Whenever China is mentioned in a presidential campaign, the consequences are rarely good. In 2012 residents of Ohio, where anti-Beijing ads proliferated, might have believed that the campaign hinged on China. This time U.S. policy toward the People’s Republic of China might become a broader election issue, leading to serious damage in the relationship.
Unfortunately, political campaigns generally are not well-suited for the thoughtful discussion of complex international issues. Especially today, when many Republican voters are skeptical of any foreign policy message that does not involve pummeling one nation or another.
One of Beijing’s loudest critics is Donald Trump, though so far he has focused on economic issues, as did Barack Obama and Mitt Romney when they battled for Ohio’s votes three years ago.
Carly Fiorina promised to be “more aggressive in helping our allies … push back against new Chinese aggression.” Marco Rubio denounced the PRC’s “increasingly aggressive regional expansionism” and the administration’s alleged “willingness to ignore human rights violations in the hope of appeasing the Chinese leadership.”
However, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, desperate to revive his flagging campaign, has rushed to become China’s harshest critic. He declared: “Given China’s massive cyberattacks against America, its militarization of the South China Sea, continued state interference with its economy, and persistent persecution of Christians and human rights activists, President Obama needs to cancel the state visit. There’s serious work to be done rather than pomp and circumstance.”
Indeed, Walker explained, “honors should only be bestowed upon leaders and countries that are allies and supporters of the United States.” Finally, he contended: “I think China, as others in the world, would actually respect some leadership once and for all from the United States.”
No country or leader is entitled to a state visit, of course, but Walker’s convoluted reasoning is what one would expect from a governor play-acting as president. U.S. policy toward Beijing can, and perhaps should, be tough. But it should not be stupid.
First, a state visit is a diplomatic tool, not an “honor.” No matter how much Luxembourg might deserve the “honor,” it would be silly to host the reigning grand duke for a state visit. He doesn’t matter geopolitically.
Second, disrespecting another nation’s leadership is a curious way to seek its respect. Cancelling an already scheduled trip would be seen as a studied insult, enough to anger but not coerce. That would make progress on important issues less likely.
Third, everyone believes that “there is serious work to be done” with China. The disagreement is over the best way to do so. Treating other nations seriously is one step in attempting to work through contentious issues.
Fourth, lumping together radically different issues makes serious work less likely to succeed. Fiscally irresponsible Washington is in no position to lecture the PRC on internal economic policy. Christians face persecution, but the situation, though complex, is far better than a few years ago and will be determined by the rising number of Chinese believers, not Washington demands.
There’s no easy answer to cyberwar, but U.S. companies and governments possessing the ability to retaliate as well as defend would be more effective than cancelling a state visit. Resolving conflicting territorial claims is mostly the concern of allied states; telling President Xi he won’t get a state dinner won’t cause his government to gives up its claim to the Senkaku or SpratlyIslands.
Unfortunately, there’s room for a lot more China-bashing in the campaign. But much is at stake in maintaining a civil if not overly warm bilateral relationship. Hopefully any threats and insults will be forgotten by the winning candidate.
However, as I warn in China-US Focus: “the more heated the rhetoric, the more likely the PRC is to respond in kind. And GOP hawks like Walker may turn out to be true believers rather than pragmatic cynics. If so, U.S.-China relations could be heading for stormy times.”
In today's Manchester Union-Leader, I explain the eerie resemblance that the health care plans advanced by presidential candidates Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) bear to ObamaCare:
The centerpiece of both “replace” plans is a refundable tax credit for health insurance. Yet such tax credits already exist, in Obamacare. Also like Obamacare, the Walker/Rubio tax credits would allow Washington to decide how much coverage you purchase, penalize you if you don’t buy that government-defined plan, and conceal massive redistribution of income under the rubric of tax cuts...
How would Walker and Rubio pay for their new spending? Would they keep Obamacare’s tax increases? Raise taxes elsewhere? Would they finance new health care spending by cutting existing health care programs? If so, chalk up yet another way their plans would resemble Obamacare.
I also provide an alternative for reformers who actually want better, more affordable, more secure health care.
