The Weekend Jolt

NR Webathon

The Government Should Do Its Job, and Only Its Job

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland attends a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., June 25, 2021. (Ken Cedeno/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Our colleague Charles C. W. Cooke has a running gripe about the federal government that happens to be spot-on: It keeps involving itself in areas well outside its remit while failing to fulfill its core duties. This disconnect gets more pronounced all the time.

The latest exhibit was Attorney General Merrick Garland’s memo warning protesting parents that he could bring the weight of the FBI down on them, citing a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against teachers and school officials.

As it turns out, most of the documented incidents originally flagged to the DOJ did not involve threats of physical violence, as this report from NR’s Caroline Downey explains. Most were tense verbal exchanges. A few cases did involve more serious threats; however, as Caroline notes, “While the behavior in those few cases was criminal, it falls under the jurisdiction of state and local authorities, not the federal government.”

Meanwhile, as our own Jim Geraghty writes, the Biden administration still has not extracted all the American citizens and green-card holders, as well as Afghan allies who qualified for Special Immigrant Visas, from Afghanistan.

National Review is paying close attention here. We won’t move on from those crucial jobs that remain unfulfilled, and we won’t abide the incursions into areas where Washington does not belong. But the highest-quality opinion journalism from the best writers in the business takes a budget, which is why we humbly ask you to consider donating to our fall 2021 webathon.

There’s a real return on investment here. Rich Lowry explained earlier this week what kind of coverage this operation can and does produce on a regular basis, using the Garland memo as an example:

As soon as the Garland memo was issued, Andy McCarthy, who has easily been the most comprehensively spot-on legal writer in the country over the past several years, published a scathing, thorough, and airtight takedown, “The Biden Justice Department’s Lawless Threat against American Parents.”

We followed up with an editorial slamming the memo.

We just ran a report highlighting how the vast majority of claims of alleged intimidation in the underlying National School Boards Association letter are nonsense.

To boot, Caroline followed up the aforementioned article with this report detailing how a number of school-board associations were not consulted by their national HQ before the request for federal intervention.

Charles, meanwhile, published a rundown here on the other areas where the Biden administration has overreached, from the eviction moratorium to the vaccine mandate, and stressed the importance of NR’s role in standing up for the separation of powers and for federalism.

James Madison argued, more than a few years ago, that the powers delegated to the federal government would be “few and defined,” largely concerning matters such as “war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.” Would he recognize its executive branch today? Our job is to see to it that the government rediscovers those duties, and tends to them.

If you would like to support that particular mission, please consider a donation.

Either way, do read on, and do check out the new issue of NR, which has something for everyone and especially for people who hate squirrels.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

About that outrageous provision requiring banks to report cash flows for accounts over $600: The IRS Doesnt Need More Power

It’s wrong to cynically question the results of legitimate elections, no matter which party you’re in: Terry McAuliffe’s Election Trutherism Shouldn’t Be Excused

ARTICLES

Michael Brendan Dougherty: January 6 Was No Hoax

Noah Benjamin-Pollak and Joshua Coval: It’s Time to Face the Facts on School Closings

Rich Lowry: The War on Gifted-and-Talented Programs

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Parenting Is the Most Important Work There Is

Ryan Mills: Does Masking Students Make a Difference?

Tom Cotton: Secretary of the China Lobby

Jay Nordlinger: An American general, &c.

Philip Klein: CBO Blows Up Democrats’ Spin on Taxes

Brittany Bernstein: Leftist Education Company Quietly Spread to Thousands of Schools before Parents Caught Wind

Kevin Williamson: What If There Is No Meritocracy?

Isaac Schorr: Virginia Democrats Voted to Allow Schools to Refrain from Reporting Sexual Battery in 2020

Mario Loyola: Rise of the Woke Taliban

A. J. Caschetta: Fareed Zakaria’s Bad Middle East Advice, 20 Years Later

NR’s writers have had a spirited debate as well this week over Jonah Goldberg’s proposal for a third party to tame Trumpism: Here, here, here, and here.

