America • Center for American Greatness • Cities • Environment • Libertarians • Post • Technology • The Culture • The Left

The Coming Socialist-Libertarian Feudalism

Wishful thinking among many libertarian and socialist idealists is that an alliance might form between them. After all, members of both ideological camps believe that anything goes when it comes to sex and drugs, neither of them believe in national borders, and both are repelled by conservative ideologues.

The problem with such an alliance of idealists, of course, is that at the core, the socialist believes in big government and the libertarian believes in no government. No matter how you further define those core beliefs, they are incompatible. But the powerful special interests behind the libertarian and progressive movements, respectively, are not idealists, they are pragmatists. And in the dirty realm of real-world politics, socialist and libertarian elites have formed a powerful alliance.

Underscoring issues of personal liberty while ignoring the ultimate collision their worldviews portend, socialist and libertarian mega-donors back candidates and causes that share common immediate policy goals: the densification of American cities, mass immigration, alleged “free” trade, and a hands-off policy with respect to Big Tech monopolies.

Urban “densification” is one of the most transformative—and cruel—epic policy trends in American history. And hardly anyone is talking about it.

In a recent article by Joel Kotkin, a moderate Democrat, he refers to “conservative free-market fundamentalists” as the group that’s “advancing plans that would divorce capitalism from the small property owners whose pieces of property secure the system’s popular support.” Kotkin is referring to libertarians who favor “densification” of cities because they support the property rights of those who own the land and choose to build high-density housing.

What these libertarians are supporting, while ideologically pure, is absurd. Just because you own a half-acre property, you’re not necessarily allowed to demolish the single-family home on that property in order to build a 20 story building. For the same reason, you can’t demolish that home and build a rent-subsidized fourplex. In the real world, there are zoning laws that restrict property rights to protect the neighbors and the community at large. These zoning laws are what people rely on when they purchase a home in a neighborhood filled with similar homes.

Kotkin writes: 

That [densification] includes California State Senator Scott Wiener’s effort to force high-density on residential areas by allowing fourplexes on virtually any parcel, which produced one of the strangest alliances in recent political history. Free market advocates—many of them funded by the Koch brothers—linked arms with left-wing and green activists reprising the arguments made in the Soviet Bloc against middle-class single-family neighborhoods.

Densification is going to destroy tranquil residential neighborhoods, everywhere, and it is backed by socialists in the name of providing affordable housing, by environmentalists in order to prevent “sprawl,” and by powerful financial special interests that benefit from an ongoing real estate bubble. 

Libertarians support densification on principle, without even recognizing that they are ignoring—much less opposing—the flip side of densification, which are new policies to suppress land development outside of the “urban containment boundary.” Densification, also known as in-fill, or “smart growth,” will never provide sufficient new housing to make homes affordable unless it is balanced by similarly relaxed approval processes for homebuilding on open land.

The topic of “smart growth” exposes another special interest favoring densification, the Silicon Valley high tech industry. California’s Silicon Valley is an epicenter not only of concentrated political and economic power, but it is also one of the world’s largest ideological fermentation tanks containing potent strains of socialism, progressivism, and libertarianism. 

And in this “do no evil” caldron of visions, plans, and stupefying power, innovators are building the “internet of things,” so that not only shall we live in stack-and-pack housing, we will survive on algorithmically managed micro sips of water and energy. And depending on what time we run our clothes dryer, we will pay a bit more or a bit less depending on the spot market price for electricity and water—such a libertarian concept!

More immediately visible is Silicon Valley’s control over the online universe—search results, video suggestions, remarks on Twitter, posts on Facebook—where two salient facts elude libertarians. First, the companies that now control the online universe are monopolies, and the big five—Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook—are the five biggest companies in the world based on their stock market capitalization. 

Equally important, these companies have been having their cake and eating it, too, insofar as they receive an exemption from liability due to their status as a “platform,” yet exercise biased censorship on platform contributors as if they were a publisher. 

Each of these facts has consequences. Monopolies do not make for healthy market economies. Platforms cannot be publishers. But where are the libertarians?

The vision shared by socialist and libertarian oligarchs alike is what Kotkin calls a “Wall Street-dominated rentership society . . .” where “people remain renters for life, enjoying their video games or houseplants when not coding or doing gig jobs.”

This vision is not only furthered in densification policies that are fruitless in terms of making housing affordable but dazzlingly effective in turning nearly everyone into apartment renters, but also in the internet of things. In the future, you will not own your clothes dryer or any other major appliance, nor will you own your car, much less video games and software services. Instead, you will “subscribe” to these gadgets, so you can receive the latest updates and services. “Subscriptions” will replace lease payments, loan payments, and warranties. Owning anything will become increasingly impossible. Green conservation mandates will ensure compliance. But, hey—you’ll be able to watch algorithmically curated videos on your refrigerator!

