Critical Race Theory (CRT), once regarded as a lunatic doctrine propounded by obscure leftists at overpriced northeastern colleges, has proliferated into K–12 classrooms, federal, state, and local government, businesses, and even pre-schools. As such, it’s no longer merely lunatic, but dangerous.
The Legal Insurrection Foundation has established a website documenting Critical Race Training at more than 200 colleges and universities across the country. The site provides information to parents and students about the nature and extent of CRT at these institutions.
CRT/1619 Project indoctrination is advancing with blinding speed and little resistance throughout American institutions. Legal Insurrection’s compendium provides valuable information to challenge the advance.
Senators Rubio and Lee put out a statement opposing Senator Romney’s child-allowance plan (which I wrote about this morning). The duo has been promoting tax relief for parents for years, but think that Romney’s plan goes too far by providing benefits beyond what households pay in federal taxes.
You may agree with their view; you may find it a niggling or mistaken criticism of Romney’s plan. But there’s nothing dishonest about their statement, let alone “incredibly dishonest,” as my colleague Cameron Hilditch puts it. All Hilditch actually establishes is that the duo’s short statement does not comment on some features of the Romney plan he thinks they should have. Which is all fine fodder for a debate about the plan, which I suspect the senators themselves will conduct with sobriety.
The presses, still hot to the touch, have printed the latest issue of NR, heading towards those who enjoy their conservatism in ink and paper. But the February 22, 2021, issue is also immediately available — this very moment — to NRPLUS members (more on that below). Right now, if you were to ask — would you recommend four or five pieces in the new edition? — we’d answer of course. And since all the content is great, we’d recommend randomly. Well, not so at random, because it’s only fair to highlight the cover essay, written by Charles C. W. Cooke, on America’s “Illiberal Moment,” which argues that the necessary virtues of humility, tolerance, and forbearance are declining. Elsewhere in the issue, Ryan Streeter investigates the rise of anti-progressivism within certain urban communities, Ramesh Ponnuru examines the zig-zag utterances of Anthony Fauci (and how much slack he may need to be cut), Shawn Regan assesses the harm that will result from Joe Biden’s oil- and gas-leasing ban, and Joseph Epstein offers an exceptional essay on the death of humor (it’s no laughing matter). We’d recommend more, but there are limits to the content one can access . . .
Okay, one more: David Harsanyi knocks New York governor Andrew Cuomo (and his colossal ego) off his pedestal.
And now, to keep our promise about NRPLUS: If you’re not a member, you should be. Membership entitles you to many benefits, the key ones being instant access to all magazine content (including the archives), no paywall obstructing you from primo articles, and a heck of a lot fewer ads clogging up your screen. Get complete information, and become a paywall-avoiding member, right here.
Today’s Bloomberg Opinioncolumn concerns Senator Romney’s plan to make the welfare state more parent-friendly. While the details are important and deserve further scrutiny, I close with a general thought about how policy proposals like this one could help the intra-Republican debate break out of a rut:
There are some Republicans who want to go back to a pre-Trump conservative orthodoxy that shortchanged families in its obsession with lowering marginal tax rates and other free-market goals. There are other Republicans who in practice reduce the idea of a conservatism that works for lower-income Americans to fealty to Trump’s policies or, worse, to the man himself.
Romney is the least Trumpy Republican imaginable, but he is not pushing all and only the same ideas he did when he ran for president in 2012. Maybe, just maybe, the party can find a productive way forward on social policy that isn’t defined either by Trump or what came right before him.
Americans purchased over 2 million firearms in January, 2021, a 79 percent spike over January 2020. It’s the third-highest one-month total since the FBI began running NICS background checks. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, three of the top ten weeks and ten of the top single-day historic highs in gun purchases occurred this January.
CNN attempts to tie the spike in gun ownership to the Capitol riots: “Gun sales in January set a new record after Capitol Hill insurrection.” But the binge has been ongoing for nearly a year. As one gun-shop owner in Chicago put it last week: “It’s the busiest you could ever imagine. It’s been lines around the block, out the door, around my store every day since March.” March is when the coronavirus pandemic hit, and when Americans likely began feeling like they were losing control of their lives. A bigger spree came during summer, as left-wing riots erupted around the country, and national Democrats began to entertain the idea of defunding the police.
Anti-gun activists often argue that ownership numbers are artificially inflated by knuckle-draggers who hoard firearms. In 2007, Gallup reported that 44 percent of Americans lived in a gun-owning household. In 2019, that number remained at 44 percent. Most gun owners are not exactly what you’d call “sharers,” so the number is likely higher. We do know that in 2020 there were 8.4 million first-time gun buyers in 2020. Among them: an unprecedented number of African Americans and women, who accounted for somewhere around 40 percent of all first-time buyers. The numbers would likely be even higher if demand weren’t causing shortages.
We’re in the midst of the greatest expansion of gun ownership in American history. There have been other surges — in the 1950s, for example, interest in hunting and sports shooting led to a resurgence in gun ownership — but the contemporary gun owner isn’t buying rifles for deer hunting; the majority are buying semi-auto handguns for personal protection.
Democrats have already begun floating attacks on the Second Amendment. There’s a House bill introduced by Texas representative Sheila Jackson Lee that would publicly list the names of all gun owners and require every gun owner in America to undergo a psychological examination. Though it’s unlikely to pass, Joe Biden has embraced, and surrounded himself with, gun restrictionists. So expect this surge to continue into the year.
Stripped of all euphemism, government is nothing more than organized violence. That’s why we should all want less of it in our lives. But contrary to what Thomas Paine once said (and what President Reagan was fond of repeating, to the great consternation of George Will), we don’t in fact have it in our power to make the world over again. We’ve inherited a Leviathan in the form of our vast federal government, and we can’t pull the plug on it all at once. Americans should be content to see bad spending replaced by good spending in the meantime, so long as the former really is replaced, rather than simply added to.
Mitt Romney’s Family Security Act would accomplish just that. It would fuse “overlapping and often duplicative” federal programs into a single monthly payment administered by the Social Security Agency. By repealing more-numerous and complex federal aid programs, Romney’s plan would also be deficit-neutral. It’s more like an efficient reform of federal funds that are currently being spent unwisely than a new spending proposal. By simplifying the means of access, the plan would also relieve the often-byzantine administrative burden on poor families trying to take advantage of the welfare assistance that taxpayers provide.
In concrete terms, Romney’s reform would provide monthly benefits of $350 to young children, beginning a few months before birth, and $250 a month to school-aged kids. Senators Rubio and Lee recently came out against the bill. In a joint statement, they wrote that they “do not support turning the Child Tax Credit into what has been called a ‘child allowance,’ paid out as a universal basic income to all parents. That is not tax relief for working parents; it is welfare assistance.”
Rubio and Lee’s criticism is incredibly dishonest. In their statement, they try to neatly juxtapose their own preference for tax relief with Senator Romney’s supposed enthusiasm for welfare spending. But they completely ignore the reforms to the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit that are proposed in the Family Security Act.
At present, for instance, the Earned Income Tax Credit is designed surgically to assist single parents. Targeting this particular demographic, it also places a heavy tax burden on working-class marriages. Romney’s reforms would simplify the EITC into a generalized incentive to work, which would be great for married families who are less well-off. As Lyman Stone summarizes in this excellent thread, Rubio and Lee seem oblivious to the fact that Romney’s EITC reforms actually fix a worrying welfare cliff that already exists: the strain that the EITC in its current form puts upon millions of working-class marriages. Stone also points out the fact that under Romney’s proposals, the point of annual income at which marriage becomes a clear and obvious economic boon is lowered from around $28,000 to around $12,000.
In sum, the Family Security Act alleviates child poverty, is deficit-neutral, incentivizes marriage among working-class Americans, and either abolishes or reforms various ill-thought-out and profligate welfare programs. So long as none of these things are taken off the table during negotiations, there’s no good reason for any lawmaker in Washington to oppose this legislation.
You all might be living in 21st-century America, but those of us who reside in this new version of Moscow, circa 1975, have to scoff at quasi-optimism. Beat COVID-19? With a bunch of dysfunctional Safeway websites? With dozens of different institutions, each one requiring different forms and a different registration?
