Cato Recent Op-eds 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 On Coronavirus, Economists Think Differently to the ‘Common Sense’ Crowd <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ryan Bourne</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>What, exactly, is the Covid‐​19 problem that governments are trying to address? That seems a&nbsp;bizarre question, given escalating death numbers and widespread economic destruction. But if forced to, could you say, with clarity, what the aim of your country’s government currently is?</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Is it to manage the flow of caseloads to “protect the healthcare system” from being swamped, but on a&nbsp;path to population “herd immunity”? Is it to contain the virus to minimise the overall death toll until an effective treatment or vaccine arrives? Is it to protect our overall “economic welfare,” taking into account both the value of lost lives and the costs of prolonged shutdowns? Or is it something else?</p> <p>Every country has adopted a&nbsp;slightly&nbsp;<a href=";WT.tsrc=email&amp;etype=Loy_Dig_Acq_Election_0-9MEngagement&amp;utmsource=email&amp;utm_medium=Loy_Dig_Acq_Election_0-9MEngagement20200404&amp;utm_campaign=DM1229145" target="_blank">different approach</a>, implying different aims. But most debate over the wisdom of measures sees us talking past each, without acknowledging that these “goals” might differ. We would benefit from clarity from our leaders of their intentions.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Economists aren’t queasy about undertaking cost‐​benefit analyses of shutdowns, though they debate the assumptions used.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The implicit “common‐​sense” position underlying most discussions of the virus is that we should be trying to minimise its spread entirely, subject to society still functioning. This position is perhaps exemplified best by GMB presenter Piers Morgan,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">who regularly asks</a>: “why is the Govt. STILL telling non‐​essential workers to go to work?”</p> <p>His question highlights a&nbsp;view that, provided food and healthcare remain available, and public order remains, our overwhelming national goal is to contain this virus for the good of our health — whatever the cost or whatever the risk level associated with the “non‐​essential” work. The end game, longer‐​term, is unclear. All that matters is health, and economic outcomes and freedoms are the price we pay to improve it.</p> <p>Economists think differently — in a&nbsp;way that seems alien to the “common‐​sense” crowd. Seeing externalities everywhere right now, we think governments have a&nbsp;role in setting policy to try to maximise some form of social economic welfare in this crisis. This incorporates lives, of course, which we put&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">a&nbsp;very high value on</a>. But it also includes economic activity and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the satisfaction people get</a>&nbsp;from their lives. Losing these has real costs too. Economists aren’t queasy therefore about undertaking cost‐​benefit analyses of shutdowns, though they debate the assumptions used.</p> <p>Now, as it happens,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">most economists have agreed</a>&nbsp;with the “common‐​sense” view on the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">strong case for near‐​term lockdowns</a>&nbsp;so far. The epidemiological modeling implies a&nbsp;risk of terrible loss of life from weak early action — an unbearable cost. With high uncertainty still about how the virus transmits, the number of people already infected, and the strain on healthcare capacity, the case for&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">precautionary action was strong</a>. So aggressive action would pass most ordinary cost‐​benefit tests, in the short‐​term, despite the huge economic and social costs.</p> <p>But such consensus will likely prove short‐​lived, because economists think (or at least should think)&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">at the margin</a>. Full lockdowns are incredibly crude, banning much low‐​risk activity alongside high‐​risk activity. Economists don’t think in terms of “essential” vs. “non‐​essential” but in terms of benefits, costs, and risks. So if a&nbsp;form of retail brings large economic benefits at a&nbsp;tiny elevated risk of infection, we’d relax restrictions on it, despite it marginally worsening health outcomes.</p> <p>What’s more, the longer lockdowns go on, the more the income losses for businesses and households turn into bankruptcies and defaults, risking a&nbsp;depression. So economists recognise that the costs and benefits of policy will change over time. They will look for ways of maintaining low health risks but at lower economic and social cost than crude shutdowns, recognising this balance changes as the pandemic evolves.</p> <p>Indeed, once the transmission rate has been brought down and more people recover from the virus, the calculations could change drastically. If I&nbsp;were one of the last 50 people in the whole country to have not yet been infected, I&nbsp;would not expect a&nbsp;destructive national lockdown to protect me. So, clearly, there comes a&nbsp;point when it’s better to relax things from an economic welfare perspective. That could come much sooner than we think.</p> <p>Hence why economists are so keen on testing, to try to better ascertain where we truly are in this pandemic. But their&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">evolutionary marginal thinking</a>&nbsp;is also why they explore other alternatives to lockdowns, including safety protocols for businesses to re‐​open (temperature testing, social distancing, screens), shifting towards randomised testing and strict quarantining on those affected, immunity certificates, relaxing rules on outdoor leisure activities, and more.</p> <p>On all this the “common sense” brigade will push back hard. Those who bemoan others walking deep in the countryside or&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">paddle boarding in the ocean</a>&nbsp;(near zero risks of transmission) will oppose suppression being relaxed for some people or businesses, because they oppose anything that increases health risks.</p> <p>“Common sense” thinking has seen some cities and states in the US, for example, banning “essential” stores from also selling “non‐​essential goods.” This severely harms consumer welfare, in return for a&nbsp;tiny fall in the risk of people interacting to spread the virus (a risk, by the way, that could be better controlled by these stores enforcing social distancing).</p> <p>Another example is the bubbling debate about immunity certificates or wristbands. If antibody tests are accurate, these would allow legions to return to work, improving their lives and producing a&nbsp;flight‐​path to economic normality. The benefits are huge. But some “common sense” pundits will say that because they might encourage small numbers of other people to seek to contract the virus as a&nbsp;pathway to freedom, raising infection risk slightly, nobody should have them at all. The balance of benefits and risks do not matter when health is your sole concern.</p> <p>While there has been a&nbsp;fair amount of consensus so far then, expect rapid developments on the virus and its economic toll to lead to a&nbsp;fracturing of that consensus. But when you hear arguments for and against certain policies, ask yourself: what is the underlying aim of this person? And does that make sense?</p> </div> Ryan Bourne is R&nbsp;Evan Scharf Chair for the Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute Mon, 06 Apr 2020 15:04:31 -0400 Ryan Bourne The Jones Act Is American Self‐​Sabotage <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Colin Grabow</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>In their zeal to defend the protectionist Jones Act, supporters of the law argue that it helps thwart the ambitions of countries such as China. The truth is almost the complete opposite. If Beijing was able to vote for its favorite U.S. law, the Jones Act would surely be a&nbsp;strong contender. It’s been a&nbsp;disaster for both the U.S. economy and its maritime sector.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Passed in 1920, the Jones Act limits the waterborne transportation of goods within the United States to vessels that are U.S.-flagged, U.S.- built and at least 75 percent U.S.-crewed and owned. These restrictions increase the cost of moving goods across the country. In effect, the law acts as a&nbsp;trade barrier that interferes with the ability of Americans to do business with one another.</p> <p>The reasons aren’t hard to understand. Out of the tens of thousands of ships in the world, a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">mere 99</a>&nbsp;comply with the Jones Act. That’s only 99 ships to meet the needs of the world’s largest economy and its non‐​contiguous states and territories including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>The Jones Act is an economic burden, discourages the use of American products, and has left the United States with a&nbsp;shrunken, uncompetitive maritime sector.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>And these few ships were built at fantastic expense. A&nbsp;ship built in the United States can cost up to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">five times</a>&nbsp;more than one built abroad. Instead of paying $50 million for a&nbsp;ship Americans may instead be forced to pay $250 million.</p> <p>With limited competition and expensively‐​built ships, the inevitable result is higher transportation costs. Shipping a&nbsp;container from the East Coast to Puerto Rico can cost about&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">twice as much</a>&nbsp;as sending the container to nearby foreign destinations not subject to the Jones Act. Shipping oil from the Gulf Coast to East Coast refineries may cost up to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">three times</a>&nbsp;more than sending it a&nbsp;longer distance to Canada.</p> <p>Faced with high shipping costs, Americans do their utmost to avoid the use of Jones Act ships. Instead, they often use alternative forms of transportation such as trucks and rail. While&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">40 percent</a>&nbsp;of freight is moved by sea in Europe, ships account for just&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">two percent</a>&nbsp;of freight movement in the United States.</p> <p>Shipping‐​dependent areas of the country such as Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, however, don’t have this option. But they do have another way around the Jones Act: buy foreign products. By purchasing from abroad instead of domestically they can escape the use of Jones Act ships.</p> <p>And that’s exactly what they’ve done.</p> <p>As the Congressional Research Service&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">points out</a>, Hawaii and Puerto Rico purchase more cargo from foreign countries than they do from the U.S. mainland. The CRS notes that since 1960 shipments from the U.S. mainland to Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico have increased only “slightly,” while those from foreign sources have increased “tremendously.” The Government Accountability Office&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">provides</a>&nbsp;examples of Puerto Ricans importing goods such as jet fuel from Venezuela and agricultural products from foreign countries instead of the United States because, once the cost of transportation is factored in, buying American doesn’t make financial sense.</p> <p>But sometimes the Jones Act doesn’t just deter the purchase of American products—it makes it impossible. Puerto Rico and New England both import natural gas for electricity generation, but none of it comes from the U.S. mainland. That’s because there are no Jones Act ships capable of transporting it. So all the natural gas brought in by ship necessarily comes from foreign sources,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">including</a>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Russia</a>.</p> <p>Because of the Jones Act,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">China buys</a>&nbsp;cheap U.S. natural gas while Puerto Rico cannot.&nbsp;</p> <p>Beyond its economic toll, the Jones Act has had a&nbsp;calamitous effect on the U.S. maritime sector. By artificially raising the cost of buying ships and reducing their competitiveness, demand for Jones Act ships has dropped. That means fewer of them. The Jones Act fleet has&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">more than halved</a>&nbsp;since 1980.</p> <p>This naked protectionism hasn’t done any favors for U.S. shipbuilding either. Lacking the international competition that has promoted excellence in other U.S. industries such as autos and aerospace, U.S. commercial shipbuilding has become wildly uncompetitive. With its staggering prices, there are few takers for its products. This year a&nbsp;mere two U.S‑built ships are scheduled to be delivered. Next year, just one. 2022 is likely to see zero.</p> <p>The few ships that are built, meanwhile, feature numerous imported components such as the engines, so any notion that the Jones Act makes the U.S. self‐​reliant in shipbuilding is just wishful thinking.</p> <p>The Jones Act is an economic burden, discourages the use of American products, and has left the United States with a&nbsp;shrunken, uncompetitive maritime sector. It’s hard to think of a&nbsp;law that does more to advance the interests of America’s rivals and adversaries.</p> </div> Colin Grabow is a&nbsp;policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies. Mon, 06 Apr 2020 10:11:30 -0400 Colin Grabow COVID-19 Proves Educational System Too Rigid <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Neal McCluskey</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>No one should reach conclusions about an institution based on its struggles with the coronavirus lockdown. The situation is too extraordinary to expect anyone to have a&nbsp;foolproof strategy. But the lockdown’s effect on K‑12 education has highlighted something we’ve long known: the age‐​based system is too rigid.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>States and school districts have been reluctant to move to online education that “counts” — for grades, course credit, etc. — because not all kids have internet access, and children with special needs might get insufficient assistance. Basically, for fear some kids will fall behind their peers.</p> <p>In Michigan, the state Department of Education declared that online schooling could not count toward&nbsp;legally mandated instructional time. Citing disparities in districts’ abilities to provide cyber learning, state education board president Casandra Ulbrich said, “It’s not fair to allow districts with resources to count days and other districts trying to get resources not qualify to count those days.”</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Our education system need not de facto require standardization that hurts those who learn at different speeds than other</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>This was mooted by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a&nbsp;Democrat, in this week’s executive order closing schools for the remainder of the academic year. It left it to districts to craft how they will carry on.</p> <p>The Philadelphia school district issued a&nbsp;similar order, with leadership sending a&nbsp;letter to principals, stating, “To ensure equity, remote instruction should not be provided to students, including through the internet, technology at home, by phone, or otherwise.” Like Michigan, the district eventually changed its stance.</p> <p>Meanwhile, officials nationwide feared online instruction would include insufficient support to keep special‐​needs kids up to speed and satisfy federal law. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos eventually declared that Washington would not block online instruction.</p> <p>Worries that kids will be left behind are laudable. But when helping some students keep pace requires withholding education from millions, it does not make sense. And it need not be this way: Our education system need not de facto require standardization that hurts those who learn at different speeds than others.</p> <p>By law, children are expected to commence formal education when they are five or six years old. In addition, all people must pay for, and therefore they typically use, schools to which they are zoned, so kids are batch‐​processed. With little regard to their starting point or abilities, a&nbsp;child typically must move at roughly the same pace, on the same things, as everyone else.</p> <p>This is problematic for “advanced” kids — only about 1%&nbsp;of students are accelerated past their age group, and it can be tough to get schools’ permission — but it is especially damaging for kids behind the average pace. Being held back can impose a&nbsp;crushing stigma, which is why many schools advance students no matter their academic performance.</p> <p>Education should move at a&nbsp;different speed for every student.</p> <p>If there is an educational silver lining to the coronavirus lockdown it is that it may be opening people’s eyes to the possibility of such a&nbsp;system. Many parents are becoming acquainted with the wealth of instructional material available online, such as the tutoring site Khan Academy, math coaching service Prodigy, and foreign language site Duolingo. They may also be realizing that such resources make it is possible to educate at a&nbsp;child’s own pace.</p> <p>Of course, online education is not ideal for many kids. But the virus response is also shining a&nbsp;spotlight on homeschooling generally, which normally involves lots of in‐​person instruction and socially rich experiences from museum visits to gathering with other homeschoolers.</p> <p>Then there is private education, with offerings ranging from Montessori to classical education, and Catholic institutions to “free‐​range” Sudbury schools. If public school funding were attached to kids, each pupil would have roughly $15,400 (according to the most recent federal data), making private schools more viable for far more families.</p> <p>We must, of course, try our hardest to educate children with disabilities, or poor internet access. But ending a&nbsp;system with one “right” educational trajectory, and instead having all kids learn at their own paces and times, is a&nbsp;broader solution that would eliminate the stigma of being “behind,” and ultimately be consistent with simple reality: All children are different.</p> </div> Neal McCluskey is the director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom. Sun, 05 Apr 2020 10:06:41 -0400 Neal McCluskey President Should Begin Halting Endless Wars with Iraq Withdrawal <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>A pandemic is sweeping the U.S. and Middle East. Coronavirus is spreading among military personnel, undercutting readiness.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Washington is broke. Congress voted an emergency stimulus package that costs 40 percent as much as the federal government spent last year. Even before that the federal government was running trillion‐​dollar annual deficits.</p> <p>After two decades of conflict in the Mideast, there are more terrorists than when Washington started. Moving a&nbsp;second aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf failed to enhance deterrence against Iran, contrary to the Pentagon’s expectation.</p> <p>This would be a&nbsp;good time to stop America’s endless wars, as the president has promised.</p> <p>Yet his officials, apparently led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, have proposed waging war against the Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian‐​backed militia whose leader Washington killed in a&nbsp;drone strike in January. The result could trigger conflict with the Baghdad government, renewed civil war in Iraq, and formal hostilities with Iran. Are the president’s aides mad?</p> <p>The U.S. presence in Iraq is growing increasingly untenable. Reported the <em>Washington Post</em>: “Iran‐​backed militias are becoming more audacious in attacking U.S. personnel in Iraq, with rocket strikes against military bases occurring more frequently and, for the first time, in broad daylight. U.S. officials say they are receiving near‐​daily reports of ‘imminent’ attacks planned against U.S.-linked military or diplomatic facilities.”</p> <p>The administration continues to talk tough. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker said it would “take what steps that we see necessary” to retaliate. But Washington appears to have given up. After rocket attacks on Camp Taji last month, U.S. forces targeted the Kataib Hezbollah, with no firm proof, but a&nbsp;strong presumption, of guilt. That bombardment killed Iraqi soldiers and policemen, angering Baghdad. Assailants unknown then launched two more rounds of rockets, and the U.S. did nothing — other than pull American personnel out of three of the military’s eight Iraqi installations.</p> </div> , <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>It’s past time to do what he said he would do.</p> </div> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Such assaults are hard to prevent. Harder to assign guilt. And harder still to deter, especially since the latest grievance, the January killing of founder Abu Mahdi al‐​Muhandis, is still fresh. An anonymous administration official told the <em>Washington Post</em>, “Kataib Hezbollah wants to pay back the Americans for the killing of Muhandis, absolutely.”</p> <p>Administration hawks reportedly have proposed a&nbsp;large troop build‐​up and offensive in Iraq against the militia — in effect to force the Iraqis to allow America to stay after their parliament voted for the U.S. to leave. It is a&nbsp;mad plan. Washington already fought two rounds of a&nbsp;bloody, messy, destructive insurgency. The first was the aftermath of defenestrating Saddam Hussein. The second was to destroy the Islamic State, which preyed on Iraqi weakness and sectarian hatreds to establish a&nbsp;caliphate, or quasi–nation state.</p> <p>What would a&nbsp;third round do? Force Baghdad to allow America to protect it. ISIS will persist as an ideology/​theology with adherents capable of organizing and doing harm well into the future. But its power has been broken, and it is opposed by virtually every government and movement in the Middle East, including Iraq and Iran. Why should U.S. troops continue doing a&nbsp;job that is the locals’ responsibility?</p> <p>Indeed, Washington likely would end up fighting Iraqi as well as militia forces. Baghdad officials, including military officers, were outraged at the killing of their own personnel and reiterated the demand that America leave. Plenty of Iraqis dislike and distrust the Iranians, who have gained disproportionate influence in their neighbor’s affairs. Nevertheless, cultural, historical, and religious ties remain significant. Most important, Iran will always be next door. The U.S. is far away and will eventually lose interest.</p> <p>Baghdad’s real interest is evident from the fact that it does not stop the rocket attacks. An administration official complained to the <em>Washington Post</em>, “This has been going on for several months. We complain, the government doesn’t do anything. The militias do it again, the government doesn’t do anything.” Which should come as no surprise. An Iraqi military officer said bluntly, “Let’s be honest. If the militias want to attack the bases we can’t stop them.”