Cato Recent Op-eds https://www.cato.org/rss/recent-opeds 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 Wake Up, Business! You Could Be a Week Away from Socialist Disaster https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/wake-business-you-could-be-week-away-socialist-disaster <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ryan-bourne" hreflang="und">Ryan Bourne</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Wading into election campaigns is fraught with danger for business people. &ldquo;We are concerned by the direction of things, but won&rsquo;t raise our head just to get it blown off,&rdquo; an executive of a popular multinational explained to me this week.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>When even Bill Gates, a massive philanthropist, can be media-massacred for critiquing a US presidential candidate&rsquo;s wealth tax plans, no business sees itself safe from the blowback of opposing populist Left-wing policies. Customer bases comprising all political persuasions make any electoral statement from individual companies highly risky.</p> <p>No such excuses, however, can be made for organisations purporting to represent business interests, who have actively chosen to remain neutered. These groups have the licence to take the heat in defending members&rsquo; long-term economic interests. Yet in this campaign, the Institute of Directors (IoD), the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) have been utterly supine in the face of Jeremy Corbyn&rsquo;s socialist threat.</p> <p>Here is a Labour Party wanting to confiscate shares in large companies, overhaul corporate governance, nationalise whole industries at prices set by politicians, impose rapid and destructive decarbonisation, reverse the Eighties&rsquo; trade union reforms and jack up all major taxes on capital.</p> <p>Business groups, though, have reacted with unjustified political evenhandedness, passing up on highlighting the destructiveness of socialism to instead hang-wring about smaller policy gripes from both parties.</p> <p>Consider the IoD. Last week, the organisation issued a robust defence of EU-style state aid laws. Conservative plans to change them to assist certain struggling industries and oblige public bodies to &ldquo;Buy British&rdquo; after Brexit were rightly savaged as a &ldquo;retreat away from free and open markets ... unfairly protecting and subsidising large incumbents at the expense of true competition&rdquo;. Bravo! This was exactly what a defence of a competitive market economy should look like, although their head of trade&rsquo;s claim that these mercantilist measures put her into &ldquo;actual convulsions&rdquo; seemed a tad over the top.</p> <p>So what was their reaction to Labour&rsquo;s more stringent calls for active industrial and regional planning, nationalisation for the purpose of cutting prices, and taking de facto government ownership stakes in large companies? Presumably, it sent them into apoplexy. Well, you wouldn&rsquo;t know it from their media release, which read: &ldquo;Taken as a whole, Labour&rsquo;s measures on business risk being too much stick and not enough carrot.&rdquo; Such a line might be appropriate for a minor Tory budget tax threat to push firms towards subsidising creches. But it read pathetically in response to a manifesto proposing a reversal of the Thatcherite revolution and the imposition of Yugoslavian-style &ldquo;market socialism&rdquo;.</p> <p>The FSB&rsquo;s behaviour has been similarly bewildering. It had nothing but caveated praise for the measures in Labour&rsquo;s manifesto. &ldquo;Firms welcome Labour small business pledges, but more details needed&rdquo; was their press release headline. Sure, the Labour Party&rsquo;s shadow chancellor might want to overthrow capitalism.</p> <p>But, no worries, he has made &ldquo;cast-iron commitments to end the late payment crisis&rdquo;. Surprisingly, the usually corporatist CBI offered the most clear attack on Corbyn&rsquo;s manifesto, explaining: &ldquo;Labour&rsquo;s default instinct for state control will drag our economy down.&rdquo; All would be well, of course, if only the party would just &ldquo;work with business&rdquo;.</p> <p>Look, we all know many companies dislike Brexit and want to remain closely aligned with the single market. Tory state aid plans worry them particularly then, as they signal a desired looser free-trade agreement with the EU. Plenty of people in the business community are really playing part-time psephologists.</p> <p>Given current polling, they consider Conservative measures they dislike as a more realistic threat to their interests, resting on their laurels that a Labour majority just won&rsquo;t happen or that, anyway, a Corbyn-led government would be short-term and constrained by mythical &ldquo;Labour moderates&rdquo; or coalition partners. Such faith, though, is fantasy. Electoral history shows the propensity for voting shocks. And, if Labour wins or becomes the largest party, it will be taken as a mandate for their radical manifesto.</p> <p>Business is a mere week away from being governed by leaders who want to &ldquo;democratise&rdquo; the whole economy, introducing ownership institutions to facilitate its slow nationalisation. At best, Labour sees private business as its lapdog for socialist goals &mdash; granting a place by the fire for doing right by Labour&rsquo;s agenda, or a smack on the nose for business models or practices &ldquo;the party&rdquo; doesn&rsquo;t approve of.</p> <p>We&rsquo;ve seen already this week how Labour would use the bully pulpit of government for the sinister targeting of individual businesses. The party&rsquo;s Twitter feed denounced five major firms directly and shared a deeply sinister spoof video mocking Virgin owner Richard Branson.</p> <p>Business groups remained silent. Companies who fail to decarbonise are already being threatened. No doubt Corbyn and McDonnell&rsquo;s anti-Americanism would infuse their actions too. Under Labour, businesses would have to worry about pleasing their dear leaders, not just their customers.</p> <p>Highlighting this threat is not to dismiss businesses&rsquo; frustrations today. No major party has put pro-business policies at the forefront of its campaign. Individual companies do worry over trade, migration and tax policies under the Conservatives. I can understand why high street retailers may like Labour&rsquo;s measures that hit digital competitors. Certain businesses may well consider apprenticeship levy reform the be all and end all.</p> <p>But it is a complete false equivalence to compare such issues to proposals that represent an existential threat to a modern market economy as a whole. In prevaricating or remaining neutral between these risks, the UK&rsquo;s business community is making a high-stakes, short-term bet, rather than taking out prudent insurance.</p> <p>At best, it&rsquo;s been complacent. At worst, suicidal.</p> </div> Ryan Bourne is the R Evan Scharf Chair for the Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute. Thu, 05 Dec 2019 12:02:58 -0500 Ryan Bourne https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/wake-business-you-could-be-week-away-socialist-disaster American Soldiers Are Not Bodyguards for Saudi Royals https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/american-soldiers-are-not-bodyguards-saudi-royals <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/doug-bandow" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>President Donald Trump believes in America First except when it comes to the Saudi royal family. Then it is Saudi Arabia first.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>At the end of November, U.S. military leaders were in Riyadh negotiating the employment terms for the royal's new bodyguards. That is, the plan for an expanded American military presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), including Patriot missiles, Sentinel radars, a THAAD air defense system, fighter aircraft, and other equipment, as well as personnel, who will eventually number around 3,000.</p> <p>Why is the president, who has loudly insisted that allies do more to defend themselves, even more determined to handle Saudi Arabia's security?</p> <p>Of course, the royals themselves want American backing. Having grabbed control of their people's wealth, they long have hired others to do the hard, unpleasant, and dangerous work&mdash;including the U.S. military.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>President Trump believes in America First—except when it comes to the monarchy in Riyadh apparently.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The status-conscious KSA spends lavishly, especially on modern fighter jets. Last year Riyadh devoted $83 billion to the military. In 2017 defense expenditures ran $89 billion. That put the Kingdom in third place globally, after America and China. Alas, possession of fine equipment alone is not enough to ensure its good use.</p> <p>In 2015 the Saudi regime attacked neighboring Yemen, one of the poorest nations on earth. De facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman, who became crown prince two years later, decided on war to reinstate a friendly ruler. Unfortunately, a campaign that was supposed to take a few weeks has lasted almost five years. Saudi pilots proved highly competent at slaughtering civilians, bombing weddings, funerals, hospitals, school buses, and markets. Humanitarian groups figure that three-quarters of the estimated 12,000 civilian deaths have resulted from air attacks&mdash;delivered by KSA aircraft provided, armed, guided, and, until recently, refueled by the U.S. The destruction of critical infrastructure has resulted in mass malnutrition and disease, which may have taken another 150,000 lives.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the royals may prefer <em>not</em> to have a capable military, as it could threaten a system in which the few mulct the many. After all, who other than a prince receiving a state subsidy has much incentive to defend the corrupt, repressive, and decrepit monarchy? It might be worth joining the armed forces to collect a paycheck, but certainly not to risk one&rsquo;s life on behalf of some man or woman (very) distantly related to the desert bandit named al-Saud who long ago defeated his rivals.</p> <p>For the regime, the National Guard is most important, since its role is to protect the princely rulers from internal enemies. Also critical is the Pakistani military, which deploys upward of 20,000 troops in Saudi Arabia on &ldquo;security duties.&rdquo; Islamabad has found the arrangement to be profitable.</p> <p>Although Trump criticized the Kingdom during the campaign, on taking office he promptly turned U.S. policy over to Riyadh. He apparently viewed the royals&rsquo; checks to munitions makers as de facto compensation for the Pentagon playing bodyguard. Yet the revenues are minor compared to America&rsquo;s overall economy and offer little benefit to most Americans. Worse still, military cooperation entangles the U.S. in regional conflicts and Sunni-Shia confrontation, of which Yemen is the latest manifestation.</p> <p>Now the U.S. role is further expanding. President Trump promised that the KSA would pay &ldquo;100 percent of the cost&rdquo; of the new deployment, but that doesn&rsquo;t include the expense of creating the units being deployed. Even if it did, the Pentagon should not hire out personnel to rich states. The role of Americans in uniform should be to protect America, not to act as foreign mercenaries.</p> <p>Incredibly, in Saudi Arabia the administration plans to spread Americans out geographically, effectively turning them into hostages. According to the <em>Washington Post</em>: &ldquo;Military officials say one important aspect of the deployment is the presence of American forces in more locations across the Kingdom. They believe Iran has demonstrated its reluctance to target American personnel, either directly or indirectly, in part because Trump has made clear that would trigger a military response.&rdquo; If the administration purposefully shelters the royals behind Americans, Tehran might take bigger risks.</p> <p>There is no good policy reason for Washington to make the Middle East safe for monarchy. The region was never as vital as claimed, and it matters even less today. America&rsquo;s domestic energy production has turned the U.S. into an exporter and eliminated reliance on Middle East oil. Other energy sources are being developed elsewhere in the world. Moreover, Israel is a regional superpower well able to defend itself. The next time the region is convulsed by revolution, conflict, or war, Washington almost certainly can best protect its interests by looking away and avoiding involvement.</p> <p>Even decades ago the KSA did not matter as much for oil as most people assumed. Any regime would want to sell the resource. President Jimmy Carter declared the Persian Gulf to be a vital interest out of fear that the Soviet Union might try to seize control and deny oil to the West. That was January 1980. The Cold War is long over. The Soviet Union is long dissolved, and Russia is not an equivalent threat.</p> <p>The presumed Iranian attack of September 14 on Aramco&rsquo;s oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais demonstrated Saudi Arabia&rsquo;s vulnerability, which is good reason for the Kingdom to end its counterproductive aggression against Yemen and concentrate on its own defense. Ditto for protecting oil transport. If any outsider should provide escorts for oil tankers it is those consuming the most Gulf oil, which isn&rsquo;t the U.S. The Europeans and Asians should organize their own patrols.</p> <p>More fundamentally, it is time for the Gulf royals&mdash;the Emiratis have been as aggressive as the Saudis in Yemen&mdash;to seek an accommodation with Iran. Perhaps America&rsquo;s worst role in Saudi Arabia has been as enabler. American aid has made the Yemen war easier for the Kingdom. However, increasingly effective retaliation via drones by Houthi insurgents and the steady increase in cost, now estimated to exceed $100 billion, finally pushed Riyadh into talks with its Yemeni opponents. Negotiations begun in September resulted in the recent release of 128 Houthi fighters, which hopefully will spur talks to end the conflict.</p> <p>Moreover, the dual shock of the September attack on the Kingdom&rsquo;s oil facilities and President Trump&rsquo;s refusal to retaliate militarily forced the royals to consider the need to provide for their own security. Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace observed that &ldquo;Saudi and UAE cynicism about Iran hasn&rsquo;t changed, but their calculus of the U.S. has; they realize that Donald Trump doesn&rsquo;t have their backs, and they need to fend for themselves.&rdquo;</p> <p>Tehran and Abu Dhabi already have met on maritime security. Kuwait and Oman long maintained ties to Iran, with which they urged the Kingdom to talk. Most recently, Iraq and Pakistan offered to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Tehran.</p> <p>The <em>Washington Post</em>&rsquo;s David Ignatius called this change a &ldquo;cost of President Trump&rsquo;s erratic policy,&rdquo; but the willingness to seek a peaceful settlement is in America&rsquo;s interest. Former defense secretary Robert Gates observed that the Saudis were prepared to &ldquo;fight the Iranians to the last American.&rdquo; But once the royals realized they might have to do the dirty work themselves, they discovered the appeal of peace. (They say they want the Iranians to stop &ldquo;killing people&rdquo; before the two governments talk, but Tehran could set the same condition, given the brutal Saudi slaughter in Yemen.)</p> <p>Another reason for Washington to back away from the KSA is the latter&rsquo;s virulent political, religious, and social repression, which is worse even than that in Iran. MbS, as the crown prince is known, has eliminated the slightest hint of dissent. He previously arrested commentators and bloggers whom he deemed insufficiently obsequious. Even as he relaxed strictures against women driving he imprisoned the women who led the protests.</p> <p>November featured another crackdown. According to the <em>New York Times</em>: &ldquo;Saudi Arabia&rsquo;s long-running drive to muzzle dissent has escalated again in recent weeks with the arrests of several journalists, writers and academics who had not vocally criticized the government in years.&rdquo; The repression reaches America. In November two Twitter employees&mdash;one a Saudi citizen, the other a Saudi national acting as an intermediary&mdash;were arrested for spying for Riyadh on regime critics. More than a year ago regime critic Jamal Khashoggi, an expatriate living in America and writing for the <em>Washington Post</em>, was murdered and chopped up by an assassination squad in the Kingdom&rsquo;s Istanbul consulate.</p> <p>The Saudi shift toward negotiation with Iran might yield a side benefit, forcing Washington to reconsider its failed approach to Tehran. &ldquo;The anti-Iran alliance is not just faltering, it&rsquo;s crumbling,&rdquo; said Martin Indyk of the Council on Foreign Relations. That&rsquo;s a good thing, since U.S. policy is what raised Middle East tensions to a fever pitch. Increased sanctions failed to force Tehran to negotiate, let alone surrender, as the president expected. Rather, Iran revived its nuclear activities, seized oil tankers, and attacked Saudi oil facilities. Better for Washington to engage Iran, seeking over the long-term to increase pressure for reform by offering economic opportunities and the prospect of a wealthier, freer future.</p> <p>Washington&rsquo;s tight embrace of the Saudi royals always was a mistake. The justification for even a looser association has dissipated over time. Today the relationship is frankly criminal, given the horrors being committed by Riyadh with U.S. assistance in Yemen.</p> <p>The U.S. should bring its forces home from the Kingdom and shift Saudi Arabia&rsquo;s defense burden back where it belongs, on the royal regime. If the president really believes in America First, he should stop putting Saudi Arabian interests before those of the U.S.</p> </div> Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire. Thu, 05 Dec 2019 08:56:42 -0500 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/american-soldiers-are-not-bodyguards-saudi-royals NATO No Longer Serves American Interests https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/nato-no-longer-serves-american-interests <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/doug-bandow" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>President Donald Trump returned early from the London NATO summit. Staged to satisfy British Prime Minister Boris Johnson&mdash;the official 70th-anniversary meeting was held in April&mdash;the latest gathering featured only one, mercifully short, session, to reduce the likelihood of a Trump eruption. Even so, before arriving he improbably chided French President Emmanuel Macron for being &ldquo;nasty,&rdquo; &ldquo;insulting,&rdquo; and &ldquo;disrespectful&rdquo; in suggesting that the alliance suffered from &ldquo;brain death.&rdquo; Then the session&rsquo;s minimal substance was overshadowed by the president&rsquo;s personal spat with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Of course, the assembled leaders filled their limited time together with happy talk. The greatest alliance ever is more necessary than ever as Europe faces the greatest security challenges ever. The Europeans are spending more and cutting Washington’s burden. NATO is preparing plans both to defend its members from conventional attacks and confront new threats. The Europeans even are ready to tackle the huge new challenge posed by increasingly aggressive China. All in all, the alliance is prospering greatly.</p> <p>This is fantasy. A very pleasant one. But fantasy nonetheless.</p> <p>NATO was formed in 1949 to shield European states from Soviet aggression as they recovered from World War II. The U.S. was only supposed to assist European governments in <em>their</em> defense efforts. For instance, Secretary of State Dean Acheson promised Congress that it would not need &ldquo;to send substantial numbers of troops over there as a more or less permanent contribution.&rdquo; Dwight D. Eisenhower, past wartime allied leader, first NATO commander, and future Cold War president opposed providing a permanent U.S. garrison which, he predicted, would &ldquo;discourage the development of the necessary military strength Western European countries should provide themselves.&rdquo;</p> <p>Alas, these sentiments were ignored as the U.S.S.R. tightened its control over Central and Eastern Europe. The Europeans recovered economically but failed to increase their defense outlays accordingly. Washington maintained its dominant military presence while constantly urging its allies to do more. They routinely said yes but did little.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Quite simply, it makes no sense for U.S. taxpayers to subsidize the defense of nations capable of defending themselves.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>After the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union dissolved NATO&rsquo;s survival seemed uncertain. So officials suggested that the transatlantic organization shift to, in former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick&rsquo;s words, &ldquo;new missions that will fit the new era.&rdquo; For instance, Robert Hormats, another lengthy public official, proposed that NATO shift to promoting &ldquo;student exchanges, to fighting the drug trade, to resisting terrorism, to countering threats to the environment.&rdquo; David Abshire, onetime U.S. ambassador to NATO, suggested coordinating &ldquo;the transfer of environmental-control technology to the East.&rdquo;</p> <p>Ultimately the alliance decided to expand its membership, even though the enemy had disappeared. Doing so violated multiple assurances given to Moscow. NATO also initiated &ldquo;out-of-area&rdquo; activities, which meant defending other than member states. This ironically turned the pact into an offensive instrument, first used to dismember Serbia in 1999. In essence, NATO had gone from a means to an end, with war the new means. Said Sen. Richard Lugar, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the organization would &ldquo;go out of area or out of business.&rdquo; And, as public choice economists would predict, no one involved in the alliance wanted the latter.</p> <p>The Soviet Union&rsquo;s collapse triggered European disarmament, which in turn intensified American demands for greater burden-sharing, which the Europeans continued to ignore. The process continued for years, demonstrating, perversely, that the less Europe did the more America would. Hence the bizarrely named &ldquo;European Reassurance Initiative&rdquo; after Russia&rsquo;s intervention in Ukraine: the Europeans were essentially promised that even if they did nothing Washington would remain at their side&mdash;though whining all the way. U.S. policymakers appeared to accept the need to subsidize the Europeans in order to keep them dependent. Washington opposed any proposals for independent spending and action, preferring that Europe do more, but only under America&rsquo;s direction.</p> <p>The alliance continued to add members. Most recently it accepted Montenegro, with North Macedonia awaiting treaty approval by the 29 current members. Next up, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, featured in the novel <em>The Mouse that Roared</em>!</p> <p>The latest out-of-area wars have been distant, unconventional conflicts: Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria, of which the latter triggered French President Emmanuel Macron&rsquo;s complaint about a lack of allied coordination. Some NATO fans call the organization a &ldquo;global alliance,&rdquo; presumably ready to act as global cop. In every case, of course, the heavy lifting inevitably falls on Washington.</p> <p>Every recent president criticized Europeans for failing to make sufficient contributions for the common defense. Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested that the alliance itself was at risk, since &ldquo;there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress, and in the American body politic writ large, to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources ... in their own defense.&rdquo; President Trump expressed similar sentiments, though more crudely.</p> <p>Alas, the burden-sharing debate is unproductive. The issue should be burden-shedding. Even when President Trump does the right thing, he does so badly. So it is with NATO. But the alliance&rsquo;s &ldquo;brain death&rdquo; reflects its inherent problems, not his dreadful management.</p> <p>Quite simply, it makes no sense for U.S. taxpayers to subsidize the defense of nations capable of defending themselves. Shared interests will continue to justify military cooperation. However, the alliance as today constituted no longer serves American interests.</p> <p>NATO’s problems are many and fundamental.</p> <p>First, America and Europe no longer face an existential threat, let alone a common one. Which makes united action by such a diverse membership so difficult. Russia is no Soviet Union. Vladimir Putin is no Joseph Stalin. The Russian Federation is an unpleasant actor but has reverted to a pre-1914 great power, insisting on border security and international respect. There is no prospect of a Russian attack on the U.S. and little more chance of one on Europe, Old or New. Although plausible, even a successful grab of the Baltic States would yield little benefit for much cost.</p> <p>Russia&rsquo;s, Europe&rsquo;s, and America&rsquo;s interests often clash&mdash;they understandably have different perspectives on economic predominance in Ukraine and political predominance in Syria, for instance&mdash;but most such issues are of only limited importance. Even the disputes over Georgia and Ukraine are peripheral matters for Europe and America. However, the latter is existential (in the case of the latter) security concerns for Russia.</p> <p>NATO expansion moved the transatlantic alliance a thousand miles eastward; Western-backed &ldquo;color revolutions&rdquo; placed unfriendly governments in neighboring states; Ukraine was heartland territory for the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union; and Crimea, transferred in 1954 to Ukraine as part of an internal Soviet political deal, contains the important Black Sea military base at Sebastopol. Moscow views its &ldquo;near abroad&rdquo; rather like Washington views Latin America. The U.S. officially does not believe in spheres of interest, but the Trump administration reacted badly to Russian involvement in Venezuela. The president said: &ldquo;Russia has to get out.&rdquo; Then-National Security adviser John Bolton announced: &ldquo;We strongly caution actors external to the western hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela, or elsewhere in the hemisphere, with the intent of establishing or expanding military operations.&rdquo;</p> <p>Thus, Moscow&rsquo;s behavior, though unjustified, is essentially defensive toward the West. That conclusion is backed by Russian military deployments. Mike Kofman of Harvard University&rsquo;s Belfer Center argued: &ldquo;Despite provocative air and naval activity concentrated in the [Baltic] area Russian forces base there are principally defensive, and aging to boot.&rdquo; Despite increasing indications that the Putin government might be interested in reducing tensions over Ukraine, the allies have yet to offer the one concession that might cause Russia to moderate its behavior: the end of NATO expansion.</p> <p>Second, most Europeans don&rsquo;t appear to fear for their security. Despite the public hysteria surrounding Moscow&rsquo;s often unsavory behavior, few Europeans worry about Russia. The Baltics and Poland express a different perspective, yet their military spending, around two percent of GDP, remains paltry if they truly believe their independence to be at stake.</p> <p>The continent faces other modest security issues, primarily emanating from the Middle East and North Africa, but few are susceptible to a military response and none require a larger European military. France and the United Kingdom have greater international interests related to their colonial past, but even their willingness to intervene is declining.</p> <p>Earlier this year former U.S. ambassadors Douglas Lute and Nicholas Burns made the astonishing claim that NATO&rsquo;s problems &ldquo;represent the most severe crisis in the security environment in Europe since the end of the Cold War and perhaps ever.&rdquo; More than in September 1939? August 1914? During the Napoleonic Wars and French Revolution? German Chancellor Angela Merkel was only slightly less hysterical in declaring: &ldquo;Maintaining NATO today is even more in our own interest than it was in the Cold War&mdash;or at least as important as it was in the Cold War.&rdquo; In fact, Europe may be more secure than ever before.</p> <p>Third, significant military spending increases&mdash;as opposed to incremental movement by some states toward NATO&rsquo;s two percent objective&mdash;are unlikely. Even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted that when he asks Europeans to do more, &ldquo;they say &lsquo;It&rsquo;s tough. Our voters just really don&rsquo;t like to spend money on defense&rsquo;.&rdquo; This is an eminently sensible response, given the absence of a serious threat and Washington&rsquo;s oft-demonstrated determination to defend the continent, no matter what. As a share of GDP European military expenditures, last year ran 1.51 percent, the same in 2012.</p> <p>The future is not likely to be much better. Military spending by the continent&rsquo;s small states has little impact on overall spending while the five most economically significant European countries range from awful to unimpressive. Most notably, Germany was at a dismal 1.23 percent of GDP last year. Moreover, the Bundeswehr&rsquo;s readiness is terrible. Two years ago the Rand Corporation estimated it would take a month for Berlin to mobilize a heavy armored brigade. In January Bundestag Military Commissioner Hans-Peter Bartels reported that few of the Bundeswehr&rsquo;s shortcomings had been fixed, despite increased expenditures: &ldquo;There is neither enough personnel nor materiel, and often one confronts shortage upon shortage.&rdquo; Having previously agreed to hit two percent in 2024, Chancellor Merkel now says Berlin will do so in the early 2030s. Even if her latest assurance was credible, her current coalition faces potential collapse and she might be out of office as early as next year. If the Left forms an upcoming government military outlays are likely to go into reverse.</p> <p>Fourth, the Europeans know that they can rely on the U.S. to act irrespective of how little they contribute to their militaries. For years Washington has whined, complained, demanded, begged, and insisted that its allies do more, without noticeable effect. Only Russia&rsquo;s 2014 intervention in Ukraine triggered the beginning of a modest increase in European military outlays, which predates Trump&rsquo;s demands. Even when he and past presidents insisted that America&rsquo;s allies do more, their administrations have conducted business as usual and emissaries have visited Europe dedicated to &ldquo;reassuring&rdquo; even Europe&rsquo;s laggards of Washington&rsquo;s eternal commitment to defend the continent no matter what. Virtually every Trump appointee at State and Defense has undercut the president&rsquo;s dramatic rhetoric by insisting on America&rsquo;s unshakeable commitment to maintaining the Pentagon&rsquo;s defense dole, actually increasing the money spent on and troops deployed to Europe.</p> <p>Fifth, Europeans are well able to defend themselves. Although maybe not easily with their current force structure. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas insisted that &ldquo;Without the United States, we are currently unable to protect ourselves.&rdquo; Yes, currently, because Europe does not spend more and does so more effectively. Europe has an equivalent economy and a larger population than America. The continent possesses eleven times the economic strength and nearly four times the population of Russia. Already Europeans devote four times as much as Moscow to the armed forces. And Europe could do much more. Collective action obviously can be difficult, but that could be eased by a sense of urgency. The continent doesn&rsquo;t do more because it doesn&rsquo;t want to do more, not because it can&rsquo;t do more.</p> <p>NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg went further, contending that &ldquo;we need to avoid any perception that Europe can manage without NATO, because two World Wars and the Cold War taught us that we need a strong transatlantic bond to preserve peace and stability in Europe.&rdquo; He apparently hasn&rsquo;t noticed that fascism, Nazism, and communism have disappeared from the continent. The greatest barrier to the Europeans managing without America&rsquo;s aid is their lengthy dependence on the U.S. That makes the transition more complicated and perhaps traumatic, but not impossible.</p> <p>Sixth, many Europeans don&rsquo;t want to defend each other, or America. In a YouGov survey earlier this year, only 42 percent of French, 53 percent of Germans, and 59 percent of Britons believed the alliance had an important role to play in the continent&rsquo;s defense. Almost uniformly, Europeans were more concerned about terrorism, which the alliance is ill-equipped to handle, than invasion. The willingness of people in NATO members to aid allied states varied dramatically, with support in some cases falling into the teens. There was inconsistent backing for military action even in the most important alliance members. For instance, the majority of French and British were mostly unwilling to defend other states, except each other.</p> <p>When asked whether they should favor Russia or the U.S. in a conflict, a 2019 European Council on Foreign Relations survey found an overwhelming majority in 14 European countries answered neither. A 2018 Pew Research Center poll found that only four of ten Germans were willing to defend NATO allies, including America, from attack. The numbers were just 45 percent for Britons and 53 percent for French. Notably, while often disdaining the responsibility of their own nations to defend Europe, the majority of Europeans believed that the U.S. should do so. Even Macron was skeptical that countries would fulfill their treaty responsibility: &ldquo;What will Article 5 mean tomorrow,&rdquo; he recently asked?</p> <p>Seventh, as long as NATO exists, talk of a European military, most obviously under the European Union, is nonsense. Existing governments are not willing to spend substantially more on their own forces. They won&rsquo;t make significant increases to an existing alliance despite persistent browbeating by Washington and NATO officials. Substituting acronyms won&rsquo;t convince Europeans to do more. Even France is unlikely to hike military outlays for both NATO and the EU. Only as an alternative to the transatlantic alliance does an EU-provided military make sense. Or NATO could be transferred to European control, with the U.S. becoming an associate member, to promote cooperation when in both the continent&rsquo;s and America&rsquo;s interests. However, given European attitudes today, the continent cannot easily support one military alliance, let alone two.</p> <p>Eighth, proposals that NATO takes on additional duties appear to reflect a continuing search for relevance, like that launched after the Soviet Union&rsquo;s collapse and threaten to detract from the alliance&rsquo;s military mission. Such issues as cyber-security are important and warrant cooperation, but perhaps separate from the transatlantic alliance.</p> <p>Even more disconnected from reality is the suggestion, which U.S. officials have been pushing, that Europe confronts China. Beijing&rsquo;s economic contacts with the continent are significant and military threats are minimal. The Europeans cannot agree on the much more proximate &ldquo;Russian threat.&rdquo; Germany is planning a natural gas pipeline with Moscow, France&rsquo;s Macron declared that Russia is not an enemy, and countries as diverse as Greece and Italy criticized continued economic sanctions. The likelihood that Europeans can reach a consensus on Beijing is nil. Macron already has dismissed the claim that China, too, is an adversary. Who imagines the UK and France, let alone Germany, Spain, and Italy, sending an expeditionary force to fight China over Taiwan or the South China Sea territorial disputes?</p> <p>Ninth, an ever-growing alliance dependent on unanimity makes effective action increasingly difficult. The differences between Russia and the Middle East are large. The almost comical name dispute between Greece and the country now known as North Macedonia held up Skopje’s application to join NATO for years. Now Turkey is blocking action on, among other things, Baltic security plans, to force the other members to accept its demand to treat Syrian Kurds as terrorists. That comes after his government purchased Russian weapons, moved in an authoritarian and Islamist direction, and reoriented the military’s orientation from Western to nationalist.</p> <p>Finally, America’s fiscal situation continues to deteriorate. Last year the federal budget deficit ran nearly a trillion dollars, the highest since 2012, after the U.S. fiscal crisis. The Congressional Budget Office expects the tsunami of red ink to continue, with rising national debt and annual interest payments. As the U.S. population continues to age and health care costs continue to rise, more resources will be diverted to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The only other areas to cut will be interest, which would require repudiating the debt, domestic discretionary outlays, which already have been reduced and account for barely 15 of total outlays, and the Pentagon. Elected officials are unlikely to place the interests of European nations before those of America’s elderly.</p> <p>Although the Republican Party remains dominated by establishment interventionists, Democrats are divided on foreign policy. Politics is likely to increasingly shift against those advocating an expansive American global role. An increasing number of politicians are likely to follow Donald Trump in challenging a defense policy that has become an international dole for prosperous and populous allies. Especially when the latter demonstrates a well-developed sense of entitlement.</p> <p>Consider: Last year the U.S. devoted $1900 per person to the military. The other 28 members averaged $503. Fifteen members came in at less than $300 per capita. While the Europeans are reluctant to protect their own continent, Americans also guard Asia, the Mideast, and increasingly Africa.</p> <p>America&rsquo;s allies want to keep their sweet deal. U.S. policymakers seem willing to go along. The White House declared that the &ldquo;trans-Atlantic relationship is in a very, very healthy place.&rdquo; In April Secretary Pompeo opined that the allies were meeting &ldquo;to make sure that NATO is around for the next 70 years.&rdquo;</p> <p>However, the London summit offered no solutions to NATO&rsquo;s fundamental infirmities. The attendees issued a declaration celebrating the alliance&rsquo;s anniversary, pledged to spend more, confront multiple threats, &ldquo;increase security for all,&rdquo; and address new technologies. How will all of these be accomplished? By creating a new committee: &ldquo;Taking into account the evolving strategic environment, we invite the Secretary-General to present to Foreign Ministers a Council-agreed proposal for a forward-looking reflection process under his auspices, drawing on relevant expertise, to further strengthen NATO&rsquo;s political dimension including consultation.&rdquo;</p> <p>Much more is going to be necessary to keep the alliance viable. Half-way measures, such as halting NATO expansion, enforcing accountability, improving relations with Russia, and reducing Washington’s contribution would be better than nothing, but still inadequate palliatives.</p> <p>Instead, the U.S. should gradually shed its responsibility for the continent’s defense, turning responsibility for Europe’s defense over to the Europeans. America and Europe should remain friends and even allies, though through a looser arrangement focused on issues of mutual concern. But the Pentagon should concentrate on its duty to protect Americans, rather than provide welfare to Europeans.</p> </div> Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. He is a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan and the author of several books, including Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.​ Thu, 05 Dec 2019 08:50:24 -0500 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/nato-no-longer-serves-american-interests NATO’s Dirty Little Secret Is Out https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/natos-dirty-little-secret-out <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ted-galen-carpenter" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Pro-NATO politicians and pundits never tire of citing polls and studies showing that a <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/04/03/more-than-americans-support-nato-study-finds/" target="_blank">majority of Americans continue to support the Alliance</a>. Frequently, that argument is presented as part of the larger case that President Trump's periodic expressions of skepticism about NATO's relevance are out-of-touch with the views of the American public. However, the pro-NATO case is built on a fundamental deception.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Few (if any) surveys of U.S. public opinion about NATO even hint about the extent of the risks Americans incur because of Washington's obligations under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which commits the signatories to consider an attack on any member as an attack on all. A typical poll question will ask respondents whether the United States should defend country X, if Russia attacks that country. A more honest question would be whether the United States should defend country X from a Russian attack, <em>even if doing so might result in a nuclear war with Russia that could kill millions of Americans</em>.</p> <p>Granted, such an outcome is a worst-case scenario, but Washington&rsquo;s Article 5 obligations bring it into play. The escalation risk is especially relevant with respect to defending Estonia and the other Baltic republics. A 2016 <a href="https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR1200/RR1253/RAND_RR1253.pdf" target="_blank">RAND Corporation study</a> concluded that it would be nearly impossible for NATO to defend its Baltic members against a full-scale Russian invasion for more than a few days without an extensive upgrade of the Alliance&rsquo;s existing force deployment. Even after such an upgrade, the outcome of a struggle waged solely with conventional weapons would be uncertain. Escalation to the nuclear level would remain an ever-present danger.</p> <p>Even without a robust &ldquo;truth in advertising&rdquo; requirement, U.S. public support for NATO is slipping. Mark Hannah, a senior fellow at the Eurasia Group Foundation, <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2019/12/03/not-just-trump-american-people-skeptical-nato-074813" target="_blank">concedes that point</a> following <a href="https://egfound.org/stories/independent-america/indispensable-no-more" target="_blank">a survey</a> his organization recently conducted. He notes: &ldquo;For a second year in a row, when faced with a hypothetical scenario in which Russia invaded Estonia, a NATO ally, Americans were roughly split on whether they wanted the United States to respond militarily. And that was after respondents were reminded of Article 5, the part of the NATO treaty that obligates the United States to respond to such aggression, and after they were told that U.S. action could be the only way to expel Russia.&rdquo;</p> <p>In other words, even with wording designed to elicit positive responses&mdash;and no disclosure of a potentially dire nuclear risk arising from America&rsquo;s military obligation to a NATO ally&mdash;the survey showed no clear public mandate for defending that ally. Hannah concludes: &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not just President Donald Trump who is skeptical of the North Atlantic alliance, in other words. It&rsquo;s the American people. To the extent that U.S. citizens think about NATO at all, they disagree about whether honoring its commitments would be worth the sacrifice.&rdquo; He&rsquo;s correct, and if they were explicitly told about the nuclear risk, it is highly probable that anti-NATO sentiment would surge.</p> <p>Public skepticism about the wisdom of incurring such grave risks is entirely warranted. The first question that U.S. leaders should ask about any alliance commitment is whether the ally is even worth risking a sacrifice of American treasure and lives. Does that country have great strategic or economic significance to the United States? Risking war to defend another country ought to be no casual matter. A military alliance with such a profound obligation is not akin to an economic or social association. The obligations are deadly serious&mdash;and U.S. policymakers must never adopt the flippant attitude that because the United States is powerful, it can undertake virtually any commitment, confident that no adversary would ever be daring (or reckless) enough to challenge it. The history of international affairs is littered with examples of deterrence failures on the part of great powers attempting to protect allies and clients.</p> <p>Washington's implicit assumption is that Russia would not dare challenge the Article 5 commitment. Foreign policy should never be based on a bluff, yet for the United States, the obligation to regard an attack on any NATO member (no matter how insignificant) as an attack on America itself potentially puts the very existence of the republic at risk. Smart great powers don't put themselves in such a position.</p> <p>It is especially unwise to do so if the ally being defended is not essential to America's own security. Estonia and the other NATO members added since the late 1990s don't even come close to meeting that standard. During the Cold War, Western Europe was the main strategic and economic prize, and the United States faced not just a geopolitical challenger, but a messianic, totalitarian, expansionist power. Keeping democratic Europe out of Moscow's orbit arguably justified undertaking a high level of risk. </p> <p>Whatever the merits of doing so to shield major strategic and economic assets such as Britain, France, Italy, and (West) Germany, <a href="https://www.amazon.com/NATO-Dangerous-Ted-Galen-Carpenter/dp/1948647613/ref=sr_1_1?crid=14ET5RZXAKL8A&amp;keywords=nato+the+dangerous+dinosaur&amp;qid=1575479003&amp;s=books&amp;sprefix=NATO%3A+The+%2Caps%2C176&amp;sr=1-1" target="_blank">those considerations no longer apply</a>. Russia is a conventional, regional power, not a totalitarian state with global expansionist ambitions. Moreover, the members of the European Union have more than sufficient populations and economic resources to build whatever forces they deem necessary to confront and deter Moscow. For America to risk national suicide to continue shielding Europe&mdash;especially small security clients in the Baltics and elsewhere in Eastern Europe&mdash;is the essence of foreign policy folly.</p> <p>It is past time for pro-NATO figures among America's political and policy elites to come clean with the American people. Americans deserve to know what risks they and their loved ones are incurring because of Washington's obligations&mdash;especially obligations to trivial and vulnerable NATO members on Russia's border. Let's see how strong public support for the Alliance really is following full disclosure.</p> </div> Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow is security studies at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor to the National Interest, is the author of 12 books on international affairs, including several books on NATO. His latest book is NATO: The Dangerous Dinosaur (2019). Wed, 04 Dec 2019 13:27:58 -0500 Ted Galen Carpenter https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/natos-dirty-little-secret-out 2020 Democrats Are School Choice Hypocrites https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/2020-democrats-are-school-choice-hypocrites <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/corey-deangelis" hreflang="und">Corey A. DeAngelis</a> and <span class="text-semibold">Tommy Schultz</span></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>What&rsquo;s good for the goose is good for the gander &mdash; unless you&rsquo;re talking about the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates and education policy. The <a href="https://twitter.com/DeAngelisCorey/status/1197188421762125829" target="_blank">majority</a> of the front-runners either attended private schools themselves or sent their own children to private schools, yet they&rsquo;re fighting hard against programs that would grant similar options to the less fortunate.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Here&rsquo;s their latest school choice hypocrisy.</p> <p>For starters, Sen. Elizabeth Warren recently released an education <a href="https://medium.com/@teamwarren/a-great-public-school-education-for-every-student-6d306f7f986b" target="_blank">plan</a> that is radically anti-choice. It would ban many high-quality charter schools, end federal funding of charter schools, and make it even more difficult to open new charters. She also calls to end private school choice programs &mdash; programs that overwhelmingly serve low-income families.</p> <p>But about a month ago, one of us <a href="https://nypost.com/2019/11/10/warrens-ginormous-school-choice-hypocrisy/" target="_blank">uncovered</a> that Warren sent her son, Alex, to expensive private schools starting in fifth grade when she was teaching at the University of Texas at Austin. Then, cellphone <a href="https://www.facebook.com/sonya.thomasthornton/videos/2695764567135755/" target="_blank">footage</a> shows the senator <a href="https://nypost.com/2019/11/26/liz-warrens-latest-lie-only-deepens-her-dilemma-on-education/" target="_blank">lied</a> about it to an African American woman, moments after giving a <a href="https://www.ajc.com/news/elizabeth-warren-courts-black-women-clark-atlanta-university-rally/golM01pWd0TW8P1BQV3fOM/" target="_blank">speech</a> about the rights of black women, before her campaign finally <a href="https://www.foxnews.com/politics/warren-told-pro-school-choice-activist-she-sent-her-children-to-public-school-her-campaign-confirms-otherwise" target="_blank">admitted</a> Warren's son attended private school.</p> <p>Other Democratic candidates have also come out swinging against school choice. Sen. Bernie Sanders called for a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/23/us/politics/bernie-sanders-charter-schools.html">moratorium</a> on the expansion of charter schools, Mayor Pete Buttigieg denounced <a href="http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2019/08/pete-buttigieg-devos-interview.htmlhttp:/blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2019/08/pete-buttigieg-devos-interview.html">for-profit</a> charter schools and is <a href="https://npeaction.org/pete-buttigieg/" target="_blank">against vouchers because "they take away funding from public schools,&rdquo;</a> and Sen. Kamala Harris, who just <a href="https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/kamala-harris-drops-out-of-white-house-race">dropped out</a> of the race, <a href="https://npeaction.org/kamala-harris/">said</a> she&rsquo;s &ldquo;particularly concerned with expansions of for-profit charter schools&rdquo; and said &ldquo;our country needs an administration that supports public education, not <a href="https://twitter.com/KamalaHarris/status/1109561455983165440?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1109561455983165440&amp;ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fgoodschoolhunting.org%2F2019%2F03%2Fkamala-harris-comes-swinging-education-picks-unions-students-parents.html">privatization</a>.&rdquo;</p> <p>But our new discoveries suggest these candidates are just as hypocritical as Warren.</p> <p>It’s well-known that Mayor Pete Buttigieg exclusively attended <a href="https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2019/05/29/where-the-presidential-candidates-went-to-school.html" target="_blank">private</a> schools and that his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, taught at the private Montessori Academy in Indiana. What isn’t well-known is that Chasten’s Montessori school <a href="https://www.tma-el.org/uploads/1/0/5/1/1051790/z2019-20-tuition-assistance-overview-with-tax_credit_sgo-info__1_.pdf" target="_blank">accepts</a> students who use the state's <a href="https://www.edchoice.org/school-choice/programs/indiana-school-scholarship-tax-credit/" target="_blank">tax credit scholarship program</a>. Unfortunately, Buttigieg opposes private school choice programs that provide disadvantaged children with financial resources to attend his husband’s private Montessori school.</p> <p>To top it all off, although Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign did not respond to requests about where his four children went to school, his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, attended a Catholic <a href="https://answersafrica.com/jane-omeara-sanders-bernie-sanders-wife-bio-net-worth.html" target="_blank">private</a> <a href="https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&amp;dbid=1265&amp;h=228399541&amp;tid=&amp;pid=&amp;usePUB=true&amp;_phsrc=kCE24&amp;_phstart=successSource" target="_blank">school</a> in Brooklyn.</p> <p>Even though she's not campaigning anymore, Harris could run for president again in the future, and she still has power over private school choice in her role as a senator. Thus, it's still worth pointing out her school-choice hypocrisy.</p> <p>Harris&rsquo;s stepchildren attended Wildwood School, an elite private school in Los Angeles that <a href="https://www.wildwood.org/page.cfm?p=1521" target="_blank">costs</a> nearly $44,000 in tuition and fees a year and has a student-teacher <a href="https://www.niche.com/k12/wildwood-school-los-angeles-ca/" target="_blank">ratio</a> of only 4 to 1. While her stepson graduated in 2013, before Harris married Doug Emhoff in 2014, her stepdaughter didn't <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BVG4d19BRw0/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link" target="_blank">graduate until 2017</a>. The children may just be on educational paths chosen by their birth parents, but it&rsquo;s still hypocritical to denounce education &ldquo;privatization&rdquo; when her stepchildren attended elite private schools.</p> <p>Harris&rsquo;s campaign did not respond to our inquiries (sent before she dropped out) regarding where she went to school, where her stepchildren went to school, or why private schools were the best choices for them.</p> <p>These politicians must deal with a huge dilemma: they claim to want to help disadvantaged populations but are fighting against giving those groups more educational options. This dilemma is only magnified by the hypocrisy of candidates who had the privilege to exercise school choice for their own families actively seeking to stop private school choice programs that give the less fortunate the ability to do the same.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s great politicians have the freedom and ability to attend private schools and send their kids to private schools. We are happy for each of them. But it&rsquo;s far from progressive to exercise school choice for your own politically powerful families while fighting against extending those options to poor families who desperately need educational options.</p> </div> Corey DeAngelis is the director of school choice at Reason Foundation and an adjunct scholar at Cato Institute. Tommy Schultz is the national communications director at the American Federation for Children. Wed, 04 Dec 2019 08:43:36 -0500 Corey A. DeAngelis, Tommy Schultz https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/2020-democrats-are-school-choice-hypocrites Don't Fuel China's Paranoia in Hong Kong https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/dont-fuel-chinas-paranoia-hong-kong <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/doug-bandow" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>The denizens of Zhongnanhai have never understood democracy. In the People's Republic of China, people are expected to do and believe what they are told. Few disobey, especially under Xi Jinping, who has moved Chinese society back toward Maoist totalitarianism.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Dictating to others does not work overseas, however. In 1996 Beijing's leaders attempted to use missile tests to intimidate Taiwanese voters, who instead increased their support for Lee Teng-hui's reelection.</p> <p>In recent days the Xi government insisted that the Hong Kong authorities crackdown on democracy demonstrators and expected support from the special administrative region&rsquo;s &ldquo;silent majority.&rdquo; Instead, the recent local election resulted in a popular tsunami against the PRC&rsquo;s tightening noose. Even areas considered to be pro-China chose young freedom activists to dominate local councils.</p> <p>Beijing was uncharacteristically stunned into silence. Eventually, the regime fell back on blaming America for manipulating public sentiment. As if pontificating diplomats convinced thousands of young Hong Kongers to create chaos on the streets and fortify universities against the unpopular, unrepresentative SAR government.</p> <p>Such dedication comes from inside the person. In fact, despite having radically different perspectives, Mao Zedong and other early revolutionary leaders probably would have understood Hong Kong&rsquo;s protestors. Why did the former sacrifice everything to make a revolution? Not because a Soviet diplomat urged them to do so.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Congress risks making a difficult problem even worse. So do the courageous activists hoping to preserve their freedoms.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>In contrast, the current Chinese Communist Party is dominated by ambitious, self-serving careerists. Membership long has been viewed as an important if not the most important means to rise and prosper. Xi took on the pervasive corruption which had dragged down the CCP&rsquo;s reputation, but conveniently targeted political opponents. He may truly believe that the Chinese people are best served by reviving the party&rsquo;s brutal authority, but much of his support undoubtedly comes from those who just want to be on the winning side. If he stumbled, many now serving him would effortlessly shift their allegiance elsewhere.</p> <p>Which helps account for Beijing&rsquo;s apparent surprise at the electoral wipe-out. PRC officials can&rsquo;t imagine such outrageous disobedience, especially given China&rsquo;s ongoing squeeze at home of any independent thought and behavior. Moreover, aides to Xi and other top officials likely avoid telling unpleasant truths. Reporting that &ldquo;They really hate you, your beliefs, and your policies&rdquo; is not likely a good strategy for promotion. However, Chinese apparatchiks could not fake their way past an honest election.</p> <p>No doubt claims of American culpability are a calculated attempt at blame-shifting. However, many Chinese probably believe it to be true, and not just because of government propaganda. Washington does routinely intervene in other nations around the world. And rarely for abstract humanitarianism objectives. Rather, the U.S. normally has a self-interested agenda to pursue and preferred outcome in mind.</p> <p>In fact, the U.S. usually is far less effective in its actions than it claims <em>and others believe</em>. Often Washington ends up simply endorsing the course chosen by locals. That is the case in Hong Kong. Democracy activists, especially student shock troops, acted because they understood the important freedoms at risk, not because someone in America wanted them to do so.</p> <p>But U.S. legislators and Hong Kong demonstrators alike now seem to be seeking to prove Xi &amp; Co.&rsquo;s complaint about Washington meddling to be true.</p> <p>First, denizens of Capitol Hill ostentatiously postured for the cameras while seeking to dictate Chinese behavior in Hong Kong. Then they enthusiastically passed legislation that achieves little while claiming to protect the SAR from oversight by the country of which it is part. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 directs an annual review to ensure that the territory is &ldquo;sufficiently autonomous&rdquo; to warrant continued &ldquo;unique treatment&rdquo; through reduced trade barriers and orders imposition of sanctions on individuals found to violate Hong Kongers&rsquo; rights.</p> <p>But the bill will achieve little in practice. The administration could conduct a review on its own and the measure mandates no action, <em>none</em>, should a negative conclusion result. Moreover, though the Xi government obviously would prefer not to lose the SAR's special international economic entrée, a significant, violent suppression of the democracy movement would wreck the local economy before any action by the U.S. Worse, revoking Hong Kong's special status would most dramatically harm Hong Kongers, making them <em>more reliant on the mainland</em> for economic security.</p> <p>Targeted penalties make legislators feel good but have minimal impact on bad guys and won't influence Chinese policy. Ironically, the most important provision of the act is directed <em>against the</em> <em>U.S. State Department</em>, ordering it to not deny visas to Hong Kong activists based on their protest activities. Such is fear of the Trump administration's perverse war on any and all things foreign.</p> <p>Second, insisting that Beijing behave as American congressmen and senators say it should is a prescription for failure. Leaders of a highly nationalistic rising power are not inclined to be lectured. They do not enhance their authority and credibility at home by yielding to demands from afar.</p> <p>However, Xi's government must take consequences into account. Congress could have approved a simple measure reaffirming that U.S. policy requires a review of any changes in Hong Kong since the SAR's special trade treatment is based on its autonomous status. That policy was set by legislation passed in 1992 when Congress relied on the PRC's commitment to preserving the territory's separate system for 50 years after the planned 1997 turnover. Logically, if Hong Kong's autonomy disappeared so would lower American tariffs.</p> <p>Indeed, it is practical impacts&mdash;far more serious than higher tariffs&mdash;that so far have led the CCP leadership to eschew the use of Chinese riot police and army units and instead rely on Hong Kong personnel to keep order. Deploying PRC security forces against a population of 7.4 million largely united in opposition would threaten far greater carnage than Tiananmen Square. Beijing does not wish to risk such incalculable consequences.