Cato Recent Op-eds https://www.cato.org/ 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 Judicial Nominations Have Always Been Political https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/judicial-nominations-have-always-been-political <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ilya-shapiro" hreflang="und">Ilya Shapiro</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>As we approach yet another razor‐​thin Supreme Court confirmation, it’s clear that the judiciary is now under the same toxic cloud that has enveloped all of the nation’s public discourse. Although the Court is still respected more than most institutions, it’s increasingly viewed through a&nbsp;political lens.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>To a&nbsp;certain extent, the politicization of judicial appointments has tracked political divisions nationally—and confirmation controversies are hardly unprecedented over the long sweep of American history. But the&nbsp;<em>reasons</em>&nbsp;for those controversies have shifted in the last few decades. While inter‐ and intra‐​party politics have always played a&nbsp;role, couching opposition in terms of judicial philosophy is a&nbsp;relatively new phenomenon.</p> <p>For most of the republic’s history, judicial controversies tended to revolve around either the president’s relationship with the Senate or deviations from shared understandings of the factors that go into nominations for particular seats—especially geography and patronage. That dynamic is markedly different from the ideological considerations we see now. Today’s fights transcend any particular nominee or even president, growing and filtering into the lower courts. And ideological litmus tests cause more of a&nbsp;problem than geographic, patronage, religious, merit and other factors because there’s no longer widespread agreement that a&nbsp;president gets to have his choice as long he meets those more neutral criteria. With the two major parties adopting incompatible judicial philosophies, it’s impossible for a&nbsp;president to find an “uncontroversial” nominee.</p> <p>The conservative legal movement, meanwhile, has learned its lesson from previous judicial disappointments; “no more Souters” means a&nbsp;nominee has to have a&nbsp;proven record of commitment to originalism and textualism, not simply center‐​right views and affiliations. Once you consider someone who doesn’t have a&nbsp;long judicial record, or at least academic writings to the same originalist‐​textualist effect, it opens the door to the sort of presidential discretion that has led to misfires in the past.</p> <p>The entire reason&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsweek.com/topic/donald-trump" data-sys="1" target="_blank">Donald Trump</a>&nbsp;released a&nbsp;judicial shortlist in 2016 was to convince Republicans, as well as cultural conservatives who may otherwise have stayed home or voted Democrat, that he could be trusted. The current emphasis on judicial philosophy may well be an updated version of the “real politics” approach favored by presidents in the early 1900s—the innovation of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft of trying to find (or avoid) progressive Republicans or conservative Democrats—applied to modern intellectual commitments. But the problem is that there aren’t too many progressive originalists or conservative living‐​constitutionalists, at least not in any way where the ideological appellation doesn’t override the philosophical one. Even Merrick Garland, who’s about as much of a&nbsp;moderate as President Obama could find, didn’t budge the Republican Senate.</p> <p>The inflection point for our legal culture, as for our social and political culture, was 1968, which ended a&nbsp;70‐​year near‐​perfect run of confirmations. Until then, most justices were confirmed by voice vote, without the Senate having to take a&nbsp;roll call. Since then, there hasn’t been a&nbsp;single voice vote, not even for the five justices confirmed unanimously or the four whose “no” votes were in the single digits. And five of the eight closest confirmation margins—soon to be six of nine—<a href="https://www.regnery.com/custom/supreme-disorder/" target="_blank">have come in the last 30&nbsp;years</a>. Not surprisingly, the increased opposition and scrutiny has accompanied an increase in the time it takes to confirm a&nbsp;justice; six of the eight longest confirmations have come since 1986. Every confirmation since the mid‐​1970s except Sandra Day O’Connor and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsweek.com/topic/ruth-bader-ginsburg" data-sys="1" target="_blank">Ruth Bader Ginsburg</a>—and now&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsweek.com/topic/amy-coney-barrett" data-sys="1" target="_blank">Amy Coney Barrett</a>, wholly due to the pre‐​election timing—has taken more than two months.</p> <p>There are many factors going into the contentiousness of the last half‐​century: the Warren Court’s activism and then&nbsp;<em>Roe v. Wade</em>, spawning a&nbsp;conservative reaction; the growth of presidential power to the point where the Senate felt the need to reassert itself; the culture of scandal since Watergate; a&nbsp;desire for transparency when technology allows not just a&nbsp;24‐​hour media cycle but a&nbsp;constant delivery of information and opinion; and, fundamentally, more divided government. As the Senate has grown less deferential, and presidential picks have become more ideological, seeking to empower a&nbsp;certain kind of jurisprudence rather than merely appointing a&nbsp;good party man, the clashes have grown.</p> <p>And as these philosophical battle lines have emerged, so have the widespread media campaigns orchestrated by supporters and opponents of any given nominee. There’s a&nbsp;straight line from the national TV ads against Robert Bork to the tens of millions of dollars spent supporting and opposing&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsweek.com/topic/brett-kavanaugh" data-sys="1" target="_blank">Brett Kavanaugh</a>, including sophisticated targeting of digital media to voters in states whose senators are the deciding votes. “It’s a&nbsp;war,” Leonard Leo, a&nbsp;Trump adviser on judicial nominations who now chairs the public affairs firm CRC Advisors, explained to me, “and you have to have troops, tanks, air and ground support.”</p> <p>To put a&nbsp;finer point on it, all but one failed nomination since Justice Abe Fortas’s stalled elevation in 1968 have come when the opposition party controlled the Senate. The one exception is Harriet Miers in 2005, who withdrew because she was the first nominee since Harrold Carswell in 1969 to be seen as not up to the task. The last nominee rejected by a&nbsp;Senate run by the same party as the president was John Parker in 1930, by two votes. For that matter, this turbulent modern period has seen few outright rejections—Nixon’s two in 1967–70 and Bork in 1987 are the only ones, in 52&nbsp;years—with pre‐​nomination vetting and Senate consultation obviating most problematic picks.</p> <p>At the same time, the inability to object to qualifications has led to manufactured outrage and scandal‐​mongering. This was more evident before considerations of judicial philosophy became standard practice, when Bork was an outlier. “Many people sneer at the notion of litmus tests for purposes of judicial selection or confirmation—even as they unknowingly conduct such tests themselves,” Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy&nbsp;<a href="https://prospect.org/features/case-borking/" target="_blank">wrote nearly 20&nbsp;years ago</a>. The real problem, as he saw it, was that not being able to openly discuss ideology led to a&nbsp;search for scandal. “A transparent process in which ideological objections to judicial candidates are candidly voiced,” he concluded, “is a&nbsp;much‐​needed antidote to the murky ‘politics of personal destruction.’&nbsp;” Sounding the same refrain&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/26/opinion/judging-by-ideology.html" target="_blank">was one Chuck Schumer</a>, now the Democrats’ Senate leader: “The taboo [on invoking ideology] has led senators who oppose a&nbsp;nominee for ideological reasons to justify their opposition by finding non‐​ideological factors, like small financial improprieties from long ago. This ‘gotcha’ politics has warped the confirmation process and harmed the Senate’s reputation.”</p> <p>Well, that taboo no longer exists—which is a&nbsp;good, honest thing, because vetting a&nbsp;nominee’s judicial philosophy is important—and yet we still got the Kavanaugh hearings. And, as we just saw with the Barrett hearings, the Bork playbook of depicting a&nbsp;nominee as out to steal people’s hard‐​fought rights and benefits is still very much in use. The Democrats may not have attacked ACB personally as they did when she was nominated to the Seventh Circuit three years ago, realizing that the anti‐​Catholic “dogma” attack backfired, but they still caricatured her record and made emotional appeals about smiling kids who would die if she were to join the Supreme Court.</p> <p>Senatorial brinksmanship is symptomatic of a&nbsp;larger problem that began long before Kavanaugh, Garland or even Bork: the courts’ self‐​corruption, aiding and abetting the expansion of federal power, and then the shifting of that power away from the people’s representatives and toward administrative agencies. The judiciary thus affects public policy more than it did before.</p> <p>As the courts play more of a&nbsp;role in the political process, of course confirmation fights are going to be more fraught with partisan considerations. It’s a&nbsp;new phenomenon for our parties to be so ideologically distinct, and thus for judges nominated by presidents from different parties to have&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/15/opinions/amy-coney-barrett-hearings-republicans-democrats-shapiro/index.html" target="_blank">markedly different constitutional visions</a>. That doesn’t mean a&nbsp;Justice Barrett will be any less legitimate than any of her colleagues, but it should make us want the federal government to be making fewer decisions in this large, diverse, pluralistic country.</p> <p>Let Texas be Texas and California be California. That’s the only way we’ll defuse tensions in Washington, whether in the halls of Congress or in the highest court in the land.</p> </div> Ilya Shapiro is director of the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute and author of the new book&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Supreme-Disorder-Judicial-Nominations-Politics/dp/1684510562/" target="_blank">Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America’s Highest Court</a><em>, from which this essay is adapted.</em> Wed, 21 Oct 2020 09:06:05 -0400 Ilya Shapiro https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/judicial-nominations-have-always-been-political SCOTUS Confirmation Hearings Have Become Kabuki Theater https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/scotus-confirmation-hearings-have-become-kabuki-theater <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ilya-shapiro" hreflang="und">Ilya Shapiro</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Amy Coney Barrett is now sailing toward confirmation, but not because we learned anything about her during this week’s hearings.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>She showed herself to be gracious and poised, on top of a&nbsp;towering intellect, which is why the more Americans see of her,&nbsp;<a href="https://morningconsult.com/2020/10/14/supreme-court-barrett-confirmation-polling/" target="_blank">the more they like</a>. But nothing came out about her judicial philosophy or views on cases that wasn’t already apparent from her academic and judicial writings.</p> <p>Judge Barrett was charming and disarming — she did what she needed to do to get confirmed —but that showed this part of the process to be more kabuki theater than oral exam.</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>Amy Coney Barrett is now sailing toward confirmation, but not because we learned anything about her during this week’s hearings. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Public confirmation hearings have only been around for a&nbsp;century, starting with Louis Brandeis’s nomination in 1916, which was contentious because he was Jewish and a&nbsp;progressive crusader. But Brandeis didn’t testify at his own hearing — that was seen as unseemly— and questioning of Harlan F. Stone in 1925 was limited to one corruption investigation he was pursuing as attorney general.</p> <p>The first time a&nbsp;nominee took unrestricted questions in an open hearing was Felix Frankfurter in 1938. It simply wasn’t regular practice until the 1950s. At that point, the hearings became an opportunity for southern Democrats to rail against&nbsp;<em>Brown v. Board of Education</em>. Few senators other than the segregationists even asked the nominees questions.</p> <p>Otherwise, hearings became perfunctory discussions of biography, as with Byron White in 1962, who was questioned for about 15&nbsp;minutes, mostly about his football career. John Paul Stevens, the first nominee after&nbsp;<em>Roe v. Wade</em>, wasn’t even asked about that case. The focus in that post‐​Watergate time was on ethics.</p> <p>Things changed in the 1980s, not coincidentally when the hearings began to be televised. Now all senators ask questions, especially about key controversies and fundamental issues, but nominees refuse to answer, creating what then‐​professor&nbsp;<a href="https://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Confirmation-Messes.pdf" target="_blank">Elena Kagan called</a>&nbsp;a “vapid and hollow charade.”</p> <p>But even with this conventional narrative, there has been a&nbsp;subtle shift; from Robert Bork in 1987 through Stephen Breyer in 1994, nominees went into some detail about doctrine.</p> <p>“This is not to say that nominees during those years made commitments about how they would rule on contested legal issues,”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.scotusblog.com/2018/08/putting-supreme-court-confirmation-hearings-in-context" target="_blank">Chicago‐​Kent law professor Carolyn Shapiro explained</a>&nbsp;on the eve of the Kavanaugh hearings. “But they did discuss their judicial philosophies, their past writings and their beliefs about the role of judges.”</p> <p>Clarence Thomas discussed natural law and the role that the Declaration of Independence plays in constitutional interpretation. Ruth Bader Ginsburg talked about gender equality and the relationship between liberty and privacy.</p> <p>Beginning with John Roberts in 2005, however, the nominees still covered the holdings of cases and what lawyers call “black letter law”— what you need to know to get a&nbsp;good grade in law school — but there’s been little revelation of personal opinions.</p> <p>The nominees speak in platitudes: Roberts and his judicial umpire, Sonia Sotomayor saying that fidelity to the law was her only guidepost, Kagan accepting that “we’re all originalists now.”</p> <p>Some of President Trump’s lower‐​court nominees have even been hesitant to state whether iconic cases like&nbsp;<em>Brown</em>&nbsp;were correctly decided, lest their inability to similarly approve of another longstanding precedent (notably&nbsp;<em>Roe</em>) cast doubt on its validity.</p> <p>Barrett accepted&nbsp;<em>Brown</em>&nbsp;as a “super precedent” — because nobody seriously questions its validity — but wouldn’t pronounce on any other case. “I’m answering a&nbsp;lot of questions about&nbsp;<em>Roe</em>, which I&nbsp;think indicates that&nbsp;<em>Roe&nbsp;</em>doesn’t fall in that category [of cases that everyone has accepted].”</p> <p>These days, senators try to get nominees to admit that certain cases are “settled law,” whether&nbsp;<em>Roe</em>&nbsp;when a&nbsp;Democrat questions a&nbsp;Republican nominee or the Second Amendment case&nbsp;<em>District of Columbia v. Heller</em>&nbsp;in the opposite circumstance.</p> <p>Of course, when you’re dealing with the Supreme Court, law is settled until it isn’t, so nominees say that every ruling is “due all the respect of a&nbsp;precedent of the Supreme Court,” or some such. Which may or may not be a&nbsp;lot of respect, depending on the future justice’s view of&nbsp;<em>stare decisis</em>— the idea that some erroneous precedent should stand to preserve stability in the law and protect reliance interests.</p> <p>And that’s before we even get to the “gotcha” questions, or last‐​minute accusations of sexual impropriety. So all this does is add to the toxic cloud enveloping Washington.</p> <p>Amy Coney Barrett emerged unscathed from her theatrical audition — though perhaps we’re about to hear some revelation of how she cheated on a&nbsp;math quiz in junior high — but the experience does raise the question of whether we should continue this “hollow charade.”</p> </div> Ilya Shapiro is director of the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute and author of the new book Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America’s Highest Court. Fri, 16 Oct 2020 12:49:22 -0400 Ilya Shapiro https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/scotus-confirmation-hearings-have-become-kabuki-theater Packing the Supreme Court Would Lead to a Slippery Slope https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/packing-supreme-court-would-lead-slippery-slope <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/walter-olson" hreflang="und">Walter Olson</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>“<a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.npr.org_2019_07_24_744633713_justice-2Dginsburg-2Di-2Dam-2Dvery-2Dmuch-2Dalive&amp;d=DwMFaQ&amp;c=tq9bLrSQ8zIr87VusnUS9yAL0Jw_xnDiPuZjNR4EDIQ&amp;r=fqdvyATuskufZZ6lHWLDX7rjOgtfuIwFFgyFWTSfNss&amp;m=m8mDbP-BADYjoq_79eBnjegpnwFpixFDbRxJk0VmbRc&amp;s=zpaPIDjgBL4Ck4417tx6PT7iG8SJ0YdAliGxsfw8JzA&amp;e=" target="_blank">Nine seems</a>&nbsp;to be a&nbsp;good number. It’s been that way for a&nbsp;long time … I&nbsp;think it was a&nbsp;bad idea when President Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack the court.”</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The words of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in an NPR interview last year point up something important. Whatever you think of the politics, packing the Supreme Court would be bad for the law itself — bad for the efficiency and quality of the court’s work, bad for its credibility and public legitimacy. Ginsburg ardently favored a&nbsp;liberal turn in the law — but not at the expense of an institution whose workings she loved and knew intimately.</p> <p>Start with a&nbsp;simple truth of organizations: After a&nbsp;certain point, adding more members to a&nbsp;committee doesn’t get its deliberations to work more smoothly.</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>Whatever you think of the politics, packing the Supreme Court would be bad for the law itself — bad for the efficiency and quality of the court’s work, bad for its credibility and public legitimacy. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>As then‐​Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes put it in an&nbsp;<a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.smithsonianmag.com_history_when-2Dfranklin-2Droosevelt-2Dclashed-2Dwith-2Dthe-2Dsupreme-2Dcourt-2Dand-2Dlost-2D78497994_&amp;d=DwMFaQ&amp;c=tq9bLrSQ8zIr87VusnUS9yAL0Jw_xnDiPuZjNR4EDIQ&amp;r=fqdvyATuskufZZ6lHWLDX7rjOgtfuIwFFgyFWTSfNss&amp;m=m8mDbP-BADYjoq_79eBnjegpnwFpixFDbRxJk0VmbRc&amp;s=WOvHGB-ypcR4qgzzN_q5z3Ss-3brZHghaXEHyFOtIoM&amp;e=" target="_blank">influential letter</a>&nbsp;that helped sink Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1937 scheme to add justices, “There would be more judges to hear, more judges to confer, more judges to discuss, more judges to be convinced and to decide.”</p> <p>Judges confer both in person as a&nbsp;group and by exchanging written drafts and comments. A&nbsp;single quibble of wording or other snag in communication between two of them can delay agreement until it is fixed. The chance of such a&nbsp;hitch rises geometrically with the count of judges. A&nbsp;nine‐​member court has the possibility of having 36 two‐​judge combinations to generate friction and misunderstanding. A&nbsp;13‐​member court, as&nbsp;<a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.politico.com_news_magazine_2020_09_19_how-2Ddemocrats-2Dcould-2Dpack-2Dthe-2Dsupreme-2Dcourt-2Din-2D2021-2D418453&amp;d=DwMFaQ&amp;c=tq9bLrSQ8zIr87VusnUS9yAL0Jw_xnDiPuZjNR4EDIQ&amp;r=fqdvyATuskufZZ6lHWLDX7rjOgtfuIwFFgyFWTSfNss&amp;m=m8mDbP-BADYjoq_79eBnjegpnwFpixFDbRxJk0VmbRc&amp;s=VaaCedGOhCnU2tAYOroAz1Gj__4GKwGXFJduuRSkccE&amp;e=" target="_blank">Sen. Chuck Schumer has been talking about pushing for</a>, would have more than twice as many.</p> <p>Each of the 50 states’ highest courts has&nbsp;<a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__ballotpedia.org_State-5Fsupreme-5Fcourts&amp;d=DwMFaQ&amp;c=tq9bLrSQ8zIr87VusnUS9yAL0Jw_xnDiPuZjNR4EDIQ&amp;r=fqdvyATuskufZZ6lHWLDX7rjOgtfuIwFFgyFWTSfNss&amp;m=m8mDbP-BADYjoq_79eBnjegpnwFpixFDbRxJk0VmbRc&amp;s=WPzDD9B4ChStRMQdKTN-lZKX5Iufr_dhmSTjp6k—og&amp;e=" target="_blank">between five and nine justices. (Most have seven.)&nbsp;</a>Nine is also a&nbsp;common number for highest or constitutional courts in countries such as&nbsp;<a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.cia.gov_library_publications_the-2Dworld-2Dfactbook_fields_314.html&amp;d=DwMFaQ&amp;c=tq9bLrSQ8zIr87VusnUS9yAL0Jw_xnDiPuZjNR4EDIQ&amp;r=fqdvyATuskufZZ6lHWLDX7rjOgtfuIwFFgyFWTSfNss&amp;m=m8mDbP-BADYjoq_79eBnjegpnwFpixFDbRxJk0VmbRc&amp;s=WUiCDTeWywvH5jUhjEkSkZC614wHac7n9YWpD2Varq0&amp;e=" target="_blank">Canada, Germany, and France</a>. Where the number is much larger, courts tend either to have a&nbsp;more limited docket to begin with, or to break up into panels to hear cases.</p> <p>You see this also with our federal courts of appeal. The median federal circuit court has 12 judicial seats, but most cases before these courts are heard by&nbsp;<a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.uscourts.gov_statistics-2Dreports_appellate-2Dcourts-2Dand-2Dcases-2Djournalists-2Dguide&amp;d=DwMFaQ&amp;c=tq9bLrSQ8zIr87VusnUS9yAL0Jw_xnDiPuZjNR4EDIQ&amp;r=fqdvyATuskufZZ6lHWLDX7rjOgtfuIwFFgyFWTSfNss&amp;m=m8mDbP-BADYjoq_79eBnjegpnwFpixFDbRxJk0VmbRc&amp;s=vzMV4f5eVOFWZ8sfh9JUJOj5VT1E0hlAOrQclB_EZHw&amp;e=" target="_blank">three‐​judge panels</a>. Only as an exception does the court convene its full roster of judges to&nbsp;<a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__reason.com_2020_05_21_sixth-2Dcircuit-2Dvotes-2Dto-2Drehear-2Dright-2Dto-2Dliteracy-2Dcase-2Den-2Dbanc_&amp;d=DwMFaQ&amp;c=tq9bLrSQ8zIr87VusnUS9yAL0Jw_xnDiPuZjNR4EDIQ&amp;r=fqdvyATuskufZZ6lHWLDX7rjOgtfuIwFFgyFWTSfNss&amp;m=m8mDbP-BADYjoq_79eBnjegpnwFpixFDbRxJk0VmbRc&amp;s=RfzpTU2g593PYqGwyIXnIYKmCLZa3Qw4Fpn3Chb0wfY&amp;e=" target="_blank">rehear</a>&nbsp;a&nbsp;case.</p> <p>At the Supreme Court, by contrast, all justices hear all cases, and hardly anyone who has served on the court thinks it should begin doing its work in panels. The luck of who gets drawn for a&nbsp;panel, for example, would add uncertainty. Coherence would suffer.</p> <p>Once the other branches of government openly begin treating the judiciary as an extension of party politics because some of the judges have been ruling the “wrong” way, it’s hard to limit that to just the handful of hot‐​button issues that may have motivated the change. The “R” or the “D” after a&nbsp;judge’s name will inevitably loom larger in the kind of results expected.</p> <p>That imperils something vital. A&nbsp;much‐​envied feature of America’s independent judiciary is that judges regularly rule against the parties and administrations that put them on the bench. It’s happened through the years with jurists appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents.</p> <p>Last week a&nbsp;judge appointed by Donald Trump threw out a&nbsp;lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign&nbsp;<a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.npr.org_2020_10_10_922673818_judge-2Dblocks-2Dtrump-2Dcampaign-2Dattempt-2Dto-2Dlimit-2Duse-2Dof-2Ddrop-2Dboxes-2Din-2Dpennsylvania&amp;d=DwMFaQ&amp;c=tq9bLrSQ8zIr87VusnUS9yAL0Jw_xnDiPuZjNR4EDIQ&amp;r=fqdvyATuskufZZ6lHWLDX7rjOgtfuIwFFgyFWTSfNss&amp;m=m8mDbP-BADYjoq_79eBnjegpnwFpixFDbRxJk0VmbRc&amp;s=QF9RV7VkiZUATQaWrrKW97pGhJ-Nkv0gXZY_7zOrzO0&amp;e=" target="_blank">against voting drop boxes in Pennsylvania</a>, just as Trump’s claims of privacy on tax returns had earlier run into trouble with&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/09/politics/supreme-court-trump-financial-records/index.html" target="_blank">justices he had appointed</a>. The end of President Richard Nixon’s presidency was signaled when the full Supreme Court, including his own appointees,&nbsp;<a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__constitutioncenter.org_blog_anniversary-2Dof-2Dunited-2Dstates-2Dv-2Dnixon&amp;d=DwMFaQ&amp;c=tq9bLrSQ8zIr87VusnUS9yAL0Jw_xnDiPuZjNR4EDIQ&amp;r=fqdvyATuskufZZ6lHWLDX7rjOgtfuIwFFgyFWTSfNss&amp;m=m8mDbP-BADYjoq_79eBnjegpnwFpixFDbRxJk0VmbRc&amp;s=TanihICW7UKcjUxAG37PcRcB_G-bROlQleBCbfiBKcA&amp;e=" target="_blank">rejected his claims of executive privilege&nbsp;</a>over the release of the Watergate tapes. The landmark case in which the court curbed presidential power by&nbsp;<a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.washingtonpost.com_history_2019_01_08_truman-2Ddeclared-2Dan-2Demergency-2Dwhen-2Dhe-2Dfelt-2Dthwarted-2Dtrump-2Dshould-2Dknow-2Dit-2Ddidnt-2Dend-2Dwell_&amp;d=DwMFaQ&amp;c=tq9bLrSQ8zIr87VusnUS9yAL0Jw_xnDiPuZjNR4EDIQ&amp;r=fqdvyATuskufZZ6lHWLDX7rjOgtfuIwFFgyFWTSfNss&amp;m=m8mDbP-BADYjoq_79eBnjegpnwFpixFDbRxJk0VmbRc&amp;s=eVI1x4FPqTKq9HRBRdDrapNxS-8QsxCNjaA5XgkoB5w&amp;e=" target="_blank">striking down President Harry Truman’s steel seizure</a>&nbsp;was decided by a&nbsp;majority that included two Truman appointees. President Barack Obama&nbsp;<a href="https://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/hosanna-tabor-evangelical-lutheran-church-and-school-v-eeoc/" target="_blank">was also</a>&nbsp;<a href="https://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/united-states-v-jones/" target="_blank">checked many&nbsp;</a><a href="https://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/riley-v-california/" target="_blank">times by his</a>&nbsp;<a href="https://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/national-labor-relations-board-v-noel-canning/" target="_blank">own appointees.</a></p> <p>Taking even deadlier aim at the court’s legitimacy is the theory popular in some quarters of “stolen” seats. The idea is that one, two, or even more of today’s Supreme Court seats are held illegitimately: the Justice Antonin Scalia seat because it should have been filled reasonably promptly after it opened up, Justice Ginsburg’s seat because it should not be filled so promptly, and perhaps others because presidents making the appointments were elected with less than half the popular vote.</p> <p>Marking out some justices’ seats as “stolen” directly attacks the legitimacy of not just the work of those justices but the full court’s work, so it’s paradoxical that the usual remedy advanced is to stack the body with additional votes while leaving the supposed “thief” jurists in place to go right on authoring opinions and deciding close cases with their votes. (Of course, politics provides the most likely explanation: Calls to oust sitting justices from the court would fall flat except among the real ultras.)</p> <p>Finally, court‐​packing would foster sudden lurches in the law. Although this can happen under the current set up too, the one‐​at‐​a‐​time replacement of justices tends to favor evolutionary, “salami‐​slice” case development, which can occasion less social disruption by signaling turns in advance.</p> <p>Parachuting in multiple justices selected precisely for their willingness to deliver the goods on high‐​profile issues would all but guarantee big jolts.</p> <p>And when you consider it, if the other side began plotting its own counter‐​pack up to 15 or 19 — or whatever the number is to be after the next round — then it could lead to repeated big lurches back and forth over time.</p> <p>It’s important that we not start.</p> </div> Walter Olson is a&nbsp;senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of several books on American law. Fri, 16 Oct 2020 11:05:29 -0400 Walter Olson https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/packing-supreme-court-would-lead-slippery-slope The South Sudanese Pound Bites the Dust https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/south-sudanese-pound-bites-dust <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/steve-hanke" hreflang="und">Steve H. Hanke</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>In July 2011, South Sudan was carved out of the former Sudan. Since then, it has been engulfed in corruption and instability. Now, it is facing yet another severe currency crisis and economic collapse. Indeed, surging prices have forced shops across South Sudan to close their doors. In the face of skyrocketing prices, customers have gone on strike.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The central bank’s most recent official inflation release, way back in April, put South Sudan’s annual inflation rate at 37.2 percent. But, since then, things have deteriorated. My measurement for South Sudan’s inflation employs purchasing power parity theory (PPP) and the use of high‐​frequency, foreign‐​exchange‐​rate data. This allows me to measure inflation rates for countries with elevated rates of inflation very accurately each and every day. Today, by my measure, South Sudan’s inflation rate is 54 percent per year.</p> <p>South Sudan could have easily avoided this punishing inflation. On the first day of South Sudan’s formal existence, renowned currency expert Warren Coats, my good friend and colleague at the <a href="https://sites.krieger.jhu.edu/iae/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise</a>, was in residence in Juba, South Sudan’s capital city. He was operating as a&nbsp;consultant to the Bank of South Sudan. At that time, Warren and I&nbsp;were both advocating for a&nbsp;South Sudanese currency board. This would have made the South Sudanese currency a&nbsp;clone of the U.S. dollar, which would have not only ensured currency stability, but would also have guaranteed low inflation.</p> <p>A currency board is a&nbsp;monetary institution (or a&nbsp;set of laws that govern a&nbsp;central bank) that issues a&nbsp;domestic currency that is freely convertible at an absolutely fixed exchange rate with a&nbsp;foreign anchor currency. Under a&nbsp;currency‐​board arrangement, there are no capital controls. The domestic currency, which is issued by a&nbsp;currency board, is backed 100 percent with anchor currency reserves, so the local currency is simply a&nbsp;clone of its anchor currency.</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>Today, by my measure, South Sudan’s inflation rate is 54 percent per year.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>For over 170&nbsp;years, currency boards have had a&nbsp;perfect record. In total, there have been over 70 — none have failed. Even the North Russian currency board, which was designed by John Maynard Keynes in 1918 during the Russian Civil War, never faltered. It would have been no different in South Sudan. Indeed, Sudan had a&nbsp;currency board from 1957 to 1960, and it worked perfectly.</p> <p>So, why didn’t South Sudan heed the advice of Coats and Hanke? For six months, it appeared that the South Sudanese were proceeding towards what was anticipated to be the adoption of a&nbsp;currency board and sound money. During this period, South Sudan was phasing out its exchange controls that had been propping up an overvalued currency. But, President Salva Kiir Mayardit stepped in and stopped the transition towards a&nbsp;currency board system. At that point, Warren packed his bags and returned to the United States.</p> <p>Unfortunately, we came close, but no cigar. As a&nbsp;result, South Sudan is experiencing yet another bout of currency chaos.</p> </div> <p>Steve H. Hanke is a&nbsp;professor of Applied Economics at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He is a&nbsp;senior fellow and director of the Troubled Currencies Project at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.</p> Fri, 16 Oct 2020 09:34:44 -0400 Steve H. Hanke https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/south-sudanese-pound-bites-dust This November, Oregon Can Spark a Withdrawal From the War on Drugs https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/november-oregon-can-spark-withdrawal-war-drugs <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/jeffrey-singer" hreflang="und">Jeffrey A. Singer</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>If voters approve it, Measure 110 — the Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative — will reduce possession of all Schedule I&nbsp;through IV controlled substances to Class E&nbsp;violations, punished by a $100 fine.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>To qualify as a&nbsp;Class E&nbsp;violation, the amount of a&nbsp;drug an individual may possess cannot be greater than for personal use. Drug dealing or manufacturing would still be punishable.</p> <p>This is a&nbsp;good start, but Oregonians should look to Portugal for an even better example.</p> <p>In 2001, Portugal led the European Union in drug overdose deaths. Realizing that treating substance use as a&nbsp;crime was filling jails, fueling corruption, and failing to stop overdose deaths and disease spread, Portugal decriminalized all drugs. Resources for law enforcement were redirected toward harm reduction while drug dealing and manufacturing remain criminal offenses.</p> <p>In the years since Portugal’s rate of HIV plunged, drug‐​related crimes plummeted, and Portugal’s drug overdose rate is among the lowest in the developed world. Today, a&nbsp;country that decriminalized all drugs nearly 20&nbsp;years ago reports overdose deaths per million at less than one‐​thirtieth that of the United States. And while overall drug use by adults mirrors most of the European continent, teen drug use in Portugal has decreased relative to other EU countries.</p> <p>Speaking before the Rhode Island General Assembly this past January, Dr. Jaoa Goulao, the architect of Portugal’s drug policy, explained that the program works because people with substance use disorder are not treated as criminals: “If I&nbsp;smoke cigarettes and I&nbsp;get lung cancer, no one puts me in jail. I’ll be offered treatment. I’ll be treated with dignity even if it comes from my wrong behavior.”