Politics & Policy

‘Let Them Stay’

Our former intern Christian Alejandro Gonzalez has a piece at The Weekly Standard on the Trump administration’s decision to revoke Temporary Protected Status from hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals from Central America and the Caribbean who are currently living in the United States. The result will be that all become subject to deportation.

There is an entirely legitimate debate to be had about whether TPS, as currently constituted, is desirable. Perhaps the program should even “be phased out as the people who benefitted from it are allowed to legally remain in the United States” (I am quoting Christian). But I share Christian’s opposition to shattering the lives of people we have allowed to become members of our community, in many cases over a period of decades, even if there are compelling reasons to take a more restrictionist approach going forward. More, I think the indifference of the Trump administration to the human cost of its policies discredits the cause of immigration restriction morally and will ultimately undermine it politically.

Further from the article:

More than half of the TPS recipients from El Salvador and Honduras have lived in America for more than 20 years, per research from the Center for Migration Studies. The same study determined that TPS beneficiaries from those two countries plus Haiti have had around 273,000 children who are, naturally, American citizens by virtue of their birthplace. They all stand to see their families ripped asunder. A simple “Revoke TPS, deport those who remain” proposal fails to grapple with the fact that these are people who have settled down, birthed American children, and raised families. . . .

When the Trump White House and some of its hardline restrictionist allies speak about immigration, it occasionally becomes clear — to borrow from George Orwell — that for some people “deportation” is at most a word. The president’s TPS decision is likely to have unintended consequences for American foreign policy, and will also decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of human beings — human beings who have come to call America home, to the benefit of themselves and the society around them. The government’s actions on TPS must reflect these realities.

Politics & Policy

Answering my Critics

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

My post on Elizabeth Warren’s cynical/bonkers proposal to effectively nationalize every American firm with revenue of $1 billion or more has met with predictable criticism. I will address two points here.

One, some have complained about the use of the word “expropriation,” or more broadly about characterizing Warren’s proposal as a plan for seizing property. In answer, I will quote Matthew Yglesias, an admirer of the proposal:

Instead of advocating for expensive new social programs like free college or health care, she’s introducing a bill Wednesday, the Accountable Capitalism Act, that would redistribute trillions of dollars from rich executives and shareholders to the middle class — without costing a dime.

I am not sure how the forcible redistribution of trillions of dollars from x to y amounts to anything other than a seizure of property. I’m particularly fond of Yglesias’s claim that this will happen “without costing a dime.”

Without costing whom?

Yglesias is in fact touching on an aspect of the plan that I discussed in my column: These kinds of programs are attractive to politicians because they allow them to spend money without putting a spending line (or a line) on a budget. Raising taxes to transfer trillions of dollars from one group of Americans to another would be politically difficult. Much easier to take the cowardly way and force businesses to do that work for you.

A second line of criticism is that Warren’s plan incorporates some policies that are common in countries that I admire and think are reasonably well-governed, including Denmark and Germany. Those countries have developed along their own lines for their own reasons, modern-day German corporatism being not entirely without precedent in the country’s history. But moving from where we are to where they are would indeed require using the machinery of the state to wrest control of businesses from their current owners and turning them over to boards whose composition is determined by politicians. I don’t think that’s a particularly good policy in Denmark or Germany, but the question is what would it mean to adopt such a policy here in the United States.

Think of it this way: Germany has some heavy restrictions on freedom of speech. Certain kinds of political advocacy are verboten. I don’t approve of that policy and would not support it if I were a German voter. I don’t think it’s a very good policy, but one can understand where it came from, and its existence does not make Germany a savage hellhole of totalitarianism. But if you proposed adopting such a policy in the United States, you would be stripping Americans of their First Amendment rights, a radical and destructive move irrespective of the fact that similar policies exist in other decent countries. Free-speech rights would be diminished. In the same way, property rights would be diminished by the adoption of Warren’s plan.

It isn’t a difficult thing to understand, unless you have an investment in failing to understand it.

(It should be noted that Warren’s plan differs from what’s practiced in Germany in important ways, and is significantly more heavy-handed, for instance in its interference with political activity.)

As I think I’ve made clear here many times, I think Switzerland is a very well-governed country, but I don’t think it would be intelligent or responsible for the United States to adopt many of its policies. Many of my progressive friends think Switzerland is well-governed, too — the Affordable Care Act was in part an attempt to graft the Swiss health-care model onto the United States — but they would not like the United States to replicate Switzerland’s capital-gains tax system or its policy of handing out actual military rifles to the prime criminal demographic (young men). I am not sure how progressives feel about conscription these days.

One suspects, from Warren’s authoritarian daydreams, that they may be tempted by the principle.

