Politics & Policy

What is ‘Credential Inflation’ and How Do We Stop It?

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A student wears a protective mask, following the recommended precautions as students prepare for Spring Break and an extended period of online classes due to the coronavirus outbreak at Syracuse University in New York, March 13, 2020. (Maranie Staab/Reuters)

It used to be the case in America that very few employers would screen out applicants just because they didn’t have “proper” educational credentials. That has changed dramatically over the last 60 years. Now, huge numbers of jobs are blocked off to those who don’t have a college degree to their name.

In today’s Martin Center article, Andrew Gillen of Texas Public Policy Foundation explains what has happened.

Gillen argues that credential inflation is driven by two factors:

“The first driver is upskilling, which is when the nature of a job changes to require more education. For example, drafting did not traditionally require a college degree, but as computers and complex architectural software have become more prevalent, the skills needed by drafters have expanded, so it is not surprising or objectionable that these jobs increasingly require college degrees.

“But the other driver of credential inflation is a mismatch in the supply of and the demand for educated workers. The New York Federal Reserve Bank estimates that 34 percent of all college graduates are underemployed, meaning they are overqualified (in terms of educational credentials) for their current job. With so many graduates floating around, employers use a degree as a screening device even if the job in question doesn’t require knowledge that one might learn in college.”

Due to credential inflation, Americans are impelled to get costly education degrees even though the work they’ll do calls for nothing more than basic trainability. So they have to waste time and money on formal education they seldom have an interest in and the nation wastes resources on a hugely overgrown high education sector.

Gillen thinks that employers, especially governmental employers, should revise their hiring criteria.

It would also be very helpful if the feds removed the legal minefield, created by the Supreme Court’s decision in Griggs v. Duke Power in 1971, around testing of job applicants for their skills.

He also argues that the credential inflation problem would be reduced in a tight labor market so that employers can’t be so fussy about credentials. Gillen writes, “While it may not feel like it, as we emerge from our pandemic-induced job coma, less than a year ago, the job market was the tightest in my lifetime. Everyone has an easier time finding a job under these conditions—even those with a criminal record. And the difficulty employers have in filling positions also provides an incentive to reverse credential inflation for jobs where it is not really necessary. For example, a 2019 survey of employers of temporary workers found that 50 percent were reducing education requirements.”

Media

In These Uncertain Times, Please Spare a Thought for Struggling Instagram Influencers

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It’s easy to go nuts reading the New York Times and marveling at the contradictions in its coverage, and it’s probably not worth dwelling on at length. But Joe Simonson is right: Taylor Lorenz’s profile of Instagram “influencers” who are continuing to throw parties during the pandemic because, in their words, they “can’t put our entire lives on hold for a year and not make any money” is written with a jarring sympathy that would never be extended to, say, small businesses, church groups, or New York’s Orthodox Jewish communities.

Some of these quotes are just galling:

“It’s a level of accountability they have to have on themselves,” said Michael Gruen, a founder of TalentX, a management firm that represents many TikTokers. “It’s tough to tell 18-year-olds who live in L.A. away from their parents not to go out for two years.”

Really? Really? Because it is not that difficult to find human beings who are enduring a much tougher burden than not being able to go to parties. Ask anyone working in a hospital! Ask anyone who’s lost a loved one or suffered serious health problems from the virus! Ask any working parent! Ask any senior citizen being told to stay away from everyone!

And the era of “not going out” has been in effect for about five months, not two years!

Last month the Times noted, “when Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia relaxed restrictions on businesses in late April as testing lagged and infections rose, the talk in public health circles was of that state’s embrace of human sacrifice.”

Suddenly, the Paper of Record is noting without any discernable judgment, “influencers say the parties are a necessary outlet in a time of extreme social isolation.”

Politics & Policy

Cooties and Conscience

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At the close of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 21, 2016 (Rick Wilking / Reuters)

In Impromptus today, I have some thoughts on Joe Biden and race, Beverly Sills and philanthropy, and other issues.