And ICYMI, new English translations of Solzhenitsyn popped up on NR this past week: Here, here, and here.

CAPITAL MATTERS

Douglas Carr reminds us that the housing-price climb cannot go on forever: How Will the Housing Bubble Burst?

Steve H. Hanke and Matt Sekerke provide a reality check on cryptocurrency and a tidy explanation of how our modern banking system works: How Innovative Is Crypto?

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Kyle Smith sticks his neck out for Chappelle: Dave Chappelle Is Not a Transphobe

Bergman Island is, in Armond White’s view, “a movie that had no good reason to be made.” Yikes: Bergman Island — Escapism for Yuppies

Brian Allen walks us through the cryptic art of a Soviet defector, and more: Alexander Kaletski, Soviet Movie Star Turned Artist, Leads the Way in Great Gallery Shows

FROM THE NEW NOVEMBER 1, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

Jimmy Quinn: The Anti-Anti-China Left

George Gilder: Life after Capitalism

John Fund: Kyrsten Sinema Is Arizona’s New Maverick

Alexandra DeSanctis: Home Invasion

HUNGRY FOR MORE CONTENT? OUR CONTENT CONTAINERS RUNNETH OVER

Philip Klein, wielding new CBO figures, efficiently dismantles the claim that tax cuts are the main cause of our fiscal woes. And he brings the charts to prove it:

At the heart of the liberal disregard for fiscal restraint is the idea that because Republicans passed the Trump tax cuts in 2017, passing a raft of new social-welfare programs now is perfectly responsible. While it is undeniable that Trump-era Republicans were profligate, it’s worth noting that at the time of passage, the CBO estimated that the Trump tax cuts would increase deficits by $1.5 trillion over a decade. In March, Democrats passed a $1.9 trillion package billed as “COVID relief” and didn’t bother finding a way to pay for it. So even before setting out on their current spending push, Democrats already passed legislation that exceeded the Trump tax cuts.

This week, CBO further undermined the attempt by Democrats to blame tax cuts for our fiscal woes by revealing that in the 2021 fiscal year that just ended in September, federal tax collections soared. Specifically, this past year, the government collected $4.047 trillion in tax revenue, with corporate tax collections jumping 75 percent as the economy reopened. What’s amazing about that number is that in June 2017, the CBO projected that the government would collect $4.011 trillion in revenue in 2021. In other words, in the most recent fiscal year, the government raised $36 billion more than was expected before the Trump tax cuts were passed.

The Manhattan Institute’s Brian Riedl, taking into account CBO’s most recent economic projections, calculates that in 2021, revenue rose to 18.1 percent of GDP. That is the highest level since 2001 and well above the post–World War II average of 17.2 percent. In other words, we are experiencing high deficits right now not because taxes came up short, but because the government spent a lot more than anticipated.

Brittany Bernstein takes a closer look at that education company tied to AG Garland’s family, and how it has quietly spread to thousands of schools:

Despite the massive influence of Panorama Education, a Boston-based education technology company that collects data on “social-emotional learning” from 13 million students in 23,000 schools nationwide, parents were largely unaware of the company until very recently.

That was before Parents Defending Education, a nonprofit that fights indoctrination in U.S. schools, revealed last week that Attorney General Merrick Garland’s son-in-law, Alexander “Xan” Tanner, co-founded the company, which collects millions in taxpayer dollars to inculcate critical race theory into K–12 curricula. The revelation raised questions about whether Garland had a potential conflict of interest, days after the attorney general opened an investigation into purported threats and acts of violence against school boards across the U.S. . . .

Now, a new spotlight is being placed on Panorama, which serves more than 50 of the 100 largest school districts and state agencies in the country, according to TechCrunch. More than 1,500 school districts have worked with Panorama, meaning that 25 percent of American students are enrolled in a district served by the consultancy. The New York City Department of Education, Clark County School District in Nevada, Dallas ISD in Texas, and the Hawaii Department of Education are all clients of Panorama’s.

According to the nonprofit OpenTheBooks, there have been at least $27 million in payments to Panorama from states, school districts, and local boards of education across 21 states from 2017 to 2020.