National Review

Announcing the Second NRPLUS Conference Call, Featuring Andy McCarthy and Rich Lowry

Next Wednesday, August 22, at 10:15 a.m. Eastern, NR editor in chief Rich Lowry and NR contributing editor Andrew McCarthy will kick off the second NRPLUS conference call. Subscribers can listen in as McCarthy, who is also a Fox News contributor, and Lowry discuss current events. Email invites will go out to NRPLUS subscribers today, and if you would like to join the call but are not an NRPLUS member, click here to learn how to sign up for NRPLUS.


Ten Things that Caught My Eye Today (August 17, 2018)


2. Ramesh’s piece.

3. Ed Mechmann: Calling Sin by Its Real Ugly Name

4. Chad Pecknold in the Wall Street Journal: “Healing will not begin until the episcopate reveals to the world what true repentance looks like, and makes that repentance visible”

5. From the bishop of Albany, N.Y.:

Continue reading “Ten Things that Caught My Eye Today (August 17, 2018)”

Health Care

Single Payer Has Two Big Problems

Over the last few weeks, one of the problems with Medicare for All has gotten a fair amount of attention: its price tag. But that’s not actually the biggest political liability the idea has. An even larger obstacle is that it would entail upending the existing health-insurance arrangements of scores of millions of people, most of whom express satisfaction with those arrangements. As I wrote at Bloomberg Opinion recently, Democrats designed Obamacare the way they did in large part to avoid causing such disruption — and suffered politically to the extent they did not succeed. Democrats have also exploited fear of disruption to great political effect against Republicans, as in 2008 and 2017.

Ryan Cooper, writing for The Week, does not think Democrats should be concerned that the prospect of disruption will doom their policy ambitions. Medicare for All, he notes, would radically reduce the amount of disruption in health-care arrangements: People would no longer have to switch plans because they switched jobs, or have their employer change their insurer, or find that their insurer is no longer participating in an Obamacare exchange.

I think he is underestimating the political difficulty, which is rooted in a widespread conservative sentiment, albeit a conservative sentiment that sometimes stymies free-market health-policy changes. Most people have their complaints about the health-care status quo, but they are skeptical of promises that things will be better if the government remakes the system. Whether conservatives or liberals are telling them that a brand new system will let them pay less and have just as high a level of quality, they’re going to be a hard sell on giving up what they already have. I suspect that when people tell pollsters that they are satisfied with their insurance — as most respondents do — what a lot of them mean is, Please don’t screw around with it. Telling them that once they’re in the new system they won’t be able to leave is probably not going to allay their anxiety.


‘The Immortal Indianapolis’

I wrote today about the story of the USS Indianapolis, which never loses its ability to astonish:

The worst disaster in the history of the United States Navy only began with the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.

Three hundred men died in the initial catastrophe on July 30, 1945, then the survivors cast into the sea suffered unimaginable horrors, abandoned for days without food or water in shark-infested waters.

The new book Indianapolis is a best-seller, a testament not just to its novelistic style, but to the enduring fascination with the tragedy.

Another book published about 15 years ago, In Harm’s Way, also was a best-seller. A feature film was released about the doomed ship two years ago. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen spearheaded an expedition in August 2017 to discover the wreck at the bottom of the Pacific, and PBS aired a special of underwater footage of the majestic graveyard shortly thereafter.

As long as tales of the sea move human hearts — which is to say, approximately, forever — the story of the Indianapolis will shock and inspire.


The Rot in the Catholic Church

My column on the unfolding disaster. An excerpt:

[Cardinal Donald] Wuerl allowed that the news about his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick, was “a terrible disappointment.” He also said that “we need to have something that would also be a mechanism for when a bishop has not been as faithful as he needs to be, even if the charges go back 40, 50 years.” Even amid that march of euphemism and evasion, one phrase should leap out. In the context of discussing a predecessor who had done a lot to destroy a boy’s life – who had raped him for years – Wuerl spoke of a bishop who “has not been as faithful as he needs to be,” a comment that could more aptly be applied to someone who had neglected to say his morning prayers.


The University of Virginia Goes Nuts Again

Big universities are prone to bouts of craziness and one that’s particularly susceptible is the University of Virginia. The campus has been in an uproar one year after the alt-right vs. Antifa riot last summer. The turmoil was triggered by a horrible, provocative move by a center located at the university — it hired someone who worked in the Trump administration!

Charlottesville native and frequent Martin Center contributor John Rosenberg writes about the resulting affray in this essay.

Marc Short, who served as Trump’s legislative director, was recently hired by the Miller Center, which focuses on politics and the presidency. But hiring anyone who ever had anything to do with Trump is now verboten — at least in the minds of woke faculty members.

Said another prof at the Center, “Short’s hiring is an institutional and moral crisis” because “the Trump presidency does not represent American democracy and has upended the political order.”

Rosenberg’s comment on the ranting over Short’s hiring: “The unrecognized irony here, of course, is that there is a name for the intolerance of universities and other institutions refusing to hire anyone defending illiberalism: McCarthyism.”

Two Miller Center faculty members resigned rather than work under the same roof as Short. He’s being treated like a leper just for having been part of the Trump team.

Rosenberg concludes,

Ironically, the most likely results of the Trump denouncers’ efforts to bar the university door to Short will probably be confirming the distrust many have of higher education’s professed commitment to diversity and its coddling of faculty and student snowflakes, and thus the creation of more Trump voters.


‘Winning by Losing,’ 2018 Edition

Politico reports on chatter among Republicans that President Trump would be better off if the party loses control of the House this fall. It’s not a crazy idea, by any means, and talk like it surfaced in the 2006 and 2010 midterms too. (These were, not coincidentally, years when the president’s party was on its way to losing the House with or without that chatter.) I’ve sometimes indulged in it myself.

Losing the House would give Trump a foil, relieve him of responsibility for getting anything done, and reduce complacency among his supporters. He would have to give up the chance of getting much done by working with Congress, but that seems to have happened already anyway. A fight over impeachment would probably — depending, to some extent, on the fact pattern — harden the support of some of his currently soft supporters.

The major downside, from Trump’s perspective: An opposition party is always more likely to use its subpoena power against an administration than his own party is, and that’s especially true in the case of this administration.


Friday Links

It’s the anniversary of the death of Genghis Khan: founder of the Mongol Empire, prolific spreader of DNA, Conan the Barbarian inspiration, and climate-change hero.

The History of Mac and Cheese.

Like 18th-century CNN, only much cooler: European Printmakers Had No Idea What Colonial American Cities Looked Like, So They Just Made Stuff Up.

Davy Crockett, hero of the Alamo, was born on August 17.

I have a secret. My father is Steve Jobs.

A brief history of posthumous executions.

ICYMI, Friday’s links are here, and include the anniversary of the battle of Thermopylae, an Amish man’s Uber-esque horse and buggy ride-sharing, the 1776 plot (from within) to murder George Washington, and predicting weather with bug sex.

Politics & Policy

A Defense of Patriotism

I’d quibble with some of this–especially with a definition of “nationalism” that I don’t think is useful–but there is a lot of good sense in it. The conclusion:

Lurking behind the critique of patriotism is the longing for an unattainable moral purity in politics. I take my stand with Max Weber, with the ethic of responsibility that embraces the necessary moral costs of maintaining our collective existence—all the more so when our government rests on the consent of the governed. It is only within decent political communities that citizens can hope to practice the ordinary morality we rightly cherish. As long as we have multiple communities, and as long as evil endures, citizens will face choices they would rather avoid, and patriotism will be a necessary virtue.

Economy & Business

Elizabeth Warren’s Corporate Reform Bill Is a Terribly-Written Mess

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Capitol Hill, November 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

I’d urge everyone to read my colleague Kevin Williamson’s takedown of Elizabeth Warren’s vaunted “Accountable Capitalism Act.” Here’s how Kevin describes the bill:

Under Senator Warren’s proposal, no business with more than $1 billion in revenue would be permitted to legally operate without permission from the federal government. The federal government would then dictate to these businesses the composition of their boards, the details of internal corporate governance, compensation practices, personnel policies, and much more. Naturally, their political activities would be restricted, too. Senator Warren’s proposal entails the wholesale expropriation of private enterprise in the United States, and nothing less.

It is, he says, “unconstitutional, unethical, immoral, irresponsible, and — not to put too fine a point on it — utterly bonkers.”

Now, go read an opposing view. The coverage in Vox, for example, is slightly more rapturous. Matthew Yglesias writes that the Act would “redistribute trillions of dollars from rich executives and shareholders to the middle class — without costing a dime” and that it “starts from the premise that corporations that claim the legal rights of personhood should be legally required to accept the moral obligations of personhood.” Yglesias says the bill is about “saving capitalism” and puts a different spin on Warren’s quest for “accountability:”

Warren wants to create an Office of United States Corporations inside the Department of Commerce and require any corporation with revenue over $1 billion — only a few thousand companies, but a large share of overall employment and economic activity — to obtain a federal charter of corporate citizenship.

The charter tells company directors to consider the interests of all relevant stakeholders — shareholders, but also customers, employees, and the communities in which the company operates — when making decisions. That could concretely shift the outcome of some shareholder lawsuits but is aimed more broadly at shifting American business culture out of its current shareholders-first framework and back toward something more like the broad ethic of social responsibility that took hold during WWII and continued for several decades.

