Economy & Business

Watch Out for Those Billionaires Wielding $601

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Then-Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen in Washington, D.C., in 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Janet Yellen says that the IRS needs to look into all banking transactions that exceed $600 because otherwise billionaires will cheat on their taxes:

This, of course, is nonsense. As it so happens, $600 is the threshold at which businesses are obliged to report paying independent contractors. If Yellen believes that the IRS is losing out on transactions such as these — and that, as a result, it needs to see aggregate inflows and outflows that exceed $600 — then she should say so. But pretending that by “high income individuals with opaque source of income” she means “billionaires” instead of small businesses owners represents an absurd insult to our intelligence.

Elections

A Conservative Third Party Won’t Work

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Voters at the polling station in PS 250 during the New York City primary mayoral election in Brooklyn, N.Y., June 22, 2021. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

While I have immense respect for our former colleague Jonah Goldberg and agree with the end state he is seeking, I must side with Charlie against Jonah’s idea of a Reaganite-conservative third party. I would add that the idea is not purely theoretical. In my home state of New York, we actually have a Conservative Party that was designed to serve exactly the role that Jonah envisions, and which he suggests as a role model. At one time, that was a workable model. It ran William F. Buckley Jr. for mayor of New York City in 1965, and while that race was futile (it was won by liberal Republican John Lindsay), it made an important statement. The party got James Buckley elected to the Senate in 1970, over the objections of the Rockefeller-dominated New York Republicans. Its backing helped launch Alfonse D’Amato to a Republican primary victory and a Senate seat in 1980. As recently as 1990, it split the general-election vote evenly for governor between the Republican Pierre Rinfret’s 21.4 percent and the Conservative Herbert London’s 20.4 percent. Mario Cuomo, who won that race, was defeated four years later when George Pataki unified the two factions.

How well does that work in the 21st century? In 2010, the Conservatives nominated moderate Republican Rick Lazio, who lost the Republican primary to the proto-Trump candidate Carl Paladino (to my regret, I voted for Paladino out of bitterness over the consultant-driven fiasco of Lazio’s 2000 Senate campaign). Lazio withdrew from the race, the Conservatives fell in line behind Paladino, and Andrew Cuomo cruised to victory in what was otherwise a great Tea Party Republican year. Ever since, the party has been at best an empty shell, at worst a racket. In 2016 and 2020, it endorsed Donald Trump for president. I have little optimism that a third party of this nature that gained actual power would not be swiftly corrupted. The history of truly influential third-party movements in America — the Anti-Masons, Free Soilers, the Know-Nothings, the Populists, the Progressives — has been one in which their real power only happened when they fused with one of the major parties or brought down the temple Samson-style, like the Breckenridge Democrats of 1860.

The battles that Jonah wants to fight are very much worth fighting. But the place to fight them is in Republican primaries. If we cannot win them there, we will not improve matters by handing power to Democrats who have no intention of ever allowing it to be given back.

Education

More Madness in Loudoun County Public Schools

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Residents protest at a Loudon County, Va., school board meeting, June 22, 2021. (Gabriella Border/via Twitter)

In the face of yesterday’s horrific report about public-school officials’ covering for alleged rapists in Virginia’s Loudoun County, Terry McAuliffe must surely regret his now-infamous one-liner that “parents [shouldn’t] be telling schools what they should teach.” Granted, that particular foot-in-mouth moment from the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate was primarily in reference to the debates over critical race theory. (A controversy that Loudoun County Public Schools has not been immune to.) But it has become all the more significant in light of the Daily Wire bombshell that LCPS and the progressive school-board-aligned Loudoun County prosecutor protected a transgender student who allegedly forcibly sodomized a ninth-grade girl in a school bathroom — and prosecuted the victim’s father for making a scene in response.

The entire story is nauseating, but you should read it to understand how insane things have gotten in places like Loudoun County. The wealthy D.C. suburb was a solidly conservative district just a couple of decades ago, but rapid demographic change and an influx of blue-state emigrés have swung it far to the left. In 2020, Loudon County backed Joe Biden by more than 25 points, and its local officials — school-board members, prosecutors, and so on — are often now the kind of ideologues who protect accused rapists who identify as trangender and try to infiltrate groups of parents voicing opposition to critical race theory

McAuliffe’s campaign has the common sense to know that this kind of radicalism is a serious threat to his gubernatorial ambitions, particularly in light of his stated commitment to disallowing parents from having a say in their childrens’ schooling. He hasn’t distanced himself from Loudoun County officials, of course; those wealthy college-educated progressives are a key part of his constituency. But he has scrambled to announce a number of education-centered events, including a “roundtable with educators and parents,” in the next couple of days. 

Whether that works, of course, remains to be seen. It could well be the case that Virginia — like Loudoun County — has simply become overwhelmingly blue, and that the GOP’s statewide electoral ambitions are no longer realistic. But Virginia’s overeager progressives may have also gotten out over their skis. I wouldn’t count the Old Dominion out just yet.

Politics & Policy

Re: Sanders’s Medicare Ultimatum

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In response to Sanders Issues Ultimatum on Medicare Expansion, Which Manchin Says He Opposes

I suspect, Phil, that one reason Sanders wants to add dental benefits to the traditional Medicare program is to take away a selling point of Medicare Advantage plans. The senator’s cherished “Medicare for All” would abolish these plans, which he seems to regard as a capitalist plot.

Culture

The Chair and the Inevitability of Conservatism in Hollywood

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The Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, Calif. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

The movie and TV industries are, famously, populated mainly with progressives and liberals (the latter of whom now live in terror of the former), with a smattering of libertarians and a much smaller, mostly silent minority of conservatives. Hollywood’s output increasingly displays those politics: the inability of many of its creative people to understand people who disagree with them, the didactic desire to tell stories that promote left-leaning pieties, and the obsessions with “representation” and the sexual politics of the Left.

And yet, no matter how hard they try, people who tell stories for a living — if they are at all good at their jobs — inevitably wind up producing tales with popular conservative characters and conservative themes. This is partly because the kinds of narratives that audiences respond to tend to follow certain conventions. Good guys fight bad guys by every available means, romances lead to marriage, pregnancies lead to children, merit is ultimately rewarded, chaos is bad but freedom is good. One example of that is Sonny Bunch’s dictum that “environmentalists make good movie villains because they want to make your real life worse.” The reason why audiences respond to those narratives leads us to the deeper point: Many universal truths about life are the things conservatives preach, often over the objections of Hollywood-lefty types. Sexual liberation is one of those: Films and TV overwhelmingly portray divorces and extramarital affairs as leading to complication, conflict, and unhappiness. Abortions, even when shown onscreen, often inevitably come across as selfish choices, sometimes to a sociopathic extent.

The inevitability of conservatism in portrayals of reality came to my mind watching the Netflix limited-run dramedy series The Chair, created by Amanda Peet and starring Grey’s Anatomy and Killing Eve veteran Sandra Oh as the new chair of the English department at the fictional Pembroke University, a not-quite-Ivy League college that is being buffeted by the times. Pembroke is casting a gimlet eye at the English department’s falling enrollment, overpaid and geriatric faculty, and failure to demonstrate the relevance of its subject to 2020s college kids. Oh’s character, Ji-Yoon Kim, is an impeccably PC figure — she talks about being the first “woman of color” to chair the department, uses all the fancy buzzwords, and agonizes over unfairness to female faculty. (One discordant note: Professor Kim anguishes over needing more “women of color” in her department — besides her, there is a young black female professor — but looking around the table at the faculty meetings, nobody seems to care that there are no nonwhite men.) She is also a single, never-married mom trying to raise her adopted daughter in a combination of the Mexican culture of the daughter’s birth and the Korean culture of Professor Kim’s aging, non-English-speaking father. We are given to believe that all of the characters we see onscreen are progressive or liberal, and some conservative viewers may find their woke college-speak hard to swallow.

And yet, The Chair is packed with themes that conservatives will find familiar, and even sympathetic. Professor Kim’s daughter very visibly needs a father. One of the professors is targeted by a woke cancel-culture mob for a classroom gesture taken wildly out of context, and the show’s sympathies are entirely with the faculty; the students are portrayed as an unreasoning Jacobin mob, and the administration as pandering cowards unconcerned with truth or fairness. David Morse plays the college president as a maddening cipher who stands for nothing. The elderly professors, two of whom are played with skill by veteran character actors Holland Taylor and Bob Balaban, come across as out-of-touch ivory-tower backstabbers, but also as sincere and sympathetic scholars who cannot understand why the lifetimes they’ve dedicated to the enduring relevance of Chaucer and Melville are suddenly out of fashion, and are baffled by the hostile social-justice-warrior rhetoric of their students. (Balaban says that he prepared for the role by listening to his daughter’s graduate-school stories of how “cancel culture” is “even more terrifying” than the series shows.) The “cool” liberal professor who charms young women with his charismatic lecture style is also an irresponsible, drug-addled mess. Some of the show’s best moments underline the power of traditional Korean and Mexican culture, the difficulty of imparting it to the next generation, and how raising an adopted child to learn a culture that is not your own is harder than just embracing slogans. Some of these may not have been the morals this series intended to tell, but telling a good story sometimes means working with reality as it actually is.

