a Volkswagen Golf."

The study's lead author, Andrew Balmford, a professor of conservation science at Cambridge, said that "as conservationists we must do a great deal more to lead by example."

Do not be surprised by the duplicity. It's been noticed that the global warming alarmists who run their mouths the most are also running a lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We can start with Leonardo DiCaprio, who earns a fabulous living playing a child's game — that is, he pretends to be someone else, a behavior that most of us outgrow as adults.

But he doesn't have to fake being a hypocrite. That's his real life. Type "leonardo dicaprio climate hypocrite" into a web search engine. The results flow like the exhaust from one of the jets he flies all over the world — he reportedly even made a two-day turnaround trip from France to New York so he could receive a "green" award — to lecture his inferiors about their greenhouse gas emissions. He also lays about on luxury yachts that have neither oars nor solar panels but internal-combustion engines that spew carbon dioxide.

"It can be estimated that DiCaprio has potentially emitted up to 418.4 tons of CO2 this year because of his globe-trotting. The average American emits 19 tons a year," the Daily Mail reported last year.

And, as has been said here before, he once "celebrated New Year's Eve on a yacht in the Sydney Harbor, then flew with his pals to Las Vegas to ring in the New Year a second time."

Yet DiCaprio deigns, quite eagerly, we'd say, to preach to the masses, even using the pulpit of the United Nations to badger everyday people about their carbon footprint.

There's also ubernag Al Gore, who, like DiCaprio, jets around the world to instruct the peasants on the proper way to live while spreading a massive carbon footprint on his own. And never forget his Tennessee mansion, which devours electricity at a rate that is "more than 21.3 times that of the U.S. household average," says the Daily Signal.

Put another way, in a single month last year, "Gore's home consumed more electricity than the average family uses in 34 months."

The list of climate hypocrites is actually extensive and must include Prince Charles, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, United Nations nabobs, and, well, just about every Westerner who hectors others about their carbon footprint. Some are bigger hypocrites than others, of course. But hypocrisy smells of corruption no matter who is oozing it. It's even worse when the lesson the hypocrites are trying to teach is useless.

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23. Three More Trump/Russia 'Bombshells' Turn Out To Be DudsПн., 16 окт.[−]

Scandalmongering: Over the weekend, CNN offered up a shocking revelation: Russia had enlisted Pikachu and his Pokemon pals in its effort to get Donald Trump elected president. Well, not really. It was just the latest nonstory whipped up by the Trump-hating press.

Here's the headline CNN put on its "exclusive" story: "Even Pokemon Go used by extensive Russian-linked meddling effort."

It begins: "Russian efforts to meddle in American politics did not end at Facebook and Twitter. A CNN investigation of a Russian-linked account shows its tentacles extended to YouTube, Tumblr and even Pokemon Go."

By "meddle," of course, they mean "helped elect Trump president."

It turns out none of this had anything to do with electing Trump.

In this case, the Russians apparently developed a campaign — called "Don't Shoot Me" — that was designed to "exploit racial tensions and sow discord among Americans."

The YouTube page contained news reports, amateur footage and the like that the Black Lives Matter crowd were parading all over the web.

If that constitutes "meddling" in the election, then Black Lives Matter, Hillary Clinton and the mainstream press are guiltier than these Kremlin trolls. They ceaselessly pushed the racist police story because they thought it would help energize the Democratic base.

So what was Russia's intent? "It's unclear," is all CNN could muster.

That story followed on the heels of another CNN "exclusive" about how "Russian-linked Facebook ads targeted Michigan and Wisconsin."

This story began: "A number of Russian-linked Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two states crucial to Donald Trump's victory last November, according to four sources with direct knowledge of the situation."

It went on: "Some of the Russian ads appeared highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal."

Had CNN finally found evidence that Russia tried, and might have succeeded, in swinging the election for Trump?

Hardly.

It was up to the Washington Examiner's Byron York to provide the relevant facts and context.

He found that of the 3,000 Russian ads that Facebook turned over to Congress, most of them ran after the election and so could hardly be part of any "meddling." The vast majority didn't mention the election or any candidate. A quarter of them weren't seen by anybody.

What's more, out of those 3,000 ads, only a tiny handful targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, nearly all of them ran in 2015 — well before Trump was nominated — and most had fewer than 1,000 impressions.

In other words, there was nothing to justify CNN's treatment of the story.

In between these two breathless nonstories, the infamous "smoking gun" meeting between Donald Trump Jr and a Russian lawyer is turning out to be another nothingburger.

Newly released emails showed that the meeting was entirely focused on U.S. sanctions and adoption rules involving Russia, and had nothing to do with dishing dirt on Hillary Clinton.

What about that promise of a meeting in a separate email from British publicist Rob Goldstone, who said the Russian lawyer had damaging evidence on Clinton? It's likely that was a way to lure Trump people to a meeting they'd otherwise not bother with.

For nearly a year now, we've seen this same pattern. A headline-grabbing story about Russia "meddling" and Trump "collusion" that ends up fizzling out when the facts come in.

If Russia's motivation in all of this wasn't to elect Trump, but to sow discord and hostility within the U.S. — which increasingly looks like the point — then Russia's leaders succeeded beyond their wildest imagination. And for that, they have the liberal media, not their own efforts, to thank.

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24. Trump's Immigration Proposals Would Create A More Prosperous, Less Divided AmericaПн., 16 окт.[−]

President Trump has tabled his first offer on immigration reform — an exhaustive list of measures to better seal our terribly porous borders, establish internal security and reassert federal authority over renegade sanctuary cities.

It includes conservative wish list items like a wall along the Mexican border that's too expensive and whose objectives could be better accomplished, for example, through more resources for electronic surveillance. However, the Democrats often behave as if they prefer a border with the holes of a colander to win cheap electoral advantage.

Seen as a first offer to very difficult negotiating partners, Trump's principles are best evaluated in terms of what is likely — because the Dreamers are hostage to this process — and needed — because the present system of granting even permanent legal visas is broken.

By endorsing the kinds of reforms proposed by Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue, President Trump is offering Congress an opportunity to better consider how new arrivals can contribute to national prosperity.

The United States has about 45 million immigrants and annually welcomes 1.5 million.

About one quarter are illegal, and in recent years their number has hardly changed. Declining birthrates abroad and tougher border enforcement have already slowed the inflow.

Canada and Australia face challenges similar to ours — falling birthrates, skill shortages and societies defined by waves of immigrants from Europe and Asia — and both place priority on the needs of their economies.

In contrast to other industrialized countries, the United States places greater emphasis on family reunification. Green Cards are granted automatically to spouses, minor children and parents of U.S. citizens. Subject to annual limits, entry is granted to other relatives of citizens, legal immigrants and refugees, and those who can contribute to economic growth.

Ultimately, about 65% of immigrant visas are based on family ties and 15% on employment. The remainder is mostly through a lottery for underrepresented countries.

The Cotton-Perdue bill would limit family reunification visas to minor children and spouses, end the lottery and focus on workforce needs.

Potential economic growth is determined by the sum of productivity and labor force growth. Both have fallen, causing many economists to conclude 2% growth is inevitable. However, missing from this is a discussion of labor force quality.

Innovations in robotics, artificial intelligence and other areas indicate broad opportunities to boost productivity, but American businesses face shortages of skilled technicians and engineers to fully exploit those.

Currently, immigrant workers tend to be concentrated among two groups: those with less than a high school education and those with more than a four-year college degree.

Immigrants tend to be older than the native population and more than half qualify for means-tested entitlements, creating obvious frictions.

Downward pressure on wages of lower-skilled workers is measurable, but overall the impact of immigration on growth is positive. Technology-intensive activities are greatly enhanced by the influx of high-skilled immigrants, and those benefits overwhelm the costs imposed by lower wages on unskilled workers.

Immigration stresses social cohesion, especially among the working class. New arrivals compete for jobs and often eat different foods, practice different religions and have different family and community traditions.

Folks in small towns and rural counties, riveted by the loss of factories and consolidation in agriculture, increasingly rely on those very things to cope. And they feel alienated by the ethnic diversity and libertine values of larger cities. Those are important reasons why they don't leave for educational and employment opportunities in diverse urban settings and have abandoned the Democratic Party.

Liberals in big cities — especially in the media and universities who shape public perceptions — dismiss middle-American ambivalence as ill-informed, xenophobic and racist.

After all, the urban elite work harmoniously in Manhattan office buildings, California technology centers and the like where cultural affinities that bring together professional groups tend to overwhelm ethnic differences among highly educated adults — if nothing else, professional schools, like mine, socialize students to common metropolis values and behavior.

What works for Ivy League and elite state university graduates does not rhyme well for ordinary working folks in America's interior.

That's why those common people elected Donald Trump to the dismay of urban intellectuals. As President Obama so often lectured during his first years in office, elections should have consequences and now the will of the common folks should be served.

  • Morici is an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland and a national columnist.


25. Stephen Moore: NAFTA 2.0 Must Strengthen Intellectual Property RightsПн., 16 окт.[−]

America's trade negotiators are now in the process ?of crafting a 2.0 update of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. Fortunately, it now appears that Donald Trump's intention on NAFTA is to mend it, not end it. The trade deal has been a stunning economic success for all three nations: Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. Freer trade has meant steady increases in the volume of trade, greater competitiveness, and lower prices.

But Trump is right that under NAFTA 2.0 some things need to be fixed to guarantee fair play and to assure America's continued commanding heights in technology and innovation. ?Intellectual property rights — patents, copyrights, and so on — need to be better safeguarded.

There have been abuses. In an unprecedented move, Canadian regulators recently ordered an American pharmaceutical company to lower the price of its breakthrough treatment for a rare blood disorder. The decision was based on currency exchange fluctuations between 2012 and 2014, which increased the relative cost of the medicine— despite that the company obviously having no control over currency values.

It's a classic shakedown, where Canada is inventing new rules to avoid paying American pharmaceutical and technology companies for their innovations and inventions. This is also happening in Europe where the euro-bureaucrats are trying to expropriate funds from American technology leaders like Google through bogus charges of monopoly activities.

The Trump administration should vigorously repel these economic attacks against American companies.

This is a very big deal for the American economy. Intellectual property is increasingly the lifeblood of our economy. IP-intensive industries support 28 million American jobs — or about one in five workers. About $6 trillion of our GDP now is in IP related industries — including almost all of Silicon Valley.

? Many of NAFTA's IP provisions are out-of-date or under-enforced. While access to foreign markets through international trade clearly benefits innovative companies, unchecked infringement of patent rights and in some cases, outright theft (as in the case of China), costs American consumers and businesses $300 billion annually.

Consider our drug companies. ?American pharmaceuticals recorded global sales of $47 billion in 2015. Yet despite that the vast majority of drug breakthroughs come from America, the U.S. currently has a $700 million trade deficit with Canada, and only a tiny trade surplus with Mexico in biopharmaceuticals.

As the latest decision against Alexion shows, Canadian regulators are imposing de facto price controls on new drugs, failing to value the research and development investment required to invent these breakthroughs in the first place. It typically requires $500 million to $1 billion to develop a new drug or vaccine, and American consumers shouldn't bear the entire burden of those costs.

This drives up health insurance costs in America, it is unfair to the investors in these products, and it jeopardizes world health by delaying the development of future cures. The renegotiated NAFTA agreement must include clear language requiring all disputes over pricing to appropriately value American innovation and be transparent.

For its part, Mexico is producing "knock off" drugs that are copycats of American pharmaceuticals. This is stealing too, and negotiators should get tough with these practices south of our border.

? The same abuses are happening with American trademarks and copyrighted materials. Canada and Mexico are two of the top export destinations form American entertainment and media. Yet NAFTA doesn't sufficiently protect online theft and distribution of movies, music, games and so on. To bring IP protections up to date for the digital age, a renegotiated NAFTA should include civil and criminal penalties for illicit access to cable and satellite signals and other preventable infringements in which the American producers are not compensated for use of the product.

The future of free and fair trade depends on rigorous enforcement of America's multi-trillion dollar IP industries. This is about jobs, fairness, and the rule of law. It is also about encouraging the very innovation process that leads to prosperity and better health in America — which we then export across the globe to the betterment of mankind. It will also help boost public and business support for trade as a driver of growth in the years to come.

  • Moore is an economic consultant at Freedom Works and a senior economic analyst at CNN. He served as a senior economic advisor to the Trump campaign.

26. Ben Bernanke's AnxietyПн., 16 окт.[−]

Ben Bernanke is worried — and perhaps we should be, too.

As chairman of the Federal Reserve from 2006 to 2014, it was Bernanke who, along with others, prevented the worst recession since World War II from becoming the Great Depression 2.0. Now he fears that, should another sharp recession occur, the Fed won't be able to contain it.

Traditionally, the Fed has sought to influence the economy by changing short-term interest rates. If a recession looms, the Fed cuts the "fed funds" rate to stimulate demand. If the danger is inflation, the Fed raises the rate to relieve wage and price pressures. Changes in the fed funds rate are assumed to nudge rates on mortgages, corporate bonds and Treasury securities in the same direction.

But there's a practical limit to this approach: Once the Fed has cut the rate to zero, it can't do much more. If the recession is deep, it may outlast the Fed's therapy. To many economists, failure portends dire consequences: deflation (falling prices). Too little demand chases too much supply.

Deflation was rampant in the Great Depression. From 1929 to 1933, retail prices dropped 24%. At first glance, deflation seems a boon; consumers' buying power increases. But beyond these modest benefits, stubborn deflation threatens a vicious circle of economic decline. Consumers delay big purchases because they think prices will drop. Debt burdens become greater, as borrowers must repay in more expensive dollars. Unemployment rises, and the Fed is helpless.

To avoid this trap, Bernanke — while Fed chairman — adopted what's called "unconventional monetary policy." First, the Fed flooded the economy with money by buying an estimated $3.7 trillion worth of mortgage bonds and U.S. Treasury securities; the aim was to reduce long-term interest rates further. And second, the Fed gave "forward guidance" — in effect, a nonlegal commitment — that short-term interest rates would stay low for a long period.

In a paper presented recently at the Peterson Institute, a Washington think tank, Bernanke judged that these policies — to some extent — had helped end the Great Recession and sustain the recovery. What troubles him now is the possibility that the same policies won't work in a severe recession or financial crisis in the future.

We already live in a "low-inflation, low-interest rate environment," he tells us. Consumer price inflation has been running below 2% annually, the Fed's official target, for most of nine years. The fed funds interest rate is now at a peak of 1.25%. Rates on 10-year Treasury securities are 2.3%. These low levels occur despite eight years of recovery and an unemployment rate of 4.2%.

Just why inflation and interest rates are so low is debated by economists. Theories abound: The psychological hangover of the Great Recession causes companies to restrain wage and price increases; global competition and new technologies reduce upward pressures on wages and prices; an aging society saves more than a younger nation.

But whatever the causes, already low inflation and interest rates — which are pleasurable while the economy is healthy — make it harder for the Fed to rescue a sickly economy that is suddenly sliding into a steep slump.

Consider a comparison between then and now.

In 2007 and 2008, when the economy was weakening, the Fed cut the fed funds rate 5.25 percentage points to zero in a little over a year. Now a plausible cut would be 1 to 3 percentage points (the higher figure assumes the Fed continues raising the fed funds rate from its present extremely low levels). The same math undermines another round of "unconventional" monetary policies.

Then there's deflation. A harsh recession could depress prices, threatening a downward spiral of spending and business investment.

In his paper, Bernanke makes a proposal to allow the Fed to escape this predicament. His plan is complicated and, in practice, would involve the Fed throwing more money at a faltering economy in the hope that it would recover and be stabilized. (The complexities of Bernanke's plan extend even to its name, "Temporary Price-Level Targeting.") There are other plans on the table; whether the Fed will adopt any of them is an open question.

Still, Bernanke's plan and accompanying analysis represent a useful addition to the ongoing debate over economic policy. There certainly will be another recession, though we can't know when or how severe. Bernanke plausibly worries that we won't be ready. If not his proposal, then whose and why? These are good questions without good answers. We may be reaching the limits of the Fed's power over the economy.

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

27. Trump Is Turning And Turning In A Widening GyreВс., 15 окт.[−]

With eyes wide open, Mike Pence eagerly auditioned for the role as Donald Trump's poodle. Now comfortably leashed, he deserves the degradations that he seems too sycophantic to recognize as such. He did Trump's adolescent bidding with last Sunday's pre-planned virtue pageant of scripted indignation — his flight from the predictable sight of players kneeling during the national anthem at a football game. No unblinkered observer can still cling to the hope that Pence has the inclination, never mind the capacity, to restrain, never mind educate, the man who elevated him to his current glory. Pence is a reminder that no one can have sustained transactions with Trump without becoming too soiled for subsequent scrubbing.

A man who interviewed for the position that Pence captured, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, is making amends for saying supportive things about Trump. In 2016, for example, he said he was "repulsed" by people trying to transform the Republican National Convention from a merely ratifying body into a deliberative body for the purpose of preventing what has come to pass. Until recently, Corker, an admirable man and talented legislator, has been, like many other people, prevented by his normality from fathoming Trump's abnormality. Now Corker says what could have been said two years ago about Trump's unfitness.

The axiom that "Hell is truth seen too late" is mistaken; damnation deservedly comes to those who tardily speak truth that has long been patent. Perhaps there shall be a bedraggled parade of repentant Republicans resembling those supine American Communists who, after Stalin imposed totalitarianism, spawned the gulag, engineered the Ukraine famine, launched the Great Terror and orchestrated the show trials, were theatrically disillusioned by his collaboration with Hitler: You, sir, have gone too far.

Trump's energy, unleavened by intellect and untethered to principle, serves only his sovereign instinct to pander to those who adore him as much as he does. Unshakably smitten, they are impervious to the Everest of evidence that he disdains them as a basket of gullibles. He understands that his unremitting coarseness satisfies their unpolitical agenda of smashing crockery, even though his self-indulgent floundering precludes fulfillment of the promises he flippantly made to assuage their sense of being disdained. He gives his gullibles not governance by tantrum, but tantrum as governance.

With Trump turning and turning in a widening gyre, his crusade to make America great again is increasingly dominated by people who explicitly repudiate America's premises. The faux nationalists of the "alt-right" and their fellow travelers like Stephen Bannon, although fixated on protecting America from imported goods, have imported the blood-and-soil ethno-tribalism that stains the continental European right. In "Answering the Alt-Right" in National Affairs quarterly, Ramon Lopez, a University of Chicago Ph.D. candidate in political philosophy, demonstrates how Trump's election has brought back to the public stage ideas that a post-Lincoln America had slowly but determinedly expunged. They were rejected because they are incompatible with an open society that takes its bearing from the Declaration of Independence's doctrine of natural rights.

With their version of the identity politics practiced by progressives, alt-right theorists hold that the tribalism to which people are prone should not be transcended but celebrated. As Lopez explains, the alt-right sees society as inevitably "a zero-sum contest among fundamentally competing identity groups." Hence the alt-right is explicitly an alternative to Lincoln's affirmation of the Founders' vision. They saw America as cohesive because of a shared creed. The alt-right must regard Lincoln as not merely mistaken but absurd in describing America as a creedal nation dedicated to a "proposition." The alt-right insists that real nationhood requires cultural homogeneity rooted in durable ethnic identities. This is the alt-right's alternative foundation for the nation Lincoln said was founded on the principle that all people are, by nature, equal.

Trump is, of course, innocent of this (or any other) systemic thinking. However, within the ambit of his vast, brutish carelessness are some people with sinister agendas and anti-constitutional impulses. Stephen Miller, Bannon's White House residue and Trump's enfant terrible, recently said that "in sending our (tax reform) proposal to the tax-writing committees, we will include instructions to ensure all low- and middle-income households are protected." So, Congress will be instructed by Trump's 32-year-old acolyte who also says the president's national security powers "will not be questioned." We await the response of congressional Republicans, who did so little to stop Trump's ascent and then so much to normalize him.


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28. Social Security's Raw Deal For The PoorСб., 14 окт.[−]

Entitlements: Social Security recipients, especially those with little money in the bank, got a little bit of good news last week: Their checks will go up about 2% this year. Congratulations, but too bad that money wasn't invested in the economy instead.

Maybe a 2% raise doesn't sound so bad, but consider this: It was even less than the 2.2% estimated last summer, and that tiny 2% rise was the biggest gain since 2012. Moreover, when you consider that the main stock market indexes have risen more than 20% over the past year, it's not such a flattering comparison.

XAutoplay: On | OffAn unfair comparison? Maybe. But the fact is, Social Security has been a terrible investment for most Americans from a financial standpoint. Most Americans would be better off if they invested their money not in the federal bureaucracy but in the private economy.

A recent report by the Foundation for Economic Education shows this to be true, and not just for the rich, but even for minimum wage workers. Using the Social Security Administration's own calculators, economics writer Tom Eddlem compared theoretical returns for minimum wage workers on Social Security with those in a fund linked to the S&P 500 index.

What he found was, in a word, shocking: "In every conceivable scenario, the private fund pays more than Social Security to the minimum wage worker."

As an example, someone working 50 weeks a year, 40 hours a week at the minimum wage, starting in 1970 and retiring this year, investing his or her money in the private fund instead of Social Security, would end up with $262,551.02. And that's after he or she purchases a term-insurance policy that could go to an heir in the event of death.

For the last 50 years, the S&P has grown at about 11% a year, with 4% inflation. So at that growth rate, even taking out 7% of the total a year, the fund would fully replenish itself, while paying out over $1,500 a month to the recipient.

Social Security? It pays $974. More than a third less.

You can run the numbers many ways, but it comes out the same: Private investments do better than the government alternative. In some cases, way better. For instance, consider a couple who both earn the minimum wage over the same time. Their private benefit would average $3,159.36 a month, a hefty sum. Social Security: $1,948.

The point is, we've been sold on the idea that Social Security is for "the poor." It was, in fact, originally an anti-poverty program. But millions of low-income people not only live poorer lives in retirement due to lower incomes from Social Security, they also have no wealth to pass on to their spouses and children when they die. That's real inequality, mandated by government.

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29. On ObamaCare, Trump Is Being Attacked For Upholding The LawПт., 13 окт.[−]

Health Reform: President Trump's decision to stop funding an ObamaCare subsidy program is being treated as an attempt to sabotage the law. In reality, Trump is abiding by the law as the Democrats wrote it.

There is no question that stopping payments for ObamaCare's "cost sharing reduction" subsidies will have serious implications. Insurance companies have been warning state insurance regulators that they'll have to jack up premiums even higher next year if these subsidies go away, and the Congressional Budget Office reported that it could push up premiums by 20%.

But there's an important element missing from the lamentations coming from the insurance industry, from Democrats, and even from some Republicans about Trump's decision.

The ObamaCare law, as written, plainly doesn't allow Trump to make these payments.

Here's why:

Under ObamaCare, families that make less than 250% of poverty are eligible for two separate subsidies. They get their premiums subsidized, but they also have their out-of-pocket costs reduced through the "cost sharing reduction" subsidy, which lowers their deductibles and copays. Roughly 60% of those enrolled through the ObamaCare exchanges are eligible for both.

XAutoplay: On | OffThe costs of both subsidy programs are paid directly to insurance companies. But Democrats who wrote the law decided that, while the money needed to pay premium subsidies would be automatically reauthorized every year, Congress would have to approve money for the CSR payments each year.

What they didn't count on was that Republicans would take control of the House before ObamaCare took effect, and would never authorize that CSR money. The Obama administration, rather than push them to do so, simply took it upon itself to hand out billions in CSR payments, despite what the law clearly stated.

In 2014, Republicans sued the administration, claiming that those payments were illegal, and last year a U.S. District Court ruled in the GOP's favor. The court said there can be no CSR payments without an annual congressional appropriation.

In her ruling, however, District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer stayed the injunction pending appeals. Obama, of course, appealed the decision, but then Trump won the election.

Since then, Trump has been making CSR payments each month, while making it clear he intended to stop doing so if Congress failed to repeal ObamaCare.

That's where things stood until Thursday, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that, in his view, the CSR payments are illegal without Congressional authorization. Then Trump said he'd end them.

Is this disruptive? You bet. But in doing so, Trump is simply handing the ball back to Congress, where it belonged all along. If lawmakers want to fund these subsidies, they can pass a bill right now to provide the money. It's as simple as that.

What's interesting about this case is that — just like Trump's decision to end the extra-Constitutional DACA program — the same people who claimed that Trump craved dictatorial powers are now infuriated that's he's handing authority back to Congress.

Now it's lawmakers turn to step up to the plate. If they don't act, it is they, not Trump, who should suffer the consequences.

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30. Will Wrong Kind Of Tax Reform Kill Charity In The U.S.?Пт., 13 окт.[−]

As the tax reform debate continues in Washington, we can expect continuing liberal charges that the rich fail to pay their "fair share" currently — and would unjustly benefit from lower rates. But any push to raise top rates may well lead to collateral damage to something almost all Americans say they support: charitable giving. That's the conclusion that can be drawn from an impressive new analysis published by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

"Nonprofit groups," the Chronicle reports, "have become more dependent on the wealthy generally." The analysis goes on to say: "The wealthy now account for more than 75% of itemized giving".

At the same time, as overall charitable giving has continued to increase, the percentage of households making charitable contributions is on a downward trajectory. In other words, it's the vilified rich who are not only paying the lion's share of income taxes already — but an increasing share of charitable giving, as well. Nonprofits, writes the Chronicle's Drew Lindsay, are thus taking the "fewer donors, more money" approach to fundraising.

It's in this context that changes in the tax code can have big — and negative — implications for charitable giving, in which the U.S. has historically led the world.

Charitable giving is notoriously sensitive to changes in the tax code. As economists Jon Bakija and Bradley Heim have noted: People change their charitable donations in response to large, obvious future changes in federal marginal tax rates, with less conclusive evidence of a response to more subtle sources of future price changes. A higher top rate will have two effects: It will decrease the "price" of giving by raising the value of the tax deduction, but will also mean that those who are giving disproportionately will have less after-tax income to give.

The new findings that it's the rich who prop up charitable giving means that, in raising top rates, Congress will be playing with fire when it comes to providing support for civil society. Or, put another way, it means that Congress will effectively be saying that Washington can spend money better than charitably supported groups.

This matters because of another aspect of tax reform that's being discussed: raising the standard deduction. Such a change means that many more Americans will be able to file a simple tax return — and will have no need to itemize deductions for such things as mortgage interest, local taxes — or charitable giving.

As few as five percent of tax filers may have reason to itemize their returns. Convenient, to be sure. But this also means that the incentive to give to charity will be significantly cut back. The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University has estimated that such a change could reduce overall charitable giving — currently about $325 billion per year — by some $13 billion.

In other words, a higher top rate and an increased standard deduction could be a one-two punch that will hit charitable giving.

The changes also risk reinforcing an ominous trend — away from charitable giving as a household norm in America. As the Chronicle reports — based on data from Target Analytics — giving by small donors (gifts under $100) has declined precipitously. Over the past 14 years, it writes, the median number of small donors has declined by 25%. And the Lilly School finds that the share of households contributing to charity has declined from 67% (2004) to just 59% (2012).

To be sure, such findings may fail to pick up on households that put cash in the collection plate at church and do not itemize their tax returns. But the Lilly School looked to University of Michigan survey that uses longitudinal research of households generally — not just itemizers. So the possibility of Americans' virtuous habit of giving being broken is, sadly, real.

One possible fix is being floated in the tax reform discussion, that of allowing an "above the line" deduction for charitable giving, a tax break that would, in other words, apply to all households, even those taking the standard deduction.

Conservative Congressman Mark Walker of North Carolina, who heads the Republican Study Group, has gone so far as to file a bill that would allow those who take only the standard deduction nonetheless to deduct the value of their charitable deductions — so long as they do not exceed one-third of the value of the standard deduction. The Republican tax reform blueprint has proposed an increase in the standard deduction from $12,700 to $24,000 (for married couples).

This might be viewed as breaking the bank by those crafting the so-called House Blueprint for tax reform. As the Tax Foundation's Scott Greenberg has written: "In the context of the House Blueprint, the revenue loss from making the charitable deduction above the line would be even greater, $515 billion over ten years. This is because the overall structure of the House Blueprint would cause so many taxpayers to take the standard deduction and to stop claiming the charitable deduction. Thus, making the charitable deduction above the line would effectively restore the deduction for these taxpayers, which is why doing so would be so costly in the context of the House Blueprint."

Of course, for those who believe that American civil society can put that money to better use than does government, the cost would be worth the benefit. No matter what your view, however, it's clear that the fate of U.S. charitable giving is hanging in the balance of the current tax reform debate.

  • Husock is vice president for research and publications at the Manhattan Institute.


31. Trump Halts Insurer Subsidy, Threatening ObamaCare ChaosПт., 13 окт.[−]

President Trump's administration took its most drastic step yet to roll back the Affordable Care Act, cutting off a subsidy to insurers hours after issuing an executive order designed to draw people away from the health law's markets.

The moves — which critics call deliberate attempts to sabotage the law — come just weeks before Americans will be able to start signing up for coverage for 2018. They follow other steps the Trump administration has taken, such as slashing advertising and outreach budgets to bolster enrollment in ObamaCare plans, as well as planning outages of the website where people can sign up.

Late Thursday, the administration said it would immediately stop paying what are known as cost-sharing reduction subsidies. The payments — which are the subject of a legal dispute — go to health insurers in the Affordable Care Act to help lower-income people with co-pays and other cost sharing. Without them, insurers have said they'll dramatically raise premiums or pull out of the law's state-based markets.

The decision led to immediate pushback from Democratic leaders in Congress. In a tweet on Friday, Trump said, "The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!"

Senators Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, and Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, have been working on bipartisan legislation to fix problems with the subsidies.

"ObamaCare is a broken mess. Piece by piece we will now begin the process of giving America the great HealthCare it deserves!" Trump said in another tweet on Friday.

Immediate Halt

The White House said the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under ObamaCare. The U.S. Constitution explicitly states that Congress must appropriate funds.

"The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system," the White House said in the statement.

The payments will stop immediately, with no transition period, Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. They next payments were due next week.

"Congress has not appropriated money for CSRs, and we will discontinue these payments immediately," the department said.

Early Friday, the administration told a federal appeals court in Washington, which is hearing a dispute over the subsidies, that it will not make the Oct. 18 subsidy payments.

The administrative actions come after Republicans in Congress tried and failed to repeal the law. Trump has repeatedly threatened to let Obamacare wither, but the most recent actions go beyond that, said Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the top ranking Democrats in Congress.

"Instead of working to lower health costs for Americans, it seems President Trump will singlehandedly hike Americans' health premiums. It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage," the Democrats said in a statement.

House Speaker Paul Ryan backed the move.

"ObamaCare has proven itself to be a fatally flawed law, and the House will continue to work with the Trump administration to provide the American people a better system," Ryan said in a statement.

Premiums to Rise

Given the disagreements over the payments, and an ongoing lawsuit questioning their legality, many health insurers had dramatically raised the premiums they planned to charge for next year in anticipation of not getting the funds. The payments are made monthly, and have been estimated at $7 billion in total this year.

"Many, but not all, insurers assumed these payments would end and set 2018 premiums accordingly," Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said by email. "Those that didn't build this into their premiums may petition to adjust their rates or threaten to pull out of the marketplace. It seems like we're in for a chaotic run up to the beginning of open enrollment."

Dylan Roby, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, said he doesn't expect a mass exodus by insurers. He said that intermediaries who assist customers in signing up for Obamacare plans will need to explain to unsubsidized people how their options have changed. But the Trump administration has also scaled back funding for the so-called navigators, cutting tens of millions of dollars in grants.

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32. Have Hurricanes Wiped Out Puerto Rico Investors' Hopes?Пт., 13 окт.[−]

President Trump stunned already beleaguered bondholders and the entire market when he recently said of Puerto Rico's debt, "We're going to have to wipe that out … you can say goodbye to that."

Does this mean Puerto Rico bond investors are about to take the ultimate haircut? Not necessarily. President Trump cannot act unilaterally, and White House officials have walked back his remarks. Nonetheless, alarm bells should now be ringing to the whole investment community that it is time to wake up to a new reality, one with pitfalls and opportunities. As bondholders struggle among themselves for dwindling revenue, more than ever all current and future investors now have a common interest: Puerto Rico's economic rebirth.

Americans, no matter their political stripe, can empathize with the plight of their fellow citizens in Puerto Rico caused by recent natural disasters and the need for new policy solutions. Hurricanes Irma and Maria have crippled the island and PREPA, one of the largest public power companies in the U.S., stated it could be six months before service is fully restored.

The pharmaceutical industry, Puerto Rico's economic backbone, is one of the sectors encountering challenges to simply resuming operations. Small businesses and government services are either shut down or severely hampered.

But these natural disasters have only compounded Puerto Rico's economic disaster already taking place. The Commonwealth owed investors around $17 billion in government-backed, constitutionally protected, bonds alone. Bipartisan Congressional action through the PROMESA legislation last year was insufficient to stabilize the Puerto Rican financial situation as it lacked strong measures to promote economic development. A new vision is needed.

Salvaging something positive from Puerto Rico's devastation has to mean more than clearing away debris and replacing homes. It must mean policies from both Puerto Rico's government and Washington that will retain and attract economic activity to the benefit of Commonwealth residents, businesses, and bondholders — whether they are individual pensioners or large mutual funds.

In Puerto Rico, serious steps have to be taken to remove the burden of government from the people's lives. It begins with the government winding down, through public-private partnerships, its interests in property ownership and commercial businesses, reducing regulatory red tape, and right sizing the bureaucracy. The Commonwealth's own income-, consumption-, and property-tax systems must be modernized, rationalized and made more competitive with those of its neighbors.