Signs that we live in a dying superpower are all around us. Officials seem to make illogical, chaotic decisions; and everything is much more complicated than
My Impromptus column today is headed “How populists talk, &c.” The Louisiana senator John Kennedy delivered a spectacular example of populist rhetoric. It would have made Huey Long, the Kingfish, blush (or beam). My column also touches on Tom Brady, Dolly Parton, Shirley Jones, and other greats.
Among them, William F. Buckley Jr.
Speaking of NR past, a reader writes,
Remember the late, great William A. Rusher? Of course you do. [WAR was for many years the publisher of this magazine.] He retired to San Francisco, which was a major surprise to many of us conservatives, for some of the reasons you identify. I can’t exactly remember his response, but it was something like: It’s a great city, and if you don’t like where I live, that’s too bad for you.
The reader was responding to my Impromptus of Wednesday, which leads with California, and with San Francisco, in particular. I was penning a lament, really. It was half ode, half cry of despair.
I’d like to publish a long letter, very informative, very interesting. Thanks to all who have written, and read.
I appreciated your article today. I don’t know how many readers you have in San Francisco, or the last time you visited, so I thought you might be interested in some on-the-ground perspective.
My wife and I have lived in the City for 21 years (we are originally from the East Coast). One peculiarity of being here is the fascination that the rest of the country has with the conditions of the place — I have for years regularly received inquiries from family members and friends about reports in the media that the City is falling apart. As you might expect, the reality is more complex.
I have always regarded San Francisco as reasonably well run: The services I expect to get from a municipal government are generally effective; the people who run big operations like the airport and the Public Utilities Commission are professional and competent; the infrastructure (with a few glaring exceptions) is in good shape. The Presidio, the Marin Headlands, Golden Gate Park — all likely as you remember them, if not better (and absolutely vital during the lockdowns).
The current mayor, London Breed, is unquestionably liberal, but like her predecessors, including Gavin Newsom, she is quite practical about what it takes to run the City (and consequently is regarded with suspicion by progressives). Day-to-day existence is not a struggle against dystopia. I rarely encounter homeless people, and I don’t have to step over hypodermics or human excrement, nor do I fear for my safety. I am generally unconcerned that my daughter, a senior at a Catholic high school, frequently moves around the City on her own. Of course, there are neighborhoods where conditions are far worse — whole blocks where the sidewalks are lined with tents. I don’t mean to imply that we don’t have some appalling problems. The urban ills seem more pronounced, I think, because of the city’s compact geography.
But: 25 years of economic prosperity and an influx of new, often affluent residents have allowed San Francisco to indulge itself, and now the cracks are showing. Progressives have long dominated the Board of Supervisors, various commissions, and the school board; and now the DA’s office and the criminal-justice infrastructure. Correlation is not causation, and it is not clear how many of the things that grab the headlines — the rising rates of theft, or the number of people living on the streets — directly result from progressive policy prescriptions. But it is evident that these people are fantastically unsuited to the task of governing.
My observation is that they respond to two things — the loudest progressive voices, regardless of the degree of irrationality; and the wants of the public employees’ unions that help get them elected. Consequently, we get initiatives that are often as incoherent as they are ineffective, and virtue signaling rather than genuine efforts to solve problems. We cannot address the shortage of housing, or the persistence of homelessness, or the fact that in 2020 the number of people in the City who died of drug overdoses was over three times the number who died of COVID. But the Board of Supervisors recently found time to condemn Mark Zuckerberg’s 2015 donation of $75 million to the City’s general hospital (without offering to return the donation), to approve a ban on natural-gas hookups in future home construction (a climate indulgence), and to vote to dip into the City’s reserves to award raises to City employees (despite a massive looming budget deficit).
Let me interrupt the letter in order to ask, “What about that Zuckerberg thing?” Here is a news article, for those interested: “San Francisco board rebukes naming hospital for Facebook CEO.”
Anyway, our reader continues,
As you noted in your article, the school board is wallowing in wokeness even as schools remain closed with no plan for opening — a reminder of why San Francisco has long had a rate of private-school attendance that is among the highest in the nation. Meanwhile, during each election cycle we’re asked to vote on additional taxes — which we keep approving, even with no apparent enhancement in the services for which we are paying.
If there is a limit, it may be determined by the fact that the goose that has laid the golden eggs may have finally had enough. Much has been made of the exodus of tech companies that no longer see the need to put up with the taxes, the challenging business environment, and progressive contempt; and the flight of middle-class and even moderately affluent families is an old story. How much of this is just hype won’t be known for some time, at least until after the pandemic ends. Perhaps it is overly optimistic to believe that these trends (and the accompanying drop in tax revenues) may finally get the attention of the political class.
We alerted conservatives and Buckley Lovers in the NYC and Philadelphia areas about the call for applications for National Review Institute’s popular Burke to Buckley Program. There’s been a good response, so we provide this encore, if only to alert you to the fact that the deadline (February 10) is upon us.
About the program: It’s designed for mid-career professionals (typically ages 35–50) who want to develop a deeper understanding of the foundations of conservative thought. “B-to-B” applicants come from a wide variety of careers. There is a preference for law, finance, health care, education, business, the arts, and the nonprofit section. (It’s not intended for recent graduates, or those working in public policy or politics.)
This spring’s program will run from March to May in New York City and Philadelphia. (If you’re geographically challenged, maybe you know someone, like a son or niece or friend, who is more local and who might benefit from B-to-B.) Accepted participants will gather during eight sessions (over Zoom, and in-person/socially distanced over dinner as well, as local conditions allow) to discuss foundational conservative texts. Each week, an expert (often an NR writer or fellow) will guide the discussion, (be warned: this is not a lecture series), providing a unique opportunity for participants to engage with, and to learn from, one another (and likely form new and worthwhile personal and professional relationships). Program topics include:
William F. Buckley Jr. and American Conservatism
The Founders’ Constitution
Economic Freedom and Political Freedom
Burke, Prudence, and the Spirit of Conservatism
Conservatism, Libertarianism, and Fusionism
Mediating Structures between the State and the Individual
Conservatism, Democracy, and Foreign Policy
The Conservative Spirit and Civic Gratitude
Does this sound like something that might interest you, or someone you know? How couldn’t it?! So apply – now. Do that here. One more time: Applications will close on February 10. The program cost for participants is $500 (which covers a mere third of the actual per-participant cost).
In addition to the rewarding program, B-to-B participants join a nationwide alumni network, and will be invited to various National Review Institute events. Program applications for both cities are found here. Those with questions should contact the great Lynn Gibson, who runs B-to-B with grace and style, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember: The deadline is February 10. (Is there an echo in here?)
Many college graduates have trouble finding a job that pays well enough for them to cover their student-loan payments. Often, they find out that their bachelor’s degrees have left them poorly equipped to deal with the realities of the labor market — generic degrees don’t get you very far these days.
What they need, embedded in their degrees, are certificate programs focused on particular skills. So argues Lawrence Peterson, dean emeritus at Kennesaw State in Georgia in today’s Martin Center article.
Peterson asks, “So why aren’t colleges offering courses that teach students the skills employers want? The answers lie with university faculty who make course and curriculum decisions. Without industry experience, faculty cannot teach workplace skills.”
He’s right. Most academics have no experience in the business world. In fact, many of them are rather hostile to it. Business smacks of profit-seeking, competition, and other deplorable traits.
What does Peterson have in mind? He explains:
Certificate programs are packages of four or more courses focused on specific employers’ needs that teach students in-demand skills. Colleges could also mandate an industry internship as part of a certificate program, so students gain relevant working experience. Many of those courses will require adjunct faculty who actively work in the business world. Academics seldom have the experience or the industry perspective needed to teach those more practical courses, as they connect theory with real-world application.
At Kennesaw State, one successful certificate program was set up for biology students: Regulatory Affairs and Clinical Trials. Peterson gives other instances as well.
Many previous examples focus on STEM disciplines, but certificates can enhance other degree programs. By embedding such programs within arts, humanities, and business degrees, universities become more relevant, and college degrees can be more valuable to graduates and employers.
