Global Warming: Everyone makes mistakes, but some mistakes are bigger than others. That's the case with a recent study based on a climate model that claimed the oceans had retained 60% more warming than previously thought. It made headlines around the world with its alarming conclusion.
The study itself, by no fewer than ten authors, made sweeping claims. The authors wrote that the study held " implications for policy-relevant measurements of the Earth response to climate change, such as climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases and the thermal component of sea-level rise."
In other words, this study is a game-changer that policy makers ignored at their own — and our — peril.
Media around the world seized upon the report as yet another indicator of climate-change doom and runaway global warming. No surprise, since most of the media faithfully adhere to the Holy Church of Global Warming.
We're not ripping the scientists for this. They made math mistakes, which were pointed out by skeptical British climate scientist Nicholas Lewis. His review found "serious (but surely inadvertent) errors" in the study.
After their own review, to their credit, the authors concurred.
"When we were confronted with his insight it became immediately clear there was an issue there," Ralph Keeling, a climatologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and one of the co-authors of the study, told The San Diego Union-Tribune. "We're grateful to have it be pointed out quickly so that we could correct it quickly."
He added: "Our error margins are too big now to really weigh in on the precise amount of warming that's going on in the ocean. We really muffed the error margins."
Spoken like a true scientist. And no, we're not being snarky. That's how science gets done. When someone finds error in a study or paper, the authors should double-check their work and correct it. That's what happened.
But there are two huge problems with this.
One, the media — including the Washington Post and the BBC — that so enthusiastically covered the initial release of the paper will not give the corrections of their mistaken reports nearly as prominent display as the original. So, for many readers, the mistaken impression of a world undergoing dramatic warming will linger.
Math Is Hard
Two, this study isn't the only one containing a major math error. Indeed, such mistakes it turns out are shockingly common. And in truth, many papers on global warming aren't "science" at all. They're little more than fanciful extrapolations from statistical models.
As we've seen over the years, few if any of the models hold up when it comes to making climate predictions.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has issued a number of alarming reports on global warming over the years, has used literally dozens of different models to confirm their dire forecasts. The models are different in some respects, but all share one big problem in common: They can't even accurately predict what has already happened, much less forecast what will happen in the deep future.
Scientists know this, but the media mostly ignore it.
"(Climate models) are full of fudge factors that are fitted to the existing climate, so the models more or less agree with the observed data," wrote Nobel Prize-winning physicist Freeman Dyson. "But there is no reason to believe that the same fudge factors would give the right behaviour in a world with different chemistry, for example in a world with increased CO2 in the atmosphere."
A study by Lewis and climate scientist Judith Curry in the American Meteorological Society's journal estimated that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would result in temperatures of anywhere from 30% to 45% below UN estimates. In other words, no global warming crisis exists.
Global Warming: Skepticism Needed
Other peer reviewed articles by climate scientists have likewise knocked down the doomsday scenarios of the UN's IPCC. But the media ignore those studies that convincingly show little or no warming. Or they criticize the authors of the studies as "skeptics."
Aren't all scientists supposed to be skeptics? It's the very basis of science. In their mad dash to prove their global warming bona fides, major media have simply thrown skepticism out the window. What's left is climate religion.
As yet another study shows, we should all be skeptical. The evidence for runaway global warming as a result of humans spewing CO2 into the air is thin at best. Socialist bureaucrats use these models to justify sweeping changes in lifestyle and the global economy. These will not just cost trillions of dollars a year, but will lead to both reduced standards of living and a loss of freedom.
Environmentalism: A new report calls the lie on the grand Paris climate change treaty. None of the promised cuts in CO2 emissions that 200-plus countries made will come close to preventing a climate "catastrophe." And many of the industrialized nations aren't even living up to the promises they did make.
Two years ago, when the Paris agreement took effect, then-President Obama declared that "history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet."
It was a turning point in the level of empty rhetoric, perhaps. But it won't make a bit of difference to the planet.
This farce was made abundantly clear in an annual report by Climate Transparency, an international group focused on the G-20 nations.
What did it find? "None of the G-20 (emissions targets) is in line with the Paris Agreement." The report shows an enormous gap between what the countries have pledged to do, and the far lower CO2 emissions levels that the U.N. says are needed to keep the planet from warming by 2 degrees Celsius.
In other words, even if every country lived up to their Paris pledges, it wouldn't come close to preventing "catastrophic warming."
It gets worse. As the report shows, most G-20 countries aren't on track to meet the modest greenhouse gas reductions they pledged to achieve by 2030.
As the Climate Transparency report notes, the EU "is not on track to meet its 2030 target." Nor is Mexico, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan or Turkey.
A number of G-20 countries actually saw their emissions increase in 2017, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Turkey.
Saudi Arabia's emissions will likely double by 2030, compared with 2014. Turkey continues to increase coal-power capacity even though it "runs strongly counter" to its pledges. Japan also has several coal plants in the pipeline. Brazil's deforestation rate has increased, despite its Paris promises to the contrary. Russia's "target is so weak that it would not require a decrease in (greenhouse gas) emissions from current levels."
And, to top it off, CO2 emission in China, already the world's largest emitter, will likely continue to increase until 2030, the report finds. It notes that coal consumption in China "increased again in 2017."
Faulty Doomsday Scenarios
Longtime IBD readers know that we are highly skeptical of all the climate change doomsday scenarios. They're all based on 100-year forecasts made by computer models that have trouble predicting what's already happened. And then there's the fact that climate scientists keep getting caught fudging numbers and making basic math errors. The latest involves a highly publicized study on ocean warming. These errors, by the way, always seem to go in one direction: toward making global warming look more ominous. ( Related: Is Global Warming a Hoax? Climate Change Facts and Fiction.)
But even if the dire prediction environmentalist make is true, trying to cut CO2 emissions to prevent it is pointless. As we noted in this space recently, the U.N. says global CO2 emissions must be cut in half within 12 years, and reduced to zero in 32 years.
It should be abundantly clear now that not a single G-20 nation is taking the climate change issue seriously — no matter how much they preach about it, and no matter how many empty promises they make.
A Better Way to Deal with Climate Change
That's fine by us, since we think it's a waste of money. President Trump was right to pull the U.S. out of this farce rather than lend it any more undue credibility.
There is a better and far more sensible and frugal approach to deal with "climate change." Forget about wasting money in a futile attempt to quickly decarbonize every economy on the planet. Instead, deal with localized changes if they ever occur. Adaptation to hostile climates is something humanity has shown an amazing ability to achieve, even without modern technology.
The only drawback to this approach is that politicians won't be able to pat themselves on the back for "saving the planet."
Debt: We've written about the threat our growing federal debt poses a number of times in past years. But it was usually posed as a hypothetical problem in the distant future. Well, guess what: It's now about to become a real problem. And Americans will discover a tough lesson: There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
As Jeffrey Goldblum said in the horror movie "The Fly," "Be afraid. Be very afraid." Because, as in the horror movie genre, our monster debt could just gobble up our entire federal budget. Or enough of it that it feels like it's the entire budget.
With the Fed now in a tightening cycle, every 1% gain in interest rates adds $200 billion to our annual interest on the debt. With a budget deficit of $779 billion this year, and more like it expected, not only will the debt be growing but the interest payments on it will grow, too.
The federal government claims we just over $15 trillion in debt, or roughly 78% of our GDP. But the reality is, we owe nearly $21 trillion, which is all of our GDP. The government doesn't count what we "owe ourselves," namely debt run up to pay off entitlements. But those are debts just as anything else is.
As we noted in recent years, and others have noted more recently, a debt of 90% or higher of GDP is a dangerous thing. It reduces private investment, since it requires enormous amounts of money each year to pay off. As a result, it causes economic growth to slow dramatically.
The Deadweight Burden Of Debt
Don't believe it? Look at Europe. Look at Japan. All stuck in slow-growth ruts they can't get out of. The result of abnormally high debt.
It might not seem big, but it is. Over just 23 years, less than a generation, it will reduce expected GDP by 23%. That's a quarter of our standard of living.
That's the economic cost of debt.
Debt: It's About Spending Too Much
We are in the middle of a bad debt cycle. We're spending too much, by historical standards, leaving us with big deficits and rising debt. We can avoid the worst effects, but it requires action now.
We hear frequently that we need to tax people and companies more. But, again, our problems are not tax related. We basically collect about 18% of our GDP as taxes no matter what we do.
No, we're spending too much.
The next Congress isn't ideal to address this problem, given the sudden and alarming shift in the Democratic Party toward socialist thinking — it wants a steep rise in the national minimum wage, socialized health care, radical taxes on the middle-class and the wealthy in the name of "equality." But this is the new Congress America elected.
Many of these elected officials heavily criticized the Republicans for the deficits the Democratic Party and Democratic president rang up during the years of the financial crisis and immediately after. Under President Obama, the debt essentially doubled.
Unfortunately, those who voted for the Democrats to take over the House have voted for a massive tax hike. Because the Democrats won't cut spending. And the House is where all spending originates.
But that's the surest way to reduce the budget deficit to manageable levels. Last year, interest costs in the budget surged 19%. Adding more debt will be disastrous. It's time to cut.
Can We Even Pay The Interest?
"It's one thing to run in the red," wrote Bruce Yandle, a distinguished adjunct fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, in a recent piece for USA Today. "It's something else entirely to lack the wherewithal to make interest payments, and that's where we may be heading."
Consider this: In September of this year, the average interest rate on U.S. federal debt was 2.86%. Not a lot. If interest rates return merely to the 2008 level of 4.652%, our debt payments would soar from $343 billion to $555 billion a year. That's a more than 60% gain.
Other countries, including even many in Europe, have tackled this problem. To not deal with it in a responsible way that doesn't bring down our economy is worse than irresponsible. It's immoral.
There are lots of ways to do it. Cap spending growth. Kill unnecessary programs. Reform entitlements to make them grow more slowly. Pass laws that encourage Americans to work longer. Or all of the above. But the longer we wait, the harder it gets.
Let's hope that soon we'll have a Congress that will understand that spending our country into bankruptcy is the least patriotic thing they can do. Our children and grand children won't thank them for it.
Energy: Has any politician ever been more wrong than Barack Obama was about U.S. oil production and energy independence? Based on the latest report from the International Energy Agency, the answer is unequivocally no.
On Tuesday, oil prices fell for the 12th consecutive decline. And amid that decline, the International Energy Agency forecasts that the U.S. will account for 75% of the growth in global oil production through 2025.
That's a stunning finding that shows how dynamic the domestic oil and gas industry has become.
Oil Production Skyrockets
Crude oil production in the U.S. has climbed more than 67% in just the past six years. And the Department of Energy expects it will climb an additional 11% next year.
Earlier this year, U.S. production hit 11 million barrels a day, surpassing Russia as the world's largest oil producer, after having blown past Saudi Arabia in February.
This explosion in domestic oil production is largely due to fracking, which has opened vast expanses of once-inaccessible crude oil.
It was also never supposed to happen.
At least not if you'd been listening to President Barack Obama. For eight years, Obama told the country over and over again that the U.S. would forever be dependent on foreign countries for oil. And that the only hope for energy independence was to heavily subsidize "renewable energy" like wind and solar.
Obama's mantra was that the U.S. had just 2% of the world's oil reserves, but consumed 20% of the world's oil. There was literally no way, he claimed, that the U.S. could drill its way out of oil dependency.
Just 2% of the World's Oil?
When he was first running for president in 2008, for example, Obama gave a speech in which he said: "If we opened up and drilled on every single square inch of our land and our shores, we would still find only 3% of the world's oil reserves — 3% for a country that uses 25% of the world's oil."
He'd repeat that claim dozens of times in the White House, although the numbers would sometimes change a little. Here's a small sampling drawn from the White House archives:
"We have less than 2% of the world's oil reserves, but are responsible for more than 20% of world consumption."
"Even if we tap every single reserve available to us, we can't escape the fact that we only control 2% of the world's oil, but we consume over a quarter of the world's oil."
"We can't place our long-term bets on a finite resource that we only control 2% of — especially a resource that's vulnerable to hurricanes, war and political turmoil."
"I give out this statistic all the time, and forgive me for repeating it again: America holds about 2% of the world's proven oil reserves. What that means is, is that even if we drilled every drop of oil out of every single one of the reserves that we possess — offshore and onshore — it still wouldn't be enough to meet our long-term needs."
"We consume about 25% of the world's oil. We only have 2% of the reserves. Even if we doubled U.S. oil production, we're still really short."
"With only 2% of the world's oil reserves, we can't just drill our way to lower gas prices."
"We have less than 2% of the world's oil reserves, but are responsible for more than 20% of world consumption."
Pushing 'Clean' Energy
At the time, people who knew what they were talking about knew this claim was utterly false. IBD reported in 2012 that Obama was only counting a tiny fraction of the oil in the U.S. The actual amount of oil under U.S. land and sea was 60 times what Obama claimed.
Not all of that was recoverable at current prices. But "recoverable" is a highly flexible term. It's based on oil prices and the cost of getting it out of the ground. The fracking revolution dramatically redefined the term recoverable because it made vast oil supplies accessible that once were once economically off-limits.
So why would Obama mislead the country throughout his presidency? Because he was determined to force the country to dump billions of taxpayer subsidies on "renewable" energy, and needed a reason to justify it.
Yet all along, the truth was that the U.S. could be a global energy powerhouse. Now, with President Donald Trump in the White House calling for U.S. energy dominance, everyone knows that to be the case.
Still, someone should ask Obama to apologize for his yearslong energy deception.
Global Warming: California once again is burning, with hundreds of thousands of tinder-dry acres going up in flames. Gov. Jerry Brown says it's global warming. President Trump blames forest mismanagement. Who's right?
On Saturday, Trump tweeted: "There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!"
Neither politician will get any points for political delicacy in their remarks. It seems to be part and parcel of today's politics. But Trump seems to know more about the causes of the California conflagration than Brown.
We've discussed Gov. Sunbeam's recent proclivity for blaming bad events on global warming. He's no longer capable of considering his beliefs rationally. He is, in a word, an extremist.
They Blinded Him With Science
This isn't name-calling. Even though there's hard science and expert opinion that suggests no major role for global warming in these fires, Brown persists in blaming the damage on climate. He's held these beliefs for a long time.
When California suffered an earlier outbreak of forest fires in August, Brown described what was happening thusly:
"We're fighting nature with the amount of material we're putting in the environment, and that material traps heat, and the heat fosters fires, and the fires keep burning," he said.
He then said we need to take extraordinary steps to "shift the weather back to where it historically was," noting that current climate is the hottest it's been "since civilization emerged 10,000 years ago."
More troubling is that he and other of the global warming brigade want to stifle any possibility of dissent over their climate theories by demonizing those who disagree. Calling people "deniers" is a crude, not so subtle way of linking them to the phrase "holocaust deniers." It's a despicable abuse of language.
Does that mean climate change has nothing to do with fires? Not necessarily. If the climate were much hotter, things would be drier and more flammable. But average temperatures haven't changed in 20 years. What has changed is that millions of new people live in California, with more than ever living in remote places and others living in hundreds of thousands of new homes to the far edges of suburbia.
When fires do occur, they can quickly become cataclysmic. But don't take our word for it.
U.S. Geological Survey research scientist Jon Keeley has studied the origin of western fires since 1910. He says that 95% of all fires originate with humans. " This is a people problem," Keeley told The Mercury News. "What's changing is not the fires themselves but the fact that we have more and more people at risk.
More People, More Fire Threat
Keeley notes, for instance, that the number of homes threatened by wildfire in the Western U.S. surged from about 607,000 in 1940 to 6.7 million in 2010. That's a more than 1,000% rise. It's a basic matter of population impinging on wilderness areas.
"The story can't be a simply that warming is increasing the numbers of wildfires in California because the number of fires is declining. And area burned has not been increasing either," University of Washington climatologist University of Washington Cliff Mass wrote last August, in response to that month's fires.
So, if not climate, what is the cause? The mismanagement of both state and federal forest lands. It's the triumph of "green" ideology over common sense.
Beginning in 1994, with the best of intentions, President Clinton put in place a plan to limit logging of old-growth trees to protect the endangered Spotted Owl in Western forests. Those moves pretty much ended what had been a policy of active management of fire threats in our national forests. Logging halted, the burnable fuel on the forest floor built up, and fires, while not more frequent, became more intense and threatening to nearby towns and homes.
"(Before 1994) mostly fuels were removed through logging, active management — which they stopped — and grazing," Bob Zybach, a reforestation consultant who has a Ph.D. in environmental science told the Daily Caller Foundation in an interview. " You take away logging, grazing and maintenance, and you get firebombs."
"Over time the fire-prone forests that were not thinned, burn in uncharacteristically destructive wildfires, and the resulting loss of forest carbon is much greater than would occur if the forest had been thinned before fire moved through," the report warned. "In the long term, leaving forests overgrown and prone to unnaturally destructive wildfires means there will be significantly less biomass on the ground, and more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."
We hate to say it, but Trump seems to know more about the causes of the California conflagration than Brown. What's truly a shame is that Brown is the one in denial. And his policies will lead to bigger fires and more damage to homes than ever before in the future.
Election 2018: Democrats took control of the House by talking endlessly about health care. But it turns out their actual priorities are things that they didn't talk about much on the campaign trail. Now we know why.
After having safely won the House majority, Democrats revealed their two top legislative priorities for next year: Limits on free speech and gun control. In other words, assaults on rights protected by the First Amendment and Second Amendment.
The Democratic leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, promises that the first bill voted on by the new Congress will focus on campaign finance and ethics reforms.
Rewriting The First Amendment
According to news accounts, H.R. 1 would, among other things, establish automatic voter registration and "reinvigorate" the Voting Rights Act. In other words, make it harder to root out voter fraud. It will also push public financing of congressional campaigns, with a 6-to-1 government match on small dollar donations.
How many voters knew that's what Democrats had planned?
Those are bad enough. But the plan would also call for amending the Constitution to restrict free speech rights under the guise of campaign finance reform.
This is in reaction to the Supreme Court's 2009 Citizen Uniteddecision, in which the court ruled that the First Amendment protects political speech, allowing corporations to spend money on political advocacy. The court ruled that "The government may not suppress political speech on the basis of the speaker's corporate identity."
Democrats have attacked the ruling ever since. And they want a constitutional amendment that would overturn the ruling "and other related rulings."
That's so Congress can, in their words, "regulate the raising and spending of political money."
Sen. Ted Cruz had it right when he called this idea an assault on free speech. He said "it gives Congress power to regulate — and ban — speech by everybody."
Gun Control Push
When not calling on limits to First Amendment rights, Democrats also plan to aggressively push new gun control laws that would restrict the public's Second Amendment rights.
Gun control was not a big issue in the midterm campaign, despite promises by gun control advocates to make it a centerpiece of the elections in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting. The issue "evaporated during the final weeks of the election in all but very safe liberal districts," noted Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner.
"But now that the Democrats have won the House," Bedard notes, "leaders feel emboldened to raise calls for expanded background checks and an assault weapon ban."
Mixed Election Results
Gun control advocates tout the fact that 15 House Republicans with "A" ratings from the NRA lost their elections. But gun control advocates lost seats in the Senate. That includes Joseph Donnelly, who lost his bid in Indiana. Pro-gun rights Josh Hawley unseated Claire McCaskill in Missouri.
According to the NRA, candidates backed by gun rights group won 106 races, and lost 33 — despite being outspent by gun control supporters. This was not the groundswell of support for gun control laws that advocates promised.
Nevertheless, Democrats plan to pursue the most aggressive gun control laws "in decades," according to one news report.
Pelosi told CNN's Chris Cuomo that passing gun control laws would be "priority" once the new Congress convenes in January.
To be clear, the chances that these efforts will become law are slim to none. For one thing, the Democrats will have a narrow majority in the House. Many of the newly elected representatives are moderates who might be reluctant to betray their voters on day one.
What's more, the Senate remains in Republican hands — with the possibility that the GOP will have gained three seats in the end. Highly partisan legislation won't have a chance there.
Even if Democrats did manage to get leftist campaign finance and gun control laws through Congress, they'd still face a Trump veto.
So, these efforts will be little more than symbolic gestures.
It shows how far the Democratic Party has drifted to the left that attacks on the First Amendment and Second Amendment will be the party's priority right out of the gate.
Poverty: Recent reports suggest that America has made no progress at all in its "War on Poverty" since the 1960s. Headlines claim "one in eight" Americans live in poverty. But is that true? It depends on how you define poverty.
And the answer matters a lot, since it determines so much of U.S. economic policy, from food stamps to minimum wages, and from taxes to welfare work requirements.
It's true: Official poverty data from the U.S. Census show little change since the 1960s. The rate in 1966, for instance, was 14.7%. As recently as 2014 it was even higher: 14.8%. The rate has since declined to a still-high 12.3%.
A damning statistic that shows the failure of America's welfare safety net?
This is important, because much of our welfare efforts go toward bolstering consumption, not incomes. Adjusting official income levels for what people consume, rather than what they earn, yields a very different poverty rate: 2.8%, according to the AEI report. Almost nonexistent.
How can that be? An officially poor family of four has income of about $25,000 or less. That's not much. But that measure fails to take into account taxes. The poor mostly don't pay taxes. In fact, many get money back through the Earned Income Tax Credit and other income-support programs. Food stamps, housing support and other aid likewise enable officially poor households to boost their incomes, in most cases significantly.
The fact is, when the very same households that the federal government considers to be poor are questioned, they report roughly $2.40 in spending for every $1 of income that Census says they have. So that family of four earning $25,000 is likely consuming as much as $60,000 a year in goods and services.
How Much Do Poor Consume?
Heritage Foundation poverty analysts Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield in a 2016 data report noted that "poor" in America doesn't mean what it means elsewhere. Based on a 2009 government survey of spending, the average poor person in the U.S., for instance, lives in a bigger house than the average nonpoor person in France, Germany or England. Moreover, nearly 85% of poor homes in the U.S. have air conditioning, and nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV. Half own computers, and 43% have internet access. More than half own a video game system.
This is not to say that the poor have it easy, or that we should ignore their plight. But we have to understand that claims America has grinding poverty as in the developing world are false. And, as the last two years have shown, the best anti-poverty program of all is a job.
Health Reform: Democrats campaigned heavily on promises to preserve ObamaCare's protections for people with "pre-existing conditions." And the polls seem to back them up. But do they?
Across the country, Democrats attacked their Republican opponents on the issue, saying that the GOP wanted to take away this protection. (Which wasn't entirely true, but that's another story.) And they plan to keep the pressure on.
As the Hill reported days after the Democrats won control of the House in the midterm elections, "House Democrats think pre-existing conditions powered them to victory on Tuesday, and they're setting up a quick vote on the issue for next year."
In making this the core issue, Democrats appear to be on solid ground with the public. Poll after poll shows widespread support for protecting people who have pre-existing medical conditions when they buy insurance coverage.
But there are important caveats that never come up.
As we've noted in this space before, the entire issue has been wildly exaggerated. Even before ObamaCare, the vast majority of Americans were protected from pre-existing condition restrictions, because they got insurance through an employer or the government, which can't impose such restrictions.
All ObamaCare did was extend this protection to the 7% who buy insurance on their own.
Nor does anyone pushing this benefit ever talk about its costs.
The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., wanted to find out how much support would remain for pre-existing condition protections once people learned about those costs.
In a poll released the just before the midterms, Cato first asked the standard question: Do you support ObamaCare's protections against pre-existing conditions? Sixty-five percent said they did, which is in line with other polls.
What About Costs?
But the poll went on to ask whether the public backed this protection if meant a tax increase? Suddenly, support dropped to just 51%. What if it meant premiums increased? Support plunged to only 49%. And just 47% say they back this protection if it meant less access to top-rated medical facilities. ( You can read the complete Cato survey report here.)
These aren't theoretical side effects, either. Those are all the actual results of ObamaCare's pre-existing condition mandate.
ObamaCare imposed a multitude of new taxes and fees to cover the cost of this protection.
Premiums in the individual market more than doubled. That priced millions of middle-class families who aren't eligible for ObamaCare subsidies out of the insurance market altogether.
And most health plans sold in the ObamaCare exchange imposed strict HMO-style limits on providers that often don't include the best hospitals or doctors.
It's easy to support a government-mandated protection when it appears to be free. But when there's a cost attached, suddenly most of it disappears.
There's one caveat to consider as well. ObamaCare isn't the only way to provide protections for people with pre-existing conditions. It's just one of the costliest and most disruptive ways to do it.
One can only hope that we have an honest discussion about all these caveats when Democrats bring the issue up again next year.
Civility: In the run up to the recent midterms, Democrats and others on the left lamented that civility seemed to have all but disappeared from American political life. They were right. And they were largely to blame for its disappearance.
Twice-failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in October explained why Democrats and the angry, violent left have a right to be uncivil to those they disagree with. Clinton's remarks came during the hearings for Brett Kavanaugh to fill a vacant seat on the Supreme Court.
Recall that Kavanaugh was falsely vilified last summer by Democrats and the media for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman. They had no evidence at all. Even so, those on the left called Kavanaugh a "rapist", "white nationalist," "fascist," and worse, and threw out all presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
"You cannot be civil with a political party," Clinton said, "that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about." Never mind that disagreement isn't the same as "destroy."
Or that Clinton's remarks came during the hearings for Brett Kavanaugh to fill a vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Desperate congressional Democrats and the media dredged up false accusations against Kavanaugh for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman, despite having no evidence at all.
The Savaging Of Kavanaugh
Later, other false allegations emerged, only to be repeated uncritically by the media. Those allegations proved wholly false and made up.
That didn't stop the left from calling Kavanaugh a "rapist", "white nationalist," "fascist," and worse. They threw out all presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
So uncivil. But Clinton did say once Democrats regain control of part of Congress, "that's when civility can start again."
"Well, I think when we win, you will see evidence of that," Pelosi said. But, again, only when they win.
Hawaiian Sen. Mazie Hirono, when asked about the mobs that had harassed Republicans in restaurants and other public places, said merely, "this is what happens."
Yet, so far the Democrats and the left are failing the Clinton-Pelosi thesis that they'll behave civilly once they win the election. Far from it.
Indeed, we're not sure what they even mean when they say "civil." Take the case of Fox TV host Tucker Carlson. His home was besieged Wednesday by violent thugs from a group called "Smash Racism D.C."
Several news outlets referred to them as an "anti-fascist group." That's an error. They are a fascist group.
Carlson wasn't home when the group attacked, terrifying his wife by pounding on his door and chanting, "Tucker Carlson, we are outside your home." Using a bullhorn, they accused Carlson of "promoting hate" and "an ideology that has led to thousands of people dying." And the terrorist threats were fairly specific, as the group chanted, "Tucker Carlson, we will fight! We know where you sleep at night."
The only fortunate part of the whole incident was that none of Carlson's four children were home to experience the extremists' hate.
Democrats Mainstream Extremism
You might say, sure, but they're extremists. Not part of the Democratic Party.
But Democrats have condoned and excused the violence. Their supporters have financially supported it. Why? It serves their purpose.
If anyone prominent on the left has outright condemned what happened to Carlson and his family, we've not heard it.
Last year, Rep. Steve Scalise and other Republican congressmen were attacked by a Democratic gunman intent on killing one or more of them. The media and the Democrats mostly pretended it was an aberration.
When Sen. Rand Paul was physically attacked by a Democratic neighbor, sustaining three broken ribs, it was mostly shrugged off.
Imagine if the tables had been turned, and a Republican or conservative had attacked a group of Democratic congressmen with a gun. Or an angry GOP member had broken the ribs of a liberal senator.
Violence Against Republicans
How crazy would the media have been? Democrats might have even called for outlawing the Republican Party. It's gotten that insane.
And this has been going on for some time. Republican politicians like Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Sen. Ted Cruz and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have been accosted while eating dinner. Less known, and with virtually no mainstream coverage, a number of average folks wearing MAGA hats or shirts have been physically assaulted.
What do you expect when one of the Democrats' rising senators, Cory Booker of New Jersey, tells people to "get up in the face of some Congresspeople."
And when former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says, "When they go low, we kick 'em. That's what this new Democrat Party is about."
Or when California Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Maxine Waters have both added their voices to those encouraging violence against Trump and his supporters.
Surely, you say, the anger will recede with the Democrats' retaking of the House of Representatives. But that too is wrong.
Civility, Or Doubling Down On Rage
If anything, after winning they're doubling down on the anti-Republican rage that has seized their party.
"The worst-case scenario — or best case, depending on your point of view — you prove he committed perjury, about a terrible subject and the Judicial Conference recommends you impeach him. So the president appoints someone just as bad."
This is the man who will be heading the Judiciary Committee under the Democrats. Would you want his brand of justice?
Nadler also vowed to hold Trump "accountable," which is fine, since all presidents should be held accountable. But for what? Phony Russian collusion, which has yet to be proved despite two years of FBI and special counsel investigation?
Again, guilty, until proven innocent. Rep. Maxine Waters, who will likely head the Financial Services Committee, has promised to get even with the banks for lending money to poor people that they couldn't pay back — even though the federal government ordered the banks to do so.
The sad truth is, the Democrats have abandoned any and all pretenses of civility. As they veer farther left with each election cycle, they seem to care only about power — not constitutional principle.
The death of civility will have its costs. No doubt, tempers will flare. Laws will be broken, especially by those on the left who increasingly believe ends justify means. There will be more violence.
Look at the history of nations around the world. Once civility and mutual respect are lost, they're hard to regain.
No, Democrats aren't to blame for everything. But the left loudly proclaims it wants more civility. Strange, because their party is the one that most engages in incivility.
Crony Capitalism: Looks like Amazon pulled a fast one on states with its promise of a big new HQ2. After getting states to cough up billions of dollars in special tax giveaways, Amazon announced it was changing plans, and splitting the alleged new headquarters in two. When will states learn that trying to seduce big companies this way is a losing strategy?
Unless the news reports are wildly off base, Amazon plans to open its new "headquarters" in two locations — Long Island City, N.Y., and Crystal City, Va.
Wait. Didn't Amazon ( AMZN) make a huge deal a year ago about how it was going to open a second headquarters that would be "a full equal to our current campus in Seattle"? And that it would create 50,000 good-paying jobs, along with $5 billion worth of investments?
State and local governments sure thought so. They went on an embarrassing campaign to lure Amazon. Most of the offers are still secret, but some details emerged.
Maryland offered $8.5 billion in tax incentives and infrastructure projects to win HQ2. New Jersey was willing to give Amazon $7 billion in tax credits and incentives. Detroit offered $4 billion. Chicago, $2 billion. Washington, D.C., promised to create Amazon University to train future company employees.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took the prize for obsequiousness, saying: "I'll change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that's what it takes."
If Amazon ever was serious about opening a second headquarters "equal to" the first, it isn't any longer. The new plan looks more like a generic expansion project, and the HQ2 promotion looks more like a ruse.
By dangling the prospect of a big, bold, gleaming new headquarters, Amazon got more than 200 cities to offer up millions of dollars in free information about their workforce, infrastructure plans and the like. They also told Amazon precisely how far they'll go to get a piece of its business.
Amazon's HQ2 Ruse
"Amazon now has insights into what cities would be willing to offer and possibly plans locations have for investments in infrastructure," Jed Kolko, chief economist at job search website Indeed.com, told Bloomberg.
Amazon had every reason to expect that government officials would do just what they did, since this has become a game companies have learned to play well over the years.
Either a major corporation threatens to move unless they get more perks, or it announces plans to open a new facility and waits for the offers to come in. State politicians, meanwhile, are more than happy to dote on these companies, because they can then claim credit for "creating jobs."
Cuomo went so far as to say that "businesses do not come to New York state without government incentives. Businesses literally shop states. ... It literally takes money to make money."
That might be true for a business-unfriendly place like high-tax New York. But these efforts to bribe businesses don't do taxpayers, or state economies, any good.
Sure, New York might gain 25,000 Amazon jobs for its half of HQ2, in exchange for a "great incentive package." But that won't even make a dent in the exodus of other businesses and jobs. From 2010 to 2017, for example, 1 million New Yorkers migrated to other states.
A study by the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research found that states offered a total of $45 billion in various types of business incentives, but the incentive deals didn't correlate with "current or past unemployment or income levels, or with future economic growth."
The deals themselves rarely live up to the hype, and typically cost a fortune for each job created.
Lost Jobs, Lost Taxes
Washington state, for example, gave Boeing $8.7 billion in tax breaks after it threatened to build its 777X somewhere else. Boeing did build the jet there. But the state still lost more than 20,000 Boeing jobs.
North Carolina paid a relatively small sum of $240 million in 2004 for Dell Computer to open a manufacturing plant there. Less than five years later, Dell closed the facility.
The tax-incentive game is also hugely unfair to existing businesses. Michigan spends almost as much in tax incentives as it brings in through corporate income taxes. That means that most businesses in the state are, in effect, subsidizing the lucky few.
State governments would do their taxpayers and their economies much better if, instead of offering up special tax breaks for a select few big companies, they cut taxes across the board and created a climate that was welcoming to all businesses, big and small.
If the economic literature is clear on one thing, it's that a more business-friendly state creates a more vibrant economy and a more prosperous people.
Lame Duck Congress: With the end of the midterm elections, most people in Washington are looking forward to the next Congress, which begins in January. But the current one, led by Republicans, still has a just under a couple of months to go. Is there anything they can do?
On the surface, it doesn't seem so. The GOP lost the House, after all.
And yet, maneuvering is already taking place by both the White House and congressional Democrats and Republicans following the midterm elections. The election is a reminder that some House Republicans may be out of a job, but Trump isn't.
With Congress divided, Republicans face two years of bitter battles between the Senate, which they control, and the House, which Democrats control. So the GOP can say goodbye to getting any major legislation passed through 2020. That makes the next two months, the so-called lame duck session, even more important than usual.
Can Congress achieve anything? Maybe. For one, a long list of nominees to both the executive and the judicial branch await approval.
That will no doubt be a priority, since next year the House will become a very hostile place for any Republican nominee facing hearings by Democrats.
One big problem: Congress faces a deadline of Dec. 7 to pass a spending bill to keep the government open. Neither party wants to close the government now, but President Trump has threatened to do just that if he doesn't get money to build a border wall.
That might prompt Republicans to think about a grand deal on immigration. Democrats and Republicans might be willing to make a deal on funding a border wall, a Republican desire, in exchange for an "amnesty-lite" for immigrant Dreamers, a Democrat desire. Now that the election is past and the lame duck Congress is begun, the political logic of such a deal is strong.
Meanwhile, Republicans are interested in fixing some of the flaws in last year's $1.5 trillion tax cut, and possibly making it permanent. With some horsetrading, it's possible they'll cobble something together. The only question would be: What might they give up?
Meanwhile, the long-postponed farm bill, the subject of much wrangling before the election, could also find a place on the lame duck table. The 2014 Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30. The Republican-led House passed a version last summer that included crop subsidies and a number of other rural programs.
A Farm Bill Fix?
But that $867 billion bill also included a House provision for tougher work requirements for food stamp recipients, a non-starter for the Democrats.
Now that the election is out of the way, Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, who is next in line to take over the House Agriculture Committee, said getting a farm bill passed during the lame duck session will be a top priority. "That's going to be the number one goal," he told reporters. "My sense is this is going to get worked out (in the lame-duck session)."
It seems increasingly likely, given that the Senate's version of the farm bill has much milder work requirements. A deal seems very likely.
Indeed, lots of things might happen in the coming weeks to surprise people. The duck might not be so lame after all. But is that a good thing? Not always.
Case in point: 2010, when the lame-duck Democrats hashed out an enormous spending bill that included over 6,000 earmarks costing more than $8 billion.
Of course, we're not counseling them to do foolish things. But they might be able to pluck one or two undone items on their agenda and get them passed by some clever deal-making with the Democrats, some of whom will also be going home.
But this time around, the time is tight for making deals. The House and Senate won't reconvene until Nov. 13. But while there's still nearly two calendar months left in the year, there's only 16 more legislative days. So Congress might end up looking more like "Let's Make A Deal" than a sober-minded, cost-conscious legislative body.
Global Warming: Environmentalists were hoping to score a huge victory in Washington state with a statewide tax on CO2 emissions. Alas, even liberals in Washington don't believe climate change is that big a threat.
Before the election, glowing stories in the press talked about Washington "taking up the fight" on climate change after President Donald Trump dropped out of the Paris climate deal. The state would make history. It would be a "bellwether," and would start a trend across the country.
The initiative proposed a $15 tax on each ton of carbon emissions in the state starting in 2020, with the tax rate climbing each year. It would have cost families in the state nearly $1,000 a year by 2035.
Keep in mind that the proposed carbon tax was a tiny baby step toward what environmentalists' claim will be needed to avoid a worldwide climate catastrophe. The United Nations says we'd need a global carbon tax of up to $5,500 to achieve that.
Washington voters rejected even this minimalist step toward fighting what a large majority of them claim to believe is an existential threat to humanity.
Think about it this way. Washington is a deep blue state where Trump got less than 37% of the vote in 2016. Only six states in the nation were more anti-Trump.
Yet 56% of Washington voters rejected the CO2 tax. Only three counties in the state — Jefferson, King (where Seattle is located), and tiny San Juan — voted for the tax.
Deep Green State
This is also a deep green state.
According to a 2016 survey, more than 80% of its residents "are sure climate change is occurring." More than two thirds (69%) say they support the state's taking action to reduce CO2 emissions.
But when it came time for these voters to put their money where their mouths are, they snapped their purses shut.
Washington state was a bellwether, as it turns out. It showed how so many of those who wring their hands about "climate change" don't actually want to do anything about it.
After all, if they really believed what climate alarmists are saying — that catastrophic warming is ahead unless the entire world takes drastic actions to reduce CO2 emissions immediately — they'd do anything to stop it.
Election Results: There's no question that Democrats had a good night on Tuesday. But it was nowhere near what the resistance crowd had hoped. The question now is: Can the party resist its angry base demanding retribution, or try to act like adults and get things done?
When it comes to wave elections, this one wasn't. Not by a long shot.
In 1994 — two years into Bill Clinton's first term — Republicans gained a stunning 54 seats to take control of the House, and 9 to take control of the Senate.
Then, in 2010 — two years into Barack Obama's first term — Republicans gained an even more stunning 63 seats in the House, and six in the Senate, in another stunning rebuke of a Democratic president.
Election Results: Not A Wave
By contrast, Democrats will, when votes are all counted, likely gain 30-some seats in the House. That's only slightly above the average midterm gains for the party out of power. At the same time, they lost two (and possibly three) Senate seats.
Given that Democrats cast this as a high-stakes election, and given the overwhelmingly negative coverage of President Donald Trump, the final result was not all that impressive.
So how will Democrats proceed, since they ran a largely empty campaign based almost entirely on stopping Trump and spreading fear about health care?
They claim to have a full agenda at the ready, including changes to campaign and ethics laws, redistricting, and voting rights. (Anyone recall those issues being top of mind with voters?)
They also say they want to take on prescription drug costs and more money for infrastructure. Those are two areas where they might find common ground with Trump. He's already taken steps to rein in drug prices, and put forward an ambitious infrastructure proposal.
Nancy Pelosi says she wants to show voters that, as The New York Times put it, "Democrats are a governing party, not the leftist mob that Mr. Trump has described — and to extend an arm of cooperation to the president after an electoral rebuke."
We'll believe that when we see it.
Work With Trump?
Democrats already had the chance to work with Trump. Instead they indulged in a two-year primal scream, fantasizing about Trump being indicted or impeached while encouraging violence against Republicans.
The idea that the party's base will allow Pelosi to suddenly make nice with Trump, or give him anything he can declare a win, seems pretty far-fetched.
As the Times put it, Pelosi faces "the challenge of reining in the most energized liberal lawmakers, for whom anything short of a presidential impeachment would be a compromise too far."