</p> <p>He also noted that law enforcement efficiency improved as police were freed from&nbsp;tasks that were not reducing drug use. Drug users on the street now seek help from officers, who refer them to treatment programs.</p> <p>Of course, not every illicit drug user has a&nbsp;substance use disorder. In fact, only 10 to 20%&nbsp;of adults over age 25 who use addictive drugs get hooked. It is perhaps with this insight that Initiative Petition 44 provides the option of a “completed health assessment” in lieu of a&nbsp;fine. This provides those who want help with an incentive to obtain it. What’s more, it directs expected taxpayer savings resulting from prisons no longer being filled with drug offenders to help fund treatment programs.</p> <p>There is reason, however, to worry about what kind of programs will be offered.</p> <p>Policymakers often overemphasize abstinence‐​based programs, which have a&nbsp;disappointing track record and don’t prioritize treatment with methadone and buprenorphine, which are much more effective.</p> <p>Oregon has a&nbsp;history of sparking nationwide changes. The “Oregon Plan” led to the 17th Amendment to the Constitution and the direct election of senators. Voting by mail began in Oregon in 1981. And while a&nbsp;small step in the right direction, this initiative may trigger the end of the destructive War on Drugs.</p> </div> Jeffrey A. Singer, MD practices general surgery in Phoenix, Arizona, and is a&nbsp;senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Fri, 16 Oct 2020 08:57:51 -0400 Jeffrey A. Singer https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/november-oregon-can-spark-withdrawal-war-drugs Grading Trump’s Economic Policies https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/grading-trumps-economic-policies <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/scott-lincicome" hreflang="und">Scott Lincicome</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>With only three weeks until the big presidential election (thank goodness), now’s as good a&nbsp;time as any to grade President Trump’s economic policy during his first term. As you’d expect, my grades below are from a&nbsp;freer market perspective, but the facts supporting them apply regardless of whether you see these changes as “good” or “bad.” Overall, I&nbsp;think that Trump did OK in some areas and horribly in others (which you can probably guess in advance)—essentially reflecting the persistent conflict in the White House (and the entire GOP) between “traditional” conservatives who support more open markets and upstart economic nationalists. (A conflict, it should be noted, that probably undermined the efficacy of each team’s favored policies.)</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Before I&nbsp;begin, however, three words of caution: First, it is extremely difficult—particularly when you’re dealing with a&nbsp;diverse, globalized, $20 trillion economy with a&nbsp;powerful and mostly independent central bank—to make a&nbsp;causal connection between specific policies and subsequent changes in economic trends. Second, other U.S. institutions, particularly Congress and the Federal Reserve, of course play a&nbsp;role in shaping U.S. economic policy and performance, but presidents still matter: Politically, they always get more credit or blame than they deserve; substantively, they appoint Fed policymakers, strongly influence party policy (probably too much), and still have to sign or veto legislation. So, yes, Trump didn’t do this all himself, but his administration certainly played a&nbsp;leading role and didn’t hesitate to take credit when things were going well.</p> <p>Finally, there’s the question of what to do about COVID-19—a once‐​in‐​a‐​lifetime (hopefully) situation that almost everyone believed required a&nbsp;once‐​in‐​a‐​lifetime (again, hopefully) economic policy response. In general, I&nbsp;plan to be nice and evaluate Trump’s economy before COVID (thus not blaming the administration for the economic collapse or massive increase in spending), though it certainly must be mentioned when we get into the weeds of certain policy moves that have arisen in response to the pandemic (and could very well be with us for many months or years thereafter).</p> <p>Now onto the grades.</p> <p><strong>Fiscal Policy: C</strong></p> <p>The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA)—arguably Republicans’ signature economic achievement during Trump’s term—was hardly perfect but it did several good things, particularly by reducing the United States&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/UZ93CPNWmzIK1wqLCB5St0?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">globally uncompetitive corporate tax rate</a>&nbsp;and allowing for&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/cEL5CQWgJ6Fk1QmwSQQSdL?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">limited immediate “expensing” of business investments</a>. On the personal side, the TCJA had some improvements (and some&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/ZW6rCR6jYPcvD683IX9JFI?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">problems</a>). In general, it lowered effective tax rates for all groups, but definitely not&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/lGrZCVOnp7CxnJ1pIMQbse?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">everyone within those groups</a>. Cato’s Chris Edwards shows below how the bill&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/w0J7CW6oOQc5LEvnUriGnL?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">actually changed</a>&nbsp;effective tax rates. (Spoiler: It wasn’t a&nbsp;massive giveaway to “the rich,” though certain upper middle‐​class taxpayers saw smaller effective reductions than 1&nbsp;percenters.)</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="541" height="458" alt="esf-1.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-1.jpg?itok=1E5ZT4Du 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/esf-1.jpg?itok=Mz1xBN8n 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-1.jpg?itok=1E5ZT4Du" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>After the TCJA went into effect, total taxes collected&nbsp;<em>did&nbsp;</em>actually&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/KgReCYEqpyiLW7PyI4vDM1?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">increase</a>&nbsp;in 2018 and 2019 by tens of billions of dollars,&nbsp;<em>but</em>&nbsp;these revenues remained&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/ClAXCZ6rOzc5q6yWU9K8cl?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">significantly lower</a>&nbsp;than what was projected without the TCJA. Thus, one really can’t legitimately claim that tax cuts “paid for themselves,”&nbsp;<em>but</em>&nbsp;they also didn’t cause revenues to collapse or the deficit to explode. (The problem, as we’ll discuss next, is the spending—as always.)</p> <p>In terms of economic effects, the Tax Policy Center&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/O3F9C1w31GCMA4KQtqY466?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">summarizes</a>&nbsp;the general consensus: modest short‐​term growth, with some long‐​run effects TBD.</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="442" alt="esf-2.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-2.jpg?itok=eAsD30m5 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/esf-2.jpg?itok=o-tIiq8C 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-2.jpg?itok=eAsD30m5" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>In terms of business investment, the results have been&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/ev78C31VRyCpgkVrFwsBbm?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">generally disappointing</a>: The TCJA was supposed to strongly encourage corporations to invest in the United States, but there was only significant increase for a&nbsp;few months, and then business investment slumped again:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="270" alt="esf-3.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-3.jpg?itok=pEgWZm9p 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/esf-3.jpg?itok=Bu8usoMf 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-3.jpg?itok=pEgWZm9p" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/-yd8C5yKnRuZPJOriLVzZ1?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Foreign direct investment</a>&nbsp;also picked up a&nbsp;little in 2018, only to fall significantly in 2019. Whether this is a&nbsp;failure of the TCJA or indicative of other things (like Trump’s trade wars), however, is unclear.&nbsp;</p> <p>Things are far clearer, however, on the spending side, where Trump gets&nbsp;<em>much</em>&nbsp;lower marks—not just continuing past spending trends but actually accelerating them a&nbsp;bit (pre‐​COVID). I&nbsp;documented most of these spending trends in my recent&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/PmRUC68KoBcr6Nx4tkEhMs?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">newsletter edition on “Libertarian Economics</a>,” but here’s one more chart just to hit things home:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="270" alt="esf-4.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-4.jpg?itok=-lEYEEyA 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/esf-4.jpg?itok=YDGtpYqD 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-4.jpg?itok=-lEYEEyA" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Prior to the pandemic, 2020 outlays were&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/GKgoC82K8Mh65GxyCWrWgv?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">projected</a>&nbsp;to be about the same (about 21 percent of GDP) as 2019, and then increase significantly thereafter (to 23.4 percent by 2030). COVID, of course, has deteriorated the situation significantly. The American Action Forum’s Gordon Gray&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/RhRwC9rY6DskW0PwSYJ4We?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">provides</a>&nbsp;a&nbsp;little more on how all of this spending (and the aforementioned tax cuts) affect the deficit in his summary of the latest Congressional Budget Office (CBO) data:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>“Combined, according to CBO data, over the period 2017–2027<strong>, legislation signed by President Trump increased projected deficits by $6.9 trillion</strong>. Over the same period, economic factors, particularly substantially reduced projected interest costs, have reduced projected deficits by just under $3.2 trillion. Technical factors have contributed a&nbsp;combined $770 billion in reduced projected deficits over the same period.”</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="630" height="454" alt="esf-5.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-5.jpg?itok=N9zObopZ 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/esf-5.jpg?itok=uz8DsDNJ 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-5.jpg?itok=N9zObopZ" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Economic consensus has definitely shifted in the last couple decades about the urgency of the federal debt, but it still&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/xIS3CgJMYnFA13nzHzguIe?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">matters</a>&nbsp;in the long run. If Trump were seriously resisting or reforming any of this—literally any of it—one might be inclined to grade him on a&nbsp;curve here, but he most certainly isn’t. That fact, combined with Republicans’ concurrent abdication of their already‐​meager spending concerns, is why the pretty good tax reforms are essentially canceled out by the quite bad spending and debt situation.</p> <p><strong>Regulation: C</strong></p> <p>The Trump administration certainly enjoyed a&nbsp;few easy victories on the regulation front in 2017 and 2018 (e.g., the&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/czKRCjR6Q0Fn4rkxF3edw2?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Clean Power Plan</a>), and most definitely slowed the Obama administration’s regulatory steamroller overall. I&nbsp;think it’s fair to say that the administrative state would have been larger—perhaps by a&nbsp;significant degree—if Hillary Clinton had won in 2016. However, as I&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/PmRUC68KoBcr6Nx4tkEhMs?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">noted here</a>&nbsp;a&nbsp;couple weeks ago, the general historic trend toward increasing federal regulation has continued relatively unabated during the Trump years, and many major&nbsp;<em>de</em>regulation moves have been matched by new and unwieldy regulatory initiatives (e.g., the USTR and Commerce Department&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/H5TaCkRXQrFOyEZJfpH9eZ?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">tariff “exclusion” systems</a>, which have cost tens of thousands of U.S. companies ample sums—trust me on this—trying to successfully navigate them). The administration has also defended an expansive definition of regulatory power in the courts, reflecting its desire to use that power to bypass Congress and pursue their economic nationalist, populist agenda via agency diktat.</p> <p>As&nbsp;<em>Reason</em>’s Matt Welch explained a&nbsp;few days ago, moreover, it’s not just trade and immigration getting the bureaucratic whip:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>The president’s trade record and hands‐​on approach to industrial policy threaten to overrun one of the best aspects of his first term—his conscious, system‐​wide slowdown of the ever‐​expanding administrative state.</p> <p>“Trump’s regulatory streamlining,” the Competitive Enterprise Institute stated in May in its annual regulations survey The Ten Thousand Commandments, “is being offset by his own favorable comments and explicit actions toward regulatory intervention in the following areas: Antitrust intervention, financial regulation, hospital and pharmaceutical price transparency mandates and price controls, speech and social media regulation, tech regulation, digital taxes, bipartisan large‐​scale infrastructure spending with regulatory effects, trade restrictions, farming and agriculture, subsidies with regulatory effect, telecommunications regulation, including for 5G infrastructure; personal liberties: health‐​tracking, vaping, supplements, and firearms; industrial policy or market socialist funding mechanisms (in scientific research, artificial intelligence, and a&nbsp;Space Force), [and] welfare and labor regulations.”</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>And while the administration can boast a “regulatory budget” that saved billions of dollars in compliance costs, most of the savings is a&nbsp;mirage because many expensive regulations were&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/lShKClYEQ2H2wrDYhOwnc-?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">exempt</a>&nbsp;from the calculation. Indeed, one such regulation—related to cybersecurity—“could impose roughly $92.8 billion in total costs on the public,” write Dan Bosch and Dan Goldbeck for American Action Forum. Include these regulations, and the Trump administration is just treading water.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Jobs: B</strong></p> <p>No, presidents don’t deserve much credit for creating American jobs, but employment is an important economic (and political) metric and, for the first three‐​plus years at least, the jobs situation in the Trump era was pretty darn good. This is especially the case on wages, which&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/mRxkCmZNRYFjoxGQt1TpL3?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">ticked up noticeably</a>&nbsp;in 2018 and 2019 due to the tight (very tight) labor market and the economic “sugar high” created by the aforementioned fiscal policies (tax cuts and spending).&nbsp;</p> <p>That said, it’s difficult to give the administration anything higher than a&nbsp;B here for three important reasons, all shown in the following two charts:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="270" alt="esf-6.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-6.jpg?itok=OOmdlJE- 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/esf-6.jpg?itok=fXpyPutl 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-6.jpg?itok=OOmdlJE-" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="270" alt="esf-7.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-7.jpg?itok=WVoLBhHp 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/esf-7.jpg?itok=OAQkXTcN 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-7.jpg?itok=WVoLBhHp" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>First, the jobs situation was essentially one of continuing, not special, strength—for both total employment and manufacturing jobs (which everyone—especially Trump—seems to care about). In short, Trump inherited a&nbsp;good jobs market from Obama and then goosed it a&nbsp;little more with some fiscal (and probably regulatory) policy. Second, his trade wars—which we’ll discuss below and for which he is&nbsp;<em>solely</em>&nbsp;responsible—had a&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/_a8jCpYLwkHn02PRFMnos1?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">noticeable impact</a>&nbsp;on those precious manufacturing jobs, helping to stall them out in 2019 after two solid years of strong growth and more than a&nbsp;decade of relatively steady post‐​recession gains. Third, there’s COVID-19 and our current mess of a&nbsp;labor market: Trump’s not the only one to blame here, but if we’re giving him credit for the boom times, he owns some of the recession too (and, quite frankly, his administration’s bungling has probably made things worse).</p> <p><strong>Entitlements: D+</strong></p> <p>Yes, they&nbsp;<em>claim</em>&nbsp;they want freer market alternatives to Medicare for All, but they’ve actually given us a&nbsp;few&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/Ou9DCqxLRlI8yQGMTRPkaH?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">modest cuts</a>&nbsp;to Obamacare, some worthless talking points about “<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/jgOkCrkVZmH8RqXBTk1Elm?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">America First health‐​care</a>,” a&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/Mao7Cv2Lq8h7n9okiGm7VK?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">total mess</a>&nbsp;on&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/4YQlCwp79KcGEjXwHWDsYF?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">prescription drugs</a>, and this&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/lIVkCxkLq2H15lKWUOnCE-?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">unceasing reality</a>:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="344" alt="esf-8.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-8.jpg?itok=_e5e-2yj 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/esf-8.jpg?itok=2MnttoI5 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-8.jpg?itok=_e5e-2yj" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Meanwhile, the latest news is that the Trump administration is preparing to send seniors $200&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/azctCzpYP7cMY1vjtqOI2U?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Trump cards</a>&nbsp;“resembl[ing] credit cards” that “would need to be used at pharmacies and could be branded with a&nbsp;reference to Trump himself.” The cards would “be paid for by tapping Medicare’s trust fund.” (But watch out for socialism, you guys!)</p> <p>As the Heritage Foundation&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/AZKbCADKqMTNKQMDTAfsTw?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">notes</a>, moreover, the situation with other entitlement programs isn’t looking so hot and has been exacerbated by the current economic downturn:</p> <ul> <li>Social Security’s retirement trust fund will become insolvent in 2031. Absent reforms, “all retirees would experience a&nbsp;roughly 25% reduction in benefits” that year.</li> <li>Social Security’s Disability Insurance fund will run out in 2026.</li> <li>Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) “will consume its remaining funds by 2024.”</li> </ul> <p>In Trump’s defense, he&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/ENwsCBB9oPc7XG3Li2Ycqm?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">campaigned</a>&nbsp;on not cutting Social Security or Medicare, so … promises kept, I&nbsp;guess.&nbsp;<span data-markjs="true">Congrats</span>.</p> <p><strong>Trade: D-</strong></p> <p>I’ve already given you&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/_a8jCpYLwkHn02PRFMnos1?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">2,000+ words</a>&nbsp;on why the core of Trump’s trade policy—tariffs—has been a&nbsp;disaster, so I’ll just focus on two other things here. First, President Deals hasn’t actually been much of a&nbsp;dealmaker at all. Beyond the mess of the Phase 1&nbsp;Deal with China, he has:</p> <ul> <li><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/MfjPCDkWNQH5L9Q8UMJZxJ?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Tweaked</a>&nbsp;the automotive provisions of the Bush‐​era U.S.-Korea FTA, primarily by extending U.S. tariffs on Korean trucks by another 20&nbsp;years.</li> <li>Signed and implemented the&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/BVb4CERWO0F387KZtn7YAO?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)</a>, which maintained most of the Clinton‐​era NAFTA, added much of the Obama‐​era Trans‐​Pacific Partnership (on things like digital trade), threw in some Trumpian protectionism and industrial policy (especially on automobiles), and then added House Democrats’ (and lawyers’ and labor unions’) dream restrictions for labor and environmental enforcement. The result: a&nbsp;Frankenstein deal that Canada and Mexico reluctantly implemented just to get Trump to leave them alone, and one that actually&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/0WyWCG6WnMc1N7ozUKV4hPs?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">reduces annual U.S. GDP</a>&nbsp;unless you include the&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/QDEaCJ6WDNcqWJPjUVVwzWF?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">absurd contention</a>&nbsp;that the deal eliminated uncertainty in the North American supply chain. (Spoiler: It did not.)</li> <li>Implemented a&nbsp;limited&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/O2zzCKr9XLs2yo0RhMvkM2e?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">“Phase 1” agreement with Japan</a>, which basically just cut‐​and‐​pasted the Japanese tariff commitments in Obama’s TPP, but&nbsp;<em>only</em>&nbsp;for U.S. farm goods. Only 25 more chapters to go!</li> <li>Taken America’s ball and gone home at the WTO, choosing to&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/piIWCL9W6vsRDW5zsBP3ujL?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">shut down</a>&nbsp;the organization’s appellate body (basically the supreme court of trade dispute settlement) instead of negotiating new and necessary reforms in good faith (e.g., by teaming up with like‐​minded countries while offering actual concessions on longtime irritants like U.S. agricultural subsidies and “trade remedy” rules).</li></ul> <p>Second, the president has failed by his own primary standard for judging U.S. trade policy, the United States’&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/NotaCM8WDJcqyrGnUwW8j2P?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">goods trade deficit</a>:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="270" alt="esf-9.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-9.jpg?itok=kGpPlh5N 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/esf-9.jpg?itok=7zp6HVeX 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-9.jpg?itok=kGpPlh5N" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The monthly deficit has&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/ewwTCOY6lPHpL8oBFE5kTkZ?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">actually increased</a>&nbsp;further in recent months, but hitting Trump on that is (in my opinion) a&nbsp;bit disingenuous because the pandemic has really messed with global trade flows. Regardless, the pre‐​pandemic data are clear: The goods deficit was about $750 billion in 2016, and it was $864 billion in 2019—just a&nbsp;hair below its 2018 record. That’s “failure.” Big league.</p> <p>Now, as we’ll surely discuss in a&nbsp;future column (and as Kevin Williamson discusses&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/Lay2CPNWmzIK1wqLCzBUUJL?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">here</a>), grading U.S. trade policy with a&nbsp;trade balance scorecard has always been an idiotic thing to do because balances are dictated by global macroeconomic factors, not trade deals or tariffs. But that’s not what the president and his closest advisers said over the last four years, so—at least as a&nbsp;political matter—they deserve to be hoisted with this rather foolish petard.</p> <p><strong>Immigration: F</strong></p> <p>I struggled with whether the president’s immigration policy should grade worse than his trade policy, but feel obliged to conclude that it should. On trade, the president has implemented a&nbsp;bunch of bad policies and said a&nbsp;bunch of stupid things, but he hasn’t been able to cut the overall level of goods and services imports (which are&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/GWf5CQWgJ6Fk1QmwSxQ27VB?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">up significantly</a>&nbsp;since the Obama years). Not so with immigration, where Trump’s pre‐​COVID&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/jgT6CR6jYPcvD683I9XyTM4?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">attacks on&nbsp;</a><em><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/jgT6CR6jYPcvD683I9XyTM4?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">legal</a></em><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/jgT6CR6jYPcvD683I9XyTM4?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">&nbsp;immigration</a>—low‐​skilled, high‐​skilled,&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/wyIbCVOnp7CxnJ1pIGMkLRh?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">students</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/vIUYCW6oOQc5LEvnU6rHCXa?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">family members</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/W22yCXDpxrTXPQ3Li6EqaZR?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">refugees</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/5zqqCYEqpyiLW7PyI04FY6K?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">entrepreneurs</a>, etc.—have actually&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/w72ZCZ6rOzc5q6yWUz9tI0U?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">succeeded</a>&nbsp;in reducing annual immigration levels and flatlining the country’s foreign‐​born population:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="651" height="484" alt="esf-10.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-10.jpg?itok=apVi6ZXz 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/esf-10.jpg?itok=HUsLmgD9 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-10.jpg?itok=apVi6ZXz" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="651" height="484" alt="esf-11.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-11.jpg?itok=lodKzJ1Q 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/esf-11.jpg?itok=Vdh7n-P8 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-11.jpg?itok=lodKzJ1Q" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Then there are the inhumane&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/69MQC31VRyCpgkVrFgwiAX8?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">detention policies</a>; the&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/Mae4C4xGmzIB2VGwcOD2nBg?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">travel ban</a>; the&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/zSkqC5yKnRuZPJOrizLU3Fs?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Deportation Force</a>; the&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/-oRKC68KoBcr6Nx4tpkhAcH?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">“emergency”</a><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/Oq5OC73V8pfAXg9BH8lhFFC?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">blockades</a>&nbsp;due to COVID-19; the new,&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/QnjiC82K8Mh65GxyCnW01rD?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">mathematically‐​challenged</a>&nbsp;move to further restrict high‐​skill immigration (much to China’s&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/KeavC9rY6DskW0PwSoYIRLE?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">benefit</a>); and the various ways that the administration has&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/49fCC0RDq0FGXxlAHwg5uYa?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">bent or broken</a>&nbsp;the law to push his restrictionist dreams (funding The Wall, banning&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/e_j4CgJMYnFA13nzHNzyIIr?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">asylees</a>, threatening&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/1XRUCjR6Q0Fn4rkxFW3n9iD?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">“emergency” tariffs</a>&nbsp;to stop The Caravan, etc.). Combine that with the nativist (at best) rhetoric, and you wind up with a&nbsp;big, fat, much‐​deserved F.</p> <p>The only bright side is that increased immigration has&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/_f18CkRXQrFOyEZJf2pc-sS?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">never been more popular</a>. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.</p> <p><strong>Summing it all up.</strong></p> <p>These grades would prevent President Trump from graduating from Lincicome University (which has more rigorous standards than the SEC), but certainly require additional context. On the positive side, there’s little doubt that some things—fiscal and regulatory policy, in particular—would have been worse under a&nbsp;President Clinton. On the negative side, however, Clinton almost certainly would have been better on trade and immigration, while overall having a&nbsp;more consistent, predictable, and coherent approach to policymaking in general. This last point really can’t be undersold, given the extensive research (see, e.g., this&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/8aCtClYEQ2H2wrDYhGOxcQq?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">brand new one</a>) showing how policy uncertainty can undermine economic activity. And there, I&nbsp;think, is where the Trump administration has&nbsp;<em>really</em>&nbsp;failed: for the last four years, formal U.S. economic policy has all too often resulted from frantic, messy attempts by beleaguered government officials to “backfill” disconnected policy trenches dug by presidential tweets. That’s no way to run economic policy, and it shows.</p> <h3><strong>Chart of the Week</strong></h3> <p>Natural gas’s War on Coal (<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/1l4lCmZNRYFjoxGQtG1GvvO?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">source</a>):</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="487" height="291" alt="esf-12.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-12.jpg?itok=-LpkMD8D 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/esf-12.jpg?itok=QyipwxQ8 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/esf-12.jpg?itok=-LpkMD8D" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p><strong>The Links</strong></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/1geOCo2XRjhrVnJyt1Rhfrh?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Me on taxes, transfers, and incomes</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/HVgJCpYLwkHn02PRFPMOgMg?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Reuters deep‐​dive into the failures of Trump’s tariffs in Michigan</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/T072CqxLRlI8yQGMTZRODwv?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Large city centers are struggling, but hiring elsewhere has surged</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/kaTJCrkVZmH8RqXBT7kh6OK?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">“The true size of government is nearing a&nbsp;record high”</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/BefvCv2Lq8h7n9okiQGHT8B?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">How five American small businesses retooled to make PPE and survive the pandemic</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/CIz2Cwp79KcGEjXwHVWJIkE?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Tariffs or no, China’s shipping a&nbsp;LOT of PPE to the USA</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/_uh0CxkLq2H15lKWU8OXf__?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Trade deficit whack‐​a‐​mole</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/FeiRCyP2l9TrP1EBtZWkbwI?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">The Long History of Official Lies about Presidential Health</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/oR2RCzpYP7cMY1vjt4qvq4Z?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">On the winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Economics</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/Ia0_CADKqMTNKQMDTGAPnmW?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">“Months before travel bans and lockdowns, Americans were transmitting the virus across the country”</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/_xNGCBB9oPc7XG3Liz2d2KQ?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">How many companies/​jobs depend on trade in your state?</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/3bKsCDkWNQH5L9Q8UWM9_VZ?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">“Why pro‐​growth economics is about connections, networks, and trust”</a></p> </div> Scott Lincicome is a&nbsp;Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Cato Institute. Fri, 16 Oct 2020 00:00:00 -0400 Scott Lincicome https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/grading-trumps-economic-policies Amy Coney Barrett Hearings Shine a Light on the Differences Between the Two Parties https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/amy-coney-barrett-hearings-shine-light-differences-between-two-parties <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ilya-shapiro" hreflang="und">Ilya Shapiro</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>No real news came out of the three days of Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings. As expected, Democrats focused on Obamacare and abortion, with a&nbsp;little bit on guns and voting rights. Also as expected, the nominee declined to discuss any pending or potential cases, or any legal issue on which she hadn’t already opined in scholarly or judicial writings.