Conservatives can offer a better “replace” plan that is politically feasible by expanding a bedrock conservative initiative: health savings accounts, or HSAs, which have already enabled 14.5 million Americans to save more than $28.4 billion for their medical expenses tax-free.
Expanding HSAs would give workers a $9 trillion effective tax cut, without cutting spending or increasing the deficit, and would drastically reduce government control over Americans’ health decisions. Most important, “large” HSAs would spur innovations that make health care better, cheaper, and more secure — particularly for the most vulnerable.
Conservatives need to get this right, lest they repeat the same mistake they made in 1993-94.
For decades, prominent conservatives advocated an individual mandate. The left then picked up the idea and gave us Obamacare. Before they once again fall into the same trap, conservatives should drop any support for the implicit mandate of health-insurance tax credits. Expanding HSAs is more compassionate and provides a direct route toward freedom and better health care.
Scott Walker touts his record as a fiscal conservative. But this morning, reports the Associated Press,
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker took a break from the presidential campaign trail Wednesday to commit $250 million in taxpayer money to pay for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Walker's come under a lot of criticism from both left and right for his arena funding plan, including an article I wrote at the Huffington Post after he defended his plan on ABC's "This Week." Such deals are paid for by average taxpayers to benefit millionaire players and billionaire owners. But millionaires and billionaires have more influence than average taxpayers, and the pictures around stadium deals are great:
Calling the new NBA stadium a "dynamic attraction for the entire state of Wisconsin," Walker signed the bill at the Wisconsin State Fair Park surrounded by state lawmakers, local officials and Bucks team president Peter Feigin.
The economics, not so good. Walker has claimed a "return on investment" of three to one, which he says is "a good deal" for the taxpayers. Economists disagree. As Dennis Coates and Brad Humphreys wrote in a 2004 Cato study criticizing the proposed D.C. stadium subsidy, "The wonder is that anyone finds such figures credible....
Our conclusion, and that of nearly all academic economists studying this issue, is that professional sports generally have little, if any, positive effect on a city's economy. The net economic impact of professional sports in Washington, D.C., and the 36 other cities that hosted professional sports teams over nearly 30 years, was a reduction in real per capita income over the entire metropolitan area.
Republican voters are looking for fiscal conservatives and straight talkers. We're hearing a lot of denunciations of corporate welfare and crony capitalism. And here's a leading conservative candidate for president sitting down in front of cameras to sign a bill handing $250 million in taxpayers' money (Bloomberg says $400 million with interest) to wealthy owners of a sports team (some of whom, no doubt coincidentally, are large donors to his campaign), in defiance of free-market advocates and virtually all economists. Will the other Republican candidates take him on? Will they denounce this wasteful extravagance?
Or will we have to rely on John Oliver to do the job small-government Republicans ought to be doing?
Monday is Scott Walker’s turn to join the crowded presidential field. Walker has served as Wisconsin’s Governor since 2011. He rose to prominence quickly after the State Capitol in Madison was overtaken by protesters opposing his labor reforms. Walker has passed a number of government-limiting measures, earning a “B” on Cato’s Governor Report Card in both 2012 and 2014, but he continues to support higher spending.
When Walker took office Wisconsin had a $3.6 billion budget deficit and needed urgent reform. His first big legislative achievement was Act 10 which overhauled the state’s collective bargaining rules and benefit programs for state employees. Under Act 10, state employees must contribute 12 percent of premium costs to their state-provided health insurance plan. In addition, pension contributions are now split evenly between the employee and the employer. In 2015 that contribution was 6.8 percent of income.
Act 10 also limited collective bargaining subjects to base wages, removing the ability to negotiate on overtime, pension, and health benefits. It has saved taxpayers in Wisconsin $3 billion since its passage in 2011.
Walker has also passed several tax cuts while in office. In 2013 Walker signed a plan that cut the state’s personal income tax by almost $500 million a year. The plan consolidated the state’s five income tax brackets into four brackets, with the larger cuts skewed towards the lower end of the income scale. In 2014 the state made further cuts to the lowest income tax bracket. In total, the lowest bracket fell from 4.60 percent to 4 percent. Work is still needed. Wisconsin’s total income tax rate of 7.65 percent is still one of the highest in the country, and its Business Tax Climate is a discouraging 43rd in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation.