</p> <p>Targeting the Shia militias would risk fanning sectarian fires anew. Recent demonstrations have attacked the country’s divisive politics, but U.S. military attacks as much on Iraq’s sovereignty as Kataib Hezbollah’s positions have renewed criticism of America. Practicing a&nbsp;Saudi‐​first policy has put Washington in the Sunni camp. Launching a&nbsp;campaign against Shia militiamen in a&nbsp;majority Shia country allied with the leading Shia‐​majority country would be like tossing hand grenades into an ammo dump.</p> <p>Worse is the possibility of spreading the conflict to Iran. Tehran would lose any war but could wreak havoc with missile attacks and asymmetric action. Moreover, like sanctions, war is likely to turn people against America, wrecking any prospect for reform at home. No one would gain from a&nbsp;regional conflagration damaging oil production and deterring tanker traffic. The U.S. victory would be a&nbsp;costly, Pyrrhic affair.</p> <p>Notable is the fact that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley opposed proposals for war, which they believed would destabilize the Middle East. Those closest to the possible conflict appear to most oppose it. The <em>New York Times </em>reported that “In a&nbsp;blunt memo last week, the [Iraq] commander, Lt. Gen. Robert P. White, wrote that a&nbsp;new military campaign would also require thousands more American troops be sent to Iraq and divert resources from what has been the primary American military mission there: training Iraqi troops to combat the Islamic State.”</p> <p>U.S. policy toward Iraq has been one blunder after another for almost two decades. That continued in January, when the administration decided to assassinate Iranian Quds commander Qasem Soleimani. Also killed, apparently as collateral damage, was Muhandis. After the round of strikes last month Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., head of United States Central Command, allowed, with studied understatement, that tensions “have actually not gone down” since the January strike. Indeed.</p> <p>The administration should bring American forces home. They are not needed. They are not wanted. They are under attack. The region no longer matters: it has lost its energy stranglehold while Israel dominates its neighbors militarily. The Saudis are more foe than friend and should defend themselves. It is time to finish the endless wars, as the president has promised.</p> </div> Doug Bandow is a&nbsp;Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A&nbsp;former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of <em>Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire</em>. Sun, 05 Apr 2020 09:23:15 -0400 Doug Bandow Why a China vs. Taiwan Clash Could Be Brewing <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Tensions between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have been on the rise ever since Tsai Ing‐​wen became Taiwan’s president and her pro‐​independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) gained control of the legislature in early 2016.&nbsp;Her landslide re‐​election in January 2020 exacerbated those tensions. Now, Taiwanese concerns about the island’s treatment at the hands of the PRC and the rest of the global community during the coronavirus pandemic are widening the political gap between Taipei and Beijing.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Taiwanese anger at the PRC’s conduct occurred early and often in the crisis.&nbsp;Chinese leaders worked to block Taiwan’s involvement in World Health Organization (WHO) cooperative efforts to stem the spread of the virus.&nbsp;Beijing even sought to prevent&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Taiwanese attendance at WHO meetings</a>.&nbsp;PRC demands intimidated the WHO into barring Taiwanese experts from at least&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">one crucial strategy session</a>&nbsp;in late January 2020.</p> <p>Beijing’s propaganda apparatus also&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">generated fake news</a>&nbsp;that the virus was out of control in Taiwan, with deaths overwhelming crematoria.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Taiwan Fact‐​Check Center</a>&nbsp;effectively debunked the claims, and international observers found no evidence to support them.&nbsp;In fact, Taiwan’s efforts to contain the outbreak have been&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">remarkably successful</a>.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>We should ask now what America’s policy should be if things were to take a&nbsp;nasty turn.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Anger among Taiwan’s leaders and the general public rose sharply in response to the PRC’s hostile behavior.&nbsp;On at least two occasions in January 2020, Tsai’s government reached out to Beijing,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">offering to help mainland efforts</a>&nbsp;against the virus. Mainland officials not only spurned those offers, they treated the island as irrelevant, at best, to global cooperation against the emerging pandemic.</p> <p>Most governments had long accepted Beijing’s demands to treat Taiwan as part of China in all diplomatic interactions. That formula came to haunt Taiwan during the coronavirus crisis.&nbsp;When the United States and other governments imposed travel restrictions on China, many of the countries also&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">included Taiwan in those restrictions</a>, even though the disease barely had a&nbsp;presence on the island.&nbsp;Those actions greatly intensified sentiment in Taiwan to take new measures to emphasize the distinction between the island and the mainland.</p> <p>All of those factors—Beijing’s hostile behavior, Taiwan’s surprisingly successful, independent efforts to stem the virus, and the island being swept up into the international travel restrictions directed against the PRC—have combined to greatly intensify an already existing identity crisis in Taiwan. One key feature of the debate is whether to abandon the official name, Republic of China, and if so, what the new name should be.&nbsp;Reuters correspondent&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Ben Blanchard notes</a>&nbsp;that “Taiwan has been debating for years who it is and what exactly its relationship should be with China–including the island’s name. But the pandemic has shot the issue back into the spotlight.”</p> <p>Hard‐​line, pro‐​independence factions are seizing the opportunity to push their agenda. The New Power Party, one of those groups released the results of a&nbsp;new survey in which almost three‐​quarters of respondents said that Taiwan’s passports should only have the word “Taiwan” on them,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">removing any reference</a>&nbsp;to “China” or the “Republic of China.” That result is consistent with an overall shift of public sentiment regarding ethnic and national identity.&nbsp;Recent surveys confirm that a&nbsp;majority of Taiwan residents now consider themselves exclusively “Taiwanese,” and that percentage is&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">growing steadily</a>&nbsp;with each new generation. The hedging formulation of “Taiwanese and Chinese” continues to shrink and is now down to 24 percent. The “Chinese exclusively” identity has collapsed to 3&nbsp;percent.</p> <p>Taiwan’s foreign ministry, apparently realizing that expunging the name “China” on passports would be a&nbsp;flagrant poke in the eye to Beijing, is proceeding cautiously despite the mounting popular demands. Officials note that “Taiwan” was already added to the Republic of China on passport covers in 2003 (during the last DPP administration of President Chen Shui‐​bian). Tsai’s government keeps the door open for a&nbsp;name change, however. “In the future, if there is consensus between the ruling and opposition parties on this new name, the Foreign Ministry shall cooperate in handling it,”&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">spokeswoman Joanne Ou said</a>.</p> <p>At the moment, Tsai contends that changing the formal name is unnecessary, insisting that the ROC is already a&nbsp;fully independent country having diplomatic relations with some 16 foreign governments. Beijing has little reason to feel any relief, though, that such a “moderate” position still holds sway in Taipei. Tsai herself refers to “Republic of China, Taiwan” in speeches and interviews, irritating PRC leaders.&nbsp;Indeed, she personally added Taiwan to the formal name during an interview&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">just days after her re‐​election</a>. It seems likely that it is merely a&nbsp;matter of time until she and her associates join the outright name‐​change camp.</p> <p>But changing the country’s name to Taiwan would signal the end to even the vestige of a&nbsp;Chinese identity and any official connection to a&nbsp;Chinese state, however loose. It would be the functional equivalent of a&nbsp;formal declaration of independence, which PRC leaders have warned repeatedly will be prevented—by force, if necessary.</p> <p>These developments should be more than a&nbsp;matter of academic interest to U.S. leaders and the American people. Attention is so heavily focused on the coronavirus pandemic, that it is easy to miss other, potentially very dangerous, developments in the world. But the United States has an implicit obligation in the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act to defend Taiwan if the PRC tries to coerce it militarily. We need to ask ourselves now, not in the middle of a&nbsp;shooting war, whether keeping that obligation benefits America’s security or exposes our country to needless danger. We can no longer assume that the uneasy status quo between Taiwan and the mainland will go on indefinitely. There are multiple signs now that matters may be coming to a&nbsp;head.</p> </div> Ted Galen Carpenter, a&nbsp;senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute and a&nbsp;contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author of 12 books and more than 850 articles on international affairs. Sat, 04 Apr 2020 09:53:40 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter No, the FDA Can’t Stop Doctors from Prescribing Chloroquine <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Jeffrey A. Singer</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>President Trump’s recent comments that the antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine might turn around the coronavirus pandemic have stirred an uproar. The governors of <a href="">New York</a> and <a href="">Nevada</a> even issued executive orders that restrict doctors from using the drugs.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The clamor reveals the misperception over the power that the Food and Drug Administration has over doctors’ clinical decisions. And though the FDA last weekend <a href="">granted</a> emergency authorization for the drugs to be added to the Strategic National Stockpile for use in treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients, the agency does not have the final say over how doctors use drugs that it’s approved. What it can do is prevent or delay urgently needed drugs from getting to patients through its approval process.</p> <p>At a&nbsp;previous Coronavirus Task Force briefing, President Trump <a href="">incorrectly</a> told the press that the antimalarial drug chloroquine had already gone through the FDA’s approval process for the treatment of COVID-19 infection. He was later corrected by the FDA commissioner, who said the approval process had not and will not be completed until controlled clinical trials have convinced the agency. People might therefore conclude that doctors are not legally permitted to prescribe chloroquine, or its analog hydroxychloroquine, to treat COVID-19 infections. In fact, doctors around the globe, including in the U.S., are already using these and other drugs to treat their patients, and reporting on their findings in the peer‐​reviewed medical literature.</p> <p>In the March issue of the <a href=""><em>International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents</em></a>, a&nbsp;group of French medical researchers reported on chloroquine’s potential based on their experience with a&nbsp;small group of patients. A&nbsp;Chinese medical team <a href="">reported</a> similar encouraging results in early February. Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle are <a href="">using chloroquine</a> to treat their COVID-19 patients, with one of its research associates calling the results thus far “very promising.” And a&nbsp;report in the <a href=""><em>Wall Street Journal</em></a> by two physicians, including the director of the Division of Infectious Disease at the University of Kansas Medical Center, also touts the drug’s potential.</p> <p>The use of chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, and other drugs (such as azithromycin and antiviral drugs <a href="">used against HIV</a>) to treat COVID-19 are examples of “<a href="">off‐​label</a>” prescribing. Ironically, once a&nbsp;drug is approved for the treatment of the condition for which it was initially intended, the FDA does not restrict its use in other situations. This is called “off‐​label,” because the label is only allowed to state the condition for which its use was FDA‐​approved.</p> </div> , <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>The possible coronavirus cure is said to be pending government approval. But physicians have a&nbsp;way around that.</p> </div> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Clinicians use drugs “off‐​label” very frequently. In fact, according to the <a href="">Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality</a>, “one in five prescriptions written today are for off‐​label use.” An example of this in my specialty of general surgery is the antibiotic erythromycin to treat paralyzed intrinsic muscles of the stomach, a&nbsp;condition called <em>gastric atony</em>.</p> <p>The public misperception over the FDA’s control of clinicians derives from “mission creep” in the drug approval process. Prior to 1962, drug makers had to convince the FDA their product was safe to consume and had proper information about use and dosage on their labels. The 1962 Kefauver‐​Harris Amendments to the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 added the burden of proving the drug’s efficacy in treating the condition for which it was developed.</p> <p>Efficacy requirements <a href="">add</a> years to the approval process. It is reasonable to wonder why, after doctors wait all this time to get permission to treat their patients with a&nbsp;drug for condition A, the FDA in principle then trusts them to use their clinical judgment to treat conditions B&nbsp;through Z. Why not skip the efficacy component of the approval process altogether and speed things up? Most of what clinicians read in journals or observe at conferences deal with the efficacy and comparative effectiveness of various medications and procedures to treat health conditions. This informs their off‐​label prescribing.</p> <p>Many years often pass before clinical trials convince the FDA to update its approved use of a&nbsp;drug to include what had been an off‐​label use. Aspirin had been used off‐​label to prevent recurrent strokes and heart attacks for many years before the FDA <a href="">approved</a> it for that purpose.</p> <p>The FDA may eventually approve chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, and other drugs for the treatment of the coronavirus. But that could be a&nbsp;long while off. In the meantime, it is important for people to know that clinicians are not prohibited from prescribing these drugs now.</p> </div> Jeffrey A. Singer, MD practices general surgery in Phoenix, Arizona, and is a&nbsp;senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Fri, 03 Apr 2020 15:02:42 -0400 Jeffrey A. Singer Congress’ Stimulus Oversight Imperative <p><a href="" hreflang="und">William Yeatman</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Lawmakers must not back down from President Trump’s threat to ignore congressional oversight of the massive Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or the <a href="">CARES Act</a>.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Such oversight is crucial for two reasons.</p> <p>First, haste makes for waste. The sums involved are mind‐​boggling. Financial agencies, for example, have a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">mandate</a> to quickly leverage almost $500 billion into as much as $4 trillion in loans to big businesses and small governments. Where, as here, the idea is to move as much money as fast as possible, there’s an obvious danger that the public funds could be mismanaged in the rush to push dollars out the door.</p> <p>The second concern is political. Absent Congress’s watchful eye, there’s nothing to stop the Trump administration from playing political games. Imagine, for example, if the Small Business Administration focused its new $350 billion <a href="" target="_blank">loan program</a> on swing states in the upcoming presidential election.</p> <p>Congressional Democrats, to their credit, <a href="" target="_blank">fought</a> to include novel and important safeguards to protect against these troubling possibilities. Specifically, leadership in the House of Representatives pressed for multiple layers of supervision for public funds unlocked by the CARES Act.</p> <p>The first is to install a&nbsp;special accountability officer, known as an inspector general, at the Treasury Department. Here, the purpose is to provide quality control directly at the executive agency with primary responsibility for “stimulating” the economy.</p> </div> , <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Lawmakers must not back down from President Trump’s threat to ignore congressional oversight of the massive Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act.</p> </div> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The second layer of supervision is to establish a&nbsp;Pandemic Response Accountability Committee to conduct and coordinate oversight of public funds.</p> <p>Again, these provisions were crucial for winning the CARE Act’s passage in Congress. Nevertheless, only hours after signing the bill into law, Trump repudiated the oversight provisions based on flimsy constitutional claims.</p> <p>In a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">signing statement</a>, Trump objected to Congress’s having input in the selection of a&nbsp;director for the new Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. Trump said his “administration will treat this provision as hortatory but not mandatory.”</p> <p>The president also announced his administration’s intention to block the new inspector general from reporting directly to Congress whenever the Treasury Department refuses to comply with an investigation.</p> <p>In terms of a&nbsp;justification for rejecting the law he had signed, Trump alluded vaguely to “executive power,” but this is constitutional hand‐​waving. Both the Constitution and common‐​sense permit Congress to oversee public funds allocated (by Congress) to agencies (created and funded by Congress).</p> <p>Simply put, the president’s signing statement amounts to a&nbsp;constitutional slap in the face. Congress bargained for these safeguards. President Trump condoned Congress’s bargain when he signed the CARES Act. Then Trump effectively took back his approval, by announcing that his administration wouldn’t comply with the act’s oversight provisions.</p> <p>Congress needs to stand up for itself — and the Constitution. If Trump follows through on his threat, then lawmakers must push back.</p> <p>How?</p> <p>Lawmakers could play hardball with the budget process. That is, Congress could condition the Treasury Department’s operational funding on compliance with the CARES Act’s oversight provisions. Yet such a&nbsp;counterpunch could prove counter‐​productive, given that such cuts might unduly undermine implementation of the stimulus.</p> <p>There’s a&nbsp;better way. If the Trump administration refuses to oversee the implementation of the CARES Act, then Congress itself should take on the role.</p> <p>Perhaps expecting the president’s recalcitrance, the CARES Act provides Congress with a&nbsp;backup plan. The act creates a&nbsp;Congressional Oversight Commission, comprised of lawmakers selected by party leaders in Congress. The Commission is empowered to obtain information directly from agencies, by subpoena if necessary, and to report to the full Congress.</p> <p>The first big decision is imminent. The Congressional Oversight Commission must staff itself, which is a&nbsp;crucial juncture, If Congress has any self‐​respect, it will invest generously in the Commission’s capacity. Party loyalty must not trump lawmakers’ institutional pride.</p> <p>There’s too much at stake for Congress not to assert itself here. Stewardship of public money should not be thwarted by partisanship.</p> </div> <p>William Yeatman is a&nbsp;research fellow at the Cato Institute.</p> Fri, 03 Apr 2020 14:36:37 -0400 William Yeatman President Trump Cannot ‘Order the Nation Back to Work’ <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Roger Pilon</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Can the president “order the nation back to work”? On Wednesday, Real Clear Markets editor John Tamny—a friend, ski pal, and former Cato colleague—quoted me often in support of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">his argument</a>&nbsp;that my current Cato colleague and friend,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Walter Olson</a>, was mistaken when&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">he wrote</a>&nbsp;in Tuesday’s&nbsp;<em>Wall Street Journal&nbsp;</em>that the president doesn’t have the constitutional power to reverse the recent lockdown and economic closure orders that most state governors have enacted or the power to order the nation back to work.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>With so many Americans suffering not only from the coronavirus contagion but from the closures governors have ordered, John’s frustration is understandable—and, to his credit, he wrote with due modesty that his argument is not “based on the presumption of constitutional expertise.” Rather, it’s based on my contention that under our system of government,&nbsp;<a href="">freedom comes first, government second</a>, to secure our freedom. I&nbsp;stand by that contention, but properly understood and implemented, it’s perfectly consistent with Wally’s argument. Here’s why, starting with a&nbsp;quick look at the basic theory of the matter.</p> <p>The Constitution makes federal law supreme in its domain, to be sure, but it divides powers between the federal and state governments, leaving most powers with the states or, as the Tenth Amendment says, with the states or the people. Federal powers are thus limited. You’d never know that today, of course, not since the New Deal Supreme Court misread the Constitution after President Franklin Roosevelt threatened to pack the body with six new members, thus opening the door to today’s federal Leviathan. Still, at least in principle, Congress has only 18 legislative powers or ends, as enumerated in Article I, section 8. Everything else belongs to the states, including, especially here, the general “police power,” which governors wield to protect the rights, health, and safety of their citizens. That’s why most criminal law, for example, is enacted and enforced by the states and state executive agencies. Again, in principle, the federal government, including the president, has limited authority over such matters because there is no general federal police power—Wally’s main point.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>This regulation belongs to the states…It is not for the remote federal government, nor for the courts, except in egregious cases, for they lack the expertise or the power to manage such matters.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Responding to Wally’s claim that the president doesn’t have the power to reverse the governors,&nbsp;<a href="">John cites me arguing</a>&nbsp;that state powers are not absolute: The Founders did not enshrine “mob rule locally,” he writes, for states cannot violate our constitutional rights. Thus, his argument “is about individual freedom and property rights,” including “the right of Americans to get back to work.” And he adds, with no little merit, that “free people fearful of contracting a&nbsp;virus should be free to not patronize businesses exercising their natural right to re‐​open.” The economic closures so many governors have imposed under their police power have violated those rights, he concludes, citing the famous 1905&nbsp;<em>Lochner</em>&nbsp;decision upholding the right to freedom of contract, which the New Deal Court effectively overturned.</p> <p>Notice, however, that even if the courts were to strike down a&nbsp;state statute, as in&nbsp;<em>Lochner</em>, or a&nbsp;governor’s order, as here, that would not empower the&nbsp;<em>president</em>&nbsp;to act in the way John envisions. It would simply lift the state restrictions. But notice too that the rights John has in mind are themselves not absolute. That is true of core constitutional rights: Look at the exceptions to free speech, for example, to say nothing of the right against unreasonable searches and seizures—though there the word “unreasonable” already qualifies the right. Here, however, we are dealing with risk and a&nbsp;great deal of uncertainty about the risk. This is an area where, quintessentially, state police power to regulate the health and safety of citizens comes to the fore. And it’s an area where reasonable people can have reasonable differences. What is the “right” speed limit?</p> <p>Extreme risk‐​takers and risk‐​averse people will rarely be satisfied with a&nbsp;given state’s determination of our rights in such domains, which points to one of the virtues of our federal system, as Wally notes. That was evident initially in the present case as different states followed different paths to the onset of the coronavirus. And for sure, the tendency of government officials is to err on the side of safety, as we’re seeing. That’s why leaving more decisions about handling risk to individuals, as John suggests, has merit. After all, the “essential” businesses that have been left to run have generally adjusted to the risk at hand without the heavy hand of government coming down upon them. There’s doubtless much more room for expanding that category of businesses than we see now.</p> <p>But this regulation belongs to the states, for the practical reasons Wally goes on to cite. It is not for the remote federal government, nor for the courts, except in egregious cases, for they lack the expertise or the power to manage such matters. There will reach a&nbsp;point at which the costs of shutting down the economy will exceed those of trying to avoid the virus, at which point we’ll see political pressure brought to bear on governors and we’ll start to see them peel away the draconian restrictions they’ve now imposed upon us. Our law sets the framework for this, but politics determines how it plays out.</p> </div> Roger Pilon holds the Cato Institute’s B. Kenneth Simon Chair in Constitutional Studies. He is the Founding Director Emeritus of Cato’s Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies. Fri, 03 Apr 2020 12:22:55 -0400 Roger Pilon Will Trump’s Pandemic Response Help or Harm U.S. Power? <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Emma Ashford</a> and <span class="text-semibold">Matthew Kroenig</span></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p><strong>Emma Ashford:</strong>&nbsp;Good morning, Matt! How is social distancing treating you? I&nbsp;started stress‐​baking last night, so I’m glad to have this discussion as a&nbsp;distraction.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p><strong>Matthew Kroenig:</strong> I've been avoiding the grocery store, and we are down to frozen vegetables and leftover chicken. But, yes, I always look forward to our discussions.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> Well at least we're still in touch over the internet, unlike Joe Biden, who appears to have just disappeared since he essentially clinched the Democratic nomination. Any idea what's going on there?</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong> It is amazing. You could almost forget it's an election year. But we are in crisis mode with everyone in lockdown and people fearing for their own lives and the lives of loved ones. Electioneering in these conditions would be unseemly. Or do you think Biden should be using this crisis as an opportunity to contrast himself with President Trump?</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> I'm not a huge Biden fan, and it may be in his interest to just sit back and wait. But I have to admit, it would be nice to see some kind of leadership from anyone during this crisis.</p> <p>I can't believe how badly the White House is botching this situation. More Americans have now died of the coronavirus than died on 9/11. It sort of makes a mockery of the amount of lives and money the country wasted on the global war on terror in the last two decades.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong> Well, I think we were right to take necessary steps to prevent another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil. And, despite a slow start, the U.S. government is now putting in place a more comprehensive response to the coronavirus. In the wake of 9/11 and now with COVID-19, we've seen rally-around-the-flag effects with Donald Trump's approval ratings hitting record highs in recent days. So, I don't think this is necessarily a winning election issue for Biden.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> Rally-around-the-flag effects are pretty transitory. And approval ratings today are pretty much meaningless when it comes to November. I think we're about to see a lot more death and destruction in the coming months, unfortunately.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong> There is another 9/11 comparison that doesn't hold up: This wasn't an intelligence failure. The intelligence community has been warning about a possible pandemic since the early 2000s, and the <a href="" target="_blank">Dark Winter simulation</a> showed that the United States and its health system were unprepared for a biological attack. (Whether inflicted by man or nature, the effects of a pandemic are pretty much the same.)</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> True, but that raises the question of what an intelligence failure is. Yes, the intelligence community did predict a pandemic. The National Security Council was pushing for a stronger response to the coronavirus in January and February. The president ignored them, for fear of spooking the markets. That's a massive governmental failure, and one that Donald Trump bears full responsibility for. If there are 100,000 to 200,000 deaths, they're on him.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong> In hindsight, the government response was too slow. But it wasn't initially obvious that the solution was to shut down the entire country. During the SARS pandemic in 2003, the United States did very little, and it turned out to be the right move. Trump was even criticized for restricting air traffic from China back in January. Sure it's been a patchwork and halting approach, but I prefer that to the Chinese government welding people inside their homes.&lt;</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> That argument has been driving me crazy. There's a middle ground between the China option and nothing. Even if we'd just started sourcing medical equipment and telling people to wear masks in February, we'd be in a much better position today. <p>But maybe we should get back to discussing foreign policy?</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong> Good idea. With all of the focus on pandemics, it was nice to get a bit of good news this week. NATO expanded to include North Macedonia. This will strengthen the most successful alliance in history and reinforce the message to Russia that it will not be granted a veto over the foreign and defense policies of small European states.</p> <p>Moscow tried to keep North Macedonia out of NATO by intervening in a referendum there in 2018, but this week's news demonstrates that Russia's interference has failed. This also challenges the notion that the Trump administration is anti-NATO; after Montenegro, North Macedonia was the second country to join the alliance under his watch.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> I'm so grateful that the world-renowned military might of North Macedonia is here for us if Russia or China ever decides to start a war!</p> <p>This is just silly, Matt. North Macedonia adds no strategic value to the NATO alliance, though at least it doesn't come with big strategic risks like Georgia or Ukraine. And sure, it's nice that Russia can't veto North Macedonian foreign policy. But I don't see why it's in our interest to carry the burden of defense for North Macedonia just to annoy Russia.</p> <p>Why is it in U.S. interests to constantly expand NATO?</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong> I see it as part of the broader U.S. and allied project since 1945 of creating and defending a U.S.-led, rules-based system. According to almost any objective measure, the world is more peaceful, prosperous, and free than in 1945, and that is due in large part to this system.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> I'd agree with you if we're talking about the Cold War. But in the post-Cold War era, NATO expansion has weakened the security of existing members, riled up Russia, and left us with an alliance that's too unwieldy to defend. We've expanded almost to Russia's borders, so it's no surprise that Moscow feels threatened.</p> <p>Russia's choices to invade Georgia and Ukraine were in many ways a response to the prospect of NATO membership for these states. And NATO's new members bring territory that we need to defend but rarely add any military strength to the alliance. NATO needs reform, not further expansion.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong> NATO expansion moved the central front in Europe 750 miles east from Berlin to Kyiv. That strengthened the security of existing members&mdash;Germany is certainly safer now than it was in the 1980s. And at a time when many signs point to a weakening of this order, it's nice to see a data point in the other direction.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> Germany is safer than it was in the 1980s because the Soviet Union is gone! And despite all the talk about NATO spreading Western values, the results haven't been good. Hungary and Poland weren't consolidated democracies when they joined, and now they're moving backward. Look at what happened in Hungary this week, for goodness' sake. It's now an autocracy, and there's no legal mechanism to remove it from NATO.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong> I wouldn't want to kick Hungary out of NATO. Leaders should have frank discussions behind closed doors about democratic backsliding, but the United States should aim to keep our friends as our friends, especially at a time when Russia and China are actively aiming to weaken our alliances in Europe and elsewhere.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> Let me ask you a blunt question: What is it that we're trying to do with these alliances? Is NATO about protecting Western values and democracy? Or is it a collective security arrangement? You mention Russia and China, but neither is a threat on the order of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong> I disagree. China could be a greater threat than the Soviet Union. This is the first time in a century that the United States has faced a rival with greater than 40 percent of U.S. GDP. We can't simply outspend China like we did with the Soviets. But to answer your question on alliances, the United States has an interest in preventing hostile, autocratic states from dominating important geopolitical regions. We defend against Russia and China in Europe and Asia so we don't have to do it here. </p> <p>Security and stability promote prosperity in Europe and Asia that makes Americans richer. And it advances freedom and good governance globally, which helps to protect American democracy at home.</p> <p>Let me ask you a blunt question: Do you think the average American would be better off if we granted Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping autocratic spheres of influence in their regions? And why would they stop there?</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> Hang on. Russia and China already have de facto spheres of influence. If alliances advance freedom and good governance, then why is democracy in decline for the <a href="" target="_blank">14th year in a row</a>? Why do we have at least two NATO members, Hungary and Turkey, backsliding into autocracy? And, though this is more speculative, I have to wonder if the way things are going with tariffs and trade wars it's possible that in a few more years we won't even be able to make the economic prosperity argument about alliances anymore.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong> Russia has a de facto sphere of influence over a couple of small, former-Soviet states, but Putin would prefer that it include much of Europe. Actions like North Macedonia's accession to NATO are valuable defenses against Russian expansionism.</p> <p>The shine has come off the American model in the eyes of many people around the world, and lots of would-be autocrats find China's authoritarian state-led capitalist system appealing. I agree that trade wars with allies do not make sense when it is unfair Chinese practices that are the major threat to the global trading system. The solution to these problems is more, not less, U.S. global engagement.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> It's kind of hard to argue that the United States has been less engaged in recent years. There are more U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East&mdash;by an order of magnitude&mdash;than in 1989. NATO has expanded from 16 to 30 countries in less than 30 years. And U.S. troops are fighting terrorism on at least three continents.</p> <p>The last few weeks have shown that Washington is perfectly able to hurt other states, through military force and sanctions. Just look at the impact of our sanctions on Iran's health crisis today. But we're not very good at helping or cooperating.</p> <p>China and Russia seem to have been doing a better job of sending aid to our alliance partners than we have. China sent masks, medical equipment, and experts to Italy when other EU states weren't helping. And a cargo plane of Russian aid landed this week at JFK in New York. Sure, that's a PR stunt, but it's an effective one.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong> Ask governments in Poland and Japan if we help or cooperate, especially on defense. Sure, the United States should have had more robust diplomatic engagement with Europe to deal with the pandemic, maybe through the creation of a Countering Coronavirus Coalition. Fortunately, the autocrats have largely bungled their attempts to fill the vacuum, with promises of Chinese aid turning into Chinese companies <a href="" target="_blank">profiteering </a>by selling <a href="" target="_blank">faulty medical equipment </a>to Europe. Several countries have now rejected and returned dud coronavirus testing kits.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> Thank goodness we can rely on the incompetence of autocrats.</p> <p>Look, I'm not saying that all alliances are useless. But the current U.S. approach is to keep all the old alliances, keep expanding NATO, and make a bunch of new alliances. There is no coherent theory of how it's actually supposed to improve the security of existing members. If NATO was truly concerned about autocracy, Washington would push to change the rules to expel Hungary. And if it's about defense, NATO wouldn't be admitting North Macedonia. You can't keep doing it all.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong> I still maintain that these alliances advance U.S. interests. But we disagree, and I'm sure we'll revisit it soon. For now, let's turn back to something upon which we apparently agree: the incompetence of autocrats.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> They're not totally incompetent, though. There has been at least some PR success for China in Europe. Countries like Serbia are cozying up to China. And Washington's major European allies are now engaged in sanctions-busting with Iran through Instex, a mechanism that allows trade with Iran through barter while protecting European companies from U.S. sanctions.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong> Calls from within Europe and the United States to lift sanctions on Iran for humanitarian reasons are misguided. If Tehran really cares about the well-being of its people, it can receive sanctions relief any time by simply dismantling its illegal nuclear and missile programs and ceasing its support for terrorism.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> And I'd like the ayatollah to bring me a pet unicorn, but it's not going to happen! If we don't lift some sanctions and help Iran get a handle on its coronavirus outbreak, it could spiral out of control and be far worse for the West than the risk of the Iranian government getting a few more dollars.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong> The United States has always allowed a humanitarian and medical exception to its sanctions policy, and it is fine with Europe's Instex transactions because they will be used solely for that purpose. I don't see how giving the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps more resources helps combat the coronavirus. Many calling for the lifting of sanctions are simply opposed to Trump's maximum pressure strategy.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> I don't think any of these developments are particularly problematic for U.S. foreign policy in general. But they're self-inflicted wounds. If the Trump administration hadn't dialed up sanctions on Iran against European wishes, Instex wouldn't exist. If the White House had been more forthcoming with aid, China wouldn't have had this opening. The myopic focus on military alliances undermines U.S. diplomatic ties&mdash;and actually weakens American security.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong> Autocrats have some strengths, but as I argue in my new book out this week <a href="" target="_blank">(final plug I promise</a>) they are more than outweighed by their weaknesses. Already it's clear that Russia and China's disaster diplomacy has proved to be less effective and the medical equipment more defective than some Western observers predicted.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> But you could make the same argument about the United States. America has so many sources of strength, from the private companies developing coronavirus test kits to the people sewing masks at home. But the country's weaknesses are increasingly visible: a top-heavy, incompetent administration and a focus on military solutions to every problem. This administration pushed a $700 billion military budget, while cutting the office devoted to pandemic preparedness.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong> The process is slow and messy, but generally the end result is more considered and effective than dictates from the Politburo. Democracies, such as Taiwan, that were hit hard by SARS learned their lesson and adapted to be ready for the coronavirus. I suspect these are the same conclusions we will draw about the U.S. coronavirus response years from now.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong> Right! Democracy is messy. So is the free market. But it's still better than anything else. I just wish all America's so-called allies agreed with us, rather than ushering in a new era of dictatorial rule in Central Europe.</p> </div> Emma Ashford is a&nbsp;research fellow at the Cato Institute. Matthew Kroenig is deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center. They debate foreign policy and the 2020 election. Fri, 03 Apr 2020 12:17:42 -0400 Emma Ashford, Matthew Kroenig Individualism Hasn’t Failed Us <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Neal McCluskey</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>On Wednesday, the&nbsp;<em>New York Daily News</em>&nbsp;carried a&nbsp;piece&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">bearing the sensational headline</a>&nbsp;“American individualism has failed epically: The hard lesson of the coronavirus crisis.” The headline cannot be laid at the author’s feet — writers often don’t pen their own — but Jess Coleman, a&nbsp;recent law school graduate, is responsible for the op‐​ed itself, which is an indictment of individualism so flimsy it might not even stand up in Venezuelan court.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Importantly, now is not the time to spike ideological footballs, declaring that your favorite (or most reviled) take on the right role of government has either saved (or kneecapped) the nation against&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the coronavirus pandemic</a>. We should scrutinize approaches to dealing with the disease, of course, but avoid incendiary polemics. Now is a&nbsp;time to pull together, and also far too early in the battle to definitively declare what did or did not work.</p> <p>But that doesn’t mean we should let unfounded ideological attacks go unanswered.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Education during the coronavirus pandemic has benefited tremendously from the efforts and experience of private people, ranging from parents and families to big corporations.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Coleman heaps blame for coronavirus troubles on “a uniquely American preference for fending for one’s self, for weathering the storm not as a&nbsp;community but as a&nbsp;bunch of tough, free individuals.” His support? Anecdotes: hand sanitizer hoarders profiled by the&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>, Whole Foods suggesting workers pool sick leave to help those who can’t work (without noting the company gives two weeks of paid COVID-19 leave), and a&nbsp;handful of others.</p> <p>Of course, scattered anecdotes prove nothing, and if anything it appears most of us have quite voluntarily engaged in social distancing. Meanwhile, Coleman misses some big factors on the other side.</p> <p>For instance, the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">very governmental</a>&nbsp;Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration sent out flawed COVID-19 tests and blocked private clinics and companies from issuing ones of their own. The communist Chinese government hid the virus and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">punished the doctor</a>&nbsp;who blew the whistle. He eventually died from the virus. And Italy, which has been a&nbsp;major hot spot, has a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">nationalized healthcare system</a>.</p> <p>But allow me to focus on the area I&nbsp;know best: education policy.