The Morning Jolt

Elections

Andrew Yang, We’ll See You on the Debate Stage

2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks in Iowa City, Iowa, March 10, 2019. (Scott Morgan/REUTERS)

Making the click-through worthwhile: The Democratic party made it easier than ever for a presidential candidate to qualify for the televised debates, and that’s going to put a lot of unfamiliar faces on that stage; a trio of federal judges aren’t impressed with one of the arguments in favor of Trump’s impeachment; and a presidential candidate decides to come between doctors and their patients.

Get Ready for Andrew Yang — and Any Other Democrat Who Can Find 65,000 Donors

When the Democratic National Committee laid out its threshold for participating in televised presidential debates, they decided to set the bar as low as possible, lest any lesser-known candidate claim the party was trying to exclude candidates or show favoritism. This is the sort of bending-over-backwards gesture that’s necessary in the aftermath of the party committee more or less becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of the frontrunner’s campaign, as the DNC did in 2016.

Under the DNC’s rules for 2020, if you have 65,000 individual donors, you’re automatically up on that debate stage. That’s easy for big-time candidates, and the lesser-known candidates are figuring out how to meet that goal. If you donate a dollar to John Delaney’s campaign, he’ll donate two dollars to a charity of your choice. You may scoff at Delaney losing money on the deal, but think about it, for $130,000 or so, he can essentially buy a place on that debate stage with a national television audience. That’s probably going to be the most effective expenditure of his whole campaign.

Andrew Yang hit that threshold.

Who’s Andrew Yang? A New York businessman who’s worried about automation and artificial intelligence. To cope, he proposes sending “a monthly check for $1,000 that would be sent to every American from age 18 to 64, regardless of income or employment status” — a variation of the universal basic-income proposal. Yang is the son of Taiwanese immigrants, attended Brown and Columbia, spent a year in corporate law, started up a short-lived celebrity-charity web site, moved to a health care-software company, headed up a test-preparation company, and then founded the nonprofit Venture for America.

Yang has a mountain of ideas, and chances are you’ll find some you like and some you don’t like. His proposals for the field of journalism alone are, depending upon your point of view, visionary, out-of-the-box, nuts, or wildly beyond the proper role of government in a Constitutional republic:

  • “I will initiate the American Journalism Fellows, through which reporters from each state nominated by a body of industry professionals and selected by a nonpartisan commission will be given a 4-year grant of $400,000 ($100,000 per year) and stationed at a local news organization with the condition that they report on issues relevant to the district during the period of their Fellowship.”

  • “I will appoint a new News and Information Ombudsman with the power to fine egregious corporate offenders.  One of the main purposes of the Ombudsman will be to identify sources of spurious information that are associated with foreign nationals.  The Ombudsman will work with social media companies to identify fraudulent accounts and disable and punish responsible parties.  The Ombudsman will be part of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).”

  • “I will initiate the Local Journalism Fund, a dedicated $1 billion Fund operated out of the FCC that will make grants to companies, non-profits and local governments and libraries to help local newspapers, periodicals and websites transition to sustainability in a new era.”

  • “The government should not meddle with the free press. But the government should support the major media and technology companies in finding solutions to the issues. After the Russian influence campaign affected the 2016 election, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies have started to investigate ways to mitigate these issues. The government should be supporting them in any way they deem appropriate.”

A little credit where due, Yang identifies real problems in the news business. But it’s not the job of the government to finance news organizations, and I’m trying to picture a more-effective way to ensure journalists are never too tough on the federal government than to make them dependent upon that government for their salaries. Also, as bad as “spurious information” is, is it really all that hard to imagine why it’s a bad idea to have the FCC define what is and what is not fake news — er, “spurious information,” and to give that agency the power to fine companies and disable web sites that post it?

Matthew Walther writes that Yang is “H. Ross Perot for Millennials” and it feels like an apt comparison. Since George W. Bush’s first term, Yang’s job titles have been “vice president” “CEO” and “founder.” He’s never worked with a legislature before. He’s undoubtedly bright and has been successful in business, and he’s brimming with confidence that the same approach will succeed in politics and governing. (As Harry Truman observed of Dwight Eisenhower, “He’ll sit here and he’ll say, ‘Do this! Do that!’ And nothing will happen. Poor Ike — it won’t be a bit like the Army.”)

What’s fascinating is that former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is thinking about running as an independent, and he turned into the Democrats’ Public Enemy Number One overnight. Yang is another wealthy businessman with no political experience but a big list of ideas and good intentions, but because he’s choosing to run within the Democratic party, no one has bothered to denounce him very much yet. (This also reflects the fact that so far, Yang’s not a threat to anyone else yet.)

But put Yang up on that nationally televised debate stage, with that confident-entrepreneur-pitching-a-room-full-of-venture-capitalists style, full of pithy declarations such as “technology is the oil of the 21st century; what they do in Alaska with oil money, we’re gonna do in America with technology money,” and who knows? He’s probably not going to rocket to the top of the pack, but he’d probably stand out and be more interesting than the other half-dozen automatons who have spent a decade or so in a legislature and whose answers all sound like “I believe that children are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way.”

You’re Going to Need Better Emoluments Than This, Fellas

One of the problems with the effort to impeach President Trump is the advocates will reach for any tool available.

The Constitution defines “high crimes and misdemeanors” as the criteria for impeachment. The clearer and more indisputable the crime, the more specific and irrefutable the evidence, the more compelling the case for impeachment will be.

Obnoxiousness, lack of impulse control, obliviousness, narcissism, egomania, ravenous appetite for flattery — these are not crimes. Being so sensitive to criticism that you choose to go on furious Twitter tirades in response to the husband of your advisors is a character flaw, but it’s not a high crime or misdemeanor.

And the argument that foreign governments booking hotel rooms in Trump’s hotels constitutes a form of bribery was always a stretch. It appears a trio of federal judges are unconvinced:

A three-judge U.S. appeals court panel signaled sympathy toward President Donald Trump on Tuesday in his appeal in a Democratic-backed lawsuit that accuses him of violating anti-corruption provisions of the U.S. Constitution with his Washington hotel.

The judges on the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals indicated they may dismiss the lawsuit filed against the Republican president in June 2017 by the Democratic attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Is Over-Prescription Really Driving the Opioid Addiction Crisis?

Everybody wants to fight the opioid-abuse crisis. Some people end up addicted because of an experience with prescription painkillers; some obtain opioids through other illicit means. Last year Dr. Sally Satel, a practicing psychiatrist at a Washington methadone clinic, argued that the public perception of what’s driving the addiction wasn’t all that accurate:

I have studied multiple surveys and reviews of the data, which show that only a minority of people who are prescribed opioids for pain become addicted to them, and those who do become addicted and who die from painkiller overdoses tend to obtain these medications from sources other than their own physicians. Within the past several years, overdose deaths are overwhelmingly attributable not to prescription opioids but to illicit fentanyl and heroin. These “street opioids” have become the engine of the opioid crisis in its current, most lethal form.

This isn’t stopping Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican Senator Cory Gardner from proposing a sweeping change to how opioids are prescribed: “The John S. McCain Opioid Addiction and Prevention Act would limit the supply of initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain to seven days. This bill is named after late-Senator John McCain, who was the Republican lead of this legislation last Congress.”

But . . .  doctors are now much more aware and cautious about prescribing opioids. The rate of prescribing opioids is dropping rapidly; a recent survey found that “the highest doses of prescription opioids declined by over 33 percent during the past two years.” No doubt, some doctors prescribe opioids too easily and prescribe too much; others are much more cautious. Some patients will need more painkillers than others.

Should Congress be deciding, through legislation, how many days patients should have access to prescription painkillers? Who the heck is Kirsten Gillibrand to make that decision? For that matter, who the heck is Gardner? This seems like the sort of matter better handled by state medical boards, evaluating particular doctors, patient records, and patterns of prescriptions rather than a new rule handed down from Congress.

I suppose one would say that it’s just good to see Gillibrand focused on Americans becoming addicted to harmful substances after spending years as a lawyer for Big Tobacco.

ADDENDA: Hey, remember that big Andrew Gillum announcement? He’s launching a voter registration group. Yawn . . .

Ben Shapiro has a new book out, and apparently it’s for sale everywhere.

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