It is a fatal misconception to consider pragmatic socialists as indistinguishable from communists. Socialist nations, particularly those in Northern Europe that are frequently cited by defenders of socialism as exemplars distinct from hellholes like Venezuela, are not ruled by politburos. These socialist nations are ruled by an influential cadre of extremely wealthy, propertied elites, who manage public opinion through their ownership of the primary media sources and through their donations to effective politicians, regardless of party. Does this sound familiar?

It is also a fatal misconception to overstate the differences between America’s elite socialist oligarchy and America’s elite libertarian oligarchy. In both cases, they subscribe to the policy of mass immigration, at the same time as they support environmentalist conventional wisdom that condemns Americans to pay taxes to fund the settlement of these tens of millions in rent-subsidized apartments crammed on to every lot that flips, in every neighborhood where people aren’t wealthy enough to hire attorneys to stop it.

Is it even possible for a populist libertarian movement to offer meaningful support to a conservative American political agenda? Or will their “thought leaders” continue to please the donor class, writing predictably bland justifications for free trade, open borders, urban densification, and out-of-control communications monopolies? Will libertarians support privatization to the point where a meter runs every time anyone steps onto a public road, and perpetual subscriptions replace ownership? Why not?

Where do libertarians draw the line? Will they accept Libra, the new cyber-currency that Facebook is about to launch? Will they squawk when cyber-currencies issued by mega-corporations dominate commerce? Will they care when monopolistic “private” companies erase not only the speech platforms of dissidents but their ability to use their proprietary cyber currency? Why not?

Libertarians don’t have a fully realized political ideology, they have a perspective. As a perspective—smaller government—they are a useful part of the mix. But libertarians aren’t recognizing the real-world limitations on libertarianism; if they did, they would choose sides. They would rebel against the donor fueled socialist-libertarian axis. They would ask: Will you fight to preserve your nation and your culture, or won’t you? 

The libertarian and socialist elites have made their choice, and they are working together under the assumption that nations and culture don’t matter, only profit and power do.

The only viable, real-world version of a libertarian ideology ought to be unrecognizable and troubling to the idealist. It is corporate-controlled feudalism that incorporates just enough socialist populist demands to avoid an unpleasant conflagration. The beneficiaries of this political economy are the super-rich and the myriad poor. In this world, nationality means nothing, heritage is irrelevant, and the middle class and mid-sized companies alike are exterminated. Tradition and culture become a commercialized and sanitized afterthought, micro-marketed to the various vestigial niches along with soap and virtual reality.

Idealists do not govern America today. Rather it is a pragmatic axis of socialist and libertarian oligarchs, each with their own gullible constituency, moving together towards a futuristic version of feudalism.

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Administrative State • California • Center for American Greatness • Cities • Deep State • Democrats • Economy • Elections • Government Reform • Post

Public-Sector Unions: The Other Deep State

When government fails, public-sector unions win. When society fragments, public-sector unions consolidate their power. When citizenship itself becomes less meaningful, and the benefits of American citizenship wither, government unions offer an exclusive solidarity.

Government unions insulate their members from the challenges facing ordinary private citizens. On every major issue of our time; globalization, immigration, climate change, the integrity of our elections, crime and punishment, regulations, government spending, and fiscal reform, the interests and political bias of public-sector unions is inherently in conflict with the public interest. Today, there may be no greater core threat to the freedom and prosperity of the American people.

In the age of talk radio, the Tea Party movement, internet connectivity, and Trump, Americans finally are mobilizing against the uniparty to take back their nation. Yet the threat of public-sector unions typically is a sideshow, when it ought to occupy center stage. They are the greatest menace to American civilization that nobody seems to be talking about. Ask the average American what the difference is between a government union, and a private sector union, and you’re likely to be met with an uncomprehending stare. That’s too bad, because the differences are profound.

While America’s labor movement has always included in its ranks varying percentages of crooks, Communists, and thugs, it derived its mass appeal based on legitimate and often compelling grievances. Most of the benefits American workers take for granted—certainly including overtime pay, sick leave, and safe working conditions—were negotiated by private sector unions.

Over time, private sector unions overreached, negotiating pay and benefits packages that became unsustainable as foreign manufacturers slowly recovered from the devastation of World War II and became competitive. The diminished influence of private sector unions parallels the decline in American manufacturing, a decline only partially caused by insufficient flexibility on the part of union negotiators in a changing world. Properly regulated, private sector unions may still play a vital role in American life.

