The ‘Welfare Magnet’ for Immigrants

That term refers to a controversial concept — and a salient one, given the Trump administration’s efforts to make it harder for immigrants to use welfare in the U.S. A new study finds that there’s something to it: Immigrants were more likely to come to Denmark when they could get more welfare there.

From the abstract:

We study the effects of welfare generosity on international migration using a series of large changes in welfare benefits for immigrants in Denmark. The first change, implemented in 2002, lowered benefits for immigrants from outside the EU by about 50%, with no changes for natives or immigrants from inside the EU. The policy was later repealed and re-introduced. The differential treatment of immigrants from inside and outside the EU, and of different types of non-EU immigrants [because the policy applied to asylum and family immigrants but not work and study ones], allows for a quasi-experimental research design. We find sizeable effects: the benefit reduction reduced the net flow of immigrants by about 5,000 people per year, or 3.7 percent of the stock of treated immigrants, and the subsequent repeal of the policy reversed the effect almost exactly.


Tim Alberta Is a First-Rate Journalist. The DNC Should Quit Whining.

Tim Alberta on Morning Joe in July. (MSNBC/Screenshot via YouTube)

Apparently unnamed figures at the Democratic National Committee, PBS, and perhaps even Politico are objecting to the suggestion that Tim Alberta, formerly one of our colleagues at National Review, be a moderator for the December Democratic presidential primary debate. Apparently Tim’s work for NR disqualifies him from this role, at least in the eyes of the DNC: “Democratic Party officials say such a journalist is ill-suited to co-moderate a debate meant to better inform Democratic voters about their potential nominees.”

I’m not sure Tim was here long enough to catch the conservative cooties from the rest of us. He joined us in October 2015 from National Journal and was snatched away by Politico in December 2016. We were sad to see him go; hopefully Politico enticed him away by backing up a Brinks truck. In that year and change, all Tim did was cover the year’s wild and tumultuous developments with clarity, depth, and meticulous shoe-leather reporting and interviewing. Go ahead, read through his work in the archives. Look for the article that somehow makes him too dangerous and menacing to unleash against aspiring presidents.

Earlier this year, Tim wrote a bestselling nonfiction book about how Donald Trump took over the Republican party. It was not a series of hosannas and cheers for either Trump or the Republican establishment he toppled. He interviewed more than 300 figures in Republican and conservative circles to paint the definitive, 600-page portrait of how a party changed so dramatically and so quickly. That notoriously right-wing New York Times called it “fascinating” and saluted the depth of “reporting and a real understanding of the conservative movement.”

What DNC officials meant to say is that they’re a bunch of wimps and cowards who want to keep their Fabergé egg candidates in bubble wrap until the Iowa caucuses. These folks all want to be the next commander-in-chief of the free world, but apparently they can’t be subjected to anything as nerve-wracking and devastating as a question or two from the world’s most mild-mannered Detroit Lions fan.

Hey, news flash, DNC: These candidates are running for president of the United States, and presidents inevitably have to deal with the unexpected. (Maybe the DNC got used to Donna Brazile–style arrangements, where the candidates received beforehand.) If you curl up into a ball or run away at the thought of a question from a guy who was with National Review for about a year, you’re going to lose bladder control while dealing with Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong-un.

Our current president has an encyclopedia of flaws, but you know what? He takes a lot of questions from reporters who don’t necessarily like him or agree with him, almost every day. He may not do a lot of formal press conferences, but he takes a few questions almost every day, either going to and from his helicopter, or in Oval Office events. You may not like those answers. You may find those answers dishonest. But Trump isn’t afraid to take questions from anybody. He even took questions from Tim Alberta!

Enough whining and sniveling about the possibility that a moderator might ask a question you don’t like, DNC. If you want to have Rachel Maddow moderate, fine. But have enough self-respect to agree to subject your candidates to the mere possibility of a question that might not easily be dispatched with prepackaged talking points.


Fifteen Things That Caught My Eye Today (Nov. 18, 2019)

1. Matthew Schmitz writes in First Things:

Despite the persecution, Egypt’s Christians are winning converts. The number and names of converts must be carefully guarded, however, because conversion from Islam carries a high price. “Some of them are kicked out of their houses, some of them are fired, some of them have their kids taken away,” Roshdy says. “But they consider all of these troubles nothing for the sake of Christ. Their faith is so strong, they see him.” Cast out by their families, these men and women are adopted into the household of God.

2. The stunning new evidence of China’s dictatorial repression

3. Pope Blasts ‘Inhuman, Un-Christian’ Rebirth of Anti-Semitism

4.  Abortion Is New Litmus Test for Democratic Attorneys General Group

5. I think this is a dangerously under-covered case: Court rules Daleiden’s undercover videos caused ‘substantial harm’ to Planned Parenthood

6. D.C. effort to decriminalize sex work won’t move forward after 14-hour hearing

7. 1 Year After Sex Change, This Teen Regrets His ‘Frankenstein Hack Job’

8. From our Xan in the Washington Post: How Democrats purged ‘safe, legal, rare’ from the party

9. A Crisis of Saints — an interview with Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, the new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Here’s just a bit of it:

I think all of us can point to issues in our society that disturb us—abortion, euthanasia, inequality, homelessness, our families breaking down, the random violence in our communities, racism, too many people in jail, pollution. There are many issues.

But the way I see it, all our political issues are symptoms of a bigger problem, and that is the loss of the human person.

We no longer know the beautiful mystery of life. We don’t know any more who we are, where we came from, or what we are made for. The awareness of our great dignity as children of God, the sense of God’s loving design for creation and the divine meaning of our lives—all of this is fading from the hearts and minds of this generation.

And our democracy can’t stand without a true and authentic understanding of the human person.

Governments exist to serve the person and to ensure the conditions in which persons can grow and flourish. If we don’t know what the human person “is” or what human life is “for,” then we risk becoming a society in which men and women are treated as “objects” that can be discarded or “tools” to be used to further the ambitions of others.

So, as I see it, the biggest political issues we confront are actually spiritual, existential. The task for us, as Catholics, is to defend the mystery of the human person in our times.

More here.

10. Archbishop Gomez: USCCB’s Faithful Choice

11. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput: History’s Answer to Modern Despair

12. Catholicism, Culture Mix at the Sheen

13. Naomi Schaefer Riley: How High School Seniors Would Divide Their Future Work-Family Life Might Surprise You 

14.  My heart sinks every time I hear women called ‘gutsy’ or ‘badass’

15. Nancy French on redemption songs


I have an event I’m moderating in D.C. on Thursday on immigration

My friends at Good Counsel Homes are having a fundraising dinner in a few weeks in NY and are worthy of support

If you missed it: Last week’s adoption conversation with the Heritage Foundation and the ERLC and the National Review Institute can be watched here.

And the conversation NRI had with Ivanka Trump on paid family leave is here.

A Congressman, a Homeless Man, and a Presidential Daughter

Sign up for my (semi-)weekly email here.

Economy & Business

Who Owns FedEx?

A FedEx truck is driven through downtown Los Angeles, Calif., July 22, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

You may have seen (or heard on a podcast) that Fred Smith so vehemently objects to the New York Times report contending that FedEx paid nothing in federal taxes that he’s challenged New York Times publisher A. G. Sulzberger to a public debate and pointed out that “the New York Times paid zero federal income tax in 2017 on earnings of $111 million, and only $30 million in 2018 – 18% of their pretax book income.”

Notice the Times article implicitly argues that company revenue going to shareholders is inherently something bad or unjust:

Much of its [tax cut] savings have gone to reward shareholders: FedEx spent more than $2 billion on stock buybacks and dividend increases in the 2019 fiscal year, up from $1.6 billion in 2018, and more than double the amount the company spent on buybacks and dividends in fiscal year 2017.

FedEx had $70 billion in revenue last year.

But who are those shareholders who are getting money they seemingly don’t deserve?

The single-biggest shareholder in FedEx is Dodge and Cox, with more than 23 million shares. Dodge and Cox is an employee-owned mutual fund that has been around since 1930 and is known for being a conservative investor with low fees. They don’t advertise, have no public relations staffers, and no sales force. The firm has only six funds. You don’t need to be rich to invest with this fund; their minimum investments are $2,500 to start, $1,000 for an IRA.

The second-biggest shareholder of FedEx is the Vanguard Group with 19 million shares; six of the top ten mutual funds in FedEx are Vanguard Funds. Surely many Vanguard investors would be considered wealthy but many would not. As of this summer, more than 30 million people in about 170 countries invest in Vanguard funds.

The ninth-largest shareholder of FedEx stock, with a bit more than 3 million shares, is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, which manages the endowment assets. This is the trust that manages the money and generates the revenue, so that the Gates Foundation can support environmental groups, health research, vaccines, clean water projects, and so on.

Among mutual funds, the sixth-largest holder of FedEx stock shares is the Canada Pension Plan, which is part of the Canadian public pension plan for everyone who is over 65 and paid into the plan at some point. CPP manages $392 billion (in Canadian dollars) in investment assets for 20 million Canadians.

There’s this perception that corporate stock shareholders must be fat-cats lighting up cigars with dollar bills, or that higher dividends to shareholders represent some sort of economic injustice. But the people who benefitted from those dividends included both wealthy millionaires and Canadian retirees, big institutional investors and small investors, as well as those administering the Gates Foundation grants. As of this writing, FedEx stock is about $157. Who owns FedEx? You can, or you may already. You would probably be surprised to learn who owns a share of what in this country. CALPERS, the California Public Employees Retirement System, owns a $9 million corporate bond from FedEx.

Separately, you know what else is FedEx doing with its money? Adding $1 billion to its employees’ pension plan.


‘Luxury Beliefs’

There’s a worthwhile article from University of Cambridge Ph.D. candidate and U.S. Air Force veteran Rob Henderson at Quillette. Henderson takes Thorstein Veblen’s observation in The Theory of the Leisure Class that America’s moneyed elite engaged both in profligate patterns of consumption and arcane forms of leisure to signal their wealth and social status to society at large — and applies it to our age, with its radically different incentives and mores.

The mass availability of consumer goods made possible by global capitalism has rendered the ostentatious consumption of such goods inadequate as a class marker. Henderson asserts that, in the vacuum created by mass consumption, elites in Ivy League universities and popular culture have sought to distinguish themselves from the masses by adhering to a set of “luxury beliefs.” He writes:

The chief purpose of luxury beliefs is to indicate evidence of the believer’s social class and education. Only academics educated at elite institutions could have conjured up a coherent and reasonable-sounding argument for why parents should not be allowed to raise their kids, and should hold baby lotteries instead. When an affluent person advocates for drug legalization, or anti-vaccination policies, or open borders, or loose sexual norms, or uses the term “white privilege,” they are engaging in a status display. They are trying to tell you, “I am a member of the upper class.”

Affluent people promote open borders or the decriminalization of drugs because it advances their social standing, not least because they know that the adoption of those policies will cost them less than others.

You can read the rest of his insightful article here.


The Kaepernick Saga Drags On . . . off the Field

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick pumps his fist at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, Calif., on December 24, 2016. (Robert Hanashiro/Reuters File Photo)

Colin Kaepernick’s workout for NFL teams in Atlanta this weekend did not run smoothly. The league announced an invitation to scouts from every team to watch Kaepernick work out and demonstrate that he was still ready to play. (As noted last week, the workout is oddly timed; the NFL season is just a bit past its midpoint and most teams have their quarterback and are either competing for the playoffs or already tanking for a better draft pick.)

Less than an hour before Kaepernick was scheduled to take the field in front of NFL scouts in Atlanta, his camp objected to the waiver Kaepernick was expected to sign and decided to move the workout to a high school an hour away. The NFL didn’t want media or cameras in the workout, but Kaepernick’s camp said they wanted transparency. Seven teams sent representatives to the new location.

