Economy & Business

Would a Wealth Tax Destroy Itself?

Neil Irwin has an interesting piece about that concept. Basically, if you confiscate people’s wealth to pay for government freebies today, that wealth won’t be there anymore when you want to do the same thing tomorrow.

As Irwin writes, Warren’s 6 percent wealth tax on billionaires would quickly eat away at wealth held in assets that don’t grow in value much over time (such as real estate and just generic stuff like yachts); even her 2 percent tax on those with more than $50 million could entirely cancel out returns from safe investments. More aggressive investments could continue to grow against a 6 percent tax . . . but Warren wants other taxes on these folks as well, such as a more aggressive approach to capital gains.

He continues:

Moreover, the existence of these taxes would increase the incentive for a rich person to take steps to avoid taxes, many of which would have the similar effect of reducing their wealth. If you are a billionaire planning to give much of your fortune to charity after your death, why not do so immediately to avoid spending decades paying a 6 percent annual tax to the government? Or, perhaps less nobly, why not spend it on leasing yachts or chartering private jets for fantastic vacations? . . .

[A] president seeking to pay for a policy agenda with taxes on extreme wealth might want to think ahead to what should be done if those taxes result in a lot less extreme wealth to tax.

Another big aspect to this, which Irwin doesn’t really address, is how quickly the American economy would generate new zillionaires whose fortunes would be newly subject to the tax.

For whatever it’s worth, The Triumph of Injustice, the new book by Warren advisers Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, features this chart illustrating what would have happened to the Forbes 400 if a wealth tax had been in place since the 1980s:


The “moderate” tax is 2 percent above $50 million and 3 percent above $1 billion; the “radical” one has a top rate of 10 percent. (Warren recently shifted her own top rate to 6 percent.) In this estimation, neither of these taxes would have outright reduced the share of the nation’s wealth held by the Forbes 400 — they would just have counteracted the underlying trend of growing wealth up there, holding the share steady or only allowing it to double, rather than triple as it did. This seems to suggest that the government could continue to collect a tax like this indefinitely, though of course revenue would fluctuate over time.

But! As Irwin writes, Warren and Sanders want other taxes on these folks too. And I’ve written before about the sleight of hand Saez and Zucman employed elsewhere in their book, so I wouldn’t take this run of the numbers as definitive.

If we’re really thinking about taxing people for the simple act of owning wealth, I would like to see a serious debate about how these various phenomena — a wealth tax, fortunes growing through investment income, new fortunes being made — would balance out. If a wealth tax eats its own base, it will only create the need for huge middle-class tax hikes in the future.

National Review

Will Your Right to Speak Out Be Canceled Too?

NR’s Fall 2019 Webathon enters its final days, short some $47,749 of our aspiring and stretching $325,000 goal, which – given our true needs, could have been $500,000 (and then some). Will you help us close in on our target? These folks have, and along with their generosity have tossed some hosannahs our way:

  • Michael from San Antonio hits us with a $100 and, unlike Alfie, doesn’t wonder what’s it all about. He knows: “Where else can I go to be amused, enlightened, and enraged, in 20 minutes, often by the exact same writer? Like faith, conservatism must be constantly scrutinized, polished, tested, and improved to survive. NRO does the job; thanks.” Amen brother, and we thank you.
  • Julie from Huron, S.D., sends a sweet $200 and takes us down memory lane: “I was privileged to hear WFB Jr. speak on two occasions. Both events cemented my commitment to a conservative view of this life. National Review carries on the good fight. You simply must win this elemental battle for speech.” We will with you alongside us Julie. Many thanks.
  • Allen from North Carver, Mass., cracks open the piggy bank to send us $125, and a short novella: “All right . . . enough, already! No mas! I surrender! Buckley ‘guilted’ me for years . . . and Jack Fowler, and someone whose name I can’t recall . . . but you guys (especially KJL) have taken it to a new level. Like it says on my tattered NRO t-shirt: ‘resistance is futile’! Homeschooling six kids on a single income I finally had to drop my NR print subscription ― gornischt helfen ― you guys corralled me as an online subscriber! There isn’t a dime to spare with one kid in college, and another starting every 2-3 years for the foreseeable future . . . they eat like longshoremen, wreck cars with abandon (and apologetic grins), and waste heat and electricity as though someone else was paying for it ― ecce futura nostro! Of course I’m doing it as much for myself as for them ― I do believe that WFB may have saved my soul by introducing me to the Latin Mass, and NR(O) saves my sanity daily ― but the younger generation is starting to “get it” and I owe it to them ― and to you guys ― to do what I can to make sure there is still an NR(O) there when they ― like me ― start to ask those questions that our benighted culture cannot answer in any sane or useful fashion. Forward!” This post may lead to an EWTN reality show Allen, so it is money well spent. Thanks.
  • Kirby from Seattle, yeah, that Kirby, sends a C note and talks about NR’s lifelong influence: “The contribution NR has made in my life is incalculable. Hard to believe that I’ve been reading NR since high school, 51 years ago. Time passes, people change, nations fall and rise, but there stands NR as the standard for the truths and principles of conservatism and the Founding. Writers and thinkers and columnists come and go but the truth never dies and NR persists as a vehicle for it. God bless you all, and the United States of America. Pro Deo et Patria.” And pro Kirbster!