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>For their part, Republicans allowed Barrett to show her intellect and verbal facility by explaining such frequently used terms as “originalism” (interpreting constitutional provisions according to their original public meaning), “textualism” (interpreting statutes according to the plain meaning of their text as opposed to legislative purpose), and stare decisis (letting erroneous precedents stand because correcting them would cause more social harm than allowing the error to persist).</p> <p>In all, no senator’s vote was changed. However, the public, which according to a&nbsp;CNN poll last week was divided on Barrett’s nomination, did get a&nbsp;chance to sympathize more with the judge, who showed grace and poise under pressure. Like it or not, she will be confirmed before the election, barring a&nbsp;black swan event, like a&nbsp;massive Covid‐​19 spread that prevents the Senate from meeting or some Kavanaugh‐​like post‐​hearing allegations.</p> <p>Does that mean the hearings are pointless, a&nbsp;kabuki process that wastes everyone’s time?&nbsp;<a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.usatoday.com_story_opinion_2020_10_11_supreme-2Dcourt-2Dconfirmation-2Dhearings-2Dthey-2Ddo-2Dmore-2Dharm-2Dthan-2Dgood-2Dcolumn_3565496001&amp;d=DwMGaQ&amp;c=tq9bLrSQ8zIr87VusnUS9yAL0Jw_xnDiPuZjNR4EDIQ&amp;r=AZX64IAtuYjmb1KL3I689B5qeuj33GP1ffbmv3mM-yw&amp;m=Y-d6cCc_wGhB7Jngx7lAwidkx4_gJBdUIdoZtvvxyKo&amp;s=jq9NGP_zlns2eDm_jvPOpNewXREGtD-e1QkNeiRqmrM&amp;e=" target="_blank">Elsewhere I’ve written</a>&nbsp;that they once served a&nbsp;purpose but have at best devolved into empty platitudes and gotcha games. I&nbsp;won’t rehash those arguments here, other than to note that it may have served the Democrats better to parallel the Merrick Garland maneuver of four years ago by abstaining from what they consider to be a&nbsp;pointless exercise — refraining from attacking Barrett’s views while making a&nbsp;process argument to the voters.</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 the two parties adopting incompatible judicial philosophies, it’s impossible to find an “uncontroversial” nominee. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Of course, they didn’t do that, so we’ve been treated to what then‐​professor Elena Kagan called a&nbsp;<a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.wsj.com_articles_BL-2DLB-2D30719&amp;d=DwMGaQ&amp;c=tq9bLrSQ8zIr87VusnUS9yAL0Jw_xnDiPuZjNR4EDIQ&amp;r=AZX64IAtuYjmb1KL3I689B5qeuj33GP1ffbmv3mM-yw&amp;m=Y-d6cCc_wGhB7Jngx7lAwidkx4_gJBdUIdoZtvvxyKo&amp;s=_zWlMcSHb6jvCjnOLVsXSiIRS-thstZUkxCGwvKs19I&amp;e=" target="_blank">“vapid and hollow charade.”</a></p> <p>But even if we didn’t learn anything this week, there was refreshing clarity on the parties’ divergent judicial philosophies. By that I&nbsp;don’t mean whether Roe v. Wade was correctly decided or the scope of the Second Amendment, but the difference between law and policy. To take two contrasting examples from Wednesday’s session: (1) Republican Senator from Texas Ted Cruz discussed how he&nbsp;<a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__mms.tveyes.com_transcript.asp-3FPlayClip-3DFALSE-26DTSearch-3DTRUE-26DateTime-3D10-252F14-252F2020-2B11-253A37-253A22-26market-3Dm1-26StationID-3D180&amp;d=DwMGaQ&amp;c=tq9bLrSQ8zIr87VusnUS9yAL0Jw_xnDiPuZjNR4EDIQ&amp;r=AZX64IAtuYjmb1KL3I689B5qeuj33GP1ffbmv3mM-yw&amp;m=Y-d6cCc_wGhB7Jngx7lAwidkx4_gJBdUIdoZtvvxyKo&amp;s=MXleC4Y9IY5qCf7Kbi16FprJn637se91Ru_HmBYQXxk&amp;e=" target="_blank">favors school choice</a> — calling it “the civil rights issue of the next century” — but that it’s not the place of a&nbsp;federal judge to impose it, while (2) Democratic Senator from Hawaii Mazie Hirono called the&nbsp;<a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__mms.tveyes.com_transcript.asp-3FPlayClip-3DFALSE-26DTSearch-3DTRUE-26DateTime-3D10-252F14-252F2020-2B15-253A32-253A03-26market-3Dm1-26StationID-3D180&amp;d=DwMGaQ&amp;c=tq9bLrSQ8zIr87VusnUS9yAL0Jw_xnDiPuZjNR4EDIQ&amp;r=AZX64IAtuYjmb1KL3I689B5qeuj33GP1ffbmv3mM-yw&amp;m=Y-d6cCc_wGhB7Jngx7lAwidkx4_gJBdUIdoZtvvxyKo&amp;s=eCdVDQgrdw1d9x2agyF-n_EoiXUr6OkF_gJ-CHEfd3M&amp;e=" target="_blank">distinction between law and policy “artificial”</a> in arguing that the Affordable Care Act must be constitutional because so many people depend on it. Indeed, each of the Democratic senators had blown up pictures of constituents who would be harmed if Obamacare went away.</p> <p>Now, emotional arguments are all well and good if you’re trying to appeal to an electorate — as California Senator Kamala Harris used most of her time to do with regard to everything from health care to climate change, because she’s the Democratic nominee for Vice President.</p> <p>But judges are supposed to do something else: They’re supposed to apply the law, which sometimes leads to unpopular outcomes. Judicial power is not a&nbsp;means to an end, but an enforcement mechanism for the strictures of a&nbsp;founding document intended just as much to curtail the excesses of democracy as to empower its exercise.</p> <p>In a&nbsp;country ruled by law, the proper response to an unpopular legal decision is to change the law or amend the Constitution. Any other method leads to a&nbsp;sort of judicial abdication and the loss of those very rights and liberties that can only be vindicated through the judicial process.</p> <p>Nevertheless, given the expansion of federal power, and then the shifting of that power away from the people’s legislative representatives and toward executive branch administrative agencies, the judiciary affects public policy more than it ever did. And court decisions increasingly hinge on the partisan affiliation of the president who nominated the judges making them.</p> <p>With the two parties adopting incompatible judicial philosophies, it’s impossible to find an “uncontroversial” nominee. That’s doubly so when a&nbsp;nominee’s philosophy represents a&nbsp;big shift from that of the previous justice. As Democratic Senator from Delaware Chris Coons highlighted, Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were often on opposite ends of close cases. Replacing Ginsburg with Scalia’s former clerk Barrett would mean a&nbsp;bigger change than replacing the moderate Anthony Kennedy with his former clerk Brett Kavanaugh.</p> <p>Those jurisprudential differences, and their alignment with ideologically distinct parties, are a&nbsp;relatively new phenomenon; in the grand sweep of American history, things didn’t always line up so neatly. But regardless, the Barrett hearings showed that the parties do have different approaches to the law — and that Democrats don’t see legal questions as divorced from political ones.</p> </div> &gt;Ilya Shapiro is director of the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute and author of the new book&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Supreme-Disorder-Judicial-Nominations-Politics/dp/1684510562/" target="_blank">Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America’s Highest Court</a>. Thu, 15 Oct 2020 16:23:48 -0400 Ilya Shapiro https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/amy-coney-barrett-hearings-shine-light-differences-between-two-parties How the U.S. Benefits From ‘Wolf Warrior Diplomacy’ https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/how-us-benefits-wolf-warrior-diplomacy <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/doug-bandow" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>With the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China potentially headed into a&nbsp;new cold war that would hurt both countries, American policymakers should remember the importance of gaining friends and allies around the world. And not just governments, but peoples too.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>That wasn’t too hard against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Washington made mistakes internationally, but the USSR was dull, gray, threatening, backward, isolated, oppressive, and hostile to what so many people around the world desired: freedom in all its forms, modern commerce and culture, and hope for the future. The regime effectively imprisoned its entire population. Moscow’s most economically successful satellite regime, East Germany, literally walled in its people.</p> <p>The PRC is threatening and oppressive, but its opening to the West, abandonment of Maoism, acceptance of personal autonomy, and embrace of economic freedom make it radically different than the USSR. China is connected to the world, flush with current culture, and full of economic opportunity. It is a&nbsp;technological leader and place of hope for people just a&nbsp;few decades away from immiserating poverty. Beijing no longer bars its people from traveling, other than those deemed to be politically unreliable.</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>As Washington seeks allies amid rising tensions, Beijing discovers the downside of its international image. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Which, of course, highlights the fact that the PRC is retrogressing on the freedom front. Unfortunately, President and General Secretary Xi Jinping appears to see himself as the second coming of Mao Zedong and has been moving his country back toward the Chinese Communist Party’s totalitarian past. Doing so is creating plenty of enemies at home—popular dissatisfaction occasionally bursts forth on social media, as it did early in the COVID-19 pandemic after doctors were silenced for expressing their concerns. And Xi will not rule forever. He, like Mao, could be followed by a&nbsp;liberalizer, who would quickly dismantle Xi’s brutal edifice.</p> <p>Thus, though American soft power remains substantial, the U.S. cannot count on possessing the same superiority in foreign appeal that it enjoyed over the Soviet Union. Moreover, the maladroit Trump administration has done its best to offend virtually every nation on earth, other than a&nbsp;few authoritarians favored by President Donald Trump, such as Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman. Among democratic states with which America would normally cooperate, relations mostly range from strained to abysmal.</p> <p>In this environment the Trump administration has been working overtime to vilify the PRC. At the recent Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad meeting, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that it “is more critical now than ever that we collaborate to protect our people and partners from the CCP’s exploitation, corruption, and coercion.” Although there is little love for Beijing among the other Quad members—India, Japan, and Australia—they remain more circumspect in addressing the Chinese challenge. After all, they live in the neighborhood and do not want to make an enemy by acting as Trump administration campaign props. Earlier this year, members of the G-7 rejected an American demand to use the members’ official communique to blame the PRC for the spread of the “Wuhan virus.”</p> <p>Even more problematic is the administration’s anti‐​China campaign in Southeast Asia. Observed&nbsp;<em>The American Conservative’s</em>&nbsp;Daniel Larison:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>China has steadily built up its economic, diplomatic, and cultural influence throughout the region, and it has strengthened its ties to ethnic Chinese minorities in many of these countries. Today the countries of Southeast Asia want continued economic cooperation with China, and they are not interested in a&nbsp;zero‐​sum rivalry between the U.S. and China. Many of them are open to cooperation with the U.S., but they have no wish to be used as cannon fodder as part of some great power showdown. If U.S. policy in this part of the world is to have any chance of success in checking Chinese influence, it will have to take account of the varied local conditions that prevail in each country, and it will have to learn to respect their sovereignty and independence.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The administration’s ostentatious attempt to separate the Chinese government and people has been particularly ineffective. A&nbsp;recent study by the John F. Kennedy School’s Ash Center observed: “We find that first, since the start of the survey in 2003, Chinese citizen satisfaction with government has increased virtual­ly across the board. From the impact of broad national policies to the conduct of local town officials, Chinese citizens rate the government as more capable and effective than ever before.” That could change, but not likely as a&nbsp;result of vilification by Washington officials.</p> <p>The administration’s overreach is unnecessary. Beijing has turned out to be its own worst enemy abroad. For instance, in the early days of COVID-19’s spread, the Xi government attempted to use medical aid to win political points. At the same time, PRC officials engaged in “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy, insulting, demanding, and haranguing other governments. These efforts backfired spectacularly, especially after some of the personal protective equipment and other goods proved to be defective. China was accused of attempting to take advantage of a&nbsp;medical crisis which it did much to create.</p> <p>Beijing’s willingness to essentially take hostages, arresting Westerners on faux evidence when involved in disputes with their governments, also has sullied the PRC’s global reputation. In early September, Chinese security personnel visited two Australian journalists, announcing that they were barred from leaving and would be questioned the next day. Unwilling to risk disappearing into a&nbsp;Chinese prison where people can be held for months or years without charges even being filed, they fled to the protection of Australian diplomats, who negotiated an exit.</p> <p>China has largely brought this problem upon itself by focusing on political priorities. Georgia State University’s Maria Repnikova observed: “The Wolf Warrior diplomacy doesn’t work well in the Western context, but it’s often oriented toward domestic audiences within China because it makes China seem stronger and withstanding Western pressures.”</p> <p>Overall, the PRC’s image has tumbled badly. According to a&nbsp;new survey from the Pew Research Center:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>Views of China have grown more negative in recent years across many advanced economies, and unfavorable opinion has soared over the past year, a&nbsp;new 14‐​country Pew Research Center survey shows. Today, a&nbsp;majority in each of the surveyed countries has an unfavorable opinion of China. And in Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States, South Korea, Spain and Canada, negative views have reached their highest points since the Center began polling on this topic more than a&nbsp;decade ago.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Trust in Xi, too, has plummeted. Reported Pew:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>Disapproval of how China has handled the COVID-19 pandemic also colors people’s confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping. A&nbsp;median of 78% say they have not too much or no confidence in him to do the right thing regarding world affairs, including at least seven‐​in‐​ten in every country surveyed. This lack of confidence in Xi is at historic highs in every country for which trend data is available except Japan and Spain. In most countries, the percent saying they have not too much or no confidence in him has grown by double digits since last year. For example, in the Netherlands, whereas around half distrusted Xi last year, today 70% say the same—up 17 percentage points.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>There is still widespread international respect for the PRC’s considerable economic strength. However, that was not enough to save Beijing’s reputation, which isn’t likely to recover any time soon. Claremont McKenna College’s Minxin Pei cited “four cumbersome albatrosses” dragging down Xi, because of which he could “face an increasingly unified Western coalition threatening the survival of his regime.”</p> <p>Pei argues that militarizing South China Sea territorial disputes has unified regional opinion against the PRC. The Belt and Road Initiative has turned into financial overreach with political blowback. Repression in Xinjiang and in Hong Kong has badly blackened China’s image. In Pei’s view, “China’s response has turned two manageable problems into public relations disasters that will remain as immovable obstacles to improving ties with the West until there is a&nbsp;policy change.”</p> <p>Unfortunately, the U.S. is ill‐​positioned to take advantage of Beijing’s distress. Pew found that other nations had an even more negative view of America’s response to COVID-19. And there was less trust in President Donald Trump. Among foreign leaders Secretary of State Mike Pompeo probably garners no more affection. Europeans openly and regularly reject administration entreaties, such as those to join the maximum‐​pressure campaign against Iran and confrontational campaign against the PRC.</p> <p>There are many reasons for this, and not every foreign complaint against the president is valid. Obviously, the Europeans prefer a&nbsp;docile and dutiful America, prepared to forever subsidize their defense and otherwise follow their priorities. Nevertheless, the current administration has indulged in its own form of Wolf Warrior diplomacy.</p> <p>Reported Pew:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>Since Donald Trump took office as president, the image of the United States has suffered across many regions of the globe. As a&nbsp;new 13‐​nation Pew Research Center survey illustrates, America’s reputation has declined further over the past year among many key allies and partners. In several countries, the share of the public with a&nbsp;favorable view of the U.S. is as low as it has been at any point since the Center began polling on this topic nearly two decades ago.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Confronting the PRC will remain a&nbsp;challenge, probably the most serious to face America in the coming decades. However, it is imperative to avoid needlessly militarizing their disputes: war would be a&nbsp;disaster, however it turned out on the battlefield. And the first fight likely would not be the last. Even without war a&nbsp;lengthy diplomatic, economic, and social struggle seems inevitable. Winning support from other nations and especially peoples will be critical.</p> <p>The U.S. begins with major advantages. That edge has grown as China has ostentatiously misused the coronavirus pandemic and made itself an enemy of freedom. However, Washington has stumbled as well. The next administration should begin its China policy with a&nbsp;focus on renewing and reviving the U.S.—better educating the young, further freeing the economy, ending wasteful military misadventures, and addressing friends and allies as friends and allies should be addressed.</p> <p>With a&nbsp;firmer foundation in place, Americans could build on the benefits of a&nbsp;free society and confidently address the China challenge. Demonizing the PRC and promoting a&nbsp;new cold war are losing strategies in much of the world. Advancing a&nbsp;positive future in which others, including the Chinese people, could join is more likely to be more effective. Americans need to prepare to play a&nbsp;long game in dealing with Beijing in the years and decades ahead.</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 a&nbsp;number of books, including Tripwire: Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a&nbsp;Changed World. Thu, 15 Oct 2020 11:10:40 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/how-us-benefits-wolf-warrior-diplomacy How the Media Has Whitewashed FBI Abuses in the Russia Probe https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/how-media-has-whitewashed-fbi-abuses-russia-probe <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ted-galen-carpenter" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The mainstream media not only continues to parrot the narrative that&nbsp;President Donald Trump&nbsp;is a&nbsp;Russian asset who collaborated with Moscow to steal the 2016 presidential election, but journalists have also minimized or dismissed evidence about&nbsp;FBI&nbsp;abuses during the course of the investigation into those allegations.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>One point that emerged clearly when Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued his&nbsp;<a href="https://www.justice.gov/storage/120919-examination.pdf" target="_blank">report</a>&nbsp;in December 2019 was that the FBI had committed serious violations of its own procedures and basic requirements of due process.&nbsp;The scope and severity of that misconduct have become even more apparent with the passage of time.</p> <p>Although Horowitz did not endorse the Trump White House’s core allegation that the FBI had initiated the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation of the Trump campaign out of political bias, the IG report identified 17 major instances of improper behavior, including violations of standard procedures and safeguards for the rights of individuals targeted in an investigation. Most of the abuses occurred with respect to investigative warrants aimed at Carter Page, a&nbsp;foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.&nbsp;Especially disturbing violations included the withholding of exculpatory evidence in warrant applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court.&nbsp;Among the offenses was the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/connecting-the-dots-in-clinesmiths-russiagate-guilty-plea/" target="_blank">repeated failure</a>&nbsp;to disclose that Page was working for the CIA during the period he was making contact with Russian diplomatic and intelligence officials. In one instance, FBI assistant general counsel Kevin Clinesmith even altered a&nbsp;document to make it state the opposite of its original language about Page’s role.</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 entire episode is a&nbsp;sobering example of irresponsibility on the part of institutions that nevertheless insist on respect from the public. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Despite the damaging revelations in the IG report, most of the initial accounts in the mainstream media echoed the arguments that former FBI director James Comey and other agency defenders made. News stories emphasized the rejection of the political bias charge, with that aspect eclipsing all other conclusions that placed the FBI in a&nbsp;less favorable light.&nbsp;<em>NBC News</em>&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/justice-department/internal-justice-watchdog-finds-russia-probe-was-justified-not-biased-n1098161" target="_blank">opted for the headline</a>&nbsp;“Internal Justice watchdog finds that Russia probe was justified, not biased against Trump.”&nbsp;<em>PBS NewHour</em>’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/doj-inspector-general-finds-no-bias-in-fbis-russia-probe" target="_blank">headline</a>&nbsp;was “DOJ inspector general finds no bias in FBI’s Russia probe.” Other outlets were at least as flagrant in their spin of the IG’s report.&nbsp;<em>New York Magazine</em>’s&nbsp;<a href="https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/12/ig-finds-russia-investigation-wasnt-an-fbi-witch-hunt.html" target="_blank">headline blared</a>&nbsp;that “Inspector General Finds Russia Investigation Wasn’t an FBI Witch Hunt,” “So much for the Deep State Plot against Donald Trump,”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.wired.com/story/ig-report-fbi-trump-deep-state/" target="_blank">proclaimed</a>&nbsp;an article in&nbsp;<em>Wired</em>.</p> <p>Even when news stories acknowledged problems with the FBI’s behavior, writers and reporters attributed those actions to “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/09/us/politics/fbi-ig-report-russia-investigation.html" target="_blank">errors</a>” and “<a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/doj-watchdog-finds-russia-investigation-improper-missteps/story?id=67599147" target="_blank">missteps</a>,”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2019-12-09/ig-report-on-russia-probe-finds-no-anti-trump-bias-but-identifies-other-errors" target="_blank">not</a>&nbsp;misconduct or abuses. But Horowitz himself pushed back on the notion that he had exonerated the FBI.&nbsp;A&nbsp;week later, he clarified that his investigation into the FBI’s FISA warrants “did not reach” the conclusion that the bureau was unaffected by political bias during its Russia investigation.&nbsp;In response to questioning from&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hawley.senate.gov/" target="_blank">Senator Josh Hawley</a>&nbsp;(R- MO.), Horowitz explained that his investigation did leave the door open to possible political bias, because his team could not accept the explanations FBI members gave about why there were “so many errors” in their investigation.&nbsp;As reasons for caution, he&nbsp;<a href="https://news.yahoo.com/horowitz-pushes-back-claim-exonerated-191257819.html" target="_blank">specifically cited</a> “the alteration of the email, the text messages associated with the individual who did that, and our inability to explain or understand, to get good explanations so that we could understand why this all happened.” Such caveats indicated that the Horowitz report was far from being an exoneration of the FBI.</p> <p>Since then, the media’s favorable spin on the FBI’s performance has become even more difficult to sustain.&nbsp;That was especially true once the FISA court forcefully&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/17/politics/fisa-court-slams-fbi-conduct/index.html" target="_blank">rebuked</a>&nbsp;the FBI for its actions, and then&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nationalreview.com/news/fisa-court-confirms-two-carter-page-surveillance-applications-not-valid/" target="_blank">retroactively invalidated</a>&nbsp;two of four warrants issued in the Page investigation. That move was virtually unprecedented. So too was a&nbsp;subsequent move in March 2020, when the court&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/04/us/politics/fisa-court-fbi-surveillance.html?referringSource=articleShare" target="_blank">barred</a>&nbsp;any agents involved in the original warrant applications from submitting future surveillance applications.</p> <p>Such measures were stunning since the FISA court was notorious over the years for rubber‐​stamping warrant requests from national security agencies.&nbsp;Sharp criticism from the FISA court of such an agency, much less the imposition of sanctions against that agency’s personnel, was only a&nbsp;little less startling than if the Chinese People’s Congress had criticized President Xi Jinping and curtailed his powers.&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet another blow to the media narrative came in early June 2020 when former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stated in congressional testimony that he&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nationalreview.com/news/rod-rosenstein-says-he-would-not-have-signed-fisa-warrant-for-page-if-he-knew-evidence-was-faulty/" target="_blank">never would have signed</a>&nbsp;the FISA warrant renewal application if he had known how unreliable was the Steele dossier and the other underlying evidence. On this occasion, his statement received a&nbsp;respectable amount of attention in the mainstream media, including the&nbsp;<em>Washington Post</em>, CBS News, and Yahoo News. Most of them also acknowledged that the admission was the main thrust of Rosenstein’s testimony.&nbsp;<em>NBC News</em>, though, went out of its way to put a&nbsp;different spin on that testimony, with the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/former-deputy-ag-rod-rosenstein-face-questions-over-russia-probe-n1223371" target="_blank">utterly misleading headline</a>: “Rod Rosenstein defends Mueller appointment, approval of FISA applications in Russia probe.”</p> <p>The prevailing, but increasingly strained, media narrative that any problems with the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation suffered another blow in August 2020 when former assistant general counsel Kevin Clinesmith pled guilty to the document alteration charge in the FISA warrant applications for the continuing surveillance of Carter Page.&nbsp;Mainstream press stories acknowledged the guilty plea, but they carefully avoided drawing any wider conclusions about Crossfire Hurricane abuses.</p> <p>Indeed, some of the accounts went out of their way to assert that Clinesmith’s offense was nothing more than an isolated incident.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/14/politics/fbi-russia-clinesmith/index.html" target="_blank">CNN’s treatment was typical</a>.&nbsp;The network’s analysis contended that “court documents laying out the single charge against Clinesmith don’t make any broader allegation of a&nbsp;conspiracy by FBI investigators against Trump, an accusation Trump has frequently made. Instead, it shows another FBI official who signed the fourth FISA warrant raising a&nbsp;concern about whether Page was a&nbsp;CIA source and seeking email proof when Clinesmith downplayed the CIA relationship with Page.”</p> <p>Only a&nbsp;few analyses in conservative publications pointed out that the forgery episode was part of a&nbsp;larger pattern of FBI procedural violations during Crossfire Hurricane.&nbsp;Andrew McCarthy’s article in&nbsp;<em>National Review</em>&nbsp;explicitly&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/08/clinesmiths-guilty-plea-the-perfect-snapshot-of-crossfire-hurricane-duplicity/" target="_blank">concluded</a>&nbsp;that Clinesmith’s plea was a “perfect snapshot of Crossfire Hurricane’s duplicity.” It was a&nbsp;valid point; Clinesmith’s conduct was merely the most egregious case among numerous episodes of FBI misconduct during that probe, as Horowitz’s report had already documented.</p> <p>Subsequent Senate hearings in September and October 2020 have cast further doubt on the thesis that there was enough evidence to justify commencing the Russia collusion investigation in the first place.&nbsp;The&nbsp;<em>Wall Street Journal</em>’s Kimberley A. Strassel&nbsp;<a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-james-comey-election-11601594306?st=vqwjujdr5mn04vs&amp;reflink=article_email_share" target="_blank">provided a&nbsp;blunt assessment</a>&nbsp;of the excesses.&nbsp;“Chairman Lindsey Graham hauled the former FBI director in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee ostensibly to answer for stunning new details in the bureau’s Trump‐​Russia probe.&nbsp;But the hearing more broadly resurrected the breathtaking arrogance of the swamp. This was the crew that in 2016—based on the thinnest of tips—launched a&nbsp;counterintelligence investigation into a&nbsp;presidential campaign, complete with secret surveillance warrants and informants.”</p> <p>Strassel added: “FBI agent Peter Strzok in 2018 lectured Congress that the bureau had too many “safeguards” and “procedures” ever to allow “improper” behavior. Yet this past week provided evidence the FBI leaders blew through red light after red light.&nbsp;We already knew they based the probe on a&nbsp;dossier that came from a&nbsp;rival campaign. We knew the bureau was warned early on that the dossier was potential Russian disinformation.&nbsp;And now we know it discovered that the man who was the dossier’s primary source had been under FBI investigation as a&nbsp;suspected agent for Moscow. The bureau hid all of this from the surveillance court.”</p> <p>It’s hard to decide which development is worse: the FBI’s lengthy pattern of arrogant misconduct, or the mainstream media’s willingness to be an accomplice in excusing such misconduct.&nbsp;Either behavior undermines government accountability and the protection of civil liberties.&nbsp;The entire episode is a&nbsp;sobering example of irresponsibility on the part of institutions that nevertheless insist on respect from the public.</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. Wed, 14 Oct 2020 08:47:42 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/how-media-has-whitewashed-fbi-abuses-russia-probe Washington Should Stop Pretending to Be Turkey’s Ally https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/washington-should-stop-pretending-be-turkeys-ally <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/doug-bandow" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>President Donald Trump’s willingness to criticize America’s traditional allies has generated a&nbsp;fierce backlash. Members of the infamous Blob, the foreign policy establishment, have united to defend virtually every member of every alliance.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>No doubt, cooperation to advance shared interests is advantageous. However, that does not require one‐​sided peace guarantees to nations capable of defending themselves. And it makes no sense to ally with a&nbsp;country that does not advance U.S. security. Like Turkey.</p> <p>Ankara has long enjoyed a&nbsp;reputation for being strategically important, anchoring Europe’s southeast, limiting Soviet advances into the Mediterranean through the Black Sea and into the Middle East overland. The U.S. still uses Incirlik and Izmir Air Bases to extend its military reach. Ankara has been held up as a&nbsp;model Islamic democracy.</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>They’ve become the fifth columnist of NATO, reminding us that alliances aren’t like diamonds: they don’t last forever. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Even during the Cold War, NATO paid a&nbsp;high price for Turkey’s inclusion. Authoritarian, military‐​dominated governments in Ankara enforced a&nbsp;ruthlessly secular public space; there were several coups, hard and soft. In 1974, Turkey invaded and partitioned the Republic of Cyprus. War almost erupted with Greece and for a&nbsp;time Congress barred arms sales to Ankara. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ankara became a&nbsp;regional guardian without serious duties, while its unstable, military‐​dominated coalition politics and weak economy didn’t look like much of a&nbsp;model for anyone.</p> <p>The 2002 victory of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) transformed Turkey. Originally the AKP presented itself as responsibly religious, pro‐​Western, and liberal, eager to democratize Turkish society, exclude the military from politics, and join the European Union.