Wait, Beverly Sills and philanthropy? Yes, I talked to the great soprano about this one day, some years ago. She raised $100 million for the March of Dimes. That was a lot of money back then. (Sills had two severely handicapped children.) She also raised money for the arts. And she defended this kind of philanthropy, eloquently.

(You may wonder why I included this subject in Impromptus. The late Doris Buffett — sister of Warren — said she did not give to “the SOBs”: symphonies, operas, and ballets.)

Mainly, however, my column is about the Republican Party. One emblem of it is Bill Hagerty, the Tennessean who won his state’s Senate primary yesterday. He was a friend of Mitt Romney, going back to the 1980s, when they both worked in finance. When Hagerty announced for the Senate, Romney immediately wrote him a check. Hagerty returned the check, considering it toxic.

In GOP-land today, Romney has cooties.

Hagerty proceeded to bad-mouth his old friend on the campaign trail (“indistinguishable from Barack Obama,” etc.). While renouncing Romney, he clutched Diamond & Silk close. The Trump family, too.

I am singling out Bill Hagerty, but he is utterly typical. There are conservatives who think that the GOP needs a thorough drubbing, chastening, and rebuilding. I can understand them.

My own view is this: People ought to vote their conscience in the House and Senate races before them. In all races, really. (You may remember that “vote your conscience” was an incendiary phrase at the 2016 Republican convention.)

Okay, enough politics, for this little Corner post. I have done a Q&A podcast with David Normoyle, here. David is an old friend of mine and an exceptional person. He is a golf historian, who has carved out a fascinating career for himself. He is married to Dottie Pepper, the LPGA great. Recently, David took a 40-day car trip across America — COVID, polarized America. He chronicled his journey every night, in missives to an e-mail list. In our podcast, David and I talk golf and life.

Finally, some music — another podcast, a Music for a While, celebrating music for four hands. Or two pianos. In any case, duets. Have a listen, here.

And hit ’em straight.

P.S. I just got an e-mail in response to Impromptus today. I adore its opening sentence — its opening two sentences: “Why not vote Libertarian, Jay? I mean, aside from the fact we’re nuts and we don’t win.”

The Economy

Today’s Capital Note

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Over at Capital Matters today, the latest Capital Note is up (yes, this is a belated post). Today, we discuss, among other topics, the prospects for employment (not good), trouble at CalPERS and trouble in Weimar Germany.

Law & the Courts

Government Misconduct Frees Cliven Bundy

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Federal Protective Service officers gather outside the federal courthouse as jury selection begins for Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and co-defendant Ryan Payne, in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 30, 2017. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun/Reuters)

Politically charged prosecutions — even ones that are thoroughly justified — often end badly for the justice system. So it appears with the federal prosecutions of Cliven Bundy and his sons. The government blew its case against Bundy’s sons by overcharging them, resulting in a jury acquittal in 2016. Today, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Bundy’s own federal indictment (as well as that of several of his co-defendants) on the grounds that the government had waited until the middle of trial to disclose information that would have helped Bundy’s case, in violation of Brady v. Maryland. The misconduct was so severe and prejudicial to the Bundy clan’s case that the court barred the government from bringing the same charges again. The opinion was written by Jay Bybee, a George W. Bush appointee, but joined by judges appointed by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

The Bundy indictment charged extortion, threats to federal officers, and a variety of related crimes due to the armed standoff around the Bundy ranch arising from a longstanding dispute over unpaid grazing fees claimed by the Bureau of Land Management. The trial court rejected the Bundy clan’s self-defense theory, but, as the court wrote, “A central pillar of the government’s case was the allegation that the defendants recruited armed followers by intentionally deceiving those followers into believing that the Bundys feared for their lives because government snipers surrounded their ranch,” a charge that was touted in the government’s opening statement to the jury.

The Bundys asked for video shot by a camera they said the FBI had trained on them; the government called it a “fantastical fishing expedition,” but the camera’s existence and its live feed to the BLM command center was confirmed four days into the trial. The resulting hearing disclosed as well federal patrols “armed with AR-15 rifles” around the compound. The trial court gave the prosecution the benefit of the doubt that withholding this information was a good-faith decision, but several days later, more FBI interviews (form 302s) were disclosed discussing agents in full tactical gear watching the compound and the insertion of agents the FBI itself described as “snipers.” This only came to light after the trial judge had excluded evidence based on the government’s repeated insistence that there were no snipers. The Ninth Circuit summarized why withholding this evidence was so harmful to the Bundys’ ability to present a defense:

The defendants claim that the Bundys feared they were surrounded by heavily armed snipers. Keeping the defense from gathering as much evidence as possible to show that there was a reasonable basis to fear that snipers surrounded the property was itself harmful. Moreover, the Felix 302 actually refers to the BLM agent in the overwatch position as a “sniper.” Indeed, the Felix 302 uses both “tactical over watch position” and “sniper” to refer to the same agent. This was tangible documentation showing that the government’s own officials understood agents in overwatch positions to be equivalent to “snipers.” Even if the defendants had some other evidence of agents taking “overwatch” positions around the Bundy property, the Felix 302 supported their theory in ways that [documents provided earlier] did not. The Felix 302, therefore, adds credibility to the Bundys’ claims that they feared the presence of “snipers” and it should have been disclosed prior to trial. In sum, like the evidence regarding the camera, these documents could have helped the defense show that the defendants genuinely feared the presence of snipers—contradicting the allegations that the defendants intentionally lied about being surrounded by snipers to inflame supporters.

In the Ninth Circuit’s view, it was “preposterous and reckless” for the government to withhold this evidence:

Of particular concern is the government’s handling of evidence related to the presence of snipers. This was a hot-button issue. The term is evocative, rhetorically charged, and would have been a dog whistle for summoning members of private militias in ways that screaming “surveillance cameras!” would not. The government said the Bundys’ claim of “snipers” was “false” and “deceitful,” yet the government’s own documents referred to its agents as “snipers.” The government disputed the relevance of this information, fixating on the question of whether the officers in the “overwatch” were technically “snipers.” The district court had to remind the government that these were questions for the jury.

The failure to produce evidence regarding “snipers” was particularly troubling for the district court because, during the Tier 3 trial of other co-defendants, the district court prohibited testimony regarding the presence of snipers, based on the government’s assurances that there were no snipers involved in the impound operation. The district court even removed a testifying defendant from the stand in that trial because the defendant kept stating that snipers were present. The district court was understandably exasperated when evidence came to light in this trial, showing that the government referred to its agents as “snipers.”

In short, the government had to know the import that any evidence regarding snipers, or agents who looked and functioned like snipers, would have in this case. Nevertheless, it withheld a slate of information bolstering the claim that the defendants could have had a reasonable basis for believing there were snipers in the area.

The court also found that the government improperly made “a conscious choice” to withhold a series of “threat assessments” that had downgraded earlier concerns about the threat posed by Bundy, which the defense could have used to challenge the necessity for a “militarized” response. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the trial judge had acted reasonably by dismissing the case rather than just ordering a new trial, given the “need to impose a sanction that will serve to deter future prosecutions from engaging in the same misconduct as occurred here”:

We note the government’s failure to acknowledge and confess any wrongdoing during the course of this case—especially as to material misrepresentations to the district court about the presence of snipers. Rather than accepting responsibility, the government blamed the defense for not requesting more specific information. Even in its motion for reconsideration, the government continued to maintain that it never had an obligation to turn these documents over and that any omission on the government’s part was the fault of the defendants for not doing a better job of showing why this information was relevant. Only on appeal has the government admitted that it should have turned these documents over.

The Bundys are no heroes; even the narrative of them as poster boys for genuinely legitimate problems with federal land management is complicated by the factual history of their own disputes with the BLM, and the same is true of efforts to paint them as innocent victims of an over-aggressive FBI. So it often is with individual criminal cases, many of which have facts that complicate their use in national political narratives. But the political drive to get the Bundys led the prosecution to some very sharp practices that ended up destroying the government’s case. That should stand as a lesson in political prosecutions of all stripes.

Fiscal Policy

Stimulus: The Next Moves?

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Secretary Mnuchin is saying that the various parties involved are looking to come to an agreement by the end of this week, with a goal to pass the bill early next week. He has not made clear where this optimism comes from and has admitted they are not close to a deal. Speaker Pelosi also indicated they were aiming for such, and she said, “we will have a deal.” The Republicans have, apparently, agreed to an extension of the eviction moratorium through the end of the year, and to some form of unemployment insurance closer to the Democrats’ version. The two sides are negotiating with written forms of offers and counteroffers, an indication of seriousness in moving forward. Senator Schumer indicated the Democrats have made concessions, too, but no one has leaked what those concessions may have been.

I feel confident that the $600 weekly extension of federal unemployment benefit support is coming, because President Trump has said he supports it, and if the White House and Dems want it, the Senate GOP’s objections are not going to matter

Monetary Policy

A New Approach from the Fed?

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If you read about the Fed announcing results of an extensive policy review soon, please note that this was a project that long pre-dates COVID. It is my opinion that the project was embarked upon to find a rationalization for targeting “average inflation” rather than the current approach. Defining the inflation target as “an average over a period of time of 2 percent” vs. “the 2 percent level” allows the Fed to “run hot” at given times (i.e. run over 2 percent without violating its 2 percent target). Of course, the inflation rate is now below the Fed’s target, so it has no need (even within its existing) stated policy objectives to let its foot off the gas. However, preemptively stating its objective is “an average of 2 percent” would prepare the market for monetary policy to stay accommodative even when inflation escalates. I expect this review soon, and I expect to not be surprised by its findings.

Does it matter?  Does it add to future inflation risks? To reiterate an argument I have made before about the 2020s . . . I am not convinced the Fed can create any inflation, regardless of the level it states is its objective.

Politics & Policy

Marco Rubio Advances Crucial Election-Support Ideas

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In a Medium piece on Thursday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio drew attention to the challenges of administering a national election in 2020. These include not only the continuing threat of foreign interference but also the unique challenges of voting in the middle of a pandemic.

“We cannot escape the pandemic-induced reality of increased mail-in voting,” Rubio notes, “and the logistical challenges associated with it will be difficult for some states to resolve in the next couple of months. This will almost certainly lead to confusion, uncertainty, and perhaps chaos on election night.”

There is no perfect way to prevent such chaos, but there are ways to prepare the public for it so that it doesn’t leave people thinking the election results are illegitimate because counting votes takes longer. And Rubio also proposes four kinds of steps that policymakers could take to be of further help:

First, we must clearly signal to foreign adversaries that meddling in our elections will be met with a commensurately harsh response. Congress should immediately pass and President Trump should sign my bipartisan Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act.

Second, we should give states the flexibility to provide local election officials additional time to count each and every vote by moving the federal safe harbor deadline for states from December 8 to January 1, an idea first proposed by Kevin Johnson and Yuval Levin. I introduced a bill to do exactly that, and urge my colleagues to join me in giving states more time to collect, verify, and count votes without fear of having the results challenged in Congress.

Third, the federal government should continue to provide funding and expertise to states, especially those that do not have established or efficient mail-in ballot systems in place. Funding to support enhanced health and safety measures may also be necessary.

Finally, we cannot ignore the fact that there are also subversive elements within our own country. The chaos of a contested election creates cover for everyone from radical anarchists like Antifa to white ethno-nationalists seeking to foment a second civil war. We must give them no quarter, as they look to undermine our country — albeit for different reasons — just like regimes based in Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran.

I’m not an impartial observer, since he attributes it to me and Kevin Johnson, but I do think the second of Rubio’s proposals is crucially important. Giving the states more time to count—without changing the date of the election—would be a vital step, as he suggests. The bill he has just introduced to do this is short and simple, and could make a real difference if the presidential race is close in key states. It doesn’t give either party an advantage, and so should appeal to both. And Congress should even consider tucking it into the pandemic relief bill now being negotiated.

Election-day chaos is a real danger this year. But preparation could make all the difference, and it’s great to see Rubio leading the charge to prepare.

U.S.

