Politics - Investor's Business Daily20:26 Текст источника в новой вкладке

 
 
1. Trump Stokes The Republican Populism That Taft Resisted03:00[−]

No elaborate catechism is required to determine if someone is a conservative. A single question, as simple as it is infallible, suffices: For whom would you have voted in the presidential election of 1912?

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That year, a former president and a future president ran against the incumbent president, who lost, as did the country, which would have been much better off giving another term to William Howard Taft. Instead it got Woodrow Wilson and the modern imperial presidency that had been prefigured by Taft's predecessor and second major opponent in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt. Taft won fewer electoral votes (eight, from Utah and Vermont) than any other incumbent president; Roosevelt carried six states, Wilson 40.

Taft's presidency was bracketed by Roosevelt's and Wilson's, the progenitors of today's imperial presidency. Jeffrey Rosen, law professor at George Washington University and CEO of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, began writing his new appreciation of the 27th president ("William Howard Taft," the latest in the series of slender books on "The American Presidents," now edited by Princeton historian Sean Wilentz) in January 2017, when the 45th president began inadvertently doing something useful — validating nostalgia for Taft, whom Rosen calls "the only president to approach the office in constitutional terms above all."

Wilson was the first president to criticize the American founding, particularly for the separation of powers that crimps presidential supremacy. Roosevelt believed that presidents are free to do whatever the Constitution does not forbid. Taft's constitutional modesty held that presidents should exercise only powers explicitly granted by the document.

Romanticizers of Roosevelt ignore his belief that no moral equivalent of war could be as invigorating as the real thing, and they celebrate him as a trustbuster taming corporate capitalism and a pioneering environmentalist. Rosen notes, however, that Taft "extended federal environmental protection to more land than Roosevelt" — and he created 10 national parks — "and brought more antitrust suits in one term than Roosevelt brought in nearly two." One of Roosevelt's excuses for trying to regain the presidency was that Taft, who in 1911 brought an antitrust action against U.S. Steel (world's first billion-dollar corporation, then producing a quarter of the world's steel), was too aggressive in trust-busting. Roosevelt thought that, in industry, big was beautiful (because efficiently Darwinian) if big government supervised it.

Taft signed the first revision of tariffs, which are regressive taxes, since the 1890s, when they were raised by an average of 57%. His tariff message to Congress was just 340 words because he thought the Constitution and traditional political practice allowed presidents to recommend, but not lobby for, congressional action. Such was his constitutional reticence, in his inaugural address he referred to tariff reform as "a suggestion only."

Taft unsuccessfully resisted President William McKinley's entreaties that he become governor of the Philippines ("I have never approved of keeping the Philippines"). Others wanted him to be president much more than he did. His aspiration, achieved after the presidency, was to be chief justice of the United States. As a reluctant president, he demonstrated that reluctance, which is vanishingly rare, is a recommendation for the office.

In 1912, Roosevelt's "New Nationalism" promised populism rampant and a plebiscitary presidency untethered from constitutional inhibitions: "I don't think that any harm comes from the concentration of powers in one man's hands." And "I believe in pure democracy," the purity being unmediated, unfiltered public opinion empowered even to overturn state court decisions by referendums. This galvanized Taft's determination to resist Roosevelt ("my closest friend") in the name of judicial independence. Taft had vetoed the legislation admitting New Mexico and Arizona to statehood because the latter's constitution provided for the recall of judicial decisions. Arizona removed this quintessentially populist provision — then restored it once safely inside the Union.

Taft correctly compared Roosevelt to the first populist president (whose portrait would be hung in the Oval Office in 2017 by a populist president): "There is a decided similarity between Andrew Jackson and Roosevelt. He had the same disrespect for law when he felt the law stood between him and what he thought was right to do."

The 1912 strife between conservative and progressive-populist Republicans simmered until Ronald Reagan's election in 1980 sealed conservatism's ascendancy in the party. This lasted 36 years, until it was supplanted by its antithesis, populism, 104 years after Taft resisted Roosevelt. This, for a while, prevented American from having only a populist Republican Party to oppose a progressive Democratic Party — an echo, not a choice.


Other columns by George Will

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2. Partial Dodd-Frank Reform Is Good, Total Repeal Is BetterСб., 26 мая[−]

Dodd-Frank: The repeal of President Obama's signature financial reform effort by a bipartisan 258-159 margin is a big victory for President Trump. But, while reformed, Dodd-Frank still lives.

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First, the bill is an improvement on the job-killing, business-strangling Dodd-Frank law.

A Democrat-dominated Congress passed it in 2010 with only a few Republican votes. The new law exerted unprecedented and sweeping controls over U.S. consumer financial markets — even though the consumer financial industry wasn't implicated at all in the 2008-09 financial crisis.

The new law somewhat reduces Dodd-Frank's role.

To begin with, it cuts the number of rules imposed on small banks and credit unions, who have been crushed by the cost of Obama-era financial rules, which favor the big banks.

It also makes it easier for banks to underwrite less-risky mortgages, as long as banks bear part of the risk. And it takes the government's foot off the pedal of financial company onerous bank and financial company supervision, which cost billions but did little to make financial firms more stable.

Worse, it leaves the corrupt Consumer Financial Protection Bureau intact, while still giving the government power over Big Banks when they get into trouble.

In the end, what many had hoped would be the complete repeal of Dodd-Frank, became only a partial reform. It was entirely due to the way Congress works: Republicans wanted a much bigger reform bill, but Democrats wouldn't go along.

So compromises were made by the GOP, yielding 33 moderate Democrat votes in the House and 16 in the Senate. Because the Senate requires at least 60 votes to pass most legislation without challenge on the floor, it was either compromise or there would be no bill. So Republicans compromised.

The Economist news magazine called the reforms "timid." And former Rep. Barney Frank, whose name is on the Dodd-Frank law, acknowledged that legislation is now unlikely ever to be repealed in its entirety.

"The day that bill passes, that's the end of any significant legislation on Dodd-Frank," he said. "If the Democrats have the House, there will be no weakening whatsoever."

This was all made possible due to the 2008 election, that swept an unassailable Democratic majority into power for two years, during which they passed two of the great legislative disasters in U.S. history: ObamaCare, and Dodd-Frank.

Elections have consequences, as President Obama said. One sad consequence of the 2008 election is that we are still living with two awful laws, one that did nothing to improve health care and the other that made our financial system materially worse and less stable.

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3. Calls To Break Up Tech Giants Ignore HistoryПт., 25 мая[−]

Monopoly: Calls to break up tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google have been increasing. But while the sentiment is understandable, the free market is far more likely to tame these giants without any government intervention.

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We can remember when everyone was promising that the internet would unleash competition by lowering barriers to entry and often by cutting out the middle man. But in some ways the opposite has happened, as three companies wound up controlling the lion's share of online advertising and commerce.

That, in turn, has generated growing interest in breaking these companies up, or heavily regulating them as monopolies.

This past week, for example, a new coalition called "Freedom From Facebook" launched a petition calling on the Federal Trade Commission to spin off Facebook ( FB) subsidiaries Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger into competing networks.

"Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have amassed a scary amount of power," the group says. "It buys up or bankrupts potential competitors to protect its monopoly, killing innovation and choice."

Amazon ( AMZN) is also coming under fire for its sheer size — it is on track to become the first company in history to reach $1 trillion in value.

Bill Simon, the former CEO of Walmart, recently said that Congress should look into breaking up Amazon because it's "destroying jobs, and it's destroying value in the (retail) sector," adding for good measure that "it's anti-competitive, it's predatory, and it's not right."

New York University professor Scott Galloway argues that breaking up these and other big tech firms "could unleash another 20 to 30 years of unbelievable innovation and shareholder growth."

Calls to regulate and break up big companies are not new. In the 1990s, we heard the same claims made about Microsoft. It was too big and powerful and was hampering innovation, and the only solution was to break it up.

History shows there's a better, faster, more efficient and more direct way to deal with companies that are "too big." Let the free market work. Time and again, giants of industry get toppled not by government regulators, but by new disruptive competitors.

Sears in its heyday, for example, was essentially a combination of Walmart ( WMT) and Amazon. It had a massive retail presence, and a massive mail order catalog (the internet of the day) business. Today it is barely breathing.

Creative Destruction

The government never did break Microsoft up. But new competitors like Google ( GOOGL) and Apple ( APPL) fundamentally reshaped the marketplace in ways that severely hampered it.

Another way to look at it is this: Of the 500 companies that made the Fortune 500 list in 1955, only 53 remain on that list, notes economist Mark Perry.

Only two of the companies that ranked in the top 10 in 1955 are still on the list. And of the top 10 companies today, four didn't even exist in 1955.

It's a virtual certainty that decades from now, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple and others will have gone the way of Microsoft or IBM or Sears or Zenith Electronics or Kodak or Bethlehem Steel. Once mighty companies brought to heel by a dynamic, ever changing and fiercely competitive market.

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4. For Want Of A Nail: The Link Between Critical Minerals And National DefenseПт., 25 мая[−]

"For want of a nail…, the kingdom was lost." The old proverb, dating back to the 13th Century, and imported to America in Ben Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac, provides a cautionary tale.

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During World War II, it was posted on the wall of the Anglo-American Supply Headquarters in London —a reminder that the most sophisticated defense supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

It's a reminder we need to dust off for our 21st century, as technology transforms all aspects of our lives, including the advanced weaponry that increasingly supports the U.S.'s battlefield superiority.

Especially now, as we see headlines like this one in the defense press: "The U.S. is running out of bombsand it may soon struggle to make more." The story notes that in the case of many key materials, "…key suppliers are foreign-owned, with no indigenous (U.S.) capability to produce vital parts and materials."

The metals and minerals on which U.S. weapons platforms depend are all too often sourced from foreign suppliers – a vulnerability that America's adversaries could exploit in time of conflict.

Until now, however, awareness of the problem has not produced action anywhere near adequate to reverse or even reduce this dangerous dependency.

That could change, as the House of Representatives has added comprehensive critical minerals reform language to the 2019 fiscal year National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the massive must-pass bill that funds the U.S. military for the year ahead.

Action Needed

With a push to put the defense bill on the President's desk by Memorial Day, focus shifts to the Senate and the Congressional conference that will determine whether the critical minerals provisions will remain.

While the path to passage may be new, the bill is anything but, as the language is drawn from a bill that has passed the House five times in recent years, only to stall in the Senate. It sets clear and consistent deadlines for a federal mine permitting process that has grown maddeningly opaque, resulting in a permitting odyssey that stretches an average of 7 to 10 years and oftentimes longer.

Indeed, the only thing longer than the American permitting process is the list of metals and minerals we need for our weapons systems.

As the Senate defense debate grinds into gear, expect objections that including a mining-related provision to the NDAA is improper, non-germane to use the parliamentary term.

That's wrong. In fact, one might argue that ensuring that the U.S. does all it can to ensure the reliable domestic supply of defense-critical metals and minerals is about as germane to the NDAA as it gets.

According to the most recent U.S. Geological Survey Mineral Commodity Summary, the U.S. is 100% dependent on foreign supply for 20 metals and minerals, and 50% or more dependent for a total of 43 metals and minerals. That's nearly half of the naturally-occurring elements on the Periodic Table.

Such deep dependency is the catalyst for the President's Executive Order on Critical Minerals, issued in December 2017, which just this month produced the first unified Critical Minerals List, prepared by the Department of interior in coordination with the Department of Defense: 35 metals and minerals, from Aluminum to Zirconium.

Critical Dependency

Consider it Exhibit A in the argument for adding Critical Minerals provisions in the NDAA. The case for inclusion is strong:

  • 16 of the 35 Critical Minerals appear in a non-classified defense study as "hav[ing] already caused some kind of significant weapon system production delay for DoD."
  • For 22 of the 35 listed minerals, China is either the leading global producer, leading U.S. supplier – or both.

Connect the dots, and it's clear the U.S. lacks reliable access to a wide range of metals and minerals critical to our military's advanced weapons platforms — materials that in nearly two-dozen cases, we are sourcing from China, a nation that the 2017 U.S. National Defense Strategy identifies as presenting a "central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security."

That's a five alarm fire bell when it comes to strengthening the raw materials supply chain in the U.S. Defense Industrial Base, and it's all the reason Congress needs to include critical minerals language in the National Defense Authorization Act.

Finally, the U.S. has known resources of nearly all of the 35 minerals and metals on the Critical List. Whether those resources can be economically developed is an open question — one that the private sector, and private capital, will be ready and willing to answer, once the U.S. Government sends a clear, consistent signal that it is serious about remedying our deep domestic minerals deficit.

It's time to make the connection between critical minerals and national defense. As Ben Franklin understood, America's adversaries surely will.

  • McGroarty, former White House special assistant and presidential appointee at the Department of Defense, has testified on Critical Mineral issues in both the U.S. House and Senate.

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5. Seattle's New Business 'Head Tax' Hurts Job Creators And Limits Economic GrowthПт., 25 мая[−]

To the detriment of its residents and businesses, Seattle has been more active than any other city in pursuing new tax revenue.

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In the past two years alone, Seattle has proposed new or increased taxes on everything from income, soda, parking, luxury real estate, and rental units. On Monday, the city council did another disservice to Seattleites after it passed a new tax on the city's largest businesses, including the high-tech companies that have become the city's economic salvation in recent decades.

In May, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to tax the city's largest employers to help address homelessness. The original tax would have imposed a 26.042-cent-per-employee-hour tax on large Seattle companies — those with at least $20 million in total annual revenue. This version would have forced businesses to pay a head tax of about $500 per full-time employee annually.

Because Mayor Jenny Durkan threatened to veto the original bill, the council then "reduced" the tax increase to $275 per employee. "Lowering" the rate and not allowing the tax to convert to a payroll tax makes the new version only slightly better than the original.

However, it still creates a massive new burden on Seattle employers. Seattle is now the only city to impose an employee tax and a business and occupation tax.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time such a tax has been imposed in Seattle — although it is considerably higher than the previous version.

Before 2009, Seattle imposed a short-lived $25-per-employee tax on Seattle businesses that was repealed during the recession. At the time, former Mayor Greg Nickels argued it was not appropriate to impose job-killing taxes during difficult economic times. In 2017, Seattle sought to resurrect a similar proposal, but the effort failed.

Chicago's Bitter Lesson

As Seattle embraces this onerous business tax, the recent trend in other cities and states has been to move in the opposite direction. For example, in 2014 Chicago repealed its business head tax of $4 per month, or $48 per year.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune that the head tax destroyed jobs and needed to go. "The head tax is a job killer. Eliminating the head tax is the right thing to do for businesses big and small, and it's the right thing to do to secure Chicago's future," Emanuel said.

Chicago's tax was only a small fraction of what Seattle just imposed. In fact, no head tax in any city is anywhere near as severe as Seattle's outrageous $275-per-employee levy.

Making matters worse, although Seattle attempts to contain the negative effect on employment by limiting the tax to large businesses, these businesses employ a disproportionately high percentage of the city's overall workforce.

The tax will make it costlier to employ new and low-skill employees — leading to less hiring or more automation.

Local companies are already reacting to the tax, with many arguing it will affect both future hiring and expansion efforts in Seattle.

Company Pullbacks

Amazon has already pulled back on several projects in the city, erasing 7,000 potential new jobs. In fact, Amazon's plans will cost the city an estimated $3.5 billion in economic impact, according to a study from the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

Another company, Honda & Toyota of Seattle, estimates the new tax will cost "$113,500 for the first year, with 227 employees. So, it's approximately $9,500 in (monthly) overhead that we weren't anticipating."

Because tech jobs are fairly mobile, the city must be especially careful not to alienate its thriving tech industry. As soon as the new tax becomes too burdensome, these companies can easily relocate.

And as is nearly always the case, this tax on large businesses will have far-reaching effects that go beyond its intended target. Eventually, countless small businesses, shops and restaurants will be negatively impacted when companies such as Amazon and Starbucks don't expand or choose to relocate to escape the tax.

Instead of increasing taxes on successful businesses, elected officials in all cities should focus on making the city a more attractive place for businesses and workers — a goal that would best be accomplished by restraining spending, lowering tax rates and reducing unnecessary regulations.


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6. Can The Saudis Make The Desert Bloom?Пт., 25 мая[−]

The world is talking about Saudi Arabia these days.

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Its Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salman, wrapped up a star-studded tour of Europe and the United States last month that included rapt audiences with monarchs, presidents, titans of industry, media luminaries and even Oprah — one of the most outspoken advocates for the under-served.

For many outside of our region, the Middle East is a place where dreams go to die. War, conflict and violence would appear to be our biggest export — after oil. In places like Yemen and Libya, bullets are easier to come by than bread. Historically, as with the Arab Spring, attempts at change were met by repression and retrenchment of the status quo.

Armchair critics, far removed from the reality on the ground in our part of the world, respond to initiatives promising empowerment and inclusion with a healthy degree of skepticism and not a little disdain. They point to rampant corruption, inequality and a statist mindset that stifles innovation.

Lost in this tit-for-tat between skeptics and supporters is the perspective of Saudi Arabia's most important and consequential constituency: the 50% of the population under the age of twenty-five. These are the people for whom reform is being made, and they are the ones that will determine its success or failure.

I am a 30-year-old Saudi artist whose paintings hang on the walls of Saudi royal palaces, museums and the homes of stars like Kanye West, Cuba Gooding and Kim Kardashian. For me and a large portion of my generation, the change in Saudi Arabia is real and the future looks bright.

We have spent our entire lives waiting for this moment that has finally arrived. We are citizens of the world; connected to others; proud of who we are; bridling to break out and make our mark, both at home and beyond our borders.

Until now, we have had to devise creative workarounds to overcome the restrictions placed upon us. For example, if I and my male friends wanted to pick up girls, we would go to men-only section of a restaurant and communicate with young ladies in the women-only section via the Bluetooth feature on our mobile phones to set up future rendezvous.

Saudi Reforms Take Hold

The lifting of constraints in Saudi Arabia is producing a slingshot effect. The prohibitions of the past produced incredible inventiveness and creative energy. That energy has now been released, and it will prove a powerful force. Women driving, cinemas opening, travel restrictions easing are but the outward indicators of a more profound transformation.

We are witnessing the emergence of a new generation for whom investigation replaces revelation. We are free to act on our pent-up yearnings and ambitions. Dreams are becoming possibilities. Cynicism and resignation are giving give way to hope and determination. Saudi Arabia will never be the same.

It has become a truism to declare that a country's human capital is its greatest resource. There is no shortage of creativity in Saudi Arabia, but the government is putting its money where its mouth is.

Led by Badr al Asaker, The Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation — "MiSK" — has undertaken a far-reaching national initiative to foster the artistic and scientific talent, creative potential, and innovation of the country's youth.

To harness the creative power of Saudi Arabia's millennial generation and to convert it into productive economic and social change, my colleagues and I established the Saudi National Creative Initiative — a collaborative knowledge transfer platform for mapping Saudi Arabia's creativity sector and fostering partnerships that unleash its full potential. And we need your help.

High Expectations

Progress is never linear, and there will be setbacks. Expectations are high and disappointment is all but inevitable. But we can help manage these expectations by opening up and sustaining channels of communication and collaboration.

The youth of Saudi Arabia is indeed aware, empowered and motivated as never before. However, foreign know-how, expertise, training and investment are required to translate today's opportunity into tomorrow's achievement. We must connect the tens of thousands of innovators among us to outside mentors, capital and the global infrastructure of partnership.

My art and activism reflect the hope and unyielding optimism of a generation striving to make its voice heard. For our entire lives, we have been fighting a war between the dreams of what we want and the reality in which we live.

Today, it is undeniable that Saudi Arabia's reality has changed, and for the better. We will make the desert bloom.

  • Qandeel is an artist and chairman of the Saudi National Creative Initiative.

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7. Don't Let Britain's Single-Payer Sickness Spread StatesideПт., 25 мая[−]

Several contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are staking their candidacies on a government takeover of the U.S. health care system, whereby the feds become the lone payer, or "single-payer" for health care services.

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Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Cory Booker are all co-sponsors of a bill introduced by Bernie Sanders that would expand Medicare to cover all Americans. Eleven other senators who don't have their eyes on the White House — at least not yet — have endorsed Sanders' bid for single-payer health care. More than 120 Democrats in the House have sponsored a similar plan.

Before those on Team Blue bet on government-run health care as their electoral trump card, they might want to look across the Atlantic. New data show that the United Kingdom's National Health Service is a scourge, not a cure for what ails us.

A recent report from the King's Fund, a leading British think tank, finds that the National Health Service has fewer doctors, nurses and beds per capita than almost any nation in the Western world. Other countries near the bottom of this list include Canada, Denmark, and Sweden — all of which have government-run health care systems. Canada actually bans private coverage of any health care service that the public system pays for.

This is no coincidence. These government-dominated systems keep costs down by setting strict spending caps. These limited budgets inevitably force doctors, hospital administrators and government bureaucrats to ration care.

Patients must deal with life-threatening shortages of care and delays for treatment. In early 2017, the delays at NHS facilities were so bad that the British Red Cross warned of a "humanitarian crisis."

Since then, conditions have deteriorated further. During this past winter's flu season, NHS health facilities forced thousands of patients to wait in ambulances for an hour or more — there weren't enough available beds to admit them to hospitals.

Emergency patients aren't the only ones who had to wait for treatment. In the first three months of 2018, the NHS canceled more than 25,000 operations, according to a new analysis by the Royal College of Surgeons. That's the highest figure in nearly a quarter-century.

This month, the London Telegraph reported that some cancer patients were waiting as much as 18 months for treatments. Across 88 NHS organizational units called trusts, the longest wait for cancer care was 213 days — approximately seven months.

Health Care Rationing

Often, the most vulnerable patients bear the brunt of the rationing. The NHS typically provides just one-third of the therapy recommended for stroke victims, condemning many patients to avoidable lifelong disabilities.

Defenders of the NHS blame such embarrassments on insufficient government funding. But chronic mismanagement of resources is the more likely culprit.

Consider a new report that shows the NHS spends nearly 1.5 billion pounds — around $2 billion — a year on expensive temporary nursing staff and yet still struggles to meet the demand for care. For that same amount, the government could have hired 66,000 full-time nurses — more than enough to close the current nursing shortfall of 40,000.

Many NHS horror stories stem from plain-old administrative incompetence.

For instance, due to a technological glitch dating back to 2009, hundreds of thousands of women weren't invited to undergo critical screenings for breast cancer.

That error, which only recently came to light, could have shortened the lives of as many as 270 patients, according to Jeremy Hunt, Britain's Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

The NHS is hardly unique among government-run systems in subjecting patients to substandard care. In my native Canada, the median wait time last year for treatment from a specialist after referral from a general practitioner was 21.2 weeks, according to the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank. That's the longest wait on record — and double the median wait of 25 years ago.

Yet leaders on America's political left still champion single-payer. Sen. Sanders has called it an "international embarrassment" that the United States is "the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all its people."

On the contrary, the rationing, administrative inefficiency and incompetence and needless patient suffering that plague the National Health Service are embarrassments to Great Britain. Single-payer is a disease that ought to stay quarantined outside U.S. borders.

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

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8. Just How Serious Is The Obama Administration's Spying on Trump?Пт., 25 мая[−]

"F. B. I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims," read the headline on a lengthy New York Times story May 18.

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"The Justice Department used a suspected informant to probe whether Trump campaign aides were making improper contacts with Russia in 2016," read a story in the May 21 edition of The Wall Street Journal.

So much for those who dismissed charges of Obama administration infiltration of Donald Trump's campaign as paranoid fantasy. Defenders of the Obama intelligence and law enforcement apparat have had to fall back on the argument that this infiltration was for Trump's — and the nation's — own good.

It's an argument that evidently didn't occur to Richard Nixon's defenders when it became clear that Nixon operatives had burglarized and wiretapped the Democratic National Committee's headquarters in June 1972.

Until 2016, just about everyone agreed that it was a bad thing for government intelligence or law enforcement agencies to spy — er, use informants — on a political campaign, especially one of the opposition party. Liberals were especially suspicious of the FBI and the CIA. Nowadays they say that anyone questioning their good faith is unpatriotic.

The crime at the root of Watergate was an attempt at surveillance of the DNC after George McGovern seemed about to win the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, just as the government misconduct in Russiagate was an attempt at surveillance of the Republican Party's national campaign after Trump clinched its nomination.

In both cases, the incumbent administration regarded the opposition's unorthodox nominee as undermining the nation's long-standing foreign policy and therefore dangerous to the country. McGovern renounced the Democrats' traditional Cold War policy. Trump expressed skepticism about George W. Bush and Obama administration policies on NATO, Mexico, Iran and (forgetting Barack Obama's ridicule of Mitt Romney on the subject) Russia.

The incumbents' qualms had some rational basis. But their attempts at surveillance were misbegotten. Back in 1972, my brief experience in campaigns left me skeptical that you could learn anything useful by wiretapping the opposition. If you were reasonably smart, you should be able to figure out what a reasonably smart opposition would do and respond accordingly. Subsequent experience has confirmed that view. It's a different story if you face irrational opposition. It's hard to figure out what stupid people are going to do.

Similarly, it's hard to figure out what the Obama law enforcement and intelligence folks had to gain by spying. Candidate Trump's bizarre refusals to criticize Vladimir Putin and Russia were already a political liability, criticized aptly and often by Hillary Clinton and mainstream media.

But neither the Obama informant/spy nor Robert Mueller's investigation has presented additional evidence of Trump collusion with Russia. None of Mueller's indictments points in that direction, and Trump's foreign policy over 16 months has been far less favorable to Russia than Obama's.

Both the Watergate wiretap and the Obama appointees' investigator/spy infiltration were initially inspired amid fears that the upstart opposition might win. The Watergate burglary was planned when Nixon's re-election was far from assured. A May 1972 Harris Poll showed him with only 48% against McGovern. It was only after the Haiphong harbor bombing and Moscow summit in early June made clear that U.S. involvement in Vietnam was ending that Nixon's numbers surged — just before the June 17 burglary.

In March 2016, it was conventional wisdom that Trump couldn't be elected president. But his surprising and persistent strength in the Republican primaries left some doubtful, including the FBI lovebirds who instant messaged their desire for an "insurance policy" against that dreaded eventuality.

Their unease may have owed something to their knowledge of how the Obama Justice Department and FBI had fixed the Hillary Clinton emails case. Clinton wasn't indicted but was left with a disastrously low 32 percent of voters confident of her honesty and trustworthiness.

There are two obvious differences between Watergate and the Obama administration's infiltration. The Watergate burglars were arrested in flagrante delicto, and their wiretaps never functioned. And neither the FBI nor the CIA fully cooperated with the post-election cover-up.

That's quite a contrast with the Obama law enforcement and intelligence appointees' promotion of Christopher Steele's Clinton campaign-financed dodgy dossier and feeding the mainstream media's insatiable hunger for Russia collusion stories.

Has an outgoing administration ever worked to delegitimize and dislodge its successor like this? We hear many complaints, some justified, about Donald Trump's departure from standard political norms. But the greater and more dangerous departure from norms may be that of the Obama officials seeking to overturn the results of the 2016 election.

  • 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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9. The Commencement Speech You Never HearПт., 25 мая[−]

My youngest son's college graduation ceremony was scheduled to be held outdoors. The invitation specified that it would be moved inside to the gym only in the event of "severe" weather. As it turned out, the day was unseasonably cold (low 50s) with occasional drizzle — probably about as nasty as the weather gets in May without qualifying for severe status.

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Yet my husband and I huddled together in the stands of Franklin Field and wouldn't have missed it for the world. Ceremonies are important. We need markers for the milestones of our lives. They seal the moment that is both an ending and a beginning.

So much changes so fast in our world that it is comforting to settle into honored rituals. As the strains of Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" pipe through the stadium, you feel a stirring of memory and a sense of peace. It has always been like this. It always will be. Some things are timeless. Or so we hope.

Along with the usual assortment of political science, English and math majors, the University of Pennsylvania confers degrees in fields that scarcely existed when I was an undergrad. Students strode across the stage to accept diplomas for studies such as biophysics, bioengineering and something called the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER). We all smiled when the dean of the engineering school presented his candidates by quoting a scientist: "The future is hard to predict. But the best way to predict it is to invent it." Nice. And, if you'll indulge a little chauvinism, innovation remains a great American strength.

Most commencement addresses are dull recitations of clich?s, though some stand out. Penn's award-winning psychology professor Angela Duckworth, who has made a splash with her research into the importance of grit in school and in life, delivered a modest and uplifting address about how her career meandered before she finally settled into her specialty. Her advice: It's OK to not have things figured out.

But one clich? that dominates many commencement addresses really should be retired, and that's the one that exhorts the graduates to go out and change the world.

High school and college graduates don't know very much about the world. Maybe before they set out to change things, they should get a good grasp of how things actually work. Ask them the difference between term and whole life insurance, or how to change a tire, or how much to save every month, or whether you should call a cop after a fender bender. Ask them if they've ever organized a dance, far less a factory.

There are always things that need changing, of course. Nor should we wish to curdle the natural idealism of the young. But along with calls for change, shouldn't the young be reminded of the preciousness of their inheritance? So many of the things they take for granted were achieved by their forebears at great cost — and I'm not referring to what the parents spent for those fancy degrees. So many things about our society work well. Our supermarkets are stocked with food from around the globe. Our homes, offices and cars are heated and cooled for our comfort. Emergency help is available nearly everywhere by dialing 911. Just as crucial as trying to fix what's broken is taking the time to appreciate and shore up what is sound.

The great liberal virtue is impatience with injustice. The great conservative virtue is gratitude.

Before graduates are urged to change the world, perhaps they should be encouraged to change themselves or, at least, to look inward. How many people have vainly resolved to lose 10 pounds or to donate 10% of their income to the less fortunate?

Change is hard, even when — or perhaps especially when — you're trying to change yourself. If you've been unable to reform yourself, take that humility to the world, and remember it when you notice others' flaws. Each graduate can ask himself: How kind was I to my siblings this year, and how dutiful to my parents? Taking his place in the adult world, he should resolve first of all to do the things within his own power: to be a faithful spouse and a reliable parent.

Humility, duty, self-examination, gratitude. Perhaps those are not the most inspiring words. But heeded, they stand the best chance of truly changing the world.

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

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10. North Korea's Kim Just Met 'Art Of The Deal'Пт., 25 мая[−]

Singapore Summit: So President Trump cancelled his meeting with Kim Jong-un, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. A diplomatic disaster? No. Diplomacy, Trump-style. We'll now see what Kim's made of.

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In pulling out of the meeting, Trump sent a formal letter that deployed surprisingly deft diplomatic reasoning.

"Based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting," Trump said in his letter. "Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but the detriment of the world, will not take place."

The letter came a day after North Korea's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son Hui sharply criticized Vice President Mike Pence, calling him "ignorant" and "stupid" after Pence commented that North Korea risked ending up like Libya if it didn't make a nuclear deal with the U.S.

So it's off. A disaster? Hardly.

Now we will see whether Kim Jong-un, just as his grandfather Kim Il-sung and his father Kim Jong-il did, is playing the U.S. to win pre-summit concessions — or really is serious about seeking a nuclear rapprochement.

Trump was right to be wary.

In recent days, Kim shifted from a months-long charm-offensive to just plain offensive, abruptly cancelling a meeting with South Korea, complaining about routine U.S. military exercises in the region and seeking to remove North Korea's nuclear program from the summit agenda — despite that being the main reason for the summit in the first place.

Given the abrupt shift and increasing demands, Trump really had no choice.

As for Kim's claim to have destroyed a remote nuclear research site Wednesday in North Korea as a goodwill gesture to the U.S. and South Korea, he allowed only journalists and a handful of other foreigners in as observers — but no one with nuclear technical expertise to determine what really was being demolished, and whether it was of any consequence to Pyongyang's nuclear program at all.

How Kim Family Cheats

Trump's letter was, as we noted, carefully worded, and thanked Kim for releasing three Americans, which Trump called a "beautiful gesture." He left open the possibility of still meeting, but put the ball in Kim's court.

Smart move.

As American Enterprise Institute Fellow and North Korea expert Nicholas Eberstadt wrote on Wednesday, "these are standard North Korean shakedown techniques, honed to perfection by three generations of regime negotiators. Mr. Kim is probing for pre-emptive concessions before his big get-together with Mr. Trump. Such techniques have proved successful in the past, which is why today North Korea is for all intents and purposes a nuclear state."

That's why Trump called his bluff. Going back to the early 1990s, when President Clinton signed a "nuclear deal" with North Korea that the Hermit State later reneged on, the U.S. has been taken to the cleaners repeatedly by North Korea's totalitarian ruling Kim family.

They sign deals, get trade, aid and other assistance upfront, then cheat on the deals as soon as it's no longer in their immediate material interest.

And, no, this is not a partisan issue: They've done it with Democratic presidents and Republican ones alike.

Iran Connection

This, by the way, helps explain why Trump was so eager to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal two weeks ago. That deal, negotiated by the Obama administration, was so weak and riddled with giveaways to the Iranian regime, that Trump, John Bolton and others in the administration no doubt felt it had to go.

"Why would Mr. Kim accept a worse deal for North Korea than what Iran had obtained?" Tod Lindberg, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute wrote. "Leaving one bad deal still active would have established the precedent for another bad deal."

As a long-time executive in the rough-and-tumble world of mega-project real estate development, Trump knows that sometimes the best move of all is to walk away from a bad deal. Make your opponent counter your offer. If not, it's not for you.

In the case of Kim, Trump's instincts were right. Maybe Kim will seek a summit. Maybe he won't. But Trump almost certainly will continue to make clear that a nuclear North Korea is not acceptable under any circumstance. And that failure to make a deal will have consequences.

Your move, Mr. Kim.

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11. Democrats Blast Trump For High Gas Prices … After They Spent Years Trying To Force Them UpЧт., 24 мая[−]

Hypocrisy Watch: Democrats hope they've found an issue that will re-energize the fading "Blue Wave" with the recent spike in gas prices. Never mind that the increase is temporary. Or that Democrats have for years tried to force gas prices up — permanently — through various tax hikes.

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According to the federal Energy Information Administration, average pump prices for regular gasoline hit $2.923 a gallon this week. That's up 55 cents compared with the same week last year, and the highest prices have been since November 2014.

Sen. Minority Leader Charles Schumer and other Democrats plan to use this price spike to blast President Trump and, hopefully, improve their election chances in November.

"President Trump's reckless decision to pull out of the Iran deal has led to higher oil prices," Schumer said. "These higher oil prices are translating directly to soaring gas prices, something we know disproportionately hurts middle and lower income people."

But Schumer, as well as the reporters covering him, should know that the high gas prices are the result of three factors that are beyond Trump's control.

One is the fact that OPEC has tightened its production quotas to counter the huge increase in U.S. oil production thanks to the fracking revolution. Trump has been trying to boost production still more.

The second is that refiners must change their gasoline formulas in the spring to accommodate EPA air quality regulations, which pushes up prices every year at this time. Blame environmentalists for that.

The third is increased demand, thanks to the growing economy here and abroad. Gasoline demand in the U.S. hit record levels in March, and AAA expects 5% more people traveling on Memorial weekend than last year. Memo to Democrats: That's a good thing.

Even so, prices today are still much lower than they were from 2011 to 2014, before accounting for inflation. And they are likely to subside by the fall as travel demand eases up.

But what's really rich is that Democrats are complaining about a temporary spike in gasoline prices after having spent years trying to force them up permanently.

As recently as 2015, Democrats were pushing to nearly double the federal gasoline tax. At the time, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that it was the perfect time to do so because "if there's ever going to be an opportunity to raise the gas tax, the time when gas prices are so low — oil prices are so low — is the time to do it."

Democrats in California pushed through a 12-cent-per-gallon hike in the state's gas tax last year that Republicans are vowing to roll back if they can.

Carbon Tax Sticker Shock

At the same time, Democrats have pledged to impose a tax on carbon emissions of around $50 per ton of CO2 — which would go up each year at a rate faster than inflation — to combat " climate change."

Schumer himself promised to enact a carbon tax if Hillary Clinton won and Democrats regained control of the Senate in the 2016 elections.

Well, guess what? A carbon tax of that magnitude would sharply raise gasoline prices. A report out of the University of Michigan last fall concluded that a carbon tax of $40 per ton would hike gasoline prices by 36 cents a gallon.

Where was Schumer's concern about working families then?

This is to say nothing of the Democrats' endless drive to punish the oil industry either through windfall profits taxes or by stripping them of tax breaks available to other industries. Or their continued push to keep vast oil reserves off limits to drillers.

For Schumer and his fellow Democrats to now complain about high gasoline prices is, dare we say it, the height of hypocrisy and politics at its most craven.

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12. The Media Who Cried WolfЧт., 24 мая[−]

Instead of killing President Trump, the establishment media are killing themselves.

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This appears to be the solution to the current conundrum of American politics: How is President Trump surviving the relentless onslaught of negative media? The counterintuitive conclusion is that this unparalleled negative coverage is more damaging to the source than the target.

According to Rasmussen polling results released on in late April, 54% of likely voters "say they do not trust the political news they are getting." That is an eight-point increase from last June's 46%, the poll's previous high, and 18 points higher than last January's result.

With just 32% saying "they do trust the political news they are getting," the establishment media polls well below the President. If trustworthiness is the media's basic job description, they have an effective job approval rating of 32% favorable, 54% unfavorable. In contrast, President Trump's job approval rating on the day this poll was released was 48% favorable, 50% unfavorable.

The media's current approval results are actually below the lowest reading Rasmussen has recorded for Trump's presidency — 38% last August.

This inversion of expected results differs greatly from past presidential experiences. Although the establishment media have long been perceived as biased by conservatives, hence the decades-long existence of conservative media, the feeling now extends well past the 35% of 2016 voters who identified themselves as conservatives in exit polling.

That a president could actually rebound under this withering coverage only heightens the mystery.

Comparison to a similar phenomenon in economics helps explain this counterintuitive occurrence. Constructed by Arthur Laffer in the 1970s, his Laffer Curve argument gained prominence with "supply siders," who understood its power for explaining tax cuts' positive economic impact.

The curve's premise is that a tipping point exists between tax rates and tax revenue. Beyond the tipping point, a tax increase produces a revenue drop, and vice versa.

Prior to the tipping point, higher tax rates increase revenues — even though higher rates stop some economic activity, it is more than offset by the higher rates' impact on the remainder. However, post-tipping point, the reverse occurs: The rate increase diminishes activity beyond what the higher rate can offset and overall revenues decline.

How this could occur is mostly easily seen at the extreme. A tax rate of 100 percent does not get a 100% of the former production rate; it gets 100% of the new production rate: 0. Therefore when rates above the tipping point are rolled back, revenues actually rise as production increases.

The same phenomenon is apparently happening with the establishment media's relentlessly negative coverage of President Trump.

Increasingly people are seeing the obvious: Establishment media's claim of unbiased coverage has become a transparent joke. We can dub the effect here the Laugher Curve.

A rapidly growing portion of America's population is not simply tuning out the establishment media; they are turning against it.

Apparently their tipping point has been crossed. Negative coverage, like excessive taxation, has produced the opposite effect from that intended.

Economics does not simply supply an analogy to the current political situation; it drives it. The establishment media's economic decline has sped their political one. Long gone is their monopoly of decades ago when three television networks determined the news.

As the audience fragments more, the establishment media attract a shrinking segment and grow ever more dependent on it. Increasingly needing to retain it, the establishment media must increasingly cater to it. And in the end: Entertain it.

This only further shrinks their audience and their own credibility — the thing on which their earlier reputation and audience rested.

Clearly what is occurring in the triangle of President Trump, the establishment media, and the American public is not what has happened in the past.

Few past politicians could have survived, let alone be thriving — in the sense that he won election and has rebounded significantly from polling lows in office — under such an establishment media onslaught. Instead, it is the establishment media that appear to be in greater trouble with the public.

Unquestionably, Trump has been the beneficiary of this unintended consequence. Well beyond just his recent rebound in public opinion, the establishment media helped create him in the first place.

Now its self-immolation serves to inoculate him. Like the boy who cried wolf too often, fewer and fewer are likely to believe the establishment media, even should they have a real wolf to report.

  • Young served under President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He was a congressional staffer from 1987-2000.

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13. In Calling MS-13 Gang Members 'Animals,' Trump Was Being KindЧт., 24 мая[−]

President Donald Trump doubled down on calling members of a notorious street gang — MS-13 — "animals." Good for him for not backing down and for shining a light on an outrageous phenomenon, especially in Southern California: Latino gangs that target blacks, whether or not they belong to gangs, for death.

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Trump, during a roundtable discussion last week with state and local officials from California about so-called sanctuary laws, said: "Deadly and unconstitutional sanctuary state laws ... (offer) safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on earth, like MS-13 gang members, putting innocent men, women and children at the mercy of these sadistic criminals."

Margaret Mims, the sheriff of Northern California's Fresno County, talked about the problems caused by the state's so-called sanctuary laws, and that such laws made it harder "to find the bad guys." Mims said, "There could be an MS-13 gang member I know about: If they don't reach a certain threshold (under California's sanctuary laws) I cannot tell ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) about it."

That's when Trump dropped the "A-word."

In response to Sheriff Mims' comments, Trump said: "We have people coming into the country — or trying to come in; we're stopping a lot of them. But we're taking people out of the country. You wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals. And we're taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that's never happened before."

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., immediately pounced. The Senate minority leader tweeted: "When all of our great-great-grandparents came to America they weren't 'animals,' and these people aren't either."

But even NBC's Chuck Todd admitted that his media colleagues widely misrepresented the President's remarks, especially the initial media reports that failed to note that Trump was referring to MS-13.

"This is where I think that my colleagues do us all harm," Todd said. "You know, cover this legitimately. There is plenty of legitimate stuff to ding him on, if you think he deserves to be dinged on. Just be careful. Don't be sloppy about it."

As for the "A-word," Todd said: "A lot of people have called violent anybody animals. Anybody who is a violent criminal, in my book, can get called an animal if they're sitting there mauling, killing and raping people. I don't care where they're from."

Cue the selective outrage. Where was this concern for civility when Hillary "deplorables" Clinton said the NRA reminded her of the "Iranians" and the "communists"? Recall, too, Clinton's own "animals"-type description of some black criminals. In 1996, Clinton said: "We need to take these people on. They are often connected to big drug cartels. They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called superpredators."

Calling the MS-13 gang members "animals" is positively mild compared with what the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center said about other vicious Latino gangs. In 2007, the SPLC published a report called: "Latino Gang Members in Southern California Are Terrorizing and Killing Blacks."

Some highlights:

"While the vast majority of hate crimes nationwide are not committed by members of organized groups, Los Angeles County is a different story. Researchers found that in areas with high concentrations, or 'clusters,' of hate crimes, the perpetrators were typically members of Latino street gangs who were purposely targeting blacks. ...

"Mexican Mafia leaders, or shot callers ... have issued a "green light" on all blacks. A sort of gang-life fatwah, this amounts to a standing authorization for Latino gang members to prove their mettle by terrorizing or even murdering any blacks sighted in a neighborhood claimed by a gang loyal to the Mexican Mafia. ...

"Anti-black violence conducted by Latino gangs in Los Angeles has been ongoing for more than a decade. A 1995 Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) report about Latino gang activity in the Normandale Park neighborhood declared, 'This gang has been involved in an ongoing program to eradicate black citizens from the gang neighborhood.' A 1996 LAPD report on gangs in east Los Angeles stated, 'Local gangs will attack any black person that comes into the city.' ...

"The LAPD estimates there are now 22,000 Latino gang members in the city of Los Angeles alone. That's not only more than all the Crips and the Bloods; it's more than all black, Asian, and white gang members combined. Almost all of those Latino gang members in L.A. — let alone those in other California cities — are loyal to the Mexican Mafia. Most have been thoroughly indoctrinated with the Mexican Mafia's violent racism during stints in prison, where most gangs are racially based. ...

"'It's almost anywhere in L.A. that you could find yourself in a difficult position (as a black person),' says (a) LAPD probation officer. 'All blacks are on green light no matter where.'"

Trump, in calling brutal gang members "animals," did not go far enough.

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

Other columns by Larry Elder

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14. Sorry, But Obama White House, Not Dossier, Was Behind Trump InvestigationЧт., 24 мая[−]

SpyGate: Did the Obama administration spy on the Donald Trump campaign because it feared Russian hacking of the 2016 election? Or was it merely a smokescreen to cover up the real reason: to keep Trump from winning the presidency or take him down if he did?