Walker has had success on labor and tax issues, but spending continues to grow rapidly in Wisconsin. From fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2015, Wisconsin state spending grew 15 percent. For comparison, state spending grew by 8 percent nationally during this period. So while Walker turned a $3.6 billion deficit when he took office into an $800 million surplus by June 2013, he has continued to spend excessively. His budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 included another $1 billion in increased spending.
Walker’s policies have targeted numerous areas of Wisconsin’s budget. He reformed the state’s labor laws as they related to state employees and saved $3 billion in four years. He cut personal income taxes. Overall, his actions have helped restore fiscal sanity to Wisconsin. But voters concerned about Washington’s debt and profligacy should be aware Walker’s record of increasing state spending even while cutting taxes.
Whenever someone declares opponents of the Common Core “misinformed,” get ready: there’s probably a lot more misinformation coming your way. Case in point, a new offering from Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin attacking Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) over his Common Core stance in a recent Des Moines Register op-ed. Her post is chock-full of misinformation, ironically intended to make Core opponents seem confused.
Start with this, in which Rubin asserts that Walker tried to conflate overall federal education funding with the Common Core:
As virtually all GOP contenders but Jeb Bush do, he then takes a swing at Common Core. “Nationwide, we want high standards but we want them set by parents, educators and school board members at the local level. That is why I oppose Common Core. Money spent at the local and state level is more efficient, more effective and more accountable. That is why I support moving money out of Washington and sending it to states and schools. Students deserve a better education.” This is confusing since Common Core per se does not affect how and where money is coming from.
This isn’t actually confusing when you read Walker’s piece, at least the online version (which I assume is like the print version, and is also likely the version Rubin read.) Why? Because Walker separated his ideas into paragraphs, which Rubin eliminated in the quote above, and the placement of the paragraphs makes clear that Walker’s Common Core thought and his federal funding thought were separate ideas. Directly from Walker’s piece:
Now, more than ever, we need to push big, bold reforms to improve our schools. If we can do it in Wisconsin, there is no reason we can’t push positive education reforms across the country.
Nationwide, we want high standards but we want them set by parents, educators and school board members at the local level. That is why I oppose Common Core.
Money spent at the local and state level is more efficient, more effective and more accountable. That is why I support moving money out of Washington and sending it to states and schools. Students deserve a better education.
And every student in the our [sic] nation’s capital should have access to a great education. Therefore, we should expand the options for families in the District of Columbia to choose the school that is best for their children.
Rubin proceeds to make the funding befuddlement worse by writing, “It is Race to the Top that affords states money if they can show either through Common Core or other standards that they are setting high expectations for students.” First, the Race to the Top that provided the primary impetus for states to adopt the Core de facto only allowed the Core – not "other standards" – saying that only states that were part of a standards-and-assessment consortium including “a majority of the States in the country” (p. 59689) could get maximum points in the funding contest. Only the Core met that criterion, and it was clearly the intent of many Core supporters and the Obama administration to have RTT push the Core specifically. That first Race to the Top, however, was basically a very powerful one-shot deal, not one that continuously "affords states money." It was subsequent waivers out of No Child Left Behind requirements – which let states either use the Core or have a state university system certify state standards as “college- and career-ready” – that are currently in effect and offer two standards options.
Subsequent to the original Race to the Top there have been other programs with “Race to the Top” in their names, and Rubin conflates the original, which drove Common Core, with the Race to the Top--Early Learning Challenge. The conflation gives the impression that in claiming that the ELC program would help Wisconsin, as he did in 2013, Walker was praising the original Race to the Top. Rubin compounds that erroneous connection by noting that among 2016 GOP presidential candidates only Rick Perry of Texas had “turned down” RTT money – actually, he refused to compete for it – which is meaningless since Walker wasn’t governor when the original RTT was in play.