Twitter Takes Another Swing at CCP Disinformation, Whiffs Again

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(Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Twitter announced Thursday that it would affix a special label to the accounts of key government officials and “state-affiliated media entities” and their staff. In the blog post announcing the decision, Twitter clarified that these labels would apply only to the five permanent U.N. Security Council members (China, France, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S.). However, what the post said about these state-affiliated outlets is particularly interesting:

State-affiliated media is defined as outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution. Unlike independent media, state-affiliated media frequently use their news coverage as a means to advance a political agenda. We believe that people have the right to know when a media account is affiliated directly or indirectly with a state actor. State-financed media organizations with editorial independence, like the BBC in the UK or NPR in the US for example, will not be labeled.

As Axios‘s coverage of the move notes, Twitter had previously banned ads by state-owned media, in addition to all political advertising on its website. The company says that it will eventually broaden the state-affiliation labeling policy.

While Twitter did not name any particular countries, there should be little doubt that some significant portion of the rationale for this comes from China’s activities online. Back in June, I wrote about Twitter’s efforts to take down fake accounts spreading disinformation on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party. The company deserves credit for acting on the problem, but it still showed a blind spot with regard to accounts operated by Chinese diplomats and state media.

State-affiliated accounts have played a significant role in the CCP’s global disinformation campaigns on a number of issues, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the origins of the coronavirus. This spring, a foreign ministry spokesperson shared two tweets promoting a conspiracy theory alleging that the U.S. army brought the virus to China. Twitter later added a fact check to the tweets, after it affixed a fact check to a post on the site by President Trump about mail-in voting.

The CCP’s most alarming activities on the site might be its attempts to shape the international narrative on its concentration camps and political re-education efforts in Xinjiang, which some observers have described as a genocide. Videos of smiling and dancing Uighur Muslims are a staple on the accounts of state media outlets and the foreign ministry’s spokespeople. To this day, previous tweets by the foreign ministry’s Zhao Lijian whitewashing the human-rights abuses in Xinjiang remain unlabeled (with the exception of Twitter’s new labels for government accounts). No doubt, they’re chock-full of disinformation and ripe for fact checking or other means of content moderation. Meanwhile, Twitter has maintained its blue-check verification for Zhao’s account, in addition to other Chinese government accounts on the site.

Bloomberg News reported last summer that Twitter runs a program where it teaches Chinese government officials to use the platform, despite the fact that it is banned for use by ordinary people in China. In June, Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee gave Twitter a “D-” on their “social media report card.” They wrote that Twitter failed to remove CCP disinformation from their platform, and that the accounts might violate “Twitter’s own policy because the CCP is an organization that is known to commit violence against religious and ethnic minorities, among other groups.”

Affixing labels that more clearly show the affiliations of state-backed accounts is a good step, but it does not cut to the core of the problem.

Media

The Washington Post Celebrates Saving Unborn Children

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(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The Washington Post has a touching feature story in its lifestyle and parenting section, interviewing a husband and wife, along with the doctors who helped to save the lives of the couple’s unborn twins.

In March, the twins’ mother, 40-year-old Ebony, was 24 weeks pregnant and began to feel short of breath. It turned out that she had COVID-19, and the rest of the Post interview outlines how she ended up in the hospital for treatment, how doctors worked to keep her healthy, and how they ended up delivering her twins early in an emergency C-section, a decision that saved all three of their lives.

Several months later, the twins — Jurnee and Jordan — are at home with their parents, healthy and growing well, despite having been born at just over two pounds each and having spent several weeks intubated in the intensive-care unit. It’s a lovely example of how the capabilities of modern medicine continue to expand, enabling doctors to save lives in ways that were previously unthinkable.

Sharing the story, the Post’s Twitter account wrote, “A pregnant woman with covid-19 was dying. With one decision, her doctors saved three lives.”

Indeed they did. But in addition to celebrating this remarkable story, perhaps we should scrutinize how our society so cavalierly picks and chooses between which unborn lives are worth saving. Jurnee and Jordan, after all, were at about 25 weeks’ gestation when they were delivered, a stage at which they had only just become viable. Meanwhile, somewhere around 12,000 unborn children are killed by abortion each year in the U.S. after 20 weeks’ gestation — most often not, as abortion activists claim, for “health reasons.”