God bless them. Now: See those stamps above? Over the decades our postage has regularly boasted, essentially as a nation, about free speech, a free press, religious freedom, liberty, their champions, and the First Amendment. But all that is under attack right now, courtesy of the lawsuit National Review v. Mann. Get the 411 on the case here, and know that we are still counting on the Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on our cert petition, to take up this terribly important case. If SCOTUS doesn’t, we head towards a trial in the liberal District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and if you think that our speech rights – they’re yours too – won’t be severely tested and maybe even harmed in that venue, well, the time has come for you to face some troubling realities.

Back to those stamps, which boast: “FREEDOM TO SPEAK OUT. A ROOT OF DEMOCRACY.” Yeah, and it just may get uprooted. Notice the cancel stripes on the image – I find them symbolic of what a losing National Review v. Mann outcome might mean for a cherished principle.

So NR fights this fight. For us, for you, for America. That is part of the reason we seek your support. We want you alongside us, and we don’t believe that is too big an ask, nor do we shortchange the expectation that engaged conservatives will take notice and action on behalf of an unalienable right. Especially if you’ve yet to ever respond to one of our biannual webathon appeals, please do so now, before we pull up the drawbridge on Sunday, November 10th. Donate here. If your preference is to send a check, make one payable to “National Review” and mail it to National Review, ATTN: 2019 Fall Webathon, 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701, New York, NY 10036. Many thanks.

National Review

Celebrate Give Me Liberty with NR’s Special Brookhiser / Thompson Podcast Series

If you thought Richard Brookhiser’s acclaimed new history, Give Me Liberty: A History of America’s Exceptional Idea, is worth a podcast series, well, you’d be right. And to mark the publication, Rick and Luke Thompson – who co-hosted our popular Constitutionally Speaking podcast, have joined forces on an NR-exclusive 13-episode limited series, Give Me Liberty: The Making of American Exceptionalism, that will explore the bakers’-dozen events, speeches, and actions that populate Rick’s book and make the case why Liberty is particular to these United States, and an evident trait even before we were a country.

The first episode – listen to it here – discusses the Founding of Jamestown in 1607, and the hallmark it established for self-rule through the settlement’s General Assembly, which was America’s first legislature. The podcast is a great listen, and a great elaboration on Rick’s already sterling history lesson in his book.

The entire podcast series is available right now for logged-in NRPLUS members. Not a member? That’s okay. (Sorta!) We’ve also made available episodes two through five, tracking Rick’s book and exploring The Flushing Remonstrance (where that uniquely American freedom of religious liberty was first tested, and prevailed), the case of John Peter Zenger, which established a free press, the historic proclamation of liberty, better known as the Declaration of Independence, which proved to be the cornerstone of our Republic, and the constitution of the New York Manumission Society, which began the evolving process of establishing liberty for slaves (the current issue of National Review publishes an excerpt from Rick’s book on this important undertaking).

Episodes 6 through thirteen – in which Rick and Luke (and in one episode, the great Jay Nordlinger) take on other chapters from Give Me Liberty– will be made available to non-members of NRPLUS at the rate of one per week beginning November 11. (To get all the episodes right now, sign up for NRPLUS here.)

Elections

Kamala’s Reassuring Tale for Donors: Remember That Time I Barely Beat a Republican in California?

Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at the 2019 National Forum on Wages and Working People in Las Vegas, Nev., April 27, 2019. (Gage Skidmore)

Politico‘s Christopher Cadalago has a long look at the collapse of the Kamala Harris campaign. Just how bad are things? “Aides sometimes talk about the campaign in the past tense before catching themselves,” Cadelago reports. 

And this is how Harris has tried to cheer up worried donors: 

Nine years ago, Kamala Harris was behind in her race for California attorney general, trailing by a handful of percentage points to Steve Cooley, a moderate Republican with deep roots in Southern California. An older white guy, Cooley looked a lot like his would-be predecessors. Harris, nearly two decades younger and the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, looked like nobody who held the state’s top law enforcement office before. Harris won the race with a late surge: She capitalized on a mistake by her opponent. She outworked him in the closing stretch. And she persuaded Californians to take a chance on a new kind of AG.

In the middle of another summer slump, this time for her disappointing presidential campaign, Harris began telling the story of her comeback over Cooley to restless donors behind closed doors a few months ago.

To put Harris’s reassuring tale in context, recall that when she ran against Cooley in 2010, Democrat Jerry Brown defeated Republican Meg Whitman by 13 percentage points in the governor’s race. Democrat Barbara Boxer defeated Republican Carly Fiorina by 10 points in the U.S. Senate race. And Democrat Kamala Harris defeated Republican Steve Cooley by less than 1 percentage point on that very same day. 

Cadelago notes that Harris only defeated Cooley after the Republican complained at a debate that the $150,000 attorney general’s salary was “incredibly low” and said that he would definitely double dip and take his taxpayer-funded pension while serving as attorney general because he’d “earned it.”

It’s true that Cooley was a formidable opponent because he was the district attorney of Los Angeles County (Harris was district attorney of San Francisco). But the 2010 election isn’t a hopeful tale for Harris. The fact that she ran 12 points behind the Democrat at the top of the ticket in her only statewide election against a Republican is actually a sign that she was a weak candidate all along.

Law & the Courts

Florida’s Felons, Not Quite Back on the Voter Rolls Yet

(Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Remember Florida’s referendum last year that restored the right to vote to more than 1.4 million felons? A bit more than 64 percent of Floridians voted in support of it, and on January 8, an estimated 1.4 million people with felony convictions became eligible to register to vote.

But in July, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a bill declaring that before voting rights could be restored, felons had to settle all financial obligations related to their sentences, and Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law. This restriction could be hugely consequential; an estimated 80 percent of the state’s felons have unpaid financial obligations imposed by courts during sentencing. Two weeks ago, a federal judge ruled that individuals too poor to pay back their financial obligations should not be prevented from voting, and granted a preliminary injunction.

Today the Florida Supreme Court heard arguments about the law requiring financial obligations to be paid.

Separately, it’s not clear that many of Florida’s 1.4 million felons are rushing to restore their voting rights — which may not be surprising, considering how this is an off year, with only a special state legislative election and some local offices and measures on the ballot this year.

So far this year, 454,881 people have joined the voter rolls in Florida. At first glance, that looks like a giant surge, but we don’t know what proportion are felons and what proportion are non-felons and people moving into the state. But Florida also tracks “active removals” — cases where the voter becomes ineligible, or if a Supervisor of Election received notice from another state election official that the voter has registered out-of-state, or the voter requests in writing to be removed — and “inactive” voters, where there is no voting or voter registration record activity for two subsequent general election cycles. (As a state with many elderly and retirement communities, it is not surprising that a place nicknamed “God’s waiting room” would end up with significant numbers of registered voters becoming inactive each year.)

So far in 2019, Florida has 175,511 “active” removals and 195,532 “inactive” removals, for a sum total of 371,043 removed from the rolls. That adds up to 83,838 new voters in the Sunshine State so far this year — nothing to sneeze at, but a drop in the bucket of a state with 13.5 million registered voters. It is possible that the pool of voters is becoming more friendly to Democrats, with ex-felons registering and elderly Republicans passing away, but we simply don’t have data to back up that theory yet.

The number of voters who are added to the roles and removed from year to year varies a great deal. The most added in a single year was 1,049,520 in 2008 (!) and the fewest was 327,124 in 2009. In 2005, the state removed 639,764 (!), but two years later, the state removed just 202,647.

One other wrinkle: so far in 2019, the number of registered Republicans in the state has increased by 23,084, while the number of registered Democrats in the state has increased by 10,731.

Politics & Policy

ABC’s Excuse for Failing to Report on Jeffrey Epstein Makes Absolutely No Sense

Jeffrey Epstein at a status hearing in his sex trafficking case in New York, July 31, 2019 (Court sketch: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)

James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas, a group that has often infiltrated news organizations to uncover liberal bias, has released an explosive “hot mic” video of Good Morning America co-host Amy Robach venting about ABC’s decision to spike a story about Jeffrey Epstein’s nefarious activities three years ago.

“I had this interview with [Epstein victim] Virginia Roberts,” Robach is seen saying in the video, “we would not put it on the air. The [British royal] Palace found out that we had her whole allegations about Prince Andrew and threatened us a million different ways. We were afraid we wouldn’t be able to interview Kate and Will that we, that also quashed the story.”

Robach now claims, through a network statement, that she was caught “in a private moment” of frustration over the lack of progress on a story. “I was upset that an important interview I had conducted with Virginia Roberts didn’t air because I could not obtain sufficient corroborating evidence to meet ABC’s editorial standards about her allegations.”

Sorry, but Robach’s response to the firestorm doesn’t square with her initial comments, in which she states that “Roberts had pictures, she had everything . . . it was unbelievable what we had. [Bill] Clinton, we had everything.”

“Everything” sure sounds like sufficient corroborating evidence. Even if employing the most scrupulous journalistic standards, a giant news organization wouldn’t need three years to substantiate — or dismiss — a story with pictures, dates, and a credible witness.

We certainly know that ABC didn’t need “everything” — or much of anything, for that matter – when it was running scores of pieces online and on television, highlighting every risible accusation against then–Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

I’m not even talking about the prime accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, whose allegations still haven’t been corroborated, but rather about someone such as Julie Swetnick, who was all over the ABC News at the height of the confirmation battle. Swetnick accused Kavanaugh not only of sexual assault but also of being present at parties where women were being drugged and “gang raped.” She wasn’t even remotely credible.

Yet here is Robach’s colleague, former Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulos, meeting ABC’s editorial standards by allowing Swetnick’s shyster lawyer Michael Avenatti to smear Kavanaugh without offering a shred of substantiating evidence for her claims.

Why couldn’t Roberts be interviewed similarly?

Roberts had alleged that Epstein kept her as a sex-slave and forced her to perform sex acts on Prince Andrew and Alan Dershowitz. Robach contends in the hot-mic video that producers told her no one knew, or cared, about Epstein. Do you think viewers cared or knew about Clinton, Dershowitz, and Prince Andrew?

I imagine so.

Three years ago, remember, Bill Clinton’s wife was in the midst of her presidential run. One imagines that a story detailing her husband’s vacations to a pedophile’s island retreat might have been newsworthy.

By the way, has Robach wrapped up that reporting on Clinton, yet?

The notion that she believes she was venting during “private moment” isn’t plausible, either. Any regular guest — and Robach is on TV every day — knows that a gaggle of producers are listening to everything that’s being said, and that everything that’s being said is going to be on tape.

Paired with NBC News’ burying of the Harvey Weinstein story, we now have evidence of two major media institutions protecting serial abusers. One wonders how many young women might have been saved if they hadn’t.

Elections

Why Are Democrats Using the Word ‘Latinx’?

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) gestures in a televised townhall on CNN in Los Angeles, Calif., October 10, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Some unpleasant news for progressives consumed by the ever-evolving demands of properly administering their identity-politics agenda: A new study conducted by the progressive firm ThinkNow Research has found that a whopping 98 percent of Latinos in the U.S. prefer to describe themselves with terms other than “Latinx.”