</p> <p>Third, Hong Kongers held a &ldquo;thanksgiving&rdquo; rally waving American flags and lauding Washington for its assistance. No doubt, U.S. support is good for morale. But the Chinese leadership already believes Americans are using the conflict to the latter&rsquo;s advantage and might believe its rhetoric about Washington being behind the unrest. The activists&rsquo; warm embrace suggests cooperation and coordination, even where none exists. Protestors are inadvertently inflating and highlighting America&rsquo;s role in Beijing&rsquo;s eyes. Carrying the flag of a nation increasingly seen as an adversary, a hostile state determined on containing the PRC, looks even more threatening.</p> <p>Stoking Beijing&rsquo;s paranoia would not matter so much if Washington&rsquo;s strategy was effective. But the Human Rights and Democracy Act will not scare off leaders currently committed to oppressing the rest of their population. Zhongnanhai&rsquo;s residents already have played the American imperialism card, denouncing Washington&rsquo;s &ldquo;doomed&rdquo; plot. According to the foreign ministry: &ldquo;This so-called legislation will only strengthen the resolve of the Chinese people, including the Hong Kong people, and raise awareness of the sinister intentions and hegemonic nature of the U.S.&rdquo;</p> <p>It will be no easy task to develop a policy toward a more aggressive and repressive China in the coming years. But the starting point should be a realistic assessment of America&rsquo;s ability to effect change. Public pressure, no matter how well-intended, is likely to backfire. Who in the PRC leadership wants to be the appeaser who advocates surrendering to the U.S. on core issues, such as political control?</p> <p>That doesn't mean nothing can be done. No one in Zhongnanhai is going to propose independence or democracy for Hong Kong. But a concerted stance by the U.S., Europe, and friendly Asian states, with an insistent though private warning that blood on Hong Kong's streets would mean a sharply negative turn in economic, diplomatic, and security relations with&mdash;and policy toward&mdash;Beijing might have a meaningful impact. Chinese officials know that economic growth is slowing and international hostility is rising. It is in their interest to avoid a confrontation with most of the PRC's major trading partners and potential military antagonists.</p> <p>Members of Congress deride President Trump's foreign policy approach. Yet they consistently have been more destructive, turning sanctimonious lectures into an art form, promiscuously imposing sanctions without effect, and insisting on, without authorizing, endless wars.</p> <p>Alas, in cases such as Hong Kong good intentions are not enough. Congress risks making a difficult problem even worse. So do the courageous activists hoping to preserve their freedoms.</p> </div> Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. Mon, 02 Dec 2019 10:05:20 -0500 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/dont-fuel-chinas-paranoia-hong-kong Elizabeth Warren's School Choice Blunder https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/elizabeth-warrens-school-choice-blunder <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/corey-deangelis" hreflang="und">Corey A. DeAngelis</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Elizabeth Warren came out swinging against school choice when she released her education <a href="https://medium.com/@teamwarren/a-great-public-school-education-for-every-student-6d306f7f986b" target="_blank">plan</a> on October 21. The Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential candidate called for ending federal funding for public charter schools, banning for-profit charter schools, increasing regulations for all charter schools, and making it more difficult to start new charter schools. She also said she wanted to stop private school choice programs.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Warren then started tweeting that she was "<a href="https://twitter.com/ewarren/status/1186406669909143553?lang=en" target="_blank">#PublicSchoolProud</a>" and that "<a href="https://twitter.com/ewarren/status/1186266019016445953?lang=en" target="_blank">we must stop the privatization of public schools</a>." She also bragged about how she <a href="https://twitter.com/ewarren/status/1186265998149718016" target="_blank">attended and taught</a> at public schools.</p> <p>But the senator remained silent about where she sent her children to school. She'd been silent on the subject for a while, in fact, having failed to respond when <em>Education Week</em> <a href="https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2019/05/29/where-the-presidential-candidates-went-to-school.html" target="_blank">asked</a> where her children went to school. If Warren was so loud and proud about public schools, wouldn't she be more than happy to tell everyone that she sent her two kids, Alex and Amelia, to public schools? Of course she would.</p> <p>Unless, that is, she had the privilege to send her own kids to private schools while fighting against extending similar options to the less fortunate.</p> <p>On October 28, using ancestry.com, I <a href="https://nypost.com/2019/11/10/warrens-ginormous-school-choice-hypocrisy/" target="_blank">discovered</a> a 1987 fifth grade yearbook <a href="https://twitter.com/DeAngelisCorey/status/1189032556240478209" target="_blank">photo</a> of "Alex Warren" at Kirby Hall School, an expensive private institution. The school's current <a href="https://www.kirbyhallschool.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Tuition-and-Fee-Schedule-2019-2020-1.pdf" target="_blank">tuition</a> is $17,875, and it is located about half a mile from the University of Texas at Austin, where Warren was teaching at the time. The student's year of birth&mdash;1976&mdash;matched Elizabeth Warren's son's. </p> <p>A few weeks after my discovery, Elizabeth Warren gave a <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/presidential-candidate-elizabeth-warren-deliver-speech-centered-black/story?id=67178918" target="_blank">speech</a> in Atlanta about the rights of black women. The November 21 rally was interrupted by a group of black protesters from the Powerful Parent Network, a pro-school choice group that opposes Warren's anti-choice education plan. </p> <p>After the rally, Warren tried to do the right thing by talking with the protesters. One of the parents, Sunny Thomas, <a href="https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2695764567135755&amp;id=100001067137860&amp;_rdr" target="_blank">recorded</a> the 17-minute conversation and posted it on Facebook for the world to see. Warren probably regrets two things she said in that recording.</p> <p>First, she accidentally made a good case against the idea that you can fix education by throwing more money at it, <a href="https://twitter.com/DeAngelisCorey/status/1197976672458493958" target="_blank">saying</a>: "I told all of my folks back in Massachusetts, 'You're going to get an 85 percent raise' at all of our little-child development centers. You know how much they got? Zero! Somehow it all went to the state government and never made it down!" <em>Somehow</em>, yes.</p> <p>Second: When a parent told Warren that she "read that your children went to private schools," Warren quickly responded, "No, my children went to public schools."</p> <p>A day later, the Warren campaign <a href="https://www.foxnews.com/politics/warren-told-pro-school-choice-activist-she-sent-her-children-to-public-school-her-campaign-confirms-otherwise" target="_blank">told</a> Fox News: "Elizabeth's daughter went to public school. Her son went to public school until fifth grade." So, yes, they both went to public schools. It's just that one of them <em>also</em> went to a private school. To more than one private school, in fact: After the controversy hit, one of Alex Warren's classmates <a href="https://thefederalist.com/2019/11/24/elizabeth-warren-lies-about-her-son-attending-two-different-private-schools/" target="_blank">sent his high school yearbook photo</a> to <em>The Federalist</em>, showing that he attended Haverford School while Elizabeth was teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. Haverford's high school <a href="https://www.haverford.org/admissions/tuition-and-value" target="_blank">tuition</a> and fees are currently set at $39,500.</p> <p>Warren was so "#PublicSchoolProud" that she decided to send her son Alex to expensive private schools for the majority of his K–12 education. And I don't blame her! I'm happy they had that option. But maybe Elizabeth Warren shouldn't fight tooth and nail against extending similar opportunities to poor families.</p> <p>Since then, Warren has spiraled downward in both the polls and the prediction markets. The latest nationwide survey, from Quinnipiac, shows a <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/26/warren-nosedives-buttigieg-climbs-poll-074054" target="_blank">14-point drop</a> from last month. But Warren might be able to regain some ground by actually listening to what a <a href="https://www.educationnext.org/2019-ednext-poll-interactive/" target="_blank">majority</a> of minority families <a href="https://www.educationnext.org/2019-ednext-poll-interactive/" target="_blank">want</a> for their kids: school choice. It also wouldn't hurt for the senator to try not to mislead people.</p> </div> Corey A. DeAngelis is the director of school choice at Reason Foundation. He is also an adjunct scholar at Cato Institute. Mon, 02 Dec 2019 08:33:55 -0500 Corey A. DeAngelis https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/elizabeth-warrens-school-choice-blunder New York City Is a Hot Spot for Illegal Medicaid Enrollment https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/new-york-city-hot-spot-illegal-medicaid-enrollment <p><span class="text-semibold">Brian Blase</span> and <a href="https://www.cato.org/people/aaron-yelowitz" hreflang="und">Aaron Yelowitz</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>New York state is grappling with a Medicaid shortfall in the billions of dollars. And one of the main reasons is improper enrollment.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Using annual information from the Census Bureau to assess the demographic make-up of Medicaid enrollees over time, researcher Aaron Yelowitz and I estimated that 2.3 million to 3.3 million Medicaid enrollees nationally make an income in excess of what is allowed.</p> <p>This is of increasing importance given that ObamaCare massively expanded what was historically a welfare program for vulnerable populations like the disabled and low-income children and pregnant women &mdash; and tens of billions of taxpayer dollars are at stake.</p> <p>Excluding traditional pathways onto Medicaid (such as through disability or pregnancy), Yelowitz and I concluded that the number of working-age New York state residents on Medicaid who have incomes above the eligibility threshold rose by more than 80 percent between 2012 and 2017. We estimated that between 337,000 and 433,000 working-age New York state residents with income above the allowed limit are improperly enrolled in Medicaid.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>As a result of ObamaCare’s more generous Medicaid funding, many states &mdash; including New York &mdash; have stopped properly assessing whether applicants are eligible before they enroll.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>And nearly half of this improper enrollment is in New York City, with 30 percent in The Bronx and Queens, where a few neighborhoods have among the highest percentage of improper enrollees of anywhere in the country.</p> <p>In The Bronx, particularly the Concourse, Highbridge and Mount Eden regions, we found that roughly 40 percent of all working-age adults with incomes exceeding income eligibility thresholds were enrolled in Medicaid in 2017. The next-worst area is in Queens &mdash; the Elmhurst/South Corona, Jackson Heights/North Corona and Sunnyside/Woodside regions. In those areas, there are likely tens of thousands of ineligible Medicaid enrollees.</p> <p>ObamaCare deserves much of the blame for the surge in improper enrollment. It created a new category of Medicaid recipients &mdash; lower-income, able-bodied, working-age adults &mdash; with the federal government paying a much larger share of their expenses than for traditional enrollees.</p> <p>From 2013 &mdash; the year before ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion took effect &mdash; to 2018, there has been a surge of Medicaid payments out of compliance with legal criteria. In fact, improper Medicaid payments more than tripled.</p> <p>While states bear some of the burden for improper spending, most of the bill is picked up by the federal government. We estimated that improper payments now exceed 20 percent of federal Medicaid expenditures, an amount above $75 billion each year.</p> <p>As a result of ObamaCare's more generous Medicaid funding, many states &mdash; including New York &mdash; have stopped properly assessing whether applicants are eligible before they enroll.</p> <p>While the health-care industry, particularly insurance companies, has benefitted from ObamaCare's windfall of federal cash and improper Medicaid enrollment, traditional enrollees face a harder time obtaining care &mdash; and taxpayers are stuck with an enormous tab.</p> <p>The inspector general at the federal Department of Health and Human Services found substantial problems with New York state's process for reviewing Medicaid eligibility. The state made large numbers of errors and did not always maintain documentation. An audit of the entire state's program found 15 percent of applicants improperly enrolled. The size of the error was staggering, with the inspector general estimating that New York state improperly claimed more than $1.8 billion in a six-month period on behalf of more than 900,000 ineligible enrollees or people who were enrolled without having submitted all the proper documentation.</p> <p>In order to get a handle on its budget crisis, New York should conduct targeted eligibility reviews in The Bronx and Queens. If the state doesn't act, the federal government must step in and require eligibility reviews in these hot spots and others around the country. Some level of government owes it to taxpayers and to those who are truly eligible to get enrollment right.</p> </div> Mr. Blase was a special assistant to President Trump at the National Economic Council, 2017-19. He is president of Blase Policy Strategies. <a href="https://www.cato.org/people/aaron-yelowitz">Mr. Yelowitz</a> is an economics professor at the University of Kentucky, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, and a co-author of the NBER paper. Sat, 30 Nov 2019 09:54:00 -0500 Brian Blase, Aaron Yelowitz https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/new-york-city-hot-spot-illegal-medicaid-enrollment Tulsi Gabbard: Wake up and Smell Our $6.4 Trillion Wars https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/tulsi-gabbard-wake-smell-our-64-trillion-wars <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/doug-bandow" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>The Democratic establishment is increasingly irritated. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, long-shot candidate for president, is attacking her own party for promoting the &ldquo;deeply destructive&rdquo; policy of &ldquo;regime change wars.&rdquo; Gabbard has even called Hillary Clinton &ldquo;the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party.&rdquo;</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Senator Chris Murphy complained: &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a little hard to figure out what itch she&rsquo;s trying to scratch in the Democratic Party right now.&rdquo; Some conservatives seem equally confused. The <em>Washington Examiner</em>&rsquo;s Eddie Scarry asked: &ldquo;where is Tulsi distinguishing herself when it really matters?&rdquo;</p> <p>The answer is that foreign policy &ldquo;really matters.&rdquo; Gabbard recognizes that George W. Bush is not the only simpleton warmonger who&rsquo;s plunged the nation into conflict, causing enormous harm. In the last Democratic presidential debate, she explained that the issue was &ldquo;personal to me&rdquo; since she&rsquo;d &ldquo;served in a medical unit where every single day, I saw the terribly high, human costs of war.&rdquo; Compare her perspective to that of the ivory tower warriors of Right and Left, ever ready to send others off to fight not so grand crusades.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Meanwhile, her fellow Democrats appear abysmally unconcerned about the human and financial toll.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The best estimate of the costs of the post-9/11 wars comes from the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. The Institute says that $6.4 trillion will be spent through 2020. They estimate that our wars have killed 801,000 directly and resulted in a multiple of that number dead indirectly. More than 335,000 civilians have died&mdash;and that&rsquo;s an extremely conservative guess. Some 21 million people have been forced from their homes. Yet the terrorism risk has only grown, with the U.S. military involved in counter-terrorism in 80 nations.</p> <p>Obviously, without American involvement there would still be conflicts. Some counter-terrorism activities would be necessary even if the U.S. was not constantly swatting geopolitical wasps&rsquo; nests. Nevertheless, it was Washington that started or joined these unnecessary wars (e.g., Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen) and expanded necessary wars well beyond their legitimate purposes (Afghanistan). As a result, American policymakers bear responsibility for much of the carnage.</p> <p>The Department of Defense is responsible for close to half of the estimated expenditures. About $1.4 trillion goes to care for veterans. Homeland security and interest on security expenditures take roughly $1 trillion each. And $131 million goes to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which have overspent on projects that have delivered little.</p> <p>More than 7,000 American military personnel and nearly 8,000 American contractors have died. About 1,500 Western allied troops and 11,000 Syrians fighting ISIS have been killed. The Watson Institute figures that as many as 336,000 civilians have died, but that uses the very conservative numbers provided by the Iraq Body Count. The IBC counts 207,000 documented civilian deaths but admits that doubling the estimate would probably yield a more accurate figure. Two other respected surveys put the number of deaths in Iraq alone at nearly 700,000 and more than a million, though those figures have been contested.</p> <p>More than a thousand aid workers and journalists have died, as well as up to 260,000 opposition fighters. Iraq is the costliest conflict overall, with as many as 308,000 dead (or 515,000 from doubling the IBC count). Syria cost 180,000 lives, Afghanistan 157,000, Yemen 90,000, and Pakistan 66,000.</p> <p>Roughly 32,000 American military personnel have been wounded; some 300,000 suffer from PTSD or significant depression and even more have endured traumatic brain injuries. There are other human costs&mdash;4.5 million Iraqi refugees and millions more in other nations, as well as the destruction of Iraq&rsquo;s indigenous Christian community and persecution of other religious minorities. There has been widespread rape and other sexual violence. Civilians, including children, suffer from PTSD.</p> <p>Even stopping the wars won&rsquo;t end the costs. Explained Nita Crawford of Boston University and co-director of Brown&rsquo;s Cost of War Project: &ldquo;the total budgetary burden of the post-9/11 wars will continue to rise as the U.S. pays the on-going costs of veterans&rsquo; care and for interest no borrowing to pay for the wars.&rdquo;</p> <p>People would continue to die. Unexploded shells and bombs still turn up in Europe from World Wars I and II. In Afghanistan, virtually the entire country is a battlefield, filled with landmines, shells, bombs, and improvised explosive devices. Between 2001 and 2018, 5,442 Afghans were killed and 14,693 were wounded from unexploded ordnance. Some of these explosives predate American involvement, but the U.S. has contributed plenty over the last 18 years.</p> <p>Moreover, the number of indirect deaths often exceeds battle-related casualties. Journalist and activist David Swanson noted an &ldquo;estimate that to 480,000 direct deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, one must add at least one million deaths in those countries indirectly caused by the recent and ongoing wars. This is because the wars have caused illnesses, injuries, malnutrition, homelessness, poverty, lack of social support, lack of healthcare, trauma, depression, suicide, refugee crises, disease epidemics, the poisoning of the environment, and the spread of small-scale violence.&rdquo; Consider Yemen, ravaged by famine and cholera. Most civilian casualties have resulted not from Saudi and Emirati bombing, but from the consequences of the bombing.</p> <p>Only a naif would imagine that these wars will disappear absent a dramatic change in national leadership. Wrote Crawford: &ldquo;The mission of the post-9/11 wars, as originally defined, was to defend the United States against future terrorist threats from al-Qaeda and affiliated organizations. Since 2001, the wars have expanded from the fighting in Afghanistan, to wars and smaller operations elsewhere, in more than 80 countries&mdash;becoming a truly &lsquo;global war on terror&rsquo;.&rdquo;</p> <p>Yet every expansion of conflict makes the American homeland more, not less, vulnerable. Contrary to the nonsensical claim that if we don&rsquo;t occupy Afghanistan forever and overthrow Syria&rsquo;s Bashar al-Assad, al-Qaeda and ISIS will turn Chicago and Omaha into terrorist abattoirs, intervening in more conflicts and killing more foreigners creates additional terrorists at home and abroad. In this regard, drone campaigns are little better than invasions and occupations.</p> <p>For instance, when questioned by the presiding judge in his trial, the failed 2010 Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, a U.S. citizen, cited the drone campaign in Pakistan. His colloquy with the judge was striking: &ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to plead guilty 100 times forward because until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan and stops the occupation of Muslim lands and stops Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan, and stops the occupation of Muslim lands, and stops killing the Muslims.&rdquo;</p> <p>Ajani Marwat, with the New York City Police Department&rsquo;s intelligence division, outlined Shahzad&rsquo;s perspective to <em>The </em><em>Guardian</em>: &ldquo;&rsquo;It&rsquo;s American policies in his country.&rsquo; …&rsquo;We don&rsquo;t have to do anything to attract them,&rsquo; a terrorist organizer in Lahore told me. &lsquo;The Americans and the Pakistani government do our work for us. With the drone attacks targeting the innocents who live in Waziristan and the media broadcasting this news all the time, the sympathies of most of the nation are always with us. Then it&rsquo;s simply a case of converting these sentiments into action&rsquo;.&rdquo;</p> <p>Washington does make an effort to avoid civilian casualties, but war will never be pristine. Combatting insurgencies inevitably harms innocents. Air and drone strikes rely on often unreliable informants. The U.S. employs &ldquo;signature&rdquo; strikes based on supposedly suspicious behavior. And America&rsquo;s allies, most notably the Saudis and Emiratis&mdash;supplied, armed, guided, and until recently refueled by Washington&mdash;make little if any effort to avoid killing noncombatants and destroying civilian infrastructure.</p> <p>Thus will the cycle of terrorism and war continue. Yet which leading Democrats have expressed concern? Most complain that President Donald Trump is negotiating with North Korea, leaving Syria, and reducing force levels in Afghanistan. Congressional Democrats care about Yemen only because it has become Trump&rsquo;s war; there were few complaints under President Barack Obama.</p> <p>What has Washington achieved after years of combat? Even the capitals of its client states are unsafe. The State Department warns travelers to Iraq that kidnapping is a risk and urges businessmen to hire private security. In Kabul, embassy officials now travel to the airport via helicopter rather than car.</p> <p>Tulsi Gabbard is talking about what really matters. The bipartisan War Party has done its best to wreck America and plenty of other nations too. Gabbard is courageously challenging the Democrats in this coalition, who have become complicit in Washington&rsquo;s criminal wars.</p> </div> Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He is the author of Foreign Follies: America's New Global Empire. Fri, 29 Nov 2019 10:09:45 -0500 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/tulsi-gabbard-wake-smell-our-64-trillion-wars The Labour Manifesto Is a Lifetime Tax Bombshell for Ordinary Families https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/labour-manifesto-lifetime-tax-bombshell-ordinary-families <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ryan-bourne" hreflang="und">Ryan Bourne</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>At times, it was painful to watch. But Andrew Neil&rsquo;s TV <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/11/27/jeremy-corbyn-dodges-tv-debates-disastrous-bbc-interview/" target="_blank">interrogation of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn</a> served a useful economic purpose: it put to bed, entirely and convincingly, the Labour lie that only the rich and business would feel the heat of the party&rsquo;s planned tax hikes.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>With characteristic precision, Neil showed how families currently benefiting from the income tax marriage allowance or receiving puny dividend income could pay hundreds of pounds more under Labour each year. Unsurprisingly, if you abolish or make allowances less generous, and raise dividend income tax rates to those of ordinary income, people outside the top 5pc of earners who use such allowances or receive dividends pay more in tax.</p> <p>This fact seems to surprise nobody except for the Labour leaders, who persist in claiming that only those earning over &pound;80k would pay more income tax under them &mdash; in other words, those affected by their direct marginal income tax rate hikes (to 45pc over &pound;80k and 50pc over &pound;125k).</p> <p>In truth though, the dishonesty at the heart of Labour claims that &ldquo;someone else will pay&rdquo; runs far deeper than Neil had time to dig. Economists distinguish between who pays taxes legally, and where the actual burden really ends up. A huge literature, for example, suggests that between 30pc and 70pc of the real burden of corporation tax ultimately falls on workers in the form of lower wages.</p> <p>Labour, of course, would jack up the main rate from 19pc to 26pc. Their planned broadening of stamp duty &mdash; in effect creating a financial transactions tax &mdash; will, in part, be borne by pensions funds and workers. In other words, ordinary people will be made worse off by their business or transactions taxes as well, even those notionally paid by companies or the wealthy.</p> <p>Things could be far worse in reality. Clifford Chance tax lawyer Dan Neidle says there could be a &pound;20bn revenue hole in the party&rsquo;s plans; and some of their economic assumptions for the revenue obtained from other taxes look heroic. Any shortfall, of course, will ultimately need to be made up with tax hikes on ordinary families to meet their &pound;83bn-plus of day-to-day spending pledges. Given the high likelihood of subsidies for the newly <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/investing/shares/labours-plan-nationalise-bt-will-leave-shareholders-pocket/" target="_blank">nationalised rail, energy, postal and water industries</a>, the tax burden on workers could, for many reasons, be much higher than the manifesto suggests.</p> <p>Even all this, though, is static analysis. What nobody has really pointed out yet are the likely impacts of Labour&rsquo;s manifesto on families&rsquo; tax burdens over longer periods.</p> <p>First off, even Labour&rsquo;s hikes in marginal income tax rates for &ldquo;the rich&rdquo; will affect many more people than they suggest. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has been told that Labour would keep <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/consumer-affairs/does-earning-80000-year-make-rich/" target="_blank">the &pound;80k starting threshold</a> for their 45pc rate fixed in cash terms (in other words, it will not be indexed to prices). As incomes rise over time, many more individuals will be dragged into this band, with the number likely rising by 24pc in the next parliament alone.</p> <p>Of course, &ldquo;the rich&rdquo; aren&rsquo;t a fixed block of people either. Many people not earning over &pound;80k now will do at some stage in their life. On quite conservative assumptions, anywhere above 15pc or 20pc of people might pass that threshold at some stage in their careers. Labour&rsquo;s plans then will raise lots of families&rsquo; lifetime income tax rates, even if they appear unaffected today.</p> <p>More importantly, a lot of Labour&rsquo;s spending pledges are what we might call &ldquo;demographically sensitive&rdquo;. That is, they will likely become more expensive as the population ages. Despite the fiscal headwinds the country is sailing into, with health, long-term care, state pension, and pensioner benefit spending already set to explode from 14pc of GDP to 23pc of GDP over five decades, Labour&rsquo;s priorities would make this long-term ageing time bomb much worse.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s not just the promise to freeze the state pension age at 66 &mdash; though this alone will add &pound;24bn per year to direct public spending by the 2050s, increasing the jump in spending expected by over 40pc. Nor is it only the new commitment to provide free personal social care to those over 65, while capping their lifetime &ldquo;hotel&rdquo; costs at &pound;100,000 &mdash; promises that will spiral in cost, particularly if the age eligibility threshold is left unchanged.</p> <p>No, Labour&rsquo;s own manifesto details how the party would also increase the NHS spending baseline, expand free prescriptions, introduce free hospital parking, expand pension credit eligibility, increase state pension generosity for Britons overseas and put taxpayers (rather than the BBC) on the hook for &ldquo;free&rdquo; TV licences for over-75s. All will likely grow in expense with an ageing population.</p> <p>Inevitably, that means further hikes in taxes on ordinary working age people. Labour&rsquo;s own fiscal framework commits to not financing day-to-day government spending via borrowing over time. So as these commitments raise ordinary spending, taxes would have to be jacked up to cover age-related health, pension and welfare policies. Such additional revenue, on top of existing plans, could not be feasibly raised from rich taxpayers alone. Ordinary people would face significant hikes in the taxes they pay.</p> <p>Again, this is just pure public finance accounting. It doesn&rsquo;t require any judgment about whether Labour&rsquo;s broader economic policies would hurt prosperity and so the tax base, though that is clearly a risk too. Some might say tax rises on this scale simply couldn&rsquo;t happen.