Cato @ Liberty The Cato Institute seeks to broaden the parameters of public policy debate to allow consideration of the traditional American principles of limited government, individual liberty, free markets and peace. Toward that goal, the Institute strives to achieve greater involvement of the intelligent, concerned lay public in questions of policy and the proper role of government. en Interventionists Evade Responsibility for Their Policy Disasters <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <p>As I point out in a new <em>National Interest Online</em> <a href="">article</a>, a multi-sided struggle for power in Libya continues to fester more than eight years after the United States led an air war to help rebels oust longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.<span> </span>Libya joins Iraq and Syria as a classic example of the failed U.S. regime-change strategy.</p> <p>Fighting between Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) and the even more misnamed Government of National Accord (GNA) has intensified in and around the capital, Tripoli. The LNA boasted on September 11 that its forces had routed troops of the Sarraj militia, a GNA ally, killing <a href="">some 200</a> of them.<span> </span>That claim may be exaggerated, but there is no doubt that the situation has become <a href="">increasingly violent and chaotic</a> in Tripoli and other portions of Libya, with innocent civilians bearing the brunt of the suffering. Throughout the years of chaos, more than a million Libyans have become refugees, many of them trying to flee across the Mediterranean in fragile, overcrowded boats and <a href="">perishing</a> in the process.</p> <p>The country has become the plaything not only of rival domestic factions <a href="">but major Middle East powers</a>, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. Those regimes are waging a ruthless geopolitical competition, providing arms and in some cases even launching airstrikes on behalf of their respective clients.</p> <p>Given the appalling aftermath of the original U.S.-led intervention, one might hope that advocates of an activist policy would be chastened, but that is not the case. The latest confirmation of continuing arrogance can be found in the <a href=";keywords=samantha+power+the+education+of+an+idealist&amp;qid=1569009052&amp;s=books&amp;sprefix=Saman%2Caps%2C176&amp;sr=1-1">new book</a> by Samantha Power, an influential NSC staffer in 2011 and later U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.<span> </span>Power’s response to the Libya horror the Obama administration created is shocking flippant.<span> </span>“We could hardly expect to have a crystal ball when it came to accurately predicting outcomes in places where the culture was not our own,” she contends.<span> </span><em>American Conservative</em> analyst Daniel Larison <a href="">excoriates</a> her argument. “If Libyan culture was so opaque and hard for the Obama administration to understand,” Larison responds, it “should never have taken sides in an internal conflict there.”</p> <p>Moreover, prudent foreign policy experts warned Power and her colleagues about the probable consequences of intervening in a volatile, fragile country like Libya.<span> </span>Indeed, Robert M. Gates, Obama’s secretary of defense, <a href=";qid=1568393444&amp;s=books&amp;sr=1-2">confirms in his memoir</a> that the administration itself was divided about the advisability of intervention.<span> </span>The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Vice President Joe Biden, and Gates were opposed.<span> </span>Among the most outspoken proponents of action, though, were Power and her mentor, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.</p> <p>The existence of a sharp internal division is sufficient evidence in itself that Power’s attempt to absolve herself and other humanitarian crusaders of responsibility for the subsequent tragedy is without merit.<span> </span>They were warned of the probable outcome yet chose to plunge forward.</p> <p>The stance of Power and other interventionists seems to be that armed global crusaders never have to say they’re sorry, no matter how disastrous the results of their policies.<span> </span>The American people need to reject that attitude and hold the architects of catastrophe accountable for their blunders. Such a standard should apply equally to the neocons who brought us the Iraq debacle and the progressives who created the Libyan and Syrian fiascos.<span> </span></p> Fri, 20 Sep 2019 16:59:50 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter "We Give Qualified Immunity to Just About Everybody" <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Jonathan Blanks</a></p> <p>On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard oral argument for a special appeal in <em>Betton v. Belue</em> (18-1974). The case stems from a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by Julian Betton, who was shot and paralyzed when police officers raided his home on a marijuana charge. Officer David Belue was one of several <a href="">South Carolinian 15th District Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) officers</a> who participated in the raid, and this week’s argument was his appeal of the district court’s denial of qualified immunity for his actions.</p> <p>By now, regular readers know that Cato has been leading a campaign to <a href="">abolish the qualified immunity doctrine</a>, which unlawfully shields police officers from civil liability for violating individuals’ constitutional rights. Although the oral argument indicates that Officer Belue is going to lose his appeal, the case nevertheless shows that our civil rights laws are essential to curbing the hyperviolent police conduct that can lead to unnecessary deaths and injuries.</p> <p>The facts of the case, as established by the district court, state that DEU officers used a battering ram to knock-down and enter Mr. Betton’s home without identifying themselves as officers, nor were any of the officers wearing police uniforms or other obvious indications that they were law enforcement. Mr. Betton withdrew a gun from his waistband and had it by his side when he was struck by 9 of 29 rounds fired by the intruding officers. Each of the participating officers falsely claimed that they had knocked and announced their presence before breaking into the home. At least some of the officers also falsely claimed that Mr. Betton had raised his weapon and had shot at the officers before they returned fire. For the use of force from this botched raid, Officer Belue sought qualified immunity.</p> <p>In the <a href="">audio file</a> posted on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit website, the empaneled judges seemed uniformly outraged by the conduct of the officers during this raid. In particular, Judge Barbara Milano Keenan lamented, “It’s so shocking what happened in this case for a two-bit marijuana deal.”</p> <p>Unfortunately, this is how our state, federal, and local governments have prosecuted and <a href="">continue to prosecute the drug war.</a> More than a decade ago, our former colleague Radley Balko wrote about the paramilitarization of American police in his seminal Cato report "<a href="">Overkill</a>," documenting hundreds of botched raids by police departments, many of which were launched against non-violent drug offenders. He subsequently wrote an excellent book about the widespread use of SWAT teams, <em><a href="">Rise of the Warrior Cop</a></em>.</p> <p>The police use of “dynamic entry”—the sudden and disorienting SWAT-style raids as in the present case—are dangerous not only for the raid targets, but for the officers themselves who can be shot by individuals who don’t know the police are coming. As the court contemplates during the argument, citing the Supreme Court’s holding in <em><a href="">D.C. v. Heller</a></em><a href=""><span> (2008)</span></a>, it is perfectly reasonable for a gun owner to defend himself and his home in a way that Mr. Betton did when faced with unidentified armed intruders. Here is one exchange between the court and the officer’s counsel on Wednesday*:</p> <blockquote><p>Counsel: “Where I think the court is drawing concern is that Mr. Betton is in his home…”</p> <p>Court: “That’s pretty important: He’s in his home.”</p> <p>Counsel: “Yes, sir.”</p> <p>Court: “And people break down the door.”</p> <p>Counsel: “Yes, sir.”</p> <p>Court: “And they don’t say who they are.”</p> <p>Counsel: “Yes, sir.”</p> <p>Court: “And they’re not dressed as police officers. And they come in.”</p> <p>Counsel: “Yes, sir.”</p> <p>Court: “[So] What did [Mr. Betton] do that was unreasonable?”</p> </blockquote> <p>The implication that any gun owner who found himself in Mr. Betton’s situation could be shot for merely possessing his gun in his home was outrageous to the judges. The judges were even more appalled by the unseriousness of marijuana possession as the reason for such over-the-top DEU action. It could only have gone worse for the officer had his counsel said, “But this is how we do our jobs!”</p> <p>But given what we know about SWAT teams and dynamic entry raids, this probably is how DEU regularly does its job.</p> <p>Thankfully, there is a case on point in the Fourth Circuit—<em><a href="">Cooper v. Sheehan<span>, </span></a></em><a href=""><span>735 F.3d 153 (4th Cir. 2013)</span></a>—that establishes that merely possessing a firearm in one’s home is not sufficient for police to initiate deadly force. Thus, the DEU officers’ actions violated “<a href="">clearly established</a>” constitutional protections and will not be protected by the qualified immunity doctrine.</p> <p>But had the facts been just slightly different, the court may have felt its hands were tied to award Officer Belue the immunity for which he appealed. As one judge said toward the end of argument, "We give qualified immunity to [just] about everybody."</p> <p>So the police continue to enforce bad laws, and they choose to do so in ways that endanger the public and themselves. Shielding officers from legitimate lawsuits not only injure those who have had their rights violated but also protect the bad laws and policies that lead to horrific and predictable tragedies.</p> <p>You can listen to the argument audio at the Fourth Circuit's <a href="">website</a>. Check out Cato's work on qualified immunity at our <a href="">Unlawful Shield website</a>.</p> <p><em>*All quotes transcribed by the author in lieu of available transcript. Although not identified in the audio, the judge asking the questions here is likely Judge Joseph R. Goodwin, <a href="">who previously spoke at Cato</a> on the out-sized role of plea bargaining in the criminal system. Judge Robert B. King is the third judge on the panel.</em></p> Fri, 20 Sep 2019 15:42:23 -0400 Jonathan Blanks How About Retroceding Washington, D.C. to Maryland? <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Walter Olson</a></p> <p>Yesterday the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a <a href="">hearing</a> on proposals to make the District of Columbia a state, and as he has done before, Roger Pilon, founder of Cato’s Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies, <a href="">testified</a> against the <a href="">idea</a>.</p> <p>Speaking for myself, what would make more sense than D.C. statehood? <a href="">Retroceding the city of Washington</a>, or at least its residential portions, to the state of Maryland. One plan, promoted by activist David Krucoff, would turn it into <a href="">Douglass County, Maryland</a>, named after the great Frederick Douglass and conveniently retaining the initials D.C.</p> <p>Maryland retrocession was long dismissed as politically impractical, perhaps because of reluctance in the Old Line State to accept the deal, but those calculations might reasonably begin to shift now that the capital city has grown exceedingly prosperous (thus making it a better fiscal bet) and has politics that no longer diverge as spectacularly from those of its neighbors to the north as in the days of former Mayor Marion Barry.</p> <p>As every schoolchild is aware, the structure of the U.S. Senate was controversial then and now for allowing an equal voice to states of greatly differing populations, even though this means that less populated states like Delaware, North Dakota, and Alaska can wield the same clout in the upper House as California, Texas, and Florida. D.C. statehood proposals, understandably popular among capital city residents, would launch the fledgling 51st state near the top of the rankings, enjoying a degree of overrepresentation comparable only to Vermont, Wyoming, and perhaps one or two other states. Both the expanded and the current Maryland, by contrast, come out close to the middle of the pack, somewhere around 16th or 19th in rank. The Douglass County idea, or something similar, would as a result not materially worsen the practical disparity between big and small state representation complained of by Senate critics.</p> <p>Some plans would retain a National Capital Service Area of non-residential nature (except for the White House?) to be administered directly by federal legislation. It might be noted, however, that many large and vital installations of the federal government seem to operate fine in states like Virginia (the Pentagon), Maryland (National Security Agency, Nuclear Regulatory Commission), Kentucky (Fort Knox), and so forth.</p> <p>Congress originally created the District of Columbia out of land ceded by the states of Maryland and Virginia. The former sections of the capital south of the Potomac River, which now form Arlington and part of the city of Alexandria, were retroceded to Virginia in 1847.