</p> <p>However, by the end of the decade, Erdogan and his party had immersed themselves in corruption and initiated authoritarian rule. His commitment to Islam turned harsh and political. Rule of law, individual liberties, and democratic procedures all were sacrificed to enhance regime power. The 2016 attempted coup was Erdogan’s Reichstag fire, justifying the brutal crackdown and purge that he’d long wanted and may have planned. Last year, for the first time, Erdogan tampered with the actual vote, forcing a&nbsp;rerun of the Istanbul mayoral race, which his party ended up losing twice. Next time he may be more desperate—and simply steal the election.</p> <p>The cumulative impact has been to destroy what was always a&nbsp;flawed and limited democracy. The group Freedom House rates the country as not free. The State Department points to “reports of arbitrary killings; suspicious deaths of persons in custody; forced disappearances; torture; arbitrary arrest and detention of tens of thousands of persons,” and that’s just the start.</p> <p>All of which has undermined NATO. The Europeans take democracy more seriously than during the Cold War. Indeed, they justified the alliance’s post‐​Cold War expansion as a&nbsp;means of integrating the former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe into the West. The allies also perceive Russia’s slide backward into authoritarianism as part of its menace.</p> <p>Even more problematic for NATO is Ankara’s increasingly independent and hostile foreign policy. Russia is Europe’s only conceivable serious adversary. Yet Erdogan has become the equivalent of a&nbsp;fifth columnist, more likely to support Moscow than Brussels.</p> <p>His policy toward Russia was irresponsibly reckless when, five years ago, Ankara shot down a&nbsp;Russian warplane operating in Syria for briefly straying into Turkish airspace. Had war erupted, Washington would have been expected to confront nuclear‐​armed Russia.</p> <p>Erdogan then staged a&nbsp;dramatic policy pirouette and joined with Moscow to manage the denouement of the Syrian civil war. Moreover, Ankara decided to purchase the S-400 air defense system, triggering an administration cut‐​off from the F-35 program and congressional demands for economic sanctions. The Russian and Turkish governments have still ended up on opposite sides in the fight over opposition‐​controlled Syrian territory, Libya’s civil war, and the growing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, they so far have maintained their political bonds.</p> <p>Indeed, Ankara’s allegiance to NATO looks a&nbsp;lot like Italy’s pre‐​World War I&nbsp;membership in the Triple Alliance. When armies started marching, Rome refused to honor its promises and eventually entered the war on the other side (bribed by the Entente with promises of Austro‐​Hungarian territory). How likely is Turkey to declare war on Russia to help defend, say, Estonia?</p> <p>This factor alone warrants ejection of Ankara from the transatlantic alliance. However, Turkey’s involvement in Syria is not just a&nbsp;problem of cooperation with Moscow. During the early years of the civil war, the Erdogan government allowed the Islamic State free transit across the Turkish border; Turkish intelligence is believed to have directly assisted the group. Moreover, Erdogan family and staff members may have profited through trade with ISIS. Ankara also launched two invasions targeting Washington’s Kurdish allies, which led the ground assault on the Islamist movement’s Syria‐​based “caliphate.” Turkey employed Islamist Arabic forces, which committed ethnic cleansing and other atrocities against the Syrian Kurds.</p> <p>Now Ankara is threatening war against fellow NATO members and prospective EU partners. Perhaps the most enduring dispute is over control of Aegean Sea waters. Greek islands near Turkey greatly restrict the latter’s sovereignty over areas that Ankara considers to be its own. Air and naval confrontations between Greece and Turkey are routine.</p> <p>Moreover, Ankara continues to occupy much of Cyprus 46&nbsp;years later. The presence of undersea oil and natural gas created a&nbsp;new dispute, leading to naval clashes between Turkey and the internationally recognized Cypriot government. Ankara is promoting energy exploration in areas claimed by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey. Israel also is involved, working with Cyprus and Greece. Turkey’s relationship with Israel remains poor, and the Erdogan government recently ignored U.S. objections to meet with leaders of Hamas.</p> <p>Ankara entered Libya’s continuing civil war on the side of the Tripoli‐​based Government of National Accord, from which Turkey extracted a&nbsp;maritime boundary agreement giving the latter energy development rights in waters claimed by Cyprus and Greece. Ankara broke the United Nations arms embargo and safeguarded its weapons shipments with a&nbsp;naval escort, which led to confrontations with Greek and French ships deployed to enforce the ban.</p> <p>Ongoing ground combat in Libya could trigger a&nbsp;larger conflagration. Ranged against Turkey are France, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Russia. Much could go wrong. Imagine an exchange of fire between American allies, with Russia tossed in for good measure. Most everyone would see Washington as the inevitable defense backstop, expected to go to war over some damn fool thing in the Mediterranean, to paraphrase Otto von Bismarck.</p> <p>Finally, Turkey appears poised to intervene in the burgeoning conflict between Armenia, backed by Russia and Iran, and Azerbaijan over Nagorno‐​Karabakh, Azerbaijani territory largely populated by ethnic Armenians, seized after a&nbsp;lengthy conflict that ended in an uneasy ceasefire in 1994. Ankara subsequently helped train the Azerbaijani armed forces; in the latest flare‐​up it has been accused of shooting down an Armenian aircraft and introducing Syrian mercenaries in the fighting. The claims are unverified, but Turkey has publicly backed Baku, promising weapons and training.</p> <p>These many seemingly isolated actions reflect an increasingly aggressive Turkish foreign policy. In his speech last Thursday to Turkey’s National Assembly, Erdogan suggested a&nbsp;far‐​reaching revisionist agenda: “There is no chance left for this distorted order, in which the entire globe is encumbered by a&nbsp;handful of greedy people, to continue to exist the way it currently does.” He also dismissed the effectiveness of outside pressure: “those who ignored our country in the region for years—and confronted us with maps and demands that would imprison us into our coasts—first tried the language of threat and blackmail after the steps we took.”</p> <p>So Ankara no longer is the perceived ally of old. With the Cold War over, nothing requires the U.S. to ignore the autocratic elephant that was always in the room, even during the Cold War. Worse are the divergent security interests. No one in the West knows how far Turkey is prepared to push. If Ankara ends up in a&nbsp;shooting war with someone, including Russia, Europe and the U.S. could be dragged along.</p> <p>Erdogan long ago dissipated any reservoir of trust with other Western powers, but some analysts advocate waiting for him to leave the political scene. However, at age 66 he could rule for another decade or more. Moreover, both his Islamism and nationalism enjoy strong domestic support; antagonism toward the West and especially America is strong. Even a&nbsp;more democratic regime would not be inclined to yield on important geopolitical questions. For instance, over the last decade the expansive maritime doctrine known as “Blue Homeland,” seeking control over waters claimed by Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, and Israel, has gained widespread support.</p> <p>Out of disappointment rather than anger the U.S. should disconnect militarily from Turkey, freeing both countries to act as they believe necessary, while preserving a&nbsp;strong mutual diplomatic presence. At the very least Washington should remove nuclear weapons from Turkish bases and reconsider arms sales to Ankara. Moreover, NATO should review Turkey’s status. Easing Ankara out of the transatlantic alliance would improve Western security.</p> <p>Most Washington policymakers treat alliances like diamonds, believing them to be forever. Yet whatever Erdogan’s political future, Turkey is likely to remain estranged from America and the West.</p> <p>Which means Washington needs a&nbsp;more realistic policy toward Ankara. The U.S. should collaborate with the latter when possible and confront it when necessary. Most important, the next administration should stop pretending that Turkey is an ally, let alone a&nbsp;reliable one.</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. Tue, 13 Oct 2020 08:56:42 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/washington-should-stop-pretending-be-turkeys-ally No, Amy Coney Barrett Is Not ‘Anti‐​Worker’ https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/no-amy-coney-barrett-not-anti-worker <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/walter-olson" hreflang="und">Walter Olson</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>According to Sens. Sherrod Brown (D‐​Ohio) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D‐​Massachusetts), Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is “<a href="https://irontontribune.com/2020/10/09/brown-warren-say-barrett-would-harm-workers-rights/">anti‐​worker.</a>” From <em><a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2020/09/supreme-court-pick-trump-amy-coney-barrett-gig-economy-workers">Jacobin</a></em> and <em><a href="https://www.salon.com/2020/10/10/how-donald-trump-intends-to-weaponize-the-supreme-court-against-ordinary-americans_partner/">Salon</a></em> to <em><a href="https://inthesetimes.com/article/amy-coney-barrett-supreme-court-workers-labor-movement-unions">In These Times</a></em>, voices on the left have joined the chorus to denounce the Notre Dame‐​trained jurist as overly inclined to side with bosses and the capitalist class in labor disputes.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>As a&nbsp;libertarian, it wouldn’t bother me if Barrett were an ardent advocate of freedom of contract and property rights. But I’m sorry to report that a&nbsp;look at her actual rulings on workplace and employment cases shows they’re just not very big news one way or the other. Barrett has hewn carefully to the precedent and guidance handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court, just as you’d expect from an accomplished appeals court judge, and she has also stayed well within the mainstream of her own Chicago‐​based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.</p> <p>Barrett has written few dissents in general, and so far as I&nbsp;have been able to find, none in this area. Nor have her rulings in workplace cases, any more than her rulings in general, tended to draw dissents from her colleagues. In <em><a href="https://casetext.com/case/grussgott-v-milwaukee-jewish-day-sch-inc-4">Grussgott v. Milwaukee Jewish Day School, Inc</a></em><a href="https://casetext.com/case/grussgott-v-milwaukee-jewish-day-sch-inc-4">.</a>, a&nbsp;unanimous panel on which she sat <a href="https://casetext.com/case/grussgott-v-milwaukee-jewish-day-sch-inc-4">found</a> that a&nbsp;job teaching Hebrew and Jewish studies at a&nbsp;private religious school was covered by the “ministerial exception” to anti‐​discrimination law, a&nbsp;finding consistent with the approach of <a href="https://www.cato.org/blog/hosanna-indeed-high-court-affirms-religious-liberty-ministerial-exception-case">both liberal and conservative</a> justices on the Supreme Court.</p> <p>In a&nbsp;case this year, <em><a href="http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/rssExec.pl?Submit=Display&amp;Path=Y2020/D06-26/C:19-2706:J:Barrett:aut:T:fnOp:N:2536654:S:0">Purtue v. Wisconsin Department of Corrections</a></em>, Barrett affirmed that a&nbsp;prison employee had been properly dismissed for having falsely accused an inmate of throwing an empty food box at her. Prison officials noted that the consequences of the assault allegation could have been extremely severe for the prisoner, perhaps even leading to his assignment to a&nbsp;maximum‐​security facility. Rejecting the officer’s claim of sex discrimination, Barrett ruled that her misconduct was both the stated reason for her dismissal and a&nbsp;sufficient reason under the circumstances. (The case, by the way, is a&nbsp;reminder that the demand for “pro‐​worker” judicial rulings is often at odds with genuinely progressive social goals, which include that of not letting inmates be falsely accused in situations like this.)</p> <p>In discrimination claims, as commenters have pointed out, Barrett tends to take a&nbsp;fact‐​intensive approach, and has repeatedly upheld the claims of bias plaintiffs. That includes the cases of a&nbsp;Chicago parks employee who <a href="https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca7/19-1939/19-1939-2020-04-07.html">won an award</a> based on discrimination against her Hispanic background, a&nbsp;male butcher who <a href="https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca7/17-2626/17-2626-2018-08-02.html#:~:text=17%2D2626%20(7th%20Cir.,-2018)&amp;text=The%20Seventh%20Circuit%20affirmed.,occurred%20because%20of%20his%20sex.">recovered damages</a> over harassment by his male grocery store co‐​workers and supervisor, and a&nbsp;Costco employee who <a href="https://casetext.com/case/equal-empt-opportunity-commn-v-costco-wholesale-corp-1?">sued the retailer</a> for not doing more to protect her from a&nbsp;customer who harassed her for more than a&nbsp;year. On the other hand, she ruled in favor of the <a href="https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca7/18-2948/18-2948-2019-08-21.html">Illinois highway department</a> against a&nbsp;worker fired after repeated unsatisfactory evaluations for unsafe conduct, confrontational attitudes, and inability to keep up with training.</p> <p>It’s true that Barrett took part as one vote among many at the full appeals court in two cases that touched on interesting and unresolved issues of employment law. In <em><a href="http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/rssExec.pl?Submit=Display&amp;Path=Y2019/D01-23/C:17-1206:J:Scudder:aut:T:fnOp:N:2282572:S:0">Kleber v. CareFusion</a></em>, she joined an 8–4 ruling holding that the language of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act does not allow claims by job applicants over “disparate impact” (that is, over formally neutral policies or practices that adversely affect one group disproportionately, as opposed to intentional discrimination). The court relied on textualist reasoning, but it might also be noted that applying disparate impact rules regarding age to the hiring process could lead to some ripely absurd results. For example, it could cast doubt on the legality of employer recruitment at college job fairs, since that tends to screen out 70‐​year‐​olds. (Either Congress or the Supreme Court could take up and resolve this issue in 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>Her employment‐​law jurisprudence hews closely to precedent handed down by the Supreme Court.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>In the other instance, Barrett joined a&nbsp;5–3 majority that <a href="http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/rssExec.pl?Submit=Display&amp;Path=Y2017/D11-21/C:15-3201:J:PerCuriam:aut:T:opDr:N:2066195:S:0">declined to rehear</a> a&nbsp;case (<em><a href="http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/rssExec.pl?Submit=Display&amp;Path=Y2017/D06-20/C:15-3201:J:Sykes:aut:T:fnOp:N:1982895:S:0">EEOC v. AutoZone</a></em>) based in part on an allegation that a&nbsp;retailer had transferred a&nbsp;non‐​Hispanic worker, who was black, away from a&nbsp;store with a&nbsp;heavily Hispanic clientele to a&nbsp;different store in the chain. The main reason the court declined rehearing was probably the weakness of the case in general; the judge had found that the employee had not been injured by the transfer, and in fact had testified that he “didn’t mind” it; there was testimony that he was having trouble communicating with the store’s customers; the complainant, his store manager, and the company’s decision‐​maker were all black; and so forth. On top of all that, courts have not ruled that it is illegal for employers to take into account some of the factors here so long as the effect of doing so is not to put other employees at an overall disadvantage. Were courts to ban job assignments based on recognition of so‐​called cultural competence, unwelcome and unintended consequences might once again follow; in particular, the result might be to undercut one reason companies are urged to recruit culturally diverse staff in the first place.</p> <p>The 7th Circuit in both cases broke along roughly though not perfectly ideological lines. So we might guess, based on these two data points, that Barrett’s views fall somewhere amid the range of typical views held by Republican‐​appointed judges. And that’s really all we can guess.</p> <p>Barrett’s ruling in <em><a href="http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/rssExec.pl?Submit=Display&amp;Path=Y2020/D08-04/C:19-1564:J:Barrett:aut:T:fnOp:N:2558401:S:0">Wallace v. GrubHub</a></em>, regularly cited by her critics, turns out to be a&nbsp;routine exercise in applying precedent. Under an exception to the Federal Arbitration Act, workers can bypass arbitration and sue their employers if they are “seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” That last clause is ambiguous: If it incorporates the notoriously loose reading of “interstate commerce” found in Commerce Clause jurisprudence, then it exempts nearly all jobs. But a&nbsp;majority of the Supreme Court led by Justice Anthony Kennedy addressed this question in a&nbsp;2001 case, <em><a href="https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/532/105.html">Circuit City</a></em>, and decided to read the phrase far more narrowly in light of the listed mentions of seamen and railroad workers to cover only transportation workers, and among them only those engaged in interstate and foreign as opposed to local transport. Although there are a&nbsp;few hard cases at the dividing line between in‐​state and interstate, GrubHub isn’t one of them; it’s a&nbsp;local restaurant delivery service. That Barrett followed the path laid down by the high court in <em>Circuit City</em> tells us nothing about whether she is a&nbsp;conservative judge or some other kind.</p> <p>But that’s how it tends to go when pressure‐​group ideologues compile tidy checklists of cases meant to provide ammunition against judicial nominees. Much, even most of the day‐​to‐​day work of judges consists of relatively routine and technical issues in which emotion plays little role. The role of groups like Alliance for Justice is to jam this work into a “which side are you on” framework based on the notion that the only thing of interest in a&nbsp;case is which side won.</p> <p>It’s now a&nbsp;routine part of the mudslinging of the modern confirmation process. We, and senators, are free to ignore it and move on.</p> </div> <p>Walter Olson is a&nbsp;senior fellow at the Cato Institute.</p> Mon, 12 Oct 2020 09:37:32 -0400 Walter Olson https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/no-amy-coney-barrett-not-anti-worker Federal Low‐​Income Housing Tax Credits Aren’t Helping Low‐​Income People https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/federal-low-income-housing-tax-credits-arent-helping-low-income-people <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/randal-otoole" hreflang="und">Randal O&#039;Toole</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Tax credits provided by the federal government to developers of low‐​income housing are poorly monitored and have suffered from mission creep. Instead of providing housing to households whose incomes are below the poverty line, many states are using these funds to socially engineer people into living in high‐​density housing projects along transit corridors.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p><a href="https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RS22389.pdf" target="_blank">Low‐​Income Housing Tax Credits</a>&nbsp;(LIHTCs) is the federal government’s largest program for building affordable housing, costing the Treasury $10 billion a&nbsp;year. This compares with&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/CFO/documents/BudgetinBrief_2020-02_06_Online.pdf" target="_blank">less than $3 billion</a>&nbsp;a&nbsp;year spent on the Department of Housing &amp;&nbsp;Urban Development’s (HUD’s) public housing capital program. Yet LIHTCs are administered not by HUD but by the Internal Revenue Service, which relies on state housing agencies to oversee the program.</p> <p>Many states, however, are more interested in using the funds to boost transit ridership than to provide housing for people living in poverty. The housing that is built is anything but affordable, often costing three times as much per square foot as housing built without subsidies. Only a&nbsp;few units of subsidized housing are affordable to people living below the poverty line; most are available to any household earning less than the urban area’s median income, which literally means half the households in the region.</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 rules are based on assumptions that high‐​density housing and public transit are somehow more energy efficient and climate‐​friendly than single‐​family homes and driving. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>As the Los Angeles Tenants Union&nbsp;<a href="https://medium.com/@LATenantsUnion/affordable-housing-is-a-scam-9a4c43ba8149" target="_blank">complains</a>, “U.S. housing policy has become a&nbsp;market‐​driven, mixed‐​income program of ‘Affordable Housing’ for carefully selected, mostly middle‐​income tenants, largely excluding the very poor.”</p> <p>Each year, the IRS apportions out LIHTCs to the states based on population. The states then give the tax credits to various for‐​profit or non‐​profit developers, which can use the credits to offset their federal income taxes or sell the credits to other companies. LIHTCs can be used to pay for up to 70 percent of the cost of supposedly affordable housing, with other state and local funds often making up most of the other 30 percent.</p> <p>The result is that developers put up almost none of their own money to build low‐​income housing. The rents they collect are restricted to keep the housing affordable but certainly pay for the costs of operating the housing. After 30&nbsp;years, the restrictions are lifted and the property owners can charge market rates, sometimes leading to a&nbsp;<a href="https://la.curbed.com/2019/4/1/18283960/affordable-housing-los-angeles-expires-chinatown" target="_blank">doubling or tripling of rents</a>.</p> <p>To see how this program works in detail, I&nbsp;<a href="https://ti.org/pdfs/APB72.pdf" target="_blank">recently examined</a>&nbsp;dozens of housing projects funded in Seattle since 2008. Almost all of these projects were built or are being built by non‐​profit organizations such as Mercy Housing, which has low‐​income housing projects in 18 states ranging from California to Georgia.</p> <p>These projects cost an average of about $300,000 per apartment unit, which sounds affordable in a&nbsp;region where the median home price is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.zillow.com/seattle-wa/home-values/" target="_blank">$780,000</a>. But while the median home in Seattle is around 2,000&nbsp;square feet in size, the average unit built with low‐​income housing funds is less than 700&nbsp;square feet.</p> <p>Current home construction costs in Seattle average&nbsp;<a href="https://www.byoh.com/costtobuildinwashington.htm" target="_blank">$141 per square foot</a>. The affordable housing projects, however, cost an average of $532 per square foot. This included basic construction costs (including contingencies) of $260 per square foot, plus all sorts of additional fees and costs including $40 of “developer fees” (meaning money for the non‐​profit), $38 per square foot for land acquisition, and the costs of constructing common areas such as hallways in multifamily dwellings. For comparison, new homes in Buckeye, Arizona sell for as low as&nbsp;<a href="https://www.zillow.com/community/tartesso/2082506055_zpid/" target="_blank">$126.55 per square foot</a>, including the land, all permits and hookups, developer fees, and other costs.</p> <p>One reason construction is more expensive in Seattle is that Seattle has an urban‐​growth boundary that has driven average land prices to $1.3 million an acre, compared with under $300,000 an acre in fast‐​growing urban areas that have no urban‐​growth boundaries such as Atlanta, Houston, and Raleigh. Yet none of the non‐​profits that build low‐​income housing in Seattle make any effort to repeal the state’s growth‐​management law, which has more than doubled inflation‐​adjusted rental rates in Seattle since it was passed in 1990. Why should they, when high housing costs increase the demand for their projects?</p> <p>An even bigger problem is that most of the Seattle projects weren’t really built to provide affordable housing; instead, they were built to provide customers to the region’s light‐​rail system. To be eligible for state and city housing funds covering the 30 percent of costs that LIHTCs won’t pay, Seattle projects have to comply with an “Evergreen Sustainable Development Standard” that requires, among other things, “compact development,” “access to public transportation,” and “walkable neighborhoods.” As a&nbsp;result, all but two of the 30 projects whose applications I&nbsp;examined in detail were mid‐​rises (4- to 6‐​story) or high‐​rises (7‐​plus stories). Such projects are much more expensive to build due to the need for more structural steel and concrete, not to mention all of the common areas they require that aren’t needed for single‐​family homes.</p> <p>These rules are based on assumptions that high‐​density housing and public transit are somehow more energy efficient and climate‐​friendly than single‐​family homes and driving. In fact, midrise and high‐​rise construction uses far more energy and emits more greenhouse gases per square foot than low‐​rise construction. Multifamily housing also uses more energy per square foot than single‐​family housing. Furthermore, public transit&nbsp;<a href="https://ti.org/pdfs/APB33.pdf" target="_blank">uses more energy</a>&nbsp;and emits more greenhouse gases per passenger mile than driving an average car. High‐​density housing is only more “sustainable” if people are willing to live in cramped apartments—but even then, smaller single‐​family homes would use even less energy.</p> <p>“Government will malperform if an activity is under pressure to satisfy different constituencies with different values and different demands,’’ wrote&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Drucker" target="_blank">Peter Drucker</a>&nbsp;in his 1989 book,&nbsp;<em><a href="https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&amp;cm_sp=SearchF-_-home-_-Results&amp;an=drucker&amp;tn=new+realities&amp;kn=&amp;isbn=" target="_blank">The New Realities</a></em>. ‘‘Performance requires concentration on one goal.” Agencies administering affordable housing funds have lost sight of their goal and so the money they spend doesn’t help as many people as it could.</p> <p>Not that the housing built in Seattle’s project helps many low‐​income people. Many of the units are available to any household that earns less than the Seattle-area’s median income, which was&nbsp;<a href="https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=b19013&amp;g=0100000US_400C100US80389&amp;tid=ACSDT1Y2019.B19013&amp;hidePreview=true" target="_blank">$93,000</a>&nbsp;in 2019, and only a&nbsp;few are affordable to those who truly have low incomes. Despite the fact that the non‐​profits that built the projects spent none of their own money on the capital costs, the rents they charge for most of the apartments are higher than truly low‐​income people can afford to pay.</p> <p>According to the Census Bureau, the poverty line for a&nbsp;Seattle family of four is&nbsp;<a href="https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/demo/tables/p60/268/pov-threshold-2018.xlsx" target="_blank">under $33,000</a>&nbsp;a&nbsp;year. Given requirements that households spend no more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing, a&nbsp;family earning $33,000 a&nbsp;year can afford to spend $825 a&nbsp;month on rent and utilities. Yet only ten of the 110 units of the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.zillow.com/community/tartesso/2082506055_zpid/" target="_blank">Capitol Hill TOD</a>&nbsp;(for transit‐​oriented development), a&nbsp;project now being built with low‐​income housing tax credits, will be priced this low, and only five of those are large enough for a&nbsp;family of four. The average unit in the complex will require an income of $40,000 a&nbsp;year, and the most expensive $56,000. This means that most of the 110 units are really middle‐​income housing.</p> <p>Nor does low‐​income housing have much influence on the housing market as a&nbsp;whole. Since 2008, Seattle has built or under construction 6,700 units of low‐​income housing, which is about 8&nbsp;percent of the growth in the number of homes in the city. But it is actually less than that on net because hundreds of homes were demolished to make room for some of these projects. This simply isn’t enough homes to significantly influence overall housing prices. To make matters worse, Seattle’s share of affordable housing subsidies is funded by a&nbsp;property tax on existing homes, reducing the affordability of homeownership.</p> <p>This isn’t just a&nbsp;Seattle problem: such high‐​cost, high‐​density housing is being built using affordable housing subsidies in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, and many other states. The real aim of such housing is often to boost transit ridership as many of the high‐​density housing projects springing up along light‐​rail lines are partially or entirely financed with LIHTCs and other low‐​income housing funds.</p> <p>For example, in another&nbsp;<a href="https://www.azfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/LightRail_PolicyPaper_Final.pdf" target="_blank">recent study</a>&nbsp;I&nbsp;found 33 high‐​density projects costing $383 million built with low‐​income housing subsidies along Phoenix, Arizona’s light‐​rail line. To add insult to injury, Phoenix’s transit agency claimed that these projects were “stimulated” by the light‐​rail line when in fact they wouldn’t have been built, at least not in that form, without the housing subsidies.</p> <p>It is clear that the low‐​income housing tax credit program is not accomplishing its goals and should be abolished. Voters in general should be suspicious of ballot measures that would supposedly fund low‐​income housing but really fund transit‐​oriented developments most of whose housing units will rent at rates that won’t be affordable to families below the poverty line.</p> </div> Randal O’Toole is a&nbsp;senior fellow with the Cato Institute analyzing land‐​use and transportation policies and the author of&nbsp;<a href="http://store.cato.org/books/american-nightmare-how-government-undermines-dream-homeownership" target="_blank">American Nightmare</a>: How Government Undermines the Dream of Homeownership. Mon, 12 Oct 2020 09:15:23 -0400 Randal O'Toole https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/federal-low-income-housing-tax-credits-arent-helping-low-income-people End Confirmation Hearings for Supreme Court Nominees https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/end-confirmation-hearings-supreme-court-nominees <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ilya-shapiro" hreflang="und">Ilya Shapiro</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>As the battle over another Supreme Court nomination rages, reform proposals abound: <a href="https://beyer.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=4925#:~:text=Khanna&#039;s%20bill%20would%20establish%2018,and%20O&#039;Connor%20currently%20do." rel="noopener" target="_blank">term limits</a>, changing <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/07/02/make-supreme-court-lots-bigger-59-justices-more-like-america-column/749326002/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">the size of the court</a> to make each seat less important, periodically rotating in circuit judges <a href="https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2018/9/6/17827786/kavanaugh-vote-supreme-court-packing" rel="noopener" target="_blank">rather than having permanent justices</a>. Setting aside Supreme Court structure, what about the confirmation process itself? Should we have rules for how many days after a&nbsp;nomination there must be a&nbsp;hearing and then a&nbsp;vote?</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Maybe we should consider restoring the filibuster for nominees — although Neil Gorsuch was the first and only Supreme Court <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/04/republicans-nuke-the-filibuster-to-save-neil-gorsuch/522156/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">nominee subject to partisan filibuster</a>. (Justice<a href="https://www.senate.gov/about/powers-procedures/nominations/filibuster-derails-supreme-court-appointment.htm" rel="noopener" target="_blank"> Abe Fortas</a> lacked even a&nbsp;majority of announced support for his elevation to chief justice in 1968, while Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito <a href="https://time.com/4713796/neil-gorsuch-confirmation-democrats-filibuster/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">were confirmed with fewer than 60 votes</a>.) <strong> </strong>Of course, if we had the political unity for these kinds of changes, we wouldn’t have the toxic atmosphere we’re in, so it’s a&nbsp;chicken‐​and‐​egg problem.</p> <p><strong>Stop the Confirmation Spectacle</strong></p> <p>Earlier this year, at a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.csdpconferences.org/politics-of-judicial-nominations-conference.html" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Princeton conference</a> on the politics of judicial nominations, Henry Saad, a&nbsp;former Michigan court of appeals judge whose<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/05/24/filibuster.fight/" rel="noopener" target="_blank"> nomination to the Sixth Circuit was filibustered under George W. Bush</a>, proposed a&nbsp;number of process reforms. Saad would make it a&nbsp;violation of judicial ethics for nominees to give their opinions about a&nbsp;case, while making hearings untelevised, with questions submitted in writing, restricted to professional qualifications, and asked by the chief counsel for each party’s judiciary committee members.