Differences Between Public and Private Sector Unions
Public-sector unions are a completely different story. If Americans fully understood the differences between public and private sector unions, public-sector unions would probably be illegal.

Public-sector unions do not negotiate with management accountable to shareholders, but instead with politicians whom they help elect and, therefore, are accountable to the unions. Moreover, politicians, unlike corporate executives, typically occupy their offices for shorter periods of time. And politicians, unlike corporate executives, don’t own shares that might be devalued after they leave office due to decisions they made while in office.

Not only are politicians far more accountable to the unions they negotiate with than to the people they serve, but the consequences of giving in to outrageous demands from public-sector unions are much less immediate and personal for the politicians. When a corporate executive gives in to union demands that are unsustainable, the corporation goes out of business. Union negotiators know this, and in the private sector, the possibility of business failure tempers their demands.

But the survival of government agencies doesn’t depend on efficiently competing in a market economy where consumers voluntarily choose to purchase their product or service. When government agencies incur expenses that exceed revenues, they raise revenues by increasing taxes. Consumers have no choice but to pay the higher taxes or go to jail.

If electing their own bosses and compelling taxpayers to guarantee revenue sufficient to fulfill their demands weren’t enough, public-sector unions have another advantage denied private sector unions. They operate the machinery of government. Their members run our public schools, our transportation agencies, our public utilities, our administrative bureaucracies including code enforcement and construction permitting, our public safety agencies; everything. This confers countless unique advantages. Depending on the intensity of the issue, the percentage of unionized government employees willing to use their positions as influencers, educators, gatekeepers, and enforcers may vary. But within the permanent bureaucracy of government, it doesn’t take a very large minority of committed operatives to wield decisive power.

Public-sector unions epitomize the establishment. Politicians come and go. But like the deep state, public-sector unions are permanent, embedded in the bureaucracy, running the show.

How Public-Sector Unions Arose
While the rise of public-sector unions paralleled the rise of the private sector labor movement in the United States, it lagged behind by decades. Apart from the postal workers’ unions that emerged in the late 19th century, or the Boston police strike of 1919—which was decisively suppressed by then-Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge—there wasn’t much support for public-sector unions in the early 20th century.

During the 1930s, as private sector unions acquired federal protections via the Wagner Act of 1935, public-sector unions remained unusual apart from the postal workers. Historians disagree about President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s position on public-sector unions, but it is reasonably clear that even if he did support them, he did not think they should have the degree of protection afforded private sector unions. His most quoted remark on the topic was in a 1937 letter to the president of the National Federation of Federal Employees:

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters. Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.

The fact that FDR, a pro-labor Democrat, had a nuanced position on public-sector unions, believing that collective bargaining had “distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management,” ought to be strong evidence that they are problematic. Not quite 20 years later, in 1955, none other than George Meany, founder and long-time president of the AFL-CIO, flatly stated that it was “impossible to bargain collectively with the government,” and that the AFL-CIO did not intend to reach out to workers in that sector.

But where common sense and propriety inhibited some of the most illustrious supporters of organized labor from unionizing the public sector during the first half of the 20th century, circumstances changed during the century’s latter half. Corruption, opportunism, and a chance to achieve decisive power for the Democratic Party gave rise to new laws that enabled unionized government.

The modern era of public sector unionism began in the late 1950s. Starting in Wisconsin in 1958, state and local employees gradually were permitted to organize. Today, there are only four states that explicitly prohibit collective bargaining by public employees, and only 11 additional states place any restrictions on collective bargaining by public employees.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7.2 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union in 2018, compared with 7.6 million workers in the private sector. Union membership among public-sector workers is more than five times higher (33.9 percent) than that of private-sector workers (6.4 percent). After a slow start, public-sector unions now wield far more power than their private-sector counterparts.

How Public-Sector Unions Fought for Clinton in 2016
Everyone knows that in 2016, Donald Trump—and Bernie Sanders, for that matter—were not “establishment” candidates. But what is that? America’s so-called establishment today is a political alliance favoring bigger, more authoritarian government at all levels—local, state, federal and international. It unites transnational corporations, global financial interests, and government unions. It is an alliance that finds its primary support from members of these elites and the professional classes who serve them, and acquires a critical mass of additional popular support by pandering to the carefully nurtured resentments of anyone who is deemed a member of a “protected status group.”

While “protected status groups” now include nearly everyone living everywhere in America, those people living in urban areas are more susceptible to the union-sponsored propaganda of identity politics, because they are more exposed to it.

For over a generation, especially in California’s urban centers, but also in Chicago, Seattle, