Politics & Policy

Trump May Soon End AFFH

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Last night, President Trump sent out a tweet saying that he may entirely put an end to the Obama-Biden administration’s outrageously intrusive Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation. As the president put it:

At the request of many great Americans who live in the Suburbs, and others, I am studying the AFFH housing regulation that is having a devastating impact on these once thriving suburban areas. Corrupt Joe Biden wants to make them MUCH WORSE. Not fair to homeowners, I may END!

Correct. Biden’s expanded anti-suburban housing plans will hurt homeowners far more than even the Obama administration’s wildly overreaching AFFH. I explained all that yesterday in “Biden and Dems Are Set to Abolish the Suburbs.”

Now the president’s campaign needs to highlight just how much AFFH will hurt the suburbs, especially once the egregious AFFH regulation is turbo-charged by Biden’s “Cory Booker strategy.” The suburbs hold the balance in this election. Once they find out what Biden has in store for them, you’ll see their voters turn out for Trump.

Congratulations to President Trump for taking on AFFH. Now, if your campaign exposes the Democrats’ anti-suburban plans and ignores the media screams, the suburbs will be in your corner.

Economics

Mankiw as in ‘Thank You’

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Left: portrait of Karl Marx (1818–1883); right: portrait of Milton Friedman (1912–2006) (John Jabez Edwin Mayall / The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice / Wikimedia)

Yesterday, I recorded a Q&A podcast with Greg Mankiw — N. Gregory Mankiw — the famed economist. The name is of Ukrainian origin. It rhymes with “Thank you.”

Mankiw is a professor at Harvard, granted tenure while still in his twenties. (In fact, the announcement came on his 29th birthday.) He is the author of two popular textbooks, one of which, Principles of Economics, has sold more than 2 million copies and been translated into 20 languages.

For two years, Mankiw was the chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush.

In our podcast, I ask him about his growing up, his education, and his attraction to economics. Why is it called “the dismal science”? Many economists I have known are anything but dismal. Mankiw points out that economists tend to remind people of trade-offs they have to make — which a lot of us don’t want to hear about.

One of my least favorite words is “capitalism.” It has a Marxist smell about it, according to my nose. Mankiw, a free-marketeer, a classical liberal, almost never uses the word, preferring such terms as “market economy.” “Capitalism” seems to set capital against labor.

Bill Buckley had a question he asked over and over: How to explain the continuing popularity of socialism, given socialism’s dismal (!) record? I put the same question to Mankiw: who says, in part, that socialism is popular among the young because it is “aspirational.”

What does Mankiw think of “UBI,” a universal basic income? He is sympathetic to it, as are many free-economy types, I am finding.

What does he say about Karl Marx? (Hardly influential at all in economics, but disastrously influential in politics.) What economists are particularly close to Mankiw’s heart? (He pays tribute to Milton Friedman.)

I ask Mankiw to talk about property rights, taxation, trade, immigration, wealth inequality, deficits, the GOP — a host of issues. He is an excellent teacher, and thinker, and talker. Furthermore, a free economy needs all the support it can get, besieged as it is on all sides.

Again, you and I can listen to Professor Mankiw here, with no tuition required.

Education

Economics Professor: Abolish the Department of Education

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Washington is loaded with useless bits of bureaucracy that foolishly meddle where the federal government has no business while at the same time costing the taxpayers plenty. We must economize.

In today’s Martin Center article, economics professor Walter Block argues that we should begin with the Department of Education. (Block, by the way, is under fire from the leftist academic mob for having said something they didn’t like; this will make the mob even angrier.)

First and foremost, Block opposes the Department’s “one-size-fits-all” regulations for educational entities, such as the infamous Title IX rules it imposed during the Obama years. He writes,

The Department of Education should disappear, simply, because each university, each business, each person ought to be able to impose whatever rules of justice they wish on all people and institutions they deal with voluntarily. Suppose I set up a grocery store and announce that if there is any altercation between me and a shopper, the matter will be settled with the flip of a coin, or dice, or chicken entrails, or tea leaves, or based on my own subjective interpretation. Do I or do I not have the right to impose that rule? Of course I do — at least in a free society. If you, gentle customer, do not want to abide by that, take your business elsewhere.

While matters have improved under the Trump administration, the fact remains that the Department exercises improper powers.

Block notes that the United States operated without any federal education department until the late 1970s and we could readily return to life without its many strictures.

He concludes: “The annual budget of this department is some $81 billion. I know of some taxpayers who would rather keep those funds in their own pockets.”

Politics & Policy

Biden: Protect Statues of Christopher Columbus

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On Tuesday, Joe Biden said that Confederate monuments “belong in museums,” but statues of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Christopher Columbus should be protected:

U.S.

Twenty-One Things that Caught My Eye Today: Hong Kong, Helping Foster Children, & More (June 30, 2020)

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1. Reason: These Women Received a Death Sentence for Being Sick In Prison

Hazel McGary is one of three inmates identified by Reason who have died from alleged medical neglect since 2018 at FCI Aliceville. Numerous current and former inmates, as well as their families, say in interviews, desperate letters, and lawsuits, that women inside Aliceville face disastrous delays in medical care. They describe monthslong waits for doctor appointments and routine procedures, skepticism and retaliation from staff, and terrible pain and fear.

None of these women was ever sentenced to death. But in Aliceville, that’s effectively the sentence they received—for nothing more than the crime of being sick.

2. Austin Hospital Withheld Treatment from Disabled Man Who Contracted Coronavirus

In a recorded conversation, the attending physician told Mrs. Hickson that he didn’t think her husband had much quality of life and, against her wishes, Mr. Hickson would not be nourished, hydrated, or receive treatment for the pneumonia he had developed.

Watch Mrs. Hickson’s plea to us all not to look away from the death of her husband here:

3. The Federalist: Under Sworn Testimony, Planned Parenthood Officials Admit Infanticide Occurs In Organ Harvesting

In the video, [Advanced Bioscience Resources] ABR’s procurement manager Perrin Larton describes how fetuses “just fall out” of some women in the operating room “once every couple months.” She says she receives these intact fetuses straight from the abortion doctor and dissects them in the clinic lab for body parts. Larton is asked if those fetuses have a heartbeat. “It depends,” she says. “I can see hearts that are not in an intact P.O.C. [product of conception] that are beating independently.”

4. National Catholic Register: Supreme Court Upholds Dangerous ‘Precedent’ in Louisiana Abortion Case

The June Medical majority first addressed an important question regarding standing: whether the case could even be brought to federal court in the first place. As in most challenges to abortion regulations, June Medical was brought by abortion businesses and abortionists. Not one woman — not even one “future client” — joined this lawsuit intended to block reasonable health and safety regulation of these abortion businesses.

5. Archbishop José H. Gomez: Letter to the faithful for the memorial of St. Junipero Serra

Continue reading “Twenty-One Things that Caught My Eye Today: Hong Kong, Helping Foster Children, & More (June 30, 2020)”

Politics & Policy

What Are the Mayors Doing?

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Even though there was already evidence of violence and extortion there, earlier this month, Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle defended the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone as a kind of “block party” run by idealists. On June 11th she tweeted that “#CHAZ is not a lawless wasteland of anarchist insurrection – it is a peaceful expression of our community’s collective grief and their desire to build a better world.” The genesis of CHAZ, since renamed CHOP, was in the mayoral decision to cede a police precinct to protestors and rioters. CHOP has made news for violently policing its borders with the rest of Seattle. In the past week, two teenagers have been shot to death, and a 14-year-old critically wounded.

But she is not the only mayor who is being unserious. Muriel Bowser of D.C. has wasted time painting Black Lives Matter in front of the White House. Mayor de Blasio, whose city has seen an extremely alarming increase in violent crime, wants to paint the same message in front of Trump Tower, essentially inviting confrontational protests with the police and Secret Service who guard the president’s personal residence.

Mayors and governors all over the nation are about to face historic budget shortfalls. They should be thinking far more seriously about restoring some sense of normalcy to their cities before the cutbacks of policing and social services kick in.

Politics & Policy

Manchin Reiterates Support for Senate’s 60-Vote Requirement for Legislation

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There has been an increasing amount of discussion among Senate Democrats about scrapping the upper-chamber’s 60-vote requirement to advance legislation. West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin made news on Monday when told The Hill that he is “interested in listening to anything” regarding filibuster reform because the Senate “isn’t working.” 