Latinx is a relatively new formulation, coined by those so fixated on gender theory that they believe it necessary to eradicate or modify beyond recognition words that feature masculine or gendered endings. Here’s more on the intricacies of the term and its aspirational goals, from HuffPost:

Latinx is the gender-neutral alternative to Latino, Latina and even Latin@. . . . It’s part of a “linguistic revolution” that aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants. In addition to men and women from all racial backgrounds, Latinx also makes room for people who are trans, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming or gender fluid.

As left-wing activist circles have gravitated toward using this term rather than the more common — and intelligible — Latino/Latina, some members of this year’s slate of Democratic presidential candidates have decided they had better go along for the ride, some more clumsily than others. During the first primary debate, for instance, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren pronounced the word “Latin-X,” perhaps an understandable error given the unnaturalness of the word (not to mention the unfortunate fact that not all of its fans agree on how it ought to be pronounced).

But the results of ThinkNow’s poll suggest that this sort of obvious pandering is unnecessary, and perhaps even harmful. Ross Douthat put a fine point on the matter in his most recent column for the New York Times:

But if Warren’s linguistic move seemed normal to journalists — in our world, the phrase “Latinx” is increasingly commonplace — it’s still a curious one for a politician doing outreach. There’s very little evidence that “Latinx” is a thing that many Hispanics or Latinos call themselves, at least in the kind of numbers that normally determine how political candidates talk.

“Though Latinx is becoming common in social media and in academic writing,” a recent Merriam-Webster “words we’re watching” entry noted, “it is unclear whether it will catch on in mainstream use.”

If Latino Americans don’t in fact identify with the word “Latinx,” as this poll suggests, one is left to wonder not only whether Democrats who persist in using it are undercutting their support but also whether, in using it in the first place, they’re aiming to appeal to Latino voters at all. More likely, Democratic politicians are far more concerned with appeasing the white, highly educated, progressive activist class who use the term than they are with appealing to the individuals whom the word is supposedly meant to better represent.

NR Webathon

Looking for 412 Good Conservatives

Outside the U.S. Supreme Court, October 7, 2019 (Mary F. Calvert/Reuters)

You are one, yes? Good. Here’s what you’ve signed up for: a not-so-big ask that you contribute to the Fall 2019 Webathon. As of this afternoon, we humbly seek another $50,506.74 – given by generous and selfless friends of NR and of free speech – between now and November 10, in order to reach our goal of raising $325,000 (to pay some of our non-covered costs in this case, plus general operational support).

And let’s be honest: “We” are under no delusion or illusion that “we” get achieve this goal. It’s reached only if you are part of this we.

Our math is pretty honest too: The average donation has been $122.48 (this number fluctuates, but not by much), and over 2,000 friends of NR have sent $274,493.26 since we began this drive on October 8th. So if a balanced mix 412 fine and kindly folk contribute — some the Widow’s Mite or a sawbuck, some a grand or possible more — the computation will find us in the territory of our hoped-for new and final objective.

Surely the mailman is delivering a passel of checks today, so between them and folks reading NRO right now — quickly concluding that, yeah, they spend a lot of time here and yeah, NRO really merits the above-and-beyond help, and yeah, that National Review v. Mann fight that could be before the U.S. Supreme Court boils down to an effort to protect my constitutional free-speech right – we’ll get there.

Hey, look at that stamp. It’s from 1945. Remember that once there was a time when even liberal Democrats championed the First Amendment. So long ago, so far away, no? Smack dab here in 2019, leftist Dems are intent on breaking NR over our strong and proud conservative voice. Don’t be under the mistaken notion that this has nothing to do with you: If the Left prevails in National Review v. Mann, your free-speech right is not going to know what hit it. So do strongly consider helping NR via our Webathon. Donate here, and if you prefer to send a check, make one payable to “National Review” and mail it to National Review, ATTN: 2019 Fall Webathon, 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701, New York, NY 10036.

NR Webathon

Recalibrating and Urging

National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr.