Politics & Policy

Sanders Issues Ultimatum on Medicare Expansion, Which Manchin Says He Opposes

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Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I., Vt.) speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., February 25, 2021. (Susan Walsh/Reuters)

Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders and his House ally Representative Pramila Jayapal have issued an ultimatum that a Medicare expansion must be a part of the reconciliation bill. The problem is, Senator Joe Manchin has already indicated that he opposes it.

A few weeks ago, Manchin declared that, “spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs, when we can’t even pay for the essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity.” Earlier, he told reporters, “I’ll say this about Medicare: We need to stabilize it. By 2026, you understand the trust fund is going to be insolvent. … I want to make sure we are stabilizing what we have before we start going down this expansion role.”

But Sanders and Jayapal are digging in.

The insistence among progressives on expanding Medicare to include dental and vision coverage is somewhat puzzling to me. If the ultimate goal is to migrate to a single-payer system, I could understand the rationale for lowering the Medicare age to 60 or younger. That at least gets more people on government-run healthcare and expands its constituency. But spending hundreds of billions of dollars to add dental and vision coverage does not move the ball forward in terms of getting more people within the Medicare system. It also makes any transition to a “Medicare for all” type system that much more expensive by making the benefits much more extensive. Even Canada, often touted by Sanders, does not offer dental and vision coverage as part of its universal program.

We’re now in the stage of negotiations in which Democrats are having to pare back their agenda to lower the price tag, and they are going to have to choose among their priorities. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated that Democrats would be pursuing a strategy of spending more money on fewer proposals rather than sprinkling a smaller amount of money around many progressive programs in hopes that the funding would ultimately get extended.

Obviously, the Sanders-Jayapal statement is incompatible with the approach that Manchin has outlined, so one of them will have to climb down, or else President Biden’s entire agenda will collapse.

What’s Going On with Southwest Airlines?

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Grounded Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft at Victorville Airport in Victorville, Calif., March 26, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

The short version: Southwest Airlines stretched itself too thin and bad circumstances threw off its entire operation. It’s not about vaccine mandates.

Southwest does not have a hub-and-spoke route network like United or Delta or American. When you book a flight on United, for example, from Boston to Seattle, you might have a connection through Chicago O’Hare since that’s a major hub for United between those two destinations. From your point of view, it’s a flight from Boston to Seattle with a layover in Chicago. From United’s point of view, it’s one flight from Boston to Chicago and a second flight

Politics & Policy

‘Eastman’s Errors’

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Today on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, Alexandra, and Jim discuss the Eastman memo, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden getting fired, and Biden’s tanking approval ratings. Listen below, or follow this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

World

Cordite and Coffee with Nigel Farage

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The man who really made Brexit possible, Nigel Farage, made himself available on one of those “pay a celeb to send a message” apps. And, he recorded one of himself cheering on the Irish Republican Army.

“This message is for Brian Ó Céileachair, Brexiteer, and I hope you have a great birthday. This comes from your good friend Aidan. Now, it’s a bit early in the day, so all I’ve got, actually, is coffee. But I hope you enjoy a few pints with the lads tonight. Up the ’Ra!”

For those who don’t speak in Hiberno-Anglais, it’s almost like a sports cheer. “Up the Dubs” is a cheer for Dublin. “Up the Ra” is a cheer for the Republican Army, the one that conducted all those bombings in the Troubles.

I’m surprised that he wouldn’t have been able to figure it out. Anyway, my guess is Brian Ó Céileachair is interested in a very different kind of Brexit.

Culture

Donna Rice Hughes Warns about Obscenity Crisis

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(ilkercelik/Getty Images)

I have launched a new podcast through the Discovery Institute called Humanize“where human rights meet human responsibilities” in which I converse with thinkers and activists about issues germane to human dignity and our moral duties to each other, animals, and the environment.

So far, I have been privileged to converse with Ambassador Sam Brownback on the importance of religious liberty; bioethicist Charles C. Camosy on the threat against the equality of people with dementia posed by bioethical advocacy; Jennifer Lahl on the ethical quandaries and threats posed by the fertility industry; and Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo’s brother, on her death by dehydration and protecting the medically vulnerable.

In this week’s episode, I interview Donna Rice Hughes — president of the Internet-safety advocacy organization Enough is Enough — who campaigns against obscenity and child pornography. She convinced me that the obscenity scourge — we are not just talking nude photos — has reached crisis proportions.

Hughes discusses the impact porn has on children — both as victims of child pornographers and as consumers of adult content that they access on the Internet. She describes how pornography is a major cause of social dislocation, leading to divorce, abuse, rape, and a breakdown in healthy sexual relationships. She shows how the obscenity industry is a major driver of human trafficking and how “free” online Internet sites lure people into viewing ever more dark and violent images.

We also discussed ways to keep children safe from pornography on the Internet. I was shocked to learn that children younger than ten access hard-core porn — including images of rape and bestiality — and sometimes act out on the graphic images to which they have been exposed.

Obscenity and child pornography are out of control and need remediation. But while authorities do energetically enforce the law involving under-age sex exploitation, there are almost no efforts to enforce existing laws against obscenity, which the Supreme Court has ruled can be prohibited consistent with the First Amendment. President Trump signed a pledge to do so, but his DOJ didn’t. President Biden didn’t even sign the pledge.

But here’s a problem. To be actionable, obscenity has to “violate community standards.” What with the Internet and the pornification of the culture, the question has to be posed: Is there such a thing as “community standards” anymore?

I hope you will listen to Hughes. She said a lot that is worth hearing — including compassionate advice about how the porn-addicted can escape their bondage. The obscenity crisis is an important cultural issue too little discussed for fear of seeming prudish. The time has come for that reticence to end.

Politics & Policy

‘Now Those Who Represent China Are All Over Washington’

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The Chinese flag flies over the American flag in Shanghai, China, July 30, 2019. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Former congressman Frank Wolf, who represented northern Virginia from 1981 to 2015, wrote in with some thoughts on yesterday’s Morning Jolt:

With all the things mentioned today In your article about China, and with the fact that every faith group in China is being persecuted—Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Muslim Uighur, Falun Gong— an issue that is almost never covered is the influence China has with the Congress and administrations, both Democrat and Republican. There are many former members of Congress and former high-ranking members of the government and the military who are working for China and Chinese government controlled companies.

Wolf is correct; as this moment, 26 organizations operating in the United States are registered foreign agents of the Chinese government. OpenSecrets reported, “Chinese foreign agents reported more lobbying and influence spending than foreign agents or lobbyists working for any other country, with nearly $64.4 million in total 2020 spending, 80 percent of which came from CGTN America, a division of China’s state-owned television media outlet.” Perhaps most notoriously, former California senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat, became a registered lobbyist for Hikvision, a Chinese camera manufacturer that makes equipment used by the Chinese government to surveil the country’s Uighur population. Former Louisiana senator David Vitter, a Republican, also works as a lobbyist for Hikvision.

Wolf continues:

As your article makes clear China is a direct threat to our country in many ways and as to the religious persecution, I recall the statement former President Reagan made when he said that the words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were a covenant not only with the people in Philadelphia in 1776 and 1787,  but a covenant with the entire world.  That covenant has been shredded.

During the Reagan Administration, nobody would have ever represented the Soviet Union, now those who represent China are all over Washington.

The people I mentioned representing China interests have clout that few people realize.  Just look at those registered under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, which can be found at Justice Department. This affects the future of our country and of many people around the world, so I just cannot understand, even with the money lure, why these people do it.  There could be a time when this is too late to deal with, and people will look back with regret.  If you check history there were Western companies leading up to World War Two who worked with the Nazis.

Why We Celebrate Columbus Day

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Christopher Columbus Statue in Plaza De Colon, in San Juan, Puerto Rico ( A Bello/Getty Images)

No American holiday is under siege as persistently as Columbus Day. “Indigenous People’s Day” is specifically an effort at an anti-Columbus holiday. The White House is pushing National Coming Out Day as a way of changing the subject. It is perhaps worth revisiting the two distinct reasons why we celebrate Columbus Day in the first place, and why the cultural Left hates both of them.

Some of the anti-Columbus arguments are about the man personally. He has his defenders: Garry Kasparov reminds us not to judge Columbus by the moral standards of our own time. Jarrett Stepman argues that Christopher Columbus

On Columbus Day, Remember History Is Complicated

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A monument of Christopher Columbus in Rapallo, Italy (boggy22/Getty Images)

Columbus Day, Indigenous People’s Day, National Coming Out Day — the second Monday in October is just a ridiculous political football now. Most people don’t even get off of work for it anymore, which is fine because, as Kevin Williamson says, Mondays are for working anyway.

