Magazine | November 27, 2017, Issue

The Week

‐ Bernie Sanders is shocked that the Democrats’ election was fixed. This would never happen under socialism.

‐ Democrat Ralph Northam shellacked Republican Ed Gillespie in the Virginia gubernatorial race. It’s not unusual that the party that doesn’t control the White House wins the governorship in Virginia, but the scale of Northam’s victory (9 points) and the Democratic wave in state legislative races, which appears to have erased what seemed to be a comfortable Republican majority in the House of Delegates, were remarkable. Gillespie tried to walk a tightrope, keeping President Trump himself at arm’s length while hitting some Trumpian notes on the issues of crime and immigration. It didn’t work, although the outcome suggests that nothing would have worked — a massive anti-Trump backlash in suburban and urban areas was going to swamp Gillespie, or any other Republican candidate, regardless. The message of the election is that Republicans should be very nervous about the 2018 congressional midterms and should work all the harder to have some legislative accomplishments to take to voters next November — or else.

‐ Twenty-six people, aged 18 months to 77 years, were killed in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, by an in-law of one of the churchgoers in what was evidently a crazed domestic dispute. An armed passerby shot killer Devin Kelley at the scene and pursued him in a borrowed truck until Kelley crashed, dead. Several of the victims were in critical condition. The murderer had been given a bad-conduct discharge from the Air Force in 2014 for assaulting his wife and infant stepson, cracking the child’s skull; he was able to buy a rifle because the Air Force did not submit this information to the database for federal background checks. Grant the valor of his armed pursuer, the flaws in enforcing existing regulations, and the statistics that show more-“routine” gun violence on the wane. The fact remains that monstrous mass crimes are what make an impression on the public. The only effective gun control would be a repeal of the Second Amendment and a confiscation of whatever guns were deemed most dangerous, which will never happen. So we seem fated to a cycle of pity, terror — and numbness.

‐ Finally it happened. Sayfullo Saipov, an acolyte of ISIS, drove a rented truck down a West Side bike path, injuring eleven and killing eight — the first terrorist deaths in New York City since 9/11. Two of the dead were Americans, six were tourists, including five Argentinian men celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high-school graduation. Saipov came to the U.S. from Uzbekistan in 2010 as a diversity-lottery winner, living an outwardly normal life until he turned to jihadism, after moving to Paterson, N.J. One factor in New York’s long immunity has been stellar police work, helped by Muslim informants. But one police program, a surveillance of mosques in the greater metropolitan area, including the one in which Saipov reputedly worshiped, was canceled by Mayor Bill de Blasio after the AP revealed its existence (the ACLU and another liberal lawyers’ group also sued the city). See something, say something — if your eyes aren’t blindfolded.

‐ The New York City bike-path attack drew attention to the Diversity Visa Lottery, through which the alleged assailant had gained entry to the U.S. In addition to putting national security at risk by boosting immigration from terrorism-wracked countries, the lottery mocks the very idea of a carefully considered policy: It hands out 50,000 green cards every year literally at random to individuals from regions of the world that send few migrants here via other means. Reasonable people can disagree as to the ideal skill mix of immigrants or the maximum number the U.S. should admit. No rational argument exists for handing out permanent residency to people whose names were drawn out of a hat. The lottery should end.

‐ Robert Mueller announced the much-anticipated first charges in his probe of potential Trump-campaign involvement in Russia’s election meddling. The special counsel’s challenge is that “collusion,” the catch-word of this scandal, is not a crime. To amount to one, it must rise to conspiracy to violate a penal law (e.g., hacking). Mueller doesn’t have anything close to that, as far as we know. The indictment of Trump’s onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Richard Gates is unrelated to the 2016 election. The focus is Manafort’s shady political consulting for a Kremlin-backed Ukrainian party in the decade prior to 2014. Based on noncompliance with reporting requirements and money laundering, the case isn’t a slam-dunk, although Mueller appears to be readying stronger tax-evasion and fraud charges. Clearly, the prosecutor is squeezing Manafort, but Manafort might not have anything to offer. Meanwhile, Mueller has a cooperator in the low-level Trump-campaign foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos. The obscure aide did meet with people who claimed to have Russian-government contacts and offered (but might not have had and did not deliver) thousands of Hillary Clinton emails. Normally, cooperators plead guilty to the main scheme. Papadopoulos, however, pled to a mere process crime — lying to the FBI. In sum, Trump’s hiring of Manafort does not reflect well on him, but this investigation has not yet put the president in any serious danger.