</p> Fri, 20 Sep 2019 13:36:58 -0400 Walter Olson R.I.P. Earl Ravenal (1931-2019) <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Christopher A. Preble</a></p> <p>I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of Earl Ravenal, a one-time member of Cato's board of directors, long-time senior fellow and distinguished senior fellow, and an important voice in the development of the case against global interventionism in the 1970s and 1980s.</p> <p>He taught international affairs for many years at Georgetown University, and was the author of several books and monographs, as well as countless papers and articles, including <em>Never Again: Learning From America's Foreign Policy Failures</em> (Temple University Press, 1978), and this gem, from way back in the Cato archives, <a href="">"Reagan's 1983 Defense Budget: An Analysis and an Alternative" (Policy Analysis no. 10)</a>.</p> <p>In his sweeping history of the libertarian movement, <em>Radicals for Capitalism</em>, Brian Doherty describes Ravenal as "a foreign policy intellectual of real-world heft." He was active in Libertarian Party politics, and was responsible for writing LP presidential candidate Ed Clark's campaign statement on foreign and defense policies in 1980.</p> <p>Ted Galen Carpenter, who preceded me as Cato's vice president for defense and foreign policy studies, recalls "Earl was nearly unique in the 1970s and 1980s in being regarded as a serious scholar by much of the foreign policy establishment, despite his unorthodox views. That status made him a true trailblazer for those of us who reinforced the case for realism and restraint. Without his pioneering work, our task would have been far more difficult."</p> <p>Another Cato colleague remembers Earl's dogged effort to assess the share of the Pentagon's budget that was geared toward defending Europe and Asia during the waning days of the Cold War. This was a daunting task, given that such spending is fungible, and the things that it buys mobile. A ship in Norfolk can be deployed to the Mediterranean, but also to the Persian Gulf, or even the Pacific Ocean (it just takes longer). Planes fly. Even troops can be relocated -- though their bases less easily. In the face of such complexity, most people simply shrugged their shoulders: "Who knows?" Ravenal improved public understanding of America's military posture in the early 1980s by forcing a discussion of these costs into the debate.</p> <p>As a young Cato fan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I encountered many of Ravenal's books and articles on foreign and defense policy. The most influential was arguably <em>Designing Defense for a New World Order</em>, published in 1991. I (somehow) managed to locate it on my bookshelf, and discovered countless highlighted passages, and earnest comments and questions in the margins.</p> <p>Earl's family reports that he passed away on August 31, 2019. He was 88 years old. I extend to them my sincere condolences.</p> <p>A memorial service will be held in his honor next month at the Cosmos Club on Sunday, October 27 at 2 pm. The public is welcome.</p> Fri, 20 Sep 2019 10:05:35 -0400 Christopher A. Preble Federal Protection of Cave Spiders Is Driving Property Owners Up the Wall <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Trevor Burrus</a></p> <p>Much like lawyers, spiders don’t drum up warm feelings for most people. It’s probably because both are known for spinning webs. Unlike lawyers, however, the federal government has placed some spiders on the endangered species list—and not just big ones, but ones so small that it takes 14 surveys of a cave to even make sure they’re there. One such spider, the near-invisible <a href="">bone cave harvestman</a>, is found only in a small section of Texas and resides in an unknown number of underground caves.</p> <p>It’s easy to imagine a property owner’s shock when he finds out his land is teeming with these small spiders and that he could face hefty fines if he accidentally steps on one. This sort of mistaken squashing, defined as a “take,” is prohibited by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA is a well-known and popular law, but its scope is much bigger than bald eagles and polar bears. The ESA takes an all-or-nothing approach to species preservation: save all the species, all the time, no matter where they are, no matter the cost. That may sound good in theory, but individual property owners are often immensely harmed due to the presence of an endangered species--whether insect or soaring eagle--on their property. People often speak of the ESA in high-minded, collectivist language: "<em>we</em> have decided that <em>we</em> want to preserve these species forever and in order to do so <em>we</em> will pay whatever the cost." In reality, the costs are often paid by Bob the farmer or Ted the logger, who never get compensation for the costs they are purportedly bearing for "us." In reality, most people would be willing to pay relatively little to preserve most of the species on the endangered species list, but they are quite willing to let Bob and Ted bear the costs.</p> <p>As an act of Congress, the application of the ESA to the bone cave harvestman must be constitutionally authorized. This is different than justifying the ESA more generally. The ESA covers many species, and many of those species have some connection to commerce and thus they have a connection to Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce. But the bone cave harvestman is utterly devoid of commercial value—it’s not a delicacy, no one is making necklaces out of them, and no one is traveling from other states to see them, etc.—but the government still claims the Commerce Clause allows it to list the spider as endangered and impose harsh penalties for a “take.”</p> <p>Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution grants Congress the limited power to regulate commerce between states. Taken at face value, the Commerce Clause would allow the federal government to control the movement and sale of goods that affect the national market—for example, gasoline and other commodities. It wasn’t written to justify federal regulation of noncommercial activities, goods, or species. Yet, the government does precisely that when it uses the ESA to punish property owners for interfering with a nearly undetectable spider that has no commercial value at all.</p> <p>Cato, joined by the Southeastern Legal Foundation and the Mountain States Legal Foundation, has <a href="">filed a brief </a>in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in <em>Yearwood v. Department of the Interior</em>. We argue that listing the bone cave harvestman under the ESA goes too far in the otherwise admirable goal of preserving wildlife. In <em>NFIB v. Sebelius--</em>the challenge to Obamacare’s individual mandate--the Court ruled that someone who hasn’t purchased health insurance could not be forced to do so under the Commerce Clause (but, alas, they can be made to pay a “tax”). Despite ultimately losing that case, the decision is still an important precedent for the limits of the Commerce Clause. The bone cave harvestman is like someone who hasn’t purchased health insurance. The creatures are not in the stream of commerce and their mere existence can’t be said to put them in congressional jurisdiction. If that were true, then every animal in the country would be within Congress's Commerce Clause jurisdiction, a ridiculous result. Exempting the tiny spider would not require striking down the entire ESA. Surely, the safety of red wolves, blue whales, and spotted owls does not depend on a tiny spider’s appearance on the Endangered Species List. The Commerce Clause has grown far too many legs, and the Fifth Circuit should prevent it from endangering our constitutional order.</p> Fri, 20 Sep 2019 10:02:27 -0400 Trevor Burrus Justice Department Responds in Steel Tariffs Case <p><a href="" hreflang="und">William Yeatman</a></p> <p>The Justice Department today filed its brief in <em>American Institute for International Steel v. United States</em> before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. At issue are <a href="">President Trump’s steel tariffs</a>. Last month, the Cato Institute filed <a href="">a brief</a> in support of the appellants, who are businesses that rely on imported steel and have been harmed by the tariffs. </p> <p>The government’s response <a href="">brief</a>, alas, is excellent.</p> <p>Faced with arguments that the president is unbound, the government points to putative procedural rigor behind the tariffs. In response to arguments that the Constitution empowers Congress—not the president—to regulate foreign commerce, the government stresses the president’s executive authority over foreign affairs. Quite obviously, the Justice Department's brief reflects the work of skilled lawyers.  </p> <p>Notably, <a href="">Cato’s brief</a> seems to have registered with the government. On the one hand, the government dismisses Cato's input altogether. In the brief’s first footnote (<a href="">page 15</a>), the Justice Department alleges that we tried to “expand the issues of the appeal beyond those presented by the appellant in its opening brief,” and, therefore, that the court should not pay attention to our arguments. Notwithstanding this footnote, the government references the Cato Institute by name in the body of the brief and, furthermore, spends an entire subsection (III.B) addressing Cato’s arguments about judicial oversight.</p> <p>Here, I'd be remiss if I failed to rebut the government's incorrect charge that Cato improperly attempted to expand the scope of the appeal before the Federal Circuit. In a nutshell, Cato's brief demonstrates that the trial court mistakenly denied itself the authority to review the president's steel tariffs. Because all federal courts always have jurisdiction to determine the bounds of their own jurisdiction, Cato's contribution falls squarely within the proper purpose of a friend-of-the-court brief. In its amicus brief, moreover, Cato argues that if judicial review is unavailable, then there can be no "intelligible principle" to limit the president's actions, which is precisely what the appellants claim. Of course, the best evidence for the appropriateness of Cato's brief is the fact that the government spent so many words engaging with Cato’s arguments. It doesn't make much sense for the government to say that we should be ignored, but then to respond to us. As always, actions speak louder than words. </p> Thu, 19 Sep 2019 16:05:45 -0400 William Yeatman Bringing Drug Use Out of the Shadows Reduces Harm to the Community as Well as to Users <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Jeffrey A. Singer</a></p> <p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>Many critics of marijuana legalization raise concerns that marijuana dispensaries might serve as loci for increased local criminal activity. Now there is empirical evidence that just the opposite occurs.</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>A new study reported in the September issue of <em><a href="!">Regional Science and Urban Economics</a> </em>examined local crime rate data from 2013 through 2016 in Denver, Colorado, where legal cannabis sales to adults began in 2014. The researchers reported:</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <blockquote><p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>The results imply that an additional dispensary in a neighborhood leads to a reduction of 17 crimes per month per 10,000 residents, which corresponds to roughly a 19 percent decline relative to the average crime rate over the sample period. Reductions in crime are highly localized, with no evidence of spillover benefits to adjacent neighborhoods.</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> </blockquote> <p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>The study found that the majority of the crimes reduced were of a nonviolent nature.There were no changes in the number of cannabis-related crimes near dispensaries, but there was a decrease in the number of crimes related to methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. The authors speculated that this may be in part due to the increased presence of law enforcement near dispensaries serving as a deterrent to criminal activity.</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>The authors <a href="">stated</a> they did “not find increases in marijuana crimes such as cultivation, possession, or sales nearby,” and no increase in crimes associated with marijuana intoxication, “since there is essentially no change in the number of crimes with marijuana as a ‘contributing factor’ near locations that gain dispensaries.”</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>A 2017 study in <em><a href="">Preventive Medicine</a> </em>with a more limited time range looked at crime rates in South Los Angeles, examining local crime rates in neighborhoods surrounding medical marijuana dispensaries (MMDs), tobacco shops, and alcohol retailers, from January through December 2014. The researchers found no increase in crime rates related to the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries, but an increase in crime surrounding tobacco and alcohol outlets:</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <blockquote><p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>Results indicated that mean property and violent crime rates within 100-foot buffers of tobacco shops and alcohol outlets—but not MMDs—substantially exceeded community-wide mean crime rates and rates around grocery/convenience stores (i.e., comparison properties licensed to sell both alcohol and tobacco).