We are deeply appreciative that, as of this morning, some 2093 people have donated $269,553.26 to NR’s 2019 Fall Webathon. Our goal was to raise $275,000. We have changed that to $325,000, a target we hope to hit by November 10th, the final day of this appeal. Why move the goalposts? Because our need for support is far greater than the original figure, which was, we admit it, contrived. Contrived in that it was terribly aspirational. But as the response to our drive has been inspirational, we are determined to test the kindness of those who have yet to respond.

To reach our new goal, we need to raise $55,446.74 by midnight on Sunday. Let us direct this to those regulars, those . . . junkies, who consume vast quantities of NRO, day in and out, year in and out, sidestepping these appeals each and every time. Until now? Please consider a $25, or $50, or $100 contribution, if only to ease your conscience, which for years has been standing athwart your cheapskatery yelling Stop. Your bit — none is considered little — is hugely worthwhile and important to us. NR is the stuff of many small supporters – for some reason the sugar daddies and mommies have always ignored us.

A refresher on why we seek support: One big reason is to defray legal costs associated with National Review v. Mann, the nation’s most pressing case involving an attack on your free-speech rights. Please know that the justices have yet to rule on our petition for a writ of certiorari, and we may learn as early as next week if SCOTUS will agree to take up this case.

But there are many other reasons why we ask for material help: Propagating conservatism is essential, but costly. We are confident that many of our readers know that, minus their selflessness, NR’s ability to be full-throated in defense of our principles would be diminished. Here are the words of a number of recent webathon supporters, explaining what motivated them to hit the donate button.

  • Peter from Benton Harbor, Mich., drops a mighty grand on us and squeezes a lot into his explanation: “Thanks to NR/NRO for continuing to provide a venue for terrific young conservative writers to show their quality, all under Rich’s steady hand (iron fist?) and Jack’s open palm. Thank you for all you do and Xan, Go Irish!”
  • John from Pittsboro, N.C. forks over $100 along with gratitude: “Thank you for trying to save Western Civilization.” It can be done with you alongside us. Thanks John.
  • Another $100 from another Joh, this one from Manitowoc, Wis., who accompanies them with prayers: “National Review has been my favorite op-ed web-news organization for many years. I’ve acquired more than a college degree’s worth or knowledge from your noble pundits. I am happy to donate to your just cause as I believe it is incumbent on all of us to actively participate in the fight to protect our liberties from those who would silence our collective, conservative voice. You are all in our prayers.” This means the world to us.
  • Jacob from Elkhorn, Neb., sends a sweet C note and some words of inspiration to others: “It is vital to support the current formidable intellectual arsenal at NR, and to ensure the next generation of great writers (we see you Madeleine Kearns!) is similarly supported to take on a world where people seem to have stopped thinking.” I think I like this!
  • Paul from Front Royal, Va., makes a return donation visit, tenders $20, and let’s loose with the verbiage: “Okay, here’s a little more. A week or so ago I wrote that may contributions was only because of Kevin Williamson. Well, maybe  bit too quick there. Of course, Williamson is a treasure, but, yeah, you have few other I look forward to. Rich is always in tone and substance where I would like to be if a writer. And a few others who I’m too lazy to look up because I can’t remember them now. Of the conservative websites I read (and I read left ones), you are the best.” We like your kind of lazy Paul. Thanks.
  • Ruth from Baltimore, the Sultana of Swat, the Babeino, knocks it out of the park with her $100 gift and encouraging words: “Thank you for continuing to provide great and incisive commentary from your truly diverse team (love the wonky and the wacky – a Kat Timpf and Kyle Smith are amazing!). Keep keeping us sane in this crazy year.” Keeping!
  • Sean from Blue Bell, Pa., tosses a mighty 500 smackers into the collection basket and explains why with precision: “NR serves a critical function in forever promoting conservative ideas and values that are essential for the preservation of freedom. I value the publication and want to see it continue.” You nailed it. Thanks so much Sean.
  • And we’ll conclude with Richard from El Sobrante, Calif., who kindly sends us $200 and a day’s worth of wistful: “I was a huge fan of Bill Buckley, still am and miss him terribly.” Amen to that.