There’s a kernel of truth in the anti–Columbus Day crowd’s message. Insofar as they want to fight against simplistic historical narratives, their motive is good. The problem is that they mostly just replace one simplistic historical narrative with another one.

Was Christopher Columbus a righteous superhuman, doing God’s work and civilizing the savages to bring freedom

White House

Jen Psaki, Cleanup on Aisle Four!

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., July 16, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Joe Biden’s statement about Senator Kyrsten Sinema being harassed in the bathroom — “I don’t think they’re appropriate tactics, but it happens to everybody from the — the only people it doesn’t happen to are people who have Secret Service standing around them.  So, it’s — it’s part of the process” — earned him some scorn from columnists like Peggy Noonan:

His statement on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema being harassed in a ladies’ room by activists who hissed like the devil’s imps was wan and passive-aggressive: “I don’t think they’re appropriate tactics, but it happens to everybody. . . . It’s part of the process.” It doesn’t happen to everybody and to announce it is part of the process is to make it part of the process. It was as if he were saying: Yeah, she’s got me mad. Hound her some more.

Less noticed was White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s effort Friday afternoon to persuade reporters that Biden meant the opposite of what he said, that it was not a legitimate part of the process, that it doesn’t happen to everyone, and that it shouldn’t happen to anyone:

Q    Thanks.  I just wanted to come back to the — the incident — the protest that happened with Senator Sinema over the weekend and whether that’s something that the White House or the President has been thinking more about since then.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  I mean, I would say, I talked to the President about this, maybe two days ago — it’s all running together; in the last few days, I would say — and what he conveyed very clearly — just in case there’s any confusion about where he stands — is that, while, of course, we all agree — and as Senator Sinema said herself — the right to free speech and to protest is sacred to our country, he believes that what happened to her crossed the line and was absolutely unacceptable and flat out wrong to violate someone’s personal space in a bathroom.  It doesn’t need to happen that way.  We can peacefully protest without it crossing that line.

So that continues to be his point of view.

Apparently Biden meant to say, “absolutely unacceptable and flat out wrong” and it just happened to accidentally come out, “it happens to everybody. . . . It’s part of the process.”

World

U.S. State Department: There’s No ‘Firm Figure’ on Americans Who Want to Leave Afghanistan

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(Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

It is now almost standard for U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price to get a question about how many American citizens and how many green card holders are still trying to get out of Afghanistan in each briefing, and for Price to say a lot without giving much of a number, estimate, or range. During last Thursday’s briefing, Price once again insisted that progress was being made, despite having the same number of evacuees to offer as Monday.

QUESTION: Senator [Richard] Blumenthal [of Connecticut] says that two charter flights have left Mazar-e-Sharif and made it to Doha with 800 Americans and Afghan allies. I wonder, one, what role the State Department played in any of that, and two, how many Americans do you think are still in need of evacuation.

MR PRICE: Well, let me start with that second question first. This is a figure that continues to be dynamic, and it continues to be dynamic because it’s a number that goes down with each flight, with each overland transfer, with each departure of a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident from Afghanistan for those who wish to do so. It also goes up because – especially in recent weeks because we have been quite successful with our efforts to facilitate the departure of Americans and lawful permanent residents and others who wish to depart Afghanistan. You’ve seen that in the context of the flights that have departed from Kabul International Airport; you referenced some of the private charter flights as well. I made a reference to overland transfers additionally.

Since August 31st, we have assisted 105 U.S. citizens and 95 lawful permanent residents to depart.

Price said that an additional number of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents have departed on charters or have independently — on their own — crossed a land border, but that he could offer no figures for those kinds of departures.  He later elaborated:

When it comes to the number of Americans who remain in Afghanistan, this is a figure, again, that is dynamic. We said as of a couple weeks ago the figure was around a hundred Americans in Afghanistan who wished to depart at that time. This – of course, since then, several dozen Americans have departed Afghanistan with our assistance or via other means. But we’re also aware that, again, as we have demonstrated our ability to affect the departure from Afghanistan of Americans who wish to leave, others have raised their hands. And so this is a number that is changing by the day and it is a number that is by no means static. So —

QUESTION: Blumenthal says dozens are in contact with his office. So is it dozens? Is that —

MR PRICE: We are certainly in contact with dozens of Americans in Afghanistan who wish to leave, but it is difficult for us to put a firm figure on it, just because people are departing, and as Americans in Afghanistan who previously may not have made themselves known to us or previously may have told us “I am content to stay here” or “I am going to stay here” for various reasons, as they see our ability to facilitate the departure of Americans and LPRs, they are raising their hands for the first time or changing their calculus after seeing that.

One reporter observed that the figure 105 U.S. citizens and 95 LPRs was the same figure as a week and a half ago. When asked why the figure hadn’t changed, and why the State Department had not been able to facilitate more Americans getting out, Price elaborated:

It’s a combination of a number of things. There are – there is a universe of Americans who wish to leave. There is a smaller universe of Americans who are fully prepared to leave in various ways, whether that means they or their family members have travel documents, are ready to leave at this moment. That’s a smaller universe than the universe of Americans that we’re in touch with that have expressed some desire to leave.

On August 31, President Biden insisted that his team and the relevant government agencies had prepared for every scenario: “I instructed our national security team to prepare for every eventuality — even that one. And that’s what we did. So, we were ready when the Afghan Security Forces — after two decades of fighting for their country and losing thousands of their own — did not hold on as long as anyone expected. We were ready when they and the people of Afghanistan watched their own government collapse and their president flee amid the corruption and malfeasance, handing over the country to their enemy, the Taliban, and significantly increasing the risk to U.S. personnel and our allies.”

Politics & Policy

A Drama in Three Parts

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  1. Government creates a tax break.
  2. Taxpayers take advantage of the tax break.
  3. Scandal.
Politics & Policy

California Wages War on . . . Gendered Toy Aisles

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A man talks with his grandson while looking at toys at a Walmart store in Secaucus, N.J., in 2015. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Beginning on January 1, 2024, any large retailer in California that fails to provide “a reasonable selection” of products in a “gender neutral section . . . regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or boys” will be fined $250. Subsequent violations of the new gender-neutrality mandate — which will still allow gender-specific toys and aisles at stores — will cost them $500. Assembly Bill 1084 was signed into law by California governor Gavin Newsom this past Saturday, purportedly justified by the fact that gender-segregating “clothing and toys sections of department stores . . . incorrectly implies that their use by one gender is appropriate,” according the bill’s author, Assemblyman Evan Low (D., Silicon Valley). Here’s what Low wrote in a judiciary committee statement on AB 1084, per the Washington Post:

“Traditionally children’s toys and products have been categorized by a child’s gender. In retail this has led to the proliferation of [science, technology, engineering and mathematics]-geared toys in a ‘boys’ section and toys that direct girls to pursuits such as caring for a baby, fashion, and domestic life,” the lawmaker wrote. “The segregation of toys by a social construct of what is appropriate for which gender is the antithesis of modern thinking.”

“Modern thinking,” of course, means progressive ideology. Actual science has decades of serious, peer-reviewed research showing that there are innate and biologically determined differences between men and women that begin to surface at a very early age. Understandably, those differences horrify legislators like Evan Low: The possibility of natural differences between groups undermines the idea that disparate outcomes necessarily result from unjust social conditions, which is the entire basis of the modern social-justice project. But the difference between men and women is actually one of the greatest miracles of the human condition. We fit together — right down to the very structure of our bodies, our complementary natures make us capable of mutual love, and point us toward our place in a rationally designed cosmic order. We are fearfully and wonderfully made for each other. Why would we ever want to destroy that?

Politics & Policy

Zoning Emerging as a Political Issue

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(AlenaMozhjer/Getty Images)

Two big developments indicate that zoning may be on the cusp of emerging as a high-profile political issue. This is in direct response to growing moves by Democrats at the federal and state levels to kill off single-family zoning. Control over zoning is a core function of local government, which means that federal and state efforts to choke off local control are direct assaults on our federalist system.

The first indication of zoning’s possible emergence as a top-tier political issue is a hard-hitting new ad by the conservative Frontiers of Freedom Foundation. The ad highlights Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s support for President Biden’s plans to undercut single-family zoning. The ad informs voters that attacks on local control of zoning can come from states as well.

Although it has not been widely reported, after a series of bitter legislative battles, the California legislature recently abolished single-family zoning — over considerable opposition from Democrats as well as Republicans, including many minorities. The anti-McAuliffe attack ad pointedly reminds Virginia voters of the news from California.