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As the saying goes, timing is everything. Recent revelations keep pushing back the beginning of the CIA and FBI investigation into "Russian hacking" or "meddling" in the 2016 election further and further in time.

This is significant, since the farther back in time the actual origin of the spying on Trump, the less likely it is that it had anything to do with Russian involvement in the 2016 elections, but everything to do with stopping the surprising surge of Trump during the GOP primaries and beyond.

Increasingly, a political motive seems not only likely, but almost certain.

In a recent piece that warrants a thorough reading, Andrew C. McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney who now writes for the National Review, painstakingly dismantles the multiple lies told about how and when the spying on Trump began.

There is what he calls "The Original Origination Story" that involves little-known Trump adviser Carter Page. He visited Moscow in July 2016, three months after hooking on to the Trump campaign.

According to former MI6 British spy Christopher Steele's now infamous dossier on Trump, Page's trip was when the alleged Trump-Russia plan to hack the Democratic National Committee was born.

The only problem is, the Steele dossier has been exposed as a fanciful product of the Clinton campaign and the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which hired Steele. And the main assertions were based on hearsay from Russian officials, and never validated.

Even so, the FBI and Justice Department used the dossier to apply to the FISA court to tap Page's communications and, as a result, much of the rest of the Trump campaign.

In doing so, the FBI broke its own rules and, worse, the Obama Justice Department withheld the fact from the FISA court that the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee were responsible for the dossier.

Then there was what McCarthy calls "Origination Story 2.0."

This involves George Papadopoulos, a young, also little-known Trump aide. At a May 2016 meeting in a London pub, he told Australian diplomat Alexander Downer about an academic named Josef Mifsud with Kremlin ties who told Papadopoulos that the Kremlin had a huge number of emails that could be damaging to Hillary Clinton.

Democrats point to this as proof that Trump had colluded to hack the DNC. But as McCarthy notes, there's a major flaw in that logic: "If Russia already had the emails and was alerting the Trump campaign to that fact, the campaign could not have been involved in the hacking."

Moreover, Democrats insist Mifsud's comments about emails referred to the DNC emails that were, in fact, hacked by Russians.

But that's not the case. Papadopoulos has said he thought Mifsud was talking about the more than 30,000 emails that Hillary Clinton "accidentally" had deleted from her illegal unsecured home email server.

So if those didn't set up the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, what did?

In fact, says McCarthy, the real origin of the investigation appears to have been in Spring of 2016, before Papadopoulos' conversation with the Australian ambassador in May and also before Page's visit to Moscow in July.

It started with James Comey briefing President Obama's National Security Council about Carter Page, likely sometime in mid-Spring.

Why? Well, both Page and Paul Manafort, another Trump adviser, had business ties to Russia, which, perhaps justifiably, concerned the FBI.

But rather than telling the Trump campaign about their concerns, or even moving against the Russians, the Justice Department and the FBI starting treating Trump's campaign like a criminal enterprise.

Instead of continuing to interview Page, or Manafort, or Papadopoulos, they inserted a spy, Stefan Halper, in the campaign, and tapped its phones. It had the earmarks of a political hit, not an actual investigation.

As for the CIA, another line of inquiry finds they also were busy early on pursuing Trump.

George Neumayr, writing in The American Spectator, notes that CIA Director John Brennan used the flimsy excuse of a tip from the Estonian intelligence agency that Putin was giving money to the Trump campaign to form an "inter-agency taskforce" on supposed Trump-Russia collusion in 2016. It met at CIA headquarters, spy central.

The Estonian tip didn't pan out, but the task force remained.

"Both before and after the FBI's official probe began in late July 2016," wrote Neumayr, "Brennan was bringing together into the same room at CIA headquarters a cast of Trump haters across the Obama administration whose activities he could direct — from Peter Strzok, the FBI liaison to Brennan, to the doltish (Director of National Intelligence) Jim Clapper, Brennan's errand boy, to an assortment of Brennan's buddies at the Treasury Department, Justice Department, and White House."

It eventually led, on July 31, 2016, to the creation FBI's "Crossfire Hurricane" program to spy against the Trump campaign.

What we're discovering is that the investigations and spying on the Trump campaign for evidence of possible collusion with Russia appear to have begun well before the CIA and FBI said they did.

And it all arose from progressive, pro-Hillary embeds deep within the Deep State and at the top of key Obama agencies, people who could use their positions of supposed Olympian objectivity to mask their political bias — and to ignore years of evidence that Hillary Clinton had colluded with the Russians for her own financial benefit.

As McCarthy concluded: "The Trump-Russia investigation did not originate with Page or Papadopoulos. It originated with the Obama administration."

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15. ObamaCare Failure: Uninsured Rate Hasn't Budged In 3 Years, CDC SaysЧт., 24 мая[−]

Health Reform: For three years running, the uninsured rate has remained unchanged, new government data show. That means, despite massive taxpayer costs, ObamaCare is tapped out. It's time to try something better.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control, the overall uninsured rate last year was 9.1%, the same as it was in 2015.

If you take out retirees, who are automatically covered by Medicare, the uninsured rate was 10.7% last year, up a fraction from 10.5% in 2015.

The uninsured rate for the near poor hasn't budged in three years. And it's climbed for those characterized by the CDC as "not poor." It went from 6.6% in 2015 to 7.2% in 2017.

(Gallup, which surveys far fewer households than the CDC, has shown the uninsured rate climbing in 2017.)

ObamaCare defenders are quick to say that these numbers are still well below where they were in 2010, the year President Obama signed ObamaCare into law. And that's true. The overall uninsured rate in 2010 was 16%. Even if you go back to 2007 — the last year before the recession — it was 14.5%.

So, score one for ObamaCare.

But, the CDC data also show that, despite all the hoopla over how ObamaCare would "fix" the private insurance market, all the gains in coverage under ObamaCare came from getting more people on Medicaid.

In other words, it was ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion that did all the work of reducing the uninsured rate, not the guaranteed issue rules, benefit mandates, the multibillion dollar ObamaCare exchanges, the failed co-op experiments, the insurance bailouts, or the tens of billions of dollars each year premium subsidies.

Here are the numbers (we use 2007 data for comparison because it was the peak year before the recession, and unemployment rate was around 4.5%):

CDC data show that the uninsured rate among those under age 65 declined from 16.4% in 2007 to 12.4% in 2017.

However, over those same years the share covered by private insurance dropped from 66.8% to 65.4%.

The share with government insurance, meanwhile, shot up from 18.1% to 25.3%.

If all ObamaCare did was expand Medicaid, it almost certainly would have achieved the same reduction in uninsured.

That's not to say the Medicaid expansion was a good idea. Medicaid's problems with fraud and abuse, doctor shortages, and budget-busting costs are legion. One very large study found that the health of those on Medicaid wasn't significantly better than those who lacked insurance altogether. Medicaid is in desperate need of reform, and ObamaCare opened the door to this disastrous program to millions more people.

At the same time, ObamaCare failed to "reform" the private insurance market. If anything, it exacerbated the problems. ObamaCare's mandates and regulations forced premiums in the individual insurance market through the roof, pricing many middle-class families out of the insurance market altogether.

So, if ObamaCare's combination of government regulation and huge taxpayer subsidies can't boost private coverage, then perhaps another approach would work better.

Say, for example, reforms that rely on private sector competition to keep health costs low and quality high — just like it does in every other part of the economy. That means less federal regulation, not more, more options for cheap insurance, not less, and more incentives for consumers to economize on their health care spending.

Republicans miserably failed to make the case for free market reforms in their last attempt at repealing ObamaCare. That doesn't mean they should stop trying. And now that ObamaCare's failures are plain for all to see, Republicans are in a stronger position than they were a year ago.

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16. The Globalization Of Threats — From Terrorism To Disease — Is An Unavoidable FactЧт., 24 мая[−]

Those who find "globalists" to be villains should attend to recent events in Congo. In the remote region of a remote country, government agencies and international institutions identified by sterile acronyms are working to prevent the spread of a disease that could result in the swift globalization of panic.

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This week could well prove decisive in Congo's current Ebola outbreak — which started in April and, at this writing, counts 40-some probable and confirmed cases. If the disease remains largely rural and grows by ones and twos, contact tracing and the use of an experimental vaccine are likely to remain on top of things. If there are outbursts in multiple parts of the city of Mbandaka — which counts more than 1 million people — or clusters are found downriver in Kinshasa, it will mean trouble.

The good news? The response to this outbreak, according to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, is "vastly further along" than four years ago in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Last time, the World Health Organization (WHO) was slow, confused and ineffective. This time, teams from WHO and Doctors Without Borders were quickly on the scene. WHO's new director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, visited the site of the outbreak within weeks. Stockpiles of the vaccine being deployed had already been prepositioned in Liberia and Mali, with the help of the global vaccine alliance GAVI. Congo's health minister, Oly Ilunga Kalenga, has been in daily contact with Anthony Fauci's staff at the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (When I talked to Fauci, Kalenga had contacted him 15 minutes before with a request). All involved knew this day would eventually come, and they have been preparing for it.

There are serious challenges in responding to a highly infectious disease in the rural Equateur province, parts of which can only be reached by helicopter. But medical authorities have some new tools, including the more aggressive use of experimental drugs.

The vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV seemed dramatically effective during the West African outbreak four years ago, but circumstances did not allow for a controlled trial. About 4,000 doses are now in Congo — with perhaps 3,000 more on the way — and health authorities are in the process of creating a cold chain of refrigeration to deliver the drugs where they are needed. They will be deployed in a strategy called "ring vaccination," in which anyone who has been in contact with an Ebola victim, and anyone who has been in contact with those contacts, is vaccinated.

There is also a second vaccine and a NIH-developed anti-viral treatment (which only appears to be helpful when administered within five days of becoming sick) that may be employed in Congo.

Congo has had eight outbreaks of Ebola before this one — each of them eventually defeated. A lot of good people, representing a number of global institutions, are working to ensure that the ninth ends the same way.

Like tremors before the "big one," every defeated outbreak provides a frightening hint at what an epidemic might look like. The West African Ebola outbreak of 2014 took about 11,000 lives. If it had spread into the cities of Nigeria, the levels of death and global panic would have spiraled beyond control. But this is not even the worst prospect. A flu pandemic — with a strain that is easily transmitted and has a high mortality rate — could take tens of millions of lives.

When it comes to health, the world has become a single, massive body. A serious infection arriving at the weakest part of the immune system — say the health systems of West Africa — can easily spread to the whole. This argues for strengthening our health defenses — the ability to detect and respond to pandemic threats — in remote places. And it will require vaccines that can ring a disease and make a global immune response more effective.

At NIH, Collins has been pushing hard for the development of a universal flu vaccine, which would be broadly protective against pandemic strains. Funding that effort could end up the most important spending in the entire budget.

The globalization of threats — from terrorism to pandemic disease — is a bare, unavoidable fact. And it will only be met and mastered by determined, heroic globalists.


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17. Millennial Generation's Faith In Free Enterprise Can Be RestoredСр., 23 мая[−]

The last class of the millennial generation will graduate from college this month. These graduates enter the workforce deeply skeptical of the free enterprise system, and more likely than previous generations to embrace socialism.

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It's up to us in the business community to lead by example and to prove the values that younger Americans prize — opportunity, independence, social consciousness, and entrepreneurship — flourish under free markets.

It's up to us to show this generation, and future generations, that profitability and giving back aren't at cross-purposes. The two have always intersected, but the rise in social impact investing shows conscious capitalism is not only here to stay, but is thriving.

Given their childhood experiences, it's difficult to blame this generation for their mistrust of capitalism. Born between 1981 and 1996, these young people were either in school or starting their first jobs when the global financial crisis hit. They've lived the results of the crisis. A parent probably lost a job. Maybe the family's mortgage was under water.

Americans who grew up in the Great Depression carried the scars of scarcity with them their entire lives. The millennial generation's skepticism reflects their pain from the Great Recession, and the lack of leadership from business to lead us out of the downturn in a responsible manner.

Practically, these young people also have only vague ideas of how socialism actually works. Their attraction to these systems isn't due to familiarity. That's good news: this generation isn't devoted to socialism. If business leaders live the principles of conscious capitalism, we can convince today's graduates, and future ones, that American free enterprise works for all Americans.

Here's how we do that.

First, we must not only acknowledge there are predatory actors, we must help root them out, punish them appropriately, and refuse to do business with them. We must recommit ourselves to transparency, inclusion, and to promoting workers through advancement and fair wages. Through actions, not words, we can demonstrate that the vast majority of U.S. businesses use capital to improve lives, drive progress, and enhance culture. We can prove it's a few individuals and companies that are flawed, not free enterprise.

Like all Americans, who gave nearly $400 billion to nonprofits last year, businesses are charitable. The Conference Board surveyed more than 250 multi-billion dollar companies across the globe and found they gave a total of $20.9 billion in 2017. Nine in ten surveyed companies match employees' charitable contributions and 61% allow employees paid time off to volunteer. Those numbers are impressive, but we can still do better and more.

Measuring social impact must be embedded in companies' missions. At my asset management firm, we ask how many jobs our investments will create. We ask how much growth they'll generate, and whether they'll expand the tax base instead of diminish it. And we track outcomes. We also give millions of dollars in direct charitable contributions every year to educational, development, and arts organizations in the communities where we operate and invest.

That's good citizenship, but it's also good business. You cannot sustain long-term profit when towns and entire regions are dying. Social impact investing ensures the future health of companies, and also will help executives attract top talent. As BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has said, Americans "demand companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose."

To attract younger millennial workers at a time when we face serious labor shortages, conscious capitalists must demonstrate how we do good things with our capital.

My grandparents started a business in 1937. One Friday in the middle of World War II they found themselves with $3 in profits after paying their employees. My grandfather gave the money to the young war widow who lived next door. The way he saw it, she needed it more. My grandmother told that story for years, using colorful language to describe my grandfather. But I knew she loved him for it — we all did.

As his grandson, I admired him for it, and try to live every day by the example he set.

I believe in American free enterprise, and I believe those who practice it do it not only for their benefit, but for the benefit of their communities and country. Through diligent action, we can convince the millennial generation too.

  • Hitt is an American businessman and investor whose assets span real estate, construction, energy, finance, and hospitality. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHitt.

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18. So They Were Spying On Trump's CampaignСр., 23 мая[−]

Months ago, the Old Media proclaimed that President Donald Trump was more than a bit nutty in insisting his campaign was the subject of surveillance by the Obama administration. Now it's emerging that this wasn't the slightest bit nutty.

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The New York Times reported — in a tone much like having its fingernails dragged across a chalkboard — that the FBI used an "informant" (not a "spy"!) to chat up (and in one case, dangle money at) Trump staffers and investigate Russian finagling with the 2016 election.

As one might expect, since this is considered a "pro-Trump" narrative, it must be shot down, even as the facts are coming together. Writing in the Daily Beast, "conservative" CNN political commentator Matt Lewis warned that "there are tens of millions of Americans living in this alternative universe" who think this spying on "inexperienced and sketchy" Trump campaign aides was "nefarious." "(Y)ou have to believe that the intelligence community is wholly corrupt and utterly politicized — that there was a conspiracy (at least, at the top) to stop Trump from becoming president," he said. "(T)his requires a conspiratorial mind."

That's funny. Right after the election, that was the sour-grapes line from Team Clinton. A "vast right-wing conspiracy" at the FBI under former Director James Comey conspired to stop Clinton from becoming president with his blundering announcements about her private email server. But that wasn't considered nutty. That was what good Democrats believed. Once Trump fired Comey, the campaign conspiracy narrative switched sides.

Here's what conservatives can declare to Matt Lewis: Our media are wholly corrupt and utterly politicized and were transparently dedicated to stopping Trump from becoming president. That's not a kooky conspiracy theory. No one who witnessed their reporting in 2015 and 2016 should doubt it. It would not have been difficult for Team Obama to collude with them.

We would ask Lewis: Doesn't pushing the idea that Trump colluded with the Russians require "a conspiratorial mind"? Is it fair to speculate endlessly on CNN and MSNBC about how special counsel Robert Mueller might prove collusion, when he hasn't done so after a year of trying? The media don't have to prove their Trump conspiracy theory to damage Trump's political standing. It can keep that black cloud of speculation hanging over his head on every front page and every newscast.

Try this intellectual exercise: Imagine that the Justice Department under former President George W. Bush had sent a spy/informant into the Obama campaign in 2008 to see whether foreign powers were attempting to influence its "inexperienced and sketchy" aides. Hundreds of media heads would have exploded.

Now we're at a point where we should be asking what Obama's top intelligence hacks, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-CIA Director John Brennan, were cooking in 2016. But guess what. CNN hired Clapper, and NBC News hired Brennan. Now they are paid by the networks to tell the folks at home that Trump is nutty for insisting they did anything nefarious. Were Clapper and Brennan leaking anti-Trump dirt to the networks that have since hired them? Wouldn't that look "wholly corrupt and utterly politicized"?

John Fund wrote in National Review that while in a greenroom of a network, he asked a journalist this question: Can't the media spend time exploring why Team Obama sent a spy/informant into the opposing party's campaign? "There's only room for one narrative on all this," the reporter replied. "And it's all about Trump." So much for following the facts wherever they lead instead of carefully curating facts against Trump.

Why must Matt Lewis and his media pals bemoan "two Americas" — one painted as soberly fact-based and the other destined for a rubber room — instead of considering both narratives?

  • 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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19. How the Russia Investigation Helps TrumpСр., 23 мая[−]

This week, for the first time in months, a generic ballot poll showed Republicans beating Democrats in the midterm elections. According to Reuters, Republicans are now leading by six points. And while that poll is obviously an outlier, the movement of the generic ballot in the direction of Republicans isn't: The average lead for Democrats has been dropping steadily since late February, from a nine-point lead to a four-point lead.

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Why?

Certainly, the economy has something to do with it: The job market continues to boom; the stock market continues to hover around 25,000; and GDP continues to grow steadily. And, certainly, foreign policy has something to do with it: There are no catastrophic foreign wars on the horizon, and President Trump's gutsy calls to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem resulted in zero serious backlash.

Democrats opposed the Trump tax cuts and have whined incessantly about Trump's Middle East foreign policy, even going so far as to demonstrate a certain level of warmth toward terrorist group Hamas. This isn't exactly brilliant politicking.

But there's another reason Democrats seem to be dropping like a stone, too: their Russia obsession. The reality is most Americans think the Russia investigation is going nowhere. As of early May, just 44 percent of Americans though the FBI special counsel investigation of President Trump and his associates is justified; fifty-three percent thought that the investigation is politically motivated. Three-quarters of Americans think Trump should cooperate with the probe, but Americans are skeptical that there is a there there.

And so far, Americans have been right. Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has resulted in indictments of Trump associates on a charge of lying to the FBI, but there have been no indictments related to the original brief of his investigation: election collusion with the Russians. Meanwhile, each day seems to bring new headlines regarding the extent of the FBI investigation, dating all the way back to mid-2016. Americans aren't going to read all the details of the various stories — they're just going to take away that law enforcement was all over the Trump campaign, has come up with nothing thus far and continues to hound the Trump White House.

Furthermore, Democrats are getting discouraged. They were promised a deus ex machina — an alien force that would swoop in to end the Trump presidency. They hoped it would be Mueller; they were convinced the election was stolen. It wasn't, and it's unlikely Mueller will end Trump's presidency.

So when Trump fulminates about the supposed sins of the "deep state," few Americans are exercised. Most shrug; some even nod along. Democrats seethe but have no new fodder for their ire — and every day that passes with the media chumming the waters and coming up empty drives down enthusiasm even more. And Trump's focus on Russia means that he spends less time tweeting about other topics — which helps him, since he's less likely to make a grave error on those fronts.

If Mueller truly has nothing, there's a serious case to be made that the Russia collusion investigation actually helped Trump more than it hurt him. And Democrats might just have to come up with a plan for dealing with Trump's policies other than praying for an avenging angel to frog-march him from the White House.

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

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20. In Real Life, Junk Science Often Ensnares The InnocentСр., 23 мая[−]

On TV crime shows like "CSI," "NCIS" and "Law & Order," science gets the bad guys.

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In real life, "science" often ensnares the innocent.

Former NYPD Detective Harry Houck gets annoyed when TV shows make forensic science look infallible.

"You watch a detective get down and look at a body (and say), 'He's been dead for three hours now ... (H)e ate dinner four hours ago,'" scoffs Houck. "I can't do that."

On TV, experts identify killers by their bite marks. In real life, experts claim they can do that.

The TV show "Cold Case Files" covered the trial of Alfred Swinton. He was convicted of murder because a bite-mark expert said his teeth matched a bite on the victim.

"A perfect match!" said Dr. Gus Karazulas, the "forensic odontologist" whose testimony clinched the conviction.

Karazulas sounded impartial and objective. "A forensic scientist is not on the side of the prosecutor or defense," he said on "Cold Case Files." "We look at the evidence."

But Swinton was innocent. Lawyer Chris Fabricant helped get him released from jail by doing a DNA test, a much more reliable, less subjective form of science.

Fabricant scoffs at bite-mark testimony: "The doctor was just wrong. It's an unreliable technique."

The more room there is for an expert witness's unique interpretation of the data, the more that can go wrong, says Fabricant. "Bite mark is similar to you and I looking at a cloud. I say to you, 'John, doesn't that cloud look like a rabbit?' And you say, 'Yeah, Chris, I think that does look like a rabbit.'"

That kind of junk science puts innocent people in jail.

I told Fabricant that I assumed most people in jail are guilty. Also, many people say crime is down because aggressive law enforcement has locked so many people up.

"If you think that maybe even 1% of convicted defendants may be innocent," replied Fabricant, "we have 2.6 million people in prison today, (so) we are talking about tens of thousands of (innocent) people!"

Fabricant works with the Innocence Project, a group that works to get innocent people freed from prison. Through DNA evidence, the project's lawyers have helped free 191 people.

That confident bite-mark expert who got Swinton convicted now admits he was wrong. "Bite mark evidence is junk science," he told us via email. He resigned from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

But police still trust bite marks.

"Let's say one tooth is missing in the front" of a bite mark, explains Houck. "You've got to go, well, our suspect's got one tooth missing in the front. That's pretty good!"

Houck says he'd demand other evidence. But not all cops do — especially when scientific "experts" say someone's guilty.

Bite marks are just one dubious method police and prosecutors use.

FBI researchers claim fingerprints are right more than 99% of the time. But that still leaves plenty of wrongful convictions.

After terrorists killed 193 people in Madrid, the FBI matched a fingerprint on a terrorist's bag to a man in Oregon named Brandon Mayfield. They arrested him. But Mayfield was innocent. Weeks later, Spanish investigators compared the prints more carefully and found the real terrorist.

Other techniques are even less accurate: carpet-fiber evidence, gun tracing, use of psychics, hair matching.

"A dog hair was associated wrongfully with a human hair," says Fabricant. "Since the turn of this century, there have been 75 wrongful convictions (based on hair matches)."

Why do judges and lawyers accept such dubious evidence?

"We all went to law school because we don't know science, we don't know math," he replied. "If somebody comes in in a white lab coat, and says, 'I've been accredited by the American Board of Forensic Odontology,' that's good enough for government work."

That shouldn't be. Too much is at stake.

Jurors tend to believe people who call themselves "scientists."

Judges should be more skeptical. They should ban junk science from courtrooms.

  • Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed."

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21. Bad News For Dems: Household Income Hits All-Time High Under Trump … And He's Getting Credit For ItСр., 23 мая[−]

Growth: A new report shows that the median household income has climbed 3% since President Trump took office. It's another sign of a strong economy, and at least one poll shows the public credits Trump for the good news. Should Democrats wave bye to the Blue Wave?

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Median household income has been steadily increasing under Trump, rising from $59,471 in January 2017 to $61,483 last month, according to Sentier Research, which tracks income on a monthly basis using census data.

This also means that household income is now higher than it's been in at least 50 years — after adjusting for inflation.

This is a sharp turnaround from the Obama years. Sentier data show that median household income was the same when President Obama left office as when he arrived. Under Obama, household incomes continued to fall steeply for two full years after the recession officially ended, and then took four years to make up that lost ground. Incomes then flatlined again, posting no overall gain between August 2015 and December 2016.

This is just another indication that the economy has notably strengthened under Trump. And polls show that the public's mood has brightened considerably as a result.

The latest IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index is 53.6. This index has been in positive territory (anything over 50 is optimistic) since Trump took office. The Quality of Life Index, meanwhile, hit a 14-year high in May and the Financial Stress Index is at an all-time low.

Gallup's tracking poll shows that 67% now say it's a good time to find "a quality job in the U.S.," which is the highest since Gallup started asking this question 17 years ago. The best this measure ever got under Obama was a paltry 45%.

CNN's poll finds that 57% now say "things are going well in the U.S.," up from just 49% in February.

The latest CBS News/YouGov poll found that 64% rate the economy as somewhat or very good.

Wave Bye To The Blue Wave?

But what must really concern Democrats is that 68% of the public now says Trump's policies deserve at least some of the credit, according to the CBS poll. Thirty-five percent say he deserves a "great deal" of credit for the current economy, while only 11% say he deserves none at all.

That same poll found the Democratic advantage in the "generic ballot" at only +2 points. The latest Reuters poll has Republicans up by almost 6 points. As recently as March, Democrats had an average 9-point lead on this question — which is seen as an indicator of the enthusiasm for the two parties going into the midterm elections in November.

Trump's approval numbers have also been eking out steady gains.

Naturally, this spate of good news has garnered little attention in the press, which remains fixated on the phony Russia scandal and, more broadly, on bringing down the Trump administration.

So, does Trump deserve credit for the upturn in the economy?

Consider this: President Obama raised taxes, imposed massive new regulations and mandates, and routinely berated the private sector. The economy responded with the worst economic recovery in modern times.

Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress have gone in the exact opposite direction, with sweeping tax cuts and significant deregulation. And since then we've seen growth, income, optimism all moving upward.

Given that, we think the public has it right for giving Trump credit for this turnaround.

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22. Trump Iran Policy Ends Disastrous Obama Era Of Nuclear Appeasement — FinallyСр., 23 мая[−]

Iran Nukes: While all the hoopla over Deep-State spying on President Trump gets the media attention, something else important happened this week: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, not even one month on the job, unveiled a new U.S. strategy to deal with Iran.

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What's significant is that the new strategy is a complete reversal of the make-nice policies that prevailed under President Obama. Gone are the gentle nudges intended to cause marginal shifts in Iran's behavior; instead, the new strategy boldly aims for regime change in Iran. Whether it works or not, it is a worthwhile goal.

In a major speech that didn't get the attention it deserved, Pompeo, speaking at the Heritage Foundation, made clear the strategy followed will be very different than President Obama's 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which only focused on a temporary, 10-year halt to Iran's nuclear weapons activities — but didn't address the other things it does, including aiding terrorism around the world and destabilizing its neighbors in the Mideast.

Pompeo was admirably clear: If Iran ends its nuclear weapons program and halts its support of terrorism, the U.S. will help it with trade, aid and reintegrating it into the "international community."

If not, he said, "The sting of sanctions will be painful if the regime does not change its course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen to one that rejoins the league of nations."

He further warned of the "strongest sanctions in history" if Iran does not end its dangerous and threatening behavior.

"The regime has been fighting all over the Middle East for years," Pompeo said. "After our sanctions come in force, it will be battling to keep its economy alive."

Iran Regime Change

Hard words to be sure. But Obama's genial blandishments didn't change Iran's behavior; to the contrary, it became increasingly belligerent toward the west and its military and terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah have meddled in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere.

Iran had been pushed to the wall by sanctions in 2015. But the JCPOA deal, signed along with Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany, eased sanctions and gave Tehran access to nearly $150 billion in badly needed cash.

The result, Pompeo said: "Iran continues to be, during the JCPOA, the world's largest sponsor of terror."

He listed 12 steps for Iran to rejoin the international community of nations, among them: It must halt its uranium enrichment program; shut down its heavy water reactor; let International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors verify changes in the nuclear program without any restrictions on where they go; stop making and testing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles; release U.S. citizens now in Iranian prisons; stop supporting terrorist groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, Yemen's Houthis and the Taliban; withdraw from Syria; and stop threatening its neighbors.

Yes, quite a list. But as Pompeo rightly noted, "We didn't create the list, they did."

But the goal really extends beyond the list. Because it's clear from these actions, and from Pompeo's own words, that the U.S. is now really backing something else entirely: regime change. Iranians have been taking to the streets to demonstrate for more freedoms in recent months, including anti-hijab protests by women.

This contrasts sharply with the summer of 2009, when protesters spontaneously took to the streets across Iran and in Tehran, and the Obama administration said...nothing. It was a tragic failure of moral leadership on the part of the U.S. The Trump plan undoes that.

"At the end of the day, the Iranian people will get to make a choice about their leadership," Pompeo said. "If they make the decision quickly, that would be wonderful."

As with its tough-love policy toward North Korea, the new Trump-Pompeo policy is quite tough. But given the failure of the Obama-Kerry Iran nuclear deal to alter Iran's behavior, the alternatives are few. The U.S. also faces opposition from China, Russia and its European partners, all of whom have lucrative financial ties to Iran's fundamentalist Islamic regime.

For nearly 40 years since the Iranian revolution, the U.S. has largely ignored some of Iran's worst behavior in an effort to buy nuclear peace. It didn't work. Now a new strategy is in place, one that will replace an unworkable "nuclear deal" of only 10 years in duration with a lasting treaty that's meant to last forever.

Will it work? We certainly hope so. As a recent IBD/TIPP Poll shows, Americans want Trump to be tough on Iran's nuclear program.

Iran is an ancient civilization, and its people deserve their freedom. At the very least, the U.S. and the West should stop colluding in the Iranian peoples' oppression. This plan is a much-needed first step.

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23. Why the Left Won't Call Anyone 'Animals'Вт., 22 мая[−]

If you want to understand the moral sickness at the heart of leftism, read the first paragraph of the most recent column by Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne:

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"It's never right to call other human beings 'animals.' It's not something we should even have to debate. No matter how debased the behavior of a given individual or group, no matter how much legitimate anger that genuinely evil actions might inspire, dehumanizing others always leads us down a dangerous path."

Let's begin with the first sentence: "It's never right to call other human beings 'animals.'"

This is so self-evident to Dionne that he adds, "It's not something we should even have to debate."

Only someone who has never debated the issue could make such a claim.

So allow me to debate the assertion.

My view is the antithesis of Dionne's. As I see it, it is not right to never call another human being an "animal."

Calling the cruelest among us names such as "animal" or any other "dehumanizing" epithet actually protects humans. The word "beastly" exists for a reason and is frequently applied to human beings. By rhetorically reading certain despicable people out of the human race, we elevate the human race. We have declared certain behaviors out of line with being human.

Biologically, of course, we are all human. But if "human" is to mean anything moral -- anything beyond the purely biological -- then some people who have committed particularly heinous acts of evil against other human beings are not to be considered human. Otherwise "human" has no moral being. We should then not retain the word "inhumane." What is the difference between "he is inhumane" and "he is an animal"? Both imply actions that render the person no longer human.

Dionne provides his answer at the end of the paragraph: "dehumanizing others always leads us down a dangerous path."

He provides not a single argument or illustration for this truly absurd comment.

Anyone who refuses to "dehumanize" the Nazi physicians -- who, with no anesthesia, froze naked people for hours and then dropped them in boiling water to rewarm them; put people in depressurized rooms where their eardrums burst, driving them out of their minds from pain; rubbed wood shavings and ground glass into infected wounds, etc. -- is, to put it very gently, profoundly morally confused.

What would Dionne have us call those Nazi physicians -- "not nice," "badly flawed," "evil"? Why is rhetorically ostracizing them from the human race "a dangerous path"? He doesn't have an answer because he lives in the left's world of moral-sounding platitudes. Leftism consists almost entirely of moral-sounding platitudes -- statements meant to make the person making them feel morally sophisticated. But based on their relative reactions to the sadists of the MS-13 gangs, I trust Donald Trump's moral compass more than E. J. Dionne's.

It is ever dangerous to use dehumanizing rhetoric on people? Of course -- when it is directed at people based on their race, religion, ethnicity, nationality or any other immutable physical characteristic. The Nazis did what they did to Jews and others because they dehumanized them based on their religious/ethnic/racial identity. That's why racism is evil. But why is it dangerous to use such rhetoric on people based on their behavior? By equating labeling the cruelest among us "animals" with labeling Jews "animals," Dionne cheapens the fight against real evil.

I once asked Rabbi Leon Radzik, a Holocaust survivor who had been in Auschwitz, what word he would use to characterize the sadistic guards in the camp. I will never forget his response: "They were monsters with a human face."

Incredibly, Dionne would not agree with him.

  • Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His latest book, published by Regnery in April 2018, is "The Rational Bible," a commentary on the book of Exodus. He is the founder of Prager University.

Other columns by Dennis Prager

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24. Trade Deals Must Protect Intellectual Property RightsВт., 22 мая[−]

Donald Trump is now deep into trade negotiations with China and NAFTA 2.0 negotiations with Canada and Mexico. We are strong free traders, but we believe that Trump's plans to negotiate better trade agreements that reduce trade barriers abroad are right on the mark. He also has to make sure those deals fully protect U.S. intellectual property, or what is commonly called know-how.

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American investments, ingenuity and entrepreneurship have made intellectual property one of our nation's most important assets. IP-intensive industries, including software, biotechnology and entertainment, now support nearly one-third of all U.S. jobs. But too often, our foreign trading partners take unfair advantage of our IP innovations to enrich themselves at our expense.

This is glaringly evident in the pharmaceutical sector.

American pharmaceutical companies are the runaway global leaders in developing new prescription drugs. This requires massive outlays of capital. A 2014 Tufts study estimated the cost of developing and bringing a prescription drug to market at $2.6 billion. These eye-popping R&D investments that U.S. pharma makes in new medications are especially important in biologics, the revolutionary class of drugs that holds great promise in addressing some of our most serious health challenges, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's and more.

Making those huge outlays of shareholders' money becomes harder to justify when foreign companies reap the benefits. U.S. law requires 12 years of exclusivity for new biologic medicines. In Canada, those same drugs are protected for only eight years; and Mexico, in some cases, provides no protection at all unless drug manufacturers are willing to go through an expensive legal process.

Trump's trade negotiators need assurances from our trading partners that these drugs and vaccines are not stolen and that American companies are paid a fair price for the lifesaving drugs they have worked to bring to market. Holding Mexico, Canada and China to the same legal standards we abide by in the U.S. would save billions of dollars — money that can be reinvested in new research to produce even more innovative treatments.

There is another reason why fair pricing of U.S. pharmaceuticals must be covered by negotiated trade deals, and it is related to Donald Trump's goal of reducing the costs paid by seniors and families for drugs and vaccines here at home.

It is very simple: When other nations impose price controls on American-produced prescription drugs (and threaten to steal the patents and produce the drugs themselves if these companies don't comply), it means that American consumers pay higher prices here at home to cover the R&D costs. This is unfair to American consumers. It is one reason our health care costs are higher than other nations'.

So rather than imposing price controls here at home, which would severely slow the development of new lifesaving drugs, we should shut down the price controls abroad as a key condition of new trade deals.

The theft of American intellectual property has been going on for years with impunity, and now it's the elephant in the room of trade deals. The United States Trade Representative estimates that the IP thievery perpetrated by China alone costs us between $225 billion and $600 billion each year. China also accounts for a major share of stolen U.S. trade secrets. That costs us another $180 billion to $540 billion annually. Millions of U.S. jobs are lost because of the unfair trade practices routinely employed by China and other countries.

Intellectual property is every bit as vital to our economy — if not more so — than steel or aluminum. America leads the world in computer software; drugs; artificial intelligence; patents; trademarks; and music, entertainment and other creative industries. But how long can that last when competitor nations are ripping off our entrepreneurial companies to the tune of half a trillion dollars a year?

  • Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with Freedom Works. He is the co-author of "Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy." Forbes is editor-in-chief of Forbes.

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25. Spying On Trump: Was Obama Behind CIA, FBI Plan To Elect Hillary?Вт., 22 мая[−]

Political Spying: As Robert Mueller's chimerical Russia-Trump collusion probe grinds on, a real possible crime has been revealed: the collusion between the Justice Department, the FBI, the Clinton campaign and, possibly, the Obama administration, to plant a spy in the Trump campaign.

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If so, as some say, it's bigger than Watergate.

The spy's name is Stefan Halper, a professor at Cambridge University who has high-level ties to both U.S. and British intelligence, as Daily Caller New Foundation investigative reporter Chuck Ross discovered.

The revelation made Trump livid, and rightly so, as his tweet on Sunday afternoon plainly showed: "I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the (FBI and Department of Justice) infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political purposes — and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!"

Both the New York Times and Washington Post knew the professor's name, but coyly decided not to reveal it, citing intelligence officials' warnings that to do so would might endanger him or other intelligence contacts.

The Daily Caller's Ross, using Google and the copious information about the "informant" in the Times and Post pieces, was easily able to identify Halper.

The debate over semantics of how to refer to Halper is amusing, but serious. Trump-hating mainstream media, echoing the FBI's and Justice Department's preferred term, call Halper an "informant," not a "spy."

Why? Because, if it turns out that putting a spy into Trump's presidential campaign was a ctually political rather than for national security, it would be plainly illegal. A lot of people could have careers ruined or go to prison.

The FBI, it was reported last week, even had a name for the larger program of spying on the Trump campaign: "Operation Crossfire Hurricane," cribbed from the Rolling Stones hit "Jumpin' Jack Flash." As part of this, now we know they had at least one spy in the Trump campaign.

As the New York Times reported, the project began in earnest in August 2016 "after the CIA director at the time, John O. Brennan, shared intelligence with Mr. (James) Comey showing that the Russian government was behind an attack on the 2016 presidential election. Intelligence agencies began collaborating to investigate that operation. The Crossfire Hurricane team was part of that group but largely operated independently, three officials said."

Despite repeated denials, the CIA and FBI were using Russian meddling in the election as an excuse to have Halper spy on the Trump campaign. A long-time CIA asset who worked for the Nixon administration, Halper was the son-in-law of former CIA Deputy Director Ray Cline, and still directs the Cambridge Security Initiative, a "non-profit" intelligence consultancy that Ross noted "lists 'UK and US government agencies' among its clients."

Halper is also a close colleague of Sir Richard Dearlove, formerly the head of Britain's MI6 spy agency.

Hmmm. Halper was the r ecipient of more than $400,000 in payments from the Department of Defense's Office of Net Assessment (ONA) — an internal Defense intelligence think tank — from July of 2016 to September 2017, after Halper spied on Trump campaign officials George Papadopoulos and Carter Page.

Halper's "unmasking" as the mole in Trump's campaign raises many questions.

Were those legitimate payments from ONA for past research, or was it used to pay for espionage services rendered to the Deep State? If the latter, it would be a gross violation of U.S. law.

More troubling are Halper's extensive intelligence links. As a dual U.S.-British citizen and his close ties to both British and U.S. intelligence, did he task British assets to spy on Trump?

Was Britain's government a party to this? Did it know about Crossfire Hurricane? Or that Halper was spying on the Trump campaign? If so, it would not be the act of an ally.

In addition, what role did Halper play, if any, in engaging former British MI6 Russian spy Christopher Steele? Did Halper haven anything to do with getting Russian officials to make phony claims about Trump for his "dossier" in order to taint the Trump campaign?

Far more seriously, was this coordinated from the Obama administration through the State Department, Justice Department and FBI, to aid the Clinton campaign and salvage President Obama's legacy?

As Sara Carter has reported, "The House Select Committee on Intelligence is now investigating former Secretary of State John F. Kerry's possible role into the unverified dossier paid for by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton Campaign...The dossier, assembled by a former British spy, laid the foundation for the FBI's investigation into alleged collusion between President Trump and Russia and was the essential piece of evidence used by the FBI to get a warrant to spy on a former volunteer for the Trump campaign."

Are former CIA Director John Brennan's and former FBI chief James Comey's recent bizarre veiled threats toward Republicans in Congress and Trump himself desperate acts to escape the coyote trap of their own criminality?

It's already pretty clear that Comey lied to Congress. His deputy at the FBI, Andrew McCabe, testified that Comey cleared him to leak to the media, after Comey told Congress in sworn testimony that he did no such thing.

Former IBD reporter Paul Sperry, writing for Real Clear Investigations, notes that the CIA's Brennan appears, at least, to have been caught in an outright lie to Congress by denying that the Steele dossier had anything to do with the FBI's and CIA's conclusion that Russia's meddling was intended to help Trump in 2016.

Brennan also lied when he said he didn't know who was behind the Steele dossier, even though both the Justice Department and FBI knew a year earlier that Hillary Clinton, Trump's foe, had paid for the Steele hit job. The idea Brennan, head of the world's most powerful spy agency, didn't know who was paying for the dossier simply isn't credible on any level.

Brennan may now face perjury charges, and so may Comey.

But the greater question now arises, as it did in Watergate: What did President Obama know, and when did he know it? Did he deploy U.S. intelligence resources to keep Trump from being elected? Did he know about the spy in the Trump campaign, and the bogus dossier used to tarnish Trump?

The same questions go for Hillary Clinton.

The investigation is ongoing.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican, has been seeking answers from Obama administration officials about their role in the Trump fiasco, while demanding documents from a so-far recalcitrant Justice Department about spying on Trump.

Meanwhile, responding to President Trump's Sunday tweet, FBI Deputy Director Rod Rosenstein on Monday directed the department's inspector general to determine "whether there was any impropriety or political motivation" in the FBI's investigation.

If so, it is not a mere political trick, but a gross violation of the law. Richard Nixon never got involved in the political chicanery; but he tried to cover it up, and lost his presidency.

This is far more serious, both legally and ethically. Obama, if he or his top White House aides knew and participated in these illegal acts of spying on a domestic political campaign, might possibly be charged with abuse of power. Yes, a crime.

The people involved would — or at least should — go to prison. And that, in turn, could lead to the ultimate irony: Obama asking Trump for a pardon.

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26. Leftist Big Media Wear Their Anti-Israel Bias ProudlyВт., 22 мая[−]

Over the weekend, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman detailed how the liberal media sides with Hamas over President Trump.

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How correct he is.

When I worked at the Pentagon, I had the honor to interact often with the Israel Defense Forces.

In the years since, my admiration for those men and women and for the State of Israel has increased exponentially in response to the escalating terrorist threats the country faces, the hate the people endure, and the abandonment by many on the left and certain liberal or socialist "allies" its leadership suffers with diplomatic grace.

Much of this abandonment coming because of the liberal media's strong dislike — and even hate — of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump, and the fact that both men came together to successfully relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

And yet, CNN took this moment of real pride and actual history for the government and the people of Israel — and many in the U,S. — as an opportunity to double-down on its unethical and unhinged bias.

The far-left network repeatedly managed to not only echo the left's dislike of Netanyahu, Trump and the relocation of the embassy during the last number of days, but fold in criticism of Christians, the Christian faith, and "White Evangelical Christians" in the process.

In one story pretending to focus on the relocation, the anti-Trump network not only denounced the fact that two Evangelical leaders — Pastor John Hagee and Pastor Robert Jeffress — were on hand, but described both Christian leaders as "controversial" while dredging up years old comments by both men. Hagee and Jeffress said the remarks were taken out of context, not reflective of their true beliefs, and were not "newsworthy."

Next, because both "controversial" Pastors strongly supported the election of Donald Trump and the relocation of the embassy, CNN worked hard to paint the President guilty by association for knowing these Christian leaders and having prayed with them in the past.

Really? That was one of CNN's major takeaways from this historic accomplishment?

As an alleged news organization, CNN does not have to stand with Israel and the United States in this matter, but it should — as Ambassador Friedman stresses — have to report the truth.

That truth being that Hamas has sworn the "total destruction of Israel." That truth being that Hamas is a tool of Iran and its members have been ordered to incite violence these past weeks as a way to create "martyrs" and attain sympathetic support from not only the liberal media and liberal organizations, but the totally useless United Nations as well.

That truth being the President Trump is finally keeping the word of the United States of America.

Like those on the left they carry water for, CNN has consistently tried to delegitimize the election of Donald Trump. The last thing they want the American people to hear in relation to this particular President is: "A promise made. A promise kept."