</p> <p>In Coleman’s ax‐​grinding against all things nongovernmental, which is how he largely appears to view “individualism,” Coleman attacks school choice, a&nbsp;term he puts in scare quotes to indicate how bad it is. But education during the coronavirus pandemic has benefited tremendously from the efforts and experience of private people, ranging from parents and families to big corporations.</p> <p>Most visibly, the nation has turned for educational guidance to its relatively small cadre of homeschoolers — people long marginalized because governments have forced funding, and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">sometimes</a>&nbsp;even&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">attendance</a>, at public schools. Cato adjunct scholar Kerry McDonald, an expert on homeschooling, has alone done interviews offering advice for a&nbsp;now‐​homeschooling nation with television stations in&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Los Angeles</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Washington, D.C.</a>, in the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank"><em>Washington Post</em></a>, for WBUR in&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Boston</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">more</a>. And she is&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">not</a>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">alone</a>.</p> <p>Much beyond homeschoolers,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Khan Academy</a>&nbsp;is a&nbsp;private, nonprofit website that has been helping students (and anyone else who wants to learn or re‐​learn stuff) for years. It has quickly scaled up its offerings to meet the sudden explosion of online learning needs. How is it doing that? In large part&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">with the financial help of Bank of America&nbsp;</a>— a&nbsp;for‐​profit company. Bank of America is hardly the only for‐​profit entity helping to save our educational bacon.</p> <p>Districts all over the country are dispersing&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Chromebooks</a>, made by for‐​profit manufacturers, to get students online where many will use&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Google Classroom</a>&nbsp;to continue their education.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Zoom</a>&nbsp;has become a&nbsp;lifeline for maintaining all sorts of personal connections and is giving its&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">services to schools for free</a>. Internet service providers such as Comcast and AT&amp;T are stretching to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">expand broadband service</a>. And the list&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">goes on</a>.</p> <p>Of course, no one’s response to this will be perfect. We are all in a&nbsp;steep learning curve about how to cope with a&nbsp;pandemic. But based on what we have seen so far, concluding that the virus has revealed “individualism” to be a&nbsp;failure is preposterous. Indeed, it may well be proven a&nbsp;crucial remedy.</p> </div> Neal McCluskey is director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom. Fri, 03 Apr 2020 09:10:06 -0400 Neal McCluskey The “Crack House Statute” Is Hurting the Homeless When We Most Need Them Helped <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Jeffrey A. Singer</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Mayor Muriel Bowser’s “<a href="" target="_blank">stay‐​at‐​home order</a>” to all District of Columbia residents exempts individuals who are homeless but strongly urges them to shelter while asking public and private entities to “make shelter available as soon as possible and to the extent practicable.”</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, <a href="" target="_blank">66% of people</a> who are chronically homeless have a&nbsp;substance use disorder or co‐​existing chronic disease. Another study found substance abuse or mental health disorders, or both, in <a href="" target="_blank">half</a> of the district’s homeless population. A&nbsp;great number of them are <a href="" target="_blank">unaware</a> of the coronavirus outbreak. Making matters worse, the homeless are at <a href="" target="_blank">great risk</a> for fatal outcomes from a&nbsp;COVID-19 infection because many also suffer from malnutrition, poor hygiene, and compromised immune systems.</p> <p>Yet public health facilities designed to reach this population are barred from doing so by an outdated federal law: 21 USC section 856, also called the “<a href="" target="_blank">Crack House Statute</a>.”</p> <p>These public health facilities have been around since the 1970s, saving lives in <a href="" target="_blank">more than 120 sites</a> in developed countries around the world, including Canada and Australia. They are known as safe injection facilities. Some call them overdose prevention sites.</p> <p>These centers let people addicted to intravenous drugs inject in a&nbsp;safe environment, free from the risks of theft or sexual assault, with clean needles and syringes, while staff stand nearby with the overdose antidote naloxone. These centers don’t just dramatically <a href="" target="_blank">reduce overdose deaths</a> and bring more addicted people into <a href="" target="_blank">treatment</a>, but they also reduce cases of <a href="" target="_blank">HIV and hepatitis</a> that result from needle sharing. Perhaps the greatest public health contribution these sites make in the context of epidemics and pandemics is that these sites routinely test for infectious diseases.</p> <p>People who use safe injection facilities are tested for HIV, hepatitis, and sexually transmitted diseases and referred for treatment. With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down the world’s economy, the ability to test for COVID-19 infection is key to a&nbsp;return to normalcy and economic restoration.</p> <p>Testing allows public health authorities to screen out people who are infected and contagious, even those with minimal symptoms, and isolate them from those who are not infected. This allows uninfected people to emerge from self‐​quarantine, reenter the workforce, and engage in commerce. Countries such as South Korea, Singapore, and <a href="" target="_blank">Germany</a> have employed aggressive testing to control their outbreaks, <a href="" target="_blank">allowing them to end</a> or avoid general shutdowns.</p> </div> , <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Its repeal will allow public health organizations to save not only the lives of people who suffer from addiction but of the public as a&nbsp;whole.</p> </div> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Drug addiction, particularly among the homeless, impedes social distancing. The need to get their drug overrides concerns they may have about contracting or disseminating the virus. Safe injection facilities are ideal ways to reach this population, test them for COVID-19, hospitalize or quarantine those who are infected, and start them on medication‐​assisted treatment for addiction with methadone or buprenorphine while they are in isolation. Medication‐​assisted treatment will prevent withdrawal and promote quarantine compliance. An added benefit is that many of these patients, upon release from quarantine, might choose to remain on medication‐​assisted treatment and continue rehabilitation.</p> <p>None of this is possible while the “Crack House Statute,” passed in 1986, treats these public health facilities as if they are the crack houses at which the law was originally targeted. The law makes it a&nbsp;federal felony to allow knowingly the use of illicit drugs to take place on one’s premises. A&nbsp;nonprofit group in <a href="" target="_blank">Philadelphia</a> has been fighting with the federal government to establish a&nbsp;safe injection facility there named “Safehouse.” Cities, including <a href="" target="_blank">Seattle, San Francisco, New York,</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Boston, </a>would also like to open safe injection sites.</p> <p>Mayors across the country are taking dramatic steps to control the spread of this deadly virus so life can return to normal as soon as possible. Meanwhile, a&nbsp;glaring public health impediment, the “Crack House Statute,” remains entrenched in the federal criminal code. Its repeal will allow public health organizations to save not only the lives of people who suffer from addiction but of the public as a&nbsp;whole.</p> <p>Repealing that statute is a&nbsp;public health imperative, now more than ever.</p> </div> <p>Jeffrey A. Singer, MD practices general surgery in Phoenix, Arizona, and is a&nbsp;senior fellow at the Cato Institute.</p> Thu, 02 Apr 2020 15:45:48 -0400 Jeffrey A. Singer COVID-19 Is No Excuse to Bail out Urban Transit <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Randal O&#039;Toole</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Among the many special interest groups lining up for a&nbsp;share of the trillion‐​dollar bailout bills is the transit industry. Transit agencies are&nbsp;demanding&nbsp;that Congress give them at least a $25 billion bailout. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) alone wants a&nbsp;$4 billion bailout.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Transit, however, neither needs nor deserves a&nbsp;bailout. It doesn’t need it because it already gets two‐​thirds of its operating costs from taxpayers, so it could cut service by a&nbsp;third and keep operating even if no one rode its buses and trains. Even the most efficient operations, such as the New York MTA, get almost half their operating funds from taxpayers, so they could cut service by a&nbsp;third and keep operating off tax dollars and the fares paid by those customers who are still riding.</p> <p>Nor is a&nbsp;bailout needed to help transit employees. Transit agencies tend to hire too few transit operators and then pay huge amounts in overtime. A&nbsp;few years ago, the&nbsp;New York Times&nbsp;reported&nbsp;that, thanks to overtime, more than 8,000 MTA employees earn more than $100,000 a&nbsp;year, and some more than $200,000. At the same time, the&nbsp;highest paid city employee&nbsp;in Madison, Wisconsin was a&nbsp;bus driver.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Instead of bailing out transit, it’s time to start thinking about phasing out the subsidies we give it.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The solution is for transit agencies to cut service to a&nbsp;level they can afford and keep all their employees on the payroll, but for only 40&nbsp;hours a&nbsp;week. Some employees might not be able to keep up the lavish lifestyles they’ve been living, but everyone is making sacrifices in this pandemic.</p> <p>Another reason transit doesn’t deserve a&nbsp;bailout is because it has consistently put its own interests ahead of its customers. Transit agencies in New York, Washington, Boston, and elsewhere have known for years that their infrastructure was deteriorating, yet instead of fixing it they decided to build new infrastructure that they can’t afford to maintain.</p> <p>New York decided to spend $16.8 billion on the&nbsp;Second Avenue subway&nbsp;rather than restore its existing subway system. Virginia and Maryland, which contribute to the DC Metrorail system, decided to build the $6.8 billion&nbsp;Silver Line&nbsp;and $2.5 billion&nbsp;Purple Line&nbsp;rather than maintain the core Metrorail network. Boston decided to spend $2.3 billion building a&nbsp;new&nbsp;light‐​rail line to Medford&nbsp;rather than maintain its decrepit and unsafe rail system.</p> <p>The transit industry’s approach to the recent pandemic is similarly selfish. Instead of telling people the truth—which is that they are safest traveling in their own vehicles—transit agencies have encouraged people to ignore the risks of riding transit. Denver’s Regional Transit District promises that it is “wiping down its handrails” once a&nbsp;day, which is reassuring so long as each bus and rail vehicle only carries one passenger a&nbsp;day. Seattle’s Sound Transit responded firmly to the crisis by “putting posters on vehicles&nbsp;reminding everyone” to wash their hands.</p> <p>The reality is that there’s not much room for transit in a&nbsp;world of social distancing. We saw the same problem with natural disasters, which are another reason to encourage autos over transit. When Hurricane Katrina hit, New Orleans had the second‐​lowest rate of auto ownership of any major city in the country. Those with cars got out; those who relied on transit did not. When Hurricane Rita hit a&nbsp;few weeks later, Houston, with one the nation’s highest rates of auto ownership, saw four million people successfully evacuate.</p> <p>Whether it be earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, or volcanoes, just about every part of the country is at risk of some natural disaster or another. Automobiles are the best way to get people away from such disasters and the best way to deliver emergency supplies to those who stay.</p> <p>Cars are also more energy efficient, per passenger mile, than transit in 484 out of the nation’s 488 urban areas and more climate‐​friendly in 480 out of those areas. And low‐​income people don’t particularly need transit. As a&nbsp;demographic group they&nbsp;have been shifting to driving: people who earn under $35,000 a&nbsp;year were significantly less likely to commute by transit in&nbsp;2018&nbsp;than&nbsp;2010,&nbsp;while transit’s major growth market is people who earn more than $75,000 a&nbsp;year.</p> <p>Instead of bailing out transit, it’s time to start thinking about phasing out the subsidies we give it. Private transit will still exist in those cities where people use it. But we need to stop treating transit like it is some kind of magical talisman that will solve all of our problems when in fact it is just a&nbsp;selfish special interest group that is parasitizing our cities.</p> </div> Randal O’Toole is a&nbsp;senior fellow with the Cato Institute and author of the upcoming paper, Transit: The Urban Parasite. Thu, 02 Apr 2020 12:59:36 -0400 Randal O'Toole Yemen Is Shattered and the U.S. Helped the Saudis Break It <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Five years ago the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia invaded neighboring Yemen. The conflict was supposed to be quick and simple, over in a&nbsp;few weeks. Now the once‐​haughty Saudi royals have offered a&nbsp;ceasefire, after their opponents, Houthi irregulars, captured the province of al‐​Jawf.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The conflict has created a&nbsp;horrific humanitarian crisis. Yemen, which has long been divided, impoverished, and embattled, is wrecked, and is unlikely to emerge as one complete nation. The cost has been roughly 100,000 dead in combat (nearly 20,000 of them civilians); another 130,000 dead from the consequences of the conflict; a&nbsp;million people suffering from Cholera; 20 million Yemenis facing food insecurity; sixteen million regularly hungry; and ten million at risk of famine.</p> <p>“Across the country, civilians suffer from a&nbsp;lack of basic services, a&nbsp;spiraling economic crisis, abusive local security forces, and broken governance, health, education, and judicial systems,” Human Rights Watch reported.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Even with a&nbsp;cease‐​fire on the horizon it may never recover, thanks to the stupefying Western support for the Kingdom.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The ongoing war is merely the latest interference by Saudi Arabia in the tumultuous domestic affairs of the Yemeni people. Yemen has been in crisis since its, or, more accurately, their birth. There were two Yemens until 1990, which fought, attempted to unify, fought, and finally did so. After that the continuing conflict was internalized.</p> <p>Ali Abdullah Saleh was the new state’s first president but the Saudis remained heavily involved, paying off tribes and promoting fundamentalist Sunni Wahhabism. The Shiite Houthi movement—as Zaydis they differ theologically from other Shia, such as Iranians—rose in revolt against Saleh, supported by Riyadh. The fighting continued until his overthrow in 2011 amid the Arab Spring. The Arab nationalist party eventually joined with the Houthis to oust his vice president and successor, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, in January 2015.</p> <p>None of this mattered to the U.S. or even, really, to the Saudis. President Saleh was a&nbsp;pure opportunist while the Houthis were not run by Tehran. Hadi’s ouster was not about Riyadh but reflected endlessly disruptive Yemeni politics. However, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman wanted a&nbsp;puppet in Sanaa and the Obama administration wanted to reassure the Saudis after negotiating the Iran nuclear agreement. Thus, Washington sold planes, supplied munitions, provided intelligence, and until a&nbsp;couple years ago refueled aircraft for the Saudis, directly implicating Americans in five years of conflict and war crimes.</p> <p>The Houthis are no Western liberals and dislike the U.S., but they also hate al‐​Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State. Indeed, the Saudi attack reduced pressure on America’s enemies in Yemen. While the ousted Hadi regime has cooperated with such groups, the Houthis continue to battle against them. In February the&nbsp;<em>Washington Post</em> <a href="" target="_blank">noted</a>&nbsp;that AQAP had been weakened by several factors, including continued combat with the Houthis.</p> <p>The Houthis killed Saleh after the allies had a&nbsp;falling out. They have been guilty of indiscriminate use of artillery, among other crimes. Nevertheless, human rights groups figure that two‐​thirds to three‐​quarters of the civilian damage and casualties are due to air attacks, and only the “coalition” of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have planes. These bombings have destroyed Yemen’s social and commercial infrastructure, leading to famine and disease.</p> <p>Many of these attacks on civilian targets appear to be intentional, aimed at disrupting Yemeni society. Amnesty International reported that the coalition “continued to bomb civilian infrastructure and carry out indiscriminate attacks, killing and injuring hundreds of civilians.” The examples are many. “Saudi‐​led coalition forces have carried out at least five deadly attacks on Yemeni fishing boats since 2018,” reported Human Rights Watch last August. At least 47 fishermen were killed and more than 100 were detained, some tortured. The immiserating blockade has added to the population’s hardship.</p> <p>The crimes of the coalition extend to the fight on the ground, as well. For instance, assisting jihadists including AQAP, employing brutal Sudanese militiamen, imprisoning and torturing opponents, and encouraging separatists. The latter has been a&nbsp;highlight of Abu Dhabi’s involvement. Explained Amnesty International: “The UAE for instance, even though it stated it had withdrawn from Yemen in October 2019, has been actively training, funding and arming different armed groups since mid‐ to late 2015, supporting as such the proliferation of unaccountable militias.” The Emirates also improperly transferred U.S. weapons to assorted fighters, many hostile to America.</p> <p>There also is good old‐​fashioned oppression. HRW recently released a&nbsp;report covering the governate of al‐​Mahrah: “Saudi and Saudi‐​backed forces have arbitrarily arrested demonstrators protesting the presence of Saudi forces, as well as other local residents not connected with the protests,” along with “torture, enforced disappearances, and illegal transfer of detainees to Saudi Arabia.” HRW’s Michael Page called this “another horror to add to the list of the Saudi‐​led coalition’s unlawful conduct in Yemen.”</p> <p>UAE is no better. Two years ago Amnesty International reported on Abu Dhabi’s secret prison in Aden after the city was supposedly “liberated.” The Emiratis jailed Yemenis and practiced, “detention at gunpoint, torture with electric shocks, waterboarding, hanging from the ceiling, sexual humiliation, prolonged solitary confinement, squalid conditions, inadequate food and water.”</p> <p>That the Kingdom mistreats Yemenis comes as no surprise. The royals oppress their subjects. Although Mohammad bin Salman has reduced social controls, he has tightened political restrictions. Freedom House rated the KSA as not free, earning only 1&nbsp;out of 40 points for political rights. “Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy restricts almost all political rights and civil liberties,” explained the group. Civil liberties does a&nbsp;bit better, receiving six of 60. The Saudi rating actually is below that of war‐​torn Yemen.</p> <p>And Saudi repression has been worsening: “The authorities escalated repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. They harassed, arbitrarily detained and prosecuted dozens of government critics, human rights defenders, including women’s rights activities, members of the Shi’a minority and family members of activists,” according to Amnesty International. HRW noted that “Saudi authorities stepped up their arbitrary arrests, trials, and convictions of peaceful dissidents and activists in 2018, including a&nbsp;large‐​scale coordinated crackdown against the women’s rights movement.”</p> <p>The State Department published a&nbsp;58‐​page report on the conduct of bin Salman’s government, which included: “unlawful killings, executions for nonviolent offenses, forced disappearances; torture of prisoners and detainees by government agents; arbitrary are and detention; political prisoners,” and so much more. Being outside the Kingdom offers no safety. Dissident princes living abroad have been kidnapped. Journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.</p> <p>Riyadh and Abu Dhabi want some mix of political control and commercial advantage. Their behavior is not surprising. But what explains Washington’s role in enabling this horrific violence?</p> <p>For years American presidents acted as supplicants in Riyadh, effectively renting out the U.S. military as a&nbsp;royal bodyguard. However, no outside power now threatens to conquer the Persian Gulf, which no longer has a&nbsp;stranglehold over global oil markets. Moreover, Israel is secure, the region’s dominant military power. While running for office, candidate Trump appeared to understand this, criticizing the monarchy for relying on Washington for protection.</p> <p>No longer, however. The president focused his entire Mideast policy on Riyadh’s chief enemy, Iran, added more troops to safeguard the royals from any threat, ignored shameful violations of political, civil, and religious liberties, and legitimized the Middle East’s worst dictatorship.</p> <p>Why his switch to a&nbsp;Saudi‐​first policy? The royals buy American products, especially weapons, but do so for their own gain. And they do not spend nearly enough to treat American servicemen and women as rent‐​a‐​soldiers at the beck and call of Saudi princes.</p> <p>A worse reason to subordinate U.S. interests to those of the Saudi royals is Iran. Tehran does not threaten America, which could destroy Iran several times over in retaliation for any attack. The Islamic regime remains weak economically and militarily; Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf should be able to deter any aggression. Iran is involved in Yemen because the Saudis foolishly gave Tehran an opportunity to bleed the royals.</p> <p>Washington should stay out of the Shia‐​Sunni conflict. If it was in America’s interest to get involved, the U.S. should be bombing Riyadh. The royals have promoted fundamentalist Wahhabism, which treats Jews, Christians, Shiites, and members of other faiths as the enemy, around the world, including in America. The regime attacked Yemen, kidnapped the Lebanese prime minister, underwrote Islamist insurgents in Syria, used troops to support the repressive minority Sunni monarchy against the Shia majority in Bahrain, promoted Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s brutal coup and reign in Egypt, and fueled Libya’s civil war. He has created a&nbsp;totalitarian dictatorship at home.</p> <p>At least the U.S. should stop underwriting the royal regime’s depredations elsewhere in the region, especially in Yemen. President Barack Obama, despite his liberal reputation, made America an accomplice to war crimes. Trump has continued that practice, to all Americans’ shame.</p> <p>For five years the Saudis have been murdering Yemeni civilians with Washington’s aid. The war also undermines American security. It is time for President Trump to say no more and allow the Saudis to pay the full price of their ruler’s folly.</p> </div> Doug Bandow is a&nbsp;senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He is a&nbsp;former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and author of several books, including Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire. Thu, 02 Apr 2020 08:56:17 -0400 Doug Bandow The COVID-19 Crisis Demands Vigilance in More Ways than One <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Michael D. Tanner</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>War&nbsp;is the health of the state,” warned writer and anti‐​war activist Randolph Bourne more than a&nbsp;century ago. The same, he might have said, holds for those crises that are in many ways the equivalent of war, such as economic depressions or mass pandemics. Certainly, faced with both the COVID-19 contagion and the associated economic washout, there are things we want the government to do, from public‐​health measures to short‐​term economic interventions. The growth of the state at times like this is mostly inevitable.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>On the other hand, sooner or later this crisis will end. We will get the coronavirus under control, and the economy will begin to recover. Many of the measures we are taking today will no longer be needed and may in fact become counterproductive.</p> <p>Unfortunately, history suggests that the government is usually reluctant to shed its newfound powers after a&nbsp;crisis has passed. The Great Depression, World Wars I&nbsp;and II, the Cold War, and the 2008 financial crisis, to cite just a&nbsp;few examples, all left us with a&nbsp;permanently larger state. And the governmental aftereffects of this crisis could be even worse.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>We must do everything possible to ensure that the extraordinary policies enacted to fight the pandemic today don’t become a&nbsp;danger to us tomorrow.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The Federal Reserve warns that we may see unemployment topping 30 percent, and banks have forecast GDP declining by an annualized rate of as much as 34 percent this quarter. Despite President Trump’s hopes, it is unlikely that the economy will quickly or easily bounce back to its previous health. But its recovery will be far more robust and happen far more quickly if we can preserve a&nbsp;dynamic and entrepreneurial form of capitalism. It is important, therefore, that the measures we put in place now not become an excuse to unduly burden businesses struggling to recover later.</p> <p>Already, there are ominous warning signs on that front. The $2.2 trillion economic‐​relief package passed by Congress may have been justified as a&nbsp;response to extraordinary circumstances, especially government orders shutting down many businesses. But the assistance it contains is not particularly well‐​targeted. Bailouts for many big companies put the government in the position of picking winners and losers. Favored industries such as airlines and defense contractors have been singled out for assistance, as have politically important groups such as farmers.&nbsp;What’s more, much of this aid comes with new rules and regulations that enable the government to micromanage business operations. And perhaps worst of all, the government is expected to actually take a&nbsp;shareholder stake in some of the businesses being given a&nbsp;lifeline, such as airlines.</p> <p>Beyond those concerns, there is the long‐​term cost of piling new debt on top of old. When the economy was booming, neither Congress nor the Trump administration took any steps to rein in spending or the debt. Now, faced with an emergency, we’ve tossed another $2.2 trillion into the already‐​deep pool of red ink. Throw in lower revenue from a&nbsp;faltering economy, and there will almost certainly be economic repercussions down the road.</p> <p>It is not just our economy that is threatened by bigger government. We must also be careful to safeguard our civil liberties in the face of government expansion. Governments around the world have increased their willingness and ability to conduct mass surveillance in response to the coronavirus crisis. Government measures to curtail travel or limit public gatherings may be justified, but unless we remain vigilant, they could easily morph into something much more dangerous down the road. Some jurisdictions have used the epidemic as an end run around constitutional guarantees, whether closing abortion providers or limiting firearm purchases. And, there have been reports that the Department of Justice and state legal authorities have considered expanded pretrial detention.</p> <p>While dangers abound, the news isn’t all bad. For example, the government has found it necessary to pause or abandon numerous existing regulations, from FDA‐​approval to occupational‐​licensing requirements. Americans may well decide that few of these regulations were needed in the first place and scrap them permanently. And it may become harder to demonize businesses that have stepped up to help fight the pandemic once life returns to normal.</p> <p>The coronavirus has forced us to make some very difficult choices, sacrificing our economic dynamism and our liberties to save thousands or perhaps millions of lives. But eventually, the crisis will end. We must be very careful that the actions we take today, however necessary, don’t become a&nbsp;danger to us tomorrow.</p> </div> Michael Tanner is a&nbsp;senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">The Inclusive Economy: How to Bring Wealth to America’s Poor</a>. Wed, 01 Apr 2020 15:37:52 -0400 Michael D. Tanner To Help Solve the Surgical Mask Shortage, Get the FDA out of the Way <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Paul Matzko</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>The United States faces a&nbsp;dire shortage of personal protective equipment, especially the surgical masks and respirators that help prevent airborne transmission of the COVID-19 virus from infected patients to the medical professionals treating them. The shortage has left doctors and nurses resorting to desperate measures, like washing and reusing masks intended for single‐​use and discard. In early March, Health and Human Services official Dr. Robert Kadlec&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">estimated</a>&nbsp;that 3.5 billion masks would be needed during the pandemic, but the U.S, had merely 1% of that number on hand.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Given that demand for surgical‐​grade masks has spiked, why hasn’t supply followed suit? While this may sound at first like a&nbsp;failure of the market, the blame for this crisis lies with a&nbsp;set of onerous regulations enacted by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA just took steps to fix this problem, but it took far too long.</p> <p>Although some manufacturers have begun producing masks to donate to local hospitals, the production falls far short of the billions needed in this crisis. Surely, the manufacture of masks — some of which cost less than a&nbsp;dollar to purchase — is a&nbsp;relatively simple thing. Shouldn’t factories across the county, facing slackened consumer demand for their usual products, easily be able to retool to produce masks in massive quantities?</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Donation stories play well on the 5&nbsp;o’clock news, but a&nbsp;functioning market for the sale of masks will be necessary to meaningfully address the shortage of surgical masks.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The barrier to ramping up production is the fact that the FDA considers masks to be medical devices and subjects them to surprisingly strict regulatory standards. For a&nbsp;manufacturer to produce a&nbsp;mask and bring it to market, it must pass through a&nbsp;battery of tests, submit a&nbsp;long and detailed report to the FDA, and then wait potentially months for approval. These rules erect a&nbsp;high barrier against market entry for producing surgical masks, and delays of even weeks or months are significant when the virus replicates on a&nbsp;timeline measured by hours and days.</p> <p>To understand why these rules are such a&nbsp;problem, consider the FDA’s “premarket notification”&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">guidelines</a>&nbsp;for masks. First, you must describe the device and its intended use, including drawings, for which you will want to hire someone with fluency in bureaucratese and knowledge of the various regulations. Then, you will need to hire a&nbsp;team of materials scientists and medical researchers to perform a&nbsp;series of tests on your prototype masks. They will need to make “side by side” compositional comparisons between your mask and all masks currently on the market. You must prove that each of the hundreds of individual choices made when designing your masks — from any of dozens of different kinds of fibers, patterns of weave, color, type of elastic, and such — will enhance its “comparative safety and performance.”</p> <p>At this point, you might want to consider acquiring a&nbsp;new office annex to house the scientists you have hired to conduct risk analysis of whether the mask allows sufficient fluid and air exchange, is an adequate barrier to bacteria, isn’t dangerously flammable, nor is it prone to causing allergic reactions. Each of these steps has its own detailed guidelines to follow, forcing you to wade through documents with titles like the “ASTM F&nbsp;1215–89” standard or the “MIL-M-36945C Method 1&nbsp;Military Specifications: Surgical Mask.”</p> <p>Then there’s the wait. The&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">average</a>&nbsp;wait time for a&nbsp;medical device approval of this kind is half a&nbsp;year, delaying release of the mask until late September. If six months does not seem overly long, consider what damage was done by the FDA&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">delaying</a>&nbsp;COVID-19 testing rollout by about six weeks earlier this year.</p> <p>These “premarket notification” rules don’t prevent manufacturers from making masks for donation. But donation, while commendable, is not a&nbsp;sustainable way to meet spiking demand, to build out a&nbsp;supply chain that lasts for the duration, or to avoid additional worker layoffs.</p> <p>Donation stories play well on the 5&nbsp;o’clock news, but a&nbsp;functioning market for the sale of masks will be necessary to meaningfully address the shortage of surgical masks. The FDA does not hold donated masks to the same standards as masks that are sold, yet many hospitals are greeting these unregulated, donated masks with welcome arms. In our current crisis, any mask is preferable to wearing none at all or being forced to re‐​wear soiled or secondhand masks. It is important that we not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.</p> <p>Frustration over the shortages has led some to call for the federal government to use its emergency powers under the Defense Production Act to seize control of the means of mask production, temporarily nationalizing factories and ordering them to produce PPE in sufficient quantities. It might work, but it is a&nbsp;brute force measure that would entail significant economic disruption and political corruption.</p> <p>On March 26, the FDA&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">announced</a>&nbsp;that it would no longer enforce these premarket notification rules for the duration of the declared public emergency (although the ambiguity in saying that the agency “does not intend to object” to their sale falls short of an actual suspension of the rules). Better late than never, but this likely won’t be the last time bureaucracy gets in the way of public health.</p> </div> Dr. Paul Matzko is the assistant editor for tech and innovation at Lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org and the Cato Institute. Wed, 01 Apr 2020 15:31:10 -0400 Paul Matzko China’s Coronavirus Policy Will Impact the U.S. Presidential Election <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Normally, foreign policy does not play a&nbsp;large role in U.S. presidential elections. The exception is when the country is mired in a&nbsp;major, increasingly unpopular war, as it was in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq. Such situations can cost incumbent presidents or their designated successors dearly, greatly strengthening the opposition party’s prospects. Otherwise, though, domestic issues are the dominant focus of campaigns.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>2020 is shaping‐​up to be one of the few exceptions. Although the public may regard the U.S. military presence in such places as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria with growing weariness and annoyance, it is not a&nbsp;high‐​profile grievance. The rest of Washington’s foreign policy generates the usual lack of public interest—with one exception: the mounting annoyance with China. The coronavirus pandemic has emerged as a&nbsp;catalyst for greater public suspicions about Beijing’s behavior and motives. Increasingly, those suspicions are leading to outright hostility—especially among American conservatives. That development could significantly boost President Trump’s re‐​election bid and create a&nbsp;major disadvantage for (virtually certain) Democratic nominee Joe Biden.</p> <p>An increasingly&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">prominent narrative</a>&nbsp;in the United States is that not only did the pandemic originate in China, but that&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Chinese officials withheld key information</a>&nbsp;for weeks that could have enabled other countries to adopt measures that would have greatly impeded the spread of the deadly virus. Key conservative opinion leaders, such as Fox News host Sean Hannity and&nbsp;<a href=";id=1332" target="_blank">Senator Tom Cotton</a>&nbsp;(R‑AR),&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">harp</a>&nbsp;on that narrative constantly, and it has even gained a&nbsp;sizable presence among&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">mainstream experts</a>&nbsp;and media outlets. Conservatives routinely refer to the coronavirus as the “<a href="" target="_blank">Wuhan virus</a>,” or even the “<a href="" target="_blank">Chinese virus</a>,” in an effort to whip‐​up greater public resentment against Beijing.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Trump has positioned himself to go on the offensive.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>President Trump’s decision in late January to greatly restrict travel from China places him in an excellent position to tout the importance of that move in preventing the coronavirus outbreak in the United States from being worse than it has been. Leading Democrats now assert that the Trump administration was slow to understand the seriousness of the emerging pandemic and develop adequate countermeasures (such as sufficient testing supplies and procedures). But their own reaction to Trump’s imposition of the China travel restrictions undercuts their argument.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Biden</a>&nbsp;and other major Democratic figures condemned Trump’s move as a&nbsp;manifestation of hysteria and xenophobia.</p> <p>As the pandemic exploded, they quickly changed the nature of their criticism, and the generally accommodating news media in the United States downplayed the party’s initial position on the issue. However, Trump and his allies are already working to publicize the blunder. Biden is likely to find his early comments coming back to haunt him when Republican campaign ads flood the airways as the election draws closer.</p> <p>Ill‐​considered statements from some PRC officials have infuriated a&nbsp;growing number of Americans and make Biden’s task even more difficult. Attempting to shift the blame for the global pandemic onto the United States, the Chinese government and state media began to promote the ugly allegation that Washington may have&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">initiated the pandemic</a>&nbsp;as part of a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">bioweapons program</a>. Stories appeared in China’s media citing the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">attendance of U.S. Army personnel</a>&nbsp;at athletic games in Wuhan in October 2019, shortly before the first signs of the coronavirus began to appear. A&nbsp;furious Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced the Chinese government&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">for making such allegations</a>. Beijing’s propaganda offensive also&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">highlights China’s global leadership</a>&nbsp;in combatting the virus, while asserting or implying that U.S. leadership and assistance has been lacking.</p> <p>If he criticizes the Trump administration’s international leadership, Biden runs the risk of appearing to echo Chinese propaganda. At the very least, adopting that line of argument will be very difficult. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, influential Republicans and pro‐​GOP journalists sought to cast suspicions about the nature and extent of the Biden family’s economic interests in China. Critics argued that Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, was not only implicated in dubious connections and practices in Ukraine involving the Burisma energy company, but that&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">his links to China</a>&nbsp;were&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">even more wide‐​ranging and suspect</a>.</p> <p>It matters less whether such allegations are true or not than whether they will be effective politically. Trump has repeatedly emphasized that he wants good relations with Beijing, but that he’s determined to stand up to PRC leaders regarding what he considers unfair Chinese policies on trade, intellectual property rights, currency issues, and other matters. He has systematically cultivated the image of being a&nbsp;tough negotiator determined to protect American interests. In reality, he has few major achievements to show for his efforts. Even the Phase 1&nbsp;trade agreement with China was&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">just a&nbsp;modest gain</a>&nbsp;for U.S objectives.</p> <p>While the substantive policy achievements may be meager, the image of toughness toward China is likely to prove useful during the presidential campaign. Trump has positioned himself to go on the offensive. Conversely, Biden is not in a&nbsp;good position to portray himself in that way. His lengthy track record is one of favoring robust trade and investment relations with China on terms that&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">critics see as too accommodating</a>&nbsp;to Beijing’s preferences. Indeed, Biden may be vulnerable to allegations that his attitudes about relations with China are excessively solicitous and perhaps even corrupt. It remains to be seen just how important the issue of U.S. relations with China will be in the 2020 election, but whatever their importance, Trump certainly appears to the beneficiary.</p> </div> Ted Galen Carpenter, a&nbsp;senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute and a&nbsp;contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author of 12 books and more than 850 articles on international affairs. Wed, 01 Apr 2020 09:10:11 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter States Should Give Businesses the Flexibility to Reopen Amid Coronavirus Pandemic <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Chris Edwards</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>President Trump is eager for businesses to reopen, now&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">setting a&nbsp;goal</a>&nbsp;of the end of April. Former Vice President Biden is pushing the opposite way, saying&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">he wants</a>&nbsp;an immediate nationwide stay‐​at‐​home order to slow the spread of COVID-19.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Trump can’t flip a&nbsp;switch to turn on businesses because they are closed voluntarily or by state mandate, and Biden’s order is too rigid and oversteps federal authority. And the initial federal‐​monopoly strategy to virus testing&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">failed disastrously</a>&nbsp;because it didn’t harness the innovation of private industry.</p> <p>Policy makers should recognize that America’s strength is decentralized decision‐​making, including federalism in government policy and diversity in private‐​sector strategies. State governments should make the decisions on business shutdowns, but they should allow businesses flexibility to reopen if they can in a&nbsp;safe manner.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>The focus in coming weeks should be on narrowing the breadth of shutdowns if businesses can find ways to reopen safely.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The U.S. economy is falling over a&nbsp;cliff. Output is plunging and unemployment jumped by&nbsp;<a href="">3.3 million people</a>&nbsp;last week, which is the largest jump ever. The president signed a $2.2 trillion aid bill that provides relief payments but will not stop the crash in output. The payments come at the expense of higher taxes and lower incomes down the road, which will ultimately hit young people already burdened with $24 trillion in federal debt.</p> <p>Each governor is making this tradeoff based on local conditions, with about half of them imposing broad‐​based shutdowns of nonessential businesses. Gov. Gavin Newsom&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">foresees</a>&nbsp;continuing California’s shutdown for up to three months, which would impose a&nbsp;crushing economic blow. Broad shutdowns ignore that every business has a&nbsp;unique layout and operations, and they don’t allow firms to experiment and find ways to reopen safely.</p> <p>Furthermore, mandates separating “essential” from “nonessential” businesses ignore the fact that industries are interconnected. The essential hospital and food industries need inputs from many other industries such as plastics, metals, paper, chemicals, energy, software, and transportation. Broad‐​based shutdowns extended too long will cause shortages unforeseen by officials.</p> <p>Every option we face is bad, but the focus in coming weeks should be on narrowing the breadth of shutdowns if businesses can find ways to reopen safely. Going into the crisis, American businesses responded faster than the government—and many closed down voluntarily. In coming weeks, state governments should start giving them leeway to open back up if they can incorporate social distancing and extra safety precautions.