California, in turn, is the source of the second major political development. Although the story of SB 9, California’s statewide ban on single-family zoning, has had only limited national play to date, there is a move afoot to put a measure on the 2022 California ballot that would effectively nullify SB 9 by restoring local control over zoning. Although signature collection has not yet begun, it is relatively easy to secure a statewide referendum in California, especially on a high-profile issue like this.

California ballot measures draw national attention. A referendum on local control over zoning in the nation’s largest state would dramatically raise the profile of this issue. In conjunction with the Biden administration’s revival of Obama’s radical Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation, and additional congressional efforts to kill off single-family zoning (possibly in the big infrastructure bill, if we ever find out what’s in it), a California referendum could rocket this issue to national prominence. And if McAuliffe goes down after an ad campaign focused on the zoning issue, it will serve as a roadmap for Republicans in other states.

For years, the zoning as a national political issue has been more a matter of theory than practice. I wrote about Obama’s plans to do away with single-family zoning well before AFFH had even been issued. At the time, the left denied that any such plan was in the works. Then Obama put AFFH in place, but so close to the end of his second term that he had to depend on a prospective President Hillary Clinton to enforce it. Instead, President Trump suspended AFFH and eventually killed it. With Biden in the process of reviving AFFH, and the infrastructure bill in limbo, active enforcement of federal laws designed to kill off single-family zoning is not quite yet a reality.

Yet the emergence of state-level single-family zoning bans, in conjunction with major federal efforts along the same lines, may be about to kick this issue into high gear. Democrats have always worried that their plans to do away with single-family zoning will be politically unpopular, even with many Democrats. They haven’t yet had to face the political consequences of their own policies, however. With local control over zoning now injected into the Virginia governor’s race, and a California referendum very likely on the way, that may be about to change.

Culture

Superman Gets Woke

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Christopher Reeve in Superman (Film Export A.G.)

The new Superman (son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane) is going to begin a relationship with another man, DC Comics has announced.

The New York Times, in an article celebrating the news, notes that it is only the latest example of the great woken-ing of Man of Steel comics:

That same-sex relationship is just one of the ways that Jonathan Kent, who goes by Jon, is proving to be a different Superman than his famous father. Since his new series, Superman: Son of Kal-El, began in July, Jon has combated wildfires caused by climate change, thwarted a high school shooting and protested the deportation of refugees in Metropolis.

“The idea of replacing Clark Kent with another straight white savior felt like a missed opportunity,” Tom Taylor, who writes the series, said in an interview. He said that a “new Superman had to have new fights — real world problems — that he could stand up to as one of the most powerful people in the world.”

There’s no particular reason to get worked up over a comic-book character, of course. This development — as well as Superman getting more political — just strikes me as a boring and lazy way to try to generate headlines and put the iconic franchise on the correct side of the cultural divide. But the latest turn also seems to be a bit behind the times — in 2021, a character being gay does not quite generate the shock value it did decades ago.

Sports

Leave Kyrsten Sinema Alone during the Boston Marathon

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Then-representative Kyrsten Sinema poses for a photo in front of the Arizona State Sun Devils student section prior to the game against the Utah Utes at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., November 3, 2018. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Brittany Bernstein reports that activists from the Green New Deal Network intend to harass Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema as she runs the Boston Marathon today. The race is being run today for the first time since 2019, given its cancellation last year.

This is yet another chapter in the ongoing and extremely unseemly saga of public harassment of the Arizona senator, for the purported offense of not going along with the Democrats’ agenda. It follows recent public harassment of her in a bathroom, on an airplane, and in an airport. This latest attempt should be seen in the same light, and equally condemned.

My own background in running (and in Boston itself), however, inclines me to some sport-specific condemnations. First, if the intended harassment is successful, it could look an awful lot like the attempt by Jock Semple to remove Katherine Switzer, the first officially registered female competitor in the Boston Marathon, from the race. Will those obvious optics be noted if activists do find Sinema? Somehow, I doubt it.

Second, I just have to say: Apart from the obvious impropriety of this kind of treatment, the last thing I would want to have happen to me during a marathon is to be accosted in this manner. Marathons are difficult things, requiring months of training beforehand to pull off and several hours of intense physical effort and mental focus during. Given how I tend to get during competition, accosting me in the middle of it is probably not something anyone should want. Sinema would be well within her rights to be angry about such an interruption.

At any rate, I am hoping that the logistics of the race, with its crowd of thousands, varying start and finish times, and first-rate security, make it impossible for these activists to get what they want. And I wish Senator Sinema the best in her efforts.

Politics & Policy

The Damage Done by Deficit Financing

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The Treasury Building in Washington, D.C., August 5, 2021 (Brent Buterbaugh/National Review)

The federal government racks up tremendous amounts of debt every year and the pace has been accelerating. But is this anything to worry about? Statist intellectuals scoff at the idea. We owe the money to ourselves, and besides, deficit spending stimulates the economy. So chill.

Not all intellectuals, though. One who doesn’t is GMU economics professor Don Boudreaux. In this AIER essay, he explains why government deficits are damaging, to future taxpayers, but also to people in the present.

Here is his conclusion: “Deficit financing — by enabling people today to free-ride on people tomorrow — allows government to expand its size and reach beyond that which would be obtained if government were required to fund all of its current expenses out of current revenues, with no opportunity for deficit financing. In short, deficit financing paves a path for the unwarranted and wasteful expansion of government activity. Only someone who is convinced that government will undertake only economically worthwhile projects regardless of the means of financing — or someone who doesn’t understand economics — can look favorably upon deficit financing by government.”

Indeed so. The more resources the government extracts from society for the purposes favored by politicians, the less is left for the purposes of people in the private sector, where, owing to the profit and loss test, they tend to be used efficiently.

Read Boudreaux’s entire essay.

Politics & Policy

Jen Rubin Gets It Wrong Again

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The Washington Post Company building in Washington, D.C. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Last week, just after a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the Texas Heartbeat Act — a decision that has since been reversed by the Fifth Circuit — Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post introduced her column on the topic with this falsehood: “The preliminary injunction from a federal district court Wednesday blocking the enforcement of Texas’s abortion bounty law was a rare win for the Justice Department and abortion rights groups.” (Emphasis added.)

The idea that anyone in America, right or left, pro- or anti-abortion, would think this was “a rare win” is almost unimaginable. The entire reason Roe v. Wade has caused such havoc and remained unsettled for decades is precisely its effect on lower courts, requiring judges to rule against states that attempt to regulate abortion.

Nearly every single lawsuit from abortion providers or advocacy groups challenging a pro-life state law of nearly any kind finds success in court. For the most part, states pass pro-life laws because they hope one will serve as a vehicle to overturn Roe, or they pass a “trigger law” that will take effect in the event that Roe is overturned, or they pass one of the few types of marginal abortion restrictions that can sometimes find favor with a court, such as a parental-notification law or a requirement that doctors notify women of the chance to view an ultrasound (both of these types of laws also draw the legal fire of abortion-advocacy groups and providers).

Where Jen Rubin got the idea that abortion-rights groups rarely win in court, I have no idea. Either she’s ignoring demonstrable contrary facts because it makes her case more appealing, or she has even less of a clue than I thought.

World

Issue upon Issue

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A Taiwanese sailor holds his country’s flag on a frigate in 2008. (Nicky Loh / Reuters)

In my Impromptus today, there are three issues. The first is Taiwan — if China attacks, what should the United States do? The democratic world should attempt to deter, yes — but if that fails: anything?

My next issue is the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize — a wonderful thing. It was given to two individuals, two journalists, who have shown great bravery in the face of horrible regimes: Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia. (Six of Muratov’s colleagues at Novaya Gazeta have been murdered, including the great Anna Politkovskaya.) Beyond the individuals, however, the award was given to honor press freedom, which is under attack from multiple sides.

The final issue is political correctness, or “wokeness.” I had an interesting experience. I’m afraid I’m too old, or too stubborn, to be “reeducated.”

Let me throw some more links at you, before I get to some mail. Here is a Q&A podcast with Leopoldo López, the Venezuelan democracy leader. I met him at the Oslo Freedom Forum last week. He was arrested and imprisoned in February 2014. In October 2020, he made a daring escape to Colombia (and from there to the United States, and from there to Spain, where he is in exile). An extraordinary leader, speaker, and man.

Here is a review of Opening Night at Carnegie Hall (a night that had a political edge). Here is a post on the late American composer Carlisle Floyd. And here is my music chronicle in the current New Criterion.

Last week, I had an appreciation of George F. Will. My friend Matt writes,

In my freshman year of college, my honors U.S.-history professor — an old-line liberal specializing in American intellectual history — told us, “If you want to be a great writer, read great writing. Read George Will.” That day or shortly thereafter, I went to Borders and picked up a paperback copy of Will’s early-’90s collection, The Leveling Wind. Since then, through used bookstores and careful poaching from my dad’s collection, I have amassed a complete set of George Will collections in hardback. All the way back to The Pursuit of Happiness and Other Sobering Thoughts. But The Leveling Wind holds a special place for me, as Right Reason does for you. (I have that one also!)