The reality of late-term abortion doesn’t negate the miraculous way that these two lives were saved, but it exposes the arbitrary logic of the abortion-rights argument, which applauds doctors for saving the lives of wanted unborn children while applauding others for taking the lives of those unborn children deemed unwanted. We are meant to believe that a mother’s fiat is the sole defining characteristic separating real human beings from meaningless clumps of cells.

We must accept that incoherent rationale in order to accept abortion. As much as proponents of legal abortion would like to preserve the right to kill the unborn without diminishing the value of every human life, they cannot. Permitting the devaluation of some unborn human beings for whatever reason — be it location, dependence, age, size, cognition — necessarily leads to the devaluation not only of all unborn children but of human beings outside the womb, too. In their cognitive dissonance, abortion supporters expose the fact that, in their view, a defenseless unborn child must live or die by the will of those who can exercise raw power over her.

Politics & Policy

Cronyism, Kodak, and DFC

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A worker cleans a Kodak booth at a convention center in Las Vegas, Nev., January 6, 2019. (Steve Marcus/Reuters)

My beef with cronyism, or what my colleague Matthew Mitchell calls government granted privilege, is well known the readers of this blog. Today, I would like to talk about another government entity with crony aspirations and actions. The agency is the U.S. International Development Financing Corporation, or DFC. It was recently created when Congress merged the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) with the Development Credit Authority of the United States Agency for International Development, along with a few other smaller entities.

While OPIC was in the business of extending financial products to American companies operating in the developing world and competing with foreign companies, DFC is purely a development agency. As I understand it, its focus isn’t to extend loans to American companies operating abroad, but it is to dole money out for projects in lower- and middle-income countries.

At least, that was the case until last May, when the president signed an executive order as part of its broader efforts to expedite domestic production of drugs that can treat a variety of medical conditions and loosen the U.S. reliance on foreign sources (a goal I do not share in principles but also because it is based on many faulty assumptions and data). That led to the recent announcement of a $765 million loan to Kodak from the DFC, made possible by the Defense Production Act. With this deal, for the first time in its history, the DFC, a development bank, is making loans in the U.S., which has nothing even remotely to do with development.

Now, I will admit that I would abolish the DFC in a heartbeat independently of this. Ryan Young wrote about the all the problems with OPIC here. We can expect many of these same problems with DFC, because that’s always what happens with government loan programs. In addition, let me remind you that this is not the role of the federal government. I realize that this is a 1990s argument to make in today’s world, but that’s a rant for another day.

When it comes to this deal, however, the problem everyone is concerned about is the personal connections to many involved in this deal, and the lucrative effect of this deal to company that appears to be an odd choice for the project. People are suddenly concerned that the DFC is being used as a piggy bank to reward friendly businesses and donors. As the Daily Beast‘s Lachlan Markay reports:

Kodak’s in-house lobbying team had officially dissolved in early 2019, according to disclosure filings submitted to federal regulators. But on April 1 of this year, the company started it back up, and proceeded to plow $870,000 into its D.C. influence machine. That sum, which went towards influencing both Congress and the administration, was more than twice as much as Kodak had ever spent on lobbying in any quarterly reporting period.

In addition, the head of the DFC, Adam Boller is a close friend of the president’s son-in-law. Then, Kodak shareholders authorized CEO James Continenza to acquire 1.75 million in stock options, options he received the day before the deal was announced on July 27th.

The SEC is looking into this, and so is Senator Warren. Meanwhile, many in the media, who are always willing to scrutinize this administration closely (while being quite loose with other administrations) feel that this deal sounds very fishy while others assume that this is evidence that administration officials who may think they could be out of office soon are trying to grant as many favors to their friends as possible before they go.

But the truth of the matter is that, as shocking as this is to most people, these unhealthy relationships between people in government and corporations are par for the course. How cozy do you think some in the Obama Administration were with green energy like Solyndar and others? How cozy do you think the people at Boeing are with the bureaucrats at Export-Import bank or the FAA? How cozy the heads of the big defense contractor firms are to the different administrations? How cozy are regulators with the banks they are supposed to oversee? I could go on and on, but the answers to all these questions is: very cozy.