Katy Balls has written a fascinating report for The Spectator on Britain’s “Vaccine Taskforce,” explaining how it is that the U.K. coronavirus management went from being one of the worst to one of the best countries in the world:
Rolling out the vaccines needed military precision — and the military. Soldiers from 101 Logistic Brigade, under the command of Brigadier Phil Prosser, had been embedded in the NHS since the PPE debacle. ‘They used the same principles of logistics that they did in Afghanistan or Iraq,’ says one official. ‘To them, there is no such thing as “Can’t do it”.’
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky speaking at the White House, Wednesday: “There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely . . . while we are implementing the criteria of the Advisory Committee and of the state and local guidances to get vaccination across these eligible communities, I would also say that safe reopening of schools is not — that vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools.”
Notice no ifs, ands, buts, caveats, or uncertainty in Walensky’s statement.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, yesterday: “Dr. Walensky spoke to this in her personal capacity. Obviously, she’s the head of the CDC, but we’re going to wait for the final guidance to come out so we can use that as a guide for schools around the country.”
What absolute nonsense. The director of the CDC does not issue personal opinions about public health that contradict her agency’s official views. (If she did, that would be quite a story, and call into question whether she should remain as director of the CDC.) Walensky’s assessment is her assessment. There is no other secret different assessment lurking in the back somewhere.
We were told a million times that Joe Biden and his administration would listen to the experts and “SCIENCE!” and not allow political pressure to sway public-health policy. And the first time the CDC’s assessment contradicts a political ally of the Biden administration, Jen Psaki stands up there and tells people not to listen or heed the conclusion delivered at the exact same podium the day before.
In a letter this morning to Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), 48 Republican senators have pledged to oppose any spending bill that does not contain the Hyde amendment or other pro-life protections.
Since 1976, Hyde has been added on a bipartisan basis to federal spending bills to prevent taxpayer money from directly reimbursing abortion providers for the cost of elective abortions.
Today’s letter — a copy of which was provided exclusively to National Review — was spearheaded by Montana senator Steve Daines, who founded and chairs the Senate Pro-Life Caucus, and its signatories include every GOP senator aside from Susan Collins (R., …
He correctly points out that mandating a higher minimum wage is certain to cause many low-skilled workers to lose their jobs and many others who are just entering the labor force to find it extremely difficult ever to find employment. Their labor simply isn’t worth the mandated hourly payment.
Leftist politicians pooh-pooh that, claiming there are some studies “proving” that job losses due to the minimum wage are slight. But it’s clear that they know they’re sawing off the bottom rungs of the employment ladder; otherwise, they’d make it much higher.
What I think is really dark is the way such politicians look at the consequences of their meddling with the price system. First, those workers who are priced out of the labor market just become clients for other Democratic Party programs and, more importantly, part of their voting base of frustrated people who are easy marks for rhetoric about creating “an economy that works for everyone.”
Second, minimum-wage agitation (“Fight for $15!) implants the idea in people’s minds that the way to get ahead in America is through political activism, not personal improvement. The “progressives” want people to look to government for whatever they want, and minimum-wage laws help do that.
If you consider minimum-wage laws from a public choice perspective, they’re a big success for the people they’re meant to help — leftist politicians.
Over at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s blog, there’s a worthwhile report on analysis of Beijing’s Taiwan harassment by the think tank’s director, Peter Jennings. ASPI’s research is the gold standard when it comes to analysis of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) malign influence operations and foreign policy.
Jennings submitted testimony to the U.S. Economic and Security Review Commission last week, writing that the CCP’s incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone could well give way to a major crisis this year. From ASPI’s post on the testimony:
In a series of written responses to questions from the US–China Economic and Security Review Commission today, Jennings says he believes the CCP will continue to test the boundaries of international patience in its operations against Taiwan and in the first island chain until the US and its allies feel compelled to attempt to limit Beijing’s behaviour.
A failure of the US to respond would challenge its credibility as a security partner.
At any time, Chinese President Xi Jinping could reduce the rhetorical tone and limit the People’s Liberation Army’s military exercises and air incursions, Jennings says, but Xi stands to lose nothing if he keeps testing the limits.
‘This gives rise, in my view, to a possible major crisis on Taiwan or the East China Sea in 2021.’ Jennings says Beijing will have developed a menu of options to pressure concessions from Taipei related to its political autonomy. ‘This does not have to involve a PLA amphibious assault of Taiwan’s northern beaches, but it could involve maritime blockades, closing airspace, cyber assaults, missile launchings around (and over) Taiwan, use of fifth column assets inside Taiwan, use of PLA force in a range of deniable grey-zone activities and potentially seizing offshore territory—Quemoy and Matsu, Pratas, and Kinmen Islands. Beijing will continue to probe with military actions, test international reactions and probe again.’
Keep an eye on the CCP’s grey-zone warfare — and on ASPI’s research.
The Nebraska Republican party is likely to vote on a resolution censuring Senator Ben Sasse for criticizing Donald Trump and blaming the former president for the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Sasse responds to the censure resolution with a video in which he directly addresses members of the Nebraska GOP State Central Committee:
“What Americans saw three weeks ago was ugly shameful mob violence to disrupt a constitutionally mandated meeting of Congress to affirm that peaceful transfer of power,” Sasse says. “It happened because the president lied to you.”
Here’s a rough transcript of Sasse’s remarks:
Hey Guys. I want to talk to the members of the state central committee.
I’ve heard from many of you in the days since the attack on the Capitol – threatening another censure…for what I said about the president’s lies after the election. As a friend and fellow Republican, I wanna shoot straight: I’m not gonna spend any time trying to talk you out of another censure. I listen to Nebraskans every day, and very few of them are as angry about life as some of the people on this Committee – not all of you, but a lot. Political addicts don’t represent most Nebraska conservatives.
When Melissa and I first ran, back in 2014, we spoke with hundreds of thousands across this gorgeous state. And we promised to speak out when our leaders – not just Democrats, but any leader in either party – crossed the line. We pledged to put the Constitution ahead of party politics. You gave me standing ovations.
My Election Night speech – the first time I ever ran for or got elected to anything – was a simple promise that I’d “always vote my conscience, even if it might be against the stream.” You cheered.
But many of the same party officials who applauded in ’14, cussed me out in ’16 when I refused to vote for Candidate Trump; and again when I declined to serve on his reelection committee in ’19; and again when I didn’t vote for his reelection in ’20.
Now, many of you are hacked off that I condemned his lies that led to a riot.
Let’s be clear: the anger in this state party has never been about me violating principle or abandoning conservative policy – I’m one of the most conservative voters in the Senate – the anger’s always been simply about me not bending the knee to…one guy. But my disagreements with President Trump have never been personal – they’ve always been about my genuine affection for the constitutional order, something every American regardless of party should share.
January 6th is gonna leave a scar. For 220 years, one of the most beautiful things about America has been our peaceful transfer of power. But what Americans saw three weeks ago was ugly – shameful mob violence to disrupt a constitutionally mandated meeting of Congress to affirm that peaceful transfer of power.
It happened because the president lied to you. He lied about the election results for 60 days, despite losing 60 straight court challenges – many handed down by wonderful Trump-appointed judges.
He lied by saying that the vice president could violate his constitutional oath and just declare a new winner.
He then riled a mob that attacked the Capitol – many chanting “Hang Pence.”
If that president were a Democrat, we both know how you’d respond.
But, because he had “Republican” behind his name, you’re defending him.
Something has definitely changed over the last four years…but it’s not me:
-Personality cults aren’t conservative.
-Conspiracy theories aren’t conservative.
-Lying that an election has been stolen isn’t conservative.
-Acting like politics is a religion isn’t conservative.
I still believe every word from the campaign trail. What makes America great isn’t power politics; it’s what happens in the communities where we raise our kids.
Happily, most Nebraskans believe that too. I think that’s why Nebraskans just gave our campaign tens of thousands more votes than President Trump in our state. It’s why our campaign just set all-time vote count records in both the primary and general elections – despite being primaried last year for not being Trumpy – all-time most votes for any candidate in Nebraska history. And look at Omaha, which he lost by a lot – we won handily. Why? I think the reason’s simple: Nebraskans aren’t rage addicts. And that’s good.