Right Reason is a WFB collection. I said in my GFW piece that Right Reason came out in 1985, when I was in college, and therefore at just the right time for me.

Matt continues,

Regarding essay collections in general: They are the best. Always have been and always will be my favorite kind of book. Nothing like settling in with a great essay. And I love that you can read the book straight through (as I am with George Will‘s current collection) or skip around.

In my GFW piece, I said,

We once talked about Walter Berns, the late political scientist, or political philosopher. “One of the epochal moments in my life,” said Will, “was reading one of his many wonderful books, Freedom, Virtue, and the First Amendment” (1957).

A reader writes,

Thank you for mentioning Walter Berns. I had the privilege of taking his course “The Political Science of Abraham Lincoln,” a totally exhilarating experience that changed my life. What an intellectual giant and a great American.

I’m not sure whether the reader is referring to Berns or Lincoln in that last sentence. But I wish I had been in that course. My goodness.

In an Impromptus, I griped about the behavior of fans at the Ryder Cup — cheering when the other player misses a putt and so on. Disgraceful stuff — and totally un-golf-like.

A reader says,

Bobby Jones’s words regarding how patrons should behave would make golf better everywhere, not just at Augusta. If people want to behave badly and ridiculously, go to an Alabama–Auburn game, an Ohio State–Michigan game (sorry, Jay, but I’ve been to a few), or Washington, D.C.

Thank you to one and all. Again, today’s Impromptus is here.

Law & the Courts

A Conservative Professor Sues over Retaliation against Him

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The level of intolerance in American higher education keeps rising. “Progressives” have long been prickly about criticism of their ideas and have in recent years become increasingly bold in targeting anyone who disagrees. They praised freedom of speech and dissent when it served their purposes, but now that they have power, they’re eager to silence those whom they dislike.

A professor in the Education Department at North Carolina State has recently filed suit against the school for the way it has retaliated against him for his statements against the obsession with “social justice” he finds at the university. In today’s Martin Center piece, Shannon Watkins interviews the prof (Stephen Porter) and his attorney (Samantha Harris) about the case.

Porter, for example, questioned why the end-of-course evaluation should have to include a question about the raising of “diversity issues” in the course. Porter is so old-fashioned that he just thinks professors should stick to the substance of courses and not mess them up with irrelevant “diversity issues.”

Because he couldn’t resist speaking and blogging to express his opposition to allowing the department to become saturated with “wokeness,” Porter is now a target of vindictive lefties, who are trying to force him out through a “death by a thousand cuts” strategy.

Said Porter, “They know they can’t fire me outright because I have tenure. I have an excellent record. I have excellent teaching evaluations. I’ve got a good strong research record, I do lots of service. My annual evaluations have been fine. Up to now, my post-tenure review has been fine. Instead, it’s sort of like this death by a thousand cuts, they are trying to seek many different ways to make my life as miserable as possible.”

With legal representation from FIRE, Porter has a good chance at getting NC State to cease its tormenting of him.

NR Webathon

‘Sunlight Is the Best Disinfectant’

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

A week into NR’s fall 2021 webathon, readers like you have already donated more than $50,000 to the mission of supporting conservative journalism.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. We truly couldn’t do this without you.

  • Tim chipped in 500 bucks and writes, “Appreciate your passion. Keep pushing.” Thank you, Tim!
  • After donating $500, David writes, “I appreciate all the work the entire NR team does. Great articles.” You’re the man, David!
  • One anonymous reader sent in $200 and adds, “Appreciate the sober and intelligent reporting and commentary — it’s desperately needed. Keep up the great work!”
  • Mark donated $5,000 and writes, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant. You are all: sunlight.” Wow! We appreciate your generosity, Mark. And trust me, we take the responsibility seriously. Thank you.

For 65 years, National Review has worked to keep America tethered to our Founding principles. Thank you for joining us in that fight. If you haven’t already, we invite you to join these readers and supporters by making a donation to the 2021 webathon.

PC Culture

Medical Journal: Impede Evictions for ‘Health Equity’

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People camp out on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to highlight the expiration of the pandemic-related federal moratorium on residential evictions, in Washington, D.C., July 31, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

In the woke medical journals, almost every social problem is defined as a public health issue. Publications such as the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, and even the Journal of the American Medical Association, regularly push advocacy pieces that have less to do with medicine and more to do with turning the U.S. hard a’port politically. And don’t even start with the bioethics journals that are even more radical.

True to form, the increasingly equity-obsessed NEJM just published a progressive political tome–by two lawyers–arguing that “housing policy” should “support health equity,” by which they mean that public-health law should constrain evictions and destroy single family home zoning.

Note the deployment of the usual hard-left jargon, such as capitalizing race categories. From, “Evictions and the Necessary Conditions for Health:”

We believe that the level of eviction in the United States is cruel, unhealthy, and inefficient. It is also a symptom of broader, interconnected diseases: structural racism, yawning economic inequality, and the commodification of housing, which have resulted in a broken system of laws, policies, and practices affecting housing affordability, stability, quality, and equity. Black tenants are more likely than White tenants to face eviction. Segregation, which tends to result in Black people living in less-affordable and lower-quality housing than White people, is still perpetuated by policy.

Talk about antipathy to free markets and private property. The authors want public health policy to make evictions far more difficult:

Increasing the cost of eviction for landlords — for example, by providing low-income tenants with free lawyers (and thereby forcing landlords’ attorneys to litigate rather than just show up to eviction hearings) or raising filing fees for evictions — could help reduce the casual use of eviction as a standard business practice. But these measures aimed at reducing eviction rates treat the symptom without addressing the broader problem of a broken housing system.

And, we need to increase what used to be called welfare payments, as well as raise the minimum wage–again as a matter of public health law–and further centralize regulation over the housing market:

Putting more money in tenants’ pockets could help them pay market rents. Fully funding Section 8 and eliminating barriers to the program’s use would help millions of people. Raising local minimum wages to a level sufficient to keep housing costs at 30% of income is another tool. Like the Earned Income Tax Credit, the temporary Child Tax Credit and other Covid-related measures have reduced the poverty rate. Making further changes to tax and expenditure policies with a goal of expanding the middle class would help many people get and keep housing. Given the market’s abject failure in this area, regulatory actions to stabilize housing prices and tenancy are justified.

And guess who will have to pay? People who own and live in their own homes:

Given the level of demand, the United States should be seeing a housing boom, but the government will have to prime the pump and nudge the market to build the right kinds of units in the right places. Substantial and sustained federal investment will require major shifts in budgeting decisions and resource allocation, starting with significantly scaling back the ill-conceived home mortgage interest deduction, which benefits homeowners who take out mortgages, but not tenants, or replacing it with a housing-related tax credit that would provide benefits more equitably.

So, this is what public health law governing real estate would mean:

  • Centralized regulation over everything from zoning decisions to rent prices and eviction law.
  • Destruction of single-family-home neighborhoods (a policy endorsed by President Biden).
  • Landlords prevented from having ultimate control over their own property, meaning fewer individuals and corporations willing to go into the rental housing business, meaning the need to build more public housing.

I think the idea is to make us a primarily renting culture instead of a home owning society. Yeah, that will make our communities far more liveable!

Woke medical journals are harnessing the authority of medicine to further a campaign of jurisdictional imperialism that seeks to transform most contemporary social controversies into matters of public health–with woke progressive political solutions. If they succeed in this gambit, cities and towns throughout the country will devolve into communities as chaotic and dysfunctional as are Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

No thank you. Physician, heal thyself.

U.S.

Coups and Cries

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Attorney John Eastman (left) speaks next to Then-President Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

One of the side-effects of our political culture’s descent into tribalism is that we increasingly respond not to what someone else has said but to what we think people like them say — even if our understanding of “people like them” is fuzzy. That’s the nicest explanation I can find for why Robert Alexander, following the path of Philip Bump, is falsely claiming for RealClearPolitics that I “recently argued that concerns about Trump’s post-election efforts to stay in power are overblown, pointing out that no states changed their electoral results and that Pence ultimately did not intervene on his ticket’s behalf.” He then proceeds to rebut this argument that I never made, and have explicitly (and more than once) contradicted.

The view I expressed is pretty much the same one that Teri Kanefield did in the Washington Post a few weeks ago: The Trump/Eastman plan was a “harebrained scheme” that could never have worked. Obviously — obviously — to say a scheme would never have worked is not to excuse the attempt to execute it.

If Alexander, Bump, or someone else wants to argue that it was actually a plan that had a very good chance of keeping Trump in power, then by all means let’s hear that counterintuitive case. Instead they keep offering a characterization of my views that they can’t substantiate with a single direct quote.

Politics & Policy

Is the Bed Already Made for the Fed on Inflation and Unemployment?