Washington must do its part as well, and it begins with tax reform. Although it is a U.S. entity, Puerto Rico is often treated under federal laws as a foreign nation. In the past, provisions such as Section 936 (now defunct) of the U.S. Tax Code made the island a magnet for many companies to establish significant operations there, delivering well-paying jobs to U.S. citizens and supporting the bulk of the local government's treasury. Congress has to re-envision how tax policy can create business-led solutions.

Federal officials must, in a bipartisan manner, make the island a forethought rather than an afterthought by designing tax policy that allows for dividend exclusions, repatriation incentives, and other refinements to showcase Puerto Rico as the prime Caribbean destination for the flow of investment. At the same time, domestically domiciled businesses as well as residents can benefit from newly created economic opportunity zones offering payroll tax and regulatory relief. Everyone can prosper from this two-pronged approach.

Federal policymakers must also permanently relieve Puerto Rico of other burdens such as the Jones Act, an antiquated scheme that requires all shipping between Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland to be on American owned-and-crewed ships. In the short term, a two- to five-year waiver of the Jones Act could keep costs down for consumers during recovery efforts. Federal labor mandates as well as trade negotiations should likewise bear Puerto Rico's regional situation in mind.

What should President Trump's remarks signal to investors today? Not panic, but continued negotiations. If Puerto Rico is ever to be able to borrow again, it has to reach some reasonable solution to its debt. Bondholders must remain in this conversation.

At the same time, no one holding debt in Puerto Rico will have hope without a new economic paradigm that permits the Commonwealth to thrive rather than just survive. Our organizations, who have founded the Promise for Prosperity Coalition, share this belief.

Let's see if bondholders and other investors can practice "The Art of the Deal," so all people who love Puerto Rico can come out winners.

  • Blom is Washington Director of Fundacion Libertad ( fundacionlibertadpr.org), a San Juan-based organization dedicated to promoting individual economic liberty.
  • Sepp is president of National Taxpayers Union ( ntu.org), a citizen group founded in 1969 to work for limited, accountable government throughout the U.S.

33. Are Today's Problems A Re-Run Of The Early 1900s?Пт., 13 окт.[−]

Is America in a new Gilded Age? That's the contention of Republican political consultant Bruce Mehlman, and in a series of 35 slides, he makes a strong case.

In many ways, problems facing America today resemble those facing what we still call "turn-of-the-century" America, the 1890s to the 1910s. Just as employment shifted from farms to factories a century ago, it has been moving from manufacturing to services recently.

Financial crashes are another point of resemblance, coming precisely 100 years apart. The panic of 1907 was resolved when J.P. Morgan locked his fellow financiers in his library and required them to pony up funds to save failing banks. Something similar happened in 2007, this time with Ben Bernanke in the bowels of the Federal Reserve.

Technology's providing new products and threatening incumbent businesses is a feature of both epochs — with huge steel mills and automobile factories then and smartphones and mouse clicks today. Monopoly power reared its ugly head then and is doing the same now. Railroads and steel and oil muscled potential regulators then; retail-dominating Amazon and political communication censors Google and Twitter are now.

Income inequality was actually greater in the 1920s (and probably earlier, but the statistics are incommensurate) than today. And immigration as a percentage of pre-existing population was three times as high in peak year 1907 than in peak year 2007.

In all these respects, the problems — or perceived problems — of Americans today more closely resemble those facing the Americans of 100 years ago than they resemble the problems of the era that is generally taken as a benchmark, especially by commentators of a certain age (including me), the two decades after World War II.

But Mehlman's list is not exhaustive. And the items omitted are perhaps even more troubling than those already mentioned.

Consider family stability. Charles Murray's 2012 book, "Coming Apart," documents meticulously how the stable marriage became far less common and unmarried parenthood far more common among the lower third on the socio-economic scale between 1960 and 2010.

But if you look back to 1900 or 1910, the numbers look a lot like the numbers now. Americans then married at later ages, and more people didn't marry at all in that period than during the postwar years. Divorce was far less common than today, but many more marriages were ended early by spouses' deaths.

And how did the many single men and women get along in turn-of-the-century America? Some lived quietly with relatives as bachelor uncles or maiden aunts. But many men also lived lives disconnected from stable communities, riding the rails or doing stints at odd jobs.

Substance abuse is another common theme. Alcohol consumption was actually considerably higher 100 years ago than it is today; Prohibition, which took effect in 1920, really did significantly reduce alcoholism and improve public health. And though oxycodone was not available then, drugs were a problem.

You can see it lurking just around the corners in the turn-of-the-century novels of Theodore Dreiser and Frank Norris and even the aristocratic Edith Wharton. Respectable forces choked off the explicit narratives we are used to today, not because unrespectable behavior wasn't common but because they knew it was.

Mehlman notes that various political, market and social reforms addressed problems of turn-of-the-century America. He might have added that immigration — beneficial on the whole but greatly disturbing to many — was largely ended by legislation in 1924 and wouldn't have continued during the Depression or World War II in any case.

The problems he doesn't mention were addressed, as well — by public schools dedicated to Americanization, by the outreach of Protestant and Catholic churches and voluntary organizations such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Clearly, something like this could help the people Charles Murray describes as left behind.

But some of the homogenizing forces that produced the high family stability, the cultural consensus and the high church membership of postwar America were pretty dire. The Great Depression tended to equalize incomes and wealth by lowering incomes and destroying wealth. Not desirable, however much you dislike economic inequality.

World War II, with 16 million Americans out of 131 million in the military, brought together people from diverse backgrounds and hostile regions, and GI benefits gave veterans a leg up on attending college and buying homes. Good effects, but no sane person wants a total war.

As Bruce Mehlman suggests, political and economic reforms could address the problems he identifies today as such reforms did 100 years ago. But it's not clear what could be done about the problems he leaves to the side.

  • 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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34. L. Brent Bozell: Hollywood Moralists Exposed As HypocritesПт., 13 окт.[−]

On Feb. 28, 2016, the entertainment industry gave the Oscar for best picture to "Spotlight," a fictionalized version of The Boston Globe's reporting of sexual abuse and its cover-up within the Catholic Church in Boston. The self-congratulation looks amazing now, after the exposure of decades of alleged harassment, and perhaps even rape, by Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein.

"This film gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican," said "Spotlight" producer Michael Sugar. "Pope Francis, it's time to protect the children and restore the faith."

We can guess no one will make a movie about the decades of harassment by Weinstein and Hollywood's cover-up. And, certainly, no one would win an Oscar for it. No Holy Father in Tinseltown has moral authority. Feminist superstars like Meryl Streep professed they hadn't the slightest idea of what their friend Harvey was doing ... which makes them either profoundly cynical or amazingly clueless.

A far more believable response came from French actress Lea Seydoux, who wrote in the Guardian that she was groped by Weinstein. She said: "Everyone knew what Harvey was up to and no one did anything. It's unbelievable that he's been able to act like this for decades and still keep his career."

If the liberal intelligentsia found it completely unbelievable that a Catholic bishop might have been uninformed about sexual abuse by priests, then how do they expect anyone to believe it's impossible for the Streeps of Hollywood to be unaware?

The news reports on this scandal have underplayed or ignored the deep hypocrisy of Weinstein's business efforts against bullying and sexual assault. His company distributed the documentary "Bully" to theaters in 2012. In 2015, it funded and distributed "The Hunting Ground," a documentary pitched as "a startling expose of rape crimes on U.S. college campuses, their institutional cover-ups and the devastating toll they take on students and their families."

Months after the 2016 Oscars, Hollywood feminists railed against President Donald Trump for a 2005 videotape in which he made crude remarks about what a powerful man can do to women. They shared their outrage on Twitter -- Cher, Patricia Arquette, Debra Messing, Lena Dunham, and Ashley Judd. The day after Trump's inauguration, the Hollywood feminists marched in Washington, D.C., in Park City, Utah (where they hold the Sundance Film Festival), and other cities. There in the Utah "feminist" crowd was one Harvey Weinstein.

Judd, who notoriously screamed grotesqueries at Trump at the March on Washington, was the first big name to allow her name to be used in The New York Times story on Weinstein. Dunham wrote in the Times that she regretted shaking Weinstein's hand at a Weinstein-organized rally for Hillary Clinton in 2016. She had heard the rumors but ultimately "made a calculation" since she desperately wanted Clinton to win.

Can today's young women in Hollywood count on an anti-Weinstein "choir" to "resonate" around the entertainment industry? The Catholic Church has taken dramatic steps to prevent the abuse of children. It is Hollywood's turn to put its money where its mouth has been.

  • 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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35. The Late, Great Justice Scalia, In His Own WordsПт., 13 окт.[−]

I knew the late Justice Antonin Scalia a little, and like millions of others, I was an avid fan of his jurisprudence, the great bulk of which he produced after I was no longer a law student, so much the worse for me.

What do I have to do with it? Nothing, except that reading opinions as a law student was often like trying to swallow great bowls of sawdust — without milk. Very few judges can write well. On the rare occasions when I came across a decision by Learned Hand, I would practically weep with gratitude for his clear, forceful prose.

Antonin Scalia was not just a great stylist for a jurist, he was a great writer for a writer. Most of his work though, obviously, was in the form of opinions and dissents, and even the best Supreme Court opinions are required to include copious citations in the text, which, for the general reader, can be distracting speed bumps. That's one of the many reasons to rejoice at a new collection of Scalia's speeches.

"Scalia Speaks" is a joint effort by Ethics and Public Policy Center President Ed Whelan (a former Scalia law clerk) and Christopher Scalia, one of the justice's nine children and a former English professor. It offers even the nonspecialist an almost intimate picture of one of the giants of our age. Here, in vivid prose, without textual clutter, is his case for originalism, against the "living Constitution" and for judicial modesty.

Just as compelling are the other dimensions of Scalia's life and personality that shine through. In 1997, the University Club of Washington gave the justice a sports award. He began with characteristic drollery: "I have been asked many, many times to what do I attribute my well-known athletic prowess." He then related the games and sports he had played as a kid in Queens, New York. The speech is a veritable time capsule, conveying an almost unrecognizable era in which unsupervised kids devised their own games using little more a Spaldeen ball and a broomstick. "There were no soccer moms because there was no soccer. Americans overwhelmingly preferred baseball, a game in which a lot of players stand around while not much happens, to soccer, a game in which people run back and forth furiously while not much happens." The man who would famously refer in one Supreme Court opinion to "argle-bargle" recalled fondly that one of his childhood games was called "mumblety-peg" and consisted of throwing a penknife into a square marked off in the dirt. "In those days nobody worried about kids carrying knives."

There is much to learn in these speeches about the Constitution, Western civilization, the intersection of faith and public policy, American history and, of course, the law. But the thread that connects all is Scalia's bone-deep appreciation for the primacy of character. Again and again he stressed that a decent society ultimately rests not on laws or customs or even history but on the character of the people. He gave many speeches at universities, law schools and (if one of his nine children or numerous grandchildren was in the graduating class) high schools. A recurring theme was the purpose of education, which he believed was not only to instill knowledge but also to build character. Scalia quoted his own father, a professor of Romance languages and no intellectual slouch himself, who advised, "Brains are like muscles, they can be rented by the hour. The only thing that's not for sale at any price is character."

Scalia's mind sparkled like a gem, but perhaps, in our turbulent time, the most important take-away from this collection is the lesson it teaches about civility.

The national mood has changed even just since Scalia's death. So many of us today are marinating in the pleasures of hatred. Justice Scalia was one of the most skilled polemicists of our time, but he was the opposite of a hater. He had an open, generous nature. Some of the eulogies he offered for friends are included in "Scalia Speaks," and they convey just how perceptive and appreciative he was. The most important things in life — work, family, attitude, piety — are the things he treasured in others. And though neither MSNBC nor Fox News would choose to focus on this, he didn't allow political differences to poison personal relationships. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was among his closest friends. He taught Justice Elena Kagan to hunt.

Justice Ginsburg provided a warm introduction, in which she revealed that she and Scalia used to trade drafts, the better to hone their arguments. "If our friendship encourages others to appreciate that some very good people have ideas with which we disagree, and that, despite differences, people of goodwill can pull together for the well-being of the institutions we serve and our country, I will be overjoyed, as I am confident Justice Scalia would be."

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

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36. Cutting Off UNESCO: Nice Start, Now How About The Rest Of The Israel-Hating U.N.?Пт., 13 окт.[−]

U.N. Reform: President Trump has announced the U.S. will pull out of UNESCO, the U.N.'s educational, science and cultural organization, because of the agency's "continuing anti-Israel bias." This should be a warning to the rest of the U.N., which is no better.

Among the many enduring disappointments of the United Nations is its profound and at times shocking anti-Israel sentiment, which verges on a kind of sick obsession that runs completely contrary to the U.N.'s founding principles. But UNESCO is particularly bad.

How bad? In 2011, it went too far even for the Obama administration by giving "Palestine," a state that doesn't exist, full membership in UNESCO. Under President Obama, the U.S. stayed in the organization, but suspended its payments.

That's not all, however. Even in its cultural pronouncements, UNESCO has displayed a petulant, politicized anti-Semitism, doing things like canceling an exhibition on the Jewish presence in Israel because Arab nations objected to it, backing a motion to deny any Jewish link to the Temple Mount, passing a resolution criticizing Israel's behavior in Jerusalem and Gaza, and calling Israel an "occupying power" in the ancient Jewish city of Jerusalem to suggest its political illegitimacy, among many other routine insults and slights.

In a region where nearly every inch of land is under dispute of some sort, such innocuous-seeming cultural moves can in fact be dangerous and even destabilizing. When coupled with an active hate for one particular group — that is, the Jewish citizens of Israel — it becomes outright poisonous.

Since 2011, the U.S. has tried to get UNESCO to live up to its responsibilities, but to no avail. Rather than pretending, President Trump decided to leave UNESCO entirely. Bravo for him, and it's money well worth not spending.

But the truth is, this isn't just a disease of UNESCO, but of the entire U.N. body.

The so-called U.N. Human Rights Council, which has existed only since 2006, has condemned Israel more than 60 times — more times than all other countries on Earth, combined, and that includes the mass murderers in Syria and North Korea.

Human rights? The only country in the Mideast that grants Arabs full participatory rights — rights to free speech, to vote, to serve in government and military, the right to a fair trial, not to mention the right to exercise their religion — is Israel. No Arab country does the same. And none grants full rights to non-Muslims. None.

More to the point, Israel is the only truly broad-based, participatory democracy in the entire region. The rest are dictatorships of one sort or another. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has already put the UNHRC on notice.

Then there's that other famous agency, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which has been in business since the late 1940s. It has turned from a "relief" agency into a perpetual bureaucracy and welfare source for the Palestinian cause, one that helps fund both the corruption of the Palestinian leadership and terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization's charter doesn't even recognize Israel's right to exist. It is exterminationist in character, seeking to drive Israel into the sea.

And yet the PLO finds a welcome reception in the United Nations General Assembly, the Security Council, and other bastions of the U.N.'s Israel-hate. Indeed, these days the U.N. seems to do little else than obsess over Israel.

We hope that Trump and his extraordinary U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, will soon serve further notice to the international organization: You are not living up to your responsibilities in the world. Either do so, or the U.S. will begin systematically defunding you, and invite you to locate elsewhere.

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37. It's Official: Democrats Are The Extremists TodayПт., 13 окт.[−]

Partisanship: Everyone knows that the country is more politically polarized than ever, but most don't know why. Data from the highly respected Pew Research Center provides a definitive answer. It's because Democrats have moved sharply to the extreme left.

The Pew report — titled "The Partisan Divide on Political Values Grows Even Wider" — is the latest in a decades-long series of surveys it has conducted to gauge people's views on various key issues, including the size of government, immigration, corporate profits, race relations. The authors of the report note the "divisions between Republicans and Democrats on fundamental political values ... reached record levels during Barack Obama's presidency. In Donald Trump's first year as president, these gaps have grown even larger."

Given the way politics gets reported these days, it's easy to conclude that the widening gap is the result of Republicans become more extreme in their views. That is, after all, a mantra among Democrats and the press. The GOP is the party of racist, sexist, xenophobic, right-wing extremists, we hear over and over again, while Democrats are but humble centrists.

The Pew data, however, make it clear that the shift toward the extreme has happened among Democrats, not Republicans.

This can be seen in dramatic fashion when you look at where the center of each party was in 1994, and where it is today. Pew used a 10-item scale of political values to determine ideological purity among those who claim affiliation with the two parties. The results show that while the Republican center moved only slightly to the right over the past 23 years, the center of Democratic part shifted far to the left. (See the nearby chart.)

Take a look at specific value questions Pew asks and you can see why.

Pew asks, for example, whether poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return. In 1994, 63% of Republicans agreed with this sentiment, as did 44% of Democrats.

This year, 65% of Republicans agreed — a 2-point increase — while just 18% of Democrats did — a 26-point drop.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Democrats used to believe that most people who want to get ahead can do so if they work hard. Today, just 45% of Democrats believe this. Among Republicans, the change was negligible — it went from 73% in 1994 to 77% today.

How about the question of whether racial discrimination is the "main reason many black people can't get ahead these days"?

In 1994, just 39% of Democrats and 26% of Republicans felt this way. That was 14 years before the U.S. elected a black president.

Now, after eight years of Obama in the White House, 64% of Democrats say racism is the main reason blacks can't get ahead, while 14% of Republicans do.

National defense?

Back in 1994, 44% of Republicans said the best way to secure peace was through military strength. Today, that figure is 53% — an increase of 9 points.

But on the Democratic side, the share who agreed with "peace through strength" dropped from 28% to 13% — a 15-point drop.

Pew also asked whether "corporations make too much profit." In 1994, the gap between Democrats and Republicans on this issue was 18 percentage points. Today, it's 30 points.

In this case, the entire increase in the gap came from Democrats. While 61% of them said in 1994 that corporations make too much money, 73% now feel that way. There's been no change on the Republicans side — it's remained at 43%.

One issue where Republicans shifted further out to the edge than Democrats was on whether environmental laws and regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy.

But on one big social issue, Republicans have become far more moderate over the years.

The Pew survey asks whether homosexuality should be discouraged by society. In 1994, 58% of Republicans and 42% of Democrats said it should. By 2017, the share of Republicans who felt that way dropped 21 points, in tandem with the decline among Democrats.

Of course, if you want to see how extreme Democrats have become, all you need to do is look at who is now considered the soul of the party — far-left liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren — or the fact that a substantial number of Democratic lawmakers have signed onto Bernie Sanders' radical "Medicare for all" plan. Meanwhile, conservatives couldn't even muster a majority of Republicans in the Senate to repeal ObamaCare.

Democrats and their water carriers in the press are like people on a boat that is drifting off to sea, but are convinced that it's the land that's moving, not them.

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38. Yes, Build The Wall!Чт., 12 окт.[−]

It's time to build the wall — and, in doing so, prevent an estimated 690,000 DACA "dreamers" from being deported from the United States. It's a fair deal that could be scuttled only by intense and self-serving partisanship from the White House and the Republican and Democratic congressional leadership.

As almost everyone knows by now, DACA stands for "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals," a program created in 2012 by President Obama that President Trump says he wants to undo. Because the beneficiaries were brought illegally to the United States as children by their parents, it's hard to make a case that they should be punished. As a practical matter, most have grown up as Americans. They have few roots in their country of birth.

A deal seemed within reach after President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., agreed to negotiate. But now prospects seem to be fading, because the White House is insisting that building the border wall be part of the package — and Schumer and Pelosi say, no way.

"This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise," they said in a joint statement.

Actually, that's not true.

If Trump is going to save the dreamers — repudiating a campaign promise that he would end the program — he needs something big in return. This could be the wall. Schumer and Pelosi's notion of compromise is hardly any compromise at all. Their position is: Be reasonable, do it our way.

Full disclosure: I have been a supporter of the wall for some years, predating Trump's presidential campaign. I justify this on three grounds.

First, I think it would reduce — though not eliminate — illegal immigration. It would be harder to cross the border; some wouldn't try. Controlling our border is vital, even if, as the Pew Research Center estimates, there is now some net migration back to Mexico. This could change, and the gross flows in both directions remain large.

Second, the wall would symbolize a major shift in U.S. immigration policy — a tougher attitude — that would deter some from crossing the border illegally and, more important, justify legislation requiring employers to verify workers' immigration status before being hired. If we were to increase border security but not require proof of legal status, much of the wall's benefit would be lost. Workers would still come.

Finally, the wall is required as a political act of good faith to immigration opponents. They believe the wall would be effective, and the only way to prove — or disprove — these claims would be to try it. I know and respect many critics of the wall who believe it would be a waste of time and money. They could be right, and I could be wrong, but the only way to find out is to build it.

That's my case for the wall. True, it would be costly. One common estimate is $25 billion. Still, even this amount is a rounding error in a $4 trillion federal budget. The price would be tiny if the result protects the "dreamers" and inspires real bargaining on many immigration issues: sanctuary cities, family preferences, and a path to citizenship, among others.

Compromise involves giving up things you want and accepting things you don't want for a result that, despite its defects, leaves you better off than when you started. In that sense, a grand compromise on immigration is conceivable. The open question is whether both sides are willing to compromise — and today's agendas are simply negotiating positions — or whether they prefer endless political theater.

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

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39. Congress Makes Big Progress On Pro-Growth Tax ReformЧт., 12 окт.[−]

The so-called "do nothing Congress" is making amazing progress toward major, pro-growth tax reform. Last week the House passed a budget (first time in over a decade), enabling us to use reconciliation (51 votes) in the Senate for tax reform. Just before that, the Trump administration joined congressional tax writing committees to issue a "Unified, Pro-Growth, Republican Tax Reform Plan."

The architects of "progressivism" (Schumer, Pelosi, Sanders) continue their chant that we are "toadies" of Wall Street and want to cut taxes for the rich. Their left wing "intellectual" apologists like the Tax Policy Center claim that our tax cut proposals will dramatically reduce federal tax revenues, increase our national deficits and debt, and bankrupt America. Yet, these are the very same people who applauded Obama's anti-growth policies and trillions in additional debt.

These so-called "progressives" still haven't gotten the message of the last election. Working people and their families want growth, not Third World-style stagnation.

Too many on both the left and right are unnecessarily exercised about the possible net revenue loss of the Republican Unified Tax Reform Plan. Reagan cut rates for everyone by 25%, but the resulting booming growth made the plan more than revenue neutral, actually revenue positive, as federal revenues doubled while he was president.

Federal revenues were $517 billion in 1980, the year before Reagan entered office. Reagan's tax cuts started the next year, 1981, when total federal revenues rose to $599 billion. By 1984, after Reagan's rate cuts had already become law, federal revenues totaled $666 billion.

But federal revenues continued their upward climb, to $734 billion in 1985, $769 billion in 1986, $854 billion in 1987, $909 billion in 1988, and $991 billion in 1989, the year after Reagan left office, nearly double 1980 revenues.

President Kennedy similarly cut rates for everyone by about 23%, and the booming economy that followed created revenue-positive results the very next year. The fundamental economic truth is when the economy is rising, revenues will be rising, regardless of the rates. And when the economy is declining, revenue will be declining, regardless of the rates.

These are historical facts, not opinion. And those who do not understand them should not pretend to be practicing economics.

Comparing Reagan's 1981 tax rate cuts with currently considered reforms, you can see how much more dynamic current proposals are, with so many more pro-growth reforms.

One of the biggest problems for the U.S. economy is America's hopelessly outdated corporate tax rates, with the top rate nearly a world-leading 40% (counting state corporate taxes on average). Top corporate rates in Asia average half that at 20.1%, Europe less than half at 18.9%. The Republican tax reform proposes to cut the top federal corporate rate to 20%, leaving the total rate close to 25%, counting the states.

The Republican Unified Plan proposes a special, "pass through" rate of 25% to apply mostly to small businesses organized as limited liability companies (LLCs), partnerships, sole proprietorships, Subchapter S corporations, etc. These smaller businesses are taxed today at standard personal income tax rates of up to 39.4% — which is effectively more than 44%, counting phase-outs of varying tax provisions.

For individual taxes paid by workers, the current seven income-tax rates are replaced by three: 12%, 25% and 35%. That does not involve increasing the current 10% rate to 12%, as fake news outlets have reported. The doubling of the standard deduction and increased child tax credit effectively reduce that 10% rate to zero at all income levels to which that 10% applies today.

The Unified Plan also repeals the multiple taxation of capital involved in the death tax and the alternative minimum tax (AMT). The plan also proposes to repeal some itemized deductions primarily used by the wealthy, as only 5% of taxpayers actually itemize.

That should include the deduction for state and local taxes, which only encourages higher state taxes. Repealing that deduction would cause states to reduce their taxes and spending.

The Unified Plan also involves "expensing," or an immediate deduction for capital investment, just like for all other expenses for the production of income. Current law requires capital investment to be deducted over many years, as many as 30, under arbitrary "depreciation," which expensing would replace.

That extended depreciation discourages capital investment, which provides the foundation for increased jobs at higher wages. Tax Foundation studies show that such expensing has very powerful pro-growth effects.

The U.S. economy recovering from recessions grows faster for a few years, until it returns to where it would have been at America's normal 3% to 4% annual growth. That full recovery from the financial crisis never happened under President Obama. But with pro-growth tax reform and deregulation under President Trump, we can expect growth of 5% to 6% for a couple of years, as happened under Reagan and Kennedy.

  • Uhler is founder and president of the National Tax Limitation Committee and National Tax Limitation Foundation (NTLF). He was a contemporary and collaborator of both Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman, in California and across the nation.
  • Ferrara is a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute and a senior policy advisor to 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.


40. Americans Don't Mind High CEO Pay — ReallyЧт., 12 окт.[−]

More shocking than the news of the recent data hack at Equifax may have been the news that its departing CEO, Richard Smith, might take with him an estimated $90 million in compensation. Amounts like these often spur efforts to curb executive pay through government intervention.

But just because executives make a lot of money doesn't mean people want the government to step in. In fact, a majority of Americans oppose the idea of regulating CEO pay.

Despite this, government regularly seeks to cut executive compensation. From the 1930s through the present, the government has tried various methods to cap executive pay. Right now, companies are furiously working to prepare for a new rule, issued under Dodd-Frank, that requires public companies to disclose the ratio of their CEO's pay to that of their average employee.

But none of these efforts has been successful. Take the Clinton administration's attempt in 1993, for example. A new provision of the tax code offered favorable tax treatment to incentive-based pay for compensation over $1 million a year. Intended to curb what the administration viewed as "excessive" executive pay, the rule instead resulted in huge increases. Because they qualify as incentive-based, corporate boards began pouring stock options into their executives' portfolios.

The rollout of the rule was followed shortly by a huge boom in the stock market as the dot-com craze exploded in the late 1990s. The result was a massive uptick in executive compensation — not exactly the intent behind the rule.

Modern rules to curb CEO and executive pay are just as counterproductive. One rule, a creation of the massive post-crisis legislation known as Dodd-Frank, requires public companies to disclose the ratio between their CEO's pay and that of their average employee. Regulators seem to think that if companies must disclose that the CEO makes hundreds of times the amount an average employee makes, that should nudge companies toward lowering CEO pay.

Except that's not what's happening. The final rule was issued in 2015, with a January 2017 implementation date. But since 2015 a majority of the 200 companies with highest CEO compensation have increased pay in that time.

This rule is ineffective and should be repealed. A new report just released by the Treasury Department explicitly recommends just that. But since the rule was mandated by Dodd-Frank, Treasury lacks the authority to make this change. It will require action by Congress.

And Congress should address this, because government-issued CEO pay caps are at odds with the American people. A new national poll just released by the Cato Institute in collaboration with YouGov found that even though 73% of Americans think CEOs are overpaid, most still think the government should not be allowed to regulate CEO salaries. And 62% agree that government regulation of business usually does more harm than good. A whopping 74% say that regulations often fail to have their intended effect.

But there may be more to the poll's results than simply a belief that the government won't get it right. Overall, Americans seem unconcerned about some people making a lot of money, as long as they aren't hurting anyone. A majority said that banks and financial institutions should be allowed to make as much money as they can so long as they don't mislead their customers. And when asked to prioritize goals for financial regulators, only 12% said ensuring banks and financial institutions don't make too much profit should be a top priority; most people placed protecting consumers from fraud as a top goal.

These findings should surprise policymakers and others who view corporate executives as fundamentally different from other highly paid workers in entertainment and sports. After all, no serious attempts have been made to regulate the pay of Hollywood actors.

It turns out the general public does think those actors and sport stars are overpaid. Seventy percent think that famous actors are overpaid, 72% think NFL players are, and 74% think that NBA players are, about the same number who said that CEOs are overpaid. But despite this belief, Americans overwhelmingly feel that government should not regulate these salaries either. Sixty-nine percent said that government should not be allowed to regulate NBA players' salaries and 70% said it should not be allowed to regulate famous actors'.

Government should not attempt to regulate executive pay — or anyone's for that matter — even when that pay seems excessive. There are other mechanisms for policing compensation.

Equifax, for example, has announced it is considering clawing back former CEO Richard Smith's pay and that many of its executives will also suffer financial losses for their missteps. Public companies are required to disclose compensation for their top managers. A board's poor decisions will be subject to market review as investors decide whether to buy or sell the company's stock. It's too bad government itself doesn't seem to recognize this.

  • Knight is associate director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute's Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives.

41. Larry Elder: Yes, Gun Control Advocates Do Want To Take Our Guns — Just Listen To ThemЧт., 12 окт.[−]

Almost immediately after the Las Vegas shooting came the calls for "common sense" gun control. The quest almost always begins with a reassurance that "no one wants to take away your guns."

Not everyone read the memo.

Nelson Shields, founder of Handgun Control, Inc., the organization that became the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, in a 1976 interview could not have been more clear about his group's goals: "Our ultimate goal — total control of handguns in the United States — is going to take time. My estimate is from seven to 10 years. The first problem is to slow down the increasing number of handguns being produced and sold in this country. The second problem is to get handguns registered. And the final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition — except for the military, policemen, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs, and licensed gun collectors — totally illegal."

In 1993, a Los Angeles Times editorial called for the repeal of the Second Amendment: "You will not feel safe, your children will not be safe, until there are almost no guns on the streets and in homes. No guns, period, except for those held by law enforcement officers and a few others, including qualified hunters and collectors. ... We must, as a nation, move toward a very different model, one that presumptively bars private citizens from owning a firearm unless they can demonstrate a special need and ability to do so. ... We think the time has come for Americans to tell the truth about guns. They are not for us; we cannot handle them. They kill people, our children included. It's time to get rid of them. Period."

Fast-forward to the Las Vegas shooting. The Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson calls for a gun "buyback": "A real gun debate has to look at that fact: 300 million guns. And we need, you know, to look at what was done in a place like Australia, where they had a gun buyback. And gun control is permissible, according to the Supreme Court. And so if Congress were to decide — it won't happen — were to decide that automatic assault rifles, long guns ... (and) military-style weapons are something that citizens should not have, they should be police and military only, and we're going to buy them back, that would have an impact. ... And that's what the debate ought to be."

Recall that Hillary Clinton, during the 2016 election, also gushed over the allegedly successful Australian gun buyback program: "Australia had a huge mass killing about 20, 25 years ago. Canada did as well, so did the UK. In reaction, they passed much stricter gun laws. ... The Australian government as part of trying to clamp down on the availability of automatic weapons, offered a good price for buying hundreds of thousands of guns and basically clamped down going forward, in terms of having more of a background check approach — more of a permitting approach."

True, Australia, over 20 years ago, banned semi-automatic and self-loading rifles, as well as self-loading and pump-action shotguns. The government offered up to a one-year grace period during which it would buy back the banned firearms at preset "market value" prices, financed by a tax on health insurance. After that, people possessing the banned weapons would be subject to strict penalties, including imprisonment.

But did Australia's gun buyback program reduce violent gun crime?

No, according to John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center. "Their firearms homicide rate," said Lott, "had been falling for a decade prior to the buyback. It continued falling at the same rate after the buyback. There was no sudden drop, just a fairly constant decline that continued even as gun ownership rose back up to previous levels. The armed robbery rate rose in the first five years after the buyback. After another 10 years, the rate had fallen to pre-buyback levels."

The near-term "common sense" goal of the gun controllers is to ban the "bump stock" that enabled the shooter to turn a semi-automatic into a fully automatic weapon. Never mind that of the modern mass shootings in America, only one killer used a machine gun: Stephen Paddock. And where was this "common sense" when President Barack Obama's ATF approved the bump stock, pronouncing it a part, not a weapon? California has some of the most stringent gun laws in the country, yet has experienced mass shootings, including the San Bernardino shooting in 2015, where 14 were killed.

This is not to say that nothing can be done to make a Las Vegas-style shooting more difficult. But most of these things will be done by private actors. Las Vegas hotel/casino owner Steve Wynn, for example, said his Vegas resorts already had additional security measures in place.

The "common sense" goal of many "gun control activists" is not a ban on this or that feature but a ban on civilian ownership of guns. Just ask the Los Angeles Times.

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

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42. George Will: The Auto Industry Has A Glamorous Past But An Opaque FutureЧт., 12 окт.[−]

DETROIT — Bending metal, slapping on chrome and marketing an empowering product and status marker that mesmerized 20th-century America, the automobile industry typified the Old Economy, of which General Motors was emblematic. As was its bankruptcy. Today, GM's CEO Mary Barra is wagering that the industry soon will be manufacturing New Economy products. They will incorporate technologies that will entice buyers whose sensibilities and expectations have been shaped by the kind of empowerment delivered by their smartphones, which arrived just 10 years ago.

GM's electric self-starter, which replaced hand cranks, was the last century's most transformative innovation. It arrived in 1912. Today, Cadillac offers hands-free driving, with advanced GPS mapping. An eye-tracking camera on the steering column monitors driver alertness, and the car nags the distracted driver back to attentiveness, which makes this technological marvel less of a convenience than the self-starter. Still, Barra is attempting an audacious balance between the demands of present consumers and radically different future demands. Or, more accurately, a future that governments, hostile to consumer sovereignty, intend to dictate.

China has announced, as have Britain and France, plans to ban, at an undetermined date, sales of vehicles powered by fossil fuels in their tanks. (Electric vehicles will be powered mostly by fossil-fuel-generated electricity.) In Shanghai in mid-September, Barra dissented: "I think it works best when, instead of mandating, consumers, not government dictates, should decide how cars are powered." But governments, and not just dictatorships, like to dictate, and companies must accommodate: GM sells more cars in China than in America (it sold about 1.2 million Buicks last year, about a million of them in China, where elites drove them decades before communism arrived), and China manufactures more cars than the United States and Japan combined. As GM promises two new electric vehicles in the next 18 months, and a total of 20 by 2023, one of Barra's executives speaks of GM "driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles," but governments are at the wheel. Without subventions from Washington, Tesla's market capitalization never would have even briefly exceeded GM's.

Barra foresees a fast-unfolding future of "zero crashes" (salvation through software: auto-crash fatality rates are rising for the first time in years, and 94% of crashes are caused by human error), "zero emissions" (zero from tailpipes, much from smokestacks in an all-electric future) and "zero congestion" (with more ride-hailing services and car-sharing fleets, less individual car ownership and less urban land devoted to parking lots).

Ford, too, is anticipating a future replete with electric, semi-autonomous, driverless and shared cars: Two years ago, it announced a $4.5 billion investment in electric vehicles. But to pay for this speculation (electrics are 1% of U.S. car sales, despite tax incentives to buy what the government prefers), Ford is diverting $7 billion from cars to vehicles for which there actually is demand — SUVs and trucks (its F-Series pickup has been America's best-selling vehicle since 1982).

The automobile industry is precariously poised between a glamorous past and a future as opaque as it was when Henry Ford supposedly said that if he had begun by asking customers what they wanted they would have answered "a faster horse." Or when the company he founded produced a car named for his son Edsel.

"This is a long-lead-time business," says Barra, as she tries to peer over the horizon to develop products for a public that increasingly can work and shop without leaving home, and that decreasingly vacations as it was exhorted to by the theme song of "The Dinah Shore Chevy Show" (1956-63): "See the USA in your Chevrolet." The torrid romance that was America's car culture has cooled (the percentage of 12th graders with a driver's license has declined from 88 to 73 since 1978), the sedan (Chevrolet's Impala has been around since 1958) is an endangered species, and car companies are preparing for a future in which the crucial metric is not the number of vehicles sold to consumers but the number of miles traveled by consumers.

Barra, 55, whose father was a die-maker for Pontiac for 39 years, remembers when auto dealers covered their showroom windows with paper to build excitement for the first glimpses of new models. She is banking on a more sophisticated kind of excitement for smartcars. They will be designed for customers who in 2006 did not know that soon they would not be able to imagine living without the smartphones that in 2006 they could not imagine.


43. Trump's $33 Billion Tax Cut You Didn't Know You Just GotЧт., 12 окт.[−]

Regulation: In a recent editorial, we noted that President Trump's decision to get rid of President Obama's Clean Power Plan would be a major money-saver for companies and a deregulatory boost for the economy. Now, new data actually put a dollar figure on it.

Senior Trump officials now estimate that the president's decision will save consumers some $33 billion. No, they won't get a big notice on their monthly bill saying: "You saved $X amount this month, thanks to repeal of the Clean Power Act." But the money will go into their pocket nonetheless, since they will avoid paying the much-higher costs that Obama had baked into the energy cake through his plan to cut CO2 emissions by 35% over the next 14 years.

As we've said, this marks a major promise kept by President Trump. He showed himself on the stump to be one of the most energy-savvy presidents ever, and smartly campaigned heavily in coal and mining country, in places like Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, while Hillary Clinton avoided them and even ridiculed them.

Trump promised not to abandon coal, which Obama Democrats almost gleefully were sending to energy extinction with Obama's new law.

XAutoplay: On | Off"We are committed to righting the wrongs of the Obama administration by cleaning the regulatory slate," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said. "Any replacement rule will be done carefully, properly, and with humility, by listening to all those affected by the rule."

It was never popular to begin with, but was shoved down America's throat by an overweening EPA under Obama.

Despite the Obama White House and its leftist shills in the media touting the Clean Power Plan's benefits, the Daily Signal reports that the plan ran into a legal buzz saw of "multiple lawsuits from more than 150 entities, including 27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 rural electric cooperatives, and three labor unions, according to the EPA. On top of that, 34 senators and 171 House members filed an amicus briefing arguing the Clean Power Plan was illegal."

It's no surprise that in February of 2016, the Supreme Court put a halt to the program's implementation while the many suits and legal challenges made their way through the court system.

In getting rid of this odious regulatory law, the U.S. dodged a big bullet. A study conducted by the American Action Forum, a conservative-leaning think tank, estimated in 2015 that at least 125,000 jobs would be lost and 66 coal-fired plants would be shut down by 2030 under Obama's plan. Moreover, nearly half the nation's coal energy would be lost due to the imposition of just one rule, and whole communities would have been impoverished.

Predictably, extremist green groups, who thought they had found their champion in Obama, have been outraged. Greenpeace Climate Director James Kelly sounded almost cartoonish, calling the cautious Pruitt a "dangerously corrupt fossil-fuel errand boy." No word yet of any offer from Greenpeace to support the families that lose jobs and houses as a result of the group's environmental extremism.

When it came to the Clean Power Plan, the left didn't really care about CO2 or global warming. They wanted power. In that sense, the Clean Power Plan's very name should have been a big hint. It represented a major shift of power from the states, which have traditionally regulated their own utilities, and handed it to green bureaucrats burrowed deeply in the federal government.

It would have given federal bureaucrats insane control over our nation's economy. Instead, as the new estimate suggests, Americans quietly will get a $33 billion reduction in their future utility bills, thanks to Trump and Pruitt.

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44. What Does The FBI Crime Report Mean For Criminal Justice Reform?Чт., 12 окт.[−]

Contrary to Attorney General Sessions and others who suggest it shows the need for a 1980s-style crackdown on crime, the FBI's just-released report for 2016 — showing that violent crime has increased for the second consecutive year — does not actually demonstrate that we are experiencing a violent crime wave.

Moreover, the administration's policy preferences threaten to undo reforms that are succeeding at the state and local levels. Even staunch Republican strongholds have pioneered new approaches to issues like jail overcrowding — crafting policies designed to shrink incarcerated populations. Policymakers should ignore Sessions' calls to ramp up prison populations and to return to failed policies from a bygone era.

The uptick in violent crime in 2016 was small, rising just 4.1% from 2015. But multiple studies on crime rates in recent years conclude that variations of this size are normal and do not indicate a national epidemic. In fact, violent crime is still 12.3% lower than it was 10 years ago. Meanwhile, property crimes, which make up the lion's share of overall crimes, dropped for the 15th year in a row.

Violent crime rates are substantially worse in large cities. Still, the increase in violent crimes is being driven by a handful of urban areas, and largely only by a select few communities within those cities. We shouldn't ignore trends in neighborhoods in Baltimore and Chicago — the pattern of violence in these cities is tragic and requires our fullest attention. But we're far from a catastrophic outbreak of crime across the nation. Americans are safer today than they have been at almost any time in the past 25 years.

The attorney general's steadfast belief in a crime wave and his skepticism that "small fry" offenders even exist both undergird his support for hawkish crime policies: increasing incarceration populations, slapping harsh sentences on offenders and failing to distinguish between dangerous and nonviolent offenders.

Meanwhile, bail-reform movements, which seek to reduce the number of low-level jail detainees, are gaining momentum across the country. The guiding principle behind bail reform is that we throw too many people in jail who shouldn't be there.

While local jails do convicted individuals, usually serving short sentences, about 70% of jail populations are pretrial defendants who have not been convicted of a crime. Many are held simply because they can't afford bail, even though recent data show that pretrial jailees often are detained for nonviolent offenses.

This situation makes us less safe. Detaining low- and moderate-risk defendants, even for a few days, correlates strongly with higher rates of new criminal activity. The likelihood that a defendant will reoffend increases with the length of their detention. Meanwhile, wealthy offenders who can afford bail often walk free. In one study, nearly half the defendants considered "high-risk" or dangerous were released, simply because they could afford bail.

In one notable example, New Jersey recently replaced much of its cash-bail system with algorithmic risk assessments. New Jersey judges now use the Arnold Foundation's Public Safety Assessment (PSA) software, which uses individualized data to assess a defendant's pretrial risk and recommend whether they should be released, detained or released with surveillance. Since the system's implementation earlier this year, the state's jail population already has fallen by 15.8%, while violent crime fell by 12.4%.

Kentucky similarly uses a pretrial risk-assessment system, which the Pretrial Justice Institute analyzed in 2010, finding its failure to appear and rearrest rates — 8% and 7%, respectively — were among the best in the nation. After further reforms in 2013 that included adopting the PSA, one Kentucky legislator estimated taxpayer savings of $30 million from downsized jail populations, while keeping FTA and rearrest rates among the lowest in the country.

Local legislators also are focusing on how the criminal justice system treats individuals with drug and mental health issues. Law-and-order types often lack sympathy for behavioral-health defendants. Sessions has expressed that he believes just about all nominally nonviolent drug offenders are actually violent, and that the only reason they lack violent records is that they accepted plea deals. His views on drug offenders probably explain why he once sought to make second-time drug offenses punishable by death.

Yet evidence suggests that many inmates are incarcerated without a public-safety justification, and mental-health problems are rampant among jail detainees. We also know that pretrial detention can substantially increase mental-health detainees' odds of reoffending, and that even brief stays in jail correlate harrowingly with suicide.

To remedy the influx of detainees with rehabilitative needs, Texas expanded drug courts, which allow users to forgo incarceration if they agree to comprehensive supervision, drug testing and treatment. Texas' reforms saved taxpayers more than $3 billion, while crime rates have plummeted to a 49-year low and recidivism dropped steadily.

Participating defendants in Washington, D.C.'s newly implemented mental-health court were 36% less likely than the comparison group to be arrested again in the year after completing the program. As part of the MacArthur Foundation's Safety and Justice Challenge, more than 30 counties — from Palm Beach, Fla., to Spokane, Wash. — along with the states of Connecticut and Delaware, are making changes to their jail systems by diverting mental-health and drug offenders, reducing reliance on cash bail and minimizing the number of nonviolent offenders in pretrial detention.

The massive hike in incarceration rates in the 1980s helped bring down crime, though many other factors likely contributed. However, the collateral consequences of mass incarceration are obvious. It tears apart families, drives up government expenditures and, most importantly, it damages public safety.

Many in the administration will use these new statistics to justify an old school war on crime. But they would be demonstrably wrong to claim that there is a crime wave, and their tactics to solve crime will only exacerbate it. Legislators and criminal justice policymakers would do well to ignore them.

  • Haggerty (@JHaggrid) is a justice policy associate at R Street Institute.
  • Rizer (@ArthurRizer) is R Street's director of justice and national security policy.

45. Betsy McCaughey: The War On Cops Goes To CourtСр., 11 окт.[−]

The war on cops is moving from the streets to the U.S. Supreme Court. Last week, the Justices heard a case that threatens police officers with financial ruin if they make arrests, and the charges later get dropped.

It started with a late night bash. District of Columbia police officers were called by neighbors at 1 a.m. to investigate a rowdy party at an unoccupied row house. The police found 21 partygoers, liquor, trash and used condoms strewn about, along with the smell of marijuana and women with cash coming out of their pants. The partygoers scattered, hiding in closets.

When questioned, some told police "Peaches had invited them." Some gave other stories. The police phoned "Peaches," who admitted to not having the owner's permission to use the house. The police then called the owner, who confirmed no one had permission. Two hours after being summoned, the police made the decision to arrest the party-goers for trespassing — the judgment call an issue in this case.

The charges were later dropped, because it wasn't clear beyond a reasonable doubt the party-goers knew they were trespassing. But 16 turned around and sued the police for false arrest and violating their constitutional rights.

They never claimed the police verbally or physically abused them. They sued simply for having been arrested, cuffed and hauled to the police station. Amazingly, the lower courts slapped the police with nearly $1 million in damages and legal fees — one of numerous recent lower court decisions making cops personally liable for decisions they made on duty.

The justices should put a stop to it. Fortunately, the Court has a long record of protecting the police from legal liability, provided there's no evidence of malice or a deliberate violation of the Constitution.

If merely making an arrest puts cops at risk of getting sued and clobbered with legal fees and damage awards, what police officer will ever make an arrest? One mistake could mean losing their home and everything else. Faced with that risk, who would ever want to be a cop?

Twenty-six states and the federal Justice Department are weighing in with a strong warning that allowing the lower court ruling to stand would have "vast consequences" for law enforcement everywhere. On the other side, the American Civil Liberties Union is pushing to shrink or even eliminate the police's legal immunity. The ACLU wants police to have no room for error.

Last week's oral argument signals how the Justices are likely to vote. Justice Stephen Breyer sympathized with the partygoers, suggesting it's out of "the Middle Ages" to expect them to know who's hosting. Justice Elena Kagan bragged she herself had gone to parties without knowing who the host was and where "marijuana was maybe present."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was determined to play the race card, though race wasn't raised by either side. She asked "if police officers arrived at a wealthy home and it was white teenagers having a party ... I doubt very much those kids would be arrested." Shame on Sotomayor.

Neighbors called the cops because they were concerned about the debauchery going on next door to them. Of course, people in an upscale neighborhood would do the same. Rich people and poor people, black and white alike, want police protection and quiet enjoyment of their homes.

That protection is being eroded. You can thank Black Lives Matter street protests and pandering politicians. Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald reports a nationwide slowdown in policing, because cops are feeling vulnerable and hesitating to make arrests. That means the war on cops is hurting all of us.

A majority of the Justices seem to get that. The Court's newest member, Justice Neil Gorsuch, has frequently cautioned against courts "second-guessing" police for the actions they take in "tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving circumstances." That's why the Court should rule in favor of legal immunity for the police. Our public safety depends on it.

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


46. To Be 'Clean, Green And Cool,' Think Two Words: Energy EfficiencyСр., 11 окт.[−]

America's energy industry is on track to meet former President Obama's global climate goals without the Paris Accord and without the Clean Power Plan, the would-be vehicle to meet the targets outlined in Paris.

This proves we do not need the regulatory burden of either. We can get there faster, more economically, and with fewer burdens to the United States energy consumer.

A key ingredient in our industry approach is energy efficiency: efficiency in energy production, transportation and utilization.

XAutoplay: On | OffThe U.S. is more committed to cost-effective and environmentally conscious energy use than ever before. According to new research, more than two million Americans work full or part time on energy efficiency — an increase of 250,000 jobs since 2015. Energy efficiency employs about twice as many Americans as the auto industry, including auto parts manufacturers.

Efficiency gains over the past four decades have resulted in Americans using 50% less energy than if 1970s trends had continued. Both technological advances and behavioral modifications contribute to this.

Production has become more efficient. From 2000 to 2014, oil and gas producers invested roughly $90 billion into emission control technologies. Combined with the industry's nearly $130 billion investment in shale development, oil and gas producers have spent more than $217 billion to reduce carbon emissions.

Technological innovation is already producing results by reducing drilling costs and shortening drilling times. Oil and gas producers can now harness higher levels of energy while using fewer acres for extraction. Three of America's largest oil basins — Eagle Ford, Permian, and Williston — have experienced steady gains in efficiency since 2013. In the last two years alone, the Permian Basin's oil wells have become 50% more productive.

But we can and must do better. While 1.2 billion global citizens lack access to commercial energy — meaning no electricity and no liquid fuel — we in the U.S. use four times more energy than the average global citizens.

Another 1.2 billion people are victims of unreliable, unsafe and unclean sources of electricity. Meanwhile, the human population is expected to grow by two billion by the middle of the century. Restricting energy production only exacerbates energy poverty.

So our industry has this challenge: Double resources and decarbonize the energy sector. It is impossible to get there without energy efficiency.

International energy partnerships will play an increasingly crucial role in decarbonizing the sector and bringing more resources to market.

In 2016, the United States Energy Association contracted U.S. engineering firm Worley Parsons to assess an old coal-fired power plant in Kosovo, which provides much of the country's energy. That assessment provided recommendations on how to improve the plant's efficiency and reduce its environmental impact for years to come. The people of Kosovo can now look forward to greater and safer energy access.

While climate-change activists continue to sound alarm bells, they continually forget this reality. Industry has already cut emissions, moved the country closer to achieving emissions targets set in Paris, and they've done that using clean technology and energy efficiency.

Government leaders at all levels want us to reduce emissions. Our stakeholders want us to reduce emissions. Our customers want us to reduce emissions. And our current and future employees want us to reduce emissions.

Our workforce is replacing 65-year-olds with 25-year-olds. Younger employees want to work for a company that is clean, green and cool. If we are not clean, green and cool, then they will go work for someone else, and that someone else wants to steal our business.

But more work can be done. Individual responsibility goes a longer way in conserving energy and protecting the environment than scapegoating energy producers.

There is plenty that individual consumers can do. Take shorter showers, turn off lights, and turn down the thermostat in the winter, for starters. Improving lighting efficiency can make an impact. Compact fluorescent bulbs can reduce energy use by up to 75%. Lighting accounts for 11% of energy used in homes and 18% of energy used in commercial buildings.

On Thursday, Oct. 12, the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., will host the 28th Annual Energy Efficiency Forum, organized by the U.S. Energy Association and Johnson Controls Inc. Industry and government officials will discuss ways to collaborate to advance economic development and ways to expand energy-efficiency initiatives to that end.

This is the first time the annual event is being hosted by the Canadian Embassy, highlighting that energy efficiency is not only an American priority, but a global one. Only by working together can we maximize our energy efficiency and expand energy access worldwide.

  • Worthington is the executive director of the United States Energy Association

47. Victor Davis Hanson: It's 1968 All Over AgainСр., 11 окт.[−]

Almost a half-century ago, in 1968, the United States seemed to be falling apart.

The Vietnam War, a bitter and close presidential election, antiwar protests, racial riots, political assassinations, terrorism and a recession looming on the horizon left the country divided between a loud radical minority and a silent conservative majority.

The United States avoided a civil war. But America suffered a collective psychological depression, civil unrest, defeat in Vietnam and assorted disasters for the next decade — until the election of a once-polarizing Ronald Reagan ushered in five consecutive presidential terms of relative bipartisan calm and prosperity from 1981 to 2001.

It appears as if 2017 might be another 1968. Recent traumatic hurricanes seem to reflect the country's human turmoil.

After the polarizing Obama presidency and the contested election of Donald Trump, the country is once again split in two.

But this time the divide is far deeper, both ideologically and geographically — and more 50/50, with the two liberal coasts pitted against red-state America in between.

Century-old mute stone statues are torn down in the dead of night, apparently on the theory that by attacking the Confederate dead, the lives of the living might improve.

All the old standbys of American life seem to be eroding. The National Football League is imploding as it devolves into a political circus. Multimillionaire players refuse to stand for the national anthem, turning off millions of fans whose former loyalties paid their salaries.

Politics — or rather a progressive hatred of the provocative Donald Trump — permeates almost every nook and cranny of popular culture.

The new allegiance of the media, late-night television, stand-up comedy, Hollywood, professional sports and universities is committed to liberal sermonizing. Politically correct obscenity and vulgarity among celebrities and entertainers is a substitute for talent, even as Hollywood is wracked by sexual harassment scandals and other perversities.

The smears "racist," "fascist," "white privilege" and "Nazi" — like "commie" of the 1950s — are so overused as to become meaningless. There is now less free speech on campus than during the McCarthy era of the early 1950s.

As was the case in 1968, the world abroad is also falling apart.

The European Union, model of the future, is unraveling. The EU has been paralyzed by the exit of Great Britain, the divide between Spain and Catalonia, the bankruptcy of Mediterranean nation members, insidious terrorist attacks in major European cities and the onslaught of millions of immigrants — mostly young, male and Muslim — from the war-torn Middle East. Germany is once again becoming imperious, but this time insidiously by means other than arms.

The failed state of North Korea claims that it has nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching America's West Coast — and apparently wants some sort of bribe not to launch them.

Iran is likely to follow the North Korea nuclear trajectory. In the meantime, its new Shiite hegemony in the Middle East is feeding on the carcasses of Syria and Iraq.

Is the chaos of 2017 a catharsis — a necessary and long overdue purge of dangerous and neglected pathologies? Will the bedlam within the United States descend into more nihilism, or offer a remedy to the status quo that had divided and nearly bankrupted the country?

Is the problem too much democracy, as the volatile and fickle mob runs roughshod over establishment experts and experienced bureaucrats? Or is the crisis too little democracy, as populists strive to dethrone a scandal-plagued, anti-democratic, incompetent and overrated entrenched elite?

Neither traditional political party has any answers.

Democrats are being overwhelmed by the identity politics and socialism of progressives. Republicans are torn asunder between upstart populist nationalists and the calcified establishment status quo.

Yet for all the social instability and media hysteria, life in the United States quietly seems to be getting better.

The economy is growing. Unemployment and inflation remain low. The stock market and middle-class incomes are up.

Business and consumer confidence are high. Corporate profits are up. Energy production has expanded. The border with Mexico is being enforced.

Is the instability less a symptom that America is falling apart and more a sign that the loud conventional wisdom of the past — about the benefits of a globalized economy, the insignificance of national borders and the importance of identity politics — is drawing to a close, along with the careers of those who profited from it?

In the past, any crisis that did not destroy the United States ended up making it stronger. But for now, the fight grows over which is more toxic -- the chronic statist malady that was eating away the country, or the new populist medicine deemed necessary to cure it.

  • Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author of "The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won," to appear in October from Basic Books. His email is: authorvdh@gmail.com.


48. L. Brent Bozell: The Russian Facebook FizzleСр., 11 окт.[−]

In their book "Shattered," Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes report that within 24 hours of losing the presidential election, Hillary Clinton was ordering her campaign to argue that it was hacked by Russia. Just as reporters leaped to find "news" to corroborate her allegations of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" (VRWC for short) during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, they have lunged at stories of Russian interference to validate VRWC 2.0.

Second verse, same as the first. The media outlets most deeply invested in the narrative about Russia having somehow masterfully manipulated the 2016 election are beginning to struggle as the actual facts tumble out. Getting a closer look at the Russia Facebook postings doesn't help the Sore Loser Chorus. In fact, it demolishes it.

The New York Times posted a story on Oct. 9 headlined "How Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape U.S. Politics." But there in the details was a dramatic shapelessness, a borrowing from the left and the right, that ultimately underscored why the story should have never been published in the first place.

Times reporters Nicholas Confessore and Daisuke Wakabayashi explained that one Russian Facebook page was called "the United Muslims of America," which often shared posts and videos about American Islamophobia. It stole a YouTube video produced by a man named Waqas Shah in which actors he'd paid shoved him around in New York City to see whether bystanders would object. They did not. So America is bigoted.

But another Russian account called "Being Patriotic" spread a widely circulated internet hoax about how Muslim men in Michigan were collecting welfare payments for multiple wives. So the Russians were both protesting Islamophobia ... and promoting it. How is that "reshaping" our election process? It is what it is: an attempt to inflame both ends of the spectrum and set them to war against each other.

If the Times is trying to corroborate Clinton's Russia-Trump conspiracy, it is not helping itself when it reports in the same piece that the Russians caused Americans on both sides of the divide to promote their material. It noted that a Facebook page called "Blacktivist" carried "passionate denunciations of the criminal justice system and viral videos of police violence." One of the posts about the death of a black teenager in a fight with police in Bridgeport, Connecticut, was reposted by Black Lives Matter Chicago.

The Being Patriotic page also stirred up conservatives with a message against more refugee settlements in America. But here's the glaring difference in coverage: The Times asked conservative social-media activists how they felt about having been used by the Russians, but they didn't get any quotes from Black Lives Matter about having been manipulated.

Washington Examiner correspondent Byron York dealt a major blow to these Russia-Trump conspiracy theories by reporting facts that Facebook itself has revealed.

  • Facebook said 56% of these ads' impressions came after the election and 25% of the ads were never seen by anybody.
  • Most of the ads didn't mention the election or the candidates or the need to vote. They may have "harvested American rage," but for what purpose?
  • Most of the ads were not geographically targeted, and when they were, they were all over the place. The ones targeting swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin ran in 2015 and drew less than 1,000 impressions.

Nothing the Clintonistas have cited as the "real killers" of her presidential hopes has turned out to be true. Clinton wanted Donald Trump as her opponent. Then she couldn't vanquish him. And now she can't face 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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49. Forget About Antitrust: Wal-Mart Is Punching Back At AmazonСр., 11 окт.[−]

E-Commerce: Wasn't it just months ago that some were lamenting the impending demise of Wal-Mart ( WMT) in its battle-to-the-death with Amazon.com ( AMZN)? Maybe those obituaries were written a bit too prematurely.

Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world, is showing that an elephant can dance. Besieged by Amazon's online dominance and ability to deliver goods at super-low prices overnight, it has responded to the challenge.

XAutoplay: On | OffUnlike other brick-and-mortar retailers like JCPenney ( JCP), Sears ( SHLD) and other former stalwarts that themselves were never able to respond to Wal-Mart's challenge 30 years ago, the Bentonville, Ark.-based discounting giant has moved aggressively into e-tailing.

Walmart said its e-commerce business is set to expand by 40% next year as it goes toe-to-toe with Amazon. It will boost its online grocery pickup sites by 100% or more in the coming year, while hiring an army of 2,000 "specialists" to keep on top if its burgeoning website.

Last year, Wal-Mart put up $3 billion for Jet.com, an online retailer whose "smart-cart" checkout technology has helped Wal-Mart boost its e-sales by 60%.

This is only part of the future that Wal-Mart is building. Soon, it hopes to keep families' pantries stocked, just as Wal-Mart stocks its own shelves, using enhanced pickup and delivery and letting customers use their cellphones to do everything from returning goods to ordering.

Because of the ubiquity of Wal-Mart in so many communities across America, it may have an actual edge on its toughest competitor, Amazon.

In fact, no one should curse or punish Amazon. We should thank it.

As we noted a few months back, the online giant is responsible for something called the "Amazon Effect." This was described by American Enterprise Institute fellow and economist Mark J. Perry as "the incredibly disruptive effects Amazon is having on the retail industry as it revolutionizes retailing, supply chain management and delivery, with a laserlike focus on creating value for consumers."

Conventional retailers are growing about 2% to 3% a year, if that; e-commerce is shooting up at 15% or more a year. It's a retailing paradigm shift brought about by technology.

Yes, there's lots of pain as old-school retailers fall by the wayside. But there's also lots of gain, as consumers get new ways to buy and old companies step up to the challenge.

That's just what Wal-Mart did. And by the way, as an added vote of confidence in its own future, Wal-Mart says it is buying back $20 billion of its own stock. Not the move of a company that thinks it's endangered.

We all mourn our favorite retailers going the way of the dodo bird. But the new era of e-commerce is on us, and it promises to deliver extreme value, low prices and convenience in ways we've never had before. Just as Sears and JCPenney once put rural and small-town retailers out of business, e-commerce today is doing the same.

It's called creative destruction.

And to think that just a few months ago some were suggesting that Amazon would have to be broken up under antitrust law because it had no viable competitors. Well, Walmart has emerged as that competition. Maybe antitrust will just have to wait.

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50. Dems Want To 'Save' ObamaCare By Closing All The ExitsСр., 11 окт.[−]

Health Reform: President Trump may have found an ingenious way to inject more choice and competition into the insurance market, and offer affordable coverage to millions, with the stroke of his pen. No wonder the left is freaking out.

According to multiple news accounts, Trump is expected to sign an executive order as early as this Thursday that, among other things, would make it easier to join "association health plans."

These plans let small businesses and individuals band together to buy large-group coverage, and like plans offered by multistate businesses, these association health plans would be exempt from state regulations, as well as from ObamaCare's burdensome mandates. They could also be sold across state lines.

XAutoplay: On | OffAssociation health plans aren't a new concept. They exist today, but their ability to expand is severely limited by state and federal regulations. In theory, lifting some of these regulations would allow greater access to low-cost alternatives to overpriced, over-regulated ObamaCare plans.

The details of any Trump executive order remain to be seen, and there are questions about how far he can go through that route. So no one can judge yet how effective it would be. (Trump also might reverse an Obama administration rule that was designed to stamp out inexpensive "short-term" insurance policies.)

Despite the seemingly obvious benefits of increased choice and lower prices, ObamaCare defenders say it's just another attempt by Trump to "undermine" or "kill" ObamaCare.

Giving people low-cost options would "destabilize" the ObamaCare insurance markets, they say, because younger and healthier people would be tempted to leave the exchanges for a cheaper association health plan. That would, in turn, leave the ObamaCare exchanges catering to older, sicker and more expensive consumers.

What they mean is that ObamaCare only works if people can't escape it.

But ObamaCare has already hugely destabilized individual insurance markets, because so many young and healthy people simply refuse to buy overpriced ObamaCare plans, despite the threat of a tax penalty.

That's why insurance companies have lost massive amounts of money on their ObamaCare business, and why premiums have been climbing at double-digit rates. It's why insurers have fled ObamaCare markets across the country, leaving vast swathes with a single company offering coverage. It's hard to see how allowing association health plans on the market would make things worse.

Meanwhile, for those who aren't eligible for ObamaCare subsidies — a group that represents about 43% of the individual market — the current situation is even more untenable. They face the full brunt of those massive premium increases, which is pricing many out of the market altogether.

Kaiser Health News tells the story of a couple in their late 50s who decided to drop their ObamaCare coverage when their monthly premium hit $1,600. Instead they, like many others, are buying a short-term plan that isn't deemed "insurance" by ObamaCare — which means they also have to pay the individual mandate tax penalty.

This affordability crisis is starting to show up in the uninsured numbers. As IBD noted recently, census data showed an increase in the uninsured rate in 2016 among those making more than $50,000. Gallup's quarterly survey of the uninsured reported an increase in the overall uninsured rate in the second quarter of this year. And the Commonwealth Fund found a jump this year in the number of uninsured among those who aren't eligible for ObamaCare subsidies.

ObamaCare promised to increase competition and lower insurance costs — for everyone. For millions of Americans, it delivered the opposite.

Trump may have an opportunity to fulfill ObamaCare's promise by giving these people a way out of ObamaCare. He should take it.

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51. What The Smartest CFOs Are Doing About CybersecurityВт., 10 окт.[−]

As headline after headline in recent years have shown, cyberattacks have become a fact of life for companies, governments and consumers, and the threat seems to grow more severe every day.

That should be keeping not only CEOs, CIOs and chief information security officers up at night, but CFOs too. After all, one of the CFO's primary responsibilities is managing an organization's financial risk, and cybercrime represents one of the biggest risks to an organization.

For today's cutting-edge CFOs, merely staying abreast of their company's security posture is no longer good enough. They need to be thinking about more substantive ways to keep their most important constituency — investors — informed about incidents and risks. And they should do it proactively and regularly.

That isn't generally the case today. Despite the vast financial damage that cyberattacks can wreak, businesses disclose risks and breaches to investors inconsistently.

U.S. Security and Exchange Commission rules require companies to report material incidents, but understanding and interpretation of how those requirements apply to cyber varies. Many companies choose to provide vague, boilerplate descriptions of their risks and how they're addressing them.

Also, many organizations don't consider the full, long-range impact of an attack.

The result is that investors are often left unaware of or underinformed about cyberassaults that can negatively affect a business for years. Changing that scenario represents an enormous opportunity for financial leaders to sow trust and confidence in their company among investors, customers, partners and other stakeholders.

The time for a deeper approach is now, with evidence mounting that cyberattacks are taking a bite out of companies' bottom lines.

German consumer products maker Beiersdorf AG, Cadbury chocolate maker Mondelez and freight logistics company FedEx Corp are among multinational companies that have reported material financial damage from the NotPetya cyberworm that hit in late June. Maersk reported this week that it lost $200 million to 300 million from the incident.

"While individual companies have been laid low by hacking attacks in the past," Reuters reported, "this financial reporting season marks the first time that major players across a range of industries have blamed them for significant financial damage to their results."

Disclosing the material effects of a cyberattack on an earnings call is important, but it's a "meets-minimum" in the broader picture of keeping investors up to date on the company's overall security posture.

It tends to be a snapshot, focused on a specific incident and its short-term effect on earnings, rather than a consideration of the long-term impact of breaches on a range of key business factors.

Not all cyberincidents result in immediate financial loss; some may take months or years to harm a company's competitiveness and earnings. This distinction can be lost on or ignored by executives who are focused exclusively on short-term earnings.

As a Deloitte study pointed out, the costs of a cyberincident can be both "above the surface" and "below the surface" — hidden or less visible costs that can linger for years.

The former includes customer breach notifications, post-breach customer protection, fines or other regulatory compliance costs, public relations/crisis communications, attorney fees, cybersecurity improvements and technical. The latter can include insurance premium increases, increased cost to raise debt, operational disruption and a long-term hit to brand reputation.

No wonder a PWC survey revealed that cybersecurity is CEOs' second biggest worry (second only to over-regulation).

So what's stopping companies from doing more to keep investors better informed?

Despite the nearly daily onslaught of news about devastating cyberattacks around the world, a surprising number of companies still lack the capability to detect a cyberincident in real time and respond appropriately.