You are welcome to censure me again – but let’s be clear about why: It’s because I still believe (as you used to) that politics is not about the weird worship of one dude. The party could purge Trump-skeptics, but I’d like to convince you that not only is this “civic cancer” for the nation, but it’s also terrible for our Party.
But either way, I’m gonna keep doing what I promised. We still agree on some big things – rule of law, constitutionalism, limited government, unlimited human potential, extending the American dream to more of our brothers and sisters – we can lead again … but only if our party is willing to change.
We’re gonna have to choose between conservatism and madness, between just railing about who we’re mad at, versus actually trying to persuade rising generations of Americans again. That’s where I’m focused. And I sincerely hope that many of you will join in celebrating these big, worthy causes for freedom. I know I won’t always get it right; I make a bunch of mistakes. But I’m always gonna work hard for Nebraskans and tell you the truth. Thanks for listening.
President Biden told Republican senators he has “an open door and an open mind” on his $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan. But he already has the votes, and overwhelming support in the country.
Why it matters: Well, power matters. And Biden holds all of it.
Get used to this. Democrats are gleeful as they watch the media fixate on family feuds inside the GOP, while Biden pushes out executive orders and pushes through this bill on his terms.
What’s the hold-up, then? Pass a bill.
Or maybe matters are a bit less certain, just as Yuval Levin wrote here earlier today. Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) has been a vocal critic of the $15 minimum wage included in Biden’s proposal. Whether the proposal qualifies to be included in a reconciliation bill that can be passed by a simple majority in the Senate has yet to be determined.
It passed the House with 231 votes in 2019, but there were eleven more Democrats in the body back then. Polling about a $15 minimum wage has indeed been very positive — Allen refers to a Quinnipiac finding that 61 percent of the public backs it — but polls have previously found that support falls when voters are asked about the possibility of job losses or the alternative of varying the minimum wage by state, which suggests that officials with misgivings about a federal increase need not be intimidated by the strength of support for it.
I think articles such as the one in Axios are part of an effort to increase the chance that the Biden White House gets its way. But I still think it’s going to be harder than the spin suggests — and yes, we should get used to it.
It’s fascinating to watch Democrats in Washington talking themselves in real time into what seems like a serious error.
The argument they are working themselves into accepting is straightforward: The big pandemic-relief bill the president has outlined is urgently needed, Republicans have no interest in seriously working on it so that negotiating with them is just a waste of time, and therefore Democrats should quickly push it through the reconciliation process since it allows them to adopt it all on a partisan basis.
There is reason to think that every part of that argument is mistaken.
There are certainly some urgent policy priorities in the proposal, like renewing expanded unemployment benefits so they don’t all disappear next month and providing some more assistance to states and localities and to the vaccine-distribution effort. But the bill as a whole is not actually that urgently needed. If there were not a new president in office, it’s not likely we would be looking at another relief bill at this point beyond an extension of expiring benefits. The last bill is barely a month old. It was negotiated and developed entirely after the election, and so with the Biden team’s involvement, became law on December 27, and much of the money it appropriated has not even been spent yet.
Some of the spending priorities in the Democrats’ proposal make sense, but they will be of no less use if enacted in a couple of weeks. Others, like a large increase in the federal minimum wage, are just longstanding progressive ambitions — and that particular measure would in any case presumably take effect gradually over years, so that great urgency can’t really be part of the case for it.
Republicans, meanwhile, do seem to be interested in bargaining over pandemic relief and pursuing it together. A group of ten Republican senators, with Mitch McConnell’s blessing, put out a counter-proposal aimed to launch such negotiations. It included all of the direct pandemic-response provisions in the Democrats’ proposal and more modest forms of some of the economic-assistance provisions — like smaller and more targeted checks to individuals and an extension rather than an increase of the emergency unemployment benefits. It did not include an increase in the minimum wage or a large new package of funding for state and local governments.
That Republican proposal, which was the subject of a meeting between those senators and the president at the beginning of the week, could surely serve as the foundation for a quick process of negotiation that would arrive at a bipartisan bill. Such a bill isn’t hard to imagine, since Congress has enacted five of them over the past twelve months.
The decision to push a relief bill through reconciliation, moreover, is not without serious costs and risks. You can usually only advance two reconciliation measures per year, and the Democrats have plenty of other policy priorities to try and advance before the next congressional elections. Using reconciliation for what could fairly easily have been a bipartisan bill is a peculiar choice.
At the same time, it’s far from clear that the most partisan elements of this bill — those least likely to survive negotiation — could actually be enacted through reconciliation. The Democrats say they are confident that a minimum wage hike would qualify, for instance, but the Senate parliamentarian may well balk at that, and Democrats would need to expand the boundaries of the Byrd rule to do it. It isn’t obvious that they have the votes to do that. In fact, it isn’t actually clear that they have 50 votes in the Senate to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour anyway.
So what’s going on here? One explanation could be that key Democrats think the relief bill will be very popular, and they want sole credit for it and to be able to blame Republicans for trying to resist it. New majorities often make this kind of mistake. Democrats thought the Affordable Care Act would pay huge political dividends in 2009–10, and Republicans thought the same of their tax-reform bill in 2017. But the public was not all that invested in either one, and greater efforts toward bipartisanship would have been more useful for both new majorities.
Another related explanation is that the Democrats believe they actually are applying the lessons of 2009–10. They could hardly be more clear in saying so, in fact. Press stories in the last few days are full of this sort of thing:
“It’s about Covid, but it’s also the broader economy, where there’s an asymmetrical risk of doing too little,” one Biden adviser said. “That’s what Biden and Democrats learned in 2009 and they’re not going to do it again.”
“Democrats learned their lesson in 2009 and 2010 about waiting too long or going too small,” a senior adviser said. “The president’s focus is about helping those who are hurting.”
But they take the key lesson of the 2009–10 experience to be that there’s no point trying to work with Republicans, so that rather than waste time trying they might as well just fast forward to a party-line bill.
A lot of Democrats in Washington have genuinely persuaded themselves that the Obama administration and congressional Democrats made extensive, good-faith efforts to bring Republicans into their legislative process back then. Republicans who were in or around the policy process then genuinely remember it very differently. They may be wrong, of course, or may have misread the Democrats’ intentions at the time. And don’t get me wrong: Republicans were not eager to cooperate with the Obama administration either. But clearly this circumstance is altogether different: The policy arena in question has been the scene of more bipartisanship in the past twelve months than any we have seen in two decades. And maybe even more important, the Democrats had 60 Senate votes in 2009 and have only 50 today. The House is also much more narrowly divided.
So the Democrats have much less of a shot at getting a partisan bill enacted, and much less to gain if they did. The advantages of bipartisanship in this case, on the other hand, would be much greater. The coming months are likely to be very frustrating — even if the pandemic-response and vaccine efforts are ultimately going to be judged successes, which I believe both will be. Sharing the response, and giving Republicans some buy-in and fewer excuses to complain, would serve Democrats well. It would also be awfully good for our political culture and the sort of turning down of the temperature that President Biden has said he wants. And proving their willingness to bargain in an area where a deal could be both achievable and reasonable would give Democrats a much stronger case to make when they try party-line bills on more controversial issues later.
The tenor of comments from the White House suggest that at least some senior Democrats, perhaps including the president, can see these points. One Republican senator who attended Monday’s White House meeting reported that Biden seemed much more open to negotiating than his staff did. And administration statements in the wake of the meeting suggested the same. White House comments on the record are all about how the Republicans should agree to support state and local governments while comments off the record are about how there’s no point trying to work with Republicans and it’s time to move on.
Maybe the Democrats will just get it all together. It’s entirely possible. But for now it sure looks like their strategy has a momentum of its own, unconnected to a compelling policy or political logic, and that it has them spending energy and capital in ways that ignore their weak hold on Congress and will only divide their party, unify Republicans against them, look like bumbling to the public, and achieve relatively little.