</p> <p>Economists Paul Romer, a&nbsp;Nobel Prize winner, and Alan Garber, the provost of Harvard University,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">argue</a>&nbsp;that we should move “to a&nbsp;targeted approach that limits the spread of the virus but still lets most people go back to work and resume their daily activities.” They advocate widespread and repeated virus testing to pinpoint where the strongest social distancing measures are needed combined with broad distribution of safety equipment.</p> <p>Rapid advances are making a&nbsp;targeted approach possible. The production of safety equipment such as&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">masks</a>&nbsp;is soaring. The nation’s labs have ramped up to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">more than 100,000 virus tests a&nbsp;day</a>, and Abbott Labs&nbsp;<a data-track-hover="QuotePeek" data-charting-symbol="STOCK/US/XNYS/ABT" href="" target="_blank">ABT,&nbsp;1.347%</a>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">just won approval</a>&nbsp;for a&nbsp;test that can give results in five minutes. Meanwhile,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">dozens of drug companies</a>&nbsp;are pouring resources into a&nbsp;diversity of possible COVID-19 treatments.</p> <p>Widespread testing will keep us on top of regional outbreaks of COVID-19 as it bounces around the country over the next year or more before a&nbsp;vaccine is available. We will need to rely on the less‐​afflicted regions to keep the nation’s economic engine running. The Trump administration has&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the right idea in localizing our response</a>&nbsp;based on county‐​level data, but local responses should be handled by the states—not the bungling federal government. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, for example, just announced tougher stay‐​home policies&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">targeting just the hardest‐​hit counties</a>&nbsp;in the southeast of his state.</p> <p>Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush favors a&nbsp;decentralized emergency response. He&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">wrote</a>&nbsp;the other day:</p> <p>“The federal government’s inability to respond quickly and effectively to the coronavirus is creating a&nbsp;newfound respect for local initiatives, private‐​sector creativity, personal responsibility and civic engagement. Let us hope that Washington loosens its grip on policy and allows federalism to bloom.”</p> <p>He is right, and in parallel state governments should plan to start loosening their grip on businesses to avoid the health disaster turning into an economic disaster. With federal financial help to rapidly deploy widespread testing, states will be able to narrow the scope of shutdowns and allow creative safety solutions to bloom in the private sector.</p> </div> Chris Edwards is an economist at the Cato Institute. Tue, 31 Mar 2020 11:51:48 -0400 Chris Edwards How Coronavirus Tensions Sicken U.S.-China Relations <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) were not in great shape even before the coronavirus outbreak erupted. Washington and Beijing had been waging a&nbsp;trade war since the earliest months of Donald Trump’s administration, and despite reaching agreement on phase one of a&nbsp;new trade deal late last year, the two governments are still far apart on the remaining issues. Other grievances were becoming prominent as well. PRC leaders were especially suspicious and angry about the escalating congressional and White House support for Taiwan, including new weapons sales and enactment of the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Taiwan Travel Act</a>&nbsp;(TTA) authorizing high‐​level security officials to meet with their Taiwanese counterparts.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>National Security Adviser John Bolton then met with David Lee, Secretary‐​General of Taiwan’s National Security Council, in May 2019. That meeting was the first of its kind since Washington shifted formal diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing four decades earlier, and the PRC government&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">protested vehemently</a>.</p> <p>Disagreements about other issues grew worse as well. China’s warnings against the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">accelerating pace</a>&nbsp;of US naval operations in the South China Sea were becoming&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">ever more strident</a>. Washington’s complaints about Beijing’s extraordinarily broad territorial claims in that body of water, combined with the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">construction of military installations</a>&nbsp;on so‐​called artificial islands (land built up on partially submerged reefs), likewise became more pointed. American public opinion was turning&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">more negative toward China</a>&nbsp;because of the trade disputes, the PRC government’s&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">rising authoritarianism at home</a>, its deteriorating human rights record toward the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Uighur minority</a>, and its&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">heavy‐​handed attempt</a>&nbsp;to reduce Hong Kong’s political autonomy.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Both sides deserve blame for cynically seeking to score cheap points in a&nbsp;propaganda contest.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The growing tensions resulting from all of those issues already were bad enough, but exchanges of nasty accusations over responsibility for the coronavirus pandemic and related issues have deepened an&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">acrimonious global rivalry</a>. The animosity now threatens to turn the bilateral relationship utterly toxic.</p> <p>An increasingly&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">prominent narrative</a>&nbsp;in the United States is that not only did the pandemic originate in China, but that&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Chinese officials withheld key information</a>&nbsp;for weeks that could have enabled other countries to adopt measures impeding the spread of the deadly virus. Key conservative opinion leaders, such as Fox News host Sean Hannity and Arkansas Republican&nbsp;<a href=";id=1332" target="_blank">Senator Tom Cotton</a>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">harp</a>&nbsp;on that narrative constantly. It has even gained some traction with&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">mainstream experts</a>&nbsp;and media outlets that spurn the more extreme allegations about China’s responsibility.</p> <p>Conservatives also routinely refer to the coronavirus as the “<a href="" target="_blank">Wuhan virus</a>,” or even the “<a href="" target="_blank">Chinese virus</a>,” in an effort to whip‐​up greater public resentment against Beijing. President Trump himself has used the latter label.&nbsp;His comment and its implications about China’s guilt, in turn, enraged the Chinese government and public. Beijing&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">demanded that Trump apologize</a>&nbsp;for adopting the “Chinese virus” term, but he refused to do so.</p> <p>The quarrel over terminology is just the surface layer of the mounting rhetorical war between Washington and Beijing regarding coronavirus issues. In a&nbsp;mid‐​March article published in&nbsp;<em>Xinhua</em>, the official Chinese news agency, one PRC official both alarmed and infuriated Americans when he&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">seemed to threaten</a>&nbsp;that his country might impose export controls to withhold antibiotics and other life‐​saving drugs from American consumers. Those controls, he stated, would&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">plunge America</a>&nbsp;“into the mighty sea of coronavirus.”</p> <p>The apparent threat focused public attention in the United States about how the country is heavily dependent (in excess of 80 percent) on pharmaceutical ingredients from China. The heightened realization is driving a&nbsp;concerted public and congressional campaign to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">reduce that dependency</a>&nbsp;on a&nbsp;less‐​than‐​friendly foreign power. Worries that Beijing might “weaponize” its control over prescription drugs&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">predated</a>&nbsp;the coronavirus outbreak, but they now became far more acute.</p> <p>The bilateral war of words is escalating on multiple fronts. In an attempt to shift the blame for the global pandemic onto the United States, the Chinese government and state media began to promote the ugly assertion that Washington may have&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">initiated the pandemic</a>&nbsp;as part of a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">bioweapons program</a>. Stories appeared in China’s media emphasizing the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">attendance of U.S. Army personnel</a>&nbsp;at athletic games in Wuhan in October 2019, just before the first signs of the coronavirus began to appear. An enraged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced the Chinese government&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">for making such allegations</a>.</p> <p>Since then, Chinese officials have made inconsistent, if not contradictory, statements about the subject. Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the United States, dismissed bio‐​warfare theories as “<a href="" target="_blank">crazy</a>.” His comments were a&nbsp;direct challenge to the conspiracy theory that&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Senator Cotton continued to promote</a>&nbsp;about an alleged Chinese program. Conservative news outlets in the United States, such as the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank"><em>Washington Times</em></a>&nbsp;and the British tabloid&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Daily Mail</em></a>, also suggested that the virus might have been developed as part of China’s bio‐​warfare program.</p> <p>Cui Tiankai’s sneering dismissal of the bioweapon theory was directed at Cotton and other American conspiracy promoters, but they implicitly had equal applicability to similar theories that the Chinese press was circulating. Despite his depiction, though, the assertion has not disappeared from PRC media accounts, and the Chinese press refers to the “<a href="" target="_blank">American coronavirus</a>.”</p> <p>Beijing’s propaganda campaign regarding the coronavirus also has a&nbsp;more subtle aspect. Much of campaign seeks to polish the PRC’s credentials and denigrate Washington’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Chinese media prominently&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">highlight China’s global leadership</a>&nbsp;in combatting the virus, emphasizing the amount of aid that Beijing has given to vulnerable countries – especially those in the developing world. But even that campaign exhibits an implicit anti‐​US focus. Such stories assert or imply that US leadership and assistance has been woefully lacking.</p> <p>If there is a&nbsp;bright spot in the war of words between Washington and Beijing, it is that bilateral cooperation on the coronavirus problem has continued despite the rhetorical animosity. President Trump has even&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">backed away</a>&nbsp;from using the ill‐​advised term “China virus” to describe the disease. For its part, the PRC has improved its transparency after a&nbsp;very bad start when it sought to conceal the extent and spread of the disease within China and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">spurned offers of assistance</a>&nbsp;from the United States. More recently, Beijing has allowed experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to come to China to gain information and offer insights and suggestions.</p> <p>Still, it is likely that the public acrimony over the coronavirus issue has done&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">additional damage</a>&nbsp;to an already fragile and deteriorating bilateral relationship. Both sides deserve blame for cynically seeking to score cheap points in a&nbsp;propaganda contest. The coronavirus outbreak should have underscored the need for and advantage of greater cooperation. Unfortunately, it appears to have done the opposite.</p> </div> Ted Galen Carpenter, a&nbsp;senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute and a&nbsp;contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author of 12 books and more than 850 articles on international affairs. Tue, 31 Mar 2020 09:05:06 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter Preventing Liberty from Becoming a Coronavirus Fatality <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="text-default"> <p>Public attitudes about the coronavirus outbreak increasingly exhibit features of a&nbsp;collective panic. That development creates the danger that government measures designed to deal with a&nbsp;very real public health problem may lead to enormous collateral damage both to the economy and the freedoms that Americans take for granted.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Governments at all levels have taken ever more extreme (even outrageous) actions in an effort to stem the outbreak. The governors of <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">New York</a>, <a href="">California</a>, and other states have issued orders closing most private businesses and requiring residents not engaged in “essential” activities to remain in their homes. Nevada’s governor <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">greatly restricted</a> doctors from prescribing an anti‐​malaria drug that Trump administration experts suggested held promise for treating coronavirus, because in the governor’s opinion, such prescriptions might lead to hoarding. U.S. Justice Department officials secretly asked Congress to give the executive branch the authority to seek orders from federal judges <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">to detain indefinitely</a> any individual during the current emergency or any future one.</p> <p>Although appalling, such attempted eviscerations of constitutional liberties should not be surprising. Governments invariably exploit crises to expand their powers—often to a&nbsp;dangerous degree. That certainly has been the track record in the United States <a href=";qid=1584391561&amp;s=books&amp;sr=1-4" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">throughout our history</a>. Worse, a&nbsp;significant residue of expanded powers always persists after the crisis recedes and life supposedly returns to normal.</p> <p>Most, but not all, of the abuses and unhealthy expansions of power have occurred during wartime. World War I&nbsp;led to statutes and executive orders that still haunt us more than a&nbsp;century later. For example, various administrations have used the Espionage Act of 1917 to punish whistleblowers and intimidate investigative journalists. Barack Obama’s administration even waged a&nbsp;campaign to harass and intimidate journalists who published leaked material. Officials conducted electronic surveillance of both <em>New York Times</em> reporter James Risen and <em>Fox News</em> correspondent James Rosen in an effort to identify their sources. The government named Rosen as <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">an “unindicted co‐​conspirator”</a> in an espionage case brought against his source. The administration asserted that it had the right to prosecute Risen, even though it chose not to take that step.</p> <p>Later presidents used other laws passed during World War I&nbsp;in ways the legislators who enacted them never contemplated. For example, in August 1971 Richard Nixon declared a&nbsp;national emergency <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">under the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917</a> to impose import tariffs, close the gold window for international payments, and establish domestic wage and price controls.</p> <p>World War II produced additional abuses and dangerous precedents. The most alarming example was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order putting Japanese Americans in “relocation centers” (concentration camps). In an especially shameful ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">upheld the legality of his action</a>. That decision is not just a&nbsp;matter of academic or historical interest. Later administrations developed <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">contingency plans</a> along the lines of FDR’s infamous executive order. In the aftermath of the 9–11 terrorist attacks, suggestions surfaced that Muslim aliens (and even Muslim‐​American citizens) should be subjected to <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">internment measures</a> as part of the war on terror.</p> <p>During the Korean War, President Harry Truman expanded the number and scope of executive orders, further enlarging the power of the presidency—a power surge that already had reached troubling levels under Woodrow Wilson and FDR. Truman’s most flagrant initiative was his attempt to <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">seize control of the nation’s steel mills</a> as a&nbsp;wartime measure. Fortunately, on that occasion the Supreme Court fulfilled its constitutional duty and <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">struck down</a> his dangerous executive power grab.</p> <p>More recently, the policy responses to the 9–11 terrorist attacks included that 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), ostensibly to wage war against Al Qaida and its allies. However, the AUMF became a&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">veritable blank check</a> for presidents to wage wars anytime, anywhere, for any reasons those presidents deemed appropriate. Domestically, the response to 9–11 included the so‐​called Patriot Act and its <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">legendary erosions</a> of the 4th Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as the <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">weakening</a> of other substantive and due process rights guaranteed in the Constitution. That measure was a&nbsp;crucial building block in the growth of the current pervasive surveillance state.</p> <p>Wars and other “national emergencies” produced an array of lesser, but still undesirable, expansions of governmental power and the narrowing of individual rights. For example, the federal government’s response to the economic and financial dislocations of the Great Depression included Roosevelt’s executive order <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">banning the private ownership of gold</a>. That annoying limitation continued until the mid‐​1970s.</p> <p>The historical record also demonstrates that “temporary” measures enacted to deal with a&nbsp;specific crisis frequently prove to be anything but temporary. One insidiously corrosive “temporary” change was the establishment of the <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">withholding provision to the federal income tax</a> during World War II. That temporary measure is still with us, and the effect has been revolutionary. Paying the tax in installments that show up as nothing more than an entry on an employee’s paycheck stub disguises the extent of the actual tax burden on that individual and reduces the emotional impact.</p> <p>The fundamental lesson from these historical episodes is that Americans need to resist the casual expansion of arbitrary governmental power in response to the current coronavirus crisis. New local and state governmental assaults on civil liberties came early and already are disturbingly plentiful. In early March, authorities around the United States ordered schools to close and ether prohibited large‐​scale public events or pressured the sponsors to take such action. A&nbsp;growing number of jurisdictions soon went further. San Francisco ordered residents to “<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">shelter in place</a>,” barring them from engaging in any “nonessential” activity outside their own homes. All of this occurred before California Governor Gavin Newsom and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo set a&nbsp;new, even more intrusive pattern by ordering statewide lockdowns.</p> <p>Beyond the trampling of property rights and other crucial liberties, the coronavirus episode has led to worrisome erosions of the democratic political process. Louisiana and Georgia were the first states to cancel primary elections, citing the danger of contagion among polling place crowds. Other states, including Ohio and Maryland, soon followed</p> <p>Both the nature and scope of the expanding restrictions should alarm all defenders of liberty. In mid‐​March, North Carolina went beyond shutting down individual enterprises or even types of businesses; authorities there <a href=";utm_medium=email&amp;utm_source=alert&amp;wpisrc=al_news__alert-local--alert-national&amp;wpmk=1" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">placed most of the Outer Banks off limits to tourists</a> and other outsiders. Police established checkpoints to examine identifications and required special permits for access. There is more than a&nbsp;small echo in that measure of the ubiquitous police or military checkpoints and “show your papers” demands that countries in the old Soviet bloc implemented, and various dictatorships around the world require today. It’s an ominous policy and image.</p> <p>Sentiments in favor of comprehensive lockdowns to halt the spread of the virus reflect understandable emotions, but panic is always a&nbsp;poor basis for policy decisions. The economic costs of such radical responses to the coronavirus outbreak are enormous, and the damage to basic liberties ultimately may prove even worse. Ugly, potentially dangerous precedents are being set left and right. In virtually every case, officials imposed restrictions without any provisions for appeal—or even public comment. Worse, they did not seem to recognize any limits to their power with respect to a&nbsp;health crisis. The steps taken to date go far beyond the longstanding authority of local governments to impose quarantines on individuals or families diagnosed with certain highly contagious diseases. Entire cities and states are now being put on similar lockdowns, even though the overwhelming majority of residents show no signs of coronavirus</p> <p>Worries about expansive government diktats and precedents are especially warranted if the coronavirus outbreak is neither unique nor a&nbsp;crisis of short duration. Originally, there was a&nbsp;pervasive assumption that the emergency would last only a&nbsp;few weeks, and then life in America (as well as other countries) would return to normal. But in Trump’s March 16 press conference, both the president and his health policy advisers indicated that the outbreak might <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">last until July or August</a>. Some experts in Britain fear that it could last <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">until spring 2021</a>.</p> <p>That possibility creates some very serious concerns. There is no realistic way that a&nbsp;complex, inter‐​connected market economy can operate effectively for an extended period of time with a&nbsp;country—or even major portions of it–on lockdown. A&nbsp;similar problem arises if the coronavirus does not prove to be a&nbsp;one‐​time visitor, but resembles influenza outbreaks that ebb and flow each year. In addition to the adverse economic consequences, forcibly cocooned populations will have every justification to become furious if arbitrary bureaucratic edicts repeatedly uproot their lives.