Though spending on cybersecurity technologies continues to increase, many companies still lack full situational awareness over their information environment (or that of their third parties), a reality confirmed in annual surveys suggesting that most victimized businesses do not discover breaches on their own but are notified months later by a third party.

Many businesses that suffer attacks do not adequately assess post-attack damage. A thorough assessment should consider the value of the stolen data, the likelihood that it will be used to harm the company, plus any associated costs — financial, legal, operational, reputational harm.

Meanwhile, uncertainty abounds over the SEC's cybersecurity disclosure requirements. Though guidance issued by the commission in 2011 mandates the disclosure of material cyber risks and incidents, some companies appear to use an artificially high threshold for materiality, consider the guidance voluntary or simply feign ignorance.

As a company's risk stewards, CFOs can lead or work with other C-suite executives on a number of initiatives to drive more transparency.

These should include a comprehensive assessment of the company's overall cyber-risk; a review of its approach to cyber-risk management (including policies and organizational structure); key policy and technical controls; accounting standards used by the organization to estimate cyber-risk and incident impact; third-party security evaluations and/or ratings; and practices that ensure true estimates of short- and long-term damage.

Companies should find huge value in proactively engaging with investors about the company's cyberhealth. Smart CFOs are thinking of ways to help their companies be a more attractive investment by demonstrating an aggressive approach to managing cyber-risk.

  • Olcott is vice president of strategic partnerships at BitSight, which provides companies with objective, evidence-based security ratings. He previously worked as legal advisor on cybersecurity issues in the Senate and House of Representatives.


52. How Red Tape Ties Up Hurricane RecoveryВт., 10 окт.[−]

Not long after Hurricane Irma knocked out power in Green Cove Springs, Fla., Jack Roundtree rode his barbecue food truck into town to feed hungry residents and provide free meals to utility workers. But because he didn't have a permit to operate in Green Cove Springs, it wasn't long before the police showed up and demanded he leave town.

The mayor later said that Roundtree should have obtained permission from city officials — something easier said than done, given that City Hall was closed at the time due to the hurricane.

This story is just one example of how government can often be more hindrance than help in the wake of a natural disaster. The hardest-hit communities in Texas and Florida are bracing for a yearslong recoveries, and senseless state occupational licensing laws, coupled with our current growth-stifling federal tax code, will make their task even harder.

While we wait for Congress to act on tax reform, our states should act swiftly to remove government-imposed obstacles to recovery. They should start by dumping the occupational licensing laws that are making it harder and more expensive to rebuild.

As Floridians face the monumental task of repairing homes and buildings damaged by Hurricane Irma, construction workers will be in short supply. That's because of irrational state restrictions on who is allowed to perform even basic remodeling and construction work.

Before workers may legally repair a roof or rebuild a carport, they need a license from the state — a requirement that comes with significant hurdles. Applicants must demonstrate four years of work or education in a related field, pass an exam, and pay over $400 in fees to obtain their license. It's all spelled out in a nearly 60,000-word chapter of the state code.

As if that weren't enough, individual counties impose rules of their own. In Miami-Dade, where 70 mph winds knocked down power lines and caused two construction cranes to collapse, the list of licensed professions is longer still.

Whether you want to replace a fence, install a storm door or simply repaint someone's walls, you will need to demonstrate one year of experience and pay $630 in fees.

It's difficult to see what is accomplished by making workers jump through these hoops, besides simply driving up labor costs. Economic studies overwhelmingly conclude that licensing has little or no impact on quality and safety standards.

Florida officials recognize the burden that these laws impose, and they have already suspended certain licensing requirements and related regulations in disaster-struck counties.

Apparently, even the government knows that these rules are not essential to the well-being of Floridians. These temporary suspensions are helpful, but it would be better to do away with these pointless regulations altogether.

For inspiration, Florida should look to Texas, which has comparably light licensing restrictions. Texans do not need licenses to perform straightforward projects like installing drywall or repairing roofs, and where licensing is enforced, the requirements are far less onerous.

That said, when A/C technicians must have more than 1,000 days of education and experience to get a license in the Lone Star State, there is progress to be made.

Texans and Floridians are up to the challenge of rebuilding their communities, but broken laws will stand in their way.

To assist in the recovery, government at the local, state and federal level should use every tool in the tool kit. That includes eliminating pointless regulations that impede recovery efforts and Congress finally delivering on tax reform — to spark job growth in areas hurt by the recent storms. If our legislators truly wish to help hurricane victims, these are two great places to start.

  • Hudson is the Florida state director of Americans for Prosperity.
  • Greener is Texas state director of Americans for Prosperity.

53. Sally C. Pipes: With Repeal And Replace On Hold, A New Path Forward For Health ReformВт., 10 окт.[−]

The drive to repeal and replace Obamacare appears dead. The latest attempt to roll it back — a bill authored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La. — never even got a vote. And the September 30 deadline for passing a healthcare overhaul with a simple Senate majority under the budget reconciliation rules has come and gone.

But there is plenty the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress can do to dismantle, or least defang, Obamacare's most disastrous components.

Repeal-and-replace forces can start by scrapping its least popular provisions, like the Independent Payment Advisory Board. This body of 15 presidential appointees is charged with cutting Medicare spending if the program's growth exceeds a federally mandated rate.

Certain actions, such as increasing beneficiaries' premiums or raising taxes, are off-limits. So IPAB's reforms will inevitably involve cutting reimbursements for medical devices, treatments, and services — and thus restricting access to care for millions of seniors. Congress has to propose alternative cuts within a matter of months if it wishes to override the board's decisions.

In other words, IPAB empowers 15 unelected bureaucrats to ration care for some of the nation's most vulnerable patients, while making it extremely difficult for Congress to stop them.

Fortunately, Republicans and Democrats alike have long opposed IPAB. Neither President Obama nor President Trump has even appointed anyone to the board. And last week, the House Ways and Means Committee passed a bipartisan bill abolishing the board. It's time for the full House to take up the cause.

Permanently repealing Obamacare's job-killing 2.3% excise tax on medical devices could also command bipartisan support. Over the tax's first three years — 2013-2015 — the medical device industry lost nearly 29,000 jobs.

The tax has been suspended for 2016 and 2017. But it's scheduled to come back into force in 2018. If it does, a fresh round of job cuts could be in the offing.

In 2013, 79 senators voted in favor of a non-binding resolution registering their opposition to the device tax. This year, they should make that resolution binding.

Next on the chopping block should be Obamacare's cost-sharing reduction, or CSR, subsidies. Insurers receive these subsidies as reimbursement from the federal government for reducing out-of-pocket costs for low-income patients.

The program exemplifies one of the many flawed strategies at the heart of Obamacare — force insurers to offer money-losing policies, then bail them out with taxpayer money.

The CSRs, which are expected to total $10 billion next year, also happen to be unconstitutional. Congress never appropriated the money to pay for them. So the president would be justified in turning off this spigot of taxpayer funds at any time.

Sadly, some Republicans are fighting to protect this insurance company giveaway. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is working with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., on a deal that would extend the CSRs for two years, in the name of "stabilizing" the insurance markets.

They claim that ending the CSRs will send exchange premiums skyward. But those who claim the cost-sharing subsidies are also eligible for tax credits that cover most, if not all, of their premiums. Those ineligible for subsidies to help cover those higher premiums could just shop for coverage off the exchanges, which are unlikely to be affected by the discontinuation of the CSR program.

Further, there are other, more constitutionally friendly ways to lower premiums — like repealing Obamacare's health insurance tax. An analysis from former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin estimates that, over ten years, the tax raises insurance costs for the average family by roughly $5,000. Scrapping that tax would put money right back in consumers' pockets.

The Trump administration can also take direct action to reduce premiums. For instance, the Department of Health and Human Services can alter Obamacare's "medical loss ratio" rules, which require insurers in the individual and small-group markets to spend at least 80% of premium revenue on "activities that improve health care quality."

The administration can expand the definition of those "activities" to include things like fraud prevention and wellness programs. Spending on supposedly administrative initiatives like these can reduce premiums by wringing waste out of the system or keeping people healthy and out of the doctor's office in the first place.

All of these reforms are live options for Republicans committed to building a vibrant, more competitive healthcare market. True repeal and replace may have to wait, but the effort to clean up Obamacare's mess can start now.

  • Pipes is President, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is "The Way Out of Obamacare" (Encounter 2016). On Twitter @sallypipes.

54. Dennis Prager: Who Would You Save — Your Dog Or A Stranger?Вт., 10 окт.[−]

A while ago a human-interest story from South Africa was reported internationally. As described in The Wall Street Journal:

"On Aug. 4, Graham and Sheryl Anley, while yachting off the coast of South Africa, hit a reef, capsizing their boat. As the boat threatened to sink and they scrambled to get off, Sheryl's safety line snagged on something, trapping her there. Instead of freeing his wife and getting her to shore, Graham grabbed Rosie, their Jack Russell terrier. (One media account reported that Sheryl had insisted that the dog go first). With Rosie safe and sound, Graham returned for Sheryl. All are doing fine."

Since the 1970s, I have asked students if they would first try to save their drowning dog or a drowning stranger. And for 40 years I have received the same results: One third vote for their dog, one third for the stranger, and one third don't know what they would do.

In The Wall Street Journal column, Robert M. Sapolsky, a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, reported about another such experiment:

"A recent paper by Richard Topolski at George Regents University and colleagues, published in the journal Anthrozoos, demonstrates this human involvement with pets to a startling extent. Participants in the study were told a hypothetical scenario in which a bus is hurtling out of control, bearing down on a dog and a human. Which do you save? With responses from more than 500 people, the answer was that it depended: What kind of human and what kind of dog?

"Everyone would save a sibling, grandparent or close friend rather than a strange dog. But when people considered their own dog versus people less connected with them — a distant cousin or a hometown stranger — votes in favor of saving the dog came rolling in. And an astonishing 40% of respondents, including 46% of women, voted to save their dog over a foreign tourist."

To his credit, Professor Sapolsky is not pleased with these results. He concludes:

"We can extend empathy to another organism and feel its pain like no other species. But let's not be too proud of ourselves. As this study and too much of our history show, we're pretty selective about how we extend our humaneness to other human beings."

So, then, the most important question for human beings to ask is how we teach ourselves to "extend our humaneness to other human beings."

Or, to pose the question within the framework of the dog-stranger question: How do we convince people to save a human being they do not know rather than the dog they do know and love?

There is only one way.

We need to teach — as we did throughout American history until the 1960s — that human beings are created in God's image and animals are not. That is the only compelling reason to save a human being you don't love before the dog you do love.

What we have here is the classic tension between feelings and values — or, more precisely, between feelings and revelation (i.e., divinely revealed values).

All of us feel more for a being we love than for a being we don't know, let alone love. Therefore something must supersede our feelings. That something must be values. But these values must be perceived as emanating from something higher than us; higher than our opinions, higher than our faculty of reason, and even higher than our conscience.

And that higher source is God.

Once again, let us be clear: There is no compelling reason to save the stranger first, except for the assertion that human life is infinitely precious, and infinitely more precious than that of animal life. Even those who vote to save their dog first live by this assertion. After all, nearly all of them are meat eaters: They have others kill animals for their culinary pleasure, but they would never countenance killing humans for their culinary pleasure. It is only when their heart gets involved that they abandon their belief that the value of human life is greater than that of animal life.

Without revelation, we cannot know what is right (we can have opinions and beliefs about morality but not moral knowledge). And even if we could know what is right without revelation, our feelings too often overwhelm that knowledge.

I, too, love my dogs. But I believe that God demands I save any of you first.

The results of all these polls provide examples of the terrible moral price we pay thinking that secularism is as good a guide to moral behavior as revelation.

If you don't believe me, pose the dog-stranger question to 10 people who believe Genesis is divine writ and 10 people who believe the Bible is written entirely by men.

When you tally the results, you will feel safer swimming among religious Jews and Christians.

  • Prager is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.com. His latest book, "The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code," was published by Regnery.

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55. Stephen Moore: Why Sports And Politics Do Not MixВт., 10 окт.[−]

There's a famous Woody Allen joke: "Those who can't do teach, and those who can't teach teach gym."

Well, here's a modernized version of that old saw: Those who can't do write, and those who can't write write about sports.

One of the most amazing revelations about the shameful and unpatriotic antics of NFL players who are taking the knee (or even lying on the ground stretching) during the national anthem has been the near-universal approval by sports journalists. The left has infiltrated the locker room, and sports commentators now all think they are social reformers and muckrakers.

Exhibit A is the recent Sports Illustrated cover story "A Nation Divided, Sports United," which glorified the insulting behavior of the NFL players and their blatant disrespect to those millions of heroes — black and white — who have served our country in the military. Apparently, Colin Kaepernick and his fellow kneelers are modern-day Jackie Robinsons.

The issue is a celebration of professional athletes who insult the fans who pay their munificent salaries. The tone of nearly the entire issue, as stated in its first story: "Stick to sports? Not possible when the passions stoked by protests and the president threaten to subsume the games themselves."

It is the protesters, not Donald Trump, who stoked these fires months ago, and it's the acts of protest that are subsuming the games.

This is nothing new from Sports Illustrated. Nearly every issue since November 2016 has taken gratuitous shots at Donald Trump.

Even worse has been the swift decline into the liberal sewer of the USA Today sports page. Once upon a time, you had to get USA Today for the sports section. Now the sports page barely has room to give you sports news — you know, box scores or game summaries — because the editors have to make room for left-wing social commentary.

The two lead features writers are Nancy Armour and Christine Brennan. Armour regularly writes about the sins of capitalism and how it is "intertwined with racism." She recently excoriated Tom Brady, sermonizing that he "no longer gets a pass on his friendship with Donald Trump." Why? Because, Armour tells us, "the country is boiling over in rage and indignation at Trump's decision to turn America's back on refugees."

Actually, I don't remember the country boiling over in rage. But this is a woman who tells us that the Trump campaign was "steeped in racism, bigotry, and misogyny." We get it, Armour: You don't like Donald Trump. But the election is over. Your candidate lost. Get over it.

What does any of this have to do with sports, for goodness' sakes? These opinions belong on the op-ed page, not the sports page.

This is the ruination of sports entertainment. Sports offer an escape, a respite from the politics and problems of the world. I think I speak for millions of sports fans: I don't want to turn to the sports page and get lectured about race relations. And I don't care about Brittney Griner's sexual orientation or with whom she's sleeping. I just want to find out if the Cubs won last night. I guess that makes me a bigot.

If Sports Illustrated, ESPN and NFL linebackers want to protest what an unjust and sexist society America is, they have every right to go to the public square and express themselves until the cows come home. All we can do as fans is exercise our freedom to turn them off — as millions of Americans are doing. After 40 years, I finally canceled my subscription to Sports Illustrated.

If someone starts a politics-free sports magazine — that entertains and informs us about, well, sports — it will make millions of dollars.

  • Moore is a senior economic analyst with CNN. His latest book is "Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy." He served as a senior economic advisor to the Trump campaign.

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56. Trump's Grand Immigration Bargain: Either Take Border Security Seriously, Or No Deal On 'Dreamers'Вт., 10 окт.[−]

Immigration: Another promise fulfilled? As part of a deal that would give so-called "dreamers" a path to permanent residency or citizenship in the U.S., President Trump unveiled a 70-point immigration plan that leans heavily toward reinforcing the U.S. border against illegal crossings. It's long overdue.

Trump's plan, submitted on Sunday to Congress, is part of a quid pro quo to toughen our border security while giving those who are the children of illegal immigrants a shot at staying here permanently.

It goes a long way toward doing what Trump promised during his campaign in 2016: get tough on America's border security, which, under President Obama, had become an open joke. Among other things, the plans would give federal agents more power to nab illegals as they cross and to detain, hold and deport them more quickly if they're caught on U.S. soil. He also calls for a border wall and more agents to police the border with Mexico.

Among its 70 provisions, the plan goes a long way toward closing many of the loopholes in U.S. law that have for years made a travesty of our nation's border — including lax asylum standards, unaccompanied alien children, visa overstays and giving all levels of government, federal, state and local, the power detain those here illegally. This would, in effect, put an end to the so-called sanctuary movement, which is really little more than a refusal to obey U.S. law.

The goal of all this, the White House said, is to enact major changes in border security, enforcement inside the U.S. and the legal immigration system.

"If you don't solve these problems then you're not going to have a secure border, you're not going to have a lawful immigration system and you're not going to be able to protect American workers," a senior unnamed White House official told the Washington Times.

It will certainly be interesting to see how congressional Democrats, who created the "Dreamer" problem in the first place, respond to Trump's offer. With the support of Congress, President Obama issued a 2012 executive action that kept an estimated 800,000 illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children from being deported.

Democrats have used the unlawful presence of those youthful immigrants as a PR weapon to portray anyone who opposes their legalization as racist, even hateful. Now, with Trump willing to deal for better border security in exchange for legalizing the Dreamers, we'll see how serious the Democrats really are.

But even this deal will have unanticipated costs. A recent estimate by the Center for Immigration Studies notes that the Dreamers, once legalized, will be able to bring in close to a million and a half near-relatives, mostly poor people from Mexico and the so-called Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. This represents a potential significant expansion in both welfare spending and Medicaid outlays for the mostly poor newcomers.

We're all for a deal that would finally secure our border and to make the Dreamers permanent residents, but we're wary. We remember quite well the 1986 immigration reform, which went from being the immigration reform to end all reforms, to an immigration fiasco that led to less-secure borders and more illegal immigration.

"There were actual promises at the time that, going forward, there would be stronger border enforcement," Edward Meese, who served as attorney general under President Reagan, told the Daily Signal recently. "We felt it worth a try, as a means of stopping illegal immigration. I agreed with (Reagan), along with the rest of the Cabinet, about trying out the (immigration reform) commission's recommendations."

Once passed into law, however, the "enforcement" part of the deal was forgotten. All we got was amnesty, and another flood tide of illegal immigrants. From roughly 3.5 million illegals in 1990, estimates today put the illegal population at somewhere from 12 million to 22 million.

This should never happen again, and Trump knows it. Everyone talks about how "tough" and "strict" this new plan is. In fact, what Trump has offered to pro-immigration groups and lawmakers for the Dreamers is incredibly generous. All he's asking in return is for Congress to take the border seriously, to fund the wall, and to send those who don't belong here back to their home countries. Our advice: Remember 1986. If Congress won't take our border security seriously, Trump should say no deal.

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57. Trump's Tax Plan Gets High Marks As His Approval Rating Stumbles: IBD/TIPP PollВт., 10 окт.[−]

A majority of the public backs the key elements of the tax reform plan outlined by President Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress, including a sharp reduction in the corporate income tax rate and the doubling of the standard deduction, according to the latest IBD/TIPP poll.

But Trump's approval rating took a tumble this month, dropping to 33% and nearly erasing the gain he made last month.

The poll also found that nearly half say athletes should be disciplined by the NFL for protesting during the national anthem, and 33% say they're less likely to watch an NFL game because of the protests by football players.

The national poll was conducted from Sept. 29 through Oct. 8, and includes a sample size 887, giving it a margin of error = +/-3.4 percentage points.

Public Backs Tax Cut Specifics

The October IBD/TIPP poll asked several questions about specific proposals in the GOP tax plan, and found that each one gained majority support.

  • 51% support lowering the business income tax rate from 35% to 20%; while 43% oppose it. On a partisan basis, this gets 81% backing from Republicans, 52% from independents and 26% from Democrats.
  • 52% support the GOP plan to cut the number of tax brackets from seven to three. That includes 75% of Republicans, 51% of independents and 32% of Democrats. Thirty-seven percent oppose.
  • 81% support lowering the "pass through" tax rate on small businesses and file taxes using the individual income tax form from 39.6% to 25%. On a partisan basis, this idea gets 91% support from Republicans, 86% from independents and — surprisingly — 68% from Democrats.
  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) support the idea of doubling the standard deduction for tax filers. Just 28% oppose. This, too, gets a majority support across the partisan spectrum, with 77% of Republicans backing it, 62% of independents and 56% of Democrats.

These findings stand in stark contrast to polls that showed limited support when the public was asked about "Trump's tax plan" in general. An ABC News poll found that just 44% backed the plan when described that way.

A Morning Consult poll also found little support when the public is asked generically about the Trump tax plan (47% approved). But it, too, found strong support for most of the individual pieces: 62% say doubling the standard deduction should be in the tax bill, 61% cutting small business taxes, 60% boosting child tax credit, 52% getting rid of the death tax.

Trump Support Drops

Trump's approval rating took another beating, dropping five points to 33%, while 61% disapprove. Last month, 38% approved while 57% disapproved. That drop brings Trump close to where he was in August, when his approval rating stood at a low 32%.

"The most significant declines in Trump's approval rating, according to our data, came from southerners, conservatives, millennials and women," noted Raghavan Mayur, president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which conducts the IBD/TIPP poll.

Trump's support in the south plunged 14 points, going from 48% in September to 34% in October. Among conservatives, it went from 72% to 63%; millennials, 33% to 22%; women, 34% to 26%.

Trump's favorability rating went from -20 points in September (38% favorable to 58% unfavorable) to -26 points in October (33% favorable, 59% unfavorable).

More than half (53%), say Trump is providing weak leadership.

As a result, the proprietary IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index dropped 9.2% in October to 36.5, the second lowest of Trump's presidency.

"Trump's feud with the mayor of San Juan provided his critics with an opportunity to criticize his ability to lead during a crisis. On the national anthem controversy, many Americans disapprove of the president's harsh language in his criticism of professional athletes who kneel during the anthem, though they may agree with his overarching message of patriotism," Mayur said.

The failure to get ObamaCare repealed and Trump's outreach to Democrats hurt his ratings among conservatives, he noted.

"Finally, his public disapproval of cabinet officials like Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson, along with the recent revelation of Tillerson's criticism of the president, does not reflect the high expectations many have assigned to Trump's dream cabinet."

NFL In Trouble

The public was fairly evenly split on the question of whether football players should face disciplinary action, such as a fine, for not standing during the national anthem, as allowed for in the Game Operations Manual.

Nearly half (49%) said the league should punish those athletes, while 46% said it shouldn't.

More than three-quarters of conservatives (79%) favor punishing those athletes, but just 17% of liberals do.

Generationally, support for punishing those athletes climbs with age, with only 35% of millennials backing punishment, compared with 46% of Gen-Xers, 56% of young boomers, 58% of old boomers, and 62% of those over age 71.

Regionally, enforcing the national anthem guideline gets its strongest support from rural Americans (63% of whom say the athletes should face disciplinary action), and the least support among urban dwellers (41%).

By gender, the split is 55% men vs. 44% of women who favor enforcing the policy.

Meanwhile, a 33% say they're less likely to watch NFL games because of the protests, nearly three times as many as say they're more likely to watch (12%). Fifty-four percent say it makes no difference.

NFL ratings have declined since the controversy erupted last month.

In other findings:

  • ObamaCare support is now at 59%, with opposition at 39%. This is one of the highest approval ratings ObamaCare has received since IBD/TIPP began asking that question. Support for the law had shown a decline in the monthly Kaiser Family Foundation survey.
  • Just 20% say they are satisfied with the direction the country is going when it comes to morals and ethics. That's down from 23% in September and is the lowest number in 17 years of IBD/TIPP polling.
  • 45% say the economy is improving, while 49% say it isn't. Last month, 51% said the economy was improving while 45% said it wasn't.

Methodology: The October IBD/TIPP Poll was conducted Sept. 2-Oct 8. It includes responses from 887 people nationwide, who were asked questions by live interviewers on cell or landline phones. The poll's margin of error is +/-3.4 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 elections.

RELATED:

IBD/TIPP Poll: Presidential Job Approval, Direction Of Country


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58. IBD/TIPP Poll: Presidential Approval, Direction Of CountryВт., 10 окт.[−]

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.

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

Trump's Tax Plan Gets High Marks As His Approval Rating Stumbles: IBD/TIPP PollA majority of the public backs the key elements of the tax reform plan outlined by President Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress, including a sharp reduction in the corporate income... Read More

Presidential Leadership Index: Overall

View All Questions And Full Results

The IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index dropped in October to 36.5, all but erasing the gain Trump made in August. It marks the third time the index has been under 40 since Trump took office.

The Leadership Index comprises three subindexes measuring the president's favorability, job approval (see below), and whether he is providing strong or weak leadership. Trump gained ground on all three subindexes in September.

Presidential Approval

President Trump's job approval rating dropped 5 percentage points in September to 33%. Trump lost the most ground from those in the South, as well as among conservatives, millennials and women. President Trump's approval rating has been below 40% for most of his presidency.

Direction Of The Country

The Direction of the Country index dropped sharply in October to 34.4, a 10.2% decline from September. This index is now lower than the 37 average during President Obama's eight years in office.

Quality Of Life

The Quality of Life Index also dropped slightly in October to 56.8, a decline of 1.6%. The average under President Obama was 53.7. Unlike other measures, this has been relatively steady for the past 16 years. It peaked at 63.1 in January 2004. It's 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. This plunged in October to 35.7, a decline of 20.1% from September and the lowest rating of Trump's presidency. Over the past 17 years, the highest this index ever got was in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when it hit 74.9.

RELATED:

Main IBD/TIPP Poll Page

IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index

IBD/TIPP Election 2016 Tracking Poll

Past Results

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

December 2016

Media Contact

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59. Lawrence Kudlow: Trump's Top Economist Slams The 'Non-Partisan' Tax Policy CenterПн., 09 окт.[−]

President Trump's new chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Kevin Hassett, walked into the lion's den last week with his first official speech. He used the moment to pound the leftist Tax Policy Center. It was a wonderful sight.

When Hassett wasn't pounding the TPC, he was spanking them. He took them to the woodshed, and disciplined them in public view.

Hassett rightfully accused the TPC for ignoring widely accepted economic literature, for using false assumptions on tax details that have never been published, and for manufacturing income-redistribution ("tax cuts for the rich") and deficit numbers that don't even exist.

"It's inaccurate," he said. "It's fiction."

In perhaps his toughest criticism of all, Hassett called the TPC's findings "scientifically indefensible." There's no greater insult among academics.

It's a pity that mainstream media outlets refer to the TPC as "nonpartisan." They're not. TPC staff is chock-full of former Obama economists.

But Hassett has shown no fear.

Kevin Hassett is the new face at the highest economic level of the Trump administration. But he's no neophyte. He has a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania. He has spent time on the staff of the Federal Reserve Board in Washington. He taught at Columbia Business School. He was a longtime economic-policy director at AEI.

And he's well-liked by everyone who knows him. Plus, he's smart. Very smart.

Not only did he chastise the TPC, he schooled them on a number of important tax policies that have become mainstream thinking inside the Trump White House.

Sighting numerous peer-reviewed papers, Hassett reminded his audience of a plain truth: Taxes matter. They impact the economy.

"Economists who have studied the effects of taxes over time have discovered a consensus," he said. "Lower marginal tax rates and a broader base increase the rate of economic growth and well-being."

He continues: "For years, TPC analyzed tax bills without providing dynamic scoring, but now provides a dynamic score, but with zero effect."

For me, Hassett's biggest contribution to the tax debate is the notion that high corporate tax rates depress the wages of workers.

Because companies have stashed profits overseas, and because the U.S. tax cost of investment is so high, middle-income wage earners have suffered mightily. Hassett — and his AEI colleague Aparna Mathur — have argued for over a decade that if you want to raise wages, cut corporate tax rates.

During his TPC speech, Hassett noted that "for the median household in the U.S., the top corporate marginal rate cut from 35% to 20% would boost wage growth almost fourfold."

In his past work, Hassett has argued that 70% of the benefits of lower business tax rates accrue to middle-income wage earners — in other words, Donald Trump's middle-class base.

Trump's tax cuts are not handouts to the rich, as the redistributionist Democratic left argues. Everyone benefits from these lower tax rates. As JFK put it, a rising tide lifts all boats. The growth ignited by lower tax rates solves all problems.

Class warfare has never worked in American politics. But Trump's tax plan will help middle-income wage earners the most. There's nothing wrong with that.

Backing up Hassett's assertions, former CEA chair Glenn Hubbard recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal that too many economists fail to consider the share of the U.S. corporate tax burden borne by labor — 60% according to his research. Neither the TPC, the Congressional Budget Office, nor the Joint Tax Committee model these results. Instead, they ignore the evidence.

A recent analysis of the House tax plan — which is nearly identical to the Trump plan — by professors Alan Auerbach (University of California, Berkeley) and Laurence Kotlikoff (Boston University) concluded that it would boost wages by 8%. That's a big number.

It's the difference between a prospering and optimistic middle class and a pessimistic middle class that lives day to day, paycheck to paycheck.

I look at it this way: Trump's tax-cut and regulatory-rollback policies are aimed directly at ending the war on business, which has dragged down the economy for nearly two decades. Let's reward success rather than punish it.

In just eight months, this growth message has generated a whopping increase in business and consumer confidence. The economy is picking up steam. The stock market has been on a tear. This is not a coincidence.

If Trump continues to link large- and small-business tax cuts to the well-being of the wage-earning middle class, he'll score economic victories across the board. At the same time, America will regain the populist prosperity that's been the backbone of our democracy for nearly 250 years.

That's right. As I sometimes put it, free-market capitalism is the best path to prosperity.

It's comforting to know Kevin Hassett is burning this torch down in the swamp of Washington, D.C.

RELATED:

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Corporate Tax Cuts Are Great For Companies, But They're Even Better For Workers


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60. What Is 'Patriotic' These Days? A Guide For The PerplexedПн., 09 окт.[−]

Vice President Mike Pence's decision to walk out of an NFL game on Sunday after several San Francisco 49ers knelt during the national anthem raises a question: If the kneeling football players are patriots — as many keep insisting — does that make what Pence did unpatriotic?

Well, sure enough, Nancy Armour, who writes about sports for USA Today, said Pence had made a "mockery" of the anthem by "co-opting it for a stunt." It was, she said, "a shameless bid for political points" and that "he tried to play the country for a fool."

So, to sum up: When millionaire football players turn the anthem into a divisive stunt, it's patriotic. But when a sitting vice president walks out of a game to show respect for the flag, it's shameless and disrespectful.

Time was, being patriotic meant supporting the troops, honoring the flag, loving the country and its many freedoms. It was pretty simple. But progressive sophisticates have been trying for years to redefine what patriotism means, and the result is a muddle that requires a pro-football-size playbook to figure out.

To that end, we've reviewed a multitude of stories and commentaries from some leading politicians and the best and brightest of the pundit class to put together a brief tutorial on the current thinking about this word:

What Is Patriotic?

  • Disrespecting the flag. The endless encomiums to football players is clear enough, but in addition, read any story about flag burning and you're likely to find someone praising it as the "highest form of patriotism."
  • Taking guns away. Sure, there's that inconvenient Second Amendment and its "right to bear arms" line, but it's gun control that's patriotic. In a piece published by the Huffington Post, for example, the author explains that gun owners are the non-patriots because the way they "interpret the Second Amendment endangers our safety. As a patriotic American, does that sound right to you?"
  • Violent left-wing extremists. Antifa has made no bones about its intentions: It's a violent, far-left organization that aims to use whatever means necessary — including violence — to silence speech it doesn't like. One Antifa member tweeted: "Let's get one thing clear. Antifa is an Anarcho-Communist cause." But Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson explained on CNN that Antifa is actually "interested in preserving the fabric of America."
  • "Occupying" Wall Street. Although the occupy stunt was dreamed up by editors of a leftist magazine in Canada, had a standard-issue list of socialist demands, and the tent city became a cesspool of rape, sexual assaults and gropings, OWS was praised by many as the height of patriotism and by one observer as being on the right side of "a battle for the soul of this nation."
  • Revealing national secrets. In 2010, Pvt. Bradley Manning indiscriminately released hundreds of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents, revelations that compromised national security and put American lives at risk. Manning was charged with, among other things, "aiding the enemy," a crime punishable by death. But after Manning, who now goes by Chelsea, was released from prison, the New York Times Magazine ran a lengthy puff piece titled "The Long, Lonely Road of Chelsea Manning," and Manning was described in the press as "a patriot of the highest order."
  • Paying more in taxes. In 2008, Joe Biden defined tax hikes as patriotic. "It's time to be patriotic," he said, "time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut."
  • Supporting ObamaCare. Former Obama Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said back in 2013 that "the patriotic place to be is in support of implementing" ObamaCare. Earlier this year, Andy Slavitt, the acting director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services under Obama, attacked Republicans for trying to repeal ObamaCare, saying that "there's been a, one could even say an unpatriotic level of uncooperation in making the ACA work."

What Is Unpatriotic?

  • Criticizing President Obama. Salon's Joan Walsh said in 2009 that "Republicans use everything they can to undermine and delegitimize this president. And it's actually un-American. It's traitorous, in my opinion." Time magazine's Joe Klein said it "borders on sedition." Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter said Republican criticism of Obama "emboldens the terrorists."
  • Supporting President Trump. Things changed when Trump became president. During the campaign, Rolling Stone declared that "if you support Donald Trump, you are unpatriotic." More recently, CNN's Jake Tapper recently labeled Trump himself as "unpatriotic" and "un-American."
  • Praising Putin (but only if your last name is Trump). During the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton said that praising Russian President Vladimir Putin was "unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country." Trump had said that Putin was a better leader than President Obama.

Obama, shortly after he assumed office, also offered fulsome praise for Putin, telling him "I am aware of the extraordinary work that you've done on behalf of the Russian people" and "there's an excellent opportunity to put U.S.-Russian relations on a much stronger footing." We couldn't find anybody questioning the patriotism of that statement.