This happens all the time in government, and it is always a very big risk with any government agency under any administration when it starts to hand out money to private companies. Why? Because government decisions about where capital should flow are fundamental political decisions; they aren’t guided by economics, price signals, or profits and losses. This is why many of us are skeptical of the claims that industrial policy can ever work. The whole point of the exercise is that it allocates money to favored industries, sometimes the same industries and firms that have friends in high places, based on the judgement of politicians who aren’t spending their own cash and in order to satisfy their own preferred order of the world.

To all of you out there who are outrage by this deal, please continue being outrage when the next administration comes around, because things like these will continue to happen.

Health Care

Gender-Affirming Research Required a Correction

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The authors of a paper on the efficacy of “gender-affirming” surgeries, originally published in October 2019 in the American Journal of Psychiatry have issued a correction. On Saturday, authors Richard Bränström, an associate professor at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, and John Pachankis, an associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health, clarified that their data “demonstrated no advantage of surgery in relation to subsequent mood or anxiety disorder-related health care visits or prescriptions or hospitalizations following suicide attempts.”

Someone better tell mainstream media outlets . . . .

Politics & Policy

Bolton Questions Whether Trump Will Keep Tough China Measures in Place

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Former national security adviser John Bolton speaks during a press briefing at the White House, November 27, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Speaking virtually at the Aspen Security Forum Tuesday, former national-security adviser John Bolton reprised his previous criticisms of President Trump’s approach to China, expanding on a recent op-ed in which he predicted that the recent series of policies targeting the country would disappear after the election.

Since leaving the administration, Bolton has been a constant Trump critic. In his book about working for Trump, he leveled bombshell allegations about Trump’s attitudes toward China, alleging that Trump told Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping that he approves of China’s detention facilities in Xinjiang, where over one million Uighur Muslims have been imprisoned arbitrarily. According to Bolton, Trump also encouraged Xi to purchase more soybeans and wheat to improve his political prospects heading into 2020. Trump has denied the allegations.

During the Aspen conference, Bolton shared some more thoughts about Trump’s attitudes on trade with China, arguing that the president’s focus on a trade deal with China led him to overlook Beijing’s behavior in other areas:

But the trade deal was close to being an obsession, and you’ll remember that in the early days of the coronavirus concern in this country as the staff at the NSC, the Centers for Disease Control and elsewhere were raising red flags, Trump didn’t want to hear any bad news about China. He didn’t want to hear any bad news about Xi Jinping, that they were concealing the extent of the pandemic in China, engaging in an international disinformation campaign.

Despite this, Bolton acknowledged that the Trump administration has recently enacted a raft of measures targeting the CCP for, among other things, its activities in the South China Sea, Hong Kong crackdown, and repression of the Uighurs, but he questions whether this will continue in a second term:

But most of the criticism [of China] is coming from his other senior advisers. The steps he’s taking, signing legislation to authorize sanctions for the Chinese repression of the Uighurs, simply reaffirms authority he already has and can be rescinded, as can the other steps. This is why the removal of the political guardrail of the need to be re-elected I think leaves the field open to Trump in a second term to do pretty much what he wants. Don’t get me wrong, every one of these tough steps that you’ve outlined, I support. And I ask the question, why didn’t this start in January of 2017?

While this White House has enacted some of the toughest measures against China of any recent administration, it’s also true that officials dragged their feet on certain policies, such as sanctions targeting Beijing’s concentration camps in Xinjiang, for fear of disrupting the trade talks.

Following the implementation of Phase One of the trade deal between the two countries six months ago, officials are meeting on or around August 15 to evaluate progress toward the commitments set out in the agreement. Despite the downturn in U.S.–China relations, the South China Morning Post reports that negotiators are in constant contact. Meanwhile, former vice president Joe Biden has made the negotiations a campaign issue, saying in a statement yesterday that “Trump’s ‘phase one’ trade deal is failing — badly.”

