NR Webathon

‘Keep the Heat On’

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National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. (National Review)

As of Wednesday afternoon, 821 of you have contributed to NR’s Fall webathon — raising over $100,000! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. Your generous donations go towards supporting the best conservative journalism in America. It’s readers like you who allow us to cover the Biden White House, Capitol Hill, the chaos on the border, and the American heartland the way that we do. Your support is critical to our mission. Thank you.

  • Frank put $100 in the hat and writes: “Keep the heat on.” I can assure you, Frank, that we most certainly will.
  • Craig donated a generous 300 bucks, adding, “Keep up the good work and do not be dismayed, we will prevail.” With the help of readers like you, Craig, we can’t fail. Thank you.
  • Martha added $1,000 towards NR’s goal: “My small contribution for the never-ending battle against dangerous, utopian visions of what government should/can do.” Martha, your contribution is by no means small. We will spend every dime wisely. Thank you for your generosity.
  • “NR is a voice crying in the wilderness,” one anonymous contributor writes. “Since I am out in the wilderness as well, I appreciate the company.” At NR, we’re honored to have readers like you at our side.

If NR is a part of your life, please join us by subscribing to NRPlus or by making a generous donation towards keeping the mission of conservative journalism thriving. We couldn’t do this without our loyal readers. Thank you.

World

State Department: Whoops, We Just Found a Lot More Americans Who Want to Leave Afghanistan

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President Joe Biden speaks as Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens during a Cabinet meeting at the White House, July 20, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Biden, August 31: “We believe that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave… For those remaining Americans there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out.”

White House chief of staff Ron Klain, September 5: “We believe it’s around about 100. We’re in touch with all of them, who we’ve identified, on a regular basis.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, September 13: “As of the end of last week, we had about 100 American citizens in Afghanistan who told us that they wish to leave the country.”

Briefing with an unidentified senior State Department official, September 27:  “With respect to the number of [American citizens] and [legal permanent residents] that are ready to go, it’s – I would say, in the vicinity of 100.”

CNN, Friday: “The State Department informed congressional staff Thursday that it is in touch with 363 US citizens in Afghanistan, 176 of whom want to leave, two sources familiar with the call told CNN… More than 200 US citizens have been evacuated with the help of the US government since August 31, according to the State Department, meaning that upwards of 400 Americans have sought US help leaving the country in the nearly two months since the military withdrawal.”

So all along, the administration’s public estimates were roughly one quarter of the actual number of Americans who were actually still in the country and trying to get out.

The administration claims that the number is fluid because of the number of Americans who thought they wanted to remain in Afghanistan, and enjoy all the benefits and joys of living under the Taliban, but who later changed their mind and now want to leave.

 

Law & the Courts

A Telling Anecdote from Clarence Thomas

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., June 6, 2016 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

As of Saturday, Clarence Thomas will have served as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court for 30 years. To commemorate the milestone, the Heritage Foundation held an event on Thursday at which Thomas spoke. Among the anecdotes he shared was this exchange with the late Antonin Scalia:

He [Scalia] invited me to go to the Kennedy Center with him, cause he said ‘Clarence, you like classical music?’ I said, ‘Oh I sure do.’ He said, ‘Come to the Kennedy Center.’ I said, ‘Oh yeah, but I don’t like people who like classical music.’

Laughter from both storyteller and audience alike followed.

There are hundreds better suited to discuss Thomas’ legal legacy to date, as well as that which he might accomplish in the days to come. I’ll point out the obvious, though: Clarence Thomas is one of most remarkable men to ever sit on the bench, and not just because of his first-rate mind, but because of his humility. A humility that can perhaps only be achieved through the kind of adversity he’s faced — first as a child born into poverty, and then as the target of, as he deemed it, a nationally televised “high-tech lynching.”

Few have swum further upstream against the current, and fewer still have kept their sense of self and perspective while doing so.

Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Choice on Children

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The Democrats want monthly checks for parents, subsidies for child care, and paid family leave all to be in their giant spending bill. Senator Joe Manchin says they can only have one of the three. Cue the debate:

The Times quoted a sociologist who argued that paid leave was necessary for “changing gender norms both at work and at home.” Another sociologist backed making child care cheaper for parents because it “would likely pull more women in the workforce.”

Sending checks to parents, as the proposal to expand the tax credit for children would do, does not directly advance those objectives.

I argue in my column today that it’s that very quality that makes the checks a better idea than the other two proposals. It doesn’t try to change gender norms or pull (or push) mothers into paid work; it leaves families in charge.

Meanwhile, here’s an analysis from Jordan Weissmann of Slate of how “the bill quickly seems to be degenerating into a pricey heap of policy trash.” Short version: Manchin and Sinema won’t let the progressives get all of their programs fully funded, and the progressives won’t choose among the programs, so they’re going to “pass lots of half-baked legislation on a temporary basis.”

Law & the Courts

30 Years of Justice Clarence Thomas

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas participates in taking a new family photo with his fellow justices at the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 1, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Allow me to add a few words to our celebration of 30 years on the Supreme Court for Clarence Thomas. I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Justice Thomas in the spring of 1992, when he was freshly on the Court. Thirteen of us from Holy Cross College were in D.C. for our “semester in Washington” program (I was an intern for my then-congressman, Ben Gilman), and wrote to Justice Thomas as a fellow Crusader. He graciously met with us for 45 minutes, was at turns funny and still a bit raw at his mistreatment by the Senate the previous fall, and posed for individual pictures, in which you can marvel at my early-1990s eyeglasses:

I have had occasion in the years since to write a great many words about Justice Thomas and his jurisprudence, which may finally be coming into the peak of its influence on the Court this term. Two of those articles have been particularly comprehensive, and summarize what I could hope to contribute to this commemoration. At the end of the tempestuous 2014–15 term of the Court, best recalled for the Obergefell same-sex marriage decision, I wrote a deep-dive cover story in the Weekly Standard reviewing at length Thomas’s major opinions that term and the philosophy they embodied:

Like a medieval monk preserving Western culture through the Dark Ages, Thomas soldiered doggedly on, carrying the largest writing workload on the Court, pressing his point in cases small and large, sometimes at odds with his conservative colleagues, often alone. Perhaps history will never return to the path he is marking, but no one can say we weren’t warned . . .

Clarence Thomas is an affable man, if one who does not forget his scars, and by all accounts he gets on well enough with his colleagues. But given that few of them other than Scalia bother responding to his lone opinions, one wonders if some of them look at him a little funny—“that guy who keeps going on about the Constitution.” He is known to prefer the company of almost anyone to the company of his fellow judges and lawyers; he meets more often than any other justice with groups of visitors to the Court and travels the country in his RV during the Court’s recesses. But that distance makes him uniquely suited among the justices to look at this country not from the perspective of a member of the judicial high priesthood, but as a citizen ruled by it . . .

Thomas’s opinions this term form a coherent whole, one that places no trust in institutions—in the wisdom of judges, the expertise of bureaucrats, or the evenhandedness of either—but depends instead on clear, written rules and structural checks and balances. And his philosophy, while grounded in the same principles as our Constitution itself, should not surprise us. Thomas is not so far removed from his upbringing in segregated Georgia that he cannot remember what it was like to live in a place and time in which the government was staffed and run by people who had no intention of treating you fairly.

Two strategies are available to a citizen confronted by such a government. One is to keep for himself as large a space as possible free of the government, in which to exercise true liberty. The other is to insist on the punctilious observance of the letter of the law. The whims of administrative agencies and the discretion of judges to fashion new rights and rules according to their own policy preferences threaten both of these strategies, to the detriment of whomever the people in power regard as beneath their concern. It is perhaps a supreme irony, but a fitting one, that the man most concerned with keeping alight the flame of these old concepts of liberty and dignity is the justice of the Supreme Court who grew up under a government that wished to accord him neither liberty nor dignity.

In 2019, for National Review, I reviewed Myron Magnet’s book Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution:

Picture Clarence Thomas as a legal Indiana Jones, dodging slings and arrows to rescue a valuable and powerful relic from the wrong hands after it fell into undeserved obscurity. That’s the thesis of Myron Magnet’s new book. . . . [The book is] a potboiler, briskly surveying how our founding charter went missing, what impelled Justice Thomas to go looking for it, and what he unearthed. At the end of the journey, the reader will be forgiven for suspecting that the original Constitution will nonetheless be consigned to a dusty corner of a government archive while the capital’s top men insist they can do better without it . . .

Will Thomas’s rediscovery of the original Constitution be in vain? His opinions often attract little support or even response from his fellow justices. He writes for posterity, and 20 percent of President Trump’s appellate-court nominees have been former Thomas clerks. Living constitutionalists, in Thomas’s words, overturn precedents until “they get what they want, and then they start yelling ‘stare decisis,’ as though that is supposed to stop you.” By contrast, even conservative judges who hold the line against new inventions often blanch at rolling back old precedents, however rootless. But the original, written and amended Constitution doesn’t belong in a museum.

Happy anniversary to our greatest living justice.

Law & the Courts

BREAKING: Supreme Court Sets November 1 Oral Argument on Texas Abortion Case

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Abortion supporters and pro-life advocates demonstrate on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Washington, D.C., January 24, 2011. (Jim Young/Reuters)

The Supreme Court has already agreed to hear a major challenge to Roe v. Wade, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Mississippi case that will be argued December 1. It has already once turned away a request to rule immediately on S.B. 8, the Texas abortion law that allows private individuals to file “private attorney general” civil damages lawsuits rather than enforce its abortion restrictions through government action. The latter decision was based largely on the Court’s skepticism of the procedural hurdles to the lawsuit looking to enjoin the Texas law.

Since then, the Justice Department under Merrick Garland has filed its own lawsuit to stop the Texas law. That lawsuit, as I have discussed, has its own problems, but the Court today ordered an aggressive briefing schedule and an emergency argument on November 1. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the decision not to enjoin the law in the interim.

There are three things going on here. One, the justices would clearly prefer to hear the Dobbs case in an orderly and deliberative fashion and grapple with the momentous decision whether to overturn, entrench, or rewrite and limit Roe in the spring. But events keep forcing them to take up the Texas case first. I will still be surprised if the Court decides the Texas case in any way that shows its cards on the outcome of Dobbs, but if you are worried that Chief Justice John Roberts and others, especially Justice Brett Kavanaugh, may lack the courage to overturn Roe, the worst-case scenario is that they get cold feet in the Texas case, presented as it is under more adverse circumstances.

Two, the asymmetry of how the Court handles emergency stay requests is on full display. Justice Sotomayor argues that “every day that S. B. 8 remains in effect is a day in which such tactics are rewarded. And every day the scheme succeeds increases the likelihood that it will be adapted to attack other federal constitutional rights.” But it has often been the case in, say, gun-rights cases that laws violating constitutional rights get left in place until the Court hears them. Abortion cases have regularly been given special treatment, which is why you hear so much howling when the Court leaves a law on the books for just a few weeks.

Three, the justices may be sensitive to criticisms of emergency decisions made without full briefing and argument — the so-called shadow docket. It is inevitably the case that the Court has to act in more summary fashion when it is asked for emergency relief. And it is entirely defensible for the Court to turn away cases and requests for relief without hearing them in full; it does that every week when it denies petitions for certiorari. It is a fairer argument that the Court should not grant affirmative relief — enjoining a law more than temporarily — without a fuller hearing, especially on questions of national significance. The fact that the Court is adding this case to the argument docket plainly shows that the justices want to make a public show of giving Merrick Garland his day in court.

Elections

‘The VA Governor’s Race’

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In this short and snappy Editors episode, Rich, Charlie, and Jim discuss the VA governor’s race, the reconciliation bill, and more. Listen below, or follow this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

Capital Matters

Americans Should Be More Upset about Infrastructure Inefficiency

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Rush-hour traffic in Washington, D.C., in 2016. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The national debt is out of control. Some people used to be pretty upset about that, and politicians have tried to make an issue out of it. But most people don’t get that worked up about it. Both parties have now realized that, and they’ve both promised to not reform entitlements, which are the drivers of the debt. So the debt keeps going up and the few budget hawks that are still around are left wondering, “Why is nobody else upset about this?”

It’s an interesting question, one that people interested in politics ask themselves fairly regularly. The same things don’t upset everyone. Many libertarians get very upset about the very real injustices that result from occupational licensing. Occupational licensing reform is fairly bipartisan, and many regulations (1,000 hours of training to be a hair stylist, for example) are indefensible barriers to entry that hurt the people they purportedly help. Most people see that when it’s explained to them. But it’s hard to whip up a frenzy about occupational-licensing reform because although most people agree, they also don’t really care that much.

On issues like the debt and occupational licensing, there’s a straightforward explanation: They’re problems that affect other people. The debt affects future people, our older selves and people who haven’t been born yet. Occupational licensing affects people who want to enter specific industries, groups of people too small to make a majority on their own. (The people who already have licenses don’t support reform, in many cases, because they benefit personally from the status quo.) People tend to get more worked up about issues that directly affect them.

That’s not to call those people selfish. Most people don’t follow politics for a living, and they don’t care much about the details of specific policy issues. There’s nothing wrong with that. People have finite bandwidths to care about issues, so it makes sense to care first about issues that directly affect them. It’s a form of minding your own business, something we could probably use a bit more of these days.

Yet there’s one issue that directly affects just about everyone that very few people get upset about: Construction projects taking forever.

Of course, people get upset about them when they’re sitting in traffic. But they don’t get upset about them at the polls. It’s rare to see a politician running for office making an issue out of construction that never ends.

Unlike other issues, such as unemployment or gas prices, the government actually has control over construction projects on infrastructure that it owns and operates. There are actually few things the government has more control over. And it’s not like there’s a shortage of policy ideas circulating to fix these problems. Brian Riedl, for example, wrote a sketch of a four-point conservative plan for NR back in April.

Finishing construction projects faster would make people’s everyday lives better in ways that most political issues don’t. Even taxation, the fundamental issue that everyone cares about, doesn’t make your commute miserable every single day.

In developing countries, construction projects are a major political issue. The Indian transportation minister has made a promise to build 100 kilometers of highway per day. That’s a longshot, and the Indian government’s M.O. is overpromising and underdelivering. But India did actually build 37 kilometers of brand new highway per day last year. They set a world record by laying 2,580 meters of four-lane highway in 24 hours. It’s probably much easier to build fast at Indian standards, and Americans should expect better quality for their highways. But the wealthiest country on the face of the earth should be able to build better highways at least half as fast as India.

It’s a national disgrace that a rail tunnel that took two years to build in the 1870s will take up to twelve years to replace today. There are children entering kindergarten this coming school year who were not yet born the last time one 22-mile segment of I-66 in Northern Virginia wasn’t under construction. To add insult to injury, these marathon projects are overpriced to begin with and often come in over budget. So not only are they making it harder for you to get around for years, they’re also wasting your money.

It says something about the American people that we find time to get outraged over any number of social media-fueled controversies that rarely last longer than 48 hours, yet we are generally complacent about our government making travel unnecessarily difficult for years at a time. This country used to be able to pull off marvels of engineering in less time than it takes to repair one stretch of highway today. Our gross infrastructure inefficiency is a sign of national decline, and if Americans continue to be complacent about it, it will not be reversed.

Culture

Safetyism Isn’t about Snowflake Students, but Timid Leadership

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Oren Cass and the good folks at American Compass started chatting with me about “safetyism” — an ethic that seems to be spreading throughout American institutions and culture. Here’s the basic idea:

In a society where safety is the highest value, people will discover that asserting a claim of unsafety is the most effective way to coopt institutional and state power. Authorities will not only gravitate toward actions that minimize risk, but also run away from making decisions of their own lest the power of victimhood be turned on them. In a culture without shared values beyond “avoid hurt,” risks become impossible to assess or accept against a claim that someone may be harmed, sapping our appetite for exercising judgment in the face of inevitable tragedy and loss. Thus, the safety imperative undermines conservatism and the common good not because it advances some “woke” agenda, but because it enforces through legal and social concepts of liability an absolute preference for harm reduction over the many other values—from liberty and fairness to tradition and hierarchy—that human flourishing requires as well.

The essay touches on passive-aggressive Yale students, the total obscuring of human responsibility for public-health-policy decisions, the necessity of risk in building a flourishing culture, and a republic that can confront the challenges of the 21st century. Check it out here.

National Review

What You Missed Last Night

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) speaks at the William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner Gala in Dallas, Texas, October 21, 2021. (Grant Miller Photography)

Yesterday evening in Dallas, the National Review Institute hosted its annual William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner Gala honoring three men who have made immeasurable contributions to American conservatism: Eugene Meyer and Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society and Adam Meyerson of the Philanthropy Roundtable.

All the remarks offered during dinner were encouraging, but I was especially glad to hear Leo’s affirmation of originalism and his repudiation of the idea that this legal philosophy ought to be amended somehow so that judiciaries will deliver conservative policy victories presently out of reach. As he put it, one of the most important parts of originalism is the belief that the judiciary ought to be constrained to its proper constitutional role, which precludes judges from imposing their own views through their rulings, whether or not we agree with the outcome. It is the job of the elected branches of government to deliver the policy changes conservatives want, not the job of unelected judges, and conservatives would be misguided to push for such a strategy.

It was such a blessing to be back in person with friends old and new. As great as modern technology might be in some ways, attending a black-tie gala via Zoom doesn’t have quite the same feel as gathering in a room together. It was also the occasion for my first trip to Texas — and I’ll conclude with a shout-out to my kind Uber driver, who insisted on giving me a tour of Dallas on my way out of town. Judging from his thorough narration, just about every major American company has its headquarters or a major office of some kind in Texas, which I can’t say is too surprising.

Culture

Through an Immigrant’s Eyes

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An illustration of the Declaration of Independence against the backdrop of an American flag (smartstock/Getty Images)

Get to know Mark Haidar, a computer engineer and tech entrepreneur in Dallas. I have done a Q&A podcast with him, here. We met at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. Haidar is a Presidential Leadership Scholar, affiliated with the Bush Center and other presidential centers. He is one of the people featured in George W. Bush’s recent book, Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants. Haidar has an amazing story to tell, and important things to say.

His family is Lebanese, but had to flee in 1982, with the outbreak of war. They went to Kuwait, where Mark was born. When Mark was four — by the way, his original name is “Mahmoud” — they went back to Lebanon.

The family was very poor, like many. One of Mark’s sisters froze to death at five months old. The country was beset by fighting of various types.

One day, two employees of the United Nations came to Mark’s school. This was “the day that changed my life,” says Mark. They brought with them two computers — by which Mark was fascinated. “Obsessed,” he says. He wanted to learn everything about computers he could. Out in the world, he felt relatively helpless. Behind a computer, he felt empowered. It was the only thing in his life he could control. “Computers do exactly what you tell them to do,” he says.

He found something called “Encarta.” This was an early Microsoft encyclopedia. He began reading about the United States and discovered the Declaration of Independence — which excited him. He knew, in his core, it was true: Human beings have rights that no man or system can negate.

Thereafter, he had a tradition. Every time he got a new notebook in school — like a spiral notebook — he would write in it the words “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

This might be remembered in our debate about Thomas Jefferson and related debates. Lots of Americans are cynical about the American founding. People on left and right — progressives, “post-liberals,” et al. — have transcended it (or so they think). Yet our founding, and the Declaration of Independence in particular, retains the power to light people on fire, the world over. Light them with righteous and true fire. To them, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is not a cliché. It is not a joke. They don’t scoff or roll their eyes. For them, it is radical, revolutionary, and true.

Think of Mahmoud Haidar, a poor kid in Lebanon, struggling to survive. Old Jefferson spoke to him, across the centuries.

As a teen, Mahmoud learned English (as well as French). He learned it mainly through those two sublime teachers, The Simpsons and Seinfeld.

In 2006, as bombs fell during the Second Lebanon War, he made a dangerous escape from the country, eventually reaching Detroit, where he furthered his education.

At a gas station, to pay for school, he worked from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. He made 8 dollars an hour — which suited him fine. He ate at a Taco Bell on McNichols Avenue. You could get a Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito for 89 cents. He had two of those a day, and a woman who worked in the restaurant made sure they were stuffed nice and fat, just for him. He reasoned this way: “I can work for one hour and eat for four days.” In Lebanon, you had to work a lot harder — a lot longer — than that, for basic nourishment.

In any event, Mahmoud “Mark” Haidar has founded or co-founded several companies and has several patents. He has risen — and risen — in a very short time.

Toward the end of our podcast, I ask him whether he is worried about America, his country — worried about it socially and politically. He is. There are 17 tribes in Lebanon, he says. He watched tribalism destroy that country. “Once you start putting your tribe over your country, the construct of your country ceases to exist.”

Again, you will want to get to know this remarkable person: Our Q&A is here.

Education

We Can and Must Fight Back against Speech Intolerance on Campus

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The campus of Yale University ( Benyapha Soomhirun/Getty Images)

For decades, the Left has pretty much had its way on our college campuses, particularly when it comes to speech. Administrators have been intimidated into giving in when our Red Brigades demand that people they dislike be silenced. Any absurd reason such as “he makes us feel unsafe” suffices.

The good news is that there is a counter-attack building.

One organization that is part of the counter-attack is the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), headed by Jacqueline Pfeffer Merrill. In today’s Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins interviews her.

About BPC’s main project, she says, “The Campus Free Expression Project works with campus leaders to develop policies, programs, and curricula that make for a welcoming environment for robust intellectual exchange. We’re really concerned that colleges prepare students to be able to have conversations across principled disagreements and to work constructively with people with whom one might have a very different point of view. That’s why BPC was interested in starting this project and the spirit in which we’re undertaking this work.”

The main problem is that a sizable minority of students feel perfectly justified in launching nasty, often ad hominem attacks against anyone who dares disagree with them. As a consequence, a high percentage of students report that they are hesitant to speak up when controversial topics arise.

But BPC is working to change that. Pfeffer Merrill states that,”Ronald Crutcher, who just finished his term as president of the University of Richmond and serves on BPC’s Academic Leaders Task Force, hosted two series, the Sharp Viewpoint Series and “Spider Talks”— spiders are the mascot of the University of Richmond. Among the many speakers he hosted were pairs like Robby George and Cornel West, two scholars who are friends but who really disagree with one another, and who, in their conversations, model how people can have serious conversations with people who understand the world in a really different way.”

Good luck to BPC for challenging the thought police.

Health Care

An OSHA Cover-Up Feeds Vaccine-Conspiracy Theories

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A healthcare worker holds a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccination site in New York City, January 29, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Anti-vaccine propaganda and conspiracy theories are not something the government can successfully control, but the government can absolutely make them worse by acting as if it has a bias toward covering up the side effects or adverse reactions to vaccines. OSHA is doing precisely that by announcing on its website that it has suspended reporting requirements that normally would cause employers to report adverse reactions to the vaccine. From the FAQ section of OSHA’s website (emphasis mine):

Vaccine Related

The recording requirements in question are not specific to COVID, or to vaccines in general; the lengthy, highly detailed rules “require employers to record and report work-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses,” and they apply to all manner of injury and illness that could potentially be classified as work-related. For example, the rule on “occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials” alone runs over 7,500 words and includes detailed requirements for employers to offer Hepatitis B vaccinations and “Information on the hepatitis B vaccine, including information on its efficacy, safety, method of administration, the benefits of being vaccinated, and that the vaccine and vaccination will be offered free of charge.”

It would be one thing if OSHA decided, as a general, ongoing matter, that paperwork requirements deterred employers from offering or requiring vaccinations and that the government should therefore not overload businesses with such requirements. That is an entirely reasonable, pro-business, pro-vaccine approach to take. But that is not what OSHA has done here, or why it has done it. The rule is not being changed; OSHA is just declining to enforce it for one specific vaccine. This alone is typical of how the administrative state exercises power: Never relinquish power on any general principle, but retain the discretion to be selective in order to play favorites and keep the citizenry dependent upon official favor. Also, the official explanation says specifically that OSHA’s first concern is the “appearance of discouraging workers” — it says right there in black and white that the federal government is afraid that people won’t get the vaccine if the usual rules for reporting side effects and other adverse reactions are followed. We’re all familiar with government coverups, but normally, one does not announce them formally in advance.

We have already seen plenty of mismanagement of public expectations for the benefits of COVID vaccination, particularly the whipsaw between public-health officials treating vaccination as a passport to freedom from COVID (hence, mandates and show-your-papers requirements), then continuing to tell vaccinated people to wear masks as the media breathlessly hypes “breakthrough” infections. All of this seems designed to degrade public trust in the vaccines, which are one of the great miracles of the modern American system. We should not fear truthful information about adverse reactions to the vaccines; there will always be some of those, and any system for collecting adverse reports will always also include people claiming reactions that may not actually be connected to the medicine they received. Openly announcing that the government is suspending the usual rules in order to avoid knowing things about the COVID vaccine is a terrible idea. It will only feed the hysteria of the anti-vaccine movement.

Media

Medical Journals Have a Bad Case of Ideologyitis

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(Sergey Tinyakov/Getty Images)

I guess sticking to medical science is boring for the editors of the world’s foremost medical journals. Once-august publications such as the New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet are infected with a bad case of woke politics — let’s diagnose it as “ideologyitis” — and increasingly devoting their pages to political screeds and ideological advocacy pieces. They promote politically progressive policies such as critical race theory, transgender movement agendas, gun control, and harsh approaches to stifling global warming.

The Lancet is really into the global-warming hysteria, publishing pieces “to drive transformative changes in all sectors of society” by urging governments to deploy heavy-handed approaches to the global-warming cause which would include attacks on the meat industry or enforce supply constraints that would dramatically raise energy prices. A recent Lancet article argues (emphasis added):

The urgent challenge of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest presents an opportunity to drive transformative changes in all sectors of society. Well designed actions to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could bring major benefits for health, by both reducing the health risks of climate change and delivering multiple benefits to human health and development (co-benefits).

Modelling studies estimate that many millions of premature deaths could be prevented and GHG emissions greatly reduced by phasing out fossil fuels, thereby reducing air pollution, and by encouraging active travel, increasing use of public transport, and shifting to sustainable and healthy diets. Further benefits could accrue from efficient, well ventilated housing and from efforts to develop net zero health-care systems. There is also great potential to achieve health and climate benefits from nature-based solutions, including green space in cities, reforestation, and reduced deforestation and agroforestry. However, these potential benefits will only be realised by addressing key barriers and challenges.

The idea is to treat climate change as a public-health emergency similar to COVID, thereby allowing for the deployment of coercive policies to reach “net zero” emissions by 2050 — meaning that they would not end for decades, if ever, because we will never get to a world without some carbon emissions:

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in support for public health action in many countries. Further, health professionals have become mobilised to support climate action. To build on this momentum, the research community should harmonise approaches to assessing and modelling the health benefits, co-benefits, and trade-offs of climate action—eg, use of standardised, consistent timescales and metrics so that research is more useful for policy and practice. All nations should include health in their nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement, including quantitative estimates of the health benefits of climate action.

Meanwhile, a different article published by The Lancet at the same time urges attacks on the meat industry:

Key related areas also must not be neglected, notably food systems. The food sector accounts for around 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and food systems are inextricably entwined with climate change at every level of production and consumption, including livestock and agriculture, land use, and the health co-benefits of better diets. This year, the first climate famine has been documented in Madagascar, with more than 1·14 million people in a state of famine. In September, 2021, the UN General Assembly Food Systems Summit defined raising awareness of food systems and transformation of diets as key goals for the health of both people and the planet.

With these journals increasingly devoting their limited space to ideological tracts, that would seem to mean less attention devoted to articles dealing with actual science. And perhaps less funding to support true medical research. That’s both jurisdictional imperialism (by bringing what are primarily non-medical issues under the health-policy umbrella) and a potential stifling of medical advancement.

Bottom line: Until these journals get out of politics and return to their actual purpose of informing the medical sector about new treatment modalities and research results full time, trust in public-health policy will continue to erode.

Health Care

What Happened: Dr. Jay Bhattacharya on 19 Months of COVID

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From the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya has been on the front lines of analyzing, studying, and even personally fighting the pandemic. In this wide-ranging interview, Dr. Bhattacharya takes us through how it started, how it spread throughout the world, the efficacy of lockdowns, the development and distribution of the vaccines, and the rise of the Delta variant. He delves into what we got right, what we got wrong, and what we got really wrong. Finally, Dr. Bhattacharya looks to the future and how we will learn to live with COVID rather than trying to extinguish it, and how we might be prepared to deal with another inevitable pandemic that we know will arrive at some point.

Recorded on October 13, 2021

Education

Historians Misquote and Misrepresent Texas Civics Law

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(Drazen Zigic/Getty Images)

Critics of Texas Senate Bill 3, which prevents critical race theory–based indoctrination, continue to mischaracterize the law. In a new low, two historians, president of the American Historical Association, Jacqueline Jones, and executive director of the American Historical Association, James Grossman, go the usual misrepresentations one better by misquoting the text of the law. These historians and others make three key mistakes: 1) the law does not require the teaching of Holocaust denial; 2) the law does not prevent teaching that slavery was a crucially important aspect of American history; 3) the law does not prevent any teaching that makes students feel uncomfortable.

I am the author of model legislation that inspired some of the core language of Texas S.B. 3. To be clear, S.B. 3 reworks a similar law passed a few months previously, adding provisions that I have publicly and energetically opposed. That said, the particular provisions at issue here remain close to those offered in my model legislation.

The attack on S.B. 3 by historians Jones and Grossman is based on a misquote. According to Jones and Grossman, S.B. 3 “requires that K–12 teachers present ‘opposing viewpoints’ on ‘widely debated and controversial’ issues.” They go on to suggest that “historical issues” are best understood as having “different angles of vision,” rather than “opposing sides.” They warn that “we cannot, and should not, expect teachers to offer ‘opposing’ views on the essence of either slavery or genocide.”

Baseless attacks like this greatly misrepresent the text and meaning of S.B. 3 and continue to sow confusion about the law. First, the law does not demand the presentation of “opposing viewpoints” on “widely debated and controversial issues.” What S.B. 3 actually says is that a teacher “who chooses to discuss a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs” shall, “to the best of the teacher’s ability, strive to explore that topic from diverse and contending perspectives” (my emphasis).

This provision is specifically meant to apply to discussions of current events and widely debated public policy controversies in social-studies classes. Many social-studies teachers discuss current events in class. In fact, S.B. 3 actually requires them to do so. (That requirement is one of the provisions I oppose.) Clearly, current-events discussions in social-studies classes can shade over into one-sided treatments of hot-button controversies such as immigration, crime, federal spending, abortion, election laws, and a host of other issues. The new law merely indicates that in case of such discussions, teachers should strive to explore the topic from diverse and contending points of view.

Use of the word “strive” (i.e., “try”) is deliberate. This provision is largely aspirational. It sets a goal of balanced discussion of hot-button contemporary controversies, without dictating precise parameters for such discussion. Essentially, it calls on teachers to avoid abusing their authority by imbuing students with their personal political views.

Jones and Grossman omit the crucial text that makes all this clear. They put the words “widely debated and controversial” in quotes, which omits the crucial word “currently.” They also cut off the passage without including “issue of public policy or social affairs.” Their premise is that this provision of the law applies to “historical issues,” when the opposite is the case. S.B. 3 neither requires nor forbids the teaching of diverse and contending perspectives on the causes or consequences of, say, the War of 1812. This provision calls on teachers to explore diverse perspectives on widely debated current public policy controversies.

I haven’t seen any dueling newspaper op-eds or cable-television battles lately over either the reality or the horror of the Holocaust. The existence and horror of the Holocaust are the very opposite of widely debated and currently controversial issues. On the contrary, the Holocaust is an event from the past upon whose reality and horror there is wide social consensus. It is silly to claim that S.B. 3 requires the teaching of Holocaust denial when it does nothing of the sort.

Jones and Grossman also falsely claim that S.B. 3 prevents teachers from treating slavery and racism as “central aspects of our past, with a lasting impact.” That is not true. They object to the provision that prevents teachers from inculcating the idea that, “with respect to their relationship to American values, slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality.”

Nothing in that provision prevents teaching that slavery and racism are “central aspects of our past,” or that they have had “a lasting impact.” Certainly, our failures to live up to our founding principles have been centrally important to our history. What the provision cited by Jones and Grossman would prevent, and what it was designed to prevent, are claims such as those made by the 1619 Project, that our founding principles are a sham, that slavery is America’s true “origin,” and that out of slavery and racism “grew nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional.” The 1619 Project teaches that slavery and racism are America’s truest and deepest values and that our official founding story is essentially a pious fraud. Undoubtedly, some scholars agree with this. The people of Texas have every right to differ.

This brings us to the claim by Jones and Grossman that parents and administrators ought to accept the judgment of teachers who are “certified in pedagogy and age-appropriate instruction” and should adopt as well “a curriculum consistent with professional scholarship.” The notion that legislators ought to defer to teachers certified at education schools permeated by critical race theory is absurd, as is the idea that “professional scholarship” in today’s academy is free of political bias. (For more on the bias of the history profession and the curricula it generates, go here, here, and here.) S.B. 3 is a welcome sign that Americans have seen through false claims of neutral and professional scholarship and are finally pushing back against the bias of the academy.

Lastly, Jones and Grossman pick up on another common bogus attack on S.B. 3, although only briefly and implicitly. They suggest that the bill bars any teaching that causes student “discomfort.” That is false.

You can see a more elaborate version of this argument in this recent column from Michael Gerson. According to Gerson, the Texas bill forbids the teaching of “any ‘concept’ that causes an individual to ‘feel discomfort guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.’” Gerson leaves out critical language here. The law does not forbid teaching that causes discomfort on account of an individual’s race or sex. Instead, it forbids teaching that students ought to feel discomfort. To quote the text, the law prevents schools from inculcating the concept that “an individual should feel discomfort . . . on account of the individual’s race or sex.” This prevents teachers from telling students that they bear guilt or blame for, say, their so-called white privilege. It would not, however, prevent teachers from introducing the historical material floated in Gerson’s column, even if that made some students uncomfortable.

The absurd attacks on attempts by Texans to prevent indoctrination in the latest leftist nostrums continue. These attacks almost always mangle and misrepresent the actual text of the law in question. Parents need to stay strong in the face of false claims by biased academics, not to mention the Biden administration’s intimidation tactics. The battle against politicized education continues. Here’s hoping that the 2022 state legislative session will be a banner year.

The Economy

Why Not Just Put Freight on Planes?

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A container ship operated by the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) is docked at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif., January 14, 2011. (Beck Diefenbach/Reuters)

With America’s major seaports clogged with ships full of goods, it’s not unreasonable to ask why shippers don’t just use planes instead. Ships are old-fashioned and slow, and many Americans probably didn’t realize how dependent we still are on them before the shipping crisis put it in the headlines. Airplanes are faster and more modern, plus they aren’t limited to coastal destinations.

Air freight and ocean freight are not as close substitutes as you might think, though. Here are some reasons why.

The biggest reason is economies of scale. Ships are much larger than planes and the more cargo you pack on one ship, the cheaper each individual piece of cargo is to ship. To give perspective on the scale, recall the Ever Given, the container ship that was stuck in the Suez Canal. It’s 1,312 feet long. That’s over five times as long as a Boeing 747-8, one of the largest widely used cargo planes in the world. The Ever Given is 192 feet wide, which is nearly ten times wider than the cabin of the 747-8.

The difference in scale really shows when you measure in freight, though. The unit of measure for ocean freight is 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs. It’s a measure of volume based on the space a standard 20-foot-long container takes up. Air freight, on the other hand, is measured in kilograms. One TEU can contain tens of thousands of kilograms of freight. The Ever Given can carry 20,000 containers. You can see how ocean freight scales up orders of magnitude faster than air freight.

Ocean freighters are also used exclusively for ocean freight. Though purpose-built cargo planes exist, most air freight is shipped in the cargo holds of passenger planes. (The reduction in passenger flights during the pandemic caused major problems for the air freight industry, and some airlines began shipping freight in passenger cabins to keep revenue coming in.) If you want to ship a large amount of air freight, you have to charter your own plane, which adds another huge cost.

Packing air freight is also more difficult than packing ocean freight. There are challenges in packing an ocean container, but they pale in comparison to packing an airplane. Air freight is loaded onto a pallet, called a “cookie sheet,” which is packed as tightly as possible in a warehouse, then wrapped in plastic and secured with bungie cords and rope. This process is much less standardized than filling an ocean container, and it’s extremely important to get it exactly right. If the contents of the pallet shift during flight, it can cause the plane to crash. Packing ocean freight does not demand that level of precision, and mistakes don’t carry that level of consequences.

Those extra costs and hassles mean air freight is used sparingly. About 90 percent of all shipments are by ocean. The obvious case when air freight is worthwhile is when speed is the primary concern. Goods shipped by ocean are also more likely to be damaged than goods shipped by air, so delicate items like electronics and designer clothes are often shipped on planes. Above all, air freight is used for items that are expensive since the revenue they bring in will compensate for the higher shipping costs.

But with the price of ocean freight soaring, the gap between air and ocean freight prices has narrowed. According to a Journal of Commerce article from July, “Before COVID-19, the average price of global air cargo was 12 times more expensive than sea shipping, but in May that dropped to 6 times more expensive.” It’s still much more expensive, just less so than it usually is.

That decrease in the price differential means air freight has become worthwhile for more shippers than normal. According to the Financial Times, “With factory lines in the US and Europe relying on the timely arrival of parts and components, and manufacturers suffering from depleted inventories, no premium seems too much to pay to cut the journey time from Asia from the weeks it takes by container ship to a matter of days by plane.” More shipping by air means those prices have gone up as well, with year-over-year increases of 70 to 100 percent on some routes. That’s nothing compared to the 1,000 percent increases on some shipping routes, but airlines are still struggling to keep up with the surge in freight.

Shipping prices aren’t set by shipping companies. They are determined on a global market based on economic forces. That determination process takes into account real factors, such as the capacity of airplanes and ships. Because of those real factors, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which the price of air freight could ever be cheaper than (or even close to) the price of ocean freight in absolute terms. But the price of shipping by air relative to the price of shipping by sea has declined, so more companies are using air freight than before. Air freight will never be a replacement for ocean freight, though, and it’s not feasible to just use more planes and solve the shipping crisis.

Health Care

Texas Welcomes Unvaccinated Organ-Transplant Patients Refused Care in Colorado

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(cyril martin/Getty Images)

How bizarre has the vaccine controversy become? Colorado hospitals are refusing organ transplants to COVID-unvaccinated patients because if they catch the disease, they would have a 30 percent chance of dying due to weakened immune systems caused by the anti-rejection drugs recipients must take.

Never mind that refusing the transplant — after the patients have waited years for their turn — would have close to a 100 percent chance of death.

Now, Texas is welcoming those patients to come to the Lone Star State for their transplants. From the Fox News story:

“Here in Texas, vaccines remain voluntary and never forced,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office told Fox News in a statement. “Anyone being denied critical, life-saving organ transplants is welcome here in Texas, where one’s rights and freedoms are always protected.”

Texas State Rep. Briscoe Cain, a Republican, told Fox News he was happy that Texas hospitals have, for now at least, “chosen to put patients before politics.”

“It seems too many in the medical profession have forgotten their oaths,” Cain said.

Meanwhile, the Niklas Organ Donor Awareness Foundation, based in Grand Prairie, Texas, is offering to help people like McLaughlin and Lutali find housing while they await organ transplants in Texas.

So, which state really cares about the well-being of these very ill patients? Clearly, Texas.

But don’t expect the usual media suspects and critics to give the state credit. That would interfere with the false narrative that rejecting mandates is akin to killing people, even though Colorado’s transplant refusals more aptly fit that description.

PC Culture

Netflix Bends, but Doesn’t Break (Yet)

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Netflix has given ground in the Dave Chappelle war, with the company’s co-CEO saying he communicated poorly in his defense of the show and the company welcoming an employee walk-out in protest. The good news is that Netflix still stands by featuring Chappelle — for now. Meanwhile, the walk-out was notably small and ridiculous and featured this scene worthy of a Monty Python skit.

Sports

Enes Kanter Is the Hero We, or at Least the NBA, Needs

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He released a forceful video denouncing China’s treatment of Tibet:

And, of course, the Chinese government immediately responded.

Politics & Policy

‘What if Trump’s Grip on the GOP Isn’t as Strong as It Seems?’

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I wouldn’t necessarily bet the house on it, but I wrote for Politico today how there’s a case that Trump is not as strong as he looks right now.

 

 

Politics & Policy

Manchin Must Be Thinking about It, or at Least Talking about It

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John and Dan discussed the Manchin party-switching report below. Playbook today goes into some detail why it credits the report:

We talked to Corn on Wednesday night and came away with the impression of a reporter who is 1,000% sure his story was correct.

“The sourcing was impeccable,” Corn said. “Even if he had told me it was bullshit the story still would have run.”

Corn contacted Manchin’s office early Wednesday telling his press secretary that he had a time-sensitive story and wanted to make sure he had a good Manchin contact who could respond. Manchin’s press secretary asked the reporter to send it to her.

At around 10:30 a.m., Corn sent her an email outlining what he would be reporting. No response.

At noon he followed up. “I said we are going to post soon, will you be getting back to me,” Corn told Playbook. “And silence — crickets.”

We’ve known Corn for a long time and we trust him. We’ve known his scrupulous editor Clara Jeffery for even longer. (Full disclosure: One of us was her intern in 1997!) Corn and Mother Jones did not invent this. Manchin clearly told someone the account that Corn relayed in his piece

UPDATE:

Manchin now says he offered to become an independent as a way to help the Democrats:

 

The full story is here.

Economy & Business

This Is Amazing . . .

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. . . and goes to show how fast things can change in an open, dynamic economy.

From Axios:

Amazon isn’t known primarily as a logistics company, but in 2020 the company shipped more parcels than FedEx, Axios’ Erica Pandey writes.

  • Why it matters: Amazon had zero share of the U.S. shipping market as recently as 2014.

Logistics is a $1.5 trillion business, and it has long been controlled by a handful of players — FedEx, UPS and the Postal Service.

  • Amazon has 21% of the U.S. shipping market — behind UPS (24%) and ahead of FedEx (16%). The Postal Service remains dominant — 38%.

  • All other shippers account for just 1%, according to Pitney Bowes.

World

China’s U.N. Interference Reaches a Brazen New Stage

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The United Nations logo is affixed to a window on a window in the United Nations headquarters in New York, September 21, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

China’s efforts to silence its critics reached a new stage. In addition to the behind-the-scenes political maneuvering that has, until now, marked Beijing’s efforts to sideline criticism of its policies, Chinese diplomats took a more aggressive tack during a U.N. debate on transportation happening in Beijing last week.

The Hindustan Times reports that an Indian diplomat’s microphone was cut off in the middle of remarks she gave criticizing China’s Belt and Road infrastructure-development initiative. The official, Priyanka Sohoni, said “No country can support an initiative that ignores its core concerns of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” just before her microphone was cut off:

The connection was restored after DESA under-secretary general Liu Zhenmin — former Chinese vice foreign minister — said it was a “technical problem” and asked Sohoni to “be patient”.

Sohoni finished her speech after the connection was restored. . . .

The short interruption seemingly allowed the Chinese transport minister, Li Xiaopeng, present at the session, to respond to the Indian diplomat’s criticism of the BRI. “I would like to extend my apologies for the technical glitch just now when the Indian delegate spoke,” Li said in Mandarin. . . .

“The BRI is open and inclusive. We tried to improve the connectivity and seek the development of all countries. In the past eight years, all the international communities have welcomed this initiative. Up to now about 141 countries and 32 organisations have signed more than 200 agreements with China,” Li said. . . .

A diplomat who has worked at the UN said that Li being allowed to seemingly respond to the Indian diplomat’s critical speech was a likely breach of UN protocol.

Much of the discussion about China’s increased U.N. influence focuses on elections, resolutions, and even the brazen harassment of Chinese dissidents and minorities on U.N. grounds — and rightly so. But this latest episode is a reminder that the Chinese Communist Party has so thoroughly coopted the U.N. system to the point that it can silence other countries’ dissent.

Politics & Policy

What Do Dems Do with Sinema and Manchin? 

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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (L) and Sen. Joe Machin (R) (Caitlin O’Hara, Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Democrats publicly say they are getting close to an internal party deal on the Biden Budget Buster, but privately, they are tearing their hair out.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Senator Kyrsten Sinema has told lobbyists she is opposed to any increase in tax rates on businesses, high-income earners, or capital gains. President Biden admitted yesterday that Manchin’s opposition to a clean-electricity program would require Democrats to abandon it.

The Journal reports that “losing the rate increases would punch a significant hole in the Democrats’ funding plans for even a shrunken version of their bill.” The corporate tax-rate hike is supposed to raise $540 billion over a decade, while the tax-rate increases on ordinary income and capital gains are pegged to raise nearly $300 billion.

Desperate progressives are floating all kinds of rumors trying to undermine or explain Sinema and Manchin. Mother Jones reported that Manchin has privately warned that he could leave the Democratic Party if the Biden Budget Buster is too big. He allegedly would change his voter registration from Democrat to independent, which would still allow him to vote in Democratic Party primaries and run as a Democrat. Left unsaid would be if he would still vote with Democrats and allow them to continue holding the Senate. Manchin has called the rumors “bull****,” but they are richly detailed and plausible.

As for Sinema, Arizona Democrats are actively recruiting Representative Ruben Gallego to primary her in 2024.

But Sinema knows it is entirely possible for her to win her primary even if most Democrats vote against her. Arizona law allows unaffiliated voters — one in three of those registered — to vote in any primary. In both 2010 and 2016, John McCain lost among registered Republicans in his party primary but prevailed by cleaning up with independents.

In retrospect, Democrats must wish they had spent a lot more time talking with Manchin, Sinema, and some of their colleagues before shaping a bill as radical as the Biden Budget Buster. Now that the legislative calendar is quickly shortening, they find themselves having to consider bowing to Manchin and Sinema’s demands as President Biden’s political clout shrinks by the day.

Elections

Suspicious Timing in Richmond

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Voters cast their ballots to vote in state and local elections at Robious Elementary School in Midlothian, a suburb of Richmond, Virginia, U.S. November 5, 2019. (Ryan M. Kelly/Reuters)

In response to The Richmond Public Schools Division Is Doing Terry McAuliffe No Favors in Virginia

As Charlie notes, the Richmond, Va., schools’ abruptly deciding that they need to close the days before and after Election Day (they already had Election Day off) for employee “mental health” perfectly captures the attitude of the schools that Glenn Youngkin is running against in the Virginia governor’s race. It does not take too much cynicism, however, to also notice that, as the race tightens in polls, Terry McAuliffe’s most faithful backers — the public-school bureaucracy and teachers — are suddenly freeing up their people, still paid on the taxpayer’s dime, to go electioneer and get the vote out the day before the election.

Sometimes, things with apparently suspicious timing really are just coincidences. But when the official explanation is so implausible that it insults your intelligence, a little cynicism goes a long way.

Elections

The Richmond Public Schools Division Is Doing Terry McAuliffe No Favors in Virginia

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Then-Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe addresses a church service in Charlottesville, Va., August 13, 2017. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Terry McAuliffe remains the favorite in Virginia’s gubernatorial election, but he’s clearly worried about his prospects, and one can only assume that stories such as this one from NBC are keeping him up at night:

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) – In an RPS Direct update on Wednesday evening, Superintendent Jason Kamras said the division will be closing school additional days the first week of November to help with employees’ mental health.

During the first week of November, students already had off Nov. 2 for Election Day, Nov. 4 for Diwali and Nov. 5 for virtual parent/teacher conferences. Now, the division will also close on Nov. 1 and Nov. 3, giving students the whole week off.

“I recognize I’m giving our families very short notice of this calendar change and truly apologize for the inconvenience it will cause. After very careful consideration, I made this decision because I think it’s essential for our employees’ mental health. And because of their mental health, I worry about significant staff absences on November 1 and 3, which could make it very difficult for us to follow our COVID-19 distancing protocols, putting student and staff health in jeopardy. Again, I sincerely apologize for the short notice and thank you in advance for your understanding,” Kamras said in the update.

Kamras said the decision comes after speaking with dozens of teachers and staff about how stressful the year has been so far.

This statement could have been designed in a laboratory to annoy parents. It has everything. The incessant repetition of “I” and “us”; unacceptably short notice; the rank prioritization of teachers over children; an acknowledgment that government employees often fail to do their jobs; and an absurd, safetyist rationale — namely, that if teachers don’t get even more time off, it will be “very difficult for us to follow our COVID-19 distancing protocols, putting student and staff health in jeopardy.” Oh, and later on, Kamras throws in an everything-is-the-pandemic argument for good measure, proposing that “many of our students faced multiple pandemics before COVID-19: poverty, racism, gun violence, and more.”

And all just in time for an election day that will, in all likelihood, be marked primarily by an ongoing debate over education. Lovely stuff.

What Else Is EcoHealth Alliance Hiding?

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(Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

We now know that EcoHealth Alliance, the American research nonprofit that was funneling NIH grants to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, was not entirely truthful when explaining to the NIH how its money was being used.

In a letter to Kentucky Republican James Comer, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, top NIH official Lawrence Tabak revealed that EcoHealth violated the conditions of a grant that was being used to fund gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. While he doesn’t use “gain-of-function” in his letter, his description of the work being done — testing whether

Health Care

Once Again, COVID-19 Hospitalizations Are Increasing in the North, Declining in the South

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A patient is wheeled into Houston Methodist Hospital amid the coronavirus outbreak in Houston, Texas, June 22, 2020. (Callaghan O'Hare/Reuters)

For the fourth straight week, the states that have COVID-19 hospitalizations increasing are almost entirely in the northern parts of the country, and the states that have COVID-19 hospitalizations decreasing are almost entirely in the south.

Some good news is that only four states had double-digit percentage increases in the COVID-19 hospitalization rate: Michigan and New Hampshire both saw a 25 percent increase over the past two weeks, while Minnesota had a 15 percent increase, and Colorado had a 14 percent increase. In fact, only five other states saw single-digit increases – Montana, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Wyoming, and North Dakota.

In every other state, the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 went down – and in some cases, dramatically. Tennessee saw hospitalizations decline 32 percent over the past two weeks, Georgia and Texas both saw 34 percent declines, Mississippi was at 35 percent, Alabama was at 36 percent, South Carolina was at 38 percent, Florida was at 39 percent, Louisiana was at 42 percent, and Hawaii enjoyed an astounding 48 percent drop in the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19. The Delta variant wave has passed through the southern parts of the country, and thankfully, COVID-19 patients are leaving the hospitals.

This is yet another batch of statistical evidence indicating that the spread of COVID-19 is at least partially driven by changes in behavior driven by temperature and weather. When it’s too hot or too cold, people spend more time indoors and are more likely to spread the virus; when the weather is nice, people spend more time outdoors, where they are less likely to get infected.

Media

Yes, Biden Is Proposing That the IRS Spy on Your Bank Records

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The headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in Washington, D.C., May 10, 2021 (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Here’s yet another example of why “fact-checking” is the most dishonest form of journalism.

To try and find an additional $7 trillion in taxes over the next decade, Joe Biden is floating a plan that would empower the IRS to access any account with $600 in gross transactions (Democrats upped the number to $10,000 this week, after considerable blowback.) In addition to more IRS oversight — scooping, spying, ferreting out, keeping tabs, what have you — Biden also proposed doubling the amount of IRS agents and funding the agency six times its present budget. The Washington Post’s Salvador Rizzo says Republican complaints about the policy are untrue.

First of all, I couldn’t help noticing that the second paragraph of the fact-check gives away the game:

After Democrats watered down his proposal in response to Republican concerns, GOP senators nonetheless took turns describing it as an unprecedented invasion of privacy.

Is he kidding? Democrats watered down the proposal because of public response to an unprecedented expansion of IRS power. At least seven House Democrats reportedly opposed the idea, and there were likely others. Democrats have never once even feigned to care about GOP opposition to any part of the reconciliation bill. The contention that Pelosi or Biden or Schumer are placating Republicans or scaling back proposals because of GOP objections is worthy of ten Pinocchios. This is a unilateral partisan effort.

Rizzo also accepts the Democrats’ premise that the bill is aimed at the wealthy (if this were so, Biden wouldn’t have targeted Americans with less than $1,000 in their accounts) and dismisses concerns that the IRS, an agency that can audit your every transaction going back years, would ever pry into your life. He not only links to an administration document to bolster this case, he deputizes a partisan liberal at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities to call Republican comments “fabrications.” Now, it’s possible, though unlikely, that I’ve somehow missed a Washington Post fact-check that gave Grover Norquist the ability to chime in on liberal tax policy.

Anyway, there is no fabrication. Senator Mike Crapo questioned whether there was “need to create a mechanism where the people of America have to give up their privacy on all of their financial transactions.” Senator John Kennedy said that the IRS would be privy to “intimate financial details,” which is the entire point of the bill. Senator Pat Toomey pointed out that Americans would “give all kinds of personal, private information about American citizens to the same IRS that famously discriminated against conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt charters?” Also true.