</p> <p>Some congressional committees allow this in other contexts, and while it didn’t seem to work very well for Republicans in the supplemental <a href="https://www.c-span.org/video/?449704-1/brett-kavanaugh-confirmation-hearing-begins-amid-democratic-objections-public-protests" rel="noopener" target="_blank">hearing on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination</a>, that was largely a&nbsp;function of the five‐​minute increments the counsel questioning was forced into. Any personal information or ethical concerns could then be handled in the confidential session that the Senate Judiciary Committee already has to discuss the required FBI background check and other sensitive matters.</p> <p>These sorts of post‐​nomination proposals are healthy, because they target the spectacle that confirmations have become, with senators either not equipped to handle the required lines of questioning or grandstanding to produce a&nbsp;gotcha moment, or at least B‐​roll for campaign videos. “It’s like testifying in a&nbsp;restaurant,” quips former White House counsel Don McGahn, with photographers clicking away in front and protesters haranguing in the back. And it’s not like we learn anything about nominees, who are now coached to avoid saying anything newsworthy.</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>Supreme Court nominee confirmation hearings used to be useful, but are now so contentious that they harm the Supreme Court.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p><strong>Public Hearings Are Relatively Recent History</strong></p> <p>The Senate didn’t even hold public hearings on Supreme Court nominations <a href="https://ij.org/sc_courting_history/the-dramatic-story-of-the-first-senate-confirmation-hearings-for-a-supreme-court-nominee-courtinghistory/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">until 1916</a>, a&nbsp;tumultuous year that witnessed the first Jewish nominee (Louis Brandeis), and then the <a href="https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/the-man-most-qualified-to-be-president-who-wasnt" rel="noopener" target="_blank">resignation of a&nbsp;justice to run against a&nbsp;sitting president</a>. It wouldn’t be <a href="https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/crisis-supreme-court" rel="noopener" target="_blank">until 1938 that a&nbsp;nominee testified </a>at his own hearing. In 1962, the part of Byron White’s hearing where the nominee himself testified lasted less than 15&nbsp;minutes and consisted of questions about his storied football career​.It was a&nbsp;different time.</p> <p>I’ve come to the conclusion that we should get rid of hearings altogether, that they’ve served their purpose for a&nbsp;century but now inflict greater cost on the Court, Senate, and rule of law than any informational or educational benefit gained. Given the voluminous and instantly searchable records nominees have these days — going back to collegiate writings and other digitized archives — is there any need to subject them, and the country, to a&nbsp;public inquisition?</p> <p>At the very least, the Senate could hold nomination hearings entirely in closed session.</p> <p>Any such change won’t come in time for the consideration of Amy Coney Barrett, of course, but to turn down the heat on future nominations, we need to think outside the box.</p> </div> <p>Ilya Shapiro is director of the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute and author of the new book <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Supreme-Disorder-Judicial-Nominations-Politics/dp/1684510562?tag=catoinstitute-20" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America’s Highest Court</a></em>, from which this essay is adapted.</p> Sun, 11 Oct 2020 09:52:48 -0400 Ilya Shapiro https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/end-confirmation-hearings-supreme-court-nominees Talk Radio Is Turning Millions of Americans Into Conservatives https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/talk-radio-turning-millions-americans-conservatives <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/paul-matzko" hreflang="und">Paul Matzko</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>At least 15 million Americans every week tune into one of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.talkers.com/top-talk-audiences/" target="_blank">top</a>&nbsp;15 talk radio programs. They are not monolithically conservative, but they are overwhelmingly so. A&nbsp;dozen of the top 15 shows feature conservative or libertarian hosts — with devoted followings like Rush Limbaugh’s “Dittoheads” or Michael Savage’s “Savage Nation” — and only one leans left.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Talk radio may face an aging&nbsp;<a href="https://www.journalism.org/numbers/listeners-to-news-talk-information-stations-by-age/" target="_blank">audience</a>, a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.journalism.org/fact-sheet/audio-and-podcasting/" target="_blank">decline</a>&nbsp;in ad revenue and competition from new mass media forms like podcasts, but there are still millions of Americans whose politics are shaped by what they listen to on talk radio all day, every day. Fox News gets more of the attention for shaping conservative opinion and for its influence on the Trump administration, but we shouldn’t overlook the power of conservative talk radio.</p> <p>The conservatism of talk radio only partly overlaps with institutional conservatism, that of right‐​wing Washington think tanks, magazines and the Republican Party itself. By the early 2000s, it had embraced a&nbsp;version of conservatism that is less focused on free markets and small government and more focused on ethnonationalism and populism. It is, in short, the core of Trumpism — now and in the future, with or without a&nbsp;President Trump.</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 medium is at the heart of Trumpism. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Talk radio’s power is rooted in the sheer volume of content being produced each week. The typical major talk radio show is produced every weekday and runs three hours, so just the top 15 shows are putting out around 45&nbsp;hours of content every day. Even setting aside hundreds of additional local shows, the dedicated fan can listen to nothing but conservative talk radio all day, every day of the week, and never catch up.</p> <p>Yet talk radio still somehow manages to fly below the national media radar. In large part, that is because media consumption pattens are segregated by class. If you visit a&nbsp;carpentry shop or factory floor, or hitch a&nbsp;ride with a&nbsp;long‐​haul truck driver, odds are that talk radio is a&nbsp;fixture of the aural landscape. But many white‐​collar workers, journalists included, struggle to understand the reach of talk radio because they don’t listen to it, and don’t know anyone who does.</p> <p>Moreover, anyone who wants to make an effort to understand talk radio runs into a&nbsp;barrier immediately: Because of the ocean of content, one must listen to it at great length, a&nbsp;daunting task for anyone not already sympathetic with a&nbsp;host’s conservative views. The time commitment suggests the depth of listener loyalty.</p> <p>Each show has its own long‐​running inside jokes and references, a&nbsp;kind of linguistic shorthand that unites fans and repels outside examination. And since shows have begun to regularly publish online transcripts only in the past decade or so, journalists and scholars have found it hard to wade through all the content.</p> <p>As Jim Derych, the author of “<a href="http://www.igpub.com/confessions-of-a-former-dittohead/" target="_blank">Confessions of a&nbsp;Former Dittohead</a>,”&nbsp;<a href="http://failuremag.com/article/left-turn" target="_blank">put it</a>, Rush Limbaugh “makes you feel like an insider — like you know what’s going on politically, and everyone else is an idiot.” There is power in that feeling, the proposition that you and the radio elect have been awakened to a&nbsp;hidden truth about the real way the world works while the rest of the American “sheeple” slumber.</p> <p>Like single‐​issue voters, talk radio fans are able to exercise outsize influence on the political landscape by the intensity of their ideological commitment. Political scientists have long noted the way in which single‐​issue voters can punch above their numerical weight. An organization like the National Rifle Association, which says it has about five million members, has been able to outlobby gun control supporters despite broad (but diffuse) public&nbsp;<a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/10/20/771278167/poll-number-of-americans-who-favor-stricter-gun-laws-continues-to-grow" target="_blank">backing</a>&nbsp;for at least incremental gun control measures.</p> <p>Talk radio listeners make up a&nbsp;group at least three times as large as the N.R.A. and are just as committed to a&nbsp;particular vision of America. To take one example, since the mid‐​2000s, talk radio listeners have played a&nbsp;big part in steering Republicans toward the virulent anti‐​immigration stance of Mr. Trump. Mr. Limbaugh once&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHPm_TEQ0PA" target="_blank">proposed</a>&nbsp;a&nbsp;set of “Limbaugh Laws” requiring immigrants to speak English, barring them from holding government office or having access to government services, and excluding unskilled workers from the country.</p> <p>Talk radio is not bounded by physical space. It can follow listeners wherever they go, from the car radio while commuting to the radio resting on the workbench to a&nbsp;radio app on a&nbsp;smartphone. It has the potential to dominate the construction of a&nbsp;person’s worldview in a&nbsp;way that other media simply cannot (until, perhaps, the advent of its white‐​collar cousin, the podcast).</p> <p>This was true of conservative radio long before the current generation of talk radio hosts emerged in the 1980s. By the early 1960s, a&nbsp;group of AM radio broadcasters had built an informal national syndicated network of hundreds of radio stations; the largest of the broadcasters, a&nbsp;fundamentalist preacher in New Jersey named Carl McIntire, reached an estimated audience of 20 million listeners a&nbsp;week (which, for sake of comparison, is as many as Rush Limbaugh reportedly hit at his peak four decades later). Americans could tune into a&nbsp;station airing conservative programming all day, every day.</p> <p>By 1963 President John F. Kennedy was so worried about what an aide called this “formidable force in American life today,” which was able to “harass local school boards, local librarians and local government bodies,” that he authorized targeted Internal Revenue Service audits and the use of the Federal Communications Commission’s Fairness Doctrine to silence these pesky conservative broadcasters. The result was the most successful episode of government censorship of the last half century.</p> <p>Conservative broadcasters have never forgotten it, and it is a&nbsp;key reason that a&nbsp;conspiracist mind‐​set has such a&nbsp;grip on listeners. Since 2003, Rush Limbaugh, who got his&nbsp;<a href="https://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2007/06/28/fairness_doctrine_will_kill_am_band/" target="_blank">start</a>&nbsp;working in radio as a&nbsp;teenager in the mid‐​1960s, has mentioned the Fairness Doctrine on nearly 150 episodes. He credits the rise of talk radio to the lifting of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 by the Reagan administration. And he worries that the left could at any moment use a&nbsp;revived Fairness Doctrine to silence conservative radio. As Mr. Limbaugh put it&nbsp;<a href="https://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2020/01/22/trumps-base-wont-fall-for-this/" target="_blank">in January</a>, “They’ve been trying to nullify or negate me” for three decades.</p> <p>This suspicion that elite institutions — the media, universities, government, Big Tech — are run by hostile liberal gatekeepers seeking to silence conservative voices continues to fuel right‐​wing anxiety. It also helps explain conservative support for Mr. Trump, who can be accused of many things but not of failing to speak his mind. When you believe that all politicians lie but that only liberal politicians rig the game, you’re more likely to vote for someone who you think will fight back even if they lie along the way.</p> <p>Take talk radio’s role in spreading Covid denialism. At each stage of the backlash against government recommendations for fighting the pandemic, talk radio hosts&nbsp;<a href="https://www.mediamatters.org/rush-limbaugh/rush-limbaughs-disastrous-record-coronavirus" target="_blank">prepared</a>&nbsp;the way for broader conservative resistance. Indeed, many of Mr. Trump’s own talking points about the virus — like comparing it to the&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1237027356314869761?s=20" target="_blank">flu</a>&nbsp;and accusing China of weaponizing the virus — echoed ideas already spreading on talk radio shows.</p> <p>Conservative talk radio will march to Mr. Trump’s drum, but no matter what happens in November, it will also outlast him. Talk radio emits much too powerful a&nbsp;signal to fade silently into the ether.</p> </div> Paul Matzko, the editor for tech and innovation at Libertarianism.org, is the author of &ldquo;<a target="_blank">The Radio Right</a>: How a Band of Broadcasters Took On the Federal Government and Built the Modern Conservative Movement.&rdquo; Fri, 09 Oct 2020 10:00:07 -0400 Paul Matzko https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/talk-radio-turning-millions-americans-conservatives What Will North Korea Say Through its Anniversary Military Parade? https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/what-will-north-korea-say-through-its-anniversary-military-parade <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/doug-bandow" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong‐​un <a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/reboot/south-koreas-new-stealth-fighters-will-keep-kim-jong-un-awake-night-170072" target="_blank">may show his hand</a> for future dealings with America on October 10. The anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) is always an important occasion, but 2020 is the seventy‐​fifth anniversary of the formation of what passes for a&nbsp;communist party.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Although he caucused with communist states, Kim Il‐​sung, originally appointed by Moscow as its occupation frontman, never admitted being beholden to anyone. Alone among communist states, the North displayed not one image of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, or any other communist notable. After all, what would juche represent if the nation’s founding ideals were based on the ramblings of a&nbsp;couple of long‐​dead Germans?</p> <p>However, the claim of North Korean exclusivity means the KWP celebration is likely to be substantial despite the country’s economic troubles and the world’s coronavirus pandemic. Most everyone in Pyongyang, at least, will be watching. Foreign analysts and journalists will study the parade closely. Which makes it a&nbsp;perfect opportunity for the Kim regime to showcase a&nbsp;new weapon capable of striking the United States.</p> <p>President Donald Trump’s&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/how-donald-trump-building-new-alliance-counter-china-and-north-korea-169915">dramatic opening</a>&nbsp;to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea effectively ended a&nbsp;year after it started, in February 2019 at the failed Hanoi summit. The administration’s continued demand for full denuclearization before the DPRK received any meaningful concessions doomed additional talks. So Pyongyang largely disengaged from diplomacy with the United States and around the globe. Even unofficial contacts withered.</p> <p>Yet Kim did not return to the North’s traditional policy of brinkmanship. Most notably, he did not restart nuclear and long‐​range missile testing. Nor did he launch another invective assault, highlighted by insults directed at the president—such as famously calling Trump a “deranged U.S. dotard.” Last December Pyongyang threatened to resume verbal combat if the president renewed hostilities, but there have been few rhetorical contretemps since.</p> <p>Although he caucused with communist states, Kim Il‐​sung, originally appointed by Moscow as its occupation frontman, never admitted being beholden to anyone. Alone among communist states, the North displayed not one image of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, or any other communist notable. After all, what would juche represent if the nation’s founding ideals were based on the ramblings of a&nbsp;couple of long‐​dead Germans?</p> <p>However, the claim of North Korean exclusivity means the KWP celebration is likely to be substantial despite the country’s economic troubles and the world’s coronavirus pandemic. Most everyone in Pyongyang, at least, will be watching. Foreign analysts and journalists will study the parade closely. Which makes it a&nbsp;perfect opportunity for the Kim regime to showcase a&nbsp;new weapon capable of striking the United States.</p> <p>President Donald Trump’s&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/how-donald-trump-building-new-alliance-counter-china-and-north-korea-169915">dramatic opening</a>&nbsp;to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea effectively ended a&nbsp;year after it started, in February 2019 at the failed Hanoi summit. The administration’s continued demand for full denuclearization before the DPRK received any meaningful concessions doomed additional talks. So Pyongyang largely disengaged from diplomacy with the United States and around the globe. Even unofficial contacts withered.</p> <p>Yet Kim did not return to the North’s traditional policy of brinkmanship. Most notably, he did not restart nuclear and long‐​range missile testing. Nor did he launch another invective assault, highlighted by insults directed at the president—such as famously calling Trump a “deranged U.S. dotard.” Last December Pyongyang threatened to resume verbal combat if the president renewed hostilities, but there have been few rhetorical contretemps since.</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>It won’t be a&nbsp;message Washington wants to hear.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The North more directly and roughly rejected Seoul’s attempts at conversation, likely because the former sees little positive to be gained so long as the Moon government refuses to challenge U.S. sanctions policy. However, the recent killing of a&nbsp;South Korean official in unclear circumstances prompted an apology of sorts from Kim, which might presage a&nbsp;softening attitude. Or perhaps Kim is veering toward conciliation with&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/south-korea%E2%80%99s-first-stealth-fighter-rolling-assembly-lines-168404">the South</a>&nbsp;to prepare for an increasingly likely Biden administration, which seems unlikely to resume Trump‐​style summitry.</p> <p>The parade provides an excellent opportunity to make implicit threats and increase tensions without testing American red lines. Resuming ICBM and/​or nuclear testing would break a&nbsp;commitment, ostentatiously accelerate military developments, and increase threats to the U.S. homeland. The consequences would be unpredictable, but possibly dangerous.</p> <p>For instance, Trump, especially if looking for a&nbsp;miracle deus ex machina to win reelection, might restart his “fire and fury” policy. Although a&nbsp;President Joe Biden likely would be more measured, his first reaction would not be to ease sanctions and attend summits. Indeed, with Iran likely much higher on an incoming Biden administration’s agenda, he might decide on a&nbsp;tougher response to North Korea to gain leverage in reinstating and/​or renegotiating the nuclear deal with Tehran.</p> <p>In contrast, a&nbsp;parade exhibition is less provocative. It is as likely to showcase possibilities, desires, wishes, dreams, and bluffs as realities. The threats are more theatrical and look more theoretical, offering more opportunity to dissuade Pyongyang from moving forward without considering military options.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the DPRK could put on quite a&nbsp;show. A&nbsp;38 North analysis of satellite data indicates that the North Koreans have built temporary shelters large enough to hold missiles and transport vehicles. The Carnegie Endowment’s Ankit Panda predicted: “The North Koreans are going to come out with potentially scores of solid propellants, medium range missiles.”</p> <p>Although even mid‐​range missiles are nuclear‐​capable and able to strike U.S. bases in the region, their limited range makes them less fearsome for Americans and American policymakers. So something more is likely. The regime hasn’t showcased an ICBM since early 2018, when the Kim‐​Trump show debuted. As 2020 dawned Kim promised a “new strategic weapon,” which remains as yet unseen. It most likely is one or more long‐​range missiles.</p> <p>An apparent transporter‐​erector‐​launcher (TEL) was spotted at the capital’s parade ground, which could be significant. Chad O’Carroll of NKNews noted that “North Korea suffers from a&nbsp;historic inability to develop its own heavy launcher vehicles, so the country has only shown small numbers of medium and long‐​range missiles at military parades. Therefore, if many heavy launcher vehicles are shown transporting an expanded missile arsenal at the parade in October, it would mean the country has markedly improved its capabilities.”</p> <p>Such a&nbsp;missile display—even if mock‐​ups were used—would provide a&nbsp;powerful reminder to Washington on why negotiations are in America’s as well as North Korea’s interest. Moreover, the North might emphasize numbers by parading several ICBMs. Some analysts believe that the number of storage units suggest deployment of as many as a&nbsp;dozen. The larger the number, the more difficult for the United States to either preempt or defeat an attack. However, displaying what might merely be a&nbsp;model is not likely to panic America and drive a&nbsp;president or president‐​elect to act precipitously.</p> <p>Another possibility would be to highlight development of an SLBM, or submarine‐​launched ballistic missile. However, the smaller weapons would look less formidable on parade. The threat also would be less. Although submarine‐​launched missiles have a&nbsp;formidable reputation, the North is far from having a&nbsp;workable fleet capable of carrying SLBMs and the United States has long invested heavily in anti‐​submarine technology to counter the Soviet Union and now China. Pyongyang could more cheaply and effectively increase the number of mobile land‐​based missiles.</p> <p>North Korea also likely aspires to develop multiple independent re‐​entry vehicles, which allow one missile to carry several warheads. There are no reports that Kim’s engineers have produced such a&nbsp;device, which also would not be much of a&nbsp;parade prop. Some conventional weapons look impressive, but the regime has been devoting its limited resources elsewhere for years. Which is another reason the North is likely to emphasize its missiles in the parade: in this field Pyongyang’s progress has been significant, including the development of ICBMs and solid fuels.</p> <p>Whatever occurs at the parade likely will constitute the North’s full “provocation” ahead of the Nov. 3&nbsp;election. Pyongyang would prefer a&nbsp;Trump victory, but any dramatic threats would undermine the president and/​or might trigger a&nbsp;violent reaction.</p> <p>However, additional provocations are probable after the election. The DPRK might seek to encourage another presidential foray into dealmaking if Trump wins; reminding him of the North’s capabilities would encourage him to be more flexible and offer smaller deals involving at least some sanctions relief.</p> <p>If Biden is victorious, the North probably will raise tensions to increase its leverage with the new administration. Creating a&nbsp;sense of crisis might be the only way to force Korea onto the Biden agenda. And to encourage a&nbsp;more active stance and willingness to negotiate than was evident in the Obama administration.</p> <p>As in the past, Pyongyang will attempt to communicate with America through a&nbsp;parade. It won’t be a&nbsp;message Washington wants to hear. But that is the price of the Trump administration failing&nbsp;to effectively follow up on the president’s diplomatic breakthrough. The next administration should recognize that the North doesn’t plan to abandon its nukes and shape policy accordingly.</p> </div> Doug Bandow is a&nbsp;senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Fri, 09 Oct 2020 09:21:09 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/what-will-north-korea-say-through-its-anniversary-military-parade The Annoying Persistence of the Income Stagnation Myth https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/annoying-persistence-income-stagnation-myth <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/scott-lincicome" hreflang="und">Scott Lincicome</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Dear Capitolites,</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Given all of the policy wonkery that arose last week, especially at the presidential debate, this will be the first in a&nbsp;four‐​part series detailing each major issue that—hahahahaha.&nbsp;</p> <p>Anyway, back to reality. A&nbsp;frequent response to articles like last week’s&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/He4tCVOnp7Cxn7LRIWxZKE?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">criticism of Trump’s tariffs</a>&nbsp;is “Okay, so tariffs don’t work, but what would&nbsp;<em>you</em>&nbsp;do about the stagnation of middle class incomes?” (Often a “smart guy” is thrown in there somewhere.) It’s a&nbsp;difficult question because tariffs’ harms and inefficacy are a&nbsp;sufficient reason to avoid them, and, more importantly, because&nbsp;<em>middle class incomes aren’t actually stagnating</em>.&nbsp;</p> <p>No, really. They’re not.</p> <p>This might come as a&nbsp;surprise to many readers who for years have listened to politicians and pundits decry income or wage “stagnation” as one of the biggest problems of our time (and a&nbsp;big reason why capitalism or “libertarian economics” or whatever needs to be jettisoned). It’s a&nbsp;conventional wisdom that arose, in my opinion, because: (1) popular, but inaccurate or incomplete, measures of “middle class incomes” once showed stagnation; (2) few people updated their priors when new, more accurate data emerged; and (3) by that time the “stagnant incomes” talking point had become embedded in the national political psyche.</p> <p>But it’s (mostly) wrong. In general, inflation‐​adjusted incomes for all groups—rich, poor, and in‐​between —have been increasing for decades, and the middle class is “disappearing” into higher income brackets.&nbsp;</p> <p>Today we’ll try to break through the mania and examine several ways that incomes might have appeared “stagnant” in the past,&nbsp;<em>and</em>&nbsp;why it’s so important to get this right today.</p> <p><strong>Timing</strong></p> <p>One of the simplest and most common “income stagnation” errors is the assessment of trends over cherry‐​picked periods of time—especially ones that start at the peak of a&nbsp;business cycle and end in the trough. This was particularly a&nbsp;problem during and immediately following the Great Recession, which did a&nbsp;real number on incomes (and pretty much everything else) to a&nbsp;much greater extent, we now know, than we realized at the time. Numerous analyses simply ignored that fact and presented income and other economic data as if recession‐​induced nadir were the new normal. It rarely (if ever) is.</p> <p>It’s thus critical to examine all economic trends—including incomes—between similar points in the business cycle or over as long a&nbsp;period as possible (to let readers see the trends for themselves). For example, if you looked at a&nbsp;common measure of income—real (inflation‐​adjusted) median household income from the Census Bureau—between 2006 and 2014, it looks really bad. However, if you extend the&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/Ci7qCW6oOQc5L2gWILS6Ig?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">exact same series</a>&nbsp;to the maximum period provided in the St. Louis Fed’s FRED database (1984–2019), the picture changes:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="270" alt="lincicome-dipatch-image1.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image1.jpg?itok=dJQzgYa8 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image1.jpg?itok=Rn_0iXBg 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image1.jpg?itok=dJQzgYa8" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>All of a&nbsp;sudden, the “stagnation” we were told was the New Normal disappears over the longer term, as generational gains absorb the troughs tied to temporary recessions.&nbsp;</p> <p>As discussed next, however, even this more optimistic series is too pessimistic.</p> <p><strong>Tracking Individuals Versus Tracking Groups</strong></p> <p>Another common problem with “stagnation” analyses is that they look at the experiences of certain groups over time instead of the&nbsp;<em>actual people within those groups</em>. Doing so raises all sorts of concerns because, while the groups remain the same over time, their actual composition can change dramatically. As such, analyzing the group, instead of the people in the group, is like judging Brett Favre’s quarterbacking skills since the ‘90s by just tracking the Packers quarterback stats. (Spoiler: Even with&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/EteOCYEqpyiLWQJ4UwyHOG?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">numerous copper fit braces</a>, the ol’ Gunslinger’s not as good as those 2019 quarterback stats claim. Instead, the Packers’ QB statistics since Favre’s retirement have come thanks to his replacement Aaron Rodgers, one of the most accurate quarterbacks in NFL history.) And yet it happens—a lot.</p> <p>Economist Russ Roberts&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/NVugCZ6rOzc5qEVpImiK49?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">hit</a>&nbsp;on some of these problems in a&nbsp;2018 blog post:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>Many of the most pessimistic studies about the fate of the American middle class ignore the changes in the American family since the 1970s and the effects [they] have had on the way we measure changes in household income. … But the biggest problem with the pessimistic studies is that they rarely follow the same people to see how they do over time. Instead, they rely on a&nbsp;snapshot at two points in time. So for example, researchers look at the median income of the middle quintile in 1975 and compare that to the median income of the median quintile in 2014, say. When they find little or no change, they conclude that the average American is making no progress.</p> <p>But the people in the snapshots are not the same people. You can’t use two snapshots to conclude that only the rich have made progress. It’s possible that everyone from the earlier snapshot has actually gotten richer and then been replaced by different people whose incomes will also rise. This is especially true when there is immigration. If new immigrants are disproportionately less skilled than Americans already here, measured incomes can fall even when those who are already here have steadily improving economic prospects.</p> <p>And when marriage rates are falling and people are increasingly living on their own, household income can fall while every individual is doing better. Estimate[s] of economic progress based on household income are distorted by these effects.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Roberts provides several studies showing how tracking actual people, not groups, improves wage and income performance considerably, so I&nbsp;invite you to go there if you’re really interested in the issue. This chart is probably the most instructive:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="392" alt="lincicome-dipatch-image2.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image2.jpg?itok=c8FaxZ9m 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image2.jpg?itok=jISR6yGa 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image2.jpg?itok=c8FaxZ9m" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>As Roberts also notes, “household” changes matter too—and contrary to the conventional wisdom, the “proportion of households with two earners has actually decreased since 1980… because while more married couples are households where both spouses are working, the marriage rate has fallen.” Thus, unadjusted “household” trends can paint an inaccurate picture of changes to the&nbsp;<em>individuals within those households</em> over the same time period. It’s thus essential to adjust the household (which raises all sorts of other questions) or, even better, just to examine individual experiences (even when it’s&nbsp;<em>not</em>&nbsp;the same individuals).</p> <p>Doing this for incomes shows additional gains. For example, the first chart of&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/Ci7qCW6oOQc5L2gWILS6Ig?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">real household income</a>&nbsp;showed a&nbsp;decent, 30 percent increase between 1984 and 2019,&nbsp;<em>but</em> <a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/S2cLC2kD47Hp2vJ9Smz2Ix?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">real&nbsp;</a><em><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/S2cLC2kD47Hp2vJ9Smz2Ix?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">personal</a></em><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/S2cLC2kD47Hp2vJ9Smz2Ix?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">&nbsp;income</a>&nbsp;shows a&nbsp;47 percent change during the same period:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="270" alt="lincicome-dipatch-image3.