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Outside the Federal Reserve building in Washington, D.C. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

Today’s jobs report was underwhelming again, which is bad for the president. He doesn’t really have much to do with how many jobs are created or destroyed in a given month, but it’s customary in our political culture to credit and blame him accordingly, so, “Boo, Biden!”

Despite the economy’s adding far fewer jobs than expected in September, the unemployment rate still fell, from 5.2 percent to 4.8 percent. The unemployment rate has recovered very quickly from the COVID recession relative to past recessions. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the COVID recession has been over since April 2020. It wasn’t until January of 2016 that unemployment was at 4.8 percent after the Great Recession, which ended in June 2009. The much milder recession after the dot-com bubble burst was over in November 2001. Unemployment didn’t get to 4.8 percent again until January 2006.

There’s nothing magical about 4.8 percent; it just happens to be the number this month. The point is that the sharpest increase in unemployment in U.S. history has been followed by one of the fastest decreases. And 4.8 percent is pretty solid. The unemployment rate was above 4.8 percent every month of the 1980s, even during the extremely prosperous late ’80s.

That’s not to say the labor market is doing great. The labor-participation rate is down compared with the pre-pandemic rate, the number of long-term unemployed is 1.6 million higher than it was in February 2020, and 4.5 million Americans are working part-time because they can’t find full-time work or their hours got cut, the jobs report says.

From the Federal Reserve’s point of view, however, those are not primary concerns. The Fed’s dual mandate is to maintain low unemployment and low, stable inflation. In the long run, those are both good things for the country, and they are both possible to achieve. In the short run, however, there is a tradeoff between inflation and unemployment.

The best example of this tradeoff was in the early ’80s. Fed chairman Paul Volcker took over in 1979 and inherited a high-inflation economy. To get that under control, he adopted a contractionary monetary policy, which caused a recession in the early ’80s and a spike in unemployment. With hindsight, it was the right decision. Temporary higher unemployment was well worth cracking double-digit inflation in the long run.

Inflation has come back on the radar recently after years of being controlled pretty well. The Fed believes the past few months of higher inflation are transitory, and it hasn’t altered its expansionary monetary policy in response to the inflation reports. It’s not that the Fed doesn’t know how to control inflation or is failing to do so. It isn’t trying to because it doesn’t believe the past few months are going to turn into a long-term trend.

The other half of its dual mandate, low unemployment, is looking great from the Fed’s point of view. If inflation is transitory and we’re back down around 2.5 percent pretty soon, the Fed’s policy will have been really smart, and the country will be back to low unemployment and low, stable inflation.

But if inflation is not transitory, and unemployment keeps declining, the Fed may wind up in a really tricky situation: It may be forced to contract the money supply and reverse good unemployment numbers in the short run to get inflation back in line. In other words, inflation had better be transitory because the bed might already be made — and we’ll have to lie in it.

Politics & Policy

Cultural Issues Represent an Opening with Black Voters

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Attendees at the Black Voices for Trump Coalition rollout event in Atlanta, Ga., November 8, 2019. (Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)

Albert Eisenberg’s recent RealClearPolitics piece on Republican outreach strategies in black communities contains some admirable in-person reporting, based largely on Eisenberg’s focus-group conversations with a dozen “swing” black voters in suburban Philadelphia. But the article — titled “How Can the Republican Party Reach Black Voters?” — if anything understates the challenges Republicans face in winning over black voters. Though it does offer a possible opening.

First, the challenges: Since at least the signing of the Civil Rights Act — and really, since the passage of the New Deal — black voters have largely supported the Democratic Party. According to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, an average of 88 percent of the black vote was Democratic in presidential elections from 1964 to 2008. No Republican presidential candidate managed to crack 15 percent in that period. Eisenberg seems to have encountered some of this persistent political allegiance himself in his focus groups:

Despite record increases in homicides in nearby Philadelphia, many participants insisted that the Democratic Party and its leadership did not support defunding the police. Simply saying that Democrats want to “defund” law enforcement may work for the GOP base, but Republicans will have to prove it to these voters.

Eisenberg doesn’t say how Republicans can “prove” this, beyond stressing that “Republicans will have to support policies like funding de-escalation training and recruiting more diverse officers” — i.e., policies already championed by Democrats. Leaning in to moderate police reforms might marginally improve the black vote for Republicans, as it did for Trump, but it’s not likely to make a difference in most elections. Eisenberg seems to suggest that the GOP’s moderate improvement with black voters was “enough to flip numerous U.S. House seats won by female and minority candidates.” But he offers no evidence that black voters are what actually made the difference.

There is evidence, however, of the limits of even strong outreach by Republicans, at least as it’s been done recently. Look at Trump’s 2020 campaign. The former president devoted much effort to appealing to African Americans: He touted the low black unemployment rate and his criminal-justice-reform initiatives, spent untold amounts of time and resources attempting to garner the endorsements of high-profile black celebrities, held black outreach events and created a “Black Voices for Trump” arm of his campaign, and unveiled a $500 billion “Platinum Plan” specifically aimed at “black economic empowerment.” He was rewarded for all that with 12 percent of the black vote.

Looking forward, however, Republican inroads with black voters will not be made by moderating on culture and emphasizing economics, the failed minority-outreach strategy long favored by the institutional GOP. Blacks, like many minority groups, are generally in line with Democrats on fiscal issues; they are actually closer to conservatives on cultural ones. Though Eisenberg found that “affordability and taxes” are two issues where Republicans could make headway with black voters, he also acknowledged the cultural conservatism of many African Americans:

Yet many black voters are moderate or conservative — a reality that white progressives and  conservatives seem to forget. On educational issues, for example, half the room erupted at the idea of teachers instructing elementary school-aged children about sex and sexuality — particularly sexual orientation and transgenderism at a young age. Such a strong reaction could place the GOP in a favorable position. As school boards nationwide pursue radical racial curricula, much of it animating white (and black) conservatives, a targeted focus on radical gender ideology could swing concerned parents or grandparents. To properly identify these socially conservative voters, Republicans could start visiting black churches, meeting with clergy and engaging with congregants.

While the relative newness of the issue means that there is not a lot of available data on views of transgenderism by race, it is reasonable to assume that many in the African-American community — long one of the most socially conservative demographics in the country — have serious reservations. Blacks are more likely to self-identify as Christian than any other racial subgroup. Even on issues of race and wokeness, blacks are less likely than white liberals to agree that “racial discrimination is the main reason why black people can’t get ahead these days,” and some polls have shown large majorities disagree with the use of racial preferences in hiring and admissions, even when the initiative was justified by the principle of racial equality. Thorny culture-war issues surrounding gender, wokeness, religious liberty, and public-school curricula are often where the biggest gap lies between black voters and the modern Democratic Party. Republicans could start there.

Politics & Policy

Bernie Sanders: Spend Trillions or America Will Turn to ‘Authoritarianism’

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Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (D., Vt.) attends a hearing to discuss President Biden’s budget request for FY 2022, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., June 8, 2021. (Greg Nash/Reuters)

I have already written against the congealing left-wing conventional wisdom which suggests that, if Democrats don’t get everything they want, then democracy itself has failed. Dan McLaughlin has also weighed in. Alas, this foolhardy notion has already been taken up as a talking point by left-wing politicians. Here’s how Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is attempting to justify the trillions that Democrats want to spend:

It’s on one level disheartening for Sanders to sound like this. He was once a somewhat interestingly heterodox figure, deviating from the Left on guns and immigration. But in his pursuit of and proximity to power, in his two runs for president and now as part of a (narrow) majority in the Senate, he has abandoned his ideological quirks, leaving only the hard-left core of someone willing to mouth talking points from progressive blogs.

On another level, it’s as dishonest as the other left-wing voices who have made this argument. Sanders is not explicitly threatening dictatorship if he doesn’t get what he wants. He’s “just” saying that, if he does not, then some people will conclude that our system doesn’t work, and thereby will be forced to abandon it. Lost on Sanders is the idea of, say, crafting policy on the basis of Democrats’ narrow congressional majorities instead of trying to force a second New Deal or Great Society — whose programs passed with overwhelming congressional approval — on tiny margins in the House and Senate. Or of creating expectations based on those same margins instead of irresponsibly inflating them to exploit the resultant discontent.

And on a third level, Sanders’s second-order threat isn’t even original. When FDR was trying to get his so-called Second Bill of Rights (all economic, all things granted by the state) through Congress in 1944 (Sanders was 2), he engaged in similar demagoguery:

One of the great American industrialists of our day—a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis—recently emphasized the grave dangers of “rightist reaction” in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop—if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called “normalcy” of the 1920’s—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.

Bernie Sanders apparently either expects so much of the government spending he wants to see that he thinks it will save America from authoritarianism, or thinks so little of America that it is on the brink of collapse if not for the trillions he is seeking. Either way, it’s partisan hyperbole that should be rejected.

Elections

Terry McAuliffe Keeps Digging on the 2000 Election Being Stolen

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Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe speaks in Washington, D.C., April 10, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

As I’ve previously noted, Terry McAuliffe’s effort to tie Glenn Youngkin to Donald Trump’s stolen-election theories has been tripped up by McAuliffe’s own record — including from the podium of the Democratic National Convention in 2004, when he was the party’s chairman — of claiming that the 2000 election was stolen. Now, even the media have started asking McAuliffe how he can square his feigned horror with his own record. It has not gone well for McAuliffe:

First off, you may notice that McAuliffe does not, even today, abandon his insistence that the 2000 election was stolen. All he does is mention that Bush did, in fact, become the president. By attempting to justify this two-decade-long stance, McAuliffe violates one of the first rules of politics: If you’re explaining, you’re losing. Where he goes from there also violates the First Rule of Holes: If you’re in one, stop digging.

Second, McAuliffe’s main effort to distinguish the 2000 situation was that the case went to the Supreme Court, whereas Trump’s challenges did not. He even claims that there were “legitimate complaints that went all the way up.” To start with, he’s misremembering the Democrats’ own argument (which he has just finished restating), which was that the case never should have gone to the Supreme Court. It is not as if Trump failed to ask the Supreme Court to hear the case. True, Trump lost nearly every legal case he brought — but so did Al Gore, who lost the original vote, lost the machine and manual recounts, lost in the trial and appeals courts, lost in the Supreme Court, and lost when a newspaper consortium actually counted the votes under Gore’s own requested standard (more on which here). All of this is a way of saying that Al Gore dragged out the legal process as far as he possibly could with a losing hand, and left McAuliffe and other Democrats to keep the attacks on the legitimacy of Bush’s presidency alive ever since.

Third, McAuliffe’s other argument is to note that he was party chairman at the time. This really gives the game away. Hey, he’s telling the voters, we all know it’s the party chairman’s job to say all sorts of malarkey he doesn’t really believe. This is a candid answer, but also a damning one in two ways. Not only does it remind voters that McAuliffe is, in his bones, a political operative, it entirely robs his attack on Youngkin of any moral force whatsoever. If McAuliffe had been chairman of the Republican Party between November 2020 and January 2021, would he have claimed that the 2020 election was stolen? He effectively admitted that he would have. That is, in his worldview, the job.

NR Webathon

Conservatism Is Gratitude

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(Photo: Luther Abel)

“To my mind, conservatism is gratitude,” National Review stalwart Yuval Levin once said. “Conservatives tend to begin from gratitude for what is good and what works in our society and then strive to build on it, while liberals tend to begin from outrage at what is bad and broken and seek to uproot it.” 

So it is with a distinctly conservative sense of gratitude that we express our thanks to those of you who have contributed to National Review‘s Fall Webathon. Your donations affirm that you consider NR itself to be part of “what is good and what works on our society.” And we appreciate that your affiliation with our community, and your belief in our cause, have motivated you to help us build on these things in turn.

Carole Horten graciously gives $500, proudly noting her affinity for NR as an institution. “I am a long time supporter of NR. I wear my William F. Buckley pin with pride. Keep up the good work!” We will do our best, Carole, as you have clearly given us yours. Thank you. 

Robert Jablonski hands over $50, wistfully noting the passage of time. “Twenty five years of NRO. Where has the time (and my hair) gone! Would that I were as improved and meaningful as you guys!” Not to make you feel any older, Robert, but 25 years ago, I was three. If we’re still good enough to earn your loyalty after all these years, then we must be doing something right. And if you’re wise enough to have stuck with us after all this time, you must be no slouch yourself. Thanks, Robert.

Clarence Thompson contributes $200, simply urging us: “Keep up the good work.” Even foolish young people such as myself can understand advice that clear and direct. Thanks, Clarence.

Carl Watson also gives $500, identifying NR’s valuable role as a moral gyroscope for our politics. “No publication acts as the conscience of a nation the way NR does. Keep up the needed work!” Who needs Jiminy Cricket when you have National Review? Thanks, Carl. 

These are only a few of the charitable chums who have contributed to our Fall Webathon thus far. As good conservatives, we are grateful for many things, very much including the friendly funds of our supporters. We quite literally could not do it without you. And we will be further grateful for every additional dollar and supporter that comes our way. 

World

Putting China’s Threat to Taiwan in Context

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An illustration of Chinese and Taiwanese national flags alongside military airplanes, April 9, 2021 (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

The spike in Chinese military flights into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone has inspired a rash of commentary from progressive and nationalist voices that calls for properly understanding the “context” of the situation — as if the context were not China’s decades-long military buildup and the Chinese Communist Party’s promises to “reunify” Taiwan with the mainland.

Meanwhile, these writers rap journalists and other commentators for supposedly overinflating the threat and for pointing out that the flights are a major provocation. Most of the time, the authors of pieces downplaying the party’s malign intent fail to mention that the flights do have an immediate impact: They’re wearing down the Taiwanese armed forces to soften the ground for an eventual assault.

There’s no fearmongering here, contrary to what some people claim. Beijing’s actions speak for themselves, and putting the onus on U.S. officials to reduce tensions, as some have done, is to call for appeasement of what the party demands. The party has demanded a lot.

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott put this succinctly during a speech in Taiwan on Friday. He told an audience that he once “hesitated to attend this conference lest that provoke China.” He explained why his view changed:

But since then, Beijing has torn-up the “one country, two systems” treaty on Hong Kong; put upwards of a million Uighurs into concentration camps; boosted cyber spying on its own citizens; cancelled popular personalities in favor of a cult of the new red emperor; brutalized Indian soldiers in the Himalayas; coerced other claimants in its eastern seas; and flown evermore intimidatory sorties against Taiwan.

It’s weaponized trade, especially against Australia, with our barley, wine and coal exports all stopped on spurious safety grounds, and its embassy has published 14 demands – essentially that we become a tributary state – that no self-respecting country could accept.

The trigger was politely seeking an impartial inquiry into the origins of the Wuhan virus.

So this year, I’m here, having concluded that China’s belligerence is all self-generated.

That’s the context of China’s flights into Taiwan’s ADIZ. None of these issues can be siloed off from Beijing’s military harassment of Taiwan, because everything on Abbott’s list contributes to the same goal: making the world safe for the party’s dominance.

Attempting to smooth over the incursions, and the attendant saber rattling of CCP mouthpieces (which has been far more extreme than what American China hawks have ever said), is not merely a matter of debating the degree to which Washington should support Taiwan. It’s a call for abandoning Taiwan and any attempt at establishing the deterrence that stands a chance at heading off a conflict.

Education

‘Garland’s Intimidation Game’

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Today on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Michael discuss Merrick Garland’s targeting of CRT-protesting parents, the Facebook whistleblower, and McConnell’s debt deal with the Democrats. Listen below, or follow this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

 

Law & the Courts

Biden’s DOJ Targets Parents Who Criticize School Boards

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In this Liberty Unyielding piece, attorney Hans Bader takes a careful look at the justifications offered for Attorney General Merrick Garland’s willingness to sic the feds on parents who complain vociferously about the way their schools are being taken over by leftist ideologues.

The justifications are feeble, but the threat to freedom of speech is real.

Here’s a slice from Bader’s article: “Speech can’t be punished just because it makes someone look bad and leads to them getting hate mail.  The Wisconsin Supreme Court made that clear when it ruled in favor of a conservative professor whose criticism of a bossy progressive instructor led to her getting hostile emails and hate mail from angry members of the public. (See McAdams v. Marquette University (2018)). So even if a school board receives angry emails after a parent calls films them or them “Marxist,” that’s still speech protected by the First Amendment.”

Read the whole thing.

The Biden Regime has no respect for the Constitution or any law that restricts federal power and will get away with violations as long as possible.

Education

Praxis Means Censorship of Anti-China Tweets

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Yesterday, I wrote about Emerson College’s absurd suspension of its Turning Point USA chapter on the grounds that a sticker it distributed with an anti-China message — “China kinda sus” — is racist. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which is representing the group, says Emerson’s administration is digging itself a deeper hole — this time by hiding replies to its tweets critical of the Chinese government:

In addition to subjecting its students to an unfair disciplinary process, the college administration has, as I wrote, effectively accepted the argument made by Emerson’s Chinese Student Association — that the anti-Chinese government rhetoric represented in TPUSA’s sticker is racist.

It’s no surprise that the school’s Social Justice Center has signed onto messages condemning the students for using “xenophobic weapons,” just as it’s no surprise that that office has a decidedly radical agenda couched in the language used by professional activists. The center’s mission statement is emblematic of the framing taken up by university administrators across the country:

The Social Justice Center works with and supports individuals and communities through personal and systems advocacy, community-centered projects, and radical care. We believe in individual and community self-determination and work in support of the agency of students, faculty, and staff, especially those from marginalized groups. We engage in an ongoing practice of praxis—reflection and action—and work to deepen our own liberatory practices and to create liberatory spaces for others.