Like the positive news regarding North Korea, the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem not only demonstrates real progress, but finally true leadership in a foreign policy arena where past presidents and both political parties kicked the can down the road in a shameful dereliction of duty.

With these successes and "promises kept," comes rising poll numbers for President Trump. A reality which enrages the far-left and their propagandists in the media.

Because of that, they strike out at the "usual suspects." Christians and Evangelical Christians. Faith-based Americans they blame for putting Donald Trump in the White House.

No denunciations of Hamas. No criticism of Iran. No questioning of the Palestinian Authority. Just blame for Trump, Netanyahu, and assorted Christians.

Pathetic.

The American people can see the truth through the fog of liberal propaganda and outright lies.

I was honored to work with IDF in the past, and proud to stand with Israel now. They are our last best hope for peace in the region.

President Trump knows that and deserves a great deal of credit.

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

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27. As Evidence Piles Up, The Media Ignore The 'Other' Trump-Russia ScandalВт., 22 мая[−]

Scandalous Media Bias: There have been two major ongoing investigations involving President Trump. One is looking into whether Trump colluded with Russia. It's borne no fruit. The other involves abuse of power at the highest levels of government to hurt Trump and is producing damning evidence by the bushel. Guess which one the press is ignoring?

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National Review reporter John Fund relates an interesting story. He was waiting to go on the air and struck up a conversation with another prominent reporter in the network's green room.

Why, he asked, aren't reporters actively investigating the suspicious activities at the Justice Department and the FBI regarding the Trump/Russia and Hillary/email investigations?

Fund says the reporter "bluntly told me 'There's only room for one narrative on all this. And it's all about Trump.' "

You might think that reporters are chasing facts wherever they might lead, and "speaking truth to power," especially when that power involves the CIA, FBI and Justice Department.

Instead, it's all about the "narrative."

And when it comes to the Russia story, the only narrative the press will consider is that Trump somehow colluded with Russia to steal the election from Hillary Clinton. Or if not that, he did something illegal or improper that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will ferret out.

Anything that doesn't fit this narrative gets dismissed as conspiracy talk, fueled by conservatives and Trump supporters, to distract attention from the "real" story.

Here's how Vox.com — a site putatively devoted to "explaining" the news — put it:

"Trump and his allies, most notably House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes as well as major conservative media outlets, have long sought to create a counternarrative to the Russia scandal."

But even Vox's attempt to dismiss this "counternarrative" shows why it's very real and troubling. As it says, the threads involve "criticism of the FBI's use of the Steele dossier, a focus on text messages exchanged between two key FBI officials, and the Nunes memo's argument that Carter Page was a victim of 'FISA abuse.' " Vox doesn't bother to mention the Clinton email scandal.

While Mueller has turned up no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, this "counternarrative" has led to: former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe fired for lying to investigators; Peter Strzok and Lisa Page booted off Mueller's team for virulently anti-Trump texts; Deputy Assistant AG Bruce Ohr demoted after contacts with a Trump oppo-research firm came to light; the quitting of former Deputy Assistant AG David Laufman, who played a key role in both the Russia and Clinton email investigations; and FBI general counsel James Baker reassigned after evidence emerged that he'd been in contact with leftist reporter David Corn.

In other words, while the Mueller investigation sputters along, the evidence of political abuse at the FBI and Justice is piling up.

This "counternarrative" also has uncovered the fact that the FBI had a spy in the Trump campaign, and that the FBI has not been entirely forthcoming about how the Trump investigation got started, or when.

Alan Dershowitz — by no means a Trump ally — said over the weekend that the revelation that the FBI had an informant in the Trump campaign is "worth investigation." (To which ABC News' George Stephanopoulos responded: "It sounds like you're in league with President Trump on impeaching the credibility at this point of the special counsel.")

The 'Counternarrative' Is Real

It's also worth pointing out that while Trump officials have been, by most accounts, reasonably forthcoming with the Mueller investigation, congressional inquiries into the FBI's handling of the Clinton email and Russia probes have been, and still are being, met with stonewalling by government officials.

Even some Democrats are starting to notice that the "counternarrative" deserves more attention that it's getting.

"The full origins of the (Trump/Russia) investigation and its lack of any real intelligence needs to come out in the open," wrote former Clinton administration pollster Mark Penn in an op-ed — titled "Stopping Robert Mueller to protect us all" — published by The Hill on Monday.

Yet the press still shows only grudging interest, at best, in any of this because it doesn't fit their anti-Trump narrative.

It reminds us of the story about the cub reporter who is sent to cover a routine meeting of the local town council. The reporter later returns to the newsroom without a story. When the editor asks why there's no story, the reporter responds: "I couldn't get to the government building because a massive train wreck blocked the street."

A good reporter, or at least one who isn't hopelessly biased, would be able to see that the real story isn't the go-nowhere Mueller investigation, but the more troubling story of abuse of power by Obama administration officials to protect Hillary Clinton and then derail the Trump presidency.

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28. Artificial Intelligence Will Bring Mass PersonalizationПн., 21 мая[−]

The robots are coming for our jobs! At least, that's what many people fear. They worry that artificial intelligence — the technology that enables machines to learn and evolve by rewriting their own computer code — will one day displace human workers.

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These concerns are widespread. Fortunately, they're overblown.

Past technological innovations didn't make human employees obsolete. When ATMs were first introduced, people assumed it meant the end of bank tellers. The opposite proved true. As the number of ATMs rose from zero to 400,000 between the 1970s and 2010, the number of people employed as tellers increased, as efficiencies due to automation led to the opening of more and more bank branches offering personalized service closer to customers.

There's no reason to think this trend will change with AI. Ironically, automated technology will e nable brands to inject humanity into every interaction.

Take something as routine as cooking a pizza. At one of its Australian stores, Domino's has introduced AI-controlled cameras that snap pictures of pizzas before they go into the oven.

The program automatically detects whether toppings are spread evenly. If they're not, the system notifies both the store manager and the customer that the pizza in question will be remade.

Of course, this doesn't mean robots are taking over meal prep. Some pizza-loving Domino's employee still had to recognize, from personal experience, that people crave an even distribution of pepperoni. Then, he had to creatively consider a solution. Humans are still the brains behind the operation, AI is simply making humans' wildest creative dreams possible.

Domino's is one of many global brands using AI to make sure consumers encounter perfection at every touchpoint.

And for good reason. The average consumer browses digital content for one third of his day. If that content isn't perfectly tailored, brands may lose customers. Two in three consumers already say they won't purchase from a brand if interactions are irrelevant, old, stale, or not optimized for the device they're using.

Similarly, brands are more likely to convert leads into sales if they personalize their interactions. Three out of four consumers say they're more likely to buy from a company if it knows their name, recommends new products based on past purchases, or simply knows their purchase history.

In short, today's consumers want more humanity in their brand interactions — they want to be listened to and truly understood. AI makes that possible.

Take photo uploading. Before AI, marketers would uniformly shrink images to fit smartphone screens. Today, AI-technology can automatically detect the focal points in a photo and suggest the best ways to crop it. So if a firm wants to share photos of its recent charity event on social media, AI can help tweak the photo so that it looks great no matter whether a customer is viewing it on a laptop or her phone.

Or perhaps a company needs to edit an article document that is perfect for a desktop but far too wordy for a smartphone screen. In seconds, AI can trim an 800-word product announcement to 100 words while keeping the main points intact.

AI can even go a step further and automatically tailor marketing content to specific audiences. After inputing available content and a desired audience segment, marketers can sit back and let machines create the right experience for the right consumers. When a yogi logs on to a travel website, for example, she could get deals for yoga retreats and sunset sessions. When a pasta enthusiast visits a cooking site she could see a recipe for carbonara instead of steak.

To see AI personalization in action, look to the banking industry. Today, consumers increasingly choose to manage their finances entirely online. To keep experiences personal, numerous banks and financial firms have adopted chatbots powered by artificial intelligence to interact with customers. They allow anyone to receive personal feedback and customer support immediately.

Or consider the retail sector. Companies like Under Armour are using artificial intelligence to aid their product design process. The Baltimore-based sports retailer is developing AI-directed health-monitoring apps that tailor workout plans for each customer.

The opportunities to deliver personalized experiences via AI are incredibly promising. Restaurants can recommend menu items based on meals guests have previously enjoyed. Concert promoters can draw attention to upcoming events based on the music individual consumers stream. And travel companies can point to deals on new vacation destinations based on customer profiles.

The ability to have one-on-one relationships with a mass audience is a huge breakthrough — one that will provide significant benefits to consumers, content producers, and marketers alike.

But in the age of artificial intelligence, every firm has an obligation to be responsible and transparent when tapping into consumer data. For brands, an integral part of achieving mass personalization is adhering to the latest privacy standards and being clear with consumers about when and how their information is being used. Companies need to create data security processes and principles and stick to them.

As long as they do so, AI will enable companies to do something once thought impossible: deeply personalize each customer's experience.

  • Stark is senior director of strategy and product marketing at Adobe.

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29. Revised Korean Trade Deal Offers Model For New NaftaПн., 21 мая[−]

After negotiating for nine months, the United States, Canada, and Mexico are close to finalizing a new North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta). In early April, President Trump predicted negotiators would agree on a slew of changes "fairly soon."

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That's encouraging news. A well-designed pact could usher in an era of fair trade and economic vitality for all three nations.

To ensure the new deal benefits U.S. workers, our negotiators must insist on strong intellectual property (IP) protections for America's most innovative industries — especially the biopharmaceutical sector. If they fail to do so, they'll endanger millions of American workers' livelihoods and impede lifesaving medical research.

The stakes are so high that my organization, the Conservatives for Property Rights, along with twelve other organizations, just wrote a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Lighthizer urging him to include strong protections of U.S. IP in Nafta.

Fortunately, U.S. negotiators already understand what a good deal looks like. The recently renegotiated trade deal between South Korea and the United States includes the sorts of biopharmaceutical-related concessions our negotiators must win in the new Nafta.

IP protections such as patents ensure that once a drug is approved, the inventor can sell it exclusively for a set amount of time. That exclusivity gives manufacturers a chance to recoup their tremendous research and development costs. It takes $2.6 billion and up to 15 years to bring just a single drug to market.

Without intellectual property protections, rivals could copy innovators' drug designs and steal the fruits of their labor. Firms would have little incentive to fund research into new therapies and treatments.

U.S. trade negotiators recognize the importance of strong IP protections. In March, the United States and South Korea agreed to update their trade pact to ensure that American pharmaceutical IP is respected.

The original U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which took effect in 2012, included several provisions requiring the South Korean government to pay fair prices for innovative U.S. drugs.

But South Korea didn't live up to its end of the bargain. The country's health officials paid domestic drug firms more for medicines than American companies.

This reimbursement model ensured that state-of-the-art American drugs were sold at a price well below their fair market value. U.S. firms struggled to recoup their development costs. That weakened their desire to expand into South Korea.

As a result, Korean patients enjoyed less access to groundbreaking drugs than most other advanced nations. And U.S. drug firms earned less revenue — which meant fewer job opportunities for American research and manufacturing workers.

The revised agreement addresses such violations and ensures that American biopharmaceuticals are fairly valued on the Korean market.

The updated deal will help to bolster America's biopharmaceutical industry, which supports more than 4.7 million jobs and contributes more than $1 trillion to our economy each year. It will also improve Koreans' access to the latest medicines, since U.S. firms will now be eager to enter the South Korean market.

U.S. trade officials should aim to build on this policy victory in the new Nafta. They can start by demanding an end to Canadian practices that artificially reduce American drug prices.

Our northern neighbor's Patented Medicine Prices Review Board sets the price of brand-name drugs so it's no higher than the median price paid by seven comparator countries. The agency recently proposed adjusting that list of comparator nations. The board wants to remove wealthy countries, such as the United States and Switzerland, and add poorer countries. The change would depress drug prices even further.

As with South Korea's price-control scheme, Canada's policy prevents American drug innovators from selling their inventions at a fair market price.

Our trade negotiators should also insist on 12-years data exclusivity for "biologic" drugs, which is the standard protection in the United States. These sophisticated medicines are extremely difficult to develop. They're manufactured from living organisms and are used to treat a variety of conditions, from cancer to rheumatoid arthritis.

Data exclusivity prevents rivals from relying on the innovator company's clinical trial data to develop their own version of the drug. It effectively gives innovators a 12-year head start on rivals. That's critical for biologics, since they're so complex and expensive to create. Without 12 years of data protection, many firms would scale back their investments in new biologic research.

With the recent Korean agreement, America's trade officials have incentivized additional medical innovation and defended a crucial domestic industry — all while expanding patients' access to the state-of-the-art medicines. It's time they do the same for Nafta.

  • Edwards is executive director of Conservatives for Property Rights. The views expressed are his own.

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30. The Old Capitalism ReturnsПн., 21 мая[−]

We flatter ourselves into thinking that we live in a time of exceptional economic upheaval. The truth is that the present resembles the past. What we learned — and forget — is that a dynamic economy is inherently destructive. But the periodic convulsions often create long-term benefits. That has been true for most of our history.

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To be sure, economic change now abounds: The internet; vast U.S. budget deficits; high private and public debt levels in both affluent and developing nations; the rise of China; growing income and wealth inequality; immigration; an aging population; "globalization" — not just trade in goods and services but huge cross-border money flows.

And so on.

The very nature of the economy seems to be shifting, to what we do not know. Our sense of security is shaken. It's all true. But it's always been true. The same contradictory mix of awe and anxiety applies to most, if not all, previous economic eras. Indeed, by comparison to some, today's economy seems placid.

A few years ago, a friend gave me a copy of a book called "Recent Economic Changes," published in 1890 and written by David A. Wells, one of the leading American economists of the late 19th century. Browsing through the book, it's hard not to be struck by the parallels between then and now. Here's how Wells opens his almost 500 pages of commentary:

"The economic changes that have occurred during the last quarter of a century — or during the present generation of living men — have unquestionably been more important and varied than during any former corresponding period of the world's history."

Sound familiar?

In Wells' time, there had been astonishing advances in transportation, communications and manufacturing. Steam had replaced wind as the main energy source for water-borne transportation. The railroad had displaced carriages and wagons. In 1869, the Suez Canal opened; coincidentally, so did the first transcontinental railroad in the United States.

In 1800, it took an average of 42 days for a traveler to go from New York to the then tiny outpost of Chicago; by the eve of the Civil War, the transit time had dropped to two days, according to the Historical Statistics of the United States, Millennial Edition. Faster trains and more tracks lowered transportation costs. From 1859 to 1890, railroad mileage grew almost 20 times, from 9,021 miles to 166,703 miles.

This was the era when America urbanized and industrialized. In 1860, four out of five Americans lived in rural areas; by 1900, the population had almost tripled to 76 million, and 40% lived in urban areas. Manufacturing exploded. In 1871, the United States produced 6.6 million barrels of beer; by 1900, output was six times as large.

By comparison, many of today's economic advances seem mild. The rise of great cities was surely more important to daily life than the advent of Facebook or Instagram. For all the amazing, frustrating and infuriating things that digital technology can do, its effects are overshadowed by the social and economic cataclysms of the last half of the 19th century.

Of course, there was a backlash then, just as today. These advances have resulted, wrote Wells, "in the absolute destruction of large amounts of capital through new inventions and discoveries and in the impairment of even greater amounts through extensive reductions in the rates of interest and profits (and) in the discontent of labor and in an increasing antagonism of nations."

Sound familiar?

One downside of this progress was chronic instability. There were financial panics or depressions in 1873, 1882, 1893 and 1907, among other years. Labor strife often disintegrated into violent protests when firms cut wages. Some economic dynamism spawned stock-market speculation and fraud.

In the post-World War II era, we thought we were modernizing and improving this raw capitalism. Active monetary and fiscal policy — the government's use of credit and the federal budget — would smooth business cycles. The social safety net (unemployment insurance, food stamps and the like) would mitigate human suffering caused by unavoidable slumps.

There was an historic break. The old and cruel capitalism was giving way to a new and gentler capitalism. Or was it? The further we get from World War II, the more that the new capitalism seems to resemble the old. Advances in productivity and living standards come in unpredicted spurts; severe business cycles endure; economic inequality increases.

It is an exaggeration to say that the new capitalism has entirely reverted into the old. The social safety net and modern monetary and fiscal policy remain. They make a difference. Few of us would ditch them. Still, the past is slowly catching up with the future.

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

Other columns by Robert Samuelson

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31. Battling Campus Oppression Of The Freedom Of ExpressionПн., 21 мая[−]

On election night 2016, Mark Schlissel, the University of Michigan's president, addressed more than 1,000 students, declaring that the 90% of them who had favored the losing candidate had rejected "hate." He thereby effectively made those who disagreed with him and with the campus majority eligible to be targets of the university's "bias response teams." That his announced contempt for them made him a suitable target of the thought police is a thought that presumably occurred to no one, least of all him.

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Now, however, this leader of a public institution is being sued for constitutional violations. So are some members of Michigan's archetypal administrative bloat — the ever-thickening layer of social-justice crusaders and orthodoxy enforcers who, nationwide, live parasitically off universities whose actual purpose is scholarship. These include Michigan's vice provost for equity and inclusion, and the director of the Office of Student Conflict Resolution. Such bureaucrats have professional stakes in finding inequities to rectify and conflicts to resolve.

A splendid new organization, Speech First, headed by Nicole Neily, is not content merely to respond after the fact to violations of students' constitutional rights. It is suing to invalidate Michigan's "elaborate investigatory and disciplinary apparatus" that exists "to suppress and punish speech other students deem 'demeaning,' 'bothersome' or 'hurtful.'"

Speech First's complaint notes that "the most sensitive student on campus effectively dictates the terms under which others may speak." The university darkly warns that "bias comes in many forms" and "the most important indication of bias is your own feelings." Speech First says that Michigan's edifice of speech regulation, with its Orwellian threats to submit offenders to "restorative justice," "individual education" and "unconscious bias training," amounts to unconstitutional prior restraint speech and is too overbroad and vague to give anyone due notice of what is proscribed.

"Verbal conduct" that "victimizes," or jeopardizes a "social climate" that is "safe and inclusive"? Such vaporous language must have a chilling effect on humor, parody, satire or plain speech about almost anything. What constitutes forbidden "cultural appropriation"? You will be told — after someone, encouraged by the administration to do so, has notified law enforcement.

When The Wall Street Journal's Jillian Kay Melchior asked Michigan for the records of one year of bias incident reports, "the university thwarted this inquiry by imposing a fee of more than $2,400 for the public records." If this secretiveness indicates that the university is embarrassed, this is progress.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) says bias response teams produce "a surveillance state on campus where students and faculty must guard their every utterance for fear of being reported to and investigated" by bureaucrats. Their profession is the suppression and re-education of those — generally conservatives — whose attitudes and opinions constitute, as Michigan students have learned from Schlissel, "hate."

FIRE has established a grading system whereby colleges and universities are given green, yellow or red ratings depending on their commitments to freedom of speech and inquiry. Institutions are increasingly interested in earning FIRE's green approval. FIRE gives Michigan the red rating that identifies a university that has "at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech."

Frederick M. Hess and Grant Addison of the American Enterprise Institute, writing in National Affairs ("Restoring Free Inquiry on Campus"), note that when, after World War II, the federal government decided to direct scientific and medical research through universities rather than government-run laboratories, there were worries that government might threaten free inquiry on campuses.

Today, say Hess and Addison, "ideological homogeneity" in academia is producing "formal policies and practices" whereby "limits on speech and expression have become ingrained in campus culture." Hess and Addison have a sensible proposal: "Taxpayer funds should not be subsidizing research at higher-education institutions where the conditions of free inquiry are compromised."

Of the 30 academic institutions that received the most research funding in 2015, six (20%) received $4.5 billion from the federal government (11% of all federal research funds) — and a red rating from FIRE. According to it, almost 40% of all federal research funds went to 25 institutions that have formal policies that restrict constitutionally protected speech.

Michigan ranks third among all universities as a recipient of federal research funding. In 2015, its $735 million in federal funding was 54% of the university's total R&D grants. Although Schlissel is ideologically blinkered, tone deaf and awfully complacent about his own flagrant biases, his bias response teams probably are not worth $735 million to him.


Other columns by George Will

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32. States Get A Windfall From GOP Tax Cuts, But Will They Return The Money To Taxpayers?Пт., 18 мая[−]

Tax Cuts: When Republicans were putting together their tax reform plan last year, a chorus of critics warned that it would devastate state budgets. Like so many other claims, this turned out to be false.

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The New York Times reported in November, for example, that "state and local officials in high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California are warning the tax plan will strain state budgets."

A "news analysis" in the Washington Post said the tax law would make "it harder for states and cities to pay their bills."

A widely cited National Education Association report claimed the GOP tax bill would "blow a nearly $250 billion hole in state and local revenue" that would put "nearly 250,000 education jobs at risk."

But once President Trump signed the tax reform into law, state budget officials started reporting that revenues will actually increase because of it.

New York's Department of Taxation and Finance, for example, reported in January that it expects tax revenues to go up by $1.1 billion in 2019 because of the tax law. This is a state, mind you, whose governor, Andrew Cuomo, described the tax bill as a "missile of destruction … aimed at New York."

Michigan figures revenues will be $1.7 billion higher in 2019. Georgia calculates that state revenues will climb by $5.2 billion over five years. Pennsylvania expects a $340 million bump over the next two years.

The Tax Foundation, which has been collecting this data, reports that 18 states so far say they expect at least a modest boost in revenues as result of the Republican tax plan.

The reason for this windfall is that the tax bill expanded the tax base — by limiting or ending deductions — in exchange for lower income tax rates. In states that rely on federal tax law for their own income taxes, this can result in extra revenue if those states keep their income tax rates the same. (States could also get more tax revenue as tax reform boosts economic growth.)

Will States Cut Taxes?

To some extent, then, the tax cuts shifted a bit of the tax burden to the states. Is that a bad thing? Not if the states use the windfall to cut their own tax rates or reform their tax code.

Three states — George, Idaho and Iowa — have already done so. Iowa's bill, passed this month, will cut taxes by $2 billion over six years. Republicans in Minnesota — which expects to get a $416 million bump in 2019 — are pushing the state to cut tax rates for the first time since 2000. (There's been no word yet if Gov. Cuomo will return New York's windfall to its taxpayers.)

"The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act gives states an unexpected chance to improve their competitiveness," noted Jonathan Williams, chief economist at the American Legislative Exchange Council. "That is the untold story of federal tax reform."

Given the amount of other misinformation peddled by critics of the GOP tax cuts, we're not surprised that nobody knows about this fact, either.

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33. The Net Neutrality Zombie Lives!Пт., 18 мая[−]

Internet: The Senate has voted to raise net neutrality from the dead, a very bad idea. Worse, the 52-47 margin of victory included three Republicans who should know better. We hope it dies in the House.

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"Net neutrality" is one of those brilliant marketing gimmicks that passes as something that enhances equality and freedom, but in fact destroys it.

President Obama's Federal Communications Commission in 2015 imposed net neutrality, requiring internet service providers to treat all internet traffic the same. Sure, that sounds good, even democratic, but it isn't. In fact, most economists agree, it will lead to slower times for everything, less internet innovation and, ultimately, higher prices for consumers.

That's a good idea?

Thankfully, late last year, Trump's FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai let common sense prevail and overturned net neutrality. Like a zombie, it's now returned, thanks to foolish politicians who think Washington, not the marketplace, should decide how the internet is run, what prices they can charge, and what services they can provide. Heavy-handed regulation at its worst.

Last week, 49 Senate Democrats and three Republicans passed what's called a " resolution of disapproval," which will let Congress reimpose net neutrality, if both houses agree. It's a bad idea for a number of reasons.

One, the internet's astonishing record of innovation and advancement — including making the leap from crude dial-up internet services to full-on streaming of movies, games, information, graphics and other content — took place during the non-net neutrality era. It's no accident.

Yes, ISPs treat a movie you're streaming differently from a text you're downloading. But that's only common sense. To give both the exact same priority would make it nearly impossible to have, say, high quality movie streaming on Netflix or Amazon. Do you really want to give that up?

Two, net neutrality rules keep internet service companies from figuring out how best to use their networks and what prices they should charge for their services. In essence, they impose price and content controls on the internet, discouraging future investment.

What net neutrality does is reimpose the kinds of innovation-stifling regulations on the internet that were imposed on the Ma Bell phone network for decades. Those telephone regulations led to decades of stifled innovation, high prices and poor service, until the regulated monopoly was broken up by court order in 1982.

The dead hand of government regulation will not promote competition, better services or lower prices. That only happens when market participants can respond to market demand and price their services accordingly. The House is expected to reject the bill, and we urge them to do so. If not, President Trump should veto it.

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34. Putting First Things First: Prioritizing Traffic On The InternetПт., 18 мая[−]

One of the great things about the internet is that most Americans don't need to spend too much time thinking about how it actually works. Most of the time, barring some technical issues or weather damage to infrastructure, it just ... works. It's not like those early 20th-century cars where motorists had to be auto mechanics as well as drivers.

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The basic function of the internet is to get packets of data from one place to another. Network managers spend huge amounts of time and money to be sure this happens correctly, so users may simply get the information they need quickly and with minimum disruption.

Understanding this, government regulators have long understood that certain types of data, certain packets, need priority. Real-time medical scans, battlefield reconnaissance and streaming sports programming degrade significantly with even minimal latency, while email or movie downloads can wait a few extra milliseconds without consumer harm.

The simple fact is that not all packets are equal, just as not all vehicles are equal on the highways. Drivers pull aside to let an ambulance pass, because it has (and deserves) priority.

The analogies are not exact, but they help illustrate why data prioritization of itself is not a bad thing but is indeed something essential to the smooth functioning of the internet. Prioritization is not a new thing; it is part of the internet's structure.

As network speeds have risen, questions about priority of data have only grown in importance. Policies to optimize transmission of data have become, as Richard Bennett of the High Tech Forum notes, "not only commonplace but essential." As we move into the era of 5G speeds and the Internet of Things, getting those packets to the right place precisely when they need to will require ever-more careful network management.

In a recent hearing on data and the internet, Rep. Greg Walden sensibly stated that "(in) a basic sense, prioritization has nothing to do with traffic speed, but rather it's putting certain bits over others to ensure that all packets arrive at their destination on time. A complete ban on prioritization would not permit this and would not allow some services and applications to operate smoothly."

For an example of how this works in practice, consider Aira, a company that makes glasses for the blind that offer instant video feedback. Surely everyone can agree that the data packets transferred through Aira technology deserve priority, deserve to get to the glasses more quickly than others. There are many similar examples — think of robots performing remote surgery in a war zone — and there will be many more as the Internet of Things becomes a reality.

For those things to happen, the internet community needs to understand that the concept of priority is not a bad thing and that countless reasonable content delivery rationales exist for prudent prioritization. Yet in 2015 the Federal Communications Commission decided to regulate these through a "Mother, may I?" principle, by applying a general conduct standard that would have required service providers to first seek permission from the government before adopting a particular innovation.

The internet, and online innovation, move too fast for prior government review and permissions of something as dynamic as network management. Instead, policy makers should encourage innovation by letting network managers decide how to prioritize the packets that need priority.

Of course government officials must remain engaged to protect against anti-competitive behavior and ensure core open internet principles. No blocking or throttling of traffic based on content. No unfair discrimination or censorship based on content. Strong privacy protections for consumers that apply throughout the internet ecosystem on an equal basis for everyone.

One last point: increasing internet speeds takes investment. And don't confuse the speed of the internet with the speed at which a web page loads; even as speeds increase, one analysis shows that "performance has remained stagnant." For an understanding of performance, look to how web pages, not Internet Service Providers, actually handle traffic.

So, priority is not something bad; it's essential to the internet. Add in legal protections for an open internet, and solving this one should be easy. For Congress, it should be a priority.

  • Mehlman is founding co-chairman of the D.C.-based Internet Innovation Alliance and previously served as assistant secretary of Commerce for Technology Policy.

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35. Immigrant Investors Create Jobs For American WorkersПт., 18 мая[−]

President Trump has advocated reforming America's immigration laws to focus on "merit-based" immigration. Merit-based means immigration for those who will benefit America and its economy.

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That contrasts with "chain migration," granting immigration visas to those with relatives already living in the Unites States, or the "diversity lottery," which grants immigration based on random drawings from the backlogged pool. This produces immigrants to America that are poor, uneducated and unskilled, who can't contribute much of anything to the American economy.

The classic example of merit based immigration is the EB-5 Visa Program. That provision of current law grants immigration to America for foreign financiers investing between $500,000 and $1 million in a new business in the U.S. creating at least 10 full-time jobs for American workers.

EB-5 immigrants have invested $20 billion in the U.S. economy since 2008, $5.8 billion in 2012 and 2013 alone according to the U.S. Commerce Dept. These EB-5 investors can invest on their own, or with pools of other immigrant investors for larger investment projects.

They can also serve as catalysts for domestic as well as foreign investors, triggering larger pools of domestic and foreign capital for larger projects. Counting all these investments from all sources, EB-5 and related investments contributed $16.7 billion to the U.S. economy in 2012 and 2013 alone, creating 175,000 jobs.

The increased EB-5 investment also increases federal, state and local tax revenue due to the resulting increased economic growth. Investments from EB-5 investors generated nearly a trillion dollars in such increased revenue in 2013 alone.

Investment capital is the foundation for new jobs and rising wages. Instead of competing with domestic American workers, EB-5 immigrants create new jobs for American workers.

But one of the last acts of the Obama Administration was a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposed to increase the minimum investment for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program. That attempted last minute sabotage has not yet been finally published by the new Trump Administration, and so the whole thing can still be withdrawn.

More specifically, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney can stop the process by not publishing this economically harmful Obama last minute regulation for final implementation, effectively withdrawing it.

Senators Dean Heller, R-Nev., Rand Paul, R-Ky., John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., wrote a letter to Homeland Security on June 29, 2017, supporting precisely that withdrawal of the proposed regulation. Someone with a million dollars or more to invest in America and its workers is worthy of immigration to our nation.

Raising the minimum required investment would only reduce participation in the program, when in fact these worthy merit based EB-5 provisions should be expanded and become the foundation of our entire immigration system.

EB-5 Investment immigration is capped at 10,000 a year. But the American Action Forum estimates that increasing the cap to 20,000 per year would increase GDP by $11 billion a year, reflecting faster economic growth. The sectors most positively affected by such higher growth would be construction, legal services, wholesale trade, and real estate.

If the random Diversity Lottery program is abolished, that alone would enable an increase of at least another 10,000 for the EB-5 investor immigrant program. Indeed, eliminating the arbitrary Diversity Lottery program entirely would open up 50,000 new slots that could be devoted to the EB-5 investor program, multiplying booming economic growth, jobs for American workers, and increased wages.

Ending chain migration would open up thousands more new slots for EB-5 investors in American jobs and wage increases. That would increase investment in real estate development, manufacturing, and public private partnerships in infrastructure investment. Other sectors benefiting from EB-5 expansion would also include health care, rural hospitals, nursing homes and infrastructure in more rural areas.

The EB-5 investor program already comprehensively vets the investor immigrants like Trump originally promised during the campaign. The investor immigrant is first vetted though numerous agencies multiple times and allowed into the country only on a conditional basis at first.

Two years after the grant of that conditional status, the investor must apply for the removal of the conditions and go through an entire vetting process again before becoming a permanent U.S. resident. This process should be used for all immigration categories.

America already has the perfect immigration reform. It is called the EB-5 investor visa program, and should be extended to all immigration into the U.S., making everything merit based. That would benefit all working Americans.

  • Ferrara is the senior fellow for legal affairs at the Heartland Institute and senior policy advisor to the National Tax Limitation Foundation. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development for President Reagan, and as associate deputy attorney general of the United States under President George H.W. Bush.

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36. State Of The Midterms — From Big Blue Wave To A Toss UpПт., 18 мая[−]

Last December, the midterm outlook looked bleak for Republicans. With the Democrats enjoying a 13-point lead on the Generic Ballot, pundits talked of a "big blue wave." The question was not whether the Democrats would win the two dozen seats needed to gain control of the House, but whether they might win 40-50 seats in a landslide approaching the Republican gains in 2010.

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Since then, Republicans passed a tax cut, eliminated the Obamacare mandate and took other steps to reduce the regulatory burden. The economy took off, people are feeling better about how things are going in the nation, and recent primaries suggest that the enthusiasm of Republican voters is higher than expected.

As a result, the Democratic lead on the Generic Ballot is down to five points. At that level, control of the House is close to a toss up. Those with Nancy Pelosi's party may be slight favorites to win the 23 additional House seats they need, but they could easily fall short. While seeking to navigate this newly treacherous electoral landscape, the Democrats are dealing with the reality that the enthusiasm of the progressive base can be a double-edged sword. It could help with turnout, but may also create electoral headaches.

Earlier this week, for example, progressives helped social worker Kara Eastman win the Democratic nomination in Nebraska's second Congressional District. It's a district that the president won in 2016 and is expected to be competitive this fall. With a more centrist candidate, the race was considered a pure toss up. With a far-left nominee in the race, however, Republican incumbent Don Bacon is now favored to win.

The importance of a single race like this can be seen in the numbers. At ScottRasmussen.com, we rate 202 races as leaning toward the Democrats. Additionally, there are 24 races rated as either a toss up or just barely tilting toward the Republicans. To win control, Pelosi's party will need to win 16 of these 24 races. Every potentially competitive race they give away makes the odds more challenging. Primaries in the next month or so will give us a good sense of how big a problem this is for the Democrats.

On top of that, the double-edged sword of progressive enthusiasm provides Democrats with another challenge: The issues that appeal to the progressive base are likely to turn off swing voters. Nancy Pelosi recently confirmed that her team will raise taxes if they win. That message will appeal to Bernie Sanders' supporters, but not middle-income families.

And, of course, progressive Democrats want their party to impeach President Trump. The more that such talk dominates the midterm elections, the more it helps Republicans. Impeachment talk will not play well with the swing voters who disapprove of the president but still view him as the lesser of two evils.

It's been six months since Democrats enjoyed their 13-point lead on the Generic Congressional Ballot and dreamed of historic gains in the midterm election. With six months to go, there's obviously plenty of time for the political environment to change again. For now, however, the parties are locked in a tight race-by-race contest that could go either way.

  • Rasmussen, founder of Rasmussen Reports, is publisher of ScottRasmussen.com and Editor-at-Large for Ballotpedia.

Editor's note: Michael Barone is off this week.


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37. Democrats' Turn To Socialism Is Ominous Sign For The Party — And For The CountryПт., 18 мая[−]

Big Left Turn: Are socialists becoming the new Democratic Party mainstream? After candidates endorsed by the socialist party won nomination battles for state legislative seats in Pennsylvania and far-left progressives triumphed over moderates elsewhere, the answer seems to be yes.

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Four — count 'em, four — candidates backed by the Democratic Socialists of America won spots on the ballot during this week's primary elections in the Keystone State. Two of them won't even be opposed by a Republican in the general election.

Some are writing it off as a fluke, a local aberration, but it isn't. Increasingly, the national Democratic Party is being California-ized — pushed to the far left on issues ranging from single-payer health care, an open border and tax hikes to hostility toward Israel, opposition to the Second Amendment, and a loathing of the U.S. military.

As for those who say local elections often have kookier, more extreme candidates, Ed Morrissey of Hot Air has this rejoinder: "One could just as easily ask why Democrats couldn't find successful candidates that hewed closer to Tim Ryan than Bernie Sanders for those seats."

Morrisey notes that other states similarly had political upsets of moderate Democrats by far-left candidates, including Idaho, Nebraska and Oregon. So it's not just a narrow regional phenomenon.

Speaking of socialist Bernie Sanders, his campaign in 2016 seems to have opened the way for the mainstreaming of socialism in the Democratic Party.

That's quite a change, given that just 10 years ago Democrats insisted on their moderate bona fides and recoiled from being called "liberal."

But this has been happening for some time. As has been well chronicled, America's public schools and universities have been turned far-left in their curriculum and teaching, with extreme political correctness and the enraged shaming of conservatives as the only real behavioral guidelines remaining.

Sadly, a mere 28 years after the collapse of communism, a new generation of youth not then born or too young to understand it see that epochal event as ancient history, irrelevant to their new understanding of the world.

They do not understand that the topping of communism wasn't merely a repudiation of the gerontocratic rulers of communism, but of the very idea of socialism.

Socialism Goes Mainstream

Unfortunately, the acceptance of socialism now permeates all strata of society, according to a 2017 survey of adults by The American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI).

The basic findings weren't too surprising: 48% described themselves as politically moderate, while 25% said they conservative and 17% liberal. Those who called themselves both socially and fiscally conservative made up just 6% of the population.

But here's the bombshell: Of those queried, four out of 10 adults said they preferred socialism to capitalism. That's 40%. This is what irrational hatred of Donald Trump has wrought.

"It ought to set off alarm bells among more traditionally-oriented leaders across the nation," said ACFI Executive Director George Barna.

It seems even among adults, the lessons of the Cold War and of more than 100 years of tragic socialist history have been entirely lost.

Let's start with these two stark facts:

First, there has never been a successful socialist government in history. None. Everywhere socialist precepts are put in place, poverty, loss of freedom and rights, and societal decline inevitably follow. Collapse is a frequent result.

Second, socialist governments are murderous. According to the " Black Book of Communism," written by French former Marxist Stephane Courtois, socialist regimes killed over 100 million people during the 20th century. No other ideology or "ism" came close to that blood-soaked record.

Whether it's the USSR, China, Cuba, Vietnam, the former East Germany, North Korea, Laos, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Venezuela or any of the other failed experiments in socialism, it's never worked anywhere. It's led only to misery, deprivation, government control and a loss of basic human rights.

Socialist regimes always start off with high ideals, promising "free" this, and "free" that — education, health care, whatever. But as their ideas fail, they inevitably resort to compulsion, and eventually torture, political "re-education," imprisonment, exile and murder for those who disagree.

What's perhaps most surprising is that we have today yet another very clear example of the failure of socialism taking place in our own hemisphere: Venezuela.

The Washington Post, to its credit, toted up what has happened in Venezuela since socialism was imposed on the country with the world's largest oil reserves and a once-thriving middle class.

Venezuela's Bitter Lesson

"Since Maduro took over from Hugo Ch?vez — his mentor, who died in 2013 — Venezuela's crisis has steadily intensified as a result of lower oil prices, corruption and a socialist system plagued with mismanagement. But as Maduro has sought to further consolidate power in the past 12 months, the economy, public services, security and health care have all but collapsed.

"Armed gangs and Colombian guerrilla groups are operating unchecked on Venezuela's borders. Pro-government militias are terrorizing urban areas, while police stand accused of extrajudicial killings. Four of the 10 most dangerous cities in the world are now in Venezuela, according to a 2017 study by the Igarap? Institute, a Brazilian think tank that studies violence.

"Hundreds if not thousands of members of the armed forces are deserting, in part because of meager rations, according to military analysts. Power and water grids and the transportation systems are breaking down. In just the first three months of the year, Venezuela suffered 7,778 blackouts."

You might want to read the whole thing. It's just the latest try at socialism that ended in misery, soaring crime rates, unnecessary deaths from routine illnesses, the dissolution of civil society, and the collapse of national institutions. We call that Socialist Realism.

We wonder why those celebrities and politicians who in the past gave fawning and obsequious love to Venezuela's hated socialist leaders — including Sean Penn, Michael Moore and, yes, the clueless socialist Bernie Sanders — have suddenly gone mute?

Today, more than anything, the ideals of socialism are splitting this country apart. They're also splitting the Democratic Party apart, and damaging civil, reasoned discourse in our society. It's a shame, on a par with the hateful and bitter debate the presaged our Civil War.

It is a great, self-evident truth that socialism doesn't stack up against free-market capitalism when it comes to guaranteeing the universal and in-born rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As for those in America who think socialism is the answer, they are correct. But only if the question is: What one thing would end our precious experiment in democracy and republican government, leading to mass misery, impoverishment and even death?

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38. Laurence Tribe Was Against Impeachment Before He Was For It — You'll Never Guess What ChangedЧт., 17 мая[−]

Politics: Before President Trump even took the oath of office, constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe was calling for his impeachment. Tribe hasn't stopped since. But 20 years ago, Tribe was singing a different tune about impeachment when a lawbreaking Democrat was in the White House.

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In early December, less than a month after Trump won the election, Tribe tweeted that impeachment should begin "on Inauguration Day."

Eight days after Inauguration Day, Tribe declared that Trump was already guilty of "shredding the Constitution more monstrously than any other President in American history."

He's since claimed Trump should be impeached and removed from office for his "cruel brand of bigotry and scapegoating," for "falsely" claiming that the Obama administration wiretapped his campaign, for a State Department blog post on Mar-a-Lago. Most recently, Trump should be removed for the simple reason that we don't like "what kind of nation will we have become" should he stay in office.

Now Tribe has written what looks like an "Impeachment for Dummies" guide should Democrats regain control of the House next year called "To End A Presidency: The Power Of Impeachment."

In it, and in an Op-Ed in USA Today, Tribe argues that even if Trump hasn't broken any laws doesn't mean he shouldn't be impeached.

"Criminal law is not a comprehensive list of acts that might imperil democracy if committed by the president," he writes in his Op-Ed. That's a fair point.

But it was the same Tribe who just 20 years ago was arguing that even though President Clinton had broken the law by perjuring himself, he shouldn't be removed from office.

To make his argument against impeaching Clinton, Tribe "nearly threw his back out trying to raise the constitutional bar for removal," the Cato Institute's Gene Healy aptly put it.

In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in 1998, Tribe argued that for an offense to be impeachable, it had to "severely threaten the system of government or constitute a grievous abuse of official power or both."

"Back then even murder was a close call in Tribe's eyes, if the president did the deed himself, for personal reasons," Healy notes, pointing to passages from Tribe's testimony, in which Tribe explains how Aaron Burr wasn't impeached after he killed Alexander Hamilton.

Tribe argued that Clinton's committing perjury wasn't impeachable because, basically, he was lying about a private matter. In this case, having sex with an intern in the Oval Office.

But even if what Clinton did was impeachable, Tribe seems to think he shouldn't have been removed.

In his book, Tribe quotes approvingly from a speech given by then-Sen. Robert Byrd on why Clinton should not be removed from office.

Even though Clinton broke his oath "to see to it that the laws be faithfully executed," Byrd said, and by doing so had "undermined the system of justice and law on which this Republic … has its foundation," and even though it was reasonable to view these as impeachable offenses, Senators should vote to acquit Clinton. Why? because of "the people's perception that this entire matter is being driven by political agendas."

Byrd said that removing Clinton under these circumstances would "only serve to further undermine a public trust that is too much damaged already." Byrd, he said, correctly understood that just because a president can be impeached, doesn't mean he should be impeached.

Tribe says elsewhere in his book that in the case of Clinton, "impeachment was misused by partisans opposed to the president but unable to identify a great offense against the nation."

Has it not occurred to Tribe — or anyone else who's been baying for Trump's removal for the past 17 months — that he is doing exactly the same thing today?

Partisan Impeachment

All the talk of impeaching Trump has been nakedly partisan, driven not by any "high crimes and misdemeanors," but by personal or political animus.

And since impeachment advocates haven't been able to find any "great offense" to the nation committed by Trump — other than his offending liberals — they've simply tossed anything and everything they can onto the impeachment pile.

Yet 56% of those following the Mueller investigation closely say that talk of impeaching Trump is premature, according to the latest IBD/TIPP Poll. Among independents, it's 58%; among Republicans, 88%.

Meanwhile, despite overwhelmingly negative coverage, Trump's approval ratings have been climbing. The public is more optimistic about the future. And the latest Gallup poll shows that satisfaction with the direction of the country is higher than it's been since 2005, and equal to the poll's 40-year average.

If Trump were impeached, there's little doubt that it would be seen by a significant portion of the country as a blatant attempt by Democrats to nullify an election on the flimsiest of terms.

Talk about undermining public trust.

We don't doubt Tribe's mastery of constitutional law. But by letting politics drive his impeachment views, Tribe makes himself look less like a legal scholar who deserves respect and more like a partisan hack who deserves none.

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The post Laurence Tribe Was Against Impeachment Before He Was For It — You'll Never Guess What Changed appeared first on Investor's Business Daily.