It's more than a mere challenge. The election will put hard-core leftist Democrats — like Elijah Cummings, Maxine Waters, and Adam Schiff — in charge of key House committees, complete with the ability to harass the administration with endless investigations and subpoenas.
Before the midterms, Cummings was "prepping targets — from the security clearances of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and former national security advisor Michael Flynn, to digging into how former EPA chief Scott Pruitt was able to keep his job for so long — and the list is getting longer by the week," according to Politico.
Aiming for Impeachment
The left-wing Mother Jones compiled a Democratic hit list that runs the gamut from Trump's so-called Muslim travel ban to Ivanka Trump's business affairs. They will no doubt put constant pressure on Trump to release old tax returns. And despite keeping talk of impeachment under wraps during the campaign, many Democrats will be eager use any excuse to launch the process.
Pelosi also must contend with the ascendant socialist wing of the party, which wants action on things like socialized medicine (aka "Medicare for all"), job-killing minimum wage hikes, free college, etc.
Sure, Democrats realize that the election results did not provide them a mandate to overturn Trump's agenda. And they could act like a grown-up governing party. We hope they do. But we're not willing to put money on it.
Election 2018: As the election results show, the Senate will be Republican. The House will be Democratic. What does that midterm outcome mean for President Trump's economic policies of tax cuts, aggressive trade sanctions, immigration and deregulation? Gridlock.
The exact numbers of each branch may not be known for days, but as of late election night, it was clear Republicans had enlarged their hold on the Senate, while Democrats had taken back control of the House.
But as it appears late Tuesday, there was no "blue wave" for the Democrats. Just a run-of-the-mill changeover, as is common in midterm elections.
As of now, it's not clear whether California Rep. Nancy Pelosi will maintain her grip on the Democratic Party in the House. Even if she doesn't, however, we can expect a number of things from Congress.
One, Pelosi or whoever leads the Democrats will seek multiple investigations of President Trump, everything from his tax returns to Russian meddling in the 2016 election to his past business dealings.
Election Results: Expect Subpoenas
Everything will be on the table. And they'll have subpoena power.
Two, and perhaps most important, there will be no Trump-friendly economic legislation to emerge from the House. Trumponomics won't come to an end, but it will be hard to enlarge its scope.
Give the Democrats credit: They ran a number of highly appealing moderates, including women as candidates, some with military experience. Smart move, taking away a key Republican strength in the midterm vote.
But as appealingly centrist as those new Democrat faces are, they will not be able to buck the increasingly far-left Democratic leadership. Key House Democratic leaders, ranging from Nancy Pelosi to Maxine Waters to Adam Schiff, are all well to the left of average Americans on economics and immigration, among other issues.
Democrats' Moderate House Newbies
In short, the newly elected House members and the dwindling handful of other moderates remaining in the Democratic Party will not be enough in number or in established power to effect major economic policy changes. Like it or not, the far left leadership rules the roost.
A Pelosi-led party, with leftists in key power posts, will try to stymie Trump's economic initiatives. A Tax Reform 2.0, making this year's tax cuts permanent? Forget about it. Build a wall? Might be tough. A hard line on illegal immigration? The House will do what it can to block any Trump initiatives. A Democratic House might try to roll back Trump's tariffs, too.
They may even try to reverse some of Trump's other unquestionably successful growth-oriented policies. But even some Obama supporters say that would be a mistake.
"The policy bottom line is clear, especially once the U.S. midterm elections are over," wrote Mohamed El-Erian, who served as an adviser to President Obama and was former CEO of PIMCO. " The priority should be reinforcing pro-growth policies, including by moving on infrastructure enhancements and modernization."
What would Democrats be halting? The last two quarters GDP growth has averaged roughly 3.8%. Unemployment is now at a 50-year low of 3.7%, while, as we reported last week, nearly 157 million people now are working. That's an all-time record. And unemployment for minorities and teenagers is at or near all-time low levels.
America's Revived Jobs Machine
Equally important, there are now more than seven million open jobs in the U.S. That's about 1.2 million more than the total number of officially unemployed. Wages at 3.1% year-over-year are growing at their fastest rate since the financial crisis.
Meanwhile, Trump has slashed the regulatory burden more than any president since Ronald Reagan, and slashed taxes for the middle class and businesses. These are the main reasons why the economy suddenly reared its head and took off, and is now the most competitive economy in the world.
It's also why share prices went on a tear the day after Donald Trump, and not Hillary Clinton, won the 2016 election.
The House is more likely now to challenge the president's trade maneuvers, including tariffs and sanctions on Iran, Venezuela and China, in addition to non-stop investigations and subpoenas of White House aides. They will try to stymie any new economic initiatives Trump might have.
Voting For Gridlock
So expect Democrats in the House to try to put a hammerlock on the Trump agenda. Unfortunately for them, the Senate will be even more solidly Republican, meaning any Democratic initiatives coming out of the House is likely to die in the Senate.
And there's another thing to remember: Americans have voted for gridlocked government because, in their wisdom, they don't seem to want either party to have an upper hand. Fair enough. But it will be up to the Republican-led Senate to make the case that Trumponomics beats the increasingly far-left economics of the Democrats.
It shouldn't be hard.
Based on the IBD/TIPP Poll's Economic Optimism Index, which hit its highest level since January of 2004 in August and still remains near that almost 14-year high, Americans are happy with where the economy is. Democrats beware: Tinker with successful policies at your own political peril.
Again, gridlock. But President Trump will still be able to pick judges and in effect begin his 2020 re-election campaign. And, as President Obama did, he'll have his "pen and phone" — executive orders and political power of persuasion — to continue affecting economic policies at the margin.
That, and a Fed showing some restraint on interest rates, might keep the current rapid economic expansion going for a year or two more, if not longer.
Americans want divided government. Maybe markets will embrace that too, since it will bring a kind of stability to Washington's topsy-turvy politics. We'll see. But the Senate remains Republican, as does the White House. It seems like a good bet: Expect few if any major policy turns for now.
Regulations: There is perhaps no better example of how government thwarts free-market innovation and hurts consumers than the emergence of electric scooters. Urban commuters love them, but "progressive" local governments are busy banning them.
The scooter phenomenon has been an economic marvel. It's a brand-new transportation model that was impossible before GPS technology, mobile-phone apps and modern battery technology existed.
And electric scooters are filling a need that nobody knew existed until recently: an easier way to go relatively short distances in urban areas.
Customers can locate a scooter with an app, unlock it with their phone, and leave it when they're done for the next user. Once people got a taste of this, demand skyrocketed.
The two biggest scooter companies, Lime and Bird, are already valued at $1.1 billion at $2 billion, respectively, according to IBD's Aparna Narayanan. These companies didn't even exist two years ago.
This is a prime example of how the free market works. Without any planning or government involvement, this new service exploded on the scene. As a result, commuters suddenly have a new, efficient, nonpolluting way to get around in cities.
These electric scooters are also a prime example of how governments — at all levels — thwart innovation and hurt consumers.
Rather than embrace scooters, city officials have recoiled. Several, including some of the most liberal cities in the country, have banned them outright.
In California, San Francisco banned the scooters, then let only two scooter companies operate in the city. Ventura, West Hollywood and Davis have also issued bans.
Costly Government Delays
Seattle told scooter companies they couldn't operate in the city until the government set up a permit program, which it wouldn't do until it had a bike-share program in place. But after setting that up, it still hasn't let scooters in.
(Seattle's bike-share program doesn't do its residents much good, either. The permit fees are huge. It limits the number of bike-share companies to four. And allows only 20,000 bikes to operate.)
Washington, D.C, only lets each company operate 400 scooters in the city.
This is the same sort of reactionary approach the government took to innovators like Uber and Airbnb.
Like the electric scooters, these concepts leveraged the power of smartphone apps to create entirely new businesses. But since they threatened the established order — and the fat tax revenues that come with it — city governments tried to thwart the innovations.
Yes, there are issues with scooters. Some people are reckless. There have been injuries. It's not often clear where they can or should be used — on the sidewalk? On the street? But every new thing comes with risks. And besides, nobody is trying to ban cars, despite the 30,000-plus deaths they cause each year.
Even without the heavy hand of government, markets will sort most of these issues out. If nothing else, scooter companies have an interest in protecting their brand, which means they will try to find solutions regarding safety and scooters being dumped in the wrong places.
The only thing government will contribute is delay, cumbersome rules, higher costs, and less convenience.
Big-government progressives need to realize that when it comes to progress, government isn't the solution. It's the problem.
Fiscal Crisis: New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, America's three largest cities, have much in common. For one, they're all very cosmopolitan. For another, they're governed almost exclusively by Democrats. And finally, all three of the nation's pre-eminent urban areas are teetering on the edge of fiscal disaster.
TIA graded all three cities for their fiscal peformance, using the familiar academic measuring stick of grades A through F. Only one, Los Angeles, didn't get an 'F'. It got a 'D'. But it's safe to say, without dramatic changes, all face fiscal crisis.
As befits its stature as America's largest and most influential city, New York's financial problems are by far the worst of the Big Three.
Due mostly to soaring unfunded retirement liabilities, "New York City's elected officials have made repeated financial decisions that have left the city with a debt burden of $185.5 billion," the analysis said. "That burden equates to $64,100 for every city taxpayer."
New York's Debt Mountain
The city owes — wait for it — $312.2 billion total for related retirement benefits and health care funds. But of that amount, it still must find a way to make up a $156.4 billion shortfall.
No other city comes even close to that. It goes without saying that the current far-left Mayor Bill De Blasio isn't solely responsible for this mess. He's merely the most recent weak link in a long chain of New York's mayoral financial failures. It's a well-established model: Give in to public employee unions, and kick the financial can down the road.
As you might have guessed by now, Truth In Accounting gave New York a grade of 'F'. But that's only because there wasn't a lower grade to give.
For New York, this is nothing new. Back in 1975, a fiscally insolvent New York City had to massively restructure its finances and get bailed out by its creditors and the federal government. Is Big Apple Bailout, Part Deux, on the horizon?
As we noted, it's not just New York that's in trouble among the Big Three. Los Angeles, the nation's No. 2 city in population, struggles with its own financial hole related to retirement benefits — though nowhere near as large as the one that threatens to swallow New York.
L.A.'s Bad Decisions
"Los Angeles' elected officials have made repeated financial decisions that have left the city with a debt burden of $7.7 billion," TIA said. It owes some $60.6 billion in retirement benefits, but hasn't funded $8.4 billion of is public employee pensions and $2.7 billion of its retiree health care benefits.
So every Angeleno owes the equivalent of about $6,200 to pay off all the liabilities. But while the numbers aren't huge, as in New York, L.A. nonetheless comes in for harsh criticism: "Residents and taxpayers have been presented with an unreliable and inaccurate accounting of the city government's finances," the TIA report noted.
As we noted, L.A. gets a D grade, just barely passing. Bravo.
Finally, there's the "City of the Big Shoulders" — and even bigger spending — Chicago. The city has $42 billion in debts, but only $9.5 billion to pay it off. So it's broke. Its per citizen tab for its government's profligacy is high, like New York's: $36,000 per taxpayer.
Bad Grades For Spendthrifts
That's a lot of money to owe. No surprise, Chicago, like New York, gets an 'F'. But there is a glimmer of hope: "In 2017, the Illinois General Assembly approved legislation that gradually and significantly increases the amount of money Chicago taxpayers must contribute to the city's pension plans."
So maybe Chicago, after a few more years of tightening its belt, will join L.A. with a 'D' grade.
The point is, all suffer from the same ills. Progressive governments love to spend big. And they hate to say no to big city unions, which have the power to shut down vital services or even kick politicians out of office. So for years, the pension problems have gotten worse. And spending has only risen.
Fiscal Crisis: The Cause Is Spending
More spending is no longer an option. Cities will soon face existential dilemmas, such as "do we keep picking up the garbage and clean the streets, or do we slash spending on services to pay ever increasing amounts for retiree benefits?"
It's a brutal choice, and even such well-heeled cities as New York, L.A. and Chicago don't have resources to do both. Unless these cities learn to show some fiscal discipline, we may once again, as in the 1970s, see a major U.S. city go belly up. Or a state, like Illinois. Or a commonwealth, like Puerto Rico. It won't be pretty. And it will be painful.
And remember: these are big cities, with mostly thriving economies. But dozens of large-to-medium-sized cities across the country face similar problems. The point is, it's not just the federal government that has a spending problem and serious retirement-related debt problems. Chances are, your city or state isn't far behind.
Independents: Who will win the 2018 midterm elections? Or the one in 2020? The fact is, we increasingly don't know the answer, despite ever-cleverer polling techniques. The reason: More and more people are choosing "Independent" instead of the traditional two parties. Today, "Independents," like it or not, constitute a de facto third party.
This month's IBD/TIPP Poll is a case in point. Of the 900 voters we interviewed, 296 were Democrats, 274 were Republicans and 305 were Independents. Another 25 declined to say. So, by percentage, that's 32.9% Democrat, 30.4% Republican and 33.9% Independent.
This has a number of meanings from a purely polling perspective. For one thing, the political parties have become somewhat more ideological, in particular the Democratic Party. The reason for this is that many of the less ideologically pure members of both major parties — people who used to be called "centrists" or "moderates" — have abandoned the two-party system. "Independent," with all that symbolizes, feels more like home to them.
But what does it mean to be an Independent? Basically, it means to occupy a comfortable middle position between the two big parties.
Take our Economic Optimism Index as an example. Despite the ongoing and indisputable economic boom under President Trump, just 36.1% of Democrats describe themselves as optimistic. Republicans occupy the other side of the spectrum: 81.2%. Independents are right near the middle at 53.6%.
Independents In The Middle
These patterns show across our data. They even show up in questions we routinely ask each month, such as "In the next 6 months, do you think that your personal financial situation will be better, worse, or about the same as now?"
Among our respondents, just 13% of Democrats said "better," while 55% of Republicans answered that. About 41% of Independents said their own situation would be better. Again, Independents are somewhere in the middle.
Indeed, while they generally aren't enthusiastic Trump supporters, Independents aren't avid haters, either.
Most telling of all was their response to some of our questions that get at voting preferences.
For instance, we asked voters whether they would prefer a Congress controlled by Republicans or controlled by Democrats? Among all voters, 41% said Republicans, while 50% said Democrats.
For Independents, 34% said they would prefer the Republicans, while 48% said the would prefer Democrats.
We also asked the following: "If a candidate for Congress supports President Trump, does that make you more likely to vote for that candidate, (or) less likely to vote for that candidate...?"
Again, just 16% of Independents said they would be more likely to vote for a supporter of Trump, while 47% said they would be less likely.
Bad News For GOP?
If Independents aren't engaging in massive deception of pollsters, it could be bad news for the GOP. That is, if Independent voters show up at the polls. And, as we suggested, that Independents aren't shading their responses to a poll.
The point is, Independents are a mysterious bloc of voters, a kind of party without a party and with no rules, platforms or policies. Just a long list of grievances against the two official major parties. As such, the growing body of Independent voters may soon be a deciding force in American elections. Will they someday forge a third party to challenge the Democrats and GOP? Or will they find greater advantage in playing the role of spoiler and kingmaker?
Independents: Don't Ignore Them
What's funny is that both Democrats and Republicans spend so much time "shoring up their base" that they sometimes seem to forget about Independents. Strange, since they are likely to decide this year's election and many more in the future, by dint of their large numbers and outsider status. It will likely decide whether Republicans keep or lose the House this election.
That sounds about right. Both parties from now on will have to take this growing "party" of unaffiliated Americans into account when crafting their policies. Given the drift to the far left by the Democratic Party, Republicans would seem to have an edge in doing this. It may be a bit late for this election cycle, but they need to win future ones.
Time to start thinking about those who make up more than a third of the electorate. Or be prepared to start losing elections.
Midterm Elections: If you follow the mainstream news, you'd never know it, but the country is much better off today than it was two years ago, when voters elected Donald Trump as president. The proof is in the poll numbers.
Despite the fact that the mainstream media has largely ignored the booming economy, the public hasn't. They are witnessing first hand how their lives have improved in the two years since voters handed Trump the presidency.
The latest IBD/TIPP Poll results show that people are more optimistic about the economy, less financially stressed, less worried about jobs, more satisfied with the direction of the country, and happier with the federal government's economic policies than they were in November 2016. The public also gives Trump higher marks on his handling of the economy than they did President Obama.
IBD/TIPP Poll Results
The nearby chart shows the change in attitudes about all this. It's striking not only because the improvement is across the board, but because it happened in a relatively short time, after years of stagnation.
The average for the IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index under Obama, for example, was 47 (anything under 50 is pessimistic). Even if you just look at his second term — long after the recession was over — the index averaged 47.
Under Trump, it's never been under 50, and has so far averaged 54.1.
None of this was supposed to happen with Trump in the White House, mind you. At least not according his critics. His economic policies were supposed to crater the economy, we were told.
Yet here we are. Clearly better off than we were two years ago.
Dems Won't Admit it
The change in the public's mood would be even more profound if it weren't for the fact that Democrats are so virulently anti-Trump that they refuse to see what's right in front of them.
Take the question of whether the economy is improving or not. Two years ago, 81% of Democrats claimed that it was, despite all the evidence to the contrary. (GDP growth was decelerating, the stock market, wages, jobs were all flat etc.)
In the latest IBD/TIPP poll, however, just 27% of Democrats believe the economy is improving. But 92% of Republicans and 52% of independents now say it's getting better. What can possibly explain the huge gap except abject hatred of Trump?
IBD/TIPP also tracks "job sensitive" homes. In November 2016, 24% of Democrats said that either someone in their household was looking for work or worried about being laid off. Today, with unemployment at decades' long lows, that number has climbed to 31% among Democrats, while it's fallen overall.
It was 35% for Republicans and independents two years ago, but has dropped to 16% and 26%, respectively, now.
IBD/TIPP Poll Approval Rating Gap
Of course, there is one measure that hasn't improved, and that's the president's approval rating.
Two years ago, Obama scored a 53% approval rating. Trump's today is 40%.
Credit for that disparity goes largely to the mainstream media. When not ignoring the economic boom underway and the benefits it's delivering to working class and minorities, they deny Trump any credit for it.
At the same time, the press has flooded the zone for two years with hysterical anti-Trump coverage.
Trump stole the election with the help of the Russians, they said. They called him a dangerous dictator wannabe. Described him as a racist, sexist, fascist and any other "ist" you want to add to the list. He's out of control. Inept. Reckless. His presidency doomed.
True, Trump invites criticism with his tweets and his harsh rhetoric. But the truth is that, with the help of a Republican Congress, he's been delivering on his promise of a stronger and more vibrant economy. That's something Obama never did.
There can be little doubt that if the press treated Trump with even a modicum of fairness, there'd be a national celebration going on about the economy. And no talk of any Blue Wave.
Deplorables Boom: The much-stronger-than-expected jobs report showed once again why presidential promises matter. Under current policies, the so-called deplorables are having their day when it comes to jobs and wages. Wasn't that what Donald Trump promised in 2016?
Yes, October's jobs numbers were real humdingers. Not only did companies hire 250,000 workers, but unemployment remained at 3.7%, a 50-year low, for the second month running. Some 711,000 people rejoined the workforce during the month. The total number of Americans employed, now at 156.562 million, also set another record. And no major industry cut jobs last month. None.
All great news. But what about those that Trump promised in 2016 to "make America great again"? Those in the middle of the country, minorities, factory workers, average people? They're doing perhaps best of all.
Let's look at the numbers. Since Trump gained office, 4.4 million new jobs have been created. A big slice of that came from manufacturing. We were assured by any number of experts in recent years that manufacturing was "dead." But in October some 32,000 new manufacturing jobs were created, for a total of 446,000 since Trump took office.
Boom Times For Factories
If you're a factory worker, these are the best times in years. Indeed, since Trump entered office, 19,000 new factory jobs have been added every month. In the previous four years, the average was 8,000 a month.
Those who earn a weekly paycheck have discovered something unusual. Their pay is actually rising. Weekly earnings during October grew 3.4% from a year earlier, while average hourly earnings increased 3.1%, the fastest since 2009. If you were a production or nonsupervisory worker, your earnings rose even faster, by 3.2%
Teen unemployment has been a chronic problem. But it now stands at just 11.9%. That's the lowest since December of 1969, the year Woodstock took place.
Minority Workers: Record Jobs
OK, but what about minority workers? In October, the unemployment rate for Hispanic-Americans stood at just 4.4%. Go ahead and look back at the records. It's never been that low before.
African-American unemployment, meanwhile, stood at 6.2% for the month — only a few tenths of a percentage point above the all-time low of 5.9% set last May.
Asian-American joblessness remained at an ultralow 3.2%, also near its record low.
How can we keep this Deplorables Boom going? Simple. Make the tax cuts permanent. Keep deregulating the economy. And encourage the Fed not to hit the brakes on interest rates and send the economy into a fatal skid. So easy even Washington can do it.
Midterm Elections: As people go to vote on Tuesday, they will be counting on the system working properly. Which means only those eligible to vote will do so. Unfortunately, as recent cases show, that's not always the case.
Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton decided to crack down on voter fraud before the midterm elections. So far, he's prosecuted 33 people for 97 counts of voter fraud this year alone. Among the discoveries was a voter fraud ring that had received financial support from the former head of the Texas Democratic Party.
Pennsylvania let thousands of noncitizens register to vote, many of whom have since voted, according to reporter John Fund, who has been following this issue for years.
The Heritage Foundation has a database that now includes 1,165 cases of election fraud across 47 states. More than 1,000 of them resulted in criminal convictions.
Yet there are those — mostly Democrats and mainstream journalists — who continue to insist that voter fraud is a myth. The New York Times' Glenn Thrush once declared, for example, that "there is essentially no voter fraud in this country."
When shown concrete examples, the response is usually "well, it's not widespread."
But that reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of elections. You don't need "widespread" voter fraud to change election outcomes, just small-scale efforts targeted on tight or consequential elections.
Solutions Are Simple
The fact is that committing voter fraud isn't all that difficult, but minimizing it is easy. Cleaning up registration rolls, enacting voter ID requirements, using paper ballots, and implementing better controls on early and absentee voting would make non-citizen voting and other forms of fraud virtually impossible.
Critics of such efforts say that they will only serve to suppress the vote of minorities and the poor — that is, voters who tend to vote Democratic. They want to make it easier and easier to register and vote.
But there's no evidence that voter ID laws suppress turnout. In fact, of 11 states that adopted strict voter ID laws, nine either saw increased turnout in 2016, or had turnout rates higher than the national average, the Heritage Foundation notes.
Nor does cleaning up registration rolls, aggressively pursuing voter fraud cases, using paper ballots, or other measures to ensure the integrity of the ballot suppress legitimate voters.
Those who say voter fraud is no big deal should realize something. Every single vote cast fraudulently cancels out one legitimate vote. They need to ask themselves how they'd feel if it was their vote being canceled.
Wage Growth: For years we've heard non-existent wage growth would be the new normal. It became a prominent feature of the economic landscape during the Obama years. Workers were becoming superfluous, we were told. Now unemployment is near 50-year lows and wages are rising quickly. It isn't a fluke or an accident. It's a result of policies that worked as intended.
This week, we found out that in September total compensation for private-sector workers rose 2.9% from a year earlier, before accounting for inflation. That's the fastest pace since late 2009.
If you count just wages and salaries, and exclude benefits, workers' pay is up 3.1% from a year earlier, the fastest since 2008. Since consumer prices rose 2.3% year over year, that means many workers are getting ahead of the cost of living for the first time in years.
Meanwhile, Sentier Research reported that median annual household income grew 3.7% in September from a year earlier, to a new record high of $63,007.
Many in the media and on Wall Street attribute this to the "tight labor market" or some such platitude. While that's in part true, it goes beyond that.
Wages And Productivity
Because, at the same time the wage data came out, another equally telling report emerged: Productivity. It showed that productivity grew 2.2% in the third quarter, after jumping 3% in the second quarter. That was the fastest burst of productivity growth in four years.
By comparison, since World War II, productivity has grown by an average of about 2% a year. It was why the American economy performed so well during that time. But since the end of the Internet boom in 2000, productivity has slowed to about 1% or so.
It's no accident productivity has "unexpectedly" turned around. And if you were looking for proof that Trumponomics is working, the recent productivity data provided it.
Productivity typically begins rising when businesses invest in new equipment and training for their workers, in pursuit of new products, new markets, new innovations. Productivity, as the cliche goes, is the secret sauce of all successful economies.
And productivity is the real reason why workers are getting wage hikes. Trained workers are worth more in our new, fast-growth economy.
But beyond even that, as economists will tell you, the rate of growth of productivity, the rate of growth of business investment and the rate of growth of your labor force essentially define the speed limit of your economy. All three are rising right now.
Wages Under Obama
During the Obama years, labor force growth slowed to well below 1% a year, while productivity grew at just 1%. Wage growth was exceedingly slow. These alone explain why the economy never managed 3% growth in any year during Obama's time in office.
"Under President Obama, the growth in the labor force ... slowed dramatically to less than half the rate of the previous four presidencies," as Real Clear Markets described the Obama record in early 2017, as his second term ended. "The labor-force participation rate has dropped to its lowest level in decades, 62.8% compared to a peak of 67.1% in the late 1990s."
Why did this happen? High taxes, excessive regulation, ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, wasteful "stimulus," and a host of other misbegotten policies that sped up departures from the labor force and curbed business investment.
The declining labor participation rate, in particular, hurt. Labor force growth during the Obama era was a meager 0.4% a year. At the same time, productivity grew less than 1% a year. Meanwhile, as the New York Times recently admitted, an "invisible" recession in business investment hit the economy in 2014 and lasted until 2016.
That's why wages are rising again. Merely saying wages are rising due to "tight labor markets" doesn't tell you what's really happening.
How much do Trump's policies matter in all this? As he entered office in January of 2017, the Congressional Budget Office forecast 2018 growth would be just 2%. After Trump's regulatory rollback began, the CBO upped its estimate to 2.2%. Then came the tax cuts, and CBO boosted its estimate to 3%.
So far, the economy's growing even faster than that. It's an old lesson: Policies matter. And good policies — supply-side policies that boost jobs, wages and output — matter most of all.
Midterm Elections: President Reagan won a landslide election in 1980 when he asked voters a simple question: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" Voters knew they weren't. Midterm voters should be asking themselves that same question now, before casting their ballots next Tuesday. Only this time, the answer is yes.
The latest evidence: The Labor Department reported this week that private sector wages and salaries rose 3.1% in the third quarter of this year, compared with last year. Total compensation, which includes things like health benefits, climbed 2.9%. Both growth rates are significantly faster than two years ago.
This was just the latest spate of good economic news. But there is plenty more. In fact, by almost any measure, the country is much better off than it was in November 2016.
Here's a rundown:
In the first three quarters of 2016, quarterly GDP growth was an anemic 1.5%, 2.3% and 1.9%. This year, quarterly GDP growth has been a far more robust 2.2%, 4.2% and 3.5%.
Jobs and Unemployment
There are 4.3 million more private sector jobs than there were two years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are 1.8 million fewer unemployed. The unemployment rate is now 3.7%, down from 4.9% — where it had been stuck throughout 2016.
Among blacks, the unemployment rate dropped from 8.3% to 6%, and among Hispanics it's now 4.5%. It was 5.7% two years ago.
The average time people are unemployed is now 24 weeks, down from 27 weeks just before the 2016 elections.
Take-home pay for most people is higher today than it was two years ago, for the simple reason that Republicans cut income taxes. Those savings started showing up when the new withholding schedules went into effect in February.
And, after stagnating for all 2016, median household incomes started to steadily rise. As a result, median household income today is 4% higher than it was in November 2016 — after adjusting for inflation — according to Sentier Research.
At $63,007, median household income is at all-time highs.
Even with the recent volatility in the stock market, the Dow is up by almost 42% since early November 2016.
The broader S&P 500 index is up 31%. And the Nasdaq Composite index is up 47%.
People are also far more optimistic today than they were two years ago. The Consumer Confidence Index was at 98.6 just before the 2016 elections.
Today, it stands at 137.9. To put that in perspective, this index was at 100 in 1985 — the year after Reagan won his landslide re-election.
In other words, the public is 12% more optimistic about the economy and 14% less stressed about their personal finances than they were two years ago.
Business optimism is also far higher today than it was two years ago.
Despite Democrats' attacks on Republicans over health care, the fact is that those enrolling in ObamaCare right now are better off than they were in November 2016.
Two years ago, enrollees faced average premium increases of 25% and declining choices. This year, the average premium is down by 1.5% — the first time that's ever happened under ObamaCare.
What's more, individuals in some states have a new low-cost option that they didn't have two years ago — short-term insurance plans that last a year. These plans don't have to comply with ObamaCare's myriad benefit mandates and rating regulations. As a result, they're far cheaper.
This strong, across-the-board economic progress was not accidental — nor was it inevitable, as Obama would have voters believe.
As we've noted in this space many times, after eight years of underwhelming growth, the economy was stagnating when Trump took office. Wages, unemployment, stocks, household incomes all flatlined that year. And GDP growth was decelerating.
Why Are You Better Off?
The turnaround under Trump was not only unexpected, but deemed impossible by Democrats, who were trying to convince the public that 2% growth was the best this country could do.
Yet despite the improvements, there's no guarantee this growth will continue, especially if Democrats win control of Congress and are able to thwart Trump's pro-growth economic policies going forward.
There are already some signs of weakness, such as the data from outplacement firm Challenger Gray and Christmas showing a spike in the number of job cuts announced last month.
Democrats want the midterm elections to be a referendum on President Trump.
We hope it is.
Because if voters are honest with themselves, they'll realize that Trump and the GOP are delivering for the country, just as they promised.
Editor's note: The editorial was updated to correct the year President Reagan asked "are you better off." It was when he ran for president in 1980, not for reelection in 1984.
Birthright Citizenship: President Trump's comment that he might end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal aliens certainly deserves both political and legal debate over its merits. What it doesn't deserve is another shrill, nonstop "Trump is Hitler" attack by far-left Democrats and the media.
"We're the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States...with all of those benefits," Trump said, in his usual blunt way. "It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. And it has to end."
This, as with virtually all Trump comments, has been met with slack-jawed incredulity by some, apoplectic rage by others, as if nothing the president ever says could possibly be true or valid. And to prove it, for merely trying to protect U.S. citizenship rights, they're again calling Trump a "fascist," likening him to Hitler and talking about impeachment.
This script is getting old.
It's true that 30 countries in our hemisphere offer something like birthright citizenship. But almost no European countries do. Are they fascist, too?
Birthright Citizenship: The Lure Of U.S.
The U.S., as the wealthiest country in the world, is a magnet for those bold enough to get here — even if it means breaking the law. It's tough to blame them. They do it so their kids can have perhaps the greatest gift a person can have, other than good health: American citizenship.
It comes with all sorts of protections and benefits, from generous welfare and use of our extensive infrastructure, to the world's finest health care facilities and well-funded schools. And it also means rule of law, due process and the protection of the world's greatest legal document: The U.S. Constitution.
Coming to America is so appealing, indeed, that we have a problem. And no, it's not just Central Americans or Mexicans. In California, for instance, a big industry has sprung up for well-heeled Asians, mostly Chinese, who come for "birth tourism." Here's how it works. They come pregnant, stay for a month or two, give birth at a local hospital, and depart with a newly minted U.S. citizen in their family.
You can't blame any of the people for doing this, because we do nothing to stop it.
As one irate, far-right politician put it, "If making it easy to be an illegal alien isn't enough, how about offering a reward for being an illegal immigrant? No sane country would do that, right? Guess again."
OK, it wasn't a far-right politician. It was far-left former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, speaking in 1993.
Birthright Citizenship: Breaking Law
The point is, of course, that the idea that you can break the law and get a huge reward without any chance of punishment is plainly stupid. Those who oppose changing the status-quo suggest that Trump, who says he wants to issue an executive order to end birthright citizenship, would be acting unconstitutionally.
After all, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution clearly establishes birthright citizenship as the law of the land. Right?
Not so fast.
The 14th Amendment came about as a result of the Civil War. America's slaves needed to have not just their freedom, but citizenship, too. So the 14th Amendment conferred citizenship on former slaves and their children. It also gave citizenship to the first inhabitants of our continent. In one magnificent swoop, "natives" and former slaves both became Americans.
Question Of Jurisdiction
The intent has never been to make citizens of anyone who manages to get here, legally or not. The law even said so, saying that those who received citizenship had to be "completely subject to their political jurisdiction, and owing them direct and immediate allegiance."
Someone who comes here illegally cannot claim either of those things, for they are neither "subject" to any political jurisdictions here nor do they "owe" allegiance to them.
As Daniel Horowitz recently noted, the only legal justification for granting citizenship to illegals comes in a footnote to the Supreme Court's Plylor V. Doe decision. In it, ultra-liberal Justice William Brennan claimed that illegal aliens had a right to claim jurisdiction under U.S. law. But it's never really been decided as a separate issue by the Supreme Court.
So on strictly constructed constitutional grounds, Trump is right. Whether you hate him or not.
Of course, the counter-argument to that is: We have allowed this system to go on for so long without direct challenge it now has the force of law. That is a legitimate legal argument. It deserves serious consideration, either by Congress or the courts.
Birthright Citizenship Executive Order?
And that's our point. As bad as we think birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants is, any decision should be a matter of law and democratic process, not of screaming and name-calling. We have a Congress. We have a court system. The president has, in effect, challenged them to do their job. So they should do it.
Media Bias: There have been two major acts of political violence over the past year and half. One by an ardent supporter of President Trump. The other by an ardent supporter of Bernie Sanders. How the press covered these two stories tells you all you need to know about media bias.
In June 2017, James Hodgkinson fired more than 60 rifle shots at a group of Republican lawmakers and staffers who were practicing for an annual charity baseball game. Hodgkinson hit four people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.
While the other injuries weren't life threatening, Scalise nearly died. He spent more than a month in the hospital, underwent several surgeries, and required intensive rehabilitation.
Political Violence On The Left
Hodgkinson, it turns out, had been a volunteer for Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, and had a deep hatred for Republicans. In one social media post, he said "Terminate the Republican Party."
Had Hodgkinson been a better shot, he would have assassinated several of them.
Yet the coverage of the shooting barely mentioned Hodgkinson's political leanings or his connection to the firebrand Sanders.
An analysis of news stories by Real Clear Politics' Kalev Leetaru showed that a mere 30% of the stories even mentioned Sanders' name in their coverage. And that share immediately started to drop as the days went on. ( You can read his excellent analysishere.)
None tried to pin blame for the shooting on Sanders' rhetoric, although a case could be made for one. Weeks before the shooting, Sanders declared that a Republican health reform plan would kill thousands of people. Hodgkinson reportedly shouted "This is for health care!" when firing his rifle.
Nor did the mainstream press do any hand wringing about the violent rhetoric pouring forth from liberals against Trump and other Republicans — before and immediately after the shooting.
Indeed, the press' awareness of Scalise's shooting, and the motives behind it, are so dim that a prominent CNN host actually said with a straight face this week that "I don't see Democrats killing people" over politics.
Political Violence On The Right
Now contrast the Scalise shooting with the pipe bomber. Not one person was injured by the devices, several of which at least weren't capable of exploding. It's still not clear what Cesar Sayoc's motive was — whether he intended injury or simply wanted to scare people. (After being arrested, Sayoc said he didn't intend to hurt anyone.)
Yet, even before anyone knew who was sending the devices — and before most of the mailings had turned up — the press immediately started to connect the bomber with Trump.
As Leetaru at Real Clear Politics notes, "before any information was known about the bomber's identity, nearly 70% of the coverage of the bombs mentioned Trump. By Sunday, nearly 80% of the coverage associated the bomber with Trump."
Even now, the press continues to claim that Trump's rhetoric is at fault not only for the mail bomber, but for the murder of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue by a shooter who hated Trump.
And when Trump complained about the disparity in how the mainstream press covered the two, they dismissed it out of hand …. without checking the record.
Biased Coverage Of Political Violence
So, to sum up:
When a Sanders' supporter acts with clear intent to murder Republicans and nearly succeeds, the press ignores any connection to liberal politicians, or the left's violent rhetoric.
When a Trump supporter, whose intentions are still not clear, targets Democrats with faulty pipe bombs that injure no one, the press spends weeks blaming Trump and Republicans for the tone of their rhetoric.
It's not often that you have an opportunity to test media bias. But these two terrible acts of political violence provide one. And the mainstream press flunked the test. Badly.
Election 2018: Every day in the run-up to the midterm elections, the mainstream news peddles the same message: Republicans are extremists. But look at the data, and you see that it's Democrats who are increasingly well outside the mainstream.
Writing in New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait had this to say about the Republican party: "Everything that was terrible about the party that nominated Trump is significantly, terrifyingly worse today. Even more distressing: It is likely to lurch further rightward regardless of the outcome of the elections."
As a mainstream journalist, Chait is hardly saying anything unusual about Republicans. Day after day, the mainstream press files stories describing Republicans as fascists, sexists, racists, anti-Semites, etc.
Here's a tiny sampling of recent headlines: "How Republican Extremism Became Normalized." "Yes, the Republican Party Has Become Pathological." "Why Are Republicans Promoting Ultra-Right Extremism." "The Proud Boys, the GOP, and 'The Fascist Creep.' "
What evidence is there of this, other than President Trump's often abrasive rhetoric, and the actions of a few crazed lunatics?
Trump's agenda so far has been mainstream conservative — tax cuts, deregulation, strong defense, secure national borders. (President Clinton said similar things about illegal immigrants and border security when he was president.)
Where Trump has strayed from conservative orthodoxy, it's tended to be toward the left — witness his efforts to force down drug prices and his rhetoric on trade.
But survey data show fairly conclusively that when it comes the ideology of each party, it's Democrats who have been moving to the fringe.
A Pew Research Center report out last year, for example, showed that while the Republican views shifted slightly to the right from 1994 to 2017, Democrats had moved far to the left. Nearby is the table we ran when that report came out.
A Gallup poll from 2015 pointed to the same trend. It found that Democrats had become far more liberal over the previous 15 years. Republicans hadn't changed in their views much. In fact, they had moved leftward on some social issues.
This year, the Democratic field is full of self-declared socialists. And the Democratic party has embraced a radical agenda of socialized health care — via the artfully named "Medicare for all" — free college, a doubling of the federal minimum wage, "guaranteed" federal jobs, eliminating ICE, a government takeover of corporate boards, and so on.
Prominent liberals routinely say the most incredibly extremist things, without anyone batting an eye.
Case in point is actor James Cromwell, who recently promised violence if Republicans retained control of Congress.
"If we don't stop (President Trump) now, then we will have a revolution for real," he said at an awards ceremony this week. "Then there will be blood in the streets."
You'll try in vain to find any Democrat who — after lecturing the public on the dangers of Trump's word choices — has denounced Cromwell's rhetoric.
Despite journalists' endless efforts to portray Democrats as reasonable, mainstream moderates, the public is getting wise to their increasingly extremist views.
This summer, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that just 33% think Democrats are mainstream today, while 56% say they're out of step. Just two years before, 48% said Dems were mainstream, and only 42% said they were out of step.
So please, enough about how extremism can only be found among Republicans.
Election 2018: Next week, voters in five states will decide whether they want to raise their own taxes, kill jobs and lower their standards of living. All in a fanciful effort to stop "global warming." They'd be better off letting the free market do the work.
Washington, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado all have global-warming ballot initiatives, each heavily financed by environmental activists. New Mexico voters will decide whether to elect a powerful land commissioner who promises stiff curbs on emissions.
None of these will make any difference in the global climate. But they will cost their residents dearly.
In Washington, voters will decide whether to be the first state to impose a carbon tax. Initiative 1631 would slap a $15 tax on each ton of CO2 emissions starting in 2020. That would climb by $2 every year after that.
Tax On Everything
This tax will hit everything, from gasoline prices (up by as much as 59 cents a gallon) to electricity bills to everyday household goods. That translates into hundreds of dollars a year for a typical household right out of the gate, with costs climbing to nearly $1,000 a year by 2035.
An analysis by the National Economic Research Associates also found that the tax would cut the state's growth by 0.4% in the first two years.
Even more absurd than the tax hit, however, is the fact that the initiative includes numerous exemptions — such as on aluminum production and fuel bought by government.
Talk about pointless. The U.N. says that the entire world would have to slap carbon taxes of up to $5,500 per ton to avoid a supposed climate-change catastrophe. Washington state's action will only hurt Washington residents.
In other words, Washington's tax amounts to nothing more than very expensive virtue-signaling.
Costly Renewable Mandates
Voters in both Arizona and Nevada, meanwhile, will decide whether to boost their mandates on renewable energy. Both initiatives would force utilities to get half of their electricity from renewables like wind and solar by 2030 — less than 12 years from now.
Moore notes that a Manhattan Institute study found that eight of the 10 states with the highest electric bills had renewable-energy mandates. "We are talking about hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars of higher costs every year to homeowners," he says.
And because energy costs represent a bigger share of the budgets of lower-income families, these hikes end up being regressive taxes. The impact on global warming? Less than negligible.
Limits On Fracking
Over in Colorado, voters will have the chance to severely limit the ability of oil and gas companies to extract energy in the state using the state-of-the-art drilling technology known as fracking.
Initiative 97 would ban oil and gas wells within 2,500 feet of homes, businesses and protected lands. That would effectively ban drilling in about 85% of the state.
This is a particularly ludicrous effort since fracking is responsible for a significant decrease in CO2 emissions over the past decade.
The fracking revolution opened vast supplies of natural gas to drillers, which sharply lowered natural gas prices. That, in turn, made natural gas (which emits less CO2) more competitive than coal (which emits more). As utilities switched, CO2 emissions dropped.
Banning or limiting fracking will make such gains more difficult.
Cutting Methane Emissions
Meanwhile, New Mexico voters will be picking the next powerful public lands commissioner. As the New York Times notes, "at stake is a job with the authority to regulate the emissions of methane."
The Democrat running for this job, Stephanie Garcia Richard, has promised to cut down on methane emissions. Since the state owns nine million acres of land, a crackdown on methane leaks from oil and gas operations there has the potential to severely hamper the industry, along with the well-paying jobs that go with it.
But methane emissions in the state have been dropping on their own. That's thanks to industry-driven advances in the technology. In 2017 alone, emissions dropped by more than 50%.
Forcing still deeper cuts in methane emissions will likely cost the industry — and the state's economy — plenty, but will do nothing to change the global climate.
Voters in these states should know that while they're deciding whether to impose these costs on themselves, the free market has been making huge inroads in cutting CO2 emissions, without any carbon taxes, mandates or Paris climate accords.
A Better Way
The Energy Information Administration reports that CO2 emissions from electric utilities has dropped so much in recent years that they're now lower than they've been in more than 30 years.
EIA data show that the decline is due not only to fracking. It also the result of increased economic efficiency.
This increased efficiency, mind you, has little or nothing to do with federal regulations or mandates. It is the result of the relentless pressure a competitive free market puts on companies to wring out every ounce of waste and inefficiency.
Next week, voters in these five states will have a unique opportunity to send a loud message to the rest of the country. Namely, that they aren't buying the global-warming hysteria.
Immigration: The so-called migrant caravan that's slowly making its way to the U.S. from Central America is many things to many people. But one thing seems pretty certain: it's not about seeking "asylum," or "refugee status." It's about getting to the United States at all costs.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Sunday was blunt. She said the caravan wending its way through Mexico to the U.S. is " not getting in."
"There a legal way to get into this country," she told Fox New Sunday. "Those who choose to enter illegally will be stopped."
Even so, thousands continue on their way. They know from their fellow Central Americans or from their own experience that the U.S. is notoriously lax about its border controls. It does next to nothing once you get here. Even those who are caught entering illegally get a legal slap on the wrist and an order to return to court for a deportation hearing. The vast majority never show up. We do nothing.
Americans are, perhaps understandably, squeamish about all this. After all, what other nation has ever described itself as a "nation of immigrants" with such obvious pride? To push back a group of thousands who seek come here doesn't feel right for some.
But it should.
Caravan Of Chaos
First is the ineluctable fact that a country that doesn't protect its borders isn't a country at all. We've said this many times before, but it bears repeating. Countries that can't defend borders cease to exist, at least in any meaningful sense.
Second, the people coming here are being abetted by outside money and aid to create an embarrassing spectacle on our border right as our midterm elections hit. Can there really be any other reason for the timing of this mass migration?
The offer shows Mexico is at least trying to help the U.S. to end this political travesty. Not only did Mexico's government offer the migrants asylum in a country that speaks their language. It also offered them a host of benefits, including temporary ID cards, work permits, medical care, schooling and local housing. Only 23% took them up.
No, as repeated comments from caravan participants show, the U.S. is the promised land. It has more jobs, bigger welfare checks, and massive illegal communities just waiting to welcome the newcomers. The idea that this is about leaving political repression and gang violence doesn't wash.
So why do they keep going on their arduous trip? Obviously, they're being aided. Vice President Pence said that Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez told him that the caravan had been "organized by leftist organizations and financed by Venezuela."
Meanwhile, the U.N. is committing resources to the caravan. In essence, it uses U.S. taxpayers' money to fund a violation of their own border. That way, the U.S. can join all the other countries with a mass immigration problem.
As the UN News service reported, "A priority for UNHCR (the UN's refugee agency), which has mobilized extra staff and resources to help . Those making the journey in Mexico's southern borderlands, is ensuring migrants are informed on their rights to asylum. In an agency video, a UNHCR protection associate said many migrants were simply unaware asylum was an option."
In other words, the U.N. has set up shop in Mexico and is pushing these migrants to go to the U.S. Once again, the U.N. violates a member nation's right to protect its own borders. Fortunately, President Trump is having none of it. He'll send 5,200 troops to the border to stop the influx.
For those who have suggested Trump's move is illegal under the "Posse Comitatus" Act of 1878, they're wrong. That law's letter and intent was to keep the U.S. from using federal military troops against its own citizens. No one intended for this law to force our borders open to those who would violate our sovereignty.
Media's Misleading Narrative
By the way, the media's non-stop focus on the families with children, while some of their stories are heartbreaking, is deceptive. As photos of the march clearly show, the bulk of the "asylum seekers" are young, working-age men. They're not seeking "asylum." They're seeking jobs. And an unknown number are criminals, including murderous MS-13 thugs.
This is not a human rights issue. All of those who wish to can already apply for asylum or visas or residence. No one will stop them. We're pro-immigration — pro-legal-immigration. But people may not enter the country illegally. That's a matter of the law.
It's time we take our border seriously, or we'll end up like those countries in Europe and the Mideast who find their nations no longer governable. Any president has as one of his main jobs to protect our border. President Trump is doing just that. As he should.
Health Reform: The American people may not believe that Barack Obama deserves credit for the current economy, but they do say he's largely responsible for the state of health care, thanks to ObamaCare. It's not a compliment.
Fifty-six percent of the public says that Obama is "most responsible for the current state of the U.S. health care system," according to the latest Morning Consult/Politico survey. That's up from the 44% who said Obama was most responsible in March. Fewer than a quarter (24%) say Trump is most responsible, which is down from 28% in March.
So, what is the "current state of the U.S. health care system"? Not good. And the public is right to pin the blame on Obama.
Unaffordable Health Care
Despite its official title — the " Affordable Care Act" — ObamaCare caused premiums in the individual insurance market to more than double since it went into effect in 2014. The result has been to price millions of middle-class families who aren't eligible for ObamaCare subsidies out of the insurance market altogether.
In fact, enrollment among this group dropped 10% from 2016 to 2017, while enrollment among those eligible for subsidies remained steady, official government data show. In short, as ObamaCare pushed premiums ever upward, individual insurance increasingly became affordable only to those eligible for subsidies.
Even those covered by ObamaCare plans often find health care unaffordable, thanks to the huge deductibles and extremely limited provider networks that typically come with those plans. Nor did ObamaCare do anything to lower employer premiums. They're up some $6,000 since 2010, despite Obama's repeated promise that his plan would cut them by $2,500.
What's more, all the gains in insurance coverage came from ObamaCare's vast expansion of Medicaid. Not its insurance market "reforms." Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that the share of working-age people covered by private insurance went from 71% in 2005 to 69.3% last year. The share covered by government programs, in contrast, went from 11.5% in 2005 to 19.3% last year.
So, in addition to jacking up premiums, ObamaCare vastly increased dependency on government.
Obama And Doctor Shortages
You can also thank Obama for the fact that doctors are increasingly in short supply.
A survey by the Doctors Co. found that more than half of physicians say they plan to retire next year. Fully 70% wouldn't recommend becoming a doctor to students.
One of the biggest factors driving rampant doctor dissatisfaction? Obama's mandate that they adopt "electronic health records." Obama said this would lower costs, increase efficiency and improve quality of care.
It's done none of those things.
The Physicians Foundation survey found that more than half of the nearly 9,000 doctors surveyed say the EHR requirement has made them less efficient, and two-thirds say it's cut the amount of time they spend with patients.
A study published in Health Affairs found that the mandate costs doctors $15 billion a year in compliance costs.
Misinformed On Health Care
Given all this, why do Democrats feel they have the advantage when it comes to health care? Why aren't they running scared on the issue, after their plan to fix health care with more government mandates, regulations, subsidies and controls horribly backfired?
Instead, they're spending a fortune advertising it, and the press reports that health care has become the Democrats' "closing argument" for the midterm elections next week.
We can think of only two reasons. One, the mainstream news media has horribly misinformed the public about the issue to help Democrats win elections. And two, Republicans badly bungled the health care issue when they failed to make the case for repealing ObamaCare and replacing it with free-market forms.
We can only hope that the Morning Consult poll is an indication that the public is starting to understand who's really to blame for the current health care mess.
Zero Sense: General Motors has given up on the free market. It now wants the federal government to force electric cars on the market and taxpayers to heavily subsidize them. GM ( GM) should focus more on improving reliability than pleasing environmentalists.
In an op-ed published by USA Today, CEO Mary Barra says the federal government should impose a "National Zero Emissions Vehicle" program that will "move our country faster to an all-electric zero emissions future."
The program, as envisioned by GM, would basically take California's electric car mandate nationwide. It would require 7% of new cars sold to be electric in 2021 — less than three years from now. GM wants the mandate to increase each year, until it hits 25% by 2030.
As in California, carmakers would get credits for each EV car sold, and could buy and sell them with other automakers.
Barra also wants Congress to renew and expand the $7,500 refundable tax credit given to electric car buyers. Taxpayers have already forked over nearly $5 billion to subsidize the (mostly wealthy) electric car buyers. The credit is supposed to phase out once a carmaker sells 200,000 plug ins.
Barra says stopping the taxpayer subsidies "will stifle growth."
In other words, Barra is flat out admitting that without federal mandates and massive tax subsidies, electric cars don't have much of a future. Environmentalists might love them, but consumers clearly don't.
And for good reason. As it stands, plug-ins are expensive and have a limited utility. They serve a niche market.
The tiny Chevy Bolt lists at $37,000, and can go only about 238 miles before requiring a 9-hour recharge. In the first nine months of this year, GM sold a total of 11,807 Bolts, which is down from last year. The company sold four times as many gas-guzzling Silverado trucks in one month.
Few Plug-In Sales
Overall, electric car sales accounted for just 1.5% of total car sales in the first half of this year, despite getting huge federal tax credits and additional credits available in many states.
By pushing this electric car mandate, GM is also selling the fiction that plug-in cars are "zero emissions." They're not.
Of the 29 brands Consumer Reports ranked for reliability, not one of GM's finished above 19th place. GM's luxury Cadillac brand finished second to last.
GM might want to spend less time and energy trying to appease the car-hating environmentalist lobby, and more time building better cars. And then let customers, not the federal government, decide what kind of car to buy.
Economy: As of right now, there are two different views of the economy: The stock market view, which for now is bearish, and the GDP view, which is bullish. Which one is right? And which one will the Federal Reserve believe?
Stocks have been in a tailspin since early October. The Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index, which includes more than 3,700 stocks, has fallen by nearly 10% since the start of October — a net loss of $3 trillion in market value. It's a big hit for the economy to sustain.
OK, but what about GDP? The nation's output of goods and services rose at a yearly 3.5% rate in the third quarter, beating expectations for 3.3% growth by most Wall Street economists, after rising 4.2% in the second quarter. More than three fourths of the GDP growth came from one sector: personal consumption. That's being driven by a 4.1% jump in personal disposable income, fueled by this year's bonuses, raises and fatter paychecks following the Trump tax cuts.
Even better, the GDP price deflator — the broadest measure of inflation — rose at an annual rate of just 1.6% in the third quarter. So from an economic standpoint, we have the best of all possible worlds: Fast growth and low inflation.
The message couldn't be more mixed. The market and economy appear to be in a tug of war over the future. The outlook is further clouded by the fact that no one knows how the midterm elections will turn out, or what President Donald Trump will do on tariffs, tax cuts and more deregulation.
Even so, despite troubling signs from the stock market's drop and further indications that inflation is a non-issue, many expect the Fed to continue its recent interest rate hikes. Since late 2016, following Trump's presidential victory, rates have been raised seven times in quarter-point increments, rising from 0.5% in December 2016 to 2.25% now. Most Fed watchers agree that the central bank will push up rates another quarter point in December, to achieve the "neutral" rate of 3%.
Fed: What Is 'Neutral'?
In a normal economy with unemployment at 3.7% and the economy growing faster than 3%, you might expect the Fed to hike rates. But this is no normal economy. Eight years of subpar growth under President Obama, who never had a full year of 3% growth, left parts of the economy damaged. Will the Fed go too far?
"I am confident that the FOMC would resolutely 'do whatever it takes' should inflation expectations drift materially up or down or should crisis again threaten," Powell said.
Has he learned from the Fed's mistakes in the 1970s, the late 1990s and the early 2000s? We hope so. We don't know that 3% is the "neutral" Fed funds rate. But neither does the Fed. It's a hypothetical number. So, as we approach December, the Fed should exercise some rate-hike caution. All it takes is one Fed misstep, a rate hike too far, and it won't just be the stock market falling.
Deregulation: Quietly this week, the U.S. passed an aviation milestone: the 40th anniversary of the airline industry's deregulation. In 1978, it led to a momentous restructuring of the industry and, despite romantic paeans to the lost "golden age" of air travel, represented a vast improvement for most Americans.
Americans often express mixed feelings about today's airlines, with their missed schedules, small seats, extra charges, missing meals, and nearly nonexistent service. These are legitimate complaints, but in fact are really about individual airlines. Deregulation didn't cause these problems; they're management issues and failures.
The truth is, when it comes to the flying public, airline deregulation was a major win. Before deregulation, airlines charged those who flew a take-it-or-leave-it price for an airline ticket. Flying was outrageously expensive on some routes. You had no choice. Pay up, or drive. Or take a slow train. Or a bus.
So was airline deregulation a success? Marc Scribner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in a blog post, argues the answer is yes. The data are convincing.
A Nation Of Fliers
"Since (deregulation), U.S. airline passenger volumes have increased by 210% — from about 250 million in 1978 to 850 million in 2017 — while average inflation-adjusted airfares have fallen by more than 40%. Formerly a luxury for the wealthy, air travel has become democratized so that nearly 90% of Americans have flown in their lifetimes and nearly 50% last year."
Some lament the demise of small and mid-sized airports following deregulation. And they lament the end of the pre-deregulation era, when, because ticket prices were so high, airlines competed intensely on service and food. Flying was a special experience, and those who flew often wore formal clothing — suits and ties for men, dresses and jewelry for women. No pajamas allowed, unlike today.
But bewailing the end to that is foolish. The fact is, few people flew. So for most people, service and style issues were irrelevant. They just didn't fly. It was too expensive.
As for deregulation killing off small airports and the airlines that serviced them, those who complain forget: Those airports never generated enough traffic to justify their costs. They were subsidized. Just as every town doesn't need a train station, not every town needs a commercial airport.
It's grossly unfair to lay all of the airline industry's sins and faults at the door of deregulation. The industry is capital-intensive, which means to stay in business companies have to keep prices competitive, trim operating costs where possible, and attract enough flying customers to cover their huge fixed costs. The end of government price controls meant airlines had to actually serve the American people — not just wealthy travelers — to stay in business.
There were other objections to deregulation, of course. One of the earliest and most powerful was that it would ultimately lead to less-safe flying as airlines cut costs to the bone. Except, it didn't happen. Quite the contrary.
As the Reason Foundation's Robert W. Poole, a longtime champion of airline deregulation, wrote earlier this year: "According to figures from the National Transportation Safety Board, there were 2.1 fatal accidents per million departures in the 1950s, which decreased to 0.88 per million in the 1970s. During the first decade of deregulation, the 1980s, the rate fell by half to 0.46, and we've averaged just 0.12 in the 2000s. Even more impressive, from 2010 through 2017 there were zero fatal accidents in the United States on U.S. scheduled airlines."
So the rate of airline fatalities fell 86% from the pre-deregulation 1970s to the post-deregulation 2000s, and, arguably, fell even greater in just the past few years.
Deregulation, it can be said, saved thousands of lives — a fact often ignored in the debate.
People also often complain about things like baggage charges, and having to pay for meals and other services. But why should anyone get a meal or anything else paid for by everyone else?
And the great variable cost for operating a jet is the weight it carries. Again, why shouldn't someone who brings on 150 pounds of luggage pay more than someone who brings on just 20 pounds?
Deregulation: Boon, Not Bane
The truth is, deregulation didn't ruin the industry. It created a new airline industry, one far more in tune with average Americans and their needs. It democratized flying, making it possible for most Americans to take vacations to exotic locales, to fly on business, or to just visit relatives in another part of the country.
Maybe you recognize the picture of the man that accompanies this editorial. His name is Alfred Kahn. As an economist and head of CAB in the late 1970s, Kahn was the guiding force behind the deregulation of airlines. As much as anyone, including ardent deregulation advocate Milton Friedman, he's the godfather of deregulation — the reason why millions of Americans today can afford to fly for weekend getaways, or for quick business trips, or for lengthy vacations to Europe, Latin America, Asia or Africa.
Before deregulation, such travel was once out of the question for most Americans. Not anymore. Today it's routine. So thank Kahn, Friedman, and the other deregulators. Flying is cheaper, safer and more convenient today than before. More people fly than ever. And you don't even have to wear a tie or a dress.
Hypocrisy Watch: "The Hate Flows Down" reads the screaming headline on the Huffington Post front page. The story, of course, is how President Donald Trump is responsible for what appear to be explosive devices sent to liberals and prominent Democrats. Who is the HuffPost to complain? Every day their front page is rife with violent and hateful rhetoric — all directed, of course, at Republicans.
We looked at the front page of the HuffPost over the past few days, and here's a sampling of the verbs the site's headline writers chose for stories critical of Republicans:
Brutally shuts down
And when not consulting its dictionary of violent verbs, HuffPost routinely mocks Republicans, links them with fascists, and otherwise demonizes them.
One recent headline declared that "Elite GOP Get Cozy With Fascists."
Another declared that "GOP Rep Goes Full Racist."
Yet another claimed, based on the flimsiest possible "evidence," that "Ron DeSantis Rose By Trafficking In Racist, Islamophobic Conspiracy Theories." (One example of DeSantis' supposed racism is that he said the country's founders weren't racists.)
The Trump family is another favorite target of abuse. One recent headline: "Ivanka tweet 'goes hilariously awry' "
No Shades of Gray
And on every issue, there are no shades of gray. Republicans are always cast as liars, cheats, schemers. Democrats — especially the far left ones — are always the heroes.
A story about health care claims: "GOP Lies About Pre-Existing Conditions May Have Reached Peak Absurdity"
After the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, the HuffPost ran countless articles and commentaries lecturing how Americans had to tone down the "violent rhetoric" (while pointing fingers at conservatives) because such language could incite violence. (Even though the shooting had nothing to do with such rhetoric.)
Any violence that could be linked, no matter how loosely, to the GOP came with the same accusations.
True to form, the site is now pinning blame for the bomb scares on Trump's choice of words when criticizing his political opponents or the leftist media. (To be sure, every other major media outlet is doing the same thing.)
Violence On The Left
But somehow, HuffPost never felt the need to self-reflect after a violent, deranged Bernie Sanders supporter tried to assassinate a group of Republican lawmakers, and nearly killed Rep. Steve Scalise. You might think they'd think twice about running stories with headlines like: "Trump And Republicans Expect You To Die, Joe Public."
Nor has it looked inward as assaults on Republicans increased across the country. Instead, it's largely ignored those stories altogether.
This is not to say that there isn't extremist rhetoric on the right. But none of it appears on sites considered a mainstream news outlet like the Pulitzer Prize-winning HuffPost.
If "hate flows down" as the HuffPost headline states, then doesn't HuffPost have a responsibility to tone down the unending stream of violent rhetoric and divisive, hate-inducing headlines it's sending down to its readers?
Civility: In the midst of the delivery of several makeshift explosive devices to prominent liberals, and a rash of physical attacks against Republicans, comes a distressing survey about the public's attitudes toward democracy and political violence.
The results are alarming. Among the highlights, or more appropriately, lowlights:
57% believe that members of the opposite party are a somewhat or very serious "threat to the U.S. and its people."
Half the public thinks that more than half of politicians are corrupt.
58% say they have little or no trust in the wisdom of the American people when it comes to making political decisions. Just 69% say that democracy is "preferable to any other kind of government."
Only 42% believe that elections in the U.S. are "free and fair."
Just 44% of Democrats and 39% of independents are satisfied with how democracy is working in the U.S. That's in stark contrast to the 76% of Republicans who are satisfied.
Just 30% believe that racial problems are rare, isolated situations; 61% believe that whites have certain advantages because of the color of their skin.
Almost half the public (49%) has little or no confidence in the press. Just 18% had "a great deal of confidence." The poll found that 47% believe the press favors the Democratic Party. Just 9% think the press favors Republicans.
But the most worrisome findings come when the survey asked: "How often is it OK for individuals to use violence to pursue political ends?"It found that 5% say that individual acts of political violence are "often" or "very often" justified. And 9% say it's "sometimes" OK.
Another 21% say individual acts of political violence are "rarely" OK, and 64% say never.
In a country of nearly 250 million adults, even a small percentage who think that it's OK to use violence for political ends is deeply disturbing.
Both Sides Guilty
The problem is that both sides are undermining the public's confidence in the electoral process and stoking political violence.
President Trump talked throughout his presidential campaign about rigged elections. And after he won, Democrats refused to accept the outcome, chanting "not my president," talking about "resistance," and saying he stole the election with the help of Russia.
Trump's harsh rhetoric too often seems to stray into the territory of portraying political opponents as enemies. (To be fair, many Republicans and conservatives are quick to denounce such rhetoric).
On the Democratic side, the left routinely portrays Republicans as fascists, and leaders like Hillary Clinton have been outright encouraging violence against them. Worse, Democrats have remained silent as actual acts of violence against Republicans escalate.
Daily Diet of Anti-Americanism
It doesn't help, either, that students are spoon fed a daily diet of anti-American propaganda in public schools, and then from leftist professors who dominate the nation's universities.
As the Baker Center survey makes clear, all of this is dangerously corroding the public's view of this country, its founding principles and ideals, and its institutions. And it's feeding the notion that voting doesn't matter and that political violence, rather than voting and civic engagement, is how one brings about change.
Socialism: If there was one idea that you could say dominates today's Democratic Party, it could be summed up in one word: Socialism. Many Democrats, from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, embrace some form of socialism, soft or hard.
But what, you might ask, would America look like under socialism? Now there's an answer, and it isn't pretty.
Democrats' New Fixation
Taking the Democrats' new fixation with socialist ideas seriously and coinciding with the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx's birth, the president's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) decided to apply conventional economic analysis to the U.S. economy under socialism. It won't be the happiest place on Earth.
The numbers are pretty scary. According to the analysis, if the U.S. were to deploy Venezuelan-style socialist policies it would be a disaster.
Those policies, by the way, have been hailed by Sanders, Democratic candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and dozens of other Democratic candidates this year who were endorsed by the socialist wing of the party. Much of the Democratic Party today has become enamored with socialism.
So it's not at all unfair to ask what would happen here if we imposed Venezuela's brand of socialism in the U.S.? After all, Venezuela is the most recent economy to go whole-hog socialist in this hemisphere since Nicaragua in the late 1970s. And as recently as the 1960s, its citizens were richer on a per capita basis than people in Great Britain.
How would their socialism work here?
Let's start with reality. The Venezuela model would lead to nationalization of key industries, price and currency controls, rationing, poor health, political instability and widespread politicization of the rest of the economy.
Such policies would lead to a collapse of 40% in real GDP, or about $24,000 per person, according to the CEA report. And no, the CEA estimates are not based on some pie-in-the-sky model. They're based on data from a wide body of research and studies that clearly and convincingly show less-free economies perform far worse than free economies.
No 'Third Way'
Unfair, say socialist Democrats. Venezuela's a failure. What about the "Third Way" socialism of Nordic countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland? They're all highly successful. They're almost paradise.
Never mind that none of those countries today qualifies in any meaningful sense as "socialist." Or that all of the Scandinavian countries have pulled back from their quasi-socialist experiments during the 1970s, and are instead now cutting government spending growth, privatizing social security, reducing their once-generous welfare programs, lowering taxes, and pursuing free-market policies in general.
Don't take our word for it. Their own leaders admit as much. In 2015, after Sanders foolishly waxed rhapsodic about the Nordic socialist model, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasumssen, speaking at Harvard, harshly corrected him: "I would like to make one thing clear," he said, in remarks clearly aimed at Sanders. "Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy."
'Nordic' Model Isn't Socialist
The truth is, today Scandinavian nations are in many ways more free than the U.S. As we wrote in August: "They don't have government 'guaranteed jobs,' there's no mandated minimum wage, and they require citizens to pay more out-of-pocket for health care than the U.S. does today.
And by the way, the average standard of living in Scandinavia is below that of the U.S.
Even so, let's measure ourselves against Scandinavian policies at the peak of their Third Way experiment in the 1970s, their most "socialist" phase. The CEA says if those '70s-era policies were enacted here, they would result in a 9% reduction in real GDP, and a whopping 19% cut in household income after taxes and health-care spending.
Welcome to Scandinavia!
Meanwhile, on a more immediate level, Bernie Sanders has made quite a stir with his falsely named "Medicare-for-All" program, which is really just socialized medicine. By the way, it has nothing to do with our current fiscally unsound Medicare program at all, so don't be fooled by the title.
Socialism: A Health Care Nightmare
What if we imposed socialized health care on Americans?
It would result in a 9% reduction in real GDP. It would also slash household income by 19%, after taxes and health-care spending. And it would lead to far worse care and rationing.
In sum, it is a fact, not an opinion, that socialist economies perform far worse than free-market or capitalist economies.
As the CEA said in its timely report, "The historical evidence suggests that the socialist program for the U.S. would make shortages, or otherwise degrade quality, of whatever product or service is put under a public monopoly. The pace of innovation would slow, and living standards generally would be lower. These are the opportunity costs of socialism from a modern American perspective."
Hey, at least under socialism we would be equal in our misery. But is that what Americans, including rank-and-file Democrats, really want?
Confidence: We've seen many surveys in the past ranking the institutions in which Americans have the most confidence. But a new one includes a few big tech companies. The results are illuminating, particularly when it comes to Facebook.
Not surprisingly, the military came out on top, with an average confidence score of 3.24. Also not surprisingly, the press was near the bottom at 2.5. Congress and political parties tied for last at 2.12.
But this survey also included Amazon, Google and Facebook on the list of institutions.
Amazon came in second overall at 3.12, followed by Google at 2.96. People have more confidence in these two companies than they do the local police, colleges, the FBI, nonprofits, courts, banks, organized labor or religion.
What about Facebook? It finished third from the bottom at 2.28.
When you break the data down, Facebook does even worse. The survey found that 28% of respondents said they had "no confidence" in Facebook, the worst rating of any of the 20 institutions included in the survey. Just 9% said they have "a great deal of confidence" in Facebook.
The Baker Center also broke down the results by party affiliation. And while Democrats and Republicans agreed on few things, they both expressed little confidence in Facebook. Among Democrats, Facebook came in fourth from last. Among Republicans, it ranked second from last.
Clearly, Facebook's problems with privacy, election meddling, and its perceived bias against conservatives have had a terrible effect on the company's image.
There were other interesting partisan findings in the survey.
Democrats have more confidence in Amazon and colleges and universities than they do the military. Among Republicans, the military and local police come in first and second place.
Democrats have less confidence in religion than they do in banks and major corporations. Among Republicans, religion comes in fifth place.
The press comes in seventh place among Democrats. It ranks dead last among Republicans.
There were some worrisome findings as well — particularly given the outbreak of violence against Republicans since President Donald Trump took office, and the delivery of explosive devices to prominent Democrats and liberals this week.
The survey found that fully 35% say that it can be OK for individuals to "use violence to pursue political ends." Five percent say violence is "often" or "very often" justified, 9% say sometimes, and 21% say rarely.
It also found that just 44% of Democrats say they're satisfied with how democracy is working in the U.S., compared with 76% of Republicans.
Taxes: If you think President Trump's economic agenda is done as he approaches the midpoint of his first term, you're mistaken. Top White House officials are even now putting the finishing touches on another tax cut of 10%, designed to hit the middle class as squarely in the pocketbook as possible. Is it just an election gimmick?
The answer is no. Trump has had his hand forced in this by the incessant and blatantly misleading media reports of this year's tax cuts going only to "the rich," not to the rest of us. So, as Trump told reporters recently at the White House, " We're giving a middle-income tax reduction of about 10%."
That is in addition to the cuts already made this year, which have powered the U.S. economy into boom territory.
To repeat what we said above, the shame isn't that the middle class will get another 10% tax cut, but that middle-class people have been led to believe they never got one in the first place. It's just "crumbs," as Rep. Nancy Pelosi said. That's plain nonsense.
Based on calculations by the Senate Finance committee, the median family of four earns $73,000. That family, middle class by any standard, will get a $2,000 tax cut this year, with their total tax liability dropping from about $3,558 to around $1,499. That's a 58% tax cut.
And the tax reductions were broad enough to hit everyone. They included not just lower tax rates, but a near-doubling of the standard deduction from $6,500 to $12,000 for individuals, and from $13,00 to $24,000 for married couples. Meanwhile, for those with kids, the child tax credit went from $1,000 to $2,000.
Moreover, the cuts in corporate tax rates have been an enormous boon to middle-class workers, with millions getting bonuses of thousands of dollars thanks to the tax cuts, along with hundreds of thousands of new jobs as companies ramp up investments. This, too, was a middle-class benefit of tax cuts.
The Democrats' rhetorical class warfare against these tax cuts has been, in a word, disgraceful. They've only been outdone by the media, which have falsely reported the Democrats' spin as actual fact.
But wait: Isn't it true that the rich overwhelmingly benefited from the tax cuts? Depends on how you view "benefited." It's true, those with bigger tax bills got more back. That's what we used to call "fair."
And what would the Democrats deliver to the middle class if they took over?
Well, their Medicare for All plan will cost roughly $3.3 trillion a year for the first decade, requiring a huge hike in taxes on working Americans.
Their "repeal" of the Trump tax cuts would add an $1.5 trillion to the U.S. tax bill, most of it on the middle class. The layering on of more burdensome and unnecessary regulations would act as a "hidden tax" on all Americans, both consumers and workers.
Dems Seek Biggest Tax Hike Ever
It would be the biggest middle-class tax hike ever. And for what? Substandard government-run health care with no competition, no choice and rationing; layers of new costly rules that will favor the left's pet industries and add costs to everything Americans buy.
Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer claim they'll spend the tax hikes on the middle class on " infrastructure." The last time they made that vow, in 2009, they spent close to $1 trillion with nary any infrastructure to show for it, other than a few random highway projects.
President Trump this week named 14 things that Republicans will do if they keep control of Congress. No. 1 on the list: " Continue to cut your taxes." At least you know Trump will carry through on his word.
There may have been a time when Democrats could lay claim to being a party of the middle class. But that ship has long since sailed.
Today's Democrats are a party of the far left. Period. That is a fact that numerous surveys and studies show. By not telling the truth about the economy, and by sending President Obama out on the hustings to take credit for an economy he didn't build, they continue the recent tradition of distorting both their own record and that of the GOP.
Middle-class Americans need to know: A Republican Congress means lower tax rates, a Democratic one means tax hikes. The evidence from history, as the video with this editorial clearly shows, suggest tax cuts lead to growth. Tax hikes are often an economic disaster.
Growth: Economists expect the third-quarter GDP number — to be released this Friday — to be a strong one, in the range of 3.4%. Maybe that's why Barack Obama is running around this week trying to take credit for the economic boom. And he says President Trump has trouble with facts?
In a speech at a rally in Nevada, Obama claimed that the current economic boom has nothing to do with Trump's economic policies.
"By the time I left office," he said, "wages were rising, uninsurance rate was falling, poverty was falling. And that's what I handed off to the next guy. So when you hear all this talk about economic miracles right now, remember who started it."
Just the Facts?
Later in that same self-congratulatory speech, Obama said that "unlike some, I actually try to state facts. I believe in facts. I believe in a fact-based reality and a fact-based politics. I don't believe in just making stuff up."
So let's look at some of the facts about the economy that Obama handed off to Trump.
Despite what Obama now says, the economy was far from solid when he left office. In fact, it was in a slump.
GDP growth was decelerating throughout 2016. Household income was flat. The unemployment rate was flat. The stock market was flat.
And, "by 2016, wage growth began to taper off quickly," notes the American Action Forum's Ben Gitis.
Even The New York Times, which has been gamely trying to grant Obama credit for the current boom, now admits that 2016 was an "invisible recession."
"There was a sharp slowdown in business investment, caused by an interrelated weakening in emerging markets, a drop in the price of oil and other commodities, and a run-up in the value of the dollar," it explained.
Slow Growth Expected
By the end of 2016, pundits and economists were widely predicting a new era of slow economic growth. Why? Because for eight years under President Obama's leadership, the economy struggled to even top 2% annual growth. It never reached 3%. And every single year GDP growth missed the forecasts by Obama's own economists.
So for Obama to claim that he handed Trump a thriving economy is 100% pure poppycock.
What's more, Obama and other liberal Democrats insisted in 2016 that if Trump were elected, he'd send the economy into a tailspin.
Well, Trump was elected, and instead of faltering, the economy surged.
Since Trump took office, quarterly GDP growth has averaged 2.9%. Once the recession ended, the quarterly GDP growth averaged 2.2% under Obama.
Since Trump took office, the unemployment rate has been in a steady decline. Economic optimism — which languished for years — suddenly skyrocketed. The stock market took off. The U.S. reclaimed the No. 1 spot in global competitiveness. Family incomes reached all-time highs.
Engineering an Economic Boom
Not one of these trends was in place when Obama left office.
So what exactly is Obama claiming? That his policies failed to kick in until after he left office?
Talk about "making stuff up."
The fact is that as soon as Trump took office, he started reversing as many of Obama's economic policies as he possibly could.
Trump halted Obama's massively expensive new environmental regulations, and cut back old ones. He signed a massive tax reform bill that took the tax code in the opposite direction of Obama — toward lower rates and fewer loopholes. He signed a law partially dismantling Dodd-Frank, one of Obama's other big "achievements." He dialed back ObamaCare where he could.
In other words, Trump immediately embarked on a policy of tax cuts and deregulation that Obama has repeatedly insisted "never worked" to grow the economy.
Yet here we are, with growth topping 4% last quarter, and likely to top 3% this quarter.
Here's a message for Obama: When it comes to today's economic boom, you didn't build that.
The "caravan" of illegal immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras now making its way to the U.S. border is no accident. The timing, planning and financing of this tragic parade has but one intent: to disrupt and influence our midterm elections. Is this what the left means by "election meddling"?
The heart-rending shots of dirt-poor people from Central America have been making the evening news, which pretends this is some kind of spontaneous movement to come to the U.S. rather than an organized attempt at disruption.
Women and children have been shoved to the fore of the columns to hide the fact that many of the 4,000 to 10,000-strong throng of people are in fact working-age males, not families. Already, in c rossing the narrow entry from Guatemala into Mexico, the peaceful "caravan" members got violent, injuring four Mexican border police who stood in their way. It prompted a response from Mexico's president.
"Violent entry into the country not only threatens our sovereignty, but also puts the migrants themselves at risk," Mexico's President Pena Nieto said on social media. "Mexico does not permit and will not permit entry into its territory in an irregular fashion, much less in a violent fashion."
Tough words, but maybe not so tough. As Pena Nieto pretends to support law and order, his administration has no intention of helping the U.S. at all. "Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray insisted," Agence France Press reported, " Mexico would not cave to pressure to detain the migrants, urging the Trump administration to address the root causes of their northward flight: violent crime and poverty."
Bad news, because President Trump isn't going to be bullied, as his tweet yesterday showed. "We have today informed the countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that if they allow their citizens, or others, to journey through their borders and up to the United States, with the intention of entering our country illegally, all payments made to them will STOP (END)!" Trump tweeted.
Even as it moves into Mexico, the illegal caravan has well over 1,000 miles to travel. There's not enough time to get to the border by the November 7 election. So don't be surprised if trucks, buses and cars "unexpectedly" show up to give them a lift most of the way across Mexico.
Securing The Border
And what if they do make it to the border? No doubt, President Trump will have bolstered security significantly. He already has said he will send the U.S. military to the border. Will one or more troublemakers in the group try to provoke violence, as they already did in Mexico? No doubt, the leftists and the sympathetic media would like that. For them, chaos isn't a tragedy, it's a strategy.
In the case of the media, they've covered this caravan as if it were a second Children's Crusade, not a leftist political stunt. They've done little if any digging into the origins and financing of the caravan, pretending instead that it's an honest response to "gang violence" or the three countries' failure to create economic opportunities for their own citizens.
Americans shouldn't fall for the lie.
This was planned, just as the one before it in April of this year was. Back then, the other "caravan" started a similar odyssey. It was organized by a group called "Pueblo Sin Fronteras," or People Without Borders. What do they seek? That the U.S. " open the borders to us because we are as much citizens as the people of the countries where we are and/or travel."
Who's Paying For This?
Who's financing this group that seeks to violently breach our border? If only our friends in the mainstream media would do their jobs and find out.
We've said it many times before: A country that doesn't control its borders ceases to be a country. In the case of this illegal caravan it's likely that literally hundreds of violent criminals and gang members are taking part. Perhaps terrorists, too.
What's truly sad is that the increasingly far-left Democratic Party can't bring itself to say anything meaningful about or even to criticize the illegal horde approaching our border. Why say anything? A border clash, they feel, will be bad for the GOP.
But it's also bad for America. Democrats, in the heat of their election campaigns, often insist "we're not for open borders," or words to that effect. Yet, everything they do, from sanctuary cities to demonizing ICE to likening those who oppose illegal immigration to Nazis, suggests they want open borders.
And why shouldn't they? The people in the caravan, once in the U.S., will mostly occupy the fringes of society. If past immigration is any guide, they'll be poor and overwhelmingly dependent on welfare. A study based on 2012 Census data found that 51% of all immigrants, legal and illegal, relied on one or more welfare programs. That compares to 30% for the native-born population.
Gaming The Border
As the the architects of our welfare system, Democrats have the most to gain from open borders and the new Democratic votes that would bring. As such, their repeated insistence they don't support open borders rings hollow.
No, we are not anti-immigrant. We are anti-illegal immigrant. Come here as the law prescribes, get your green card, assimilate to American culture, obey its laws, and become a citizen. That's the route that made America a success. We're pro-immigration.
We need to send a message to the world: You're welcome here to visit or to immigrate through legal channels. But we won't tolerate further violations of our immigration laws. We can't allow large groups of people, even if some are desperate, to violate our borders. It's time to build that wall, stop all illegal immigration, and restore our border.
Socialized Medicine: Remember when Republicans said that ObamaCare was designed to fail so Democrats could push "single payer?" That was called conspiracy mongering. But guess what? ObamaCare is failing. And Democrats are now pushing "Medicare for All" as the solution.
Trouble is, Democrats aren't telling voters anything about what "Medicare for All" means. Probably because the plan would be the most radical socialization of health care on the planet.
Everyone from New York socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke has called for "Medicare for All." So far, 123 congressional Democrats and 16 Democratic Senators have co-sponsored "Medicare for All" bills.
What would "Medicare for All" would do? Here are the facts, based on the bills in the House and Senate.
Lose Your Plan
First, it would outlaw existing private health insurance.
That includes all employer-provided plans, individually purchased insurance, every single union plan. It also means an end to the increasingly popular private Medicare Advantage insurance plans. These private insurance plans seniors have been flocking to specifically to avoid enrolling in the existing Medicare plan. If you like your plan, you're guaranteed not to be able to keep it.
Second, "Medicare for All" would have the government pay all medical costs. There'd be no copays or deductibles on anything, from doctor visits, surgery and drugs to long-term care, dental and vision. The only thing not covered would be cosmetic surgery.
Keep in mind that no other country in the world does that.
Even in "socialist" countries like Sweden and Denmark, people pay 14% to 15% of health costs out of pocket. Canada doesn't cover prescription drugs, and private insurance picks up 13% of the country's health bills. Even in China, people buy private insurance to cover copays and deductibles, and the Chinese pay almost a third of health costs out of pocket.
So, Democrats are rushing to endorse a plan that is more socialist than Communist China.
Double Size Of Government
It would also nearly double the size of the federal government. A recent analysis of Bernie Sanders' current "Medicare for All" plan finds that it would cost the federal government $32.6 trillion over its first 10 years.
And that's vast understatement of its true costs, since the analysis assumes draconian payment cuts to providers and unrealistic savings on administrative and prescription drug costs. It also ignores the enormous cost of delays and rationing that invariably result from government-run health care.
Democrats pushing "Medicare for All" say that those costs are irrelevant, because people will no longer have to pay premiums or spend any money out of pocket.
What they don't say is that everyone would face huge tax increases to finance this government takeover of health care. Sanders' plan starts with an 8.4% hike in payroll taxes, sharply higher income tax rates and more. None of which would fully cover the exorbitant costs.
Phony Support For 'Medicare for All'
Democrats also point to surveys showing strong support for "Medicare for All." A Reuters-Ipsos poll found 70% backing it, including a majority of Republicans.
But that's because people have no idea what "Medicare for All" means.
When Reuters substituted the terms "single payer" or "government-run" health care, support collapsed to as little as 40%.
Even that's probably too high. A separate Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that almost half of Americans wrongly believe they could keep their existing health plans under a single-payer system. Incredibly, Democrats are the most ill-informed. The poll found 52% of Democrats think they'll be able to keep their health plans.
Still, lack of public support didn't stop Democrats from imposing ObamaCare on the nation eight years ago. And it won't stop them from imposing "Medicare for all" if they ever get the chance.
The only way to prevent such a disaster is to keep Democrats out of power, at least until their socialist fever breaks.
Taxes: A group of congressional Democrats, aching to return to power, have a bold idea: Repeal the Trump tax cuts, raise taxes on the rich and corporations, then give everyone else a guaranteed income each month from the proceeds. Haven't we been down this road before?
This has always been the Robin Hood dream of the left: Take money from one group you don't like, give it to another you do, then take credit for the theft and call it "fairness."
"Americans are working harder than ever but stagnant wages mean they can't keep up with cost of living increases," Harris said.
Yes, Americans are working hard, but not "harder than ever." But what about "stagnant wages?" True, wages were stagnant during the eight Obama years, marked by soaring regulation, higher taxes, and government control of health care. But since President Donald Trump entered office, median household incomes have increased 4.7% to record highs in real terms. And unemployment is at its lowest level in nearly half a century. For minorities, joblessness is at or near its lowest level ever. These are not by accident.
By repealing Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cuts, Harris and the other Democrats who support this idea would end up costing working families a huge amount of income and hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coming years. And a guaranteed income is a very bad idea. As we noted in a recent editorial, subsidizing nonwork is a recipe for stagnation. That's why liberal Finland ended its experiment with a guaranteed income earlier this year.
As with many recently elected Democrats, Harris occupies the far left of the political spectrum. So higher taxes and more regulation, despite proven damaging effects, are par for the course.
Guaranteed Income: Robin Hood On Steroids
Democrats have been successful in tarring tax cuts as "giveaways to the rich" who don't "pay their fair share."
Tax Fairness: Whenever the debate turns to taxes, one side invariably claims that the rich don't pay their "fair share." But they never say what a fair tax code would look like.
Let's say we could write a tax code from scratch. And under this new tax law, the richest 1% of taxpayers would cover more than a third — say 37% — of all the income taxes collected.
That would be like having just the people living in the Bronx paying 37 cents of every dollar collected in income taxes, with the rest of the money coming from everyone else.
How about if the tax code further stipulated that the richest 3% of taxpayers — which would amount to just over 4 million — paid 51% of all the taxes?
Would that be fair?
Not necessarily, if these people made most of the money. But the latest IRS data show that the richest 1% make 20% of all the income, and the top 3% account for 29% of the income.
So, despite their wealth, under this scheme the top earners' share of the tax burden would still be substantially higher than their share of total income.
Let's say further that the bottom half of all taxpayers — almost 141 million of them — would be responsible for only 3% of all income taxes paid. IRS data show that this group accounts for close to 12% of total income.
What's more, the tax code would leave 45% of households paying zero in federal income taxes. In fact, many would get rebate checks from the IRS each year, thanks to various refundable tax credits.
Would that be fair?
As many readers no doubt have guessed, every one of these features is precisely what we have today. The numbers above are all from the IRS for tax year 2016, or from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. (Trump's tax cuts aren't likely to change the equations much.)
We would argue, however, that the tax code isn't fair. But not because it fails to tax the rich even more heavily than it does.
Rather, because its maddening complexity imposes hundreds of billions of dollars in dead-weight compliance costs. Because it forces even low-income families to pay someone to figure out their taxes for them. Because two people can end up paying wildly different taxes based on their ability to take advantage of a mountain of loopholes. And because graduated marginal tax rates distort the economy.
Our definition of a fair tax would be flat tax on all income above a certain, generous, threshold. Every dollar earned above that threshold would be taxed exactly the same way. By the way, eight states have flat income taxes right now — including liberal states like Illinois and Massachusetts.
On this score, the Trump income tax reform took steps in the right direction because it reduced tax brackets and closed some loopholes. But there is much more to do before the tax code is fair.
Climate Change: The output of so-called greenhouse gases continued to fall during President Trump's initial year in office, new Environmental Protection Agency data show. This demonstrates once again the wisdom of Trump's decision to stop listening to the global warming Chicken Littles and withdraw the U.S. from the costly and ineffective Paris Climate deal.
"The Trump Administration has proven that federal regulations are not necessary to drive CO2 reductions," said EPA action Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "While many around the world are talking about reducing greenhouse gases, the U.S. continues to deliver, and today's report is further evidence of our action-oriented approach."
This is no one-off, freak decline. Output of gases that can contribute to global warming have fallen sharply in recent years. It's a result of the fracking revolution producing enormous amounts of cheap, clean, plentiful natural gas — which has increasingly replaced coal and oil for energy production.
Largely as a result of the new energy revolution in the U.S., per person greenhouse gas emissions fell to a 67-year low during 2017. To put that in further perspective, the last time we were this low, Harry S Truman was president, and neither Alaska nor Hawaii were states yet.
Greenhouse Gases Going, Going...
Nor is this an isolated success story, some kind of statistical legerdemain due only to fracking. The truth is, the U.S. has dramatically reduced all pollutants in its air since 1970, EPA data show. Yes, regulations deserve some credit for this. But high oil prices and technology deserve more. They spurred businesses and individuals to conserve on energy in new and innovative ways.
Go figure. The one country whose air is getting cleaner while its economy grows walked away from the Paris climate deal.
Moreover, data from oil giant BP show "the U.S. led the world in emissions cuts for the ninth time this century," while in the EU, "emissions were ... up (1.5%)."
In short, virtually none of the signatories of the Paris Climate Accord are living up to their bold pledges to reduce output of greenhouse gases. The deal is no deal at all. It's a dead letter.
Will We Always Have Paris?
Which raises a question. How long will it be before dozens of individual countries walk away from the disastrous, unworkable Paris Climate deal?
After all, the Paris deal has tied the hands of those who signed it, forcing draconian, arbitrary cuts in greenhouse gases on countries that can't afford it or don't have the technical means to reduce CO2 output. And the deal does nothing to halt emissions from the two fastest-growing greenhouse gas polluters in the world: China and India. It's a travesty.
Soon, smart countries will adopt the U.S. greenhouse gas model, and drop the Paris model.
This shouldn't come as any surprise. As the far-left leaders of the global green movement have themselves said, climate change isn't their real concern.
They're more interested in getting successful free-market nations to abandon capitalism in favor of a global top-down socialist system. In that system, individual rights and wealth would perish, and government permission would be required to do almost anything.
It's the nightmare that Venezuela, Zimbabwe, North Korea and any number of other socialist nations live with today. Trump's wisdom in walking away from the rotten Paris deal becomes more obvious by the day.
Civil Society: What happens when men physically assault female politicians or threaten them with poison? If those women are Republicans and the attackers are leftists, Democrats greet them with silence, excuses, or worse. So left-wing violence grows.
Here's what the "tolerant" left has been up to in just the past few days, as the midterm elections near:
In Nevada, police arrested a left-wing operative for assaulting Kristin Davison, who is the campaign manager for gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt.
"He grabbed my right arm, my leg was lodged between the door and the wall. He twisted my arm, and contorted it behind my back," Davison said. "I was scared. Every time I tried pulling away, he would grab tighter, and pull me closer into him."
The alleged assailant, Wilfred Stark, had been charged in March with assaulting another woman, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's spokesperson, outside a congressional hearing room.
Punching A State Rep
In Minnesota, a man punched state representative Sarah Anderson in the arm after she confronted him for destroying Republican campaign yard signs.
"He was charging at me, saying, 'Why don't you go kill yourself?' " she told the Washington Free Beacon.
Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins received a threatening letter at her home that contained a substance the letter writer claimed was ricin poison. The letter mentioned her vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Collins had been on the receiving end of a multitude of threats before announcing her support.
"I will not live in fear," she said in response, "I will not be intimidated."
These are just recent stories about attacks on Republican women. Also in the past few days:
In Minnesota, state representative candidate Shane Mekeland suffered a concussion after getting sucker punched in the face at a restaurant because of his political views.
Violent "Antifa" leftists vandalized the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan because it had an invited a fringe-y anti-Antifa activist to speak. The attackers also left a note warning that "Our attack is merely a beginning. We are not passive, we are not civil, and we will not apologize."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo blamed Republicans for the damage.
And what has been the response from leading Democrats and the mainstream media to these attacks, especially those against women? Expressions of outrage from party leaders? Loud denunciations of violence of any kind?
Nope. Mostly crickets.
If they do talk about such acts, Democrats make excuses. They say Trump is to blame, or that Republicans have their own problem with violent extremists, or they complain about Republicans' use of the term "mob."
Worse, leading Democrats have been egging attackers on.
Would-be president Hillary Clinton went so far as to declare that there can be no civility while Republicans are in control of anything. The head of the FBI under President Obama recently urged Democrats to physically attack Republicans.
A few months ago, the left complained when Trump reportedly told a group of evangelists that left-wing violence would erupt if Democrats failed to win the House in the November midterms.
Given what's been happening recently, why would anyone doubt that he's right?
Competitiveness: It might not make a lot of mainstream newspapers, so let us inform you: The World Economic Forum just ranked the U.S. as the world's most competitive economy for the first time since 2008. A lot has happened since then, but mostly the U.S.' No. 1 ranking is a result of the surprise election of Donald Trump.
It's also yet another bit of evidence for why policies truly matter. The last time the U.S. stood atop the WEF global ranking of 140-plus countries, President Obama had just been elected. But he had yet to sign the growth-killing Dodd-Frank and ObamaCare bills, or a wasteful "stimulus" of nearly $1 trillion.
For the next eight years, the U.S.' competitiveness ranking slid, pretty much until Trump was elected and reversed the slide with tax cuts, deregulation and trade renegotiations that pushed U.S. GDP growth roughly 50% higher than it was under Obama.
It was a stark admission by the global group, which includes many of the world's left-leaning elite and superwealthy CEOs and entrepreneurs, of the strides made under Trump. For the record, the U.S. ranked as low as seventh place but got no higher than No. 3 under Obama.
The WEF's members and data sets gave the U.S. a ranking of 85.6 out of 100, making it "the country closest to the frontier of competitiveness." That means basically it's the most cutting-edge economy in the world, thanks to its entrepreneurial culture, flexible and well-educated labor market, and powerful and open financial markets, which "are among the several factors that contribute to making the U.S.' innovation ecosystem one of the best in the world," the WEF said.
We would note this is no fluke. In May, we reported that the IMD Competitiveness Center in Switzerland, which ranks countries by 256 different variables for its competitiveness ranking, also put the U.S. in the world's top spot for competitiveness, ahead of Hong Kong, Singapore, The Netherlands and Switzerland. It earned the spot due to its "strength in economic performance and infrastructure."
No one should be surprised at this. What's stunning is how silent the media get when discussing the economy, at least as far as Trump's credit for the current economic boom goes.
Let's review. GDP is now averaging 3% growth since Trump entered office, but it hit 4.2% in the second quarter. The Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank's "GDP Now" estimate for the third quarter stands at 3.9%, as of Wednesday.
The Household Wealth Machine
Unemployment of 3.7% is at a half-century low, while inflation remains tame at close to 2%. Meanwhile, U.S. household net worth has soared from $95.2 trillion when Trump entered office to $107 trillion in this year's second quarter, a jump of $11.8 trillion. That's the equivalent of about $94,000 in new wealth added per household in the U.S. in under two years.
So, yes, the U.S. is plainly the world's most competitive economy right now.
Earlier this year, you might also recall, Trump traveled to Davos for the WEF's annual gathering of billionaires, CEOs, entrepreneurs and political pooh-bahs. Some warned that Trump might be met by more than a little hostility at the conference. But they were seriously disappointed.
At the time, we quoted this bit of reporting from the Daily Caller, which caught our eye. It describes what happened after Trump finished his speech.
"In a stunning moment, one by one, European titans of industry from companies like Adidas, Siemens and Bayer went around the table to thank Trump for the passage of tax cuts and the easing of corporate burdens. Almost every CEO had a new U.S.-based investment or strategic business to announce," the Daily Caller wrote.
Foreign CEOs Get It
Those were foreign CEOs, who of course know that an economically strong America is essential to the global economy. That's something the increasingly far-left Democrats and President Obama never seemed to get.
Trump's success wasn't an accident, as those Euro-CEOs' comments show. It came from very specific policies. Only the U.S. media and the Democratic Party don't understand that Trump's moves to slash regulation, reduce tax burdens and make trade rules fairer for all, have been extremely successful in resetting the U.S. growth agenda. And his ability to put two new judges on the Supreme Court who will judge by the law, not by popular politics, has helped restore the rule of law in the U.S. — one of the key elements of economic growth.
We have no crystal ball. But expansions don't die of old age. They die of mistakes. As long as Trump, Congress and the Fed minimize their mistakes, there's no reason we can't keep growing — and remain the world's top dog in competitiveness.
Media Bias: When the mainstream press isn't busy putting out negative — and often false or misleading — stories about President Donald Trump, they're equally busy burying scandals that involve Democrats. The Media Research Center recently documented this flagrant bias by omission.
David Burge, who runs the popular Iowahawk blog, once observed that "Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving."
That is certainly true when it comes to scandals involving prominent Democrats.
Its conclusion: "The networks have been doing their best to protect Democratic midterm interests by downplaying or completely ignoring Democrats who have gotten into trouble this campaign season."
Take the Beto O'Rourke lie about his DUI arrest. During a debate with Sen. Ted Cruz, a questioner asked O'Rourke about whether he'd tried to leave the scene of a drunken-driving accident when he was 26. O'Rourke flatly denied it. But witnesses at the time told police he attempted to flee the scene.
That story got zero coverage on any of the networks. But the mainstream press did find time to file countless stories praising the Democrat.
How about the story involving Deputy Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Keith Ellison, whose ex-girlfriend accused him of physical abuse? In addition to being the No. 2 person at the DNC, Ellison is running to be the attorney general for Minnesota.
The victim said the incident took place a couple of years ago, and produced corroborating evidence.
Yet despite all the media preening about #MeToo, and the flood-the-zone coverage of 36-year-old uncorroborated claims against Brett Kavanaugh, the press has largely ignored the Ellison scandal.
The MRC found that the story got a combined total of less than four minutes of coverage on the news networks, with ABC News ignoring it altogether.
How about the scandal involving Sen. Claire McCaskill's husband, who's been accused of using a federal program intended to help the poor to enrich himself in the 10 years since McCaskill joined the Senate?
McCaskill is in a tight race in Missouri against challenger Josh Hawley, in a year when control of the Senate is up for grabs. So, a juicy scandal like this would normally be irresistible to reporters.
Except McCaskill is a Democrat. And as the MRC found, this story got zero coverage on the big three networks.
Then there's the scandal involving a former staffer for Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who was arrested and charged with several felonies, after he disclosed personal information on Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee during the Kavanaugh hearings.
The networks completely ignored this story.
They also ignored the story involving a Democratic candidate in the Colorado governor's race, Jared Polis, after a police report surfaced that he'd allegedly pushed a former female employee into a filing cabinet and tried to prevent her from calling 911.
And what about the time when the Senate officially admonished New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez for accepting gifts from a doctor in exchange for favors, and ordered him to repay the market value of those gifts? This was after Menendez went on trial for these charges, which resulted in a hung jury.
Menendez is up for re-election this November. So this is surely a development the public would find of interest. The big three networks decided to leave voters in the dark, with just two of them devoting a mere 49 seconds to the censure.
Tip Of The Iceberg
Keep in mind that these are just the six that the MRC decided to study. There were plenty of others in recent months involving Democrats that the press downplayed or ignored. There was the bizarre IT scandal involving a staffer of former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The revelation that Sen. Diane Feinstein had employed a Chinese spy for almost 20 years. The FBI scandals involving evidence of extreme bias in the handling of the Trump-Russia and Hillary Clinton email investigations.
If you haven't heard about these scandals, you are not alone.
In contrast, even minor scandals that involve no-name Republicans typically receive lavish coverage from these networks.
Why the difference?
Editors and reporters at these networks will no doubt insist, when asked, that they are completely unbiased. They're just covering what's newsworthy.
The obvious explanation is that they want to portray Republicans as corrupt, and Democrats pure as the driven snow. So they play up stories that fit this narrative, and ignore those that don't.
The worst form of media bias isn't how they cover a story, but what they choose to cover in the first place.
Taxes: Critics of the Trump tax cuts said they would blow a hole in the deficit. Yet individual income taxes climbed 6% in the just-ended fiscal year 2018, as the economy grew faster and created more jobs than expected.
The Treasury Department reported this week that individual income tax collections for FY 2018 totaled $1.7 trillion. That's up $14 billion from fiscal 2017, and an all-time high. And that's despite the fact that individual income tax rates got a significant cut this year as part of President Donald Trump's tax reform plan.
Income Taxes After Trump Tax Cuts
True, the first three months of the fiscal year were before the tax cuts kicked in. But if you limit the accounting to this calendar year, individual income tax revenues are up by 5% through September.
Other major sources of revenue climbed as well, as the overall economy revived. FICA tax collections rose by more than 3%. Excise taxes jumped 13%.
The only category that was down? Corporate income taxes, which dropped by 31%.
Overall, federal revenues came in slightly higher in FY 2018 — up 0.5%.
Spending, on the other hand, was $127 billion higher in fiscal 2018. As a result, deficits for 2018 climbed $113 billion.
Let's compare these results with Obama's last full fiscal year in office, 2016.
Individual income tax revenues went up by a mere 0.3%, Treasury data show. Fiscal 2016 also saw a 13% drop in corporate income taxes. FICA tax collections climbed by less than 1%. Excise tax collections dropped almost 3%.
Overall revenues increased by 0.5% — about the same as this year. The deficit? It climbed by $148 billion.
So, in other words, the government did better on revenues and deficits in the year after Trump's tax cuts went into effect than it did in Obama's last year in office.
Trump Tax Cuts To Blame For Deficit?
To this, critics say, yes, but revenues would have climbed faster had it not been for the tax cuts, because the economy was booming in 2018, unlike in 2016.
Yes, the economy was booming in fiscal 2018. But it probably wouldn't have been booming without the tax cuts. Had Trump not succeeded in getting his pro-growth tax cuts across the finish line, it's possible we'd have seen a year like Obama's last one. A sluggish economy, barely increasing federal revenues, and a large increase in deficits.
Does that mean Trump's tax cuts are fully "paying for themselves"? We wouldn't make that argument. But the faster economic growth is clearly offsetting at least some of their costs — which is precisely what backers said would happen.
What is unmistakable from the data, however, is that the Trump tax cuts are not entirely, or even mostly, responsible for the increase in the deficit. Blame for that rests squarely with spendthrifts in Congress — on both sides of the aisle — who refuse to bring federal spending under control.
So, the question is: Would it have been better to have kept taxes high, and sacrificed economic, job and wage gains we've been enjoying, so that the government could have collected a little bit more in taxes?
Jobs: How extraordinary is this job boom? The government says that the number of jobs available has never been higher. There were 7.14 million jobs in August ready to be filled, an increase from July's 7.1 million, which was also a record. This is the best time in decades to be seeking a job, even if you're unemployed.
That's the easily drawn conclusion from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTs) report, which is important but gets much less attention than the monthly payroll jobs and unemployment numbers.
The JOLTs data say many things about our economy right now.
For one thing, economic growth is blazing hot. August was the fifth month in a row in which the number of jobs exceeded the official number of unemployed. The 7.14 million of open jobs in August exceeded the number of unemployed, now at 5.96 million, by about 1.2 million. That's never happened in the history of the series, which dates back to the end of 2000. Moreover, the number of new hires, at 5.78 million, is also a record.
In addition, those who have jobs feel increasingly confident about the labor market, as evidenced by the so-called "quit rate." Some 3.58 million workers quit their jobs in August, a sign economists say shows uncommon confidence in the economy and job market. That number in August was up 12.7% from a year earlier.
Of course, the most obvious question is: If there are 7.14 million available jobs, and 5.96 million people who are unemployed, why aren't all the available jobs filled by those without work?
The answer, of course, is that the economy's growth in recent years has leaned toward the high end of the workforce. More and more jobs require special skills, training or technical expertise that the average unemployed person simply doesn't have. So filling all those available jobs won't be easy.
Low Unemployment Puzzle
Both private and government economists have mulled a similar economic puzzle. If unemployment has fallen to a 49-year low of 3.7%, why are wages rising at just a 2.8% yearly rate?
The answers are all over the place. But the fact is, wages are starting to rise, along with productivity. But wages don't lead economic activity; they lag. And today, with so many jobs now done by machines, artificial intelligence or robots, human workers aren't just competing with other human workers. They're competing with machines, too. Moreover, a whole layer of middle management has been eliminated in the past two decades from much of the U.S. business economy.
As for those without jobs, the jobs market is clearly signaling: Retool your skills, upgrade your knowledge, sharpen your professional focus, and get that job.
Even so, if current torrid job growth continues, businesses will have to pay productive workers more, or suffer slower growth and perhaps market share erosion as a result. So, absent major changes in economic conditions, higher wages are coming.
Which leads to our final point, made many times before, but which bears repeating: Rising wages do not cause inflation. This is a categorical mistake that has somehow become a part of many of the world's economic models. The Fed's reliance on the thinking embodied in the Philips Curve — which falsely posits a causal link between unemployment rates and inflation — is one of those models.
Repeat: Rising Wages Aren't Inflationary
People going back to work isn't inflationary, unless those who go back to work produce less than their hourly wage. And that's seldom the case. As such, higher wages are not a problem to be managed, but a labor reward to be celebrated. Higher wages are the inevitable result of rising demand and increasing quality of the workforce.
By the way, all of this is happening because of the tax cuts and deregulation put in place by President Donald Trump. It may sound tiresome, but once again this magic elixir worked to bestir a seemingly stagnated economy. How much longer will it be until supply-side ideas that clearly work get the respect they deserve? And how much longer will it be until Keynesian ideas that clearly don't work get relegated to the junk pile where they belong?
So let wages rise. And don't expect us to join the inevitable sudden "economic" consensus that rising wages will require the Fed to hit the economy's brakes with a series of punitive rate hikes. That would be yet another in a long line of mistakes by the nation's central bank.
Polls: Despite the overwhelmingly negative coverage of his administration, President Donald Trump's approval rating is as high or higher than halfof the previous six presidents at this point in their first terms. You won't believe who scored better.
Trump has been enjoying a rare string of good news. The economy is humming and the jobless rate just hit a 49-year low. Trump won an intense battle over Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court. He secured a replacement for Nafta. His poll numbers are edging up. And Republican prospects in the midterm elections appear to have improved.
But according to the Gallup Poll, Trump's approval rating as of his 632nd day in office was 44%.
Is that good or bad? That depends on the context. Trump has never polled well. Gallup had his approval rating at 45% the day he took office.
The mainstream press focused intensely on Trump's initial rating, which was well below those of any president since Gallup first started tracking this in 1945.
Even Gerald Ford's approval rating 90 weeks into his accidental presidency was 71%.
But the press lost interest in such comparisons as time went by.
Perhaps one reason is that, by this point in their first terms, approval ratings for most presidents had declined. Sometimes sharply.
As a matter of fact, Trump's approval rating is now higher than, or tied with, three of the past six presidents at this point in their first terms.
He's currently tied with Obama (at 44%), and above both Clinton (41%) and Reagan (42%).
Obama's approval rating on day one was 67%, but steadily declined as his economic policies failed to re-energize the economy, despite the massive stimulus, while he forced through the highly unpopular ObamaCare.
Clinton's eroded after he broke his promise on tax hikes.
At this point in Reagan's first term, the economy was in a painful recession, and unemployment was above 10%.
Needless to say, each went on to win re-election handily.
But look at who scored higher than Trump: George W. Bush (67%), George H.W. Bush (56%), and Jimmy Carter (49%). W. was coming off his sky-high approval rating in the wake of 9/11, which peaked at 90%. He ended his second term at 34% approval. George H.W. had just started building up troops in preparation for liberating Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm. Carter had recently signed the Camp David Accords.
What does all this mean?
First, it means that anyone who thinks Trump's low approval ratings today are a problem for his re-election prospects is mistaken. There's no correlation. Three presidents with ratings as low or lower than Trump's served two terms. Two with much higher approval ratings at this point ended up as one-term losers.
But there's a broader point here.
Democrats and the press keep describing Trump as a hugely divisive figure. But the polls show that his approval is starting to line up with previous presidents.
What's more, Trump's low numbers are almost entirely because Democrats are universally opposed to him.
To see this effect, look at the IBD/TIPP polls from the same month in the Trump and Obama administrations.
In October 2010, Obama had an approval rating of 42%. Trump's approval in the October 2018 IBD/TIPP poll is 40%.
Naturally, Democrats gave Obama a sky-high approval ratings, as do Republicans for Trump.
Among independents, there's almost no difference — Trump's approval is 33%, Obama's was 34%.
But there's a huge gap in how Democrats and Republicans viewed their political opponents.
At this point in Obama's presidency, 10% of Republicans approved of the job Obama was doing. And that was after his massive failed stimulus, his signing of ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank, and other policies highly antagonistic to Republicans.
Trump, on the other hand, gets approval from a mere 5% of Democrats. That's where it's been throughout Trump's presidency.
Republicans, in other words, were more forgiving of Obama than Democrats have been of Trump.
So, who's being divisive here? Trump and the GOP? Or the Democrats who will hate Trump no matter what he does?
Sears, RIP: Bowing to the inevitable, Sears' owners on Monday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Yes, it's a sad day for the 126-year-old company. But it's not a tragic story, for it underscores the underlying vibrancy, innovation and creativity of American capitalism.
Monday's filing came as Sears faced a deadline for payment of $134 million on its debt. It didn't have the money, so it filed for protection from its creditors. Eddie Lampert — the largest shareholder in the company, with nearly half its shares — stepped down as CEO.
By the end of this year, Sears will be a much-diminished company. From more than 4,000 stores as recently as 2011, it now has about 700. It will close 142 more stores by year's end, leaving it a remnant of its former self. Already shorn of its Craftsman tools brand and looking for a buyer for its Kenmore appliances unit, there's little left now but a famous name with few assets other than semi-empty stores and real estate.
We won't go into the rest of the gory details of its finances, other than to say the picture isn't pretty.
Yet, even as we lament its decline, we should remember that Sears itself was once a great retail disruptor, just as the companies that have killed its business today are disruptors themselves. Sears was Amazon before Amazon was Amazon.
Sears, Builder And Destroyer
Sears started in 1886 as a mail-order watch company, but soon branched out into other goods. By the early 20th century, Sears catalogs were common in American households.
But Sears' success came at a price. Thousands of small, independent local retailers couldn't compete with Sears' low prices and national reach. Many thousands went out of business. When Sears opened its first actual store in 1926, it doomed another generation of small businesses as it opened store after store in America's suburbs, becoming the nation's dominant retailer.
Americans of a certain age can remember when a Sears store was a sign that a community had become significant. Otherwise, why would Sears bother locating there?
A lot of the commentary has centered on the role that so-called "vulture capitalist" Eddie Lampert played. He bought a huge chunk of Sears, hoping to turn the ailing retailer around. It didn't work.
As CNBC describes it, "The bankruptcy filing comes more than a decade after Lampert merged Sears and Kmart, hoping that forging together the two struggling discounters would create a more formidable competitor.
"Over the years, Lampert shed Sears assets and spun out real estate to pay down the debt. The company still has roughly 700 stores, which have at times been barren, unstocked by vendors who have lost their trust. Many of the stores have never been visited by younger generations of shoppers."
Some blame Lampert, but all Lampert did was back a struggling, iconic company with his own billions of dollars of wealth. In recent years, he tried to sell off some of its assets to make it a much smaller, but financially viable, company.
Again, it didn't work.
Now, after bankruptcy, he's struggling to find financing to keep some of the stores alive through bankruptcy and, hopefully, beyond.
Walmart's Better Model
We wish him luck, but the sad fact is that Sears was doomed a long time ago. In 1962, to be exact. That's the year Walmart started. Its phenomenal 30-year spurt of growth to become the nation's No. 1 deep-discount retailer helped doom Sears to irrelevancy. Sears just couldn't compete with Walmart's low-price model.
As Joe Jarvis at The Bell notes, Amazon's online discounting operation delivered the coup de grace. But in an eerie way, it parallels Sears. Amazon began as a somewhat modest online bookseller. Today, it sells almost everything, and is in the process of opening its own brick-and-mortar stores.
Is it repeating Sears' mistakes?
Maybe so. But there will always be new business models coming along and destroying old ones. In the 1980s, some fretted that IBM would eventually gobble up the entire computer industry. It was so powerful, some thought, that such an outcome was inevitable.
Then a company named Microsoft came along, and no one today speaks of IBM as a monopoly.
Gales Of Creative Destruction
As for Amazon, it's not finished with its own innovating yet. One new idea might even help to revive a postwar staple of American life: the suburban mall.
"Called GH Lab, Amazon's new, experimental pop-up store has opened in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. It carries merchandise recommended by Good Housekeeping, though the store has no inventory. It's more of a showroom than anything else," wrote Rich Duprey at The Motley Fool website.
"Each item on display has a special Amazon SmileCode, which is Amazon's version of a QR code. Using the camera function in their Amazon app to scan the SmileCode, customers can pull up the item's product detail page and add it to their Amazon cart. When the purchase is complete, Amazon handles the fulfillment/shipping process."
Will it revolutionize on-site buying? Who knows? The market will decide.
The point is, this is what the late, great economist Joseph Schumpeter called "gales of creative destruction," a quote you've read here many times before. It's an apt description of what happens in capitalism, in particular the rambunctious American variety of capitalism.
From Pain To Gain
It goes like this: The old business model's flaws are made apparent, usually by a new technology, product, way of doing business or dramatic social change. The old companies that can't change with the times go out of business, and new ones arise in their place.
The pain is great, but this new economy brings higher productivity, more wealth, new jobs and higher incomes. And it all takes place by market signals, without the intervention of a central government.
It happens over and over again. And it's happening again, today. It's not to be mourned, but celebrated. Yes, we all remember Sears fondly. It was a great store, and a creative business model. But its demise isn't the end. It's the beginning of many wonderful new things yet to be created.
Health Reform: Four years after ObamaCare was supposed to fix the nation's health care problems, the issue is still top of mind. So why don't more people know about a solid plan that would cut ObamaCare premiums by a third?
There's no question that ObamaCare needs major surgery. Since it started in 2014, average premiums in the individual market have more than doubled. The number of insurers competing for consumers has collapsed. What is available are highly restrictive HMO-style plans with significant deductibles.
As a result, ObamaCare priced millions out of the market altogether, and left millions more exposed to huge costs.
Yet whenever Republicans talk about replacing ObamaCare, they're attacked as trying to "take insurance away," or remove protections from pre-existing conditions. That message, in fact, is what Democrats are hammering home in the midterm elections.
But a group of free-market health care reformers have developed a reform that would sharply reduce premiums for individuals, wouldn't cause millions to lose coverage, and would save taxpayers money.
Called the " Health Care Choices Proposal," it would continue to have the government subsidize individual insurance, but would do so through block grants to states, rather than payments to insurance companies under ObamaCare.
The plan would let consumers apply subsidies to any type of plan they wanted, not just overpriced ObamaCare plans. And to lower insurance costs, it would lift many of ObamaCare's costliest and most disruptive mandates, while continuing to protect those with pre-existing conditions.
And to encourage people to stay insured, the plan would also offer premium discounts for those who continuously enrolled.
Cut Premiums By A Third
When the Center for Health and Economy (H&E) reviewed the Choice proposal, it found that it would cut premiums for Silver plans by almost a third. That, in turn, would lead to 2 million more people enrolling in individual insurance plans. The plan would also reduce Medicaid enrollment by 2 million (a good thing). Overall, the analysis says that the number of insured would go down by less than a million by 2028.
It also found that the Choice proposal would cut federal spending by $22 billion over the first eight years.
The H&E, for those wondering, was founded by former director of the Congressional Budget Office to analyze various health proposals, and it includes health care experts with a range of ideological perspectives.
The Health Care Choice Proposal might not be perfect. It still leaves the government heavily involved in health insurance.
But it would be a vast improvement over ObamaCare.
Economy: Is the Fed to blame for the market's bad week? The easy answer is no. Markets rarely go up or down for just one reason, and that's the case this time. But that doesn't mean the Fed can't make things a lot worse if it makes a policy mistake.
The past week has been tough on perennial bulls. The main indexes fell sharply, with most down 4% or so during the week, continuing a recent slide.
The question is always, what's behind the drop? America's poisonous politics? Trade disputes? The coming midterm elections? Recession fears?
Certainly, all of those play a role. But so does the Federal Reserve, which President Donald Trump last week called "crazy" and "ridiculous." The Fed now appears to be pursuing a strategy of quarter-point rate hikes every three months or so, in an effort to return to a "neutral" rate of interest. Most economists would agree normal would be 3% or higher for the Fed funds rate, and a level of 4.5% or so for Treasury bonds.
The question is, why is the Fed in such a hurry? There were 8 years under President Obama with zero-percent interest rates and essentially free money, with just 2% GDP growth to show for it. Now the economy's growing at a far healthier — and to use the Fed's own word, "neutral" — rate of 3%.
Eight years of zero-percent interest rates and quantitative easing built low capital costs into businesses' operating and investing equations. Now zero-percent is going to 3% or higher. Many investments that made sense three or four years ago will look differently at a higher cost of capital.
The move up in Fed rates reveals the biggest problem with the Fed's radical experiment with ultralow rates: Once it was over, the economy had to return to higher rates. Quantitative easing has now become quantitative tightening. We're feeling the pain.
Yet, such concerns spurred the Fed into a hyperactive series of rate hikes in 2006 and 2007. The yield curve, the difference between the Treasury 30-year bond yield and the 3-month T-bill, inverted for a number of months. That is, short-term rates were higher than long-term rates, one of the surest signs of a recession anyone has.
Are we on the cusp of a recession? Not yet. Indeed, the yield curve has actually widened in recent weeks, from "73 basis points on August 22 to 87 basis points today (vs. 125 points a year ago)," InterMarket Forecasting Inc. Chief Market Strategist Richard Salsman noted in an Investor Alert last week.
We hope the Fed doesn't make another mistake out of anti-inflation zeal. Keep an eye on the yield curve: If it inverts, there's trouble ahead.
Corruption: We all know what a bang-up job President Trump has done in fulfilling his campaign pledge to "drain the swamp" in Washington. Unfortunately, he can't do the same at the state level. There, wealthy leftist activists are inserting privately-funded progressive lawyers into state attorneys general offices. Why? To sue energy companies and others for "global warming" related crimes, of course.
Case in point: Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who has funded a New York University School of Law program that places privately paid lawyers into the offices of Democratic state attorneys general. Once there, unbeholden to either the voters or elected officials, the activist-lawyers sue and prosecute energy companies in the name of "global warming" and other alleged energy-related environmental crimes.
Turns out, the federal government isn't the only one with "deep state" issues.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) first revealed this scheme in an investigation titled " Law Enforcement For Rent." Here's how the CEI describes it: "Led and funded by former New york Mayor Michael Bloomberg, this scheme hires 'Research Fellows,' which it then places as activist 'Special Assistant Attorneys General' " in state AGs' offices.
The state attorneys general who agreed to have these "fellows" — they're actually full-time, professional legal activists — must certify they're not breaking the law by letting privately funded attorneys working for a private advocacy group use government resources to sue others.
Of course, if you're a blue state attorney general, who'll sue you? No one. So the charade of "certifying" that they're not breaking the law is a farce.
Nor are these fellows acting independently or on behalf of the states' own citizens. Instead, the CEI calls it an "elaborate campaign using elective law enforcement offices in coordination with major donors and activist pressure groups, to attain a policy agenda that failed through the democratic process."
In fact, this is nothing less than a hijacking of the states' justice systems on behalf of extremist left-wing advocacy groups.
In theory, these phony fellows work for a state official; in reality, since Bloomberg is these green activists' paymaster, not the attorney general, the fellows work for Bloomberg. A billionaire in effect buys a piece of a state's attorney general for his own purposes.
It's a corrupt system, one that should be shut down immediately.
RealClearInvestigations' Patch found that Bloomberg kicked in about $6 million from his "Bloomberg Philanthropies" to fund the NYU fellowships. The project's aim is explicit: To help "state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advance clean energy, climate change (actions), and environmental values and protections."
It probably helps that Bloomberg has donated "millions of dollars to Democratic attorneys general campaigns in this midterm election cycle."
Also, he's vowed to spend $80 million this year alone on Democratic political campaigns.
Please remember that when the state AGs angrily claim "independence." That's nonsense.
We mention all this because Bloomberg this week re-registered as a Democrat. No doubt, that's in anticipation of a presidential run in 2020 against Donald Trump.
Letting radical environmental groups that share broad anti-capitalist goals with socialist and other extreme political groups effectively run states' legal attacks on energy companies is likely unconstitutional. It smacks of political fraud.
States, Where The Action Is
But why bother with the states?
At the national level, the climate change movement has pretty much lost its battle to win stringent new controls on energy companies or a carbon tax on all fossil fuels. So instead, they're focusing on state and local governments to try to force their agenda down Americans' throats.
That's why 12 mostly Republican state attorneys general have filed a friend-of-the-court brief seeking to have a federal district court in Seattle, Washington dismiss a climate change lawsuit brought by King County against Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell. The absurd legal argument made is that the oil companies are responsible for global warming, so therefore their behavior qualifies as a "public nuisance" and "trespass."
Judges dismissed similar suits by New York City, Oakland, Calif. and San Francisco. The King County suit in Washington should be dismissed, too. But this is the problem when extremist national activist groups, fueled by wealthy leftists' money, suddenly discover they can burrow into the states' own governments.
Undermining Local Democracy
In the meantime, nondemocratic green groups are using billionaire cash and support to undermine state and local democracy. They're doing so by first burrowing into the state legal agencies. Then, acting on their own extreme anti-free market environmental beliefs, they launch their legal attacks. It's green socialism-lite.
As for billionaire Bloomberg, he has in the past pretended to be a Republican. No doubt, he's no doubt buying a lot of support from elected Democrats. They're happy to see their radical green agenda enacted without actually taking the heat for it from their constituents. He'll be running in 2020 against Trump, no doubt as an ardent environmentalist.
The deep state, as we said, is real. But we used to think it was just a federal government thing. It's not. Bloomberg's "philanthropy" shows it's at the state level, too.
Election 2018: When Republicans took control of Congress in 1994 and 2010, they ran on clear legislative agendas. So far, the Democrats have offered voters nothing of substance in the upcoming midterm elections, other than promising to endlessly investigate President Trump.
The party's lack of any concrete policy plans came into sharp relief when three House members tried to explain in a USA Today op-ed what the party will do if they win control of the House this November.
"If we have the opportunity to lead the House of Representatives next year," write Reps. Cheri Bustos, Hakeem Jeffries and David Cicilline, "we will lower your health care costs, increase your pay, and clean up corruption."
Empty Midterm Elections Promises
Take them one at a time.
Democrats promise to lower health costs. They already promised to do that once before, and even passed the $1 trillion "Affordable Care Act" (aka, ObamaCare). The result was years of double-digit premium increases in the individual health insurance market. Why should the public trust them a second time?
The op-ed authors mention lowering prescription drug prices. But this is a canard. Drug prices aren't driving health costs. In fact, prescription drugs account for only about 10% of all health spending, almost exactly where it was 1960.
Besides, Trump has also promised to lower drug prices. So far, he's gone about it the right way, focusing on increasing competition and bringing greater price transparency to the drug market. The only idea the Democrats have ever put forward is to slap innovation-killing price controls on the pharmaceutical industry.
They also say they want to spend more on infrastructure, and point to a plan released last year that called for $1 trillion in new money. That will, they say, create lots of good-paying jobs.
Trump has proposed boosting infrastructure spending — by $1.7 trillion. But instead of dumping more federal money into bridges to nowhere and shovel-unready projects, he wants to enlist the private sector to finance most of it, hand more control back to states, and minimize red tape. Democrats rejected that out of hand.
As to the claim that Democrats will "increase your pay," Trump is already achieving that with pro-growth economic policies Democrats oppose. Median household income has reached all-time highs under Trump. Unemployment rates are at all-time lows for minorities.
What about "cleaning up corruption?" Is there a more hackneyed campaign promise? Democrats say they will "strengthen ethics laws to remove the corrosive influence of lobbyists" if they win in the midterm elections. Really? If this is such a priority, why didn't they do this when they controlled Congress and the White House eight years ago?
In any case, the only way to truly neuter lobbyists is by doing the one thing Democrats will never consider: Sharply reduce the size and influence of the federal government. The only reason lobbyists have so much power today is because the federal government is so massively intrusive.
So why the vague, half-baked promises from Democrats? Why hide what they plan to do if they regain control of Congress? Why not be up front about their specific legislative plans, as the GOP was?
The Really Real Dem Agenda
One possibility is that, even after eight years in the wilderness, House Democrats simply don't have any ideas, other than "impeach Trump ... and Brett Kavanaugh, too."
We suspect that the real reason Democrats are being so cagey is they'd rather that voters in swing districts not know the extent to which the party has become captive of socialists like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The truth is that the only new ideas coming out of the party are things like a job-destroying doubling of the minimum wage, socializing health care, free college, "guaranteed" federal jobs, a massive expansion of the welfare state, and a government takeover of corporate boards.
That's not going to win them too many of the centrist voters they need. So best keep it all under wraps until after the midterm elections are over.
Civility: Anyone who hoped that cooler heads would prevail after the Democrats lost their full-scale war against Justice Brett Kavanaugh was soon disappointed. Instead, the left has doubled down, trashing every institution they say contributed to their loss.
In just the few days since Kavanaugh joined his eight other colleagues on the Supreme Court, liberal journalists, pundits and leading Democrats have:
Attacked the Senate as an undemocratic institution.
Questioned the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.
Attacked the Constitution.
Eagerly talked about packing the Supreme Court with liberal justices.
Called for still more aggressive tactics against "enemies" on the right.
Remained silent about calls to murder and mayhem from their own ranks.
Shortly after Kavanaugh's confirmation, the talk on the left immediately switched to how the country's own institutions had failed.
Kavanaugh Appointment 'Undemocratic'?
They complained about the Electoral College, because Trump won with a minority of the popular vote. If Hillary Clinton were president, Kavanaugh would never have been named.
They attacked the Senate as undemocratic, because each state gets the same number of Senators, no matter how big or small their population. So Senators from small conservative states helped put Kavanaugh on the bench, despite opposition from big liberal states.
As NBC reporter Ken Dilanian put it in a tweet: "the idea that North Dakota and New York get the same representation in the Senate has to change."
MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell went even further. He charges that:"The Senate is now deeply undemocratic and getting worse every single day." He called it "an unfixable crime against democracy."
The leftist ThinkProgress called the Senate "an immoral, anti-democratic institution."
Michael Tomasky, writing in the New York Times, said that Kavanaugh's confirmation not only exposed fatal flaws in the Senate, but created "a severe legitimacy crisis for the Supreme Court."
The Washington Post's Anne Applebaum darkly observed that "Americans are living under the rule of a minority" — as though the U.S. had suddenly turned into apartheid South Africa.
Packing the Court
When not blaming the nation's Founders for adding "quirks" to the Constitution like the Electoral College and the two-Senator-per-state rule, the left is now openly endorsing the idea of packing the Court with liberals by adding extra seats. (As though this would add legitimacy to the court.)
Never mind that the last time a Democratic president tried this — FDR in the late 1930s — it failed miserably and was a stain on his presidency.
Meanwhile, leading Democrats continue to egg on the fringes of their party with increasingly violent-infused rhetoric.
On CNN this week, Hillary Clinton declared that "you cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for."
Former Attorney General Eric Holder advised Democrats that "when they go low, we kick them."
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez told supporters in a fundraising email that Democrats had to "make Republicans pay" for Kavanaugh. And another liberal group talked about how a "day of reckoning is coming for Republicans."
At the same time, Democrats have been silent about calls to violence — even murder — from their own ranks. In fact, their only real complaint is the Republicans' use of the term "mob" to describe the left's angry, violent mobs.
So, let's sum up. Democrats are tearing down several institutions of the U.S. government, including the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution. And they're tacitly endorsing violent actions.
And for what? Because one seat on the Supreme Court shifted slightly to the right?
When it comes to being sore losers, it doesn't get much worse than this. But this isn't a Little League game. The left's childish, inflamed rhetoric threatens to do real, lasting damage to the country.
Here's an idea no one in the Democratic ranks seems to have considered: Act like grownups. Shake off this loss. Move on.
And above all, show some respect for the institutions that make American great.
Anti-Trump Media: To say that the big networks haven't exactly had a love affair with Donald Trump, as they plainly did with President Obama, is an understatement. A new survey shows that not only is coverage of Trump overwhelmingly negative, but the president's biggest accomplishment — the roaring economy — gets almost no attention.
For its report, the Media Research Center did a lot of visual spadework. It viewed some 1,007 evening news stories about the Trump White House on ABC, CBS and NBC from June 1 to Sept. 30. That's the equivalent of about 32.7 hours of coverage, by TV standards an eternity of news time.
What they found was, as Trump himself might say, sad: "Over the summer, the broadcast networks have continued to pound Donald Trump and his team with the most hostile coverage of a president in TV news history — 92% negative, vs. just 8% positive."
Moreover, the very focus of what the media cover is highly selective. Some two-thirds of the Trump coverage came from five topics, including the Russia investigation, immigration, the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, North Korea, and U.S.-Russia relations.
Let's see, what's missing from that list? Oh yes, the one thing that's overwhelmingly positive for President Trump: the economy.
What About The Economy?
Over the four months the MRC watched network TV for all of us, less than 1% of the coverage was on the economy. To be more precise, it was 0.7% of the entire coverage, or 14 minutes. We're in the middle of an economic boom we were told by the very same media people was impossible, but now this miracle doesn't warrant coverage.
Let's just review a little, shall we? The third quarter saw 4.2% GDP growth, and Trump's average is now 3%. Wages are rising, and real median household incomes are now at their highest level ever. As for September's overall unemployment rate of 3.7%, it was the lowest in nearly half a century. Meanwhile, unemployment rates for African Americans, Hispanics and Asians are at or near all-time lows.
Look at the late Obama economy and the early Trump economy, and it's like a light went on. Suddenly, businesses were starting up, creating jobs, raising pay, building, buying and selling at a fevered pace.
Tax Cuts And Deregulation
Even many economists on the left have grudgingly agreed that Trump's tax cuts and deregulation set a fire under a stone-cold economy, with some 1.8 million new jobs created in just 21 months. Yet, as far as the network media are concerned, the recovery doesn't really exist. Imagine all this good news happening under President Obama. We would hear the media's hosannas on each and every nightly newscast.
Well, there was one economy-related issue that did pique the networks' interest, and rightly so: Trump's use of tariffs to get other countries to renegotiate unfair trade deals. It received 80 minutes of coverage but, again, not balanced at all: 88% was negative.
If the media want to feel good about themselves, there's this: The bottom-dweller in the confidence poll was once again Congress, with only 11% claiming a "great deal/quite a lot" of confidence.
Unfortunately, the Fourth Estate seems eager to relinquish its claim to fairness, balance, evenhandedness and factual truth. Instead, it embraces the increasingly far-left politics of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which has recently veered into socialist territory by pushing Medicare for All, open borders, worker control of corporations, and a host of other crazy ideas that would bring ruin and falling living standards to America.
There was a time when the media at least made an attempt to be fair to both sides in the political debate. Sadly, that time is now dead and gone. And it shows in the contempt many American now have for the media. Even so, don't shed a tear for the media's seriously tarnished reputation: They've brought it on themselves.
Ethanol: Some people have called the new plan to boost ethanol to 15% of our gasoline fuel supply a "reform" of the ethanol program. It's not. It's an expansion of the program, which should instead be shut down.
President Trump, cutting a deal as always (that's one of his gifts), has hit upon a compromise. Previously, gasoline makers struggled with costs when they would be forced to switch their blend seasonally from 10% ethanol to 15% ethanol, then back.
Trump's plan makes it simpler: Just make 15% the cap, and ignore the switching. Sell it year-round. Problem solved.
While we laud President Trump for his spirit of compromise, this move marks an expansion of a bad and wasteful program, one that requires billions of dollars in subsidies a year but doesn't boost our fuel supply one bit.
As the Associated Press noted Tuesday, "The oil industry opposes year-round sales of E15, warning that high-ethanol gasoline can damage car engines and fuel systems. Some car makers have warned against high-ethanol blends, although EPA has approved use of E15 in all light-duty vehicles built since 2001."
Study after study shows the ethanol blends damage standard motors and make for worse mileage. That costs drivers more to fill up, since they're using more fuel.
Worse, it distorts our agricultural markets by putting pressure on corn prices — which, in addition to being a fuel additive, is also a food for farm animals such as pigs, cattle and chickens. The point is, it puts pressure on prices across the food chain.
Today, more than 40% of our corn crop goes to make ethanol for fuel. Why? Do people want ethanol in their gasoline so badly they're willing to pay extra for something that cuts their fuel efficiency by anywhere from 5% to 7% per mile?
Of course not. But, proponents of the plan would argue, ethanol fuel is much better than gasoline for the environment. And, besides, it helps us save our crude oil. It's all about national energy security.
Please. Thanks to the fracking revolution, the U.S. is now exporting oil. We are the biggest producer on Earth. We're not running out of oil, as many feared just a few years ago — we're swimming in the stuff. And thanks to the use of natural gas, our CO2 output is lower than it's been in almost 40 years.
And even though ethanol at low levels does help gasoline burn more efficiently, the overall impact is starkly negative when it comes to other pollutants and land use.
A 2011 study by the Environmental Protection Agency forecast higher amounts of the following pollutants, among others from the use of E15: nitrous oxides, hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, ground-level ozone, and ethanol-vapor emissions.
Even worse is the Rube Goldberg-style market that the government created for the sake of "transparency." It's transparent, all right: Transparently foolish, wasteful and with corruption.
That's because refiners, to sell their gasoline, must by special "renewable identification numbers," or "RINs". They serve as a way for the EPA to track sales of ethanol, and to keep the refiners honest. They're in essence a kind of credit, and can be bought and sold.
But it's turned into quite a scam. To begin with, prices aren't stable. From just a few pennies a gallon in 2013, the price quickly escalated to over $1 a gallon. While it's declined this year, it's now a highly volatile cost element.
The sketchy nature of the RINs market means one thing: corruption. Doug Parker, the EPA's former head of criminal investigations, estimated RINs annual fraud at as much as $1 billion out of a total market of around $15 billion.
The point is, this whole thing is unnecessary from every standpoint other than a political one. We understand, of course, that Senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa have much at stake. President Trump, beholden to both for helping him in the Senate, wants to take care of Iowa farmers. He wants to help out other corn-belt states' farmers, too.
But it is an error to subsidize inefficiency, pollution and waste. And that's just what the ethanol mandate does. Better to close the program than expand it.
Fiscal Sanity: Which political party is better at managing taxpayer dollars? The latest ranking of states' fiscal condition offers an unequivocal answer.
For several years, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University has ranked states based on five measures of their financial condition: cash solvency, budget solvency, the ability to meet long-term spending commitments, state spending and taxes as a share of personal income, and unfunded pension liabilities and debt.
And lest anyone think that Mercatus — a free-market-oriented group — is fudging the numbers, note that the data used to compile these rankings all come from official state annual financial reports and from state actuarial reports.
For 2016, the latest year for which data are available, the top five most fiscally sound states were, in order: Nebraska, South Dakota, Tennessee, Florida and Oklahoma.
The five worst states, starting at the bottom: Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Kentucky.
Notice anything similar in these groupings? We did. All but one of the top five are solidly Republican states. All but one of the bottom five are solidly Democratic.
Not An Aberration
This isn't some one-year aberration, either.
For the first time this year, Mercatus produced rankings from 2006 through 2016.
What does that show?
Of the 10 states that show up most frequently at the bottom of the list since 2006, nine are solid blue states. Of the 10 states with consistently the best record, all but one are solidly red states. (See nearby table.)
There's another commonality between the best-run and worst-run states. Taxes.
As it turns out, states in the worst fiscal shape also tend to impose the highest tax rates in the nation. In fact, six of the 10 states that consistently show up as the least fiscally solvent rank in the Top 10 for highest taxes as a share of income, according to the Tax Foundation.
Of the 10 most fiscally sound states, all but one impose below-average tax burdens on their residents.
So, if it's not tax revenues, what makes a state fiscally sound or not? What the Mercatus data show is that it's the result of years of overspending and overpromising, mostly to unionized government workers by pliant Democratic leaders.
Take a look at Illinois, which ranks dead last in the most recent report. According Mercatus, the Prairie State doesn't have enough cash to cover short-term obligations. Its revenues only cover 92% of expenses. The state has long-term liabilities more than three times as large as its total assets. Illinois' unfunded pension liability was almost $446 billion in 2016. That's equal to 67% of the state's total personal income.
Nebraska, which ranks at the top, has plenty of cash on hand, has little long-term liabilities, and lower-than-average taxes and spending as a share of income. Unlike Illinois, Nebraska has just $20 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.
Who Respects Taxpayers?
Indeed, every state at the bottom of the Mercatus ranking has enormous, and growing, pension liabilities. Unfunded pension liabilities more than doubled in New Jersey from 2006 to 2016. They tripled in Illinois and Kentucky.
Financially sound states, in contrast, have kept their pension liabilities low, tend not to spend more than they take in, and have plenty of cash on hand.
Or, to put it another way: The best-run states show greater respect for taxpayers than the worst-run states.
What does that say about Democratic and Republican priorities?
Russia Investigation: While America argued last month over Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, something momentous was happening all but off the media's radar: The Trump-Russia collusion investigation narrative continued to collapse in spectacular fashion, as Hillary Clinton's leading role in the scandal came into sharper focus.
Last week, while Washington Democrats and their far-left allies shrieked in rage at the prospect of Kavanaugh taking a seat on the high court, former FBI General Counsel James Baker — who reported directly to former FBI Director James Comey — told congressional investigators that an attorney from the Perkin Coies law firm gave him materials about Russian election meddling during the 2016 presidential campaign.
This is a stunning revelation, since it directly contradicts Justice Department and FBI official sworn testimony.
As we've noted before, Perkin Coies, a firm with deep ties to the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton, paid the Fusion GPS opposition research firm to dig into Donald Trump's past. The infamous Trump dossier it produced was compiled by former British spy and paid FBI informant Christopher Steele.
Baker told Congress last week that Perkin Coies lawyer Michael Sussmann directly handed documents to him about Russia's attempts at meddling in the 2016 election. He was a cutout, a go-between, for Hillary Clinton. And the FBI knew it.
Dems Deliver To FBI
And, yet, this information was later used as the basis for the official investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The question is, why did the FBI, knowing this, lie about it? In effect, its application for a FISA tap on the Trump campaign was done at the direction of a political opponent, Hillary Clinton.
And that's entirely illegal, for both the FBI and Clinton.
Collusion, anyone? It appears that both the FBI and Justice Department were doing the Clinton campaign's bidding in applying for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court permission to snoop on the Trump campaign's communications. They did so by getting a FISA warrant to spy on former Trump campaign official Carter Page, who had some ties to Russian officials.
And the Clinton campaign contact with the FBI happened "before even the FISA warrant," Nunes said. "Now you have absolute proof that that wasn't told to the FISA court. So you want the evidence of FISA abuse? There it is right there."
A Deep State Campaign?
It's not just FISA abuse, however. What remains to be explored and explained is the Clinton campaign's role in all this. That includes how it apparently got away with running a secret and illegal deep state campaign against Donald Trump.
This is the stuff of penny ante dictatorships, not of proud constitutional republics.
The truth is, Hillary Clinton's campaign has never come clean about its role in pushing the anti-Trump agenda through the FBI and the Justice Department. It really hasn't had to. Despite their reputations for fearless advocacy of U.S. rule of law, both Justice and FBI fear Hillary Clinton. Her brass-knuckle reputation precedes her.
In this case, Clinton's desperation to beat Trump led to these illicit shenanigans. Without her involvement, there would have been no FISA application to spy on Carter Page. No Fusion GPS dossier on Trump. Nor would we be living through the second year of the Mueller Russia collusion investigation. Democrats cynically launched it to ruin Trump's presidency and perhaps even impeach him.
A full year ago, the liberal Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint against the Clinton campaign: "They failed to accurately disclose the purpose and recipient of payments for the dossier of research alleging connections between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russia, effectively hiding these payments from public scrutiny, contrary to the requirements of federal law."
Hillary Clinton Connections
Clinton's campaign reportedly channeled nearly $6 million from mid-2015 to the end of 2016 to Perkins Coie. The DNC shelled out another $3.6 million in legal services, at least some of which went to Perkins Coie. Perkins Coie, as we now know, paid Fusion GPS. Fusion GPS paid Christopher Steele, who was in close contact with the FBI's No. 4 official, Bruce Ohr, and his wife, Nellie Ohr, who also worked for Fusion GPS.
These connections are not "coincidences." They're a pattern. More and more, it looks like a conspiracy to avoid U.S. election laws to sabotage her political foe. If so, the next Congress should definitely look into it.
The likelihood President Trump did anything illegal during his campaign with regard to Russian election meddling is small or nonexistent.
Climate Change: Assume for the sake of argument that everything environmentalists say about global warming is true. If that's the case, then there is no chance of stopping it. That's what the latest UN report on global warming clearly demonstrates.
The headlines in stories reporting on the UN's latest climate change report all say something along the lines of: "Urgent changed is needed to prevent global catastrophe."
If global temperatures climb more than 1.5 degrees Celsius — compared with preindustrial temperatures — all hell will break loose, the UN says. There will be catastrophic flooding, drought, more weather extremes. Hundreds of millions will be susceptible to poverty by midcentury. Even at 1.5 degrees, terrible things will happen.
To be clear, we are highly skeptical of these doom-and-gloom scenarios. Past predictions of global warming catastrophes have failed to emerge. In the U.S., for example, there's been no trend toward more extreme weather, drought or flooding, even though the planet has already warmed 1 degree Celsius. This year's tornado season, in fact, has been the mildest on record. What's more, environmentalists have issued these "point of no return" warnings for decades, only to revise them once the supposed deadline passes.
Global Warming Is Inevitable
But even if the alarmist predictions are true, there's nothing that can plausibly be done at this point to stop it. That's the real message of the annual UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
The chart contained in the "Summery for Policymakers" shows projected changes in global temperatures over the next 100 years. It also shows that temperatures will top the supposed 1.5-degree limit by around 2040, even if the world makes drastic reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions within the next two decades.
The UN's forecasts all assume that the entire world become entirely carbon free by 2055 … at the latest. That's just 37 years from now. It also assumes that the world makes massive reductions in other greenhouse gases, such as methane.
Here's an example of what the UN says would have to happen within the next 12 years to meet that goal. Keep in mind, this is the low end of the UN's proposed changes.
60% of the world's energy would have to come from renewable sources by 2030, and 77% by 2050. (The Department of Energy forecasts that renewables will account for just 27% of the U.S.'s electric power generation by 2050.)
Coal use would have to drop 78%, oil 37% and natural gas 25% — compared with 2010 levels — within 12 years. (Last year, global coal demand increased, and use of natural gas has massively climbed in the U.S.)
There'd have to be a 59% increase in nuclear power by 2030, and a 150% increase by 2050. (Good luck getting environmentalist to buy into that).
Farmers would have to figure out how to cut methane emissions by 24% by 2030, (and still feed a growing worldwide population).
Even those massive reductions won't produce enough CO2 reductions it. So, the UN assumes the world will also remove massive amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. That's despite the fact that nobody knows how to do that today.
Unprecedented, Or Wishful Thinking?
The UN itself admits that achieving anything like these levels of greenhouse gas reductions "would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure, and industrial systems."
It goes on to say that such an undertaking would be "unprecedented in terms of scale." And it would require a "significant upscaling of investments." In other words, massive amounts of money.
To say that changes of this magnitude within that time frame are unrealistic would be putting it mildly.
And countries aren't even living up to those pledges.
In the EU, carbon emissions started climbing again last year. Germany is way off its carbon reduction goals, despite plans to spend $580 billion to overhaul its energy system. A recent report showed that only nine of 195 countries have submitted their CO2 reduction plans to the UN.
Does anyone honestly believe that these countries will suddenly decide to entirely decarbonize their economies in three decades?
Adapting To Global Warming
So, if the chances of avoiding a climate "catastrophe" are gone, what should be done?
Sure, we can research carbon removal technology. And, as the U.S. has shown, a free-market economy — simply by encouraging cost cutting and efficiency — can generate CO2 reductions without the heavy hand of government.
But in our view, the most prudent course of action isn't to wreck the global economy in hopes that it might make a small difference in the climate 100 years from now. The more reasonable approach is to adapt to whatever changes do occur.
Even if the horror stories told by environmentalists come to pass, mankind can and will adjust.
After all, the human race has shown the ability to survive in the most extreme climates. And it's done so with far less technological sophistication. We've learned to live in deserts. And in the Arctic. In hurricane alleys and earthquake zones. The idea that we won't be able to handle changes caused by a slightly warmer planet over the next millennium is ludicrous.
Meanwhile, if the environmentalists' horror stories don't come true, we won't have wasted trillions upon trillions of dollars tilting at windmills.
Jobs: You'd have to be a hermit not to know that this is the best jobs-economy in nearly half a century, following two years of booming growth. President Trump's tax cuts and deregulation worked like a charm. Even dormant wage growth has revived. The big question is, will the Fed now raise rates to make it all go away?
No, we're not anti-Fed. But the central bank has a history of moving aggressively to tamp down good times out of fear that inflation will suddenly rear its ugly head. The late Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin famously said the Fed's job was "to take away the punch bowl just as the party gets going."
Many market watchers were confused Thursday when financial markets tumbled. Was it the Kavanaugh nomination? Trump tariffs? Actually, neither. Rather, the trigger was incoming data suggesting that the economy was strengthening. Markets knew that the growth-averse Fed will now almost certainly raise rates in December. Before, it was only considered a possibility.
The good news is that even a Fed rate hike in December likely won't kill the economy. The U.S. kept interest rates at zero percent during President Obama's time in office. It also spent trillions of dollars on quantitative easing to boost the economy. Fed economists and policymakers knew, though they couldn't say it, that Obama's economic growth policies wouldn't work.
Then came Trump. As we said, his tax cuts and deregulation moves set the economy on fire. We're now growing at a 3%-plus rate, a pace many conventional economists said was impossible. As we now know, it's not.
Powell Gets Giddy
In comments last week, Fed chief Jerome Powell sounded uncharacteristically giddy, saying "there's really no reason to think that this cycle can't continue for some time, effectively indefinitely."
But he also admitted to losing sleep over what could go wrong. As he said, "we're pretty close to full employment." With central bankers, gloomy always wins over giddy.
Powell and others at the Fed fear that the current unemployment level of 3.7%, the lowest since December 1969, will set off "wage inflation" as labor markets tighten. But there's no sign of that. In September, wages rose 2.8% year over year, down from 2.9% in August. Besides, there's really no such thing as "wage inflation" anyway. Higher wages are merely a revaluing of one input, labor, over another, such as machinery, robots or raw materials.
For the punch bowl to stay out, as Powell suggests it can, the bank must delicately tiptoe back to the interest rate level most Fed economists believe is "neutral": a fed funds rate of about 3%. Last month the Fed raised rates a quarter-point to 2%-2-1/4%. It'll hike again in December. That will put the rate at 2.5%. How much higher will it go? Is the Fed's estimate of 3% as "neutral" accurate? Higher? Lower? No one knows, and that's the problem. Mr. Powell, tread softly.
Climate Change: If you care about global warming, you must like wind power, right? But what if wind power itself ends up contributing to a warmer climate? That appears to be the case, according to a new study.
The study, by Harvard researchers and published in the energy research journal Joule, found if the country relied entirely on wind power for energy, the average temperature in the continental United States would climb by almost a quarter of a degree Celsius.
Keep in mind that eliminating all CO2 emissions from electricity generation would, as most, cool temperatures by 0.1 degree Celsius. In other words, wind power would more than offset whatever gains came from drastic cuts in carbon emissions.
Churning the Air
Why? The researchers say that the warming comes from the fact that the wind turbines churn the air, and "the exchange of heat, moisture, and momentum between the surface and the atmosphere" cause temperatures to rise.
James Temple, writing in MIT Technology Review, said the study "raises serious questions about just how much the United States or other nations should look to wind power to clean up electricity systems."
It also raises serious questions about why the U.S. spends billions of dollars each year subsidizing wind power.
That's to say nothing of the fact that several states mandate that their utilities buy a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources like wind.
The combination helped boost wind power's share of electricity generation from 1.5% in 2000 to more than 6% last year.
By the way, wind turbines aren't just warming the climate, they're slaughtering birds. The Audubon Society says existing wind farms kill up to 328,000 birds a year.
Wind energy is also a massive land hog ( as is solar). One analysis found that wind farms require roughly 100 times as much land as a modern nuclear power plant to produce the same amount of energy. (Nuclear power doesn't chop birds up or heat the climate, and produces zero carbon emissions. Yet for some reason it never factors in as a "clean energy alternative.")
What's more, because the wind doesn't always blow, wind farms need other, more reliable, and usually CO2-producing, sources of energy to back them up.
The federal production tax credit for wind is set to phase out by 2020. But as anyone who follows these things knows, "temporary" tax subsidies have a way of becoming permanent.
In the meantime, will environmentalists rethink their love of climate-warming, bird-killing and land-grabbing wind power?
Justice: A federal judge in — where else? — California has ruled that the U.S. can't send temporary refugees back to their countries because, basically, he doesn't like President Trump. In doing so, he's shown why both elections and judicial nominations matter.
Federal Judge Edward M. Chen is a classic President Obama appointee to the bench. A legal leftist from the University of California, Berkeley, his first years in practice were spent as a staff lawyer for the ACLU.
His credentials from then on out remained impeccably progressive, all the way until Obama named him to the federal bench.
This week, Chen ruled that the Trump administration's decision to return 262,000 people back to Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Sudan who were here under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was somehow illegitimate because, in Chen's opinion, Trump is racist.
Chen cited comments by Trump during the 2016 campaign, which included "remarks characterizing Mexican immigrants as drug dealers or users, criminals and rapists." Then there was Trump's referring this year to MS-13 gang members as "animals."
But the one that really seemed to set Chen off was Trump referring to TPS nations as "S#@thole countries." The fact that the Trump administration policy would mostly affect "non-white, non-European individuals" cinched it for Chen — even though Chen's own comments were, on their face, racist and showed extreme bias.
"Temporary" begins to look an awful lot like "permanent" under Chen's ruling. He wants to turn refugees into immigrants.
Judges Make Laws?
Despite Trump's crude remarks, a judge's job isn't to create the law from the bench, or to act on his own personal feeling about those who make and enforce our laws. A judge's job is to determine whether the case before him was within the scope and authority of the law. That's it. Judges do not make policy.
In the case before Chen, anyone who wishes to consult the Constitution and the body of law that supports it will find that the President has the power, authority, and even the obligation, to determine policy in both security and immigration matters. In short, it's his job, Chen's petulant decision notwithstanding.
Make no mistake. Chen's ruling will almost certainly be overturned on appeal, or perhaps at the Supreme Court level. He doesn't have the law on his side.
But then leftist judges rarely do. Leftist judges believe the ends justify the means. So the law says what they want it to say. After all, the hard left doesn't believe in law, per se; it believes in power. The law is merely an instrument of power.
Obama's Leftist Legal Legacy
Unfortunately, Chen is emblematic of the judges that former President Obama named to the bench. They either don't care or are ignorant of the Constitution's all-important role in guarding our freedoms. They've replaced the Constitution's time-tested wisdom with the destructive dictates of post-modern progressivism.
And right now, they dominate the judiciary.
During his time in office, Obama named 329 federal judges, including two to the Supreme Court, 55 to the Court of Appeals and 268 to the U.S. District Courts, along with a handful of other more specialized courts.
The Supreme Court of course is important, but it's the Court of Appeals where the action is. Its 13 circuit courts serve as the filter for what ultimately gets decided at the Supreme Court.
Right now, the Senate has 73 Trump nominations to various federal courts awaiting action. Trump already named Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. He now awaits approval of Brett Kavanaugh after a bruising political battle marked by personal attacks and unsubstantiated charges of sexual assault. Trump has another 10 nominees awaiting seats on the Court of Appeals, and 60 for the federal District Courts.
Even assuming that he doesn't get re-elected in 2020, he'll have a chance to shift the balance away from the Democratic Party's far-left jurisprudence and back toward the reasoned, centrist constitutionalism that served this country so well for over 200 years.
So far, despite the nonstop wailing of the media and the Democratic Party's out-of-touch leaders, President Trump has placed 26 judges on the Court of Appeals and 41 in District Courts.
Meanwhile, Judge Chen's decision to overturn a completely legal order by the Department of Homeland Security shows a lack of respect for the rule of law. And it's not harmless. Replacing the time-tested body of law with the individual whims of politicized judges is a recipe for eventual dictatorship.
A Judge Of The Left
Chen's moral preening from the bench is yet another clear indication of just how far the judiciary sank during Obama's terms in office. If Trump hadn't defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, the federal judiciary would by now be well on its way to becoming, in effect, a legal vanguard of the far-left progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
And all of our constitutional rights would be in jeopardy.
Surveys show that the nation today is as politically divided as it's ever been. Of course, political differences are inevitable, but we need to have a neutral arbiter for our laws. That's the role the courts play.
Without balance on the courts and a return to rule of law, Americans may eventually turn to other ways to resolve their serious differences — including violence. And that would serve no one's interests. Not even Judge Chen's.
Election 2018: Democrats may have seriously miscalculated when they decided to mount an unprecedented campaign of character assassination against Judge Brett Kavanaugh. There could be hope for this country yet.
The latest IBD/TIPP poll finds not only that President Donald Trump gained four points in his approval rating, and 7% in the exclusive Presidential Leadership Index. But the Democrats' 11-point advantage in the generic ballot has been all but vaporized. It's now down to 2 points, with just a month to go until the midterm elections.
That's a sudden and stunning turnaround that can only be explained by the public's horrified reaction to the Democrats unhinged attacks on Kavanaugh.
Over the past two weeks — the time when the IBD/TIPP Poll was in the field — leaders of that party accused Kavanaugh of sexual abuse, gang rape, binge drinking, perjury, the wrong "temperament," and anything else they could think of. It was a shocking display.
And every time Democrats got their way, they demanded more. They repeatedly called for a hearing so Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford could tell her — uncorroborated and inconsistent — story from 36 years ago to the nation. When Democrats got that wish granted, they repeatedly demanded a meaningless FBI "investigation" into her accusation, along with others that were far less credible.
When Republicans caved to that demand, the FBI interviewed witnesses. They found nothing damning. Now Democrats are saying that the FBI is engaged in a cover-up.
We are not making this up.
Our poll isn't the only one showing the public recoiling at the sorry spectacle put on by the Democratic Party.
An NPR/PBS/Marist poll finds that enthusiasm for the November midterm elections has skyrocketed among GOP voters. The share of Republicans who say the elections are "very important" shot up 12 points since July, and now closely matches Democrats.
(The IBD/TIPP Poll asked this question for the first time in our current poll, and showed similar results.)
More Evidence of Kavanaugh Blowback
Since mid-September, the Real Clear Politics average of polls showed Trump's approval climbing more than three points. Democrats' advantage on the generic ballot question has dropped from 9 points to 7.7 points (and that was before IBD's number made it into the RCP average).
Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee reports that its small-dollar donations surged 175% over the past week, compared with the same time in the previous month.
McClatchy news service quotes GOP pollster Chris Wilson, who says she's seen gains in support for Republican candidates in Arizona, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas over the past week.
The latest NBC North Dakota News survey shows incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is now down by 10 points, a significant drop from its June poll.
Jolted Into Reality
As McClatchy put it: "The nomination fight over Kavanaugh appears to have jolted a wide range of Republican voters, including both women and men, Trump loyalists — who are now remembering that they voted for him in part because of the Supreme Court — and Republicans who don't like the president."
Jolted is right.
GOP voters, and no doubt many independents, suddenly realized what has become of today's Democratic Party. Captured by extremists, willing to do anything to win. The Kavanaugh spectacle is just a taste of what the party has in store should they gain majorities in Congress.
All this said, the chances remain good that Democrats will regain control of the House. The history of midterm elections alone points to a gain big enough to overcome the relatively narrow GOP majority. If they don't, they will have only themselves to blame.
The rest of the country, however, would be able to breathe a sigh of relief that the politics of personal destruction failed.
Minimum Wage: Amazon, the massive online retailer, announced with great fanfare that it will raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour, and will encourage others across the nation to do the same. Is it unselfish public-mindedness, or political and competitive pressures that's behind the move?
Sorry, Jeff Bezos, but we don't buy the social justice talk anymore. Anytime a multi-billion dollar corporation begins talking about social issues, check your wallet. And then look at who's pressuring them.
That's certainly the case with Amazon, which on Tuesday announced the minimum wage hike.
"We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead," founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement about the pay raise, which goes into effect next month.
"Leading" will be expensive, since a lot of workers will be affected. Some 250,000 people work for Amazon, which plans to hire another 100,000 for the Christmas holiday season.
But the truth is, it's a move not premised on doing "the right thing," as leftist minimum wage activists like to say, but on Amazon keeping its edge as the nation's leading retailing force.
Bezos' Minimum Wage Hike Activism
Start with the fact that Jeff Bezos, a bazillionaire from his Amazon holdings (in fact, the richest human on Earth), won't be pulling out his checkbook to pay for this minimum wage hike. Whatever else you might feel about this, you'll pay for it. In fact, you probably already are, since Amazon just jacked up its Amazon Prime subscriptions by $20.
Nor did Amazon's move come from some deep cry of conscience over economic injustice. Rather, it came in response to a brutal political attack on the company by socialist millionaire Senator Bernie Sanders.
In September, Sanders ripped Amazon for not paying its workers, especially seasonal and part-timers, more. And he claimed, absurdly, that Amazon was forcing workers onto welfare — and therefore also forcing taxpayers to subsidize one of the biggest companies on Earth.
Memo to Bezos: When you start taking economic advice from an economically illiterate politician who, among other things, has lauded Venezuela's insanely destructive socialist policies, you might be heading for trouble.
At any rate, this decision was not premised on social justice, but on hard-nosed business and political considerations, pure and simple. In short, Amazon wants its competitors to do the same.
As Reuters aptly noted: "The online retailer also said it would now lobby in Washington D.C. for an increase in the federal minimum wage and urged its competitors to follow its lead as the union-led 'Fight for Fifteen' movement pushes for higher remuneration."
'Fight For Fifteen'
As we've noted here before, the "Fight for Fifteen" movement is one of the most retrograde of its kind. By pushing for a national minimum of $15 an hour, it will ensure that low-skilled, little-educated minority and immigrant workers stay on the bottom in informal labor markets without benefits — or lose their jobs entirely, by pricing them out of the market.
No, we're not making this up. It's the conclusion of many economic studies. One such study of recent minimum wage hikes by economists Jeffrey Clemens and Michael R. Strain found that " relatively large minimum wage increases (defined as those exceeding $1) reduced employment among low?skilled population groups by just over 1 percentage point."
Ponder that for a moment. Given that the current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, you can guess what kind of damage this will do.
And now Amazon is siding with this pernicious policy, which applied nationally will further isolate low-income minorities and widen our inequality gap. Is that what "progressive" means?
On the business side of the ledger, the U.S. unemployment rate is near its lowest level in half a century and Amazon has to scramble for qualified workers. That means pay them more. What better way than make it a "policy?" And then wrap yourself in the social-justice flag and insist everyone else do the same thing? Also, your weaker competitors, who don't have the cushion of billions of dollars in profits to pay for higher wages, will struggle and in some cases fail.
Pay Raise — Or Competitive Edge?
We aren't the only ones noticing this.
As American Enterprise Institute fellow James Pethokoukis wrote recently: "The (minimum wage) boost would give the trillion-dollar retailing giant an edge over rivals such as Walmart and Target in the competition for increasingly scarce workers. It also gives the company a reputational lift — or perhaps a political heat shield — after politicians such as Bernie Sanders have attacked it for its labor practices, including how some employees receive assistance from government safety-net programs."
Don't get us wrong. We're happy for Amazon workers who'll get a minimum wage hike. In a rip-roaring economy, many workers are getting raises for the first time in almost a decade. That follows the lean, dismal Obama years. This is as it should be.
And, no, we aren't anti-Jeff Bezos. We wish him the best in all his endeavors, and he has been generous in his philanthropy, as befits a billionaire.
But forcing all companies in all states regardless of their fiscal condition to boost their wages to $15 an hour is a foolish policy, one that will destroy jobs and hurt the very people minimum wage proponents and their union allies claim to help: those without education or training, poor minorities, the young and immigrants.
So call Bezos' minimum-wage grandstanding anything you want. Just don't call it social justice.
Education: A new survey finds that only a third of Americans could pass the U.S. Citizenship test. It's a dismal testament to the abject failure of the country's education system. And a looming threat to the nation's future.
The survey, conducted by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and released on Wednesday, found that only 36% of Americans would pass the citizenship test given to immigrants. And this is on a test that only requires applicants to get 60% of the questions right.
Fewer than one quarter, for example, knew why the colonists fought the British. More than half don't know how many justices serve on the Supreme Court. Fully 60% don't know which countries the U.S. fought in World War II.
More troubling, the survey found that younger people are far more ignorant about the most basic facts of U.S. history and civics. A pathetically low 19% of those under age 45 passed the test.
"It would be an error to view these findings as merely an embarrassment," said the Wilson Foundation's president Arthur Levine. "Knowledge of the history of our country is fundamental to maintaining a democratic society, which is imperiled today."
He has it exactly right. And blame rests with the nation's education system who turn out students increasingly ignorant of even rudimentary facts about American history and civics.
It's not as though we haven't known about this glaring knowledge gap.
In 2011, the Education Department's National Assessment of Education Progress found widespread ignorance of civics. Just one in 10 understood the checks and balances between the three branches of government. Only a small minority understood what rights the Constitution protects, or how laws are passed.
When former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor saw the results, she said "we have a crisis on our hands when it comes to civics education."
But the NAEP showed no progress three years later. Among eighth graders, just 23% were proficient or better in civics, and just 18% were proficient or better in American history.
That year, the Obama administration decided to dump the civics and history parts of the assessment altogether.
Other surveys find the same appalling levels of ignorance.
An Annenberg survey last year found that 37% of Americans couldn't name a single right guaranteed by the First Amendment. Only 26% could even name all three branches of government.
Colleges aren't helping much, either. A few years ago, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute tested college graduates on their knowledge of American history and civics. The average score was 57% — an "F". That score was only slightly higher than the overall population, which scored a 49% on the test.
Yet, despite repeated warnings of the danger posed by turning out so many ignorant citizens, schools and universities are doing nothing, or as close to it as possible, to turn this around.
Schools spend more time indoctrinating students into left-wing ideology than teaching them the basics of how our system of government works. Let alone why it's unique in human history. Or why it's worth defending. A review of the Advance Placement history textbook by the Education and Research Institute, for example, found more than 300 examples of liberal bias.
Cost Of Ignorance
Because of this monumental education failing, young people — particularly those in colleges and recent graduates — believe it is perfectly acceptable to silence speech with which they disagree.
As we saw from the Brett Kavanaugh spectacle, few people appear to understand due process rights. The most basic, foundational principle of the nation's rule of law — that people are innocent until proven guilty. In fact, two separate amendments to the Constitution contain due process clauses.
It also explains how a candidate running for Congress like socialist darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez could think that congressional representatives are "inaugurated," or that lawmakers are able to sign bills into law, both of which she claimed at a political event on Monday.
Speaking of which, the rampant ignorance of U.S. history and civics also helps explain why so many young Americans think socialism would be better than the limited government enshrined by the U.S. Constitution.
Maybe that's why the education system is doing so little to teach history and civics to students. After all, the more ignorant people are about the uniqueness of the American experiment, and its unparalleled success in boosting peace and prosperity at home and abroad, the more susceptible they will be to anti-American leftist claptrap.
The nation's educators might not care that they are failing the country by turning out generations of civics ignoramuses. But anyone who cares about the future of the country should.
Property Rights: Suppose for a moment you owned 1,500 acres of land that your family had owned and worked for generations. Then, out of nowhere, the federal government said you could no longer use that land as you wished. Why? Because of a frog. Would that anger you?
It sure angered Edward Poitevent, a Louisianian whose lawyers stood before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week to argue his case. Poitevent, a tree farmer, is part of the Weyerhaeuser Co. V. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service case the high court is now considering. Obama administration officials labeled Poitevent's spread in St. Tammany Parish, La., a "potential backup habitat" for the endangered dusky gopher frog.
Here's the rub: The land in question doesn't have the frog living on it, and the land isn't even suitable for the frog. Nonetheless, in 2011 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared his land "critical habitat" because, with modifications, it could potentially serve as a home for the endangered dusky gopher frog.
This is not a tiny piece of land. As Michael Bastasch of the Daily Caller notes, it's roughly twice the size of New York's Central Park. It's that big. And no one, including the government's species snoops, has seen the frog there in decades. The land has been tree-farmed for years.
Unfriendly Frog Habitat
As Poitevent told the Daily Caller, "If you put the frog back on there today, it would die."
By the way, the closest actual habitat is more than 50 miles away. And it's not even in Louisiana, but Mississippi. Indeed, the government in its legal filings has gone out of its way not to use the actual, true name of the frog: The "Mississippi gopher frog." After all, it might prejudice the judges to know that the frog's own name suggests its habitat is elsewhere.
Indeed, and it underscores the dilemma that landowners face when coming up against the U.S. bureaucracy and its implacable legions of lawyers
Such bureaucratic bullying in the name of the Endangered Species Act isn't just socialistic and unconstitutional, but works to undercut actual protection of endangered species.
Besides, the best way to get anyone to do anything is to give them incentives — not take something valuable from them. What property owner, knowing how the government operates, would permit even a single dusky gopher frog to reside on his or her property? In a number of cases around the country, property owners have killed endangered species on their land to keep from losing the possible use of their land. Under this current case, even not having the endangered species in question on your land isn't enough.
Property Rights And Freedom
The founders embedded property rights into the Constitution for a reason: It was considered the basis of our economic liberty, the linchpin of a free republic. Under U.S. national law, any property seized for government use must be compensated. But it should also be the case that any administrative rule that renders property unusable should likewise be a "taking" under the law. It would therefore require compensation.
And, in the case of the Poitevents, the "taking" is huge: about $34 million in all.
This underscores why the government should have to show the absolute necessity of taking someone's property — especially for something as dubious as saving a frog that doesn't even exist on the land at all. After all, the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution is absolutely clear in saying "private property (shall not) be taken for public use, without just compensation."
This lawsuit has been making its way through the courts for years now, tying up the Poitevent family's main asset. It's a legacy suit, left over from the Obama years. That was a time when, to put it mildly, property rights were not exactly in vogue. We hope as part of his push to "drain the swamp," President Trump will see to it that our nation's bureaucracies no longer willy-nilly seize private property for often-dubious public purposes. And if they do, they should have to pay up.
Politics of Personal Destruction: Anyone notice that Democrats have suddenly lost interest in the sexual assault claim they said was central to Judge Kavanaugh's fitness to serve on the Supreme Court? Now it's all about his "temperament" … and what the word "boof" meant when he was in high school. Can this process possibly sink any lower?
The New York Times gave the Democrats' new game plan away this week.
"For Democrats determined to derail Judge Kavanaugh," the Times reported, "his performance last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee … is proving to be a new avenue of attack, if the accusations of sexual assault are not enough to swing the votes of three key Republicans and two undecided Democrats."
Kavanaugh's opponents appear to have all but conceded that Christine Blasey Ford's accusations aren't credible enough to stop his nomination. And for good reason. As Rachel Mitchell, the prosecutor who questioned Ford for Republicans noted in her memo about the hearing, Ford's accusation doesn't even rise to the level of "he said, she said."
Mitchell notes that Ford gave changing accounts about the alleged attack — including when it happened. (Before contacting Sen. Dianne Feinstein, for example, she said it happened in the mid-1980s and in her late teens.) Ford provided no additional facts that would help corroborate her story, and the few she did have all been disputed. Ford also refused to turn over the only piece of supporting evidence she does have — her therapists' notes.
As we noted at the time, the Democrats repeated calls for an FBI "investigation" into her claims were little more than a stalling tactic. All the FBI does in its background checks is take statements. It's highly unlikely they will find anything that the media haven't already dredged up. It certainly won't arrive at any "conclusions."
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., admitted as much to the Huffington Post, saying that: "I worry that the FBI report will come back without a definitive conclusion, and that may give cover to some people who want to vote yes."
Pay close attention to Murphy's statement. He isn't concerned with the truth, he just worries that the FBI report won't help Democrats.
Moving The Goal Posts
So now, suddenly, Democrats insist that the accusations of sexual assault are no longer their primary concern.
Nope. What matters now is the fact that Kavanaugh was angry at the hearing last Thursday. (Which was entirely justifiable given the circumstances.) That he claimed he never blacked out drinking. (Something only Kavanaugh himself could disconfirm.) And that he didn't tell the truth about what inside-joke slang words like "boof" in his high school year book meant. (Seriously?)
As Sen. Chuck Schumer put it: "I think there are serious questions about both his credibility and his temperament that may, to some senators, be more important than the activities that occurred in high school."
When that failed, they decided to unleash a carefully timed smear campaign to paint Brett Kavanaugh as a sexual predator, based only on the vague recollections of one woman who claims Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were both in high school.
That led to more than a week of other, increasingly less credible accusations — all breathlessly reported in the press — in the hopes that the sheer number of accusers would drive Kavanaugh out. (That was Plan B.)
On To Plan C
But that, too, failed to stop Kavanaugh's nomination.
So, on to Plan C. Democrats have more or less dropped the question of sexual assault that just days ago they said was central to his nomination. Instead, they say it's Kavanaugh's reaction to their character assassination that disqualifies him.
If this is the new standard by which Democrats will judge Supreme Court nominees, or anyone else who hopes to hold a top position in government, no conservative will ever be able to survive the process.
All they'll have to do in the future is mount another hysterical campaign of unsubstantiated accusations, rumors and innuendo, count on the liberal media to dutifully play along, and then complain about how the target of their attacks responds.
You have to admire the Democrats for their incredible tenacity in their attempt to block Kavanaugh from the court — even if what they've done is a moral abomination.
The only question left is whether the GOP will reward them for it.
Free Trade: President Donald Trump's deal with Canada and Mexico has been met with a sigh of relief by the financial markets and businesses. Not because it's a radical shift from the flawed former North American Free Trade Agreement, but because it isn't.
Immediately after reaching a deal late Sunday, the U.S. and Canadian negotiators said the deal would "result in freer markets, fairer trade and robust economic growth in our region."
That's likely true. But it has some drawbacks, too. And lost in all the words spent by the two governments and the media in describing the new trade deal is the question of whether the agreement, which replaces Nafta, will change our $1.2 trillion in trade with Canada and Mexico all that dramatically. The answer is not really. Some of the changes will be for the better. Unfortunately, U.S. consumers will pay for it with higher prices.
Yes, the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, as it's now called, does loosen some trade rules. But it's a mixed bag. It's no mystery why President Trump, in renaming the trade deal, left out the words "free trade." That was never the goal.
That said, however, Trump promised in 2016 to reshape U.S. trade ties with its neighbors to boost American manufacturing and jobs. This does that.
Nafta Auto Makeover
A linchpin of the trade deal was a reshaping of the North American auto industry. Under Nafta, 62.5% of cars' parts had to be made by Nafta nations in order to qualify for zero-tariff treatment; now that will rise to 75% over five years. The deal also requires that at least 30% of the labor input come from workers earning $16 an hour or more, or roughly three times what the average Mexican worker makes. That will keep automakers from moving more of their factory investments to low-wage Mexico.
But Mexico and Canada benefit, too. A so-called "side letter" stipulates that the U.S. can impose tariffs of as much as 25% on imported cars, on national security grounds. But even if tariffs are imposed on foreign car sales in the U.S., both Mexico and Canada will each have tariff-free exemptions of 2.6 million vehicles annually. This is much more than either currently produces. And trucks will be entirely tariff-free.
So the Mexican and Canadian auto industries, more than ever, will be linked to the U.S.
The U.S. also symbolically pried open Canada's largely closed $16 billion dairy sector. While Canada will offer access to only about 3.5% of its dairy market (about $560 million) to U.S. companies, it marked a victory for U.S. milk producers long shut out of Canada.
The deal also will keep Nafta's trade dispute settlement rules, which require a "panel of representatives" to rule on anti-dumping and other trade duties imposed. Canada wanted this, since it removes such decisions from U.S. courts.
What About Free Trade?
But unfortunately, the deal doesn't move any of the participants toward freer trade. Instead, it builds a closed trade area and keeps open the possibility of more tariffs. Even under this deal, which Canada's government lauded, 25% tariffs on Canadian steel, imposed by Trump, remain in place.
This is an area of concern. As we've noted before, tariffs are taxes — not on the other guy, but on your own consumers and corporations. To the extent we have higher tariffs, we will be less well off with fewer jobs. And once again, for the record, IBD supports free trade over managed trade.
That said, financial markets rose sharply after the deal was announced. Markets tend to like free trade, but this wasn't that. Nor was it even the best deal possible. But markets also hate uncertainty surrounding trade. Trump's deal largely eliminated that. Some had feared a really bad trade deal. This trade deal didn't fit that definition.
One thing it does do, however, is advance one of Trump's unwritten goals as president: to pressure China on its unfair trade policies. That country's leaders no doubt understand that many of the USMCA's new rules have been aimed at weakening China's trade influence in our hemisphere. From that standpoint, it was an unmitigated success.
We know this because, on Sunday, as U.S. and Canadian negotiators neared a deal, China quietly announced cuts in its tariffs. Clearly, despite its tough talk about not tolerating Trump's trade policies, the tariffs Trump has imposed on China have started to pinch. China's economy has slowed dramatically, a result of its weakening sales to the U.S. and other developed markets. It's crying uncle.
Meanwhile, President Trump has said he wants to reduce trade deficits with the rest of the world. Our unsolicited advice: Be careful what you wish for. Shrinking trade deficits often come with slower economic growth. It's one thing to level the playing field and to require countries like China to play by the rules and stop stealing U.S. technology. It's quite another to tether U.S. trade policy to the goal of reducing trade deficits with tariffs — a dubious goal at best.
All in all, this is a step back from free trade, but it's no disaster. We would hope that future deals, whatever they're called, would lower barriers to trade between countries, increase compliance with agreed-upon rules, encourage investment, and help create jobs. Free trade is still a great idea and a force for individual liberty and material prosperity.
Health Reform: Democrats want health care to be a major deciding issue in the midterm elections and are spending a fortune running campaign ads. Too bad most of the ads make the false claim that Republicans would take away protections for pre-existing conditions.
From January to July, Democrats spent some $17 million for 56,000 health care ads on behalf of Senate candidates, according to USA Today.
The Wesleyan Media Project reported that 44% of all the ads for congressional Democrats focused on health care. In Senate races, half of the ads were on health care, and another 16% on prescription drug costs.
"Democrats are really focusing the bulk of their messaging on health care as their signature issue," said Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.
And the bulk of these ads consist of claims that Republicans want to take away protections for pre-existing conditions. In one, a constituent asks why anyone would vote "to let insurance companies go back to denying coverage for pre-existing conditions."
Democrats know that this issue polls well. But the attacks both exaggerate the problem and distort the Republican's approach to health care reform.
The fact is that ObamaCare extended pre-existing protections to only a relatively small portion of the population — those who buy insurance on their own. The individual market comprises just 7% of the total insurance market. And of those, only a much smaller fraction had ever been denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions before ObamaCare.
Everyone else already had this protection. State and federal laws already mandated that large group plans couldn't charge more or deny coverage for someone because of a pre-existing condition. States had similar laws in place for small group plans.
Medicare and Medicaid, which cover 33% of the population, provide guaranteed coverage to those eligible. As does the Veterans Health Administration, which covers nearly 9 million veterans.
Meanwhile, Republicans' ObamaCare replacement plan included protections for those with pre-existing conditions. They just had a different — and we'd argue, far better and less costly — approach.
One GOP idea was to create subsidized high-risk pools for those whose health needs would truly make them ineligible for coverage. Another was to provide protections for those who maintain continuous coverage. That would prevent people from gaming the system by waiting until they're sick to buy insurance. (In contrast to ObamaCare, which encourages people to game the system.) Still another was to expand access to group coverage by removing needless government restrictions on "association health plans."
Whatever anyone thinks of the Republican alternatives, it's clear that ObamaCare's approach is failing. Its rules and mandates led to double-digit price increases year after year, which have priced millions of families out of the insurance market altogether. (So much for guaranteed coverage.) Those who can afford ObamaCare coverage have no choice but to enroll in HMO-style plans with extremely high deductibles. (So much for making insurance "affordable.")
The GOP proposals aren't perfect, a point we made in this space many times. But ObamaCare as it exists today is a disaster. It promises affordable coverage, but makes it impossible for millions to get it. And it requires massive taxpayer subsidies to bring individual insurance within reach of anyone.
The massive health care ad campaign may help Democrats win control of the House, and possibly the Senate, in November. But if they do, they'll be the ones responsible for figuring out how to deal with the ObamaCare mess they created eight years ago.
U.N.: Many Americans wondered why the Trump administration bothered to withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council last summer. The recent U.N. statement on Venezuela tells you all you need to know.
Venezuela's slide into economic oblivion is one of the greatest preventable tragedies of our time. It has once cause, and one cause only: A socialist government, begun under late dictator Hugo Chavez and continued under the current dictator, Nicolas Maduro. As the Economist observed in 2017, " No war, foreign or civil, is to blame for this catastrophe. Venezuela did this to itself."
How bad is it? Let's just consider that in 1967, Venezuela was a flourishing, oil-rich economy. According to the respected Maddison historical database, Venezuela's real per capita income that year equaled $16,076. Believe it or not, the United Kingdom in 1967 had lower per person GDP of $15,706. As of 2016, Venezuelan per capita GDP stood at $15,219, a decline of 5.3% over 50 years. The U.K.'s per capita GDP surged 138% over that time to $37,334 in 2016.
The point is, when a country veers crazily toward the socialist side of the political spectrum, expect the worst: social dislocation, economic decline, devaluation, hyperinflation, industrial collapse, massive job losses, crime, mass emigration, government oppression and imprisonment, torture and even murder of political foes. All are features of today's Venezuelan political landscape.
Given this, the U.N. Human Rights Council's statement on Venezuela, adopted Thursday, was pathetic. It " did not blame President Nicolas Maduro's government, or anyone else, for what it called 'serious human rights violations in a context of a political, economic, social and humanitarian crisis,' " CNSNews noted.
U.N. Watch called it "an embarrassing text that covers up the Maduro regime's gross abuses."
So, in short, it just happened. Kind of like a hurricane or tornado. A natural disaster.
Meanwhile, Venezuela's U.N. Ambassador Jorge Valero predictably blamed "sanctions and foreign interference," and suggested that the "U.S. and Israel" are to blame for the U.N. even bringing up its catastrophe. Maduro, speaking at the U.N., blamed the "world media" for fabricating a "migration crisis in Venezuela."
Though the U.S. no longer has a voice on the U.N. Human Rights panel, it has something better: U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who on Thursday grabbed a megaphone to address protesters.
"We are going to fight for Venezuela and we are going to continue doing it until Maduro is gone," she said, showing backbone the rest of the U.N. doesn't have.
It's not surprising that the U.N. would do so little in the face of so much misery. That's how it works. It only underscores Trump's wisdom in withdrawing from the U.N. Human Rights panel, and raises further questions about participating in the U.N. at all.
Kavanaugh: Despite all the drama preceding the hearing with Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, it changed nothing.
Ford came across as sincere. But her 36-year-old story still has holes in it and lacks any corroboration (including from a lifelong friend she says was at the party).
Kavanaugh gave a passionate statement emphatically denying Ford's claim.
Democrats grandstanded and issued entirely insincere complaints about rushing the process — after they kept Ford's claim hidden for months and refused to cooperate once her allegation became public.
So, it's hard to see why this hearing would change anyone's mind about whether Kavanaugh is suitable for the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh's opponents — who were going to vote against him anyway — will assume he's lying. His supporters will conclude, correctly as it turns out, that the Democrats unleashed a despicable circus.
But a fair reading of the hearing shows that Ford simply didn't make her case, at least not sufficiently to deny Kavanaugh a seat on the court.
Rachel Mitchell, the prosecutor hired by the Judiciary Committee Republicans to interview both witnesses, was clearly sympathetic toward Ford. But she nevertheless managed to poke additional holes in her credibility.
For example, Ford had claimed she couldn't be interviewed by Judiciary committee staff and investigators because of her fear of flying. But Mitchell got her to admit that she is, in fact, a frequent flier. What's more, Sen. Grassley noted that he'd offered to fly everyone out to California to talk to her. Ford's claim that she didn't understand Grassley's offer defies belief.
Mitchell also underscored that details of Ford's description of the event changed with various iterations of it. To Sen. Feinstein, she said there were "four others" at the party. To the Post she said four boys. To her analyst she said four boys. Then she claimed that her lifelong friend Leland Ingham Keyser was also at the party. Ford offered no explanation for the changes.
Mitchell asked Ford if anyone she knew at that time came forward to say they remembered driving her to, or picking her up, from the party. (She lived several miles from both the country club and the general area where she claims she was assaulted.) Even if Ford can't remember how she got home, it's reasonable to assume that a friend or family member who picked her up would remember that day. Yet, when asked, Ford said that nobody has come forward to support that part of her story.
Attorney and a Polygraph
In another line of questioning, Mitchell noted that the best way for assault victims to remember all the details would be to go to an expert who knows how to question them. But Ford never did that. Instead, as Mitchell, in a rare display of emotion, said, the first thing Ford did was hire an attorney, take a polygraph and refuse to answer questions in a private setting. Here's the exchange:
MITCHELL: Did anybody ever advise you from Senator Feinstein's office, or from Representative Eshoo's office to go get a forensic interview?
MITCHELL: Instead, you were advised to get an attorney and take a polygraph. Is that right?
FORD: Many people advised me to get an attorney. Once I had an attorney, my attorney and I discussed a — using the polygraph.
MITCHELL: And instead of submitting to an interview in California, we're having a hearing here today in five-minute increments. Is that right?
FORD: I — I agree that's what was agreed upon by the collegial group here.
But the most damaging piece of evidence is the fact that the one girl who Ford says was at the party denies it — Leland Ingram Keyser.
When asked why Keyser would deny it, Ford mumbled about her having health problems. And then insisted that there was no reason for her to remember the party because "nothing remarkable happened to them."
But the party as Ford describes it was remarkable. Ford says she ran out the front door after two of the four boys came stumbling downstairs in a drunken stupor. Being left alone as the only girl at a party with four falling down drunk boys is hardly unremarkable.
In any case, Keyser didn't just claim she couldn't remember such a party. She issued a far more sweeping denial. Here's the statement from Keyser's lawyer:
"Simply put, Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford."
Kavanaugh Had Facts
Kavanaugh, in contrast, at least presented some independent facts. He noted, for example, that Ford's claim not only hasn't been corroborated, as he put it, it's been refuted by every witness she says was present. (Keyser later said she didn't "refute" Ford's claim). Kavanaugh's personal calendar shows that in 1982 he was out of town most weekends. He also correctly pointed out that Democrats pulled this allegation out only after their other attempts to delay or defeat Kavanaugh had failed.
As to the Democrats' endless calls for an FBI investigation, they know full well that would make no difference. Everyone involved has already provided statements, which is all the FBI would collect. That's all they did when Anita Hill's charge against Clarence Thomas came to light. The FBI interviewed Hill, Justice Clarence Thomas and the one person Hill claimed she'd told.
For Democrats to complain that they don't have enough information from witnesses, at the very same time they are questioning both key witnesses, is beyond absurd.
At the end of hours of testimony, by any fair measure, Kavanaugh's lifetime of public service and the mountain of character witnesses should trump one unsubstantiated claim that has been denied by everyone but Ford.
But as we noted when this story first broke, the Democrats intention was never to get to the truth of Ford's allegations, or use her claim to weigh Kavanaugh's suitability for the court.
The intent was to thoroughly discredit Kavanaugh and send a warning to any conservative considering a prominent government job. We will destroy you by any means necessary. Democrats have declared total war on Republicans and conservatives.
So, while the hearings got the country no closer to the truth about Ford's accusation, they did highlight the depths Democrats will go to stop conservatives from reaching positions of power.
Tax Reform 2.0: There's little question among serious economic thinkers that the tax cuts that went into effect this year have given the economy a major boost. Despite what critics say, it has helped all Americans, not just the rich. It's time to make them permanent.
As early as Friday, we may get a vote on making the tax cuts permanent, rather than "sunsetting" them in 2026, as currently planned.
As we've mentioned more than once, these tax cuts aren't a "giveaway to the rich" or "fat cats." In fact, a new analysis from Congress' Joint Economic Committee (JEC) shows that the benefits of making the cuts permanent would mostly go to low- and middle-income earners.
We're not surprised. This tax cut was designed to encourage people to work more and pocket more of what they earned. It's worked spectacularly well. So-called "Tax Reform 2.0" will cement the benefits of tax cuts in place by making them permanent.
As the JEC notes in its report:
"Taxpayers with incomes under $50,000 will see their share of the total federal tax burden drop from 4.2% to 3.9%."
"Those with less than $10,000 in income will see their taxes slashed by more than half."
"Average taxpayers with incomes between $10,000 and $20,000, a group that frequently claims refundable tax credits, will have no tax liability and receive an additional refund."
" Millionaires will actually see their share of the total federal tax burden rise to 20.2%, compare to 19.6% if tax relief expires."
"While taxpayers will enjoy an average 5.2% cut in their taxes, taxpayers that earn over $1 million will see a below-average reduction of 2.3%."
Relief For Working Families
Or, as House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady described the bill earlier this month, "This will create over 1.5 million new jobs, continue to raise wages, and boost long-run GDP."
Indeed, it's already doing the job of delivering massive relief to working families. "Thanks to TCJA (the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act), 90% of wage earners are seeing higher take-home pay," Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, wrote in The Hill. "A family of four earning the median annual income $73,000 per year will see a 58% reduction in federal taxes, while a single parent with one child earning $41,000 will see a 73% reduction in federal taxes."
In short, the argument that this is a tax cut for the rich has completely fallen on its face, and Democrats know it. But it's the only argument they've got.
Meanwhile, in addition to the tax cuts, House Republicans have included two other bills under the Tax Reform 2.0 rubric. They're both pro-savings, pro-growth and pro-middle class. Congress should pass them, too.
The second bill would expand retirement and education savings accounts, and also create tax-free Universal Savings Accounts that would make it easier for all Americans to save for retirement and other long-term needs.
A Boost For Small Business
A third bill, the American Innovation Act of 2018, would allow businesses to deduct up to $20,000 in startup expenses in the year they are incurred, with some exceptions.
Critics have pounced on the $627 billion "price tag" for the tax cuts estimated over the next decade. But that raises the question: price tag for whom? Federal bureaucrats? Americans overwhelmingly like keeping their money rather than handing it over to a federal government that refuses to control its spending. As a recent report noted, the federal government could cut $3.1 trillion in spending over half a decade just by getting rid of wasteful, unnecessary programs.
Rather than denying working people the money they've earned, Washington politicians should be looking for ways to dramatically cut government spending. That's the reason for the soaring deficits — not tax cuts.
We hope the House votes and goes on record on this. It will help to clarify voters' minds. Thanks to the kerfuffle caused by the Democrats over Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, the Senate will not likely have time to vote on Tax Reform 2.0 before the election.
For the record, Democrats have unveiled plans to raise taxes by trillions of dollars, should they win in November. And they're dead set against any tax cuts. Voters, beware.
It's time to make the tax cuts permanent, and put the U.S. on a solid footing for decades to come.
Budget Malfeasance: Two recent stories caught our eye. One noted that, even after President Trump's tax cuts, Americans spent more on taxes than they did on food and clothing. The other noted that, as interest rates and the debt rise, the U.S. will soon spend more on interest than on defense. What gives?
The fact is, the cost of government is soaring, largely because of uncontrolled spending. This shouldn't be a surprise. At the federal level, despite the moral posturing about debt by both parties, the U.S.' debt has soared from less than $10 trillion a decade ago to more than $20 trillion today. And it's rising at a rate of about a trillion a year. It's a function of more spending on nearly everything, but especially entitlements.
Americans seem not to care, failing to realize that it's their indebtedness, not that of some abstract thing called "the government." That's why last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spent an average of $9,562 on food and clothing but a whopping $16,749 on federal state and local taxes. That excludes housing, which costs the average American about $17,819 a year after paying property taxes.
Finding Waste ...
We mention this because, by coincidence, this week marks the release of the Citizens Against Government Waste's annual report on — what else? — government waste. Its Prime Cuts 2018 Report recommends 636 government cuts that would reduce wasteful spending by $430 billion in the first year and by $3.1 trillion over five years.
That's a big chunk of change. For the first 11 months of the 2018 fiscal year, the deficit reached $895 billion, a 32% jump in just one year. Spending and the debt are clearly out of control.
"Even in the 'Drain the Swamp' era, the national debt of the United States first exceeded $21 trillion in 2018 and is poised to rise substantially in the coming years," the report said, calling the soaring debt a " calamitous hole."
CAGW has lots of ideas for cuts. And most, if not all, are good ideas. Get rid of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Neither serves any real purpose, other than to subsidize bad art. It would save $1.8 billion over five years.
Getting rid of the Market Access Program, which hands out millions of dollars to promote U.S. products overseas, is another great idea. It's a government program that performs a function best left to companies themselves. That will get rid of another $1 billion.
... Cutting Waste
Simply by cutting the amount of improper Medicare payments due to fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement we could save another $18.1 billion over five years.
We'd like to think at least some of this would get done, but given the current poisoned political climate it's not likely.
So, yes, it will inevitably get worse. Not only is spending growing but, as we noted, our interest expenses are exploding along with Fed rate hikes. This was inevitable, following nearly a decade of zero-percent interest rates by the Fed during the Obama years, followed by a series of eight rate hikes — including one on Wednesday — that are causing our interest on the debt to explode.
As recently as 2010, our trillions of dollars in debt cost us a "mere" $196.19 billion a year. That was just 5.7% of all federal spending. By 2018, however, that grew to $384.64 billion, or 8.8% of federal spending. By 2021, according to Office of Management and Budget data, spending on federal debt service will surge to $574.18 billion a year, or 11.2% of the budget. That's in just three years.
Going out, with both Social Security and Medicare spending set to soar, debt will grow at an even faster rate and along with it payments to service that debt. The Congressional Budget Office says that within a decade, the current $384.64 billion spent on debt payments each year will soar to $900 billion or higher.
Americans are cynical about debt warnings, having heard all this before. But the day may come when we have trouble raising money to pay our bills. The money we need to pay for our debt must be raised somehow. That means either taxes or interest rates will rise, or spending will be slashed. There are really no other good choices. And, as CAGW notes, we can find plenty of wasteful spending to cut. Today, not counting money the government owes itself, our debt equals 78% of GDP. By 2048, that will hit 152% of GDP. That's unsustainable.
Meanwhile, according to the CBO, the federal government over the next decade will spend $56.59 trillion while taking in $44.19 trillion in taxes. That's a $12 trillion hole in the budget.
Those of us who wish to leave our children and grandchildren something other than a mountain of unpayable debts had better start thinking hard about how we want to restore balance to our nation's finances. If not, we will soon face a very ugly financial reckoning that will make the last financial crisis pale by comparison.
Beyond Bias: The mainstream press might want to spend less time complaining about President Donald Trump's attacks on them and more time doing a better job. A new survey shows that a substantial majority of Americans think the press is biased, unreliable and out of touch.
The Pew Research Center surveyed more than 5,000 Americans — which is a huge number for such polls — to gauge their views on the mainstream news media.
The results won't come as a surprise to many on the right. But they should be a clanging wake-up call for journalists and editors, as well as the owners of these news outlets. The survey shows that a large majority of the public finds today's press biased, out of touch, and marginally informative, and that they cover up their own mistakes.
For an industry that relies on trust, these are dismal results.
Most of the coverage of the Pew survey is focused on its partisan findings. Republicans are more likely to claim bias, for example, and less likely to say the press is trustworthy or informative.
No surprise there. Nor is it surprising that the partisan divide over the press increased in the past two years, as the mainstream media openly declared war on Trump and has, as a result, fumbled several major stories.
What's most surprising about the Pew findings is how widespread the mistrust is today, particularly among independents.
Pew found, for example, that 68% believe news organizations are biased. But among independents, the figure is a shockingly high 72%. Even most Democrats (52%) say the news media are biased.
What's more, just over one in five (21%) say they trust the information they get from national news outlets "a lot." That's lower than local news (26%). And it's not all that much higher than "friends, family and acquaintances." Here, too, independents are highly skeptical, with just 19% saying they put a lot of trust in the information they get from the national press.
Only 17% of the public say the national news media keeps them very well-informed about national news.
Even more alarming, more than two thirds (68%) say that news organizations "try to cover up their mistakes." Think about that. Most of the public essentially believes that news people are hypocrites — demanding accountability from others while acting Nixonian about their own flubs.
Not only does the public view the mainstream press as biased and unreliable, but as out of touch.
Out of Touch
Pew found that more than half (58%) say that "news organizations do not understand people like me." Among independents, the share is an eye-popping 63%. It's only Democrats who think the media understands them (58% say they do).
No doubt much of this disconnect comes from the fact that the public generally has little interest in the stories that professional journalists fixate on.
News outlets keep serving up heaping dishes of "news" on Russia collusion, climate change, the midterm elections, gun control and inequality. But as we noted recently, the public doesn't care about those topics. A Gallup survey found that none ranks as an important problem facing the country.
The news media's flagrant mishandling of the accusations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh only underscores all these problems.
If the news media believes it deserves respect, it must strive to earn it. Every day. And that won't happen so long as reporters and editors act like cheerleaders for Democrats who are willing to do whatever it takes to advance that party's agenda.
U.N.: President Trump no doubt didn't get the reaction he would have liked from the United Nations to his speech. The assembled diverse-ocrats seemed to largely ignore the substance of his speech. Too bad. The outlines of his new Trump Doctrine that he unveiled at U.N. headquarters will have a major global impact.
Gone are the days of President Obama's kowtowing to foreign despots and pretending that all nations are the same. They aren't. And Trump, while willing to live and let live, is the first president since Ronald Reagan to tell the U.N. that our country will no longer tolerate the tyrants and dictators whose nations make up much of the U.N.'s General Assembly.
Trump has been tough on the U.N., so it's not surprising that his speech wasn't exactly greeted with politeness. When he began his speech boasting of his administration many undoubted accomplishments, the assembled "diplomats" laughed.
"It's true," Trump said. He added, somewhat gracefully for him, "Didn't expect that reaction, but that's OK."
That was clear in Trump's speech, which was groundbreaking in that he wholly rejected the god of globalism in favor of local, democratic governance and basic patriotism.
"We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism around the world," Trump told the U.N. "Responsible nations must defend against threats to sovereignty. And not just from governments, but from other newer forms of coercion and domination."
"I honor every nation to pursue its own customs, beliefs and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship," he said. "We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return."
"Sovereignty." What a fabulously old-fashioned, yet beautiful, term, one that has fallen into both disuse and disrepute in the Age of Globalism. We're glad Trump used it, since it's one of the many things that the socialist advocates of globalism would like to erase.
An End To Globalism?
Of course small-'g' globalism is fine, as an idea of openness and friendly relations among sovereign nations, each acting in its own interest. But as an ideological prelude to world government through the U.N., it's entirely unacceptable to any free people.
As Trump made clear, "globalism" becomes an empty and dangerous shibboleth when it means nothing beyond "all countries are the same, all moral codes are the same, all civilizations are the same." And when it erodes the rights of nations to act in their own interest.
That's why Trump pulled out of Obama's faulty oil deal. It's why he's pulling out of the International Criminal Court, which seems to be unable to render even simple justice. And it's why he won't agree to a new global deal on migration. "Migration should not be governed by an international body, unaccountable to our own citizens," Trump said.
In his speech, Trump made a quick tour d'horizon of the world's major conflicts and disputes, from Iran and Syria to China and North Korea. He had tough words for energy starved Germany for cozying up to Russia's President Vladimir Putin in order to keep the energy flowing.
Trump offered to sell Germany oil, natural gas and clean coal to fuel its economy, rather than increasing its dependence on Russia. German officials attending the U.N. session smirked.
At U.N., Hard Words For Iran
Trump ripped Iran for its many sins. "Iran's leaders sow chaos, death, and destruction. They do not respect their neighbors or borders, or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, Iran's leaders plunder the nation's resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond."
Tough words, to be sure. But all sadly true. Trump defended the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Tehran has repeatedly been caught cheating on its pledge to cut back its nuclear weapons program. The Iran deal was supposed to isolate Tehran and force the ruling theological clique there to live up to the agreement.
Instead, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China announced a joint plan by which they would set up a special payment mechanism that will let their companies circumvent U.S. sanctions.
So the rest of the world, including many of our allies, eschew Trump-style sovereignty. Fair enough. That's their choice. But they should remember that Iran's missile program already has projectiles that can reach Europe. Iran is still working on a nuclear bomb. It won't be long until nuclear blackmail will be Iran's trump card.
Trump Doctrine, Defined
If "sovereignty" is the central concept of the new Trump Doctrine, then an almost Reagan-like aversion to socialism and communism isn't far behind in importance.
"Currently, we are witnessing a human tragedy, as an example, in Venezuela," Trump said. "More than two million people have fled the anguish inflicted by the socialist Maduro regime and its Cuban sponsors. Venezuela was one of the richest countries on Earth. Today, socialism has bankrupted the oil-rich nation, and driven its people into abject poverty."
He went on: "Virtually everywhere socialism or communism has been tried, it has produced suffering, corruption, and decay. Socialism's thirst for power leads to expansion, incursion and oppression."
Right on, as those on the left might say. Trump is right to limit the U.S.' involvement in the U.N. and its various bodies until it cleans up its act. And he's also right to call out those whose behavior has created little more than death, destruction and massive waves of human migration.
Call it the Trump Doctrine. As tough as it sounds, its basic idea of enlightened self-interest may be the only thing that can save this troubled world right now.
Good Times: The past week saw more signs that the growing economy is benefiting middle class households, including another jump in household income. Not that you'd know it from the coverage, which is wall-to-wall Brett Kavanaugh.
The Labor Department's weekly initial unemployment insurance claims number released last Thursday was an "unexpectedly" low 201,000. That's the lowest this figure has been in nearly 50 years and suggests that the job market continues to thrive.
Meanwhile, the Conference Board reported Tuesday that the Consumer Confidence Index "unexpectedly" rose to 138.4, the highest it's been since 2000. This is a 9% gain so far this year, and a 24% increase in this index since January 2017.
The Conference Board's Lynn Franco said that "These historically high confidence levels should continue to support healthy consumer spending, and should be welcome news for retailers as they begin gearing up for the holiday season."
Household Income Continues To Climb
Then there's the median household income index compiled monthly by Sentier Research. It climbed again in August to $62,685. That's up 2.8% from August 2017, and a gain of 4.7% since President Trump took office. It's also now higher than any time since 2000, when Sentier started tracking this.