</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> </blockquote> <p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>While these studies should help alleviate concerns raised by marijuana prohibitionists about the effect that legalization may have on local crime, similar arguments are used by those who oppose the creation of Safe Injection Facilities for IV drug users. As I have written <a href="">here</a>, SIFs have been working to reduce overdoses and the spread of disease since the 1980s in more than 120 cities in Europe, Canada and Australia, and there is an “underground” SIF functioning in the US illegally since 2014. Federal law prohibits Safe Injection Facilities in this country, and the Department of Justice is stifling efforts to establish them in Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, and New York City.</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>Among concerns raised by opponents is that they will be a magnet for IV drug users, creating a visual disturbance to neighborhood residents. The counter-argument is that SIFs will actually bring the drug users in off the streets, letting them use their drugs out of the view of young impressionable children and other nearby residents, and will reduce the presence of used needles on the streets and sidewalks.</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>Another concern is that SIFs may be loci for criminal activity. But, as in the case of marijuana dispensaries, those concerns, while understandable, are not borne out by the evidence. A 2017 systematic review by Canadian researchers reported in <em><a href="">Current HIV/AIDS Reports</a> </em>found Supervised Injection Facilities were “associated with improvements in public order without increasing drug-related crime.”</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>The takeaway from all of this is that bringing drug use out of the darkness of the underground reduces harms to those who don’t engage in drug use as well as those who do.</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> Thu, 19 Sep 2019 13:31:00 -0400 Jeffrey A. Singer It Is Time to Relinquish America’s Global Interventionist Foreign Policy <p><a href="" hreflang="und">John Glaser</a>, <a href="" hreflang="und">Christopher A. Preble</a>, and <a href="" hreflang="und">A. Trevor Thrall</a></p> <p>We have <a href="">an article</a> published in the latest edition of <em><a href="">Survival</a></em> critiquing America’s foreign policy of global interventionism and making the case for a grand strategy of restraint. Here are some excerpts:</p> <blockquote><p>The United States should reject the myths of primacy and the hyperactive foreign policy it has promoted. The United States is not the indispensable nation. Nor is it insecure. Nor is it capable of micromanaging the world’s affairs efficiently and effectively from Washington. In this light, the United States should pursue a more modest foreign-policy agenda that facilitates global trade and focuses more narrowly on the physical security of the homeland, while worrying less about trying to police the world.</p> <p>…[A]lthough the American foreign-policy establishment sees US power as the linchpin of the global order and the United States as an indispensable nation, the truth is that many of the trends contributing to stability and economic growth are emergent phenomena, occasionally helped and occasionally hurt by US foreign policy, but driven by factors largely exogenous to US designs. Fortunately, many countries benefit from the relative peace and prosperity that prevails today and are therefore motivated to help preserve it. At this pivotal moment in history, America’s leaders should seek to lock in those attitudes and build a more resilient global order that is not overly dependent on a single dominant state.</p> <p>…One thing Trump’s presidency proves is that even a commander-in-chief averse to the imperial responsibilities of primacy will not readily shirk them. Power does not check itself, either in the international domain or the domestic…Donald Trump’s ascendance to the highest office in the nation nearly three years ago was perhaps the most compelling illustration of the hazards of vesting the presidency with so much unbridled power. We share many of the concerns voiced by the foreign-policy establishment about what Trump has done, and might yet do, to US foreign policy, and how detrimental it could be to the stability of the international system. But any world order that depends for its survival on the whims of a single person in a single branch of government in a single country is simply untenable. Trump seems to have come along at the tail end of America’s ‘unipolar moment’, and the relative decline in US power is yet another reason to revise American grand strategy to accommodate changing conditions in an increasingly multipolar world.</p> </blockquote> <p>We also lay out some guidelines for how to implement a more modest set of foreign policy objectives and for how to reconceptualize what qualifies as vital national interests under restraint. Do read <a href=";tokenAccess=U9KEJT7VW79WTDNGIHZZ&amp;forwardService=showFullText&amp;target=10.1080%2F00396338.2019.1662131&amp;doi=10.1080%2F00396338.2019.1662131&amp;doi=10.1080%2F00396338.2019.1662131&amp;doi=10.1080%2F00396338.2019.1662131&amp;journalCode=tsur20">the whole thing</a>.</p> <p>The piece is adapted from the conclusion of our forthcoming book, <em><a href=";colid=2T9HAZJ1YMWBD&amp;psc=1&amp;ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it">Fuel to the Fire: How Trump Made America’s Broken Foreign Policy Even Worse (And How We Can Recover)</a></em>, to be published next month.</p> Thu, 19 Sep 2019 11:12:35 -0400 John Glaser, Christopher A. Preble, A. Trevor Thrall Middle Class Shrinking… As Households Become Richer <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Chelsea Follett</a></p> <p>The U.S. economy continues to do well, but many fear that economic expansion only benefits a few Americans, while leaving most households behind. As political analyst Juan Williams <a href="">opined</a> in <em>The Hill</em> earlier this year, “The rich got their Trump tax cut. GDP looks good. And the stock market is doing great for people with money to invest. But it is only the rich who get the big rewards in Trump’s economy. What about the middle class?”</p> <p>The middle class, it turns out, is shrinking. But not because they are falling into poverty, as some might have you believe. Rather, it is shrinking because more people are “moving on up,” ascending into a higher income bracket — and living the American dream.</p> <p>Since 2016, the United States has had more wealthy households than middle-class households and the share of low-income households has reached a historic low.</p> <p>This is hardly a new trend. As I <a href=";fbclid=IwAR2j2JpXfgVU2kYjOV7Xj2lFIDrX-Njukb0YGO97nVXWS3I27l3fJJR9THM">wrote</a> in 2016, the middle class is shrinking due to growth in rich households. When I last wrote on that topic, though, there were still more middle-class households than rich households.</p> <div class="responsive-embed"></div> <p>According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2018, over 30 percent of U.S. households earned over $100,000 (i.e., the upper class). Fewer than 30 percent of households earned between $50,000 and $100,000 (i.e., the middle class). The share of U.S. households making at least $100,000 has more than tripled since 1967, when just 9 percent of all U.S. households earned that much (all figures are adjusted for inflation).</p> <p>In 2018, the share of households earning less than $50,000 (i.e., the lower class) dropped below 40 percent for the first time since the U.S. Census data on this metric started to be collected in 1967. Back then, 54 percent of households earned less than $50,000.</p> <p>So the next time you hear someone allege that the economy is leaving an increasing share of American households behind or see a pundit bemoan the “shrinking middle class,” take a closer look at the data and keep in mind that a “shrinking middle class” may actually be a sign of growing prosperity.</p> Wed, 18 Sep 2019 16:14:20 -0400 Chelsea Follett Blaine Amendments Harm Educational Opportunity and Violate Constitutional Rights <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ilya Shapiro</a> and <a href="" hreflang="und">Dennis Garcia</a></p> <p>In the late 19th century, dozens of states enacted amendments banning government aid to churches, religious schools, and other “sectarian” organizations. These “Blaine Amendments,” named after Senator James G. Blaine of Maine, who failed to secure the passage of a similar amendment to the U.S. Constitution, remain in force in many parts of the country.</p> <p>At the time these amendments were passed, it was widely understood that public schools followed a curriculum sympathetic to Protestantism to the exclusion of other religious traditions. “Sectarian” was a euphemism for “Catholic” and the Blaine amendments were widely recognized as an effort to bar funding to Catholic schools. While their anti-Catholic motivations are now a matter of history, Blaine amendments, such as Article X, Section 6 of the Montana Constitution, are still in effect and often serve as a pretext for discrimination against religious groups.</p> <p>Kendra Espinoza is a single mother who works two jobs to afford her daughters’ private-school tuition. When her youngest daughter struggled in public school and her older daughter was bullied, Kendra decided to enroll them both in Stillwater Christian School in Kalispell, Montana, where they have since flourished. At Stillwater, Kendra feels that her faith is supported by the school’s Christian character. Kendra benefited from a Montana program that provides tax-credit incentives for donations to scholarship funds that have lessened the burden of her daughters’ tuition. When the Montana Department of Revenue issued a rule excluding Stillwater Christian from the tax-credit program, her children’s educational future was put in jeopardy.</p> <p>While the Revenue Department defended its distinction between secular and parochial schools, the Montana Supreme Court ruled more broadly, holding that the tax-credit program as a whole violated the state constitution by authorizing aid to religion.</p> <p>But under the First Amendment, states may not impair the free exercise of religion or pass any laws regarding the establishment of religion. This case thus raises the question: can a state strike down a neutral, generally available educational program simply because some of the program’s beneficiaries have directed their (not state) dollars to religious organizations? If the Department of Revenue prevails, states will have greater power to reduce school choice and single out religious organizations for unfair treatment.</p> <p>Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the case, after <a href="">Cato supported Ms. Espinoza’s petition for review</a>. Cato has now<a href=""> filed a Supreme Court brief on the merits</a>. We argue that the Free Exercise Clause does not allow Montana to exclude religious organizations from public benefits solely because of their religious association. Not only does the Establishment Clause allow these kinds of incentives, but there is no room in Supreme Court precedent to exclude religious schools from programs structured around private choice (as opposed to, say, direct taxpayer funding of devotional education). The Montana court’s decision does not change the discriminatory nature of the state’s Blaine Amendment.</p> <p>The Supreme Court will hear argument in <em>Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue</em> in early 2020.</p> Wed, 18 Sep 2019 15:02:14 -0400 Ilya Shapiro, Dennis Garcia Capital Gains Taxes: Already Too High <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Chris Edwards</a></p> <p>Democrats are proposing to raise capital gains taxes. Ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden, wants to tax capital gains on an annual basis, not the current realization basis. He also wants to hike the top capital gains tax rate for high earners to match the top rate on ordinary income. CNBC <a href="">reports</a> “Almost every major Democratic presidential candidate supports taxing capital gains as ordinary income . . .Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Thursday outlined an even more aggressive planthat would impose a new 14.8 percent tax on investment income to help finance Social Security.”</p> <p>These are radical and misguided ideas. <a href="">This 2012 study</a> discusses why capital gains taxes should be low or even zero. The study found that the United States already has high tax rates compared to other countries. The U.S. federal-state rate on individual long-term gains of 28 percent compared at the time to an average across 34 OECD countries of just 16 percent.</p> <p>A 2018 <a href=";jsessionid=7EpMEVZEZ7t5idLKTWq1wVb3.ip-10-240-5-119">study by OECD economists</a> provides newer data for 33 countries. One finding is that “all countries tax capital gains on realization,” that is, when assets such corporate shares are sold. Not one of the 33 countries taxes gains on an annual or accrual basis, as Wyden proposes.</p> <p>The OECD study calculates the combined federal-state capital gains tax rates on investments in corporations in 2016, which are shown in the chart below. The calculation includes the corporate-level income tax and the tax on individual long-term gains.</p> <p>The study found that the United States had the highest capital gains tax rate of all 33 countries at 56.2 percent. That rate is the combo of a 38.9 percent federal-state corporate tax and an individual federal-state capital gains tax of 28.3 percent (which is applied to the after-tax corporate income).</p> <p>Numerous countries in the OECD study do not tax individual long-term capital gains at all, including Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Singapore, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey. The individual capital gains tax rate on long-term investments in those countries is zero.</p> <p>Since the study, the U.S. has dropped its federal corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, so I’ve added a bar in the chart to show the U.S. rate in 2019. The new lower U.S. rate of 46.2 percent is still the 8th highest among the 33 countries.</p> <p>The Democrats would repeal most or all of the GOP corporate tax cut and push the individual capital gains tax rate higher. What they are proposing is extreme. Other advanced economies have low capital gains taxes for sound reasons, <a href="">as discussed here</a>. Raising the federal corporate and individual capital gains tax rates would be a lose-lose-lose proposition of harming businesses and start-ups, undermining worker opportunities, and likely reducing government revenues.</p> <div data-embed-button="image" data-entity-embed-display="view_mode:media.blog_post" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="10f8e758-db28-4cdb-88ae-a6c6732eaaa5" data-langcode="en" class="embedded-entity"> <p><img srcset="/sites/ 1x, /sites/ 1.5x" width="506" height="656" src="" alt="c" typeof="Image" class="component-image" /></p></div> Wed, 18 Sep 2019 14:31:10 -0400 Chris Edwards New York Bill Would Enable Visitation Demands On Adoptive Families <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Walter Olson</a></p> <p>Thank you to Naomi Riley for including me in <a href="">her Wall Street Journal piece earlier this month</a> on a New York scheme to empower birthparents whose parental rights have been terminated to petition nonetheless for court-ordered visitation. The quotes from me:</p> <blockquote><p>In many cases adoptive parents do arrange with birthparents for some kind of contact after an adoption is completed. “Some adoptive parents are glad to agree to those conditions, and that’s fine for them. Where they have not, it is a very bad idea to adopt a presumption of enforcing such a long-term obligation on unwilling adopters,” notes Walter Olson, an adoptive parent and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.</p> <p>The legislation presents serious logistical concerns as well. What if an adoptive family wants to move across the country? Would the courts be able to prevent them? “Adoptive families are real families and deserve the full rights of other such families unless they have agreed to some other arrangement,” says Mr. Olson.</p> </blockquote> <p>And more:</p> <blockquote><p>In a letter to Gov. Cuomo opposing the bill, the group New York Attorneys for Adoption and Family Formation explained that the law may also violate the due-process rights of adoptive parents. In 2000, they point out, the U.S. Supreme Court <a href="">struck down</a> a similar Washington state law.</p> </blockquote> <p>Both houses of the New York legislature have now passed the bill, which is supported by legal services groups like the Legal Aid Society of New York City but opposed by the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition of New York (AFFCNY), the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA), “which represents nonprofit foster care agencies statewide, and the New York Public Welfare Association (NYPWA), which represents county government child welfare directors,” as <a href="">Michael Fitzgerald notes at the Chronicle of Social Change</a>. AFFCNY has more on its opposition <a href="">here</a>, and <a href="">notes</a>: “Adoptive families would have no choice but to hire and pay for legal representation for themselves.”</p> <p>[cross-posted from <a href="">Overlawyered</a>]</p> Wed, 18 Sep 2019 11:09:47 -0400 Walter Olson A First Look at Facebook’s Oversight Board <p><a href="" hreflang="und">John Samples</a></p> <p>Today <a href="">Facebook released a Charter for its Oversight Board</a>. This institution may well face insuperable difficulties and come to nothing. But it is possible, perhaps likely, that the Facebook board will significantly influence the future of speech on the internet. The charter announced today offers a kind of constitution for the Oversight Board. What does the Charter mean for free expression?</p> <p>First, some context. Facebook maintains Community Standards that users agree to abide by when joining the platform. Facebook censures or removes users who violate those standards. Such “content moderation” goes back almost to the founding of Facebook. Facebook may suppress speech in this way because the First Amendment does not apply to privately-owned forums like social media.</p> <p><span>Facebook officials often say content moderation involves a tradeoff or as the Charter notes, “Free expression is paramount, but there are times when speech can be at odds with authenticity, safety, privacy, and dignity.” This statement is both ominous and reassuring. It suggests ominously that free expression will frequently give way to other values. It is reassuring because free expression is “paramount” which means “<a href="">more important than anything else</a>.” </span></p> <p><span>If you read a lot about Facebook’s statements about this tradeoff, you might at times get the impression that free speech is just another value on par with safety and the other values mentioned above. But this statement (and <a href="">others</a>) indicates free expression has a higher standing for the company than the other values though it does not trump them in every instance. The Charter itself begins by saying free expression is a “fundamental human right.” </span></p> <p><span>Mark Zuckerberg’s letter accompanying the Charter reinforces this view. The first paragraph states:</span></p> <blockquote><p><span>Facebook is built to give people a voice. Free expression is fundamental to who we are as a company, just as it is to a free, inclusive and democratic society. We believe the more people who have the power to express themselves, the more progress our society makes together. We want to make sure our products and policies support this. </span></p> </blockquote> <p><span>Free expression comes first in the letter, and the CEO later says free expression is “paramount,” the same word that appears at the start of the Charter. Of course, the second paragraph of the letter deals with the values that limit free expression. But those values do not come first in the Charter or the letter. </span></p> <p><span>Consider also that the Charter itself says “the purpose of the [Oversight] board is to protect free expression by making principled, independent decisions about important pieces of content and by issuing policy advisory opinions on Facebook's content policies.” That’s different from saying the Board seeks to attain the best tradeoff between free expression and other important values. This mention of free expression in the preamble to the Charter matters. What is not mentioned about the purpose of the Board – values to be balanced against free speech – also informs our understanding of Facebook and its Board project.</span></p> <p><span>One hundred Facebook employees have been working on this Charter for many months. The rhetorical priority given free expression is unlikely to be an accident. And it need not just be empty rhetoric. Saying free expression is paramount for the Facebook community should matter to the interpretations that issue from the Facebook Board.</span></p> <p><span>In the United States, two institutions matter most to free speech: the Constitution and the Court that interprets it. We have Facebook’s Community Standards. What does the Charter tell us about the makeup of its “court”? </span></p> <p><span>Here are the qualifications to be a Board member according to the Charter:</span></p> <blockquote><p><span>Members must not have actual or perceived conflicts of interest that could compromise their independent judgment and decision-making. Members must have demonstrated experience at deliberating thoughtfully and as an open-minded contributor on a team; be skilled at making and explaining decisions based on a set of policies or standards; and <em>have familiarity with matters relating to digital content and governance, including free expression, civic discourse, safety, privacy and technology.</em> (emphasis added) </span></p> </blockquote> <p><span>The last phrase is disappointing. Free expression is one “matter” among others. It would have been more consistent with the “paramount” status of free speech to say members “should have a strong commitment to free expression and familiarity with matters relating to digital content and governance, including civic discourse, safety, privacy and technology.” </span></p> <p><span>But the disappointment does not last. Four sections later, the Charter states: “members will contribute towards building a board that, as an institution, upholds and advances free expression.” Since Facebook says elsewhere they are seeking Board members dedicated to this institution, a commitment to free expression is a qualification for its members.</span></p> <p><span>The Charter documents are not always wholly coherent. The Charter states, “When reviewing decisions, the board will pay particular attention to the impact of removing content in light of human rights norms protecting free expression.” This evokes international law on behalf of free speech. On the other hand, Zuckerberg’s letter states that the values that constrain speech are “guided by international human rights standards.” Indeed, Facebook’s documents reflect a tension in international law itself which both protects and limits free expression. Perhaps Facebook’s secondary values should be rooted in the company’s culture rather than international law.</span></p> <p><span>The Facebook Board’s impact on free speech will be determined over time, decision by concrete decision. Free expression could have been treated as just another competing value in this Charter and related documents. It is more than that. Free expression is paramount. Now will the Facebook Board live up to its Charter?</span></p> Wed, 18 Sep 2019 10:53:42 -0400 John Samples Statement on President Trump's Decision to Impose Additional Sanctions on Iran <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Christopher A. Preble</a></p> <p>This morning, <a href="">President Trump announced via Twitter</a> that he had directed Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to "substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!"</p> <p>I issued the following statement in response:</p> <blockquote><p>The problem with the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign isn’t the pressure. No one doubts that U.S. policy is imposing considerable pain on the Iranian people. Additional U.S. sanctions will likely increase this suffering, as my Cato colleague John Glaser predicted <a href="">here</a>.</p> <p>But to no good end. The Iranians will never give in to U.S. demands; to do so would amount to utter capitulation, the complete surrender of Iranian sovereignty, and the de facto end of the Iranian government. This has been a fervent hope among certain hawks for decades, but hope is not a strategy. Additional pressure and pain cannot resolve the fundamental contradiction at the heart of the Trump administration’s strategy toward Tehran.</p> <p>More broadly, if President Trump is serious about resetting U.S. foreign policy, he must revisit his expectations – and his administration’s policies. He may claim to want to end our endless wars, but his actions are leading in the opposite direction. A combination of bluster, threats, and intransigence will not produce a diplomatic breakthrough. On the contrary, it is likely only to exacerbate the many ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, and increase the chances that Americans are drawn more deeply into them.</p> </blockquote> Wed, 18 Sep 2019 10:50:25 -0400 Christopher A. Preble Hong Kong Protests and the Political Effects of an “Exit” Option <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Alex Nowrasteh</a></p> <p>Sparked by a Chinese extradition bill that would have made it possible for people in Hong Kong to be tried in the mainland’s justice system, protesters in Hong Kong have demonstrated against Beijing for <a href="">100 days</a> as of this week. Since starting, the protests have grown to include a broader critique of the Chinese communist government’s policies in Hong Kong. In anticipation of a potential government crackdown, no doubt influenced by fear of a repeat of the <a href="">massacre at Tiananmen Square</a> 30 years ago, the option for protesters and their families to leave seems increasingly important.</p> <p>One of the potential downsides of a universal “exit option” is that many Hongkongers would just leave the city permanently rather than trying to convince the government there to be more respectful of individual rights. My colleague Christopher Preble and I discussed this on a recent <a href="">Cato podcast</a>. That is a small concern compared to the potential humanitarian downsides of a deadly crackdown in Hong Kong where people do not have the option to leave, but such a universal exit policy from authoritarian regimes could undermine protest movements around the world and slow the advancement of individual liberty.