‐ Democratic strategist and commentator Donna Brazile was tapped to run the Democratic National Committee in the summer of 2016 after WikiLeaks revealed that her predecessor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, had favored Hillary Clinton during the primary season. Brazile’s new book, Hacks: The Inside Story, now reveals that the DNC favored Hillary as early as August 2015. Strapped for cash, the DNC sold itself to the Clinton campaign, giving it, in exchange for life support, the power to name key operatives and to funnel contributions to the party through the Clinton campaign itself. “It broke my heart,” Brazile writes of her reaction when she learned the truth. Brazile’s frankness shows that Democrats might finally be willing to cast the Clintons aside: good, as far as public morality goes; bad, to the extent that Bill at least knew there was an entire country Democrats had to appeal to.

‐ President Trump and Senator McConnell have their differences, but on judges they have been united. Trump nominated, and McConnell pushed through the confirmation of, four well-regarded legal conservatives to federal appeals courts. Those judges will remain on the bench, making sound rulings, long after today’s political controversies are forgotten. Good work.

‐ When several Democratic senators questioned and criticized appeals-court nominee Amy Coney Barrett over her Catholic religious beliefs, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) argued that it was appropriate to do so, since the idea that judges strive to keep their “personal and private views” from influencing their reading of the law is “preposterous” — which it certainly is with respect to the kind of judges Whitehouse favors. The senator is continuing his inquisition, recently grilling district-court nominee Trevor McFadden about his membership in an Anglican church opposed to same-sex marriage. McFadden has said that he will apply the Supreme Court’s marriage precedents, which ought to be the end of the inquiry. Meanwhile, is Whitehouse prepared to ask irreligious nominees whether they can faithfully apply religious-freedom laws?

‐ The economy keeps chugging along. If President Trump and his allies are exaggerating how good it is and how much credit he should receive — the economy had quarters of 3 percent growth under President Obama too — it is the kind of thing that all politicians do. It is also a kind of payback for the loud claims of prominent liberals that Trump’s election would mean economic disaster. The administration has taken modest deregulatory steps that should give a boost to job and wage growth. Pending tax cuts, especially cuts to taxes on business investment, could also help. Then Trump could really have something to brag about.

‐ Bowe Bergdahl is a free man. He betrayed his country and his brothers in arms by walking off from his Afghanistan base in 2009. His disappearance triggered a massive manhunt, disrupted American military operations, and led to grievous injuries to American troops deployed for the search. Yet he escaped jail time. He leaves the military with a dishonorable discharge and a reduction in rank. While it would be easy to condemn the military judge who imposed such a light sentence, there was a complicating factor — the conduct of the president. Donald Trump had repeatedly condemned Bergdahl, both during the campaign and after his election, thus raising the possibility that his remarks could be construed as “unlawful command influence” on a military-justice proceeding. Under military law, superior officers are not supposed to use their rank to influence military judicial proceedings, and there is no higher rank than commander in chief. While we don’t know whether the military judge would have imposed a tougher sentence in the absence of Trump’s remarks, he did pledge to consider them as a mitigating factor in Bergdahl’s case. Justice was not served, and Trump did not help.

‐ President Trump took some flak for deciding to declare the opioid crisis a “public-health emergency” rather than a “national emergency,” but his decision was correct. “National emergencies,” as laid out in the Stafford Act, are not the right fit for an epidemic that has gradually grown worse over the course of more than two decades; the statute is clearly meant to authorize the president to act when an abrupt incident swamps the ability of a state to respond. It is true that the declaration of a “public-health emergency” frees up very little funding — but this action is the one that’s consistent with the statutes Congress has passed. If the federal government should spend more money combating opioid abuse, it’s Congress that must authorize such spending.

‐ A $300 million contract to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s hurricane-battered electricity infrastructure was awarded to a tiny Montana firm called Whitefish Energy, which has few employees, little revenue, no history with projects of that scale — and a few connections to the secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke. Zinke, who knows the firm’s CEO, denies that he had anything to do with the no-bid contract; Whitefish says it got in touch with Puerto Rican authorities via LinkedIn, a social-networking site. The contract contains some odd provisions limiting the government’s ability to audit the company’s work, and it imposes very high costs — up to $462 per hour — for labor. In contract documents and public statements, Whitefish identified itself as a firm with two full-time employees — it says it has more now — and just over $1 million in revenue. Its biggest jobs had been helping to repair a few miles of damaged power lines after a wildfire and repairing a couple of utility poles. Congress has taken an interest in the contract, and Puerto Rico cancelled it. Zinke blamed the stink on “elitist Washington, D.C.” and its snobbery toward small towns. But this isn’t a princess-and-the-pea situation: This deal stinks like its titular piscine does after a few days. Congress should investigate thoroughly.