39. New Study Shines Light — Literally — On China's And Russia's Fake GDP DataЧт., 17 мая[−]

GDP Fraud: Countries ruled by an authoritarian regime often cheat on their official GDP data, a new study shows. No surprise, really. But how do we know this? Well, it's all about the light.

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What do we mean? A new working paper by Luis R. Martinez of the University of Chicago with the amusing title " How Much Should We Trust the Dictator's GDP Estimates?" explores the unusual, but direct, link between the amount of light produced by an economy — as captured and measured through nighttime satellite photographs — and its GDP.

The surprising result: Martinez concludes that economies in authoritarian countries such as China and Russia are not as large as official estimates show. In fact, they're way below what they report.

"Based on the autocracy gradient," Martinez writes, "I estimate that yearly GDP growth rates are inflated by a factor of between 1.15 and 1.3 in the most authoritarian regimes. Correcting for manipulation substantially changes our understanding of comparative economic performance at the turn of the 21st century."

Take China, as the most outstanding example.

For years, it officially reported 10%-plus GDP growth each year, with that number declining only in recent years to just above 6%. That growth rate was enough, according to various reports, to make it the world's No. 1 economy when figured on a purchasing power of parity basis (PPP) — that is, what a dollar buys in China vs. what a dollar buys in the U.S.

And, several forecasts say it will challenge the U.S. for the No. 1 spot in the official, non-PPP GDP data, perhaps as soon as the next decade.

But is China really that big?

If Martinez is right, no. China's average GDP growth has been roughly 30% less than reported, based on the measures of its changes in national lighting. This would be an enormous shift in how we view China's economy.

(The same, by the way, is true for Russia. Its economy, similarly, is much smaller than official estimates show. But its economy also has been struggling for nearly 20 years, so the idea that it may be even worse than it seems comes as no great shock.)

This year, World Bank and U.S. government estimates put U.S. GDP at roughly $17.7 trillion (in 2010$). By the same measure, China's GDP this year will be about $10.8 trillion.

That's far short of the U.S. level, but taken at face value, it's still an amazing number given that as recently as 1980, China's GDP for its entire economy was just $340 billion. That's about a 3,200% gain.

But Martinez cuts China's GDP to roughly $7.5 trillion currently. That's not even half the U.S. level.

As for real GDP per person, which many economists consider the best indicator of a nation's productivity and economic well-being, in the U.S. it will average a record $53,839 this year, based on current estimates.

China's Shrunken GDP

China's citizens, based on Martinez' revised numbers, will produce about $5,440 each in economic output. That's a huge gain from 1980, when annual output was around $349 per person. But again, even today, it's barely at 10% of U.S. output.

So, sorry, those who think China's economy is now as big as the U.S.' are mistaken.

That's not just based on Martinez' study. A host of others have made similar findings.

Washington Post blogger Christopher Ingraham, who first brought the Martinez study to our attention, notes that "research published in 2012 by economists from Brown University and the National Bureau of Economic Research showed how changes in nighttime lighting closely tracked with economic activity.

And, as we noted in earlier, China's total debt, now exceeding 250% of GDP, dwarfs the U.S. debt at about 100% of our GDP. Any downturn in growth could precipitate a debt crisis. So the country has every incentive to lie, just as operators of a Ponzi scheme do.

Former IMF deputy director and current fellow at the American Enterprise Institute Desmond Lachman last year called China's growing debt "a credit bubble of epic proportions.

That's not all. As we noted on these pages back in 2016, economist Harry Wu, working for the Conference Board and using a different technique than Martinez, comes up with China's economy as much as 36% smaller than its official data show. So it's consistent.

According to U.S. Census estimates, China's population is set to begin shrinking as soon as 2026, dragging economic growth rates down. So maybe the 21st century won't be dubbed the "China Century" after all.

But dwelling on China is perhaps unfair, since Martinez' study isn't just about China. It's about authoritarian regimes in general, and how they misreport their economic data in order to appear more successful and stable than they really are.

Indeed, he measures a large number of countries ranked by Freedom House for economic and political freedom.

His findings were consistent: Autocratic regimes cheated more on their economic growth data than freer regimes.

"I find that a 10% increase in nighttime lights is associated with a 2.4% increase in GDP in the most democratic countries and with a 3.4% increase in GDP in the most authoritarian ones," Martinez wrote.

That means, all other things being equal, authoritarian countries are grossly overestimating their economic growth, largely to silence potential critics and to maintain their hold on power.

Martinez found that the distortions in economic growth estimates become particularly pronounced during election cycles, even in nations where the elections are rigged.

Once again a study shows why socialist, communist and other authoritarian and totalitarian economies don't thrive, and can't. Modern, efficient economies depend on actionable information to function. If you have to lie even to your own citizens, your economy can never be as good as you say it is.

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40. Fake Russian Ads Stoked Racial Tensions — Race-Hustling Democrats 'Colluded'Чт., 17 мая[−]

President Donald Trump rejects the narrative that Russia wanted him to win. USA Today examined each of the 3,517 Facebook ads bought by the Russian-based Internet Research Agency, the company that employed 12 of the 13 Russians indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for interfering with the 2016 election. It turns out only about 100 of its ads explicitly endorsed Trump or opposed Hillary Clinton.

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Most of the fake ads focused on racial division, with many of the ads attempting to exploit what Russia perceives, or wants America to perceive, as severe racial tension between blacks and whites.

Think of it. Vladimir Putin, president of a formerly communist country with the blood of possibly tens of millions of its own people on its hands, is using the race card in America, the least-racist majority-white country in the world, a country that just a few years ago elected and reelected a black person for president. Putin therefore "colludes" with race-card carrying Democrats like Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who once called the "good" Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, a "racist." Then there's former Vice President Joe Biden, who recently told the Rev. Al "no justice, no peace" Sharpton: "It's what these guys are all about, man. These Republicans don't want working-class people voting. They don't want black folks voting."

Sharpton, earlier this year, said that Trump "is someone who's chosen a path that is absolutely racism with steroids." Sharpton also wrote: "There were hopes last year that the executive office would temper some of this pettiness, but sadly we now see this is not the case. Rather than attempt to grow and learn, Trump has leaned into his role as divider-in-chief. This is exactly the same racially divisive, unapologetic blowhard I knew in New York."

Sharpton lectures Republicans on political etiquette?

Is this the same Sharpton who shot to fame by falsely accusing a white man of raping a black woman? Is this the same Sharpton, who, according to The New York Times in 2014, owes "more than $4.5 million in current state and federal tax"? Is this the same Sharpton who called the black then-mayor of New York City, David Dinkins, a "n----- whore"?

CNN's Don Lemon recently said: "Critical thinking is important as a journalist. If you cannot surmise that this President — if he's not racist, he's certainly racist-adjacent. ... We have come to a consensus in our society that facts matter. ... I feel like it's my obligation as a journalist to say it."

Aside from routinely being called "racist," President Trump is denounced on left-wing cable shows and late-night television as a "liar." MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, a former aide to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., called Trump "a pathological liar." CNN's Don Lemon opened a recent show by discussing "the 3,000 lies that the President has told since inauguration."

Trump's "lies" pale in comparison with the Big Lies of the modern left.

The left insists, teaches, preaches and indoctrinates that racism remains a major problem in America. So-called "civil rights" organizations — like Black Lives Matter, the NAACP or the Southern Poverty Law Center — denounce alleged "institutional" or "systemic" or "structural" racism as a serious problem in America, even as racism continues to recede.

The left insists that "sexism" remains a major problem in America. Women, President Barack Obama insisted, earn only 77 cents on the dollar compared with men while performing the same work. Even Obama's Department of Labor called it untrue. In 2009, the Labor Department found that, after controlling for obvious education and job differences, the gender "wage gap" shrank to only 95%.

The Labor Department found that women often make different choices than men: "A greater percentage of women than men tend to work part-time. Part-time work tends to pay less than full-time work. A greater percentage of women than men tend to leave the labor force for childbirth, child care and elder care. ...

"Research also suggests that differences not incorporated into the model due to data limitations may account for part of the remaining gap. ... Much of the literature, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics ... focus on wages rather than total compensation. Research indicates that women may value non-wage benefits more than men do, and as a result prefer to take a greater portion of their compensation in the form of health insurance and other fringe benefits."

The left insists that the rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer. Actually, the percentage of the world living in "extreme poverty" — currently less than $1.90 a day — has plummeted in the last three decades. In 1990, the United Nations set a goal to cut the world's poverty rate in half by 2015. That goal was reached five years early: By 2010, over a billion people had escaped extreme poverty in just 20 years.

Thanks to a media obsessed with racism, sexism and inequality, and Democrats who play the race card for votes, the Russians have willing accomplices in spreading dissent. After all, President Barack Obama claimed that racism is part of America's "DNA."

Somewhere, Putin is smiling. Yet none dare call it "collusion."

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

Other columns by Larry Elder

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41. Global Warming And Climate Change: Facts And FictionЧт., 17 мая[−]

Global warming and climate change, as both a major science debate and an economic issue, has become a major dividing point in American politics.

Recent global warming agreements brokered by the U.N. seek steep reductions in world C02 output to slow the presumed warming of the earth's atmosphere, while also seeking alterations in the economy that would move energy sources away from fossil fuels toward renewable natural energy.

XBut a growing contingent of scientists and economists call into question the climate change dogma, saying that the temperature data show no clear recent warming and noting that the benefits of global warming, if it existed, might be greater than the costs. This split will define the political debate in the near term.

Former president Barack Obama and most of the Democratic Party signed on eagerly to the U.N. agenda, which entails major reductions in the size of the U.S. economy.

President Donald Trump, by naming a Cabinet filled with energy executives and global warming skeptics, has made clear his policy is likely to be far more friendly toward conventional fossil fuels than Obama's was.

Global Warming & Climate Change

Democrats Blast Trump For High Gas Prices … After They Spent Years Trying To Force Them UpHypocrisy Watch: Democrats hope they've found an issue that will re-energize the fading "Blue Wave" with the recent spike in gas prices. Never mind that the increase is temporary. Or that Democrats... Read More
Don't Tell Anyone, But We Just Had Two Years Of Record-Breaking Global CoolingInconvenient Science: NASA data show that global temperatures dropped sharply over the past two years. Not that you'd know it, since that wasn't deemed news. Does that make NASA a global warming... Read More
Coal Is Dead! Long Live King Coal!A growing chorus of prophets and pundits has been proclaiming the death of the American coal industry. After all, more than 250 coal-fired power plants have been retired since 2010 with several... Read More
Climate-Change True Believers Are Least Likely To Change Their Own Behavior, Study FindsHypocrisy Watch: We keep hearing how global warming is the biggest crisis facing mankind today. But a new yearlong study finds that those ringing the alarm bells the loudest are the least... Read More
Louisiana Follows Liberal New York City's Lead In Going After Oil CompaniesLouisiana and New York City might not seem like they have much in common, but they are up to the same tricks. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a... Read More
Carbon Tax: A Bad Idea Whose Time Should Never ComeTaxes: The temptation of a carbon tax these days seems great, even to some Republicans. But it's a bad idea. Now two GOP lawmakers want to put people on the record opposing... Read More
Who's Afraid Of Global Warming?As we mark Earth Day this week, it's natural to ask: What do Americans think of global warming? Is it a big worry? Is government doing enough? The answers seem conclusive but,... Read More
Here's One Global Warming Study Nobody Wants You To SeeSettled Science: A new study published in a peer-reviewed journal finds that climate models exaggerate the global warming from CO2 emissions by as much as 45%. If these findings hold true, it's... Read More
U.S. Cuts 'Global Warming' Gases Faster Than Anyone Else, But Media Ignore ItGlobal Warming: When the U.S. announced last year it would withdraw from the job-killing Paris Climate Accords, it was treated by the media as a climate-change disaster. But don't worry: The U.S.... Read More
Despite Trump's Cutbacks, Federal Regulatory Monster Still Consumes $1.9 TrillionFree Markets: We have repeatedly praised President Trump for his efforts to cut back on costly, needless federal regulations and free up the economy. But a new report shows the regulatory beast... Read More

The post Global Warming And Climate Change: Facts And Fiction appeared first on Investor's Business Daily.


42. Prohibition Has Been Lifted At Last On Sports GamblingЧт., 17 мая[−]

Repeal of Prohibition in 1933 instantly reduced crime by reducing the number of criminalized activities, including some that millions of Americans considered victimless activities and none of the government's business.

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Now, America is going to become more law abiding, the Supreme Court having said that the federal government cannot prohibit states from legalizing what Americans have been doing anyway with at least 150 billion of their dollars annually. This large figure (almost five times the combined revenues of MLB, the NFL, NBA and NHL; 14 times the movie industry's domestic ticket sales) is a guess and might be much less than the actual sum that Americans wager on sports.

In 1992, when sports betting was illegal in most states, Congress, prompted by New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley (Princeton all-American basketball player, Olympian, New York Knick), passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). This did not do what Congress has the power to do: Because the court's permissive construing of Congress' power to regulate all sorts of more or less economic activities for all sorts of reasons, Congress could criminalize sports gambling. Instead, however, it gave New Jersey, alone among the 46 states that did not already have such betting, one year to adopt it, after which New Jersey would be forbidden to do so.

Illegal sports betting was estimated to involve only $25 billion annually when PASPA was passed. Its subsequent burgeoning is redundant evidence that restraining a popular appetite with a statute is akin to lassoing a locomotive with a cobweb, which should chasten busybody governments. While one should formally frown upon the lawlessness of wagering Americans, their anarchic tendencies are, on balance, wholesome.

Also in 1992, the Supreme Court began enunciating the "anti-commandeering" doctrine: The federal government may not pursue its objectives by requiring states to use, or refrain from using, their resources for those objectives. The Constitution's 10th Amendment ("The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people") means, the court has held, that "while Congress has substantial powers to govern the nation directly, including in areas of intimate concern to the states, the Constitution has never been understood to confer upon Congress the ability to require the states to govern according to Congress' instructions."

In a 2011 referendum, New Jersey voters strongly approved sports betting; two months later, the Legislature approved such betting in casino sports books and at horse tracks. After courts twice held that New Jersey was violating PASPA, the state appealed to the Supreme Court, saying: "Never before has federal law been enforced to command a state to give effect to a state law that the state has chosen to repeal."

On Monday the court ruled, 6-3, in favor of New Jersey and three principles of good government that are threatened by federal commandeering. Writing for the majority, and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito said: The anti-commandeering rule protects individual liberty by maintaining a "healthy balance of power" between the states and the federal government. The rule "promotes political accountability" because "voters who like or dislike the effects" of a regulation "know who to credit or blame." And the rule "prevents Congress from shifting the costs of regulation to the states."

This season, an NHL team began playing in Las Vegas, where the NFL's Oakland Raiders will relocate in 2020. Because of what the court did Monday, soon a majority of states, with a majority of the nation's population, probably will be regulating and taxing legalized sports gambling. The unembarrassable National Collegiate Athletic Association has said without blushing that sports betting threatens "student-athlete well-being and the integrity of athletic competition." Actually, an infusion of run-of-the-mill back-alley bookies in soiled raincoats might elevate college basketball's moral tone.

Just after PASPA was enacted, 56% of Americans opposed legalized betting on professional sports events. A quarter of a century later, 55% approve. The nation's most insistent promoters of gambling are state governments that run lotteries. Law lags morals, but not forever.

The professional sports leagues were on the losing side Monday, but will find ways to profit from betting on their products. Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and a maverick himself, thinks that intensified fan interest will double franchise values across baseball, football, basketball and hockey. Want to bet against him? Go ahead.


Other columns by George Will

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43. Don't Tell Anyone, But We Just Had Two Years Of Record-Breaking Global CoolingСр., 16 мая[−]

Inconvenient Science: NASA data show that global temperatures dropped sharply over the past two years. Not that you'd know it, since that wasn't deemed news. Does that make NASA a global warming denier?

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Writing in Real Clear Markets, Aaron Brown looked at the official NASA global temperature data and noticed something surprising. From February 2016 to February 2018, "global average temperatures dropped by 0.56 degrees Celsius." That, he notes, is the biggest two-year drop in the past century.

"The 2016-2018 Big Chill," he writes, "was composed of two Little Chills, the biggest five month drop ever (February to June 2016) and the fourth biggest (February to June 2017). A similar event from February to June 2018 would bring global average temperatures below the 1980s average."

Isn't this just the sort of man-bites-dog story that the mainstream media always says is newsworthy?

In this case, it didn't warrant any news coverage.

In fact, in the three weeks since Real Clear Markets ran Brown's story, no other news outlet picked up on it. They did, however, find time to report on such things as tourism's impact on climate change, how global warming will generate more hurricanes this year, and threaten fish habitats, and make islands uninhabitable. They wrote about a UN official saying that "our window of time for addressing climate change is closing very quickly."

Reporters even found time to cover a group that says they want to carve President Trump's face into a glacier to prove climate change "is happening."

In other words, the mainstream news covered stories that repeated what climate change advocates have been saying ad nauseam for decades.

That's not to say that a two-year stretch of cooling means that global warming is a hoax. Two years out of hundreds or thousands doesn't necessarily mean anything. And there could be a reasonable explanation. But the drop in temperatures at least merits a "Hey, what's going on here?" story.

What's more, journalists are perfectly willing to jump on any individual weather anomaly — or even a picture of a starving polar bear — as proof of global warming. (We haven't seen any stories pinning Hawaii's recent volcanic activity on global warming yet, but won't be surprised if someone tries to make the connection.)

We've noted this refusal to cover inconvenient scientific findings many times in this space over the years.

Hiding The Evidence

There was the study published in the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate showing that climate models exaggerate global warming from CO2 emissions by as much as 45%. It was ignored.

Then there was the study in the journal Nature Geoscience that found that climate models were faulty, and that, as one of the authors put it, "We haven't seen that rapid acceleration in warming after 2000 that we see in the models."

Nor did the press see fit to report on findings from the University of Alabama-Huntsville showing that the Earth's atmosphere appears to be less sensitive to changing CO2 levels than previously assumed.

How about the fact that the U.S. has cut CO2 emissions over the past 13 years faster than any other industrialized nation? Or that polar bear populations are increasing? Or that we haven't seen any increase in violent weather in decades?

Crickets.

Reporters no doubt worry that covering such findings will only embolden "deniers" and undermine support for immediate, drastic action.

But if fears of catastrophic climate change are warranted — which we seriously doubt — ignoring things like the rapid cooling in the past two years carries an even bigger risk.

Suppose, Brown writes, the two-year cooling trend continues. "At some point the news will leak out that all global warming since 1980 has been wiped out in two and a half years, and that record-setting events went unreported."

He goes on: "Some people could go from uncritical acceptance of steadily rising temperatures to uncritical refusal to accept any warming at all."

Brown is right. News outlets should decide what gets covered based on its news value, not on whether it pushes an agenda. Otherwise, they're doing the public a disservice and putting their own already shaky credibility at greater risk.

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44. Will Battle Between 'Big Corn' And 'Big Oil' Stall Next Generation Biofuels?Ср., 16 мая[−]

The Department of Energy projects that U.S. gasoline use will decline by 20% in the next ten years. This decline stems from improvements in fleet fuel economy as old inefficient vehicles are replaced by new ones, and by the increasing market share of electric vehicles. Such a decline should be a boon for the environment, but fights over ethanol threaten to undermine potential environmental benefits.

Numerous studies show that pollution from cars negatively affects infant mortality, respiratory health, human cognition, and labor productivity. Lower consumption would reduce these pollution impacts, and it would also reduce the carbon footprint of transportation because gasoline contributes significantly to carbon emissions.

Currently, almost every gallon of gasoline contains 10% ethanol made from corn and 90% petroleum gasoline refined from crude oil as a result of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. (RFS). However, declining gasoline use is intensifying the existing fight between big oil companies and the corn ethanol industry (or Big Corn) over how much of the shrinking transportation fuel pie each gets.

The most immediate impact of the RFS wars is to focus attention on corn ethanol and petroleum gasoline at the detriment of second-generation biofuels. These fuels — produced from the inedible parts of plants with much lower greenhouse gas emissions than corn ethanol — can also be blended with gasoline. Adding them to the fuel mix would lessen transportation-caused emissions considerably because they emit vastly less carbon than corn ethanol or petroleum gasoline.

While commercialization of second-generation biofuel has been very slow up to now, with only negligible volumes produced in 2017, recent innovations by American companies provide some hope. Today, several firms are producing cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber, which would otherwise not be used productively.

In late 2017, POET, the country's largest ethanol producer, reported an important breakthrough in "pretreatment," the main barrier to commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production. But more extensive growth requires support by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the RFS: either by upping the required yearly volume of second-generation biofuels, or by providing stable subsidies to the producers.

The core issue in the RFS wars is the total number of gallons of biofuel (a number determined by the RFS) that has to be used yearly. The economics of gasoline supply depend on the rate at which ethanol is blended into gasoline. Getting a certain number of gallons of ethanol into a shrinking gasoline pool requires that ethanol be a higher percentage of the fuel blend. Increasing the blend rate above the current 10% requires costly investments that the fuel industry has so far refused to make.

At the moment, EPA, which administers the RFS, is mediating the RFS wars using giveaways to Big Oil and Big Corn.

To Big Oil, EPA has secretly given compliance exemptions from using ethanol to several large and profitable firms that own small refineries. While EPA has the authority to exempt small refineries that suffer "disproportionate economic hardship" from complying with the statute, it has not demonstrated such hardship in these cases. Continuing these covert exemptions would be a back-door way to reduce the RFS mandate, and a reading of the law suggests it would be illegal.

To placate the corn ethanol industry, the White House has proposed to allow year-round sales of gasoline containing 15% ethanol, up from the current 10%. However, because ethanol increases ozone levels, this violates current air quality standards specified in the Clean Air Act. Furthermore, EPA had previously determined that it could not legally make the change.

Big Corn objects to the Trump administration's gift to Big Oil, and Big Oil objects to the gift to Big Corn. These giveaways will be challenged in court, distracting EPA officials from their needed support for second-generation biofuels.

Congress could end the RFS wars by reforming the RFS and setting the gasoline blend rate. This would provide stability to the fuel industry, as firms would be able to determine the needed investments to meet the standard. In so doing, Congress could also provide production incentives for second-generation biofuels.

Whether gasoline use declines by more or less than what the Department of Energy projects, there will be still large demand for gasoline for the foreseeable future. All of us will suffer if we miss the chance to develop a viable second-generation biofuel supply because of political giveaways.

  • Aaron Smith, Ph.D., is a professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Davis.
  • Vincent Smith, Ph.D., directs the agricultural studies program at the American Enterprise Institute. He is also Professor of Economics at Montana State University.

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45. Pharmaceutical Middlemen, Not Patients, Profit Off New Cancer TreatmentsСр., 16 мая[−]

High out-of-pocket costs are preventing some Americans from taking life-saving drugs. Just look at oral cancer patients. More than 50% of patients with the highest out-of-pockets costs abandon their prescriptions, compared to only 10% of patients with the lowest costs, according to a recent study.

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These steep out-of-pocket prices are often thanks to the bloated middlemen who control the drug supply chain. These middlemen, known as pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), burden patients with high drug costs. And they're ill-equipped to deliver the next generation of targeted therapies.

The supply chain is complex. Drug makers don't sell their drugs directly to patients. Instead, they sell to PBMs, which are hired by health plans to negotiate drug prices. PBMs process the majority of prescriptions in America and decide which drugs insurers will cover.

PBMs are the most influential actors in a chain of middlemen. Their role gives them a lot of negotiating leverage. If a pharmaceutical company wants patients to take its drug rather than a rival company's pills, the drug maker must offer the PBMs a good deal. Otherwise, the PBMs could blacklist the company and steer patients to a different firm's medications.

PBMs use this leverage to extract big discounts from manufacturers, who generally give PBMs a 30% rebate off the list price of brand-name drugs. When there are many similar drugs for the same illness, PBMs can play manufacturers off one another and achieve huge rebates of 60% or more.

These negotiations, in theory, are great for patients. But in practice, they deliver few benefits. That's because PBMs rarely pass the savings on to patients. Instead, they share some of the rebates with their insurer clients and keep the remainder for themselves.

In fact, these negotiations can result in higher costs for patients. Consider how PBMs often negotiate "exclusive contracts" for certain drugs. That means the PBM covers only one drug for a particular illness.

Consider a woman who takes an oral medication that treats breast cancer. Let's say her health plan's PBM negotiated a big rebate on it, and in exchange, offered the drug maker an exclusive contract.

If the woman's doctor discovers that the drug is damaging her liver, he might prescribe a different medicine. Because that drug is excluded from her PBM's list of approved medications, she'll face higher out-of-pocket costs.

In addition to directly inflating patients' bills, PBMs drive up healthcare prices by keeping an ever-larger share of rebates and administrative fees for themselves. Profits at Express Scripts and CVS Caremark, two of the largest PBMs, have grown by roughly 600% since 2003, from $900 million to nearly $6 billion.

Compare that to group purchasing organizations, which are hospital subsidiaries that negotiate bulk-purchase contracts with drug and equipment manufacturers. GPOs save hospitals up to $33 billion annually. Their administrative fees typically total 3% of the items' purchase price, compared to 10 percent or more for PBMs.

In other words, it's not that PBMs' negotiating leverage isn't valuable. It's that they are grossly overcharging insurers and patients for their services. Every dollar that flows into a PBM's coffers is a dollar that doesn't go towards drug research or lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs for patients.

PBMs also are ill-suited to handle the next generation of personalized medicines.

Consider gene therapy, which can replace mutated genes with healthy copies, kill mutated genes, or introduce new genes into the body. The FDA just approved Luxturna, a gene therapy that can restore sight to nearly blind people within weeks. But less than 2,000 patients have the mutated gene that makes them eligible for Luxturna.

Gene therapies are generally custom-tailored to each patient. So there's no economy of scale. Even if the middlemen were willing to pass discounts on to patients, they'd have little leverage to extract such discounts.

In other words, PBMs' traditional business model — guarantee manufacturers access to millions of patients in return for steep discounts — will be obsolete in the era of personalized medicine.

The emergence of groundbreaking drugs must be met with a more innovative supply chain. 133 million Americans with chronic disease depend on it.

  • Shah is the founder and president of Market Access Solutions, a global market access consultancy, where he develops strategies to optimize patient access to life-changing therapies.

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46. Why Jerusalem MattersСр., 16 мая[−]

This week, the Trump administration inaugurated the new American embassy in Jerusalem. The celebration in Israel was palpable; the embassy move came amidst the national celebration of the 70th anniversary of the creation of the state. The streets filled with Jews of all sorts, cheering and dancing.

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Meanwhile, on the Gaza border, Hamas broadened its monthlong campaign to break down the Israel border, staging border "protests" attended by thousands — including terrorists who have used the supposed protests as a staging point for violent attacks on Israeli troops and territory.

Palestinian terrorists have caused mass chaos, throwing Molotov cocktails at troops, attempting to rush the border, flinging explosives and tying incendiaries to kites in an attempt to set Israeli territory alight. The Israeli Defense Forces have responded with restraint. Despite this, a few dozen Palestinians have been killed, not the hundreds or thousands Hamas would presumably prefer.

But even as Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in Gaza, suggested that "more than 100,000 people could storm the fence" between Israel and Gaza, and as 23-year-old Mohammed Mansoura announced, "We are excited to storm and get inside ... to kill, throw stones," the media covered the slow-rolling terror assault as a form of peaceful protest.

A New York Times headline read "Israeli Troops Kill Dozens of Palestinian Protesters." A Wall Street Journal headline reads "Scores Killed, Thousands Injured as Palestinians Protest US Embassy Opening In Jerusalem."

Never mind that the riots had been going on for weeks preceding the embassy opening. Never mind that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority could quickly and permanently end all violence simply by stopping the violence. The real issue, according to the press, is President Trump and his Israeli friends.

What drives the leftist press's coverage? Simply put, antipathy to the West. Israel is seen as an outpost of colonialism by leftists, and has been since the 1967 war.

Then-President Barack Obama expressed the view well in his 2009 speech in Cairo, suggesting that Israel's rationale relied on its "tragic history" that "culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust." In this view, the Palestinians were shunted aside in favor of providing national reparations to Jews; the Jews took their Western ways into the heart of a foreign region.

This isn't true.

The living proof of that is Israel's eternal connection to Jerusalem. That's why both radical Muslims (including the Palestinian leadership) and the far left deny Israel's historic bond with its homeland and hope desperately to stop public recognition of that bond.

If Israel exists because Jewish connection pre-existed everything else, then Israel isn't a new outpost of the West; it's the oldest center of the West. That's why Trump's announcement is important: It's a recognition that the West was founded on Jerusalem, rather than the other way around.

Peace will come when everyone recognizes what Trump has recognized: The Jewish connection to Jerusalem is unbreakable. And peace will come when Israel's enemies realize that violence can't change that underlying fact.

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

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47. As Obamacare Premiums Soar, Democrats LieСр., 16 мая[−]

America has a health insurance problem because politicians would rather lie about it than solve it.

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ObamaCare regulations caused premiums for people buying their own insurance to more than double between 2013 and 2017, and then soar even higher in 2018. With huge hikes predicted again in 2019, the Affordable Care Act will have caused premiums to triple in six years. Ouch. But instead of telling the truth about why this is happening, politicians are dishing out lies.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is already announcing what he's going to do about the rate hikes. "We Democrats are going to be relentless in making sure the American people exactly understand who is to blame for the rates." He means pinning the blame on President Trump and the Republican majorities in Congress. Don't buy this lie.

Independent insurance experts point to the flawed provisions of the Affordable Care Act that drive premiums skyward year after year. Never mind who's in the White House.

The biggest cause, according to McKinsey management consultants, is ObamaCare's rule forcing healthy people to pay the same premium as sick people. Before ObamaCare, people in most states buying in the individual market paid premiums that varied depending on their own expected medical needs. Not any more. Now they're being coerced into paying the medical bills of the chronically ill. Five percent of the population consumes almost 50 percent of the health care, but under ObamaCare, everyone pays the same premium. Few would volunteer for such a scheme. That's why Obamacare uses force. You buy, or you get fined.

Despite soaring premiums, consumers are getting lower-quality coverage than before ObamaCare. McKinsey finds insurers are restricting choices of doctors and hospitals. Major cancer hospitals are off-limits in many plans, which are barely disguised Medicaid. If you're seriously ill, getting medications you need — such as Copaxone to treat multiple sclerosis — can be nearly impossible, according to researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of Texas.

Enter President Trump. With Congress stymied, Trump is changing federal insurance regulations as much as a president legally can to help sticker-shocked consumers. Some 20 million people who can't afford ObamaCare are either incurring the penalty for not having it or getting an exemption.

Trump's changes will allow consumers to pay according to their own health needs, and to buy 12-month plans without costly extras like maternity coverage and pediatric dental coverage that are mandatory (even for single guys) in ObamaCare plans.

Trump also pledged to eliminate the penalty, and the new tax reform law does that in 2019.

Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi say Trump's moves "sabotage" the Affordable Care Act and "jack up costs and premiums for millions of middle-class Americans." What? You'd have to have amnesia to think premium hikes are a new problem.

Democrats are making a big deal over the Congressional Budget Office estimate that eliminating the penalty will add 10% to next year's premiums. Ten percent — trivial compared with increases we've seen since 2013 and huge hikes forecast this fall. CareFirst in Maryland is proposing a 91% hike.

This explosive problem is fixable. Every Republican proposal to replace ObamaCare would pay the medical bills of people with pre-existing conditions out of general revenues. It wouldn't abandon them, but rather lift the burden off consumers in the individual market and spread it more broadly. Sadly, Congress failed to act. The good news is that eight states are moving ahead, using that same solution to undo the worst effects of ObamaCare's pricing rules and provide relief.

Schumer seems exultant over the rate hikes ahead, missing no opportunity to repeat the lie, "President Trump and congressional Republicans are fully responsible." For Schumer and other Dems, soaring premiums are about politics. They're not suffering. Members of Congress get a sweetheart insurance deal for life. They should be trying to solve the problem for everyone else instead of lying about it.

  • 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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48. Federal Government Must Revamp Spending To Maximize Economic GrowthСр., 16 мая[−]

It's not news that the federal government spends too much. This year, the federal government will spend about $30,000 per taxpayer. That doesn't count the public debt — every taxpayers' share is over $145,000 — or unfunded liabilities like Social Security and Medicare, which add another $600,000 to $1.6 million per taxpayer.

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Given Congress's lack of budget discipline, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other congressional fiscal hawks are considering a "rescission" bill to cut up to $15 billion in federal spending. This would be a welcome start, but Washington must overhaul its thinking on spending altogether.

The time has come to finally impose a hard budget constraint. Constraining federal spending to 15% of national income — that is, GDP less depreciation — would eliminate the negative impact that overspending has on growth and make the coming fiscal crises easier to manage.

This is the 15% solution. Its premise is that government spending is no different from any other economic good. If the right public services are provided, then initially these services will be highly valued relative to the cost of financing them — think building a firehouse in a town that has none.

However, as the government spends more — as it builds more firehouses — the benefits from additional expenditures diminish. Ultimately, there is a spending level where the value of additional government spending is essentially equivalent to the cost of financing that spending. This level of spending maximizes the government's beneficial impact on the economy and represents the affordable size of government.

This contrasts with the popular view that more government spending stimulates the economy, regardless of how much we are spending or how we are spending those dollars.

The federal government will spend around $4.2 trillion in 2018 — around 24% of national income. In a recent Pacific Research Institute study, I estimated that the federal government's growth-maximizing spending level is significantly smaller — closer to 15% of national income.

Since public expenditures are above 15% of national income, the additional federal government spending is reducing economic growth. The long-term consequences of this excessive spending are significant. Had government spending followed the 15% solution, the median family income as of 2016 could be 34% higher than it was — $97,185, rather than the actual value of $72,707.

The 15 Percent Solution

As these numbers indicate, implementing the 15% solution would require steep expenditure reductions relative to national income. Consequently, a gradual approach should be taken, capping the growth in government spending to less than the average growth in national income.

If annual federal spending growth were restricted to 3% per year — assuming 2% inflation — then the budget would be balanced within a decade and would be affordable within two decades. Once federal expenditures are at an affordable level, federal expenditures should then grow at the average growth in national income.

Establishing the affordable level of government is only the beginning. How government spends tax dollars also matters.

While overall expenditures are too high, there's no reason to believe that the budget restrictions necessary for one type of public good — like defense — are the same as the restrictions necessary for others — say, education. The value gained from additional defense expenditures may be less than the additional costs necessary to fund those services, while the net value gained from additional education expenditures may exceed those costs.

Unlike the sequester, effective budget caps force Congress to prioritize spending programs against their goals and against other spending priorities. In addition, waste, fraud, or abuse never contribute to economic growth — and so must be eliminated.

Recognizing that government spending must be affordable also illustrates the futility of stimulus spending. For example, the 2009 Obama-era stimulus was supposed to accelerate the economic recovery from the Great Recession but was destined to detract from economic growth because federal government spending was already above the affordability level.

Simply put, the value of the public goods provided by the Obama stimulus was far less than the value of those resources if they'd remained in the private sector.

In the 1980s, President Reagan correctly identified government spending as the problem. But it does not have to be. If implemented, the 15 percent solution would make government more affordable for taxpayers and more efficient for all citizens. While Congress shows little inclination for such common-sense reforms, large and growing tax and debt burdens demand it.

  • Winegarden, Ph.D., is senior fellow in business and economics at the Pacific Research Institute. His study "The 15 Percent Solution" is available at www.pacificresearch.org.

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49. Media Bias: How Media Turn U.S., Israel Into Villains By Misreporting Gaza 'Protesters' ViolenceСр., 16 мая[−]

Bias: You might think that national news outlets would be extra careful not to sensationalize or distort what's happening in Gaza and the West Bank in response to the U.S. moving its embassy to Jerusalem, Israel's capital. But if you did, you would be incredibly naive.

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The mainstream media went out of their way to portray the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem as an incitement to violence by Palestinian "demonstrators."

Headlines often give away the underlying bias. Typical was one from the New York Times: "Israel Kills Dozens at Gaza Border as U.S. Embassy Opens in Jerusalem."

Get the linkage? It's all our fault — and the Israelis'.

ABC News' reporting went out under this title: "Over 50 Palestinians in massive protest are killed by Israeli military, bloodiest day in Gaza since 2014 war."

The BBC, Britain's taxpayer-funded fountain of left-wing news, ran this succinct topper: "Jerusalem embassy: Why Trump's move was not about peace."

But that wasn't all. The Beeb's piece weirdly sank into a vile anti-Semitic and anti-Christian tirade, blaming Trump's decision to relocate the embassy on, among others, "right-wing American Jews whose message was amplified by the conservative Orthodox Jews dominating Mr. Trump's inner circle" and "evangelicals whose voice was amplified by the devout Christian in the White House, Vice President Mike Pence."

The Huffington Post effort, to its credit labeled "Opinion," ran with a similar theme: "Trump's Jerusalem Embassy Ceremony Was One Big Dog Whistle."

A dog whistle, for what, you ask? Just like the BBC, the HuffPost blames Christianity and Judaism, of course.

By far the worst bias, however, was in the New York Daily News. It ran a front page picture of Ivanka Trump attending the U.S. embassy opening, contrasted with a picture of the violence in Gaza with the headline: "Daddy's Little Ghoul."

Report after report in the Western press credulously cited "Palestinian authorities" for the number of dead and injured in the violence that took place in Gaza and the West Bank. At last count, some 60 people, among them "eight children," were reported dead.

CNN reported that "among the dead were eight children, including 8-month-old Laila Anwar Ghandour."

Heartbreaking if true, but as AP reports: "Gaza health officials are casting doubt on initial claims that a 9-month-old baby died from Israeli tear gas fired during mass protests on the Gaza border with Israel. A medical doctor said Tuesday that the baby, Layla Ghandour, had a pre-existing medical condition and that he did not believe her death was caused by tear gas."

Nonetheless, the reports were pretty much all in line, suggesting that peaceful protesters were fired on by bloodthirsty Israeli troops.

"The deaths and injuries to over 2,400 people came mostly from gunfire by Israeli forces as Palestinians amassed at the border in far greater numbers than in other recent demonstrations," ABC News reported, in what was a fairly typical report.

But who were those "authorities" who gave them the casualty figures? Of course, the Health Ministry, cited by many news outlets. But it's controlled by the terrorist group Hamas, and Hamas has a long and well-documented history of lying about, well, all sorts of things, including casualties. Why believe them now?

In its piece, the Washington Post painted a picture of "tens of thousands of Palestinians," of which "many came to peacefully demonstrate, bringing their children and carrying flags. Food stalls sold snacks and music blared."

Just another day in the park peacefully demonstrating, right? No bias there.

Not exactly. As the Media Research Center points out, the very same Post piece lower in the story only reluctantly provides the real truth: The demonstrations, which by the way have been ongoing since March 30, "appeared to have a more violent edge."

"At a gathering point east of Gaza City, organizers urged protesters over loudspeakers to burst through the fence, telling them Israeli soldiers were fleeing their positions, even as they were reinforcing them," the Post said.

In fact, many of those engaged in "demonstrating" or "protesting" were armed with grenades, pipe bombs, knives and guns, and were intent on breaching the security fence to kill as many Israelis as possible. They also flew kites with firebombs attached over the fence to start fires in tinder-dry Israel. As the Post itself reported, their own leaders urged them on to a suicidal clash with armed and trained IDF troops.

And by the way, the Israeli military dropped thousands of leaflets on border areas, warning Palestinians against attacking the border fence. They did it anyway.

Even so, the media's overwhelming narrative is that the Palestinians are somehow passive and helpless against a brutal Israeli occupying force. In fact, they instigated the violence, not the Israelis or the U.S. And the Palestinian leaders achieved what they wanted: martyrs for their lost cause.

Taking them at their word, they encouraged 60 people to become "shaheeds," or martyrs, for nothing more than short-term leverage in their cause of creating a new Palestinian state. They got the response they wanted: The media played along by contrasting the celebrations marking the opening of the U.S. Embassy with the violence on the border, and by implying it was Israeli bloodthirstiness to blame.

"The Palestinian strategy paid off once again, of course," wrote Matt Philbin at Newsbusters. "The U.N. and Human Rights Watch condemned Israel for using 'excessive force.' Noted human rights stalwarts Turkey and South Africa recalled their ambassadors to Israel." Not to be left out, the EU joined the blaming of Israel: "Israel must respect the right of peaceful protest in Gaza."

The media have a lot to answer for in their bias and misreporting and distortion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Let's just leave it at this: By not telling the truth, the media have contributed to the pain and misery of Palestinians, who will never have a homeland unless they recognize Israel's right to exist and to live within secure, defensible borders.

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50. Cornell Student Presents Senior Thesis in Her UnderwearСр., 16 мая[−]

The most remarkable thing about the title of this column is that not one reader will think it's a joke. That, my friends, is further proof of the low esteem in which most Americans hold our universities.

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The left has rendered our universities, in the description of Harvard professor Steven Pinker, laughingstocks.

As reported in The Cornell Daily Sun and then around the world, this is what actually happened last week at Cornell University, one of our "Ivy League" universities: Senior Letitia Chai presented a trial run of her scholar senior thesis wearing a blue button-down shirt and cutoff jean shorts. Her professor, Rebekah Maggor, asked her, "is that really what you would wear?"

The professor went on to say that Chai's shorts were "too short" — that as a speaker she was making a "statement" with her clothes. As reported in the newspaper, "The class does not have a formalized dress code, but asks students to 'dress appropriately for the persona (they) will present.'"

Offended and hurt by the professor's suggestion, Chai decided that she would present her thesis in even less clothing. She appeared before her fellow students in her shirt and shorts and then removed them. As she stripped down to a bra and panties, she explained: "I am more than Asian. I am more than a woman. I am more than Letitia Chai. I am a human being, and I ask you to take this leap of faith, to take this next step — or rather, this next strip — in our movement and to join me in revealing to each other and to seeing each other for who we truly are: members of the human race. ... We are so triumphant, but most importantly, we are equals."

Twenty-eight of the 44 audience members followed suit, stripping down.

Chai's presentation was livestreamed. It can still be seen on Facebook.

Eleven students who were present wrote a long statement defending both the professor — who apologized profusely — and Chai. It read:

"As students who firmly believe in the tenants" (that Cornell students do not know the word is "tenets," not "tenants," is not surprising) "of justice and the commitment to fair representation, we feel that it is our duty to make the following statement. We support Letitia's commitment to the cause of women's rights. ... We strongly support and identify with Letitia's fight for equality in the treatment of all people, regardless of race, gender, color, creed, sexuality, or appearance. The majority of us are students of color, from multiethnic backgrounds, who very much relate to Letitia's frustration with systemic oppression that is part of the fabric of this country. ... Our recollection of that day is as follows:

"Letitia stood up to give her speech. Before she began, our professor asked Letitia if she would wear 'those shorts' to her actual presentation on Saturday. Our professor regularly asks all of the students, male and female, such questions to clarify appropriate attire for public speaking. Our professor went on to say that what you wear and how you present yourself make a statement. She noted that if you were to wear jean shorts to your thesis presentation, that is a statement. Her focus on attire was a means of noting the importance of professionalism in certain public speaking situations. ... Throughout the semester ... We have also had several meaningful dialogues on privilege, discussed how to avoid (white) savior narratives. ... Our professor ... often illustrates the ways to us in which society can institute a socialized behavior (for females, acting apologetic for opinions) due to systematic oppression."

It's hard to know which aspect of this story is the most ludicrous and the most disturbing. Is it the students stripping down to their underwear? That delivering a senior thesis in one's underwear before fellow students, most of whom also stripped down, is acceptable — even honored — at Cornell University tells you just about all you need to know to understand the degraded state of Cornell and most other American universities. And if delivering a senior thesis in one's underwear is a blow for women's equality, why wear underwear? Why not deliver the thesis naked?

Is it the pervasive assumption of America's "systemic oppression" of women and ethnic minorities? If there are luckier young women in the world than those who attend Cornell and other American universities, it is hard to imagine who they might be. Yet they have been so effectively indoctrinated by their left-wing instructors in elementary school, high school and college they walk around thinking of themselves as victims of "systemic oppression" in what is probably the freest and most opportunity-giving society in human history.