After exhibiting his skills, Kaepernick made a short speech to the assembled press, declaring, “I’ve been ready for three years. I’ve been denied for three years. We all know why I came out here and showed it in front of everybody. We have nothing to hide. So we’re waiting for the 32 owners, the 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them to stop running! Stop running from the truth, stop running from the people.”

After the workout, Kaepernick was seen speaking with scouts from the Washington Redskins, New York Jets, and Kansas Chiefs, and told them, “When you go back, tell your owners to stop being scared.”

Kaepernick has his reasons to regard NFL owners with suspicion and distrust, and reasons to believe that many people who oppose his political stances want to see him fail. Judging from what Kaepernick displayed at his tryout, he’s as healthy as he ever was, he hasn’t lost a step, and his skills haven’t atrophied. He’s 32 years old, but barring injury, he should have another three or four good years in him, and maybe more.

But in the end, his leverage is limited. He needs (or at least wants) some team to hire him, and no team has seen him as worth the trouble since his time with the San Francisco 49ers ended after the 2016 season.

What’s preventing teams from hiring Kaepernick? Perhaps some owners and general managers are motivated by pure political or ideological animus. But for many, it’s probably the controversy that has followed Kaepernick everywhere he goes since he first refused to stand for the national anthem and everything from the praise for Castro, to the cops-as-pigs-socks, to the Betsy Ross sneaker controversy. If Kaepernick signs with a team, that team will instantly be under the microscope like never before. If Kaepernick is signed to be the backup quarterback, he will be the most intensely covered, discussed, and debated backup quarterback in the league.

And on Saturday, Kaepernick indicated that his bitterness towards NFL owners and the commissioner hasn’t changed a bit. Ending Saturday with a declaration that all of his potential employers are “scared” and “running from the truth” is not a good way to build a new sense of trust with a new team.

Some players argue that issues that the media cites as distractions for a team are distractions only for the media — that when a linebacker is rushing at them on a blitz, or they’re trying to break up a pass to a swift-footed receiver, no player is thinking about an off-the-field controversy. That’s probably generally true, but good teams tend to avoid distractions; notice the New England Patriots cut ties with Chad “Ocho Cinco” Johnson, Aaron Hernandez, and Antonio Brown once the headaches from controversy exceeded the benefits of the talent. The Patriots operate under a simple, direct, no-glory, no-hype slogan: “Do your job.” Players aren’t paid for creating headlines, generating controversy, building large social media followings, or even gaudy stats if they don’t translate into wins.

Could Kaepernick improve some teams out there? Almost certainly. But no owner wants to hire an employee who starts trashing him during the job interview process. Kaepernick seems to think that he’ll generate enough public pressure for some team owner to relent.

What’s different about now compared to the past three years?


‘Maximum Pressure’ against Iran Shows Results

Protests broke out in Iran over the weekend after the clerical regime announced whopping increases in fuel prices and imposed rationing. Ayatollah Khamenei has responded by doubling down on the move, calling demonstrators “thugs,” and shutting down the Internet. The domestic unrest is taking place as Iran’s imperialist foreign policy has met resistance in Iraq and Lebanon. The mullahs can’t be happy.

Clearly Iran is not doing “just fine,” as the headline of an article in Foreign Affairs put it two weeks ago. President Trump’s economic warfare campaign has divided the Iranian regime from an Iranian population tired of stagnation and proxy war.

That has made Iran increasingly desperate — violating the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to bully Europe into economic relief while lashing out against oil tankers, drones, and the Abqaiq oil facility in Saudi Arabia. So far, Trump has resisted military action in favor of cyberattacks and tightening sanctions. Iran is destabilized. It is also more dangerous.

The suddenness of Iran’s troubles is a reminder that regimes without democratic legitimacy are never truly stable. “Maximum pressure” is showing results. But the results contribute to the underlying chaos in the Greater Middle East.


Democrats Oust Pro-Life Politicians at Their Peril

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) addresses abortion rights activists during a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., May 21, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The New York Times is reporting this morning that the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA) will refuse to endorse any candidate who doesn’t support the unlimited right to abortion. More from the Times:

To win financial and strategic backing from the group, candidates will be required to make a public statement declaring their support of abortion rights. The group, the Democratic Attorneys General Association, recruits candidates and helps their campaigns with financial support, data analysis, messaging and policy positions. . . .

“Attorneys general are on the front lines of the fight for reproductive freedom,” Letitia James, the New York attorney general, said in a video promoting the group’s decision, which featured news media coverage of the new state laws. “They have the power to protect your rights.”

The announcement comes at an interesting time: Over the weekend, Louisiana’s Democratic governor John Bel Edwards eked out a victory in a close reelection race, defeating Republican candidate Eddie Rispone by only 40,00 votes, a margin of about three points.

Edwards is the only Democratic governor in the South — and, surely not coincidentally, one of the very last pro-life politicians left in the Democratic party. Of all the heartbeat bills signed into law earlier this year — bills prohibiting abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which usually occurs somewhere between six and eight weeks’ gestation — only one was signed by a Democratic governor: Louisiana’s.

The DAGA’s decision to impose a pro-abortion litmus test won’t affect Edwards, of course; he’s a governor, not an attorney general. But it’s yet another sign that the Democratic party is angling to excise anyone who isn’t willing to go along with the party line: Elective abortion, for any reason, at any stage of pregnancy, funded by the U.S. taxpayer.

In a piece for the Washington Post over the weekend, and a piece for the most recent issue of NR’s print magazine, I took a close look at this problem on the left and found that, as recently as 2008, Democrats were still using Bill Clinton’s catchphrase “safe, legal, and rare” when talking about abortion:

You don’t have to go back to the 1990s to find Democrats speaking in a more moderate vein. As recently as her 2008 presidential primary run against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton routinely used the phrase “safe, legal and rare,” even adding, “and by rare, I mean rare.” But by her 2016 campaign, she’d dropped such talk. In 2009, Obama delivered a commencement address at the University of Notre Dame in which he acknowledged the moral complexity of abortion, spoke of pro-life Americans as operating in good faith and called for reducing the demand for abortion. That kind of language is nowhere to be heard in the current Democratic primary race, even from former vice president Joe Biden, who supported the Hyde Amendment for decades — until his current run.

When Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard invoked “safe, legal, and rare” in the most recent Democratic presidential debate, she faced immediate, severe censure from progressives, who insist that it’s stigmatizing to women to suggest that abortion ought to be rare. Today, the party’s official platform calls for the repeal of the Hyde amendment, once a bipartisan rider guaranteeing that federal funds wouldn’t be used to directly underwrite abortion procedures. Aside from Gabbard, Democratic presidential candidates by and large refuse to endorse a single restriction on abortion procedures.

The Democratic party’s current stance on abortion is much better described as “safe, legal, and unlimited.” But as Edwards demonstrated over the weekend, there are still plenty of voters, including Democrats, who prefer pro-life politicians. Progressives have spent the last several years deriding any American who would support Donald Trump even begrudgingly, but when they eliminate every Democratic alternative except for those who promote abortion on demand, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Politics & Policy

Kevin Drum Misses the Point on Guns

Los Angeles County Sheriff deputies assist with the destruction of approximately 3,400 weapons during the 22nd Annual Gun Melt in California July 6, 2015. The confiscated weapons will be melted down to convert the weapons into construction steel rebars for use in local highways and bridges. (Bob Riha, Jr./Reuters)

This Kevin Drum post responding to my piece on the Democrats’ bad-faith arguments regarding gun control is willfully obtuse. For starters, California doesn’t have “feeble” gun laws, it has the strictest gun laws anywhere in the country. Any stricter and they probably wouldn’t pass Constitutional scrutiny (even some of existing limits are being challenged.) And besides, even if Drum finds California laws meager, they’re still more stringent than the ones Democrats want to pass in D.C. And those restrictions — the ones we’re dealing with in the real world — have been shown to do nothing to mitigate school shootings, and did not even intersect with with this shooting.

Drum writes:

You might also want to note that whenever there’s a mass shooting, then by definition the laws currently on the books didn’t stop it. Ditto for murder, robbery, rape, carjacking, and so forth. You can play this juvenile game forever. Pay no attention to it.