Many thanks to those of you — nearly 600 as of this writing — who have written against erasing Margaret Thatcher from the public record. We have heard from a lot of women who especially admired Thatcher as a role model, and from everyone from professors to grocers to former Thatcher staffers. There were a few calls for boycotts, which I discourage, but the response was mostly positive and polite — well done, my friends.
Here’s a note that might be of some interest:
I’m center-left and am no real fan of Thatcher — but add my name to your list. Deleting the attribution of that quote is the literary equivalent of Stalin’s deleting people from photographs, full stop.
There are a few — too few — liberals around worth the name.
This little story put me in mind of other stories like it. Jay Nordlinger has written about the “little suppressors” of the nation’s bookstores. I’d like to hear from those of you who have had similar experiences. Leave your stories in the comments.
The Biden Effect at the border is gaining steam faster than I’d expected. My colleague Todd Bensman (whose new book is just out) went to the South Texas border this week and reported that “Border Patrol and ICE are allowing hundreds of Haitians and other migrant nationalities who cross in the Del Rio region to avoid detention or quick return to Mexico; instead they are given Notices to Appear in immigration court at some point in the future and allowed to board Greyhound buses for other parts of the United States.”
As one official told him, “They’re filling bus after bus after bus.”
The Biden DHS says it prefers “alternatives to detention,” which means letting people go. Combine that with the fact that ICE’s new priorities prohibit agents from even looking for illegal aliens who haven’t been convicted of violent felonies, and none of them are ever going to be made to leave. Only about half of those released into the U.S. to apply for asylum actually bother applying, and most of the rest lose their cases, but just stay anyway.
Given that everyone has cell phones, word has already gotten back. The Post story cites a Central American official who said that “smuggling guides have intensified their marketing efforts in Guatemala’s destitute rural highlands in recent weeks, recruiting customers by telling them the Biden administration is taking a softer enforcement approach.”
That’s the bracing title of a recent Wall Street Journalop-ed by Ryan Anderson, the new president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His point is that as important as the defense of religious liberty is, it cannot be the sum and substance of social conservatism’s political agenda. The defense of religious liberty won’t even be enough, as he notes, to protect religious liberty itself.
Jim, it isn’t a solution in search of a problem. They just don’t want to say what the problem is: that there’s a glut of PPE on the market and a lot of slack capacity, and so politically connected firms are leaning on the Biden administration to soak it up through large public purchases, preferably directly from manufacturers.
As Senator Sherrod Brown (D., Procter & Gamble) and Representative Kathy Manning (D., Honeywell) put it in a letter to Joe Biden, “We have too many manufacturers in our states and across the nation that have capacity but no orders.”
If only there were some convenient way of dealing with oversupply!
Once again, Washington must act to defend Americans from the scourge of low prices and abundance.
Bret Stephens goes through a depressing list of defects in California’s blue-state model of governance. Another item that ought to be added: The state’s high poverty rate.
The official poverty measure obscures the point. If you use it, California has a poverty rate that is just a tick below the national average. If you use the supplemental poverty measure — among other things, it accounts for the cost of housing — California has the highest poverty rate in the country. At 17.2 percent, it is worse than the other 50 states, worse than D.C., and accordingly much worse than the national average.
The state’s failure on poverty should count heavily against its governance — especially, given their professed priorities, for progressives.
“Big tent” is now a euphemism for allowing an anti Semitic conspiracy cult to be part of your political coalition. “Big tent” used to mean stuff like “different views about farm subsidies and tax policies” but now it means there are no moral limiting principles.
Even if we concede that Republicans are politically amoral for failing to censure Greene, we are on safe ground noting that Schatz has engaged in immoral partisan behavior by proactively defending Omar’s comments.
Greene has embraced a unifying brand of nuttery that incorporates, among a host of other mind-blowingly stupid ideas, old-school Rothschild conspiracies. It is a dangerous fringe belief, no doubt. Omar embraces the most consequential, narrowly focused, and popular form of anti-Semitism in the world. “Anti-Zionism” has done more to undermine Jewish safety than every QAnon Parler post combined. It is the predominant justification for violence, murder, and hatred against Jews in Europe and the Middle East. Vast numbers of Europeans — from the far left to the far right — now believe, like Omar does, that Zionism is a Jewish plot bent on world domination.
The most insidious part of Schatz’s defense of Omar, however, is the accusation that fellow Jews who even point out her ugly rhetoric are merely peddling “racist talking points.” It is lazy and cynical, of course, but also says a lot about Schatz’s real view of Omar’s intellectual talents that he wants her to hide behind her color rather than stand up for her stated positions.
Another big talking point used by Democrats when they were rationalizing Omar’s rhetoric was that her comments were aimed at the Benjamin Netanyahu government, and that conservatives were “stifling” debate over Israel. The Democratic Party is teeming with Israel critics these days who are never accused of anti-Semitism, so this is risible. As is the notion that Omar is somehow pining for the reemergence of a center-left party, rather than simply an antagonist of Jewish people having a state. Omar’s buddy Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez refused to even participate in a memorial for the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, on the 25th anniversary of his assassination. Does anyone believe Omar would?
As for the Republicans “big tent,” it’s concerning. As I noted in a piece this week, the biggest difference between Kevin McCarthy and Nancy Pelosi is that while one ham-fistedly grapples with the problem, the other celebrated, on major magazine covers, the ascendancy of the haters in her party. Only one of the two championed them as the future of the party. Only one passed a resolution protecting an anti-Semite from genuine censure. The consistent position would be to denounce all crackpots. Schatz can’t do that, because one tribe is more important to him than any other.
During her remarks to colleagues at last night’s closed-door GOP House conference meeting, Liz Cheney defended her vote to impeach Trump over the January 6 Capitol riot and also said “we cannot become the party of QAnon,” referring to the deranged conspiracy theory that Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has promoted in recent years.
“I owe you the truth, I owe my constituents the truth, you owe us the truth, we all owe each other that, and the truth is: We cannot become the party of QAnon, we cannot become the party of Holocaust denial, we cannot become the party of white supremacy,” Cheney said, according to a source in the meeting.
Here’s a longer excerpt of Cheney’s remarks last night:
I have to tell you I am really, deeply, deeply concerned about where we are as a party. I am very concerned about the extent to which we are spending all of our time on these issues and these battles and not on the battles that really matter, the battles over substance, the battles over ensuring that we don’t watch the Biden administration go down the path where they have an open runway to absolutely eliminate our freedom. I’m also concerned we have to stand up. I owe you the truth, I owe my constituents the truth, you owe us the truth, we all owe each other that, and the truth is: We cannot become the party of QAnon, we cannot become the party of Holocaust denial, we cannot become the party of white supremacy. We all watched in horror on what happened on January 6. We had a memorial service this morning for Officer Sicknick, one of the things that we saw on January 6 were members of the mob attempting to break into this building and breaking into this building wearing badges of Neo-Nazis, wearing the symbols of white supremacy—that can never be us. If we ever want to win another election, if we ever want to get back to the point where we are fighting and battling and convincing people that they ought to support us, we have to do it on ideals. We are the party of Lincoln. We are the party of Reagan. We believe in honor and courage, limited government and low taxes. We believe in a stronger national defense and, mostly, we believe in fidelity to the Constitution of the United States.
House minority leader Kevin McCarthy later told reporters that “QAnon has no place inside our party. Marjorie Greene actually said that inside our conference today.”
McCarthy faced some criticism for also saying last night that he was “denouncing Q-on. I don’t know if I say it right, I don’t even know what it is.”
McCarthy indicated that if Greene had made similar comments as a member of Congress, Republicans would strip deny her all committee assignments, just as they had done to former Iowa congressman Steve King. “Now that you’re a member of Congress, now it’s a responsibility of our conference to hold people accountable,” McCarthy said. “We removed Steve King when he made comments as a member of Congress.”
House Democrats will put a resolution up for a vote before the whole House later this afternoon on the floor to strip Greene of committee assignments.