The Post fact-checker concedes that the IRS has trouble tracking all income sources, and then spends time reiterating why Democrats support expanding the agency’s power to see virtually all transactions, as if having a reason for it somehow undercuts or debunks the claims of critics. Rizzo’s semantic problems with the Republican use of words such as “intimate” or “personal” or “privacy” are subjective — and he is welcome to those opinions. But he doesn’t provide an impartial test of accuracy. He merely creates the impression that Republicans are misleading the public because they employ a tone he dislikes. That’s not a fact-check. That’s an opinion column.

Politics & Policy

Liberal Anti-Semitism Strikes Again

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Demonstrators display signs and a banner during a “No Climate, No Deal” march in Washington, D.C., June 28, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Caroline writes here about how the progressive climate-activist group Sunrise DC just withdrew from speaking at a D.C. statehood rally over the participation of Jewish organizations:

The Washington, D.C., chapter of climate activist organization Sunrise movement canceled its speaking appearance at a rally for D.C. statehood and federal voting legislation over Zionist Jewish groups’ participation in the event.

Sunrise DC cited the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism as groups that support Zionism and the State of Israel in its withdrawal letter.

“Given our commitment to racial justice, self-governance, and indigenous sovereignty, we oppose Zionism and any state that enforces its ideology,” the statement read.

The organization then accused Israel, which it called a “colonial project,” of illegally occupying Palestine and engaging in “violent oppressive tactics that go against the values we advocate for as a hub.”

Sunrise DC also urged a sponsor of the march to revoke the groups’ membership in its coalition.

This reminds me of an incident over the summer when organizers of a Philadelphia food festival disinvited the cooks behind an Israeli food truck, apparently fearing protests over their presence. In the fallout from this decision, the event, which was supposed to celebrate diversity, was canceled. An organizer also claimed they had to shut things down because a Palestinian food truck couldn’t also attend — creating a presumably unacceptable imbalance in what style of falafel people would chew.

The entire episode was idiotic and smacked of anti-Semitism. The same is true here.

Let’s look at the groups that Sunrise DC finds to be “incompatible.”

Jewish Council for Public Affairs: They support a two-state solution along with a strong U.S.–Israel relationship; they oppose the BDS movement; they speak out on behalf of climate justice and racial justice; they oppose policies like the Muslim travel ban.

National Council of Jewish Women: They seek to empower Israeli and American women; they advocate for abortion access; they fight “xenophobic, anti-immigrant, and anti-refugee policies.”

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism: They advocate for racial justice, economic justice, and reform of the criminal-justice system . . . as well as “religious pluralism within Israel” and foreign aid for Israel’s security.

This is standard progressive-advocacy fare. The only areas out of alignment concern their focus on anti-Semitism and their open support for the existence of Israel and for its security (not necessarily for every action taken by the government of Israel), often balanced out with support for democracy, pluralism, and the peace process.

But that’s not enough. Groups such as Sunrise DC appear incapable of viewing Jewish-aligned groups — even chefs! — in America as distinct from the Israeli government and its policies. It’s the kind of generalizing they’re supposed to stand against. These outfits support Israel and its right to exist, without being in lockstep all the time; just this month, one organization affiliated with the Religious Action Center condemned attacks by West Bank settlers on Palestinians and pressured the Israeli government to investigate.

Surely, the many colors of the progressive rainbow could find room in their tent for such a group. Instead, they perpetuate a self-defeating and self-refuting cycle. Rigid enforcement of a narrowly defined doctrine of inclusivity and equality ends up excluding anyone holding even slightly differing views, in this case amounting to that one particular type of discrimination that just doesn’t rate these days.

Elections

McAuliffe: Female CEOs Won’t Go to a State That Bans Abortion

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Terry McAuliffe participates in a campaign event at in Arlington, Virginia, July 23, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

In remarks at the Virginia Chamber of Commerce this morning, Terry McAuliffe proclaimed to the audience that “women CEOs” won’t bring their businesses “to a state where someone is banning abortions.”

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate boasted that, in his previous turn as Virginia governor, he had kept “all 16 women’s clinics open,” referring to abortion clinics, and promised that if elected again, he will keep Virginia “open and welcoming” when it comes to abortion laws. Earlier in the campaign, McAuliffe admitted that he would sign legislation permitting abortion, essentially on demand, up until birth.

This rhetoric is little surprise from a candidate endorsed and funded by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia — a pro-abortion group that has also called for defunding the police — and Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. According to campaign-finance records, since 2012 when he first ran for governor, McAuliffe has received more than $2 million in combined donations from various NARAL and Planned Parenthood PACs.

Needless to say, there are plenty of CEOs whose decisions about where to base a company have nothing to do with a state’s abortion laws, not to mention the countless female CEOs who would likely prefer to operate in a state with policies that protect the unborn.

McAuliffe’s remarks come just as polls show that the gubernatorial race in Virginia is still in a dead heat, with less than two weeks to go until Election Day.

Politics & Policy

In Defense of Treadmills

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A man jogs on a treadmill inside the Milan Gale Muskatirovic Sports Centre in Belgrade, Serbia, July 22, 2019. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

At a White House press conference yesterday, New York Times reporter Michael Shear was describing supply-chain problems that have affected international trade of late. He said that “people couldn’t get dishwashers, and furniture, and treadmills delivered on time, not to mention all sorts of other things.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to this by smiling and then snarking about “the tragedy of the treadmill that’s delayed.”

I will pass by the casual dismissal of serious economic problems that is becoming a hallmark of both the Biden administration and its media defenders. I will instead put a word in for treadmills, which I have used many times in my years as a runner. For it is not only the case that it is reasonable on the part of consumers to receive the goods they purchase in a timely fashion. That is true of just about anything.

The treadmill is a special case. As a facilitator of exercise, a treadmill is a good of a higher order. People purchase a treadmill, presumably, to get in or to stay in shape. To the extent such a purchase is driven by either or both of these desires, it is commendable. Coronavirus lockdowns dramatically circumscribed the scope for physical activity, and even more people than were prevented from doing the things they wanted to, such as going to (closed) gyms, took the signal from those actions that inactivity was to be encouraged. As a result, many Americans gained weight, which made them likelier to suffer seriously from coronavirus — the disease the lockdowns were intended to mitigate. This was true of children as well. Many Americans also took up more vices during the period. Those who had a treadmill during this time — and used it — may have done themselves much good. Those trying to get one now are setting themselves up for similar potential benefits.

All of which is to say that, yes, a delayed treadmill delivery is an unfortunate thing. The fact of its delay shouldn’t be an object of snark. And the underlying impulse of self-improvement behind the purchase of a treadmill is worthy of praise, not of mockery.

Politics & Policy

Maybe Joe Manchin Really Is Threatening to Leave the Democratic Party

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Sen. Joe Manchin in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2021 (Greg Nash/Reuters)

David Corn of Mother Jones has an exclusive report claiming that Joe Manchin is threatening to leave the Democratic party — not to become a Republican, but to re-register as an “American Independent.” Here is the core of Corn’s story:

He told associates that he has a two-step plan for exiting the party. First, he would send a letter to Sen. Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, removing himself from the Democratic leadership of the Senate. (He is vice chairman of the Senate Democrats’ policy and communications committee.) Manchin hopes that would send a signal. He would then wait and see if that move had any impact on the negotiations. After about a week, he said, he would change his voter registration from Democrat to independent. It is unclear whether in this scenario Manchin would end up caucusing with the Democrats, which would allow them to continue to control the Senate, or side with the Republicans and place the Senate in GOP hands.

There are three possibilities here: (1) Manchin is seriously considering leaving the Democrats; (2) Manchin wants it known that he is thinking about this, and that trial balloon (laundered through a progressive outlet) is intended to create ambiguity and put pressure on Democrats to his left to make concessions to keep him; (3) Corn’s sourcing is bad and none of this is happening. All three are equally plausible.

It is no secret that Manchin is out of step ideologically with much of the rest of his party, and that he represents a deep-red, MAGA Country state in which it is useful for him to be seen to be out of step ideologically with Democrats. Electorally, becoming an independent would free Manchin from the risk of a party primary, cement his un-Democrat brand, and put West Virginia Democrats over the same barrel that Alaska Republicans have long been over with Lisa Murkowski: Running a three-way race with Manchin in the center risks flipping the seat to the other party, with a very low chance of holding it behind anyone other than Manchin. At the same time, as an independent, Manchin would also be immune to a Republican primary challenge.

Manchin’s electoral position could be quite precarious when he is up for reelection again in 2024. In 2018, Manchin was held below 50 percent of the vote in a Democratic wave year, and only beat West Virginia attorney general Patrick Morrisey by 19,000 votes in a race where the Libertarian candidate got 24,000 votes. Had he not voted for Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Manchin would very likely have lost. In 2024, with presidential turnout and Democrats controlling the White House, the West Virginia electorate will likely be redder than it was in 2018. Playing the center off against both sides could be Manchin’s only hope for survival.

Notice, however, that thus far, this is all about party registration. The far more important and unanswered question in a 50–50 Senate is whether Manchin would do what Jim Jeffords did in 2001 and leave his party’s caucus, thus throwing control of the Senate from Chuck Schumer to Mitch McConnell. The politics of that is much more complex, and even if we assume that Corn is correctly reporting this story, it would seem that Manchin prefers to keep everyone guessing. I would not bank on it happening unless we hear it from Manchin himself.

UPDATE: Manchin emphatically denies the story and denies planting it. Which doesn’t foreclose either possibility — politicians deny their own leaks and plans all the time — but it does make it less likely that Corn has his story right.

Politics & Policy

Why the Government-Shutdown Threat Works

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I’m old enough to remember a time when there was no such thing as a threat to shutting down the federal government. Now, however, we are hit with that every year. What’s going on?

In this excellent piece for AIER, economics professor Gary Galles nails the truth. The reason why the shutdown threat works is that the government now does so much that it should never have begun doing. And now that it does, that creates tremendous leverage for further expansions of the federal leviathan.

Galles concludes, “Government shutdowns can certainly create problems. But they should also remind us of when Albert Jay Nock observed that our octopean government has thrust all of its tentacles into virtually every part of our lives, often to our harm. The problems expressed in political shutdown posturing, and battles arising from government failure to perform duties it has arrogated to itself, provide no endorsement for placing even more power over us into government hands.”

The statists who control the Democratic Party always find more for the feds to control. Professor Galles, by way of illustrating his point, may have given the AOC types some fresh ideas, such as federal speech permits.

Mussolini’s vision was “everything in the state, nothing outside of the state.” We are rapidly approaching that point.

Fiscal Policy

Democrats Walk Back IRS Reporting Rule

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(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

When the White House proposed a new rule giving the IRS access to cash-flow data on any bank account holding more than $600, Treasury secretary Janet Yellen defended the low threshold as a means of ensuring “individuals can’t game the system and have multiple accounts.”

As we pointed out, that argument was ludicrous: “The administration is seriously arguing for a new oversight regime that would gather data on nearly every American on the off chance that a billionaire opens several thousand bank accounts.”

Senate Democrats seem to agree. They have raised the threshold from $600 to $10,000 and added new exemptions for wage deposits and payments under federal programs. That’s all well and good: Spying on almost everyone is slightly less bad than spying on everyone.

Still missing from the revised proposal, though, is a rationale for the new threshold. If $600 was unreasonably low, why is $10,000 the right number? Democrats argue that the higher threshold, coupled with the added exemptions, target the rule at “opaque” streams of income, such as those from partnerships or proprietorships, which accrue largely to the wealthy.

But if it’s the rich they’re after, $10,000 is as arbitrary as $600. A simpler, more effective way of targeting the wealthy might be to target the wealthy, say, by strengthening enforcement or reporting requirements specifically for those earning high amounts of “opaque” income.

That the Democrats haven’t considered such a measure suggests they are either obfuscating the purpose of the new IRS rule or else just want more power in the hands of federal bureaucrats.

Media

Hey, Paul Krugman, Why Aren’t You Writing about Florida Anymore?

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Paul Krugman attends The Russia Forum 2012 in Moscow February 2, 2012. (Anton Golubev/Reuters)

Today, Florida has among the lowest case rates in the nation and around 80 percent of its adult population is vaccinated against COVID-19.

In August, when the Delta variant was hitting Florida and the South, Krugman — a useful straw man on this issue — couldn’t stop tweeting and writing and speaking about the deadly Delta variant. Krugman, like many others, was adept at taking useful partisan snapshots of the pandemic. And his New York Times column often focused on allegedly nefarious policies that perpetuated the problem. COVID was a red-state crisis, he explained. By late August, Florida’s cases began to drop. You could probably most accurately measure the state’s COVID rates by simply checking in with Krugman.

I concede that the following is an unscientific survey of Krugman’s words — or, rather, just as unscientific as his COVID analysis. But, it seems, the last time the columnist tweeted the word “Florida” was August 19. The last time he mentioned “DeSantis” was August 27. (And he still deserves an apology.)  The last time Krugman mentioned the Republican “death cult” was September 28. The last time he mentioned COVID was October 1, and the “pandemic” October 7. The last time the Nobel Prize winner used the word “Delta” on Twitter was on September 6, noting that it was “amazing to me how many news reports on the Delta disaster manage to avoid mentioning ‘Republicans.’” Is it more amazing than a columnist writing piece after piece, tweet after tweet, blaming Florida’s allegedly nihilistic policies for spreading Delta but then simply ignoring the entire issue when it’s inconvenient? I think not.

Politics & Policy

GOP Hispanic Community Centers Are a Step in the Right Direction

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Trump supporters hold signs on the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 20, 2016. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

This Monday, the GOP officially opened its fifth Hispanic community center in the nation on the southeast side of San Antonio. Its fourth in the nation — and its second in Texas — opened in the heavily Hispanic border community of McAllen earlier this month, on the heels of the August opening of the first Texas Hispanic outreach office in Laredo. Two more centers popped up in Doral, Florida, and Milwaukee in October and September, respectively. 

Given the growing number of Republican-curious Hispanics — and the growing political necessity of the GOP reaching out to such voters to remain viable on the national stage — these centers are crucially important, and a welcome initiative on behalf of an institutional Republican Party that has often been sluggish or ham-handed in its attempts at making overtures to traditionally Democratic, nonwhite constituencies. As I wrote here last September, Hispanics “possess far more ideological diversity than partisans in either party establishment seem to believe.” By many metrics, they are far more culturally conservative than the modern Democratic Party line; on economics, they are certainly to the left of the national GOP, but so are many Republican base voters. A worker-friendly GOP that is friendlier to unions and and more skeptical of corporations — and an elite-oriented Democratic Party that is captivated by an increasingly extreme kind of cultural liberalism — could instigate a powerful rightward shift in the Hispanic electorate in the coming years.

To an extent, this is already happening. While Trump’s gains with Latinos on the national level were not quite the landslide that some had hoped for, he logged a healthy 8 percent increase in his share of the electorate from 2016 to 2020. And a state-by-state analysis shows a far more significant shift in Latino voters in certain areas of the country: While Trump lost a few points with Latinos in California and Pennsylvania, he gained twelve points with the demographic in Florida, 14 in Georgia, eleven in Ohio, and eight in Nevada. In Texas, he netted six, but the swings in the South Texas border communities were far larger: “Of the six counties in the entire United States where Trump made his biggest gains during [2016–2020], five were in South Texas,” NBC writes.

That’s good news, and the GOP should be eager to set up similar Hispanic outreach centers in the areas of the country where Latino communities have demonstrated their openness to the party’s message. In particular, Georgia and Ohio — the two other states where Trump improved his standing with Latinos by double digits outside of Florida — should be the target of an aggressive Republican ground game. At the risk of being naively optimistic, it seems as if the Latino alienation from the Democratic Party has been heightened by the Biden administration’s myriad failures: Yesterday’s Quinnipiac poll showed the beleaguered president polling at just 33 percent approval with Hispanics, compared with 51 percent disapproval. Republicans shouldn’t wait to capitalize on the opportunity.

U.S.

‘Truth, Justice, and . . . No Way’

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This week on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, Alexandra, and Jim discuss China’s disturbing recent missile launch, Colin Powell’s death, and Superman’s new woke motto. Listen below or follow this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

Economy & Business

The Dems’ Mess of a Child-Care Plan

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Yesterday at City Journal, I had a big-picture piece about the family policies the Democrats are wrangling over. As I explained, their debate isn’t just about how much to spend but also about how the government should shape the incentives parents face as they make important decisions about work and child care.

Here’s another point worth making: The day-care part of the existing plan is a complete and utter mess. Ultimately, it aims to cap day-care expenses at 7 percent of families’ income, which is tricky enough in itself to implement, but some technical aspects of the proposal would be disastrous.

As the lefty wonk Matt Bruenig explains today, the bill requires massive raises for child-care workers that could boost prices by $13,000 per year per kid, but the corresponding subsidies phase in over time:

In the first 3 years of the program, families with incomes that are just $1 over 100% of the median income (year one), 115% of the median income (year two), or 130% of the median income (year three) will be eligible for zero subsidies, meaning that they will be on the hook for the entire unsubsidized price, which as discussed above will now be at least $13,000 per year higher than before.

Angela Rachidi has also raised the alarm about the huge federal costs the plan will entail:

What is proposed is a new entitlement program, where every child in the US would have access to heavily regulated childcare, paid for by government-provided “certificates” with capped copayments at no more than 7 percent of family income. In high-cost markets like New York City, families earning $200,000 per year with one young child could receive government subsidies of $7,000 or more.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that the 7 percent cap on childcare costs alone would cost roughly $250 billion over 10 years, and that was before the House of Representatives’ markup process eliminated the income eligibility criteria from the original budget framework altogether. However, even $250 billion is vastly underestimated. It is impossible to know the actual costs of this entitlement program, let alone predict how expenditures will increase over time. And the federal government will bear the responsibility for almost all these new costs.

I’m not a fan of subsidizing day care at all, for reasons I laid out in CJ. But any policy to do so needs to be better-designed than this.

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