‐ Bulging with muscles and wearing nothing but a bright red Speedo swimsuit, a poorly drawn Bernie Sanders strikes a Usain Bolt–esque victory pose. “Six-pack Bernie” is just one of the thousands of ads Russian trolls allegedly promoted on social media to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential-election campaign. Another, “Hillary vs. Jesus,” is similarly bizarre: Sporting a red pantsuit and devil horns, Clinton prepares for a mixed-martial-arts fight against a tunic-clad Jesus Christ. Text at the top of the image instructs Facebook users to “‘Like’ if you want Jesus to win!” What is strangest about the portfolio as a whole, however, is not the material itself but how many demographics it targeted. Consider the “Black Matters” page, which promoted African-American civil-rights issues; the “Trump is NOT my President” event, which encouraged New York City–area Facebook users to gather for a Trump protest; or the “United Muslims of America” page, which advertised using the slogan, “I’m a Muslim and I’m proud.” If the Russians were single-mindedly focused on promoting Trump in 2016, they didn’t show it on Facebook.

‐ In a letter to his colleagues, hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer announced that he is stepping down from, well, a number of things. He is no longer the co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, the fund he helped turn into a money-making machine. He no longer has an ownership stake in Breitbart, the “populist” “news” site of which he had been a benefactor. (He sold his stake to his daughters.) He no longer has a relationship with Milo Yiannopoulos, having backed the provocateur–turned–white nationalist even after Yiannopoulos’s departure from Breitbart. In his letter, Mercer said that Milo has caused “pain and divisiveness undermining the open and productive discourse that I had hoped to facilitate.” We wonder how such a skilled investor could have been so naïve about his investments.

‐ The revelation of the wild pig rut that was the romantic life of Harvey Weinstein has unleashed a cascade of stories about abuse inflicted by other powerful men in multiple fields, sometimes on other men and on boys (actor Kevin Spacey, accused of groping a 14-year-old decades ago, could only say that he couldn’t remember the occasion and was probably drunk at the time). The feminist movement can claim credit, if not for encouraging the new frankness, then for correctly analyzing the years of silence: Sexually rapacious men were protected by their power, by their money (which could bankroll legal battles), and by too many people who dismissed their misdeeds as par for the course. Career-minded women, both enablers and victims, gave crucial assistance, but the onus lies on the aggressors. Shame on them and on us. May this spate of stories change the climate of opinion for good.

‐ Four women have accused George H. W. Bush of groping them during photo shoots. The earliest incident they cited was in 2004; the most recent, last year. The women who have spoken out against the 41st president provide a consistent description of his modus operandi. Bush’s handlers have apologized in both senses of that word — a spokesman has said that the 93-year-old former president expresses regret to “anyone he has offended,” and his family have worked up a defense of his actions, characterizing them as those of an elderly, wheelchair-bound man whose arm motion is limited such that his straying hand seemed worse than it was. Conservatives have long looked up to Bush as a pillar of decency and decorum, basic old-school virtues increasingly flouted in our political culture, but evidently even H.W. nods.

‐ Jerome Powell, Trump’s nominee to chair the Federal Reserve, was the candidate for the office who seemed most like the current chairman, Janet Yellen — with the exception of Yellen herself, who appears to have been unacceptable, as an Obama appointee. Powell will have the good fortune to take over during a time of low unemployment and inflation. His challenge will be to develop a credible and predictable policy that allows the Fed to respond to the next recession or outbreak of inflation. The world is hanging on each change to interest rates or the Fed’s balance sheet. More important than getting those changes right is identifying and announcing a sensible rule to guide policy. If he does that, the world won’t be quite so obsessed with each Fed meeting.

‐ Congress has passed, and President Trump has signed, a measure allowing the use of mandatory-arbitration clauses in contracts for financial products such as credit cards. The previous regulation, imposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, deserved to be scrapped. So does the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Frankenstein’s monster created by Elizabeth Warren to harass and shake down financial-services companies. Arbitration agreements are used by banks and other financial companies to minimize expensive litigation — sparing them expenses that otherwise would be, it is worth noting, passed on to consumers. For smaller and mid-sized firms especially, the constant threat of such litigation is a heavy burden, often an unbearable one that keeps them out of certain markets and prevents their offering certain products — or drives up the price of those products. These kinds of regulations are occasionally appropriate; for example, such mandatory-arbitration clauses are prohibited for mortgage lenders. A mortgage and a credit card are very different kinds of products, and regulating them in different ways makes sense. Whether and how to regulate are decisions that should be made by Congress, whose members are accountable to voters, rather than through unelected CFPB bureaucrats. Congress has here taken a tiny step toward putting lawmakers back in charge of lawmaking.