Everywhere you looked during Donald Trump’s baseless challenge to the 2020 election, Democrats and their chief election lawyer, Marc Elias, were touting their string of victories and Trump’s desperate theories of miscounting voting machines as proof of their moral superiority. Truly, they told us, Democrats would never promote the sort of theories that George W. Bush’s opponents (anyone remember what party that was?) pushed in 2005. Then, when a 2020 Democratic House candidate in Iowa — represented by Elias — tried to get the House to throw out the vote totals and seat her, we were told that of course this is something only Republicans would do. Elias’s client, Rita Hart, is stillpetitioning the House to overturn the outcome, even though the Republican, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, was sworn in a month ago. Here is Elias on January 25: “I am more confident now than I was the last I talked to you that Rita Hart is going to be sworn in as the next congresswoman from Iowa (and) that she obtained more lawful votes.”
Now there is just one remaining unresolved House election, involving another Republican woman (Claudia Tenney in upstate New York’s 22d district) whom Elias is trying to bar from the House despite a 122-vote lead over Anthony Brindisi. And guess what Brindisi’s theory in court is? “In this case, there is reason to believe that voting tabulation machines misread hundreds if not thousands of valid votes as undervotes, and that these tabulation machine errors disproportionately affected Brindisi.” This is, as election lawyers not involved in the case note, far-fetched, but it is enough of a pretext for Brindisi to file an appeal based on a voting-machines-stole-my-election theory.
Now, as I have argued before when the Lincoln Project tried to drive away reputable lawyers from representing Trump, lawyers are not responsible for their clients’ causes, only what the lawyers themselves do in the course of representing them. (The same principle should apply to Michigan’s current effort to to disbar Trump lawyers). In Trump’s case, it is quite clear that things took a turn for the worse for the public interest precisely at the point when his original lawyers were chased off the case and he started deploying irresponsible people who spun wild theories of voting-machine malfeasance. If Brindisi and Hart want to pursue election contests, they can hire whatever lawyers they like. Still, it is worth bearing in mind, the next time you hear Marc Elias, that he actually has no objection whatsoever to such theories, or to tying up elections in court long after the outcome is obvious, so long as the people doing it are Democrats.
GOP Conference chair Liz Cheney “managed to cling” to her position as the third-most-powerful Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday by a margin of 84 votes, 145–61. Cheney’s decisive victory will come as a shock to those who take the likes of Florida representative Matt Gaetz seriously. Prior to yesterday’s vote, Gaetz took to Steve Bannon’s podcast to insist that “we have the votes to remove Liz Cheney.” However, he did worry that “somehow the Establishment’s going to find a way to kick the question” or “avoid a vote.” Cheney herself apparently called for the referendum on her leadership, so Gaetz’s already dismal batting average took another dip last night with an “0 for 2” spot.
Those who have been taking their political cues from The Federalist may be similarly surprised this morning. Ben Domenech, the site’s publisher, tut-tutted National Review for issuing an editorial “In Defense of Liz Cheney,”writing, “If National Review wants to die on the 197-10 hill with douchebro Adam Kinzinger, be my guest.” We’re still breathing over here, and in spite of his prediction that “There Is No Future For A Liz Cheney GOP,“ there most certainly appears to be room for Liz Cheney in the GOP. So much room, in fact, that she continues to serve — with a mandate — in party leadership.
The Federalist was so sure that Cheney was on her way out the door, however, that it even published an article titled “House Republicans Prepare To Oust Liz Cheney From Leadership” on Tuesday. Like Gaetz, its author mistakenly reported that “members of the conference have asked for the chance to give an ‘up-or-down’ vote on Cheney’s role in leadership. Cheney is reportedly fighting such a vote.”
The problem with abandoning principled arguments about what is right or just for those you think are most popular at any given moment is that you are destined to lose not only your moral credibility, but also your grip on reality.
I’m sure South Carolina governor Henry McMaster meant well when he announced that beginning Monday, any South Carolina resident aged 65 or older, regardless of health status or preexisting conditions, can begin scheduling appointments to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
The problem is this order creates big expansion of who is eligible for vaccination — one that may or may not be matched by a big expansion of vaccine availability.
South Carolina is administering 21,745 doses per day, ranking 22nd out of the 50 states, and has used just over 70 percent of its supply, ranking 11th out of the 50 states. By most measures, the state is vaccinating its citizens at a pretty good pace. But the Palmetto State just has a whole lot of older residents to get through in the coming weeks and months. The state is a popular destination for retirees and just has about 900,000 seniors, the tenth-highest percentage in the country.
Nine hundred thousand seniors, at a pace of 21,000 vaccinations per day, adds up to just under 41 days — assuming the pace is maintained on weekends and holidays. And keep in mind, until the FDA approves the other vaccines, everyone needs two shots. (At least South Carolina won’t have to worry too much about snowstorms canceling appointments.)
Maybe the upcoming addition of 17 CVS pharmacies will increase the pace of vaccinations in the Palmetto State, but this doesn’t sound like a game-changer: “Supply for the limited rollout in the state, which is sourced directly from the federal pharmacy partnership program, will be approximately 15,300 total doses.”
I recently heard of a 97-year-old South Carolinian who got a vaccination appointment . . . for April 23. Perhaps the silver lining for seniors who are told they’ll have to wait until March or April is that by then the Johnson & Johnson vaccine might be approved and distributed — meaning those seniors’ vaccinations would be complete after one shot.
The House of Representatives has 435 members, and rest assured that at any one time there are several cranks and fanatics in the ranks of both parties.
But House Democrats want to make a special case of one member. They are pressing to censure or expel Marjorie Taylor Greene, a freshman Republican from Georgia, for outrageous statements she made before getting elected. Greene has praised the bizarre and toxic QAnon movement, and in a 2018 Facebook post, she alleged that the Rothschilds, a wealthy Jewish banking family, may have used a laser beam from space to spark a forest fire in order to profit from it.
Democrats should be careful in starting that game. Many of them have said things that could merit removal from their own committee assignments. Representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) once wrote that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” (Omar did apologize for her remark, which was made in 2012.) Her campaign aides are also being investigated for a vote-harvesting operation that allowed non-citizens to vote.
California representative Maxine Waters, who in 2019 urged people to harass Trump administration officials at restaurants or gas stations, now chairs the Financial Services Committee.
What about the vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris, who will be the tie-breaking vote in the U.S. Senate? She has called the rioters in the street this past summer “civil-justice warriors.”
Inside Congress, there’s a saying: “He who is here without sin. . . . Well, never mind, let’s not go down that road.”
For much of 2020, many of us noticed that while Joe Biden and Donald Trump said different things about the pandemic, their policy proposals were more or less the same. Biden’s much touted plan included a lot of generically worded proposals, like “ensure the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority are swiftly accelerating the development of rapid diagnostic tests, therapeutics and medicines, and vaccines” and “work with the CDC and HHS to ensure that health departments and health providers across the country give every person access to an advice line or interactive online advice.”
Biden avoided saying dumb things like the virus “is going to disappear,” the way Trump did. He instead said different dumb things, like, “I’m not going to shut down the country. I’m not going to shut down the economy. I’m going to shut down the virus.”
The Biden White House is considering sending masks directly to American households, according to three people familiar with the discussions, an action the Trump administration explored but scrapped . . .
It’s unclear when the masks would go out to the public, how many would be included per residence and whether they would be disposable or made of cloth. It’s also not yet clear what the cost could be.
As of yesterday, Texas is no longer funding Planned Parenthood, having successfully removed the abortion company from the state’s list of eligible Medicaid providers. The move comes a few months after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas had the right to determine for itself whether or not to fund a particular provider through its Medicaid program.
In that ruling, which I covered for NRO late last November, the Fifth Circuit reversed lower court rulings that had blocked both Texas and Louisiana from defunding Planned Parenthood. The decision came from the entire court, undoing a previous three-judge-panel ruling against Texas.
According to Judge Priscilla Owen, who wrote for the eleven-judge majority on the Fifth Circuit, the women who sued Texas over its decision to defund Planned Parenthood did not have standing to challenge the state’s determination that the abortion group was unqualified. Federal law “does not unambiguously provide that a Medicaid patient may contest a State’s determination that a particular provider is not ‘qualified,’” Owen wrote.
The decision affirmed that states and the federal government, not Medicaid beneficiaries, are the arbiters of whether any given group is qualified to be a Medicaid provider. In Texas, the Health and Human Services Commission first attempted to remove Planned Parenthood from the state Medicaid program after verified undercover footage revealed that the abortion provider had broken federal law by profiting from the sale of the body parts of aborted babies.
Writing at Hot Air, Karen Townsend notes that the largest Planned Parenthood facility in the U.S. is located in Houston. “Planned Parenthood facilities in Texas receive about $3.1 million in taxpayer funding from Medicaid annually,” she adds. “An estimated 8,000 Texans use its facilities every year in the state.”
Texas Right to Life points out that “seven federal circuit courts have now written opinions on whether Medicaid patients can sue states that have disqualified Medicaid providers.” Two of those courts decided in favor of the states, while five ruled against them. Eventually, the question will have to be settled at the Supreme Court.
I’m old enough to remember that there used to be quite a few Republicans and even some sober Democrats who said that the federal government needed to live within its means. Apropos of the Vietnam war, they told LBJ that we couldn’t afford both guns and butter.
Sadly, voices of fiscal sanity have become rare among Republicans, and they have completely vanished among Democrats. In Washington, the theory seems to be that the government can spend as much as politicians want without any adverse effects. To be against “stimulus” spending is to declare yourself a cold-hearted enemy of the public welfare.
But the truth is that wild federal spending, with Biden’s new $1.9 trillion package being Exhibit A for the prosecution, does have adverse effects. In this Liberty Unyielding post, Hans Bader points to some of them.
Bader writes, “Any additional stimulus spending is likely to do far more to increase the national debt, promote dependency on the government, and increase inflation in the future, than it is to help Americans who need help. A growing national debt menaces the economy, because more interest has to be paid on the rising debt. That drives up the cost of government, resulting in increased taxes, increased budget deficits, or both. Increases in either taxes or deficit spending crowd out private investment, as the government borrows money that would otherwise be used in the private sector, to do useful things like build factories or otherwise invest in the economy.”
The crucial challenge to those of us who care about the future of the country is to get through to everyone who will listen that the government has no money or resources of its own. Its vast spending comes at an equally vast opportunity cost. Moreover, it has nasty side effects, especially the way it leads to dependency on government. All of this spending is like booze or drugs: they make you feel good for a little while, but they distort your body and your perceptions, making you worse off in the long run.
Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo’s nomination to lead the Commerce Department sailed out of the Senate Commerce Committee in a 21-3 vote Wednesday morning, in spite of her refusal to commit to keeping Huawei on the Entity List, a U.S. government blacklist.
If she is confirmed, Raimondo will be a power player in the Biden administration’s China policy debates. During the Trump administration, Washington learned to use the Commerce Department’s tools to its advantage in its campaign against the use of CCP-linked tech in the United States.
Raimondo doesn’t seem wholly oblivious to the danger of allowing unfettered access to companies with close ties to Beijing. The Commerce secretary-designate walked a bizarre tightrope during her confirmation hearing in January in which she still promised to “protect Americans and our network from Chinese interference,” but still neglected to commit to keeping Huawei on the Entity List. For good reason, this drew criticism from House Republicans and more than a few of the Republican senators who will eventually have to vote on her nomination.
But it seems that she gave a clearer answer in a response to written questions that was published to the Congressional Record this week:
With respect to the Entity List, I understand that parties are placed on the Entity List and the Military End User List generally because they pose a risk to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests. I currently have no reason to believe that entities on those lists should not be there. If confirmed, I look forward to a briefing on these entities and others of concern.
Will the new administration opt to take Huawei off of the Entity List? It’s difficult to say, but Biden struck a fairly hawkish tone on Chinese tech on the campaign trail. What’s more likely is that Raimondo, who has a background in state politics rather than in national security, wasn’t properly briefed on the matter before her hearing. It’s also very likely that the written clarification following her confirmation hearing comments — which, while a step in the right direction, doesn’t amount to a commitment — is an attempt to telegraph her awareness of the issue without compromising the White House’s promise to formally review the previous administration’s policies before deciding whether to keep them.
But Raimondo could have saved herself a lot of trouble by just pledging to keep Huawei and other designated Chinese tech companies on the list.
Since the 1980s, a Wendy’s has sat right in the middle of the intersections of New York Avenue and Florida Avenue NE in Washington, D.C. It really has no right to be there. But, then again, neither does the intersection itself. Originally the edge of the city proper and hardly accounted for in Pierre L’Enfant’s original design, it became a major thoroughfare only as the city itself grew.
The accidental nature of this growth enabled a kind of traffic island to develop in the middle of what are now two of the busiest streets in the city, contributing to one of the city’s busiest, most confusing, and most dangerous intersections. On this island the Wendy’s has sat for many decades, looking out onto the automotive chaos around it, and attracting a varied array of customers from its Northeast D.C. neighborhood and beyond — at least, those who can actually figure out how to drive or walk in. Though an unofficial — and haphazard — addition to the ranks of D.C.’s many traffic circles, the convoluted circuity anchored by this Wendy’s has been christened “Dave Thomas Circle” by locals, in honor of the chain’s founder; the location itself has earned the dubious appellation “Weird Wendy’s.”
Alas, weird no more. Earlier this week, the D.C. city government announced that it would use eminent domain to purchase the Weird Wendy’s property. “Almost every Washingtonian has their own Dave Thomas Circle horror story,” D.C. mayor Muriel Bower said. “Now, we are taking the necessary actions to transform this confusing intersection into a multimodal project that supports the current and future needs of DC drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.” The ultimate plan is to rationalize the intersection, and to turn at least some of the land into a park.
There are some things to admit here straightaway. Dave Thomas Circle is not so much a traffic circle as a traffic labyrinth. It is confusing and dangerous for both cars and pedestrians. And there is nothing inherently worthwhile about a fast-food franchise with only a few decades at its current location. But it’s worth asking, for one, how much this intersection can be improved. Plans for its renovation don’t appear to do much in that regard; the area will still remain a chaotic quirk of the clash between older designs and subsequent development.
There are concerns beyond the practical here, though. Yes, it’s only a few decades old. But that’s plenty of time for it to have accumulated historical memory and cultural power that have made it one of the essential oddities of Northeast D.C. Urban planners often have grand designs for what cities should look like, but often things develop such that people find themselves attached to things that emerged almost randomly but then took root. The Weird Wendy’s, troublesome as it and the surrounding intersection may be, has such roots. The park (another park) or whatever layout — sure to be new and modern and different in the same way everything else of its ilk is these days — that replaces it will not.
Ah, but who has time for the old? Indeed, just as the news of the doom of the Weird Wendy’s emerged, Amazon, which settled (with the help of heavy local-government inducements) on nearby Northern Virginia as the location of its new headquarters, gave a preview of what its future building would look like. In fitting Amazon fashion, it will be huge and impressive-looking — but also dominate its entire area. (It will also have a somewhat-dubious shape.) As the ugly nexus of government and business has grown — and conquered not just the nation as a whole but especially Washington, D.C., and the area around it — what locals call the DMV (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia) has expanded as well, leaving behind the trappings of its past.
D.C. has always been a swampy place, but it has not been without its charms over the years. Above all, it has been smaller than most other important cities, with far greater scope that one might expect for small, out-of-the-way, and strange things to take root in the community around it. The end of the Weird Wendy’s in D.C. and the imminent arrival of the Amazon behemoth in Northern Virginia together seem like a definitive turning point in the story of the area’s modern transformation. As one fan of the Weird Wendy’s told the Washington Post, “It has been the story of D.C. — everything keeps disappearing.” A healthy conservatism inclines one to wonder whether what takes its place will truly be good for the character of the area — or for the country.
Navalny began by the speech, which Meduza translated into English, by arguing he is on trial for a fabricated, seven-year-old embezzlement case, and that the real reason he was detained upon returning to Moscow from Berlin last month is Putin’s “hatred and fear” because “I mortally offended him by surviving.” Navalny added that he didn’t “run and hide” after the poisoning and ultimately went on to prove Putin was responsible for the murder attempt (the Kremlin denies any involvement.) As a result, Navalny said, Putin is “simply going insane” while he hides in a bunker.