But Manchin wrote on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon that he opposes repealing the Senate filibuster:

Does that mean Manchin is absolutely committed to keeping the 60-vote threshold for legislation (outside the budget-reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority but is subject to complex rules)? A spokesman for Manchin tells National Review the answer to that question is “yes.”

Markets

Pensions: For Whom the Bell Tholes

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(SARINYAPINNGAM/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

I posted something yesterday on some of the challenges — to use too mild a word — that are looming for retirees, about-to-be retirees, and pension funds from an ultra-low-interest-rate environment that, thanks in no small part to central-bank involvement, has persisted for years and is likely to continue for quite a few years more.

Writing for Bloomberg Opinion, John Authers takes note of a recent case that highlights the difficulties surrounding the pension sector:

In Thole v. U.S. Bank, two retired members of U.S. Bank NA’s pension plan had sued for the right to bring a class action against the pension plan on the basis that it had been poorly investing the plan’s assets. They requested the repayment of approximately $750 million to the plan in losses suffered due to what they regarded as mismanagement. They had never, however, suffered any interruption to their own pension payments, which had continued in line with the contractually agreed amounts.

The [Supreme] court ruled that they could not bring an action against the pension plan because: “They have received all of their vested pension benefits so far, and they are legally entitled to receive the same monthly payments for the rest of their lives. Winning or losing this suit would not change the plaintiffs’ monthly pension benefits.”

The fact that defined-benefit plans have a legal duty to keep paying pension benefits does not, however, guarantee that they will find the money from somewhere to pay it.

Indeed not, and Authers has more than a little sympathy for what the dissenting justices had to say:

The Court holds that the Constitution prevents millions of pensioners from enforcing their rights to prudent and loyal management of their retirement trusts. Indeed, the Court determines that pensioners may not bring a federal lawsuit to stop or cure retirement-plan mismanagement until their pensions are on the verge of default. This conclusion conflicts with common sense and longstanding precedent.

To understand why the majority disagreed, this article in the National Law Review gives an excellent summary.

But whatever the law may say, the underlying problem that ultra-low interest rates represent to defined-benefit plans is not going away.

Authers:

The Federal Reserve appears determined to put a cap on corporate bond yields. Defined-benefits plans are dependent on two factors: returns on assets (largely stocks), and bond yields, which determine how expensive it is to buy an income – or in other words to meet their liabilities. The latest figures from the actuaries at Mercer, up until the end of May, show that S&P 1500 plans were in deep deficits, of about $500 billion, although the counter-acting effects of higher share prices and lower discount rates have largely stopped the deficit from deepening any further.

The problem is that the Fed’s master plan for getting through the next few years, and financing the huge sums of money that were thrown at the Covid-19 pandemic, is financial repression. This is the phrase for effectively forcing investors to lend to the government at artificially low rates . . . . There are arguments that this may be less painful than the alternatives, but it will be excruciating for pension plan managers, as it makes the cost of their liabilities artificially high.

As Authers notes, the nightmare scenario for the future is that large corporate pension plans will find that they are unable to meet their commitments. The presence of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation may offer some comfort to pensioners, but that will be of cold comfort to companies brought to their knees by pension obligations suddenly made much more onerous by the effects of low interest rates (for another good discussion of how this can work, go here). And it will be terrible news for their current employees too.

Just another reminder that (artificially) ‘cheap’ interest rates are a lot more expensive than they seem . . .

World

FCC Designates Chinese Tech Giants Huawei and ZTE as National-Security Threats

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A man walks past a Huawei logo at the International Consumer Electronics Expo in Beijing in 2019. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

The Federal Communications Commission has formally designated two technology giants closely connected to the Chinese Communist regime as national-security threats to the integrity of telecommunications networks and the communications supply chain.

The designation applies to Huawei Technologies Company and ZTE Corporation.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced that, after a full investigation, the commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) concluded that “[b]oth companies have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and China’s military apparatus, and both companies are broadly subject to Chinese law obligating them to cooperate with the country’s intelligence services.” Consequently, the companies pose “national security risks to America’s communications networks — and our 5G future.”

The designation, under a process the FCC adopted last year, in a November 22 order entitled “Protecting Against National Security Threats,” bars Huawei and ZTE from access to money in the Universal Service Fund. The USF is an annual $8.3 billion account funded by fees American consumers and businesses pay on their phone bills. The USF is designed to be spent on developing and maintaining secure networks; the point of the designation process is to foreclose spending on equipment supplied by companies that could threaten national security.