  • Peaceful right-wing protests. In 2001, Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., attacked the tea party — which did not espouse or commit violence, but did push tax and spending cuts. Sanchez said: "These are not patriots. They don't love this country because they have this petty little spitting match with the president."
  • Budget "cuts." After President Trump released his 2018 budget proposal — which proposes to increase spending by 7% from 2017 to 2019 — California Gov. Jerry Brown called it "unconscionable and un-American" because it imposed "painful and debilitating" spending cuts as well as "a massive tax break to the wealthiest."
  • Criticizing illegal immigrants. In 2015, Obama blasted attacks on illegal immigrants as unpatriotic, saying that "this whole anti-immigrant sentiment that's out there in our politics right now is contrary to who we are."
  • Protecting the border. In July, three Texas Democrats signed a letter declaring that building a wall on the southern border to make it harder for people to illegally enter the United States "serves as an un-American symbol of hatred toward immigrants who contribute so much to our country."

If you find all this confusing or upside down, join the club. Worse, there's no consistency. Some protests, even if they're violent, are deemed patriotic, while others, such as non-violent tea party marches, aren't. One day, criticizing the president is akin to treason, the next, it's as American as apple pie.

When Obama was running for president in 2008, he said that adding $4 trillion to the national debt — which had happened during President Bush's eight years in office — was "unpatriotic." As president, Obama oversaw a $9 trillion increase in the national debt. We've searched in vain to find anyone arguing that Obama was more than twice as unpatriotic as Bush.

There is, thankfully, an answer to the question of what is patriotic. It's right there in the dictionary:

patriotic
[pey-tree-ot-ik]
adjective

  1. of, like, suitable for, or characteristic of a patriot.

patriot
[pey-tree-et]
noun

  1. a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.

How does burning the flag, thumbing one's overpaid nose at the national anthem, attacking the founding principles of the county, calling its institutions oppressive, opposing border controls, and putting American lives at risk constitute love, support, or devotion to the U. S. and its interests?

Beats me. But then again, I'm not a sports reporter.

  • Merline is deputy editor of Commentary and Opinion at IBD.

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61. Robert Samuelson: Economic CannibalismПн., 09 окт.[−]

The spoils society advances.

The "spoils society" is a phrase I coined some years ago to illustrate a basic problem of wealthy societies, including, of course, the United States. After all, our annual GDP (gross domestic product) is approaching $20 trillion. The problem is that, as societies become richer, so does the temptation for people to advance their economic interests by grabbing someone else's wealth, as opposed to creating new wealth.

We see the resulting redistributive struggles all the time. They're part of the social fabric: divorcing couples fighting over the marital assets; Congress debating who should — or shouldn't — get tax cuts or subsidies (say, Social Security); lawyers launching "class action" suits to remedy alleged wrongs; patent "trolls" suing tech companies over possible infringement issues.

Regardless of where your sympathies lie — redistribution is both good and bad — what connects all these activities and many others is that they don't result in the production of more goods and services. Instead, they involve the shifting of money and wealth from one party or group to another. They recall the spirit of 19th-century politicians' defense of patronage jobs: "To the victors belong the spoils."

This sort of economy may be larger than you think. That's the gist of the provocative new book, "The Captured Economy," by Brink Lindsey of the Niskanen Center think tank and Steven M. Teles, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University. They argue that the economy is riddled with self-serving arrangements, mainly benefiting the rich, that impose excess costs on the poor and middle-class and reduce economic growth.

Take housing. Restrictive zoning arrangements drive up home prices, say Lindsey and Teles, citing detailed studies by Harvard economist Edward Glaeser and his collaborators. In some areas, housing scarcities have resulted in huge premiums in home prices: 20% in Washington, D.C., and Boston; 30% in Los Angeles; and 50% in Manhattan, San Francisco and San Jose.

"Zoning exists to transfer wealth from new buyers to existing owners," write Lindsey and Teles. But that is not the end of the story. The exorbitant real estate prices in many booming regions discourage people from moving in — homes are too expensive. This reduces overall economic growth. Fewer people can take advantage of the available opportunities.

Or consider occupational licensing: the requirement that some jobs and firms be certified by states. In 1970, only about 10% of jobs required licenses, report Lindsey and Teles. Now the share is 30%, they say. Across all states, some 1,100 occupations are subject to licensing, including barbers, manicurists and animal trainers. California is the leader at 177.

Although the usual justification is consumer protection, the actual effect of licensing is to restrict competition and raise prices. Again, economic growth suffers. If prices were lower, people's purchasing power to spend on other things would be greater.

In my "spoils society," the economy splits into two parts: the producing sector, which creates and makes stuff; and the predatory sector, which redistributes income and wealth.

There is overlap between these sectors: Productive goods and services are often sold at artificially high prices that don't reflect added economic value. They simply shift wealth from buyer to seller. At worst, this is economic cannibalism. Economists call the artificially high prices "rents" — not to be confused with what tenants pay their landlords.

The message from Lindsey and Teles is that these rents are more widespread than most people imagine. The pursuit of rents is a big part of the spoils society. Can anything be done about them? It will be hard. Most of the offending arrangements are technical and obscure. The people who benefit from them care more about them than those who don't. Still, a bit of consciousness-raising can't hurt.

In fairness, it's also worth acknowledging that, up to a point, these distributive conflicts are unavoidable and even desirable. Every modern nation has them, either through governmental intervention or private markets. The great danger of the spoils society arises if these distributional struggles increasingly displace economic growth as the way people and firms get ahead.

People will fight over getting a bigger piece of the economic pie (which means someone else will get a smaller piece) rather than growing the pie so that everyone gets a bigger piece. The consequences could be dire. As Lindsey and Teles warn:

"When life seems like a zero-sum struggle, gains by other groups are interpreted as losses by one's own group." This is a formula for resentment and discord.

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

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62. George Will: Detroit Is Home To One Of America's Most Accomplishing PoliticiansВс., 08 окт.[−]

DETROIT — With biblical succinctness, and foreshadowing a resurrection, Mike Duggan said, "Let there be light!" and 65,000 LED streetlights replaced the 40% of the city's streetlights that were broken when he took office in 2014. They are among the many reasons that on Nov. 7 he, the first white mayor here in 40 years, will win a landslide re-election in a city that is 83% black. Identity politics is frivolous; Detroit, after a bruising rendezvous with reality, is serious about recovering from its near-death experience.

In Duggan, Detroit has found its Fiorello La Guardia — a short, stocky, cheerful, plain-spoken incarnation of his city. In 1983, when Duggan returned, fresh from the University of Michigan Law School, "there was nobody my age on the streets." The Houston Chronicle was being sold at a busy intersection to unemployed autoworkers scanning the classifieds for Texas jobs. In 1950, Detroit was comparable to, and perhaps richer (by per capita income) than, Chicago. Soon, however, it was bleeding population, heading for bankruptcy as Greece on the Great Lakes, a dystopia plagued by deindustrialization, soaring crime, packs of feral dogs and a political class featuring incompetents leavened by felons.

Duggan, a Democrat in a city with nonpartisan elections, won in 2013 as a write-in candidate, telling voters, "You invite me to your home, I show up." Hundreds of house parties later, he was custodian of a prostrate city that had shed 260,000 residents in 13 years. Its 143 square miles could hold San Francisco, Boston and Manhattan with room to spare. By 2000, cattle could have been grazed in vast post-urban swathes. In 1950, the city had been home to 1.8 million; by 2013, it held two-thirds fewer. In the stampede away, many people abandoned their houses to the Midwestern elements. Most mayors brag about building; Duggan does, too, but also about demolishing — 12,000 abandoned structures since 2014. His "board-up brigades" — this is distinctively Detroit — will seal off 11,000 and demolish 9,000 within two years. Says Duggan: "Tear down the burned-out houses, people will buy the others."

Police and EMS response times have been drastically reduced; 275 parks are fully maintained, up from 25 four years ago, when the grass was sometimes taller than the 8-year-olds. Such granular attention to the small stuff is having a huge payoff: Residential utility hookups are increasing. For the first time in his 59 years, the city is expected to grow. "We can't build office space fast enough" for firms moving here because "millennials don't want to move to the suburbs and drive a minivan." However, a successful city requires a large middle class, which cannot exist without good schools to anchor young families. Detroit's future hinges on this.

And on candor about Detroit's past. In this 50th anniversary of the 1967 riots (43 killed, 342 injured), Duggan in a recent speech recalled the 1943 riot (34 killed, 700 injured) ignited by housing grievances among the 200,000 Southern blacks in congested wartime Detroit, the "arsenal of democracy." Duggan said:

The seeds of Detroit's violent decline were sown by federal policy. Created in 1934, the Federal Housing Administration invented and enforced "redlining," explicitly steering new mortgages away from blacks in order to maintain the racial homogeneity of neighborhoods. A 1946 FHA manual said: "Incompatible racial groups should not be permitted to live in the same communities." And: "Properties shall continue to be occupied by the same social and racial classes." And: "Appraisers are instructed to predict the probability of the location being invaded by ... incompatible racial and social groups." Invaded.

During the war, when a developer sought FHA guarantees for proposed housing on the last of the farmland still within the sprawling city, the FHA initially refused because the development would be contiguous with a black neighborhood. The real estate magnate proposed a solution: I will build a wall. It would be between his development and the incompatibles. He did; you can see it today. Mollified, the FHA guaranteed mortgages on the white side.

Almost half of all postwar suburban homes built in America had FHA mortgage guarantees. From 1934 through 1962, whites received 98%. The 1948 U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down racially restrictive real estate covenants came from Detroit, but too late to prevent deleterious racial residential patterns. In the 1960s came "urban renewal," aka "Negro removal" as administered by several of the last white mayors before Duggan, who, in an unlikely place, might be America's most accomplishing politician.


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63. A Blow For Climate Sanity: Trump Gets Rid Of Obama's 'Clean Power Plan'Сб., 07 окт.[−]

Climate: The Environmental Protection Agency says it will repeal President Obama's Clean Power Plan. Just plain get rid of it. To which we say, heck, what took you so long?

The Clean Power Plan (CPP) sounds wonderfully green-y, but it is in fact a massive power grab by the federal government for the spurious purpose of reducing greenhouse emissions that supposedly cause global warming.

XAutoplay: On | OffNever mind the fact that the science underlying the claims is highly questionable. What the EPA under Obama planned to do was blatantly illegal, contrary to the spirit and the letter of the Constitution.

The Obama plan was ambitious and dictatorial, using a top-down command approach to reduce CO2 output from its 2005 level by 32% by 2030. By employing complex formulas, the EPA came up with precise targets for carbon-dioxide reductions for the states. It would have required utilities to make a massively expensive switch from carbon-based fuels to so-called "alternatives" such as wind and solar power, at a cost of billions.

Fortunately, thanks to legal challenges, this costly nightmare was never put into place. And now it won't be, at least not under this administration.

As others have pointed out, the biggest problem is that the Obama plan violated the Constitution's Separation of Powers by giving the EPA near-dictatorial ability to make laws and impose them on the 50 states and their utilities.

But besides its illegality, CPP was a regulatory and economic nightmare. NERA, an economic consulting firm, estimated the plan would cost between $41 billion and $73 billion — a year. Much of that money would be spent by you, the consumer, in the form of much higher utility rates.

And what would we get for the money? A measly reduction of 0.02 degrees less in temperature rise. So apart from being illegal and unnecessary, it would do virtually nothing to halt or slow global warming, even by the Obama administration's own estimates.

This shows not only Trump's deep business understanding of how important energy is to the economy, but also that much of the action taken by the previous administration amounted to climate fraud — a cheap bid to grab still more power for the federal government without any real benefit for average Americans.

Trump showed he was serious about environmental regulatory reform by naming former energy-state Gov. Rick Perry of Texas as his energy secretary, putting former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who once sued the EPA, to head the EPA; by hiring Andrew R. Wheeler, a former energy industry lobbyist, to work as Pruitt's No. 2; and by no longer bringing in far-left green groups to collude with EPA bureaucrats in destroying our energy grid in the name of "climate change mitigation."

As part of his blitz to deregulate the economy, Trump's now on his way to getting rid of one of the worst regulations ever. This will be his biggest win yet.

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64. The Surge In Optimism Nobody Wants To Talk AboutСб., 07 окт.[−]

Economy: Just before Friday's mixed-bag jobs report came out, a survey showed that manufacturers' optimism is at its highest level in decades. This is part of a broad and sustained trend that has gone largely unremarked.

XAutoplay: On | OffThe National Association of Manufacturers reports that for the first three quarters of this year, an average of 90.9% of manufacturers said they were positive about their own company's outlook, the highest three-quarter reading in the survey's 20-year history, according to NAM.

By contrast, just 59.8% of manufacturers had a positive outlook in the first three quarters of last year.

This is a stunning turnaround in optimism. But it's hardly the only example.

  • Gallup's investor optimism index hit a 17-year high in September. And Gallup's weekly economic confidence index has been in positive territory since November 2016, after being in negative territory for all but a handful of weeks since 2008.
  • The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index dipped in September to 119.8, but was still up 20% from its 2016 average.
  • The University of Michigan's Index of Consumer Sentiment has averaged 96.2 so far this year, compared with 91.4 over the same time period last year. In fact, you have to go back to 2004 to find another nine-month stretch where the index was in the mid-to-high 90s.
  • The Small Business Optimism Index has averaged 104.9 through August, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. That's up nearly 12% from the year before. More than a quarter of small businesses say the next three months will be a "good time to expand," compared with 9% who said that a year ago.
  • In September, the IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index marked its 12th straight month in positive territory, the first time that's happened in 12 years. The index stood at 53.4 in September. Last year it averaged 48.6. (Anything below 50 is pessimistic.)
  • The stock market, which is one of the best optimism indexes out there — since people are voting with their own money — has been at historic highs as well. The Dow Jones industrial average closed the week at 22,771.64. That's up 14% for the year, and 24.5% compared with a year ago.

It is important to note that all these indexes — all of them — started to rocket upward after November 2016.

What could have happened to have caused this jump in optimism, we wonder? Did Mars and Saturn enter some kind of new alignment in the astrological charts? Was there an unprecedented surge in GDP growth? A scientific breakthrough? A major peace deal?

We would submit that it had something to do with the November election results. And there's good reason to think this.

Remember, nobody expected pro-business Republican Donald Trump to win. So all those pre-election surveys showing dismal outlooks all assumed that Hillary Clinton would be in the White House today.

It was only after Trump — to everyone's shock — emerged victorious that we saw this incredible surge in optimism across the board.

Why isn't anyone talking about this? The virulent hatred of Trump among the establishment in Washington and the news media is the mostly likely explanation. No good news about him can ever get covered, it seems.

But ignoring this welcome phenomenon doesn't make it any less real, or any less important to the economic fortunes of the country.

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65. U.S. Needs (More) Doctors Without BordersСб., 07 окт.[−]

Patients hoping to make their visit to the hospital an easy one should request a doctor educated abroad.

That's the conclusion of a recent study from Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Researchers found that Medicare patients treated by international medical graduates had better survival rates than those treated by U.S.-trained doctors.

It's only the latest entry into a large body of research proving the value of internationally trained doctors to the U.S. health care system.

And we need many more of them. The United States faces a significant shortage of physicians, especially in rural and other underserved areas. International medical graduates have historically filled those roles at far greater rates than their U.S.-educated peers. They'll continue to do so in the future, too — if our nation will let them.

The Harvard study isn't the first to show that international medical graduates provide world-class care. A 2010 study of a quarter-million heart disease patients, for example, found that those cared for by foreign-trained doctors had lower death rates than patients treated by U.S. medical graduates.

International medical graduates are also far more likely to practice in socioeconomically disadvantaged locales. One study published by the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that IMGs were almost twice as likely as osteopathic physicians to practice in rural areas.

In some cases, foreign physicians can qualify for a special J-1 nonimmigrant visa in return for serving underserved communities after they complete their residencies. The program alone has enticed 15,000 foreign physicians to practice in high-need areas over the past 15 years.

Doctors educated outside the United States will grow even more valuable in the coming years, as the country's dearth of physicians grows more acute. By 2030, the United States may be short as many as 104,900 doctors. The shortfall of primary care physicians will reach as much as 43,100 over that same period, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Since international medical graduates are more likely to become primary care physicians than their U.S.-trained peers, they are especially well-suited to fill this gap. Indeed, about 40% of practicing international medical graduates are in primary care.

Only one in five graduates from U.S. schools, by contrast, plans to go into the field.

At the medical school I lead, St. George's University in Grenada, roughly three-quarters of our graduates go into primary care. The vast majority end up at health care facilities in the United States.

Unfortunately, Americans' access to the high-caliber care offered by foreign-trained doctors, many of whom are U.S. citizens, is under threat.

Some in the American medical community have called for legislation that specifically discriminates against foreign-trained doctors. The American Osteopathic Organization, for example, has asked Congress to give graduates of U.S. medical schools first pick of domestic residency positions.

The New York Board of Regents, meanwhile, has taken steps to favor U.S.-trained doctors over those educated outside the country. The body temporarily stopped international medical schools from adding any more clinical education slots at hospitals throughout the Empire State.

Meanwhile, the federal government is contemplating several proposals that would restrict the number of immigrants permitted to work in the United States — and thus could make it much harder for foreign doctors to set up shop here.

International medical graduates will play an increasingly important role in meeting America's growing demand for talented, well-trained doctors. Given that many of these physicians are more effective than their domestically-educated peers, now is not the time to be turning them away.

  • Dr. Olds is president of St. George's University in Grenada.

66. A New 'Grand Bargain' For Americans To Reduce U.S. DebtПт., 06 окт.[−]

The term "Grand Bargain" is now infamously associated with failed budget negotiations between the executive branch and Congress, most notably negotiations between former Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and President Barack Obama.

The outcome of this failure to agree on a budget has led the federal debt to climb to $20 trillion, and unconstrained growth in deficits and debt is projected to continue in the coming decades. A future recession is likely to be accompanied by sharply higher interest rates and a potential default on the debt.

Brinkmanship over federal budgets has motivated citizens to address the debt crisis by attempting to enact a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. After waiting decades for Congress to pass a balanced-budget amendment, citizens are close to enacting the amendment through an Article V amendment convention.

In our forthcoming book, "Restoring America's Fiscal Constitution," we show how fiscal rules could be designed to balance the budget and reduce debt to tolerable levels over a two-decade period. Of course, fiscal discipline will not be easy. It will require a significantly lower rate of growth in federal spending and fundamental reform of government programs, especially entitlement programs, which are the major drivers of federal spending and deficits.

As the federal government is downsized, there will be pressure to shift programs to state and local governments. The precedent for this shift is unfunded liabilities in the Medicaid program. Even states that have had success in reforming Medicaid to reduce costs must allocate larger shares of their budgets to fund a greatly expanded Medicaid program. Unfunded mandates on state and local governments could undermine support for a rules-based fiscal policy at the federal level.

The solution to this fiscal dilemma is a "Grand Bargain" in the form of a new Homestead Act, loosely modeled on the law passed in 1862 that helped fuel America's post-Civil War growth boom. We estimate the federal government must generate more than half a trillion dollars in savings each year, earmarked for debt reduction, to reach a tolerable level of debt over the next two decades.

As President Donald Trump has suggested, a major source of that savings could be the sale of assets in the public domain, with revenue earmarked for debt reduction. For example, the value of mineral resources now in the public domain is estimated at $55 trillion.

A new Homestead Act could help solve the debt crisis in several ways.

The revenue from asset sales can be earmarked for debt reduction, reducing the negative impact of debt overhang on economic growth. Shifting resources from the public sector to the private sector would result in a more efficient allocation of resources.

Indeed, we should expect the privatization of $55 trillion in energy resources would be accompanied by a revolution of innovation and technological change in the energy industries. Higher rates of economic growth would be essential in bringing the debt-to-GDP ratio down to tolerable levels.

This Grand Bargain would strengthen finances at the state and local level. With energy resources and other federal assets shifted to the private sector, the tax base for state and local governments would expand significantly. That would generate the tax revenues to at least partially offset the financial burden resulting from devolution of federal programs to state and local governments.

We should expect this expanded role for state and local governments to result in greater efficiency in the provision of government services. The precedent for this productivity advance was the modest devolution of federal programs during the Reagan administration. With block grants replacing direct federal funding, state and local governments responded with reforms to deliver government services at lower cost.

An indirect effect of this Grand Bargain would be a restoration of the balance between the federal government, the states, and the people, as it was envisioned in the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.

  • Merrifield (think@heartland.org) is professor of economics at the University of Texas-San Antonio.
  • Poulson is emeritus professor of economics at the University of Colorado-Boulder.


67. The Jones Act Is An Unnatural DisasterПт., 06 окт.[−]

Recovery efforts in hurricane-torn Puerto Rico got a boost when the Department of Homeland Security granted a 10-day waiver of the Jones Act. With the waiver, foreign-flagged ships can transport essential supplies, including fuel, to the territory. These waivers are routinely granted after significant weather events, from blizzards in the winter to hurricanes in the summer. Katrina resulted in a 20-day waiver for Louisiana; affected states also received waivers following Harvey and Irma.

Each waiver makes explicit the normally unseen costs of the Jones Act. These costs are far too high, particularly for the residents of Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Alaska, to justify maintaining the status quo. It is past time to seriously reform, if not outright repeal, the Jones Act.

So what is the Jones Act? It's what's known as a cabotage act, determining the rules for waterborne cargo transportation within U.S. boundaries. It requires that all vessels carrying cargo between U.S. ports to be U.S.-built, at least 75% U.S.-owned, U.S.-flagged (that is, registered in the United States), and at least 75% U.S.-crewed.

These restrictions were put into place to maintain a strong merchant marine for national security following World War I; there would be a domestic U.S. shipbuilding industry for times of war, it was thought, and Jones Act vessels could serve as a naval auxiliary.

There is little reason to believe that the Jones Act has succeeded in achieving these goals. Instead, it has imposed considerable costs on American consumers and businesses, as well as taxpayers. The U.S. shipbuilding industry has shrunk, as has the share of U.S. firms in the global freight industry as other firms in other countries with more competitive markets have innovated and cut costs.

The American-built requirement of the Jones Act means that any firm wishing to ship domestically has to buy a vessel that is likely five times more expensive than one that could be purchased on the global market. Unsurprisingly, Jones Act vessels are much older on average (at 33 years) than the global fleet (13 years), as owners keep plying vessels in an effort to recoup the large initial investment. In one recent example, a 40-year-old Jones Act ship that went missing in 2015 amid questions about safety was still not due for retirement.

These higher costs are passed down the supply chain to consumers, with the effects being particularly acute for America's noncontiguous states and territories. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that the Jones Act increased costs for Alaska's lumber industry; meanwhile, the residents of Hawaii pay higher prices for food and other staples. The law also results in Kafkaesque situations, including ranchers from Hawaii finding it cheaper to charter Boeing 747s to transport cattle instead of using Jones Act vessels.

Similarly, the higher freight rates of Jones Act vessels meant that the majority of Puerto Rico's petroleum needs were met by imports from South America, rather than much closer U.S. mainland sources, a costly market distortion highlighted by a 2013 Government Accountability Office report.

When a hurricane hits, as Maria did, and Puerto Ricans urgently need fuel and other critical supplies, the costs of this policy become especially clear. Many of those supplies recently had to wait for transport until a waiver to the requirements of the Jones Act was in place.

People who need help should not be at the mercy of what is essentially an arbitrary process. A waiver does not simply depend on the extent of devastation, or the need of the people. New Jersey's request in 2014 for a Jones Act waiver following blizzards was denied, because it was not considered to be relevant to "national defense." The salt the state needed, which could have been transported in cargo ships in a matter of days, was shipped in barges over weeks, extending the misery of residents, and resulting in an unknown amount of lost value to businesses.

There is little reason to believe that there are any commensurate benefits to offset these costs. The U.S. shipbuilding industry has continued to decline, despite the protection afforded by one of the more stringent cabotage laws in existence. The vast majority of the Jones Act fleet consists of barges, and is unlikely to be as effective as the naval auxiliary visualized almost a century ago.

The concept of both "American built" and "American owned" is more fluid than ever, as supply chains grow more complex and ownership of a corporation can switch with a second's trade. It is past time to scrap a law that is increasingly obsolete and costly. Not only will this benefit Americans every day, but also ensure that help will be on the way immediately when the next hurricane or blizzard hits.


68. Michael Barone: Extremists In Both Parties Seem Determined To Lose The Next ElectionsПт., 06 окт.[−]

Almost no one disagrees that our two major political parties, the oldest and third-oldest in the world, have become increasingly extreme and estranged over the past decade. It's a startling contrast with the state of political conflict in the dozen or so years after the fall of the Soviet empire.

In 1992, Bill Clinton ran on a moderate Democratic Leadership Council platform and, after the implosion of Hillary Clinton's health care plan and the election of Republican congressional majorities in 1994, mostly governed accordingly.

This was the natural reaction of a politician who found an unusually wide range of policy positions acceptable and who was aware that Democrats had lost five of the six previous presidential elections by an average of 10% of the popular vote.

In 2000, George W. Bush ran as a compassionate conservative, distancing himself from the abrasiveness of congressional Republicans and the militant liberalism of congressional Democrats.

This was the natural reaction of a politician with a narrower range of acceptable policies and an awareness that hostile mainstream media would do everything possible to delegitimize a confrontational approach.

Both presidents took stands — generally supported by elites and at the time not particularly unpopular with voters — in favor of free trade and extensive immigration. And in the 1995-2005 decade, their approaches, including bipartisan compromises on major issues, seemed to produce popular results.

Those days are long gone, and similar approaches are angrily attacked. Contrast the platforms of Bill Clinton 1996 and Hillary Clinton 2016. Contrast the policies of George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

My earlier attempt at a general rule explaining this is that a party's wingers — left-wing Democrats, right-wing Republicans — grow increasingly discontent when their party is on the brink of, and after, losing a congressional majority. My updated version is that party politicians have, unlike candidates Clinton in 1992 and Bush in 2000, been operating in reckless disregard of losing congressional majorities.

In retrospect, the tea party rebellion that broke out in Barack Obama's first year in office and swept the 2010 midterm elections was also a rebellion against Bush policies — budget deficits, the Medicare prescription drug entitlement, the bank and auto bailouts.

The House Republican rebels who pushed the 2013 government shutdown and ousted Speaker John Boehner in 2015, acting out of purism, jeopardized Republican majorities. Similarly, their unwillingness to support measures to revise ObamaCare prevented moving policy in a conservative direction and gave increased leverage to House Democrats.

President Trump has taken to blaming Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan for such failures. This week, according to Politico, vice presidential aide Nick Ayers has been urging donors to stop funding congressional Republicans. "If we're going to be in the minority again, we might as well have a minority who are with us, as opposed to the minority who helped us become a minority," he said.

Democrats, currently with their smallest congressional minority since the 1920s, seem eager to take stands risking perpetuation of that status. It's reminiscent of Hillary Clinton's shift on abortion from her husband's "safe, legal and rare" to supporting Medicaid abortions and her abasement in repudiating his anti-crime policies in deference to the preposterous claims of #BlackLivesMatter.

Her willingness to take such risks was evidently based on the notion that demographic change — increasing numbers of nonwhite voters — guaranteed a Democratic victory.

Despite her defeat, that assumption and a confidence that Trump's unpopularity will doom Republicans seem to be shared by many Democrats. Thus, 16 Democratic senators, including some mentioned as possible 2020 nominees, have endorsed single-payer health care, a policy voted down resoundingly in purple Colorado and abandoned in shambles in deep blue Vermont.

The rush to the extremes in both parties threatens to derail an obvious compromise on immigration triggered by Trump's announcement that he would withdraw Obama's (legally dubious) Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which granted protection from deportation and permission to work to "dreamers," immigrants brought here illegally as children.

As William Galston, a veteran of the Clinton White House, argued in The Wall Street Journal, a compromise is obvious: a bill giving legal status to dreamers but including tougher border and internal enforcement, such as mandatory E-Verify.

Some Republicans oppose giving legal status to dreamers, despite its overwhelming popularity. Some Democrats are insisting on giving legal status to not only dreamers but practically all immigrants and will most likely resist effective enforcement measures, despite their widespread popularity. So it's possible that neither side will get what it wants.

One might get the impression that large segments of both parties are determined to lose the next congressional and presidential elections — and that both deserve to.

  • 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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69. Mona Charen: An American MadnessПт., 06 окт.[−]

All countries have mental illness, but its expression differs dramatically by culture. Historically, in Southeast Asia, men whose minds were coming unglued displayed symptoms of wild, uncontrolled violence. It was called "amok" and entered our language as "running amok." In the Middle East, the afflicted showed symptoms called "zar" — inappropriate outbursts of laughing, singing and screaming. In 19th century Europe, women had "hysterical" blindness and unexplained paralysis. In 20th century America, young people suffering from anorexia starved themselves to death in the belief that they were obese.

Our culture, for complex reasons, has given rise to a new expression of madness — the mass shooting followed by suicide.

A few of our worst — San Bernardino, Orlando, Fort Hood, Charleston — were terrorist attacks. The killers were not crazy, just bent on destruction for political ends. But the majority of mass shooters over the past several decades have been mentally ill men. The Virginia Tech killer had displayed many signs before his assault. So had the killers in Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, Washington's Navy Yard, and on and on.

In 1966, a 25-year-old ex-Marine stabbed his mother through the heart. He then did the same to his wife, covering their bodies with sheets. He left a note confessing to the crimes and asking that an autopsy be performed on him after his death. Later that day, he climbed the tower at the University of Texas and began a shooting spree that lasted 96 minutes. Fifteen people, including teenagers, were killed, and more than 30 were injured before police were able to kill the man and end the siege.

An autopsy was performed. The shooter, who had visited many psychiatrists and other doctors complaining of headaches, was found to have a brain tumor, a glioblastoma, the size of a pecan.

Because the Las Vegas killer's last act was to put a gun in his mouth and blow his brains out, an autopsy may be of limited value in this case. We can only do a social autopsy, and so far, that has led only to more questions. He was utterly outside the usual categories of mass killers. He wasn't young. He was wealthy. He had displayed no previous signs of mental instability. His massacre was meticulously planned and executed — not a case of running amok with a gun. Any explanation, even that he had somehow become a devotee of ISIS (which the terrorists claimed afterward but which is highly doubtful), would at least piece this together.

But even before learning what motivated this killer, we can shake off some of the old dust that encrusted the gun control debate. This is not about "gun violence" writ large. Most people know that deaths from guns have been declining over the past several decades even as gun ownership rates have risen. It is not about "silencers" either, as people who shoot guns for sport will tell you. The James Bond image of "silenced" guns stealthily dropping people is mostly a Hollywood invention.

A nation with a Second Amendment, a strong belief in the right to self-defense and 357 million guns in circulation is not going to have an Australian-style confiscation. Gun control absolutists need to live in the real world. The U.S. is not going to become Japan, which has almost no guns, or Switzerland, for that matter, which has a gun in every home and virtually no violence.

That said, if we understand that the thing we are trying to prevent is the next mass shooting, banning "bump stocks" would seem reasonable. These adaptations to the AR-15 — the Las Vegas mass murderer seemed to be using one and appeared to have many in the hotel suite — permit the user to fire so rapidly that the semi-automatic weapon becomes in effect an automatic one. No "good guy with a gun" stands a chance against a bad guy in that situation.

Machine guns, grenades and other weapons have been heavily regulated since the National Firearms Act of 1934. A 1986 amendment made it illegal for civilians to own a fully automatic weapon manufactured after May 19, 1986. Machine guns of older vintage are available but extremely expensive and highly controlled. That's as it should be. No one thinks our Second Amendment rights are compromised because machine guns are nearly impossible to obtain. So are bazookas and Stinger missiles.

The American psychosis of mass shootings isn't just a gun problem. Publicity, the modern opiate, may be a motive, which is why, in my small way, I try not to contribute. I don't name the killers.

I believe the shootings of random, happy people doing normal, quotidian things are a symptom of the spiritual emptiness and loneliness that afflicts a subset of our people — a byproduct of family dissolution and fraying communities. It won't be solved by any gun measure. But if there's a good reason not to ban bump stocks, I haven't heard it.

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

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70. Why Are Mainstream Charities Funding The Anti-Trump 'Resistance'?Пт., 06 окт.[−]

Uncharitable Rage: Among the more volatile, extreme and dangerous political movements to arise within a major American political party in recent U.S. history is the so-called "resistance" to President Donald Trump. What's especially disappointing is finding out who is behind it.

An investigation by the Washington Free Beacon looked into the progressive community organizing group called the Center for Community Change Action (CCCA), which has spearheaded the anti-Trump "resistance." What the Beacon found by looking at the group's unredacted tax returns was surprising: Far from being funded by like-minded activists and grass-roots contributions, the anti-Trump CCCA is secretly funded by major charities with respectably wholesome, centrist images. In some cases, the charities fund other extreme left-wing activist groups, too.

Among those giving money to the CCCA — which, the Beacon notes, "has been involved in direct action against President Donald Trump and Republicans before and after the November elections" — include the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Ford Foundation and billionaire George Soros' Open Society Foundation, which have together funneled millions of dollars to the anti-Trump, anti-conservative, anti-Republican activist group.

Kellogg alone gave $3 million, while the Ford Foundation ponied up $2.3 million. Soros delivered a cool $1.75 million to the anti-Trumpistas.

And there were others, among them the California Endowment (created by the 1996 acquisition of WellPoint Health Networks by Blue Cross of California), $524,500; the Marguerite Casey Foundation (started by UPS founder Jim Casey), $515,000; and the National Immigration Law Center, $316,000.

Yes, these bland-sounding charities and others help fund the far-left "resistance," arguably damaging our democracy in the process. Sadly, in most cases, if these charities' founders were alive today, they would be deeply ashamed and, perhaps, even enraged.