But if you look at the actual bill text, you’ll see that key provisions are utterly, hopelessly vague. Covered corporations “shall have the purpose of creating a general public benefit.” Officers and directors are required to manage the corporation in a way that “seeks to create a general public benefit.” And what is a general public benefit, you ask? Here’s the definition:

The term ‘‘general public benefit’’ means a material positive impact on society resulting from the business and operations of a United States corporation, when taken as a whole.

Oh, and if the corporation doesn’t comply with this requirement, it’s subject to suit.

How is an officer or director supposed to understand what the government is actually mandating? Warren’s language creates a legally enforceable command that’s not much more detailed than demanding corporations “be good” and that places trust in judges to determine how, exactly, large corporations must be good. Such imprecision violates the Fifth Amendment. Laws are supposed to provide “fair notice” of prohibited conduct. This is especially true when applied to criminal law or free speech, but as the Supreme Court has explained, the fair notice requirement is broadly applicable:

Even when speech is not at issue, the void for vagueness doctrine addresses at least two connected but discrete due process concerns: first, that regulated parties should know what is required of them so they may act accordingly; second, precision and guidance are necessary so that those enforcing the law do not act in an arbitrary or discrimina­tory way.

Neither due process concern is satisfied by Warren’s bill. It empowers arbitrary action and would leave even the most good-faith officer or director utterly befuddled as to the mandated course of action — particularly when faced with complex decisions that implicate competing constituencies. The law would likely face serious constitutional challenges as soon as it hit the United States Code.

But Kevin’s right. In truth, the bill is a “go-nowhere proposition” — a legal impossibility designed to generate good feelings with all the right constituencies. While Warren is busy courting the Left, however, it’s incumbent on the rest of us to provide the reality check. Statist dreams and sloppy prose won’t create the economy America needs.

Economy & Business

Trump’s Dance of the Dollar

In a tweet this morning, President Trump celebrated the strength of the economy. Nothing strange about that. What is a little strange is that he seems, in the tweet, to be lauding the appreciation of the dollar — at least, I don’t see how it can be read any other way.

I don’t mind a stronger dollar, myself. But Trump himself seems to. Just a few weeks ago he was complaining about its strength, especially against the euro and the yuan. A rising dollar is also nearly universally understood to cause the trade deficit to rise. I don’t think the trade deficit is very important. But the president sure does.


Ten Things — Another Entirely Catholic Edition (August 16, 2018)

1. A few parishes in midtown Manhattan have Eucharistic adoration during the day. Lots of people flow in and out. Others stay for a while. I sometimes think it’s a miracle how many people do and maybe even sometimes without intending to – especially at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

If you’re a Catholic in New York and you’re angry and disappointed and disgusted and brokenhearted and not knowing who can be trusted, maybe consider joining me at 3 p.m. Friday in one of those churches (or anywhere there is a tabernacle with an open door)? St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the Mary chapel, St. Agnes by Grand Central, St. Francis Assisi by Penn Station all have afternoon adoration times. If you’re in a big city somewhere else, I suspect you’re likely to. (D.C. option: 4:15-5:15 at the Dominican House of Studies.) This is often a good place to start if you don’t know where to go (but it’s often good to check against a parish’s website or make a phone call).

If your parish doesn’t have such hours, get a group to volunteer to start up a weekly holy hour for reparation for evil in the Church (and perhaps, too, for the courage and holiness of priests). Every Friday evening? Every Saturday morning?

2. In that spirit:

Continue reading “Ten Things — Another Entirely Catholic Edition (August 16, 2018)”


Twitter Blocks Elizabeth Heng’s Campaign Ad

According to Elizabeth Heng’s campaign, Twitter has determined that the Republican congressional candidate’s video advertisement is “ineligible to participate in the Twitter Ads program at this time based on our Inappropriate Content policy.” The company deemed the video’s content to be in violation of the site’s prohibition on “that which is offensive, vulgar, or obscene.”

The ad contains footage of the Cambodian genocide because Heng’s parents fled to the U.S. from Cambodia to escape communism. When the campaign asked for further explanation about how the video violated Twitter’s policies, Twitter responded with the same message, this time highlighting the word “obscene” in bold. The campaign followed up again but received only a message from the Twitter Ads Support team saying they could “no longer assist or support any further requests.”

Less than two weeks ago, the same video was blocked on Facebook after being flagged for containing “shocking, disrespectful or sensational content.” After further review, and some public blowback, Facebook reversed its decision and allowed Heng’s campaign to promote the advertisement. A spokesperson for Facebook told National Review via email: “Upon further review, it is clear the video contains historical imagery relevant to the candidate’s story. We have since approved the ad and it is now running on Facebook.”

Update 5:05 p.m.A Twitter spokesperson has confirmed to National Review that Heng’s campaign ad was initially rejected. However, that decision has been reversed, and the ad is no longer prohibited. The company declined to explain the reasons for the rejection beyond the initial statement provided to Heng’s campaign, as well as the reasons for the reversal.

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