‐ In a big victory for the pro-life movement and free-speech advocates, a state-court judge in California has voided a law requiring crisis-pregnancy centers to inform their clients that the state offers access to low-cost and free abortions. Judge Gloria Trask’s decision determined that the law violates the state constitution’s guarantee of free speech by compelling these clinics to publish information of which they disapprove. Announcing he will appeal the ruling, California attorney general Xavier Becerra combines two bad causes.

‐ In an interview with Fox News, John Kelly, the presidential chief of staff, was asked about China. Kelly said he would not “pass judgment” on the dictatorship. He also said, “They have a system of government that has apparently worked for the Chinese people.” It is not working too well for the people in the gulag, which the Chinese call laogai. In these places, people who want a better life — rights, democracy, freedom — are routinely tortured to death. Vladimir Bukovsky, the great Russian dissident, had this plea for democratic governments: As you conduct your foreign policy, doing what you must, pause every once in a while to consider, “How will it look to the boys in the camps?” We would add this: If you cannot side with the boys in the camps, at least refrain from giving aid and comfort to their persecutors.

‐ The Chinese Communist Party elevated its leader, Xi Jinping, to the same status as Mao Tse-tung. As people spoke of “Mao Tse-tung Thought,” they will speak of “Xi Jinping Thought.” Xi now enjoys a godlike status. In a tweet, President Trump said, “Spoke to President Xi of China to congratulate him on his extraordinary elevation.” We look forward to the extraordinary day when the Chinese people are free of one-party rule.

‐ China has agreed to drop its objections to America’s deployment of an advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea, and — counterintuitively — that might not be entirely good news. China’s previous objections had driven South Korea closer to the United States and even its old colonial master, Japan, in the confrontation with North Korea over its expanding nuclear and ballistic-missile programs. This new agreement, however, raises the sibility that South Korea may look increasingly to China in its efforts to manage the North Korean threat. As part of the deal, South Korea agreed not to enter into a tripartite military alliance that includes Japan, and it agreed to allow no further THAAD deployments on its soil. The Chinese move will likely help the South Korean economy as it ends an informal boycott of South Korean products, and it certainly eases tensions in the short run. The long-run effects are far more difficult to judge, although diminished American influence might be one of them.

‐ Saudi Arabia is at a turning point, for better or worse. Which is it? The crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has taken charge. In a stunning crackdown, he has arrested anyone who might be in his way: fellow princes, military officers, businessmen, intellectuals. “MBS,” as the crown prince is known, has done this in the name of anti-corruption. The crackdown may be a prelude to liberalization, even a prerequisite of it. MBS could be taking 100 percent control over the country in order to introduce a more benign rule in it. Alternatively, he may simply be the new sheriff, even more dictatorial than the old. President Trump, for his part, tweeted his enthusiasm: “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing.” “Some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years!” Saudi Arabians are used to being “harshly treated,” especially those who call for human rights. May they and the rest of the country enjoy a better day.

‐ In a speech at the U.N., Ambassador Nikki Haley stood up for the United States, democracy, and the Cuban people when she reversed the Obama administration’s decision last year to abstain from the annual vote condemning the United States for its trade embargo. “As long as the Cuban people continue to be deprived of their human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Haley told the General Assembly, “as long as the proceeds from trade with Cuba go to prop up the dictatorial regime responsible for denying those rights — the United States does not fear isolation in this chamber or anywhere else.” Israel, also a frequent target of the despots and tyrants represented at the U.N., was the only country to vote with the U.S. The Obama administration’s policy of gullible openness to the Castro dictatorship was shameful, “a casual cruelty,” in Haley’s words, toward the Cuban people, and the Trump administration is right to toughen our stance until Cubans are “one day free to choose their own destiny.”