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image3.jpg?itok=bMAcmEGm 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image3.jpg?itok=HddT6lbs 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image3.jpg?itok=bMAcmEGm" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>In short “households” gained a&nbsp;little, but individuals gained much more. Starting to get undepressed yet?</p> <p>A similar problem occurs when economists track job categories instead of the actual experiences of people in those jobs. For example, a&nbsp;prominent strain of research on “wage polarization” examines employment trends at the occupation level, essentially categorizing occupations as high‐, middle‐, or low‐​wage and then counting them over time. Based on this approach, many economists have found occupation‐ based “employment polarization,” i.e., increases in high and low‐​paid occupations and a&nbsp;relative decline in middle‐​paid occupations, in the United States. But these economists never stopped to ask what&nbsp;<em>actual wages the actual individuals within these occupations were actually making</em>.</p> <p>As I&nbsp;explained in a&nbsp;recent&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/F0ymC4xGmzIB2yQvs8pLkE?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Cato blog post</a>, more accurate approaches change the “polarization” narrative entirely and show that “while the American middle class is indeed shrinking, this trend has been caused less by ‘polarization’ (i.e., Americans moving both up&nbsp;<em>and</em>&nbsp;down the economic ladder) and more by Americans simply getting richer.” Here’s the clear evidence from one such study:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="546" alt="lincicome-dipatch-image4.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image4.jpg?itok=Eg7oYILR 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image4.jpg?itok=5lzNeo5f 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image4.jpg?itok=Eg7oYILR" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>As you can see, the general trend since the 1970s is more people entering the top wage bracket and fewer people in the others. That’s good news, too.</p> <p>Finally, there’s the issue of just looking at broad income groups without considering the various ages of people within those groups. As I&nbsp;noted last week, labor economist Ernie Tedeschi has&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/q9-qC68KoBcr6EABs1HZww?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">provided</a>&nbsp;several breakdowns of income by ages/​generations, each of which punctures the conventional wisdom about stagnant wage and income gains among millennials and Gen Z:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="466" alt="lincicome-dipatch-image5.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image5.jpg?itok=u7vxH6mK 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image5.jpg?itok=3ozzN_bi 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image5.jpg?itok=u7vxH6mK" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p><strong>Inflation</strong></p> <p>Another common issue is how to measure inflation in order to make an apples‐​to‐​apples comparison of nominal compensation (what your paycheck says) over time. If inflation is higher, you’ll have lower real income gains over time as the cost of living eats into any nominal (paycheck) gains. As&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/I2ltC82K8Mh65lZKIxvES8?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">documented</a>&nbsp;by economist Scott Winship, the most common inflation gauge—the Consumer Price Index (CPI)—overstates inflation and therefore causes real wage gains to appear smaller than they actually are. (The aforementioned census tables use CPI.) Using the better “deflator”—“personal consumption expenditures” (PCE), which many other government organizations use—reveals significantly higher real income gains.&nbsp;</p> <p>So if we recalculate the aforementioned household/​personal income figures from the census, using the&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/FrZ0C9rY6DskWvgpFJPhF3?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">standard PCE deflator</a>, the already‐​decent 30 percent (household) and 47 percent (personal) increases between 1984 and 2019 improve to&nbsp;<strong>43 percent and 61 percent</strong>, respectively:&nbsp;</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="591" alt="lincicome-dipatch-image6.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image6.jpg?itok=t6Dn7Lr1 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image6.jpg?itok=Kr30djmg 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image6.jpg?itok=t6Dn7Lr1" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>That’s pretty good.</p> <p>AEI’s Michael Strain&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/LpQRCgJMYnFA1rx7sVE5U1?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">recently applied</a>&nbsp;the same approach to production wages alone (more on that in a&nbsp;second) and came to the same conclusion: “Over the past three decades, wages for typical workers have grown by 20 percent using the CPI. And using the PCE— the better measure of inflation— finds a&nbsp;one‐​third increase in wages.” (He also rightly notes that all of the wage “stagnation” occurred in the 70s and 80s, not recently.)</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="537" height="535" alt="lincicome-dipatch-image7.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image7.jpg?itok=iCRnQIBI 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image7.jpg?itok=SxGVCLb- 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image7.jpg?itok=iCRnQIBI" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p><strong>Wages vs. income</strong></p> <p>Finally, there’s the question of what we mean by “income” at all: just wages? Wages and benefits? Wages, benefits and government transfers (tax credits, welfare, Medicare, etc.)? This matters because (as we noted&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/buHVCkRXQrFOy76pIZeGgn?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">two weeks ago</a>) tens of millions of Americans receive a&nbsp;government subsidy, many more than just one,&nbsp;<em>and</em>&nbsp;because non‐​wage compensation is an&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/A6wKClYEQ2H2wy5vHkcbo9?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">increasingly big chunk</a>&nbsp;of American workers’ total income (i.e., the flow of all resources into a&nbsp;household that can be used for consumption and saving):</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>The average worker received 32 percent of total compensation in benefits including bonuses, paid leave and company contributions to insurance and retirement plans in the second quarter of 2018. That was up from 27 percent in 2000, federal data show. The rising cost of health insurance accounts for only about one‐​third of the trend. And the data do not include the increased prevalence of non‐​monetary benefits like flexible hours or working from home, or perks like gyms and “summer Fridays.”</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>So if employer compensation is increasingly in the form of non‐​wage benefits (benefits that many workers want or that many employers are required by the government to provide), then wage growth will be smaller than it would have been if employers simply paid in cash (employers don’t have a&nbsp;money tree, after all). Thus,&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/jz23CmZNRYFjoZKrFmkjBS?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">for example</a>, a&nbsp;worker making $30,000&nbsp;in 2014 had to forgo a $7,800 pay raise (26 percent of her salary) due to increased health insurance premiums paid by her employer, but&nbsp;<em>her wages alone captured none of this real compensation.</em></p> <p>Similar issues arise with&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/-36yCn56QgT7ZzqYulWgGe?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">government transfers</a>, which have also increased over the last few decades: If poor and middle‐​class Americans are getting more government transfers than they were in the past, then their increase in total, real‐​world income each year will be bigger than the annual increase in just wages.</p> <p>The Census Bureau figures that I&nbsp;recalculated above&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/8IjYCo2XRjhrVML0sG9_Qg?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">include</a>&nbsp;employer‐​paid benefits and some government transfers, but not all of them (as Winship explained a&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/AzCCCpYLwkHn0GNBuOgmKB?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">few years ago</a>):</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>The official [Census Bureau income] measure includes cash benefits from the federal government, things like unemployment insurance, social security and temporary assistance for needy families, but doesn’t include non‐​cash benefits, like food stamps or Medicaid and Medicare and it doesn’t take into account taxes. So when part of the federal response to the recession was to reduce taxes, particularly the payroll tax, that isn’t incorporated into the official measure.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>So my figures (and Strain’s on wages) would be&nbsp;<em>even better</em>&nbsp;if we added the increasing tax and non‐​wage benefits from the government. I&nbsp;don’t have the data available to do this myself for the Census figures (I don’t think it exists), but Strain&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/LpQRCgJMYnFA1rx7sVE5U1?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">provides</a>&nbsp;proof of how this can affect income trends when looking at similar data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO):</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office computes three income series. Market income is defined as labor income, employer‐​provided health insurance, business income, and capital income, along with retirement income for past services. Income before taxes and transfers is market income plus social insurance benefits, including Social Security payments, Medicare benefits, and payments from unemployment insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, and workers’ compensation. Finally, income after taxes and transfers is income before taxes and transfers plus means‐​tested transfers (e.g., Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program benefits, food stamp benefits, and Supplemental Security Income) minus federal taxes. … Median household market income increased by 21 percent between 1990 and 2016, the last year for which data are available. Like median wage growth, this is not spectacular and is less than household income for the top 1&nbsp;percent. But it is not stagnant. (And if we had data for 2017 through the present, this growth would look even more impressive.) The median household saw market income plus social insurance benefits increase by 28 percent from 1990 to 2016 (figure 10).&nbsp;<strong>And the most comprehensive measure of the income actually available to the median household to spend and save— income after taxes and transfers— grew by 44 percent over this period.</strong></p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="530" height="514" alt="lincicome-dipatch-image8.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image8.jpg?itok=d3ldoa2E 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image8.jpg?itok=W2r2OvZX 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image8.jpg?itok=d3ldoa2E" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>These already‐​good figures would undoubtedly be even better if they were extended through 2019.</p> <p><strong>Why It Matters</strong></p> <p>So middle‐​class wages and incomes haven’t been “stagnant” after all. Why does it matter? Well, beyond just getting our facts straight, there are at least two reasons:</p> <p>First, due to a&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/3MNiCrkVZmH8Rp0GHM3Sue?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">longstanding combination</a>&nbsp;of pessimistic bias (we tend to exaggerate the likelihood that bad things will happen), confirmation bias (we tend to find or agree with information that confirms what we already believe) and “hedonic adaptation” (we quickly get used to improvements in our living standards), most people are primed to accept bogus narratives from political elites about their living standards (including incomes). This can fuel public support not just for bad policies, but for bad people—i.e., demagogues targeting fake enemies and promising simple fixes to complicated life problems (or ones that don’t actually exist at all). By contrast, being armed with the actual facts—good and bad—allows us to better distinguish bad from good (both policies&nbsp;<em>and</em>&nbsp;politicians).&nbsp;</p> <p>We could certainly use more of that today.</p> <p>Second, and relatedly, not&nbsp;<em>all</em>&nbsp;of our economic and social concerns&nbsp;<em>are</em>&nbsp;bogus. But to fix the real problems, you first have to weed out the fake ones. So, for example, if middle‐​class income gains are actually pretty good but are also increasingly eaten up by non‐​wage benefits (especially health care costs), or if millennials are actually pulling in good (generationally great) incomes but face&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/qZ0VCv2Lq8h7nGj3uxgZBK?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">serious cost‐​pressures</a>&nbsp;due to student loan debts or housing costs (or whatever), then policymakers should stop worrying about incomes so much (e.g., through wage mandates, jobs programs, or punitive wealth taxes) and instead start asking, “Why are health care costs out of control? Why are housing costs and student debt so high? And what can we do to improve these problems?”</p> <p>Indeed, trying to fix&nbsp;<em>cost</em>&nbsp;issues through&nbsp;<em>income</em>&nbsp;policies is like buying new pants after a&nbsp;year‐​long,&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/yDsKCwp79KcGE7zWu2rcO6?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Homer‐​In‐​Hell</a>&nbsp;doughnut diet. I&nbsp;guess it “works” for a&nbsp;time, but it doesn’t actually target the real problem and you’re just gonna be back at the pants store (just go with it) again next year.</p> <p>Other real problems facing the American middle class could include, for example, the increasing importance of education for&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/ixRFCxkLq2H15y43IJTOUb?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">upward mobility</a>&nbsp;in the United States (or maybe our obsessive focus on four‐​year degrees), or the challenges that specific communities face after decades of disruption (though many have moved on). And certainly we need to&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/H-AZCyP2l9TrPgzRsJjd3X?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">reconsider</a>&nbsp;how central bank and monetary policies have increased past recessions’ depth and duration (and hurt workers in the process). But, again, these very real challenges are very different, and more nuanced, than the populist narrative about nefarious elites and multinational corporations enjoying the spoils of unfettered capitalism while the middle class “stagnates.” They also don’t lend themselves to simple fixes and often require local (not federal) policy responses, such as eliminating occupational licensing, land use, or other regulations that stifle mobility.</p> <p>By avoiding the wrong debates on the wrong issues, voters and (hopefully) U.S. policymakers can focus their attention on these real challenges and start supporting/​proposing real reforms—and maybe we can save the populist and anti‐​capitalist uprisings for another day.</p> <p>* * *</p> <p>P.S. Of course, just as I&nbsp;was finishing this newsletter, the&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/i3oqCzpYP7cMY3pAu3puYG?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">CBO published</a>&nbsp;the latest income (2017) data. You can review it for yourself here, but—fear not!—it shows the same optimistic trends as last year. (For example, Strain’s median income calculation (1990–2016) goes from 44 percent to 46.2 percent when extended through 2017.)</p> <p><strong>Chart of the Week</strong></p> <p>This&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/We4OCADKqMTNKg3zFzC6yq?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">entire report</a>&nbsp;on freelancing and remote work is fascinating, but this chart is probably my favorite:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="394" alt="lincicome-dipatch-image10.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image10.jpg?itok=BBBf5OHA 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image10.jpg?itok=T1LzHLk9 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/lincicome-dipatch-image10.jpg?itok=BBBf5OHA" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p><strong>The Links</strong></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/mJOXCDkWNQH5L1KkI1bXFm?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Tax changes since 1979</a></p> <p>Me on&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/vmX8CERWO0F38mJNuO1J6Q?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">big business</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/t4bQCG6WnMc1NmpQInQJQW?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">farm subsidies</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/ft8eCJ6WDNcqWRmDIN2hoX?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Manufacturing output has recovered; jobs, not so much</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/ueY3CKr9XLs2ylvGHjvY_7?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Clean tech subsidies aren’t working so well</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/J8ajCL9W6vsRDApZsBZxzh_?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">People need to stop assuming big governments necessarily handle COVID-19 better</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/S11BCM8WDJcqyg0AIwwjgoz?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Plain packaging mandates actually encouraged more smoking</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/WZj9CNkWDYH0qArGum4hW9h?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Do car seat mandates discourage third children?</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/xfy-COY6lPHpLJ9ySEkvKPx?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">“Demographics and Debt Hang Over Long‐​Term U.S. Growth”</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/XwI5CPNWmzIK1Orkczj6KHP?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">Decoupling from China could cost $1 trillion</a></p> <p><a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/2mVYCQWgJ6Fk18EyFxr_uU7?domain=email.mg1.substack.com" target="_blank">He was elected to lead, not to read</a></p> </div> Scott Lincicome is a&nbsp;Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Cato Institute. Fri, 09 Oct 2020 00:00:00 -0400 Scott Lincicome https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/annoying-persistence-income-stagnation-myth Rename Woodrow Wilson High, and not just because he was racist https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/rename-woodrow-wilson-high-not-just-because-he-was-racist <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/david-boaz" hreflang="und">David Boaz</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The District of Columbia Public Schools is planning to rename Woodrow Wilson High School in upper Northwest Washington. An activist campaign for renaming gathered strength during the summer, with Mayor Muriel Bowser and the City Council endorsing the proposal. A&nbsp;school official announced in September that a&nbsp;new name would be selected by the end of the year.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The campaign has focused on Wilson’s racism, especially his resegregation of the federal workforce. Shortly after his inauguration, a&nbsp;history of the U.S. Postal Service&nbsp;<a href="https://www.govexec.com/federal-news/2015/11/when-woodrow-wilson-segregated-federal-workforce/123913/" target="_blank">reports</a>, “Many African American employees were downgraded and even fired. Employees who were downgraded were transferred to the dead letter office, where they did not interact with the public. The few African Americans who remained at the main post offices were put to work behind screens, out of customers’ sight.”</p> <p>Wilson&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dol.gov/general/aboutdol/history/shfgpr00" target="_blank">allowed</a>&nbsp;a&nbsp;dozen positions filled by black appointees in the administration of his predecessor, President William Howard Taft, to be filled by new white appointees. His secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan, broke a&nbsp;precedent of more than 40&nbsp;years by appointing a&nbsp;white man as ambassador to Haiti.</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 make distinctions among the people we honor with statues, school names, and so on. No person is perfect. But Woodrow Wilson’s record is not worthy of honor. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>None of this was accidental. In his 1901 book,&nbsp;<em><a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=3iz3qF6MQ4kC&amp;pg=PA58&amp;lpg=PA58&amp;dq=%E2%80%9Cthe+intolerable+burden+of+governments+sustained+by+the+votes+of+ignorant+negroes%E2%80%9D&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=FvUpkcTzzk&amp;sig=ACfU3U3a-P1gHcb-7WsoF3mMsuNqBQtJZA&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=2ahUKEwjjvYft8qnqAhU5lXIEHVEvAv8Q6AEwAnoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&amp;q=%E2%80%9Cthe%20intolerable%20burden%20of%20governments%20sustained%20by%20the%20votes%20of%20ignorant%20negroes%E2%80%9D&amp;f=false" target="_blank">A&nbsp;History of the American People</a></em>, Wilson extolled the Ku Klux Klan for helping “the white men of the South” to rid themselves of “the intolerable burden of governments sustained by the votes of ignorant Negroes.”</p> <p>But Wilson’s resume offers plenty of additional reasons not to honor him. Most notably, Wilson led the United States into an unnecessary and disastrous war. World War I&nbsp;has been&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cato.org/blog/disaster-world-war-i" target="_blank">called</a>&nbsp;“probably history’s worst catastrophe.” Certainly, it was America’s greatest foreign policy mistake. British and then U.S. involvement turned a&nbsp;central European conflict into a&nbsp;world war. The war and its consequences&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cato.org/policy-report/mayjune-2014/woodrow-wilsons-great-mistake" target="_blank">arguably</a>&nbsp;led to the communist takeover of Russia, National Socialism in Germany, World War II, and the Cold War.</p> <p>Wilson had long advocated a&nbsp;federal government with “<a href="https://www.gutenberg.org/files/35861/35861-h/35861-h.htm" target="_blank">unstinted power</a>,” and as president, he quickly set about expanding federal power: a&nbsp;central bank, an income tax, drug prohibition, the Espionage and Sedition acts, the Palmer raids, and military conscription.</p> <p><em>Washingtonian</em>&nbsp;editor Michael Schaffer&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonian.com/2020/07/15/wanted-new-names-for-washington-area-schools-roads-and-a-football-team/" target="_blank">posits</a>&nbsp;that Wilson is being honored not for his racism but “because he was the reformist, progressive President who led the country through World War I.” Given the list of accomplishments above, “reformist” and “progressive” are dubious claims. And “led the country&nbsp;<em>into</em>&nbsp;World War I” would be at least as accurate.</p> <p>All in all, Wilson’s record is not a&nbsp;record worth celebrating.</p> <p>So, if we’re agreed that the name ought to be changed, what should the new name be?</p> <p>Some have suggested the Pulitzer‐​winning playwright August Wilson. Not a&nbsp;bad idea, and it might reduce the costs of changing signs and stationery. But it might not be as clear a&nbsp;break.</p> <p>It would be hard to argue with naming the school for the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, a&nbsp;long‐​time Washington, D.C., resident, but there are already high schools bearing his name in Upper Marlboro and Baltimore.</p> <p>Farther afield, how about thinking of some other inspirational figures?</p> <ul> <li>Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress and the only member of Congress to vote against entry into both world wars.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman elected to both houses of Congress and the first senator to speak out against Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s unfounded demagoguery.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Franklin Kameny, who, in the late 1950s, launched a&nbsp;virtually solitary challenge to the federal government’s ban on gay and lesbian employees and who lived for decades on Cathedral Avenue NW, within Wilson High’s attendance boundaries.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Noor Inayat Khan, born in Moscow to an Indian Muslim father and an American mother, executed at the Dachau concentration camp for her role in the French resistance.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Crispus Attucks, widely regarded as the first person killed in the Boston Massacre and thus the first American killed in the American Revolution, generally described as African American but probably of mixed African and Native American descent.</li> </ul> <p>We should make distinctions among the people we honor with statues, school names, and so on. No person is perfect. But Woodrow Wilson’s record is not worthy of honor.</p> </div> David Boaz is executive vice president of the Cato Institute and author of The Libertarian Mind. Thu, 08 Oct 2020 10:45:27 -0400 David Boaz https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/rename-woodrow-wilson-high-not-just-because-he-was-racist Washington’s Three‐​pronged Strategy to Contain China’s Military Power https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/washingtons-three-pronged-strategy-contain-chinas-military-power <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ted-galen-carpenter" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>A distinct chill in Washington’s relations with the People’s Republic of China has developed during President Donald Trump’s administration. Indeed, a&nbsp;growing number of analysts now speak openly that a&nbsp;new cold war exists between the two countries, with ominous implications for the global economy as well as prospects for continued peace in East Asia and beyond. Such concerns are well‐​founded, as US policy toward Beijing has become more confrontational on multiple fronts.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Adopting a&nbsp;more assertive policy toward Beijing also has <a href="https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/american-public-opinion-toward-china-turns-hostile?queryID=b76bd23d61e1a9358baab3bfd24770f3">strong bipartisan support</a>. That aspect has become especially pronounced since the PRC’s crackdown on Hong Kong. The measure imposing sanctions on PRC officials for that action passed the US Senate unanimously. During his campaign, former Vice President Joe Biden has gone out of his way to emphasize that he is <a href="https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/joe-bidens-attempt-out-hawk-gop-china-futile?queryID=aa03138fab6133dc398c4d48059dfe8d">even tougher</a> than Donald Trump with respect to China policy.</p> <p>Washington’s implicit containment strategy embodies three significant components. One element is an increase in US political, diplomatic and military support for Taiwan. Another component is the expansion of America’s own military presence throughout the Western Pacific, especially in the South China Sea and in Taiwan’s neighborhood. The third part of the strategy consists of attempting to enlist India, Japan, Australia and other potential allies in a&nbsp;new network of security alliances directed against the PRC.</p> <p><strong>US support for Taiwan</strong> is substantially more robust today than it was when the Trump administration began. Indeed, there were hints that Washington’s policy was about to change when President‐​elect Trump took <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trumps-taiwan-phone-call-was-weeks-in-the-planning-say-people-who-were-involved/2016/12/04/f8be4b0c-ba4e-11e6-94ac-3d324840106c_story.html">a&nbsp;telephone call</a> from Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing‐​wen, in early December 2016. Previously, high‐​level US leaders had avoided even the appearance of political and diplomatic collaboration with the Taiwanese government. That had been the implicit bargain when the United States shifted official relations to the PRC at the beginning of 1979. Beijing vehemently protested the Tsai‐​Trump conversation, but the incoming US administration brushed‐​off the objection.</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>US policy toward Beijing has become more confrontational on multiple fronts.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Since Trump took office, a&nbsp;series of measures have noticeably deepened ties between Washington and Taipei. An especially key step was the <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/535">Taiwan Travel Act</a> in March 2018. That law not only authorized but explicitly encouraged US national security officials to interact with their Taiwanese counterparts, reversing a&nbsp;four‐​decades‐​old policy. It was a&nbsp;sign of developments to come that both houses of Congress passed the bill with little debate and by overwhelming margins. The following year, US National Security Advisor <a href="https://www.cato.org/blank">John Bolton met with David Lee</a>, Secretary General of Taiwan’s National Security Council, to discuss regional security issues of mutual concern to Washington and Taipei. Operational military cooperation also became evident when the US Navy invited senior Taiwanese military officials <a href="https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2148713/taiwan-sends-top-military-officials-us-pacific-command">to participate</a> in a&nbsp;May 2018 gathering at US Pacific Command.</p> <p>Since then, there have been several new milestones in Washington’s support for Taiwan. In March 2020, President Trump signed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative <a href="https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3077192/donald-trump-signs-taipei-act-support-taiwans-international">(TAIPEI) Act</a>, which, like previous measures, had passed Congress with strong bipartisan support. The new law instructed the US State Department to report to Congress on steps taken to strengthen Taiwan’s diplomatic relations, and it required the United States to “alter” engagement with nations that undermine Taiwan’s security or prosperity. The purpose was to impede Beijing’s ongoing campaign to poach Taiwan’s shrinking number of diplomatic partners. Washington also has tried to strengthen Taipei’s diplomatic hand by <a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/04/29/world-health-organization-who-battleground-trump-taiwan-china/">pushing for Taiwanese membership</a> in the World Health Organization and other international bodies.</p> <p>Some measures, like the TAIPEI Act, are primarily symbolic. Other measures, though, are much more substantive, and aim to alter the military equation between Taiwan and the mainland. In mid‐​August, the Trump administration approved an $8 billion sale of <a href="https://nationalinterest.org/feature/taiwans-f-16v-fighter-jet-purchase-why-it-matters-167566">66 advanced F‐​16v fighters</a> to Taiwan – the largest weapons sale in many years – to help Taipei’s concerted effort to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/30/world/asia/taiwan-china-military.html">strengthen its own military capabilities</a>. Another, even more important measure, the Taiwan Defense Act (TDA) is now before Congress. If passed, the TDA would <a href="https://www.hawley.senate.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Taiwan-Defense-Act.pdf">obligate the US government</a> to “delay, degrade, and ultimately defeat” any attempt by the PRC to use military force against Taiwan. The proposed law reflects the growing push by Taipei’s political allies in Congress and the foreign policy community to inject greater “<a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/american-support-taiwan-must-be-unambiguous?utm_medium=newsletters&amp;utm_source=press_note&amp;utm_campaign=&amp;utm_content=20200902&amp;utm_term=FAPressNoteHaassSacksSept22020">strategic clarity</a>” into Washington’s support for Taiwan’s security.</p> <p>In addition to the growing diplomatic and logistical backing for Taipei, the US military presence near Taiwan is now visible and robust. The transit of US warships through the Taiwan Strait has become noticeably more frequent, even routine. Some Taiwan partisans want to go much further. One military affairs expert even suggested sending <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidaxe/2020/09/22/the-us-army-should-plan-to-send-four-divisions-to-taiwan-expert/#577a458c3163">four US Army divisions</a> to the island. Although it might seem like an outlandish “fringe” proposal, that is not the case; former National Security Adviser <a href="https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/18/asia-pacific/politics-diplomacy-asia-pacific/trump-adviser-bolton-ex-u-s-envoy-u-n-backs-stationing-forces-taiwan/">John Bolton once proposed redeploying US Marines</a> stationed in Okinawa to Taiwan.</p> <p>The increasing US air and naval presence near Taiwan is part of a&nbsp;larger <strong>change in Washington’s military posture throughout the Western Pacific</strong>. That move is especially evident in the South China Sea. The number of so‐​called freedom of navigation patrols has expanded throughout the Trump years, and especially so in the past two years. Washington also has expanded the size and capabilities of those patrols.</p> <p><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/us-navy-two-carrier-strike-groups-south-china-sea-again-2020-7">Twice</a> in July 2020, the Pentagon sent two aircraft carrier strike groups into those waters for <a href="https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/u-s-aircraft-carriers-exercising-in-the-south-china-sea-could-spell-danger/">joint drills</a>. Less than a&nbsp;month later, one of the two strike forces, led by the USS Ronald Reagan, returned <a href="https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2020/08/17/carrier-ronald-reagan-heads-back-into-the-south-china-sea/">for yet another set</a> of military exercises. Such large‐​scale displays of US air and naval power in the South China Sea were infrequent before those episodes.