It’s unlikely in this political environment that Trump would roll back the recent measures responding to China’s actions before November, but it might be too early to dismiss the prospects of progress on the trade deal, especially if Trump wins reelection. If he remains serious about preserving Phase One and getting Phase Two guarantees from the Chinese side to enact structural economic changes, this would likely require a more conciliatory American posture toward the CCP.

What Trump will do about China in a second term — and what Biden might do in a first term, for that matter — is anyone’s guess.

Most Popular

The New George Floyd Video Should Not Surprise You

This week, the Daily Mail managed to get its hands on some previously unreleased body-camera footage of George Floyd’s arrest. Some found that it changed their perception of the incident. Most notably, my former American Conservative colleague Rod Dreher wrote a lightning-rod blog post in which he contended ... Read More

The New George Floyd Video Should Not Surprise You

This week, the Daily Mail managed to get its hands on some previously unreleased body-camera footage of George Floyd’s arrest. Some found that it changed their perception of the incident. Most notably, my former American Conservative colleague Rod Dreher wrote a lightning-rod blog post in which he contended ... Read More

Why Trump’s Losing

President Trump pulled an inside straight to win in 2016, and now he needs another one. The good news for Trump is that his approval rating has stopped falling recently. The bad news is that it has stabilized in the low 40s. Election-watcher Harry Enten points out that no president since Harry Truman has won ... Read More

Why Trump’s Losing

President Trump pulled an inside straight to win in 2016, and now he needs another one. The good news for Trump is that his approval rating has stopped falling recently. The bad news is that it has stabilized in the low 40s. Election-watcher Harry Enten points out that no president since Harry Truman has won ... Read More

A Stay-at-Home Mom on Her Reasons for Leaving Portland

While covering events (see here and here) in Portland, Ore., National Review writer Luther Abel sat down with Joanna -- a college-educated, stay-at-home mom and now Trump voter -- who feels it is no longer safe or healthy to live there. They discussed the change that has happened in the city politically, the ... Read More

A Stay-at-Home Mom on Her Reasons for Leaving Portland

While covering events (see here and here) in Portland, Ore., National Review writer Luther Abel sat down with Joanna -- a college-educated, stay-at-home mom and now Trump voter -- who feels it is no longer safe or healthy to live there. They discussed the change that has happened in the city politically, the ... Read More

Baby Please Come Back, Says Andrew Cuomo

Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg famously described New York City in 2003 as a “luxury product,” and therefore priced accordingly. The price hasn’t changed, except to go up slightly — taxes, rents, everything. But few would argue that the product New York offers remains first-rate. The theaters are closed. The ... Read More

Baby Please Come Back, Says Andrew Cuomo

Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg famously described New York City in 2003 as a “luxury product,” and therefore priced accordingly. The price hasn’t changed, except to go up slightly — taxes, rents, everything. But few would argue that the product New York offers remains first-rate. The theaters are closed. The ... Read More

Republicans Could Hold the Senate Even If Trump Loses

Republican fears of an electoral disaster for the Senate GOP are well-founded. They could narrowly lose control of the upper chamber. They could suffer a Chernobyl-like meltdown. But the conventional wisdom seems to have grown too bearish on the GOP odds of holding the Senate. The defeat of the deeply ... Read More

Republicans Could Hold the Senate Even If Trump Loses

Republican fears of an electoral disaster for the Senate GOP are well-founded. They could narrowly lose control of the upper chamber. They could suffer a Chernobyl-like meltdown. But the conventional wisdom seems to have grown too bearish on the GOP odds of holding the Senate. The defeat of the deeply ... Read More

New York’s Lawless NRA Lawsuit

The latest bananas news from the banana republic that is the State of New York: The attorney general, a political enemy of the National Rifle Association, is seeking to have the advocacy organization legally dissolved. The pretext is financial corruption and self-dealing on the part of the NRA’s ... Read More

New York’s Lawless NRA Lawsuit

The latest bananas news from the banana republic that is the State of New York: The attorney general, a political enemy of the National Rifle Association, is seeking to have the advocacy organization legally dissolved. The pretext is financial corruption and self-dealing on the part of the NRA’s ... Read More