</p> <p>On the other hand, emigrants could help support pro-freedom protest movements in their home countries from relative safety in the United States or elsewhere. Protesters might also be more bold and people might be more likely to join the protest movement if they know that they can leave if the government responds in a more tyrannical fashion. A last potential outcome is that the possibility of a mass exit will induce governments to be less authoritarian. On this last point, <a href="">Anne Robert Jacques Turgot</a> went so far as to argue that <a href="">American open borders in the 18<sup>th</sup> century would “oblige the European governments to be just and enlightened.” </a></p> <p>Fortunately, there is a large and robust academic literature on how emigration affects institutions in home countries. Michelangelo Landgrave and I even co-authored a <a href="">short literature survey</a> on this topic a few years ago to accompany other good <a href="">surveys</a>.</p> <p>Unfortunately, only a small portion of that literature is relevant to the situation faced by Hongkongers. Much of that literature examines how <a href="">return migrants</a> affect institutions in their home countries, which wouldn’t be relevant to the potential effects for Hongkongers as they would likely never be able to return. Another large portion of that literature investigates how monetary remittances affect institutional development, which isn’t relevant for a rich place like Hong Kong. This post focuses on a handful of case studies on how emigrant communities affect political developments in their home countries.</p> <p>The most relevant <a href="">paper</a> on this topic is by Toman Barsbai, Hillel Rapoport, Andreas Steinmayr, and Christoph Trebesch. It found that Moldovans who emigrated to Western Europe had a strong and positive impact on the opinions of those left behind through both return migration and by maintaining communication. The lines of communication with emigrants allowed Moldovans living in Western Europe, especially Italy, to influence voters in Moldova to turn against the Communist Party and to embrace more liberal norms, values, and information from outside of the country.</p> <p>Another <a href="">paper</a> by José Itzigsohn and Daniela Villacrés found that Salvadorans in the United States worked with hometown associations in El Salvador to support political projects that promote economic development. They also found that emigrants from the Dominican Republic did much lobbying from a distance to maintain émigré voting rights and political participation back in their home countries.</p> <p>A more recent <a href="">paper</a> by Mounir Karadja and Erik Prawitz looked at how 19th-century Swedish emigration affected voting, labor union membership, strikes, and political institutions in Sweden. Using an instrumental variable method that uses the interaction between harsh winters in Sweden in the late 1860s and the distance to a port, they find that the emigration option improved their bargaining position vis-à-vis local elites. In 19<sup>th</sup> and early 20<sup>th</sup> century Sweden, that meant fewer landlord privileges, stronger labor unions, and more progressive welfare and government policies. An increase in immigration by 10 percent increased voter turnout by 0.8 percent and the labor membership rate by 2.3 percent.</p> <p>On the other side, emigration from Italy during the Great Recession slowed down political reform and reduced political change in that country according to <a href="">work</a> by Massimo Anelli and Giovanni Peri. Using an instrumental variable approach, they uncovered these results:</p> <blockquote><p>First, greater emigration rates had a negative impact on indicators of political change such as the average age of local politicians, the share of highly educated, and the share of women among them. Second, greater emigration rates also increase the probability of very negative local political outcomes, as captured by the dismissal of a city council.</p> </blockquote> <p>Political reform in Italy is not as dire nor as important as the protest movement for individual rights in Hong Kong, but it's important to include results that push in the opposite direction to get a full range of the possibilities.  </p> <p>Those short case studies are only somewhat analogous to the current situation in Hong Kong or what would happen to the freedom movement there if the United States government or other governments opened their borders to the protesters. Ultimately, allowing Hongkongers to leave will provide an important humanitarian safety valve for people who share American values even if it has an adverse effect on the protest movement. American policymakers shouldn’t second guess the actions of those on the ground protesting China’s totalitarian policies, whether those actions are to stay and continue to protest or to emigrate to the United States. Ideally, the United States government should make it clear that any Hongkonger who wants to leave can come to the United States and be granted asylum with a minimum of restriction.</p> Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:02:01 -0400 Alex Nowrasteh Presidential Spending Update <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Chris Edwards</a></p> <p><span>Federal spending is rising and the government’s debt is growing by a trillion dollars a year. President Trump came into office promising spending cuts and debt reduction, but he has delivered the opposite so far. </span></p> <p><span>How fast has Trump raised spending compared to past presidents? Spending for Trump’s third year (fiscal 2020) was roughly set in the August budget deal with Congress, so we can look at the president’s spending over his first three years. </span></p> <p><span>Presidents share budget power with Congress. They can either sign or veto spending bills, which gives them a lot of leverage. Presidents can dig in their heels against congressional profligacy, or they can go with the flow and let political pressures push spending ever higher. </span></p> <p><span>The following charts show annual average real (inflation-adjusted) spending growth under presidents back to Eisenhower. The data comes from <a href=""><span>Table 6.1 here</span></a>, except I updated 2020 based on <a href="">August CBO</a>. See further notes at the bottom.</span></p> <p><span>Figure 1 shows total federal outlays. Ike is negative because defense spending fell at the end of the Korean War. Obama is the most frugal president since Ike based on this metric.</span></p> <p><span>LBJ is the big-spending champ, followed by George W. Bush. Both Texans pushed for large increases on both guns and butter. Trump also presides over increases in defense and nondefense spending.</span></p> <p><span>By contrast, real defense spending fell under both Bush I and Clinton, which helped reduce their growth rates in Figure 1. </span></p> <p><span>Figure 2 shows total outlays less interest. Carter, Reagan, and Trump perform better on this metric than the first one because they faced rising interest costs during their tenures. </span></p> <p><span>Figure 3 shows total outlays less interest and less defense. Thus, it includes spending on nondefense discretionary and entitlement programs. Prior to Carter, the White House was a horror show of big spenders from both parties. </span></p> <p><span>Figure 3 also shows that for frugality in nondefense spending, Reagan stands alone. </span></p> <div data-embed-button="embed" data-entity-embed-display="view_mode:media.blog_post" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="1f4e2fc0-abd0-4a36-87ee-7d2e25e7026d" class="align-center embedded-entity" data-langcode="en"> <div class="embed embed--infogram js-embed js-embed--infogram"> <div class="infogram-embed" data-id="c2c15682-2f02-4522-bf0b-63ca9ed96839" data-type="interactive" data-title="Figure 1 Total Federal Spending by President"></div> </div> </div> <div data-embed-button="embed" data-entity-embed-display="view_mode:media.blog_post" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="48bdeed1-18aa-4aba-8c8e-c0c538a56fd2" class="align-center embedded-entity" data-langcode="en"> <div class="embed embed--infogram js-embed js-embed--infogram"> <div class="infogram-embed" data-id="04a7ea83-44cd-4046-80f7-c4d219b4cc11" data-type="interactive" data-title="Figure 2 Total Federal Spending Except Interest by President"></div> </div> </div> <div data-embed-button="embed" data-entity-embed-display="view_mode:media.blog_post" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="61e67390-6fb2-42bc-a2ab-e7ddee810806" class="align-center embedded-entity" data-langcode="en"> <div class="embed embed--infogram js-embed js-embed--infogram"> <div class="infogram-embed" data-id="4cb7f811-0219-4194-bb3d-9e90b220e829" data-type="interactive" data-title="Figure 3 Total Federal Spending Except Defense and Interest"></div> </div> </div> <p><span>I measured spending growth by calculating the compound annual rate between the first and last years of a president’s term. For example, Bush II was 2001 to 2009. Trump was 2017 to 2020, with the latter year based on the current CBO baseline estimate.</span></p> <p><span>I made two adjustments to the budget data, both for 2009. First, the official data includes an outlay of $151 billion for TARP in 2009. But TARP ended up costing taxpayers nothing, and official budget data reverses out the spending in later years. So I’ve subtracted $151 billion from the 2009 amount.</span></p> <p><span>Second, 2009 is the last budget year for Bush II, but that year was extraordinary because Obama signed into law the giant stimulus bill, which included $114 billion in outlays for 2009. It is not fair to count that spending for Bush II, so I’ve subtracted it out.</span></p> <p><span>Note also that spending in the stimulus bill was mainly temporary and had petered out by Obama’s last year in office. Obama thus added a trillion dollars or so to federal debt that is not reflected in my measure here, which uses the spending total in the last year to measure the growth. </span></p> <p><span>Finally, while spending growth rates are generally down from the pre-Reagan decades, economic growth is slower these days. As a result, the government’s share of the economy has crept upward since Clinton left office, and CBO projects that the share will continue to rise in coming years. </span></p> Tue, 17 Sep 2019 12:12:10 -0400 Chris Edwards Deportation Rates in Historical Perspective <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Alex Nowrasteh</a></p> <p>In last week’s Democratic primary debate, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos <a href="">asked</a> Joe Biden about President Obama’s record on immigration enforcement. Ramos said, “you served as vice president in an administration that deported 3 million people, the most ever in U.S. history.”</p> <p>Democratic partisans were very upset on twitter, but the numbers don’t lie. President Obama removed more people from the United States, <a href="">no matter how you dice the numbers</a> than any other president. But was President Obama's removal record an anomaly? To answer that question, I looked at the number of removals per president going back to 1892 when the government first started <a href="">recording them</a>. Table 1 shows the presidents, the number of removals under each administration, and the number of removals per year. The latter number is important as it controls for the number of years in office.</p> <div data-embed-button="embed" data-entity-embed-display="view_mode:media.blog_post" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="e1e843fb-7770-423b-a64e-0e962641dddd" data-langcode="en" class="embedded-entity"> <div class="embed embed--infogram js-embed js-embed--infogram"> <div class="infogram-embed" data-id="a2610c6a-5b27-4e11-8f9a-f23ba063d106" data-type="interactive" data-title="Table 1: Removals per President"></div> </div> </div> <p>From 1892-2018, Democratic presidents were in power for 60 years and removed about 4.6 million people for an average of 76,635 per year. During the same time, Republican Presidents were in power for 67 years and removed about 3.7 million people for an annual average of 54,670. Presidents usually inherit the immigration enforcement policies of their predecessors for at least a year. I adjusted for that by assigning the number of removals in the first year of any administration to the previous administration and the results were almost identical.</p> <p>But the political parties changed quite a bit over the 1892-2018 period. Shortening the period to 1990-2018 produces a similar result. During that time, Democratic presidents were in power for 55 percent of the time and removed 60 percent of all those removed or over 3.9 million. Republican presidents were in power for 45 percent of the time and removed 40 percent of all those removed or about 2.7 million. From 1990-2018, Democratic president removed an average of 246,006 people per year in power and Republican presidents removed 205,453 people per year in power.</p> <p>Removals as a percentage of the illegal immigrant population have varied considerably over the 1990-2018 period (Figure 1). Estimates for the number of illegal immigrants come from the <a href="">Department of Homeland Security</a>, the <a href="">Center for Migration Studies</a>, and linear interpolation for missing years except for 2018 where I assume that the number of illegal immigrants is the same as estimated by the Center for Migration Studies.</p> <div data-embed-button="embed" data-entity-embed-display="view_mode:media.blog_post" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="ec3d5c11-949c-4319-b091-dcf783a4f27f" data-langcode="en" class="embedded-entity"> <div class="embed embed--infogram js-embed js-embed--infogram"> <div class="infogram-embed" data-id="c590b261-bf3c-48ca-8bad-818ae8d58a3e" data-type="interactive" data-title="Figure 1: Removals as a Percentage of the Estimated Illegal Immigrant Population"></div> </div> </div> <p>George Bush removed an average of 0.91 percent of the estimated illegal immigrant population each year, Bill Clinton removed an average of 1.86 percent per year, George W. Bush removed an average of 2.42 percent per year, Barack Obama removed an average of 3.33 percent per year, and Donald Trump has removed an average of 2.59 percent per year through 2018. President Trump can still increase the pace of deportations, but he won’t overcome President Obama’s record.</p> <p>One problem with the removal statistics above is that they changed in the mid-2000s to include some illegal immigrants apprehended at the border rather than just removals from the interior of the United States. It would be better if we had the number of removals from only the interior of the United States and then recalculated the numbers for Figure 1. Even adjusting for that for the years that we have interior removals still shows that <a href="">President Obama broke removal records</a>.</p> Mon, 16 Sep 2019 15:43:05 -0400 Alex Nowrasteh Striking Iran In Response to Abqaiq Attack Would Be a Mistake <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Christopher A. Preble</a></p> <p><span>The smoke hasn’t yet cleared from the attack on Saudi Aramco’s facility, but U.S. officials were quick to pin blame on Iran, with some even going so far as to suggest that </span><a href=""><span>military strikes</span></a><span> could be – and should be – in the offing. </span></p> <p><span>Such a move should upset constitutional purists; Congress hasn’t authorized military action against Iran for these purposes. The case that the Trump administration might present to Congress in an attempt to build support for strikes is unlikely to be compelling. Indeed, the story of the attack and what U.S. military strikes in retaliation would achieve is a lot more complicated than the war hawks would have you believe.</span></p> <p><span>First, everyone should keep the likely economic impact in perspective. The </span><a href=";mod=djemalertNEWS&amp;mod=article_inline"><em><span>Wall Street Journal</span></em><span> reported on Saturday</span></a><span> that production losses from the shutdown at the Abqaiq facility would amount to “about 5.7 million barrels a day,” or “roughly 5% of the world’s daily production of crude oil.” But such supply shocks are rarely long-lasting, and facilities like the one at Abqaiq are often quickly repaired. Saudi Aramco is no different from any other company in that it wants to increase production as quickly as possible, and so is highly motivated to make speedy repairs. (Boston University’s Josh Shifrinson makes a related point </span><a href=""><span>here</span></a><span>.)</span></p> <p><span>Second, the energy market in general is far more resilient than people give it credit for. In addition to the strategic petroleum reserve, </span><a href=""><span>which President Trump has hinted he might tap</span></a><span>, other energy producers will want to replace the lost Saudi supplies. If President Trump were truly concerned about the possible impact on gasoline prices for consumers, he might also reconsider his decision to try to keep Iranian oil off the market. </span></p> <p><span>That is unlikely, however, because too many in his administration –and the DC policy community, generally – </span><a href=""><span>seem genuinely excited</span></a><span> to use this latest incident as a justification for a widening of the conflict with Iran. </span></p> <p><span>Last week, for example, before the attack, </span><a href=""><span>the State Department’s Brian Hook</span></a><span> suggested that Iran is primarily responsible for fueling the war in Yemen, and claimed that greater U.S. involvement in the conflict was essential to preserving American security. The facts suggest otherwise.</span></p> <p><span>Mr. Hook and others exaggerate the extent to which Iran controls the Houthis. The latter are a distinct group <a href="">largely driven by narrow, local goals</a> – <a href="">not a proxy group</a> doing Iran's regional bidding. They don't take orders from Tehran. Aiding the Houthis hasn't brought Iran greater regional control. What it has done is frustrate the Saudi coalition's objectives, sticking them in a quagmire that has earned them much of the world's ire.</span></p> </p> <p><span>While some in Congress want Americans to become even more deeply embroiled in the Saudi-Iran dispute, we might instead take this occasion to reconsider our reflexive support for the House of Saud. The United States is, after all, already heavily involved in the proxy war that the two countries are waging in Yemen, mostly through intelligence sharing and arms sales. A </span><span><a href="" target="_blank">report</a> </span><span>earlier this year concluded that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates “used the US-manufactured weapons as a form of currency to buy the loyalties of militias or tribes” in Yemen, including some who are affiliated with Al Qaeda. Other arms reportedly flowed to Iranian-backed militias. The Senate </span><a href="" target="_blank"><span>voted in June to block further sales</span></a><span>, with seven Republicans joining the Democrats to rebuke the White House. This rare case of bipartisanship is unsurprising given that numerous polls show that the American people are </span><a href="" target="_blank"><span>anxious to avoid getting sucked into yet more conflicts</span></a><span> in the region. Americans also </span><a href="" target="_blank"><span>strongly disapprove of continued U.S. support for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia</span></a><span>, one of the most illiberal and repressive regimes on the planet.</span></p> <p><span>Congress should seriously consider the implications of military action in response to the attack on Abqaiq. Military strikes against Iran would only exacerbate tensions and increase the likelihood of a larger military conflict. The Trump administration’s bid to embroil the United States even more deeply in a brutal civil war undermines Americans' security and erodes American values. </span></p> Mon, 16 Sep 2019 13:06:25 -0400 Christopher A. Preble Today’s Hyper-Partisanship Would Have Torpedoed Nixon’s China Initiative <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <p>My new article in the September-October issue of the <em>American Conservative</em> ponders whether President Richard Nixon could have pursued his diplomatic initiative to normalize relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) if today’s extreme partisanship in foreign policy had existed then. The shrill partisan criticism directed against President Trump’s attempt to establish a less confrontational relationship with North Korea suggests that that the answer is “no.”<span> </span></p> <p>Nixon’s 1972 trip to China marked the abandonment of the U.S. campaign to isolate and demonize the PRC.<span> </span>His conciliatory effort did generate some domestic controversy, but most members of Congress were reasonably supportive.<span> </span>The <em>New York Times</em> noted that Nixon was winning the “<a href="">broad approval of Congress</a>” for his new China policy.<span> </span>Perhaps most crucial, the support was firmly bipartisan. The majority of the major news outlets also generally praised the president’s initiative.</p> <p>Raw partisanship was little in evidence.<span> </span>Indeed, most of the criticism that did emerge came from conservative Republicans who complained that the embryonic rapprochement undercut America’s longtime ally, Taiwan.<span> </span>Leading congressional Democrats, including Sen. Ted Kennedy and Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, <a href="" target="_blank"><span>praised</span></a> the president for easing tensions with China. Liberal columnist <a href="" target="_blank"><span>James Reston</span></a> stated that it was Nixon’s finest hour.</p> </p> <p>Trump’s experience has been strikingly different.<span> </span>His critics, mostly congressional Democrats and their media allies, along with a small contingent of neoconservative hawks, launched a barrage of criticism about his outreach to Kim Jong-un from the onset.<span> </span>Some of them denounced the president’s willingness even to meet with the North Korean leader, contending that according Kim such an honor implicitly “legitimized” his brutal dictatorship.<span> </span><em>Washington Post</em> columnist Jennifer Rubin epitomized that view, <a href=";utm_term=.7f8ac1e2b932">fuming</a>: “The spectacle of the murderous dictator Kim Jong Un on equal footing with the president of the United States . . . was enough to turn democracy lovers’ stomachs.”<span> </span>President Trump “elevated North Korea to the level of the United States while preserving the regime’s status quo,” intoned House minority leader <a href="" target="_blank"><span>Nancy Pelosi</span></a>. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) later <a href="">exuded outrage</a> in a tweet that Trump insisted on continuing a dialogue with such a monstrous leader. “Kim Jong Un is a homicidal tyrant who deliberately starves his people and murders those who displease him. This is who he is and who he has always been. It’s simply heartbreaking to know tonight that his biggest global cheerleader is the President of the United States of America.”</p> <p>Yet Nixon initiated a dialogue with Mao Zedong, one of the worst mass murderers in human history, without much criticism from prominent Democrats.<span> </span>They understood that effective diplomacy often requires interaction with deplorable regimes and individuals to reduce tensions and the potential catastrophe of war.<span> </span></p> <p>If done purely for cheap partisan advantage, objecting to Trump’s pursuit of a rapprochement with North Korea is irresponsible.<span> </span>If, on the other hand, his opponents are sincere, they are being disturbingly naïve.<span> </span>Indeed, earlier critics would have had a better case to accuse Nixon of “appeasement” and conferring “legitimacy” on a totalitarian regime.<span> </span>Nixon was not only willing to open a dialogue with Mao and Zhou Enlai, he traveled to China to start the process.<span> </span>The latter feature gave the PRC a major prestige coup.<span> </span>Conversely, Trump insisted on holding the first two summits in neutral locations and the third at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea.<span> </span></p> <p>If myopic partisan critics had strangled Nixon’s China policy in its cradle, America’s relationship with Beijing today likely would be more dangerous—perhaps far more dangerous--for all concerned.<span> </span>President Trump’s difficult North Korea initiative deserves similar support and encouragement instead of ridicule and knee-jerk hostility. Prominent Democrats in the 1970s behaved in a responsible, constructive manner, despite having to back a political adversary.<span> </span>So, too, did most liberal media outlets.<span> </span>The petty conduct of their successors in response to Trump’s outreach to North Korea stands in depressing contrast to such statesmanship.</p> Mon, 16 Sep 2019 11:41:42 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter Minding Money by Migrating <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Chris Edwards</a></p> <p><span>Americans are moving from higher-tax states to lower-tax states.</span> Of the 25 highest-tax states, 24 had net out-migration in 2016. <span>Of the 25 lowest-tax states, 17 had net in-migration, as I discuss </span><a href=""><span>in this study</span></a></p> <p><span>State-local taxes are </span><span><a href="">14.7 percent of personal income</a> </span><span>in the largest outflow state, New York, but they are just 7.5 percent in the largest inflow state, Florida. Florida’s government costs half as much as New York’s and the services are probably just as good. Florida is warm and sunny, so why not move?</span></p> <p><span>Bloomberg <a href="">reported yesterday</a>: </span></p> <blockquote><p>Billionaire Carl Icahn is planning to move his home and business to Florida to avoid New York’s higher taxes. … The move is scheduled for March 31 and employees who don’t do so won’t have a job.</p> <p>… Hedge fund billionaires have relocated to Florida for tax reasons for years—David Tepper, Paul Tudor Jones and Eddie Lampert being among the most prominent. But Florida officials have been aggressively pushing Miami as a destination for money managers since the Republican-led tax overhaul.</p> </blockquote> <p>The Republican overhaul in 2017 likely accelerated interstate migration because it increased the relative tax pain of living in high-tax states.