</p> <p>American military planners are contemplating even more changes regarding Washington’s military posture in the Western Pacific. In <a href="https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2020/09/24/americas-top-marine-says-the-us-must-shake-up-its-military-presence-in-the-pacific/">an important speech</a> delivered in late September, Marine Corps Commandant General David Berger stated that the way the United States military has arrayed its forces for the last 70&nbsp;years – focused on responding to a&nbsp;conflict on the Korean Peninsula – must change “to meet a&nbsp;new threat environment.” The needed change would disperse those forces, both to reduce their vulnerability to a&nbsp;decapitation attack, and to deal with contingencies away from Northeast Asia.</p> <p>There was little doubt that China is the target of this new strategy. According to Berger, “We have to have a&nbsp;disbursed, distributed laydown in the Pacific that allows us to work with all the partners and allies and deter forces like the PLA from asserting themselves in a&nbsp;manner that tries to rewrite the global norms that have been well established in the past 70&nbsp;years.”</p> <p>The third prong in Washington’s China containment strategy is a&nbsp;<strong>campaign to form stronger strategic links with existing allies and create such links with new allies</strong>. Again, the South China Sea is an important arena for that component of the strategy. This summer, Washington made more explicit its rejection of Beijing’s extensive territorial claims. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also emphasized that the United States would provide active <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-southchinasea-pompeo-idUSKCN24G25U?utm_source=34553&amp;utm_medium=partner">diplomatic backing</a> to Southeast Asian nations who had competing claims with those of China. That comment was a&nbsp;clear invitation not only to the Philippines, a&nbsp;long‐​standing US ally, but to nations such as Vietnam and Malaysia, that Washington will back them if they resist the PRC’s pressure.</p> <p>India is the prize jewel in the US effort to secure new allies to contain China. US leaders have had hopes along those lines for years and have <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/america-cosying-india-counter-china-448342">actively courted</a> Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. The level of cooperation gradually increased, but Modi still carefully avoided enlisting in a&nbsp;US‐​led anti‐​China strategy. But with <a href="https://aspeniaonline.it/why-india-and-china-are-deadlocked-in-the-himalayas/">the recent armed clashes between Indian and PRC troops along the disputed border between the two countries in the Himalayas</a>, Washington is renewing its push for a&nbsp;<em>de facto</em> alliance.</p> <p>Even before the outbreak of actual combat, the United States and Australia proposed a&nbsp;new “<a href="https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/US-China-tensions/US-and-Australia-propose-network-of-alliances-to-curb-China">network of alliances</a>” to curb China. At the beginning of September, the Trump administration escalated its efforts, specifically suggesting that the United States, India, Australia and Japan, transform their Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which has existed since 2007, into a&nbsp;<a href="https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/us-aiming-for-nato-like-alliance-with-india-australia-japan-to-counter-china/articleshow/77867159.cms">full‐​fledged “NATO‐​like” security alliance.</a></p> <p>These various developments, taken together, strongly indicate that Washington now regards China not merely as a “strategic competitor” (George W. Bush’s term), but as an outright adversary. The three‐​prongs of a&nbsp;containment strategy are no longer at an embryonic stage either. US leaders are advancing them rapidly, despite the certainty that such moves will create an extremely tense security environment in East Asia and beyond. Nevertheless, given the extensive bipartisan support for a&nbsp;tougher policy toward the PRC, the strategy is likely to continue regardless of the outcome of the US 2020 election.</p> </div> <p>Ted Galen Carpenter, a&nbsp;senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute, is the author of 12 books and more than 850 articles on international affairs.</p> Thu, 08 Oct 2020 09:42:28 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/washingtons-three-pronged-strategy-contain-chinas-military-power People Fearing China Is a Big Problem for Beijing https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/people-fearing-china-big-problem-beijing <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/doug-bandow" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Late one night in early September, Chinese state security agents visited two Australian journalists‐ one in Beijing, one in Shanghai. The two were told that they were barred from leaving the People’s Republic of China and would be summoned for interrogation the next day. Rather than wait on events, both rushed to Australia’s embassy and consulate, respectively, after which diplomats negotiated their escape: the journalists were interviewed and then allowed to fly home.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The episode was extraordinary, worthy of an espionage novel. In fact, Bill Birtles of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Michael Smith of&nbsp;The Australian Financial Review&nbsp;are normal journalists covering normal news stories. Even so, the two journalists did not trust the Chinese government, its legal system, or its police, and were not willing to risk their freedom.</p> <p>Unfortunately, who can blame them? Seven Chinese police showing up at one’s door at midnight would be a&nbsp;bad sign at any time, and especially when relations between Beijing and Canberra were already deteriorating. The reporters could not help but reflect on the plight of Cheng Lei, the Australian (though Chinese born) anchor for CGTN television detained last month on unspecified charges about whom they were questioned.</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>There is a&nbsp;virtual cascade of anti‐​Chinese sentiment in many Western nations, with complaints in different areas building on one another. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Even more ominous was the arrest nearly two years ago of two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, by all appearances as political retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on U.S. charges of violating sanctions on Iran. (Why Ottawa is effectively enforcing unilateral and widely criticized American economic penalties is another issue.) No one, in the West, anyway, credits the claim that Kovrig, a&nbsp;former diplomat now with the Crisis Group, and Spavor, a&nbsp;businessman, were spies. The charges are too implausible, the timing of detention too convenient, and hints about the connection to Meng’s case are too obvious.</p> <p>Nor are Australians and journalists the only people worried about their safety and freedom in China. In July the U.S. State Department issued a&nbsp;formal warning: “Exercise increased caution in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws for purposes other than maintaining law and order. This arbitrary enforcement may include detention and the use of exit bans.” Even before the COVID-19 pandemic halted international travel, some U.S. firms reportedly were rethinking their policies regarding executive travel to China.</p> <p>These cases have personalized otherwise abstract criticism of the PRC’s political system—that is, dramatically demonstrated how Beijing’s restrictions on media freedom, judicial independence, and personal freedom impact normal people—and may prove to be the most powerful blow struck against China’s international reputation and relations with the West. Most human rights issues mostly concern Chinese citizens. It can be hard for Americans, Australians, Canadians, and others to identify with policies, ranging from internet censorship to religious restrictions, that seem far from them.</p> <p>However, it is much easier to imagine being wrongly arrested and held as a&nbsp;hostage to force one’s government to make one concession or another. And that fear is likely to continue expanding as Beijing’s relations worsen with other nations.</p> <p>The U.S. appears to be descending into a&nbsp;new Cold War with China; Australia may not be far behind. PRC relations with Canada are dominated by what the latter sees as the official kidnapping of Kovrig and Spavor. India and China had a&nbsp;deadly border clash. History still mars contacts between Tokyo and Beijing. South Korea’s ties with the PRC have not fully recovered from the THAAD controversy. Missteps involving COVID-19 have soured Beijing’s ties with several European nations.</p> <p>The result is abundant, well‐​fertilized, international ground for suspicion, misunderstanding, and hostility to flourish. And that was before recent events in Hong Kong elevated this challenge to a&nbsp;much higher level.</p> <p>The national security law has imposed similarly expansive mainland restrictions and procedures on Hong Kong. The impact on liberties and guarantees taken for granted by most Westerners has been severe, with many companies located there reconsidering their future plans.</p> <p>Beyond that, however, the legislation criminalizes conduct—so ill‐​defined that simple criticism of Chinese government policy might be deemed illegal—that occurs in foreign countries. And by foreign citizens. Among the people charged under the law is&nbsp;Samuel Muk‐​man Chu, who runs the Washington‐​based Hong Kong Democracy Council. Although born in Hong Kong, he gained American citizenship 25&nbsp;years ago,&nbsp;before&nbsp;the legal turnover to China. Yet the PRC seeks to jail him for his activity in America.</p> <p>Even analysts doing less controversial work, such as simply writing articles critical of Chinese policy, might wonder if they could face prosecution if they visit China or Hong Kong. Of course, that seems unlikely—critics the PRC are many today, and simply listing them all would be quite a&nbsp;chore. Nevertheless, anyone obviously&nbsp;could&nbsp;be charged. A&nbsp;law already widely dismissed in the West as an offensive over‐​reach also has personalized human rights concerns, inflaming antagonism toward increasingly harsh Chinese policies.</p> <p>Of course, Beijing is going to set the PRC’s course and make decisions based on its judgments, not the opinions of foreign nations and peoples. Nevertheless, the impact of foreign opinion should still matter to Chinese officials.</p> <p>There is a&nbsp;virtual cascade of anti‐​Chinese sentiment in many Western nations, with complaints in different areas building on one another. The commercial relationship once was the bedrock for relations between many nations and the PRC. Controversy now increasingly dominates this area. As China’s role in sensitive industries has grown, so have security worries. Military confrontations and clashes have illustrated Beijing’s new international aggressiveness.</p> <p>Now Chinese missteps have brought home human rights to Westerners who might not have thought that much about the issue in the past. Those who did care before have become more passionate.</p> <p>If the PRC hopes to reverse the rapid decline in relations with Western states, it should address the negative impact of abusive laws and procedures on its international reputation. When the first inclination of visitors is to race home when contacted by the police, it is apparent that Beijing’s reputation has collapsed. And that China is losing much of the soft power that it once enjoyed.</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 Tripwire: Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a&nbsp;Changed World and co‐​author of The Korean Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and South Korea. Thu, 08 Oct 2020 09:38:13 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/people-fearing-china-big-problem-beijing Paranoia about Trump and Russia Is Dangerous for Our Foreign Policy https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/paranoia-about-trump-russia-dangerous-our-foreign-policy <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ted-galen-carpenter" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The myth that Donald Trump is Vladimir Putin’s puppet just won’t die, even though ample evidence demonstrates that the president’s policy toward Russia has actually been&nbsp;<a href="https://www.npr.org/2018/04/01/598695826/despite-soft-rhetoric-trump-administration-draws-hard-line-on-russia" target="_blank">surprisingly</a> <a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/myth-won%E2%80%99t-die-donald-trump-russias-puppet-48982" target="_blank">hardline</a>&nbsp;and confrontational. Such pervasive paranoia has led to a&nbsp;rebirth of McCarthyism in the United States and is preventing a&nbsp;badly needed reassessment of U.S. foreign policy. In short, threat inflation with respect to Russia and an obsession with the phantom danger of presidential treason continues to poison our discourse.</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 consequences of the last McCarthy era were steep and lasted a&nbsp;generation; we can’t afford a&nbsp;repeat. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The end of the exhaustive FBI and Mueller commission investigations into “Russia collusion” was never going to put the treason innuendoes to rest. Subsequent developments, such as&nbsp;<a href="https://fair.org/home/in-russian-bounty-story-evidence-free-claims-from-nameless-spies-became-fact-overnight/" target="_blank">unsupported charges</a>&nbsp;that Moscow paid financial bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan, served to keep the narrative alive. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi epitomized the ongoing efforts to make imputations of disloyalty stick. “With [Trump], all roads lead to Putin,”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/nancy-pelosi-on-donald-trump-with-him-all-roads-lead-to-russia-vladimir-putin/" target="_blank">Pelosi said</a>&nbsp;in late June 2020. “I don’t know what the Russians have on the president, politically, personally, or financially.”</p> <p>In a&nbsp;September 21&nbsp;<em>Washington Post</em><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/09/21/russian-agent-trump-counterintelligence/" target="_blank">&nbsp;op‐​ed</a>, former&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>&nbsp;correspondent Tim Weiner echoed Pelosi’s perspective. He asserted that</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>despite the investigation by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, despite the work of congressional intelligence committees and inspectors general — and despite impeachment — we still don’t know why the president kowtows to Vladimir Putin, broadcasts Russian disinformation, bends foreign policy to suit the Kremlin and brushes off reports of Russians bounty‐​hunting American soldiers. We still don’t know whether Putin has something on him. And we need to know the answers — urgently. Knowing could be devastating. Not knowing is far worse. Not knowing is a&nbsp;threat to a&nbsp;functioning democracy.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Only visceral hatred of Donald Trump combined with equally unreasoning suspicions about Russia, much of it inherited from the days of the Cold War, could account for the persistence of such an implausible argument. Yet an impressive array of media and political heavyweights have adopted that perspective.</p> <p>As during the McCarthy era in the 1950s, challenging the dominant narrative entails the risk of severe damage to reputation and career. In September 2020,&nbsp;<em>The</em><em>Intercept</em>’s Glenn Greenwald disclosed in an interview with Megyn Kelly that&nbsp;<a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/media/518586-glenn-greenwald-tells-megyn-kelly-he-has-been-formally-banned-from-msnbc" target="_blank">he had been blacklisted</a>&nbsp;at MSNBC, primarily because he’d disputed the network’s unbridled credulity about Russia’s alleged menace and President Trump’s collusion with it. When Kelly asked him how he knew he was banned, Greenwald responded: “I have tons of friends there. I&nbsp;used to go on all the time. I&nbsp;have producers who tried to book me and they get told, ‘No. He’s on the no‐​book list.’”</p> <p>Although an MSNBC spokesperson denied that there was any official ban, the last time Greenwald had appeared on a&nbsp;network program regarding any issue was in December 2016, just as the Russia collusion scandal was gaining traction. The timing was a&nbsp;striking coincidence. Greenwald insisted that he was told about being on the no‐​book list by two different producers, and he charged that his situation was not unique: “[I]t’s not just me but several liberal‐​left journalists — including Matt Taibbi and Jeremy Scahill — who used to regularly appear there and stopped once they expressed criticism of MSNBC’s Russiagate coverage and skepticism generally about the narrative.”</p> <p>It would be bad enough if blows to careers were the extent of the damage that paranoia about Russia and Trump had caused. But that mentality is inhibiting any effort to improve relations with a&nbsp;significant international geostrategic player that possesses several thousand nuclear weapons.</p> <p>The opposition to any conciliatory moves toward Russia has reached absurd and toxic levels. Critics even condemned the Trump administration’s April 2020 decision to issue a&nbsp;joint declaration with the Kremlin to mark the date when Soviet and U.S. forces linked up at the Elbe River during World War II, thereby cutting Nazi Germany into two segments. The larger purpose of the declaration was to highlight “nations overcoming their differences in pursuit of a&nbsp;greater cause.” The U.S. and Russian governments stressed that a&nbsp;similar standard should apply to efforts to combat the coronavirus. It should have been noncontroversial, but some&nbsp;<a href="https://news.antiwar.com/2020/04/26/critics-lash-joint-us-russia-declaration-on-elbe-river-anniversary/" target="_blank">condemned it</a>&nbsp;as “playing into Putin’s hands.”</p> <p>That theme has been even more prominent since Trump’s decision to move some U.S. troops out of Germany. Even some members of the president’s own party seem susceptible to the argument. During recent House Armed Services Committee hearings, Congressman Bradley Byrne invoked Russia. “From a&nbsp;layperson’s point of view, it looks like we’ve reduced our troop presence in Europe at a&nbsp;time that Russia is actually becoming more of a&nbsp;threat,”&nbsp;<a href="https://news.antiwar.com/2020/10/02/congress-blasts-trump-admins-germany-troop-drawdown/" target="_blank">Byrne said</a>. “It looks like we’re pulling back, and I&nbsp;think that bothers a&nbsp;lot of us.” Such arguments have been surprisingly common since the administration announced its plans in late spring. Allegations that Trump is “doing Putin’s bidding” continue to flow, even though some of the troops withdrawn from Germany are going to be redeployed farther east&nbsp;<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-poland-usa/us-to-have-permanent-troop-presence-in-poland-as-defence-pact-agreed-idUSKCN24W2AS" target="_blank">in Poland</a>—a step the Kremlin will hardly regard as friendly.</p> <p>George Beebe, vice president and director of programs at the Center for the National Interest, aptly&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/feature/stubborn-persistence-russia-bogeyman-169609" target="_blank">describes the potential negative consequences</a>&nbsp;of fomenting public fear of and hatred toward Russia. He points out that</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>the safe space in our public discourse for dissenting from American orthodoxy on Russia has grown microscopically thin. When the U.S. government will open a&nbsp;counterintelligence investigation on the presidential nominee of a&nbsp;major American political party because he advocates a&nbsp;rethink of our approach to Russia, only to be cheered on by American media powerhouses that once valued civil liberties, who among us is safe from such a&nbsp;fate? What are the chances that ambitious early‐​or mid‐​career professionals inside or outside the U.S. government will critically examine the premises of our Russia policies, knowing that it might invite investigations and professional excommunication? The answer is obvious.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Indeed it is. America went through such stifling of debate during the original McCarthy era. The impact lasted a&nbsp;generation and was especially pernicious with respect to policy toward East Asia. Washington locked itself into a&nbsp;set of rigid positions, including trying to orchestrate an international effort to shun and isolate China’s communist government and see every adverse development in the region as the result of machinations by Beijing and Moscow. The result was an increasingly futile, counterproductive China policy until Richard Nixon had the wisdom to chart a&nbsp;new course in the early 1970s. This ossified thinking and lack of debate also produced the disastrous military crusade in Vietnam.</p> <p>America cannot afford such folly again. Smearing those who favor a&nbsp;less confrontational policy toward Moscow as puppets, traitors, and (in the case of accusations against Tulsi Gabbard) “<a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2020/01/22/tulsi-gabbard-sues-hillary-clinton-over-russian-asset-smear-102074" target="_blank">Russian assets</a>” will not lead to prudent policies. Persisting in such an approach will exacerbate dangerous tensions abroad and undermine needed political debate at home.</p> </div> Ted Galen Carpenter, a&nbsp;senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute and a&nbsp;contributing editor at The American Conservative, is the author of 12 books and more than 850 articles on international affairs. Thu, 08 Oct 2020 08:59:47 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/paranoia-about-trump-russia-dangerous-our-foreign-policy Hanke’s Inflation Dashboard: The Media’s Misreporting on Hyperinflation https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/hankes-inflation-dashboard-medias-misreporting-hyperinflation <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/steve-hanke" hreflang="und">Steve H. Hanke</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The&nbsp;word “hyperinflation” is sprinkled throughout the press each day. We read that Iran is hyperinflating. The same is said of Zimbabwe and Venezuela, as well as a&nbsp;potpourri of other countries experiencing inflation flare ups. While Iran experienced a&nbsp;bout of inflation in the fall of 2012, it never reached the point of hyperinflation. And while Zimbabwe went through hyperinflation episodes in 2007-08 and 2017, it is not hyperinflating now. At present, Venezuela and Lebanon are the only countries on Hanke’s Inflation Dashboard (see below) that are going through hyperinflation. It’s clear that journalists and those they interview tend to play fast and loose with the word “hyperinflation.” How could this be?</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Hanke Inflation Dashboard</p> </div> , <figure class="figure overflow-hidden figure--default figure--no-caption responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="353" alt="hankechart-review.jpg" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/hankechart-review.jpg?itok=Dw9nGjzg 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs_2x/public/2020-10/hankechart-review.jpg?itok=pmy1dIgG 1.5x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/pubs/public/2020-10/hankechart-review.jpg?itok=Dw9nGjzg" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>As it turns out, many smart people pretend to know a&nbsp;lot about hyperinflation. Indeed, the media publishes interviews and statements from so‐​called experts, often economists and professors whose only knowledge of hyperinflation comes from what they read in the popular press and other news outlets. The result, as Casey Mulligan pinpoints (in a&nbsp;different context) in his recently released book,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Youre-Hired-Successes-Failures-President/dp/1645720136" target="_blank"><em>You’re Hired!: Untold Successes and Failures of a&nbsp;Populist&nbsp;</em><em>President</em></a>, is that “we end up with an echo chamber, or what I&nbsp;call a&nbsp;perpetual circle of fake news: the news outlets recite the experts, who repeat the news outlets, who recite the experts.”</p> <p>As someone who has dealt with all the primary sources and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/images/troubled-currencies-project/routledge-handbook-of-major-events-in-economic-history-world-hyperinflations.pdf" target="_blank">replicated the calculations for every hyperinflation that has ever existed</a>, I&nbsp;am well‐​placed to observe the perpetual cycle of fake news on hyperinflation as it rotates through the media. Indeed, barely a&nbsp;day goes by that I&nbsp;am not hit in the face with some false statement concerning hyperinflation.</p> <p>To clean up the mess surrounding press reports on hyperinflation, we should pay attention to Eugen von Böhm‐​Bawerk, one of the founders of the Austrian School of Economics, who, in 1891, wrote, “We too must bring into our science a&nbsp;strict order and discipline, which we are still far from having. By a&nbsp;disorderly and ambiguous terminology we are led into the most palpable mistakes and misunderstandings — all these failings are of so frequent occurrence in our science that they almost seem to be characteristic of its style.”</p> <p>Yes. Nothing cleans up ambiguity and disorder better than clear definitions. So, just what is the definition of the oft‐​misused word “hyperinflation?” The convention adopted in the academic literature is to classify an inflation as hyperinflation if the monthly inflation rate exceeds 50 percent. This definition was adopted in 1956, after Phillip Cagan published his seminal analysis of hyperinflation, which appeared in a&nbsp;book edited by Milton Friedman,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0226264068/ref=x_gr_w_bb_sout?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=x_gr_w_bb_sout-20&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325&amp;creativeASIN=0226264068&amp;SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2" target="_blank"><em>Studies in the Quantity Theory of Money</em></a>.</p> <p>Since I&nbsp;use high‐​frequency data and Purchasing Power Parity theory to measure inflation each day in countries with significant price increases,&nbsp;<a href="https://sites.krieger.jhu.edu/iae/files/2018/02/Hanke-Bushnell_Venezuela.pdf" target="_blank">I&nbsp;have been able to refine</a>&nbsp;Cagan’s 50 percent per month hyperinflation threshold. With improved measurement techniques, I&nbsp;now define a&nbsp;hyperinflation as an inflation with a&nbsp;rate exceeding 50 percent per month for at least 30 consecutive days.</p> <p>After years of research with the help of many assistants, I&nbsp;have documented, with primary data, 62 episodes of hyperinflation that are listed on the “<a href="https://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/images/troubled-currencies-project/routledge-handbook-of-major-events-in-economic-history-world-hyperinflations.pdf">Hanke‐​Krus World Hyperinflation Table</a>,”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/lebanon-hyperinflates/" target="_blank">with Lebanon being the most recent entry on the Hyperinflation Table.</a></p> <p>Hungary holds down the top spot. Its peak hyperinflation occurred in July 1946, when prices were doubling every 15&nbsp;hours. Zimbabwe’s November 2008 hyperinflation peak is second highest, but way behind Hungary’s. Indeed, at their peaks, the daily inflation rates were 207 percent in Hungary and 98 percent in Zimbabwe. Right behind Zimbabwe is Yugoslavia, which reached a&nbsp;peak inflation rate in January 1994, when the daily inflation rate hit 64.6 percent. Yugoslavia’s monthly inflation rate at that peak was a&nbsp;stunning 313 million percent per month.</p> <p>While the most memorable hyperinflation is Germany’s, it only ranks as the fifth highest. It’s peak daily rate was 20.9 percent and its peak monthly rate was “only” 29,500 percent. This is way, way below the monthly rate of even just the third worst hyperinflation: Yugoslavia’s.</p> <p>Now, let’s turn to the world’s highest, current hyperinflation: Venezuela’s. Venezuela has hyperinflated twice since 2016. Its first episode of hyperinflation, which ran from November 2016 to February 2019, ranks as the world’s 14th‐​most‐​severe episode, with a&nbsp;peak monthly inflation rate of 315 percent per month. While the magnitude of Venezuela’s first hyperinflation was relatively modest,&nbsp;it lasted for 27 grim months, which is the fifth‐​longest episode on record, with the longest being Nicaragua’s 58‐​month episode. Venezuela’s current episode, which started in April 2020, is still ongoing. Today, the annual rate of inflation is 2,074 percent per year.</p> <p>When it comes to the media, I&nbsp;always embrace my 95 percent rule: 95 percent of what you read in the press is either wrong or irrelevant.</p> </div> Steve H. Hanke is a&nbsp;professor of Applied Economics at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He is a&nbsp;senior fellow and director of the Troubled Currencies Project at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. Wed, 07 Oct 2020 10:07:40 -0400 Steve H. Hanke https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/hankes-inflation-dashboard-medias-misreporting-hyperinflation Are Public School Systems Leaving Families Out to Dry? https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/are-public-school-systems-leaving-families-out-dry <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/corey-deangelis" hreflang="und">Corey A. DeAngelis</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Families have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to K-12 public education for far too long. Unfortunately, this reality is clearer now more than ever. It’s one thing for public schools to not adequately meet the educational needs of millions of children year after year. But it’s a&nbsp;whole other level of letdown when so many of the public schools across the country aren’t even reopening their doors to families in need due to fears over the pandemic.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The latest&nbsp;<a href="http://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/school-districts-reopening-plans-a-snapshot.html" target="_blank">data</a>&nbsp;from Education Week indicate that 74 of the 100 largest school districts in the United States are reopening without any in‐​person instruction. Some public school districts that have tried to reopen with in‐​person options are facing fierce resistance from teachers’ groups. The American Federation of Teachers&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politico.com/news/2020/07/28/aft-strikes-school-reopening-384133" target="_blank">threatened</a>&nbsp;“safety strikes,” and teacher “sick outs” have already left families scrambling at the eleventh hour in states like&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/15/world/coronavirus-covid-19.html#:~:text=Franklin%2FAssociated%20Press-,A%20teachers&#039;%20strike%20closes%20down%20a%20school%20district%20in%20Arizona,%E2%80%9Csick%20out%E2%80%9D%20in%20protest.&amp;text=Combs%20Unified%20School%20District%2C%20said,to%20families%20posted%20online%20Friday." target="_blank">Arizona</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/2020/09/21/276-kenosha-teachers-call-sick-forcing-switch-virtual-school/5855768002/" target="_blank">Wisconsin</a>.</p> <p>After pushback from the unions in the nation’s largest school district, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/nyc-delays-reopening-classrooms-again-amid-covid-safety-fears-n1240328" target="_blank">delayed</a>&nbsp;the reopening of schools twice and made a&nbsp;deal to hire thousands of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.amny.com/education-2/blended-model-for-nyc-schools-could-cost-cash-strapped-city-32-million-a-week-ibo/" target="_blank">additional</a>&nbsp;employees. More recently, New York City principals’ union&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/09/27/917539932/nyc-principals-union-passes-no-confidence-vote-against-mayor-and-schools-chancel" target="_blank">unanimously</a>&nbsp;passed a&nbsp;vote of no confidence in the mayor just two days before most schools were expected to reopen in person. The in‐​person reopening of public schools was also&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wfaa.com/article/news/education/fort-worth-isd-board-meeting-tuesday-september-22-vote-in-person-virtual-learning/287-1a4139b0-dbd1-409d-ab4b-e944c1aff33a" target="_blank">delayed</a>&nbsp;for two additional weeks in Fort Worth, Texas, after backlash from the teachers’&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wfaa.com/article/news/education/united-educators-association-blasts-decision-to-open-fwisd-schools/287-c0262de1-85a8-4a61-aa9c-edad6d671e47" target="_blank">union</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>Funding students directly, instead of school systems, would give institutions real incentives to cater to the needs of families. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>This doesn’t mean that these special interest groups have bad intentions, though. The unions are just doing their jobs by looking out for their members—and keeping school buildings closed&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/cannibalizing-private-life" target="_blank">minimizes</a>&nbsp;costs in terms of childcare responsibilities, commute times, and safety risks, while maintaining benefits in terms of job security and pay. The problem is that employees aren’t the only stakeholders in the school reopening debate. The needs of families and students are getting left out of the equation.