Easily there are 1,000 readers out there who feel compelled to give, and not because of any conscience-nagging – they just haven’t gotten around to it. They – you! – can do that right here. If all you can do is $10, swell. But what if you could add a zero to that – can you give $100, or maybe even $250 or $500? Over 30 people have donated $1,000 to our effort – yep, that is a lot, but if you have the means to match that, please do consider it. After all, we’re engaged in hand-to-hand combat on behalf of free speech. Finally, lots of people prefer to do their giving by check, and we are of course very cool with that. You can make yours payable to “National Review” and mail it to National Review, ATTN: 2019 Fall Webathon, 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701, New York, NY 10036.  God bless one and all!

Elections

What Election Day 2019 Will Tell Us

(Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

This year’s selection of off-year elections are not the most exciting and high-stakes battles in American politics, and after hearing candidates proclaim, “this year is most important election year of our lifetime” almost every year for the past decade and a half, it’s a relief. But by tomorrow morning, we will know a few things.

One: In Louisiana, if incumbent Jon Bel Edwards gets reelected, it will demonstrate that a Democrat can win in a deep South, GOP-trending state . . . if he’s willing to defy the national party’s orthodoxy on abortion. Some Democrats might be willing to make that trade, others will not.

Two: In Kentucky, if incumbent governor Matt Bevin loses, it will be a disappointment for Republicans and indicate that despite the Bluegrass State being reliably Republican in presidential and Senate elections, Kentucky Democrats remain significantly stronger in the fight for control of state government. Democrats will insist this means they can beat Mitch McConnell next year, which is highly unlikely, but could turn Amy McGrath into the Beto O’Rourke of the coming cycle: a well-funded Democrat getting a lot of national press because she’s taking on an incumbent GOP senator whom progressives detest. Yes, Beto lost his race in 2018, but he created coattails for some Democratic wins lower on the ticket.

Three: In Mississippi, GOP lieutenant governor Tate Reeves and Democratic attorney general Jim Hood are competing in the governor’s race, and a Hood win would represent further evidence that Democrats can win in deep red places by giving a bit of ground on some cultural issues, much like Edwards. Hood defended the state’s fetal heartbeat law, describes himself as “pro-life and pro-gun,” and is running a very shrewd campaign, running on expanding Medicaid and rural health care options, expanded pre-K, and pledging targeted tax cuts. Once again, some national Democrats may not find electing pro-life and pro-gun candidates palatable.

Four: In Virginia, either the ebullient confidence of the state Democratic party will prove to be well-informed and astute, or Democrats will have fooled themselves into getting excited about higher margins in districts that are already blue. An early October survey of the generic ballot put Democrats ahead, 49 percent to 36 percent. But if that’s just increasing the enthusiasm in Democratic-leaning places like Alexandria, Arlington, Charlottesville, and Fairfax, it won’t change the makeup of the state legislature. So far, the number of absentee ballots returned is up dramatically compared to 2015 . . . but a lot of that is in districts that Democrats already hold.

Five: No one expects a dramatic change in the makeup of the New Jersey state assembly, but it would be nice if the Garden State GOP showed a pulse.

Six: Many on the Right will be hoping Washington state does not restore affirmative action and racial preferences to state contracting and university admissions, that Texas approves a state constitutional amendment to make it more difficult to ever enact an income tax, that Coloradans reject Proposition CC, which would end the state’s constitutional caps on tax revenue, and that Tucson, Ariz., does not become a sanctuary city.

If 2019 turns out to be a lousy year for Republicans . . . then it’s another ominous indicator for 2020. The 2017 off-year elections like the New Jersey and Virginia governor’s races were brutal for Republicans; the 2018 midterms were terrible in the House, a mixed bag in the governor’s races, but pretty good in the Senate, and then a bad 2019 would be the third straight during the Trump presidency. Trump’s fans will argue, with some merit, that he’s not on the ballot and he cannot single-handedly overcome other factors like candidate flaws. But the fact remains that Democratic turnout has been generally excellent ever since Trump was elected, an indication that the president motivates his opposition as much as he motivates his own base.