Or is it the apparent absence of any criticism of Chai by even one of the 1,650 faculty members of Cornell University? It is inconceivable that even at Cornell, there is not one faculty member who found this young woman's behavior an insult to Cornell and the once-exalted field of higher education. Yet they so fear their left-wing colleagues and left-wing students that they have said nothing.

This story reconfirms what I regularly tell parents: Sending your child to college is playing Russian roulette with their values.

  • Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His latest book, published by Regnery in April 2018, is "The Rational Bible," a commentary on the book of Exodus. He is the founder of Prager University.

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51. Seattle Makes Amazon, Starbucks Pay For Its Own Housing BlundersВт., 15 мая[−]

Free Markets: Big businesses in Seattle face a substantial new tax to build more affordable housing. This is after the city thwarted private developers who were building affordable housing on their own dime. Only to government officials could this make any sense.

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This week, the city council unanimously passed a "head tax" of $275 per full-time worker on any company in the city that makes more than $20 million in gross revenues. The city says the $48 million in new taxes will go toward affordable housing and providing emergency services for the city's swelling homeless population.

Major employers like Amazon.com ( AMZN) and Starbucks ( SBUX) opposed the tax, so naturally they became the villains of the story. How could anyone be opposed to taxing mega-corporations to build affordable housing?

What all the news accounts fail to mention, however, is that the city itself is to blame for the housing shortage and skyrocketing rents.

As IBD noted, from 2010 to 2013, the city saw an explosion in the construction of "congregate housing units" — basically, affordable, dorm-room size apartments with shared kitchen and living areas. Within those three years, private developers constructed 1,800 units. But by 2015, not one was built.

Why? In 2014, the city stepped in and smothered this option with regulations that required the apartments to be bigger, banned them from more desirable areas, and forced builders to jump through costly design reviews.

Seattle's then Mayor Edward B. Murray warned the council in 2014 that this would exacerbate the city's housing problems, telling the council "our regulations need to help and not hinder the process and the outcomes we are hoping to achieve. And one of those achievements is more housing. That is a priority." The council ignored his entreaty.

David Neiman, principal at Neiman Taber Architects, said that as a result the city government "strangled a practical, modest, sustainable, unsubsidized form of inexpensive living that held enormous potential both for Seattle and for the rest of Cascadia."

Under the new rules, developers could put half as many units in each building, Neiman said. That, of course, raised rental prices considerably.

Was this micro-housing option for everyone? Of course not. But there are plenty of young people who care more about location and low rents than a spacious kitchen and a family room. The private market was meeting that need.

Taxing Success To Reward Failure

Seattle officials nevertheless deemed such housing as "beneath human dignity" — as though living on the street is more dignifying.

So now Seattle, after having hampered private developers from building more affordable housing, is forcing its biggest and most successful businesses to cough up $48 million more in taxes so the government can do it.

How much do you want to bet that the new tax does nothing to relieve the city's homeless problem? After all, Seattle and King County spent almost $200 million on homeless programs last year, according to the Seattle Times, only to see the number of homeless increase. Don't be surprised if, a few years from now, city officials hike the head tax on the promise that — this time — it will work.

Seattle's leaders don't seem to understand that taxing success to reward government failure won't work for long. Eventually, Starbucks and Amazon and other businesses will simply pick up and move to places with friendlier, more-competent governments.

Seattle might solve its housing shortage, but it will end up creating a new one: A shortage of jobs and opportunity.

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52. A Crisis In Electric Power Everyone Is IgnoringВт., 15 мая[−]

Is anyone paying attention to the crisis that is going on in our electric power markets?

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Over the past six months, at least four major nuclear power plants have been slated for shutdown, including the last one in operation in California. Meanwhile, dozens of coal plants have been shuttered as well — despite low prices and cleaner coal. Some of our major coal companies may go into bankruptcy.

This is a dangerous game we are playing with our most valuable resource outside of clean air and water. Traditionally, we've received almost half our electric power nationwide from coal and nuclear power, and for good reason. They are cheap, highly resilient and reliable.

The disruption to coal and nuclear power wouldn't be disturbing if this were happening as a result of market forces. That's only partially the case.

The amazing shale oil and gas revolution is providing Americans with cheap gas for home heating and power generation. Hooray. The price of natural gas has fallen by nearly two-thirds over the last decade, and this has put enormous price pressure on other forms of power generation.

But this is not a free-market story of Schumpeterian creative destruction. If it were, then wind and solar power would have been shut down years ago. They can't possibly compete on a level playing field with $3 natural gas.

In most markets, solar and wind power survive purely because the states mandate that as much as 30% of residential and commercial power come from these sources. The utilities have to buy it regardless of price. The California state legislature just mandated solar panels for homes built after 2020 (an added construction cost of about $10,000 per home).

Over $100 billion in subsidies have been doled out to big wind and big solar over the last decade. Even with the avalanche of taxpayer subsidies and bailout funds, many of these companies, such as Solyndra (which received $500 million in handouts), failed.

These industries are not anywhere close to self-sufficiency. Without a continuation of a multibillion-dollar tax credit, the wind turbines would stop turning.

This combines with the left's war on coal through regulations that have destroyed coal plants in many areas. (Thank goodness for the exports of coal, or the industry would be in much bigger trouble.)

Bottom line: Our power market is a Soviet central planner's dream come true, and it is extinguishing our coal and nuclear industries.

Why should anyone care?

First, because government subsidies, regulations and mandates make electric power more expensive. Natural gas prices have fallen by two-thirds, but electric power costs have still risen in most areas.

More importantly, the electric power market isn't accurately pricing in the value of resilience and reliability. What is the value of making sure the lights don't go off? What is the cost to the economy and human health if we have rolling brownouts because the grid doesn't have enough juice?

Politicians and federal regulators are shortsightedly killing our coal and nuclear capacities without considering the risk of future energy shortages and power disruptions. Once a nuclear plant is shutdown, you can't just fire it back up again when you need it.

Wind and solar are notoriously unreliable. Most places where wind power is used, coal plants are needed to back up the system during peak energy use and when the wind isn't blowing.

The first choice to fix energy markets is to finally end the tangled web of layers of taxpayer subsidies and mandates and let the market choose. Alas, that's nearly impossible, given the political clout of big wind and solar.

The second-best solution is for the regulators and utilities to take into account the reliability and safety of our energy. Would people be willing to pay a little more for their power to ensure against brownouts? I sure would. The cost of having too little energy far exceeds the cost of having too much.

A glass of water costs pennies, but if you're in a desert dying of thirst, that water may be worth thousands of dollars.

I'll admit I'm not sure what the best solution is to the power plant closures. But if we have major towns and cities in the country without electric power for stretches of time because of green-energy fixation, Americans are going to be mighty angry, and our economy will take a major hit.

When our manufacturers, schools, hospitals and internet shut down, we're not going to think wind and solar power are so chic.

If the lights start to go out five or 10 years from now, we will look back at what is happening today and wonder how we could have been so darn stupid.

  • Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with Freedom Works. He is the co-author of "Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy."

Other columns by Stephen Moore

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53. Trump Keeps Big Promise To Israel — Next Up, Peace In Mideast?Вт., 15 мая[−]

Embassy Move: With the opening Monday of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, President Trump didn't just keep a promise to Israel. Despite violent Palestinian protests, Trump's move may well reboot peace talks.

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Trump's decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem does more than merely restate Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital; it is an emphatic declaration of Israel's permanency and its right to exist.

Given that many nations around the world don't recognize Israel's right to exist — or, if they do, recognize it only within shrunken borders that would be almost impossible to defend — Trump has put the U.S. squarely behind Israel.

The European Union, led by our "allies" France and Germany, sought an official rebuke of the U.S. Embassy move. But Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania, some of the U.S.-friendly "red states" of Europe, blocked it.

So instead of a painful critique of Trump's move, the EU looks weak, feckless and irresolute — which pretty much sums up the EU, and that includes its ongoing support of the now-defunct Iran nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians responded by rioting on the West Bank and in Gaza. Dozens of demonstrators were killed by Israeli forces after they began tossing grenades, bombs and rocks at Israeli troops.

Things will likely only get worse on Tuesday, with more violent demonstrations. That's the day that Israelis will celebrate the 70th anniversary of modern Israel's founding as a nation. Palestinians commemorate the same day as the "Nakba" — the catastrophe.

Yet, as a point of history, the move to Jerusalem should be entirely uncontroversial.

For one, the U.S. Congress voted to move the embassy to Jerusalem all the way back in 1995. That law is still on the books, but the move was postponed by successive presidents each year because of the threat of violence and fears that the Palestinians would leave peace talks and riot.

Only Trump has fulfilled American law. Moreover, Jerusalem, while claimed by the Palestinians, has never been capital of a Palestinian state or nation. Why? There's never been a Palestinian state or nation, not in all the history of the Mideast.

Even as late as 1967, the various Muslim nations and leaders that ruled the land the Romans named Palestina could have declared a sovereign nation there. They didn't. Nor was there any "Palestinian Liberation Movement" until after the establishment of Israel.

Even so, Trump is looking for ways to make everyone in the Mideast happy. Based on the ecstatic reactions of the Israeli public — Israelis waved Israeli and American flags Monday in the streets while celebrating the opening of the embassy — Israel is quite happy.

"What a glorious day. Remember this moment!" Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told an enthusiastic crowd. "President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history. All of us are deeply moved. All of us are deeply grateful."

But it doesn't end with the move of an embassy.

Adam Kredo of the Washington Free Beacon reports, "The United States is in the 'late phases' of finalizing its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan that will be presented to both parties for consideration, according to a senior White House official, who discussed progress on the matter ahead of a massive celebration in Israel to open the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem."

No word yet on what that plan will contain, but you can be sure that Trump is much more clever and a far savvier street fighter than his leftist critics believe.

Is it possible that Trump has outmaneuvered all the Mideast dictators, the supposed Euro-sophisticates, the U.N. do-nothings, and the deep-thinking American foreign-policy wonks in creating the best chance yet for peace in the Mideast?

While his critics laughed, Trump has been laying the groundwork for major changes in the Mideast — and possibly the Korean Peninsula as well.

With his visit last May to Saudi Arabia, that nation now seems bent on reforms that will bring it closer to the norms of the West. Meanwhile, the Saudis have become de facto allies with Israel in the Mideast, making common cause against their common enemy, Iran.

That's why Trump's recent decision to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal — a deal that was cobbled together by President Obama, but never approved by the U.S. Senate — is so important.

It will not only isolate Iran, but deny it hard currency to continue financing terrorism against Israel by Bashar Assad's Syria and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

At any rate, we'll now see how serious the Palestinians are about peace. Trump will soon hand them a generous peace offer, one that will give them a sovereign state and independence.

If they say no and engage in yet another murderous intifada, it will be clear that their intent isn't the creation of a Palestinian state so much as it is the destruction of Israel — a plank of the Palestinian movement's founding charter that has never been revoked or removed, by the way.

Largely as a result of his embassy move, Trump is being compared to Harry Truman, another president who was underestimated by his political foes. It was Truman who, in 1948, ignored his Ivy League-educated advisors and recognized Israel literally minutes after it declared its statehood.

But we liken him more to President Reagan, another president held in contempt by leftist elites. Reagan had the intelligence, foresight and guts to challenge the "evil empire," the USSR, and ultimately bring it to its knees.

Today, Trump appears to be doing the same thing to what former President George W. Bush in 2002 called the "Axis of Evil" — Iran (by leaving the phony nuclear deal), Iraq (by crushing ISIS) and North Korea (by ending its nuclear weapons program).

Not bad for a year and a half of work. Will peace be next? We can only hope so.

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54. Trump's Wins Turn Democrats' World Upside DownВт., 15 мая[−]

Leadership: Within the past few days, never-Trumper David Brooks praised President Trump. "Saturday Night Live" admitted that he'd had a good week. Willie Brown told Democrats to "stop bashing" Trump. And party officials bemoaned the liberal media's obsession with Trump scandals. It must seem to Democrats as if they woke up in Superman's Bizarro World.

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On PBS this weekend, David Brooks — who in March 2016 penned a column for The New York Times titled "No, Not Trump, Not Ever" that claimed Trump was "epically unprepared to be president" and "an affront to basic standards of honesty, virtue and citizenship" — found himself praising Trump for his recent foreign policy wins.

Brooks suddenly discovered that Trump's background as a businessman provided some relevant experience for being president, particularly when it comes to dealing with "thuggish" leaders.

He even added that President Obama's argument for his now defunct nuclear deal with Iran — that it would moderate the extremists running that country — "turned out to be clearly false."

That's a double whammy from the guy who once gushed over Obama and his "perfectly creased pant."

Over the same weekend, the virulently Trump-hating "Saturday Night Live" found itself forced to admit that Trump had "a pretty good week." Colin Jost, in a rare display of actual humor on the show, said "He helped secure the release of three American prisoners from North Korea, and when he greeted them at the airport, he didn't even say, 'Wait I thought they were Americans.'"

Legendary California Democrat Willie Brown took to the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday to tell fellow Democrats that they should "stop bashing President Trump."

"Like it or not," he wrote, "a significant number of Americans are actually happy these days. They are making money. They feel safe, and they agree with the president's protectionist trade policies, his call for more American jobs, even his immigration stance.

"The jobs growth reports, the North Korea summit and the steady economy are beating out the Stormy Daniels scandal and the Robert Mueller investigation in Middle America, hands down.

"So you are not going to win back the House by making it all about him."

Meanwhile, the latest CNN poll shows Democrats with a meager 3-point advantage on the generic ballot question. The Reuters/Ipsos poll has Democrats up by only one point, and the Real Clear Politics average is +5, down from +13 in December. Trump's approval rating has been steadily, if slowly, rising since December, going from an average 37% approval to over 43% now.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that Democrats are now fretting about "a shifting political landscape" and an energized GOP base.

In fact, Democrats are starting to complain that the press is too focused on Trump scandals and not paying enough attention to "issues," and that this could hurt them in November.

"Eager to move a message that focuses on things like minimum wage hikes and health care premiums," the Daily Beast reported on Monday, "they have been overtaken by a steady stream of stories of Russia meddling, porn star payoffs, and shady Trump-world figures."

Democrats fear, the story goes on, that "a perception is taking hold that the party is obsessively focused on a Russia-collusion message above all else."

Never mind the flagrant rewriting of history here. The only stab at "issues" has been a lame, warmed over set of liberal policy prescriptions wrapped up in the generic title of "A Better Deal." Other than that, their only agenda has been to attack Trump at every turn.

Nevertheless, it's a sign Democrats are starting to realize that their plan to ride Trump hatred to victory this November isn't panning out the way they'd hoped.

The Mueller investigation — now in its second year — has failed to bear any impeachment fruit. Trump is racking up successes foreign and domestic — the tax cut and resulting economic boom, the embassy move to Jerusalem, the impressive progress with North Korea, tough stands with China and Iran. More importantly, the public is starting to realize that Trump isn't the cartoon villain Democrats had portrayed.

But if Trump-bashing won't work, what else can Democrats talk about? Repealing Trump's tax cuts? Imposing still more ObamaCare? The return of job killing regulations and mandates? Gun control? Free college?

No wonder Democrats are now looking for someone else to blame if they don't win big in November.

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55. Congress Still Ignoring Country's Dangerously Growing DebtПн., 14 мая[−]

A new report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says the gap between the federal government's spending and revenue will continue to widen, a development resulting from Congress' failure to address America's ticking debt time bomb.

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CBO, a nonpartisan independent government agency responsible for providing economic and budgetary analyses, projects the federal deficit — the net difference between incoming revenue and outgoing spending — will swell by about 188% over the next 10 years, increasing the deficit from its current value of $487 billion to more than $1.4 trillion in 2027.

"If current laws governing taxes and spending generally remained unchanged, the federal budget deficit would grow substantially over the next few years," CBO wrote.

"Projected deficits over the 2018–2027 period have increased markedly since June 2017, when CBO issued its previous projections. The increase stems primarily from tax and spending legislation enacted since then — especially Public Law 115-97 (originally called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and called the 2017 tax act in this report), the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act," CBO added.

Of course, reducing the burden of government does not cause a deficit, and CBO correctly notes this in its report.

"In CBO's projections, the e?ects of the 2017 tax act on incentives to work, save, and invest raise real potential GDP throughout the 2018–2028 period," CBO wrote.

In other words, the bad policies represented by the Bipartisan Budget Act and Consolidated Appropriations Act are projected to overwhelm the good policies enacted by tax relief.

Politicians say they're worried about the federal deficit, but their actions demonstrate they simply don't care about spending the money earned by tomorrow's taxpayers today. Without significant changes, out-of-control government spending and reckless taxpayer abuse are likely to continue, r egardless of which major political party has control of the halls of power in Washington, DC.

Borrowing cash to finance government shopping sprees incurs exponentially more costs in the future as well. As the government takes out increasingly more loans to keep money flowing, the government ends up owing more money to investors in the form of interest payments. These interest payments already consume a huge part of the U.S. budget, but the problem is almost certainly going to get much worse in the not-so-distant future.

By 2028, the value of net interest payments will equal about 3.1% of U.S. GDP, "nearly double the 1.6% projected for 2018."

There are significant costs associated with servicing all this debt, too, and there are numerous overlooked economic ripple effects caused by government spending, because money spent in the private sector is used much more efficiently than dollars spent by government agencies.

Some argue every dollar spent is essential for our country to properly function, but there's no truth to these assertions. Huge amounts of money are wasted on unimportant government projects. For instance, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued a $1.7 million development grant in 2017 to build a "National Comedy Center."

The federal government's frivolous spending practices trade tomorrow's wealth for today's vast government services, many of which are useless or even harmful. Sooner or later, the bill will come due, and no amount of economic growth will offset the consequences.

There's an ominous ticking sound at the bottom of this fiscal hole. If our representatives in Washington, DC don't listen and keep digging the nation deeper toward disaster, the American people, especially children, are the ones who'll end up suffering the most from the impending debt explosion.

  • Hathaway is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute.

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56. Trump Is Right: Exclusion Of Chinese Telecom ZTE Hurts U.S. Consumers, CompaniesПн., 14 мая[−]

In the middle of April, the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security division imposed harsh measures on ZTE, a Chinese telecommunications company, threatening its very existence.

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These measures known as orders of denial seem disproportionate to the allegations and will end up hurting American consumers and companies doing business with ZTE.

While tensions are high in a trade between the United States and China, it seems like ZTE and all the U.S. based companies and consumers relying on the company are a casualty of this war.

The denial order prohibits the company from doing any business in the United States is an example of the United States hurting American consumers and is an overreaction.

Despite Secretary of the Commerce Wilbur Ross' denial that this action has anything to do with the bigger trade war between the United States and China, it is hard to see how they are unrelated. The Commerce decision will hurt American companies that provide parts to ZTE and hurt consumers of the company's products who reside in the U.S.

President Trump on Monday indicated he might be having a change of heart, tweeting out: "President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!"

It can't come too soon. The company got hammered when they self-reported the violation and took actions to remedy the situation. Yet this action seems to be a way for the U.S. government to use one Chinese company to send a message to the government of China in a way that is unproductive and harmful.

CNN reported on April 17, 2018 "the U.S. Commerce Department said that ZTE lied to American officials about punishing employees who violated U.S. sanctions against North Korea and Iran. The Chinese company agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine last year after a U.S. investigation found it had illegally shipped telecommunications equipment to Iran and North Korea.

CNN reported on April 20, 2018 a response from ZTE that the sanctions were "extremely unfair" and the action "not only endangers ZTE, but also hurts ZTE's cooperative partners, including many American companies."

The facts of this case are complicated yet speak to the conclusion that Commerce may have gone too far.

First, the decision was made without sufficient notice to the company and the Department of Commerce never took into consideration mitigating factors in this case. The company self-reported these violations and took actions internally to fix them.

According to reports, the company fired four employees, but they had not disciplined or reduced bonuses for thirty-five other employees like they had promised initially.

The company had confirmed that the bonuses were not reduced, and reprimands were not doled out, therefore they took "immediate remedial action" to address the situation. This information seemed not to be considered when doling out a trade death penalty to the company.

The order seems disproportionate to the allegations. Other companies who are in a similar situation will think twice before reporting violations to the U.S. government for fear of retribution and harsh sanctions.

While some sort of fine or other less draconian penalty may be in order, a complete cessation of trade with the company seems to be of a magnitude that does not reflect the controversy.

The company fired four employees and ended up taking actions on the disputed bonuses – they disciplined themselves. The company took corrective action and told the U.S. government of the violation.

ZTE's Fix

They seem to have acted in good faith to remedy the problem internally. Serious discipline including terminations and demotions to employees were all done in a timely manner after the problem was identified and reported to the Department of Commerce.

Reuters reported on April 25, 2018 "ZTE invested over $50 million in 2017 in improving its compliance program and planned to increase that spending this year, the letter says."

The trade war between the United States and China is hot and the U.S. has threatened up to $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports and it is hard to believe that the recent action by Commerce is not part of a comprehensive effort to sanction China.

Reuters reports "China's ZTE Corp held a conference call on Wednesday with major suppliers, during which a company representative suggested the trade dispute with Beijing may have been a factor in last week's U.S. order banning American firms from selling goods to the smartphone maker, according to a person familiar with the call."

Commerce's actions will hurt American companies and consumers. ZTE's suppliers include the American companies Qualcomm, Google, Texas Instruments and GlobalFoundries. The company also accounts for about 10% of the market for smartphones in the U.S.

The sanctions as imposed by Commerce seem way out of proportion to the allegations and hopefully cooler heads will prevail in a way that remedies the situation and does not punish American companies and consumers for no good reason.

  • Darling is a former senior communications director and counsel for Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and founder of the firm Liberty Government Affairs.

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57. Why Argentina's Financial Crisis MattersПн., 14 мая[−]

The world is not ready for another financial crisis, but another financial crisis may be ready for the world.

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OK, the odds of this are long. Still, they're not nonexistent. The history of modern financial crises is that, originating in obscure corners of the financial system, they are initially ignored because they seem innocuous -- and then wham!

Think Thailand in 1997; a run against the Thai baht ultimately led to crises in South Korea, Indonesia, Russia and Brazil. Or consider U.S. "subprime" mortgages; in 2008, they triggered a collapse of global credit markets. Or recall Greece in 2010; its debt threatened the very existence of the euro.

The action these days involves Argentina. It has suffered a sudden loss of confidence. Since mid-April, its currency, the peso, has lost about 12% of its value against the dollar. To stem the panic -- that is, to convince investors not to sell pesos for dollars -- Argentina's central bank has raised interest rates on pesos from 27.25% to 40%.

No dice. These measures haven't fully stabilized financial markets. Argentina's latest move is to apply to the International Monetary Fund -- a global agency that makes loans to financially frail countries -- for a reported $30 billion bailout. The apparent aim is to instill confidence by demonstrating that the country has ample dollar reserves to meet maturing debts.

The crucial question is whether all this is just an Argentina problem -- or a harbinger of a broader financial crackup.

For the moment, it's mostly an Argentina issue, says economist Monica de Bolle of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

The present president, Mauricio Macri, who took office in late 2015, inherited a doleful legacy of economic mismanagement: high inflation, unemployment and budget deficits after 12 years of leftish economic policies.

Referring to Macri's predecessor, Cristina Kirchner, de Bolle says: "She just blew up the economy" with subsidies, price controls and easy money. Argentina couldn't borrow dollars in international markets, because it had defaulted on its government debt in 2001 and was locked in a bitter legal struggle with its creditors. It was hard to know the economy's precise condition, because the government stopped publishing many statistics. As best can be determined, inflation peaked at about 40% annually, de Bolle says.

Macri reversed many of these policies. He settled with the creditors and reduced budget deficits and inflation. "There was a sense of optimism ... that things were moving in the right direction," she says. But the pace has been deliberately "gradualist," leaving the economy vulnerable to adverse developments. According to de Bolle, the budget deficit is still about 5% of the economy (gross domestic product), as is the current account; inflation is about 25%. (For comparison: The US budget deficit is now approaching 5% of GDP.)

Perhaps inevitably, adverse developments have now arrived. American interest rates have edged up, reducing the attractiveness of Argentine debt; President Trump's trade policies threaten Argentina's exports; and the dollar has appreciated, making it costlier to repay dollar debts. It's harder for Argentina's economy to grow, leading anxious investors to dump pesos.

What is to be feared is the possibility that what's happening to Argentina could happen to other nations. For the last two years or so, international investors have poured money into "emerging market" countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, India, China and Indonesia. In 2017, inflows to 25 of these countries totaled $1.2 trillion, according to the Institute of International Finance, a research and advocacy group for global financial institutions.

If these inflows slowed significantly -- or stopped altogether -- there would be negative consequences for the wider world economy. Countries might have to raise interest rates to defend their currencies against crippling depreciations. At some point, herd behavior might take over: Investors would buy or sell financial instruments (stocks, bonds, currencies and the like), mainly because they thought that others were going to buy or sell the same instruments.

What seems especially worrisome, argues economist Desmond Lachman of the American Enterprise Institute, is the "abrupt change in market sentiment." Investors who only recently had been emerging-market enthusiasts have suddenly become risk-averse skeptics. We may or may not be on the edge of another financial crisis, but regardless of what you think, there's plenty of room for self-doubt. One way or another, Argentina matters.

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

Other columns by Robert Samuelson

The post Why Argentina's Financial Crisis Matters appeared first on Investor's Business Daily.


58. After Nixing The Iran Nuclear Deal, What Comes Next?Вс., 13 мая[−]

The path to today's problems with Iran passed through the University of Chicago squash court where on Dec. 2, 1942, for 4.5 minutes physicist Enrico Fermi, making calculations on a slide rule, achieved the controlled release of energy from an atomic nucleus. Historian Richard Rhodes says that Fermi and his colleagues were risking "a small Chernobyl in the midst of a crowded city."

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Humanity was already on the path to the dangerous present in 1918 when the British physicist Ernest Rutherford, who was criticized for missing a meeting about anti-submarine warfare, said, "I have been engaged in experiments which suggest that the atom can be artificially disintegrated. If this is true, it is of far greater importance than a war."

So, when wondering about what can be done about Iran's nuclear-weapons aspirations — and North Korea's nuclear-weapons facts — remember this: Some advocates of the Iran nuclear agreement thought its purpose was to block "all of Iran's pathways to a bomb," which was Barack Obama's formulation when his goal was to dismantle the infrastructure of Iran's program. Other advocates of the deal thought it was prudent to pretend to think this.

The realistic purpose, however, was the more modest one of making the "pathways" longer and steeper, in the hope that internal Iranian ferments would begin to make that nation less menacing by the time it began to make nuclear weapons.

Although much sophistication has been added over the decades, the basic recipe for building nuclear weapons comes from the 1940s, and for ballistic missile technology from the 1950s. The Soviet Union was an almost prostrate nation with a shattered society when, just 51 months after the guns fell silent on V-E Day (May 8, 1945), it detonated its first nuclear weapon in August 1949. China was an almost entirely peasant society, with a population of 694 million (about half of today's), when in 1964 it detonated a nuclear weapon. In 1998, Pakistan, with a per capita income of $470, acquired such weapons.

Nuclear nonproliferation efforts have been more effective than seemed possible 60 years ago. During the 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy cited "indications" that by 1964 there would be "10, 15 or 20" nuclear powers. As president, he said that by 1975 there might be 20 such powers. Today, sanctions can increase the price Iran pays for attempting to acquire nuclear weapons; Israel can assassinate scientists working in Iran's nuclear program. If, however, Iran wants such weapons as intensely as its decades of costly efforts suggest, it will get them.

It is a law of arms control: Significant agreements are impossible until they are unimportant, which means until they are not significant.

If Denmark wanted nuclear weapons, we would consider that nation daft but not dangerous. Iran's regime is malevolent, but there are polls (how do you poll in a theocratic police state?) showing substantial support for the nuclear weapons program and ballistic missile development. The median age in Iran is 30.3 (in the United States: 38.1; in the European Union, 42.9). The nation is more porous to outside influences than can suit the regime, which has a despotism's normal preference for intellectual autarky. So, buying time was not a negligible goal for the original deal or for whatever comes next, if anything does.

It is condign punishment for Obama that his signature foreign policy achievement, the deal with Iran, could be so casually jettisoned. It should have been a treaty. If it were, it would have enjoyed more public support and could not have been erased by what created it — presidential unilateralism. Obama's successor might learn from this when — if — he produces an alternative plan for a slightly more distant and less dangerous future.

Seventy-three years have passed since the first nuclear explosion, in New Mexico. Less than a month after this there occurred the first two, and so far the only, uses of nuclear weapons. Sixty-nine years have passed since the Soviet Union became the second nuclear power. Deterrence as the basis of containment has not been restful but has been successful. Nevertheless, in September 2012, the Senate voted 90-1 for a nonbinding resolution "ruling out any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat."

So, almost six years ago the Senate declared unacceptable a policy that, perhaps six years from now, the United States might have no alternative but to accept.

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59. Canadians Can't Wait Any Longer For Healthcare JusticeСб., 12 мая[−]

Canada's health care system is back on trial. Last month, a nine-year-old lawsuit challenging British Columbia's prohibition on private health insurance and private payment for medical care resumed.

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Dr. Brian Day, an orthopedic surgeon who runs the private Cambie Surgery Centre in Vancouver, is leading the suit. He alleges that his province's single-payer healthcare system infringes on patients' rights by forcing them to wait months for routine operations.

The government has responded by keeping the doctor waiting — for justice. Day filed his suit in 2009. The case finally reached British Columbia's Supreme Court in September 2016. Since then, the government has done just about everything it can to stall, delay, and obfuscate — ostensibly to try to get Day to give up.

Day — and Canadian patients — can't afford to wait any longer. The Canadian single-payer regime subjects thousands of patients to life-threatening delays for treatment.

Our northern neighbors' wait times grow longer with each passing year. According to the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank, the typical patient in need of specialist treatment last year waited 21.2 weeks after referral from a general practitioner — a record high. In 1993, the median wait time was less than half that figure — 9.3 weeks.

In British Columbia, the median wait is even longer — a grand total of 26.5 weeks from referral from a general practitioner to receipt of treatment from a specialist. That's more than half a year.

Lengthy delays are a hallmark of single-payer. Demand for care is essentially limitless when someone else is paying the bill.

But the provincial and federal governments in Canada don't have limitless resources. So they typically set a global budget for care. Doctors and hospitals can only provide so much care before their costs exceed their revenue from the government. And they can only afford to keep a limited amount of equipment operational, such as MRI machines or CT scanners.

Demand for care inevitably outstrips supply. So the government has to establish wait lists.

Long waits aren't merely inconvenient; they're dangerous. Consider the case of Walid Khalfallah, a British Columbian boy with severe scoliosis profiled by the Vancouver Sun in 2012. The Sun reported that he faced a three-year wait for spinal surgery, even though medical guidelines recommended a maximum wait of three months.

Delays can even prove fatal. Long waits have contributed to the deaths of more than 44,000 Canadian women in the past two decades, according to a Fraser Institute study.

Many patients would gladly pay extra to receive care more quickly. But British Columbian law makes it effectively impossible to do so.

'Necessary' Health Care

The law bans any doctor who accepts private money from receiving payments from the government for "medically necessary care." Private insurers aren't allowed to pay for such care, which the single-payer plan has the exclusive right to cover.

That's out of step with public opinion. According to a March Ipsos poll, more than three-quarters of Canadians believe patients should be able to pay for private treatment if they've been on a waiting list for longer than the maximum recommended. Eighty percent of British Columbians feel that way.

As Day sees it, the province's prohibitions violate the rights to life, liberty, and security enshrined in Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He argues that patients should be able to buy private insurance that covers the same services as the single-payer plan. And patients should be able to use their government insurance — which they pay for through their taxes — to cover at least part of the bill at private clinics.

Day stands on solid legal ground, if a previous Canadian Supreme Court case — Chaoulli v. Quebec — is any indication. In 2005, the Court examined Quebec's single-payer system and ruled it infringed upon patients' rights. According to Madam Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, Quebec's ban on private insurance gave the public sector a monopoly on health care. That monopoly resulted "in delays in treatment that adversely affect the citizen's security of the person" — thus violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The ruling only applied within Quebec. A similar ruling in Day's case, however, could apply to the whole country — and mark the beginning of the end of Canada's single-payer system.

Canadians are suffering and dying under single-payer. Let's hope they don't have to wait much longer for relief — and that the United States doesn't make the same h ealth care mistakes Canada has.

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

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60. California's Self-Inflicted Housing Disaster Couldn't Get Worse — Or Could It?Пт., 11 мая[−]

Housing: Some recent California headlines caught our eye: "With No Letup In Home Prices, The California Exodus Surges" and "California First In Nation To Require Solar Panels On New Homes." See the problem?

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California is a virtual one-party state, and suffers for it. A case in point: At the final forum for gubernatorial candidates before the June 5 state primary, lavish promises were made by Democratic candidates to build "millions" of new homes to end the state's housing crisis.

But the fact is, California's far-left politicians created the problem, and don't have a clue about how to solve it.

As the headlines above show, the same politicians that vow to build "millions" of new homes to keep state citizens from leaving will now require solar panels on new houses. They claim that'll add just $9,500 per house, but of course that's way low. Making homes less affordable is no way to end a housing shortage.

The state's housing crisis is real. California lost a net one million people from 2006 to 2016, largely due to higher housing costs. Most of the people leaving the state earn less than $30,000 a year. It's a war on the poor, disguised as a housing crisis.

Knowing this exodus is real, how do California's left-progressive politicians react? Not only do they make housing more expensive, but they encourage community groups to reimpose rent-control laws across the state — a proven recipe for rental housing shortages.

As Pacific Research Institute fellow (and former IBD writer) Kerry Jackson recently wrote, California's housing market suffers from many ills: "Affordable housing mandates. Rent control. Runaway NIMBYISM. Meddling BANANAs. Exorbitant permit fees. But CEQA is the highest barrier of all."

And just what is CEQA? The California Environmental Quality Act. Enacted in 1970, it's been the model for a host of stringent laws in Congress and in states around the country. Some model: CEQA has been a disaster for housing in California.

CEQA, Jackson notes, is a corrupt bureaucratic process: "Both environmental groups and business rivals use it to delay and whenever possible shut down development."

So nothing gets built. California today has roughly 14 million housing units, but needs 3.5 million more by 2025, according to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report. That's a 25% increase. How realistic do you think that is?

The only way to bring down prices is to build more housing. But you can't do that with rent controls, mandatory solar panels, strict zoning limits, ridiculously high taxes and absurd environmental restrictions. When it comes to common-sense economics, will California's far-left politicians ever learn their lesson? Don't count on it.

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61. Fact Check: ObamaCare, Not Trump, Is To Blame For Rise In Uninsured In 2017Пт., 11 мая[−]

Health Care: The ranks of the uninsured climbed last year. So, naturally, President Trump is taking the blame because of his attempts to repeal ObamaCare. The fault, however, lies not with Trump, but with ObamaCare itself.

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A new Gallup report shows that the ranks of the uninsured climbed from 10.9% in Q4 2016 to 12.2% by Q4 2017. At first blush, it makes sense to point to Trump, given that this increase came during his first year in office.

As Huffington Post put it: "Trump's sabotage of the Affordable Care Act appears to be working."

But a closer look at the data and a review of recent history shows that Trump had nothing to do with the increase in the uninsured last year. The factors that did were baked in the cake in the summer of 2016 — when President Obama was sitting in the White House and Hillary Clinton was busy measuring the Oval Office drapes.

Let's review the facts.

Insurers had to announce their proposed 2017 premiums in mid-2016, which then got reviewed by state regulators. The result was a massive 25% increase in average ObamaCare premiums nationwide. In Pennsylvania, premiums shot up 33%. In Illinois, they climbed 44%. In Oklahoma, 76%.

That was after two previous years of historic rate hikes. And each year was marked by insurance companies fleeing ObamaCare markets.

At the time, Democrats and the press dismissed skyrocketing ObamaCare premiums, saying that they really didn't matter since most people enroll in an ObamaCare exchange get generous subsidies, which means their actual premiums would remain unchanged.

But that overlooked the millions who buy coverage in the individual market but who aren't eligible for any ObamaCare subsidies. Thanks to ObamaCare's mandates and regulations, basic insurance was fast becoming unaffordable.

Trump and the GOP had nothing to do with these failures. The changes they did enact had only a modest impact on 2018 premiums.

What's more, open enrollment in the exchange for 2017 closed on January 31, 2017 — one week after Trump took the oath of office. So the fact that enrollment in the exchanges dropped in 2017 also had nothing to do with Trump. Enrollment in the ObamaCare exchanges came in well below forecasts every year since they opened in 2014.

The combination of declining ObamaCare enrollment and skyrocketing premiums ended up pushing more people out of the insurance market in 2017.

What's more, Gallup's survey found that the uninsured rate had essentially bottomed out in early 2015, when it hit 11.4%. By the end of that year, it was back up to 11.9%. It dipped down to 10.9% during the last half of 2016, before resuming its upward trend in 2017.

Even if Hillary Clinton had been president, the ranks of the uninsured would have started climbing again last year as ObamaCare's years of massive rate hikes priced more and more people out of the insurance market.

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62. Coal Is Dead! Long Live King Coal!Пт., 11 мая[−]

A growing chorus of prophets and pundits has been proclaiming the death of the American coal industry. After all, more than 250 coal-fired power plants have been retired since 2010 with several dozen others slated for closure within the next year. (We now generate more electricity from natural gas than from coal).

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Domestic coal production dropped from 1.2 billion short tons in 2008 to 773 million last year while industry employment, at 52,000 today, is down nearly 40% from a decade ago.

But maybe it's premature to publish the industry's obituary. In 2017, coal production was up 45 million tons, the largest year-over-year increase since 2001, with growth recorded in each of the five major coal-producing regions. The largest regional increase was in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, where production jumped 8%.

Even though U.S. coal consumption declined slightly last year, exports jumped 58% from 2016 driven by a weaker dollar, lower production costs, and rising demand in Asia and Europe. Coal prices across the U.S. rose as well, especially for Central Appalachian coal. Mining employment is also up slightly, about 1,500 from a year ago.

So is this a one-off, or is the coal industry on a sustainable rebound?

Unquestionably, the use of coal for power generation here in the U.S. will continue to decline in the face of cheap natural gas and subsidies for renewables like wind and solar, even if President Obama's clean power plan should be rescinded. But globally, the outlook is much different.

Recent forecasts by both the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Paris-based International Energy Agency show the world's demand for coal growing steadily, especially for power generation, at least until 2040. Though environmentalists despair at this reality, it offers tremendous export opportunities for America's coal industry.

And it's not just fast-growing economies like China, India and Indonesia where coal use is projected to rise. Japan is building dozens of new coal-fired plants to replace nuclear facilities closed after the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Cloud Peak Energy, a company that mines in the Power River Basin, recently signed a multiyear contract to supply its coal Tokyo Electric Power Company.

Germany, planning to shutter all its nuclear plants by 2022 while achieving 45% renewable energy by 2030, is also building coals plants in an effort to improve grid reliability and bring down some of the highest electricity prices in the world, a major concern for that country's export-oriented manufacturing industries. Though Germany possesses abundant supplies of high-CO2 lignite, it is relying on cleaner coal from countries like the U.S. for its new power plants.

China has also re-emerged as an importer of U.S. coal, which is much cleaner than their domestic variety.

The development and deployment of advanced technologies that reduce pollution and CO2 emissions also bode well for the future of coal, especially if these technologies are adopted abroad. High efficiency, low emission (HELE) plants with carbon capture are commercially available and have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the entire power sector by 20%. Pulverized coal combustion and integrated gasification combined cycle systems can reduce CO2 emissions by 25% compared with conventional coal plants.

Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) has also become a commercial reality. As one example, the Parish Coal-Fired Generating Plant southwest of Houston that began operations last year is capturing 1.6 million tons of CO2 annually and shipping it via pipeline to oil fields where it's used for enhanced recovery. A Mississippi power plant burning lignite is also capturing CO2 and selling it to oil companies.

So let's not write off America's coal producers. Export opportunities abound since coal will remain the world's primary fuel for power generation for decades to come. At the same time, the U.S. can become the global leader in HELE and CCUS, thereby contributing greatly to emissions reductions both here and abroad.

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

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63. Is 1.8% Economic Growth The Best We Can Do?Пт., 11 мая[−]

Economists who treat economic progress as a matter of bookkeeping rather than human action have a bad habit of treating "productivity" as a mysterious deus ex machina that causes economic growth to slow down or speed up.

By extrapolating the past 10 years' dismal productivity growth and labor force participation into the next 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concludes the U.S. economy can't possibly grow faster than 1.8% a year. Since the economy is stubbornly outgrowing its lowball forecasts, the CBO felt obliged to lower GDP "projections" to 1.5-1.6% in 2021-2023 just to keep the 2018-2028 average under their magical 1.8% lid. This apparently makes sense to one prominent economist.

"Even 2% Growth Will Be Hard to Sustain" was the headline of a Feb. 14 Wall Street Journal article by the former chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, Jason Furman. Real GDP per hour worked, he noted, rose at a "1% annual pace over the past decade. If that average continues, overall economic growth in coming years will average only 1.5%" — assuming (as he does) the labor force grows at the slow 0.5% pace it did for the past 10 years.

To declare that the next 10 years will be like the last 10 years does not require a sophisticated economic model. It's just naive extrapolation. And it conveniently blames the disappointing Obama recovery on unlucky productivity and labor force trends.

The most optimistic alternative scenario Mr. Furman can bring himself to imagine is a growth rate of 2.1%, leaving us stuck somewhere between 1.5% and 2.1%. The CBO's 1.8% projection is right in the middle of that miserable range, for similar reasons.

Growth, CBO Style

The CBO's 10-year projection of 1.8% growth is critically important. If economic growth is even 1 percentage point higher, the CBO is grossly exaggerating long-term budget deficits. That is not only possible, it is typical of CBO forecast errors after income or capital gains tax rates were reduced. From 1983 to 2000, the CBO's two-year forecasts of real GDP growth were repeatedly 1 percentage point too low, on average.

We are not at the mercy of blind fate or past trends. If business output grows more quickly, output per hour will too. Productivity in the nonfarm business sector rose by 3% a year from 1996 to 2005 because business output rose by 3.9% a year. Economic growth raises productivity, not the other way around.

Nonfarm business productivity slowed to only 1.2% a year from 2007 to 2017 mainly because business output grew by only 1.7% a year, but also because hours worked grew by only 0.4%. It is this unusually feeble "trend" in productivity over the past 10 years that Furman and the CBO ask us to project forward for the next 10 years.

Furman expands the concept to total GDP per hour, but his suggestion that we're doomed to repeat the 2007-2017 aberration (which would require another Great Recession) still fails. The OECD calculates U.S. real GDP per hour in 2010 dollars. Real GDP per hour rose from $62.35 in 1984 to $93.83 in 2007 — a gain of 2.3% a year. Since then, as Furman notes, the increase slowed abruptly to just 1% a year.

Why should we expect that the unusually weak productivity gains since 2007 constitute an inexorable trend? That same question applies to Furman's projection that the labor force will also keep rising at the depressed 0.5% rate of 2007-2017, when there was unprecedented shrinkage in the number of working-age Americans willing to work. Furman speaks of a "steady decline in labor force participation ... since around 2000," but that is misleading.

Where Did The Workers Go?

It was no surprise that the labor force participation rate dipped slightly from a record high of 67.1% at the 2000 peak to 66 in the 2008 recession. The mystery is why it kept falling after the recession to 62.7% by 2015 despite falling unemployment and rising wages.

A new Mercatus Center study finds the rising number of young male labor force dropouts appears "connected to the rising accessibility and generosity of government benefits." Similarly, The Redistribution Recession by University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan identified many new taxes, regulations and benefits, including ObamaCare, that "reduced incentives for people to work."

If labor force dropouts can be incentivized to return to the workforce, the labor force could rise substantially faster than the working-age population. Average hours can also grow faster than the labor force if involuntary part-timers get full-time work.

Adding the unusually low productivity growth of the past 10 years to the unusually low labor force growth is a fine way to predict that past, but it's not a serious way to predict the future.

The defective reasoning that leads Jason Furman and the Congressional Budget Office to "project" a decade of 1.5%-1.8% economic growth turns out to be an excellent reason for optimism, because it implies that the CBO is grossly underestimating long-term tax revenues and (depending on spending) future budget deficits.

  • Reynolds is a senior fellow with the Cato Institute.

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64. Making Sense Of Eric SchneidermanПт., 11 мая[−]

Former attorney general of the state of New York Eric Schneiderman allegedly had a pattern of slapping and choking women with whom he was intimate. He also spat at them, demanded threesomes, insulted them, threatened them and called one (who had dark skin) his "brown slave," according to recent accusations.

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One woman claims that without warning he slammed her so hard that he broke her eardrum. Another woman says that his palm left a red welt on her face that remained visible the following day.

These and other details about Eric Schneiderman were disclosed by Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer in The New Yorker. Keep that in mind the next time someone suggests that the liberal media are untethered to reality and serve only partisan purposes. Schneiderman is not only a Democrat; he was a key Trump antagonist, and a champion of the #MeToo movement.

This has left a number of feminists both furious and bewildered. It's disorienting to see people you admired and assumed to be moral betray everything they supposedly believed in — something conservative women (and men) have experienced, too.

Samantha Bee, who had often lionized Schneiderman on her show, fumed, "This is especially infuriating given his supposed woke bae-ness," she said. "Schneiderman positioned himself as a feminist crusader. He championed the #MeToo Movement. ... He helped craft an anti-choking law, even though he's now accused of choking his girlfriends."

The Huffington Post consulted a psychologist to help explain how it was possible that "male allies" could become "abusers."

Katha Pollitt, who once flippantly warned, "Never trust a male feminist," is almost to the point of condemning all men now. "How simple life would be if only conservatives, or liberals ... were abusers," she wrote. "In fact, though, the only thing one can say with assurance is that they're men. Yes, I know women can be abusers, and I know some men are great, but at the moment #NotAllMen is looking more like a wish than a declarative statement."

Samantha Bee's defiant conclusion is: "You know who's a better advocate for women? Women. ... The future really is female, or at least it better be, because I am done with this." Katha Pollitt's resolve is similar: "I have no answers. But here's what I'm going to do: Vote for women. Support women. Protect women. Believe women."

In my forthcoming book (out June 26), "Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense," I push back against this feminist tendency to deride men as a class and to disparage masculinity itself as somehow pathological.

In the 1970s, some second-wave feminists, such as Ti-Grace Atkinson, president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, were so possessed by hatred for men in general that they lost sight of basic morality. Atkinson urged NOW to take up the cause of Valerie Solanas, founder of SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men). Solanas shot and attempted to kill Andy Warhol.

The counterculture of the 1960s and '70s broke down social norms, and then regretted what was unleashed. Today, feminists are grappling with the long roster of supposedly "enlightened," i.e., feminist, men who've turned out to be serial abusers or worse.

Samantha Bee mentioned "powerful weasels" Harvey Weinstein, Garrison Keillor and Charlie Rose. The roster also includes Louis C.K., Al Franken, John Conyers, Matt Lauer, Mark Halperin, Leon Wieseltier, Bill Clinton and many more.

Why are feminists more despairing about these revelations concerning liberal men than conservative women are about equally ugly stories concerning conservative men?

The answer, I'd suggest, is that liberals tend to believe that one's politics and one's morality are the same thing. If you hold the correct views about abortion, the minimum wage, women's equality, gay marriage and guns, it means not just that you agree with me but that you are a good person. A man who champions the #MeToo movement would never hurt a woman, right?

There is some mirror imaging on the right. Some conservative women are stunned to discover that men they thought were adherents of traditional morality turn out to be louts and even rapists.

A key conservative insight is that character is a matter of behavior, not professed beliefs. Judge people by their conduct, not their branding. How do you mold decent conduct? Conscientious parents who teach right from wrong and a culture that reinforces those lessons.

The feminists helped to weaken some of the mores and institutions that tended to control male lust and abuse. At the time, they thought they were fighting an unjust "double standard," but the sexual revolution damaged all standards, and we continue to sift through the fallout.

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

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65. How The Media Invented The Blankenship MomentumПт., 11 мая[−]

In the final days before the West Virginia primary, breathless media coverage suggested that businessman Don Blankenship was gaining ground rapidly and had a real shot at winning the Republican Senate nomination.

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ABC News quoted a "national Republican operative" who said it's "down to the wire" and it wouldn't be a surprise if the controversial candidate won.

All this concern even prompted President Trump to tweet that Blankenship "can't win the General Election" and encouraging West Virginia voters to cast their ballots for someone else.

But Blankenship didn't win or even come close. Instead, he finished a distant third with just 19% of the vote. It's possible that the presidential tweet turned the tide. But it's even more likely that there wasn't any real Blankenship momentum to unwind.

A couple of weeks before the primary, public polls showed Blankenship a distant third, trailing two quality candidates — Attorney General Patrick Morrissey and Congressman Evan Jenkins. A Fox News poll showed Blankenship picking up 16% of the vote, not far from the 19% he actually received on Election Day. It certainly doesn't provide any sense of pro-Blankenship momentum.

The Blankenship-was-surging storyline came from "internal polling" leaked to the media. As a general rule, it's wise to be very skeptical of such internal polls and to remember that the leaker has an agenda. But such skepticism was missing in the run-up to primary day as Politico reported that victory was "within reach" for Blankenship. Not only that, there were reports of "finger-pointing" going on behind the scenes in GOP circles. Some were blaming the White House, some the other West Virginia candidates, and some Mitch McConnell.

How did this happen? I suspect the story took off because elite journalists and national Republican political operatives were predisposed to believe it.

Blankenship was a horrible candidate. He recently spent time in prison on charges relating to a mining disaster that killed 29 miners. His campaign rallies and comments included racist and hateful commentary. Many in the national media believe that conservative voters are primarily driven by racial resentment, especially in places like West Virginia. So, it made sense to them that a candidate like Blankenship was surging.

On top of that, the West Virginia Senate race represents a prime pick-up opportunity for the GOP. Incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin is vulnerable in a state that President Trump won by 42 percentage points. A good candidate could defeat Manchin and help the Republican party retain control of the Senate. Blankenship could not.

Sadly, many national Republican political operatives also have a condescending view of their party's voters. They were ready to believe in a Blankenship surge because they feared those voters weren't smart enough to understand what was at stake.

When the votes were counted, however, it was the journalists and operatives who looked foolish. Their frenzied speculation in the election's final days were as far off the mark as their discussions about how big the Hillary Clinton landslide victory would be in 2016.

Once again, the elites demonstrated how little they understand the American people.

  • Rasmussen, founder of Rasmussen Reports, is publisher of ScottRasmussen.com and Editor-at-Large for Ballotpedia.

Editor's note: Michael Barone is off this week.


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66. Spending Reform: The Flip Side of Federal Tax ReformПт., 11 мая[−]

Fiscal conservatives across America reacted nearly in lock step to the recently passed Federal Budget Bill: they groaned and moaned that "Congressional Republicans had given away the store" on spending. And the President nearly vetoed it for that reason but backed off to protect a substantial increase in military funding.

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The bill added up to an additional $1.3 trillion in increased federal discretionary spending over 10 years, with $300 billion in the first two years including $165 billion for the military and $90 billion for disaster relief to the states. With the Sequester squeezing military spending for years, much of that spending increase was necessary.

But that doesn't mean that the spending increases could not be offset with spending cuts elsewhere. With deficits again approaching the previously unprecedented trillion dollars annually of the disastrous Obama years, Congressional Republican majorities need to remember that they were elected to stop these runaway Big Government Blowouts, not perpetuate them.

Can we do better? Yes, but it will take fundamental change in the spending and budget practices of Washington, not unlike the fundamental tax cuts and tax system modifications brought by the Tax Reform bill of last year:

  • We might start with repeal of the Budget and Impoundment Act of 1974, with its arbitrary 10-year time horizon, exemption of so called "mandatory" spending from annual appropriation control of Congress and the empowerment of the "bean counters" of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
  • And we must insist that each appropriation have a current year authorization forcing the authorizing committees of both Houses to take the tough votes folks back home expect of them. No more "free rides" for Legal Services, the National Endowment for the Arts, Public Radio and TV and crony capitalists which now amount to over $300 billion per year of the $1.3 trillion of so-called "discretionary" spending (military and domestic).
  • We must show that we can shrink the size of Washington by eliminating federal functions and departments like Education (returning that responsibility to the states) and reducing the civil service workforce through attrition (leave "baby-boomer" retirement slots vacant).
  • And, of course, maintain the vigorous repeal of federal regulations that cripple businesses and entrepreneurs. The Competitive Enterprise Institutes' Wayne Crews has confirmed that federal regulations cost Americans $1.9 trillion in 2017, nearly $15,000 per US household and approximately 10% of US GDP, a horrendous burden on our economy.
  • And we should begin selling federal assets, using the proceeds exclusively to pay down the national debt.

But to really cut spending, Congress must address entitlements. Expanding state authority over Medicaid through block grants of federal funding to the states would save $1 to $2 trillion over 10 years, CBO projects.

The states have already demonstrated that they can run Medicaid far better than the current system, with experiments in Indiana and Rhode Island showing they can vastly benefit the poor, empowering them with actual access to healthcare, long a fundamental problem with current Medicaid. Liberal Republicans need to learn about the problems with Medicaid, so they can explain to voters how this reform would greatly benefit the poor.

Block grants to the states, with work requirements, should be expanded with similar savings and vastly improved performance for the poor to food stamps, dozens of ineffective federal job training programs, and SSI (assistance to the aged, blind and disabled). Indeed, the same reforms can and should be expanded to over 100 federal/state welfare programs on which federal and state taxpayers spend at least a trillion dollars a year.

The results would be the same as for the first major block grant reform of the old, New Deal, AFDC program in 1996. Under full state control, over two thirds of dependents on that program went back to work, increasing their incomes by 25% on average, while taxpayer costs for the program declined by half based on prior estimates.

Republicans should go on to slash corporate welfare, saving at least another $30 billion a year, abolishing outright programs like the Ex-Im Bank, and the Overseas Private Investment Program (OPIC).

All of these reforms would provide trillions in spending reductions, several times the $1.3 trillion Omnibus spending blowout, and Republicans wouldn't have to worry about Democrats. They would expand their Senate majority in the midterms by at least half a dozen seats and keep their House majority, so they can continue to work with President Trump on major federal reforms.

  • Uhler is founder and chairman of the National Tax Limitation Committee and National Tax Limitation Foundation (NTLF). He worked with both Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman in California and across the country.
  • Ferrara is a senior fellow with the Heartland Institute and NTLF and teaches economics at Kings College in New York. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as associate deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush.

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67. For President Trump, Better To Focus On Results Than On AppearanceПт., 11 мая[−]

Preoccupation with form over substance combined with denial and avoidance behavior are the chief causes of human failure — from the individual and family right up to the national level.

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World War II became inevitable because of denial by the British, French and Americans that Hitler meant what he said in "Mein Kampf" and was rearming to carry it out. Subsequent denial in the form of appeasement policies enabled Hitler's early swift success in conquering and subjugating almost all of continental Europe, until Churchill rallied the British people with his famous declaration that "we shall never surrender."

An Islamified Western Europe is arguably one of the biggest stories of our time. Yet elites on both sides of the Atlantic are in denial about the coming Islamic takeover of much of Europe. There are already large Muslim minorities throughout many European countries and waves of Muslim refugees have joined them in the last five years. Given Muslims' average birthrates of 3.5 children per couple compared to post-Christian European birthrates of only 1.35 per couple, the demographic die is cast for minarets and sharia law to supplant church bell-towers and constitutional democracy across Europe within two or three generations.

Donald Trump has had no illusions about the challenges that the West faces. His first action after inauguration in January 2017 was his executive order to ban travel to the U.S. by people from countries well-known for harboring Islamist terrorists.

He did so on the basis of zero-tolerance for terrorist entry to the U.S. and the fact that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could not vet people adequately due to gaps and irregularities in birth and identification records characteristic of these designated highly unstable countries.

In spite of the disrespect shown President Trump from many of the elites in the U.S., he has commanded surprising respect overseas, from friends and enemies alike. In his July 6, 2017 speech in Warsaw, Poland, Trump was welcomed as hero after he proclaimed the need to defend Christianity and Western Civilization, with all of its culture and traditions. He boldly stated the need to put "faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives."

No other U.S. President has made such unapologetic and direct statements that challenge the status quo of "post-modern" decline in Europe.

Five months after taking office, President Trump removed the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, and has continued to remove restrictions on coal mining and open up more sea and land acreage for petroleum exploration and drilling. The result?

The U.S. is exporting natural gas and oil production is up — setting new records, now exceeding 10 million barrels a day, while oil imports are down. The U.S. is just now on the cusp of achieving the long-sought goal of becoming energy and OPEC independent.

In the Middle East, Trump ordered military strikes twice in Syria after President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against people in Syria. He recently pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear accord deal with Iran, and strengthened our relationship with Israel, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem — both moves opposed by much of the elite establishment.

On the Korean peninsula, in response to Kim Jung-un's ongoing ICBM missile testing and nuclear saber rattling, President Trump shunned avoidance and denial — taking an entirely different approach than the preceding four presidents over 28 years.

And in spite of condemnation by the foreign policy establishment — that his direct approach would lead to confrontation and war — Trump never wavered in imposing harsh sanctions, repeatedly overflying B1 bombers near the DMZ, and making forceful statements warning "rocket man" about U.S. military capability to destroy the North Korean regime and its nuclear capability.

The result? Kim Jong-un agreed to the U.S. demand to cease missile and nuclear testing. Then he responded to overtures from South Korea, becoming the first North Korean leader to ever cross the DMZ to discuss peace terms since the Korean War ended in 1953. And days ago, the North Korean regime released three Americans imprisoned and held hostage.

On the U.S. economy, many of the elites were in denial or passive about the harm from high corporate tax rates, excessive regulation and unbalanced trade policies that drove jobs and entire companies out of the U.S. and that also expanded the wealth gap between the rich and the poor. Trump, the realist, said from the beginning that reducing regulations, lowering tax rates, simplifying the tax code, improving trade agreements and making American companies more competitive would fuel new economic growth.

The result? The last three quarters of Trump's first year averaged a 3%-plus GDP increase, a growth rate not seen in the prior twelve-plus years. And 2018 came on like a lion after the passage of his Tax Cuts and Jobs Act at the end of 2017. More than three million American workers at more than 100 companies received pay raises and/or bonuses — as a result of the reduction of corporate tax rates from 35% to 21% and the reduction of repatriation tax rates from 35% to 8%-15%.

Apple Inc.'s announcement to bring home $350 billion to invest in America is a likely harbinger of other corporations' repatriation of $1.75 to $2 trillion to the U.S. private economy. For the first time in 18 years, the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen below 4%.

Leadership requires getting out of denial and making tough decisions. It also requires delivering results and substance over form and appearance. People may disagree with President Trump's persona and manner of communicating, but he's had one of the most successful starts of any new President in history — all the more remarkable given the non-stop assaults against him from day one by the media, Hollywood and political elite.

  • Powell is Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle and Managing Partner at RemingtonRand LLC. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org.

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68. Tax Revenues Jump 13% To Record High In April — When Will Dems Admit They Were Wrong About Trump's Tax Cuts?Чт., 10 мая[−]

Economy: The federal government collected far more taxes this April than it did a year ago, despite the "budget busting" Trump tax cuts. So, we'll ask again: Are the tax cuts paying for themselves?

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According to the latest monthly report from the Congressional Budget Office, revenues in April totaled $515 billion — a 13% increase over last April and an all-time high for the month.

For the current 2018 fiscal year, which started last October, revenues are $83 billion higher than they were the year before — an increase of 4.3%. That's a faster rate of growth than occurred during President Obama's last years in office. (See nearby chart.)

Individual taxes, the CBO report says, are up 11.5% so far this fiscal year, and payroll taxes are up 2.8%. Both are signs of a healthy labor market, which is creating more jobs, higher wages and, as a result, more tax revenues. Those gains, the CBO says, more than offset the 22% decline in corporate income taxes.

In other words, in a fiscal year that's seven months old (four of which were after the tax cuts went into effect), federal revenues are higher than ever.

Or, to put it another way, it looks like those of us who predicted the pro-growth tax cuts would at least partially pay for themselves through increased economic growth were correct.

The CBO admitted as much earlier this year, when it sharply increased its forecast for economic growth this year and next, largely because of Trump's tax cuts. That, in turn, will generate $1 trillion more in revenues than expected.

The pile of misinformation and outright lies about the tax cuts spread by Democrats keeps getting higher.

Democrats claimed the tax cuts would all go to the rich. As we pointed out in this space recently, a new study finds that the tax code is more progressive now than it was before the Trump tax cuts.

They said tax reform would do nothing to spur economic growth, only to see every independent economist boosting their growth projections.

They said the tax cuts would do nothing to help workers, until millions started getting bonuses, raises and more generous benefits in the wake of the corporate income tax cut.

The IBD/TIPP Poll's Quality of Life Index, meanwhile, reached a 14-year high in April. And since the tax cuts went into effect, the IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index has averaged 54.7 (anything above 50 is optimistic). That's well above the 17-year average of 49.4. In President Obama's last year in office, it averaged just 48.6.

And, of course, Democrats continue to insist that the tax bill is a budget buster. Even though revenues keep reaching new highs.

Out-of-Control Spending

As we have argued repeatedly in this space, the fiscal problem we face isn't that we're taxed too little, but that lawmakers — both Republicans and Democrats — can't control their spending habits.

While revenues have climbed $83 billion this fiscal year, spending is up $121 billion, the CBO report shows. The category with the biggest spending hike? "Other" — at $44 billion. That is followed by interest on the debt ($25 billion), Social Security ($23 billion) and defense ($17 billion).

The $1.3 trillion monstrosity that the GOP passed in March will only fuel more spending hikes in the coming months, swamping whatever gains we make in revenues.

So let's review: Democrats promised the country that the Trump tax cuts would do nothing to boost growth and nothing to help working families. That they'd completely bust the budget. And that it would be better to spend the $1.8 trillion rather than "give it away to the rich."

We doubt we'll hear Democrats admitting to their flagrant lies and fabrications about the tax cuts. But we do hope that voters hold them to account this fall.

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69. Betsy McCaughey: Uncle Sam's Deadly Cancer Screening AdviceЧт., 10 мая[−]

Beware. Many breast and prostate cancer patients are getting diagnosed late in the game because of Obamacare's skimpy cancer screening regulations. Remember when President Obama repeatedly told Americans that greedy doctors were overtesting and overtreating them, and federal rules were needed to stop it? Now the evidence is in that some of those rules are killing us.

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Inadequate cancer screening is forcing women to undergo mastectomies and men to endure aggressive treatments with side effects. Many could have avoided these outcomes if they'd been diagnosed earlier.

Last Friday, Dr. Elisa Port, chief of breast surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, presented compelling evidence about the harm done to women because of the Affordable Care Act's stingy approach to breast cancer screening.

Starting in the 1980s, American women age 40 and over were advised to get annual mammograms. The healthy result of that standard of care is that women diagnosed with breast cancer had smaller, more treatable tumors. But in 2009, under President Obama, the United States Preventative Services Task Force declared women were getting too many mammograms. The USPSTF changed the recommendation from yearly starting at age 40 to once every two years starting at age 50.

Worse, the Affordable Care Act gave the USPSTF new clout, mandating that insurance companies pay for USPSTF-recommended tests with no out-of-pocket costs. Not so for other tests. Millions of women were suddenly misled into thinking the USPSTF's meagre new screening schedule was enough. Now the dire consequences are emerging.

Port's blockbuster study, presented at the American Society of Breast Surgeons annual meeting, showed that women who hadn't had yearly mammograms were diagnosed with later-stage cancer, more apt to have the disease in their lymph nodes, and likelier to need mastectomies and chemotherapy than women who got yearly screenings. Port emphasized that her findings apply to women in their 40s, too. She urged them to get screened yearly.

Men got bad news from another blockbuster study published in the Journal of Urology showing the harm done to prostate cancer patients by Obamacare and the USPSTF. Almost 30 years ago, widespread use of a simple blood test — the prostate specific antigen test — reduced the death rate from prostate cancer and the likelihood the cancer had metastasized to other parts of the body. PSA testing allowed cancer to be caught early. But in 2012, despite an outcry from urologists, the USPSTF announced that men should no longer routinely get the test.

The latest prostate cancer research shows alarming results. In the years since the USPSTF's edict, men are being diagnosed when the disease is at a later stage and harder to treat. Medical progress is being reversed.

Even before these headline-grabbing studies, evidence was mounting that the USPSTF's screening edicts were harming patients. Last year, research in Annals of Internal Medicine showed that PSA tests reduce prostate cancer deaths by almost one-third. "This is a screening test that saves lives," said lead author Ruth Etzioni, of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Better late than never, the USPSTF backed off its misguided opposition to PSA testing and urged men to consult their own doctors.

Defenders of the skimpy cancer screening rules insist aggressive testing produces too many false positives, exposing patients to needless anxiety as they wait for second tests or undergo biopsies. For every life saved with the PSA test, about five other men will be told they have abnormal cells and be put through the wringer before getting cleared.

But let's get real. Enduring a false positive result, even if it means having to undergo a second test or a biopsy, pales in comparison to being told you have an untreatable cancer that was diagnosed too late and that you should say goodbye to your family.

  • McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and a former lieutenant governor of New York State. Contact her atbetsy@betsymccaughey.com

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70. Victor Davis Hanson: Truman May Have Been The Proto-TrumpЧт., 10 мая[−]

When President Harry S. Truman left office in January 1953, most Americans were glad to see him go. Since the introduction of presidential approval ratings, Truman's 32% rating was the lowest for any departing president except for that of Richard Nixon, who 21 years later resigned amid the Watergate scandal.

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Americans were tired of five consecutive Democratic presidential terms. The Depression and World War II were both over, and people wanted a different sort of leadership that could jump-start the economy.

The outsider Truman had been an accidental president to begin with. When an ailing President Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for an unprecedented fourth term in 1944, worried Democrat insiders panicked. They feared that far-left-wing Vice President Henry Wallace might end up president if Roosevelt died in office.

Party pros replaced Wallace with the obscure Truman, a Missouri senator. They assumed that if worse came to worse, the non-entity Truman would be a token caretaker president.

Earlier, Truman had been immersed in scandal, owing to his ties to corrupt Kansas City political boss Tom Pendergast.

When Truman took office after Roosevelt's death in April 1945, he knew relatively nothing about the grand strategy of World War II. No one had told him anything about the ongoing atomic bomb project.

But for the next seven-plus years, Truman shocked the country.

Over the objections of many in his Cabinet, he ordered the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan.

Over the objections of most of the State Department, he recognized the new state of Israel.

Over the objections of the Roosevelt holdovers, he broke with wartime ally the Soviet Union and crafted the foundations of Cold War communist containment.

Over the objections of many in the Pentagon, he integrated the armed forces.

Over the objections of some of his advisers, he sent troops to the Korean peninsula to save South Korea from North Korean invasion.

Over the objections of civil libertarians, he created the CIA.

Over the objections of most Americans, he relieved controversial five-star general and American hero Douglas MacArthur of his duties.

Naturally, there were widespread calls in the press for Truman to resign and spare the country any more humiliation.

Truman swore. He had nightly drinks and played poker with cronies. And he shocked aides and the public with his vulgarity and crass attacks on political enemies. Truman mocked the widely respected Sen. William Fulbright as "Half-bright."

In the pre-Twitter age, Truman could not keep his mouth shut. When a reviewer for the Washington Post trashed Truman's daughter's concert performance, Truman physically threatened him.

"It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful," Truman wrote in a letter to critic Paul Hume. "Someday I hope to meet you. When that happens, you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!"

Truman like to trash national icons — including the military that had just won World War II. He reportedly said of MacArthur's firing: "I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail."

Truman was supposed to be slaughtered in the 1948 election. Roosevelt's holdover New Dealers made fun of his Midwestern parochialism. Democrats had blown up the party during the 1948 nominating convention. Left-wingers, who could not stomach Truman, broke off and supported the progressive Henry Wallace as a third-party candidate. Democratic segregationists, who hated Truman's military integration order, ran Sen. Strom Thurmond as a fourth-party Dixiecrat alternative. Thurmond promised to keep the South racially segregated.

In the general election, polls predicted an easy win for Republican challenger Thomas Dewey. Instead, Truman won by a comfortable margin.

With Truman's second term due to expire, Democrats forgot his "the buck stops here" pragmatism. Instead, they returned to elite progressivism and nominated Adlai Stevenson, a liberal's liberal.

Stevenson lost both the 1952 and 1956 elections to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, a national icon. For all his criticism of Truman, Ike governed more or less as Truman did.

It took a half-century for historians to concede that the feisty Truman had solid accomplishments, especially in foreign affairs. Even his vulgarity was eventually appreciated as integral to the image of "Give 'Em Hell" Harry. But if he'd had access to Twitter, or had a Robert Mueller to hound him, the loose-cannon Truman likely would have self-destructed in a flurry of ad hominem tweets.

An obsessed special prosecutor would have followed Truman's checkered pre-presidential career all the way back to Kansas City to uncover likely unethical behavior.

Yet in the end, Truman proved successful because of what he did — and in spite of what he said.

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

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71. North Korea Diplomacy By Trump Wins Kudos, But Americans Still Wary Of Talks: IBD/TIPP PollЧт., 10 мая[−]

Nuclear Talks: President Trump's summit with North Korea is now set for Singapore on June 12, following North Korea's release of three Americans it held. Has Trump finally brought the Kim regime to heel? Or is this another of North Korea's tricks to extort aid from the West in exchange for empty promises?

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The good news came, as it often does with President Trump, in a tweet: "I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting. They seem to be in good health. Also, good meeting with Kim Jong Un. Date & Place set."

And early Thursday, at 2 a.m., Trump greeted the three newly freed American detainees at Andrews Air Force Base. He and First Lady Melania Trump greeted the three — Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Tony Kim — calling them "incredible people."

With talks now set with North Korea about ending its nuclear weapons program and reintegrating the Hermit Kingdom with the rest of the world, can Trump count on public support? A new IBD/TIPP Poll suggests that, even before the latest good news, Americans mostly approved of his handling of the North Korea talks.

The poll, conducted from April 26 to May 4 from a sample of 900 U.S. adults, showed that 52% either approve "somewhat" or "strongly" of "the way President Trump has handled the situation with North Korea." Of the remainder, 44% disapproved of Trump's efforts, with 24% disapproving "strongly."

Not surprisingly, the split was mostly along partisan lines. Some 76% of Democrats disapproved of Trump's North Korean efforts, and 92% of Republicans approved. Independents were split, with 48% approving and 47% disapproving.

But can Trump pull off a diplomatic triumph in talks with North Korea's Kim Jong-Un?

There, Americans are a bit more ambivalent in the IBD/TIPP Poll, with 48% expressing they're "somewhat" or "very" confident, and 50% saying they're "not very" or "not at all" confident. Once again, Democrats and Republicans split sharply. Among Dems, 77% say they're not confident, versus 87% of GOP members who say they are. Among Independents, 43% said they were confident, while 54% said they weren't.

So while Trump will largely have the wind of favorable public opinion at his back, he will also face skeptical public opinion at home as well. Given the media's overwhelming and well-documented hostility toward Trump, he can expect any triumph he has to be diminished, and any failure to be magnified and blown out of proportion.

North Korea's Turnaround

Even so, there seems to have been a remarkable turnaround in North Korea once Trump started playing global geostrategic chess like a 3-D chess master. His tariffs on Chinese goods, while perhaps economically dubious, made Xi Jinping see that Trump was serious and not afraid of raising China's ire. Trump knew China is North Korea's patron and main supplier of food and energy. So it has leverage. Kim Jong Un's surprise visit to Beijing last month to "consult" with Chinese leaders shows that China got the message.

China no doubt "encouraged" Kim to engage the U.S. and South Korea in nuclear talks. But Trump's decision to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal and an earlier decision to put North Korea on the U.S.' list of terrorist nations also gave Kim a big nudge. Kim has learned something about Trump: He won't sign a bad deal, he doesn't shrink from conflict, and he's not afraid to act in U.S. interests.

Pyongyang has already said it will stop its nuclear tests, launch no more intercontinental ballistic missiles and shut down a nuclear test site — presumably, the one on a remote mountain that collapsed following a recent nuclear test. Even so, if North Korea agrees to end its state of war with South Korea and eliminates its nuclear weapons program, it might have a chance to rejoin the community of nations.

Of course, the U.S. should always be wary. North Korea has repeatedly played the U.S. and the rest of the democratic world for patsies. It promises big changes in behavior in exchange for trade and aid, then abandons its promises later. Despite years of talks and multiple agreements, Kim Jong-un's regime (and those of his father and grandfather before him) has continued to develop nuclear weapons.

Are these talks just another ruse? Probably not. Kim seems genuinely intimidated by Trump, whose blunt-speaking ways and out-loud military threats have rattled Kim's confidence. He may be desperate for a deal that will leave him in power. As we've said before, we think Kim needs to go.

We've heard a lot of talk about a Nobel Peace Prize for Trump. If he can bring peace and denuclearization to the Korean Peninsula, he will certainly deserve it — unlike the previous White House occupant, who won a Nobel for doing nothing and left the world largely a mess because of his diplomatic ineptitude.

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72. Just In Time For Mother's Day: Louisiana Protects Customers From The 'Danger' of Unlicensed FloristsЧт., 10 мая[−]

With Mother's Day a few days away, people are wondering what to get their mothers as a token of appreciation. Flowers are a classic gift.

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Beautiful bouquets are available everywhere, but customers in Louisiana are unique in that their florists must obtain licenses to practice their profession. After a bill that would have repealed the licensing requirement was defeated in the State Senate Agriculture Committee by a 6 to 1 vote, licensing will remain the case for the immediate future.

Louisiana should remove this licensing requirement for florists. It would create more opportunities for would-be florists, and lower prices for people looking for flower arrangements, regardless of the occasion.

While unfortunate, it perhaps should not be surprising that the repeal bill did not pass, as the state has a penchant for occupational licensing. Louisiana tied with Washington for the most occupations licensed in a recent report from the Institute for Justice, requiring licenses for 77 out of 102 occupations included. A study from the Archbridge Institute found that from 1993 to 2012 Louisiana had the largest increase in the number of low-income occupations that were newly licensed.

These findings were one factor spurring renewed interest in reviewing and potentially reforming the licensing framework in the state, with the Baton Rouge Advocate reporting that the bill had enjoyed support from a broad coalition including Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards, Republican State Representative Julie Emerson, and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

Even with this support, the bill garnered only one vote in committee. Incumbent florists objected strenuously to the bill, and one florist said that "Having a license is not a barrier … To say you are a licensed florist sets you apart in the industry."

It is difficult to see how requiring every florist in the state to obtain a license can set them apart, since everyone has to have a license. To obtain the required florist license, people have to pay $189 in fees and take an exam. These fees serve as a barrier for some seeking to earn supplemental income, as might the time required to prepare and take the exam.

These barriers can be seen when looking at another occupation at the center of licensing reform efforts in the state: hair braiding. In 2012 Mississippi, which only requires hair braiders to register with the state, had 1,245 working hair braiders.

Meanwhile Louisiana, which required 500 training hours for a license, had only 32. The burdens associated with the license for florists are not as arduous, but these requirements do serve as barriers for people seeking to enter the occupation.

In most professions, incumbents and proponents of licensing attempt to make the case that safety is the motivating factor for the license, but those arguments would strain credulity when it comes to designing bouquets. Instead, warnings about licensing reform here are that it would "denigrate the profession."

Beyond florists, the scope of occupational licensing in the United States has grown significantly over time, from about 5% of occupations in the 1950s to about 25% today. Recently, some states and federal entities have showed renewed interest in reviewing and potentially reforming the status quo. For example, the state legislature in Nebraska just passed a bill requiring review of existing licenses to determine whether occupations require government intervention, and if so, that the license is the least restrictive form of regulation that is feasible.

While these are positive developments, Louisiana fell short in what should have been one of the more incremental and uncontroversial areas for improvement of any occupation in any state, and it will continue to be the only state in the nation that licenses florists.

The setback in Louisiana should lead more people to ask whether they think it makes sense to require florists to obtain a license from the government. As more research regarding the adverse consequences of licensing is disseminated, and other states continue to make progress, perhaps Louisiana's florist license requirement will be repealed.

  • Hughes is a policy analyst at the Manhattan Institute. Follow him on Twitter @CharlesHHughes.

Reprinted, with permission, from E21.


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73. The Democrats' War On CapitalismЧт., 10 мая[−]

Hillary Clinton recently offered yet another reason why she lost her second consecutive race for the presidency: capitalism.

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At the Shared Value Leadership Summit in New York City, Clinton was asked whether her self-proclaimed "capitalist" stance hurt her during the 2016 presidential primary season. "It's hard to know," she said, "but I mean, if you're in the Iowa caucuses and 41% of Democrats are socialists or self-described socialists, and I'm asked, 'Are you a capitalist?' and I say, 'Yes, but with appropriate regulation and appropriate accountability.' You know, that probably gets lost in the 'Oh, my gosh, she's a capitalist!'"

Clinton's right. Being a "capitalist" is an increasingly untenable position for a Democratic politician.

Polls show that today's Democratic Party and capitalism appear to be on a collision course. A November 2015 New York Times/CBS News poll found that 56% of Democratic primary voters said they held a positive view of socialism. A Morning Consult/Politico survey in June 2017 asked if a hypothetical replacement for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi should be a socialist or capitalist. More Democrats opted for socialism, with 35% saying it's somewhat or very important that her replacement be a socialist, while only 31% said the same for a capitalist.

Indeed, one of the Democrats' loudest voices, filmmaker Michael Moore, recently praised Karl Marx, the ideological godfather of communism. Moore tweeted: "Happy 200th Birthday Karl Marx! You believed that everyone should have a seat at the table & that the greed of the rich would eventually bring us all down. You believed that everyone deserves a slice of the pie. You knew that the super wealthy were out to grab whatever they could. ... Though the rich have sought to distort him or even use him, time has shown that, in the end, Marx was actually mostly right & that the aristocrats, the slave owners, the bankers and Goldman Sachs were wrong... 'Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right!'"

Tell that to the millions who died under communist repression in, among other places, China, the Soviet Union and Cambodia.

Perhaps no issue reflects this socialist view more than the Democrats' push for "single-payer" health care.

As a state senator, Barack Obama said: "I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer, universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14% of its gross national product on health care, cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. ... A single-payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. That's what I'd like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately."

A few years later, then-presidential candidate Obama reiterated his stance, that if "starting from scratch" he'd have a single-payer system.

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean called the so-called "public option" the end game: "I think while someday we may end up with a single-payer system, it's clear that we're not going to do it all at once, so I think both candidates' (Hillary Clinton's and Obama's) health care plans are a big step forward."

Former Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid also said that he, too, wants to get to "single-payer." The Las Vegas Sun reported in 2013: "In just about seven weeks, people will be able to start buying Obamacare-approved insurance plans through the new health care exchanges. But already, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is predicting those plans," wrote the Sun, "and the whole system of distributing them, will eventually be moot. ... 'What we've done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we're far from having something that's going to work forever,' Reid said. When then asked by panelist Steve Sebelius whether he meant ultimately the country would have to have a health care system that abandoned insurance as the means of accessing it, Reid said: 'Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes.'"

The "you didn't build that" left does not recognize the relationship between prosperity and allowing people to keep what they produce to the fullest degree possible.

By the end of eight years under President Obama, according to the conservative Heritage Foundation, we had less "economic freedom." The United States' score on "economic freedom" -- which looks at taxes and regulations, among other criteria -- dropped to its lowest level in the 23 years since Heritage began publishing its annual rankings of 180 countries. It is no coincidence that this loss of economic freedom under Obama helped produce the worst American economic recovery since 1949.

Last week brought more good news for Democrats. A Rasmussen poll found that nearly half of American likely voters support a guaranteed government job for all. This is likely to become a central presidential campaign issue for Democrats in 2020.

Democrats believe that there is a free lunch and that capitalists are stopping them from eating it.

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

Other columns by Larry Elder

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74. Trump Approval Holds Steady; Quality Of Life Hits 14-Year High: IBD/TIPP PollЧт., 10 мая[−]

The latest IBD/TIPP poll shows that President Trump's job approval rating hasn't changed, but the public is more upbeat about almost everything else. And most say impeachment talk is premature.

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Trump's job approval number remains unchanged, with 38% saying they approve of the job he's doing, while 56% disapprove. His net favorability is also unchanged from April, at -17 points (39% favorable, 56% unfavorable).

However, the IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index now has Trump at 42.1. That a 2.2% gain from last month and up 17% from last August, which marked Trump's low point on this exclusive index.

IBD/TIPP conducted the poll from April 26 to May 4. It includes responses from 900 people, giving it a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points.

The May IBD/TIPP poll finds that the public is increasingly happy with the direction of the country, as well as with their own quality of life and financial stress levels. They also give Trump higher marks on leadership and on his handling of the economy.

Forty-six percent now say they're satisfied with the direction of the country, a three-point gain over April and the highest since Trump's first full month in office. The current satisfaction reading is also far higher than the 37% average under President Obama.

Quality Of Life Up, Stress Down

The IBD/TIPP Quality of Life Index jumped 5.6% this month to reach 62.7. That's the highest this index has been since October 2004, and the second highest since IBD/TIPP started this index 17 years ago. The index averaged 53.7 under Obama.

The Economic Optimism Index climbed in April. So far this year, the Index has averaged 54.7. It has been above 50 since the November 2016 elections. (A reading above 50 signals optimism.)

And financial stress levels dropped sharply in May to 49.9 — marking the first time this index has been under 50 since IBD/TIPP started it in December 2007. (The lower the financial stress index the better.) The average under President Obama was 59.4.

The survey also found that the percentage of households deemed "job sensitive" — either someone in the household is looking for work or is worried about being laid off — dropped for the fourth consecutive month to 23%.

The IBD/TIPP poll also found that Trump is gaining ground, if slowly, on his handling of the economy and of terrorism, and his overall performance as president.

The May survey found that 42% rate his handling of the economy as "excellent" or "good" — up a point from last month. Thirty-seven percent rate it as "poor" or "unacceptable."

On terrorism, 43% give him high marks, up two points from last month.

Impeachment Talk Premature

On impeachment, the poll finds that 56% of those who've been following the Russia collusion story closely say impeachment talk is premature. Among independents in this group, 58% say it's premature.

However, a substantial majority (68%) of Democrats following the collusion story closely think today's talk about impeachment is appropriate. Just 30% say it's premature.

Democratic leaders have been warning their rank and file that Trump impeachment talk in the midterm elections could backfire.

In a New York Times op-ed, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) urged Democrats to avoid running on impeaching President Trump in the midterms. "If impeachment is seen by a substantial part of the country as merely an effort to nullify an election by other means," he wrote, "there will be no impeachment, no matter how high the crime or serious the misdemeanor."

He urged Democrats instead "to focus on the economy, family and a return to basic decency."

Lagging Other Polls

Trump continues to lag on approval compared with other polls. At 38%, his approval rating in the IBD/TIPP poll is below the Real Clear Politics Average, which before including the IBD/TIPP poll results stood at 44.2% approval.

Raghavan Mayur, President of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which conducts the IBD/TIPP poll, notes that the survey sample and method of polling can explain the difference.

"IBD/TIPP conducts its surveys by telephone using live interviewers, and are based on two-thirds cellphones and one-third landlines," he says. "Many of the polls that show 44% approval or more for Trump utilize survey panels or Robo methodology."

In addition, IBD/TIPP results include all adults over age 18, while other polls tend to limit responses to registered voters.

"We believe it is important for polls to reflect the pulse of overall adult population in the U.S.," Mayur says, "and not just the electorate."


Methodology: The April IBD/TIPP Poll was conducted April 26-May 4. It includes responses from 900 people nationwide, who were asked questions by live interviewers on phones. The poll's margin of error is +/-3.3 percentage points. ( Toplines from the May IBD/TIPP Poll can be found here.)

The IBD/TIPP Poll has been credited as being the most accurate poll in the past four presidential elections, and was one of only two that correctly predicted the outcome of the November presidential election.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the date when the IBD/TIPP started tracking the Financial Stress Index.

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75. Florida: Model For Free-Market ReformСр., 09 мая[−]

The Florida Legislature recently wrapped up one of its most successful sessions in recent memory. The legislation passed this year ensures that students will enjoy greater educational opportunities, teacher unions will be more accountable to their members, and patients will have access to innovative new health care options.

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These are just the latest legislative victories that in recent years have made Florida a more free and open society for all. The Sunshine State is lighting the path forward for other states looking to make free-market reforms.

On education, lawmakers passed a bill that brings accountability to government unions and expands the options available to students.

To ensure that teacher unions remain transparent and accountable to the teachers they represent, unions will need to report how many of their bargaining unit are dues-paying members. If the number dips below 50%, the union would be required to reapply for certification. This ensures that the people who negotiate for teachers actually have the support of teachers.

Schools will benefit from increased administrative flexibility. Effective principals will be allowed to manage multiple schools, and high-performing charter schools will be able to open more schools in the same district.

Meanwhile, students who are struggling in public school will gain access to new and expanded scholarship programs. The Hope Scholarship will give students who have been harassed or assaulted in public schools the option to receive an education elsewhere on a state scholarship. Another scholarship will help struggling readers afford supplemental materials and tutoring.

The bill also creates new funding sources for Florida's existing scholarship programs, ensuring that more students than ever before can find the school that best meets their educational needs.

On health care, lawmakers cut the red tape surrounding "direct primary care" services, an innovation that's rapidly gaining popularity nationwide.

Direct primary care agreements give patients access to quality care at reasonable prices by removing the middlemen of insurance companies. Patients simply pay a monthly subscription fee that typically costs $50 to $100 and, in return, gain access to routine medical services like checkups and lab work at little or no additional cost.

The model has obvious advantages for doctors and patients alike, but in many states, legal uncertainty has slowed its adoption, as physicians often worry they will become subject to burdensome and irrelevant state insurance regulation. Florida's new bill eliminates that concern by clarifying that direct primary care services are not subject to unnecessary regulations.

State legislators have much to be proud of in their latest session, which continues the progress we've made over the last several years in promoting growth and opportunity in Florida. Some of our greatest progress has been in eliminating wasteful corporate welfare, reducing the state's debt, and lowering taxes.

Just this session, the legislature cut nearly $170 million in taxes and prevented an automatic $375 million property tax increase. That brings the total tax savings for Floridians to more than $10 billion since 2011.

The legislature, working together with Governor Rick Scott, has also managed to put the state's fiscal house in order. This past year, Florida was ranked first in the nation for fiscal health. Spending on education and infrastructure has been prioritized, while state lawmakers have refused to spend a penny of taxpayer money on private sports stadiums and other corporate handouts.

The rapid progress Florida has made over the last several years should inspire reformers nationwide. As other states struggle to cut spending and provide residents with affordable health care and quality schooling, they should look to our legislative victories as a model for creating an efficient and effective government for all citizens.

  • Corcoran, a state representative, is speaker of the Florida House.
  • Gardner is chief government affairs officer at Americans for Prosperity.

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76. Brent Bozell: Thou Shalt Not Question MuellerСр., 09 мая[−]

The television networks have flooded us with hours and hours of coverage of the Robert Mueller probe as they continue to look under every rock for some sign of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. But on May 4, a federal judge harshly blasted Mueller's tactics in court, even going as far as challenging the scope of his authority in this probe.

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Was this a big story for our objective press? Did they insist on giving us a dispassionate examination of the facts? No. NBC and CBS gave it 30 seconds of airtime combined. ABC devoted two minutes to it, and that was that.

A new Media Research Center study shows that in the first four months of 2018, these three networks have aired 321 minutes of evening-news coverage of the Russia investigation, and the tone toward President Trump was 98% negative. When you're this close to being perfectly negative, why wreck the trend?

At least the Washington Post put the judge's bombshell rebuke on the front page Saturday. The New York Times buried it on the bottom of page A13, below other Trump-scandal stories.

On the taxpayer-subsidized airwaves, "PBS NewsHour" offered nothing. NPR asked a reporter one question at the end of a segment on Saturday morning's "Weekend Edition." This is a story that broke on Friday, but it didn't make either network's regular "week in review" panel.

This was a test for the Mueller-obsessed media — and they flunked. They are thoroughly invested in how Mueller's team could help them damage, or even e nd, the Trump presidency. They have zero interest in undermining their white knight. Apparently, they're not alone.