Rubin moves on to assert that it is problematic for governors to tout success in their schools that occurred while Common Core was “in place” and then attack the Core. Rubin doesn’t egregiously misrepresent facts with this observation, but everyone should refrain from crediting or blaming the Core for outcomes even after it has been in place for years. There are far too many variables at play in education to simply say that during a certain period outcomes improved, we had Common Core during that period, therefore Common Core worked.
More directly, though, Common Core hasn’t been in place for years. Indeed, for the vast majority of states – Wisconsin included – 2014-15 was the first school year that Core-connected tests were administered. That means implementation is just now being completed, and the Core wasn’t in full effect during the advances Walker cited, which he connected to his 2011 seniority and tenure reforms.
Finally, again not an egregious misrepresentation of fact, but Rubin asserts that it is a clear myth to say that the Core is a “curriculum.” But the delineation between “standards” and “curricula” is no bright line, much though Core supporters like to say it is when smearing opponents as misinformed. As an extreme illustration, if I say the “standard” is to be able to add 2 and 2 using a traditional algorithm, that’s also curriculum; it tells you “how” you must do the addition.
In this vain, the Core explicitly calls for instructional "shifts” – again, how you do things, not just what students should be able to do – and gets fairly explicit about content in much of its math and a bit of the English Language Arts sections. More important, federally funded tests go with the Core – though many states have moved away from them – and what they ask will likely de facto fill in curricular specifics over time. If every year a problem requires multiplication using area models, area models must be taught. And keep in mind that while educators may have their own definition of “curriculum” – specifics of how something is taught – the common definition is much more in line with how they define “standards”: what is broadly to be learned. As the Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines it: “1: the courses offered by an educational institution; 2: a set of courses constituting an area of specialization.”
As I’ve opined before, Common Core advocates have made a central part of their political strategy tarring Core opponents as “misinformed.” But they are too often guilty of peddling misinformation themselves.
"Our return on investment is three to one..." Walker said. "It's a good deal."
The Bucks franchise, valued at $600 million, is owned by a group of billionaire financiers in New York. But no matter what it's worth, Walker's statement is at wide variance with the findings of independent economists.
Economic projections for subsidized stadiums are always vastly overstated. As Dennis Coates and Brad Humphreys wrote in a 2004 Cato study criticizing the proposed D.C. stadium subsidy, “The wonder is that anyone finds such figures credible.”
And indeed the Washington Examiner reported in 2008:
Attendance at Nationals Park has fallen more than a quarter short of a consultant’s projections for the stadium’s inaugural year, cutting into the revenue needed to pay the ballpark bonds and spurring a D.C. Council member to demand the city’s money back.
Several Cato studies over the years have looked at the absurd economic claims of stadium advocates. In “Sports Pork: The Costly Relationship between Major League Sports and Government," Raymond Keating finds:
The lone beneficiaries of sports subsidies are team owners and players. The existence of what economists call the “substitution effect” (in terms of the stadium game, leisure dollars will be spent one way or another whether a stadium exists or not), the dubiousness of the Keynesian multiplier, the offsetting impact of a negative multiplier, the inefficiency of government, and the negatives of higher taxes all argue against government sports subsidies. Indeed, the results of studies on changes in the economy resulting from the presence of stadiums, arenas, and sports teams show no positive economic impact from professional sports — or a possible negative effect.
In Regulation magazine, (.pdf) Dennis Coates and Brad Humphreys found that the economic literature on stadium subsidies comes to consistent conclusions:
The evidence suggests that attracting a professional sports franchise to a city and building that franchise a new stadium or arena will have no effect on the growth rate of real per capita income and may reduce the level of real per capita income in that city.
And in “Caught Stealing: Debunking the Economic Case for D.C. Baseball,” Coates and Humphreys looked specifically at the economics of the new baseball stadium in Washington, D.C., and found similar results:
Our conclusion, and that of nearly all academic economists studying this issue, is that professional sports generally have little, if any, positive effect on a city’s economy. The net economic impact of professional sports in Washington, D.C., and the 36 other cities that hosted professional sports teams over nearly 30 years, was a reduction in real per capita income over the entire metropolitan area.
Stadiums, arenas, convention centers, arts centers, the story is the same. In 2011 the Washington Post reported that the financial projections for a government-funded arts center, Artisphere, in Arlington, Virginia, didn’t seem to have panned out.