So how can charities that began as dispensers of aid and advice to the needy and to local community groups have morphed into funders of chaos and anti-democratic activism, against their original founders' wishes?

Well, as with all organizations in the U.S., over time even the most well-meaning and well-run charities eventually get taken over by the far-left and progressives. It's a tried-and-true tactic, one that has worked not just in charities but in local school districts, university administrations, local governments, the federal bureaucracy, even in the arts.

And it's not an accident.

Italian Marxist-strategist Antonio Gramsci, who died in 1937, called this the "long march through the institutions." The website Discover The Networks describes the Marxist theorist's ideas thusly: "Gramsci called for Marxists to actively spread their ideology in a gradual, incremental, stealth manner, by infiltrating all existing societal institutions and embedding it, largely without being noticed, in the popular mind."

Sure, Gramsci might be obscure to you, but he isn't to the left. He's a hugely influential hero. For that matter, so was Saul Alinsky, whose Marxist-inspired "Rules for Radicals" has become something of a primer for today's activists. The link here is that, in writing his famous little book, Alinsky was basically cribbing from Gramsci's ideas.

Alinsky, by the way, was the main political influence on Hillary Clinton (who wrote her senior thesis on him), along with an entire generation of left-wing activist-politicians who rose through the ranks with her in the post-Watergate Democratic Party and now dominate.

This well-funded tactic explains why the Democratic Party, rather than acting as the loyal opposition, has gone over the top and become an actively obstructionist opposition, unwilling to compromise or cooperate at all. And it explains why Democratic Party operatives, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Thomas Perez, not to mention failed Democratic presidential candidate Clinton, have chosen to openly ally with this movement, which seeks nothing less than to undermine and overturn a U.S. election.

America's charities are at the heart of what makes America special. So it's especially sad that some have become less-than-charitable funders of division and political rage, rather than unity and political compromise. Do you know who your favorite charity gives money to?

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71. Rest Easy, America, The FDA Is Keeping 'Love' Off Our Food LabelsЧт., 05 окт.[−]

Regulatory State: Those who think that federal regulators are humorless control freaks just had their suspicions confirmed this week by the Food and Drug Administration, which told a baker that listing "love" as an ingredient was against the rules.

Bloomberg reports that an artisan baker in Massachusetts got a warning letter from the FDA last Tuesday complaining, among other thing, about an ingredient listed on the label of a bag of its granola.

"Your Nashoba Granola label lists ingredient 'Love,' " the letter reads. It goes on to inform the baker that "Ingredients required to be declared on the label or labeling of food must be listed by their common or usual name (21 CFR 101.4(a) (1)). 'Love' is not a common or usual name of an ingredient, and is considered to be intervening material because it is not part of the common or usual name of the ingredient." (The CFR in that citation refers to a provision in the voluminous "Code of Federal Regulations.")

Translation: Your attempt at light humor isn't funny to us rule-enforcing bureaucrats down in the bowels of some dreary federal building.

Nashoba Brook Baker co-founder John Gates told Bloomberg: "I really like that we list 'love' in the granola. People ask us what makes it so good. It's kind of nice that this artisan bakery can say there's love in it and it puts a smile on people's face. Situations like that where the government is telling you you can't list 'love' as an ingredient, because it might be deceptive, just feels so silly."

That was bad enough. But the rest of the warning letter makes you wonder why anyone bothers to run a business in the U.S. anymore, given the incredible amount of regulatory hassles and rule violations that nameless bureaucrats can throw at you.

Nashoba Brook Baker isn't some megacorporation. It's an artisan bakery founded 19 years ago that employs about 50 people in Massachusetts, operates a small cafe, and sells its baked goods to local markets and grocery stores.

But it's not too small for the mighty FDA to be all over it for "misbranding" its products.

The nutrition label on one of its breads "is not in an appropriate format in accordance with 21 CFR 101.9."

Yikes!

On its "Whole Wheat Bread (retail) label, the 'Manufactured in a facility ... ' statement is intervening material in accordance with 21 CFR 101.2(e)," which stipulates that "All information appearing on the information panel pursuant to this section shall appear in one place without other intervening material."

OMG!

The label also "lists the ingredient 'Natural Sourdough Starter,' but fails to list the sub-ingredients in predominance by weight."

Heavens to Betsy!

And of course, the granola label lists the verboten word "love" as an ingredient.

Admittedly, the FDA letter also points to various sanitation items its inspector found over the course of two days, although many of them seemed to be incredibly nit-picky, such as "approximately five flies" in the area. The bakery dutifully promised to deal with those.

But does it strike anyone else as odd that the federal government is sticking its nose into a small, locally owned and operated business that — according to reviews in Yelp, Trip Advisor and elsewhere — is well liked by its customers? Isn't that what state and local inspectors are for?

The problem is that this sort of harassment and intimidation goes on countless times every day across the country, forcing small businesses to waste precious time and money trying to please distant federal regulators rather than their actual customers.

It's only rarely that bureaucrats are ham-handed enough to get called out.

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72. Victor Davis Hanson: The NFL's Glass House Gets RockedЧт., 05 окт.[−]

The National Football League is a glass house that was cracking well before Donald Trump's criticism of players who refuse to stand during the national anthem.

The NFL earned an estimated $14 billion last year. But 500-channel television, internet live streaming, video games and all sorts of other televised sports have combined to threaten the league's monopoly on weekend entertainment — even before recent controversies.

It has become a fad for many players not to stand for the anthem. But it is also becoming a trend for irate fans not to watch the NFL at all.

Multimillionaire young players, mostly in their 20s, often cannot quite explain why they have become so furious at emblems of the country in which they are doing so well.

Their gripes at best seem episodic and are often without supporting data. Are they mad at supposedly inordinate police brutality toward black citizens, or racial disparity caused by bias, or the perceived vulgarity of President Donald Trump?

The result, fairly or not, is that a lot of viewers do not understand why so many young, rich players show such disrespect for their country — and, by extension, insult their far poorer fans, whose loyal support has helped pay their salaries.

ESPN talking heads and network TV analysts do not help. They often pose as social justice warriors, but they are ill-equipped to offer sermons to fans on their ethical shortcomings that have nothing to do with football.

In truth, the NFL's hard-core fan base is not comprised of bicoastal hipsters. Rather, the league's fan base is formed mostly by red-state Americans — and many of them are becoming increasingly turned off by the culture of professional football.

Professional athletes are frequently viewed as role models. Yet since 2000, more than 850 NFL players have been arrested, some of them convicted of heinous crimes and abuse against women.

The old idea of quiet sportsmanship — downplaying one's own achievements while crediting the accomplishments of others — is being overshadowed by individual showboating.

Players are now bigger, faster and harder-hitting than in the past. Research has revealed a possible epidemic of traumatic brain injuries and other crippling injuries among NFL players. Such harm threatens to reduce the pool of future NFL players.

There is a growing public perception that the NFL is less a reflection of the kind of athleticism seen in basketball or baseball, and more a reflection of the violence of Mixed Martial Arts — or of gladiators in the ancient Roman Colosseum.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has received more than $212 million in compensation since 2006, has been a big moneymaker for the owners. Yet otherwise, he has been a public relations disaster, due largely to his incompetent efforts to sound politically correct. Goodell often insists that trivial rules be observed to the letter. For instance, the league denied a request by Dallas Cowboys players to wear small decals honoring Dallas police officers killed in a 2016 shooting.

At other times, Goodell deliberately ignores widespread violations of important NFL regulations — like the requirement that all players show respect for the American flag by solemnly standing during the national anthem.

The average value of an NFL franchise is estimated at $2.5 billion. The average player salary is nearly $2 million a year. Some of the league's superstars are making more than $20 million a year. Given such wealth, local governments are understandingly becoming miffed that they have to pony up public money to support new NFL stadiums. Over the last two decades, the American public has shelled out more than $7 billion to build or renovate NFL stadiums. Billionaire owners are able to blackmail the public to pay to keep a franchise or else lose it to a city that offers bigger stadium subsidies.

Meanwhile, the NFL has successfully lobbied for exemption from federal antitrust regulations. NFL owners are crony capitalists who want the state both to subsidize them and leave them alone.

Racial politics in the NFL have become increasingly problematic. The mega-wealthy franchise owners are almost all white businesspeople. Their multimillionaire players are about 70% African-American. So there is little diversity among the players, but even less among the owners.

Politically correct orthodoxy dictates that even quasi-public entities like the NFL should "look like America." But instead, the NFL apparently sees itself as an old-fashioned meritocracy where athletic skills and corporate success alone determine who plays and who owns.

The progressive notions of "proportional representation" and "disparate impact" that sometimes govern universities and government mysteriously do not apply to the NFL, where few Latinos or Asians are included.

But most importantly, the league has entirely forgotten the fundamental rule of business: Never ignore, insult or talk down to the loyal consumers who provide the leagues' support and income.

The NFL will not disappear, but its national significance is rapidly diminishing.

  • Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author of "The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won," to appear in October from Basic Books. His email is: authorvdh@gmail.com.


73. Larry Elder: Trump Not Letting Media Turn Puerto Rico Into His 'Katrina'Чт., 05 окт.[−]

President Donald Trump punched back hard against the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who accused him of insufficient concern about her island. In doing so, Trump shows that he learned from President George W. Bush's mistakes. Bush 43 seemed to expect a certain level of fairness and civility from the media.

When, for example, Sen. Ted Kennedy, about the prewar Iraq intelligence, said, "Before the war, week after week after week after week, we were told lie after lie after lie after lie," the Bush White House did not aggressively push back against that venomous assertion. When critics made the hideous accusations that President George W. Bush was "lying us into war," the White House did little to fight back. That, at least, is the assessment of both former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, whom I had the privilege of interviewing. Cheney and Rumsfeld lamented their failure to aggressively and loudly refute the accusation. Why didn't they fight back? Both told me that they considered the charges so incredibly offensive and easily refuted that few would believe it.

President Trump makes no such assumptions. One readily imagines a President Trump reaching for his Twitter account to aggressively counter such a hideous accusation.

But the "Bush lied, people died" mantra would stick, at least for Democrats. Many Democrats believe George W. Bush either lied about the intel on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction or that there is a possibility that he lied. The claim remains a stain on the Republican brand, a party that, to many on the left, took its country into a war that cost thousands of lives over an intentional lie.

Never mind the conclusion of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, which investigated whether the Bush administration intentionally misled the nation. It concluded: "The Intelligence Community's performance in assessing Iraq's pre-war weapons of mass destruction programs was a major intelligence failure. The failure was not merely that the Intelligence Community's assessments were wrong. There were also serious shortcomings in the way these assessments were made and communicated to policymakers." In a letter to President Bush, the commission said, "After a thorough review, the Commission found no indication that the Intelligence Community distorted the evidence regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. What the intelligence professionals told you about Saddam Hussein's programs was what they believed. They were simply wrong."

A President Trump would have blasted social media for "ignoring" the commission's findings — and rained insults upon insults on "reporters" like then-Associated Press Washington bureau chief Ron Fournier who, despite the commission's conclusion, publicly stated that Bush lied us into war in Iraq. Trump would have blistered him.

Trump, in the case of Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria, refuses to let media and politicians like Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who called the federal response in Puerto Rico "disgraceful," turn this into Trump's Katrina. After Katrina, President Bush got blamed for the shortcomings and political infighting between local and state authorities. Recall how rapper Kanye West, during a fundraiser for Katrina victims, claimed, "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Then-senatorial candidate Claire McCaskill even said, "George Bush let people die on rooftops in New Orleans because they were poor and because they were black."

As for Hurricane Maria and Trump's response, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yul?n Cruz said: "We are dying here. ... And you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy. We will make it with or without you. ... I am done being polite. I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell, because my people's lives are at stake."

Trump, in a series of tweets, fired back:

"The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.

" ... Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They ...

" ... want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.

"The military and first responders, despite no electric, roads, phones etc., have done an amazing job. Puerto Rico was totally destroyed."

The facts do suggest that the damage inflicted by Maria overwhelmed the island's already poor infrastructure making it nearly impossible to deliver supplies local authorities. Trump, unlike Bush, refused to be labeled as the president who "doesn't care."

Bravo, Mr. President. Bravo.

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

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74. George Will: Bikini-Clad Baristas Serve Up A Lesson In Free SpeechЧт., 05 окт.[−]

SEATTLE — Amazon, which has made this city the epicenter of a retailing revolution, is not the Northwest's only commercial disrupter. In the nearby city of Everett, Liberty Ziska and some other bikini baristas, giving new meaning to coffee as a stimulant, have provoked the City Council to pass, unanimously, ordinances requiring baristas to be less nearly naked when they work. The baristas, in turn, have hired a lawyer and made an argument that is germane to current disputes about freedom of speech. Their argument, they might be surprised to learn, is Aristotelian. Sort of.

Everett has not succumbed to Pecksniffian Comstockery: The police chief and city attorney allege that bikini barista stands attract a clientele that sometimes behaves badly, and that some of the baristas do, too. The city reports "a proliferation of crimes of a sexual nature occurring at bikini barista stands," which it primly suggests has something to do with "the minimalistic nature of the clothing worn by baristas." Seattle's ABC affiliate reports that "in 2014, the owner of Java Juggs pleaded guilty to running a brothel out of several stands." Henceforth the baristas must wear at least shorts and tank tops. The new dress code cannot be faulted for vagueness. Indeed, it has notable specificity (it mentions the "bottom one-half of the anal cleft" and is even more detailed about breasts) that has the baristas incensed about the examinations and anatomical measurements that law enforcement might require.

What makes this a matter of more than mere ribaldry is that the baristas have unlimbered heavy constitutional artillery. They fire it in ways pertinent to the manner in which freedom of speech is debated and defended — or not — where it is most important and most besieged: on campuses. The baristas say:

The ordinances banning bikinis violate the First Amendment because they are "content-based and viewpoint-based restrictions" that "impermissibly burden and chill" their freedom to "convey their messages of female empowerment, positive body image" and other things. Their bikinis are "a branding message" communicating "approachability and friendliness." The ordinances regulate only speech "common and fundamental" at bikini barista stands, targeting them "because Everett does not agree with their message" and restricting "channels of communication." Ziska says that if clothing covers the tattoos on her legs, arms, wrists, back, neck and hips she cannot have such interesting conversations with customers. Brittany Giazzi and Leah Humphrey argue similarly about their piercings and scars, respectively.

Never mind the baristas' further barrage of allegations in their everything-but-the-kitchen-sink complaint — e.g., that the ordinances are "an equal-protection violation" because they target women ("a protected class") and do not burden men. Instead, note how strenuously, even imaginatively, Ziska and her co-workers strain to argue teleologically.

In recent lectures at Georgetown and American universities in Washington, Greg Weiner, an Assumption College political philosopher and frequent contributor to the Library of Law & Liberty website, urged participants in the campus arguments to reason as Aristotle did. That is, to be less deontological (rights-based in their advocacy) and more teleological (ends-based). To argue deontologically is to treat speech as an autonomous good, regardless of its moral or social purpose, if it has one. To argue teleologically is to stress why — for what purpose — we should value speech.

Aristotle — here he was not the baristas' ally — defined human beings as language-using creatures, which makes the expressive value of tattoos, piercings, body parts, etc., less than fundamental. The Supreme Court's First Amendment jurisprudence, Weiner notes, has generally accorded the most robust protection to speech, and speech that is political, broadly defined — concerned with securing the goods of self-government. The fundamental purpose (telos), although not the only purpose, of the right to free speech is to protect a panoply of other rights.

So, the First Amendment rightly protects not just speech but "expression," and a free society should give generous protection even to expressions that serve no public purpose, but just make the expressing persons happy. But speech about the pursuit of truth, justice and other important public matters — the sort of speech central to academic institutions — merits more rigorous protection than the baristas' right to display, among much else, their tattoos, piercings and scars.

Everett should have some latitude to balance other public goods against the expressive pleasure and even commercial advantages that Liberty Ziska and her colleagues derive from sartorial minimalism. Universities should protect almost absolute freedom for arguments about politics, classically and properly defined broadly as the subject of how we should live.


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75. Good News: Trump Just Privatized A Piece Of ObamaCareСр., 04 окт.[−]

Health Care: What happened after President Trump decided to save taxpayer money by slashing ObamaCare's open enrollment ad budget? Private groups jumped in to fill the gap. It should serve as an example of how to cut countless other government programs.

In late August, the administration announced that it was sharply cutting the promotional budget for ObamaCare as well as money spent on "navigators" paid to help people enroll when open enrollment starts on November 1.

Both cuts were more than justified.

The Obama administration nearly doubled ObamaCare promotional spending in 2016 to more than $100 million, only to see overall enrollment decline by 400,000 and the number of new enrollees drop by 42%. This year, the Department of Health and Human Services is slashing the ad budget to $10 million.

The navigator program was an even bigger waste of money. HHS notes that the Obama administration dumped $62.5 million on navigators last year — who then managed to help fewer than 82,000 people enroll. That's $762 per enrollee. One navigator got $200,000 and enrolled one person. HHS is cutting the navigator budget by almost 40%.

Not surprisingly, the cuts were treated by ObamaCare defenders as another effort by Trump to sabotage the law.

But then something interesting happened. The private sector mobilized to pick up the slack.

The Huffington Post reports that former Obama administration officials just launched a project — called Get America Covered — that has raised at least as much money from foundations and proviate groups as the feds were going spend. It's also established "partnerships with businesses, state officials and local media that will help spread the word."

Co-founder Lori Lodes told Huffington Post that "It's a passion project. I believe so much that the marketplace can work, and part of that means getting new people to sign up and making sure that people have access to the information so that they can decide that getting health coverage through HealthCare.gov is right for them."

Other private groups are organizing open enrollment campaigns, including Families USA, Indivisible, Young Invincibles and Community Catalyst.

So what's the problem here?

Why should taxpayers fork over hundreds of millions of dollars for dubious federal ad campaigns and to pay underworked navigators, when there are passionate people and plenty of money in the private sector to take on this job?

It's a safe bet, too, that these privately run and privately funded groups are going to use their money more efficiently and effectively than the government ever could. Plus, they will be able to look with pride at their successes, rather than complain about how the government should do more.

Instead of attacking Trump, these groups should be thanking him for giving them the opportunity to take on this challenge.

As for the rest of us, this is a perfect example of how government programs can be cut without harming citizens. With any luck, there will be many more such examples in the years ahead.

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76. Robert Samuelson: The Resilient American ConsumerСр., 04 окт.[−]

The American consumer is the great engine of growth for the $19 trillion U.S. economy, representing nearly 70% of spending. If the consumer is confident and happy, chances are that the economy is satisfactory or robust. On the other hand, if the consumer is confused and worried, the economy may be weak and vulnerable to setbacks.

Which is it now? The answer matters for everyone.

The latest reading comes from a massive survey conducted every three years by the Federal Reserve to describe Americans' finances. Three conclusions stand out from the newly released survey, two good and one not-so-good. The upbeat findings are that the economic recovery is finally reaching the poor and that Americans are reducing their debt burdens. The less hopeful trend is that the country's deep disparities of income and wealth have hardly changed.

Let's take them one by one.

It's hard to quarrel with success. From 2013 — when the last Fed study left off — to 2016, median family income rose 9.6%, from $48,100 to $52,700. By contrast, the previous study found that median family income had dropped 5% from 2010 to 2013. Presumably, this reflected the Great Recession's lingering adverse effects. (The median income is the income exactly in the middle — half are above, half below.)

Not only were incomes up in the past three years, but gains were strong among minorities. Median incomes rose 10% for African-American families and 15% for Hispanics. (All changes are adjusted for inflation and expressed in 2016 dollars.) Generally, the Fed study parallels a recent Census Bureau report on household incomes and poverty. However, the Fed study has much more detail. It reports, for example, that half of American families have retirement accounts.

It also has voluminous data on wealth: what people own and owe. The Census Bureau report has none. Trends in wealth mirrored trends in income. Although median net worth jumped 16% to $97,300, the proportionate gains for African-Americans (up 29%) and Hispanics (46%) were greater. (Net worth reflects people's assets, such as homes and stocks, minus their debts.)

What is especially notable is that most American families have reduced their debt burdens, albeit gradually. The share of families who need to devote more than 40% of their income to paying interest and principal on their loans dropped from 11% in 2007 to 7% in 2016. Likewise, the median family with credit card balances — loans — carried 3% less than in 2013.

All this suggests that the consumer is still in a position to propel the economy forward. Debt service isn't so great as to channel ever larger amounts of cash away from consumer spending. Jobs are plentiful, and the prices of homes (still owned by 64% of households) and stocks (52%) have recovered, engendering optimism.

So what's not to like? What do we learn from the Fed study — called the Survey of Consumer Finances — that might inspire caution? Well, a couple of things.

For starters, some recent gains simply recoup ground lost during the 2008-09 financial crisis and the Great Recession. It's true that median family income rose 10% from 2013 to 2016 to $52,700. But it's also true that it hasn't yet attained its previous peak of $55,000 in 2004.

Similarly, despite recent gains, minorities lag well behind whites economically. In 2016, white non-Hispanic families had median incomes of $61,200, much higher than median incomes for blacks ($35,400) and Hispanics ($38,500). Gaps in net worth are also huge: The median for whites was $171,000 in 2016 compared with $17,600 for blacks and $20,700 for Hispanics.

The picture that emerges is frustratingly mixed. The recent gains are undeniable, and they seem to reflect the normal mechanics of recovery from deep recession more than any single act of policy. People overborrowed; they either defaulted or scrambled to repay. Firms struggled to rebuild cash reserves. Although these responses initially weakened the economy, they now seem to have restored confidence.

Still, the confidence seems more wide than deep. It's hard to believe that most Americans have forgotten the Great Recession. Anything that reminds them of it — a slump in stock prices, much higher interest rates, some unforeseen economic setback — could unleash a self-fulfilling cycle of pessimism. There are limits to consumers' resilience.

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

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77. L. Brent Bozell: The Inevitable Bias Avalanche In Las VegasСр., 04 окт.[−]

"The deadliest mass shooting in modern American history." That was the summary of the horrific end to the country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, with 59 people killed (as we file this) and more than 500 injured. The early network reports were all news, but everyone knew what would follow immediately: an avalanche of liberal anger that gun control wasn't installed to prevent this from happening.

The spirit of the "fact-finding" and "objective" media elite was characterized in a tweet from Cal Perry, a global editor for digital content at NBC News. "Been a journo for a while now. It has become impossible to report just, 'facts' about gun violence. The fact is America needs gun control."

This is why most Americans distrust "independent fact checkers" with media credentials. Emotions trump facts. It's a "fact" that Hillary Clinton was the most qualified, deserving Democratic nominee in modern history. It's a "fact" that the Russians installed Donald Trump in the presidency. It's a "fact" that guns cause violence.

It's also a "fact" that "truth" has a liberal bias, and the media's job is to deliver that "truth" with buckets full of gusto.

Former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw announced once again it was time for a serious conversation about access to deadly weapons: "I think this is time for a national dialogue that we can have in a calm and reasoned way in which the country can figure out how come we have so many mass shootings in this country," since the killer, Stephen Paddock, had assembled an arsenal of guns and ammunition to mow down innocent people.

That "dialogue" ought to begin by asking these journalists which laws would have prevented these murders. But a dialogue is not what they want. We've been having a dialogue for years and they haven't succeeded. They want a monologue describing just how much gun control we should have.

NBC's Matt Lauer continued the monologue: "Mass shooting is defined as — what is it? Four people, I think, killed is a mass shooting. And those happen almost every day in this country." Brokaw replied: "They do happen every day, as a matter of fact, Matt."

No. They don't. Not in the way that most Americans understand the term "mass shootings." And any professional, fact-based journalist knows it. Emotions, trumping facts.

For raw avoidance of the facts, there's always the late-night "comedy" lectures. ABC's Jimmy Kimmel, D-Calif., denounced congressional Republicans. He said Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and others "who won't do anything about this — because the NRA has their balls in a money clip — also sent their thoughts and their prayers today. Which is good. They should be praying for God to forgive them for letting the gun lobby run this country because it's so crazy."

Try to find a fact in there. The previous message might as well have been brought to you by speechwriters from the office of Senator Charles Schumer.

In the realm of actual facts, Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post "Fact Checker," set out to analyze Marco Rubio's claim in 2015 after the mini-jihad in San Bernardino that none of the recent mass shootings would have been prevented by new gun laws. Kessler analyzed the 12 most recent mass shootings and their perpetrators and announced Rubio was correct.

Everyone in America mourns these mass shootings. Everyone. But liberals think only they have the compassion and "common sense" to end it. Liberals are furious about this because it demonstrates all their liberal media bias and all their liberal celebrity "consciousness raising" accomplishes nothing.

Evil plotters who have no criminal record are going to be able to buy guns, and they're going to be able to pass background checks, and their plots won't be stopped by the Brady Campaign. Will someone please stick these facts in Tom Brokaw's "national dialogue" where they belong?

  • 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.

78. Ben Shapiro: In Las Vegas, We Also Saw The Power Of GoodСр., 04 окт.[−]

This week, an evil human being murdered nearly 60 Americans and wounded more than 500 others in Las Vegas. His attack was well-planned: The shooter had some 23 guns in his hotel room, including a semi-automatic rifle affixed with a "bump stock" allowing the shooter to operate the rifle like an automatic weapon; he had another 19 guns in his home. Video of the incident is chilling: the rat-a-tat of the gun raining bullets down on unsuspecting innocents from the hulking profile of the Mandalay Bay on the horizon, the wounded concertgoers screaming in the darkness.

But there was heroism, too.

The stranger who threw his body atop Amy McAslin and Krystal Goddard to shield them from the rifle fire. "Just truly incredible," McAslin later said, "a stranger, jumping over me to protect me."

The off-duty nurse from Orange County who told local news that she ran back into the danger to help the wounded: "I'm a nurse and I just felt that I had to ... There was so many people, just normal citizens, doctors, cops, paramedics, nurses, just off duty. ... It was completely horrible, but it was absolutely amazing to see all those people come together."

The anonymous man who threw 18-year-old Addison Short over his shoulder and carried her to safety. The couple who pulled their truck over to carry the wounded to the hospital. The off-duty police using their own bodies to cover the vulnerable. The father who protected his children from gunfire, saying, "They're 20. I'm 53. I lived a good life." Jonathan Smith, a 30-year-old who reportedly saved up to 30 lives, taking a bullet to the neck in the process.

It took hundreds of heroes to save hundreds of people; it took one evil man to wound and kill that many.

On the one hand, it is impossible not to lament the extent of evil: A man attacking those who harmed him in no way, possibly gleefully murdering people attending a concert, makes us wonder at the rot that can infect the human heart. But on the other hand, in each incident of horror we must remember how much the good outweighed the evil. Were there hundreds of people like Stephen Paddock, thousands would have died; were there only one person attempting to stop the impact of Paddock's evil, thousands would have died.

All of which means that as we mourn the victims in Las Vegas, we must also celebrate the heroes. We should see the incident as proof of just how much light infuses America from its citizens — how many normal people run to help each other when evil strikes, when darkness threatens to divide us. So long as that light continues to unite us, America will emerge ready, as always, to fight that darkness.

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

79. Facts, Not Emotions, Are Needed In Gun Debate — Here Are 3Ср., 04 окт.[−]

Gun Laws: It is utterly predictable that, after a mass shooting, there are urgent pleadings for "gun control" laws. It's also predictable that any facts about gun laws and gun violence will be tossed aside.

After the shooting in Las Vegas, which left 59 dead and more than 500 injured, Caleb Keeter, guitarist for the Josh Abbott Band, which was on stage at a country music festival when Stephen Paddock started shooting, announced that he'd changed his mind about guns.

"I've been a proponent of the Second Amendment my whole life. Until the events of last night," Keeter said in a statement. "I cannot express how wrong I was. … Enough is enough. … We need gun control RIGHT. NOW."

Keeter's response no doubt reflects how many people felt after the shootings. It's also a reflection how little thought most people put into this issue before spouting off.

What sort of "gun control" does Keeter support? What new law would have prevented this tragedy? Is Keeter advocating taking guns away from law-abiding citizens?

Likewise, late night talk show host Stephen Colbert's lecture to the nation amounted to saying that "anything" was better than nothing when it comes to gun control.

Others are saying that the National Rifle Association and Republicans in Congress have blood on their hands for this shooting because they blocked previous gun control measures — laws that, even if they were on the books, would almost certainly have done nothing to prevent Sunday night's rampage.

How about, instead of indulging in emotional responses and name-calling, these people offered the public some pertinent facts that would help enlighten the debate? Here are three:

1. More gun laws won't mean fewer homicides or mass shootings. Gun control advocates claim that there's a direct relationship between state gun-control laws and gun-related fatalities. But these numbers include suicides, which account for two-thirds of all gun deaths. Restricting the sale of new guns isn't likely to have a significant impact on suicides.

When you look only at homicides, there's no clear correlation between those and state gun laws.

For example, Maryland had a homicide rate of 6.1 per 100,000 population in 2014, despite getting an A rating from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which grades states on the strictness of their gun control laws. Next door Virginia, which gets a D rating, had a homicide rate of 4.1.

A-rated California and F-rated Texas had the exact same homicide rates. Gun-control-friendly Illinois had a higher homicide rate than its pro-gun neighbors, Indiana and Ohio.

If anything, there's an inverse relationship between gun homicides and the number of guns per person. As economist Mark Perry notes, the number of guns per person has climbed more than 50% since 1994. Over those same years, the gun-related homicide rate dropped by 49%.

What's more, of the 18 mass shootings that have taken place since 2011, only five took place in states that get an F rating from the Law Center (and two of those were committed by Islamic terrorists). However, five mass shootings took place in states with an A rating for gun control, and seven occurred in states with a C rating. Another one took place in heavily gun-controlled Washington, D.C.

2. Attacks on the NRA are disingenuous. As usual after a mass shooting, the NRA is being attacked for using its political muscle to block more gun control laws. Here's a typical comment: "For most Hill Republicans, bucking the NRA is unfathomable. The powerful gun lobby spent more than $52 million backing candidates in the 2016 cycle alone." Or as alleged late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel put it, Republicans "should be praying for God to forgive them for letting the gun lobby run this country."

But the NRA is a relative piker when it comes to campaign donations and lobbying. In the 2016 election, labor unions outspent the NRA by more than 3 to 1. Last year, the National Association of Realtors spent twice as much lobbying Congress than all the gun rights groups combined.

The "gun lobby" — typified by the NRA — is influential only because there are millions of gun owners in the country who are passionate about defending their Second Amendment rights. The gun lobby, in fact, is one of the few genuinely grass roots groups in Washington.

So, attacks on the NRA are nothing more than veiled attacks on law-abiding gun owners — most of whom know a lot more about guns than prominent gun control advocates.

3. There are already hundreds of gun control laws on the books. Also left out of the discussion is the fact that there are, by one count, more than 270 federal laws on the books, as well as countless state laws covering gun sales and gun ownership. Will one more gun control law make any difference? That's hard to show.

But until we have some actual facts about how Paddock amassed his arsenal and what, if anything, could have been done to prevent his crime, any talk of new gun laws is pointless. Until such facts do emerge, those counseling patience before leaping on the "gun control" bandwagon have it right.

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80. Do The Media Hate Trump? Yes, And From The Very Start Of His Presidency, New Survey ShowsСр., 04 окт.[−]

Media Bias: The mainstream media don't like Trump, but it's not really anything he did as president, a new survey by the Pew Research Center shows. The evidence: Among recent presidents, coverage of Trump's initial weeks in office has been the most skewed and biased, by far.

Pew, with impeccable centrist credentials, decided to look at how the print, broadcast, cable and online media covered the first 60 days of each recent presidency — including Bill Clinton's, George W. Bush's, Barack Obama's, and Donald Trump's. As far as the media are concerned, Trump never had a chance.

Some 62% of the media coverage of Trump was negative, Pew found. For Obama it, was just 20%; for Bush, 28%; for Clinton, also 28%. In other words, the media from the get-go had decided Trump was a bad president — before any of his policies had a chance to take hold.

Put another way, only 5% of the coverage Trump got in his first two months was positive, compared with 42% for Obama, 22% for Bush and 27% for Clinton. On no issue did Trump get anywhere near what could be called a high positive coverage. Highest was for political skills, with 15% of stories giving him positive coverage. But on immigration, just 9% of the stories were positive; for his appointments and nominations, just 11%; U.S.-Russia ties, 4%; health care, 9%.

"And it's not a case of overwhelmingly negative coverage on one subject drowning out some moderately positive coverage on other matters," noted the political blog Hot Air. "It was resoundingly negative across the board."

Or, as Pew put it, "Compared with past administrations, coverage of Trump's early days focused less on policy and was more negative overall."

Is it any wonder that Trump has what many see as open contempt for the media when, despite their protestations to the contrary, they are utterly and completely biased against him? And don't expect the media to mellow or become better.

One of the more insightful recent comments about the press came from a lifelong member of the mainstream, mostly liberal media: Bob Schieffer, form CBS News anchor. He noted last weekend on "Face the Nation" that the media seem to have become increasingly geographically centered and insular, with one out of five reporters residing in New York, Washington or Los Angeles, up sharply from one in eight as recently as 2004.

This is a problem, as much for the media as it is for Trump. The big media have become willing vocal mouthpieces and shills for progressive ideas, the Democratic Party and even far-left and extremist political movements, while viewing mainstream Americans living in "flyover country" as backward yokels and rural grotesques clinging to archaic religious beliefs.

But those are the people who voted for Trump, and it's a big reason why the once-pervasive reach of the capital and coastal media enclaves has shrunk so noticeably; many outside of the coastal blue states have simply turned them off.

Sadly, there's no solution for this. In the digital age, we can all self-segregate on the web by tuning out discordant voices. Increasingly, that's happening across the country, leading to a kind of ideological Balkanization. There's more shouting, and less conversation. And we're all poorer for it.

For all this, the media deserve much of the blame. They have abandoned all pretense of fairness or objectivity in their reporting, in favor of rank politicization of the news and even basic facts. The Pew report on their biased coverage of Trump's initial months in office, unfortunately, confirms this.

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81. Betsy McCaughey: Democrats Vs. The FactsВт., 03 окт.[−]

President Trump has unveiled a tax plan to ignite economic growth and simplify the tax filing ordeal. Sadly, top Democrats are responding with divisive rhetoric and lies. Senator Chuck Schumer dismisses the plan as " wealth-fare." House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calls the plan " giveaways to big corporations and billionaires."

Intent on stoking envy, these class warfare politicians are willing to forfeit economic growth. But the nation can't afford to.

Here are the facts to rebut their demagoguery:

Senator Bernie Sanders smears the Trump plan as " morally repugnant," claiming the rich don't pay their " fair share."

You'll hear the same complaint in the " Not One Penny" TV ads paid for by MoveOn.org and other left-wing groups. They warn Congress not to allow one cent of tax cuts for high-income people. But the top 10% of earners pay 80% of federal income taxes. Do the math. Any sizable tax cut will have to benefit them. Earners in the bottom half of the nation pay only a sliver — under 3% — of federal income taxes collected.

Senator Elizabeth Warren rages that the plan " delivers massive cuts to corporations" and " kicks working families to the curb."

Wrong, Senator. Business tax cuts don't just benefit businesses. They produce higher wages and more job opportunities for workers.

America taxes corporations at the highest rate of any industrialized country. That drives companies overseas, sabotaging our workforce. The Trump plan lowers the rate from 35% to 20% to make the U.S. competitive. The plan also allows companies to immediately deduct 100% of plant and equipment costs — a change that will encourage companies to buy more computers and trucks and hire more office workers and drivers.

When countries lower corporate taxes, wages go up, according to data from 72 countries. American workers have toiled for years without an improvement in take-home pay or standard of living.

Democrats label Trump's cuts as " trickle-down economics," claiming they don't produce growth. These Dems have forgotten history.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy slashed investment taxes. After his assassination, his broader tax cuts were enacted, producing eight years of soaring growth – 5% a year.

In the 1980s, President Reagan slashed rates again, giving the nation nearly a decade of robust 3.8% growth.

In 2003, George W. Bush's tax cut boosted the economy, producing 4% growth for six straight quarters.

Compare this vigorous growth with President Obama's eight years of stagnation. Obama's economy lumbered along at around 2% because high taxes and over regulation discouraged companies from investing. Democrats still insist that 2% growth is the new normal. Nonsense. Roll back regulations and taxes, and the economy will surge.

For individual filers, Trump's plan simplifies the maddeningly complex process, lowers rates, and doubles the standard deduction — a big savings. To goose the economy and get money into people's pockets faster, Congress should make these changes retroactive to January 2017. Just because Congress dragged its feet on tax reform doesn't mean the public should have to wait.

Pelosi warns Trump's plan will " blow a huge whole in the deficit." That's a new religion for Democrats. Don't be fooled. The real problem isn't that taxes are too low. It's that spending is too high, and Dems want to push it higher.

Trump's plan eliminates the deductibility of state and local taxes. That deduction has lulled residents of tax hell — Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey and California — into complacency. Without it, residents will feel the full pain caused by the tax-and-spend politicians running their states. Representatives from these states are up in arms, demanding that Congress keep the deduction, and they may prevail. But the real issue isn't whether state taxes are deductible — they're just too high.

Expect more demagoguery as Democrats try to block Trump's tax relief. They claim to want a bipartisan plan. Their inflammatory rhetoric proves otherwise. Unwilling to help govern, they call themselves the "Resistance." Don't count on them to help rebuild America's economy or grow your paycheck.

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

82. Is The Tide Turning On Tech?Вт., 03 окт.[−]

If McDonald's carried the motto "don't poison people," would you eat there? I'd wager not even with Mulan Szechuan teriyaki dipping sauce.

Apophasis (in rhetoric, bringing up a negative subject to deny it) in advertising is rarely a good idea, as Gob Bluth of "Arrested Development" discovered when he suggested the company tagline: "A Colombian cartel that won't kidnap and kill you."

Yet, for years, the Google ( GOOGL) motto of "Don't be Evil" (though recently dropped, is still embraced by the company) was seemingly taken at face value. While the young would righteously rail against the corporate avarice of Wal-Mart, JPMorgan, and West Elm furniture, the litany of liberties taken by the tech industry with job destruction, the establishment of monopolies, and the havoc they wreaked on local economies was overwhelmingly, tacitly endorsed with only sporadic criticism.

To be fair, Google is an enduringly impressive product, as is Uber, Amazon.com AMZN, and the like, while that West Elm couch was truly a travesty. With the rise of populism, regulatory pushback, and some mind-numbingly dumb decisions from Silicon Valley, the high water mark of the tech hegemony might have already been reached.

Bodega, the latest Silicon Valley disrupter, had all the signs of success: ex-Google execs, lucrative investments from all the heavy hitters in the VC, and an analog space rife for a digital revolution — the mom-and-pop shop. As an excellent Fast Company piece noted, corner stores with all their antiquated charm, cats and community would be stripped down to the 100 most-purchased items that could fit in an extra-large vending machine — and the bodega would go the way of the bookstore.

Theoretically they would be taking as much business from the titanic 7-Elevens as from the relatively tiny "one-off" corner shop, but the name "Bodega" with all its diverse cultural connotations made their intentions clear. The plan was so brazen that even their logo featured a cat, a bodega hallmark. It was a branding strategy that could have been crafted by Hannibal Lecter: They would hack off and wear the face of the industry, keep the choice cuts, and then slowly devour the rest over several years.

You may, and should, chastise and condemn them to failure, but was Amazon ( AMZN) all that different? Was the mom-and-pop bookstore less deserving of populist defense? Amazon was never so naked with its intentions, but it was far more effective. As the perspicacious Lisa Simpson once said of an election: "I can't believe a convicted felon would get so many votes and another convicted felon would get so few."

Was this disrupter that different? It's not the disrupter that's changed, it's the times.

There was a time when the handle "disrupter" sent every reporter, consumer and investor in the country scrambling for their wallets. Disrupters were the forest fires that burned away the decaying bramble and brush so the future can grow anew. Until recently there wasn't much thought given to the bramble or the brush.

When those thoughts were spared, the demise of said fields was privately treated as some form of social Darwinism. It was renewal and rebirth, not destruction and disenfranchisement. But as Bodega irrefutably proved: From Amazon to Uber, the biggest things the disrupters disrupted were people, not corporations. The corporation is simply passing from one form to another, but its ability to spread and potentially suffocate the mom-and-pop business, be it bookstore or bodega, is the true disruptive force.

But, yet again, those disrupters are damn good products … for now.

The "clearly not evil because we're telling you we are not evil" Google is facing the full brunt of a series of antitrust cases from Europe, including the largest fine in EU history. Uber just had its London license revoked for having a professional plan pulled from the pages of a Pinkerton handbook, and while Bodega has lost a battle, they will most assuredly be returning. While none of these abuses are sufficient for consumers to press that little x in the corner of the app, it's fair to say the bloom is off the disrupter daisy.

  • Shirley is director of operations for Citizens for the Republic, an activist group founded by Ronald Reagan in 1977.

83. How Trade Uncertainty Threatens Global Growth, InnovationВт., 03 окт.[−]

The recent failed round of Brexit negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union highlights that immense uncertainty that faces companies hoping for clarity about new trade arrangements.

The fog isn't likely to lift anytime soon. From the Brexit "divorce" negotiations to an alphabet of trade agreements in peril, such as Nafta, Korus and TPP, global companies are anxious about the future, and that could put the world economy at risk.

At issue is that political upheaval over the last 18 months has nudged the world trading system to an inflection point from which it will prove difficult to recover if unhindered movement of goods and the protection of intellectual property are not assured.

Elections in the U.S. and United Kingdom have sparked a wave of populism, injecting a nationalist strain into global politics, putting at risk "accepted norms" for trade and jeopardizing the economic connections that have allowed the world to grow and prosper. Regulations and standards that have governed international commerce for a half-century are under fire or are atrophying as nations and regions vie for short-term advantage at the expense of long-term prosperity.

The resulting uncertainty — if not resolved quickly — could slow economic growth as the bureaucracy and expense associated with the movement of goods increases and the intellectual property that underpins the growth becomes more complicated to protect and more urgent to deliver.

Intellectual property is the lifeblood of innovative companies in the 21st century. IP is what gives a company its edge in the marketplace. IP protections, enshrined in trade agreements, ensure that a company's most treasured asset — its innovation and brainpower — don't migrate unfairly to the competition without steep consequences.

IP protections have a cascading impact on the economy at large. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative points out that "nearly 40 million American jobs are directly or indirectly attributable to 'IP-intensive' industries. These jobs pay higher wages to their workers, and these industries drive approximately 60% of U.S. merchandise exports and a large share of services exports."

In short, as the USTR maintains, strong protection and enforcement of IP rights are "critical to U.S. economic growth and American jobs."

That's certainly true from the perspective of the company that I lead, Waters Corp., which designs, manufactures, sells and services high-performance analytical measurement technology used in drug discovery and development, materials characterization, nutritional safety and quality, and environmental testing.

Harmonization of global standards and consistency and enforcement of regulations and trade regimes that open markets to fair commerce have been major reasons for our success and why we have grown to a $2 billion company employing 7,000 people worldwide. Continuity of rules and order in markets is a priority for Waters and all global industries — and it should be for governments, as well.

Recent efforts to firm up the future of once-rock-solid trade pacts and political unions that ensured IP rights have only added to corporate anxiety.

The EU talks on Brexit have been marked by acrimony and uncertainty. Britain's leaders have said they will create new markets and opportunities to replace the old ones. However, there doesn't appear to be sufficient urgency in London or Brussels as the terms of the divorce take precedence over any new marriage.

On this side of the Atlantic, recent efforts to renegotiate the terms of the Nafta trade pact were underscored by starkly different visions with no clear indication that an agreement is in sight.

The U.S. administration has stated a desire to replace the scuttled Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact with bilateral agreements and perhaps delay further progress on a European agreement until Brexit has been worked out. This could be years away, exacerbating uncertainty. And EU nations, the U.K. and the U.S. could face tremendous pressure to enact a patchwork of "one-off" trade deals fragmenting the trading system and creating a leadership void that may be filled by China and others.

The pathway for success is clear: Political leaders must quickly negotiate new trade agreements that restore certainty to commerce.

New agreements must not erase hard-fought common regulatory boundaries or leave any doubt about IP protections. Otherwise, innovation will suffer, job growth will slow, and the general well-being of the world will be compromised.

  • O'Connell is CEO of Waters Corp., headquartered in Milford, Mass.


84. Dennis Prager: The Greatest Libel Since The Blood LibelВт., 03 окт.[−]

The most infamous libel in history is the one known as the Blood Libel.

This was the medieval lie leveled at Jews in some European countries that accused the Jews of killing Christian children to use their blood to make Passover matzo.

As the author of a book on the history of anti-Semitism ("Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism"), having taught Jewish history at the college level, and as a committed Jew who has devoted great efforts to combating anti-Semitism, I do not easily compare anything to the Blood Libel.

But perhaps the second greatest libel — and certainly the most widespread — is that America is a racist country that oppresses its minorities — and women. We can call it the American Libel.

Now, I hasten to add that no one is being tortured to death as a result of this libel, as Jews were because of the Blood Libel, and, of course, no communities are being slaughtered as Jews were.

But the American Libel should be regarded as one of the great libels of history.

That America today oppresses minorities and women is as far from the truth as was Jews using Christian blood for matzo. Indeed, no country in the world is so accepting of minorities as fellow citizens as America. A third-generation German of Turkish descent is still regarded by most Germans as Turkish. But a first-generation Turkish — or Nigerian or Chinese — immigrant to America is regarded simply as one more American.

American Jews should be the first to denounce the American Libel. No country in history has ever been as welcoming, accepting and honoring of Jews as America. American Jews are a living refutation of the American Libel.

Did America oppress minorities? Of course, it did. But the people who engage in the American Libel claim that America oppresses minorities, and even women, today.

Take, for example, this morally odious statement issued last week by the San Francisco 49ers NFL team:

"For more than a year, members of our team have protested the oppression and social injustices still present in our society."

Or a column by a Muslim writer in the HuffPost:

"The oppression they (blacks) face is much greater than the bigotry I (a Muslim) face. It is a racism and oppression rooted in our culture."

Last year, ESPN's Paul Finebaum said on-air, "This country has issues, but this country is not oppressing black people."

After being widely denounced, two days later Finebaum felt it necessary to issue this abject apology:

"I could spend the rest of my life trying to talk my way out of it, but I can't. I blew it. I simply did not have a good grasp of the situation. I know better. I've lived in this country. I see what is going on all across the country from North to South, East to West and I have no excuse. ... All I can say is that I made a terrible mistake. In trying to express a feeling that I probably — not probably — I had no right to express."

The headline of a column by Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy:

"In America, racial oppression is not ancient history."

A headline of another Washington Post column:

"How blacks, oppressed by white supremacy, can find a path to liberation."

Such examples are endless. America oppresses blacks, Latinos, women, gays and everyone else who is not a white, male, heterosexual Christian.

It is a great lie. But it is the dominant narrative of the society. And, as lies are the root of evil, this lie must lead to something awful.

It has already begun to:

First, vast numbers of nonwhites are being raised to believe that America hates them. This should be considered a form of child abuse.

Second, the charge that America is a land of oppression has utterly cheapened the word "oppression." The truly oppressed of the world will have to find a new word to express their condition. If blacks and women in America are oppressed, what word shall we use to describe the condition of Christians in Iraq or Egypt? Of gays in Iran? Of women in much of the Muslim world? Of the Untouchables in India? Kurds in Turkey?

But worse is yet to come.

The Jews survived the Blood Libel. But America may not survive the American Libel. While the first Libel led to the death of many Jews, the present Libel may lead to the death of a civilization. Indeed, the least oppressive civilization ever created.

  • Prager is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.com. His latest book, "The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code," was published by Regnery.

85. Stephen Moore: Trump's Tax Cut — 'Show Me the Money'Вт., 03 окт.[−]

Donald Trump's latest tax-cut plan would be a steroid injection for the U.S. economy. Bravo to the White House and congressional leaders for packaging the biggest pro-growth tax cut since Ronald Reagan.

My only quibble is that I wish the "Gang of Six" negotiators had stuck with President Trump's call for a 15% business tax rate — which was in the campaign plan that Larry Kudlow and I helped draft. Instead, this plan would set the rate at 20% for corporations (down from 35%) and 25% for small businesses (down from 40% for many firms). This may not be as low as Trump wanted, but it is still a vast improvement for competitiveness over the current IRS code.

For all the blather about tax cuts for the rich, the average household in the United States with an income between about $40,000 and $100,000 would save about $1,500 to $2,500 on its tax bill due to the higher standard deduction and the lower tax rates. Maybe families can use that money to pay for the higher health-insurance premiums under Obamacare. As a cab driver told me when I asked him what he thought of the Trump tax plan: "Show me the money."

But there are trip cords and land mines aplenty ahead. The GOP had better be ready to avoid another embarrassing policy defeat.

First, Republicans have to stop enslaving themselves to arcane and witless budget rules that are torpedoing their policy objectives. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are letting the budget process — which was written by Democrats more than four decades ago — dictate the policy, rather than the reverse. Why, oh, why, are we still living under these rules of the 1974 budget act, which has created the greatest period of debt and deficits and runaway spending in American history?

The GOP controls every agency and committee of Congress. Why are they enabling the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Tax Committee to impede their policy goals? Either put people in charge of these agencies who are favorable to the policies or use outside scorekeepers who are more accurate. The CBO did severe damage to the GOP's Obamacare repeal agenda with negative and misleading reports.

We know from the Reagan tax cuts, the Kennedy tax cuts, the Clinton capital gains tax cuts and so many other historic changes in policy that the CBO and JTC often aren't even in the right ZIP code in predicting responses to big policy changes.

For example, the budget scorekeepers said that the Clinton capital gains cut in 1997 would lose tens of billions in revenues. Instead, as Dan Clifton of Strategas, an investment consulting firm, has shown, the tax cut raised tens of billions in tax collections and helped balance the budget. If CBO had instant replay, these referees would be overturned and then fired.

This is not a plea for biased scorekeepers — just accurate referees.

Next, focus on economic growth. Too many GOP "deficit hawks" whine that America can't afford a big tax cut. Even some of my friends at National Review magazine make this claim. They're wrong.

If we continue with the last decade's low growth rate (as the CBO predicts), the next decade will give us another $10 trillion in debt. Austerity isn't going to balance this budget, and it sure won't create jobs.

Arthur Laffer, an architect of the Reagan tax plans, believes based on the last century of tax-rate changes that a reduction in the corporate tax to 15% will juice economic growth by as much as 1 percentage point per year. If this puts millions of Americans back to work in higher paying jobs, wouldn't this be a sound investment?

Too many Republicans believe in the false narrative of the limits to growth. Even the House and Senate budget resolution predicts a measly 2.6% growth. This is aiming too low. The combination of stable prices, low interest rates, a newly minted competitive tax system and continued regulatory rollback can get us to 3.5% to 4% growth.

Trump and the Republicans won the election by promising jobs and prosperity. A new Terrence poll finds that by a 2-to-1 margin voters agree with Trump that a tax cut would be "good for the economy."

Failure to pass a pro-growth tax cut puts nearly every Republican seat in peril. To keep the Republican majorities and grow the economy, Trump has to do one thing for voters: Show them the money.

  • Moore is a senior economic analyst with CNN. His latest book is "Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy." He served as a senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign.

86. Lawrence Kudlow: Trump's Incentive-Packed Tax PlanВт., 03 окт.[−]

Much as he did in his command performance before the United Nations, when he took back control of U.S. foreign policy, President Donald Trump has seized and energized the tax cut issue. Almost daily, he is pounding away on the themes of faster economic growth and more take-home pay, arguing that his plan will make America's economy great again.

This is Trumpian leadership at its best.

"Under my administration," Trump just told the National Association of Manufacturers, "the era of economic surrender is over."

The Trump plan would slash large- and small-business tax rates, double the standard deduction for middle-income folks, make the whole tax code simpler by eliminating unnecessary deductions, repeal the death tax and end the alternative minimum tax.

As usual, Democrats say the president's plan is a handout to the rich. But in a recent speech in Indianapolis, Trump asked: Why can't this be a bipartisan tax cut bill? He even quoted Democrat John F. Kennedy, who said, "The right kind of tax cut at the right time ... is the most effective measure that this government could take to spur our economy forward."

He also reminded his audience that President Reagan's tax cuts were passed with significant bipartisan majorities.

But today's Democrats have written JFK's tax story out of the history books (never mind Reagan's).

Key tax-writing committees are now polishing the Trump plan, fine-tuning it to pass the Senate with 51 votes. But there are a couple of key points that need clarifying.

The argument that the U.S. is doomed to 2% or less growth — "secular stagnation" no matter what we do in terms of tax policy — is nonsense. Across-the-board tax cuts produced 5% annual growth during the JFK period. And after tax cuts were fully implemented in 1983, real growth averaged 4.6% for the remainder of Reagan's presidency.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn are touting the 3% growth scenario, saying it will pay for the tax cuts. But the naysayers refuse to admit that tax rate incentives matter.

OK, let's take one example from the Trump tax plan. Corporations today are taxed at 35%. That means, for every extra dollar of profit, a company keeps 65 cents. But the president has agreed on a 20% corporate tax rate. So, for the extra dollar earned, the private company would keep 80 cents.

That's a massive 23% incentive reward. Do we really think businesses will not be affected by this? That defies logic.

And as supply-side mentor Art Laffer points out, the incentive reward of a lower business tax rate will reduce tax avoidance and sheltering. It's another solid point mainstream economists continue to ignore.

But the incentive effects don't stop there. The key to wage growth is productivity. Think of it as efficiency. And large and small businesses need new capital investment to modernize equipment and better train an efficient workforce.

Yet real wages have barely increased since 2000, alongside virtually no productivity increases and a huge slump in capital formation. That's the missing link between a 2 and a 3% economy.

Rather than punish investment, the Trump plan will spur growth across the board. Everyone will benefit.

The supply-side incentive effect also includes the repatriation of trillions of U.S. company dollars lodged overseas to avoid taxes, as well as 100% expensing write-offs for new investment of any kind.

Taken together, this plan contains a mountain of incentives.

On the individual side, the sleeper tax detail is the doubling of the standard deduction. As my CNBC colleague Jake Novak points out, this is a huge positive for young millennials (who don't own much) and folks with no mortgages or homes. It puts more cash in worker's pockets, simplifies the code and means that near 80% of taxpayers won't have any deductions.

Slimming income-tax rates from seven to three brackets and cutting income-tax rates in general add even more supply-side incentives to the Trump package.

More money for rich people? Well, the not-rich family of four will be a lot better off with a $24,000 standard deduction. And the center-right Tax Foundation calculates that the bottom 80% of households get a lower tax burden, while the top 20% get a higher burden.

The Republican Party has got to win this issue, preferably this year.

So, a warning: The GOP cannot let archaic process rules prevent good policy. Rules can be changed. CBO estimates can be ignored. Parliamentarian decisions can be overridden.

Play hardball, GOP. JFK did it. Reagan did it. And now you have Donald Trump doing it — using all his energy to get a big tax cut that will return prosperity to America's workers and families and enhance our strength overseas.


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87. Desperately Seeking A Trump Failure In Puerto RicoВт., 03 окт.[−]

Federal Aid: "You never let a serious crisis go to waste" was former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel's motto. It's one that President Trump's critics have fully embraced as they try to use Puerto Rico's struggles to recover from Hurricane Maria as a political weapon.

Based on much of the coverage of the Trump administration's response to Maria, you'd think it was Trump's fault that Puerto Rico is an island 1,000 miles off the coast of Miami where supplies can only arrive by air or sea, which was impossible immediately after the storm because the ports and airports were knocked out of commission. Or that Trump is to blame for the massive scale of the destruction that has made the logistics complicated and the recovery slow. Or that he's at fault for the fact that, when massive amounts of supplies did arrive, few Puerto Rican truck drivers showed up to deliver them to their destinations.

You'd also likely not know from the past week's coverage that the reaction from Puerto Rican officials to the federal government's response has been largely positive.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello, for example, said that "the administration has answered and has complied with our petitions in an expedited manner." Federal agencies have been detailing their response efforts. (See the nearby FEMA chart.)

Also largely unremarked is the fact that, despite the scale of devastation and the inherent difficulties in bringing relief, Puerto Rico is making significant progress in restoring services.

A dashboard operated by the Puerto Rican government notes that as of Monday, 69% of gas stations and 65% of supermarkets were open for business, 63% of the island's ports were fully operational, 40% of telecommunication services had been restored, 27% of ATMs were working again, and 26% of commercial flight service was operational. On Monday, Rossello said that almost half the residents have running water and 10 hospitals have power.

Instead, what we've mostly heard is a constant drumbeat in the press and from Democrats about how Trump's response has been "slow footed, disorganized and not adequate," how this is just like President Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina, how it's further evidence that Trump is a racist.

There was, for example, an immediate and intense focus on complaints by San Juan Mayor Carmen Yul?n Cruz about Trump's response at a news conference set, oddly enough, in front of pallets and pallets full of supplies.

It turns out, however, that Cruz hasn't exactly been on top of the situation herself. FEMA administrator Brock Long points out that she's been a no-show at the FEMA command center coordinating relief efforts, and wasn't "plugged into what's going on."

And Guaynabo Mayor Angel Perez Otero countered Cruz, saying that "We are receiving a lot of help from FEMA and the Red Cross ... there is lots of help coming to us."

Could the Trump administration have done more to prepare in advance for Maria? Possibly. Is the recovery slow? Yes.

But what, precisely, is the administration not doing that it should be doing? His critics are silent on that. The only specific thing they can point to are Trump's tweets. Namely, that he hasn't been tweeting enough, or tweeting the "wrong" things. But what does this have to do with what administration officials are actually doing? Nothing.

The problem is that Trump's critics — both Democrats and the press — so reflexively call everything Trump does a tragic failure that there's no way to know, without doing extensive independent research, whether their complaints about the Puerto Rico response efforts have any merit.

Until then, we'll take the Puerto Rican governor's word about the quality of Trump's actions over the words of domestic partisan hacks hoping to score political points during a humanitarian crisis.

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88. Lots Of Presidents Talked About Getting Rid Of Bad Regulations — Trump Is Actually Doing ItВт., 03 окт.[−]

Regulation: Getting rid of unneeded regulations may be the single-most effective spur to economic growth that's available to the federal government. Thankfully, unlike most recent presidents, President Trump is taking the job of cutting bad regulations seriously.

That can be evidenced by the special "Deregulation Day" that Trump declared for his "cut the red tape" event on Monday. Hey, if you didn't know it was Deregulation Day, you're not alone.

Still, the president seems to be pushing a minor revolution of sorts, as he repeals all sorts of rules that once impeded the economy. And he's not done yet. The Competitive Enterprise Institute claimed "Trump ends fiscal year as America's least-regulatory president since Reagan."

It's no exaggeration. As the CEI has noted, Trump froze regulations early in his term and argued that up to 70% of regulations were simply unnecessary. He set a tone, and he's lived up to it. Consider this: The Federal Register, the bible of federal rules, peaked at record high 97,110 pages under President Obama in 2016. Today, under President Trump, it stands at 45,678 pages.

If you count the nine months of regulations propagated by Trump vs. President Obama in 2016, it comes out to 2,183 rules put forward by Trump, compared with 2,686 rules for Obama, an 18% decrease. But even those numbers are deceptive, since many of Trump's new regulations are in fact getting rid of or freezing old regulations. And in terms of the size, Trump's "significant rules" — those having $100 million or more in estimated economic impact — are just 116 in his first nine months, down 58% from Obama's 274.

He's also got fewer rules in the pipelines than any recent president, and has promised to cut two for each new rule proposed. The number of significant new rules for Trump totaled 65, way below the average of 213 significant rules in the pipeline in the previous six presidential terms, including Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama.

Diane Katz, a fellow with the Heritage Foundation, notes that under Obama, the costs of regulation soared from $68 billion a year in direct costs under President George W. Bush, to $122 billion under Obama.

All told, CEI's top regulatory analyst Wayne Crews estimated that the economic cost of regulation to the economy is $2 trillion, or roughly 12% of current real U.S. GDP. That's $15,000 a year for every American family.

That's an immense amount of money, considering that much of it is utterly wasted. In the private sector, no one ever thinks of doing where costs exceed the benefits. Only in government do people consider imposing rules that cost far more than they're worth. It's an enormous tax — one most Americans don't even realize they're paying.

"The unparalleled expansion of the administrative state is crunching America's entrepreneurial spirit, productivity, and economic growth," Heritage's Katz wrote on Monday.

She's right, of course. Small businesses in particular seem to be enjoying a renaissance under Trump as the zombielike hand of the regulatory state has finally started to release its grip. That's why we hope that Trump, with the help of Congress, will stay the course and slay the regulatory demon.

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89. We Can Provide Universal Broadband Just By Using TV 'White Space'Пн., 02 окт.[−]

Some 34 million Americans lack access to broadband today, two thirds (23.4 million) in rural areas. But utilizing TV "white spaces" plus existing wireless technologies and satellite coverage would bring universal broadband across America at 80% lower costs, leaving no need for new federal spending to accomplish that goal.

TV white spaces are the unused bandwidth between TV broadcast channels. Specially manufactured white-space devices that can provide internet access through this currently existing unused bandwidth are the lowest-cost means of extending high speed internet to rural America.

XAutoplay: On | OffAccessing the internet though these devices will not cause harmful interference with any incumbent broadcaster. FCC rules, in fact, already prohibit any such interference. Microsoft has already sponsored white-space projects in 20 countries around the globe connecting 185,000 people to the internet.

These devices, along with existing wireless technologies and satellite coverage, would enable private-sector companies to compete to provide universal broadband coverage across America for just $8 billion to $12 billion in private-sector investment. Just like Wi-Fi-enabled devices use public spectrum to work inside homes, coffee shops, public libraries and shopping malls, white-space devices will help rural communities join the broadband.

This would not require any public or taxpayer funds. All that is necessary is for the FCC to preserve three channels in the 600-MHz band for white-space devices in every market in the U.S. That would require only 8.6% of the public spectrum controlled by TV and radio broadcasters in the U.S.

Reserving three channels in every community is necessary to ensure that there is enough spectrum available for use by the white-space devices to justify the necessary investment in their production by the equipment makers. Without the certainty of guaranteed space to use, white-space broadband will not happen, entire communities will remain isolated, and much of the spectrum would be underutilized or simply remain unused.

Critics complain that companies with businesses that leverage white space for their operation should buy the necessary spectrum the FCC is being asked to preserve. These companies that would benefit from expanded white-space use had the chance to purchase spectrum in the recent "incentive" auction, but chose not to even bid.

But in the incentive auction, bidders were vying for exclusive use of the spectrum they were seeking to buy, as telecommunications carriers. Companies leveraging white space would be operating as nonexclusive, shared users of spectrum open to anyone, just as with Wi-Fi. No one suggests that consumers with Wi-Fi in their homes or offices should have purchased spectrum in federal auctions just to let their tablet, TV or computer use the internet.

Expanding broadband to every American in every area of the country would help increase economic growth, which is President Trump's central agenda as well. Microsoft President Brad Smith explained at a national broadband conference in Washington, D.C., in July that extending internet broadband throughout rural America would improve agricultural productivity, enhance education, create human capital, increase growth and opportunity for small businesses, and expand health care services in rural areas. All of that adds to bottom-line GDP growth.

Trump has said he wants expanded rural broadband too as part of his infrastructure initiative. It is the kind of connectivity infrastructure that economists have recently recognized as powerfully pro-growth in the modern, interconnected global marketplace. White-space devices allow the private sector to invest and compete in such projects — without government funding.

Government regulation has hampered broadband investment in recent years, particularly so-called "net neutrality" regulation. If investors feel they will not be free to control and operate their investment, that is a powerful deterrent to the investment in the first place. The FCC itself has recently publicly recognized this disincentive effect of counterproductive broadband overregulation.

The internet has long flourished best when governed by maximum freedom of operation and choice. Net neutrality to this day is a solution in search of any actual problem. It is promoted by people seeking to lay the groundwork for a future internet takeover that would ultimately greatly restrict this engine of freedom and prosperity.

As Smith concluded quite rightly, broadband is now a necessity of life and progress. Just as with electricity and telephone service, internet broadband should be extended to every American. The FCC should act to guarantee rural America is allowed to join the high-speed world.

  • Ferrara is a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute, and a special policy advisor to the National Tax Limitation Committee. 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.


90. The FTC Raided My Office, Found Nothing, And Is Destroying My Business AnywayПн., 02 окт.[−]

Without due process or conviction in a court of law, the government is destroying my family's business.

In early May, federal investigators raided my small tech-support company, Vylah Tec LLC, d/b/a "V-Tec," on suspicion of "deceptive" sales practices. The raid was part of a politically hyped campaign by the Federal Trade Commission with the Florida Attorney General's office, dubbed Operation Tech Trap, to "crack down on tech-support scams." The problem: My business is not a scam.

V-Tec operates out of a single office in Fort Myers, Fla. We provide tech support to purchasers of electronic devices from the Home Shopping Network ("HSN") and other shopping channels. We also sell third-party anti-virus and data security software that is priced fairly and works as advertised. Our technical support has generated hundreds of positive reviews online. That hasn't stopped federal regulators from ruining our reputation and crushing our business.

The FTC's stinglike raid was assisted by local police. My employees were told to put their hands in the air and step away from the computers, coerced to open the secure server room, and forced to relinquish their cellphones so they couldn't contact the outside world. The government even shut down our security cameras. My employees were detained for hours, interviewed separately, and asked to sign interview statements.

One employee, a mother of young children, was told she could not pick up her kids from day care. A police officer used her phone to call the day care and tell them she had been detained for questioning. No attorneys were present on behalf of my employees, and none of the interview statements has been made available to me.

Despite access to V-Tec's internal documents and computers, the investigators have not produced evidence of wrongdoing. In court, the government cited two examples of recorded calls that they claimed were deceptive. But they mischaracterized the calls.

For example, one call transcript mislabeled the people on the call. Some unknown third party was labeled as a V-Tec employee, and the real V-Tec employee was labeled to look like he worked for someone else. The result? Although the real V-Tec employee helped the caller and protected her from a potential scammer, by mislabeling the parties, the government falsely made it appear like the bad guy worked for V-Tec.

Nevertheless, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction that turned our small business over to a receiver and froze our assets, even personal ones. Under the court's order, the receiver has killed V-Tec's revenue streams, is draining our assets, and preventing us from answering customer calls. The receiver requested $200,000 out of V-Tec's bank account — and he's not even running the company!

We soon felt the financial hardship. When we appealed to an FTC attorney, she told us to "get a job." We had jobs — and employed more than 40 others — until the FTC took that away. My former employees, many with families, have been forced to file for unemployment or scour the Yellow Pages.

We decided to fight back. With the help of Cause of Action Institute, a nonprofit government oversight group, we are appealing the district court's decision. If granted, we could have our day in court before the company is drained of any ability to repair its customer base. Our last chance is swiftly approaching.