"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud," federal judge T.S. Ellis III scolded Mueller's team during a court hearing in Alexandria, Virginia. "You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever."

He added: "I don't see what relation this indictment has with anything the special counsel is authorized to investigate. ... What we don't want in this country is we don't want anyone with unfettered power."

It can't get much tougher than that.

Mueller would appear to have unfettered power over the networks, too. While they have used the Russia investigation to bury Trump in negative evaluations, they haven't shown any interest in transparency for Mueller and his supervisor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Judge Ellis and House Republicans have demanded that Mueller fully disclose the (heavily redacted) contents of the instructions Rosenstein gave him on the scope of his investigation.

On Jan. 3, when Manafort's lawyers challenged Mueller's investigation as being too broad, ABC gave it 51 seconds; NBC gave it 30 seconds; and CBS gave it 13 seconds. Add that up and so far this year, by our count, the networks have devoted roughly four minutes to serious allegations of Mueller's overreach with a team of investigators that clearly believes it has the power to delve into anyone's private life if it will harm the president.

That's sure not how these transparently liberal networks treated Kenneth Starr when he threatened Bill Clinton's presidency. Back then, The Center for Media and Public Affairs found that from July through September 1998, Starr's network evening news evaluations were 15% positive and 85% negative. In the same time frame, Clinton received 37% positive coverage — while he was being impeached!

Liberals pretend that criticizing or questioning Mueller reeks of obstruction of justice, but the public isn't buying this nonsense. The Media Research Center has documented that from January to April, there was another long stretch of 90% negative Trump coverage on the evening news. Yet Trump's approval ratings went up.

  • 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. To find out more about Brent Bozell III and Tim Graham.

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77. Ben Shapiro: The Day The Iran Deal DiedСр., 09 мая[−]

Team Obama lives in a world of fiction.

As President Trump announced to the world that he would finally put a stake through the heart of the Iran deal — the signal foreign policy "achievement" of the Obama administration — Obama's former staffers lamented, rending their sackcloth and smearing their ashes.

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"I will never forget the dark cloud that hung over the White House in the years Iran was advancing nuclear program & Obama was briefed on all the risks of using military force," former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power tweeted. "Trump has demolished America's credibility & paved the way for Iran to re-start its nuclear program. Trump has done the unthinkable: isolated the US & rallied the world around Iran."

Then there was amateur-fiction-writer-turned-professional-fiction-writer Ben Rhodes, a former Obama national security aide, who tweeted, "One tragicomic element of Trump's presidency is that the more he tries to tear down Obama's legacy, the bigger he makes Obama look."

Meanwhile, former Secretary of State John Kerry, who had been tr aveling the world in an attempt to conduct his own personal foreign policy on behalf of the mullahs, stated, "Today's announcement weakens our security, breaks America's word, isolates us from our European allies, puts Israel at greater risk, empowers Iran's hardliners, and reduces our global leverage to address Tehran's misbehavior."

Obama himself stated, "Walking away from the JCPOA turns our back on America's closest allies."

In hearing all of these honeyed voices speak, one might think that Iran has been acting responsibly for the last three years, that it hasn't been pursuing a campaign of horrific terrorism in Yemen and Syria, that it hasn't been sponsoring the takeover of Lebanon by the terrorist group Hezbollah, that it hasn't been funding the Palestinian terror group Hamas, that it hasn't been developing long-range ballistic missiles while leading chants saying "Death to America."

One might think that Obama left the Middle East a bright a beautiful place, not a hellhole filled with human carnage bought with dollars spent by Iran but funneled through the United States.

None of that is true, of course. Obama left the Middle East a smoking wreckage heap — a situation so grim that even Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan have been forced to ally with Israel to allay fears of an Iranian regional takeover. Obama and his staff lied repeatedly to the American people about the Iran deal — and they continue to lie.

When Kerry says that the deal will "empower Iran's hardliners," he is repeating an outright fabrication: The hardliners are in charge of the government, and the deal strengthened them. When Power speaks as though Obama alleviated the possibility of Iran's nuclear program, she's lying, too: The deal explicitly paved the way for an Iranian nuclear program free and clear of consequences from the international order. When Obama speaks as though our Middle East allies were pleased by the deal, he's lying: They all opposed it, and they're all celebrating its end.

Barack Obama had a peculiar vision of the Middle East remade: Iran ascendant, the power of Israel checked, the Saudis chastened. He achieved that vision at the cost of tens of thousands of lives across the region. President Trump is undoing that legacy. Good riddance.

  • Shapiro, 34, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, host of "The Ben Shapiro Show" and editor-in-chief of DailyWire.com. He is The New York Times best-selling author of "Bullies." He lives with his wife and two children in Los Angeles.

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78. IBD/TIPP Poll: Americans Support Tough Trump Stance On Iran Nuclear DealСр., 09 мая[−]

Nuclear Iran: As expected, President Trump has announced he will pull the U.S. out of the failed Iran nuclear deal, barring a renegotiation of its terms. Predictably, critics on the right and left are ripping Trump's decision. But a new IBD/TIPP Poll suggests Trump will find support for strengthening the deal from the American public.

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Trump called the 2015 nuclear pact a "horrible one-sided deal that should never ever have been made." Now Iran has to decide whether to walk away or renegotiate. Their decision will no doubt be influenced by the fact that Trump will now push for a reimposition of tough trade sanctions on Iran.

Despite Trump's announcement, neither new sanctions or a pullout from the deal will go into effect for six months. That gives both Iran and the U.S. time to renegotiate. The U.S. has said it wants to renegotiate. Does Iran?

If so, Americans will support it. According to the IBD/TIPP Poll of 900 U.S. adults taken from April 26 to May 4 and released just this week, most Americans would like to see some changes made to the deal. Only 15% of Americans said "do nothing."

We asked poll respondents what the U.S. should do about the 2015 nuclear agreement between the six major world powers — the U.S., Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and China — and Iran. Some 20% wanted Trump to withdraw from the deal. But the biggest response, 53%, was for Trump to "strengthen the agreement."

That latter option, by the way, achieved majority support from both Democrats and Independents. And, while not a majority, more Republicans supported strengthening the agreement (42%) than pulling out entirely (40%).

And, as structured, it's a deal that definitely is in need of strengthening. As originally negotiated by President Obama and then-Secretary of State John Kerry, the Iran accord came up far short of what was needed to curb the mullahs' nuclear ambitions.

Simply put, the original idea behind the 2015 deal was to keep Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon that could be used to dominate the Mideast and intimidate its immediate neighbors, and even Europe.

But the deal as signed has significant weaknesses that can't and shouldn't be ignored.

For instance, as negotiated, limits on Iran's nuclear research expire after just a decade. It will then be able to openly operate its illicit nuclear facilities and ramp up its output of enriched uranium, a necessary first step toward creating a nuclear weapon. Also, the nuclear deal doesn't include limits on its ballistic missile program, or permission for international nuclear inspectors to enter top-secret military installations where intelligence analysts believe nuclear research is already underway.

In short, Obama's deal kicked the can down the road on Iran's nuclear ambitions. Instead of taking just a year or two to build a nuclear weapon, nuclear experts believe the sanctions at most will keep Iran from getting a nuke for 10 years, 15 years tops. That's just not ending the threat; it's merely postponing the day of nuclear reckoning.

Worse, removing the sanctions imposed on Iran gave the rogue fundamentalist regime more than $100 billion to spend on its terrorist-support activities around the world, and on meddling in Syria's internal affairs.

So Iran's threat has only grown, thanks to the Obama-Kerry appeasement deal. And yes, the U.S. State Department and many of our foreign allies still consider that nation to be the world's No. 1 terrorist-supporting nation, so that hasn't changed either.

We've felt all along that the deal was a bad one. As we wrote on July 17, 2017: "Barring a dramatic change in Iran's behavior, Trump should pull out of the six-powers nuclear agreement with Iran, a bad deal that will soon result in a workable nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran's murderous mullahs."

Nothing has changed, except that we have a president with courage enough to do it.

More important, Trump has issued a number of demands on Iran, which are likely to serve as a template for future talks, should they resume. They include:

  • "Never have an ICBM, cease developing any nuclear-capable missiles, and stop proliferating ballistic missiles to others."
  • "Cease its support for terrorists, extremists, and regional proxies, such as Hizballah, Hamas, the Taliban, and al-Qaida."
  • "End its publicly declared quest to destroy Israel."
  • "Stop its threats to freedom of navigation, especially in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea."
  • "Cease escalating the Yemen conflict and destabilizing the region by proliferating weapons to the Houthis."
  • "End its cyberattacks against the United States and our allies, including Israel."
  • "Stop its grievous human rights abuses, shown most recently in the regime's crackdown against widespread protests by Iranian citizens."
  • "Stop its unjust detention of foreigners, including United States citizens."

Sure, these might seem tough, but they aren't. They are routine matters that really require little effort on the part of Iran's leaders, other than minding their own business.

The clock is now running on Iran. It has six months to decide whether to remain in conflict with the U.S. and return to its nuclear ambitions, or to embrace a non-nuclear future that will benefit its people immeasurably.

Meanwhile, our European allies need to seriously reassess whether they truly believe a nuclear Iran would be in their interest. Along with the clear threat from Russia, Iran's burgeoning nuclear program and its active support of terrorism remain the biggest security threat that Europe faces.

America has gotten into a terrible habit of drawing "lines in the sand," then erasing them. Three American presidents in a row have vowed to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran's hands. Now, one of those presidents is taking action. He deserves Americans' support.

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79. Allan Meltzer And The Lessons He Taught UsВт., 08 мая[−]

Allan Meltzer, distinguished Professor of Economics at Carnegie-Mellon University, founder of the Shadow Open Market Committee, and author of a monumental multi-volume History of the Federal Reserve, passed away one year ago today, on May 8, 2017. Great minds like Meltzer's are all too rare and, once gone, can never be replaced.

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No one possesses anything like Meltzer's extraordinary command over economic theory, sweeping knowledge of monetary history, and astute political acumen. Nor can anyone match the astonishing energy and enthusiasm he devoted to his teaching, writing, and research, and his kindness and generosity to colleagues, students, and friends.

As with all great scholars, Meltzer inspired others to do their very best to follow in his footsteps. The anniversary of his passing provides all of us who knew and admired him with a chance to reflect on the events of the past year and imagine how he might have responded.

Most likely, Meltzer would have been cheered by the continuing strength of the U.S. economy and impressed by President Trump's appointments to the Federal Reserve Board. At the same time, Meltzer surely would have emphasized that much more work needs to be done within the Federal Reserve System, to make its monetary and regulatory policies more systematic and effective.

It is easy to see Meltzer being pleased with the economy's recent performance. Last week's jobs report showed the U.S. unemployment rate declining to 3.9%, a mark not seen since the end of the decade-long boom in 2000.

Meanwhile, inflation by most measures is running just a hair's width below the Federal Reserve's long-run two percent target. As a historian of Federal Reserve policy, Meltzer could point out that today, the central bank has come closer than ever to achieving both sides of its dual mandate for price stability and maximum sustainable employment, a remarkable achievement.

Meltzer would also be pleased by recent appointments to the Federal Reserve Board. New Chairman Jerome Powell has picked up right where his predecessor Janet Yellen left off, delivering a consistent message that, with economic growth accelerating and inflation moving backing to target, the Fed's most important task now lies in bringing its policy rates back to more normal levels.

Meltzer would have supported the Fed's recent interest rate increases. Even more important, he would remain steadfast in urging Chairman Powell to stand ready to move rates higher still, to prevent inflation from overshooting target and thereby avoid a mistake that would be costlier to correct.

Meltzer would have been impressed by the experience and skill that Randal Quarles brings to his new role as the Fed's Vice Chair for Supervision. Of course, Meltzer was extremely happy with the appointment of Marvin Goodfriend, his prot?g? at Carnegie-Mellon, to one of the four open positions that remain on the Federal Reserve Board.

Likewise, Meltzer would surely view President Trump's two most recent nominees to the Fed Board, Richard Clarida and Michelle Bowman, as exceptionally capable and well-qualified candidates for the job. Just as surely, Meltzer would be vocal in encouraging the U.S. Senate to confirm these outstanding Board nominees as quickly as possible, as our economy cannot be well-served when the seven-seat panel remains at less than half of its full strength.

But while Meltzer always showed great respect for the individuals who serve our country at the Fed, he never relented in pushing them to improve their policy-making strategies. One major theme that runs through Meltzer's work is that monetary policy works best when it is conducted systematically, according to "rules rather than discretion."

Today, Meltzer would surely be asking Federal Reserve officials why they have resisted calls, from Congress and other academic economists including Stanford University professor John Taylor, to make more consistent reference to an interest rate rule for setting the federal funds rate.

Meltzer would be pressing those officials to make clear, as well, their ultimate plans for the size of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet and to codify more systematically the mix of "unconventional" policy actions they might take during the next cyclical downturn, if and when the federal funds rate again hits its zero lower bound.

On regulatory policy, it is likely that Meltzer would be even more adamant, calling for the Fed to establish stricter rules for emergency lending during future episodes of financial stress. Above all, Meltzer would insist that the Fed renounce, once and for all and in no uncertain terms, the doctrine of "too big to fail" that, all too often in the past, has promoted dangerously excessive risk-taking by the largest banks.

In short, the lessons that Allan Meltzer always tried to teach remain as relevant today as they've ever been. By remembering him, we can also remember that policymakers can do much more to make the American economy stronger, more stable, and more resilient in the face of shocks.


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80. The War on WisdomВт., 08 мая[−]

There is more knowledge available today than ever before in history. But few would argue people are wiser than ever before.

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On the contrary, many of us would argue that we are living in a particularly foolish time — a period that is largely wisdom-free, especially among those with the most knowledge: the best educated.

The fact that one of our two major political parties is advocating lowering the voting age to 16 is a good example of the absence of wisdom among a large segment of the adult population. What adult deems 16-year-olds capable of making a wise voting decision? The answer is an adult with the wisdom of a 16-year-old — "Hey, I'm no wiser than most 16-year-olds. Why should I have the vote and they not?"

America has been influenced and is now being largely led by members of the baby-boom generation. This is the generation that came up with the motto "Never trust anyone over 30," making it the first American generation to proclaim contempt for wisdom as a virtue.

The left in America is founded on the rejection of wisdom. It is possible to be on the left and be kind, honest in business, faithful to one's spouse, etc. But it is not possible to be wise if one subscribes to leftist (as opposed to liberal) ideas.

Last year, Amy Wax, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, co-authored an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer with a professor from the University of San Diego School of Law in which they wrote that the "bourgeois culture" and "bourgeois norms" that governed America from the end of World War II until the mid-1960s were good for America, and that their rejection has caused much of the social dysfunction that has characterized this country since the 1960s.

Those values included, in their words: "Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime."

Recognizing those norms as universally beneficial constitutes wisdom. Rejection of them constitutes a rejection of wisdom — i.e., foolishness.

Yet the left almost universally rejected the Wax piece, deeming it, as the left-wing National Lawyers Guild wrote, "an explicit and implicit endorsement of white supremacy," and questioning whether professor Wax should be allowed to continue teaching a required first-year course at Penn Law.

To equate getting married before having children, working hard and eschewing substance abuse and crime with "white supremacy" is to betray an absence of wisdom that is as depressing as it breathtaking. It is obvious to anyone with a modicum of common sense that those values benefit anyone who adheres to them; they have nothing to do with race.

But almost every left-wing position (that differs from a liberal or conservative position) is bereft of wisdom.

Is the left-wing belief in the notion of "cultural appropriation" — such as the left's recent condemnation of a white girl for wearing a Chinese dress to her high school prom — wise? Or is it simply moronic?

Is the left-wing belief that there are more than two genders wise? Or is it objectively false, foolish and nihilistic?

Has the left-wing belief that children need (unearned) self-esteem turned out to be wise, or morally and psychologically destructive? To its credit, last year, the Guardian wrote a scathing expose on the "lie" — its word — the self-esteem movement is based on and the narcissistic generation it created.

Is it wise to provide college students with "safe spaces" — with their hot chocolate, stuffed animals and puppy videos — in which to hide whenever a conservative speaker comes to their college? Or is it just ridiculous and infantilizing?

Is the left's rejection of many, if not most, great philosophical, literary and artistic works of wisdom on the grounds that they were written or created by white males wise? One example: The English department of the University of Pennsylvania, half of whose law school professors condemned Amy Wax and almost none of whose law professors defended her piece, removed a portrait of William Shakespeare (replacing it with that of a black lesbian poet).

Is multiculturalism, the idea that no culture is superior to another morally or in any other way wise? Isn't it the antithesis of wisdom, whose very premise is that certain ideas are morally superior to others, and certain literary or artistic works are superior to others?

And the veneration of feelings over truth, not to mention wisdom, is a cornerstone of leftism.

Here's one way to test my thesis: Ask left-wing friends what they have done to pass on wisdom to their children. Most will answer with a question: "What do you mean?" Then ask religious Jewish or Christian friends the same question. They won't answer with a question.

  • Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His latest book, published by Regnery in April 2018, is "The Rational Bible," a commentary on the book of Exodus. He is the founder of Prager University.

Other columns by Dennis Prager

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81. The Internet Under SiegeВт., 08 мая[−]

What is it about the internet that makes it so the government just can't seem to keep its greedy paws off of it?

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Every few years Congress makes a play to regulate and tax the internet, and free marketeers need to be ever vigilant in swatting them down.

First, we have the threat of a new tax on internet sales even when the company in question has no physical presence in the state. Forcing companies to pay for state and local services they don't use: This is simply a revenue grab by states, to the tune of as much as $100 billion. This will make online shopping more expensive.

Now we have Congress trying to reimpose a complex regulatory structure on wireless internet service providers. This will effectively treat the folks who bring the internet into your home or office like public utilities.

This so-called "net neutrality" regulation is intended to provide broad access to the internet for homeowners and businesses, and to ensure "fair" pricing. These rules were first imposed by the Obama administration's anti-business hyper-regulators in 2015.

The Trump administration's Federal Communications Commission wisely overturned the regulations. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai argued that without the rule, consumers are more likely to get whatever content they want whenever they want it at prices that are likely to continue to fall. Congress will vote soon on whether to bring the heavy-handed regulatory structure back.

Let's start with the basics here. For the last 25 years, the internet has been the Wild West of entrepreneurship, investment, creativity and economic expansion. It was a spontaneous combustion of information age activity that continues to add millions of jobs and trillions of dollars of wealth.

Most importantly, it all happened outside the realm of government edicts, taxes and subsidies. The benefits of the internet spread at quicksilver speed. More than 80% of households had internet access within a decade.

As the technology expands into broadband and wireless services, access widens and prices fall every day. This is arguably the greatest laissez faire triumph in world history.

Net neutrality rules don't broaden access to new powerful and high-speed internet services. When these regulations were in force, they reduced investment. A Morgan Stanley research report noted that wireless service providers stalled under the Obama-era rules.

CTIA, which is the industry group representing the wireless providers, has released the investment numbers from its members. Annual wireless capital investment grew from $25 billion in 2010 to $33 billion in 2013, an increase of $8 billion, or 33%.

Then in the three years the FCC was threatening to impose "net neutrality" — 2014, 2015, 2016 — annual wireless capital investment was basically flat. It fell by $5.6 billion the first full year of the Obama FCC's new rules.

Verizon and AT&T have pledged billions of dollars of new investment now that the net neutrality rules are gone. This also means the creation of tens of thousands of new high-paying jobs. Michael Mandel of the Progressive Policy Institute estimated that app-economy jobs have grown at a compound annual rate of 30% per year in the last five years, while overall U.S. job growth was less than 3%.

If the price control rules are brought back and the return on investment is lower, wireless companies are less likely to make the multibillion-dollar infrastructure investments in the first place. So in that case, no one benefits.

In this age of broadband cables, wireless and other technologies for internet services, the best way to ensure affordable prices is free market competition. Net neutrality means slower, clunkier and less reliable internet services.

This is the biggest danger of all from net neutrality regulations. We need tens of billions of dollars of added investment to ensure against internet traffic jams in the future. In 2013, America's wireless networks carried 3.2 trillion megabytes of data traffic. Today, that traffic is four times larger. And the demand will likely continue to multiply at these paces over the next decade at least.

How is all that digital information and video streaming going to get transported without profit incentives to invest?

Washington loves to talk about the "infrastructure crisis." Vital internet infrastructure investment won't cost a dime of taxpayer money.

It will provide our schools, families and businesses almost unlimited access to volumes of information, entertainment and data that all of the supercomputers of the world in the 1970s couldn't offer even at a cost of billions of dollars. Now it will be available to Americans for pennies.

All we need for this information-rich future is to have the government get out of the way. Is that really so hard?

  • Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with Freedom Works. He is the co-author of "Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy."

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The post The Internet Under Siege appeared first on Investor's Business Daily.


82. John Kerry's Freelance Diplomacy Violates U.S. Law — So Why Isn't He Prosecuted?Вт., 08 мая[−]

Politicized Justice: Democrats went gaga over a little-known law they claimed an advisor to President Trump violated following the 2016 presidential campaign. Now, the shoe's on the other foot, and both the Democrats and the media that supported them have grown strangely quiet.

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The law in question is the 219-year-old Logan Act, which makes it a felony for Americans to negotiate with foreign powers in an effort to undermine the U.S. in a dispute.

The law is little-known for a reason: Just two people have ever been tried under the Logan Act, and neither was convicted.

But that didn't stop Democrats and their Deep State allies when they wanted to use it to investigate Trump's former national security advisor, Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, in 2016. Democrats and the media laughably claimed that Flynn's conversations with Russia's U.S. ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, somehow was a violation of the Logan Act. Let's be clear: Under no reasonable legal interpretation could one assume that Flynn violated the Logan Act.

It went nowhere.

But now a report in the Boston Globe asserts that former Secretary of State John Kerry may have stepped over the line when it comes to the Logan Act.

"With the Iran (nuclear) deal facing its gravest threat since it was signed in 2015, Kerry has been on an aggressive yet stealthy mission to preserve it, using his deep lists of contacts gleaned during his time as the top U.S. diplomat to try to apply pressure on the Trump administration from the outside," the Globe wrote. "President Trump, who has consistently criticized the pact and campaigned in 2016 on scuttling it, faces a May 12 deadline to decide whether to continue abiding by its terms."

Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the U.N. about preserving the deal. He also has contacted German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, European Union official Federica Mogherini and French President Emmanuel Macron to interfere in President Trump's possible decision to abrogate the Obama administration's terrible nuclear deal with Iran.

If there ever was a violation of the Logan Act, this is it. Kerry is not an elected official. He's a private citizen. He's undermining the position of a sitting, elected U.S. president and his duly appointed representatives.

Surely the Democrats and the media, who made themselves such strong advocates of the Logan Act back in 2016 that they misapplied it against Lt. Gen. Flynn, will now respond to what looks like a clear violation now?

Of course not. Both the Democratic Party and the leftist media continue to make a mockery of the rule of law and the idea that both sides play by the same rules. The media and Democrats have downplayed any idea of the Logan Act being applicable in the case of leftist millionaire John Kerry, even though President Obama himself dragged out the Logan Act to threaten Republicans.

Former Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman, once the Democrats' vice presidential candidate, now a party pariah (because he dared to support President George W. Bush on Iraq and opposes the Iran deal), criticizes Kerry.

"In my opinion, what (Kerry's) doing is inappropriate and he shouldn't be doing it," Lieberman said. "It's a duly elected administration so I hope John Kerry stops."

Using that party's own standard, Kerry should be prosecuted for his freelance diplomacy, which will inevitably undermine President Trump's efforts to undo the ill effects of Kerry's failed diplomatic efforts while serving under the Obama administration.

We shouldn't be surprised. This is part of a new trend among the progressive left, from campuses and entertainment to politics and sports: to criminalize political differences with your foes, while pretending anything your political opponents do somehow violate cultural norms, decency or the Constitution. President Obama used it too.

It's clear Kerry broke the law here — just as one of his idols, Sen. Teddy Kennedy, may have done when he secretly held back-channel talks with Soviet leaders in 1984 to thwart President Reagan.

As we said, the Logan Act is almost never used, and we hesitate to make it the new norm. Even so, the Democrats are the ones who brought it up, so let's be fair: Prosecute John Kerry.

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83. Climate-Change True Believers Are Least Likely To Change Their Own Behavior, Study FindsВт., 08 мая[−]

Hypocrisy Watch: We keep hearing how global warming is the biggest crisis facing mankind today. But a new yearlong study finds that those ringing the alarm bells the loudest are the least likely to change their own behavior. They just want everyone else to.

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The study divided 600 adults who reported on their climate-change beliefs into three groups: "skeptical," "cautiously worried" and "highly concerned."

Then the researchers — from the University of Michigan and Cornell University — tracked how often they reported doing things like recycling, using public transportation, buying environmentally friendly consumer products, and reusing shopping bags. And they asked about support for government mandates like CO2 emission reduction, gasoline taxes and renewable energy subsidies. The Journal of Environmental Psychology published the findings.

What they found was very illuminating.

The researchers found that the "highly concerned" group was the least likely to take individual action, but they were the most insistent on government action. The "skeptical" group, in contrast, was the most likely to recycle, use public transportation and do other environmentally sound things all on their own. Skeptics were least likely to endorse costly government regulations and mandates.

"Belief in climate change," the researchers explained, "predicted support for government policies, but did not generally translate to individual-level, self-reported pro-environmental behavior. "

In plain English: The position of climate-change true believers is: Do as I say, not as I do.

This study supports a YouGov poll we reported on recently, which found that most of those who believe in catastrophic global warming aren't doing anything on their own to combat it. More than half said they aren't cutting back on their use of fossil fuels or changing their recycling or composting habits.

Another study found that "conservation scientists" have carbon footprints that are no different from those of anyone else. The study found that these scientists "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."

This shouldn't come entirely as a surprise. After all, the biggest fearmongers in the country — people like Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio — are modeling this hypocritical behavior in extravagant ways.

When they're not preaching doom and gloom, these hypocrites think nothing of flying around in CO2-spewing private jets, firing up massively polluting yachts, or living in energy-sucking megamansions.

We can hear their excuses now. Individual actions don't matter. Only government mandates can make a difference. It's akin to liberals preaching about the urgent, moral need to help the poor while giving far less to charity than supposedly heartless conservatives.

But if global warming really is "the most urgent threat facing our entire species," as DiCaprio claims, or a "moral issue," as Gore claims, then how can they or others possibly justify the example they're setting?

Until the true believers start living the way they want to force the rest of us to live, we will happily remain skeptical of their global-warming horror stories.

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The post Climate-Change True Believers Are Least Likely To Change Their Own Behavior, Study Finds appeared first on Investor's Business Daily.


84. IBD/TIPP Poll: Presidential Approval, Direction Of CountryВт., 08 мая[−]

Each month, the IBD/TIPP Poll, a collaboration between Investor's Business Daily and TechnoMetrica, produces an exclusive Presidential Leadership Index. In addition to tracking President Trump's job approval rating, the 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.

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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

Bad News For Dems: Household Income Hits All-Time High Under Trump … And He's Getting Credit For ItGrowth: A new report shows that the median household income has climbed 3% since President Trump took office. It's another sign of a strong economy, and at least one poll shows the... Read More

Presidential Leadership Index: Overall

The IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index rose 2.2% to 42.1 in May, the fourth gain in five months. Trump's Leadership Index score is now up 17% from his low point last August.

The Leadership Index comprises three subindexes measuring the president's favorability (up 1.5% in May), job approval (up 1.2%), and whether he is providing strong leadership (up 3.3%).

Presidential Job Approval

The May poll found that 38% approve of the job President Trump is doing, which is unchanged from last month.

Direction Of The Country

The Direction of the Country Index climbed 7.4% to reach 44.9 in May, well above its long-term average of 41.6 and the 37 average during President Obama's eight years in office. The index is 52% higher than it was just before the 2016 presidential election; it stood at 29.6 in September 2016.

Quality Of Life

The Quality of Life Index jumped 5.6% in May to 62.7. That's the highest reading for this index since October 2004. And it's close to the all-time high for this Index of 63.1, which it reached in January 2004. The average under President Obama was 53.7. Unlike other measures, the Quality of Life Index has been relatively steady for the past 16 years.

Standing In The World

The Standing in the World Index posted a sharp 13.8% gain in May to 47.7. The jump is likely the result of President Trump's dealings with North Korea. This index is now above the average 42.6 under Obama, and above the long-term average of 45.5. Over the past 17 years, the highest this index ever reached was in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when it hit 74.9.

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85. 'Celebrating' 200 Years Of CommunismПн., 07 мая[−]

Two centuries ago Karl Marx was born. He wasn't a very nice person or much of an intellectual. Worse, the consequences of Marx's ideas were disastrous.

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That his philosophy was of little practical value was unsurprising. Marx's ideas were developed separate from facts. Like so many other academics, he believed that reality should never get in the way of a good theory.

A similar reality-free approach was taken by those who tried to put his ideas into effect. Applying the Marxist template to widely divergent countries was bound to end badly. But who would have imagined how badly?

For those who forgot, or never learned, communism's toll, both "Death by Government" by R.J. Rummel and "The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression," with several authors, are essential reading. "The Black Book" figures there were 85 to 100 million victims.

The madness became almost total under Pol Pot in Kampuchea, the name affixed to the national charnel house previously known as Cambodia. Yet at least there was a purpose.

More chilling was killing that seemed random, bureaucratic, perfunctory, petty. Even the killers did not pretend there was a higher purpose.

Observed Rummel of Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union: "Where to find the 'enemies of the people' they were to shoot was a particularly acute problem for the local NKVD, which had been diligent in uncovering 'plots.' They had to resort to shooting those arrested for the most minor civil crimes, those previously arrested and released, and even mothers and wives who appeared at NKVD headquarters for information about their loved ones."

Of course, not every communist ruler intended to commit mass murder. But every experience with Marx ended badly. The lack of mass repression and murder was surprising.

The good news of 1989 was that a real human being ran the Soviet Communist Party while those in charge throughout Eastern Europe were realists — they knew their systems could not be sustained without the aid of the Red Army.

Marxism's Ever-Foolish Faith-Keepers

Still, not everyone gave up the faith even when the Soviets and Eastern Europeans tore down the real walls — backed by guns, mines, dogs — which held them in. The New York Times wrote entertaining stories about delightful old revolutionaries who populated the Sunset Hall retirement home in Los Angeles.

A 101-year-old resident, who had been a messenger for the Bolsheviks, proclaimed that Lenin was "the greatest politician we ever had in this world." Another resident, only 90, announced that "socialism, crushed to the earth, will rise again." Alas, with only 11 residents and $300,000 in debt, Sunset closed in 2005.

More disturbing is when those entrusted with the future of liberal democratic states don't understand what is at stake. After protracted debate, Trier, Germany, Marx's birthplace, erected a statue of Marx from China.

There are so many levels of bizarre to the gift. It came from a government which is moving back toward dictatorship and totalitarianism.

Then there is the small matter of Marx's legacy for China, which "The Black Book of Communism" estimates killed as many as 73 million people. The 1999 warning from "The Black Book" looks increasingly prescient: "because the regime has never really disavowed its founder, it is still prepared to return to some of his original methods in difficult moments."

Finally, there is Trier's acceptance of the statue. Perhaps next will be a memorial to Hermann Goering, head of Nazi Germany's air force. He was a decorated war hero from World War I, after all, and is part of his nation's history.

Yet Jean-Claude Juncker, one of the EU's three presidents (he runs the European Commission), gave an impassioned defense of Marx. The poor, misunderstood man simply "was a philosopher, whose thought into the future had creative aspirations." Marx just wanted to improve social rights.

Well, yes, Marx cannot be directly blamed for scores of millions of deaths. However, the philosophy which he promulgated led to that result in country after country.

Indeed, China's President Xi Jinping made the connection, lauding Marx as "the main founder of Marxism, the founder of Marxist political parties and the creator of international communism." The genesis of international communism is a strange historical event to celebrate.

Two hundred years ago Marx was born. He belongs in a small but important category: people who should never have existed. Unfortunately, we can't retroactively erase him from history. But we shouldn't treat his life like something to celebrate.

  • Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He is author of "The Politics of Envy: Statism as Theology and Beyond Good Intentions: A Biblical View of Politics".

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86. Bernie Sanders' Job-Guarantee BoondoggleПн., 07 мая[−]

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., wants the federal government to guarantee a job for every American willing and able to work. The proposal sounds compassionate and enlightened, but in practice, it would almost certainly be a disaster. The fact that it's taken seriously is evidence that many Democrats, like Republicans before them, embrace loony economic agendas that are more public-relations gestures than sensible policy.

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Just precisely how Sanders' scheme would work is unclear, because he hasn't yet submitted detailed legislation. However, the website of the Sanders Institute favorably endorses a job-guarantee plan devised by economists at Bard College's Levy Economics Institute. This suggests how a job guarantee might function.

Under their plan, anyone needing a job could get one at a uniform wage of $15 an hour, plus health insurance (probably Medicare) and other benefits (importantly: child care). When fully deployed, the program would create 15 million public-service jobs, estimate the economists. This would be huge: about five times the number of existing federal jobs (2.8 million) and triple the number of state government jobs (5 million).

Although the federal government would pay the costs, the program would be administered by states, localities and nonprofit organizations, which would design jobs and enroll beneficiaries. Some jobs mentioned by the economists: cleaning up vacant properties; overseeing programs for new mothers and at-risk youths; tree planting; and weatherization of homes.

To be sure, there is a real problem here. Even when reported unemployment is low — as now, at 3.9% — "millions of Americans remain unemployed or underemployed." They often have poor skills, wrestle with drug or alcohol problems or are so discouraged that they've dropped out of the labor force. The job guarantee's appeal is obvious. A recent Civis poll for The Nation magazine found 52% of respondents in favor.

The trouble is that there is a vast gap between rhetoric and reality. Indeed, some leftish commentators recognize this. Here's Kevin Drum, a blogger for Mother Jones magazine:

"Even our lefty comrades in social democratic Europe don't guarantee jobs for everyone. It would cost a fortune; it would massively disrupt the private labor market; it would almost certainly tank productivity; and it's unlikely in the extreme that the millions of workers in this program could ever be made fully competent at their jobs."

Many problems are unavoidable. The proposal would add to already-swollen federal budget deficits. The Bard economists put the annual cost at about $400 billion. Although some of this might be recaptured from savings from food stamps and other welfare programs, overall spending is likely underestimated.

The reason is Medicare. If it's provided for those making $15 an hour, there will be pressures to provide it for most workers. Otherwise, uncovered workers might stage a political rebellion or switch from today's low-paying private-sector jobs to the better-paid public-service jobs, as The Wall Street Journal's Greg Ip notes. The same logic applies to child-care subsidies.

Then there's inflation. The extra spending and higher wages might push prices upward. The Bard economists profess to be unworried — mainly because their economic "model" predicts a negligible inflation effect. But models are often unreliable, and the Federal Reserve is unlikely to be so complacent.

Other practical problems loom. On his always-useful and strictly nonpartisan blog, Conversable Economist, Timothy Taylor poses difficult questions.

Does the federal government have the managerial competence to oversee the creation of so many new jobs? Taylor is skeptical. (The 15 million added jobs would equal about one in 10 existing jobs.)

Is there a skills mismatch between what the jobless can do and what actually needs doing? Probably. (Remember: the candidates for the public-sector jobs are among the least skilled workers.)

Is there a similar geographic mismatch — say, the jobless are in Michigan and the jobs are in Arizona? This, too, seems probable.

Can the new workers be disciplined? Good question. "The problem with a job 'guarantee' is that you can't fire people," notes Taylor.

Finally, would state and local governments substitute federally-funded jobs for existing jobs that are supported by local taxes? This seems inevitable. It, too, would limit the overall effect on employment.

Americans are suckers for great crusades that make the world safe for the pursuit of happiness. In this context, Sanders' job guarantee seems a masterstroke. The chronically unemployed need jobs; and states and localities have large unmet needs for public and quasi-public services. It's a bargain made in heaven.

Back here on earth, the collaboration looks less noble. The object is to appear good and buy political support. Many of the suggested jobs seem best described as make-work. The irony is that, by assigning government tasks likely to fail, the advocates of activist government bring government into disrepute.

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87. Are We Trapped In A Debt Spiral?Вс., 06 мая[−]

From Scotland, where Adam Smith pioneered systematic thinking about economics, comes an adjective, "carnaptious," that fits people who are allergic to economic euphoria. It means cantankerous. Let's think carnaptiously about this fact: The interest rate on 10-year Treasury bonds recently rose briefly to 3, and soon may move above this. This is more than evidence of the economy's strength. It also is a harbinger of a coming day when the great driver of the national debt will be ... the national debt. Pour a Scotch and read on.

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The economy's growth, which slowed in 2018's first quarter, is not brisk; it still is not even the 3% that is the low end of presidential boasting. At the end of this month, the economy will amble into the 10th year of the expansion that began in June 2009. This month is its 108th, making it almost twice as long as the average expansion (58 months) since 1945. Unless Mr. I Alone Can Fix It has banished the business cycle forever — modesty would not have prevented him from mentioning this — a contraction is somewhere in America's future. It might begin in fiscal conditions resembling today's because this is now normal: trillion-dollar annual budget deficits while the economy is at full employment. (The 3.9% unemployment rate is impressive, even give the decades-long decline in the work force participation rate, which today is 62.8%.)

This is a result achieved when both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are controlled by what still fancies itself a conservative party. What are the chances of fiscal improvements arriving after the electorate returns many congressional Republicans to the private sector of which they speak so fondly?

The Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas notes that "from the 1960s through the beginning of the financial crisis, Treasury rates never fell below 3%, and they were often several percentage points above that." In 2007, the Great Recession arrived in December when the national debt was $7.5 trillion and the average interest on it was 4.5%. Imagine paying 4.5% on today's $16.5 trillion debt.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that new federal borrowing over the next 10 years will total $12.4 trillion and that at the end of 2028, the debt will be $28.7 trillion — 96% of GDP, up from 39% in 2008. But the CBO is required to pretend that Congress will not make matters worse. Its projections must assume the continuation of current law. So, the CBO must assume that the caps on defense and nondefense appropriations imposed in the Budget Control Act of 2011 will be enforced in 2020 and 2021. But those for 2018 and 2019 have just been discarded. How likely is a reversion to disagreeable discipline?

The CBO must also assume that Congress meant what it said (in order to cram a spending bill under parliamentary rules) about cuts contained in the new tax law expiring after 2025. Some legislators want to make those cuts permanent immediately. The American Enterprise Institute's James Capretta says of last year's CBO projection that the federal debt would reach 150% of GDP by 2047: Discard the mandatory fictions and that level is reached much sooner.

Gelinas says that by the end of 2017, Americans' household borrowing stood at $15.3 trillion, "just shy, in inflation-adjusted dollars, of what it was in 2005, the year before the housing bubble peaked." And although "Americans are now spending less of their income on debt — about 10.3%, down from roughly 13% between 2005 and 2008 — they didn't use the period of super-low rates to reduce their debt, which means they're vulnerable to higher rates."

When such rates arrive, and debt service swells the debt, what can government do? When the Korean War erupted in June 1950, Congress slashed discretionary nondefense spending by 25%. Back then, however, such spending was 29% of the budget. Today, sacrosanct transfer payments are 70% of the budget, paying debt service (7%) is mandatory, and discretionary nondefense spending is 15%. So, government cannot act as nimbly as it did 68 years ago.

Hillsdale College's Gary Wolfram notes that total discretionary spending — including defense — for fiscal 2019 is projected to be $1.362 trillion, which is just $381 billion more than the projected deficit. All this means trouble, unless Mr. Art of the Deal can negotiate with arithmetic, persuading it to amend its rules so that trillion-dollar deficits will not mean trillion-dollar increases in the debt.


Other columns by George Will

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88. Trade Deficit Is Most Meaningless Economic Indicator Of AllПт., 04 мая[−]

The trade deficit doesn't matter. There shouldn't be anything controversial about this fact. As Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, wrote in "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations," "Nothing ... can be more absurd than this whole doctrine of the balance of trade."

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More meaningful economic indicators are the unemployment rate, wages and gross domestic product. Well, the unemployment rate is 4.1% and wages are growing. Although Barack Obama was the first president since Herbert Hoover not to see annual economic growth at 3% or higher during his presidency, the Congressional Budget Office has projected 3.3% economic growth in 2018.

Does the American economy face challenges? Absolutely. Budget deficits do matter, and the recent budget agreement that spends nearly $300 billion above the previously established spending caps is a serious problem. The budget deal accelerates the time frame in which Americans will see $1 trillion deficits, which may now come as soon as 2020. The rapid growth of entitlements like Medicare and Social Security threaten our long-term fiscal security.

Trade deficits, however, simply are not a concern. Well, at least not in the way politicians who preach fear would have you believe.

A trade deficit is a sign that Americans have purchasing power and are creating demand for products. When the economy is in a downturn, the trade deficit shrinks. In 2006, for example, the trade deficit was $762 billion and the unemployment rate was 4.9%. By the end of 2009, the trade deficit declined to $384 billion, and the unemployment rate peaked at 10%.

Trade Deficit And Jobs

As the economy slowed during the Great Recession, manufacturing output also declined. But as the economy has improved, real manufacturing output has increased, reaching near pre-recession levels and record highs.

Citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Pew Research Center noted, "After adjusting for inflation, manufacturing output in the first quarter of (2017) was more than 80% above its level 30 years ago." It's true that the manufacturing sector has experienced job losses, but increased worker productivity and automation have created the need for fewer workers in this sector, not trade.

Many politicians wrongly view the trade deficit as a sign that Americans are being taken advantage of by other countries. Correcting this notion, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., recently put the trade deficit in the context of something as mundane as basic consumer transactions with a business:

"Trade deficits do not mean that anyone is taking advantage of anyone else. The grocery store will have a trade deficit with a farmer or supplier, just as you have a trade deficit with the grocery store," Amash tweeted. "This basic economic concept applies to international transactions just as it applies to neighborhood transactions."

Whether you purchase groceries from a Kroger in Chattanooga, Tenn., a new television from a Best Buy in Cleveland, Ohio, or an Echo Dot from Amazon.com, you have created a trade deficit with that company. You probably don't view these transactions this way, and you shouldn't. After all, these transactions are mutually beneficial exchanges of goods or services. In a mostly free economy, it isn't a zero-sum game.

What's more, the concept of the United States running a trade deficit with other countries is faulty. As economist Mark J. Perry explains, "It might be a subtle point, but it's important to realize that countries don't trade with each other as countries — rather it's individual consumers and individual companies that are doing the buying and selling."

Certainly, some politicians want to appeal to core constituencies, such as labor unions or companies that rely on antiquated business models, by espousing fear about the trade deficit. Such absurd rhetoric leads to policies that harm American workers and consumers, but it also ignores that we have a capital account surplus and a services surplus.

What policymakers in the Trump administration and lawmakers in Congress should focus on are policies that promote economic growth. The administration has successfully rolled back regulations that hurt businesses, hinder job creation and lead to higher prices for consumers. Similarly, Congress has used the Congressional Review Act to cancel several midnight regulations finalized under President Obama and has passed a tax cut that has boosted businesses and the middle class alike.

Unfortunately, the budget deficit is still spiraling out of control because Republicans and Democrats are addicted to spending. And both parties are obsessed with weaponizing entitlement programs that will lead to a fiscal crisis if left unaddressed. If Americans want to see prosperity in the long term, Congress must address the drivers of budget deficits and debt.

But the trade deficit is a sign of a healthy economy. Americans have more money to spend, which means more jobs created by businesses and more investment in the economy. This is what creates prosperity, which benefits all Americans, and that is not a zero-sum game.

  • Brandon is president of FreedomWorks.

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89. A $900 Billion (Per Year) Decision: Will Supreme Court Side With Innovators Or Government?Пт., 04 мая[−]

Most Americans probably have never heard of Andrei Iancu or even the post he occupies — director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In light of other pressing matters our nation is facing, claiming that a speech by this non-Cabinet-level official delivered to a private organization was the most important thing to have happened in Washington over the last two weeks may sound foolish, but consider the following.

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The United States patent system is responsible for nearly $900 billion per year (or 5% of the GDP) in added value to the economy. It sustains 7.5 million jobs, which pay workers, on average, twice as much as jobs in those sectors of the economy that don't rely on patents, while bringing in billions in foreign trade.

