Hillary Clinton’s Unbearably Boring Veep Options

by Jim Geraghty

Noah Rothman asked why we’re seeing so much less interest in Hillary Clinton’s running mate search than Trump’s.

A couple of reasons, high among them that Hillary Clinton, as the leading candidate, doesn’t need a dramatic, race-changing pick. Trump’s pick might be his best chance to shake up the race and give skeptical Americans a reason to give him a second look; Hillary just wants the status quo between now and November. Because of Trump’s lack of interest in policy detail, his vice president, if elected, would likely have an unusually influential say in policy.

But the biggest reason, I’d argue, is that most of the names mentioned as potential Clinton running mates are exceptionally boring. How many people have a strong view about Virginia Senator Tim Kaine? How many Americans could pick him out of a lineup of middle-aged white males in suits?

Sherrod Brown has been in Ohio politics forever, having won his first race in 1975… and yet somehow he’s managed to remain little-known; even political junkies don’t think about him often or have strong opinions about him.

Yes, I have written quite a bit about Julian Castro since 2012. But he’s been at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the political equivalent of the Witness Protection Program, since 2014.

Labor Secretary Tom Perez? A radical who’s remained largely unknown outside of policy wonk circles. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker? He enjoyed quite a bit of national hype in his initial rise in Garden State politics, but hasn’t had a particularly high profile in the Senate.

The only really big, head-turning name being mentioned as a running mate for Hillary Clinton is Elizabeth Warren – and that’s an unlikely pick.

The modern Democratic party doesn’t have much of a bench. Of course, with their advantages in the electoral college and the flaws of their foe, they don’t really need one. 

One Video Perfectly Illustrates Why It’s So Hard to Believe Black Lives Matters Claims of Peace

by David French

Response To...

Anti-Police Protesters Cheer a Cop ...

Yesterday, Rich posted the video below and focused on the incident around the 2:30 mark, when a protester mocks an obviously injured cop, screaming “That’s right! One piggly-wiggly down!” Her fellow protesters cheered. I kept watching, and seconds later (around 2:50) a white woman wanders onto the screen and says, “People need to know that Black Lives Matter does not condone throwing rocks at police.” Her last words are drowned out by a man yelling, “F**k the police!” The video is below:

But here’s the problem — when peaceful protesters walk and mingle with the violent, then it’s still a violent protest. I’m sorry, but you don’t get to claim the moral high ground by marching and chanting side by side with violent thugs and then tsk-tsking when things go bad. If you can’t expel the violent protesters, go home and reschedule your march for a different time and place. If you can’t march without violence, then re-examine your movement. As it is, Black Lives Matters supporters are placing police under immense pressure with violence while other members of the movement stand at the same event claiming to be about nothing but peace. It’s a cynical game, and it has to end before even more people get hurt.

No, Baton Rouge Was Not Tiananmen Square

by Ian Tuttle

A viral photo of a Black Lives Matter protester standing in front of a police barricade in Baton Rouge is being hailed as “iconic” and “legendary,” and the Huffington Post, among many others, says that the image “evokes Tiananmen Square”:

No, it doesn’t.

There is no question that freelance photographer Jonathan Bachman captured a suggestive image during the protests on Baton Rouge on Saturday. But the question is: suggestive of what? For scores of people on Twitter, the answer was obvious: an innocent woman of unfathomable courage standing down the systematized violence of the State.

But here’s a different interpretation: Ieshia L. Evans, the protester in question, did what she did because she knew it was safe to do so. Contrary to the narrative propagated by many activists, black Americans are not being systematically killed by law enforcement. The vast majority of interactions between blacks and police officers raise no concerns. As Heather Mac Donald shows in her new book The War on Cops, the withdrawal of police from predominantly black urban areas over the past two years has distressed, not cheered, many people in those communities. Law enforcement is not corrupt or “illegitimate,” as some of the most strident voices in the Black Lives Matter movement claim. And most people know it — including Black Lives Matter activists. If you keep between the barricades as you march down Fifth Avenue, you’ll be just fine.

In Tiananmen Square, the “Unknown Rebel” faced actual, imminent danger. There was no guarantee that those tanks would not simply run him down. It’s worth recalling that, over the ensuing 48 hours, China’s Communist government killed several hundred protesters in an effort to crush the demonstrations. That is what systematic killing by an illegitimate government looks like.

By contrast, Evans was taken into custody — which, if Bachman is right, was partly by design: He says he believes he heard Evans say that she was going to step into the road and get arrested. Either way, it was not much of an event. Says Bachman: “It wasn’t very violent. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t resist and the police didn’t drag her off.”

But the picture reveals none of that. It is a decontextualized image, wide open to interpretation. If it is “iconic,” it is only because certain people need it to be.

Who Thought That Politicizing Obama’s Speech Was a Good Idea?

by Charles C. W. Cooke

President Obama was giving a pretty good speech this afternoon. And then, suddenly, he wasn’t:

For now, I shall ignore this flatly preposterous claim, and ask a question instead: Why did the president say this?

I appreciate that, from Obama’s perspective, gun control is important. I also understand that, from Obama’s perspective, there is nothing to be gained by “depoliticizing” this issue. He wants legislative change; his opponents don’t. If he remains quiet on the matter he has no chance whatsoever of winning.

But did this little moment really serve to help his cause? Twenty minutes ago, almost everyone I know thought that the president was doing a good job with his address. Now, at least half of them are irritated and upset. On Twitter, a debate over books and Glocks has broken out. People are shouting at one another. Where there was harmony, now there is discord.

This, remember, was a funeral — a funeral for one of the police officers who was murdered last Thursday. It wasn’t a rally. It wasn’t a White House press conference. It wasn’t a public statement, hastily arranged on the airport tarmac. It was a funeral. Presumably, those attending had all sorts of political opinions. Presumably, some of the cops were Republicans. Presumably, there was some serious disagreement in that room as to how the country should move forward. Wouldn’t it have been better to wait until the proceedings were over to call for change? Wouldn’t it have been more politically effective for the president to have made his push somewhere else?

Again, I am not suggesting that Obama should stay quiet on the matter in general. While I wish that he wouldn’t indulge in crass overstatements, he of course has every right to lobby for whatever alterations to the status quo he happens to covet. I’m just wondering who thought it would be a good idea to make such a nakedly divisive statement at a memorial service. Anyone?

New Medicare Part B Rules Will Restrict Your Choice of Medication

by Iain Murray

 A few years ago, I finally found a medication that offered genuine relief to a persistent health problem. The copay was rather more than the usual amount, but it was clearly worth it. Then two years ago, my new insurance told me they wouldn’t pay for it, and forced me onto a much less effective generic. Last year, when selecting a new insurance provider, I chose one that had the effective medicine on its formulary. Except it doesn’t really. To get it, I would have to pay a small fortune every month.

This experience is about to become a lot more common for patients across the country. Thanks to a change in the rule surrounding Medicare Part B, health insurance companies will have even more justification for dumping expensive medicines in favor of cheaper, but perhaps less effective, alternatives. The trouble is that the way the rule is written is an end-run around the law that was written to stop that happening.

At issue is the power of a creation of the Obamacare law called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). This body was set up to determine which treatment options were most cost-effective, in order to persuade doctors to prescribe the cheaper blue pill instead of the more expensive red pill (in President Obama’s phrase). In order to do so, it has turned to a private nonprofit group for advice.

That group is the Institute for Clinical Economics and Review (ICER.) This group conducts cost-benefits analyses of medication to assess how cost-effective they are. In doing so, it uses a controversial methodology called Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY) that say that if you are old, infirm, or sick, a year’s extra life will have a lower quality, so it should not be counted as equivalent to value of life of a healthy person. It’s a technique the United Nations uses to discount the extended lifespan of Americans, arguing that the last years of life aren’t equivalent to those of a young person in a poorer country.

Obviously, the use of QALYs has a significant effect on any judgment of whether or not a medicine is cost-effective. We see it in the decisions of the UK’s Orwellian-named agency the National Institute on Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which decides whether or not drugs should be used by the country’s socialized National Health Service. NICE restricts access to drugs that are commonly available to patients elsewhere in the European Union. For example, French and Spanish breast cancer sufferers are 50 percent more likely to be given the drug Herceptin than British patients.

ICER, as it happens, is directly modeled on NICE. Its structure and process are similar and its President enjoyed a senior position there. Despite being a nonprofit, under the new rules its analyses will play a formal part in the decisions of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). As well as assessing cost-effectiveness, the body uses QALYs to recommend price caps on drugs. Where Medicare leads, other insurance providers follow.

Yet if prices are capped or the use of drugs vetoed because of expense, pharmaceutical innovation, a field in which America leads the world, will suffer. Research into new medicines will effectively be capped as well, as drug manufacturers stop R&D of products for which they cannot cover the costs.

This was all codified in the Affordable Care Act, which states, “The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute [PCORI] … shall not develop or employ a dollars-per-quality adjusted life year … as a threshold to establish what type of health care is cost effective or recommended.” It is PCORI that is supposed to give IPAB its advice, but because it cannot use QALYs, IPAB has turned to ICER for advice instead.

ICER’s approach is raising eyebrows. Milena Izmirlieva, head of the Life Sciences research team at the analytical consultancy IHS, wrote on the company’s blog, “[T]he activities of ICER should be carefully monitored because they have the potential to change the market access environment…  ICER’s reports – no matter whether they lack methodological rigour [sic] or not – may be used as ammunition by health insurers in their attempt to secure price discounts.”

That’s the nub of the problem. Pharmaceutical firms want to bring products to market, but insurers want to restrict the price they pay, so instead of allowing the market to work, they have turned to using regulation. ICER is primarily funded by insurance companies, but its flawed methodology will now have a place in the regulatory system, and that’s despite the law that was written to prevent this happening.

Moreover, the distinction between red and blue pills is itself problematic. Many patients respond better to the red pill than the blue pill, even when they are suffering from the same ailment. By giving IPAB the power essentially to mandate one pill over the other, that body will cause increased pain and suffering in many.

Congress really should have learned its lesson by now. Whatever the law says, when it delegates power to the executive, the executive will find a way to do what it wants. When it does so because of the influence of special interests, then the rule of law loses meaning. In the end, we all pay for that, and not just in the higher price of medicine.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown Is Helping Pull a Nation Back from the Brink

by David French

It’s difficult to imagine a more difficult challenge than running a police force during the worst massacre of law enforcement officers since 9/11 — all against the backdrop of intense protest and ideological scrutiny. No one can do it perfectly — indeed, it’s difficult to even imagine what perfection would look like under these circumstances — but it’s hard to conceive of a more effective public voice than Dallas Police Chief David Brown. At a time when the loudest voices are seeking to increase conflict and often capitalize on tragedy, he’s charted a different course entirely. He’s a reformer who’s responded to the shootings from a position of credibility with many liberals and conservatives.

Writing in the Washington Post, Radley Balko has comprehensively outlined Chief Brown’s reforms, including his measures to reduce the use of deadly force, increase transparency and accountability, and pull back from using traffic citations as a revenue source rather than a safety measure. Until last year, his reforms correlated with a decrease in violent crime. Last year, however, homicides ticked upwards, and this year the increase has continued. While more data is needed, if anything Chief Brown had moved too far towards police reform when the attack happened. 

Since the attack, he’s done four key things that have helped defuse tensions. First, he’s helped squelch a budding controversy regarding his use of a robot-delivered bomb to end the standoff with Micah Johnson by clearly and plainly laying out the facts. In short, with the shooter hidden behind a brick corner, the only way to take a shot was to expose officers to danger, negotiations were proving fruitless (he was “laughing” and “singing”), and he was concerned that Johnson would charge the officers to take out a few more. Here’s Chief Brown explaining it to Jake Tapper:

Second, he’s pointedly refused to be drawn into the gun control policy debate, recognizing that his role is to execute the laws, not write the laws:

Third, I appreciate his approach to protesters — moving past the artificial narrative of cops versus community and challenging them to join and serve:

And finally, he’s made the vital point that failures in other sectors of society have put too much of a burden on cops. They’re now the first line response in the event of drug abuse, failures of the mental health system, failures in public schools, and failures in the family. The police cannot replace a father:

I’m sure there are Dallas readers who can provide more context and information about Chief Brown’s tenure (including critiques of his performance), but these statements — combined with his demeanor and conviction — have not only helped humanize the police in the face of their worst critics, they’ve helped demonstrate the challenges of modern policing. And they come from a place of deep pain and hard-earned experience. His own son — a young man who struggled with mental illness — was shot and killed by police after he killed an officer during a “psychotic breakdown.” Brown lost his younger brother to drug violence, and his former partner was gunned down in the line of duty. That’s more pain than one man should have to bear. 

In a time when our leaders are in the habit of failing, it’s heartening to watch a man of apparent strength and integrity respond to tragedy with courage and conviction. 

CBO Long-Term Budget Outlook: Debt-to-GDP Ratio of 141 Percent in 2046

by Veronique de Rugy

The following charts are from the CBO’s Long Term Budget Outlook:

Deficits, CBO notes, are growing because spending is growing faster than revenue, “in particular, spending grows for Social Security, the major health care programs (primarily Medicare), and interest on the government’s debt.”

The result is a federal-public-debt-to-GDP ratio that would go from its current 75 percent (up from 39 percent in 2008) to 86 percent in 2026 and 141 percent in 2046. That’s much higher than in the aftermath of World War II. It is also a slight improvement over the previous projections due to lower than expected interest rates. However, CBO warns, a 1 percent addition increase in the rate would propel the debt to GDP level at 188 percent. Gross debt is much higher.

There are a lot of assumptions going into this outcome. Many of them are unlikely to materialize (i.e., no depression in the next 30 years or unemployment rate consistently at 5 percent over the next 30 years), which would make the final numbers look way worse than they do now.

In fact, CBO writes:

If current laws governing taxes and spending remained generally the same, CBO estimates, debt would nearly double as a percentage of GDP over the next 30 years. That projection is very uncertain, however, so the agency examined how it would change if four key inputs — labor force participation, productivity in the economy, interest rates on federal debt, and health care costs per person — were different from their levels in the extended baseline. The resulting projections show that debt in 2046, measured as a share of GDP, could be much larger or smaller than it is in the extended baseline, ranging from nearly twice the largest amount recorded in U.S. history to slightly less than that record high. Even at the low end of that range, debt would be higher than it is now.

Other factors, such as an economic depression, a major war, or unexpected changes in fertility, immigration, or mortality rates, could also affect the trajectory of debt. Taking all factors into account, CBO concludes that despite the considerable uncertainty of long-term projections, debt as a percentage of GDP would probably be greater — in all likelihood, much greater — than it is today if current laws remained generally unchanged.

As the Wall Street Journal reports:

The CBO’s forecasts have consistently shown that spending on health-care programs and Social Security are far and away the largest drivers of spending over the coming decades as an aging workforce will leave fewer workers to support more retirees.

But, please, don’t worry. The Democrats have a plan: They will grow spending, tax the rich more, expand Social Security, add a public option to Obamacare, get in the way of innovation and the sharing economy, and add more sclerosis to the labor market. As we know, spending money and more government interventions in the economy have done wonders to our economy so far.

Larry the Cat Remains at His Post, Despite Changing of the Guard

by Paul Crookston

Many have taken recent events as evidence that Britain is undergoing rapid and dangerous change, but in keeping Larry the cat at No. 10 Downing Street, the Tories demonstrate their attention to the conservative principle of continuity. Theresa May’s arrival at the Prime Minister’s office has not resulted in the eviction of the tabby, the BBC is reporting. An official said, “It’s a civil servant’s cat,” ending speculation that Larry would have to move.

Brought in to deal with the rat problem that caught public attention after a rat was seen in front of the house on live TV, Larry has added charm and a “strong predatory drive” to the Prime Minister’s home, and the Tories rightly judged that the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office was too vital of a position to leave vacant. Larry’s stateliness and hunting ability contrast sharply with Jeremy Corbyn’s Jacobin cat “El Gato” (“the cat” in Spanish), who is not even provided with the individual dignity of a real name.

Hopefully the first of many, this is a wise choice by the May government, since sacking Larry would be highly offensive to conservative principles. In his Reflections of the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke wrote, “By this unprincipled facility of changing the state as often, and as much, and in as many ways as there are floating fancies or fashions, the whole chain and continuity of the commonwealth would be broken. No one generation could link with the other. Men would become little better than the flies of summer.”

Committed to uniting the twin goals of pest control and the continuity of the commonwealth, May and the Tories are sending the right signal in turbulent times.