</p> <p>There is an imperative reason to monitor and curb some of policy precedents being set. Future overcautious or egotistical public officials will be tempted to impose drastic measures even in response to lesser health or other emergencies. Government orders closing private businesses fundamentally alter the relationship between individuals and the state in a&nbsp;dangerous fashion. Travel restrictions that confine people to their homes or bar them from specific areas are further cause for alarm. Such restrictions always have been a&nbsp;hallmark of authoritarian political systems. Likewise, the postponement of elections is unsettling. Giving incumbent officials such authority creates an obvious potential for abuse—especially if the incumbents face the prospect of electoral defeat. Perhaps worst of all is the possibility of the federal government being able to seek the indefinite detention of people based on nothing more than a&nbsp;Justice Department request and a&nbsp;compliant judge’s order.</p> <p>Given the historical record of how previous emergencies spawned corrosive policies that continue to menace basic freedoms years or decades later, it is urgent to seek effective curbs on the growing abuses of power in the current crisis. We must resist being stampeded into endorsing whatever policies self‐​interested officials insist are necessary. Benjamin Franklin observed that “those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a&nbsp;little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Americans must keep that wise admonition in mind during and after the coronavirus crisis.</p> </div> <p>Ted Galen Carpenter is a&nbsp;senior fellow for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. Dr. Carpenter is the author of seven books and the editor of ten books on international affairs.</p> Mon, 30 Mar 2020 15:20:09 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter Donald Trump Needs to Focus on Coronavirus (Not Fighting with China and the EU) <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Just as the Trump administration disastrously mishandled testing for COVID-19, so too are administration officials botching their response internationally. Last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo managed to simultaneously discourage cooperation with China and Europe. It was a&nbsp;bravura performance.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>America and Europe are in the throes of the crisis which the People’s Republic of China endured during the first two months of the year. Infections, hospitalizations, and deaths rocket upward. Equipment and supply shortages hamper treatment. Policymakers disagree over the next steps to take, especially when to ease economic restrictions.</p> <p>Saving lives, finding long‐​term treatments and vaccines, and preparing economic recovery should be Washington’s top priorities. Its allies, certainly, as well as the PRC and most other nations, share these objectives. That should have topped the list for the recent meeting of G‑7 foreign ministers via video conference.</p> <p>The G‑7 is made up of the seven Western, industrialized states with the largest economies: U.S., Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Canada. America now has the world’s largest coronavirus caseload. German society has publicly shut down. Infections and deaths in the UK have reached critical levels. Casualties are rising rapidly in France. Italy is in genuine crisis, though deaths finally appear to have peaked. Only Canada remains relatively unscathed; even there, the prime minister’s wife was infected and the government closed the nation’s borders.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Just as the Trump administration disastrously mishandled testing for COVID-19, so too are administration officials botching their response internationally.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Everyone agreed on the need to work together, but the ministers could not agree on a&nbsp;communique. A&nbsp;similar meeting of G‑7 finance ministers and central bank heads the day before had no such problem. It seems Pompeo would not agree to any statement that did not label COVID-19 as the “Wuhan virus.”</p> <p>Obviously, cooperation can proceed without a&nbsp;communique. However, the result highlighted Western disunity. Moreover, Pompeo’s performance reflected a&nbsp;hostile attitude that discourages cooperation with the Chinese and Europeans. Such myopia is unconscionable at a&nbsp;time when Americans are dying, the economy is moribund, and American society is locked down.</p> <p>At his post‐​meeting press conference—there was no joint session—he said that the “Wuhan virus” was “the most pressing agenda item.” He reported that the attendees agreed to fight the disease “with transparency, as is necessary around the world.” He then purported to speak for his missing colleagues: “Every one of the nations that was at that meeting this morning was deeply aware of the disinformation campaign that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in to try and deflect from what has really taken place here.”</p> <p>All were aware but none were interested in initiating a&nbsp;pissing contest with Beijing when ending the pandemic was their overriding goal. An anonymous European diplomat told CNN: “What the State Department has suggested is a&nbsp;red line. You cannot agree with this branding of this virus and trying to communicate this.” Even President Donald Trump has dropped his references to the “China virus” and “Chinese virus.” So exactly what did Pompeo hope to achieve?</p> <p>Yes, the Xi government mishandled the emergence of COVID-19. So did most other governments, especially the Trump administration, which had a&nbsp;couple of months to prepare, but didn’t. Washington did not even have sufficient tests available when the crisis hit.</p> <p>True, Beijing’s behavior involved commission as well as omission, failing to alert other nations, delaying the quarantine of Wuhan residents, and punishing Chinese doctors who sought to warn their colleague and others who reported on events in Wuhan. Nevertheless, the Xi regime did not design, create, or spread the virus. Other than censorship—a massive failing that taints the PRC’s performance and reputation in all areas—its mistakes reflected being first in line. In fact, several other governments made similar errors.</p> <p>Nor does campaigning to label the virus as Chinese achieve anything. The effort is easily dismissed for its hostile motive and even if successful would do nothing to establish blame. Certainly, Pompeo and others, including the president, should respond sharply when Chinese government officials and others accuse Americans of creating the virus. However, there is a&nbsp;time and place to confront the PRC over its missteps, while acknowledging America’s and Europe’s own. Politicizing the pandemic while nations are in crisis and people are dying diminishes Washington’s credibility.</p> <p>Consider the G‑7 members. All are struggling. Italy even requested aid from the European Union, but received only closed borders in return. Beijing sent personnel and materiel. That may have been a&nbsp;political gesture intended to win public plaudits. Nevertheless, assistance was useful. Other European governments would benefit from the same.</p> <p>As would America, if the Trump administration could look beyond politics. Instead, Pompeo complained about the Chinese helping other governments and then “claiming that they are now the white hat.”</p> <p>No wonder none of the other foreign minister backed Pompeo’s effort. French Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian even issued a&nbsp;statement in which he “underscored the need to combat any attempt to exploit the crisis for political purposes and expressed the view that the unity of all in order to effectively combat the pandemic must now take precedence over any other considerations.”</p> <p>In short, the secretary appears to be tone‐​deaf as well as arrogant. He has consistently assumed that the Europeans would succumb to U.S. pressure despite their equally consistent refusal to do so—such as when they essentially chose the mullahs over Pompeo to defend the nuclear deal with Iran.</p> <p>China poses a&nbsp;challenge for U.S. policy. But that issue should be addressed in the future. The immediate imperative is to defeat COVID-19. Secretary Pompeo’s blundering performance suggests that the administration is as incapable of competently conducting foreign policy as combatting the coronavirus.</p> </div> Doug Bandow is a&nbsp;Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A&nbsp;former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire. Mon, 30 Mar 2020 09:20:55 -0400 Doug Bandow Donald Trump Offered to Help North Korea on Coronavirus. Why Not Iran? <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>The coronavirus outbreak has already had effects that go far beyond public health issues.&nbsp;It has impacted Washington’s relations with numerous countries, adversaries and allies alike.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Nowhere is that more evident than in the Trump administration’s policies toward North Korea and Iran.&nbsp;Interestingly, though, the administration’s treatment of those two countries is a&nbsp;study in contrasts.</p> <p>As my Cato Institute colleague Doug Bandow&nbsp;<a href="">notes</a>, the pandemic has totally eclipsed Washington’s usual concerns about North Korea’s behavior. U.S. policymakers have obsessed about Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs and ambitions for decades, but their attention is now, understandably, focused elsewhere.&nbsp;President Trump has not entirely ignored Pyongyang during this crisis, however. He sent&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">a&nbsp;letter directly</a>&nbsp;to North Korean leader Kim Jong‐​Un offering U.S. aid in combatting the epidemic.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Trump’s outreach to Pyongyang was a&nbsp;constructive gesture, but it needs to be accompanied by the easing of sanctions. Washington’s entire attitude toward Tehran is even worse.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>One analyst&nbsp;<a href="">dismissed that overture</a>&nbsp;as “pen‐​pal diplomacy,” but Trump’s letter was a&nbsp;significant initiative to revive the moribund dialogue with Kim that had begun with such promise at the Singapore summit nearly two years earlier.&nbsp;Although Trump did not explicitly offer to ease U.S. sanctions, his latest missive suggested a&nbsp;wish to use bilateral cooperation on the coronavirus crisis to advance that dialogue and perhaps facilitate cooperation on other issues.&nbsp;That approach should be applauded, not dismissed or ridiculed. It was notable that although the DPRK government declined the offer, it apparently did so through a&nbsp;reasonably polite, personal letter from Kim’s sister, widely viewed as perhaps his most important adviser.</p> <p>Unfortunately, Trump’s behavior toward Iran in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic is a&nbsp;depressing contrast to his relatively conciliatory approach toward North Korea.&nbsp;Although Washington made a&nbsp;perfunctory offer of humanitarian medical assistance to Tehran, that gesture was more than offset by the ostentatious continuation of hostile, debilitating measures.&nbsp;The United States and the United Arab Emirates even conducted&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">war games</a>&nbsp;explicitly directed against Iran on March 23.&nbsp;The Pentagon went ahead with that full‐​scale exercise, even as it was canceling or scaling back&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">similar exercises</a>&nbsp;in other parts of the world.</p> <p>There were no indications of a&nbsp;willingness to ease other components of Washington’s unrelentingly hostile policy toward Iran either.&nbsp;Sanctions that Trump imposed earlier had severely limited Iran’s access to medicines and medical supplies, as&nbsp;Human Rights Watch&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">noted</a>.&nbsp;Yet, when the coronavirus outbreak exploded in Iran, the president showed no inclination whatever to suspend or even modify those punishing restrictions. </p> <p>Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pointed out the hypocrisy. The United States should lift sanctions if Washington truly wanted to help Iran to contain the outbreak, Rouhani said on March 23, adding that Iran had no intention of accepting Washington’s offer of humanitarian assistance. “American leaders are lying,”&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">he charged</a>&nbsp;in a&nbsp;televised speech to the Iranian people, adding “If they want to help Iran, all they need to do is to lift sanctions .… Then we can deal with the coronavirus outbreak.” </p> <p>Rouhani’s rejection of even limited humanitarian aid can legitimately be condemned as short‐​sighted, but given the context of Washington’s vague offer, it was understandable.&nbsp;At the time Rouhani spoke, Iran was one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, with more than 26,000 cases and more than 1,700 deaths.&nbsp;Just&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">four days later</a>, the totals were up to 29,406 cases and 2,234 deaths.&nbsp;Yet Washington steadfastly adheres to its sanctions policy.&nbsp;Indeed, the administration imposed&nbsp;<a href="">fresh sanctions</a>&nbsp;on March 17, in an effort to compel the regime to release detained Americans.</p> <p>It’s a&nbsp;policy that is both cruel and tone‐​deaf.&nbsp;Trump and his advisers are ignoring&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">growing calls</a>&nbsp;at home and abroad to lift at least some of the sanctions.&nbsp;Even Washington’s closest allies in Europe are spurning U.S. warnings to maintain a&nbsp;hard line toward Tehran.&nbsp;The European Union now is openly defying U.S. policy,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">announcing</a>&nbsp;a&nbsp;20 million euro aid package for Iran.</p> <p>U.S. policy toward both North Korea and Iran leaves great room for improvement.&nbsp;Trump’s outreach to Pyongyang was a&nbsp;constructive gesture, but it needs to be accompanied by the easing of sanctions.&nbsp;Washington’s entire attitude toward Tehran is even worse.&nbsp;The hostility that U.S. leaders display is downright toxic.&nbsp;Maintaining sanctions, much less imposing new ones, in the midst of a&nbsp;pandemic is an act of cruelty that should shame all Americans.&nbsp;As&nbsp;<a href=";qid=1585256712&amp;s=books&amp;sr=1-1" target="_blank">respected scholars have shown</a>, sanctions have a&nbsp;long history of inflicting harm on innocent populations in target countries while generally failing to compel the regimes to capitulate on key issues.&nbsp;The strategy is harmful even in normal times, it is an abomination during a&nbsp;massive public health crisis.</p> </div> Ted Galen Carpenter, a&nbsp;senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute and a&nbsp;contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author of 12 books and more than 850 articles on international affairs. Fri, 27 Mar 2020 15:23:23 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter Beware of Dogma <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Scott Lincicome</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>One of the hottest takes currently circulating the internet is that the coronavirus pandemic has eliminated all of the libertarians — an outcome perhaps most surprising to those of us who are libertarian and still exist. Metaphysical riddles aside, the prevalent view that America’s COVID-19 crisis has rendered libertarianism inutile suffers from myriad errors. Most important (and annoying) is that it seems not to understand what libertarianism actually is and what its ideal response to a&nbsp;global pandemic might be. Even odder, it ignores the many ways that American society has become more, not less, libertarian in recent weeks.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>One of the hottest takes currently circulating the internet is that the coronavirus pandemic has eliminated all of the libertarians — an outcome perhaps most surprising to those of us who are libertarian and still exist.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>On a&nbsp;basic level, libertarianism is the view “that each person has the right to live his life in any way he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others,” in&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the words</a>&nbsp;of Cato Institute Vice President David Boaz. Implicit in even this simple definition are two key points that critics seem not to grasp. First, while libertarians highly value economic and social freedom, they also recognize its limits and therefore oppose human actions that directly harm others. Second, and because of the first, mainstream libertarians see government action as necessary to protect individuals’ natural rights (pre‐​government rights such as a&nbsp;right to life, liberty, and property) and allowed in (albeit rare) cases of legitimate “market failure.” At the same time, libertarians understand that governments are composed of fallible and corruptible human beings and, when combined with a&nbsp;license to use force or the threat thereof, have the potential to commit idiocy at best and grievous injury at worst. As such, libertarians believe government action requires strict limits, skepticism, and scrutiny, leaving the remaining joys and necessities of life to the things better suited to deliver them: markets, states and localities, civil society, and individuals.&nbsp;Such ideals are embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.</p> <p>For these reasons, there is much that a “libertarian” government could and probably would do in response to COVID-19, such as — </p> <ul> <li>ensuring the free flow of interstate and international commerce, especially medical goods and services, in order to make sure that resources (capital, goods, and labor) are produced or distributed as quickly and efficiently as possible (as opposed to delayed in bureaucracy or taxed at the border);</li> </ul> <ul> <li>conducting international diplomacy and multilateral coordination of public health and economic issues in order to share best practices, ensure global medical collaboration on potential cures, and prevent counterproductive, “beggar‐​thy‐​neighbor” policies such as hoarding or export restrictions;</li> </ul> <ul> <li>policing interstate and international fraud and other crimes to protect the life and property of American citizens;</li> </ul> <ul> <li>providing sound monetary policy to keep financial markets afloat; and</li> </ul> <ul> <li>patching longstanding market failures or those caused by a&nbsp;historic catastrophe by offering, for example, multibillion‐​dollar prizes for medical researchers who invent a&nbsp;COVID-19 vaccine and agree to give it away for free.</li> </ul> <p>You might even find libertarians supportive of coercive government “social distancing” mandates to the extent that such rules are required to prevent individuals from harming others through the intentional or negligent spread of infectious disease — an argument that&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">many</a>&nbsp;(though certainly not all) libertarians put forth when supporting mandatory vaccine policies.</p> <p>At the same time, of course, libertarians would cheer the role of free markets, private businesses, private charities, states and localities, and individuals working to ease suffering or solve medical or economic problems caused by the pandemic —&nbsp;problems that Washington, D.C., is ill‐​suited to address efficiently.&nbsp;Indeed, during the weeks of federal squabbling over national rescue aid or the invocation of the Defense Production Act, private individuals and businesses have rapidly <a href="" target="_blank">adapted</a>&nbsp;to provide critical goods and services such as surgical masks or special shopping hours for the elderly.</p> <p>But, of course, that’s an ideal — a&nbsp;situation we do not have. Instead, the federal government has for decades been deeply involved in national health policy and related economic regulation and has spent trillions to address these issues. Unfortunately, the initial returns on this bipartisan investment have been less than stellar (no libertarian gloating there, I&nbsp;promise).</p> <p>Yet, instead of undermining libertarian ideals, recent events have seen large segments of American society reinforce or embrace them. Indeed, beyond the sheer incompetence of the U.S. government’s initial response to COVID-19, the last few weeks have revealed a&nbsp;strong libertarian response from individuals in the private sector and global community. In the face of onerous regulations, bureaucratic turf wars, and cynical political calculation&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">blocking</a>&nbsp;the rapid production and dissemination of testing equipment, we’ve witnessed private businesses and individuals taking the lead on not just medical innovation, but also social distancing, public hygiene, mass communication, and assistance for vulnerable groups such as hospitality workers or the elderly. Cross‐​border, “permissionless” innovation has occurred at a&nbsp;breakneck pace among global medical research groups seeking to map the virus and then to develop effective remedies. And states and localities have stepped in with public health and safety directives where the federal government fell short, prodding federal authorities to do more.</p> <p>The inadequate early response of the federal government to the crisis has provided abundant evidence of the unintended negative consequences of anti‐​market restrictions such as protectionism — for instance, hand sanitizer tariffs exacerbating shortages — and anti‐​gouging laws causing hoarding (and thus shortages) of daily necessities. Yet in the days since, even the government has begun to get out of its own way, so to speak. We have seen tariff exemptions on imports of medical equipment, local police&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">delaying arrests</a>&nbsp;for nonviolent crimes, and even ICE begin to pause some immigration enforcement methods during the outbreak. States, localities, and the federal government have launched “emergency” efforts to waive “never‐​needed”&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">regulations</a>&nbsp;that have blocked or impeded the provision of medical services across state lines or via the internet, the rapid production of medical equipment such as ventilators, drug research and development, commercial transport, and the production, sale, and delivery of food and drink. Cities across America are&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">releasing low‐​risk prisoners</a>&nbsp;to free up police resources or prevent the spread of the disease.</p> <p>All of these policies and reactions have in some form or another been planks of the libertarian agenda, which emphasizes free market capitalism, federalism, deregulation, occupational licensing reform, criminal justice reform, liberalized trade and immigration, and the benefits of private action over political action in the vast majority of cases. As America’s testing fiasco goes from minor annoyance to major problem (and potential scandal), the most important of these policies going forward could very well be the deregulatory agenda, as decades of red tape appear to have turned agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention into maddening, risk‐​averse barriers to the rapid production and dissemination of life‐​saving goods.