A 2014 report by Don Bauder in the San Diego Reader is worth quoting at length:
Would you take advice from a gaggle of consultants whose forecasts in the past two decades have been off by 50 percent?
Of course you wouldn’t. But all around the U.S., politicians, civic planners, and particularly business executives have been following the advice of self-professed experts who invariably tell clients to build a convention center or expand an existing one.
A remarkable new book, Convention Center Follies: Politics, Power, and Public Investment in American Cities, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, tells the amazing story of how one American city after another builds into a massive glut of convention-center space, even though the industry itself warns its centers that the resultant price-slashing will worsen current woes.
The author is Heywood Sanders, the nation’s ranking expert on convention centers, who warned of the billowing glut in a seminal study for the Brookings Institution back in 2005. In this new, heavily footnoted, 514-page book, Sanders, a professor of public administration at the University of Texas/San Antonio, exhaustively examines consultants’ forecasts in more than 50 cities....
The worst news: “These expansions will keep happening,” as long as “you have a mayor who says it is free,” says Sanders.
Or a governor:
"We would lose $419 million over the next 20 years if we did nothing, if we said, go on, move somewhere else, which the NBA said they would do," Walker continued. "In this case, we don't raise any taxes. There are no new taxes, only existing taxes. And we get a three to one return."
The project will be funded by existing taxes on hotel rooms and rental cars, though the Wisconsin Center Board has the authority to raise the rate, he said.
"In this case, we take the tax, the revenues on hotels and rental cars that are currently paid for the convention center and allow those to continue to be paid for a new arena," Walker said. "It's not a new tax."
This wasn't the worst thing Scott Walker said to Jonathan Karl on ABC. He also said he wouldn't rule out re-invading Iraq. But any presidential candidate who believes that taxpayer-subsidized stadiums are "a good deal" shouldn't be anywhere near the federal Treasury.
An earlier version of this post relied on an erroneous quotation by ABC News in the first and last paragraphs. The post has been corrected to reflect the video with Walker's actual language.
Dennis Smith directed the Medicaid program for President George W. Bush and was a health care analyst at the Heritage Foundation before becoming Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) secretary of health. The following excerpts are from a [subscription only] article at WisPolitics.com:
In his first extensive interview since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling largely upheld the federal law, the Department of Health Services chief said fed deadlines are likely to change and that the lack of guidance on setting up the exchanges makes any state-run exchange "a fantasy."...
Part of the reason why Smith says Wisconsin hasn't moved forward with a health exchange plan is because he believes the deadlines will be pushed back.
"We have no other plan that we are taking because we think the reality is the federal government cannot meet its deadlines for implementing PPACA," Smith said. "No one knows what a federal exchange looks like. The two major components that an exchange is supposed to do, which is determine eligibility and to complete the business transaction to pay premiums to health care plans that millions of Americans are supposed to pick, nobody knows what those look like. The administration has failed to release a credible business plan where objective observers could conclude that they're going to pull this off."
Smith also said that none of the states currently setting up exchanges would likely meet federal regulations and that there's "no such thing as a state-run exchange."...
"They were going to be asking for the resumes for the people who sit on the board of overseeing an exchange," Smith said. "They were micromanaging the governance structure. They didn't have to do that, they chose to do that. But that's slowing the process and the decision making."
The secretary especially pointed to questions on who will be eligible for the exchanges and the appropriate level of tax credits for participants. He claimed the rules on determining accuracy of tax credit payments were too "nonchalant," and could result in the IRS having to recover thousands of dollars because of potential inaccuracies.
"It's not that they don't have answers because they're withholding it from us, it's that they don't have answers because they don't have answers," Smith said. "These are critical policy issues, critical technical issues. Again, what are you building if you don't know who's eligible? What are you building if you don't know what the flow is out of the treasury to the health plan?"
..."They have a mess on their hands," Smith said... "You have to fundamentally say, 'No, that just isn't working, we have to go back to the drawing board.'
"And that is not being partisan in the slightest. That is facing reality."
And that's from a guy who continues to support the concept of a government-created health insurance exchange.