Lest anyone want to claim that all this is just a continuation of trends started under President Obama, the data simply do not support that claim.
From May 2015 to the end of 2016 the weekly initial jobless claim number had been relatively unchanged at around 260,000. It has clearly been trending downward over the past year. At the start of 2018, it stood at 250,000.
The Consumer Confidence Index rarely reached 100 during Obama's entire eight years in office. And during his last year in office it barely moved. The index only began its strong upward move after Trump took office. (The IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index has been in optimistic territory even since Trump took office.)
And as for household income, the Sentier data show that median household income did not budge at all from August 2015 until January 2017. It has been steadily moving upward ever since.
All this adds still more substance to the fact that the economy is in the midst of a strong (and "unexpected") growth period. The Atlanta Fed's GDPNow number for the third quarter is currently at 4.4%, which, if it holds up, would be higher than the quarter before.
Not only that but, unlike under Obama, this growth is finally starting to generate real benefits for the middle class.
That might explain why, despite the incredible and unrelenting barrage of negative press thrown at them, the Republicans' approval rating is now the highest it's been in seven years, according to the Gallup tracking poll.
Gallup shows that 45% have a favorable view of the Republican Party, a nine-point gain over the previous month. Not only that, it's higher than the Democrats' (at 44%). This is the first time that's happened since 2014, the year the GOP regained control of the Senate. And the GOP's favorability rating is the highest since 2011, the year after Republicans took control of the House.
We'll have to wait to see if this is a one-time blip or a trend. And it's still likely that Democrats will take control of at least the House in the November midterms.
Even so, it's a sign that despite the media blackout of good economic news, the public knows what's going on. And they have an idea of why their fortunes have taken a turn for the better after eight years of Obama-induced stagnation.
Growth: Remember when everybody said that the "unexpectedly" strong economy under President Trump had nothing to do with his policies? He was just lucky because the global economy was booming, they said. Well, that attempt to dismiss the Trump boom just fell by the wayside.
Every three months, CNBC surveys its Global CFO Council to get their reading of the global economy. The council is comprised of Chief Financial Officers of the world's largest 113 companies that combined are worth nearly $5 trillion.
The latest survey shows that these CFOs see only one economy in the world that is currently improving. The United States.
They rate every other nation or region one as either "stable" or "declining." That includes the UK, the Euro Zone, Canada, Japan, China, Russia, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa.
The fact that the U.S. appears to be pulling away from the rest of the world hasn't gone unnoticed, at least not in the White House. At a speech last week at the Economic Club of New York, Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said "the U.S. is the hottest economy in the world today. We're crushing it."
But wait a minute.
For some time now, the "experts" have been telling us that the U.S. was just riding a global growth wave. The improved economy here had nothing to do with Trump's deregulatory efforts, or his pro-growth tax cuts, or the sharp uptick in optimism once he got elected.
Trump, they said, deserved as much credit for the economy as a lottery winner does for picking the right set of numbers.
"American multinationals corporations are enjoying a rare moment of nearly universal worldwide growth," wrote Derek Thompson in Atlantic at the end of last year. The article's headline: "The Myth of the 'Trump Miracle.'"
Around the same time, The Wall Street Journal's Greg Ip wrote that "Mr. Trump should be giving thanks, not taking credit. The entire global economy is picking up steam."
More recently, The New York Times's Peter Baker dismissed Trump's boasts about the economy by noting that "the nation's economic fortunes (are) driven as well by interest rates, technological innovation and the health of the global economy — trends beyond the control of any president."
Now it appears that the U.S. economy is accelerating, while the rest of the world is in neutral.
Of course, this is just one of the ways Trump's critics have tried to explain away the current boom, or at least deny that Trump has anything to do with it.
For example, there's been a rash of stories claiming that everything happening today is simply an extension of the economy under President Obama.
As we've noted in this space, the only way to make that claim is to entirely ignore Obama's last year in office, when the economy, after years of historically sluggish growth, gave unmistakable signs of slowing down even more.
GDP growth was in decline in the last two quarters. The stock market had been flat for a year. The unemployment rate was stuck. Median family incomes were flat. The economy kept falling short of expectations.
Back then, the very same people now crediting Obama for today's boom were telling the public that the country was in a "secular" period of slow growth.
Time magazine wrote in 2016 that "the economic problems the U.S. continues to face …. may well be permanent drags on the modern economy."
CBS News said in late 2016 that continued slow growth is "leading many economists to worry that the country has entered a prolonged period where any expansion will be weaker than it has been in the past."
Now, suddenly, unexpectedly, and impossibly (according to the experts), the economy has a renewed energy. Incomes are at record highs, unemployment is down. Rather than underperforming, as the economy did throughout Obama's eight years in office, growth is beating expectations.
So, if the current boom isn't the result of Obama's policies (it isn't), and the U.S. isn't simply riding a global boom (it's not), then what explains current growth levels.
Could be it be…..Trump?
Nah, must be something else. Maybe it's time to consult the star charts.
Politics of Personal Destruction: Even as Christine Blasey Ford's keeps changing the details of her claimed high school assault by Brett Kavanaugh, a new, even less credible, decades-old accusation emerges. When Democrats sacrificed their ability to filibuster Supreme Court picks, who knew they'd sink this low? How Republicans respond will determine their fate for years to come.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein kept the letter she'd received from Ford hidden for months, springing it on the public only after the confirmation hearings were over. At the time, Feinstein said, Ford wanted to remain anonymous.
But as soon as Ford revealed her identity, her story started to lose credibility. She told the Washington Post she couldn't remember where or when (or even what year) the roughly 36-year-old assault supposedly took place.
Ford's Ever-Changing Account
In addition, the Post found that she'd given a different account of the party to a marriage counselor in 2012. In that version, four boys assaulted her (she didn't name Kavanaugh). She told the Post that there were four boys at the party but only two assaulted her. She said counselor's notes were wrong.
Here's how the Post reported it last week: "The (marriage counselors) notes say four boys were involved, a discrepancy Ford says was an error on the therapist's part. Ford said there were four boys at the party but only two in the room. "
In her letter to Sen. Feinstein, Ford also said that the party "included me and 4 others."
So, for years, Ford had clearly maintained that there were four other people — all boys — at the party.
Now, suddenly, Ford claims that one of the four was actuallya girl. And that she was a lifelong friend of Ford's. But the woman, Leland Ingham Keyser, says she doesn't know Kavanaugh and has no idea about the party in question.
Ford's story has not only kept changing, every one of the four people Ford now says were there has denied her claim.
As Jazz Shaw of the popular conservative blog Hot Air put it: "Ford's story, confirmed by nobody else she claims was present, including her lifelong friend, has been shifting and getting dodgier by the day."
Just as this was happening, The New Yorker decided to publish a story about a woman — Deborah Ramirez — who claims that Kavanaugh drunkenly exposed himself to her at a party 34 years ago when they were both freshmen at Yale.
But Ramirez admitted she was drunk at the time — "she was on the floor, foggy and slurring her words" according to The New Yorker. She also admitted that " there are significant gaps in her memories."
And once again, there are no witnesses who will back up her claim. None.
Not Fit To Print In The Times
In fact, after the story ran in the New Yorker, the New York Times said it had investigated Ramirez's claim, but deemed it not fit to print.
"The Times had interviewed several dozen people over the past week in an attempt to corroborate her story, and could find no one with firsthand knowledge," it reported on Sunday.
Even more incredible, the Times reported that "Ms. Ramirez herself contacted former Yale classmates asking if they recalled the incident and told some of them that she could not be certain Mr. Kavanaugh was the one who exposed himself."
Yes, you read that right. Ramirez, when fishing around for someone to back up her story, told her classmates that she couldn't be sure it was Kavanaugh.
What's more, buried deep in The New Yorker story itself is the admission by the reporters that "The New Yorker has not confirmed with other eyewitnesses that Kavanaugh was present at the party."
So, nobody knows if Kavanaugh was at this party. And Ramirez herself wasn't sure it was Kavanaugh … until she decided to go public.
Yet Democrats want to once again postpone the vote to confirm Kavanaugh to "investigate" this latest claim. Feinstein even had the audacity to say that "it is time to set politics aside."
Who is she trying to fool? If this incredibly low bar is all that's required to put off the vote, the unverified accusations against Kavanaugh will never stop.
Anything To Stop Kavanaugh
Remember why this all came about. When swing voting Justice Anthony Kennedy retired, it gave President Trump the opportunity to replace him with a more conservative justice.
So, Democrats — aided and abetted by an increasingly corrupt media — tried everything they could think of to stop his nomination from proceeding. When "normal" channels failed, Democrats resorted to wholesale character assassination.
Make no mistake. None of what has transpired over the past week has anything to do with assessing Kavanaugh's actual fitness to serve on the Supreme Court. Nor does it in any way reflect a sincere effort by Democrats to protect women from abuse.
In fact, even as Democrats are calling for investigations of sketchy, decades-old accusations against Kavanaugh, they are ignoring a far more credible charge of physical abuse by Rep. Keith Ellison's former girlfriend — which happened only two years ago and for which she has produced medical records. Ellison, for those who don't know, is Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee.
The entire Kavanaugh circus — all of it — has to do with keeping him off the bench to prevent a slight change in the ideological balance of the court.
It is, in short, a historic display of scorched earth partisan savagery. And it is but a glimpse of what life will be like if Democrats regain control of the House and the Senate in the midterm elections. They have declared total war on Kavanaugh today. If they win, it will only whet their appetite to carpet bomb more political opponents.
Republicans who think surrendering on Kavanaugh is an option should know that these Democrats do not take prisoners.
Editor's note: The editorial was updated to more precisely describe Ellison's position at the DNC.
Tax Cuts: Congressional Republicans have one of the most potent re-election issues of recent decades: the unquestionable success of this year's tax cuts. And yet, their own polling shows they're not getting credit from voters. Toot your horn, folks.
The Republican National Committee commissioned a survey by GOP pollster Public Opinion Strategies to gauge public opinion about President Trump's tax cuts, which the GOP-led Congress passed late last year without a single Democratic vote.
What they found was no doubt dispiriting: By a 61% to 30% margin, those who responded said the cuts benefit "large corporations and rich Americans" over "middle-class families." Only Republicans embraced the cuts. Of particular concern for the GOP is that independents, by 63% to 27%, said the tax cuts favored the rich and big companies. They're swing voters, and will decide the coming election.
"We've lost the messaging battle on this issue," the pollsters glumly concluded. The GOP no doubt thought they'd take a victory lap in the upcoming midterm elections for their tax cuts; instead, they'll have to justify them to many voters.
The tax cuts shouldn't be a partisan issue, given their clear success. The economy is now expanding at a 3% pace, after growing less than 2% annually during the Obama years. Meanwhile, jobless rates for Blacks, Hispanics and Asians are all at or near all-time lows. Even well-paid manufacturing jobs, once given up for dead, are growing. And after no growth during the Obama years, real median household income has jumped by 4.5% since Trump took office. Trumponomics vs. Obamanomics? It's not even close.
Middle Class Tax Benefits
Yet, the mainstream media picked up on Democrats' talking points and relentlessly told a story centered on "giveaways" to the rich and corporations, while a long-suffering middle class gets stiffed yet again by greedy Republican plutocrats.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. The tax cuts reduced rates on the middle class and doubled the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for families. The law also doubled the child tax credit to $2,000, and brought relief to those hit by the alternative minimum tax and the death tax.
As a result, over the next 10 years, average household income will expand by $26,000 due to the tax cuts, according to Heritage Foundation estimates. This year alone, the average single tax payer will save $1,400 in taxes, while married couples with two kids will keep $2,918 more. Yes, corporations and the rich benefited, too. But that was the idea — no one is left out.
"If we can't sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell joked last December, after the Senate approved the tax cuts.
Well, if Republicans aren't careful, some of McConnell's colleagues may soon be looking for "another line of work" in the private sector, while Democrats take over and raise taxes. From now until Nov. 6, they'd better be talking up their tax plan and explaining the truth. If not, they might lose an election — and the American people might lose their growing economy.
Junk Science: Eight years ago, the Obama administration spent millions of dollars pushing schools to get kids to eat healthier. The science behind the effort was rock solid. Or so everyone thought. Sound familiar?
On Wednesday, the Journal of the American Medical Association announced that it was retracting six articles it had published over the past 13 years. All of them authored by Cornell University nutrition expert and director of the school's Food and Brand Lab, Brian Wansink. The reason? It no longer could be sure the findings in those studies were valid.
The move was highly unusual, not to mention embarrassing, for JAMA, one of the most prestigious, peer-reviewed medical journals around.
It should also infuriate taxpayers and parents. And it should make everyone more skeptical of claims about "settled science."
Why? Because Wansink's research formed the basis of the "Smarter Lunchrooms" program, started in 2010 by the Department of Agriculture under the Obama administration. The program was supposed to get kids to make better choices by taking steps to make healthy foods seem more attractive. All of it was based on supposedly rigorous scientific findings by Wansink and his colleagues.
Over the following years, the USDA spent tens of millions of dollars, and 30,000 schools spent who knows how much of their own money, adopting the Smarter Lunchrooms program. In 2014, the Huffington Post reported that "the Smarter Lunchroom strategies have been so effective that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is now using them as part of its Healthier U.S. Schools Challenge."
Last year, the USDA declared that the program had proven effective "in a variety of schools across the nation." It said kids were eating significantly more fruits and vegetables.
But last fall, researchers who examined Wansink's work started to point out inconsistencies, errors, misuse of data, and exaggerated claims in his work. One found about 150 inconsistencies in statistics from four papers.
And a well-conducted study of the effectiveness of this program found that it prompted students to increase overall fruit consumption by the equivalent of a mere bite of an apple.
"For the better half of a decade, American public schools have been part of a grand experiment in 'choice architecture' dressed up as simple, practical steps to spur healthy eating. But new research reveals the 'Smarter Lunchrooms' program is based largely on junk science," noted Elizabeth Nolan Brown, who has been following this saga at Reason magazine.
This development comes on top of many others that call into question the validity of scientific findings that the government has been peddling for decades, such as the war on cholesterol.
Keep all this in mind the next time you hear someone pushing expensive government mandates based on "settled science."
Social Media Bias: President Trump has criticized the major social media and web search sites, in particular Amazon, Facebook, Google and Twitter, for their anti-conservative bias. Is his critique valid? A controversial new report suggests the answer is yes.
It was just last weekend that a study by GovPredict, a Silicon Valley political data research firm, found that over the last 14 years Alphabet employees gave 90% of their political donations, or $15.5 million, to Democrats. Republicans took in a mere $1.6 million.
Now comes a new study from GovPredict showing nearly the identical results for Amazon. Since 2006, the study says, Amazon employees gave 90% of their politcal donations to Democratic political action committees and, once again, just 10% to Republican PACs.,
Alphabet, the parent of Google, has roughly 76,000 employees while Amazon has more than a half-million. But the number of employees giving the money were in the hundreds, presumably mostly executive and senior manager level.
In Amazon's case, as PJMedia described it, "A whoppping 310 employees contributed to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, totaling $6610,805. Another 171 contributed to Barack Obama's campaigns, totaling $413,763. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) took third place, with $128,750 from 42 employees. Close behind her, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took in $106, 965 from 275 employees for his presidential campaign."
Preferring Socialist Over Republicans
Only one Republican candidate took in more than $50,000: Mitt Romney, who nabbed $62,400 in donations from 42 people. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, took in $39,000. And yes, Donald Trump did get some Amazon love: 42 employees gave him a grand total of $17,436.
Put another way, socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders raked in nearly half again as much as both Republican presidential nominees. So claims that the social media giants are politically neutral is a joke.
These are giant companies with highly politicized workforces that control most of the major access points to the global internet. Having a neutral, fair arbiter for possible disputes and for regulating use is absolutely vital.
Yet, neither company has a workforce that reflects America's political views.
As Trump recently claimed, "conservatives have been treated very unfairly" by Google and others and warned of an "antitrust situation." To show he means it, he's started tweeting with the hashtag #stopthebias.
Meanwhile, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch has already asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into possible antitrust violations on the part of Google. So the heat is on. A recent Media Research Center poll found 65% of conservatives believe the social media giants censor right-of-center views.
Google, for instance, used to attach fact-checks on conservative stories from leftist sites. It also tilted the results of searches towards left-wing politicians over conservatives. It even fired a computer tech, James Damore, merely for expressing a non-left opinion over the male-female wage gap.
Worse still, YouTube, a lucrative utility for many sites that seek to make money from their web presence, has "demonetized" conservative sites such as Prager University, whose informative and thought-provoking videos have nothing whatsoever to do with "alt-right" anything. Recent videos include such fare as "Why America Must Lead" and "Why Did America Fight the Korean War." For this, Prager U was kept from having ads on its videos.
Facebook, along with the rest of the far-left "mainstream" media, routinely shuns conservative stories on its news sites and aggressively limited "partisan" sites it doesn't like.
Social Media And Trump
Of course, there's Twitter, of which Trump is a master. It "shadow bans" those it doesn't like, limiting how many page views some sites receive without even telling them.
It should be said, this is nothing new. The legacy media giants were perhaps just as biased as today's social media giants are today. But the reach the big city newspapers and the national newspaper chains was not nearly as great as today's social media.
A person today can tweet out a message, post a photo or a message on Instagram or YouTube, and be in millions of households within hours — the kind of instantaneous a reach that the old media moguls like Hearst and Pulitzer could only dream of.
That's why Trump's claims will ring true to many Americans. Even Americans who aren't conservative have a strong sense of fairness, and by any reasonable idea of fairness, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Twitter, YouTube and others discriminate against those they politically disagree with.
It's time for them to stop using their immense power to interfere in what John Stuart Mill called the marketplace of ideas, and let our democracy breathe.
Red Ink: Are President Trump's massive tax cuts what's driving federal deficits upward. Everyone says so. But, it's not true. It's just a way for lawmakers to distract the public while they crank up the spending machine. Just like the Senate did this week.
Earlier this week, Trump's top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, gave a talk at the Economic Club of New York in which he said that tax cuts aren't to blame for deficits.
"People are quick to blame deficits on tax cuts, but I don't buy that," he said. "The gap is principally spending too much."
You could almost hear the jaws dropping among the Washington pundits and budget "experts."
How could Kudlow make such a ludicrous claim? Everyone knows that Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cuts are fueling the increase in deficits. What explains why this year's deficit is running higher than last year's?
If anything, Kudlow could have been more emphatic. The deficit gap isn't "principally" because the federal government is spending too much, it's entirely due to spending.
How do we know that?
Each month the Treasury Department releases its tally of federal spending and revenues. The most recent data are through the month of August. Since the federal government starts its fiscal year in October, the latest report includes all but one month of the 2018 fiscal year.
What do the data show?
Through August, the federal deficit topped $898 billion. Over the same period last year the deficit was $674 billion.
So, the deficit is running $224 billion higher this fiscal year compared with last.
But the Treasury data also show that federal revenues through August totaled $2.985 trillion. That's an increase of $19 billion over the previous year.
In other words, despite Trump's massive tax cuts, federal revenues are running higher this year than last.
The problem is that federal spending has climbed even faster. Through August, outlays totaled $3.88 trillion. That's $243 billion more than the prior fiscal year.
So, do the math.
If it weren't for the increase in revenues, the deficit would be higher than it is.
Take a closer look at the revenue side of the equation and you'll see that Trump's tax cuts are, in some cases, more than paying for themselves.
The Treasury data show that while corporate income tax receipts are down, individual income tax revenue is up by $100 billion — a 7% gain — over last year. Payroll taxes are up by $5 billion. Revenues from excise taxes and customs duties are also up.
So, while corporations are paying fewer taxes, they're hiring more workers and paying them more, which is generating additional income and payroll taxes. This is exactly what advocates of the tax cuts predicted would happen.
As Kudlow explained in his remarks, increased growth has "just about paid for two thirds of the total tax cuts."
What about the spending side? Even though Republicans control the White House and Congress, there's been no spending discipline in Washington. Almost every federal agency has seen its budget increase.
Through August, for example, the Department of Agriculture has spent $11 billion more than it did over the same period last year. The Department of Energy, $1 billion more. Homeland Security, $21 billion. Interior, $2 billion. Justice, $3 billion. State, $1 billion. Defense, $37 billion. HHS, $56 billion. Social Security, $69 billion.
Even the Office of Personnel Management has seen its budget climb by almost $3 billion.
The spending splurge continues.
This week, the Senate passed an $854 billion spending bill that boosts the National Institutes of Health budget by 5% and military pay by 2.6%, among other things
That bill passed by a 93-7 margin — proving that the only thing Democrats and Republicans have in common these days is the unquenchable desire to spend more taxpayer money.
In his remarks, Kudlow said that "If you grow rapidly you're going to have lesser deficits. Growth solves a lot of problems."
He's right about that.
But faster economic growth can't solve the deficit problem if Congress continues to spend like there's no tomorrow.
Deep State: For those who doubt the existence of the so-called Deep State, recent unsettling news provides more than ample proof it exists. Indeed, not only does the Deep State exist, it's far more dangerous to Americans' liberties than first thought.
President Trump earlier this week said that he would release a trove of documents related to the Russia investigation and declassify their contents. Included are 21 pages taken from a June 2017 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application used to spy on former Trump aide Carter Page.
Along with those pages, Trump also seeks release of unredacted FBI notes made during interviews conducted for the FISA application, along with text messages related to Russia and notes from FBI interviews with Bruce Ohr, the No. 4 official in the Justice Department.
Why is that key? Ohr had close ties to former British spy Christopher Steele, who authored the so-called Trump dossier for Fusion GPS. Steele, whose work was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and by the Clinton-controlled Democratic National Committee, served as an informant to the FBI until he was let go for leaking to the media. But Ohr's wife, Nellie, continued to work for Fusion GPS, a fact that Bruce Ohr didn't reveal on his mandatory federal disclosure filings.
In doing all this, Trump isn't acting alone. He's been prodded by a group of House Republicans, led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif. Nunes says the documents will show that, in order to spy on the Trump campaign, there was FBI abuse of the FISA application process.
Given the seriousness of these charges, and the fact that Democrats in Congress have leaked like a sieve to their favorite lefty media stars, you'd think they'd be willing, eager even, to release as much information as possible. After all, they're the ones who allege Trump "colluded" with the Russians.
But you'd be wrong. In fact, Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Mark Warner hit the panic button, sending a letter Tuesday to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats expressing " profound alarm" at the documents' release and calling it a "brazen abuse of power."
Given their routine and incredibly casual treatment of past actual secrets, it's hard to take the Democrats seriously at all when they express concern about classified information being made public.
No, what they're really worried about is that Nunes is right. There are highly questionable connections between officials in the Justice Department, FBI, CIA and Hillary Clinton campaign. They suggest that U.S. officials actively used their offices and taxpayer funds to sabotage Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. If so, it's a criminal conspiracy. People should go to prison.
Yet, shockingly, while Trump ordered the "immediate declassification" of the materials, the Deep State has other ideas. Justice, the FBI and the National Intelligence director's office are slow-walking the release. They plan to redact the documents, despite Trump's lawful order.
That's the Deep State in action.
But that's not all. James O'Keefe's Project Veritas has released a secretly shot video of a leftist Department of Justice employee admitting that "she does research on the home addresses and license plates of private individuals who are then targeted for loud protests at their homes by socialist demonstrators." The employee, Allison Hrabar, was one of the people who disrupted a private dinner by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen while she ate in a Washington, D.C. restaurant.
Hrabar reportedly used a Justice Department LexisNexis account for her research, and others apparently do too. So taxpayers are helping to fund their anti-American, pro-socialist demonstrations.
In the video, Trump-hater Karaffa vows to "resist everything ... every level. F#@k sh#t up!" Now that's diplomacy! Who hires these people?
Deep State 'Resistance'
Karaffa gloats about committing his crimes. And, yes, both Karaffa's and Hrabar's actions are clear violations of the federal Hatch Act. "I have nothing to lose. It's impossible to fire federal employees," he said.
He's right. No one can fire him. And there are likely dozens, if not hundreds, just like Karaffa and Hrabar — as we've seen from looking at the damning FBI and Justice Department texts sent back and forth by high-level officials at those two agencies. They embed themselves in the bureaucracies, becoming a Deep State that undermines the democratic will of the people and subverts a duly elected U.S. president to enact their own agenda.
We hope Americans will support further release of information about the 18-month-long investigation into supposed Trump-Russia collusion.
Despite all the time and millions spent, there isn't a shred of evidence for collusion between Trump and the Russians. But there are boatloads of evidence suggesting "collusion" by Hillary Clinton with the Russians, the FBI, the CIA, the Justice Department and the State Department.
Trump called the whole Russia investigation a "hoax" and said exposing it would be one of his "crowning achievements" as president. But it won't be enough merely to expose it. Once exposed, we should punish those who participated in the collusion conspiracy as far as the law will allow. After all, it's your democracy they're destroying.
Supreme Court: Moments after Christine Blasey Ford said she'd gladly testify about her accusations against Brett Kavanaugh, she changed her mind and started demanding an FBI investigation first. It looks as though Ford, who first wanted to remain anonymous, now hopes to torpedo Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination without having to answer questions under oath. Republicans can't let it happen.
On Monday morning, the Today show directly asked Ford's attorney, Debra Katz, if Ford was "willing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, publicly, and tell this story."
Katz gave a definitive answer: "She is. She's willing to do whatever it takes to get her story forth, yes."
That commitment to do "whatever it takes" — if it ever was sincere — evaporated as soon as Republicans took Ford up on her offer.
Later that same day, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley agreed to put off Kavanaugh's confirmation vote, which had been scheduled for this Thursday, and hold a session next Monday to hear from both Ford and Kavanaugh about the accusations. But when Grassley tried to reach Ford and her attorney to make arrangements, he got nowhere.
Here's what Grassley told radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday.
"We have reached out to her in the last 36 hours three or four times by email, and we've not heard from them," he said. "So, it kind of raises the question do they want to, do they want to come to the public hearing or not?"
If there was any doubt that Ford didn't want to testify in public, Katz soon erased it.
In the letter to Grassley sent on Tuesday, Katz complained that Ford would have to sit at a table with Kavanaugh. (That was false.) She worried that Ford would unfairly face "interrogation by Senators." (What else did Ford think that testifying before the Judiciary Committee entailed?)
Then Katz informed Grassley that Ford wouldn't appear under any circumstances until after "an FBI investigation of the incident."
But Katz knew this demand wouldn't be met when she made it. The Justice Department had already said that the FBI wouldn't investigate Ford's claim, because it "does not involve any potential federal crime."
"The purpose of a background investigation is to determine whether the nominee could pose a risk to the national security of the United States," the Justice statement said. "The allegation does not involve any potential federal crime. The FBI's role in such matters is to provide information for the use of the decision makers."
Faulty Anita Hill Precedent For FBI Investigation
Ah, but Democrats — who've joined the "wait until the FBI investigates" chorus — say that the FBI investigated Anita Hill's claims of sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas when he was up for a Supreme Court seat in 1991. So, they say, Ford deserves the same treatment.
There's one important difference, however. At the time Hill said Thomas harassed her, they were both federal employees at the Department of Education and the EEOC, not high school students. Also, the events Hill described had taken place less than a decade before — not 36 years ago. And Hill said she told a friend about the incidents at the time they happened.
Even so, the FBI investigation consisted of interviewing Hill, Thomas and Hill's friend, which it then sent to the White House.
In Ford's case, there's only one person who claims this event even occurred, and that's Ford herself. Ford made it clear that she told no one about the incident until 30 years later, during a marriage counseling session. So, unlike Hill's case, there are no contemporaneous witnesses to track down. What's more, three of the four boys she said were at the party have all flat-out denied her claims.
Ford has also said she doesn't remember the location, the date, or even the year, of the alleged attack.
So, what exactly is the FBI supposed to "investigate?"
FBI Investigation Isn't About Finding 'Truth'
As we said before, despite what Democrats say, this isn't about any search for "truth." It's about trying to destroy Kavanaugh's chances of making it to the Supreme Court. And on the flimsiest of evidence.
Grassley, to his credit, is refusing to play along. He says the hearing will take place Monday, whether Ford shows up or not. He is absolutely right to do so.
And if Ford doesn't show, then the Senate has no choice but to — as liberals used to say during the Clinton era — "move on" with the Kavanaugh nomination.
Media Bias: When not complaining about President Trump's attacks on the news media, the press keeps publishing fake news stories about Trump. Case in point is the recent Washington Post "bombshell" story that the Trump administration was denying passports to Latinos.
The nearly 2,000-word Post story, which ran on August 29, made the explosive charge that the Trump administration was systematically denying passports to Latin-Americans along the border, accusing them of using fraudulent birth certificates.
The story got huge pick up by other news outlets. But was riddled with errors. So much so that even the left-wing, virulently anti-Trump Huffington Post felt compelled to expose its flaws.
Among many other problems, the Washington Post reporter cited several policies as evidence of Trump's crackdown. Turns out all of them predated Trump.
The story also claimed that Trump officials had been increasingly denying passports to those with birth certificates signed by midwives suspected of peddling false documents.
But State Department data show the opposite. This type of passport denial peaked in 2015 — when President Obama was running things — at close to 1,500. These denials had dropped to just 971 last year, and are on course to be even lower this year.
The Washington Post ended up making several revisions to the story, which now includes a lengthy editor's note explaining all the changes.
But as the Huffpost notes, even with those changes, "the Post's report remains misleading."
"It relies on anecdotal evidence to make an explosive claim that's contradicted by official data ? and doesn't make that fact clear. It implies that years-old practices are new. And the paper consistently refused to correct the record unless it was called out by other reporters."
This is a rare, and brutal, takedown by one liberal news outlet of another's horrid reporting. So, kudos to the Huffington Post for running this fact check, particularly since doing so meant it was — gasp! — defending the Trump administration.
But the Post story points to a broader, and very troubling trend in the news media. The mainstream press decided long ago that Trump doesn't deserve to be president. And it's been on a relentless campaign ever since to discredit his administration.
One Way Fake News
Not surprisingly, the result has been a serious erosion in journalistic standards when it comes to stories that hurt Trump. Facts get jumbled, false assumptions made, unreliable sources quoted. And as a result, prominent news outlets have repeatedly had to amend, fix, or retract many other "bombshell" stories that make Trump, or his administration, look bad.
One of the more recent examples: CNN reported that Michael Cohen had information showing that Trump knew about the infamous Trump Tower meeting. Devastating if true. The story claimed it was based on several unnamed sources. But there was only one source, Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, a devoted Hillary Clinton backer. Davis later admitted he was wrong.
Yet when Trump tries to point these glaring journalistic failings out, the same press attacks him again for supposedly undermining the First Amendment.
Bashing Trump For Calling Out Fake News
Two days after the Post's error-riddled passport story ran, for example, the same paper's opinion writer Greg Sargent complained that Trump's criticism of the press at a rally was "more alarming and dangerous than usual."
What did Trump say that so alarmed Sargent?
"Today's Democrat Party is held hostage by left-wing haters, angry mobs, deep-state radicals, establishment cronies and their fake news allies."
But Trump is absolutely right about the Democratic Party's lurch to the far left. We've been pointing this out for years. And anyone who's been following recent news knows that the existence of an anti-Trump "Deep State" is far from a paranoid delusion.
Trade War: President Donald Trump showed he's willing to wield a big stick in trade by levying tariffs on $200 billion more in Chinese goods, starting next week. Will this lead to a trade war without end, or bring China to the table for talks?
We've been on the record as being anti-tariff. However, as has been noted numerous times, Trump has used tariffs, and the threat of tariffs, as a way to lower overall trade barriers. At least, that's what the White House maintains, and we see no reason not to believe it. But it goes deeper than that.
As the tit-for-tat trade battle has been engaged, it's unclear which side will blink first. Will it be China, which sells over half a trillion dollars in goods to the U.S., or the U.S., whose economy depends on cheap goods and industrial inputs from China for its prosperity?
Beijing has already retaliated against Trump's announcement, saying it will add another $60 billion in U.S. goods to its own tariff list — including soybeans, meat, wheat and textiles — in response. Trump doubled down on China's retaliation by threatening another $267 billion in tariffs. That would bring the total to a staggering $517 billion in Chinese goods included under Trump's tariffs. That pretty much covers most of China's exports to the U.S.
The pain for China right now seems to be severe. Its currency has suffered and its already-slowing economy faces major challenges if exports slow, as expected. Millions of jobs could be at stake.
China's top leaders "don't really want to engage in a dollar-for dollar retaliation," said prominent economist Yu Yongding, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in comment to The New York Times, "Their purpose is to stop this trade war."
And the administration worries China's agricultural tariffs could hurt the GOP with crucial farm-belt voters. That's important leading up to crucial midterm elections, now less than two months away. But China also spread the pain of its tariffs around, adding 5% duties on roughly 1,600 industrial goods such as airplanes, computers and textiles, and 10% levies on 3,500 other goods, including chemicals, wine and natural gas.
To many, including policymakers and policy wonks in China, Trump's demands are unclear. China's Trade Ministry has said it is willing to enter trade talks with the U.S.
So what does Trump want? It's not so much about reducing the trade deficit, though that's part of it. China already put on the table an offer to buy more U.S. energy and soybeans to shrink the China-U.S. trade gap. But the White house said no.
Part of the problem is that China has been a persistent violator of trade rules, hacking into U.S. company networks to steal secrets, violating trademark and copyright laws, forcing U.S. companies into unfair deals to participate in China's market, and discriminating against U.S. goods.
Worse, these aren't temporary conditions. As part of its 10-year Made In China 2025 initiative, also known as CM2025, China hopes to gain global technological and market dominance in 11 key technologies.
"CM2025 ... is just one of a series of industrial policies designed to make sure that the future is dominated by the Chinese," wrote Gordon Chang, an author and frequent critic of Chinese policy, writing for Fox News. "(Chinese leader) Xi (Jinping) has been closing off China's economy to outsiders with tactics like discriminatory law enforcement actions against foreign competitors."
Tariffs Aren't The Only Worry
Add to that its " Belt and Road Initiative," intended to economically link impoverished local nations to China through a series of debt-funded infrastructure projects. China, say U.S. experts, is clearly trying to diminish U.S. influence across Asia, in Africa and even in Europe.
So in case you're wondering, that's President Trump's game. Not reducing the deficit, per se, but reducing nondemocratic, communist-run China's growing economic and political influence around the world.
Nothing short of China abandoning its export-driven model for extending its economic domination of Asia and its CM2025 plan to dominate world markets — at the expense of the U.S. — will satisfy Trump. For free trade to work, it requires both parties to play by the rules. So far, China has failed to do so.
That's not just conjecture. Billionaire entrepreneur Jack Ma, China's richest man and founder of Alibaba Group, says the trade war could last 20 years. China and the U.S., after all, fight for global supremacy. " This thing will last long," he said. "If you want a short-term solution, there is no solution."
China has signaled willingness to return to trade talks with Trump. It can only take so much economic pain. But whether it's willing to abandon its grandiose economic strategy is still an open question. Whatever the outcome, we hope for free trade.
Socialism: If you believe minimum-wage hikes actually make workers better off, maybe you should consider the case of Venezuela. There, a frantic series of minimum-wage hikes have led not to higher wages, but business closures, mass layoffs and widespread misery.
Minimum-wage hikes enjoy widespread popularity here in the U.S., despite overwhelming evidence from both experience and academic studies that they have an economically pernicious impact. By artificially raising the price of labor, politicians merely encourage businesses to replace labor with machines or to lay off workers who no longer produce enough to justify their cost.
We've often discussed in this space ( here, and here) the impact minimum-wage hikes have on domestic labor markets. But for a really terrifying display of how they work, Venezuela's the place.
Faced with a collapsing economy and hyperinflation from his socialist policies, Venezuelan strong man Nicolas Maduro announced an immediate increase in the minimum wage of 3,500%. That wasn't the first: Since 2013, Maduro has raised the official minimum wage 24 times.
Never Catching Up
You'd think workers would have caught up by now, right? After all, isn't that what a minimum wage is about?
Sadly, you'd be wrong. The 60-fold increase in worker pay has led to mass layoffs, with 40% of Venezuela's stores forced to shut their doors. The reason: While workers get an enormous inflated boost in their pay, businesses are being forced to charge last month's prices.
In a country where inflation is now estimated at 1,000,000% a year — that's a million, folks — no business can make money and stay open. This isn't an abstract point of economic theory, it's plain, simple common sense. And workers can never catch up to 1,000,000% inflation. Ask Zimbabwe about that.
So far from helping workers and boosting demand, Maduro's minimum-wage hikes have only made the economy's situation worse. None of Maduro's mistakes are accidental; if they were, he would randomly make the right move on occasion. No, his mistakes multiply because his ideological template — Bolivarian socialism, a variant of the Castro kind — is wrong.
"These decisions are leading many businesspeople to say, 'No, I can't do it anymore,' " said Maria Carolina Uzcategui, president of the National Council of Commerce and Services of Venezuela.
Well, you say, minimum wages aren't necessarily a fault of socialism. After all, we have them here in the U.S.
True enough. But minimum wages are a standard of all socialist systems. And they have the same effect, wherever they are used: They deny workers the right to work at a wage that will keep them employed, and force employers to pay some workers far more than they're worth.
To ensure no one cheats, minimum-wage laws require the giant authoritarian hand of government to police it all. That's happening now in Venezuela on a frightening scale.
"We have inspections, and they force us to sell at last month's prices," Uzcategui said. "That takes money away from the business because of the hyperinflation, when you can't even sell at yesterday's prices because you lose money.
"And anyone who protests against these measures runs the risk of going to jail, without the right to appeal, without the right to anything, simply because the official whose turn it was to inspect the store just felt like arresting you. He did it, and that's all."
Maduro's socialism has systematically ruined the economy, driving away businesses, investment and literally hundreds of thousands of once-productive citizens. There's not much left but economic wreckage, and yet Maduro's commands to the handful of remaining businesses keep coming.
"Some employers are restructuring costs, rejiggering pay scales and negotiating settlements with workers. Others are simply dismissing people," wrote Fabiola Zerpa in Bloomberg. "Much of the action happens secretively as companies try to avoid punishment by the government, which has been jailing those it believes are flouting the rules."
As a result of such economic totalitarianism, Venezuela's economy has contracted at double-digit rates for three straight years, despite possessing the world's largest oil reserves. Venezuela should be rich. And it once was.
But can it ever be rich again? Of course. But it would take a major shift in policy toward free markets, the rule of law, respect for private property and far less ad hoc meddling by the government in the economy, such as massive minimum-wage hikes.
Lest you think that's the prescription of a gaggle of economists at right-wing think tanks, think again. It comes from a new study by the World Bank. It looks at policy outcomes for developing countries. Since these countries depend on resources, finding new resources becomes a proxy for economic growth in those countries. So the economists looked at government economic policies vs. the discovery of new resources.
Yes, Free Markets Work
For their study, the World Bank economists looked at literally dozens of countries. What did they find? "The empirical estimates based on a large panel of countries show that increased market orientation causes a significant increase in discoveries of natural resources."
In short, countries that pursued free-market policies prospered, while those that didn't lagged seriously behind. That's Venezuela.
Other recent studies have been equally definitive.
Libek, a Serbia-based think tank, used Google scholar to round up dozens of studies looking into the links between economic freedom and economic growth. It's a much studied topic.
Of the 92 studies they discovered, 86 (93.5%) found that more freedom leads to more growth. Just six studies found little connection. And only one found no link at all.
"Therefore," as the authors wrote, "it is conclusively shown that a higher level of economic freedom ... leads to higher economic growth."
It would be nice to stop having the fruitless debate over whether socialism works. It doesn't. It's factually demonstrable to a very high degree that socialism doesn't work.