Huawei and ZTE were originally cited when the designation process went into effect. That triggered the PSHSB process that concluded with today’s formal designation announcement.

On Huawei, besides the company’s ties to the Chinese regime, the commission’s designation order noted:

Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, previously served as a director in the People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA), the armed forces of China and its ruling Communist Party, and that former Huawei employees have provided evidence showing that Huawei provides network services to an entity believed to be an elite cyber-warfare unit within the PLA.

The FCC further observed that credible reports had highlighted known cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities in Huawei equipment. Moreover, Congress and the executive branch have restricted the purchase and use of Huawei equipment; in fact, the Defense Department has banned the sale of Huawei devices on military bases and other DOD facilities worldwide.

DOD has placed similar prohibitions on ZTE, whose equipment is also notorious for cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities. The FCC also found that ZTE undermined the U.S. embargo on Iran by sending $32 million of American goods to Iran and then obstructing a Justice Department investigation.

In 2017, ZTE pled guilty to violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. It agreed to pay a fine of over $430 million, as well as additional settlement agreements to other U.S. government security agencies that brought the total payment to over $892 million.

Back in February, the Justice Department announced a racketeering indictment against Huawei, charging it, along with two U.S. subsidiaries, with conspiring to steal trade secrets. The DOJ described the scheme as a “long-running practice of using fraud and deception to misappropriate sophisticated technology from U.S. counterparts.” The indictment alleges, among other things, that Huawei has abetted Iran’s domestic surveillance regime, including during the 2009 demonstrations that were crushed by the Shiite jihadist regime.

The indictment also charged Wanzhou Meng, the Huawei’s chief financial officer. She is currently under house arrest in Canada, fighting extradition on the U.S. charges.

As I noted in a post this morning, China has just pushed through a law that subjects Hong Kong to Beijing’s control, under the guise of national security against “subversion” and “terrorism” — the Communist regime’s words for protests in the formerly semi-autonomous territory. China’s aggression in Hong Kong, its domestic persecution of Uighurs and other groups, and its central role in the coronavirus pandemic, have ratcheted up pressure on the Trump administration to respond with meaningful punitive measures.

U.S.

Uncommon Knowledge: The Case against Revolution with Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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As the United States and the world embark on fraught conversations about race, history, law enforcement, and the underpinnings of our very civilization, Ayaan Hirsi Ali joins Peter Robinson for an enlightening conversation. A refugee from Africa, Hirsi Ali fled to Europe to escape an arranged marriage, becoming an activist, (now former) member of the Dutch Parliament, and now a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. With a different set of life experiences and perspectives from American-born Blacks, Hirsi Ali discusses how, as a Somalian, she views America as the best place on earth for minorities to grow up and achieve their potential. While acknowledging the hardships and miseries that American Blacks have endured and that racism still exists in many quarters of American society, Hirsi Ali emphatically believes that America is more than capable of solving racial inequalities, provided it preserves the institutions that ultimately ended slavery and empowered the protest movements of the 1960s that birthed the Civil Rights Movement. As she wrote in a recent column for the Wall Street Journal, an opinion she reiterates on this show, “There will be no resolution of America’s . . . problems of free thought and free speech are no longer upheld as sacrosanct. . . . Without them, honest deliberation, mutual learning, and the American ethic of problem-solving are dead.”

Recorded on June 25, 2020

Law & the Courts

The Supreme Court’s Insoluble Problem

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Chief Justice John Roberts can’t make the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence democratically legitimate. Nobody can. My new Bloomberg Opinion column.

National Security & Defense

UFO or Foe?

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People visit the Alien Research Center in Hiko, Nevada, September 19, 2019. (Jim Urquhart)

UFOs are back on legislators’ radar. What sounds like a tinfoil-hat topic has actually sparked debates among American national-security leaders.

On June 17th, The Senate Intelligence Committee presented the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 which included a provision for the centralized collection of information related to “unidentified aerial phenomenon.” The committee, chaired by Senator Rubio (R., Fla.), said that “information sharing and coordination across the Intelligence Community has been inconsistent,” and expressed concerns “that there is no unified, comprehensive process within the Federal Government for collecting and analyzing intelligence on unidentified aerial phenomena, despite the potential threat.”