</p> <p>We don’t yet have hard data on the migration impact, but there is a stream of articles with anecdotal evidence. The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> <a href="">reported this week</a>:</p> <blockquote><p><span>. . . Financial planners say that as high-net-worth taxpayers finalize their 2018 returns to meet the October tax-extension deadline, they expect many residents of New York, New Jersey, California and other relatively high-tax states will decide to spend more time in Florida, Texas, Nevada or other states that don’t collect income taxes, or move there outright.</span></p> <p>“People are just starting to see the effect,” says Daniel Bernard, an attorney with Twomey Latham in Riverhead, N.Y. “Over the coming months we’re going to see a lot more people looking to establish Florida residency.”</p> <p>Ed Wollman, a founding partner who handles taxes and estates with Wollman, Gehrke &amp; Associates in Naples, Fla., says a New York City snowbird couple with taxable income of $500,000 would pay about $50,000 in state and city income taxes. A couple with the same taxable income in Illinois would escape a tax bill of close to $25,000 by moving to a no-income-tax state, he says. In New Jersey, the savings would be nearly $32,000, in California more than $46,000 and in Connecticut more than $32,000.</p> <p>… In Texas, estate attorney Virginia Hammerle of the Hammerle Finley Law Firm in Lewisville reports an influx of snowbird clients wanting to move their tax residences from California and the East Coast. “This has become a very hot topic,” Ms. Hammerle says. “I’ve had clients who tell me they realize savings of $50,000 to $100,000 annually.”</p> </blockquote> <div data-embed-button="image" data-entity-embed-display="view_mode:media.blog_post" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="9011b8f9-fb33-4c57-9704-ec1f4b3ac5c1" data-langcode="en" class="embedded-entity"> <p><img srcset="/sites/ 1x, /sites/ 1.5x" width="700" height="450" src="" alt="Map of migration between states in the U.S." typeof="Image" class="component-image" /></p></div> Fri, 13 Sep 2019 16:13:42 -0400 Chris Edwards The IRAA and SLAA: Moving Beyond Nonviolent Drug Offenders to Address Mass Incarceration <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Jonathan Blanks</a></p> <div data-embed-button="image" data-entity-embed-display="view_mode:media.blog_post" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="9c1e8098-203a-4105-ba59-75ebc865f50b" class="align-right embedded-entity" data-langcode="en"> <p><img srcset="/sites/ 1x, /sites/ 1.5x" width="700" height="525" src="" alt="Prison Bars" typeof="Image" class="component-image" /></p></div> <p>“Mass incarceration” has become the term to describe the millions of people held in jails and prisons throughout the United States. The oft-cited statistic that Americans make up roughly <a href="">5 percent of the world’s population but hold 25 percent of the global prisoners</a> remains true. Part of the reason for this is that the United States incarcerates individuals for much longer sentences than most of the rest of the world. And while nonviolent drug offenders serving decades-long draconian sentences have gotten the most attention in legislation, presidential debates, and <a href="">executive commutations</a>, the data show that most people who are serving time in prison are in for violent offenses. Now, what “violent” means varies by jurisdiction—illegal possession of firearms, being a driver of a getaway car, and burglaries against vacant properties can nevertheless be considered violent in some states—but meaningfully reducing our incarcerated population will unquestionably require releasing people who have been convicted of serious violent crimes.</p> <p>If you just flinched a bit, bear with me.</p> <p>Most people who are sentenced to prison are going to be released at some point. They will at some point be expected—indeed, obligated—to rejoin society. So, for most inmates, the issue of release is a question of “when” not “if.” It follows, then, that if we want to reduce the prison population, we may be able to use early release as a mechanism for doing so while preserving the ideals of justice.</p> <p>A recent law implemented in the District of Columbia provides a good example of how to move toward decarceration productively. In 2016, the D.C. City Council passed the <a href="" target="_blank">Comprehensive Youth Justice Amendment Act,</a> including a component known as the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act (IRAA). The IRAA allowed D.C. Superior Court judges to revisit sentences imposed on people who were convicted of violent crimes when they were juveniles.</p> <p>We know adolescents—particularly adolescent males—are in the prime age cohort for making bad decisions without full comprehension of the consequences. This applies to small decisions and big ones, and under bad conditions—poverty, trauma, intoxication, and access to weapons, to name a few—the worst decisions can become devastating for themselves and others. None of these factors excuse a person’s actions, but when added to their youth, they help explain such terrible decisionmaking. Indeed, there is science to back this up. As <a href="">Mark Joseph Stern explained in <em>Slate</em>:</a></p> <blockquote><p>Scientists now know that the part of the brain that <a href="">inhibits impulse</a> and <a href="">risky behavior</a> does not fully develop <a href="">until age 25</a>. The Supreme Court has noted this fact in prohibiting the <a href="">execution</a> of juvenile offenders and <a href="">curtailing</a> juvenile sentences of life without parole. It has <a href="">explained</a> that “parts of the brain involved in behavior control continue to mature through late adolescence”—that is, the early 20s. Young individuals <a href="">are therefore</a> “less culpable” due to their “immaturity, recklessness, and impetuosity”; “less likely” <a href="">to be deterred</a> by “possible punishment”; and <a href="">more likely</a> to have “potential for rehabilitation.”</p> </blockquote> <p>Building on this science, local lawmakers want to expand IRAA to cover individuals who were under the age of 25 when they committed the crime for which they were convicted. This new law is known as the <a href="">Second Look Amendment Act of 2019</a> (SLAA). Although SLAA has already drawn criticism and hyperbole from the police chief and <a href="">the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia</a>, there’s good reason to believe that this law will serve the best interests of D.C. and the eligible offenders.</p> <p>To understand how SLAA would work, we can look to what has already happened with the IRAA. The IRAA allowed judges to revisit juvenile offenders many years after their crimes and convictions to determine whether they’ve matured and become better people while incarcerated. As amended in 2019, inmates that have served at least 15 years of their sentence but are not yet eligible for parole may apply for early release. Release is by no means automatic. The inmate’s application is thoroughly reviewed by a D.C. Superior Court judge, and other stakeholders involved with the offenders’ cases—including victims, community members, and the surviving families—may be consulted before a determination is made. <a href="">Contrary to some claims</a>, the law specifically provides for judges to consider the nature of the offense when determining whether to grant release.</p> <p>Since the IRAA has been passed, 18 inmates have been released under supervised probation because of the program. According to local defense attorney James Ziegler, <a href="">several of them have become violence interrupters and neighborhood advocates</a> to prevent more young people from going down the paths they took to prison. Zeigler also notes that none of the offenders released has recidivated—that is, been sent back to prison for a new crime.</p> <p>At this point, it might be helpful to think about what exactly society wants its criminal justice system to accomplish after a crime has been committed. Most people agree on several core functions that are essential to a decent criminal system, although how important each function is weighed will vary from person to person. These functions include, but may not be exclusive to: accountability for wrongdoing, punishment for wrongdoing, rehabilitation for wrongdoers, and keeping dangerous wrongdoers off the streets through incapacitation. Putting aside efforts to decriminalize behavior that libertarians and others don’t find blameworthy in the first place, criminal justice reform should be considered with these four systemic objectives in mind.</p> <p>IRAA and SLAA can be evaluated thus:</p> <ul><li><strong>Accountability</strong>—This is the easiest one. The offenders have already been found guilty of their crimes so we know they have received society’s condemnation by means of a criminal conviction.</li> </ul><ul><li> <p><strong>Punishment</strong>—To be eligible for relief under IRAA—and the SLAA, if passed into law—each offender must serve at least 15 years of his sentence. In the abstract, people tend to think of years in prison as less severe than they are. If you’ve ever heard or thought, “He only got five years for that?” you’ve probably been guilty of this. As laypeople and potential victims, we think of how angry we are about a particular crime, and then tack on a number—almost at random—to that offense. Legislators are no different, and sometimes they’re worse.</p> <p>But fifteen years is a very long time for a human being to spend living in a cage. The offender’s friends and loved ones have gone about their lives without them; the world has changed dramatically during that time; and the incarcerated person has missed technological innovations and cultural changes, but also graduations, weddings, births, funerals, and other social functions that help bring joy and comfort to our lives. Moreover, the personal changes between adolescence to adulthood are considerable for most individuals. One not need be a neuroscientist or sociologist to understand that most people behave differently in middle age than they do in middle or late adolescence. Whether or not an offender has been punished “enough” will vary, but no one can honestly say that 15 years in prison is a slap on the wrist.</p> <p>So how long is the right amount of time? Considering the other functions of criminal justice, of which punishment is only one prong, it makes sense for the system to contemplate what society gains or loses if an offender spends unnecessary years in prison rather than returning as a productive member of society. Put in economic terms: society may get decreasing marginal utility from keeping a sufficiently punished, working-age inmate in prison rather than allowing him back into society.</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>Rehabilitation</strong>—Closely related to whether a person has been punished enough is whether they have been rehabilitated. That is, whether or not the personal failures that led to the criminal behavior in the first place have been addressed by the inmate. This will invariably involve judgment calls—including an assessment whether the person will likely reoffend and return to prison—but people change over time. Under the IRAA and SLAA, there will be at least 15 years of prison records to indicate whether they have been a “model prisoner” or otherwise shown marked improvement over time.</p> <p>Recall, though, the IRAA and SLAA also allows the judge to determine individual cases after talking with stakeholders—including victims—to determine whether the person should be released. While not everyone may be happy with a judge’s determination, IRAA and SLAA contain a built-in mechanism for a judge to determine whether an inmate will be likely to make better decisions when he is released than he did before he went in.</p> </li> <li><strong>Incapacitation</strong>—Clearly, a minimum of 15 years in prison has achieved the result of incapacitating the individual for that amount of time. But part of the IRAA and SLAA processes aim to determine whether more time is required to keep the public safe. While there is no evidence that long prison sentences deter crime by fear of their severity, there is evidence that people typically <a href="">“age out” of crime</a> because older people are less likely to engage in behaviors that lead to prison sentences. This is not universal—hence the need for thorough individual evaluations—but it follows that the impulses and peer effects that can lead young men to violence are less prevalent later in life. Those who have been released to date have posed no danger to the community and, in fact, may be making it a safer place to live.</li> </ul><p>Because most inmates are going to be released back into society at some point, it makes sense to revisit the cases of people who have quite literally grown up in prison. If implemented properly, the IRAA and SLAA can reduce incarceration while satisfying the core goals of criminal justice.</p> Fri, 13 Sep 2019 16:08:11 -0400 Jonathan Blanks Statewide California Rent Control: Shooting The Price Messenger <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ryan Bourne</a></p> <p>California has approved <a href=";smid=tw-nytimes">a statewide annual rent increase cap</a> of 5 percent plus inflation for rentable accommodation in buildings more than 15 years old. Though technically an “anti-gouging” measure (it expires after 10 years), most would recognize this price cap for what it is: rent control.