</p> <p>None of which is to suggest that there are&nbsp;<em>only</em>&nbsp;libertarians in a&nbsp;pandemic. In reality, the COVID-19 crisis is a&nbsp;once‐​in‐​a‐​lifetime “black swan” event that requires everyone to put aside much of their ideology for a&nbsp;moment, accept the unfortunate reality we’re given, and just get stuff done. For libertarians, this might mean not opposing some once‐​unthinkable government action in order to stave off economic collapse and even greater state expansion and liberty infringement in the future. Open Twitter right now, in fact, and you’ll see libertarian economists and pundits not simply praising worthwhile deregulatory policies but also debating the most effective ways for&nbsp;<em>government</em>&nbsp;to compensate, via immense, non‐​means‐​tested deficit spending, the millions of Americans’ whose livelihoods were just confiscated by the state. In normal times, such plans would be libertarian apostasy, raising legitimate concerns over exploding debt, moral hazard, fraud, and unintended disincentives (e.g., for work). But these are not normal times, and most libertarians seem to get that.</p> <p>Do our critics?</p> </div> Scott Lincicome is an international trade attorney, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and visiting lecturer at Duke University. Thu, 26 Mar 2020 22:58:00 -0400 Scott Lincicome Doctors Need Freedom to Choose Off‐​Label Drugs <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Walter Olson</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>In the recent flap over chloroquine and its relative hydroxychloroquine, drugs&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl=";source=gmail&amp;ust=1585322068315000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGm36LITGKkMhvmiEnvSCCrMpy3UQ">seen as promising</a>&nbsp;in many quarters for use in treating COVID-19 patients, one commentator typical of many&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl=";source=gmail&amp;ust=1585322068315000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGQ79j7EURLT75Aiz8zOw5hdOcHcw">sternly proclaimed</a>&nbsp;that these compounds “have NOT been proven effective against” the novel coronavirus. Implication: These are drugs no reasonable person would want to take, nor a&nbsp;reasonable doctor prescribe.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>And yet, as Arizona physician Jeffrey Singer&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl=";source=gmail&amp;ust=1585322068315000&amp;usg=AFQjCNEiKITvC0vpr3Q9HayIOM_U9NDQvQ">notes</a>, “Doctors around the globe, including the U.S., are using these and other drugs to treat their patients, and reporting on their findings in the peer‐​reviewed medical literature.” It’s both legal and utterly routine for doctors to prescribe a&nbsp;drug for indications other than the one for which it has been approved — so‐​called “off‐​label prescribing.” In fact, an estimated 20% of pharmaceuticals reach patients that way. (More on the practice&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl=";source=gmail&amp;ust=1585322068315000&amp;usg=AFQjCNEWfYLd6VYW30PpyQziOwui0n-Z2w">here</a>,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl=";source=gmail&amp;ust=1585322068315000&amp;usg=AFQjCNEmzjSRe-E1FfPZBzG4y2StSqGSYA">here</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl=";source=gmail&amp;ust=1585322068315000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFPeCkF3l0OTKOzZCVtJcURIcbtpA">here</a>.) And this will be true almost by definition for a&nbsp;newly emergent malady, for which there will be no compounds proven effective yet.</p> <p>The catchphrase “has not been proven effective” is, in truth, more a&nbsp;legal statement than a&nbsp;medical one, and there’s at least one reason why it’s so widely used. Drug companies face stringent penalties, along with potential criminal liability and settlements running into the billions of dollars, if they are found to have&nbsp;<em>promoted</em>&nbsp;doctors’ off‐​label use of a&nbsp;drug, no matter whether it worked as intended and benefited the patient. Nor can they readily bump the drug from the one category to the other, because the process of proving a&nbsp;compound effective to the satisfaction of the FDA is typically prolonged and expensive. Further muddying the waters, some critics of the pharmaceutical industry see fit to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl=";source=gmail&amp;ust=1585322068315000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFdUnzTd7GA3x9nyFHdsRellZmpQw">stigmatize off‐​label prescribing</a>, making it sound somehow underhanded or sneaky.</p> <p>As&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl=";source=gmail&amp;ust=1585322068315000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHwIPP3LBeycJe5urbAVlhBnaAw4A">James Copland notes at&nbsp;<em>City Journal</em></a>, the pharmaceutical company Bayer can describe chloroquine phosphate as a&nbsp;drug that “shows potential” only in the context of donating 3&nbsp;million tablets for free to the United States. Had it tried to use the same language in the context of selling the same drug, even at production cost, it would have faced untold legal woe. In a&nbsp;saner world at a&nbsp;calmer time, we might want to reconsider the FDA ban on promotion, especially since it sometimes impedes getting the word to doctors about therapies that are the most hopeful current bets or are accepted as part of an optimal standard of care.</p> <p>There’s a&nbsp;good chance that if some compounds prove useful against COVID-19, the first such will be discovered among those already prescribed for other indications. Among the very first research pushes in drug science against the novel virus have been to develop a&nbsp;list of known compounds that show action against it&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl=";source=gmail&amp;ust=1585322068315000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHMwPePKmTolc3X8Cehc7wi_psMNQ">in a&nbsp;lab setting</a>&nbsp;or&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl=";source=gmail&amp;ust=1585322068315000&amp;usg=AFQjCNEABy6FLoXR6PKk8yVfQ_rq8W25PQ">by targeting proteins</a>&nbsp;the virus relies on. Since dozens of those compounds are currently approved for other indications, if they do turn out to make the difference for some COVID-19 patients, it will be another instance, among many, of drugs that are prescribed off‐​label and save lives.</p> </div> Walter Olson is a&nbsp;senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Thu, 26 Mar 2020 12:27:41 -0400 Walter Olson Now’s the Time to Become a Truly ‘America First’ Military <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Congress is preparing to vote to spend trillions of dollars Washington doesn’t have to keep afloat an economy staggering under the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Even before Uncle Sam was hopelessly overdrawn, expecting to run an annual trillion dollar deficit well into the future.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>With coronavirus killing the economy, we can no longer afford to project power everywhere.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Yet the bipartisan war lobby continues to promote confrontation and conflict with nations as diverse as Venezuela, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, and China. Even in good economic times it was increasingly difficult to underwrite Washington’s attempt to run the world. Today the effort is pure folly.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Last year the Congressional Budget Office published&nbsp;<em>The 2019 Long‐​Term Budget Outlook</em>. Among the conclusions of this profoundly depressing read:</p> <ul> <li>“Large budget deficits over the next 30&nbsp;years are projected to drive federal debt held by the public to unprecedented levels—from 78 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 to 144 percent by 2049.”</li> <li>Much depends on continuing low interest rates, which seem certain to jump as borrowing mushrooms. “If interest rates were one percentage point higher each year than CBO projects, debt in 2039 would be 199 percent of GDP.”</li> <li>“If lawmakers changed current laws to maintain certain major policies now in place—most significantly, if they prevented a&nbsp;cut in discretionary spending in 2020 and an increase in individual income taxes in 2026—then debt held by the public would increase even more, reaching 219 percent of GDP by 2049.” Such actions were likely even before the coronavirus crisis.</li> <li>“The projected increase in federal borrowing would lead to significantly higher interest costs. In CBO’s extended baseline projections, net outlays for interest more than triple in relation to the size of the economy over the next three decades, exceeding all discretionary spending by 2046.”</li> <li>“Mainly owing to the aging of the population, spending for Social Security and the major health care programs (primarily Medicare) is projected to rise as a&nbsp;percentage of GDP over the coming decades.”</li> </ul> <p>Uncle Sam’s fiscal collapse has been swift. Noted CBO, at the end of 2007 federal debt was but 35 percent of GDP (not counting intra‐​government borrowing tied to Social Security). However, “By the end of 2012, debt as a&nbsp;share of GDP had doubled, reaching 70 percent. The upward trajectory has generally continued since then, and debt is projected to be 78 percent of GDP by the end of this year—a very high level by historical standards.” The average over&nbsp;<em>the last half century</em>&nbsp;was just 42 percent.</p> <p>Washington’s spendthrift ways when economic growth was strong make more difficult responding to the latest economic crisis. The long‐​term prognosis is dismal. The better case, suggested CBO, was to “Increase the likelihood of less abrupt, but still significant, negative economic and financial effects, such as expectations of higher rates of inflation and more difficulty financing public and private activity to international markets.”</p> <p>Worse, however, federal improvidence could “Increase the risk of a&nbsp;fiscal crisis—that is, a&nbsp;situation in which the interest rate on federal debt rises abruptly because investors have lost confidence in the U.S. government’s fiscal position.” That is increasingly likely. Already, figures economic Laurence Kotlikoff at Boston University, the federal government has unfunded liabilities, or a “fiscal gap,” of $239 trillion—promises made with no money to meet them.</p> <p>There is no easy solution. Revenues already are projected to rise as a&nbsp;share of GDP and above the average over the last half century. Washington is spending ever faster than it is taxing.</p> <p>To cut, presidents and Congresses typically focus on domestic discretionary spending, but that only makes up about 15 percent of federal outlays. Eliminate it—stop paying federal employees, close the Washington monument, end all federal grants, and slash everything else—the deficit remains. Five program areas make up the rest of the budget: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, interest, and the military.</p> <p>America’s growing elderly population is unlikely to sacrifice benefits seniors believe they have paid for. There is no cheap way to fund health care for the poor. Only repudiating the national debt can lower interest payments by fiat. Draconian cuts are unlikely in any let alone all of them.</p> <p>Which leaves military outlays. Much of current spending has nothing to do with “defense.” Today America is constantly at war, but usually to attack rather than defend. Even when “defense” is theoretically the objective, Washington is protecting other nations, mostly prosperous, populous allies, rather than the U.S.</p> <p>The result is extraordinarily high expenditures, since it costs far more to project power to the far reaches of the globe than to prevent other nations from harming America. Indeed, the Pentagon budget should be seen as the price of Washington’s highly interventionist foreign policy, which sees every other nations’ problems as America’s own.</p> <p>Last year the president requested $718 billion for the military in 2020, a&nbsp;two percent real, inflation‐​adjusted increase. Although the administration projected no real rise through 2024, the real growth rate between 2017 and 2020 had been 3.5 percent. Moreover, observed CBO, “the cost of DOD’s plans would increase by 13 percent from 2024 to 2034, after adjusting for inflation.” Based on historical experience, the agency figured that actual spending likely “could be about two higher than DOD estimates and about four percent higher from 2020 to 2034.”</p> <p>That likely is the floor. The bipartisan war lobby is constantly pushing to do and spend more. In 2018 the congressionally mandated National Defense Strategy Commission urged real increases of between three and five percent annually. Reported CBO, the consequences of such a&nbsp;hike, “starting from the 2017 budget request, would result in a&nbsp;defense budget of between $822 billion and $958 billion (in 2020 dollars) by 2025, and between $1.1 trillion and $1.5 trillion (in 2020 dollars) by 2034.”</p> <p>For what would this cash tsunami be used?</p> <p>The Constitution sets the “common defense” as a&nbsp;core federal responsibility. That actually is rather easy today. The U.S. is geographically secure, with large oceans east and west and weak, peaceful neighbors south and north.</p> <p>The only other state with an equal nuclear force capable of destroying America is Russia, which has no reason to do so and a&nbsp;good reason not to, since it would be destroyed in response. No hostile power might is going to dominate Eurasia. Moscow can’t. Anyway, its security objectives appear to be much more mundane, ensuring that the West takes its interests into account. Europe can’t and couldn’t imagine doing so.</p> <p>Which leaves the People’s Republic of China. It might become America’s military peer, but even then it won’t be able to conquer or cow nuclear‐​armed Russia or more distant, economically advanced Europe. Beijing’s Asian neighbors are well able to deter aggression, especially if, someday, they develop nuclear weapons. China’s “threat” to the U.S., if it should be called that, is that the PRC might gain the sort of dominant influence in its neighborhood that America enjoys in the Western hemisphere. Discomfiting for Washington, yes. Existential threat to the U.S., no. And probably not worth fighting a&nbsp;largescale conventional and possibly nuclear war over.</p> <p>The Middle East has lost its strategic significance as the oil market has diversified. Israel is able to deter attack, eliminating a&nbsp;heretofore major political issue in Washington. Africa holds economic promise and raises humanitarian concerns, but rests at the bottom of America’s security list. Latin America will always gain U.S. attention but little that happens there will matter much to North America’s global colossus.</p> <p>Yet the supposedly isolationist‐​leaning Trump administration is anything but. The U.S. recently verged on war with Iran as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other administration hawks pushed to retaliate against Tehran for attacks by pro‐​Iran militias in Iraq, which Washington continues to occupy. The U.S. underwrites Saudi Arabia’s brutal, aggressive war against Yemen and has sent troops to act as the royal family’s bodyguards against Iran. The U.S. has steadily increased its force presence and fiscal outlays to confront Russia in Europe.</p> <p>Despite his professed desire to leave Syria, the president ordered the illegal occupation of Syrian oil fields; his officials hope to use that presence to confront the Damascus government as well as Iran and Russia. This week Pompeo flew to Afghanistan to revive a “peace” agreement that, after nearly two decades of combat, can be effectively enforced only with a&nbsp;continued U.S. military presence.</p> <p>Under congressional pressure, the administration has temporized over Pentagon proposals to withdraw forces from numerous conflicts across Africa. Venezuela remains in crisis but in opposition to America, with military intervention oft proposed as the remedy. Before talking with North Korea the president threatened “fire and fury.” The administration is taking an increasingly hard line against China, raising military as well as economic and diplomatic tensions.</p> <p>Required is a&nbsp;truly America First defense. The U.S. should focus on preventing hostile threats to this hemisphere, while being ready to sustain critical allies if they face threats from hegemonic powers potentially dangerous to America. Washington has other interests, but advancing them normally would be matters of choice, rarely, if ever, warranting military action.</p> <p>Washington would reduce its force structure and military outlays accordingly. The biggest cuts would be made in the army, while placing greater emphasis on the Reserves. The U.S. would become something much closer to a “normal country.”</p> <p>Today America is following an imperial policy without an empire’s resources. Alas, the federal government is essentially bankrupt, facing nothing but red ink in coming years and decades. Ultimately domestic outlays must be curbed. But military spending which does not advance the “common defense” also should be slashed. The U.S. no longer can afford to play‐​act as global gendarme.</p> </div> Doug Bandow is a&nbsp;senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He is a&nbsp;former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and author of several books, including Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire. Thu, 26 Mar 2020 09:10:44 -0400 Doug Bandow North Korean Missile Tests Are Not in Lockdown During Coronavirus Pandemic <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Eric Gomez</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>The coronavirus pandemic is going to change the world but it won’t change&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">North Korea’s missile tests</a>, which have occurred three times since the beginning of the global public health crisis. The missile tests serve as a&nbsp;reminder of the persistent stalemate that has existed since the failed Hanoi summit of late February 2019.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>This state of affairs will likely persist for the rest of the coronavirus pandemic and potentially beyond. Neither Trump nor Kim are in good positions to initiate a&nbsp;change in the status quo. While this prevents any real progress on U.S.-North Korea nuclear diplomacy, it also means that the current situation is unlikely to deteriorate into a&nbsp;crisis. Actions by either leader could make the situation worse, but both Trump and Kim have incentives to maintain course and not instigate a&nbsp;breakdown.</p> <p>North Korea’s recent missile tests are unlikely to spark a&nbsp;crisis provided that Kim tests only relatively short‐​range, conventional capabilities. Of the three tests so far in 2020 two involved a&nbsp;large‐​diameter rocket known as&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the KN-25</a>&nbsp;and one involved&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the KN-24</a>, a&nbsp;missile that somewhat resembles the United States’ Army Tactical Missile System. In 2019, both missiles were tested&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">very frequently</a>; the KN-25 was tested nine times while the KN-24 was tested four times, all of which were successful.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Demonstrating that Kim is in control and will not let the coronavirus disrupt national defense is important for maintaining his legitimacy in the eyes of the North Korean people and elite.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Several factors point to both the KN-25 and KN-24 being armed with conventional payloads. The KN-25 is simply too small to accommodate a&nbsp;nuclear warhead. The KN-24 might have the ability to carry a&nbsp;small nuclear weapon in the future simply based on its dimensions and test performance, but it is likely a&nbsp;conventional‐​only system for the time being.</p> <p>Additional clues that the missiles are not nuclear‐​capable can be found in how North Korean propaganda organs talk about the missiles. A&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) report</a>&nbsp;on the latest KN-24 test, for example, says “The fire was aimed at reconfirming and showing to the [Korean People’s Army (KPA)] commanding officers the tactical characteristics and power of a&nbsp;new weapon system to be delivered to KPA units [emphasis added].” Explicitly referring to the KN-24 as a&nbsp;tactical weapon is important because nuclear weapons are always called “strategic” in North Korean propaganda. The KCNA report goes on to mention “tactical and strategic weapon systems in the development stage,” but given the context that “strategic” is mentioned it most likely doesn’t refer to the KN-24 itself but other capabilities that haven’t been tested yet.</p> <p>A final indicator that the recently tested North Korean missiles are not nuclear‐​armed is the senior officials who observed the test. The Strategic Rocket Forces is the part of the KPA that handles nuclear strike missions, and senior commanders from the Strategic Rocket Forces typically attend test launches of nuclear‐​capable ballistic missiles. For example, General Kim Rak Gyom, the commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">was present</a>&nbsp;at the late July 2017 test of the Hwasong‐​14 intercontinental‐​range ballistic missile. Senior military officials present at many North Korean missile tests&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">in 2019</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">thus far in 2020</a>&nbsp;have mostly come from army and artillery units rather than the Strategic Rocket Forces.</p> <p>The technical details and propaganda lines surrounding recent North Korean missile tests are important for keeping U.S.-North Korea relations at a&nbsp;stalemate. With the exception of the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Pukguksong‑3</a>&nbsp;submarine‐​launched ballistic missile launch in late 2019 (from which Kim Jong‐​un was conspicuously absent), all North Korean missiles tested since the Hanoi summit have been conventional. The tests are still an unwelcome development, but they also demonstrate a&nbsp;modicum of restraint on North Korea’s part.</p> <p>If the 2020 testing pattern continues and Kim refrains from launching a&nbsp;nuclear‐​capable ballistic missile, then Trump will likely&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">continue to downplay</a>&nbsp;the tests and not call for a&nbsp;harsher response. This is not good news for South Korea and Japan, the most likely targets of the weapons, but it also means that a&nbsp;return to the 2017 “fire and fury” rhetoric between Kim and Trump is unlikely so long as Kim doesn’t test a&nbsp;nuclear‐​capable missile.</p> <p>It is also important for analysts to consider the domestic context of North Korea’s missile tests. At a&nbsp;time of great challenge and danger due to the coronavirus outbreak, Kim is&nbsp;<a href=";utm_source=twitter" target="_blank">sending a&nbsp;message</a>&nbsp;to his own people and other countries that the KPA will not stop training or incorporating new weaponry to defend North Korea. Demonstrating that Kim is in control and will not let the coronavirus disrupt national defense is important for maintaining his legitimacy in the eyes of the North Korean people and elite.</p> <p>From Kim Jong‐​un’s perspective, these domestic‐​facing signals are probably more critical than whatever message the United States receives from the missile tests.</p> </div> Eric Gomez is a&nbsp;policy analyst for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. Thu, 26 Mar 2020 08:54:46 -0400 Eric Gomez