The reason for these eye-popping numbers is that patents protect the investment of time and money into innovation, allowing those who bring new goods to market to be secure in their knowledge that the fruits of their labor won't be stolen from them. They are one of the reasons the United States is the leading economic power in the world.

Yet, over the last decade or so, forces led by the Silicon Valley giants have convinced Congress that the American patents system has lost its way, grants too many patents, and is in dire need of reform. In 2011, Congress obliged and created new mechanisms that make it easier to invalidate patents, promising that the reform would provide more certainty to and increase the supposedly flagging confidence in our patent system.

The result is the exact opposite. The new procedures, which are literally stacked against the patentees, resulted in an over-80% invalidation rate, becoming, according to a former federal judge, a "patent death squad." And those patents that survived were subjected to ever more reviews until a finding of invalidity could be made.

By some estimates, American patents lost two-thirds of their value, costing the American economy over a trillion dollars. The American patent system, previously a "gold standard," is now ranked 12th in the world. What is particularly ironic is that it wasn't the "silly" patents that got challenged and invalidated, but some of the most valuable ones.

This is why Director Iancu's speech was so important. He announced point-blank that "we will not continue down the same path." It is the clearest indication yet that there is finally recognition within the administration that the patent system is critically important to the nation's well-being and prosperity, and the speech stands in sharp contrast with the views of the previous Patent Office director who recently stated that in her view " the patent system is working as intended."

Patent Dysfunction

Director Iancu understands that the patent review procedures that Congress mandated in 2011 have created a number of problems that the previous administration only exacerbated. He is committed to fixing them as thoroughly as possible.

This would be a welcome albeit incomplete step. Instead, these administrative review procedures in and of themselves make patents less secure and should be eliminated entirely. Of course, as an executive branch official, Iancu cannot ignore congressional mandates, but he may not have to.

The Supreme Court is considering a constitutional challenge to these procedures and will announce its judgment before July. The correct decision would be to strike down these procedures.

However the Supreme Court decides the matter, there will still be work to be done by the Patent Office leadership. Instead of focusing on tabloid stories of inconsequential errors, the Patent Office under Iancu's leadership will be guided by two simple questions: "Are we helping these inventors?" and "Are we incentivizing innovation?"

A properly working patent system is indispensable to innovation. And innovation is the engine of growth, prosperity and a better standard of living.

Today's political debates even over some of the most contentious issues of the day will fade, but when it comes to patents and innovation, the choices we make today will determine our economic, military, health and technological world standing for generations to come. That is why last week's little-noticed speech by a largely unknown official was the most important thing that happened in Washington in quite some time.

  • Dolin is Associate Professor of Law at University of Baltimore School of Law.

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90. No, The U.S. Isn't 'Undertaxed'Пт., 04 мая[−]

Taxes: One of the talking points Democrats and the left often drag out to justify reversing the Trump tax cuts is that the U.S. is "undertaxed" compared with other nations. A new study shows that's false.

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Everyone from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer to socialist independent Bernie Sanders says they would reverse the tax cuts. It's premised not on the idea that we spend too much, but that working Americans keep just too dang much of their own money.

The problem is, as a new OECD study shows, that's not true.

The OECD, the think tank for the world's wealthiest nations, l ooked at 12 major countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia. The U.S. finished third in terms of taxes at 18.4% of income. Only Germany — at 19.7% — and deeply financially troubled Italy — at 21.7% — are higher than the U.S. So at the time of Trump's tax cuts last year, the U.S. wasn't "undertaxed" by any real measure.

Aha, taxoholics say, but what about Social Security taxes? Surely the U.S. is low on that list.

That happens to be true, at least based on the OECD numbers. The average worker in the U.S. pays "just" 7.7% in Social Security tax. That's the fourth lowest of all. Only Spain, Canada, and Mexico are lower.

Fair enough. But two points need to be made.

One, overall taxes paid by each worker are still higher than average in the U.S., where the average worker pays 26.1% of his or her total income for both income tax and Social Security. That's fifth among the nations with Germany (39.9%), Italy (31.2%), France (29.2%) and Turkey (27.9%) ahead of the U.S. The average is 25.5%. But workers also pay by having lower wages than they would otherwise. And they pay lots of "hidden taxes."

Second, the left is on far more solid ground when it says that overall taxes in the U.S. are lower than in other nations. When it comes to overall tax burden — as measured by taxes as a share of GDP — the U.S. comes in 12th, at 25.5%, compared to No. 1 Denmark at 45.5% of GDP, No. 2 France at 45.3% and Sweden at 44.1%. The EU's value-added tax, for instance, adds a huge amount to every purchase made by workers.

Not by coincidence, we've also had better economic growth, more jobs and far more private wealth created — both from real estate holdings and financial investments — than any other country. America's overall low-tax, low-regulation society is growing faster than the others. This is a function of having a more robust, less-restricted private sector, not from copying tax systems in Europe.

To rehash, American workers are not "undertaxed." If Democrats push the issue, they might find out how wrong they are in the 2018 election.

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91. The 3.9% Unemployment Rate Doesn't Mean A Tight Labor MarketПт., 04 мая[−]

Jobs: You have to go all the way back to December 2000 to find the last time the unemployment rate was as low as April's 3.9%. But hold the standing ovation. The labor market isn't as bright, or as tight, as it might seem.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the economy added 164,000 jobs in April, and the unemployment level dropped to 3.9%. It was 4.8% when President Trump took office.

Since Trump took office, the economy has added a total of 2.7 million jobs, and since his tax cuts took effect we've seen an average 200,000 new jobs each month. Initial jobless claims are at decades long lows as well.

That's unquestionably good news.

The report also finds, however, that wages rose slightly less than expected in April — with hourly earnings climbing at a 2.6% annualized rate.

That's led some economists to start "scratching their heads," as one report put it, over why wages aren't climbing faster in what appears to be an extremely tight labor market.

"It really defies the law of supply and demand," Amy Glaser, senior vice president at Adecco Staffing, told CNBC.

But look at the rest of the jobs report — as well as historical jobs data — and the mystery pretty much disappears. The job market isn't nearly as tight as it seems based only on the official unemployment number.

Remember, the unemployment rate comes from a separate survey than the one used to count jobs created. The former is based on a monthly survey of 60,000 households by the Census Bureau. The latter by a survey of about 149,000 businesses and government agencies by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the Census household survey, the biggest contribution to the drop in the unemployment rate wasn't people getting jobs — that survey registered a gain of just 3,000 in April. It's due mainly to the fact that 410,000 dropped out of the labor force — and no longer count as unemployed.

If you compare today's numbers to December 2000, the picture is even more striking.

The labor force participation rate in Dec. 2000 was 67%. Today it is just 62.8%.

The employment-to-population ratio then was 64.4%. Now it's 60.3%.

The population not in the labor force — they don't have jobs and aren't looking — has climbed a stunning 25.3 million over those years.

Think about it this way. If the labor force participation rate were the same today as it was in December 2000, the unemployment rate wouldn't be 3.9%. It would be 10%!

Yes, many who've left the labor force over the past 18 years are baby boomers entering retirement. But that doesn't come close to explaining the massive increase in labor dropouts.

For example, the labor force participation rate among 20- to 24-year-olds was 78% in December 2000. It's just 71% today. For those 25-34 years old, the rate declined from 85% to 83%.

In contrast, among those 55 and older, the participation rate increased — going from 33% in December 2000 to 40% now.

Clearly, there are still millions of potential workers sitting on the sidelines.

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92. Hold The Trump Nobel TalkПт., 04 мая[−]

If President Donald Trump's incendiary threats have actually frightened the "dear respected comrade" Kim Jong Un into laying down his nuclear arsenal, he will deserve the Nobel Peace Prize his fans are demanding. But the suits in Oslo might want to hold off before awarding another premature Peace Prize to an American leader.

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One expects the press to swoon whenever a blood-drenched tyrant smiles and shakes hands with a democratic leader, and they played their part this time.

After Kim's announcement that he was suspending the nation's nuclear testing, CNN's Will Ripley gushed to Wolf Blitzer: "This is an extraordinarily significant development, and frankly a huge win for President Trump going into these discussions, this potential summit, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un."

Trevor Noah softened his anti-Trump tone, saying, "I know our first instinct is to hate, but if it wasn't for his craziness, North Korea would never have come to the table."

And Sen. Lindsay Graham enthused that if President Trump "can lead us to ending the Korean War" while "getting North Korea to give up their nuclear program" in a verifiable way, then "he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize and then some." South Korea's president said the same.

With characteristic modesty, Trump tweeted: "With all of the failed 'experts' weighing in, does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn't firm, strong and willing to commit our total 'might' against the North. Fools, but talks are a good thing!"

Perhaps it's relief after the unsettling exchange of schoolyard insults and nuclear threats between Kim and Trump, but it seems that people are rushing to declare that something momentous has been achieved when we have no reason to believe that, yet.

Even the most hawkish must always remain open to the possibility of real change in an adversary. Mikhail Gorbachev was a different kind of Soviet leader, and it was wise of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to recognize that. Anwar Sadat was sincere in his desire to make peace with Israel (though, sadly, he paid for it with his life). South Africa's President F. W. de Klerk dismantled apartheid and agreed to majority rule.

It's possible that Kim Jong Un is such a figure, but it is more likely that he is following in the well-worn path of his father and grandfather: Fire off some missiles or attack South Korea's military installations, and then make solemn promises to reform. Cash check in the form of concessions from the West. Oh, and then cheat.

In 1991, North Korea signed a joint declaration endorsing the "denuclearization" of the Korean peninsula. Both sides promised not to "test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons" or to "possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities."

There were immediate problems with compliance. The Clinton administration responded with a flurry of diplomatic efforts (Jimmy Carter was a special envoy to Kim Jong Il), which led to the Agreed Framework of 1994, in which North Korea once again promised not to pursue nuclear weapons.

In exchange, the allies gave the North heavy fuel oil and two "light water nuclear reactors" for peaceful energy. President Clinton called it "a good deal for the United States." North Korea's negotiator, Kang Sok-ju, described it as "a very important milestone document of historic significance" that would resolve his country's nuclear dispute with the United States "once and for all." The pact, he swore, would resolve "all questions of the so-called nuclear weapons development by North Korea" that have raised "such unfounded concerns and suspicions."

The North cheated, and formalized it in 2003 by dropping out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In 2005, negotiators agreed that North Korea would be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and would no longer be under the strictures of the Trading with the Enemy Act. In return — all together now — North Korea committed to shutting down the Yongbyon nuclear facility. In addition, "all nuclear weapons" would be "comprehensively declared and completely, verifiably and irreversibly eliminated."

North Korea has been selling the same promise to denuclearize for 27 years, getting a good price every time.

"Coming to the table" is not such a milestone for the North Koreans. It's worked brilliantly for them. The question is whether our president, so fond of claiming victories, will understand that solemn promises from this regime are worthless.

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

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93. Democrats' Dangerous Case Of Trump Derangement SyndromeПт., 04 мая[−]

Isaac Newton's third law of motion states that for every action in nature, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It can operate in politics, too. For example, Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith recently wrote, "It is part of Trump's evil genius that he elevates himself by inducing his critics to behave like him."

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Call it Trump derangement syndrome, and recognize it for what it is: something that could end up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory for the Democratic Party once again in 2018 and 2020.

Signs of that possibility are apparent in the polls. President Trump's job approval has remained low, by historical standards, but it has also remained pretty steady — and has been rising, just a bit, in recent weeks.

The standard pattern has been for presidents to start off their term with high honeymoon ratings and then sag somewhat in their second year unless buoyed (as both Bushes were) by perceived foreign policy successes.

What we saw in the midterm elections of 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010 and 2014 was the opposition party's winning majorities in both houses of Congress, except for the Senate in 2010.

Trump's trajectory has been different. After his controversial campaign, his barbed tweets and the revelation of the Hillary Clinton campaign-financed Steele dossier, he was never in honeymoon territory. His average j ob approval rating in the RealClearPolitics average never topped 46% — the same percentage he won in the popular vote against Clinton.

In succeeding months, his numbers oscillated within a narrow range and often with no discernible (to the press, anyway) connection with events. As in the 2016 campaign, stories that would have hurt other politicians (Stormy Daniels, anyone?) seemed to have been priced in on attitudes toward Trump. You loved him or hated him — and kept on doing so.

His recent upswing has his approval at 43.5% — well below 50% but far higher than the 35% George W. Bush had before the Republicans' thumping in 2006.

Perhaps this reflects the economic upswing since the Republican tax bill passed in December. Perhaps it reflects presidential initiatives on Korea, Iran and China, or the respect shown to him by the leaders of France, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany and others. He may be uncouth, some may think, but he's getting results.

And perhaps it reflects the Democrats' Trump derangement syndrome.

You had the spectacle of Bernie Sanders and 41 Democrats, including every Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on the Senate floor opposing Trump's nominee for secretary of state — a nominee, Mike Pompeo, whose confirmation as CIA director some of them had voted for and who had been getting good marks at Langley.

That's as unprecedented as Trump's insulting tweets — and less fact-based than many. Some Democrats complained about Pompeo's stances on gay issues. But they're the party that blocked for seven months the nomination of a gay ambassador to Germany, Ric Grenell.

Another spectacle of Trump derangement syndrome was last Saturday's White House Correspondents' Association dinner, where a comedian's vitriolic monologue and mean-spirited attacks on Trump's press secretary validated his decisions this year and last not to attend. The event only further undermined the credibility of the anti-Trump press.

Its credibility may be further reduced if, as seems likely, special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation ends with no finding of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Much of the press, notably CNN, has treated the collusion story as a second Watergate, and many Democrats amuse their friends with little quips assuming Trump administration policy is set in Moscow. Not very funny anymore.

The collusion that seems more likely to have occurred is between Obama administration intelligence and law enforcement personnel and the news media to push the Russian collusion story largely or solely on the evidence of the Steele dossier.

Meanwhile, House Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer try to hush candidates baying for impeachment to meet the demands of party megadonor Tom Steyer and the majority of Democratic voters.

And they try to tilt local Democratic primaries toward candidates with military or law enforcement backgrounds and against "Resistance" types visibly afflicted with Trump derangement syndrome.

Looking ahead, it's possible that Republicans in 2018 and Donald Trump in 2020 could win based on solid achievements. But their chances will be aided if Democrats can't shake off their bad case of Trump derangement syndrome.

  • 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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94. Ford And The Folly Of Federal Fuel Economy MandatesЧт., 03 мая[−]

Autos: It's been a bad couple of weeks for environmentalists who want to force Americans into battery-powered econoboxes. First, the Trump administration said it will likely freeze fuel economy standards. Then Ford announced plans to drop most of its passenger cars in favor of trucks and SUVs. Both are good news for consumers.

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By 2020, Ford ( F) says the only cars in its lineup in North America will be the Mustang and a new Focus. Automobile Magazine's New York bureau chief Jamie Lincoln Kitman complained in a New York Times op-ed that the decision means a "decade's worth of investment in developing more fuel-efficient cars is now taking a back seat to profit."

Actually, Ford is simply acknowledging what car buyers have been telling the company for some time now — that they are far more interested in larger utility vehicles than sedans and compact cars.

In the first quarter of this year, SUVs, vans and trucks accounted for almost 80% of Ford's sales, and passenger car sales dropped by almost 14% year-over-year.

Industrywide, utility vehicles accounted for more than 60% of sales in Q1.

Ford and other carmakers dropping or scaling back their small car lines are simply responding to consumer demand. Which is what they are supposed to do.

CAFE Nonsense

The second bit of "bad" news came when the Trump administration's EPA said it was planning to freeze federal "corporate average fuel economy" (CAFE) standards at 2020 levels, rather than let them continue to climb until 2025.

The "explanatory" news site Vox.com, for example, complains that if successful Trump will "bequeath America vehicles that guzzle more gas, have higher fuel costs, produce more pollution, and profit the dirtiest automakers."

This is groundless hyperbole.

First off, Trump's plan would let the CAFE mandate would continue to climb, reaching 41.7 mpg by 2020, up from 38.3 mpg this year. That means new cars sold in 2020 will have to be 39% more fuel efficient than they were in 2012. That's hardly a retreat.

What's more, CAFE standards have never been about pollution.

They started in the 1970s as a misguided attempt to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil. And when President Obama announced in 2012 that he was drastically raising the CAFE standards in 2012, he called it "the single most important step we've ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

Obama was dead wrong, of course. Fracking, not fuel economy mandates, has been the single most important factor in reducing dependence.

So, environmentalists now say it's all about greenhouse gas emissions. But CAFE standards are a horribly inefficient ( and potentially deadly) way to reduce CO2 emissions.

At best, it takes at least a decade for the nation's car fleet to turn over, which means the benefits of tougher CAFE rules will be far in the future. However, because CAFE standards boost car sticker prices, owners will tend to hold on to their old, less-efficient cars longer, offsetting at least some of the gains.

Killing Obama's Electric Car Mandate

What Trump — rightly — wants to block is the tail end of the Obama CAFE mandate, which would force carmakers to reach an average 54.5 mpg for all cars and trucks sold starting in 2025.

As we have pointed out in this space, Obama's clear intent in setting that sky-high mileage standard was to force more electric cars on the market — making it one of the most anti-consumer regulations on the books.

Despite all the hoopla and extraordinarily generous federal and state tax credits, consumers simply aren't interested in electric cars. So far this year, in fact, sales of plug-ins account for a tiny 1% of all car sales. So far this year, carmakers have sold a total of 73,282 electric cars. That's roughly equal to the number of F-Series trucks Ford sold in one month.

Despite what environmentalists would have you believe, car buyers already have a wide range of options when it comes to fuel economy. But they also have other needs.

The federal government has no business telling consumers that they must prioritize fuel economy over things like safety, reliability, or utility when spending their own money.

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95. How To Celebrate Small Business Week: Keep NAFTA, And Strengthen Trade PartnershipsЧт., 03 мая[−]

This week is National Small Business Week, an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the millions of small businesses that serve as the backbone of our nation's economy. While many of us may associate Small Business Week with the storefronts on Main Street, people don't often realize that small businesses also include the approximately 1.9 million small family farms just like mine that are integral to creating jobs and supporting communities across the country.

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Starting, owning and growing a small business isn't easy. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50% of small business fail within five years. As the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) remains uncertain, keeping a small business afloat has been even harder for owners and their employees in the Farm Belt, whose very livelihoods depend on America's ability to buy and sell with our trading partners.

The importance of NAFTA for small operators like me cannot be overstated. Since entering the agreement, U.S. exports to our neighbors in the north and south have nearly quadrupled, allowing our food and agricultural industries to grow and support more than 43 million American jobs. Without NAFTA, a lot of those jobs — including small business jobs — would be in jeopardy.

But within the global economy, U.S. farmers depend on more than just free trade to Canada and Mexico. China represents the second largest market for U.S. agricultural exports, and escalating trade tensions have resulted in proposed retaliatory tariffs on products from beef to soybeans. On the other side of the globe, the European Union, the U.S.'s largest trading partner, threatens to " decisively defend its interest within the framework of multilateral trade rules."

The mere threat of retaliatory tariffs is already yielding the types of results many of us fear we could see if a modernized NAFTA is not negotiated. Steep tariffs reduce our ability to export — reducing our need to grow and produce, eliminating jobs and raising prices on the American consumer.

Here's what that means for the farm I run with my father and siblings: We raise and sell premium bulls for farmers to introduce into herds that often produce the beef you eat or the milk you drink. Without NAFTA or the promise of trade with other countries, our customers' ability to sell their products would be severely diminished, in turn limiting our ability to sell our bulls, grow our farm and support our family and community.

While large commercial operators may have the resources to weather this storm, most small operations like mine certainly do not. That's why there are farmers and families counting on President Trump to successfully negotiate a modernized NAFTA agreement and resolve trade tensions with China and our allies.

I appreciate President Trump's efforts to stand up for America's interests and improve our trading partnerships. It was because of this commitment that two out of every three farmers and ranchers like me voted for him in 2016. He campaigned his way into the Oval Office by promising to "make America great again" and stand up for the people who feel forgotten in Washington.

In many ways, he already has. But all of the progress he has made for rural communities could unravel if we are no longer able to sell our home-grown goods to families in the United States and around the world.

As farmers and ranchers, we aren't the small businesses you see every day. You don't walk into our stores or mingle with our employees.

But when you sit around the dinner table, odds are you can thank a farmer for putting the food on your plate. There is no better way for President Trump to celebrate National Small Business Week than by standing up for the millions of farmers across the country, delivering a modernized NAFTA and resolving the trade disputes with China that are already harming rural America.

  • Guernsey is a seventh-generation farmer, former Missouri state legislator, and chairman of the Agri-Business Committee. He's also a spokesperson for "Retaliation Hurts Rural Families," an Americans for Farmers & Families project focused on ensuring rural voices are heard and helping the Trump administration understand the impact of tariffs on rural communities.

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96. Trump's 2 Big Advantages: Time And Low ExpectationsЧт., 03 мая[−]

Despite the daily pounding he receives from the media, President Trump enjoys two advantages — low expectations and lots of time.

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When the opposition party and their media cohorts call Trump an idiot, a fool, a liar, racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican, incompetent, lazy, unfocused, greedy, hateful, fascist, tyrannical and/or Hitler-esque, there's really nowhere to go but up.

Recall how immediately after Trump took office, "experts" predicted a short administration, perhaps of months-long duration. Critics said Trump did not really think he would win. The recent anti-Trump book by Michael Wolff even claims that Trump did not want to win. Some even predicted that Trump, having captured the presidency, would grow bored and quickly return to his construction business.

This brings us to Trump's second advantage: time. There is a long time between now and November, let alone between now and the end of Trump's second term. The piling-on in the first year and a half of the Trump presidency contradicts a reality, quite annoying to Trump bashers: The man is fulfilling one campaign promise after another.

The Obama administration, for example, complained about our NATO partners' failure to spend the expected amount on national security. After Trump loudly complained that only five of the 29 member nations spend the minimum NATO requirement of 2% of their gross domestic product on defense; that America was being used and financially ripped off by an "obsolete" NATO, which doesn't fight terrorism; and that member nations need to "promptly pay their bills," what happened? Several members pledged to increased their military spending.

How many Republican presidential candidates over the years complained about the ban on drilling for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, known as ANWR? Trump signed legislation to begin the process of repealing the ban. Trump successfully appointed more federal appellate judges than any first-year president in history. Trump lowered the corporate tax rate, once the highest statutory rate in the industrialized world. Trump, as promised, eliminated or delayed numerous job-killing regulations. He approved the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

The stock market has repeatedly reached all-time highs, and for the first time in years, polls show that Americans believe young peoples' lives will be better than their parents'. An April 2018 Gallup poll found 61% believe today's youth "will have a better life than their parents did," the highest mark since 2010.

When Trump derisively called North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un "rocket man," critics practically counted down our remaining days on earth before we would see mushroom clouds. As the only President ever with neither political nor military experience, Trump was called everything from a warmonger to naive. In January, former Vice President Joe Biden said, "(North Korea) is not a game. This is not about 'can I puff my chest out bigger than yours.' (Trump's threat) is just not — it's not presidential."

President Trump, shortly after taking office, placed American aircraft carriers in the Sea of Japan. Three aircraft carriers and their multi-ship strike groups conducted war exercises in mid-November. Well, well. It was not long after this that Kim Jong Un became the first North Korean dictator to set foot on South Korean soil. Kim announced plans to end the 68-year-old Korean War and even promised to "denuclearize," as Trump demanded as a condition of removing economic sanctions.

Ronald Reagan would caution the new President to "trust, but verify," and there's a long way to go before Trump can declare victory on the North Korean issue. But even Trump haters, whether or not they give Trump credit, must admit that the world is better off with a North Korea without nuclear weapons.

Trump's achievements are all the more impressive given that from the beginning of his presidency he has been under investigation for allegedly "colluding" with the Russians to win the election. The collusion investigation has apparently evolved into an investigation of lying to investigators, obstruction of justice, money laundering and possible campaign finance violation over the $130K payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels.

There is an irony here. Many of the Trump bashers cheering special counsel Robert Mueller's probe also called the impeachment of President Bill Clinton a "witch hunt." To this day, many believe Congress impeached Clinton because of his extramarital affair in the White House with an intern. In fact, the House impeached him because he lied under oath and committed obstruction of justice. He was later found in contempt of court for lying and temporarily lost his license to practice law.

Former California Republican Congressman James Rogan was a House manager, one of the House members who agreed to prosecute Clinton in the Senate. Rogan, now a judge, said that had Congress done nothing to Clinton it would have set a precedent that a president can, without consequences, lie under oath. And if a president can lie under oath, argued Rogan, why can't any person justify or rationalize lying under oath?

Had Clinton not been impeached, and had the precedent been established that presidents could lie under oath, Trump would have little to fear from a "perjury trap."

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

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97. Can We Make American Education Great Again? Not With Teacher WalkoutsЧт., 03 мая[−]

Education: The National Assessment of Educational Progress is known as the nation's report card. So what kind of grades are our nation's schools getting? Not passing, we're afraid. And that goes for the teachers, too.

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The results released a couple of weeks ago were disappointing, showing that scores on reading and math tests for fourth and eight graders remained flat in 2017. Meanwhile, as those results were coming out, across the nation, in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado, schools were hit with teacher walkouts and strikes. The bad test scores and the walkouts are not unrelated.

The weak test scores say a lot. After a brief burst of improvements in the early 2000s, test scores have shown l ittle change or improvement for nearly a decade — essentially the Obama years until today. For all their talk, the Obama administration was a huge failure at continuing early-2000 improvements in 8-12 education.

More damning, however, is that few test-takers are considered by the testing standard to be "proficient." When it comes to reading, just 37% of fourth-graders and 36% of eighth-graders tested high enough to be considered proficient. In math, only 40% of fourth-graders and 33% of eighth graders were proficient.

These are the future citizens, voters and taxpayers in this country, the people who will inherit the greatest and wealthiest country in history. We're failing these young people by not preparing them adequately to care for the great gift that will be bequeathed them.

What's wrong? Whole books have been written about this subject. But the fact is, many things have gone wrong. They all contribute to the problem.

Sure, parents deserve part of the blame. And, in some cases, as teachers often argue, individual schools do need more funding.

But the problems are far broader and more profound. And as cross-country comparisons clearly show, there is no link — none — between more spending per student and performance. It's a myth.

Truth is, as others have said, the U.S. education system struggles with a host of problems, including the federal government's meddling in local schools through Common Core and other failed initiatives, ineffective spending by schools, the ongoing attacks on school choice and charters, a loss of classroom discipline and a refusal to link teacher performance to higher pay, to name a few.

Education As Indoctrination

And thanks to the intrusion of far left ideology by unions and progressive "curriculum experts" into our education system, we have turned our public schools into academies of political correctness that poorly teach the tough subjects and rigorous thinking that kids need to thrive in an increasingly competitive world.

Yet today, even as the country faces more union-fomented teacher walkouts and unrest, we're being asked by these very same unionized teachers to spend more on them — which, they assure us, will benefit the students.

Unfortunately, the evidence for that is nonexistent. But that doesn't mean they won't win their fight.

Teachers' unions have immense political clout, and can demonize anyone who disagrees with their agenda. They've been tremendously successful, becoming one of largest contributor to Democratic and left-wing political candidates to get their generally hard-left union agenda past local legislatures and through our nation's Congress.

As the OpenSecrets.org web site notes, "From 2004 to 2016, (teachers' unions) donations grew from $4.3 million to more than $32 million — an all-time high. Even more than most labor unions, they have little use for Republicans, giving Democrats at least 94% of the funds they contributed to candidates" since 1990.

The problem with this is simple: The union is more interested in getting money for its members than in student learning. That's a fact, despite the school unions' non-stop propaganda. They control the schools and the classrooms, and test scores have gone nowhere. They must be accountable, as everyone else is. They're not.

Pay For Performance

The best thing that could possibly happen would be to link teacher pay to clearly measurable student improvements. Unions should welcome the competition from home schooling and charters, rather than treating them as mortal enemies. Meanwhile, rewarding excellent teachers and requiring less certification — something that adds little to teaching skills — would attract better teachers with deeper knowledge of their subjects.

That's something that really does work when it comes to improving student skills and test scores.

U.S. teachers, for instance, often claim that they're paid less and treated with less respect than teachers abroad. That's sometimes true. But why?

One big reason why teachers abroad have such tremendous respect is because their students tend to perform better than ours. A recent McKinsey report on global education noted that "the top-performing systems we studied recruit their teachers from the top third of each cohort graduate from their schools system."

In the case of highly excellent schools in Singapore, Finland and Korea, for instance, they recruit all of their teachers from the top-third of their university classes. In the U.S., it's just 23%. They get the cream, we often get the dregs.

It is true that many teachers in the U.S. have faced stagnant wages, for which unions often blame "stingy" taxpayers. Not true. While teacher salaries adjusted for inflation fell by 2% from 1992 to 2014, spending per pupil actually grew by 27%. How can that be?

Much of the money spent on schools went to hiring more administrators and non-teaching staff. The result: top-heavy bureaucracies that add nothing to students' learning, but do add to union membership rolls and make teachers' jobs easier. That, too, is a union problem.

And while teachers take-home pay has fallen, overall compensation hasn't. It's risen sharply. From 2003 to 2014, while take-home pay shrank slightly in real terms, average benefits paid to teachers rose 50%, from $14,000 to $21,000, notes American Enterprise Institute education expert Fredrick Hess.

As Chad Aldeman, an official in the Obama administration, recently noted in a report, "While the average civilian employee receives $1.78 for retirement benefits per hour of work, public school teachers receive $6.22 per hour in retirement compensation." That's a huge difference.

The point is, the recent teacher strikes make a few valid points, as we said. But they miss the far bigger picture. Because unions make everything about money, not results, they are doomed to failure.

Teachers' unions reject and actively sabotage reasonable reforms that would loosen their grip on public school education and require teachers to strive for excellence. Despite their slick PR campaigns, this at the heart of our nation's failed education system, as evidenced by our abysmal test scores.

America led the world in innovation and economic growth for generations without teachers' unions. Maybe it's time for Americans to ask the question: Do we really need unions running our schools?

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98. The President Who Knew Too Little About The Electoral CollegeЧт., 03 мая[−]

Among the recent garbled effusions from today's temporary president — cheer up; they are all temporary — was one that concerned something about which he might not have thought as deeply as the subject merits.

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During an episode of government of, by and for "Fox & Friends," he said: He won the 2016 election "easily" but wishes the electoral vote system were replaced by direct election of presidents by popular vote. He favors this "because" — if you were expecting him to offer reasons drawn from political philosophy or constitutional theory, grow up — "to me, it's much easier to win the popular vote."

He added, accidentally stubbing his toe on a truth, that running for president without the Electoral College would involve "a totally different campaign." Which, he does not realize, is one reason for retaining the Electoral College.

The president's interest in all this comes from his festering grievance about losing the popular vote by five times more votes than George W. Bush lost it to Al Gore in 2000. His thinking is as murky as his syntax, but evidently he supposes that under a pure popular-vote system he would have campaigned in, say, indigo California, thereby reducing his opponent's huge margin of victory there (30 points). Perhaps. But his California campaigning might have increased her turnout, which was probably reduced by the lack of campaigning there. Who knows?

This we do know: Presidential majorities are built by the Electoral College as it has evolved, adapting to the two-party system. The Electoral College gives the parties a distribution incentive for achieving geographical and ideological breadth while assembling a coalition of states. The electoral vote system, combined with the winner-take-all allocation of the votes in 48 of the 50 states (all but Maine and Nebraska), serves, as scholar Herbert Storing said, "to drive all interests into one of two great parties." This discourages a destabilizing proliferation of small ideological parties and encourages the two parties "to cast their nets very widely."

Today's president might not have noticed that America has 51 direct popular-vote presidential elections, in the states and the District of Columbia. This buttresses the federal system by having, as political scientist Martin Diamond wrote, presidential elections that are "federally democratic" rather than "nationally democratic" in registering the popular will, which is nonetheless registered.

This "sends a federalizing impulse throughout our whole political process," one that is increasingly useful as national politics continues to reduce states to the passive role of administering the national government's preferences. The 17th Amendment (direct election of senators, rather than by state legislatures) was bad enough. Who thinks there is too little centralization in American governance under today's administrative state?

In 1967, an American Bar Association commission, which recommended replacing the Electoral College with a direct popular vote, strangely criticized the electoral vote system for being, among other bad things, "ambiguous." Actually, in close elections, including 2016's, the electoral vote system provides what Diamond called "useful amplification." In 1960, John Kennedy won 49.7% of the popular vote but 56.4% of the electoral vote (303-219). In 2008, Barack Obama won 52.9% of the popular vote but 67.8% of the electoral vote (365-173).

Woodrow Wilson could conduct a strong first term (during which America acquired the income tax and the Federal Reserve system) partly because his 41.8% of the popular vote produced 81.9% of the electoral vote (in a contest featuring three major candidates). If what Diamond called the Electoral College's "magnifying lens" had been scrapped when the ABA commission called for this, the current president's 46% of the popular vote could not have been translated into 56% of the electoral vote (304) and President Hillary Clinton would be glad that the Electoral College had ended.

America is a "mitigated" democracy (this adjective is from James Madison, the foremost translator of democracy into institutional architecture), in which, for example, Wyoming's U.S. senators represent just 1.5% of the number of people that California's senators represent. American democracy, as in the Electoral College, accommodates considerations more complex than simple-minded majoritarianism.

The president who said "nobody knew that health care could be so complicated" might be astonished to learn that people were thinking deeply about the Electoral College long before the subject crossed his mind. Which it did because he managed to lose the popular vote to one of the two least-popular major-party nominees in American history, the other being today's temporary president.


Other columns by George Will

The post The President Who Knew Too Little About The Electoral College appeared first on Investor's Business Daily.


99. Ten Questions For Economists Who Downplay Entitlement CostsЧт., 03 мая[−]

The debt tsunami that is projected to slam the United States is overwhelmingly driven by escalating Social Security and health care entitlement costs. That is the conclusion of a bipartisan consensus of economists and policy experts including staff from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Government Accountability Office (GAO), and Office of Management and Budget (OMB), top think tank economists on the left and right, and even politicians ranging from House Speaker Paul Ryan to President Barack Obama. The only real disagreement has been on the preferred mixture of tax and spending solutions.

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This is why many were stunned when five elite liberal economists recently published a Washington Post op-ed titled " A Debt Crisis Is Coming. But Don't Blame Entitlements."

The authors were five former Democratic chairs of the White House Council of Economic Advisers — Martin Neil Baily, Jason Furman, Alan Krueger, Laura D'Andrea Tyson, and Janet Yellen, who was also Chair of the Federal Reserve. These highly-respected economists asserted that the consensus that entitlements are primarily driving the future debt is incomplete, and that the 2017 tax cuts are as much to blame as entitlement spending.

This conclusion — and the unconventional arguments employed to support it — baffled many economists and columnists, earning responses from John Cochrane, Ramesh Ponnuru, Justin Fox, and Veronique de Rugy. I added my own quick dissent on this page last week.

Because the coming debt tsunami is perhaps the most important economic issue America faces, it is vital to understand its causes. Thus, I have ten questions for Mr. Baily, Mr. Furman, Mr. Krueger, Ms. Tyson, and Ms. Yellen.

Group A: Overall trends:

1) You focus on the 2017 tax cuts as one of the primary causes of long-term debt. Yet last summer — before the tax cuts — CBO had already forecast the budget deficit rising from 3% to 10% of GDP by 2047. How can a subsequent 1 percent of GDP tax cut be a major cause of a budget deficit that was already rising by 7% of GDP due to other policies?

2) You recommend that readers "don't blame entitlements" for the coming long-term debt explosion — and instead elevate the tax cuts as an equal cause. However, over the 2017 to 2047 period, CBO estimates that total entitlement spending will rise by 4.8% of GDP, and the resulting interest costs on the Social Security and Medicare program shortfalls will add another 4% of GDP. Last year's tax cuts – if extended – will cost roughly one percent of GDP. Does this not conclusively show that escalating entitlement costs are driving the overwhelming majority of the coming debt?

Group B: Your central data point is that "the tax cuts passed last year actually added an amount to America's long-run fiscal challenge that is roughly the same size as the preexisting shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare." On Twitter, one of you clarified this point as "The CBO fiscal gap is ~2% of GDP. The tax cuts if made permanent are ~1% of GDP." The 2% figure seems to consist of the Social Security and Medicare Part A trust funds. This brings up several questions:

3) Even your own (incomplete) figures show a Social Security and Medicare shortfall twice as large as the 2017 tax cuts. How is that "roughly the same size as the preexisting shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare?" The one percent differential is not some pedantic margin of error, it is equal to the total size of the tax cuts. And if tax cuts totaling one percent of GDP are a fiscal catastrophe, then how does your own 2% of GDP Social Security and Medicare shortfall lead to the conclusion of "don't blame entitlements?"

4) More importantly, since when do entitlement costs include only the Social Security and Medicare Part A trust funds? Over the next few decades, subsidies to Medicare B and D are projected to grow rapidly and (if combined) become the largest federal expenditure from general revenues. How do you justify not even acknowledging these surging entitlement costs? And how do you justify excluding Medicaid, which is projected by CBO to expand by 0.8% of GDP over the next 30 years, from your entitlement cost figures?

5) Essentially, your entire argument rests on a rhetorical bait-and-switch. The article repeatedly asserts that "entitlements" — which you broadly and accurately define as mainly "Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits and Medicaid" — are not contributing as much to future deficits as others claim. Yet for evidence, you suddenly shift to measuring only the trust fund deficits of Social Security and Medicare Part A. So virtually all entitlement programs that are primarily funded through general revenues — such as Medicare Part B, Medicare Part D, and Medicaid — are simply not counted, as if they do not exist or have any fiscal effect. How can any credible measurement of long-term entitlement costs not include Medicaid and all of Medicare? They are large and growing entitlements.

6) Perhaps you would answer the previous question by asserting that segregated trust fund programs such as Social Security and Medicare Part A should not be compared to the general fund, which mixes countless tax and spending policies and do not so cleanly represent future federal obligations. If that is the case, your use of trust fund deficits to measure the total budgetary effect of entitlements is still incorrect.

More importantly, that would present another obvious inconsistency. If general fund programs like Medicaid and Medicare Part B/D should not count as contributing to the long-term debt, then why do you harshly criticize the 2017 tax cuts, which are part of the same general fund? Under what possible basis could — within the general fund — tax cuts count as adding long-term debt, but soaring Medicaid costs not count?

7) You compare an annual cost — 1% of GDP in tax cuts — to the 75-year net present value shortfall for Social Security and Medicare Part A. But net present values are not the same as annual average costs or program deficits. Is it not true that a more accurate comparison would match up the one percent annual tax cost with the annual average shortfall of those programs?

Group C: Past and short-term deficits:

8) Assessing the past, you write that: "The federal budget was in surplus from 1998 through 2001, but large tax cuts and unfunded wars have been huge contributors to our current deficit problem." Well, compared to that 2001 surplus, CBO reports that entitlement spending is 3.4% of GDP higher, defense and war spending is up 0.2% of GDP, and revenues are down 2.2% of GDP. This means that — compared to the 2001 surplus you reference — the current deficit is driven mostly by entitlements. So why did you completely exclude them from your diagnosis?

9) Projecting the future, you write that: "The primary reason the deficit in coming years will now be higher than had been expected is the reduction in tax revenue from last year's tax cuts, not an increase in spending." But over the next decade, CBO estimates that entitlements will rise by 2.5% of GDP, while the tax cuts will cost 1% of GDP. That tax cuts are making the deficit "higher than had been expected" merely means that we already knew entitlement costs were soaring before the tax cuts were enacted. Is not the relative cost of the policies more important than which one happened to be more recent and perhaps unexpected?

10) Defending the op-ed on Twitter, one of you wrote that "Deficit is T(axes) – G(overnment spending). Don't know how you can say (the deficit) is caused by T or G." This seems to assert that the budget deficit is simply the failure to match spending and revenues, so we cannot single out any individual cause like growing entitlement costs. However, your own op-ed singles out that "large tax cuts and unfunded wars have been huge contributors to our current deficit problem," and that recent tax cuts will widen future deficits. So are you asserting that tax cuts and defense spending can be isolated for their deficit effect, yet entitlement costs cannot?

I look forward to your response to these questions as we work to ensure long-term fiscal solvency.

The post Ten Questions For Economists Who Downplay Entitlement Costs appeared first on Investor's Business Daily.


100. Nearly Half Of Americans Embrace 'Guaranteed Jobs' — An Idea Straight Out Of The Soviet UnionСр., 02 мая[−]

Big Government: "Guaranteed jobs" is fast becoming the latest rallying cry for Democrats. And a new poll finds that 46% of Americans approve of it. Don't read too much into that poll result.

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Last week, we noted that a liberal policy group urged Democrats at a leadership meeting to adopt "guaranteed jobs" as a pillar of their economic plan. In short order, Bernie Sanders said he would soon unveil his plan to achieve that. Under it, anyone who "wants or needs" a job but couldn't find one on their own would be guaranteed a government job paying $15 an hour and generous benefits.

Other prominent Democrats have latched on to this plan, including those with presidential ambitions like Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker.

Maybe they are on to something? When Rasmussen asked about the idea in its latest poll, it found that 46% favor it.

The idea of government-guaranteed jobs isn't exactly new. The Senate proposed such a guarantee in 1977. The far-left Nation magazine resurrected it in 2014, saying the country could "easily afford" to guarantee every American a job. That same year, the Huffington Post ran a poll and found that 47% favored the idea — with 22% strongly favoring it.

The only thing lacking here — besides common sense — is context.

Like, say, what would it cost those with actual jobs to support millions of guaranteed-for-life make-work jobs?

The liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities figures the annual price tag at $543 billion — roughly equal to the entire defense budget. That would be enough to fund 9.7 million full-time jobs, which would cover those currently unemployed plus those "marginally attached" to the workplace.

That's almost certainly a lowball estimate. In addition to the 9.7 million the CBPP counts as unemployed, there are nearly 10 times as many people who aren't officially in the labor force because they aren't looking for work. The prospect of easy money would no doubt bring millions, if not tens of millions, of them back. Nor does the CBPP factor in the likelihood of rampant waste, fraud and abuse.

Yet the pollsters don't ask about cost, or the massive tax hike required to finance it. No doubt that would push approval rates down.

Nor do the polls — or the politicians pushing this idea — mention how the Fed might react negatively to the sudden surge in wage inflation generated by this jobs guarantee.

Inconvenient Context

But there's another bit of context that Bernie Sanders and Co. would probably rather you don't know about.

And that is the fact that the idea has already been tried — in the Soviet Union.

In fact, the Soviets wrote a jobs guarantee into the USSR's constitution in 1936.

Article 118 said: "Citizens of the U.S.S.R. … are guaranteed the right to employment and payment for their work in accordance with its quantity and quality.

"The right to work is ensured by the socialist organization of the national economy, the steady growth of the productive forces of Soviet society, the elimination of the possibility of economic crises, and the abolition of unemployment."

When the Soviet government updated its constitution in 1977, it moved the jobs guarantee up to Article 40, and rephrased it a bit to make it clear that they meant a right to "guaranteed employment," with pay at or above the "state established minimum" wage.

We all know how well that experiment in guaranteed employment turned out.

Democrats' Leftward Drift

Don't get us wrong. We're not trying to be red-baiting McCarthyites here. Everyone's entitled to their beliefs, even if they are foolish. And, sure, just because something showed up in a communist country's constitution doesn't make it a bad idea.

But the sudden embrace by leading Democrats of a huge new government-guaranteed jobs program is yet another indication of just how far to the left the party has drifted. They're now pushing ideas that even Finland has rejected.

It's also an unfortunate indicator of how many people in the U.S. are ignorant of basic economics that — context or not — they'd lend any measure of support to this idea.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

Why Are Millennials Turning Against Democrats? The Answer Is Simple

Finnish Failure: Guaranteed Basic Income Punishes Work, Subsidizes Sloth

Democrats' Latest Big Gov't Idea: Guaranteed Jobs For Everyone!

The post Nearly Half Of Americans Embrace 'Guaranteed Jobs' — An Idea Straight Out Of The Soviet Union appeared first on Investor's Business Daily.



 
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