Instead of protecting consumers, the FTC is harming them. Since May, we have not been allowed to answer 110,000 calls for technical support — leaving our valued customers sitting on hold for over 7,000 hours. Most have lifetime service contracts, but are not receiving what they've paid for.

When my son, Angelo Cupo, asked the receiver when V-Tec could reopen, the receiver responded, "Never." I'm afraid he may be right. If the injunction is not overturned, there will soon be nothing left of V-Tec to salvage once we finally clear our name.

  • Cupo is the owner of Vylah Tec LLC.


91. Robert Samuelson: Why 'The Swamp' SurvivesПн., 02 окт.[−]

Donald Trump isn't draining the swamp. The president unveiled his long-awaited "tax reform" package last week, and although many crucial details were missing (for example, the income brackets), he was full of accolades. "This is a revolutionary change," he said.

Well, not yet.

The federal income tax system — almost everyone seems to agree — is a mess. It features relatively high nominal rates (up to 39.6% on individual income and 35% on corporate income) whose impact is offset by a baffling array of tax breaks, loopholes, preferences or "tax expenditures," depending on which buzzword is in fashion.

A truly revolutionary tax overhaul would eliminate most existing tax breaks and use the resulting surge in revenues to lower rates sharply. But Trump may only partially rely on this process. He may also borrow to cut taxes. The crux of the debate is whether the tax cuts will pay for themselves, through higher economic growth, or whether they will simply add to the debt.

Economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Manhattan Institute, a Trump supporter, argues that reducing the top corporate tax rate to 20% will cause more internationally based companies to locate in the United States and fewer American firms to flee abroad to lower-taxed countries. Kevin Hassett, head of Trump's Council of Economic Advisers, makes a similar point: "Particularly (for corporations), there is a deep literature that has found that capital investment is highly responsive to changes in tax policy."

Reduce tax burdens, and companies will respond. Economic growth will increase; the tax cut will pay for itself.

Wishful thinking, say many economists. Deficits will grow, neutralizing some or all of the gain from lower tax rates. The logic is simple: Larger federal deficits will drive up interest rates, crowding out private-business investment.

Just how much more debt the Trump plan might involve is unknown, because so many details (including the distribution of the tax cuts across income class) remain undecided. But an estimate by the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget puts the figure at $2.2 trillion over a decade. That's on top of projected added debt of about $10 trillion in the same 10 years from present policies.

This returns us to "the swamp," Trump's colorful metaphor for all the Washington lobbying for federal money, tax breaks and favorable regulation. He suggests that the process is corrupt, and often it is. But mainly it is democracy in action: groups arguing that they deserve special help. Regardless of whether it's corrupt or not, Trump has inveighed against the swamp more than he has actually tried to drain it.

To do that, he'd have to challenge many more tax breaks. There is no shortage of targets. The 2018 federal budget lists 167 tax breaks; the costliest 15 alone lose roughly $1 trillion in tax revenues a year. Public benefits are often dubious. Consider two big tax breaks: the mortgage interest deduction for homeowners; and the tax-free treatment of employer-paid health insurance. Arguably, both have had ill effects: The mortgage deduction has caused Americans to overinvest in housing; and the insurance break feeds medical inflation.

Still, it's hard to oppose tax breaks that have such large constituencies. Similarly, tax breaks allow politicians of both parties to announce their support for various economic and ideological causes. Thus, we have tax breaks for college costs, wind and solar power, and corporate research and development. Also, some tax breaks surely do good. Would people save as much for retirement without tax-favored 401(k) and IRA accounts?

As a nation, we'd probably be better off with a simpler income tax system with much lower rates and a much broader base. People and companies would decide what to do with their money rather than have government push and pull them through various legal bribes, rewards and punishments. That would relieve pressure on government to do more and more — often raising unrealistic expectations.

In Trump's vocabulary, the swamp would begin to contract. There might be fewer tax lawyers, lobbyists, accountants, economists and publicists. This would be good but is also unlikely.

The political logic preventing such a system is daunting. No recent president, with the exception of Ronald Reagan, has tried. Indeed, Reagan's experience is instructive. With bipartisan support, he succeeded in reducing rates and broadening the tax base in The Tax Reform Act of 1986. But President Clinton undid the reform when he raised the top rate to 39.6%.

Trump's tax plan is being squeezed from two sides. If he doesn't eliminate enough tax breaks, the debt will grow more rapidly. But if he — or his congressional allies — target too many tax breaks, he risks losing essential support. This suggests that, as the proposal winds its way through Congress, all the pressures will be to scale it back. The swamp will survive.

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

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92. George Will: Will The Supreme Court Fall Into A Political Thicket?Вс., 01 окт.[−]

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments tempting it to plunge into an impenetrable political thicket. It will consider a lower court's ruling that, if allowed to stand, will require the judiciary to determine whether and when partisanship in drawing electoral districts — something as old as the Constitution — is unconstitutional. And courts will wrestle repeatedly with cases requiring them to decide how to decide how much partisanship is too much.

It is instructive that the phrase "partisan gerrymandering" — the drawing of district lines by one party to disadvantage the other — is a redundancy. It has been since 1812, when Massachusetts Democratic-Republicans, serving Gov. Elbridge Gerry, created a district resembling a salamander. By then, the practice was old hat for New York, which had been hard at it since 1788, the year the Constitution was ratified.

The practice has recently become hotly disputed. This is partly because Republicans control 66 of 98 partisan state legislative chambers, and both the legislatures and governorships of 26 states. (A challenge to Maryland's redistricting by Democrats is percolating in the judicial system.) And it is partly because some members of the political science professoriate, which is as ideologically monochromic as academia generally, are inventing metrics that supposedly provide objective standards for identifying partisanship that is unconstitutionally excessive.

For several decades, federal courts produced redistricting plans for Wisconsin after decennial censuses because the Legislature could not agree on any. In 2010, however, Republicans won control of both houses of the Legislature and the governorship and produced a redistricting plan. In 2012, they won 60 of the 99 state Assembly seats with 48.6% of the statewide vote, and in 2014 they won 63 seats with 52% of the vote. However, under the court-devised plan in the previous decade, in five elections the Republicans won an average of 55.2 seats with an average of 49.1% of the statewide vote. This is partly because under requirements of the Voting Rights Act, Milwaukee's "majority-minority" districts were protected. And it is partly because Democratic voters, in Wisconsin and nationally, are inefficiently distributed, disproportionately concentrated in cities and college towns, such as Milwaukee and Madison. This is why in 2012, Barack Obama carried 27 congressional districts with at least 80% of the vote, whereas Mitt Romney carried only one that lopsidedly.

The 12 plaintiffs against the Republican plan have three problems, each fatal. First, they are contesting the entire statewide plan rather than their individual districts. So, they are asking the court to change its traditional standards for "standing" to sue, which require persons to demonstrate a "particularized injury" — in this case, that the configurations of their individual districts somehow unconstitutionally devalue their votes. The lead plaintiff is a retired University of Wisconsin professor whose Assembly district in Madison has voted Democratic by an average of 67.2% in the last five elections. This does not sadden him. What does — his supposed injury — is that the statewide plan diminishes his chances of enjoying a Democratic majority in the Assembly.

Second, until 31 years ago, the court held that the inevitable political component of redistricting plans is a non-justiciable "political question" properly consigned to the political (elected) branches. In 1986, the court said a political gerrymander could conceivably be justiciable, but it has never discovered what Justice Anthony Kennedy terms "a manageable standard."

Third, the plaintiffs want the court to plunge the judiciary into unending litigation involving dueling professors who will cherry-pick concocted metrics to serve as standards. Tuesday's arguments will illustrate why Wisconsin warns about a "social science hodgepodge." Plaintiffs will argue that an "efficiency gap" (the difference between all the loser's votes and the surplus of votes in excess of those the winner needed for victory divided by the total number of votes cast) that exceeds 7% — a figure plucked from the ether — is presumptively unconstitutional. By this metric, one-third of all legislative redistricting maps in 41 states over 43 years were impermissibly partisan.

Using partisan social science, the plaintiffs are asking the court to find in the Constitution a hitherto unnoticed requirement for proportional representation. Justice Felix Frankfurter perhaps anticipated this.

When in 1962 the court first intervened in states' redistricting practices, it propounded only the simple and neutral principle of "one person, one vote" — districts must be numerically equal. Nevertheless, Frankfurter dissented, having warned in 1946 against even entering "this political thicket." He worried that someday the court might be drawn ever-deeper into the fraught business of fine-tuning political processes. Unless the court is careful, that someday could arrive Tuesday.


93. As NFL's 'Take A Knee' Movement Grows, Will Silent Majority Stay Silent?Пт., 29 сент.[−]

The National Football League has at least paid attention to the most critically important two-part lesson in the never-ending debate on values. The first part of that lesson being that there is no line — none — many on the far left won't cross in their "win at any cost" battles waged against "traditional" thought and values. The second part being that Republicans, conservatives and Christians eventually cave.

Every single time.

With regard to the current "controversy" pitting those Americans who rightfully believe NFL players — and the copycats now popping up in other sports and on the floors of Congress — should never "take a knee" during the playing of our national anthem in protest over fill-in-blank issue against the leadership of the NFL, the owners know they simply have to wait a few weeks at the most before Republicans, conservatives and Christians roll over and go silent.

That's what Republicans, conservatives and Christians do.

Precisely because they do believe in the rule of law, decency, morality, respect for authority and a higher calling in life, there are many lines they will not cross in protest against the left or against conduct they feel is disrespectful to our nation, our flag, or their values.

They also work harder than any people on earth. Unlike many on the left, they don't have the luxury to wake up in their mommy's basement whenever they feel like it and then go out to protest or deface and destroy that which was built with the blood, sweat and tears of others. They are too busy paying the taxes that are then misappropriated to entitle the entitled.

That has always been the secret weapon of the left. They not only know that, but have calculated that hard work and decency into every protest they have waged and every movement they have started over the last few decades.

The leadership of the NFL and the owners of the teams also know that liberals and the far left control the media, entertainment and academia and that those three largest megaphones of our nation are now being used 24/7 in support of the "take a knee" movement.

The most glaring example of that being far-left "sports" network ESPN bashing President Trump on all of its programs and various channels. Apparently, a player taking a knee has a right to his opinion, but not the president of the United States.

Even if the leadership of the NFL and the owners did want to side with the majority of Americans offended by these players taking a knee during our national anthem, they know it would be a losing cause simply because ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSBNC, NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and almost every major newspaper and most local TV stations are populated by liberal, politically correct hires who side with the "courageous" NFL protesters. Players who don't even know what they are protesting anymore or how long the protest should go on. The only thing they know for sure is that they are "winning."

They need only look at those protesting against Confederate symbols for inspiration. Every week, the list of monuments that should be torn down because they offend the far left has grown because of each previous success.

"No matter how outrageous, ignorant or dangerous our demands," the far left thinks, "Republicans, conservatives and Christians — along with various mayors, city and town councils — simply give in. What can we tell them next that must be eradicated from American history?"

The NFL players, their union and the copycats are now using that template to expand the list of that which offends them.

If the NFL players truly wanted to be "courageous," they would take a knee in protest over the 4,000 people a year being shot in Chicago — many of them women and children. They would take a knee in protest over the fact that millions of inner-city children are being denied an education and any hope of a life free from poverty. They would take a knee in protest against the public employees and unions which have bankrupted almost every city, county and state in our nation and taken billions of taxpayer dollars that could have been used to help the poor.

They could take a knee against those things but they won't. Because that would involve thinking for themselves. Most would rather protest in ignorance than speak out against policies that truly are decimating communities and destroying lives.

In the meantime, the "take a knee" protests will grow, the fans will come back, and Republicans, conservatives and Christians will lose … again.

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


94. California's Latest Bad Idea — Outlaw Gas-Powered CarsПт., 29 сент.[−]

Global Warming: California is considering a ban on the sale of gasoline-powered cars. If state officials go this route, it will have little effect on CO2 emissions, but will harm consumers and kill California's economy.

The head of the California Air Resources Board told Bloomberg News that the state is seriously looking into whether and how to make internal combustion engine cars illegal in the state, as part of its self-imposed plan to cut state CO2 emissions in 2050 to 80% of what it emitted in 1990.

That follows announcements over the summer that the UK and France will try to ban the sale of gas- and diesel-powered cars by 2040. More recently, China claims it will impose a ban in 2030.

The CARB's Mary Nichols says California could implement such a ban in 13 years, and one state lawmaker plans to introduce a bill that would enforce it in 2040.

To put it bluntly, this is one of the most ill-conceived public policy ideas in a state that seems to have them in abundance.

First, some perspective.

According to the EPA, all transportation — cars, trucks, planes, trains and boats — are responsible for about a quarter of the nation's CO2 emissions. The share contributed by passenger cars alone is considerably smaller than that. In the European Union, for example, cars account for 12% of CO2 emissions.

California's move would make no noticeable dent in global CO2 emissions. Plus, it would take well over a decade before the entire car fleet turned over to all electric.

What's more, the CO2 reduction claims from such a ban are wildly exaggerated.

Remember, electric cars don't run on magic. They run on electricity. So forcing car owners to buy only electric cars will mean a massive surge in demand for electricity, which is generated largely by greenhouse-emitting natural gas and coal. In California, these fuel sources account for 40% of the state's electricity. Solar and wind add up to just 17%.

Much of the CO2 "cuts" will really just be a shift from one source to another.

As Scientific American noted, "electric cars may or may not help the country combat climate change — and it all depends on where the electricity comes from."

Manufacturing electric cars is also incredibly energy intensive. Even the Union of Concerned Scientists admits that it "results in higher (greenhouse gas) emissions than the making of gasoline cars — mostly due to the materials and fabrication of the lithium-ion battery."

When you account for that, the CO2 benefits from electric cars — over the entire lifetime of the car — are far smaller than advertised.

There's another problem that advocates of a ban overlook.

Let's say California does prohibit the sale of new gas-powered cars. That will leave millions of consumers with a choice: hold on to their old gas-burning cars longer, or buy an overly expensive, less convenient electric car. Many will hold on as long as they possibly can.

While that would be good for auto mechanics, it would result in reduced new car sales, lost jobs in the auto industry — and not just in California — more people leaving the state, and more pollution from an increasingly older fleet of conventional cars.

Even if the threat of climate change is real, it doesn't do anyone any good to promote fanciful "solutions" like a ban on gas-powered cars.

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95. Save Puerto Rico! Eliminate The Jones ActПт., 29 сент.[−]

Regulation: Sometimes disasters are like bright lights, illuminating serious flaws in things you long took for granted. Case in point: The Jones Act, the infamous 97-year-old protectionist shipping law that has made Puerto Rico's recovery far tougher than it needs to be.

The one-two punch of Hurricane Irma followed by Hurricane Maria devastated much of Puerto Rico's power and transportation infrastructure. Helping the U.S. island territory to get back on its feet quickly is an imperative.

That's why President Trump, responding to the island's plight and heeding calls for help from Puerto Rico's Gov. Ricardo Rossello, late last week wisely suspended the Jones Act, which severely restricts foreign-flagged or -owned ships from carrying goods between U.S. ports, including Puerto Rico. He also suspended it for Texas and Florida following recent hurricanes.

The only trouble is, Trump only suspended the law for 10 days. Puerto Rico's plight gives him a chance to get rid of the law forever. He should do so.

Why? The law serves no purpose really, other than as a giveaway to maritime unions and American ship owners. It raises costs for all Americans, but most of all for those who live in its most geographically distant parts — Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska.

As Scott Shackford wrote recently at Reason.com, the Jones Act "has had nasty financial impacts on trade to Puerto Rico and many other port cities and islands with the United States and its territories."

Puerto Rico's recovery from the hurricane — and from its largely self-inflicted financial crisis — has been made unnecessarily more difficult by the Jones Act, which a 2012 New York Fed study estimated makes it twice as costly to ship something to Puerto Rico as it is to ship to neighboring Jamaica or the Dominican Republic. (For the record, the imposition of the U.S. minimum wage has had a similar devastating impact on Puerto Rico's economy, destroying hundreds of thousand of jobs and forcing many young, unskilled Puerto Ricans to flee to the U.S. mainland.)

We've often criticized Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain in the past, but he's way ahead of the curve on this. He has repeatedly tried to repeal the Jones Act, to no avail. Along with Utah Sen. Mike Lee, he introduced another bill last Thursday to get rid of the law. As we said, Congress should pass it, and Trump should sign it.

"The Jones Act is just another example of a federal regulation that harms American consumers, gives foreign corporations an edge over American businesses, and makes disaster response harder," Lee said. "It is far past time to repeal it." We couldn't agree more.

RELATED:

Hurricane Harvey's Nationalized Insurance Nightmare

What Puerto Rico Really Needs: Economic Reforms

Paradise In Peril: Puerto Rico Shows Governments Do Go Bankrupt


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96. Is Any Part Of The Russia Election Hacking Story True?Пт., 29 сент.[−]

Conspiracy Theories: Instead of building up to a troubling conclusion about the Trump campaign's collusion with Russian to interfere in the 2016 election, the "facts" about this story keep turning out to be untrue. The latest is the claim that Russian tried to hack 21 state election systems.

For months, we've been told that Russian hackers had targeted anywhere from 21 to 39 state election systems.

Here's how Bloomberg reported the story in June: "Russia's cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump's election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported."

In June, Samuel Liles, the Department of Homeland Security's acting director of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis Cyber Division, told Congress that "the Russian government tried to hack election-related computer systems in 21 states."

Then, earlier this month, the election hacking story made headlines again when DHS officials notified state officials in 21 states about the attempts to breach their voter registration systems.

This sparked renewed outrage from Democrats about how the election results had been "hacked" by Russia.

But then the story started to fall apart, when Wisconsin and California said DHS was wrong about their systems being targeted.

California found that Russia hadn't scanned its Secretary of State website at all. "Following our request for further information, it became clear that DHS' conclusions were wrong," California's Secretary of State Alex Padilla said.

DHS backpedaled on its claim about Wisconsin after state officials there point out that the web address in the DHS report was for the state's Department of Workforce Development, not its elections commission.

Who knows how many other "targeted" states also weren't targeted. What we do know, as Judd Choate, president of the U.S. National Association of State Election Directors, put it, that "there remains no evidence that the Russians altered one vote or changed one registration."

But that didn't stop various Trump critics from claiming that this was further evidence that Russia stole the election for Trump.

This has, unfortunately, become the norm since Trump unexpectedly won the election in November. Headline-grabbing stories claim that Russia was involved in some nefarious election-related business, and then days or weeks later the stories turn out to false or wildly exaggerated.

Glenn Greenwald, the left-wing journalist who was the darling of the mainstream press until he started complaining about the media's postelection coverage of Russia, recently cataloged several such fake news stories.

In June, three CNN journalists were let go after they falsely reported that Trump advisor Anthony Scaramucci had links to a Russian investment fund that was under Congressional investigation.

The Washington Post had to take back a story claiming Russians hacked into Vermont's electric utility grid. It also had to correct a story on alleged Russia propaganda efforts, as well as one claiming that President Obama "sought to prod Facebook on Russia role." Turns out, Obama hadn't singled out Russia at all but was talking about so-called "fake news" in general.

The infamous Trump "dossier," which has been used as a road map for reporters and investigators, turns out to have been the work of a notorious opposition research firm founded by former journalists.

"This has happened over and over and over again," Greenwald writes. "Inflammatory claims about Russia get mindlessly hyped by media outlets, almost always based on nothing more than evidence-free claims from government officials, only to collapse under the slightest scrutiny, because they are entirely lacking in evidence."

He said it points to "an incredibly reckless, anything-goes climate (that) prevails when it comes to claims about Russia. Media outlets will publish literally any official assertion as Truth without the slightest regard for evidentiary standards."

As we've noted in this space repeatedly, after more than a year of investigations by law enforcement and the press, we've yet to see a shred of credible evidence that Trump had anything to do with whatever Russia actually was up to during the 2016 election. Or any evidence whatsoever that whatever Russia was up to had any impact on anyone's votes.

It's shameful, and a disservice to the public. Even Chicken Little didn't claim the sky was falling this often.

RELATED:

Now Hillary Wants To Challenge The Election? Someone Please Get The Hook

Democrats' Pervasive Collusion With Russia Lost In Media's Hysterical Anti-Trump Campaign

White House Spied On Trump And Lied About It, Says CNN — Is This Worse Than Richard Nixon?


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97. Stephen Moore: Tax Cuts Bring Prosperity To Tobacco RowПт., 29 сент.[−]

RALEIGH, N.C. — While the pundits in Washington debate whether the Trump tax cuts will help the economy, they should look to North Carolina where the economy is booming in part due to smart tax reforms.

In 2013 lawmakers in Raleigh slashed the business tax rate by more than half (to 3% from 6.9%), while also lowering individual tax rates from a high of 7.75% to 5.5%. North Carolina also abolished its state death tax. The standard deduction was more than doubled from $3,000 to $7,500 for singles and from $6,000 to $15,000 for a couple to benefit lower income households.

These tax cuts were partially offset by limitations on popular tax write-offs and credits, such as caps on the mortgage deduction and a broadening of the state sales tax.

Does all this sound familiar? In many ways, Donald Trump's tax plan is a nationwide replica of what this state did four years ago.

Since the tax cut, North Carolina — which was especially clobbered by the recession with the unemployment rate above 9% in 2012 — has ?outpaced the nation in personal income and job growth every year. So far in 2017, Carolina ranks fourth fastest in the pace of employment and the unemployment rate has shrunk to 4.1%.

Earlier this year Site Selection Magazine, based on interviewed major CEOs of America's largest companies, ranked North Carolina the second-most desirable state to locate a business — behind only Georgia. ?

The Research Triangle around Raleigh-Durham continues to expand as a major tech sector — the Silicon Valley of the South — and financial services companies like Fidelity have been relocating thousands of jobs from the high tax northeast to Tobacco Row. Manufacturing,? pharmaceutical and even high-end textile jobs have returned, as well. All of this despite the controversy and organized boycotts of the state due to the controversial bathroom bill.

"The biggest problem we hear from our businesses today is finding the workers to fill the job openings," Lew Ebert, the president of the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce tells me with a broad smile.

The prosperity is luring new residents into the state. From 2013 through 2016 the state experienced a net migration of just under 150,000 residents from other states and this steady inflow means the state is likely to pick up another congressional representative after 2020.

Perhaps most remarkable: The state is running budget surpluses, which reached $447 million in 2015, $430 million in 2016, and $581 million this year.

While the left warned of Kansas-style deficits, they never happened in Raleigh. Why? First the phased-in tax cuts were contingent each year on meeting established revenue targets. Second, the tax cuts were partially paid for by revenue-raising offsets, such as the tax base broadening measures. As Senator Phil Berger, the president pro tempore in the state senate, puts it: "North Carolina is a tax-cutting lesson for Washington: We cut rates, expanded the tax base, and grew our economy."

Because of the healthy budget reserve and rainy day fund, the legislature just approved another tax cut to bring the business tax rate down to 2.5% in 2019, which will be one of the lowest rates in the nation.

Because incomes are rising in North Carolina at such a healthy pace since 2013 — the number of tax returns reporting earnings of above $100,000 has climbed by 27% or about 83,000 people — the share of the total income tax burden has shifted to the upper classes. "The poor and middle class are now paying a slightly smaller share of the income tax, while the rich are paying more" a Civitas study based on state tax return data found.

All of this is a stark contrast to the nation's two fiscal basket cases: Connecticut and Illinois. While North Carolina was cutting tax rates, the politicians in Hartford and Springfield were spurred on by unions and leftist advocacy groups to raise income tax rates on their wealthiest residents.

But their budget deficit hole keeps getting deeper. Illinois had to again raise taxes by $5 billion this year and Connecticut — which in 1990 had no income tax at all, now is considering its third income-tax hike in five years, which would bring the rate to 7%.

Meanwhile, low-income tax states like North Carolina and its neighbors Florida and Tennessee are filling up their coffers with revenues that keep flowing in from wealthy former Connecticut Yankees and Chicagoans.? One Carolinian I met grumbled to me: "There are too many damned Cubs fans moving here."

If the goal of the Trump tax cut is to make America look more like tax-cutting North Carolina and less like soak-the-rich Connecticut and Illinois, he's certainly on the right track.

  • Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with Freedom Works. He served as senior economic advisor to the Trump campaign.

98. Tax Cuts Can Fix America's Small Business FoundationПт., 29 сент.[−]

Stock markets are at an all-time high. Economic and wage growth are finally starting to pick up. And the lack of jobseekers is now a far bigger problem than the unemployment rate, which is at a historic low.

Yet running a small business that serves small businesses, I see beneath the surface of these positive top-line indicators to a rockier foundation. Many of the small businesses I deal with on a day-to-day basis say they are still struggling and lament that the economic recovery has passed them over.

The evidence is not just anecdotal. The U.S. startup rate is near a 40-year low, without even before accounting for population growth, and the share of young firms and workers at such firms continue a decades-long decline. A recent JP Morgan survey found the median American small business sees an average daily cash outflow of $374 and inflow of just $381.

There are many hurdles small businesses face today from e-commerce to lack of credit access. But the biggest obstacle I hear most from entrepreneurs is the size and complexity of the federal tax code and its role in preventing their businesses from reaching their potential. Several polls of small business owners also conclude that over-taxation is the biggest problem small businesses face.

Help may be on the way. President Trump and Congressional Republicans released a tax reform framework this week that would dramatically reduce the small business tax burden. This would allow hardworking entrepreneurs to keep a little more of their earnings, which are needed to make their businesses thrive.

The current small business tax burden is far outside the international norm. Small businesses, the vast majority of which pay tax at the individual level, pay a federal marginal tax rate of 40%. Including state, payroll and other taxes, this figure can easily reach 50%. In today's globalized economy, that means American small businesses are starting from their own one-yard line against their foreign competitors.

It's true that effective small business tax rates are somewhat lower. But most small business decisions — whether to open another store, expand into a new product line, hire another employee, etc. — are made on a marginal basis. Therefore, inflated marginal tax rates act as a powerful disincentive to small business investment and vitality.

Since small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy, providing half of all jobs and two-thirds of new jobs, this tax burden also hurts American communities. Rather than earnings staying at home where they are needed, they are shipped off to Washington D.C. where they are not.

Small businesses are also the foundation of economic opportunity for American minorities, with nearly 40% of American small businesses owned by minorities; about half of all small businesses starting up today have women entrepreneurs as owners.

A recent national poll of small business owners conducted by the Job Creators Network illustrates how a tax cut would not only help small business owners but also their communities. When asked what they would do with their tax cut savings, most owners responded that they would use them to expand their business, hire new employees, or raise existing employees' wages.

This infusion of money into small businesses, employees, and communities would dramatically stimulate economic growth. We've seen this movie before. Ronald Reagan's 1980s tax cuts got the economy out of similar economic doldrums to today's and set the stage for nearly two decades of strong economic growth that benefited everyone, including small businesses and their customers.

A business succeeds to the extent it helps people by providing them value. The current tax code artificially reduces the value that small businesses can offer because it diverts their much needed earnings away to Washington.

Congress can fix this by coming together to pass significant small business tax cuts now. This should not be a political Hail Mary, but the equivalent of a one-yard quarterback sneak. Here's a chance to win one for our country, our communities, and millions of business owners and their employees.

  • Tarkenton is the founder of Tarkenton Companies, former NFL quarterback, and a member of the Job Creators Network.

99. L. Brent Bozell: TV Critics Hate Military Shows In Prime TimeПт., 29 сент.[−]

The fall premieres have begun on prime-time TV, and just when you thought we couldn't sink lower into the cesspool, there are new "milestones" for the liberal cultural commissars to honor. The Daily Beast reported with great pride that the Amazon show "Transparent" will have TV's first transgender full-frontal nude shot, during a massage scene. They're also cheering NBC's reboot of the LGBT "ally" comedy "Will & Grace," with new insults about Republicans for their gay friends, like Newt Gingrich is a "man, but he's aged into a lesbian."

What the elite television critics will not endorse are three new shows with military themes, offering what Time magazine calls a "calorie-free take on American patriotism." They are "SEAL Team" on CBS, "The Brave" on NBC and "Valor" on The CW. Cynics can suggest these shows are aimed at President Trump supporters, but no one can say Hollywood thought Hillary Clinton would be hiking in the woods at this point when they developed these programs.

The producers may have trouble selling these shows abroad, The Hollywood Reporter suggested, quoting an executive for a Swedish TV network: "These shows are all really well-made and the production values are great, but some of it is pretty jingoistic: lots of breast-beating and flag-flying."

Time TV critic Daniel D'Addario declared, "War provides an innately compelling hook for these shows, but there's something unpleasant and hectoring about how bluntly incurious they are about what it all might mean." He's using a term — "bluntly incurious" — that served as their working definition of George W. Bush.

It's apparently too trite, too predictable to portray soldiers as hardworking people, and that terrorism is bad. The Time critic lectured how "true patriotism means wanting one's homeland to be the best it can, not just repeating three times a week that it already is."

In other words, the storyline's mission should be to find flaws in America.

D'Addario recoils at the tough talk. On NBC's show, the deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency lectures: "We are fighting people that want to wipe us off the planet. That means we have to be as ruthless as they are." Later, another character declares: "I'm not saying I'm gonna enjoy killing these guys, but you kidnap a woman, you get what you deserve."

So what's wrong with that? Apparently, when bad guys kidnap Americans, you should fix it with hugs and affirmations. "These shows seem to be trying to provoke a vengeful growl from the audience," Time's TV critic complained. "'Homeland,' in its lesser moments, had similarly nasty paranoid outlines. But that show has been more adept at moral ambiguity."

By "moral ambiguity," he surely means turning the "nasty paranoid outlines" back on the U.S. government, the "national security state." That's what "Homeland" did, and that's what satisfies the left. Or take the ABC series "Quantico," which ended its season in May by exposing a Trumpesque president taking orders on merging the FBI and the CIA from ... Russia.

Maybe these military shows will find an audience, and maybe they won't. But critics have underlined they'd rather watch "milestones" of transgender nudity than a show that might glamorize and humanize Navy SEALs.

  • 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.

100. Mona Charen: Football And Racial Fault LinesПт., 29 сент.[−]

According to an account my son came across a while ago: "Football is one of the most powerful institutions in American society. It is so powerful that it claimed an entire day of the week. It said, 'This day is ours. We own it.' Not only did football take a day of the week, but the previous owner was God."

Though a failed fan myself (no less a figure than Jack Kemp advised me to give up trying to master the rules), I am an American, and accordingly can hardly miss the fact that football is one of most unifying aspects of American culture. The games have become the one thing that most Americans, especially men, can comfortably discuss. No matter what region of the country you're visiting, you are bound to hear men who find themselves thrown together asking "Did you see the game?" Animated analysis, crowing and/or cringing follows. Black and white, immigrant and native born, men and (mysteriously) women, adults and children, liberals and conservatives — huge swaths of the country speak the same idiom and share the experience of football. Super Bowl Sunday is close to a national sacrament.

You think it's easy to maintain national cohesion? It isn't. That's why demagogues since time began conjure external enemies and scapegoat minorities — which is not to say that enemies are always imaginary. In our time, the things that divide us are all too obvious. We are increasingly self-segregating by income and education. Due in part to choice and in part to history's overhang, we continue to live in racially distinct enclaves. Democrats and Republicans despise one another to the point where they avoid living in the same neighborhoods or dating each other. Many parents now frown on their children marrying "outside the faith" — by which they mean not Catholic or Protestant but Republican or Democrat. And speaking of faith, in actual houses of worship, things haven't changed much since Martin Luther King Jr. called 11 a.m. Sunday morning "the most segregated hour" in American life.

So it would seem downright reckless to tamper with football — the one cultural touchstone that unites us, however tenuously.

Reckless is our president's calling card. Or perhaps that's too generous. He didn't just suggest that the black players who knelt during the national anthem be fired. He called them "sons of b------." Football had some troubles before, but now we have a national concussion.

Who could blame people for noticing that when it came to Tiki-torch neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Donald Trump strained to stress that some were very fine people, but black athletes who protest police brutality get this treatment?

Colin Kaepernick forfeited the benefit of the doubt when he donned a Che Guevara T-shirt. But it doesn't require much imagination to see that other black athletes felt backed into a corner. As David French wisely noted: "At one stroke, thanks to an attempted vulgar display of strength, Trump changed the playing of the anthem and the display of the flag from a moment where all but the most radical Americans could unite to one where millions of well-meaning Americans could and did legitimately believe that the decision to kneel represented a defense of the ideals of the flag, not defiance of the nation they love."

One reason some conservatives have seen a silver lining to Trump is immigration. They worry that our national identity is being frayed by the burden of assimilating large numbers of newcomers and trusted that Trump would crack down on illegal immigration and even reduce legal immigration. But if you're worried about national unity, surely maintaining mutual respect and decency between American citizens who are already here is the bare minimum one expects of a political leader. People say that Trump's crudeness doesn't matter, that it's stylistic. But that's only part of the issue. It's far more damaging that he's dangerously divisive.

Police treatment of young black males, so-called "mass incarceration," crime, whether the criminal justice system is biased — these are matters the left has attempted to exploit, and in fact, has successfully exploited for decades. That's not a reason for the right to do likewise. We owe a duty to black Americans to take their concerns seriously. Even if it were the case that no black man had ever received unfair treatment at the hands of the police — and that is far from the case — it would be the job of patriotic Americans to make that argument in respectful tones to blacks who feel aggrieved, not to taunt them and invite contempt for their views.

American life is still strewn with racial sensitivities. Decency demands that we attempt to soothe, not inflame, them.

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


 
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