</p> <p>That they would be politically unfeasible. Yet the history of government entitlement programs shows they are extraordinarily difficult to abolish once introduced. It&rsquo;s not a credible defence of the manifesto to say &ldquo;don&rsquo;t worry &mdash; the long-term promises are incredible&rdquo; either.</p> <p>Hard truths about what will happen to your lifetime tax bill sit there, on the pages of Labour&rsquo;s manifesto in plain sight. The party&rsquo;s plans for income tax, the economic burdens of their business taxes and the ever-expanding expense of many of their spending pledges would see your family handing over more and more of your hard-earned income to HMRC over time. Don&rsquo;t say you weren&rsquo;t warned.</p> </div> Ryan Bourne is the R Evan Scharf Chair for the Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute. Thu, 28 Nov 2019 11:58:30 -0500 Ryan Bourne https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/labour-manifesto-lifetime-tax-bombshell-ordinary-families Beijing’s Costly Lesson in Hong Kong https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/beijings-costly-lesson-hong-kong <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/doug-bandow" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Hong Kong&rsquo;s people used local elections to make their preferences clear. They want to live in a free society. No propaganda and threats from Beijing will change that. Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have decisively <a href="https://spectator.org/how-chinas-persecution-of-minorities-and-americas-newly-passed-hong-kong-human-rights-act-teach-us-that-lebron-james-is-a-gutless-coward/" target="_blank">lost the battle</a> for Hong Kongers&rsquo; hearts and minds.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Founded in 1949, the People&rsquo;s Republic of China cast itself as a revolutionary force around the world. Some in the West found Mao Zedong&rsquo;s rhetoric appealing &mdash; while in high school I bought a copy of Mao&rsquo;s little red book in London&rsquo;s legendary Hyde Park. But the PRC&rsquo;s disastrous experience of mass repression, poverty, and starvation dimmed enthusiasm for the experiment.</p> <p>After Mao&rsquo;s death in 1976, a more measured and moderate leadership took control. Desperate to promote his nation&rsquo;s economic rejuvenation, &ldquo;paramount leader&rdquo; Deng Xiaoping emphasized China&rsquo;s &ldquo;peaceful rise.&rdquo; Beijing was assertive &mdash; no doubt a British refusal to negotiate Hong Kong&rsquo;s return to the PRC would have triggered an international crisis &mdash; but issued few threats. The country&rsquo;s stunning economic growth allowed Chinese officials to use commerce to expand their influence. In suppressing the Tiananmen Square demonstrations Deng bloodily rejected political reform, but the authoritarian system was loose enough to encourage expanding international ties.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>You can’t force people to love totalitarianism.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Everything changed with Xi Jinping&rsquo;s ascension to the top of the party and government in 2013. Xi embarked upon a brutal domestic campaign to suppress dissent, strengthen the CCP, purge potential adversaries, and seize personal control. The result is an ongoing, systematic campaign to destroy religious liberty, close independent NGOs, greatly tighten censorship, round up Muslims, create a surveillance state, and impose true totalitarianism with a &ldquo;social credit&rdquo; system that monitors almost every aspect of individual behavior, both personal and official.</p> <p>It is a striking return to Maoism and well beyond. The original Mao had little ability to enforce his wild rhetoric. Beijing had manpower in abundance but could not project power much beyond its land borders, as in North Korea.</p> <p>That limitation has disappeared as Xi, essentially Mao reincarnated, has hardened China&rsquo;s international approach. No more squishy reasonableness as part of the &ldquo;peaceful rise&rdquo; strategy. There are territorial claims to assert, naval clashes to stage, artificial islands to build, developing states to pressure, private companies to browbeat, foreign governments to cow, and recalcitrant populations to reprogram.</p> <p>Although this policy is superficially threatening to the PRC&rsquo;s neighbors, it has been a disastrous failure for Beijing. The regime has made itself stunningly unpopular. Japan is slowly dropping strictures on its military, the Philippines is encouraging Tokyo to do more, communist Vietnam is welcoming India&rsquo;s fleet to East Asian waters, Australia is debating Chinese influence, South Koreans are seeing the PRC as a potential threat, European governments are worrying about Beijing&rsquo;s manipulation of commerce, and Third World states are revisiting China&rsquo;s &ldquo;Belt and Road&rdquo; investment projects.</p> <p>Yet increasing resistance appears to have only caused the Chinese government to double down on repression. Angry at the failure of Uighurs to abandon their Muslim faith, Beijing locked a million or more into reeducation camps. Angry at Christians unwilling to replace Jesus with Jinping, the authorities destroyed churches and jailed believers.</p> <p>Angry about the failure of Taiwanese to submit to PRC rule, Xi&rsquo;s regime pushed ever harder to reduce Taipei&rsquo;s international space. And angry at the rise of a more vociferous democracy/independence movement in Hong Kong, Beijing abandoned its long-stated commitment to maintain &ldquo;two systems, one country&rdquo; in the Special Administrative Region (SAR).</p> <p>The Xi government blames rising opposition to Chinese rule on everyone except itself. Whether or not officials there really believe that America is to blame for Hong Kongers seeking freedom is not clear. It certainly is the story they are promoting to their own people, even after the <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-50554912" target="_blank">massive vote</a> against pro-PRC candidates on Sunday.</p> <p>The regime previously suggested that the problem of inadequate enthusiasm for communist rule over the mainland was one of inadequate education. Therefore, Beijing reinstated &ldquo;patriotic&rdquo; education in college and reinstalled party cells in companies. Some Chinese university students expressed solidarity with their counterparts in Hong Kong, leading schools to inaugurate &ldquo;education&rdquo; programs about the Hong Kong protests. Now officials are suggesting that the territorial government teach Hong Kongers patriotism to turn protestors into docile, loyal Chinese automatons. For instance, researcher Andy Mok <a href="http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/global/2019-11/06/content_37521037.htm" target="_blank">wrote</a> in <em>China Daily</em> that &ldquo;Hong Kong should find a a way to improve patriotic education of its residents,&rdquo; as if lecturing them more loudly would cause them to support dictatorship.</p> <p>This is the counsel of fools, but one suspects that few are willing to tell Xi what he doesn&rsquo;t want to hear. Thus, the public meme of a silent pro-Beijing majority became self-reinforcing. Until Sunday&rsquo;s election, the claim might have been believable for those locked away in Zhongnanhai, disconnected from their own people and especially the rest of the world. But no one with a hint of mental activity can any longer imagine that a silent pro-China majority lurks in Hong Kong.</p> <p>The election was a complete rout. Turnout was massive, double that of 2015. Even areas known for supporting pro-PRC legislators chose democracy activists, with young, first-time candidates ousting long-term incumbents. For the first time pro-democracy parties contested all 452 seats. They more than trebled their number of seats, to 390, and won majorities in 17 of 18 districts. Beijing&rsquo;s allies, many funded by Chinese businesses, lost more than four of every five seats.</p> <p>The sole issue was who should control Hong Kong, and voters overwhelmingly declared that they should. Of course, district councils possess only limited power. But Chief Executive Carrie Lam is increasingly isolated and left with no support except from Beijing. The police can break up any particular demonstration or protest, but they cannot restore calm to the city. Public support for the protestors remains strong even amid the chaos and violence.</p> <p>Beijing&rsquo;s instinct almost certainly is to send in the riot police, or even troops. But to do so would be an abject admission of failure and prescription for multiple Tiananmen Squares. This time almost an entire city of 7.4 million would be in revolt. The mind boggles at the likely consequences.</p> <p>Hong Kongers <a href="https://spectator.org/hong-kongs-protests-and-americas-independence/" target="_blank">deserve the West&rsquo;s support</a>, but what does that mean? The PRC will not grant the SAR independence or democracy. It is not just Xi and CPC officials who view Hong Kong as part of China: so does a nationalistic population taught to revile the activists who held Beijing at bay. Nor can the regime maintain tyranny over the many while granting freedom to a few. Demanding that the PC do what it cannot will only encourage a tougher crackdown backed by more vigorous saber-rattling.</p> <p>Hong Kong currently enjoys an unusually liberal U.S. trade regime, reflecting its relative autonomy. The <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/3289" target="_blank">Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act</a>, recently passed by Congress, would mandate an annual review of the territory&rsquo;s status. The threat has angered the Chinese, who threatened to &ldquo;respond tit-for-tat,&rdquo; whatever that means.</p> <p>The president hasn&rsquo;t decided whether he is going to sign the legislation, which almost certainly would be passed over his veto. But he should have no illusions about Xi being his &ldquo;friend.&rdquo; However civil their relationship, the Chinese leader is a ruthless totalitarian determined to advance his regime&rsquo;s interests, at his people&rsquo;s and America&rsquo;s expense. Xi might be &ldquo;an incredible guy,&rdquo; as the president says, but in this case that is not a compliment. Trump&rsquo;s decision on the bill should not be based on preserving a fake bromance with Xi.</p> <p>Although well-intentioned, the measure isn&rsquo;t likely to improve the Xi government&rsquo;s behavior. Would Washington sell its sovereignty for a trade concession? Not likely. Nor will Beijing. Moreover, ending Hong Kong&rsquo;s preferential trade status would hurt Hong Kongers more than Xi &amp; Co., along with the 1300 U.S. companies active in the city. It would make sense to pull that trigger only if the majority of people in Hong Kong were in accord.</p> <p>A better strategy would be to gather the best of the West &mdash; U.S., Europe, and Asian friends &mdash; to make a private approach to the PRC. Politicians love to hold press conferences, but Beijing will automatically resist public threats. This ad hoc liberty caucus should warn the Xi government that failing to keep its word about preserving Hong Kong&rsquo;s unique system and cracking down on the population would have a significant and prolonged negative impact on their dealings with China. Diplomatic, economic, and military relations would be affected. Indeed, it would be impossible to impute anything but hostility to Beijing after such an action. With the PRC facing economic weakness and political fragility, Xi and especially those less than enamored with his rule might prefer to take a compromise path rather than risk a long-term and large-scale confrontation.</p> <p>Such an exercise also would be useful as preparation for the Taiwan crisis likely to come. Promising to go to war for the island republic raises the challenge issued by a Chinese general years ago: America won&rsquo;t risk Los Angeles for Taipei. And, frankly, the U.S. should not do so. But what other steps could be taken on Taiwan&rsquo;s behalf? Friendly states might be willing to join with Washington to threaten a host of other consequences, especially if the tactic previously worked for Hong Kong.</p> <p>Sunday&rsquo;s vote constituted a popular uprising, a concerted demand that the PRC respect the lives, liberty, and dignity of Hong Kongers. The majority stood by the protestors despite their increasingly violent tactics. The stakes have gotten much more serious for Beijing; the Xi government has a lot more to lose. Americans should make the price clear as they stand for freedom.</p> </div> Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. Thu, 28 Nov 2019 10:13:49 -0500 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/beijings-costly-lesson-hong-kong 2020 Could Bring a U.S.-North Korea Crisis. Here Is How It Could Unfold. https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/2020-could-bring-us-north-korea-crisis-here-how-it-could-unfold <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/doug-bandow" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>In fall of 2017 threats of fire and fury filled the air. President Donald Trump applied his &ldquo;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/why-north-korea-wont-succumb-maximum-pressure-49387">maximum pressure</a>&rdquo; policy to North Korea, tightening sanctions while sending the &ldquo;<a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/04/18/524560773/that-armada-heading-to-north-korea-actually-it-sailed-south" target="_blank">armada</a>&rdquo; to sit off the North&rsquo;s coast. Pyongyang responded with a cascade of unique insults and threats.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Reflexive hawks such as Sen. Lindsey Graham dismissed worries about starting a war &ldquo;<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/08/lindsey-graham-north-korea/535578/" target="_blank">over there</a>&rdquo; in Northeast Asia. The U.S. and Democratic People&rsquo;s Republic of Korea appeared to be but one errant tweet away from Korean War II.</p> <p>Then came the unexpected in 2018: an explosion of diplomacy. Kim Jong-un made the rounds, meeting Moon Jae-in, Xi Jinping, and, most importantly, Donald Trump. Missile and nuclear tests were suspended. Military exercises were halted. Official visits were exchanged. Promises of denuclearization were made. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_k0PJgxP_s" target="_blank">America&rsquo;s president fell in love,</a> or so he said.</p> <p>Relations warmed, but the president&rsquo;s expectation that the North Korean leader was going to show up, nukes in hand, never was realistic. The push for an all-or-nothing deal stalled, along with separate steps to offer the DPRK some assurance that Washington no longer was pressing for regime change&mdash;such as making a peace declaration/treaty and opening liaison offices.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>The U.S. and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea appeared to be but one errant tweet away from Korean War II.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The surprise collapse of the Hanoi summit triggered a global diplomatic retreat by North Korea. The June Panmunjom &ldquo;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/30/world/asia/trump-north-korea-dmz.html" target="_blank">drive-by</a>&rdquo; handshake between Trump and Kim briefly revived hopes of renewed negotiation, but later talks ended quickly with Pyongyang complaining that the administration offered nothing new, presumably meaning a realistic path forward with meaningful sanctions relief before full denuclearization. Kim Yong-chol, a top DPRK official, said that Washington &ldquo;<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-envoy-russia/north-korea-says-no-more-talks-with-u-s-just-so-trump-can-boast-idUSKBN1XS0HN?feedType=RSS&amp;feedName=topNews" target="_blank">should not dream of the negotiations for denuclearization before dropping its hostile policy toward</a>&rdquo; the North.</p> <p>Kim set the end of the year as a deadline for an agreement being reached. And in his 2019 New Year&rsquo;s speech warned that the North would be &ldquo;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/north-koreas-kim-ready-to-meet-trump-but-warns-us-not-to-misjudge-patience/2018/12/31/bb0b7348-0d62-11e9-92b8-6dd99e2d80e1_story.html" target="_blank">compelled to explore a new path</a>&rdquo; if the United States &ldquo;seeks to force something upon us unilaterally ... and remains unchanged in its sanctions and pressure.&rdquo; The mysterious picture of Kim upon a white horse on snowy, sacred Mt. Paektu last October suggested that a big policy change or announcement was in the works. The Korean Central News Agency reported that officials accompanying him were &ldquo;<a href="https://thehill.com/policy/international/asia-pacific/466044-kim-poses-for-photos-on-white-horse-on-sacred-mountain" target="_blank">convinced that there will be a great operation to strike the world with wonder again and advance the Korean revolution a step forward</a>.&rdquo;</p> <p>The short-lived Stockholm talks, also in October, included a warning. The North&rsquo;s nuclear negotiator, Kim Myong Gil, said a new round was up to America and "<a href="https://apnews.com/8cbca2fbedd343698dacdbaf7ca33f90" target="_blank">Whether there will be any shocking actions that nobody would expect to see if the U.S. is not ready, nobody knows. Let's wait and see</a>.&rdquo;</p> <p><a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/lifting-veil-north-koreas-kn-23-missile-and-kn-25-mlrs-90356">The North continued to launch short-range missiles</a>, which President Trump dismissed as unimportant. However, having gotten no satisfactory reaction from Washington, Pyongyang officials have issued new warnings. Last week Choe Son-hui, First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, complained that &ldquo;<a href="https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20191122009100325" target="_blank">We have given time and taken measures to build trust but there have been no corresponding measures in return</a>.&rdquo; Ominously, she announced: &ldquo;If the United States does not take corresponding steps so that the chance of diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula disappears, I think the responsibility should lie squarely with the U.S.&rdquo; President Trump proposed another summit but DPRK officials dismissed &ldquo;the tricky U.S.&rdquo; and &ldquo;useless meetings.&rdquo;</p> <p>In late November Kim visited frontline military units for the first time since May and ordered the army to conduct a &ldquo;<a href="https://www.nknews.org/2019/11/kim-jong-un-visits-frontline-units-orders-military-to-step-up-war-like-drills/" target="_blank">real war-like drill</a>&rdquo; at a &ldquo;higher degree of intensity.&rdquo; Pyongyang conducted live-fire artillery tests, apparently overseen by Kim, which violated the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement. The logical next step is to escalate with a new long-range missile launch.</p> <p>The North probably has two objectives. The first is to push negotiations away from denuclearization and toward arms control. It is unlikely that Kim is prepared to give up weapons developed at such great cost, especially when they offer status and security internationally and build military loyalty domestically. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/16/world/asia/north-korea-libya-model.html" target="_blank">The Libya model</a> so beloved by then-National Security Adviser John Bolton illustrates the North&rsquo;s dilemma: oral promises and paper guarantees offer no protection from a U.S. decision to make additional demands or pursue regime change after the North has disarmed.</p> <p>Second, the president is vulnerable. While imagining himself to be a negotiating genius, he, in fact, is about as lousy as one can be. He lacks more than superficial understanding, takes impossible positions, telegraphs his intentions, focuses on trivia, doubles down on losing strategies, repels potential allies, fails to follow through, and declares minimal advantage to be a huge victory. Now he is about to enter an election year without a foreign policy success of note: the trade war with China continues to rage, U.S. troops still fight in all the wars he promised to end, none of his targets of &ldquo;maximum pressure&rdquo; have compromised, let alone surrendered, his chief foreign &ldquo;friends&rdquo; are dictators who undermine American interests and values, and his demands for substantial increases in allied military contributions remain unfulfilled in Asia and Europe. With Democrats sure to target his dismal record, he increasingly needs a win to tout to the electorate.</p> <p>So don&rsquo;t be surprised if Kim continues to play hard to get, disdainfully rejecting administration offers to talk, in the expectation that the president will grow ever more desperate to reach a deal. Pyongyang probably will schedule a long-range missile test to dramatically raise the pressure: after two years of &ldquo;beautiful&rdquo; letters and heartfelt meetings, Trump would find himself back where he started. Democrats would mock his credulity and incompetence. The GOP would have little to defend. Then Kim could generously propose a meeting, where promises of ultimate disarmament could be traded for sanctions relief. And the president could return home, celebrating his statesmanship.</p> <p>It is a plausible strategy, but a risky one. The timing has to be right, the president&rsquo;s emotions have to be in check, the political battle has to be at the right stage. If something goes wrong, the results could be far different and more dangerous.</p> <p>Imagine another two months of North Korean refusal to talk twinned with escalating insults directed at the president. Then an ICBM launch, with hints of more to come. At which point the president feels betrayed. Having personally embraced Kim, the president then personally feels the latter&rsquo;s rejection. So Trump pens the opposite of a love letter to the Supreme Leader, with threats rather than concessions offered. To further increase the pressure, the North schedules a nuclear test. Democrats erupt with brutal criticism of the president, arguing that his weakness has triggered the latest crisis.</p> <p>Then he imposes sanctions on whatever has not been prohibited, orders the &ldquo;armada&rdquo; to sail to waters off Korea, sends in B-52s and B-2s on nearby practice bombing runs, and looses an incendiary tweetstorm. The likely response would be a corresponding crescendo of North Korean threats, insults, and maneuvers, as a new cold war descends on the peninsula. And the president playing off the DPRK to demonstrate his resolve and prove that he is tougher than any of the Democrats and can be best trusted to confront threats against America.</p> <p>There is a worse case, however. The president might consider limited military strikes since, as Sen. Lindsey Graham cheerfully observed, the war would be &ldquo;over there&rdquo; rather than &ldquo;over here.&rdquo; In fact, the president appears to be genuinely cautious and war-averse. However, Kim could come to fear that Washington was planning an attack to destroy the North&rsquo;s nukes and decapitate its leadership, causing him to ponder the wisdom of seizing the military initiative. Even limited initial military strikes from either side likely would likely lead to general war. The consequences would be incalculable, despite Graham&rsquo;s blithe dismissal of the possibility of mass death and destruction.</p> <p>Of course, the future might prove far brighter. Kim might be swung over to disarmament. The two sides might reach a serious interim deal. Both leaders might decide that the status quo, an imperfect calm, is better than a return to conflict. Then negotiations could resume in the future, perhaps under a new administration. The Chinese might be able to midwife a satisfactory accommodation between Pyongyang and Washington. There might even be changes in the North, leading to a radically different atmosphere. All are possible, but none seem likely.</p> <p>Chances are far greater that next year policymakers will be discussing the renewed challenge posed by the DPRK and wondering how the president, either current or incoming, will address the challenge. Count it a success if peace still reigns. And hope for a return to diplomacy, with more successful negotiations this time.</p> </div> Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. Thu, 28 Nov 2019 09:59:12 -0500 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/2020-could-bring-us-north-korea-crisis-here-how-it-could-unfold Five Myths about the Labour Manifesto https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/five-myths-about-labour-manifesto <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ryan-bourne" hreflang="und">Ryan Bourne</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>1. Only the top five per cent of earners will be affected by Labour&rsquo;s changes to income tax.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Labour say they only intend to jack up income tax for those earning over &pound;80,000 (with new rates of 45 per cent up to &pound;125,000 and 50 per cent beyond that). But scrapping the marriage tax allowance, while reducing dividend allowances and raising tax rates on dividend income, means they are raising income tax burdens much lower down the earnings scale.</p> <p>Around 1.8 million families obtained the marriage tax allowance in 2018/19, with 1.5 million more eligible. Over ten per cent of the existing total &pound;13.25 billion dividend tax liability for 2018/19 was borne by savers and basic rate taxpayers, let alone those earning between &pound;50,000 and &pound;80,000. Basic and higher rate payers with dividend income would suffer allowance cuts and see their tax rates rise from 7.5 per cent and 32.5 per cent to 20 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, under Corbyn&rsquo;s plans. Many people earning below &pound;80,000, in other words, will see their income tax burden rise.</p> <p>What&rsquo;s more, Corbyn&rsquo;s new tax bands will be for life, not just for Christmas. The threshold for the 45% rate would be fixed in cash terms rather than indexed &mdash; dragging more people into these higher rates as incomes rise. And, since the rich aren&rsquo;t some fixed group, over a lifecycle many more people will be affected. <a href="https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/14303" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Estimates suggest</a> 3.4 per cent of people will enter the top one per cent of earners at some stage in life. Assuming (conservatively) a similar multiple for the top 5 per cent, around 15-20 per cent of income earners would experience higher marginal rates over their lifetime under Labour&rsquo;s income tax plans.</p> <p>2. Only the rich will be affected by the overall tax changes.</p> <p>Richard Burgon intimated on <em>Question Time</em> that only the rich will be affected by Labour&rsquo;s overall &pound;83 billion revenue grab. We&rsquo;ve seen that&rsquo;s not true, but suppose it was: the average increase in revenue for people in the top five per cent of earners would need be &pound;53,000 per year to raise that revenue. Currently, the top five per cent pay &pound;94 billion in income taxes on a gross income of &pound;283 billion. So &ldquo;asking&rdquo; for another &pound;83 billion from them (no matter the source of tax) looks, shall we say, &ldquo;difficult.&rdquo;</p> <p>Labour supporters went crazy when I <a href="https://twitter.com/MrRBourne/status/1197498937600598016?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pointed this out</a>, claiming I&rsquo;d ignored revenue from corporation tax hikes, expanding stamp duty, and more. But that&rsquo;s the point: Labour&rsquo;s income tax changes would raise only &pound;5.4 billion of the &pound;83 billion revenues they desire. Their other tax rises have economic burdens that hurt far beyond &ldquo;the rich.&rdquo;</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.adamsmith.org/s/CorpTax8.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">best evidence</a> that we have on the economic incidence of Corporation Tax (which Labour would raise from 19 to 26 per cent) suggests that anywhere <a href="https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/zidar/files/sz_localeconcorptax_aer_2016.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">between 30 per cent</a> and <a href="https://cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/ftpdocs/75xx/doc7503/2006-09.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">70 per cent</a> of the burden ultimately falls on workers. <a href="http://www.ifs.org.uk/wps/wp0411.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Existing evidence</a> suggests a financial transactions tax will ultimately hit both pension funds and, again, workers. The idea it&rsquo;s &ldquo;the rich&rdquo; or even &ldquo;business&rdquo; who pays, leaving ordinary folk unaffected, is just false.</p> <p>3. Boris Johnson is &ldquo;lying&rdquo; about Labour Corporation Tax rates.</p> <p>Johnson has claimed Labour would raise Corporation Tax to the highest level in Europe. C4&rsquo;s &ldquo;Fact Check&rdquo; <a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-johnson-wrong-about-labour-corporation-tax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">labelled this &ldquo;wrong,&rdquo;</a> explaining that a 26 per cent rate would still be below those economic powerhouses of France, Belgium, Portugal, and Greece.</p> <p>Labour do reckon they <a href="https://twitter.com/PJTheEconomist/status/1197568734552055811?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">can raise more from Corporation Tax</a> as a proportion of GDP than other developed countries. But, practically, Boris was correct about the headline rate, too &mdash; at least, for companies&rsquo; UK profits affected by Labour&rsquo;s expropriation of shares for &ldquo;Inclusive Ownership Funds.&rdquo;</p> <p>Such businesses would be mandated to give up ten per cent of any profits (determined for Corporation Tax purposes) to IOFs. That&rsquo;s functionally equivalent to another ten percentage point hike in Corporation Tax rate from the point of view of shareholders, taking the UK&rsquo;s effective rate to a massive 36 per cent &mdash; not just the highest in Europe, but the whole OECD.</p> <p>You might quibble that this isn&rsquo;t strictly a &ldquo;tax,&rdquo; but a shared ownership scheme. But the IOFs are mandated, not voluntary. And any dividends above &pound;500 go directly and entirely to the government. If it looks like a tax, and quacks like a tax....</p> <p>4. That Labour&rsquo;s day-to-day tax and spend plans are moderate.</p> <p>The 2010 election saw Labour argue that planned Conservative cuts of &pound;6 billion in the Parliament&rsquo;s first year would be huge and devastating. These days, Labour can announce &pound;12 billion per year for WASPI women as a mere manifesto addendum.</p> <p>This is indicative of where debate is at. Labour plan &pound;150 billion extra in government spending before debt interest by 2023/24 (&pound;83 billion current spending, &pound;55 billion investment spending, and &pound;12 billion WASPI). That&rsquo;s a 16 per cent jump from today&rsquo;s projections &mdash; equivalent to almost adding another NHS or growing government by up to eight percentage points, permanently, over one Parliament!</p> <p>Spending at that level has never been sustained here; taxing at it is unprecedented. Some promises &mdash; free social care, prescriptions, TV licenses and fixing the retirement age at 66 &mdash; worsen the long-term debt headwinds associated with ageing. Then there&rsquo;s the renationalisations (assumed not to impact the public finances), which history suggests will result in ongoing taxpayer subsidies if Labour intends to follow through in meaningfully reducing prices.</p> <p>True, Scandinavian countries have sustained governments at Labour&rsquo;s proposed size. But these social democratic states mainly transfer money, and don&rsquo;t engage in Labour-style rampant interventionism. Nor do their governments pretend <a href="https://taxfoundation.org/how-scandinavian-countries-pay-their-government-spending/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">only businesses and the rich will pay</a>.</p> <p>In contrast, Labour&rsquo;s tax plans have almost only downside revenue risk. Take hiking Capital Gains Tax rates. Given you only pay it when you sell an asset, many asset holders would likely defer gains and postpone income if a Labour government looked unstable, hoping for a Tory re-election reversing the policy. Elsewhere, heroic assumptions on the revenues from unitary taxation, the financial transaction tax, and more, has seen some legal experts conclude that revenues might be <a href="https://twitter.com/DanNeidle/status/1197512726584664065?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">&pound;20 billion lower than Labour plan for</a>, even presuming they are right on the economics of other tax rises.</p> <p>5. The main economic problem with Labour&rsquo;s manifesto is that it&rsquo;s just unaffordable.</p> <p>Focusing on tax and spend, we downplay the likely massive negative cumulative impact of Labour&rsquo;s policy on long-term growth.</p> <p>From property rights incursions to more intrusive wage and price controls; mobilising resources through the Green New Deal to entrenching a quasi-Yugoslavian form of shared ownership, historical evidence suggests GDP will suffer a lot over time. Ignoring this because it&rsquo;s difficult to measure makes laughable other partial analysis, such as the Resolution Foundation&rsquo;s report claiming that Labour&rsquo;s agenda would be better for child poverty.</p> <p>Labour-supporting economists believe their investment plans are &ldquo;good for growth.&rdquo; But when the state competes for resources, the hurdle for improving economic health is whether government activity corrects market failures or is more productive than the private activity it crowds out. Given Labour&rsquo;s aim for &ldquo;green&rdquo; and &ldquo;social&rdquo; transformation, and experience of major state investment programs worldwide, colour me doubtful. If you believe a massive new portfolio overseen by politicians such as John McDonnell will hugely improve public sector net worth, I have a &pound;1 Millennium Dome to sell you.</p> </div> Ryan Bourne is Chair in Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute. Wed, 27 Nov 2019 11:11:29 -0500 Ryan Bourne https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/five-myths-about-labour-manifesto The Rationale and Contours of an Amicable Transatlantic Security Divorce https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/rationale-contours-amicable-transatlantic-security-divorce <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ted-galen-carpenter" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>French President Emmanuel Macron created a huge stir on both sides of the Atlantic in early November when he stated that NATO was experiencing “<a href="https://www.cato.org/blank">brain death</a>.” This was not a casual, off-hand comment on his part. When reporters asked Macron whether he still believed in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, under which an attack on one member is considered an attack on all, he answered: “I don’t know.” Indeed, Macron has been in <a href="https://www.cato.org/blank">the vanguard of efforts</a> for several years to create an independent “Europeans only” defense capability through the European Union, a move that would, at a minimum, greatly dilute NATO’s primacy regarding transatlantic security issues. The drive to give the EU a military dimension reflects declining French confidence in NATO’s unity and the reliability of Washington’s continued willingness to be democratic Europe’s security shield.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Other European leaders, most notably German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, criticized Macron’s comment and disputed his assessment. “When France talks about more European cooperation in defense, they’re talking about strategic autonomy. The French are seeking strong European cooperation to replace NATO,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said. She asserted that instead of replacing the Alliance, Germany wanted to strengthen “NATO’s European pillar.”</p> <p>It is highly probable that statements emerging from future NATO gatherings will echo the German government’s position, rather than French views. However, Macron is correct. US and European perspectives and interests on a variety of important strategic issues continue to drift apart, and no quantity of the usual upbeat clichés about “enduring Alliance solidarity” at the summit will alter that reality. Members must abandon the obsolete notion that American and European interests are compatible to the point of being nearly congruent. Such a belief was exaggerated even during the Cold War when America and its European allies faced a mutual existential threat in the form of the totalitarian Soviet Union. It is an absurd fiction today in a much more diverse and less dire security environment.</p> <p>European publics, even more than their American counterparts, are implicitly recognizing the new reality. A <a href="https://www.cato.org/blank">September 2019 report</a> from the European Council on Foreign Relations, surveying 60,000 people in 14 European Union countries, confirmed that point. The desire for independence and neutrality was evident even with respect to policy toward Russia. When asked “Whose side should your country take in a conflict between the United States and Russia?” the majority of respondents in all 14 EU countries said “neither.” Moreover, the pro-neutralist majority was massive – usually exceeding 70%.</p> <p>Attitudes were no better regarding other foreign policy controversies involving the United States. When asked “Whose side should your country take in a conflict between the United States and China?” the results were lopsided against backing America – even among Washington’s longstanding NATO partners. Only 18% of French respondents, 20% of Italians and 10% of Germans chose solidarity with the United States.</p> <p>Pro-NATO types need to avoid the temptation to explain the existence of such sentiments as merely a reaction to President Donald Trump’s abrasive demands for greater “burden-sharing” on the part of the European allies and his ominous comments that Washington’s commitment to the Alliance is not unconditional. The surge of neutralist attitudes in Europe was well underway before Trump emerged on the scene, and it applied even to NATO’s core mission of collective defense. A 2015 <a href="https://www.cato.org/blank">Pew Research Center survey</a> of eight NATO countries showed that a median of 49 % of respondents in those countries thought their military should not defend an ally, despite the Article 5 obligation. Indeed, France, Italy and Germany all had majorities <em>opposed</em> to fulfilling their country’s treaty commitment.</p> <p>The bottom line is that the concept of transatlantic solidarity, even on core security issues, is now largely confined to out-of-touch political elites. Such elites may be able to ignore public opinion for a time, but it will be increasingly difficult to sustain policies that run counter to the wishes of large popular majorities. Even on the governmental level, growing transatlantic disunity is evident on a number of major issues – including policy <a href="https://www.cato.org/blank">toward Russia</a>, and especially policy <a href="https://www.cato.org/blank">toward Iran</a> and the rest of the Middle East.</p> <p>A death knell is sounding for NATO, and the pertinent task now should be how best to restructure the transatlantic relationship following a (hopefully amicable) strategic divorce. One key change must be Washington’s willingness to terminate its <a href="https://www.cato.org/blank">long-standing hostility to an independent European security entity</a>. The motives for that animosity were not hard to discern. Through its NATO leadership role, US dominance in transatlantic affairs was assured so long as NATO remained the exclusive security vehicle. An independent EU security capability inherently threatened that dominance. Whether Washington’s policy made sense during the bipolar era of the Cold War is a moot point; that world no longer exists. The EU needs to take its place on the world stage as a serious security player as well as an economic one. Therefore, the United States should now embrace Macron’s approach rather than oppose it.</p> <p>Not only should a more robust European Union assume responsibility for the security of democratic Europe, it should undertake primary responsibility for managing relations with the turbulent Middle East. Because of geographic proximity, economic links, and population flows, what happens in the Middle East matters – and should matter – far more to Europe than to the United States. Conversely, there is little rationale for the nations of the European Union to assume an obligation to assist Washington in dealing with political disorders in such places as Bolivia, Chile and Venezuela, Mexico’s drug violence, or the disruptive refugee flows into the United States from Central America. Those matters impact the United States far more than they do Europe. Likewise, there is little justification for the EU to be drawn into Washington’s mounting concerns about North Korea or other issues in East Asia.</p> <p>Yet just as a couple may still have some important mutual interests and responsibilities following the dissolution of their marriage, the United States and democratic Europe would have some significant mutual security interests in a post-NATO world. Although most disruptive events do not create anything approaching an existential threat, a reasonable degree of stability in the transatlantic region should be a priority for both parties. Likewise, both America and the EU have an obvious interest in thwarting the rise of a malignantly expansionist great power, akin to Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, anywhere in the international system.</p> <p>Trying to maintain NATO, especially with its rigid Article 5 obligation and a large US military presence in Europe, no longer serves the best interest of countries on either side of the Atlantic.</p> <p>Replacing NATO with a new US-EU Security Coordination Council having more limited obligations, is a better option. <a href="https://www.cato.org/blank">Such a mechanism</a> would facilitate regular consultations regarding international developments of mutual concern, and even authorize and coordinate joint military operations, in the unlikely event that step became necessary.</p> </div> , <div class="tombstone text-default"> <p>The new Council would embody a more flexible security relationship between equals instead of the current de facto relationship within NATO between a security patron and its dependents. Instead of spouting increasingly empty clichés about alleged Alliance solidarity, participants at the upcoming NATO summit should begin the multi-year process leading to the withdrawal of US forces from Europe, an amicable security divorce, and the transition to a new, more limited transatlantic strategic relationship.</p> </div> <p>Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author of twelve books and more than 850 articles on international affairs.</p> Wed, 27 Nov 2019 10:49:43 -0500 Ted Galen Carpenter https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/rationale-contours-amicable-transatlantic-security-divorce When The Deep State Bullied Reagan’s Foreign Policy Chief https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/when-deep-state-bullied-reagans-foreign-policy-chief <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ted-galen-carpenter" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>The testimony of several witnesses during the current impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives highlighted one important and ominous point. Ambassador William B. Taylor, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George P. Kent, and others made it clear that they did not object merely to President Trump’s controversial phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump appeared to seek a quid pro quo. No, they saw Trump’s entire Ukraine policy <a href="https://nationalinterest.org/feature/what-impeachment-really-reveals-about-ukraine-96246">as insufficiently hardline</a> and therefore unacceptable.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Indeed, Taylor and Kent seemed to think it was improper for the president to change any aspect of <a href="https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/choking-on-the-democrats-ukraine-fantasy-narrative/">a staunchly supportive</a> U.S. policy toward Kiev and a correspondingly hostile policy toward Russia. Far from being loyal subordinates executing the White House’s vision, they opposed the president’s approach and anointed themselves as guardians of appropriate policy.</p> <p>Unfortunately, such behavior on the part of foreign policy careerists is far from new; it has merely become more pervasive and brazen during the Trump years. This is indicative of what Trump’s supporters—<a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/11/13/donald-trump-deep-state-ukraine-cia-nsa-state-department-column/2521881001/">and</a> <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/trump-deep-state/">others</a>—contend is a campaign by the “deep state,” meaning career officials in the foreign policy bureaucracy and the intelligence agencies, to undermine the president’s foreign policy. Defenders of Taylor, Kent, and other Trump opponents within the foreign policy apparatus either <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/20/opinion/trump-impeachment-testimony.html">praise them as patriotic dissenters</a> or <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-deep-state-conspiracy-is-about-to-go-into-overdrive">scoff at the notion that a deep state even exists</a>.</p> <p>It is extraordinarily naïve to assert that powerful bureaucracies and their key personnel do not protect their institutional interests, push policies in directions they prefer, and attempt to dilute, delay, or defeat initiatives they oppose. Such behavior is a long-standing characteristic of entrenched institutions.</p> <p>An episode from Ronald Reagan’s presidency illustrates how the CIA seeks to manipulate policy. The agency’s target was Secretary of State George Shultz, who was then applying the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Gullible-Superpower-Support-Democratic-Movements/dp/194442492X/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&amp;amp;amp%3Bqid=1550600843&amp;amp;amp%3Bsr=8-1">Reagan Doctrine and providing U.S. aid to anti-communist rebels</a> in the Third World. Shultz was the chief intellectual architect of the Reagan Doctrine, which he presented in detail during a <a href="https://archive.org/stream/departmentofstatb1985unit/departmentofstatb1985unit_djvu.txt">February 1985 speech</a> to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. But that intellectual pedigree did not shield him from attempted policy sabotage.</p> <p>Despite his overall enthusiasm for the Reagan Doctrine in places such as Afghanistan, Nicaragua, and Angola, Shultz drew the line at supporting some particularly unsavory alleged freedom fighters. He was especially wary of the anti-communist insurgency in Mozambique led by the Resistencia National Mozambicana, or RENAMO. <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Turmoil-Triumph-Years-Secretary-State/dp/0684193256/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=George+Shultz&amp;qid=1573765341&amp;s=books&amp;sr=1-2">Shultz recalled</a> that when it came to implementing the Reagan Doctrine, “I took care to know who and what the United States was funding.” He stressed that “I steadfastly insisted that we refuse to give backing to the atrocity-prone RENAMO.”</p> <p>Shultz fretted that “President Reagan could be led to agree with the proposition that all freedom fighters,” even RENAMO, “deserved unquestioned support.” CIA director William Casey and other hardliners within the Agency, the secretary of state lamented, were more than happy to lead the compliant president in that direction, even if it meant undermining Shultz and other senior policymakers who favored a more moderate approach. Indeed, the State Department found its diplomatic initiatives subjected to repeated bureaucratic subversion. Not only did proponents of aid to RENAMO within the CIA misrepresent the behavior and ideological nature of the insurgent force, they wildly exaggerated its battlefield successes and the extent of support it enjoyed from the people of Mozambique. Shultz noted that in late 1985, briefers from the CIA “were showing their audiences in the administration and Congress a map of Mozambique to indicate—falsely—that RENAMO controlled virtually the entire country.”</p> <p>The CIA’s sabotage was not confined to policy regarding Mozambique. Later that decade, during delicate negotiations to achieve a ceasefire and subsequent accord between Angola’s government and insurgent leader Jonas Savimbi, Shultz fumed that (emphasis added) “right-wing staffers from Congress, <em>fueled by information from the CIA</em>, were meddling—visiting Savimbi, trying to convince him that [Assistant Secretary of State Chester] Crocker and I would sell him out.”</p> <p>Such behavior should debunk the notion that the CIA and other bureaucratic careerists are merely obedient public servants dedicated to executing policies that elected officials and their high-level political appointees have adopted. Such operatives have their own policy preferences, and they are not shy about pushing them, nor do they hesitate to impede or undermine policies they dislike.</p> <p>Perhaps even more troubling, deep state personnel in the CIA, Pentagon, and State Department seem to have a distinct bias in favor of highly activist policies. CIA analysts and briefers regarded even the principal architect of the Reagan Doctrine as insufficiently committed in southern Africa. There is a noticeable parallel to the current bureaucratic opposition to Trump’s handling of Ukraine and Russia. The allegation that Trump has abandoned Kiev and pursues an appeasement policy toward Russia <a href="https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/myth-wont-die-donald-trump-russias-puppet">is absurd</a>. His support for Kiev has actually been far more substantial than the approach the Obama administration adopted. Yet even that harder line is apparently not hard enough for establishment career diplomats and their allies.</p> <p></p> </div> , <div class="tombstone text-default"> <p>Treating such saboteurs as heroic patriots is both obscene and dangerous. The honorable course for subordinates who disagree with a president’s policies is to resign and then express criticism. Adopting a termite strategy while working in a presidential administration is profoundly unethical. For Congress and the media to praise bureaucratic subversion is horridly myopic. The last thing defenders of a democratic republic should do is to encourage unelected—and in the case of the intelligence agencies, deeply secretive—bureaucrats to pursue their own rogue policy agendas.</p> </div> <p>Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author of twelve books and more than 850 articles on international affairs.</p> Wed, 27 Nov 2019 10:30:26 -0500 Ted Galen Carpenter https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/when-deep-state-bullied-reagans-foreign-policy-chief Liz Warren’s Latest Lie Only Deepens Her Dilemma on Education https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/liz-warrens-latest-lie-only-deepens-her-dilemma-education <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/corey-deangelis" hreflang="und">Corey A. DeAngelis</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Sometimes it’s best to walk away from a debate — to take the L, as the kids say. Elizabeth Warren probably wishes she would have followed that sage advice. But now she is caught in a big education policy dilemma. And a lie.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The Massachusetts progressive hosted a campaign rally at a historically black college in Atlanta recently. Yet 10 minutes into her speech, a group of black protesters from the Powerful Parent Network interrupted her, wanting to be heard. The parents, who support educational choice for disadvantaged families, chanted, “Our children, our choice!”</p> <p>The group takes issue with Warren’s radically anti-choice education plan, which would ban for-profit charter schools, end federal funding for new charters and make it more difficult to open them. She would also end vouchers and tax-credit scholarships that allow low-income families unhappy with their public schools to send their children to private ones.</p> <p><a href="https://www.educationnext.org/school-choice-trump-era-results-2019-education-next-poll/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">According to a 2019 Education Next poll</a>, 66 percent of African Americans support private-school vouchers to low-income families, and 55 percent support public charter schools.</p> <p>Progressives like Warren claim to <a href="https://nypost.com/2019/11/10/warrens-health-plan-is-big-trouble-for-organized-labor/">want to help low-income families and minorities</a>, yet they fight tooth and talon against educational choice. Predictably, liberal activists at the Warren rally shouted down the black families, and left-wing journalists immediately delved into conspiracy theorizing about the Powerful Parent Network’s funding sources.</p> <p>To her credit, Warren met with the parent group after the event. But she only made things worse for herself.</p> <p>Seventeen minutes of the conversation were recorded live by a member of the parent group, Sunny Thomas, and are now on the internet for everyone to see. The recorded discussion is mostly among the senator, Howard Fuller, a civil rights activist and academic, and Sarah Carpenter, a member of the parent group.</p> <p>During their conversation, Warren argued that public schools just needed more money. Fuller explained that more money doesn’t matter in education — when “that money is going down the drain.”</p> <p>Warren made Fuller’s point for him by saying, “I got an increase in child care development block grants. … I told all of my folks back in Massachusetts, ‘You’re going to get an 85 percent raise’ at all of our little-child development centers. You know how much they got? Zero! Somehow it all went to the state government and never made it down!”</p> <p>Just as Fuller already said, more money doesn’t do anything in education when it’s not spent wisely.</p> <p>Then the senator was caught in a lie. Carpenter, the parent group member, told Warren, “We are going to have the same choice that you had for your kids, because I read that your children went to private schools.” Warren quietly responded, “No, my children went to public schools.”</p> <p>Carpenter wasn’t mistaken: She was referring to my recent exposé in The Post about Warren sending her son Alex to an expensive private school in the 1980s. Warren’s public school claim was about as credible as the one about her Native American ancestry.</p> <p>Last month, I used Ancestry.com to figure out where the senator <a href="https://nypost.com/2019/11/10/warrens-ginormous-school-choice-hypocrisy/">sent her children to school</a> because it was under wraps. Education Week asked Warren about where she sent her children to school, but her campaign didn’t answer the question. I similarly contacted the Warren campaign asking the same question but received no reply.</p> <p>A day after the rally, the Warren campaign confirmed the lie by telling Fox News, “Elizabeth’s daughter went to public school. Her son went to public school until fifth grade.”</p> <p>Apparently, Warren either didn’t realize the evidence about her son’s private school attendance was uncovered or didn’t suspect anyone would notice her white lie.</p> <p>Warren did the right thing by engaging with this group. But the senator probably now wishes that she would have just walked away. Within just a few hours, Warren had protesters expose her for supporting policies that trap their kids in failing schools, she unknowingly made the perfect argument against her own education proposal to throw more money at the problem — and she was caught fibbing.</p> </div> , <div class="tombstone text-default"> <p>How can she redeem herself? By actually listening to minority parents clamoring for real choice.</p> </div> <p>Corey A. DeAngelis is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom. He is also the Director of School Choice at the Reason Foundation.</p> Wed, 27 Nov 2019 10:19:06 -0500 Corey A. DeAngelis https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/liz-warrens-latest-lie-only-deepens-her-dilemma-education Why China Needs a Transparent, Competitive Political System https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/why-china-needs-transparent-competitive-political-system <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/doug-bandow" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China met in October and issued an official communique setting forth the Central Committee&rsquo;s perspective from its Fourth Plenary Session. The result was an apparatchik boilerplate, as one would expect.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Nearly 400 full and alternate members attended, along with &ldquo;some grassroots comrades and experts and scholars.&rdquo; At the meeting Xi Jinping, &ldquo;the general secretary of the Central Committee, made an important speech.&rdquo; Notably, that position is viewed as more significant than his nation&rsquo;s presidency, which he also holds. The members &ldquo;fully affirmed&rdquo; the politburo&rsquo;s work and &ldquo;unanimously held that in the face of the complicated situation of increasing risk challenges at home and abroad&rdquo; the politburo &ldquo;holds high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics and adheres to Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought,&rdquo; and much more.</p> <p>Not only has the CPC guaranteed a glorious future, it is responsible for an extraordinary past. Announced the Central Committee: &ldquo;The Plenary Session believes that since its establishment, the Communist Party of China has united and led the people, insisted on combining the basic principles of Marxism with China&rsquo;s concrete realities, won the victory of the Chinese revolution, and profoundly summed up the experience of both domestic and foreign aspects, constantly exploring practice, and constantly reforming and innovating.&rdquo;</p> <p>The statement goes on for pages, lauding &ldquo;socialism with Chinese characteristics.&rdquo; For most people, the paper&rsquo;s greatest threat is to promote narcolepsy. Apparatchik-speak is even more sleep-inducing than a typical American legal document.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>China would benefit from a government which eschews coercive monopoly and unnecessary secrecy. That would help the Chinese achieve a future worthy to be called the China Dream.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Yet the Central Committee&rsquo;s claims illustrate the fundamental challenge posed by any closed, monopoly political system. No one can doubt the extraordinary difficulties posed by the collapse of the Chinese Empire and succeeding years of conflict. Nor the extraordinary transformation of China over the last three decades. Hundreds of millions of Chinese have escaped poverty because reforms adopted in recent years.</p> <p>However, this good news followed years, even decades, of bad experiences. The 1949 revolution certainly resulted in &ldquo;constantly exploring practice, and constantly reforming and innovating,&rdquo; as the members declared. However, much of that turned out badly. That doesn&rsquo;t make the People&rsquo;s Republic of China unique. Other nations also have endured serious problems. But the PRC&rsquo;s bad was really bad&mdash;mass starvation, for instance. Unfortunately, Chairman Mao&rsquo;s dominant position made it difficult for anyone, including high party and government officials, to question policies which he advanced.</p> <p>Ironically, the CPC admitted as much when it judged the Chairman&rsquo;s record to be 70 percent positive, 30 percent negative. To acknowledge even that much fault must have been difficult for party members. Yet doing so hinted at how increased transparency and independence would greatly benefit the Chinese people.</p> <p>That even this limited judgment was made was helpful. But it was not offered until years after the Chairman&rsquo;s death in 1976. That was 27 years after the PRC&rsquo;s founding. Imagine if the CPC had been able to honestly assess the Great Leap Forward and Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution as they happened. The Chinese people would have been far better off.</p> <p>This principle does not only apply to the past.</p> <p>The Central Committee understandably pointed to &ldquo;the complicated situation of increasing risk challenges at home and abroad.&rdquo; That is no doubt the truth, and not just for China. The U.S. doesn&rsquo;t necessarily set the gold standard in dealing with such problems. Nevertheless, human experience convincingly demonstrates that no one person, no matter how gifted, possesses a monopoly of useful knowledge and good judgment. The best way to sift through and test the value of ideas is to establish a process that is both transparent, allowing those most affected to view the alternatives, and open, enabling even those without substantial political power to judge the likely consequences.</p> <p>Consider the many economic challenges facing the PRC. For instance, Chinese officials express concern over malinvestment, high indebtedness, inefficient state enterprises, and foreign investment restrictions. Such issues will have an important impact on future economic growth rates. Good answers are more likely if relevant policy ideas move up and down simultaneously.</p> <p>The Belt and Road Initiative also deserves thorough scrutiny. Even if the basic concept is sound, specific projects require serious scrutiny. Attend any conference on the BRI and Chinese officials, recognizing President Xi&rsquo;s sponsorship of the program, uniformly speak softly and reverently about it. Yet the results are uneven. More than a few countries have been unhappy with the consequences of their participation. It would be better to more vigorously assess and anticipate such problems. That is more likely if the decision-making process invites scrutiny.</p> <p>International security issues may be more sensitive, but that only increases the necessity of improved study. North Korea long has been a difficult partner of Beijing as well as subject of criticism by Washington. Even the Xi government has revised its attitudes toward Kim Jong-un. Yet in the past the PRC has stifled popular criticism of the Democratic People&rsquo;s Republic of Korea. Allowing Chinese citizens to vent their unhappiness with the DPRK might help chasten a government which relies so heavily on China for its support.</p> <p>Various territorial disputes also are controversial. However, they are both intractable and volatile, and create a real, if still, hopefully, small possibility of conflict. The PRC&rsquo;s claims are serious but not necessarily convincing; so are those of its neighbors. The objective of all parties should be to ensure peaceful resolution of such disputes. Creative ideas should be welcomed, even if not strictly consistent with past Beijing positions. One can imagine various alternatives&mdash;regional resource development, suspended territorial claims, bilateral cooperation, and more&mdash;which might help dampen international tensions and minimize military confrontations. The Xi government would benefit from such a discussion.</p> <p>The Chinese people obviously must determine their political system. Only they can decide how they will live. But the experience of other peoples offer important lessons for Beijing. One of the most important is that China would benefit from a government which eschews coercive monopoly and unnecessary secrecy. That would help the Chinese achieve a future worthy to be called the China Dream.</p> </div> Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He is the author of</em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Foreign-Follies-Americas-Global-Empire/dp/1597819883" target="_blank"> Foreign Follies: America's New Global Empire</a> Wed, 27 Nov 2019 09:49:53 -0500 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/why-china-needs-transparent-competitive-political-system Would WWI or WWII Have Happened Without This Prime Minister? https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/would-wwi-or-wwii-have-happened-without-prime-minister <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/doug-bandow" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>The Liberal Party once was one of Great Britain's two great governing parties. A century ago it self-destructed. On December 5, 1916, H. H. Asquith, the prime minister since 1908 who took his country into <a href="https://spectator.org/after-a-century-of-chaos-totalitarianism-and-war-versailles-treaty-still-haunts-the-world/" target="_blank">World War I</a>, resigned. That effectively ended the role of the Liberals, who were moving from classical to modern &mdash; substituting statism for freedom as a driving force of British politics.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Although his successor, David Lloyd George, was also a Liberal and who led a coalition government with the Tories, the party was wrecked in the election held in 1918 at the conflict's conclusion. Lloyd George's Conservative Party partners soon defenestrated him, after which the Labour Party came to dominate the Left. The Liberals survived as a minor force, through a merger with the Social Democratic Party later yielding the Liberal Democrats, who served in coalition with the Tories from 2010 to 2015. The LibDems, as they now are known, have abandoned their classical liberal roots and now are the Left's minority partner of choice.</p> <p>Asquith well deserved his political death. While presiding over a leftward shift in the Liberals, he thoroughly botched the Irish question, the challenge of home rule and independence, which yielded brutal civil conflict and veritable civil war. Far more important, however, he presided over a deteriorating relationship with Germany, hid from Parliament and even the Cabinet the development of a <em>de facto</em> alliance with France, and made the disastrous decision to enter World War I.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>H. H. Asquith’s decision destroyed his country, his career, and his party, which never recovered from its embrace of statism.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The result was catastrophic for his country: close to 900,000 dead and 1.7 million wounded, many with debilitating injuries. The war drained Britain's economic strength, acting as the beginning of the end of London's role as a global power. The Versailles Treaty, which concluded what was originally known as the Great War, proved to be just a generational armistice as the combatants prepared for round two. World War II was the result, which finished off Great Britain's international pretensions.</p> <p>Globally the impact was even greater. Top <a href="https://www.infoplease.com/us/world-war-i-primer/casualties-world-war-i" target="_blank">estimates</a> of total deaths exceed 21 million. The number of injured approached 24 million. Three liberalizing monarchies &mdash; Wilhelmine Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Russian Empire &mdash; were destroyed. The malignant totalitarian viruses of fascism, communism, and Nazism were released. The Versailles Treaty made a hash of President Woodrow Wilson&rsquo;s high-sounding principles: Lloyd George and French Prime Minister Georges Clémenceau ruthlessly outmaneuvered the sanctimonious and uncomprehending Wilson.</p> <p>Instead of ending the possibility of war, the major powers used the treaty as an opportunity to plunder the defeated nations and acquire new colonies (in the name of &ldquo;mandates&rdquo;). Toward Germany the victors fell unsatisfactorily between imposing a Carthaginian peace and engagement. Wilson gave up everything else to win acceptance of his League of Nations &mdash; yet America never joined and the organization ultimately flopped. Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Emanuele Orlando spent most of his time sulking, angry that his partners denied his extravagant compensation claims for military participation that proved to be little short of disastrous for his people and allies alike. (As in World War II, Rome&rsquo;s friends came to wish it was fighting on the other side.)</p> <p>The conflict was completely unnecessary. Germany&rsquo;s Iron Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, had created a united Germany while holding his nation&rsquo;s adversaries apart. His successors, chosen by the vainglorious, boastful Kaiser Wilhelm II, were not so deft. Two contending alliances emerged. Neither was particularly attractive. The Entente included Great Britain, the globe&rsquo;s greatest colonial power; Imperial Russia, an anti-Semitic despotism; and France, a humiliated, revenge-minded democracy. The Central Powers were Imperial Germany, an ambitious semi-democratic state with a broader franchise than Great Britain but authoritarian constitutional structure; Austria-Hungary, a ramshackle, inefficient, antiquated monarchy; and Italy, a faithless democracy, willing to sell its participation in war for the promise of territorial reward.</p> <p>An act of state terrorism, the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne by Serbian military intelligence, lit the fuse to a global military explosion. Rather than act as barriers to conflict, the alliances turned into transmission belts of war. All the powers were convinced that their adversaries would back down. All presumed that the conflict would be short and they would win.</p> <p>The Kaiser did not want conflict with London. Germany was satiated, hoping to hold onto its past gains. In contrast, France was a revanchist power, determined to retake the territories of Alsace and Lorraine, seized by Berlin some four decades before in the Franco–Prussian War. To this end, Paris turned the Franco–Russian alliance into an offensive instrument, applicable even if its members started the war.</p> <p>Britain&rsquo;s Liberals traditionally opposed imperial misadventures. But the party was changing, and Foreign Minister Edward Grey committed to the Entente even though both France and Russia were traditional enemies. Without cabinet or parliamentary approval, Grey, initially without Asquith&rsquo;s knowledge, essentially promised that London would go to war with France &mdash; and failed to make that prospect clear to Berlin. Alas, Germany had done much, most importantly attempting to build a navy to match Britain on the seas, to squander British goodwill and reinforce the latter&rsquo;s concern for the continental balance of power.</p> <p>There also were political considerations. The Liberals were an internationalist party whose members reviled Berlin&rsquo;s decision to attack France through neutral Belgium. (Many were equally uncomfortable allying with Tsarist Russia.) Moreover, the Tories emphasized nationalism and patriotism, sentiments easily inflamed as conflict threatened. The Liberal Party felt pressure to match the Conservatives, and going to war seemed politically popular.</p> <p>Asquith recognized the stakes, observing that &ldquo;We are within measurable, or imaginable, distance of a real Armageddon.&rdquo; There was substantial Liberal Party opposition to the decision to join the continental killfest, but Asquith wanted to preserve the continental balance of power and decided to back Grey. The government was able to minimize the public impact by basing its decision on Germany&rsquo;s violation of Belgian neutrality. In fact, until the year before the French military was prepared to invade Belgium to outflank Germany, but Paris ultimately demonstrated greater political sensitivity and changed its war plan. Only two leading Liberals, John Morley and John Burns, resigned from the cabinet.</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, joining what turned out to be the worst conflict in human history ravaged the Asquith government&rsquo;s domestic agenda. Any lingering opposition to burgeoning state power dissipated. Most important, London abandoned its tradition of raising its military voluntarily. The prodigious killing quickly destroyed the initial expeditionary force sent to the continent. Enthusiasm among potential recruits for becoming cannon fodder waned. Efforts to shame young men into volunteering for what seemed like suicide duty to advance imperial ends faltered. So Asquith betrayed his party&rsquo;s fundamental principles and pushed legislation inaugurating conscription.</p> <p>His government came under attack for military blunders and inefficiency. Asquith, who lacked a solid parliamentary majority, lost political support. Barely a year into the war, he was forced into a coalition with the Conservative Party. A year later he was gone, the victim of an ever-bloodier war and devious political intrigue by his erstwhile colleague Lloyd George, among others.</p> <p>Asquith carried on as the loyal opposition leader during the rest of the conflict. Lloyd George called an election after the armistice ended the fighting in November 1918, when Asquith and the opposition Liberal Party members were routed. The former prime minister and his original Cabinet ministers all were defeated; even Labour won more seats than did Asquith&rsquo;s Liberal faction. He returned to Parliament in a by-election in 1920. Two years later, the Tories tossed Lloyd George overboard; the succeeding election returned more members of Labour than both Liberal Party groupings combined. The 1924 election cost Asquith his seat to a Labour Party candidate and reduced the Liberals to a rump faction, finally ending their political significance. By the 1970s, the party was lucky to win a dozen seats. It revived slightly as the hybrid Liberal Democratic Party, but only a hung parliament is likely to give it any practical role.</p> <p>The war cost Asquith personally as well. One son, Raymond, was killed, and another, Arthur, was severely wounded, losing a leg. In this regard, at least, the premier paid the same price as many of those he governed. In those days elites could not so easily escape the consequences of their poor political decisions.</p> <p>The 20th century would have been very different had Prime Minister Asquith chosen to keep his country out of World War I. He would have retained power. His party would not have been effectively absorbed by the Tories, leaving the more radical Labor Party as the primary force on the left. Today the entire political spectrum might sit further to the right, with Conservatives something more than moderate American Democrats and the Liberals offering a leftish critique without pushing the Labour Party&rsquo;s nutty dream of nationalizing industry.</p> <p>Britain likely would have remained a great power for years, if not decades, its economic strength only slowly ebbing as the U.S. less dramatically emerged as global No. 1. Washington would not have entered a conflict with little relevance to its own security and dramatically unsettled the European balance of power.</p> <p>Germany probably would have won a much shorter conflict, which might not even be known as a world war. That would have been bad for French prestige, but far fewer of its soldiers would have died, and little of its territory would have been devastated by trench warfare. Russia would have been forced to make peace before revolutionaries had toppled the House of Romanov and created the first Bolshevik state. Austria-Hungary also would have survived, along with Hohenzollern rule in Germany. Whatever would have ultimately emerged in those states would not have been communism and Nazism. Peace would not likely have been eternal, but whatever happened probably would not have been anything resembling World War II.</p> <p>We see through a glass darkly, the Apostle Paul <a href="https://www.bible.com/bible/1/1CO.13.12.KJV" target="_blank">observed</a>. Like so many other European policymakers in the summer of 1914, Asquith did not understand the forces that he was unleashing or the likely consequences of doing so. When he resigned 16 months later, perhaps he saw more clearly the imminent destruction of his political career and the more distant decline in his nation&rsquo;s power. But then it was too late to halt Europe&rsquo;s and the world&rsquo;s destructive course.</p> </div> Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. Tue, 26 Nov 2019 09:44:05 -0500 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/would-wwi-or-wwii-have-happened-without-prime-minister Trump’s Conspiracy Theory About ‘The Server’ Threatens Election Security https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/trumps-conspiracy-theory-about-server-threatens-election-security <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/julian-sanchez" hreflang="und">Julian Sanchez</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Donald Trump is still searching for “The Server.” On Friday morning, the president phoned in to his favorite cable news program, “Fox &amp; Friends,” to make a series of false claims about the cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems perpetrated by Russian hackers, as part of their elaborate efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. After the attack, claimed Trump, the DNC “gave the server to CrowdStrike, which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian. I still want to see that server. The FBI has never gotten that server. That’s a big part of this whole thing.”</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Every part of what Trump said was false — including the claim that the California-based cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, hired by the DNC when it discovered the infiltration of its systems, is owned by a “wealthy Ukrainian.” But “the server” has been a long-running obsession of the president’s. He has referenced it repeatedly on Twitter, in media interviews, while standing onstage next to Russian President Vladimir Putin and, more recently, in his July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky.</p> <p>That refrain is troubling, most of all because it shows that Trump is fixated on a conspiracy theory that his own national security advisers have denounced as “<a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.reuters.com_article_us-2Dusa-2Dtrump-2Dimpeachment-2Dconspiracies-2Dex_the-2Dfictional-2Dnarratives-2Ddriving-2Dtrumps-2Dukraine-2Dpressure-2Dcampaign-2DidUSKBN1XV2B0&amp;d=DwMGaQ&amp;c=RAhzPLrCAq19eJdrcQiUVEwFYoMRqGDAXQ_puw5tYjg&amp;r=wS_UFddb9ofxwptgzWHTgKCCT667_Mq8K1T4PUhGhY8&amp;m=jnOB8Ic8dh0HeH0H3VpARghqiEBBipKh84NWZze_7Cw&amp;s=pJ3KbI8UxvWLuecqti913_Nvj0rqOfy2Bu3ujDfRBpw&amp;e=">completely debunked</a>.” These theories allege that there is a server that the DNC refused to turn over to the FBI, purportedly to conceal evidence that would disprove the intelligence community’s consensus that Russia was responsible for the hack. According to some versions of the theory, another country (perhaps Ukraine) was the true culprit; in others, the theft of thousands of DNC emails later published by WikiLeaks was an “inside job.” The unifying theme, however, is a desire to exonerate Russia of the crime.</p> <p>Trump’s obsession with the server suggests either that he is unwilling to seek reliable information from the government’s own intelligence and law enforcement agencies or that he disbelieves what they tell him, even on questions where there is no ambiguity or doubt. This goes well beyond healthy skepticism and into the realm of dangerous dysfunction: A president who refuses to accept intelligence assessments he prefers not to believe cannot make sound decisions, and over time this creates pressure to politicize intelligence — with agencies flattering the president’s preconceptions to remain relevant.</p> <p>Even Trump’s staunchest allies in Congress have been unwilling to follow their leader down this rabbit hole. In the course of House impeachment hearings, GOP legislators have sought to justify Trump’s desire to investigate putative “election interference” by Ukraine — citing such “interventions” as a 2016 newspaper op-ed written by Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States that criticized some of Trump’s foreign policy statements. None were prepared to acknowledge, let alone justify, the actual investigation Trump had requested: an inquiry into CrowdStrike and the supposedly missing DNC email server. Yet as the testimony of E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland made clear last week, the references to CrowdStrike and the server were not limited to a single call. In the weeks after the exchange between the two leaders, Sondland testified that he had continued pressuring Ukrainian officials to publicly announce the probes Trump had demanded, one of which he repeatedly described as an investigation of “the DNC server.”</p> <p>Republicans’ reluctance to address this directly is unsurprising. When former National Security Council adviser Fiona Hill suggested in her testimony during Thursday’s hearings that some Republicans had accepted a “false narrative” exonerating Russia of election interference, those in the room reacted with uniform outrage, pointing to a bipartisan House Intelligence Committee report acknowledging Russian culpability. Though their umbrage was justified, none of them acknowledged that the president’s obsession with the server is inextricably bound up with the very “false narrative” they had angrily rejected.</p> <p>The server conspiracy theory is baseless for at least five reasons.</p> <p>First, the server <a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.thedailybeast.com_trumps-2Dmissing-2Ddnc-2Dserver-2Dis-2Dneither-2Dmissing-2Dnor-2Da-2Dserver&amp;d=DwMGaQ&amp;c=RAhzPLrCAq19eJdrcQiUVEwFYoMRqGDAXQ_puw5tYjg&amp;r=wS_UFddb9ofxwptgzWHTgKCCT667_Mq8K1T4PUhGhY8&amp;m=jnOB8Ic8dh0HeH0H3VpARghqiEBBipKh84NWZze_7Cw&amp;s=82zGy84fYKgq0C6PYJbS7V2oRYm2eKR4HELkKkb4lLg&amp;e=">doesn’t even exist</a>. The DNC relies on a cloud-based email system consisting of some 140 physical servers. And as Robert S. Mueller III’s report on Russian interference explained, the military unit behind the cyberattacks “compromised more than 30 computers on the DNC network,” as well as another 29 owned by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.</p> <p>Second, it is not unusual that the FBI did not cart off the physical machines affected by Russian attack. As a rule, law enforcement does not seize the property of crime victims unless it’s necessary, and when it comes to digital evidence, it is often unnecessary. In this case, the company CrowdStrike provided the FBI with digital images of the hacked DNC computers. Asking why the FBI didn’t take the physical computers is like wondering why someone has emailed you a file rather than shipping you their entire laptop.</p> <p>Third, the information most useful to the FBI would be in the images created by CrowdStrike <em>during</em> their efforts to expel the foreign intruders. Examining the computers after the fact — after the dust had settled and the hackers’ malware had been removed — would have provided far fewer insights than observing them in action.</p> <p>Fourth, it is clear from both the Mueller report and the special counsel’s indictment of Russian officials charged with the hack that forensic evidence from DNC computers was a relatively small piece of the puzzle. The evidence of Russian responsibility for the hack is both overwhelming and derived from many sources: It is not based merely on analysis of the DNC’s servers.</p> <p>Fifth and finally, one element of the theory seemingly original to Trump is the odd and inexplicable notion that CrowdStrike is a Ukrainian company. The firm — which was not only hired by the DNC but also by the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee when its computer network was penetrated — is based in California. One of its co-founders was born in Russia, not Ukraine, but he moved to the United States as a teenager nearly 25 years ago.</p> <p>As all of that makes clear, Trump’s conspiratorially minded ideas about the server aren’t just baseless or unfounded — they’re provably wrong. Indeed, his concerns are obviously and comically irrelevant to anyone who understands digital forensics. If Trump cared to ask, any one of hundreds of technical experts who work for the FBI or other government agencies could explain why the theory is nonsensical.</p> <p>Despite all of that, Trump has still gone to bizarre lengths to ascertain the effectively fictional server’s whereabouts. During his July 25 call with Zelensky, he asked the Ukrainian president to “find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike … The server, they say Ukraine has it.” That request was, in effect, a declaration that he so distrusts U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that he would prefer to rely on Ukraine’s. Like his more explosively troubling request for an investigation of Biden, it was an attempt to get a foreign power to publicly validate and lend credibility to a politically useful conspiracy theory, which U.S. intelligence officials, and even his GOP allies, have refused to do.</p> <p>Perhaps even more concerning, the obsession with the server is a sign that Trump continues to reject the unanimous conclusion — again, not only of the U.S. intelligence community but of Republicans in Congress — that Russia was responsible for the DNC attacks. This does not bode well for efforts to secure our elections against another attack in 2020 — a topic Homeland Security officials have apparently been warned not to raise in Trump’s presence, lest it anger the president. Election security is a hard problem under the best of circumstances — and harder still when the boss refuses to acknowledge the problem exists.</p> </div> <p>Julian Sanchez is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.</p> Mon, 25 Nov 2019 11:32:40 -0500 Julian Sanchez https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/trumps-conspiracy-theory-about-server-threatens-election-security No, Medicare for All Won’t Save Money https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/no-medicare-all-wont-save-money <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/charles-silver" hreflang="und">Charles Silver</a> and <a href="https://www.cato.org/people/david-hyman" hreflang="und">David A. Hyman</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>When the massive new health program known as Medicare was created in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson got health care providers on board by buying their support: He promised that the government would let <em>them</em> decide how much to charge and which services to deliver. In many countries with single-payer health systems, governments decide how much they will pay; when adopting Medicare, the U.S. let providers make that decision. It gave doctors and hospitals the <a href="https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/28/how-the-medical-establishment-got-the-treasurys-keys/" target="_blank">keys to the U.S. Treasury</a> and guaranteed their profits.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Spending went through the roof as &ldquo;<a href="https://facultystaff.richmond.edu/~bmayes/pdf/JHMAS_Jan2006_RMayes.pdf" target="_blank">unrestricted cost reimbursement</a> became the <em>modus operandi</em> for financing American medical care.&rdquo; The costs wildly exceeded the government&rsquo;s expectations at the time: A <a href="https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/nov/18/health-programs-have-history-of-cost-overruns/" target="_blank">1967 estimate</a> by the House Ways and Means Committee predicted that, in 1990, Medicare&rsquo;s total cost would be $12 billion. The actual cost was $98 billion&mdash;eight times as much.</p> <p>Half a century later, we are still living with the consequences of the decision to put providers in charge of the payment system. A <a href="https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/29ca8c_4975d361740b434b88649860658f9e8f.pdf" target="_blank">recent study</a> by scholars at Johns Hopkins University estimated that in 2018, fully &ldquo;48 percent of the entire U.S. federal budget&rdquo; was spent on health care. That isn&rsquo;t a typo, and it&rsquo;s not an accident either: Industry groups lobby the government around the clock to maximize the number of taxpayers&rsquo; dollars they receive.</p> <p>Medicare for All&rsquo;s supporters promise that this time will be different. Once a single-payer program is implemented, they argue, the government will save billions of dollars by slashing payments to <a href="https://www.salon.com/2019/03/03/medicare-for-all-will-drastically-lower-prescription-drug-prices-by-taking-on-pharmas-greed_partner/" target="_blank">drug-makers</a>, <a href="https://www.heritage.org/medicare/commentary/how-medicare-all-bills-would-worsen-the-doctor-shortage" target="_blank">doctors</a>, and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/21/health/medicare-for-all-hospitals.html" target="_blank">hospitals</a>.</p> <p data-content-child-index="1-0">Although cuts of that magnitude would severely affect patient care, there’s no need to worry. If past is prologue, they will never occur. Time after time, providers have blunted initiatives designed to economize at their expense. There’s no reason to think this Congress will succeed when virtually every past Congress has failed to reduce the flow of Medicare dollars.</p> <p>Consider how, in recent years, a few attempts to save money fared:</p> <ul> <li> In 1997, Congress tried to rein in spending increases by tying Medicare spending on physicians&rsquo; services to something called the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula. Whenever payments to doctors grew faster than GDP, the SGR was supposed to reduce them automatically. The formula triggered payment cuts in 2003 and every subsequent year&mdash;<em>but the cuts never happened</em>. Under pressure from physicians, Congress adopted a series of &ldquo;doc fixes&rdquo; that delayed them and often gave doctors a raise. Finally, in 2015, when the SGR formula required payment cuts of roughly 25 percent, <a href="https://www.medpagetoday.com/washington-watch/washington-watch/50991" target="_blank">Congress repealed it</a> entirely, plowed the whole cost of doing so into the budget deficit, and guaranteed raises for doctors through (at least) 2019.</li> <li> In 2019, the industry used lawsuits to put the kibosh on three money-saving initiatives. First, the Trump administration&rsquo;s attempt to require drug-makers to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/08/health/drug-prices-tv-ads-trump.html" target="_blank">include list prices</a> in consumer-directed advertisements went down in flames when a federal judge decided that the Department of Health and Human Services lacked the power to impose it. Then, the administration&rsquo;s <a href="https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/supreme-court-sides-with-hospitals-in-multibillion-dollar-payment-dispute.html?tmpl=component&amp;print%E2%80%A6" target="_blank">attempt</a> to save $3 billion to $4 billion over nine years by changing the way payments to &ldquo;disproportionate share&rdquo; hospitals are calculated <a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/18pdf/17-1484_4f57.pdf" target="_blank">met the same fate</a>. Finally, a lawsuit brought by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Hospital Association, and nearly 40 hospitals <a href="https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2019/10/23/site-neutral" target="_blank">killed</a> any hope of saving about $800 million a year by eliminating &ldquo;site-of-service differentials&rdquo; that pay doctors employed by hospitals more than physicians with independent practices&mdash;even when the physicians are delivering the same services in the same offices.</li> <li> 2019 was also the fifth year in which the Centers for Medicare &amp; Medicaid Services (CMS) failed to implement legislation enacted in 2014 which sought to save <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/House%20introduced%20Protecting%20Access%20to%20Medicare%20Act%20of%202014%2C%20March%2026%2C%202014.pdf" target="_blank">a paltry $200 million over 10 years</a> by discouraging physicians from needlessly ordering expensive CT scans and MRIs. Regulations were supposed to take effect in 2018, but more than <a href="https://www.medpagetoday.com/radiology/diagnosticradiology/81781?xid=nl_mpt_DHE_2019-08-24&amp;eun=g452253d0r&amp;utm_source=Sailthru&amp;utm_me%E2%80%A6" target="_blank">two dozen</a> medical societies complained, so the Trump administration <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/08/09/749272488/trump-team-hits-brakes-on-law-that-would-curb-unneeded-medicare-ct-scans-mris?ft=nprml&amp;f=1001" target="_blank">delayed</a> them until January 2020.</li> <li> Big Pharma is currently working overtime to kill the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, which would penalize drug companies for raising prices faster than the rate of inflation. Although the bill has bipartisan support, <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2019/08/29/drug-price-increases-doomed-pharma-lobbying/?utm_source=STAT+Newsletters&amp;utm_campaign=083b09f23b-%E2%80%A63/5" target="_blank">knowledgeable observers</a> say it has no chance of achieving the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate. Indeed, the bill may not make it out of the Senate Finance Committee, since 13 of the 15 Republican senators on the Committee oppose it.</li> <li> The health care industry has also turned back efforts to audit its charges. Medicare Advantage plans, which are paid based on how sick their enrollees are, don&rsquo;t want Medicare to know whether they are exaggerating enrollees&rsquo; illnesses, so they have <a href="https://www.axios.com/cms-clawback-medicare-advantage-audits-health-insurance-92edb13e-5abd-4527-8503-c0c74b501d58.html" target="_blank">fought off</a> or watered down efforts to audit their reports. CMS is already unenthusiastic about auditing the health care system: for the past four years, it has <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-obama-stopped-auditing-medicaid-11574121931" target="_blank">canceled Medicaid eligibility audits</a>, and &ldquo;has never taken meaningful actions to minimize improper payments from the [Medicaid] expansion.</li> </ul> <p>If Medicare for All&rsquo;s fans are banking on a Congress dominated by Democrats to bring the industry to heel, their hopes are misplaced. Democrats <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/238871-senate-overwhelmingly-approves-house-doc-fix-bill" target="_blank">voted for &ldquo;doc fixes&rdquo;</a> repeatedly and stood <a href="https://www.acponline.org/acp-newsroom/senate-joins-house-to-repeal-sustainable-growth-rate-sgr-averting-future-deep-cuts-or-additional" target="_blank">shoulder to shoulder</a> with Republicans when the SGR was repealed. The parties may differ on some things but judging by their actions they both believe that the government cannot possibly spend too much money on health care. Only a person who is incredibly naïve or who ignores history entirely can believe that Medicare for All will be financed on the backs of doctors, hospitals, and drug companies.</p> <p>Medicare for All is also certain to drive up spending by generating an enormous surge in demand for medical care. The bills pending in Congress promise soup-to-nuts coverage <em>for free</em>. Premiums, deductibles and copays are supposed to vanish. If that happens, <a href="https://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/john.cochrane/research/papers/after_aca_published.pdf" target="_blank">prodigious consumption</a> of medical services will be inevitable.</p> <p>The fundamental problem is that Medicare for All&rsquo;s supporters have cause and effect reversed. They think Americans need universal comprehensive coverage because health care is expensive. In reality, we spend too much on health care <em>because</em> we rely so heavily on third parties&mdash;Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers&mdash;to pay our bills. In 1960, when patients paid about $1.73 out of pocket for every $1 paid by an insurer, health care spending per capita was <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/184955/us-national-health-expenditures-per-capita-since-1960/" target="_blank">$165</a>. In 2010, when patients paid out 16 cents for every insurance dollar, spending per capita was $8,400. And in 2017, when the ratio was 14 cents out of pocket for every insurance dollar, spending per capita was $10,740. <em>The more we rely on third party payers, the more we spend</em>. Because the full-on, government-run, single-payer plans introduced by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren will reduce out of pocket costs to zero, they will drive spending to new heights.</p> </div> , <h3 class="heading"> Paying out more than it takes in </h3> , <div class="text-default"> <p>What about the various &ldquo;public option&rdquo; proposals, including the less-sweeping version also known as &ldquo;Medicare for all who want it&rdquo;? They will open the doors to the treasury wider, too. Although supporters assert that premiums will cover the public option&rsquo;s costs, that&rsquo;s not how government-funded health care works. Public programs are heavily subsidized with taxpayers&rsquo; dollars. A typical <a href="https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/24151/412945-social-security-and-medicare-taxes-and-benefits-over-a-lifetime_0.pdf" target="_blank">one-earner couple</a> pays $70,000 in Medicare taxes during the working spouse&rsquo;s lifetime and gets $427,000 in benefits in return. The premiums for Medicare Part B, which pays for doctors&rsquo; services, originally covered 50 percent of the cost, but today cover only 25 percent. Premiums for Medicare Part D (which covers prescription drugs) are so low that the program depends on general tax revenue for <a href="https://www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/the-facts-on-medicare-spending-and-financing/" target="_blank">more than 70 percent</a> of its funding.</p> <p>A public option is sure to follow the same path, paying out far more in benefits than subscribers pay in as premiums. Proponents will want millions of people to sign up, and the easiest way to get them to do so will be by making the public option a steal. <a href="https://twitter.com/ewarren/status/1195370950700732416?wpisrc=nl_health202&amp;wpmm=1" target="_blank">Elizabeth Warren</a> has already said that the public option she wants to create in the course of transitioning to Medicare for All &ldquo;will be immediately free for nearly half of all Americans.&rdquo; Interest groups like <a href="https://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/health/i29_buyin.pdf" target="_blank">AARP</a>, which wants a subsidized buy-in option for near-seniors, will pressure Congress to support the program with taxpayers&rsquo; dollars too.</p> <p>Like the advocates of Medicare for All, the public option&rsquo;s proponents also hope to save billions of dollars by paying doctors and other providers at Medicare rates or something similar. (Medicare pays hospitals about <a href="https://www.nber.org/papers/w21815" target="_blank">half</a> as much as commercial insurers, and it pays doctors about 20 percent less.) We&rsquo;ve seen this movie before, however, and that&rsquo;s not how it ends. If threatened with drastic payment cuts, doctors and hospitals will fight back in the public arena. They will generate widespread panic by threatening to close their doors. That&rsquo;s what happened during the managed care revolution in the 1990s, and the backlash was ferocious. Americans like their doctors, and hospitals have huge traction in their communities. When providers rose up against managed care, state legislators introduced more than 1,000 bills designed to protect patients and <a href="https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.17.4.80" target="_blank">calm</a> consumers&rsquo; fears of losing control of their health care. The public option&rsquo;s proponents are seriously underestimating the industry&rsquo;s power to rally the public.</p> <p>If neither Medicare for All nor the public option is an attractive means of controlling health care spending, what is? We believe that the spending crisis will disappear when Americans pay for most medical services directly, the same way they pay for everything else, and reserve insurance for catastrophes. Homeowners&rsquo; insurance kicks in when houses are destroyed by fires or other calamities that rarely occur. Homeowners pay out of pocket for predictable non-catastrophic expenses, like maintenance, remodeling and new paint. Health insurance should work the same way.</p> <p>More concretely, a national health reform that truly wants to address spiraling costs should take the following steps:</p> <p><strong>Increase retail options.</strong> Let retailers like Walmart, CVS Health, Costco, and the Surgery Center of Oklahoma that operate on a cash basis offer a full range of medical services. They have demonstrated their power to make primary care, blood tests, medications, hearing aids, eyeglasses, surgeries, mental health counseling, dental cleanings and telemedicine cheaper. Lower prices will help everyone, and poor people, who are especially sensitive to costs, will benefit the most. Competition from retailers will pressure traditional providers to be more consumer-friendly, too.</p> <p><strong>End tax subsidies.</strong> Eliminate the tax exclusion for employer-provided health insurance and all coverage mandates. These steps will encourage (but not require) people to switch from expensive comprehensive insurance to much cheaper high-deductible catastrophic care insurance, and to pay for most treatments themselves. The entry of tens of millions of new cash-paying health care consumers into the market will cause the retail sector to expand, and the pressure to lower prices will grow.</p> <p><strong>End Medicare as we know it.</strong> Replace Medicaid, Medicare and other programs that provide in-kind benefits with a single program, modeled on Social Security, that gives poor people cash plus an insurance policy covering catastrophes. If combined, the budgets of existing social welfare programs would more than suffice to bring all Americans above the federal poverty line. Cash transfers would also enable people to pay for food, housing, education and other social <a href="https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/social-determinants-of-health" target="_blank">determinants of health</a> that affect wellbeing more than medical treatments do.</p> <p>Will these arrangements work perfectly? Of course not. But they will vastly out-perform the existing system, which is known to waste <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2752664" target="_blank">almost $1 trillion a year</a>. And unlike Medicare for All and the public option, these proposals will transform the health care system without raising taxes or putting the economy at risk. When consumers pay for most medical services directly&mdash;the same way they pay for nearly everything else&mdash;the health care spending crisis will disappear.</p> </div> <a href="https://www.cato.org/people/charles-silver">Charles Silver</a> is a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin. <a href="https://www.cato.org/people/david-hyman">David A. Hyman</a> is a law professor at Georgetown. They are adjunct scholars at the Cato Institute and co-authors of "Overcharged: Why Americans Pay Too Much for Health Care." Mon, 25 Nov 2019 10:03:05 -0500 Charles Silver, David A. Hyman https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/no-medicare-all-wont-save-money Massachusetts Legislators’ Rush to Judgment on Vaping Will Cause More Harm https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/massachusetts-legislators-rush-judgment-vaping-will-cause-more-harm <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/jeffrey-singer" hreflang="und">Jeffrey A. Singer</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Reacting to a media-fueled panic surrounding teen vaping, Massachusetts legislators this week <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/11/21/state-lawmakers-pass-nation-toughest-restrictions-sale-flavored-tobacco-and-vaping-products/EvvQMGT0naFzhPLiihnsvM/story.html?s_campaign=breakingnews:newsletter" target="_blank">banned</a> the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol, and levied a 75 percent excise tax on vaping products. This was portrayed as &ldquo;a forceful response to an epidemic in which one out of every five Massachusetts high-schoolers use e-cigarettes.&rdquo; In reality, it is an impulsive act that ignores the evidence and endangers public health.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Teen vaping rates should not be viewed in a vacuum. According to the <a href="https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/trump-administration-combating-epidemic-youth-e-cigarette-use-plan-clear-market-unauthorized-non" target="_blank">National Youth Tobacco Survey</a> teen tobacco smoking is at an <a href="https://reason.com/2019/09/12/the-ban-on-flavored-e-cigarettes-may-lead-to-more-smoking-by-teenagers-as-well-as-adults/" target="_blank">all-time low</a>. Professor Michael Siegel of Boston University School of Public Health reports a strong <a href="https://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/2019/09/e-cigarettes-are-gateway-to-smoking-so.html" target="_blank">negative correlation</a> between teen vaping and teen tobacco smoking. In other words, e-cigarettes are probably behind the drop in teen tobacco smoking.</p> <p>Numerous <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2737916" target="_blank">scientific</a> studies show that vaping is a very effective way to help tobacco smokers quit smoking. And while vaping might not be completely harmless, tobacco smoking is a proven killer. According to Public Health England e-cigarettes are &ldquo;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/dec/28/vaping-is-95-safer-than-smoking-claims-public-health-england" target="_blank">95 percent less harmful</a>&rdquo; than tobacco cigarettes. And research finds e-cigarettes are &ldquo;<a href="https://www.nhs.uk/news/heart-and-lungs/e-cigs-twice-effective-nicotine-patches-gum-or-sprays-quitting/" target="_blank">twice as effective</a>&rdquo; as nicotine patches or gum in helping smokers quit.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>A ban on flavored vaping not only harms adult tobacco smokers wishing to quit. It also harm teens.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>There were an estimated <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-ecigs-us-adults/almost-one-in-20-u-s-adults-now-use-e-cigarettes-idUSKCN1LC2DN" target="_blank">11 million vapers</a> in the U.S. in 2018, and as of late November there have been an <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/health/vaping-illness-tracker.html" target="_blank">estimated</a> 2,172 cases of vaping-related illnesses with 44 deaths reported. For <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm" target="_blank">perspective</a>, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states 16 million Americans live with tobacco smoking-related illness and 480,000 die annually.</p> <p>Interestingly, vaping-related lung injuries <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/public-global-health/465716-experts-say-vaping-illnesses-dont-extend-outside-us" target="_blank">have not been reported outside of the U.S</a>. This raises the question of whether the outbreak might be an unintended consequence of public policy.</p> <p>Germane to that question, the CDC reported earlier this month the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/mm6845e2.htm?s_cid=mm6845e2_w" target="_blank">results</a> of tests on 29 randomly collected samples of lung fluid in patients hospitalized for vaping-related illness. All 29 samples contained vitamin E acetate, the synthetic form of vitamin E. Vitamin E acetate is an oil, and is suitable for ingesting, but can cause severe lung damage if inhaled.</p> <p>Vitamin E acetate is commonly used as the vehicle for delivering THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, in vaping cartridges. The CDC <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/08/health/vaping-illness-cdc.html" target="_blank">reported</a> that 86 percent of the patients sampled said they had vaped an illegal THC product. This was based upon self-reporting, so the actual percentage may be higher.</p> <p>Vitamin E acetate is not used by legal e-cigarette cartridge makers because of its harmful effects on the lungs. Its presence in vaping liquid indicates a black-market source.</p> <p>As long as federal marijuana prohibition continues, <a href="https://www.cato.org/blog/cdc-study-vaping-related-lung-injuries-strengthens-case-cannabis-legalization">the only way</a> for vapers to get THC-containing liquids is by making them on their own with cannabis products or buying them in the dangerous black market.</p> <p>Commenting on the CDC test results, Professor Siegel <a href="https://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/2019/11/cdc-announces-major-breakthrough-that-i.html" target="_blank">stated</a>, &ldquo;states which have issued emergency regulations to ban e-cigarettes or flavored e-cigarettes are not justified in using their emergency powers for this purpose since it is almost assuredly the case that those store-bought products have nothing to do with the outbreak.&rdquo;</p> <p>Flavored vaping liquids are very popular among teen vapers. But they are also the choice of <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-the-vaping-panic-is-out-of-hand-20190920-ll6djbwnczffbphckaqjflxa3i-story.html" target="_blank">more than 90 percent</a> of adult tobacco smokers wanting to quit. One former tobacco smoker, who now vapes tells me, &ldquo;Why should I choose tobacco flavored vaping liquid when I can experience the real thing from a cigarette?&rdquo;</p> <p>A ban on flavored vaping not only harms adult tobacco smokers wishing to quit. It also harm teens.</p> <p>It has been federally illegal to sell e-cigarettes to persons under 18 since 2016. Yet teens manage to obtain e-cigarettes and cartridges. Oftentimes they obtain bootleg products on the black market made with dangerous substances such as vitamin E acetate. The Drug Enforcement Administration recently <a href="https://kutv.com/news/local/dea-warns-about-nearly-undetectable-drugs-in-vape-cartridges" target="_blank">reported</a> that the Mexican drug cartels are getting into the bootleg vaping business, and some of their products are <a href="https://fox13now.com/2019/11/01/fentanyl-found-in-unregulated-vape-cartridges-in-other-states-just-a-matter-of-time-before-it-comes-to-utah/" target="_blank">laced</a> with illicit fentanyl. An outright ban on the sale of legally produced vaping cartridges can only make matters <a href="https://www.cato.org/blog/war-drugs-meets-war-vaping-wont-end-well" target="_blank">worse</a>.</p> </div> Jeffrey Singer, M.D. practices general surgery in Phoenix and is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Mon, 25 Nov 2019 09:36:05 -0500 Jeffrey A. Singer https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/massachusetts-legislators-rush-judgment-vaping-will-cause-more-harm It Is Creative Destruction, Not a Bad Tax, That Is Killing the High Street https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/it-creative-destruction-not-bad-tax-killing-high-street <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ryan-bourne" hreflang="und">Ryan Bourne</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Promising a &ldquo;fundamental review&rdquo; of a policy is invariably political code for saying: &ldquo;I want to kick the can on this thorny problem.&rdquo;</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Boris Johnson&rsquo;s election pledge to cut the burden of business rates and launch a review of them in his first post-election Budget falls squarely into that bucket. For the Conservatives know that this is an area where good politics and good economic policy directly conflict.</p> <p>Many high street stores are having their lunch eaten by online competitors. Firms such as <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/01/09/amazon-accused-gaming-system-business-rates/" target="_blank">Amazon</a> do not require high cost inner-town and city premises. Struggling with this creative destruction, bricks-and-mortar retailers see the apparent high cost of business rates (a tax on business property that their online competitors often pay little of) as a contributor to high street woes.</p> <p><a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/11/15/tory-plans-revamp-business-rates-dont-go-far-enough/" target="_blank">Demands for politicians to do something</a> to &ldquo;level the playing field&rdquo; or &ldquo;ease the burden&rdquo; emanate from prominent businesses and the public. Yet economic theory and evidence suggests business rates do not, by and large, affect businesses&rsquo; long-term financial positions.</p> <p>To understand why, economists distinguish between &ldquo;who pays the tax&rdquo; on paper and &ldquo;who shoulders the economic burden&rdquo; in reality. Business rates are calculated using the open market rental value of the property and a government-set multiplier.</p> <p>A 2017 revaluation &mdash; seven years after the last assessment &mdash; saw bills rise substantially in areas such as London, where rent and property values have soared since 2010. Though they fell in most places elsewhere, &ldquo;worse off&rdquo; businesses naturally reacted with horror as their bills, on paper, jumped. Yet most of that increased tax burden will ultimately fall on landowners, not tenant companies.</p> <p>Why? Well, a large proportion of business rates ultimately proxies for a tax on land values. Land supply is fixed. Given strict planning laws, particularly in areas such as London, so is the supply of available commercial property.</p> <p>If supply is largely constant, then the rental value of business property is determined by demand &mdash; the maximum any business is willing to pay for it. When making that calculation, businesses think about the total cost they will face, inclusive of rent payments and business rates.</p> <p>The implication is that a <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/08/13/stop-killing-high-street-big-retailers-small-businesses-beg/" target="_blank">cut in a company&rsquo;s business rates bill</a> will ultimately feed through into shop and landowners receiving higher rents from tenant businesses. Any hike to business rates, conversely, results in lower rents. Overall business costs, in time, remain largely unchanged from where they would have been. The only difference is a fall in tax revenue, which has to be made up elsewhere.</p> <p>Back in 1990 when business rates were introduced, places that saw their tax burden rise fell in value, and those that saw a lower tax burden rose in value. Major business rate tax cuts to &ldquo;ease the burden&rdquo; on high street retailers, in other words, wouldn&rsquo;t improve bricks-and-mortar stores&rsquo; long-run bottom line, but would provide a windfall to landowners.</p> <p>Now, in the short-run, reality is messier. Firms on longer fixed rental contracts who see higher business rate will indeed feel a squeeze until rents adjust.</p> <p>An assessment by the British Property Foundation of previous rate revaluations found it took an average of three years for 75pc of such rent adjustment to occur. But these short-term difficulties shouldn&rsquo;t be confused with the high street complaints we hear. Business rate cuts will not help stave off competition from online stores, because ultimately rates are, by and large, a tax on landowners.</p> <p>None of this is to say that the current system of business rates is perfect. In fact, the tax creates some clear distortions. Boris might consider, for example, having more regular revaluations, signposting revisions to allow rents to adjust before tax liabilities change, explicitly changing the legal liability to landowners to reflect economic reality, and abolishing agriculture&rsquo;s unjustified exemption.</p> <p>A post-election review could also examine how business rates interact with council tax &mdash; the higher burden for the former encourages land being used for residential rather than commercial property, even when the latter would be more economically productive.</p> <p>John Allan, the chairman of Tesco, has highlighted the biggest flaw with the current system.</p> <p>By using property values, rather than underlying land values, in determining tax liabilities, the tax can deter investment in improvements to property. Business rates in practice therefore amount to an uneasy combination of an efficient tax on land values and a damaging tax on business property.</p> <p>As Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies has pointed out, pure business rates perversely provide an incentive to demolish property in certain situations and have resulted in a time-limited vacant building relief, that still creates a wasteful incentive for some commercial property to lay empty.</p> <p>To overcome these issues, we could look to adopt a commercial land value tax, targeted at the value of the underlying land absent any buildings on it. Such a tax would face its own challenges, not least how to deliver accurate valuations.</p> <p>But all these issues are quite distinct from the critiques we hear about business rates from book stores, estate agents or supermarkets today. Their larger complaints are that the <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/09/10/can-corner-shop-survive/" target="_blank">burden of business rates</a> are just too high, that there&rsquo;s no level playing field with online firms, and that there&rsquo;s no link between a firm&rsquo;s liability and its underlying financial health.</p> <p>These are all very weak economic arguments. Once we observe that business rates proxy (imperfectly) for a tax on land values, we see that they do not affect most firms&rsquo; costs in anything other than the short term. It also makes no more sense to punish online firms who raise profitability by minimising the cost of property they use than punishing a business for introducing a labour-saving machine to the same end.</p> <p>Boris&rsquo;s future dilemma is therefore clear.</p> <p>The catalyst for the business rates review pledge has been the political pressure from bricks-and-mortar businesses. But if that review is to be successful, it must ignore the simplistic economic analysis of those same high street firms.</p> </div> Ryan Bourne is the R Evan Scharf Chair for the Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute. Sun, 24 Nov 2019 11:55:29 -0500 Ryan Bourne https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/it-creative-destruction-not-bad-tax-killing-high-street Arab Spring 2.0: Don’t Get Any Ideas, Washington https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/arab-spring-20-dont-get-any-ideas-washington <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/doug-bandow" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>The Middle East is erupting again, as angry youths lead demonstrations in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran. In fact, protests reach much further: Hong Kong and Chile have been similarly convulsed. If nothing else, political elites around the world are sleeping a little less soundly.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>In 2011, popular discontent swept the Arab world, but only Tunisia looks remotely successful. Syria and Libya were convulsed by devastating civil wars. Egypt ended up ruled by an even more brutal despot. Bahrain’s Sunni royal family relied on the Saudi military to ensure the subservience of the Shia majority. The other Gulf kingdoms bought political peace, increasing welfare payments to their largely dependent populations. No country in the region looks particularly stable.</p> <p>The most striking though least noted demonstrations may be those in Egypt. In September, several thousand people took to the streets in Cairo and a half dozen other cities demanding the ouster of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The regime arrested some 4,300 protesters. About them, the Trump administration said nothing, since President Donald Trump likes the brutal new pharaoh.</p> <p>Sisi has jailed and tortured more people than his predecessor and closed down NGOs that monitored Cairo’s human rights abuses. Yet despite the near-certainty that they’d face extended prison terms, demonstrators turned out against his regime. Their courage demonstrated his fragility. People are angry over the continued lack of economic growth and jobs. Corruption rages unabated: Sisi represents the statist commercial class, dependent on government favors. Moreover, he has reinforced the armed services’ extensive control over the economy, which has turned soldiers into a privileged class. He no longer makes any pretense of political liberalization, having crushed all activism, and not only that of the Muslim Brotherhood.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Despite the latest disruptive unrest, the Mideast still looks far from a democratic revival.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>In the short term, he is unlikely to be ousted. However, his long-term survival is less certain, since he is widely hated and seen as vulnerable. Even the military has put distance between it and the president; he had to arrest and intimidate officers to prevent them from running against him. His supposed friends might prove to be his most dangerous foes.</p> <p>Lebanon’s demonstrators, who started by opposing new taxes, are challenging the region’s most convoluted and perhaps least efficient political system. The only Middle Eastern nation with a generally Christian culture, Lebanon has constructed a bizarrely sectarian government. The president is a Maronite Christian, the prime minister is a Sunni, and the parliamentary leader is a Shia. Religion has become as much a matter of politics as of faith. During the 15-year civil war, alliances madly twisted and shifted. Recently, the presidency remained open for nearly two years as a onetime Christian warlord backed by Hezbollah battled a onetime Christian warlord backed by the Sunnis. Eventually the former triumphed.</p> <p>In such a system, competence and efficiency matter little. When I visited Lebanon in 2015, the country was in the midst of a trash crisis. Sectarian politics had blocked landfill use, causing garbage to pile up all over Beirut and beyond. Irregular electrical power has been an issue of late. The country is overwhelmed with refugees. Good jobs are few, and Lebanon&rsquo;s young go abroad in search of work.</p> <p>Hundreds of thousands of people from across the country&rsquo;s many divides turned out, chanting &ldquo;all of them means all of them&rdquo; should resign and &ldquo;we are the popular revolution, you are the civil war.&rdquo; Shia demonstrators even targeted Hezbollah, angry over its involvement in the Syrian conflict, support for the government, and complicity in corruption. The government offered concessions and the prime minister and several other cabinet members resigned. Still the crisis rages.</p> <p>However, the interests that benefit from the current corrupt system remain strong. That includes outsiders, particularly Iran and Syria. Before its civil war, Lebanon was a liberal oasis and commercial safe zone. However, that conflict, which killed hundreds of thousands, continues to hang like a specter. Sectarianism makes some Lebanese reluctant to attack &ldquo;their&rdquo; representatives. The protesters seek to overcome such divisions, but the population remains small, divided, and threatened.</p> <p>Washington&rsquo;s greatest recent policy failure was the invasion of Iraq. The expected cakewalk turned into a bloody sectarian civil war. Hundreds of thousands died. Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State were created. Iran was empowered. The U.S. enabled sectarian Shia rule, which inflamed a vicious Sunni insurgency and encouraged the disempowered minority to rely on radical groups such as ISIS for protection.</p> <p>Earlier popular protests in Iraq had illustrated the significant gulf between the public and the elites. Now, economic problems have triggered another round. Government incompetence and corruption have led to poor, even non-existent public services, such as clean water and reliable electricity. Sectarian control of ministries has turned them into sources of religious influence and employment. As elsewhere in the Mideast, jobs for the young are scarce.</p> <p>Finally, the reassignment, meaning demotion, of a popular counter-terrorism official who challenged Iranian-backed militias further intensified the protests. The largely Shia protesters criticized sectarian governance and outside influence over Baghdad. Indeed, an Iranian consulate in the south was attacked. However, the antagonism is broader than that.</p> <p>The Trump administration is pleased that Tehran is a target, but demonstrators are angry with Washington as well. Reports independent analyst Ahmed Twau, the &ldquo;protests are against any foreign interventionism in Iraq, be it Iranian, American, or Saudi.&rdquo; Growing Iraqi nationalism is no friend of the U.S. Some protesters have been chanting &ldquo;No America, no Iran.&rdquo; Iraqi commentator Bassil al-Qazmi complained that when the U.S. invaded, it &ldquo;thought Iraqi politicians would only follow and be loyal to Washington.&rdquo; When the moderate Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani warned against the demonstrations &ldquo;becoming an arena for score settling between some international and regional countries,&rdquo; he meant both the America and Iran.</p> <p>Moreover, the most important political exponent of Iraqi nationalism is the radical Islamic cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose bloc received the most votes in the last election and whose militias targeted U.S. forces during the occupation. In May, Sadr organized demonstrations urging the government to stay out of any U.S.-Iran conflict. If Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi falls, his successor, whatever his attitude towards Tehran, is unlikely to be Washington&rsquo;s friend. Jeffrey Martini and Ariane Tabatabai of the Rand Corporation warn that the revival of &ldquo;Iraqi nationalism leaves the United States&rsquo; ability to operate in that country just as exposed as the protests leave Iran&rsquo;s presence.&rdquo;</p> <p>Of course, thoroughgoing reform is desperately needed. Nevertheless, the protesters face an uphill struggle. The Abdul-Mahdi government has responded with force; the pro-Iran parliamentary bloc remains his strongest supporter and Iranian-backed militias buttressed the security forces. After initially denigrating the protesters and demanding that the demonstrations cease, Abdul-Mahdi acknowledged their legitimacy and offered to quit&mdash;once a successor is agreed upon, which might prove impossible, as he well knows. Nor is it clear that the demonstrators represent a majority. After all, the voting public chose the MPs who approved the current government.</p> <p>The most recent round of demonstrations in Iran, which have hit 100 cities, were set off by gas price hikes. The Trump administration believes sanctions have succeeded in creating enormous economic hardship, which will be blamed on Tehran. However, while the protesters are angry with Iran&rsquo;s rulers, that does not mean that they share the Trump administration&rsquo;s perspective. The share of the population that supports negotiating with the West over its nuclear program has fallen as U.S. sanctions have expanded. Apparently, the administration claiming to stand with the people while it impoverishes and starves them has proven less than persuasive.</p> <p>The regime obviously feels threatened; hence the internet shutdown to thwart opposition coordination. However, so far the protests have been smaller than those of two years ago. Anyway, despite Washington&rsquo;s triumphalism, the belief that a collapse would yield a liberal, democratic system reflects the triumph of hope over experience. Protesters who circulated an open letter denouncing &ldquo;the Iranian sectarian regime that backs all the corrupt politicians, criminals and murderers in our corrupt government&rdquo; would not necessarily view a secular Western regime as the best alternative. Nor would the more traditional rural population.</p> <p>So far, the protests remain mere precursors for future transformations. Indeed, urban unrest, though important evidence of dissatisfaction, may be a misleading indicator of popular sentiments. The West tends to pay disproportionate attention to the opinions of English-speaking, liberal-minded city-dwellers. But they aren&rsquo;t the only people in Iran. The rural population is more traditional, religious, and conservative. Moreover, it matters who is taking to the streets. Despite the latest disruptive unrest, the Mideast still looks far from a democratic revival.</p> <p>We see through the glass darkly, observed the Apostle Paul. The Middle East again is proving to be perennially unstable, even without a new blundering American intervention. Hopefully popular aspirations for democracy and prosperity will have a better end this round. However, no one should have any illusions about the likelihood that nationalistic Arab sentiments will coincide with pro-American and especially pro-administration sentiments. Washington should be careful what it wishes for: new, democratic, nationalistic regimes might be less willing to tolerate future U.S. meddling.</p> </div> <a href="https://www.cato.org/people/doug-bandow">Doug Bandow</a> is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan. Thu, 21 Nov 2019 08:57:42 -0500 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/arab-spring-20-dont-get-any-ideas-washington Trump Must Understand a War with Iran Would Be Hell https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/trump-must-understand-war-iran-would-be-hell <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/doug-bandow" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p><strong>Key point: </strong>The entire Middle East could go up in flames.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Sixteen years ago, the George W. Bush administration manipulated intelligence to scare the public into backing an aggressive war against Iraq. The smoking gun mushroom clouds that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice warned against didn’t exist, but the invasion long desired by neoconservatives and other hawks proceeded. Liberated Iraqis rejected U.S. plans to create an American puppet state on the Euphrates and the aftermath turned into a humanitarian and geopolitical catastrophe which continues to roil the Middle East.</p> <p>Thousands of dead Americans, tens of thousands of wounded and maimed U.S. personnel, hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, and millions of Iraqis displaced. There was the sectarian conflict, destruction of the historic Christian community, the creation of Al Qaeda in Iraq&mdash;which morphed into the far deadlier Islamic State&mdash;and the enhanced influence of Iran. The prime question was how could so many supposedly smart people be so stupid?</p> <p>Now the Trump administration appears to be following the same well-worn path. The president has fixated on Iran, tearing up the nuclear accord with Tehran and declaring economic war on it&mdash;as well as anyone dealing with Iran. He is pushing America toward war even as he insists that he wants peace. How stupid does he believe we are?</p> <p>Naturally, the administration blames Iran for not accepting its supposedly generous offer to talk. However, Tehran has no reason to believe that Washington is serious. One doesn’t have to be a hardline Shiite ayatollah to see little point in negotiating with a president seemingly determined on surrender or war&mdash;and who can’t be counted on to keep any agreement he makes.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>The entire Middle East could go up in flames.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>Indeed, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently proposed talks without preconditions, other than that Iran needed to behave as &ldquo;a normal nation&rdquo; and accede to Washington&rsquo;s many impossible demands even before sitting down at the negotiating table. National Security Adviser John Bolton later explained the president was &ldquo;prepared to talk about what the future&rdquo; but only after Iran gave up &ldquo;their nuclear and other unacceptable activities.&rdquo; In other words, Iran needed to surrender first. The United States would not negotiate under such circumstances. Why would Iran do so?</p> <p>The Iranian regime is malign. Nevertheless, despite being under almost constant siege it has survived longer than the U.S.-crafted dictatorship which preceded the Islamic Republic. And the latter did not arise in a vacuum. Washington did much to encourage a violent, extremist revolution in Tehran. The average Iranian could be forgiven for viewing America as a virulently hostile power determined to do his or her nation ill at almost every turn.</p> <p>In 1953 the United States backed a coup against democratically selected prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh. Washington then aided the Shah in consolidating power, including the creation of the secret police, known as SAVAK. He forcibly modernized Iran’s still conservative Islamic society, while his corrupt and repressive rule united secular and religious Iranians against him.</p> <p>The Shah was ousted in 1979. Following his departure the Reagan administration backed Iraq’s Saddam Hussein when he invaded Iran, triggering an eight-year war which killed at least half a million people. Washington reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers to protect revenue subsequently lent to Baghdad, provided Iraq with intelligence for military operations, and supplied components for chemical weapons employed against Iranian forces. In 1988 the U.S. Navy shot down an Iranian civilian airliner in international airspace.</p> <p>Economic sanctions were first imposed on Iran in 1979 and regularly expanded thereafter. Washington forged a close military partnership with Iran&rsquo;s even more repressive rival, Saudi Arabia. In the immediate aftermath of its 2003 victory over Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration rejected Iran&rsquo;s offer to negotiate; neoconservatives casually suggested that &ldquo;real men&rdquo; would conquer Tehran as well. Even the Obama administration threatened to take military action against Iran.</p> <p>As Henry Kissinger reportedly once said, even a paranoid can have enemies. Contrary to the common assumption in Washington that average Iranians would love the United States for attempting to destroy their nation&rsquo;s economy, the latest round of sanctions apparently triggered a notable rise in anti-American sentiment. Nationalism trumped anti-clericalism.</p> <p>The hostile relationship with Iran also has allowed Saudi Arabia, which routinely undercuts American interests and values, to gain a dangerous stranglehold over U.S. policy. To his credit President Barack Obama attempted to rebalance Washington’s Mideast policy. The result was the multilateral Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It provided for an intrusive inspection regime designed to discourage any future Iranian nuclear weapons program&mdash;which U.S. intelligence indicated had been inactive since 2003.</p> <p>Although the Obama administration oversold the accord, the JCPOA offered the potential of changing both Iranian politics and the bilateral relationship. Younger Iranians like America and want economic opportunity. Drawing the country into the larger international community would intensify the country’s internal contradictions. Had Washington done more to ease Iranian access to Western markets, then pressures for more openness would have risen despite Islamist opposition.</p> <p>However, candidate Donald Trump had an intense and perverse desire to overturn every Obama policy. His tight embrace of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who ignored the advice of his security chiefs in denouncing the accord, and the Saudi royals, who Robert Gates once warned would fight Iran to the last American, also likely played an important role.</p> <p>Last year the president withdrew from the accord and followed with a declaration of economic war. He then declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, a military organization, to be a terrorist group. (Washington routinely uses the &ldquo;terrorist&rdquo; designation for purely political purposes.) Finally, there are reports, officially denied by Washington, that U.S. forces, allied with Islamist radicals&mdash;the kind of extremists responsible for most terrorist attacks on Americans&mdash;have been waging a covert war against Iranian smuggling operations.</p> <p>The president claimed that he wanted to negotiate: &ldquo;We aren&rsquo;t looking for regime change,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We are looking for no nuclear weapons.&rdquo; But that is what the JCPOA addressed. His policy is actually pushing Tehran to expand its nuclear program. Moreover, last year Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech that the <em>Washington Post&rsquo;s</em> Jason Rezaian, who spent more than a year in Iranian prison, called &ldquo;silly&rdquo; and &ldquo;completely divorced from reality.&rdquo;</p> <p>In a talk to an obsequious Heritage Foundation audience, Pompeo set forth the terms of Tehran&rsquo;s surrender: Iran would be expected to abandon any pretense of maintaining an independent foreign policy and yield its deterrent missile capabilities, leaving it subservient to Saudi Arabia, with the latter&rsquo;s U.S.-supplied and -trained military. Tehran could not even cooperate with other governments, such as Syria, at their request. The only thing missing from Pompeo&rsquo;s remarks was insistence that Iran accept an American governor-general in residence.</p> <p>The proposal was a nonstarter and looked like the infamous 1914 Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia, which was intended to be rejected and thereby justify war. After all, National Security Advisor John Bolton expressed his policy preference in a 2015 <em>New York Times </em>op-ed titled: &ldquo;To Stop Iran&rsquo;s Bomb, Bomb Iran.&rdquo; Whatever the president&rsquo;s true intentions, Tehran can be forgiven for seeing Washington&rsquo;s position as one of regime change, by war if necessary.</p> <p>The administration apparently assumed that new, back-breaking sanctions would either force the regime to surrender at the conference table or collapse amid political and social conflict. Indeed, when asked if he really believed sanctions would change Tehran&rsquo;s behavior, Pompeo answered that &ldquo;what can change is, the people can change the government.&rdquo; Both Reuel Marc Gerecht of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations have recently argued that the Islamic Republic is an exhausted regime, one that is perhaps on its way to extinction.</p> <p>However, Rezaian says &ldquo;there is nothing new&rdquo; about Tehran&rsquo;s difficult Iranian economic problems. &ldquo;Assuming that this time around the Iranian people can compel their government to bend to America&rsquo;s will seems&mdash;at least to anyone who has spent significant time in Iran in recent decades&mdash;fantastical,&rdquo; he said. Gerecht enthusiasm for U.S. warmaking has led to mistakes in the past. He got Iraq wrong seventeen years ago when he wrote that &ldquo;a war with Iraq might not shake up the Middle East much at all.&rdquo;</p> <p>Today the administration is using a similar strategy against Russia, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela. The citizens of these countries have not risen against their oppressors to establish a new, democratic, pro-American regime. Numerous observers wrongly predicted that the Castro regime would die after the end of Soviet subsidies and North Korea&rsquo;s inevitable fall in the midst of a devastating famine. Moreover, regime collapse isn&rsquo;t likely to yield a liberal, democratic republic when the most radical, authoritarian elites remain best-armed.</p> <p>Instead of imploding, Iran appears to be repeating its policy of the 2000s. After the Bush administration spurned negotiations, Tehran increased its leverage by adding centrifuges and expanding enriched uranium stockpiles. Only after the Obama administration abandoned its no enrichment position did negotiations restart. Tehran’s recent announcement that it will gradually stop complying with the JCPOA looks like the start of a similar process.</p> <p>Covert action against Gulf shipping might be another tactic to gain leverage. What is the proper response to this tactic? War requires congressional approval; the 2001 authorization for use of military force that Congress passed after 9/11 won’t do. Dredging up long-ignored claims of supposed Iranian ties to the terrorist organization is just a pretext, especially since successive administrations ignored Saudi and Emirati connections to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in the Yemen war and the Obama administration aided an Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.</p> <p>More important, Washington does not want to go to war with Iran, which is larger than Iraq, has three times the population, and is a real country. The regime, while unpopular with many Iranians, is much better rooted than Saddam Hussein&rsquo;s dictatorship. Tehran possesses unconventional weapons, missiles, and allies which could spread chaos throughout the region. American forces in Syria and Iraq would be vulnerable, while Baghdad&rsquo;s stability could be put at risk. If Americans liked the Iraq debacle, then they would love the chaos likely to result from attempting to violently destroy the Iranian state. David Frum, one of the most avid neoconservative advocates of the Iraq invasion, warned that war with Iran would repeat Iraqi blunders on &ldquo;a much bigger sale, without allies, without justification, and without any plan at all for what comes next.&rdquo;</p> <p>Iran also has no desire for war, which it would lose. However, Washington’s aggressive economic and military policies create pressure on Tehran to respond. Especially since administration policy&mdash;sanctions designed to crash the economy, military moves preparing for war&mdash;almost certainly have left hardliners, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who opposed negotiations with Washington, ascendant in Tehran.</p> <p>Carefully calibrated military action, such as tanker attacks, might be intended to show &ldquo;resolve&rdquo; to gain credibility. Washington policymakers constantly justify military action as necessary to demonstrate that they are willing to take military action. Doing so is even more important for a weaker power. Moreover, observed the Eurasia Group, Iranian security agencies &ldquo;have a decades-long history of conducting attacks and other operations aimed precisely at undermining the diplomatic objectives of a country&rsquo;s elected representatives.&rdquo; If Iran is responsible, observed Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group, then administration policy perversely &ldquo;is rendering Iran more aggressive, not less,&rdquo; thereby making the Mideast more, not less dangerous.</p> <p>Of course, Tehran has denied any role in the attacks and there is good reason to question unsupported Trump administration claims of Iranian guilt. The president&rsquo;s indifferent relationship to the truth alone raises serious questions. Europeans also point to Bush administration lies about Iraq and the fabricated 1964 Tonkin Gulf incident used to justify America&rsquo;s entry into the Vietnam War. Even more important, the administration ostentatiously fomented the current crisis by trashing the JCPOA, launching economic war against Iran, threatening Tehran&rsquo;s economic partners, and insisting on Iran&rsquo;s submission. A cynic might reasonably conclude that the president and his aides hoped to trigger a violent Iranian response.</p> <p>Other malicious actors also could be responsible for tanker attacks. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Israel, ISIS, and Al Qaeda all likely believe they would benefit from an American war on Tehran and might decide to speed the process along by fomenting an incident. Indeed, a newspaper owned by the Saudi royal family recently called for U.S. strikes on Iran. One or the reasons Al Qaeda launched the 9/11 attacks was to trigger an American military response against a Muslim nation. A U.S.-Iran war would be the mother of all Mideast conflagrations.</p> <p>Rather than continue a military spiral upward, Washington should defuse Gulf tensions. The administration brought the Middle East to a boil. It can calm the waters. Washington should stand down its military, offering to host multilateral discussions with oil consuming nations, energy companies, and tanker operators over establishing shared naval security in sensitive waterways, including in the Middle East. Given America&rsquo;s growing domestic energy production, the issue no longer should be considered Washington&rsquo;s responsibility. Other wealthy industrialized states should do what is necessary for their economic security.</p> <p>The administration also should make a serious proposal for talks. It won&rsquo;t be easy. Iran&rsquo;s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared &ldquo;negotiation has no benefit and carries harm.&rdquo; He further argued that &ldquo;negotiations are a tactic of this pressure,&rdquo; which is the ultimate &ldquo;strategic aim.&rdquo; Even President Hassan Rouhani rejected contact without a change in U.S. policy. &ldquo;Whenever they lift the unjust sanctions and fulfill their commitments and return to the negotiations table, which they left themselves, the door is not closed,&rdquo; he said. In back channel discussions Iranians supposedly suggested that the U.S. reverse the latest sanctions, at least on oil sales, ending attempts to wreck Iran&rsquo;s economy.</p> <p>If the president seriously desires talks with Tehran, then he should demonstrate that he does not expect preemptive surrender. The administration should suspend its &ldquo;maximum pressure&rdquo; campaign and propose multilateral talks on tightening the nuclear agreement in return for additional American and allied concessions, such as further sanctions relief.</p> <p>In parallel, Washington should propose negotiations to lower tensions in other issues. But there truly should be no preconditions, requiring the president to consign the Pompeo list to a White House fireplace. In return for Iranian willingness to drop confrontational behavior in the region, the U.S. should offer to reciprocate&mdash;for instance, indicate a willingness to cut arms sales to the Saudis and Emiratis, end support for the Yemen war, and withdraw American forces from Syria and Iraq. Tehran has far greater interest in neighborhood security than the United States, which Washington must respect if the latter seeks to effectively disarm Iran. The administration should invite the Europeans to join such an initiative, since they have an even greater reason to worry about Iranian missiles and more.</p> <p>Most important, American policymakers should play the long-game. Rather than try to crash the Islamic Republic and hope for the best, Washington should encourage Iran to open up, creating more opportunity and influence for a younger generation that desires a freer society. That requires greater engagement, not isolation. Washington’s ultimate objective should be the liberal transformation of Iran, freeing an ancient civilization to regain its leading role in today’s world, which would have a huge impact on the region.</p> <p>The Trump administration is essentially a one-trick pony when it comes to foreign policy toward hostile states. The standard quo is to apply massive economic pressure and demand surrender. This approach has failed in every case. Washington has caused enormous economic hardship, but no target regime has capitulated. In Iran, like North Korea, U.S. policy sharply raised tensions and the chances of conflict.</p> <p>War would be a disaster. Instead, the administration must, explained James Fallows, &ldquo;through bluff and patience, change the actions of a government whose motives he does not understand well, and over which his influence is limited.&rdquo; Which requires the administration to adopt a new, more serious strategy toward Tehran, and quickly.</p> </div> Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He is the author of </em><a href="https://amzn.to/2CGJbnB" target="_blank">Foreign Follies: America's New Global Empire.</a> Thu, 21 Nov 2019 08:49:20 -0500 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/trump-must-understand-war-iran-would-be-hell Trump’s Bold East Asia Defense Financial Burden-Sharing Campaign https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/trumps-bold-east-asia-defense-financial-burden-sharing-campaign <p><a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ted-galen-carpenter" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="lead text-default"> <p>President Donald Trump's repeated demands that the NATO allies pay more of the costs for collective defense have received abundant attention in Congress and the foreign policy community. Defenders of the status quo, alongside media personalities, have screeched that Trump has put in jeopardy Washington's sacred transatlantic security architecture. But the president's complaints about U.S. allies free-riding on America's security efforts are not confined to Europe. As far back as the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump criticized Washington's East Asian allies, especially South Korea and Japan, for <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/05/donald-trump-savages-japan-saying-all-they-will-do-is-watch-sony/" target="_blank">similar laxity</a>.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>He has now launched a new phase in his effort to secure greater financial burden-sharing. The first salvo was his demand that Seoul agree to a <a href="https://thenewsblender.com/2019/11/us-demands-4-7-billion-from-south-korea/" target="_blank">five-fold increase</a> in its annual payment to offset some of the costs of U.S. troops stationed in that country&mdash;a boost that would bring the total to $4.7 billion. Just days later, he called on Tokyo to <a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/11/15/trump-asks-tokyo-quadruple-payments-us-troops-japan/" target="_blank">quadruple its payment</a> for U.S. forces deployed in Japan from $2 billion to $8 billion. There is now rampant speculation that he will adopt a similar stance toward the European allies, especially Germany, leading up to the NATO summit in early December.</p> <p>In one sense, Trump&rsquo;s demands are logical and long overdue. Historically, empires typically do not subsidize their security dependents. Washington&rsquo;s policy since the late 1940s is an oddity in that respect. U.S. leaders have long complained about how its allies shamelessly allow the United States to pay for their security, but they have never taken substantive actions to halt this financial tactic. And despite Trump&rsquo;s bombast during his presidential campaign and first months in the office about an America First foreign policy that would insist on greater burden-sharing, his actions followed the pattern of impotent grousing. Indeed, one of the Trump administration&rsquo;s first actions was to dispatch Secretary of Defense James Mattis on a mission to <a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-skeptics/welcome-the-foreign-policy-reassurance-tour-19384">reassure</a> the <a href="https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Speeches/Speech/Article/1087838/remarks-by-secretary-mattis-at-the-munich-security-conference-in-munich-germany/" target="_blank">NATO members</a> and the <a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-skeptics/secretary-mattis-should-stop-babying-south-korea-19306">East Asian allies</a> of Washington&rsquo;s undying dedication to their security. <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Enters-Century-Journal-Strategic-Studies/dp/0714681091/ref=as_li_ss_tl?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1490204527&amp;sr=1-23&amp;keywords=ted+galen+carpenter&amp;linkCode=sl1&amp;tag=thenatiinte-20&amp;linkId=b7bae6a6b32c6bd1a3cf43f68003d20c" target="_blank">As with previous administrations</a>, such fawning undercut any incentive the allies might have had to alleviate U.S. alliance burdens.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>The most crucial question is whether Washington’s current military commitments to allies and security clients serve the best interests of the American people.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>In another sense, though, Trump&rsquo;s focus on financial burden-sharing misses a more fundamental point. The most crucial question is whether Washington&rsquo;s current military commitments to allies and security clients serve the best interests of the American people. There certainly is ample room for doubt about  <a href="https://amzn.to/2OzZuIi" target="_blank">the wisdom of acquiring</a> a menagerie of small, vulnerable, and militarily useless &ldquo;allies&rdquo; on Russia&rsquo;s perimeter, as Washington has done with the various rounds of NATO expansion. Those obligations should fail even the most basic risk-benefit calculation.</p> <p>The outcome of such an analysis in East Asia is less clear cut but there is still considerable room for hard questions and policy changes. For example, does it make sense for the United States to continue shielding South Korea&mdash;a country that now has twice the population and an economy forty to fifty times larger than its North Korean adversary? The prudence of such a commitment is especially questionable when Pyongyang may have already achieved the ability to strike the American homeland with nuclear weapons. South Korea has both the financial strength and the technological capability to build whatever military forces it needs for national defense. Objections to withdrawing the U.S. troop presence and phasing out the security treaty grow weaker and more obsolete by the year.</p> <p>Given China's economic and military rise, a stronger case exists for preserving the alliance with Japan. Some key changes in that security relationship are imperative, though. Tokyo must explicitly eliminate the self-imposed limit of spending no more than one percent of its annual gross domestic product on defense. As one of East Asia's major political and diplomatic players, and a country with the third-largest economy in the world, it is well past time for Japan to be a normal military great power as well. As part of that transformation, the U.S.-alliance with Japan must become one between genuine allies, not between a patron and a security dependent.</p> <p>However, the U.S. security pledge to Tokyo ought not to be a blank check. A continuing defense relationship with Japan should not include backing Tokyo's dubious claim to the Senkaku Islands&mdash;a chain of small, uninhabited rocks in the East China Sea. Beijing <a href="https://thediplomat.com/2018/08/diaoyu-islands-dispute-a-chinese-perspective/" target="_blank">emphatically disputes</a> Tokyo's claim to those islets (which China calls the Diaoyu Islands) and some nasty naval incidents have occurred in recent years. U.S. leaders <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china/u-s-affirms-support-for-japan-in-islands-dispute-with-china-idUSBRE9AQ0T920131128" target="_blank">insist</a> that the U.S.-Japan mutual defense treaty <a href="https://thediplomat.com/2017/02/mattis-senkakus-covered-under-us-japan-security-treaty/" target="_blank">covers the Senkakus</a>, even though that is an extremely strained reading of the treaty language. Washington needs to rescind that commitment. It is one thing to help Japan thwart a possible Chinese bid for hegemony in East Asia but risking a U.S. war with China over uninhabited rocks (even if there are valuable fishing grounds and possible energy deposits in the surrounding waters) is not a smart commitment. A continuation of the bilateral security relationship should be contingent upon the elimination of any U.S. commitment to back Japan's claim to the Senkakus.</p> <p>Although the danger exists that Trump&rsquo;s focus on greater financial burden-sharing will continue to be a distraction from the more important substantive issues, there is a chance that it might become a catalyst for a badly needed reconsideration of America&rsquo;s alliance obligations. Adherents to the status quo worry that the spike in Washington&rsquo;s financial demands might cause South Korea, Japan, and other allies to worry about a <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-27/trump-s-spat-with-ally-south-korea-raises-fears-of-u-s-pullback" target="_blank">U.S. &ldquo;pullback&rdquo;</a> and reconsider their security relationships with the United States. Such a move is doubtful since they get very substantial benefits from continued U.S. protection. But if Washington&rsquo;s greater financial demands compel them to consider greater security self-reliance, then it would be a good development. Even if they don&rsquo;t move in that direction, U.S. leaders need to conduct their own comprehensive reassessment of Washington&rsquo;s overgrown security commitments. Indeed, that reassessment is long overdue. </p> </div> <a href="https://www.cato.org/people/ted-galen-carpenter">Ted Galen Carpenter</a>, a senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author of twelve books and more than 850 articles on international affairs. Thu, 21 Nov 2019 08:41:45 -0500 Ted Galen Carpenter https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/trumps-bold-east-asia-defense-financial-burden-sharing-campaign