Within 180 days of the act’s implementation, the committee calls for a report on all unidentified aerial phenomena including “Identification of potential aerospace or other threats posed by the unidentified aerial phenomena to national security, and an assessment of whether this unidentified aerial phenomena activity may be attributed to one or more foreign adversaries.” The goal of the provision is an overall standardization and centralization of intelligence on UFOs.

Is this just stargazing?

There may be good reason to keep an eye out for flying saucers. In the past few years, Navy members have reported unidentified aircrafts following Naval aircrafts off both the West and East coasts. Apparently, the Pentagon secretly investigated instances like these until 2012 under the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program.

These Naval sightings were caught on video between 2004 and 2015, prompting speculation about anything from aliens to Chinese or Russian military technology. The videos were initially leaked but confirmed real by the Navy in 2019.

The frequency of these sightings has increased since 2014 and one of these mysterious aircrafts almost collided with a Naval pilot in Virginia Beach in 2014. What’s more, witnesses report a lack of visible engine and exhaust plumes.

Aside from little green aliens, a likely target for speculation could be Russian or Chinese technology. While the U.S. stepped back on hypersonic technology, Russia and China invested heavily. Other explanations have to do with drone technology. 

The Pentagon, however, is not so sure. About the videos, Pentagon spokeswoman Sue Gough said that “the [Defense] department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena.” The Air Force is not concerned about a foreign breach of security either. Major Bryan Lewis, Air Force spokesman, stated that the Air Force is “not concerned that China or Russia have developed a long-range capability about which we are not aware.”

Whatever the target of debate, does it really matter? These sightings are not cornfield flying saucers, they are confirmed breaches of military airspace that exhibit highly advanced — if not illusory — technological capabilities. Understanding these events is also essential in patching up any shortcomings in American defense capabilities. A centralized record for lawmakers and national-security leaders is long overdue and a sound step toward shoring up our defense abilities and detecting potential threats.

And who can deny the additional intrigue added to a growing storyline of America’s unconventional defense developments — Space Force, and now this?

White House

Wait, Just Who Is Not ‘Letting Trump Be Trump’?

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President Donald Trump takes questions during a news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

One of the president’s most devoted defenders, Jeffrey Lord, writes over at The American Spectator:

As this is written, the Trump White House is awash in almost the identical kind of political nonsense that engulfed the Reagan White House. The mantra is the same: The polls are a disaster, the president doesn’t get it, he needs to change course, he may withdraw and not run again, he’s going to lose in a landslide…

To wax Seinfeldesque? Yada, yada, yada.

My belief in the 1980s Reagan era was, Let Reagan be Reagan.

And looking back now, that is exactly what Americans loved about him.

And all these years later, as I suggested in 2013 when the political savants of the day said the very idea of a Trump candidacy was absurd?

Let Trump be Trump.

Who are these people who are allegedly not allowing Trump to be Trump? Do the president’s public comments, responses to interview questions, and tweets seem particularly stifled or carefully scripted or excessively strained by his staff? Does this president seem like a man who happily takes advice to choose his words carefully, to hide what he really thinks, and to attempt to match some stage-managed image instead of whatever he really thinks? Where is this different Trump that is being tied up and held back somewhere?

Can Lord point to any evidence at all that Trump is not “being Trump” and that the country hasn’t spent the past three and a half years witnessing “Trump being Trump”?

Because if Trump has been Trump, and he’s in the shape he’s in — with lousy polls and small turnout at his rally in Tulsa and difficulty even hinting at the broadest outlines of a second term agenda — then perhaps the problem isn’t that Trump is somehow being restrained or suppressed or micromanaged. Maybe the problem is Trump! Or maybe it’s just a heck of a lot easier to run against Hillary Clinton than Joe Biden.

The parallel between “let Reagan be Reagan” and “let Trump be Trump” probably hits a snag on the point that lots of Americans really liked Ronald Reagan — a much higher percentage of the public than the percentage that likes, or at least approves, of Trump.

One other way the Reagan–Trump comparison doesn’t work so well is that from mid-February 1984 on, Reagan pretty much stomped Walter Mondale in the polls.