Elections

Tom Steyer Proves Money Doesn’t Matter

Pro-impeachment billionaire Tom Steyer has spent an incredible $46 million on presidential election advertising, according to data from Advertising Analytics featured in Axios. That is $13.5 million more than President Donald Trump and more than three times as much as Elizabeth Warren.

Much of that spending has been in Iowa. It hasn’t helped his chances. Steyer is currently in seventh place in the Hawkeye State, between Kamala Harris and Tulsi Gabbard, according to the RealClearPolitics average. In New Hampshire, he’s in ninth place. He has .9 percent of Democrats nationwide. Money can’t buy you love — or an election.

Culture

Tuesday Links

Protesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks attend an anti-government demonstration in Hong Kong, China, November 5, 2019. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/ Reuters )

November 5 is Guy Fawkes Day, when God preserved us from the “secret contrivance and hellish malice of Popish Conspirators”.

How Breakfast Became a Thing — the “most important meal of the day” line was an ad campaign to sell more cereal.

An 18th-century guide to hunting vampires inspired the first works of vampire fiction.

This Chart Explains the Chemicals That Give Autumn Leaves Their Color.

Why is ice so slippery?

A Cultural Historian Explores an Old Mental Hospital.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include awkward fashion ads from the 1970s, when George Soros broke the British pound, why pigeons bob their heads, and the Swiss town where residents spent a lifetime aging a wheel of cheese for their own funeral.

Education

Is Harvard Leading On Black Applicants?

A Harvard University student cheers during the 135th playing of “The Game” against Yale University, in Boston, Mass. U.S., November 17, 2018. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Via Tyler Cowen we learn there’s a new paper from Duke’s Peter Arcidiacono — the economist who served as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the recent lawsuit against Harvard. (I’ve written about Arcidiacono’s work before here and here.) In this one, Arcidiacono and his coauthors detail a rather bizarre pattern in the school’s admissions data.

Basically, starting with the class of 2009 — in the wake of some Supreme Court activity that mildly limited affirmative action — the school began seeking out lots more applications from black students, leading the black share of the applicant pool to grow from about 6 percent to about 10 percent. Some of this effort seems to have taken the form of recruitment letters sent out on the basis of test scores, with far lower cutoffs for members of underrepresented groups.

Yet the new applicants apparently had little prayer of getting in. “The share of admits who were African American remained unchanged,” the authors write. “At the same time, the average SAT score of African American applicants fell by 33 points (on an 800-point scale)” between the classes of 2008 and 2012, something that did not happen for other racial groups.

Indeed, it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that many black applicants to Harvard have no chance of getting in:

African Americans account for only 11% of the applicant pool [for the classes of 2014 through 2019], but 41% of the applicants in the bottom decile of the academic index. The admit rate for non-[athlete, legacy, dean’s list, or staff] African Americans in the bottom decile was 0.03%: only 2 of the 5,921 applicants in this decile were admitted over the six year period.

Why beef up the applicant pool by adding a bunch of kids you know won’t be accepted from a single racial group? Arcidiacono et al. float a solid theory: Doing this helps to conceal the school’s affirmative-action policies in the data.

Take a look at this chart. Through 2008, admit rates fanned out by race exactly the way you’d expect at a school with strong affirmative action. Black applicants were the most likely to get in, followed by Hispanics, whites, and Asians.

But now think about this a little more carefully. Those early numbers, in and of themselves, don’t really prove the existence of affirmative action. In theory, we would also see this pattern if students from some groups were more promiscuous with their applications than others. Maybe blacks were more conservative, spending their time and money to apply only when they had really strong academic records, while Asians were more likely to apply even if their scores and grades were borderline at best in the context of Harvard.

In other words, admit rates depend not just on a school’s admissions policies, but also on students’ propensity to apply. The paper’s theory is that the school used this concept to reverse the pattern in the chart above.

If you solicit a ton of applications from black students who have no prayer whatsoever of getting in, it makes it look like you’re being more selective with blacks when you turn around and reject those kids — even though you’ve changed nothing else about your process. Indeed, since 2010, whites have actually had higher admit rates than blacks, despite the use of racial preferences to help blacks but not whites.

You have to admit it’s kind of clever.

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