“Murder is the only way [Putin] knows how to fight. He’ll go down in history as nothing but a poisoner. We all remember Alexander the Liberator and Yaroslav the Wise. Well, now we’ll have Vladimir the Underpants Poisoner,” Navalny continued, referring to the fact that he may have been exposed to the nerve agent through his underpants.
As I noted yesterday, it’s expected that the Biden administration will reverse the Trump administration’s position supporting the appeal to the Supreme Court by Asian-American students who maintain that Harvard discriminates against Asian-American applicants in admissions (Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard).
Today, the Justice Department notified the U.S. District Court in Connecticut that the Biden administration was dropping a similar lawsuit filed by the Trump administration against Yale. The Trump Justice Department alleged that Asians and whites were only one-tenth to one-quarter as likely to be admitted to Yale as similarly situated blacks.
As a friend emails, “. . . it is . . . something . . . to do this [drop the Yale suit] a mere eight days after issuing a presidential “Memorandum Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.”
Maybe this is what the administration means by “racial equity.”
Although Politico’s flagship product, Playbook, is still recovering from Ben Shapiro’s problematic guest appearance a couple weeks back, today’s iteration of the morning newsletter still managed to scrounge together some interesting quotes from a longtime Biden aide, who remains unnamed. Per the aide, the White House’s decision to move forward with a reckless $1.9 trillion relief package instead of pursuing a less frivolous bipartisan bill, runs counter to Biden’s instincts. Noting the harsh tone of the statement Biden issued on the Republican proposal, the advisor mused that “I think it sounded more like Ron Klain than Joe Biden.” Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, is reportedly still bitter over Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act a decade ago, and his governing philosophy was warped by the experience. Politico’s source explained “Ron has this whole thing: ‘Remember how they rat-f—ed us on the ACA!,’” the expletive standing in for “disagreed with.”
One of the Trump campaign’s favorite attacks on Biden was that he would be a Trojan horse for socialism. Neither Biden’s affect nor his record lent itself to this message. What is true is that Biden is susceptible to having his back-slapping instincts overridden by the technocratic partisans he’s surrounded himself with. Partisans who are irrationally vexed by any pushback on their agenda, and who believe any such pushback to be obstructionism for obstructionism’s sake.
Biden may not be Bernie Sanders with a grin, but his is likely to be the Vox.com presidency, and any illusions of “unity” or a return to regular order in Congress should be discarded after his outright rejection of a good-faith effort at bipartisanship.
In an article late yesterday evening, Politicoreports that several former officials in the Trump administration who had been granted parental leave at the end of 2020 lost the remainder of their paid time off after the incoming administration took over:
After four years in the Trump administration, Vanessa Ambrosini was looking forward to three months of parental leave when she and her husband welcomed a baby a week before Christmas. The Commerce Department’s human resources office had given her approval for it. But then she was surprised to find out the benefit was no longer available because of the change in administration.
“I got completely screwed,” she said in an interview. “There were no caveats in that language saying anything about if the administration turns, you get nothing and of course, that happened and so I got nothing.”
According to Politico, Ambrosini is one of several former Trump-administration employees who found out unexpectedly, and contrary to what they had been assured, that their parental-leave benefits expired when President Trump left office. Several of those employees told Politico they asked Biden’s transition team honor the remainder of their leave, but the transition staff declined to do so.
“The Biden White House declined to speak about the issue on record,” the report notes. “Instead, an official noted anonymously that political appointees ‘do not enjoy the promise of federal employment past the end of the administration in which they choose to serve.’” The same official told Politico that “appointees have been advised that they have options including COBRA and the Affordable Care Act.”
Another couple, who had worked for the Department of Homeland Security under Trump, said they had been assured their parental-leave benefits would be treated as if they were career rather than political appointees. Shortly after their baby was born prematurely, they were informed that was no longer the case.
“It’s one thing if you have a household, if you have one family member who works for the government,” the father told Politico. “But we were both employed by the government so we’re losing both of our opportunities for health care and both our incomes, so it’s pretty scary to have a premature baby at home and not knowing if you’re going to have an income or health insurance.”
Biden’s transition team explicitly denied the couple’s request to roll over their parental-leave benefits into a few weeks of the next administration. As the Politico report notes, the Biden administration is under no obligation to extend the employment of former Trump officials in order to enable them to finish their time off. But given how often Democrats accuse conservatives of failing to care about the needs of families, it’s especially conspicuous that they chose not to do so.
It was the right thing to help those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic or the lockdown. It couldn’t have been stimulative, since the economy was shut down. And sure enough, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the multiplier for the CARES Act was 0.58, meaning that for every dollar spent by Uncle Sam, the economy grew by 58 cents.
This is in part due to the fact that when people received money from the government, they saved a lot of it. So the money was not stimulative, but it was a way to alleviate pain. That’s if you ignore the over-the-top size of the relief and all the cronyism in the CARES Act — such as the airline bailout — and the many non-COVID-related items.
The size of the COVID-relief bill is another issue. In this morning’s WSJ, Phil Gramm and Mike Solon note that:
Commerce Department data show total employee compensation in the second and third quarters of 2020 was down by $215 billion compared with the first quarter. Yet government personal transfers were up $893 billion — four times the compensation lost. In the second quarter alone, real per capita disposable income was up 10.5% compared with the first quarter — 25 times as fast as the average quarterly income growth in the prior two years.
This surge in personal income was driven by government stimulus equal to $2.6 trillion, more than all the private wages and salaries paid in the first quarter of 2020. While preliminary fourth-quarter figures show that personal income declined from the previous quarter, real per capita disposable income in 2020 grew 5.5% — the highest growth rate since 1984, the peak of the Reagan recovery. All of this occurred before the $900 billion December stimulus took effect . . .
Quarterly savings rose by almost $800 billion. The historical savings rate of 7% to 8% of income reached an astonishing 26% in the second quarter. Preliminary data for 2020 show total savings for 2020 was $1.6 trillion higher than in 2019.
Congress passed another $900 billion in December 2020. That was unwise, but it was not as bad as trying to ram through another $1.9 trillion progressive COVID-relief bill with many barriers to employment — such as the $15 dollar minimum wage the Dems are doing right now.
New data show that the added $400 bonus desired by President Biden means that 62 percent of the recipients will be again be making more money unemployed than working. That number was 48 percent with a $300 bonus passed in December. In addition to the way this may slow down the recovery, what about the impact of continuing to pay people more than they make when working? Am I the only one worried about this?
Here is another point to observe with the latest $380 billion output-gap estimate, in light of proposed ($1.9 trillion) “stimulus” spending.
If the case for more stimulus is to close the output gap (return to pre-pandemic economic fundamentals), then a $1.9 trillion stimulus to close the gap would imply a fiscal multiplier of 0.2. But progressives have been telling us for years that the spending multiplier is 1.3, 1.5, or higher (which would imply the need for just $250 billion). With the CBO’s multiplier estimate of 0.58 for the CARES Act, stimulus totaling $600 billion (as proposed by the GOP) would close the gap fully in 2021. Which one is it? You can’t have it both ways.
At this point, I still think zero dollars is the correct amount of stimulus. Based on past experiences, we close the gap by encouraging growth in the private economy, not encouraging growth of government.
I will end with this from Gramm and Solon:
Policy makers are acting as if running up the national debt and printing money doesn’t matter. Yet all the factors are present to generate rising prices and eventually higher interest rates: excess fiscal stimulus, excessive money-supply growth, impaired domestic production capacity, and impaired international production and transportation capacity. To this volatile mix, Mr. Biden is promising to add regulatory assaults on energy, finance, small businesses, labor and health care.
Perhaps the resulting impairment of economic capacity will prove manageable, but given that such action is occurring at the very moment of excessive fiscal stimulus on top of a tinderbox of monetary expansion, it is putting the nation at risk.
A series of executive actions by President Joe Biden has pulled U.S. policy to the left on a range of issues including fracking, abortion and transgender athletes. Progressives should savor the moment, because it could well represent a peak in their efforts to change the country.
Biden came into office with a very progressive platform. But it is entirely possible, even likely, that he won’t deliver on much of it. . . .