‐ Nigel Farage, the face of the UK Independence Party, was doing his radio call-in show. Ahmed from Leyton had a point to make: People were talking about the Kremlin’s influence on America, but what about AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and Israel? Farage thought this a good point. “There are about six million Jewish people living in America,” he said, “so as a percentage it’s quite small, but in terms of influence it’s quite big.” Wrapping up, he thanked his “new caller from Leyton” and said, “He makes the point that there are other very powerful lobbies in the United States of America, and the Jewish lobby, with its links with the Israeli government, is one of those strong voices.” The Kremlin is a foreign government, interfering in American elections; the “Jewish lobby” is composed of Americans, petitioning their government. The largest pro-Israel lobby in America is Christians United for Israel, with more than 2 million members. There are Americans who talk the same way as Farage. They, like him, could stand to learn a little more about America.

‐ A big international judo competition was held in Abu Dhabi. Israelis participated — though they were the only participants forbidden to attach their national flag to their clothing. One of them, Tal Flicker, won a gold medal. At the medal ceremony, the Israeli flag was not raised. In its place was the flag of the International Judo Federation. The Israeli national anthem (“Hatikvah”) was not played. In its place was the anthem of the International Judo Federation. (Who knew?) There on the stand, the gold medalist sang his national anthem anyway. “The anthem that they played from the world federation was just background noise,” he later said. “I was singing ‘Hatikvah’ from my heart.” One of life’s golden moments.

‐ The Civil War lasted four years and one month, but the fight over how we think about it has lasted much longer. In an interview on Fox, White House chief of staff John Kelly opined that Robert E. Lee “was an honorable man. . . . Men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.” What Kelly said is literally true, and defines the limits of honor. Lee was compared in his lifetime to George Washington, whose rectitude his own recalled, and with whom he had two personal links: Lee’s father was one of Washington’s officers, his wife was Martha’s great-granddaughter. But Washington, unlike Lee, followed the political issues of his day and took an informed stand for right principles. Lee deplored the breakup of the Union — then fought for the breakers. Honor without thought is probably less common today than thought without honor, but can be equally unwelcome.

‐ Since 1870, Christ Church in Alexandria, Va., has displayed plaques honoring former parishioners George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Those are coming down, according to the vestry, or parish council, of the historic Episcopal church. They will be removed from the sanctuary to a location not yet determined, or at least not disclosed. In their letter to parishioners, the vestry members imply that the Lee plaque was the source of unease — theirs and, they report, that of some visitors — but that the Washington plaque, with which it has been paired from the beginning, would have to come down at the same time, for the sake of visual symmetry. If the plaques had been monuments to slavery, we would say good riddance, but what they were primarily was monuments to an understanding, now fading and faded, of the special relationship between religion and American civic culture. We mourn the loss.

‐ Stephanie McKellop, a history teaching assistant at the University of Pennsylvania, said on Twitter: “I will always call on my Black women students first. Other POC [people of color] get second tier priority. WW [white women] come next. And, if I have to, white men.” Her fellow leftists applauded, but believers in equality protested — or, as McKellop put it, “the white nationalists and Nazis were very upset.” (Included in that group, presumably, was the Penn administration, which issued a mildly condemnatory statement, canceled one meeting of her recitation section, and since then has continued “looking into” the matter.) Yet while most teachers are not so bold about it, giving non-white speakers preferential treatment is quite common on the left and even has a name: “progressive stacking.” The practice is reprehensible, to be sure; but if it makes students reflect that among committed progressives, equality is racism, racism is equality, and anyone who disagrees is Joseph Goebbels, they might learn an important lesson that their teachers never intended.

‐ In Oregon, even the sea creatures are on drugs. Traces of many prescription medications have been found in ocean water (mostly because users flush away leftover pills), and among them is Prozac, an antidepressant. To test its effects, a group of scientists removed more than 100 crabs from Netarts Bay, near Tillamook, and dosed some of them with Prozac’s active ingredient. The result: Undosed crabs mostly sat still, occasionally venturing out to forage for food, while the hopped-up crabs were much more active, especially at night, crawling around and interacting (sometimes fighting) with other crabs much more than the control group did. This might sound like a blessing, but as with people, it’s a double-edged sword: Rambunctious behavior endangers crabs in the wild, where they face numerous predators, and unfortunately they do not have the option of saying no to drugs. The moral for humans, though, is clear: Dispose of your unused medication properly, or the next time you go swimming, you might find yourself fending off an ornery pill-popping crustacean.