Culture

Keeping Princeton Open

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The Princeton Open Campus Coalition has written an excellent letter in defense of academic freedom at the university. The students are pushing back against demands for required courses in left-wing thought and mandatory “diversity training” for faculty and staff. An excerpt:

The demand for “anti-racist training” is nothing more than the institution of a wrongthink correctional program, and we strenuously oppose any attempt to require “cultural competency” or “unconscious bias” training for any member of the University community. This training would undoubtedly coerce members of the community to accept the premises and conclusions that proponents of these reeducation camps advance. There would be no room for any act of dissent or good-faith debate on whether a particular instance of speech or action indeed amounts to racism. Potential dissenters would be intimidated in an atmosphere of fear and potential retribution. We have no doubt that every member of the Princeton community, ourselves certainly included, would strongly and unequivocally identify with the cause of “anti-racism” . . . . But “anti-racism” is a vague and radically unhelpful term that will be filled in with question-begging conclusions by those who subscribe to the reigning orthodoxy on matters of race. Affirmative action, for example, has long been a matter of contention, not only in American political and legal discourse, but also in academic circles. Are we prepared to say, as the University of California system appears to have done, that opposition to affirmative action is “racist” and constitutes an impermissible “microaggression?” Other examples of controversial matters touching on race include, but are certainly not limited to, the historical accuracy of the New York Times ’s recently launched “1619 Project,” the relationship between police officers and their communities, illegal immigration and immigration enforcement, urban crime, the so-called “War on Drugs,” issues of family structure and father-absence in poor communities of every description, and welfare policy. These, and other, matters lie at the core of significant legal, political, and academic discourse. Proper engagement with the various sides of these debates is premised on the robust protection of the freedom to make reasoned arguments and freely and publicly explore different points of view on these contentious issues with no regard for whether these free pursuits of truth “trigger” others.

Princeton Alumni for Academic Freedom is asking alums to sign a letter supporting the students.

History

A Word for Thaddeus Kosciuszko

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Portrait of Thaddeus Kosciuszko flanked by a cannon on the right and other rides on the left, 1835. (British Museum/Wikimedia Commons)

Earlier this month, during unrest in American cities, there was a lot of attention paid in Washington, D.C., to the area just outside the White House. As we continue into July, I don’t want to let an unfortunate but little-noted consequence of what happened there to be forgotten. 

Not far from the White House stands a statue of Thaddeus Kosciuszko. As has become increasingly common, the statue became a target of impassioned effacement. It was not taken down, but its base was tarred by graffiti. 

Defacing the Kosciuszko monument belongs in the same category of historical ignorance as efforts to topple the Emancipation Memorial, statues of Civil War general and racially progressive president Ulysses S. Grant, and a statue of abolitionist immigrant and Union soldier Hans Christian Heg. As detailed, among other places, in The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution by Alex Storozynski, Kosciuszko, born in 18th-century Poland, came to America early on in the American Revolution, motivated entirely by his belief in its justness as a cause. He played an important role in the Revolution, helping the revolutionaries to win the Battle of Saratoga and to build West Point, among other efforts.

After the war, Kosciuszko returned to his native Poland, hoping to accomplish there what he had helped to do in America. He assisted in the drafting of Poland’s Constitution (Europe’s first), helped to lead Poland’s military struggle against Russian invasion, then led an uprising against Russia’s conquest. During this time, he issued the Proclamation of Poleinac, which significantly curtailed serfdom in Poland. Kosciuszko ultimately lost the battle for Poland, was captured, and was sent to Russia. His nation became absorbed within Russia.

Eventually, he was released and returned to America, furthering friendships with such luminaries as Thomas Jefferson, with whom he debated slavery. Kosciuszko worked out an arrangement with Jefferson that the latter use the former’s will to free slaves and provide for them after their liberation. Jefferson, however, reneged on this, to his immense discredit. Kosciuszko’s life, moreover, ended sadly: He died in Switzerland, a man without a country, Poland’s borders having been erased. 

We rightly cherish the memory of this important, forward-thinking man, an immigrant who showed his dedication to liberty and equality on two continents (in even more ways than I detailed here) yet faced resistance to his ideals in his own lifetime. Again, if those who see in every statue just another old-looking figure to be violently belittled knew even a little bit about history, they might have shown some forbearance about this one. At any rate, we should wish the best of the efforts, encouraged by the mayor of Warsaw and the Polish ambassador to the United States, to keep this statue worthy of the man it honors.

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