Rather than calling for more socialism in Venezuela, those who claim concern about Venezuelans' well-being should call for more free markets. While they're at it, they should call for an end to foolish socialist policies like the minimum wage. Not just in Venezuela, but here as well.
Dirty Politics: It's hard to know what to make of the last-second charge against Judge Brett Kavanaugh about an event that allegedly occurred 36 years ago. What is crystal clear is the message Democrats are sending to conservatives. "We will do whatever it takes to destroy you."
Based on what we know at the moment, the claim made by Christine Blasey Ford is troubling, but not necessarily because of what she alleges happened when she was a high school sophomore.
First, there's the timing. Ford sent a letter to Sen. Diane Feinstein on July 30, outlining what supposedly occurred at a party in 1982, when Kavanaugh was 17 years old. Feinstein, however, sat on the letter until after the Supreme Court confirmation hearings ended. And Ford didn't come forward herself until this weekend. It looks an awful lot like a brazenly political last-ditch attempt to derail the nomination.
Who Is Christine Ford?
There's also the fact that Ford herself is a liberal, and a Democratic donor, who tried initially to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault while remaining anonymous. That in and of itself doesn't mean that what she says happened didn't happen. But no one would ignore her political motivations if she were a conservative making last-minute accusations against a Democrat about something that happened 36 years ago, when all involved were underage.
Then there's the fact that Ford says she never mentioned this to anyone — not even her husband — until 2012, when she told a marriage counselor. And the counselor's notes say Ford told her four boys were involved, not two. There's also no mention of Kavanaugh's name in those notes. Ford says the therapist's contemporaneous notes were wrong. That's not particularly helpful to Ford's credibility.
Ford herself admitted to the Washington Post that she "does not remember some key details of the incident," including where it took place, or even the year it supposedly occurred.
In addition, Ford's letter claims she sought "medical attention" after the alleged attack. So far, there's been no evidence to back this up.
In fact, there's not been any evidence offered so far to corroborate any aspect of her story.
Kavanaugh, meanwhile, has categorically denied that this happened. So has the other person Ford claims was in the room at the time. No one's heard from the other two who were supposedly at the party.
There's also Kavanaugh's own character to consider. He's undergone several background checks, none of which turned up anything other than a debt he'd once built up buying baseball season tickets to the Washington Nationals.
Nor have any other women so far come forward to say that he acted inappropriately toward them. In fact, 65 women who knew Kavanagh in high school came to his defense. In a letter to the Judiciary Committee, they say that Kavanaugh "has always treated women with decency and respect. That was true when he was in high school, and it has remained true to this day."
Not About The Truth
So, what we have here is one woman's fuzzy-on-the-facts claim about a supposed 36-year-old assault by drunk high school students. What she says happened, or something like it, may very well have occurred. None of this is to say that the Senate shouldn't take the time to look into the allegation. They would have done this long ago, if Ford and Feinstein had come forward in a timely manner.
At this point, it's essentially impossible to definitively verify — or refute — her claim. But getting to the truth isn't the goal of this week's Democrat-orchestrated circus. (Feinstein, in fact, is currently stonewalling efforts by Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to hear directly from Ford.)
This is about sending a warning.
Democrats are warning conservatives, and those who would appoint them, that they will do anything to derail their nominations. That includes flagrant attempts at character assassination — even if that requires throwing out unverifiable allegations from the distant past at the 11th hour.
At this point, the only real question that needs an answer is whether Republicans will reward Democrats for their craven attempts to scare highly qualified conservatives away from public service.
Financial Crisis: This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, the largest in history, which kicked off the worst part of the financial crisis. The Fed deserves much of the blame. But after a decade to ponder its mistakes, has it learned any lessons?
The Fed was by no means alone in causing the crisis. But its mistakes were key. The Fed had cut interest rates to 1% following the 1999-2000 stock market crash, but began raising rates as housing prices and inflation began to rise in mid-2004. In the following years, the Fed relentlessly jacked up rates, from a cycle low of 1% in June of 2004 to a peak of 5.25% in June 2006. In the year preceding that last rate change, there were nine rate hikes total — a rate-hiking frenzy.
Not surprisingly, home prices peaked just one month after rates did, when the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index hit a then-all-time high of 184.615. In August, it began falling, ultimately losing 27% of its value by February of 2012. As home prices plunged, bank losses grew, bank collateral became worthless, and mortgage defaults soared.
Yet, despite the damage from those rate increases, clearly evident in the housing market and banking sectors, it took the Fed well over a year — September of 2007 — to cut the Fed funds rate by a half-point. By then, it was too late. In December, 2007, the economy fell into a deep recession.
Financial Crisis, Or Fed Mistake?
As a direct result of the Fed's earlier rate hikes and collapsing home prices, a deep malaise settled on the banking industry, both on Wall Street and Main Street. Lending all but halted. But it had nothing to do with "greed," as the popular leftist media critique insisted. It was policy incompetence.
In 2008, with the economy already in a severe slump and after months of worsening conditions, Lehman finally buckled under its soaring loan losses on Sept. 15 after the government made clear that, unlike Bear Stearns in the spring of 2008, there would be no bailout for the over 100-year-old Lehman.
The Fed then launched new policies, based on Quantitative Easing and 0% interest rates. They lasted for nearly a decade. Just as the Fed distorted financial markets with its aggressive ratcheting up of interest rates in the mid-2000s, it hurt both economic growth and lending by holding rates too low from 2008 to 2016.
We'd like to think the Fed has learned lessons from all this. These include, never overreact to the fears of the day. Pay attention to the real economy — jobs, profits, output, incomes. Have some humility about what the Fed actually knows. And don't let the Fed's basic duty of keeping our currency and inflation stable be influenced by politics.
But the truth is, it could all happen again. Institutional memories sometimes aren't very strong. No doubt, someday soon, the Fed will be tempted to again raise interest rates aggressively after a bad inflation number or two. Our advice: Don't make the same mistake again.
Wages: Last month a union-backed group claimed that the gap between CEO pay and average worker pay surged to 312-to-1 last year. But official government data show the gap is a fraction of that. Guess which one gets more attention?
The latest annual report from the Economic Policy Institute claims that "in 2017 the average CEO of the 350 largest firms in the U.S. received $18.9 million in compensation, a 17.6% increase over 2016. The typical workers' compensation remained flat, rising a mere 0.3%."
Outrageous? Maybe. If it were true.
But the only way EPI and other groups — such as the AFL-CIO — get to these outsized ratios is by comparing apples to, well, orangutans.
On the one hand, they measure the total compensation — salary, bonuses, stocks and options — for only about 300 or so CEOs at the biggest companies. That's roughly the top 0.1% of all CEOs in the country.
"A more accurate comparison would be of S&P 500 CEO compensation to the average pay of employees of those same companies," Perry notes.
Nor do those pay ratios account for the fact that CEOs put in far more hours (close to 60 on average) than the typical rank-and-file worker.
Perry says that when you do a more honest pay comparison, the ratio is more like 50 to 1. That's still big, but nowhere near the eye-popping figures the press keeps reporting.
What happens if you look at the wages of all the nearly 300,000 CEOs in the country, at firms big and small?
What About All CEO Pay?
Instead of tens of millions of dollars, average CEO pay is $196,050 a year, according to BLS data.
That works out to a CEO-to-worker pay ratio of about 4 to 1.
And while the average pay for all CEOs climbed 40% from 2005 to 2017, so did average hourly wages for nonsupervisory workers, BLS data show.
The Economic Policy Institute says that looking at the pay of just the top CEOs makes sense because their companies employ so many people and "set the standards for pay in the executive pay market."
We think Perry has it right when he calls such comparisons "statistical legerdemain."
Whatever the case, these CEO-to-worker pay ratios serve little purpose other than to stoke misguided resentment among workers and create a false impression that CEOs' gains come at the expense of the working class.
If these groups really cared about workers, they'd instead be pushing pro-growth tax cuts and deregulation that will accelerate the economy and boost wages across the board.
Editor's note: The editorial had originally misnamed the Economic Policy Institute. It's been corrected.
Foreign Policy: Recent comments by former Democratic presidential candidate, Secretary of State and Senator John Kerry lead to one inevitable conclusion: Making Kerry America's top diplomat was a huge error.
Kerry has been seen a lot lately, largely because he's flogging a book, "Every Day Is Extra," seemingly everywhere in the media. He's doing lots of live interviews, some of them quite telling.
In one, for instance, he calls President Donald Trump's time in office a matter of "life and death," and suggests that he would " bring a case against Donald Trump for the lives that will be lost" due to his presidency. Lives lost to what? Some foreign war? Failure to protect us from terrorism?
Nope. Global warming. A purely hypothetical threat.
That's bad enough. It shows such poor judgment and extreme bias that Kerry should never hold a federal position of power ever again.
But far worse is his admission that he met "three or four times" with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif since Kerry left office. He admits talking about Trump's decision to exit the foolish Iran nuclear deal that Kerry helped craft, and other issues as well. And he didn't deny that he encouraged Iran to simply wait for Trump to leave office and a Democrat to come before taking any major actions.
'Changing The Dynamic'
"What I have done is tried to elicit from him what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East for the better," he told Fox News' Special Report.
As has been noted before, this is a plain violation of the Logan Act, the 199-year-old law that forbids private American citizens from conducting foreign policy without authorization.
No one has ever been prosecuted under the law, largely because it was never really intended for that. It was meant to send a message to private citizens to butt out when it comes to diplomacy and foreign affairs.
But Kerry's interference comes as close to being prosecutable under the Logan Act as anything we've seen. Not only did he circumvent a lawfully elected government's official channels, but he did so with the intent of undoing a specific policy, namely the U.S. sanctions on Iran for violating its nuclear agreements.
It's an act of hypocrisy, given that Democrats last year suggested that Ret. Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, had violated the law by talking with Russian officials about a month after Trump was elected in November 2016. This is plainly not a violation, since he was an official in an incoming administration. But Democrats didn't care.
By the way, Flynn is still awaiting sentencing for lying to the FBI about a crime he didn't commit. The mystery is why he denied speaking with then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, which Flynn was entirely entitled to do.
Kerry: A Logan Act Violation?
But Kerry did violate the law. Clearly and, apparently, quite proudly. Given the dodgy past of the Logan Act — even conservative Republican Sen. Tom Cotton calls it a "stupid, dead-letter law" — any prosecution would likely result in nothing happening.
Still, we think Kerry crossed a serious red line. Americans should recognize that he would put nuclear weapons in the hands of Iranian mullahs. These are the ones who routinely lead and encourage chants of "Death to America."
And, don't forget, Iran's theocratic regime is the world's No. 1 supporter of terrorism. These are not our friends.
This goes far beyond the rights of former secretaries of state to "have conversations" with foreign leaders, as Kerry innocently claims. No, he was willfully and knowingly undercutting a legally enacted policy of the U.S. He was aiding Iran.
As we noted above, Kerry absurdly suggested Trump be sued for future imaginary deaths from an unreal adversary, global warming. Fair enough. Then why can't we take legal action against Kerry. After all, he put millions of American lives at risk of a terrorist nuclear strike.
Either charge Kerry with a crime under the Logan Act, or erase the law from the books. But don't pretend that what he did was right, or moral, or legal. It wasn't. Indeed, as we've said before, his actions verge on treason, given that he's aiding a sworn enemy of the U.S.
Kerry hasn't said whether he'll run for president in 2020. If he does, we hope Americans will remember this shameful episode — one of many in Kerry's checkered political and personal history.
Regulations: Verizon started letting people sign up for its new wireless 5G Home high-speed internet service this week. It doesn't just mark the start of the next internet revolution. It obliterates the case for net-neutrality regulations.
On Tuesday, Verizon said that people can start signing up now for its 5G Home, with service starting on Oct. 1 in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento, Calif. Speeds will, the company says, be as fast as 1 Gbps, which is about as fast as Verizon's FIOS gets. It's more than 10 times faster than what the average home gets today.
What's different about 5G Home is that it doesn't require digging trenches or laying cable to hit those blistering speeds. Instead, it uses new wireless transmission technology. That means Verizon can start offering fiber optic speeds anywhere in the country, simply by installing mini cell towers in a given area.
5G Race Is On
Other carriers are racing to get their own 5G networks deployed. AT&T says it will launch its first mobile 5G network by the end of this year. T-Mobile aims for a nationwide 5G network in less than two years, with speeds up to 4 Gbps.
All of it means more competition for high-speed internet at home.
And that's why the case for "net neutrality" just collapsed — not that there ever was a good case for it to begin with.
Internet giants pushing the courts to reimpose "net neutrality" regulations that the FCC just killed rest their entire argument on the claim that home broadband today is a monopoly.
In their August filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the Internet Association — which includes Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and others — claimed that "market forces cannot effectively discipline ISP conduct because customers cannot readily change providers if they disagree with their ISP's (Internet Service Provider's) practices."
They went on to say that "early 50% of Americans are served by only one or zero wireline broadband service providers meeting the current FCC speed benchmark of 25 megabits-per-second download."
As a result, the filing argues, "it is irrational to think that transparency regarding ISP practices alone can protect net neutrality for the millions of consumers who cannot switch providers; they must either accept their ISPs' disclosed traffic management practices or go without internet access."
So, they said, the only way to prevent ISPs from doing things like throttling certain services, or charging more for access to certain sites, is for the government regulators to stop such practices.
But this argument hinges on the idea that ISPs aren't competitive. If they are, then market competition, not government regulation, will solve the problem.
That's how it works in the mobile world, where wireless companies are constantly trying to woo or keep customers with better offerings and lower prices.
Cable Wires Obsolete?
With 5G, the cost of bringing high-speed internet to everyone, nationwide, plunges. There's no doubt that traditional cable companies will start building out their own networks, for fear of losing all their customers to faster, cheaper 5G services.
In fact, the use of wires to connect homes to the internet could very well become as antiquated as those old dial-up modems.
The idea that internet needed federal "net neutrality" rules to stay free and open was never strong to begin with. The internet grew and thrived without them for all but two years.
"Net neutrality" advocates paint lots of horror stories about life in an unregulated internet. But they've never been able to produce any concrete examples of consumer harm.
Quite the contrary. One of the offerings that zealots said was a clear violation of "net neutrality" rules was an unlimited video streaming plan offered by T-Mobile.
Like a House of Cards
With the advent of 5G home and wireless services, the "net neutrality" argument falls down like a house of cards. If one internet provider does something stupid, like block certain websites, consumers will simply switch providers.
But that's always the way it is with government regulations designed to "protect" consumers. They're always several steps behind the blistering pace of free market innovations.
At best, they're quickly outstripped by free-market innovations. At worst, they inhibit innovations and make consumers' lives worse off.
It was the FCC itself — the agency Google and company say must act as the guardian of internet innovation — that delayed TV for years, tried to strangle cable TV, stymied phone companies from offering competing services, and delayed cell phones by a decade. All in the name of consumer protection.
Why innovators like Google and Facebook can't understand any of this is a complete mystery.
Global Warming: Give California Gov. Jerry Brown his due — once wedded to a bad idea, he never lets go. That's why he's just outlawed fossil fuels in the Golden State. He'd like to do the same to you. Today California, tomorrow the world.
To prove his climate change fighting bona fides, Brown is holding three-day conference, a kind of pep-rally of sorts, to show support for the Paris Climate Accords, which President Trump backed out of earlier this year.
As the Washington Examiner succinctly described the gathering, "The massive three-day bash hosted by Mr. Brown will feature top Democrats, liberal megadonors, Obama administration figures, international leaders, green energy, Silicon Valley, Hollywood celebrities, and Al Gore."
Of course, all of the "Hollywood celebrities" and Al Gore will be flying in on private jets, as will certainly the "Obama administration figures" and "liberal megadonors."
But hey, climate change sacrifices aren't for the liberal rich and leftists politicians; it's for the little people, the very ones that Hillary Clinton called the "deplorables."
They'll Always Have Paris
"We're running out of time," said Brown. "There's been some backsliding since Paris, and our Summit … aims to increase the commitments that have already been made in Paris, to make them even greater, and thereby build the momentum going into the (UN) conference of the parties at Poland."
When Brown says "we're" running out of time he really means "I". Brown's fourth term as governor ends in January, and the aging radical won't have a job. Is he angling to be a long-shot presidential candidate? Or maybe EPA chief in a Bernie Sanders administration? Or the U.N.'s climate change guru? It's hard to tell.
Just this week, he signed into law one of the most radical pieces of climate legislation ever. Dubbed SB 100, it commits California to producing all of its electricity from alternative sources by 2040. If it should happen, it will only happen because of a major scientific advance — not because Brown signed a pie-in-the-sky bill into law.
Anyway, that bill was a bit of stage-managing for Brown as his conference got underway in San Francisco, the famous City by the Bay. Once known for its stunning urban setting, San Franciso is now better known for featuring human feces and used drug syringes on virtually every downtown street.
Lest you laugh it off as just another crazy Gov. Moonbeam stunt, understand that he has designs on doing something just as drastic to you. Even if you don't live in the formerly Golden State. And if you agree to it, you'll get what you deserve.
Brown's Green Agenda
That's because Brown is part of the extreme green far-left that wants to tax everything, including carbon, and ultimately to prohibit fossil fuels entirely. He's turned it into a movement: the Climate Resistance. The only result of these policies will be soaring energy costs, rising poverty and lower standards of living for all. Green comes at a price.
California is already losing population, thanks to its increasingly insane laws that have made California the most economically polarized state in the union. The state is home to a third of all U.S. welfare recipients, but also has more billionaires than any other state. A net 140,000 per year are departing for other states, half of them middle class or higher, and the majority of them child-bearing age.
No state or nation stays economically healthy when its people start leaving in droves. When people leave, businesses are likely to follow. Say goodbye to California's future.
Brown and the law's supporters brag that "more than 20 countries and at least 40 cities, states and provinces planning to go carbon neutral by mid-century or sooner." He's planning on lots of states and cities around the country adopting his ideas.
Gov. Brown And 'Climate Resistance'
Sorry to disappoint, but Brown and the other members of the Climate Resistance likely haven't read a surprising, just-released report from the U.S. Energy Information. It's their worst nightmare.
The EIA reports that this year the U.S. likely surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world's No. 1 producer of oil. Will oil-producing states, now raking in billions from surging oil revenues, sign on to Brown's climate-driven economic lunacy? Will those who are making six-figure incomes in the nation's oil fields embrace Brown's carbon penury? Don't count on it.
Even as Gov. Brown revved up his far-left climatistas in San Francisco, a far more serious meeting of U.N. climate bureaucrats was taking place in faraway Bangkok. Unlike the San Francisco conference's party atmosphere, in Bangkok a sense of near-panic has gripped attendees.
You see, under the Paris Climate Agreement, rich Western nations are supposed to fork over $100 billion for "climate reparations" to poor countries.
Unfortunately, Trump ruined that by pulling the U.S. out of the economy-destroying Paris deal. This shatters the U.N.'s dreams of forking over massive amounts of cash to nondemocratic, often repressive regimes in the name of "climate justice." Now that the U.S. has said no, others are getting cold feet.
"Developed countries are going back on their word and refusing to agree to clear rules governing climate finance," Harjeet Singh, the top climate change official for for ActionAid told the global news service Agence France Press. "If they remain stuck in their positions and fail to loosen their purses, this treaty may collapse."
No doubt, it will collapse.
Paris Deal's Collapse
As climatologist Roy Spencer recently wrote, "the Paris Agreement, even if extended through the end of the 21st Century, will have no measurable effect on global temperatures because the governments of the world realize humanity will depend upon fossil fuels for decades to come."
Sane leaders understand this. So even while they placate the climate extremists within their own countries and send earnest climate "delegates" to meetings like the one in Bangkok, they know it will ultimately fall apart.
Meanwhile, climate charlatans like California's Brown will continue to use scare tactics, blaming every blip in temperature, every storm, every wildfire on "global warming." And he'll propose dragging our economy back into the stone age to reduce expected global warming by mere tenths of percentage point over the coming century.
California has become a one-party state run by extremists. The rest of America would be wise to stay away from their crazy ideas.
Eliminationist Rhetoric: What will it take before virulent Trump-haters admit that their increasingly violent rhetoric is putting lives in danger? Attacks on Republicans over the past few days show that the time for the left's reckoning is drawing near.
In case you haven't heard — which would not be surprising, given the general media blackout on such events — attacks on Republicans are increasing and increasingly dangerous.
In just the past few days:
A California resident attacked California GOP congressional candidate Rudy Peters with a switchblade. Witnesses said the assailant was spewing profanity-laced remarks about Trump and the Republican Party.
A Republican Party office in Laramie, Wyoming caught fire — in what officials suspect was arson — just days after it opened.
A deranged driver repeatedly rammed his truck into a local Fox News affiliate in Dallas, Texas.
Also this week, a leftist threatened to commit mass slaughter at a "Make America Great" event at Trump's hotel in DC. "I am coming with a gun and i expect to get numerous bloodstained MAGA hats as trophies," the unnamed Twitter account holder tweeted.
Breitbart started collecting examples of attacks on Republicans and Trump supporters in recent months. Their list is now over 550. In the past couple days, someone spat at a Hispanic immigrant woman wearing a Trump hat. A black man got kicked out of a bar for the same offense.
Then there are the repeated calls — either explicit or implicit — to attack Republicans coming from prominent journalists, politicians and celebrities.
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough used the 17th anniversary of 9/11 to declare President Trump a bigger threat to America than terrorists who killed 2,977 on that day — to say nothing of the hundreds who died later from 9/11-related cancers.
Scarborough didn't come out and say that Trump should be killed like 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. But what other implication are you supposed to draw? That he should be thrown in the prison at Guant?namo?
Also this week, Broadway celebrity Carole Cook told a TMZ reporter in reference to Trump, "Where's John Wilkes Booth when you need him?" She's hardly the first celebrity to call for Trump's assassination.
The reaction to all this from the liberal press and from peace-loving Democrats? Silence at best, cheers at worst.
This is striking, and strikingly hypocritical. In the past, any time some nut did something crazy, these same people would immediately blame the rhetoric on the right, even if they had to invent a connection. The New York Times recently repeated — and had to retract — the blatantly false claim that Sarah Palin inspired the shooter who nearly killed Rep. Gabbie Giffords.
All it took was for Republicans to talk about cutting government or upholding the Second Amendment for the left to accuse them of inciting violence or "eliminationist rhetoric."
Scalise Warns About Attacks On Republicans
Rep. Steve Scalise, who was very nearly assassinated last year by a crazed Bernie Sanders supporter, told Fox News on Wednesday that "Leadership on the Democrats' side needs to stand up and say this is wrong, no matter what your differences with the president or anybody else."
He added that "The mainstream media needs to be in the same place, calling this out too, and calling on leaders on the Republican and Democrat side to denounce it."
Scalise is right. And he has the scars to prove it.
But don't hold your breath for anyone on the left to hold themselves accountable when their hate-filled rhetoric incites violence.
Russia Investigation: Drip by drip, a pool of incriminating evidence grows almost daily showing that FBI and Justice Department officials worked together to thwart President Trump's presidency just as it got underway. The whole Russia investigation conducted by Robert Mueller must now come under serious question, and it seems likely that key FBI officials will be charged with crimes.
Congress released documents late Monday showing an "apparent systemic culture of media leaking" among top officials at the FBI and Justice Department, according to a letter that North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
In particular, wrote Meadows, two text messages exchanged on April 10 and April 12, 2017, between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and his then-lover, former FBI attorney Lisa Page, explicitly discuss the FBI's "media leak strategy."
On April 10, 2017, Strzok texted Page: "I had literally just gone to find this phone to tell you I want to talk to you about media leak strategy with DOJ before you go."
Just two days later, Meadows noted, Strzok lauded Page's efforts and gave her a heads up that "two articles are coming out, one which is 'worse' than the other about Lisa's 'namesake,' " a reference to Carter Page, the target of a monthslong FBI surveillance effort that began in October 2016. Despite the surveillance, Carter Page has never been charged with any crime.
Just one day after Strzok's text to Page, the Washington Post, on April 11, 2017, ran a piece titled "FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor former Trump advisor Carter Page."
Ignoring The Rulebook
But that wasn't all. As Fox News reports, "The leaks involved other outlets in addition to the Washington Post. ... FBI and DOJ officials, including DOJ prosecutor and top Robert Mueller deputy Andrew Weissman, met with several Associated Press reporters in April 2017, according to court filings in the Virginia federal trial of Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
It's noteworthy that Strzok was the lead investigator not just for the Russia investigation but for the Hillary Clinton email scandal as well. So Strzok and the others covered all the bases. He was just fired in August for sending anti-Trump messages to Lisa Page, including one that grandiosely said of Trump's presidency, "We'll stop it."
Page, The Patsy
As for poor Carter Page, the Post piece on April 11 claimed that "law enforcement and other U.S. officials" had told them that top Justice and FBI officials convinced a FISA judge that there was " probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia."
Their evidence? The bogus anti-Trump dossier authored by former British spy Christopher Steele, who served as a paid informant for the FBI. When the FBI discovered that he had leaked information to the press, they fired him. As it turns out, Steele compiled his dossier while working for the shady opposition research group Fusion GPS. And the Hillary Clinton-controlled Democratic National Committee and Clinton's own presidential campaign paid for it all.
The FBI, in short, lied to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court about the source of its "probable cause." They used the phony Steele dossier as the basis for their claims to the FISA court, but told the court they didn't. Isn't that perjury? Or don't U.S. officials have to tell the truth to FISA?
Collusion At FBI, Justice?
As for Carter Page, he was a tool, spied upon for entirely spurious reasons. Mainly, it appears, pro-Hillary, anti-Trump officials in the CIA, Justice Department and FBI wanted a pretense for spying on the Trump campaign — and, later, for undermining his presidency. Surveillance of Carter Page gave the FBI a backdoor into the Trump campaign.
The troubling aspect of all this isn't just the media leaks, which are troubling enough. It's why they leaked that is most bothersome.
Given the prevalent and near-total anti-Trump animus that various CIA, FBI and Justice officials exhibited, it seems quite clear that they coordinated their efforts to take down a presidential candidate and, when that failed, to politically damage him once he won the election.
Moreover, it was all collusion on behalf of Hillary Clinton's campaign and against Donald Trump.
This is the stuff of cheap spy novels, and yet it's true. This appears to be a conspiracy to undermine the constitutional government of the U.S. — a crime of the highest order. At the very least, Congress should name a special prosecutor. Mueller's case for Trump-Russia collusion was never strong; the case for FBI-Justice-CIA political interference looks like a slam dunk.
Growth: Barack Obama is on the road attempting to claim credit for the booming economy under President Trump. But the only thing Obama deserves credit for is making it easy for Trump to undo Obama's anti-growth policies.
Let's see if we have this right.
For eight years, President Obama presided over the worst economic recovery in modern times. For six years, he blamed Republicans in Congress for thwarting his spending agenda and hampering growth. In his last two years in office, he claimed that 2% growth was the best we could hope for. And in his last year in office, while the economy was again stalling out, Obama claimed that Trump's tax cuts and deregulation would only make things worse.
But now that we're in the midst of a booming economy — which kicked in after Trump reversed almost all Obama's economic policies — we're supposed to believe that it's Obama who deserves all the credit.
Yep. That's precisely what Obama and his Amen Chorus in the press want us to believe.
In his speech in Illinois last Friday, Obama complained that Republicans were taking credit for his work.
"When you hear how great the economy's doing right now, let's just remember when this recovery started," he said. "I mean, I'm glad it's continued, but … suddenly Republicans are saying it's a miracle."
This week, White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Kevin Hassett wisely set the record straight. At a briefing on Monday, he noted that just about every important economic indicator showed the economy was stalling out in Obama's last year.
Hassett explained that small business optimism had been on the decline before the November 2016 election. The percentage of businesses saying it's a good time to expand was, too. Business investment was stagnant. All those turned upward starting in 2017. Applications for new businesses are now well above the trend over Obama's entire second term, Hassett noted. And blue-collar jobs are growing faster than any time since the Reagan administration.
Turnaround on GDP Growth
There's more. The rate of GDP growth was decelerating in Obama's last year. It went from 2.3% in Q2, to 1.9% in Q3 to 1.8% in Q4 of 2016. Under Trump, GDP growth has averaged 2.9%. It was 4.2% last quarter and might be higher in the current one.
The stock market also was stuck in neutral the year before the November 2016 elections. The Dow is up by some 45% since then.
Real median family income didn't budge from August 2015 to November 2016, according to Sentier Research. It's up more than 4% since Trump came into office. Wages are on the upswing.
In Obama's last year, unemployment rate remained basically unchanged — it was 4.9% in Jan 2016, and 4.8% when Trump took office in Jan. 2017. Now it's down to 3.9%
We could go on.
Meanwhile, the same reporters now patting Obama on the back for today's strong economy were reporting in late 2016 about how — as The New York Times put it — "the underlying reality of low growth will haunt whoever wins the White House."
Still not convinced Trump deserves credit for the current booming economy? Consider that a survey of 68 business, financial and academic economists by The Wall Street Journal at the start of this year found that most believed Trump's policies would boost the economy, while the same group had said Obama's policies were a drag on long-term growth. Ninety percent said Trump's tax cuts would accelerate growth.
It is what the left would, in another context, call a "scientific consensus."
Yet to listen to liberal activists and the ideological press and you'd think that Trump was crazy for claiming credit for today's growth. "The economic expansion we're enjoying today was set in motion under Obama," insists Slate's Jordan Weissmann.
Doesn't this make people like Obama and Weissmann "economy deniers?"
Russia Investigation: President Trump may soon release classified documents related to top FBI official Bruce Ohr and former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. If so, it's likely to reveal once and for all the sham nature of the FBI's "investigation" of alleged Trump-Russia collusion during the 2016 election.
The move, according to the news site Axios, comes at the behest of House GOP members of the Intelligence and Judiciary committees. In recent hearings, they have heard evidence that suggests the FBI ran a shoddy, politicized and possibly illegal internal campaign to get permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to spy on Page.
For the record, using the powerful investigative and surveillance powers of the federal government for partisan purposes is a federal crime punishable by time in prison. It's not a joke.
"They (GOP House members) allege that (former Associte Deputy Attorney General) Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats," Axios noted.
"Improper intermediary role" is an understatement.
Bruce Ohr's wife, the Russophile former CIA employee Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS and actually helped compile the now infamous Steele dossier.
Steele was on the FBI's payroll, until he decided to make his dirty dossier on Donald Trump public via selective release to friendly media sources.
But Steele's firing by the FBI shortly before the 2016 election didn't matter, because he continued to talk to Bruce Ohr. And, of course, Ohr's wife Nellie served as a conduit from Hillary Clinton-funded Fusion GPS for information, tainted or otherwise, about Trump.
Which explains why Ohr, the FBI's fourth-highest official, never included the information about his wife working for Fusion GPS on federal conflict-of-interest forms he had to fill out, which is itself a violation of the law.
The Steele dossier is at the heart of this flap, since it was used extensively four times in 2016 and 2017 in applications to FISC to justify spying on Carter Page.
Even Trump foe James Comey, former head of the FBI, called the contents of the dossier "salacious and unverified." If so, why did the Justice Department and FBI use it so extensively in their investigation?
The only answer that appears reasonable is that it was never really an investigation at all, but rather a partisan maneuver to get Democrat Hillary Clinton elected using the nation's national security apparatus.
If you want to talk about "high crimes and misdemeanors," this is it.
A recent piece by John Solomon in The Hill outlined the growing evidence against Ohr in the collusion investgation:
"Ohr's own notes, emails and text messages show he communicated extensively with Steele and with Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson," Solomon wrote. "Those documents have been turned over in recent weeks to investigative bodies in Congress and the DOJ, but not reviewed outside the investigative ranks until now.
"They show Ohr had contact with Steele in the days just before the FBI opened its Trump-Russia probe in summer 2016, and then engaged Steele as a "confidential human source" (CHS) assisting in that probe.
"They also confirm that Ohr later became a critical conduit of continuing information from Steele after the FBI ended the Brit's role as an informant.
" 'B, doubtless a sad and crazy day for you re- SY,' Steele texted Ohr on Jan. 31, 2017, referencing President Trump's firing of Sally Yates for insubordination.
"Steele's FBI relationship had been terminated about three months earlier. The bureau concluded on Nov. 1, 2016, that he leaked information to the news media and was "not suitable for use" as a confidential source, memos show.
"The FBI specifically instructed Steele that he could no longer 'operate to obtain any intelligence whatsoever on behalf of the FBI,' those memos show."
As the evidence of massive collusion to subvert an American presidential election emerges, it increasingly appears it wasn't the Russians who were behind it, but virulently anti-Trump activists burrowed deeply within the FBI, Justice Department and CIA.
Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller has reported, "Sources familiar with Ohr's testimony before the House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees told The Daily Caller News Foundation that Ohr informed Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page about his interactions with Steele and (Fusion GPS founder Glenn) Simpson. He also informed Justice Department prosecutor Andrew Weissmann about his dossier-related work."
Let that sink in for a minute. Weissmann is a top operative in Robert Mueller's investigation of alleged Trump-Russian meddling in the 2016 election. So everyone was "in the loop," so to speak on what appears to be an illicit effort to dig up dirt on a single presidential candidate — all funded by his political opponent, Hillary Clinton, and by the taxpayers.
And emails of those officials named in Ross's reporting show an almost pathological hatred of Trump. They suggest FBI and Justice officials were willing to subvert the law to keep Trump out of the White House — or to have him removed once he won.
Worse still, the media, with reams of damning evidence virtually dumped in their laps, have chosen to ignore what's going on.
Even without the media, the FBI's and Justice Department's story is coming apart. With a possible dump of classified information used in putting together the FISA applications, we'll soon see just how corrupt their "investigation" is.
Unmasking Obama: Barack Obama is making headlines for blasting President Donald Trump in hopes that it will rally Democrats in November. What's being ignored is the fact that Obama also revealed his affinity for extreme left-wing Democrats.
Obama sharply broke with tradition by launching a blistering attack on his successor to the White House in a speech at the University of Illinois on Friday. He said Trump was a "threat to our democracy," talked about the "crazy stuff coming out of this White House," and called for the "restoration of honesty and decency and lawfulness in government."
That's what got all the attention. What nobody noticed was a line deep into Obama's speech, where he endorses the full range of far-left policies promoted by the likes of socialists like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
"Democrats aren't just running on good old ideas like a higher minimum wage," Obama said, "they're running on good new ideas like Medicare for all, giving workers seats on corporate boards, reversing the most egregious corporate tax cuts to make sure college students graduate debt-free."
Let's leave aside the disastrous $15 minimum wage hike that has now become a litmus test for Democrats. As we've noted in this space many times, doubling the federal minimum wage will kill millions of jobs and make those it's meant to help worse off.
That's not speculation. It's what's already happening in New York, San Francisco, Seattle and other "progressive" cities and states that rushed to embrace this horribly misguided and economically illiterate idea.
Look at what else Obama is endorsing.
He calls Sanders' "Medicare for all" $33 trillion government takeover of health care a good idea. Sanders' plan is more radical than anything any socialist country has ever tried. "Medicare for all" would outlaw private insurance and have the government pay all the costs of health care. Even in so-called socialist paradises like Sweden and Denmark, consumers pay a substantial portion of health costs out-of-pocket.
Obama says he's on board with Elizabeth Warren's plan for a government takeover of corporate decision-making — which she euphemistically calls the "Accountable Capitalism Act."
In Warren's vision, corporations would have to get federal approval to operate, which the government would only grant if those companies follow her dictates as to what constitutes "good" corporate behavior. Among the requirements, companies would have to let workers select 40% of corporate board members.
Even Warren's backers admit that her plan could destroy trillions of dollars in market value. And Black Entertainment Television co-founder Robert Johnson called Warren's plan "a solution in search of a problem that's absolutely not necessary." Yet Obama calls it a "good new idea." Unlike Warren or Obama, Johnson knows what it takes to run a business.
Obama also said he supports "reversing," not modifying or tinkering with, the pro-growth corporate tax cuts.
Never mind that those corporate tax cuts have sparked a surge of economic activity, contributing to bonuses, improved benefits and rising wages for millions of workers.
Last month, wages for blue collar workers shot up at the fastest rate in nine years. Median household income has climbed 4% under Trump — it was flat over the course of Obama's eight years.
Just this week, the Washington Post — of all places — reports that job growth among blue collar workers is the fastest it's been in more than 30 years. Economic optimism is at record highs and financial stress at new lows.
And foreign profits that companies had stashed overseas under the old corporate tax regime are flooding back into the U.S. That means more money invested at home.
Reversing the Trump corporate tax cuts would send the economy back to Obama-era stagnation.
Obama also backs Sanders' idea of free college. Never mind that this would cost taxpayers at least $75 billion a year — a 70% increase in federal education spending. That's assuming colleges don't use all the free money to further hike tuitions. While Sanders and Obama are touting free college, businesses are dropping college requirements for jobs as the labor market tightens.
The one "good new idea" Obama forgot to mention is the fascination among leftist Democrats with "guaranteed government jobs" — something last seen in the Soviet Union's constitution.
"That's why I'm a Democrat," Obama said, "and that's the set of ideas that I believe in."
We don't doubt that.
Obama's embrace of these radical ideas not only exposes him for who he is. Which is not, as the media would have it, a moderate or a centrist. It's also another sign that the Democratic Party is now completely in the hands of radical leftists.
Editor's note: The editorial has been update to correct a mistake where Trump's name was used in one sentence instead of Obama. It has been fixed.
Useless Degrees: A good indication of a tightening labor market is the fact that several major corporations have dropped their college degree requirements. College just became an even bigger waste of time and money for many.
Neither do companies like Costco, Whole Foods, Publix, Chipotle, Home Depot, Starbucks. (Does it really take a college degree to know how roll a burrito, pour coffee, or stack giant jars of mayonnaise?)
When jobs were scarce and unemployed workers plentiful, requiring a college degree might have made some sense, if only to easily weed out most applicants. When workers are scarce, companies can't be so picky.
But in any economy, there's a downside to college requirements. Limiting the worker pool to graduates feeds into the notion that everyone has to go to college, when many kids shouldn't. It also eliminates opportunities for the two-thirds of people without a degree, many of whom would probably be better workers than pampered graduates holding a degree in sociology and lugging a mountain of debt.
Further fueling this college bubble has been an upward spiral of federal grants, aid, subsidized loans and tax credits. College Board data show that federal college aid shot up 93% between 2001 to last year, after adjusting for inflation.
Not surprisingly, colleges and universities have been happy to take advantage of this artificial demand by raising tuition with impunity. Over those same years, public college tuitions climbed 72%.
Fueling Paper Pushers
Where did all that money go? As economist Mark Perry notes, mostly to overhead. College administrator jobs have climbed much faster than student enrollment.
In the rush to enroll as many students as possible, colleges clearly have been lowering their standards. Walter Williams points out that only 37% of today's high school graduates are proficient in reading and 25% in math. Yet colleges will enroll more than half of them. "It's inconceivable that college administrators are unaware that they are admitting students who are ill-prepared and cannot perform at the college level," he says.
Meanwhile, good-paying jobs that require real skills, like electricians, carpenters, and so on, are going begging. The Associated General Contractors of America says that 70% of construction companies are having trouble finding qualified workers. The Department of Education forecasts that the next five years will see 68% more infrastructure job openings than workers with the skills to fill them.
If the current corporate trend away from college requirements catches on, it would go far to burst the higher education bubble. And that would be a very good thing. For students, their parents, taxpayers. And for the economy.
Jobs: With 201,000 new jobs created, unemployment remained just above its all-time low at 3.9% in August. Meanwhile, wages shot up by a faster-than-expected 2.9% for blue-collar and low-wage workers, the fastest in nine years. Great news, right? Not for some.