Bill de Blasio’s war on gifted-and-talented programs is part of a disturbing national trend. Rich Lowry lets those driving this agenda have it:

If there were any doubt that “equity” is now the most destructive concept in American life, the war on gifted-and-talented programs all around the country — from California (on the verge of eliminating tracking in math through the tenth grade), to Seattle (which eliminated its honors program for middle-school students), to suburban Philadelphia (where a district is curtailing tracking for middle-school and high-school students) — removes all doubt.

New York City has been a major battleground for the anti-gifted agenda that runs under the banner of desegregation, as if the offense of the George Wallaces of the world is no longer blocking the schoolhouse door but teaching exceptionally talented students at an accelerated pace.

Mayor Bill de Blasio just moved to significantly crimp the city’s gifted programs, disproportionately utilized by white and Asian-American kids, in a sop to racialist bean-counters. As the New York Times notes, the mayor has been “criticized for not taking forceful action to fulfill his promise of tackling inequality in public schools.”

Not that he hasn’t tried. Earlier in his administration, he appointed a panel that recommended eliminating almost all the city’s selective programs, alleging that they are “proxies for separating students who can and should have opportunities to learn together.” . . .

That some kids are going to learn faster than others isn’t a scandal, it’s a function of a phenomenon that progressives are supposed to value — diversity.

Harvard’s Noah Benjamin-Pollak and Joshua Coval have crunched the data, and they report back with some curious findings indeed about school closings during the pandemic:

If you were a school superintendent considering whether to keep your district open in-person or move to online, how would you decide? Most people would suggest you look at COVID-19 case numbers in your community. Perhaps you would consider the vaccination rate, and if you had students with auto-immune disorders or other risk factors, maybe you would consider that. Most Americans would find these sorts of considerations reasonable.

As it turned out, this was far from what happened in American schools last year. An analysis of school-closing data on the nation’s 150 largest school districts reveals something entirely different. Rather than the progress of the disease in a local community, the most important predictor of remote schooling was a school district’s historical propensity to prioritize the interests of its teachers over the competing interests of its students.

We looked at specific ways districts favor teachers over students, such as prioritizing teacher seniority over new teachers and teacher performance, granting teachers more days off, and limiting the number of hours students spend in school each day. Districts that had historically scored high on these metrics were significantly more likely to opt for the remote-learning format last year. In aggregate, these measures of district-level teacher favoritism do far more to explain remote vs. in-person school decisions than every other variable we tested, including the COVID-19 infection rates in the community. When investigating the demographic features of school districts, we found that student-favoring districts were significantly different from teacher-favoring districts. Student-favoring districts were wealthier, whiter, and less urban and had a higher percentage of families who spoke English at home. However, even controlling for these demographic variables, teacher-favoring districts were far more likely to opt for remote learning.

Shout-Outs

Scott Shackford, at Reason: Federal Court Upholds California’s Oppressive Restrictions on Freelance Writers

The Washington Post: China’s COVID stonewalling is unacceptable

Aaron Sibarium, at the Washington Free Beacon: A Yale Law Student Sent a Lighthearted Email Inviting Classmates to His ‘Trap House.’ The School Is Now Calling Him to Account.

Wilfred M. McClay, at Law & Liberty: Has America Lost Its Story?

CODA

Part of being a father is savoring the inherent carte blanche to be lame and corny. This dad-writer isn’t asserting that’s the only reason for becoming one, but the universe of conduct that moves abruptly from broadly shunned to generally acceptable upon one’s entry into this class is vast.

And so, it is not out of character to close this newsletter with some music that fits the theme of NR’s ongoing webathon — even if it is a little corny. Esteemed submissions editor Jack Butler, channeling Yuval Levin, reminded us last week that “conservatism is gratitude.” For those supporting us through donations, or through subscriptions, or through your general interest and readership and engagement, we thank you. But it sounds better when Led Zeppelin sings it. Or coming from Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. (Just ignore the romantic undertones.)

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

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