</p> <p>Economists should be baffled about rent control’s recent revival. Controlling rental prices is one of those rare policies that practitioners of the dismal science <a href="">overwhelmingly oppose</a>. It’s even more troubling that it has been introduced in California. <a href="">Recent academic evidence</a> suggests that a 1994 San Francisco ballot initiative to introduce rent control for small multifamily housing built before 1980 actually led to:</p> <ul> <li><span>rent-controlled buildings being almost 10% more likely to convert to a condo or a Tenancy in Common (TIC) than buildings in a control group. </span></li> <li><span>a 15% decline in the number of renters living in these buildings and a 25% reduction in the number of renters living in rent-controlled units, as landlords converted existing accommodation to other uses and demolished old buildings and replaced them with new units outside the controls </span></li> <li><span>a city-wide rent price increase of 5.1%.</span></li> </ul> <p><span>Rent control then had exactly the effects economists would predict. Capping a market price below its equilibrium creates shortages. Many landlords remove rentable accommodation from the market to more profitable uses, or else rebuild accommodation (that is often more expensive) to avoid the charges. The twin effects? Higher market rents and accelerated gentrification, to the detriment of poorer residents.</span></p> <p><span>Now, the urge for policymakers to “do something” on California’s housing problem is understandable. <a href="">Demographia’s median multiple calculations</a> (median house price in a market, divided by median household income) shows that California contains 15 of the US’s 28 “severely unaffordable” housing markets – defined as those where the median multiple exceeds 5.1. In Los Angeles, San Jose and Santa Cruz that multiple actually exceeds 9! Homelessness is rife in some of California’s largest cities. The state has the <a href="">highest poverty rate</a> in the country. These problems are all exacerbated by high housing service costs.</span></p> <p><span>But rent control worsens, rather than dealing with, these problems. High and rising rental costs suggest that supply is relatively unresponsive to demand, often due to overly restrictive land use planning and zoning laws. High or rising prices and rents are therefore like a messenger, urging developers to build more houses or apartment buildings.</span></p> <p><span>What rent control amounts to is an attempt to muffle that message and pretend there is no problem. But in capping rents when markets are heating, you reduce the profitability for landlords to rent the accommodation in the first place, worsening the supply problem that’s pushed up rental costs to begin with.</span></p> <p><span>Indeed, as I said when <a href="">Oregon introduced similar legislation</a>, this new California measure will ultimately please very few people. In areas where tenants face rent increases above earnings but below the cap, rent controls will have no effect. Increases will eat into families’ incomes further, and with affordability worsening, tenant groups are likely, in time, to demand tighter controls.</span></p> <p><span>Yet where market rents really are spiraling, capping them to prevent so-called “economic eviction” (as this measure does) dampens the incentive for developers to bring new supply to market - even more so if they see these measures as a precursor to even tighter controls. </span></p> <p><span>Some tenants, usually the less mobile and those opting not to move, will benefit from lower rents, of course. But the cost is a significantly worsened availability of rentable housing precisely where it is needed most.</span></p> <p><span>The California legislators think they get around this supply-reducing effect by only applying the controls to properties more than 15 years old. But as the San Francisco evidence shows, there’s nothing to stop landlords changing the use of existing properties, or else knocking down older buildings or houses, to then provide new exempted forms of accommodation.</span></p> <p><span>On housing there really is no substitute to liberalizing supply. California lawmakers should stop shooting the rent price messenger, and deliver the more difficult zoning and planning reforms to improve housing affordability more broadly.</span></p> Thu, 12 Sep 2019 14:30:00 -0400 Ryan Bourne Federal Spending Tops $5 Trillion <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Chris Edwards</a></p> <p>The <a href="">Congressional Budget Office</a> and the <a href="">Office of Management and Budget</a> both project that federal government spending will be about $4.6 trillion in fiscal year 2020.</p> <p>In fact, federal spending in 2020 will be about $5.2 trillion. Reporters and budget wonks (including me) nearly always use the lower CBO and OMB numbers when discussing total federal spending, but they are the wrong numbers.</p> <p>The $4.6 trillion figure is “net” outlays, but actual total spending is “gross” outlays at $5.2 trillion. The difference is “offsetting collections” and “offsetting receipts.” These revenues to the government are netted against spending at either the program level, agency level, or government-wide level. Some examples are Medicare premiums, national park fees, and royalties earned on mineral deposits. There are hundreds of cash inflows to the government that are deducted from spending before reaching the widely reported net figure.</p> <p>The details on offsets are buried in chapter 15 of OMB’s <a href=""><em>Analytical Perspectives</em></a>, which was released in March. OMB expected 2020 gross spending to be about 12 percent larger than net spending and offsets from the public to be about $560 billion. Thus, gross federal spending will be about $5.2 trillion.</p> <p>Net outlays in 2020 will be about 21.0 percent of gross domestic product, while gross outlays will be about 23.5 percent. The latter is a better measure of the share of the economy controlled by federal legislators through spending programs.</p> <p>Politically, reducing federal spending reported to the public with a half trillion in offsets is a sneaky way for Washington to hide some its massive footprint. To increase transparency, CBO and OMB should highlight gross outlays in their main budget tables and charts where the figures would be more visible to reporters and the public.</p> <div data-embed-button="image" data-entity-embed-display="view_mode:media.blog_post" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="3523543c-30a3-450b-840a-7050a34d373f" data-langcode="en" class="embedded-entity"> <p><img srcset="/sites/ 1x, /sites/ 1.5x" width="688" height="567" src="" alt="spending" typeof="Image" class="component-image" /></p></div> Thu, 12 Sep 2019 13:22:41 -0400 Chris Edwards Is Immigrant-Induced Cultural Distance Related to Income? <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Alex Nowrasteh</a> and <a href="" hreflang="und">Andrew C. Forrester</a></p> <p>There is large <a href="">empirical</a> <a href="">economics</a> literature that attempts to causally explain how different cultural traits affect economic output. The most import trait in the culture literature is <a href="">generalized trust</a>, which is “the subjective probability with which an agent assesses that another agent or group of agents will perform a particular action.” In a forthcoming paper, we argue that the trust literature is not worthy of your trust as it is beset by serious data and methodological problem that undermine its core results.</p> <p>This post takes a different approach. Here, we want to see whether an immigrant-induced cultural difference on the Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA) level is related to earned income. Our idea is based on a figure from the congestion parameter in a <a href="">wonderful recent paper</a> by Michael Clemens and Lant Pritchett. The cultural difference measure comes from the <a href="">Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic (WEIRD) scale</a>, which measures how culturally different native-born Americans are from people in different countries based on their answers to 80 different World Values Survey (WVS) questions on morality, religion politics, social expectations, ingroup and outgroup attitudes, and child-rearing philosophies. The higher the score is on the WEIRD scale, the more culturally distant the respondents are from native-born Americans. For instance, Canadians have a cultural difference of 2.5 while Egyptians score a 24 (we adjusted the WEIRD Index to a 0 to 100 scale instead of their original 0 to 1 scale).<a href="#_ftn1" id="_ftnref1" name="_ftnref1"><sup><sup>[1]</sup></sup></a> Native-born Americans have a cultural difference of zero because they are not culturally different from native-born Americans.</p> <p>We calculated the WEIRD scale measure for each PUMA as a population average based on the country of origin for the population. To construct this measure, we calculated the weighted average WEIRD score based on respondents from the ACS microdata for each PUMA. PUMA respondents who are from a country not included in the WEIRD scale are dropped from the sample entirely to remove the most severe issues with sample-selection bias. The WEIRD scale only compares the cultural difference between native-born Americans and citizens of 75 other countries, where the majority of immigrants in the United States came from during the 2013-2017 period. The earned income data come from the American Community Survey for those years.</p> <p>Figure 1 establishes the simple relationship between logged income per capita in each PUMA and how culturally different the population of that PUMA is compared to native-born Americans. The shaded area in Figure 1 is the 95 percent confidence interval (CI). It shows a tight positive relationship between a PUMA’s cultural difference and income at the lower levels of the WEIRD scale. The 95 percent CI widens significantly in PUMAs with greater cultural difference and becomes difficult to interpret as there are fewer PUMAs where local culture was significantly different due to immigration. However, it is clear that immigration-induced cultural differences on the PUMA level are not correlated with lower income.</p> <p>Figure 1</p> <p>WEIRD Scale of Cultural Difference and Earned Income</p> <div data-embed-button="image" data-entity-embed-display="view_mode:media.blog_post" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="fd79fba1-763c-4900-b2e8-deb5e51de69a" data-langcode="en" class="embedded-entity"> <p><img srcset="/sites/ 1x, /sites/ 1.5x" width="576" height="461" src="" alt=" WEIRD Scale of Cultural Difference and Earned Income " typeof="Image" class="component-image" /></p></div> <p>The WEIRD scale has many of the data weaknesses that hobble the trust literature, including its reliance on the WVS, so it merely suggestively estimates the relationship between immigrant cultural distance from native-born Americans and income on the PUMA level. Figure 1 is not a causal relationship, by any means, but it does not show problems except when the CI is so vast as to be virtually meaningless based on a single PUMA data point with a WEIRD score of slightly over 6.</p> <hr /><p><a href="#_ftnref1" id="_ftn1" name="_ftn1"><span><span>[1]</span></span></a> We adjusted the WEIRD Index to a zero to 100 scale from their original 0 to 1 scale for ease of interpretation.</p> Thu, 12 Sep 2019 12:54:22 -0400 Alex Nowrasteh, Andrew C. Forrester United States Ranks 5th in Economic Freedom <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ian Vásquez</a></p> <p>The <a href="">Economic Freedom of the World: 2019 Annual Report</a> is out today. The highest-ranking countries in this year’s index, co-published in the United States by the Fraser Institute and the Cato Institute, are Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United States.</p> <p>Hong Kong still ranks first in the index—which is based on 2017 data, the most recent year for which internationally comparable data are available—but we are concerned about its ability to maintain a high position given Beijing's increasing intervention in the territory's affairs. Already we have seen a decline in Hong Kong's rule of law indicator since 2013, a worrisome trend for the overall level of economic freedom.</p> <p>Economic freedom in the United States has increased since 2013, but then leveled off in the last two years of the index. However, the level of U.S. economic freedom is still notably below what it was in the year 2000, when it began a long-term decline.</p> <p>The report finds that prosperity, longevity, political freedom and a whole range of indictors of human well-being are strongly associated with economic freedom. The graph below, for example, shows that economic freedom is unambiguously good for the poor, whose income is significantly higher in economically free countries than in less free ones.</p> <div data-embed-button="embed" data-entity-embed-display="view_mode:media.blog_post" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="922c253a-4b43-4c88-86d3-1a22e84e592f" data-langcode="en" class="embedded-entity"> <div class="embed embed--infogram js-embed js-embed--infogram"> <div class="infogram-embed" data-id="a54225ba-1eca-4717-bc90-78144fb75c01" data-type="interactive" data-title="Income Earned by Poorest 10%"></div> </div> </div> <p>The authors of the report—James Gwartney, Robert Lawson, Josh Hall, and Ryan Murphy—furthermore note that “the average income of the poorest 10% in the most economically free nations is two-thirds higher than the average per-capita income in the least-free nations.”</p> <p>The countries with the lowest rankings, in descending order, are Angola, Algeria, Sudan, Libya, and Venezuela. Find out more about economic freedom and where other countries rank <a href="">here</a>.</p> Thu, 12 Sep 2019 10:22:06 -0400 Ian Vásquez