‐ “Baseball’s great experiment,” read the headline on the cover of Sports Illustrated three years ago about the 2014 Houston Astros, MLB’s sorriest team at the time, having lost more than 100 games in each of the previous three seasons. General manager Jeff Luhnow was unfazed by the horror of the present. “In 2017,” he said, we wouldn’t “really care that much” whether the team had lost 111 games five years earlier — we’d care how close it was now to winning the World Series. After taking the reins in December 2011, Luhnow fast replenished the club’s depleted farm rosters and beefed up its analytics department. He eschewed pricey free agents until the moment was ripe. “Your 2017 World Series champs,” a second headline on that SI cover predicted, next to a photo of outfielder George Springer, who obliged and became the 2017 World Series MVP. Leaving behind a checkered history — name change, league reassignment, lurid uniforms, artificial turf — the 55-year-old franchise has finally found its footing. Good for Houston, which after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey in August was handed this grand occasion for jubilation and a parade downtown.

‐ Every year, the  National Review Institute gives two William F. Buckley Jr. prizes: one for “leadership in political thought” and one for “leadership in supporting liberty.” This year, the prizewinners were Tom Wolfe, the journalist and novelist, and Bruce and Suzie Kovner, the philanthropists. At the gala dinner, Wolfe was introduced by Christopher Buckley, WFB’s novelist son, and the Kovners were introduced by Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute. Wolfe wore his trademark white suit. He spoke of his old friend WFB. The Kovners did not wear white but were hits all the same. They spoke of furthering the cause of liberty — free enterprise, civil society, school choice — and the arts to boot. One Juilliard student played Bach on the harpsichord; another one played Bach on the violin. WFB would have delighted in the whole affair.

PUBLIC POLICY

Reforming Tax Reform

Taxes on business badly need reform, and Republicans have devoted some thoughtful attention to how to do it. Their new tax-reform bill reduces corporate tax rates, lets businesses write off the cost of investments more rapidly, and changes the way we tax multinational businesses to comport better with how the vast majority of other countries do it. All of these changes should make the U.S. a more attractive location for capital, and in the long run more capital should mean higher wages. (The White House’s logic on this point is sound even if the magnitudes are open to dispute.)

It’s these provisions of the bill that offer the most hope for higher economic growth. The rest of the bill — the changes it makes to the individual tax code — looks like it was subordinated to the corporate provisions. Some of the individual-code provisions are there to placate Republican interest groups, some to provide enough middle-class relief to make the bill politically viable, and some to reflect half-remembered bits of party dogma. Many of these provisions are commendable, such as limiting the deductions for state and local taxes and large mortgages. But as a whole they don’t reflect a coherent and well-grounded view of what the tax code should look like, in the way the corporate changes do.

Some tax rates go up, and some go down, without much rhyme or reason. Couples making between $470,000 and $1 million a year get a cut in their tax rates. Those making between $1 million and $1.2 million keep their existing rate. Those making $1.2 million to $1.6 million pay a higher rate than today. And those making even more than that keep the existing rate. It’s a ramshackle tax structure that might make sense in terms of coalition management but is not easy to defend on any other terms.

A particular disappointment is the bill’s treatment of families. It eliminates the dependent exemptions, expands the child credit from $1,000 to $1,600 per child, and allows more upper-middle-class families to claim it. The net effect is to reduce per-child tax relief for some families, increase it for others, and leave it unchanged for most, again without any particular rationale for the pattern of changes. Shockingly, the bill abolishes the tax credit for adoptive families, a move that raises almost no revenue but will deal a real blow to the finances of many households. Some analyses, so far unrebutted, indicate that many lower-middle-class families will pay more under the Republican bill: an unacceptable outcome.

We would recommend a simpler set of changes to the individual tax code. From the current bill, keep the limits on deductions and exemptions and the abolition of the estate tax. Keep its expansion of the standard deduction, too, but scale it back. Expand the child credit to $2,000 per child. And leave the existing structure of rates alone. This simpler bill would be pro-growth, like the current bill. Unlike the current bill, it would also be pro-family — and relatively comprehensible.

In This Issue

Articles

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Sections

Letters

Letters

The Many Names of the Entitlement State In “Cut the Payroll Tax” (October 16), James C. Capretta asserts: “Cutting it would encourage more people to join the labor force; it would ...
The Week

The Week

‐ Bernie Sanders is shocked that the Democrats’ election was fixed. This would never happen under socialism. ‐ Democrat Ralph Northam shellacked Republican Ed Gillespie in the Virginia gubernatorial race. It’s ...
Poetry

Poetry

PLEASANT BAY Because it rained all day, everyone grew sad. Those already sad grew sadder. The cupped blossoms of the wild strawberries broadcast through the fields drained as quickly as they filled, while we were filled ...

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More