</p> <p>Keeping public schools closed exacerbates&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/going-to-school-where-everybody-knows-your-name" target="_blank">inequities</a>&nbsp;because well‐​off families are more likely to have the resources to cover tuition and fees at institutions that are open for business, such as private schools, daycare centers, and “pandemic pods.” Families that rely on two incomes to get by—and single‐​parent families—are disproportionately facing hardships because many public schools are not there for them this year.&nbsp;<em>Chalkbeat</em>&nbsp;also&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/9/11/21431146/hispanic-and-black-students-more-likely-than-white-students-to-start-the-school-year-online" target="_blank">reported</a>&nbsp;that Hispanic and Black students are less likely to live in districts providing in‐​person instruction options for public schools.</p> <p>But the loss of childcare isn’t the only problem. The remote learning provided by traditional public schools this spring was a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/schools-coronavirus-remote-learning-lockdown-tech-11591375078" target="_blank">disaster</a>&nbsp;for far too many families. In fact, an&nbsp;<a href="http://www.the74million.org/article/analysis-just-1-in-3-districts-required-teachers-to-deliver-instruction-this-spring-they-mustnt-be-left-on-their-own-again-in-the-fall/" target="_blank">analysis</a>&nbsp;by the Center for Reinventing Public Education found that only 1&nbsp;in 3&nbsp;public school districts even required teachers to deliver instruction this spring—and less than half required teachers to take attendance or check in with students regularly. Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, struck a&nbsp;<a href="http://edsource.org/2020/la-unified-teachers-union-reach-agreement-over-distance-learning-guidelines/628559" target="_blank">deal</a>&nbsp;with the teachers’ union to only require teachers to work 4&nbsp;hours each day in the spring—and that requirement did not include any live video instruction. Furthermore, a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.educationnext.org/what-american-families-experienced-when-covid-19-closed-their-schools/" target="_blank">nationally representative&nbsp;survey</a>&nbsp;by Ipsos Public Affairs found that about 1&nbsp;in every 4&nbsp;traditional public schools did not introduce any new content to their students during the lockdown. Most school districts have spent the summer preparing for some form of virtual instruction, but it remains to be seen if this will be any more effective than it was this spring.&nbsp;</p> <p>This fall, school districts have already had&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/08/us/school-districts-cyberattacks-glitches.html" target="_blank">technical problems</a>&nbsp;with remote instruction in states such as Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas, North Carolina, Florida, and Connecticut. A&nbsp;national&nbsp;<a href="http://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/uploads/research/key-findings-and-toplines-common-sense-surveymonkey-return-to-school_1.pdf" target="_blank">survey</a>&nbsp;conducted by Common Sense Media in August found that&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/DeAngelisCorey/status/1308411038098956289" target="_blank">59%</a>&nbsp;of teens reported that they believe online learning is worse than in‐​person learning, whereas only 19% reported the opposite.&nbsp;</p> <p>Some teens&nbsp;<a href="http://nypost.com/2020/09/16/remote-learning-is-a-disaster-and-terrible-for-children/" target="_blank">dislike</a>&nbsp;remote learning so much that they’ve figured out how to take a&nbsp;screenshot of themselves looking engaged so that they can leave the virtual room without getting in trouble. A&nbsp;student in New York was even&nbsp;<a href="http://www.foxnews.com/us/maverick-stow-in-person-class-arrest-long-island" target="_blank">arrested</a>&nbsp;in September for showing up to his public school for in‐​person classes on remote learning days. Further, Bethany Mandel&nbsp;<a href="http://nypost.com/2020/09/16/remote-learning-is-a-disaster-and-terrible-for-children/" target="_blank">argues</a>&nbsp;that too much screen time during remote instruction “is doing harm to children” and that “children as young as five are left feeling fried after being expected to stay engaged six hours a&nbsp;day online.”</p> <p>Some public school districts are also pushing families away with unnecessary rules and regulations. A&nbsp;school district in Illinois, for example,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/08/us/pajamas-school-springfield-dress-code.html" target="_blank">announced</a>&nbsp;that students are not allowed to wear pajamas even though they are learning from home. A&nbsp;school district in Tennessee&nbsp;<a href="http://tennesseestar.com/2020/08/15/rutherford-county-schools-tell-parents-not-to-monitor-their-childs-virtual-classrooms/" target="_blank">told</a>&nbsp;parents to sign a&nbsp;form agreeing not to monitor their own children’s virtual classes. A&nbsp;school in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.clickorlando.com/news/local/2020/09/08/report-12-year-old-plays-with-nerf-gun-in-virtual-class-school-calls-cops/" target="_blank">Colorado</a>&nbsp;called the police on a&nbsp;12‐​year‐​old boy because he was playing with a&nbsp;toy Nerf gun during his virtual art —and the student was suspended for five days. Police similarly showed up at a&nbsp;11‐​year‐​old boy’s home in Baltimore,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.lawenforcementtoday.com/school-calls-cops-after-seeing-boys-bb-gun-in-home-during-virtual-class/" target="_blank">Maryland</a>,&nbsp;after his teacher reported him for having a&nbsp;BB gun mounted on the wall behind him during a&nbsp;virtual class.</p> <p>The situation has gotten so bad that families are fleeing traditional public schools in droves for the first time in modern U.S. history. Several school districts across the country have already reported substantial reductions in enrollment. These enrollment drops have ranged from&nbsp;<a href="http://mohavedailynews.com/news/10766/enrollment-drops-10000-in-clark-county-school-district/#:~:text=Data%20show%20there%20are%20307%2C210,than%20321%2C000%20students%20in%202017." target="_blank">around 3% in Clark County,&nbsp;Nevada</a>&nbsp;to around&nbsp;<a href="http://www.clickorlando.com/news/local/2020/09/04/thousands-of-unregistered-orange-county-students-will-not-result-in-layoffs-this-semester-superintendent-says/" target="_blank">9% in Orange County,&nbsp;Florida</a>. Homeschool filings are also through the roof just about everywhere, including&nbsp;<a href="http://smcorridornews.com/texas-homeschool-coalition-400-percent-increase-in-parents-withdrawing-students-from-public-schools/" target="_blank">Texas</a>, where they&nbsp;have jumped 288% from the same time last year.</p> <p>None of this is to say that remote learning cannot work, or that it does not work in general. Remote learning provided by traditional public schools might work well for some students. Virtual charter schools have also been successfully meeting the&nbsp;<a href="http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED595244.pdf" target="_blank">needs of&nbsp;thousands</a>&nbsp;of students for decades. And a&nbsp;national survey by<a href="http://www.educationnext.org/what-american-families-experienced-when-covid-19-closed-their-schools/" target="_blank">&nbsp;Ipsos Public Affairs</a>&nbsp;suggests that private and charter schools were more&nbsp;<a href="http://reason.com/2020/07/17/private-schools-are-adapting-to-lockdown-better-than-the-public-school-monopoly/" target="_blank">responsive</a>&nbsp;to the needs of families during the lockdown. The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.educationnext.org/what-american-families-experienced-when-covid-19-closed-their-schools/" target="_blank">survey</a>&nbsp;found that parents of children in private and charter schools were at least 50% more likely to report being “very satisfied” with the instruction provided during the lockdown than parents of children in traditional public schools. A&nbsp;national survey by Common Sense Media similarly found that private school students were&nbsp;<a href="http://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/uploads/pdfs/2020_surveymonkey-key-findings-toplines-teens-and-coronavirus.pdf" target="_blank">more than&nbsp;twice&nbsp;as likely</a>&nbsp;to connect with their teachers each day than students in public schools.</p> <p>These results make sense. Private schools know that their customers—families and their children—can take their money elsewhere if they fail to deliver. The public school system doesn’t have that same kind of meaningful accountability, and the reality is the system largely failed millions of families this spring and it is unclear if this fall will be any different.&nbsp;</p> <p>But there is a&nbsp;way to fix this problem going forward. Funding students directly, instead of school systems, would give institutions real incentives to cater to the needs of families. Education funding is supposed to be meant for educating children—it’s not supposed to be for propping up and protecting a&nbsp;government monopoly. Let’s finally get our priorities right and fund&nbsp;<a href="http://reason.com/2020/08/10/fund-students-instead-of-systems/" target="_blank">students</a>&nbsp;instead of systems.</p> </div> Corey DeAngelis is the director of school choice at Reason Foundation and an adjunct scholar at Cato Institute. He is also the executive director at Educational Freedom Institute. Tue, 06 Oct 2020 09:42:13 -0400 Corey A. DeAngelis https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/are-public-school-systems-leaving-families-out-dry For the Constitution’s Sake, Keep Federal Hands off the 1619 Project https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/constitutions-sake-keep-federal-hands-1619-project <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/neal-mccluskey" hreflang="und">Neal McCluskey</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>With presidential debate fireworks and the battle to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it is easy to forget that on Sept. 17, Constitution Day, President Trump&nbsp;<a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-white-house-conference-american-history/" target="_blank">proposed something</a>&nbsp;unconstitutional. At the National Archives, where the Constitution is on display, Trump attacked the&nbsp;<em>New York Times’s</em>&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html?mtrref=www.google.com&amp;gwh=73A9FB68F73F6B418D861F1078BC9F29&amp;gwt=pay&amp;assetType=PAYWALL" target="_blank">1619 Project</a>&nbsp;and other “deceptions, falsehoods, and lies” propagated by “the Left” while promising to create a&nbsp;national commission to foster “patriotic education.” It was in line with other recent Republican actions, including&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cotton.senate.gov/files/documents/200723%20Saving%20American%20History%20Act.pdf" target="_blank">legislation</a>&nbsp;to reduce federal education dollars to public schools that choose to teach the 1619 Project.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>These actions are both unconstitutional and threaten to take the painful, fever‐​pitch anger of our national politics and inject it into our children’s classrooms.</p> <p>The Constitution gives the federal government only&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cato.org/blog/federal-education-think-progress-should-think-harder" target="_blank">specific, enumerated powers</a>, and nowhere among them is authority to pay or not pay to advance or impede interpretations of history. It applies even if you really,&nbsp;<em>really</em>&nbsp;hate the hotly contested 1619 Project, which “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”</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>Whenever government decides what should be taught, or what is “right” history, it is a&nbsp;threat to liberty and harmony, as well as truth‐​seeking </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Not only do Republicans violate the Constitution with legislative attacks on the 1619 Project, they force all of us into a&nbsp;national, and intensely personal, schooling war.</p> <p>For some people, the 1619 Project is liberating, revealing the immense but often overlooked suffering and injustice committed against their ancestors, with continued repercussions today. For others, it feels like an attack on them personally and on a&nbsp;country that has its flaws but is grounded in fundamentally good and cherished ideals.</p> <p>There are also, of course, numerous disagreements about facts and interpretations, as there always are given that no one is all‐​knowing. They range from the importance of slavery in economic development to whether a&nbsp;desire to preserve slavery fueled the American Revolution.</p> <p>Whenever government, which is ultimately backed by a&nbsp;legal right to jail or even kill, decides what should be taught, or what is “right” history, it is a&nbsp;threat to liberty and harmony, as well as truth‐​seeking. As illustrated by the Cato Institute’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cato.org/education-fight-map" target="_blank">Public Schooling Battle Map</a>&nbsp;(a repository of thousands of values‐ and identity‐​based conflicts), when government requires diverse people to pay for a&nbsp;single school system, it forces them into political combat to determine who will get the education they want, and who will&nbsp;<em>not</em>.</p> <p>Such combat is not only inherently divisive, the stakes of losing are ultimately inequality under the law. You may, for instance, think your child needs to know about the treatment of people of his or her race over the centuries. Too bad if people with more political power have decided otherwise. You do not get equal treatment.</p> <p>Zero‐​sum conflicts and their aftermath are terrible wherever they occur. But the worst possible battleground, as we are seeing outside of education, is a&nbsp;national one, leaving no one unscathed.</p> <p>That said, while the immediate threat is Republicans like Trump going too far in attacking the 1619 Project and promoting essentially “official” history, both parties bear huge responsibility for where we are today.</p> <p>The first major federal foray into education was driven by Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, who spearheaded the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.lbjlibrary.org/lyndon-baines-johnson/timeline/johnsons-remarks-on-signing-the-elementary-and-secondary-education-act" target="_blank">Elementary and Secondary Education Act</a>&nbsp;that pushed federal money (the lever to exert power) into schools. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Republicans drove things, ramping up&nbsp;<a href="https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/1987/11/18/07360019.h07.html" target="_blank">national testing</a>&nbsp;under President Ronald Reagan and creating national&nbsp;<a href="https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED327985" target="_blank">education goals</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/1995/11/15/11hist.h15.html" target="_blank">curricular standards</a>&nbsp;under President George H.W. Bush, then&nbsp;<a href="https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/exhibits/show/education-reform/goals-esea" target="_blank">carried on</a>&nbsp;by Democratic President Bill Clinton. The&nbsp;<a href="https://ballotpedia.org/No_Child_Left_Behind_Act" target="_blank">No Child Left Behind Act</a>&nbsp;of 2001, which held schools “accountable” with mandatory state standardized testing, was bipartisan, and the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/misinformed-about-common-core-indeed" target="_blank">Common Core</a>&nbsp;national curricular standards of the 2010s had Republican and Democratic supporters.</p> <p>By shoving aside the Constitution, both major parties have put us on the brink of federal control of how our national story is told. Such control by government, not people freely exchanging and debating ideas, cannot be allowed. For the sake of peace, equality, and the rule of law, federal politicians must stay out of America’s history classes.</p> </div> Neal McCluskey directs the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom and is co‐​editor of the new book&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/School-Choice-Myths-Straight-Education/dp/1948647907" target="_blank">School Choice Myths: Setting the Record Straight on Education Freedom</a>. Mon, 05 Oct 2020 14:25:14 -0400 Neal McCluskey https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/constitutions-sake-keep-federal-hands-1619-project Is the Pandemic Really a ‘Wake Up Call’ for the West? https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/pandemic-really-wake-call-west <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ryan-bourne" hreflang="und">Ryan Bourne</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Covid‐​19 has stress‐​tested government quality and many Western states have been found wanting. So conclude John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge in their new book, <em>The Wake Up Call</em>.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>An uncontroversial observation, some might say. But the pair review the cross‐​country wreckage to try to identify lessons from the successful and unsuccessful countries. Their conclusion: the better public health outcomes of East Asia highlight the legacy of a&nbsp;key Western failure (especially in Britain and the US) — decades of not taking government seriously.</p> <p>The supposed glory days of good government through the 1960s gave way to left‐​wing overreach in the 70s and neoliberal overreach in the 80s and 90s. The consequence of both has been crowd‐​out and underinvestment in core government functions and ineffective, low quality leadership. The pair want the pandemic to wake us from this stupor, encouraging meaningful reform to re‐​focus the state and measures to raise the prestige of public service itself.</p> <p>As a&nbsp;libertarian, I’m predisposed to believe this year’s deaths and economic carnage land at the feet of useless, overbearing Western governments. I’m currently writing my own book that touches on the failures of politicians to think like economists through this crisis and have criticised how the growing scope of the state may have crowded out focus on core activity, such as infectious disease control, while highlighting how more specific government failures have made things worse.</p> <p>But while there have been plenty of mistakes of competence and calculation, Micklethwait and Wooldridge’s book unwittingly highlights the difficulty of finding readily generalisable big picture conclusions for why some states have performed better than others. At times, we almost face a&nbsp;tautology:</p> <p><em>“Why did some countries do well with Covid‐​19?” </em></p> <p><em>“Because they have more effective governments!” </em></p> <p><em>“How do we know they have more effective governments?” </em></p> <p><em>“Because they did well with Covid‐​19!” </em></p> <p>The problem any analysis seeking “lessons” about government from this episode faces is that simple correlation analysis finds no relationship between deaths/​population and either government size, health‐​to‐​GDP spending, measures of government effectiveness, measures of state capacity, pandemic preparedness, recent fiscal policy, or inequality—the favoured metrics of many commentators (see my <a href="https://twitter.com/MrRBourne/status/1311714781452283909?s=20" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Twitter thread here</a>)</p> <p>Micklethwait and Wooldridge hold up East Asian states, for example, which have indeed enjoyed much lower death rates and have much to admire more broadly. Yet it seems a&nbsp;stretch to imply, as they do, that features of their governments — such as being unencumbered by large welfare states and granting higher status to public officials — explains their good Covid performance more than, say, having had recent experience with SARS and MERS. Especially because such a&nbsp;theory cannot account for the relative success of, say, Germany, let alone Greece.</p> <p>“Three things stand out among the failures: a&nbsp;complete lack of urgency; an inability to organise testing and protective equipment; and dysfunctional politics,” Micklethwait and Wooldridge muse—a very US-UK centred view that perhaps also incorporates Brazil and Belgium. But there was no reason to expect that Greece, Australia, and Poland would be coping a&nbsp;lot better with Covid‐​19 than Sweden and Switzerland, given the relative stability of the latter group’s politics. So, what are the implications?</p> <p></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"> Covid‐​19 has stress‐​tested government quality and many Western states have been found wanting. So conclude John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge in their new book. </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>What Micklethwait and Wooldridge want to imply is that the structural problems associated with Western governments (being outdated, overstretched, captured by vested interests and the elderly, and more) contributed to the lack of focus on the matter at hand.</p> <p>But though they are surely right to say the mistakes made would have been likely under whoever was leader, it’s a&nbsp;bit much to suggest these problems stem from insufficient focus on pandemics. “Exams for governments are not unlike those of students: those who have put in the work and taken the subject seriously tend to do best,” they claim. Yet the US and UK were actually <a href="https://www.ghsindex.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/2019-Global-Health-Security-Index.pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">heralded by technocrats</a> as best prepared for a&nbsp;respiratory pandemic <em>before</em> Covid hit, while Greece and New Zealand were marked poorly. Britain, in particular, followed the advice of its SAGE committee closely in the early pandemic days — a&nbsp;degree of technocratic capture with seemingly terrible consequences.</p> <p>To reiterate, there were clearly major <em>government</em> failures in testing, communication, advice, the quality of the test‐​and‐​trace systems, PPE, and care homes. The authors are right that some of these problems arose because of too much centralisation in government and the perverse incentives of politics. But with a&nbsp;new pathogen there are all sorts of uncertainties and country‐​specific factors that affect the spread too, including demographics, population density, social networks, transport links, experience with previous viruses, and where the virus was seeded. Wooldridge and Micklethwait underplay these factors, attributing too much to central government mistakes alone.</p> <p>In doing so, they unfortunately join everyone from <em>The</em> <em>Guardian</em>’s comment pages through to the growing “national conservative” movement in telling us that the pandemic proves the need for the sorts of policies they already wanted. In the context of the authors’ fear that populists and demagogues will just blame China, or simply demand <em>more </em>government, their book is better understood as a&nbsp;defence of <em>The Economist </em>vision of the state—of a&nbsp;centrist, fiscally conservative, socially liberal, internationalist, technocratic government.</p> <p>That’s a&nbsp;perfectly respectable worldview, and there’s plenty in it to agree with. They do a&nbsp;good job of piercing the false promise of the extremes of left and right. But their proposed “reforms,” outlined through the American lens of an imaginary president Bill Lincoln (William Gladstone meets Abe), include carbon taxes, re‐​orientating welfare away from the old, compulsory national service, higher pay for politicians, localising power and police reform.</p> <p>Some of these are good ideas; some bad. Yet most of their policy lessons seem as tendentious as blaming ‘austerity’ or inequality for our current plight.</p> </div> <p>Ryan Bourne is Chair For The Public Understanding Of Economics at the Cato Institute.</p> Fri, 02 Oct 2020 15:05:31 -0400 Ryan Bourne https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/pandemic-really-wake-call-west America Must Come to Terms With North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/america-must-come-terms-north-koreas-nuclear-weapons <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/doug-bandow" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>If President Donald Trump is defeated on November 3, will his most dramatic initiative, engaging North Korea’s Supreme Leader&nbsp;<a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/kim-jong-uns-new-look-is-more-man-than-superhuman-11601550012" target="_blank">Kim Jong‐​un</a>, fade away along with Trump’s presidency? Many in Washington&nbsp;<a href="https://www.19fortyfive.com/2020/10/donald-trumps-north-korea-strategy-is-a-disaster/" target="_blank">hope so</a>.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>His initiative receives little more than scorn. The&nbsp;Washington Post’s Joby Warrick and Simon Denyer recently wrote on how even as Trump and Kim forged their unlikely bromance, the latter was expanding his nuclear program. Jeffrey Lewis of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/trump-kim-north-korea-nuclear/2020/09/30/2b7305c8-032b-11eb-b7ed-141dd88560ea_story.html" target="_blank">observed</a>: “North Korea hasn’t stopped building nuclear weapons or developing missile systems; they’ve just stopped displaying them.”</p> <p>The account had a&nbsp;slightly shocked, breathless tone. While the two leaders amiably exchanged friendly missives “Kim was busy creating an illusion of a&nbsp;different kind. At six of the country’s missile bases, trucks hauled rock from underground construction sites as workers dug a&nbsp;maze of new tunnels and bunkers, allowing North Korea to move weapons around like peas in&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/north-koreas-ground-forces-bloated-backward-and-crippled-mess-169786">a&nbsp;shell game</a>. Southeast of the capital, meanwhile, new buildings sprouted across an industrial complex that was processing uranium for as many as&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/was-donald-trump-really-willing-strike-north-korea-80-nuclear-weapons-169174">fifteen new bombs</a>, according to current and former U.S. and South Korean officials, as well as a&nbsp;report by a&nbsp;United Nations panel of experts.”</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>Recognition of reality should govern U.S.-North Korean relations in the future—no matter who wins the White House come November 3. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Yet this was to be expected. The problem was not that the two countries were talking. The problem was that they were not dealing, after not talking for years. And there was never any chance that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would halt its program absent an agreement. After all, with its policy of “strategic patience” the Obama administration essentially ignored the North, preferring to tighten relations with Washington’s ally South Korea. So the DPRK forged ahead reprocessing uranium and testing nuclear weapons. Which was the only response whichever was likely, even imaginable.</p> <p>First, the North is committed to its nuclear program. Maybe Kim Il‐​sung would have negotiated away his nukes in their nascent stage for the right concessions. Perhaps a&nbsp;great opportunity was lost when North Korea’s Great Leader died two weeks before his planned 1994 summit with South Korean President Kim Young‐​sam. The two might have struck a&nbsp;denuclearization deal and implemented its terms. Possible, anyway, though not likely.</p> <p>That moment passed long ago. Governments always are going to be more willing to yield a&nbsp;potential weapon rather than an existing nuclear weapon. Having mastered the technology, invested heavily to develop an arsenal, and created the necessary ancillary support, such as&nbsp;<a href="https://www.19fortyfive.com/2020/06/north-korea-threatens-to-build-up-a-more-reliable-force-that-could-mean-an-icbm-test/" target="_blank">missiles</a>, no regime worried about its survival will easily toss that all away. And certainly not for unenforceable promises of goodwill. The only nuclear weapons state to abandon its arsenal was South Africa, as the white leadership decided to deny that power to the impending black majority government.</p> <p>Second, U.S. threats increase Pyongyang’s&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/time-donald-trump-make-north-korea-offer-it-can%E2%80%99t-refuse-168523">incentive to create</a>, maintain, and expand its nuclear force. The president leans toward feverish, inflammatory rhetoric, such as warnings of “fire and fury.” American policymakers imagine that sending bombers overhead and fleets offshore cause DPRK officials to cower under their desks in fear, ready to genuflect toward Washington. More likely, such affirmations of U.S. military power reinforce the regime’s determination to defend itself, irrespective of cost.</p> <p>For some reason, the avid hawks populating America’s capital assume that only Americans are brave, committed, determined, nationalistic, and ready to resist foreign pressure. Everyone else around the world are viewed as wimps and cowards, prepared to yield to the most extreme U.S. demands. In fact, people elsewhere typically react like Americans do when threatened—rally around their leaders, prepare to defend themselves, invest heavily in their armed forces, pay the price necessary to oppose foreign foes. Especially in authoritarian systems, where information is controlled and opposition is outlawed.</p> <p>Third, Washington’s behavior suggests that America is both a&nbsp;threat and an unreliable negotiating partner. Of course, Pyongyang is not to be trusted. However, that doesn’t mean&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/reboot/these-5-weapons-would-be-critical-marine-invasion-north-korea-168337">North Korean fears</a>&nbsp;are unreasonable.</p> <p>In the post–Cold War world Washington has adopted the most militaristic policy of any nation, threatening, bombing, invading and otherwise intervening in multiple nations: Panama, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnian Serbs, Serbia, Iraq (twice!), Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Hundreds of thousands of foreign peoples have died as a&nbsp;result of U.S. military action in the last two decades. Hundreds of thousands!</p> <p>As for diplomacy, the U.S. fulfillment of the almost ancient&nbsp;<a href="https://2001-2009.state.gov/t/ac/rls/or/2004/31009.htm" target="_blank">Agreed Framework</a>&nbsp;was reluctant, inconsistent, and delayed. Washington attacked Iraq after ignoring inspection results and manipulating evidence to suggest that the latter had a&nbsp;nuclear program. The United States and Europe made a&nbsp;deal to denuclearize Libya but backed regime change the moment it seemed possible. Trump abandoned the carefully negotiated nuclear deal with Iran and attempted to force Tehran’s de facto surrender with crushing sanctions. Washington similarly applied “maximum pressure” on other vulnerable regimes, Venezuela and Syria, most notably. Anyone trusting the Trump administration’s word is a&nbsp;fool and not long for this world.</p> <p>Fourth, no skilled negotiator abandons his leverage. Steadily increasing nuclear activity applies pressure on the United States to make a&nbsp;deal. Why would Kim Jong‐​un abandon that? Washington might not admit it, but America is the supplicant. It is asking the North to abandon apparently successful missile and nuclear programs. Expecting Pyongyang to desist in those activities while negotiating—assuming that is what was occurring when Trump and Kim were exchanging “love letters”—is unrealistic, even fantastic. Anyway, U.S. pressure, in the form of economic sanctions, remained as well.</p> <p>Fifth, refusing to recognize reality is foolish. Virtually no one within the Washington policy community believes that the DPRK will abandon its nuclear weapons. After all, what sane leader of a&nbsp;country on Uncle Sam’s Naughty List would voluntarily surrender the weapon which most deters foreign attack? Yet there remains almost uniform opposition to acknowledging the obvious.</p> <p>Unfortunately, setting an impossible objective encourages the looney warmongers, like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who have suggested that a&nbsp;nuclear war arising from U.S. preventive military strikes would be no big deal since the fighting would be “over there,” not “over here.” Given the potential for hundreds of thousands or millions of casualties, such an attitude is clearly irresponsible—indeed, frankly mad.</p> <p>Some analysts advocate forever increasing sanctions on the North and targeting China and Russia as well, in the hope that Kim or his successor will eventually surrender. Just keep doubling down on today’s failed policy and maybe a&nbsp;miracle will occur! However, Cuba’s communist regime has been subject to increasingly tough economic sanctions for sixty years and has yet to disband, as demanded by Washington. So far sanctions also have failed against Venezuela, Syria, Russia, and Iran. Against the North economic pressure is more likely to cause a&nbsp;cataclysmic collapse than accommodation and surrender. And the former would threaten a&nbsp;different set of disasters.</p> <p>More likely, Pyongyang would&nbsp;<a href="https://www.19fortyfive.com/2020/08/north-koreas-long-march-towards-solid-fueled-icbms/" target="_blank">further expand its arsenal</a>. As Kim has done since taking power. Which would turn&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/tag/north-korea">North Korea</a>&nbsp;into a&nbsp;serious nuclear weapons state.</p> <p>America doing nothing means the North will do more. Neither dropping bombs nor imposing additional sanctions are the answer. Which leaves diplomacy. By whoever ends up winning on November 3. In which case&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/hanoi-summit-%E2%80%93-we-asked-80-experts-what-happens-next-us-north-korea-relation-46902" target="_blank">Trump’s initiative</a>, despite widespread establishment opposition, should—indeed, must—live on.</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 Tripwire: Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a&nbsp;Changed World and co‐​author of The Korean Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and South Korea. Fri, 02 Oct 2020 14:29:42 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/america-must-come-terms-north-koreas-nuclear-weapons