At Emerson, praxis is about calling out, punishing, and censoring those who want to condemn a foreign authoritarian government’s mass atrocities. The same might also be true at other college campuses as more China-related controversies are sure to take center stage in the coming years.

Politics & Policy

Bernie Sanders Keeps Making Case for 48-Senator Minority Rule

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Sen. Bernie Sanders during a Senate Budget Committee hearing to examine President Biden’s proposed budget request for fiscal year 2022 on Capitol Hill, June 8, 2021. (Shawn Thew/Pool via Reuters)

Senator Bernie Sanders keeps clinging to a bizarre argument that somehow a minority of 48 U.S. senators should determine what becomes law.

Last week, he tried to make this point on Twitter:

As many people pointed out at the time, this tweet conveniently leaves out the 50 Republican senators. Followed to its conclusion, this would suggest that 52 senators should not be able to block what a minority of 48 senators want. If you were wondering whether Sanders would back off this absurd talking point, think again. He’s been making the same point to reporters today.

Back during the Obamacare debate, it was popular for the Left to complain that a majority of senators supported a public option, but that it couldn’t pass because they couldn’t get all 60 Democrats on board. But at least that is consistent with an anti-filibuster argument — ie, arcane Senate rules are allowing a minority to block what the majority want. In this case, however, Sanders is trying to argue in favor of minority rule by pretending he’s actually arguing in favor of majority rule.

Politics & Policy

Democrats in Too Much Array

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Ezra Klein has a longish, but well-worth-reading, article on a set of debates among Democrats about political strategy and how their policy agenda fits into it. The headline is “David Shor Is Telling Democrats What They Don’t Want to Hear,” and Klein gives ample space to Democrats’ attempts to rationalize not hearing it.

There are two submerged themes in the article. First: In general, which is to say with important exceptions, economic issues are better vote-getters for the Democrats than social and cultural ones.

Second: Democrats continue to debate a set of options about appealing to working-class voters that does not include moving right on social and cultural issues. The 2016 version of Bernie Sanders tried emphasizing economic issues instead. Shor recommends downplaying cultural issues that put Democrats crosswise with working-class voters. He cites Obama’s relative silence about immigration in 2012 as a case in point, and says that Democrats need to recover some of the wisdom of Bill Clinton’s successful politics of the 1990s.

But Obama and Clinton did not simply shut up about such issues: They paid respect to non-liberal positions. Clinton said abortion should be “rare,” Obama said that his immigration policy would concentrate on “deporting dangerous criminals,” and Democrats up and down the ticket prefaced any remarks about gun control by promising they weren’t planning on restrictions on the great mass of law-abiding gun owners. They don’t offer such reassurances today, and apparently they don’t even talk among themselves about offering them.

Politics & Policy

Washington Post: House Democrats Admit Hyde Doesn’t Apply to New ‘Medicaid-like’ Program

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Rep. Pramila Jayapal, (D., Wash.) speaks during a hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law on “Online Platforms and Market Power” on Capitol Hill, July 29, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via Reuters)

Washington Post reporter Rachel Roubein writes today in the “Health 202” newsletter (emphasis added):

In yesterday’s Health 202, we wrote that since congressional spending bills still include the Hyde amendment, it’s possible the restrictions on federal funding for abortions could still apply to a new federal Medicaid program being weighed by congressional Democrats for their social spending bill.

It’s not yet clear what a final package would look like. However, the Energy and Commerce Committee — which advanced a Medicaid proposal — does not believe Hyde restrictions under current law would apply to the new Medicaid program, according to a committee spokesperson. That’s because as the legislation is currently written, the new Medicaid program would not be subject to annual appropriations, but rather contain its own appropriations. 

National Review has been reporting since July that the congressional Democrats’ proposed “Medicaid-like” program would provide taxpayer funding of elective abortion because it would be fully funded by the federal government “outside of the annual appropriations bill that funds the Medicaid program and has for many years included the Hyde amendment.”

But today’s report in the Post may be the first time that congressional Democrats have admitted on the record that the new “Medicaid-like” program in twelve states that didn’t expand traditional Medicaid would fund elective abortion.

Pramila Jayapal, leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, falsely claimed on CNN on Sunday that “none of the dollars” in the House Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill would be spent on elective abortions.

Democrat Raphael Warnock of Georgia, chief sponsor of the Medicaid-expansion legislation in the Senate, dodged the question when asked by National Review if the new program would fund abortions. “The bill addresses health care. Next question,” Warnock said in July. Does Warnock think health care includes abortion? “Next question,” Warnock replied, refusing to answer a second time. When Warnock was talking to reporters in the Capitol in September, I asked him the same question. He went silent.

As National Review previously reported, the new Medicaid-like program isn’t the only way the House Democrats’ reconciliation bill would fund abortion: 

Because the new Medicaid program in these twelve states wouldn’t be up and running until 2025, the bill would, starting in 2022, make these low-income individuals eligible for Obamacare plans that the government would subsidize to the tune of 99 percent of the actuarial value of medical expenses (up from 94 percent under current law).

Obamacare plans in these twelve states do not currently cover taxpayer funding of abortion — the Affordable Care Act allowed states to prohibit elective abortion coverage in their exchanges — but the House Democrats’ bill appears to do an end run around that prohibition, too, starting in 2024.

The language in the House Energy and Commerce bill is convoluted, but it is hard to see how it isn’t designed to fund abortions in the Obamacare exchanges in the twelve states that didn’t expand Medicaid. The House reconciliation bill would require funding for family-planning services “which are not otherwise provided under such plan[s]” in Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act already requires plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives with no co-pay or cost-sharing, but as HealthCare.gov notes: “Plans aren’t required to cover drugs to induce abortions.” So family-planning services “not otherwise provided” means abortion.

These aren’t the only ways the House Energy and Commerce Committee bill would fund abortion. It also includes funding starting in 2024 for “non-emergency medical transportation services,” which could mean that enrollees could be transported at taxpayer expense for an abortion at any point in pregnancy. And it includes “public health” funding that could be used to train doulas and others to assist or perform elective abortions.

So, if Manchin really means that “the Hyde amendment is a red line” for him and Democrats want to pass reconciliation, what can they do? They appear to have two options

Option 1: Senate Democrats could explicitly include the Hyde amendment in the reconciliation bill. This has been done before. The Senate parliamentarian has typically held that the Hyde amendment is subject to 60 votes in reconciliation, but the 60-vote threshold is required only if a senator raises a point of order. In 1997, when Congress created the Children’s Health Insurance Program through a reconciliation bill, Democratic senator Patty Murray’s point of order was withdrawn, and the Hyde amendment was permanently attached to the program.

Option 2: Senate Democrats could route all relevant funds through funding streams to which the Hyde amendment will be applied. For example, rather than creating a new “direct appropriation” for the new Medicaid-like program, the funding would come from the Labor-HHS appropriations bill to which the Hyde amendment will apply. If any relevant funds in the reconciliation bill can’t be rerouted through Hyde-protected programs or appropriations bills, they could be stripped out and taken up during the normal appropriations process.

Option 2 could involve keeping the Medicaid expansion population on the Obamacare plans that cover 99 percent of all costs rather than standing up a new “Medicaid-like” program:

Politico reports that another option under consideration is “allowing low-income adults to get free private coverage through Obamacare’s insurance marketplaces.”

When Obamacare passed in 2010, it subsidized insurance plans that cover elective abortions (and still does), but it also gave states the ability to pass laws applying the Hyde amendment to all of the health-insurance plans offered on respective Obamacare exchanges. None of the twelve states that declined to expand Medicaid offers elective-abortion coverage in their taxpayer-subsidized Obamacare exchanges. So expanding Obamacare coverage in only those states would not result in taxpayer funding of elective abortion.

World

Really, Nobel Committee? No Other Big Achievements This Year in Medicine?

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Part of the podium at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies in Oslo, Norway, December 10, 2001 (Jerry Lampen/Reuters)

I have no real objection to awarding the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, dissident journalists in the Philippines and Russia, respectively, and this is really more Jay Nordlinger’s wheelhouse, but…

… wouldn’t the COVID-19 vaccine makers be the most natural choice for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize? Haven’t they done the most good for the most people all around the world in the past year? If you’re thinking the world’s vaccine makers would be the natural choice for the Nobel Prize for Medicine… no, this year that prize went to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, for “discoveries [that] have unlocked one of the secrets of nature by explaining the molecular basis for sensing heat, cold and mechanical force.” That sounds swell, but doesn’t saving the world from a deadly global pandemic sound like a really sterling achievement?

Still, I guess giving the Nobel Prize to dissident journalists is better than giving it to Yassir Arafat, the European Union, the United Nations, or to Barack Obama in 2009 based entirely on his potential.