“[M]urder, robbery, rape, carjacking” are criminal acts. A gun is a tool, not an act, and owning one is a right. If laws passed to alleviate “murder, robbery, rape, carjacking” limited the liberties of victims but empowered criminals, we’d be paying attention.

Drum also asks someone to ask me why I put scare quotes around the word “slaughter.” (No problem. I’m a pretty accessible guy!) First, because Chris Murphy uses the word to scaremonger the issue by absurdly accusing Mitch McConnell of enabling shooters. As noted above, California proves that the Democratic bill on McConnell’s desk would do little but inhibit law-abiding citizens from practicing their Constitutional right (which, let’s face it, is point of many of these restrictions).

Second, Murphy uses the word “slaughter” to demagogue and create moral panic. Communities need to do more to figure out how to stop broken people from committing horrifying acts, but the chances of a child being shot in an American school over the past 20 years is somewhere around 1 in 600,000,000. Your child has a far higher chance of choking, drowning, falling down the stairs, or being in a car accident than of being involved a school shooting. Schools are safer today than they were 20 years ago. Gun homicides are at near-historic lows. Using phrases like “the slaughter of our children” or “epidemic of gun violence” is hyperbolic and deployed only to create hysteria for political reasons.

White House

Gordon Sondland Has Forgotten More about Ukraine Than Most of Us Will Ever Know

Things keep popping up that put Gordon Sondland in the middle of the unofficial Ukraine channel, and he has had a tendency to forget key episodes until reminded of them. We should expect him to have a very rough time of it on Capitol Hill this week, and the pressure on him has to be to spill his guts rather than keep trying to dance through the raindrops. He also has much more first-hand knowledge than last week’s witnesses, which will deny the GOP a line of attack.





The Illusion of Progress

Just want to recommend Abe Greenwald’s piece in the new issue of Commentary, titled “The Failure at the End of History.” Greenwald traces out the collapse of Western hopes that trade liberalization with China would make China and certain parts of the former Soviet Bloc more like us. He concludes that, in fact, we’ve become more like them in the process. More corrupt. More authoritarian. Western firms that do business in China and elsewhere have lost the ennobling excuse for their buck-raking, the excuse that they were also involved in making the world a freer and better place. It’s a thought that has occurred to most of us in recent years and especially in recent months, but Greenwald’s treatment of it is very good.

Politics & Policy

Can the American Right and Left Get Back to Civil Debate?

For decades, things have been going the opposite way, as Americans get angrier and angrier over political disagreements. We’ve reached the point where many automatically denounce and try to silence people they perceive as enemies even before they’ve heard what the individual has to say.

The good news is that some organizations are trying to remind us that we’re better off with civil discourse rather than rancorous name-calling. In today’s Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins writes about that, focusing especially on a group called Better Angels.

Watkins writes, “Better Angels centers its work around conducting ‘Red/Blue’ workshops and facilitating debates on college campuses. The first Better Angels workshop took place three weeks after the 2016 election. There were twenty participants: Ten who voted for Donald Trump and ten who voted for Hillary Clinton. For all workshops, the leaders first lay some ground rules before the group activities begin. The first rule is that no one is there to change anyone’s mind, but instead to learn how to listen. Second, they emphasize that no one is being asked to compromise their values.”

Learning how to listen — college students shouldn’t have to learn that, but for years of their lives, many students have been hearing that those who disagree with them are evil, stupid, or both and listening to them is not merely a waste of time, but a betrayal of the right values. Overcoming that mindset will be hard.

Watkins also discusses the recent book How to Have Impossible Conversations by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay, which will help people get America back on track as far as political disagreements are concerned.

She concludes, “As Better Angels and the authors of How to Have Impossible Conversations repeatedly underscore, having productive conversations across ideological divides is not about avoiding disagreement, or refraining from asking pointed questions. Instead, it’s about shifting one’s attitude away from winning to understanding. That change in mindset, if adopted by most Americans, could go a long way to healing the country’s unraveling social fabric.”

Higher education leaders should see this as one of their main tasks.

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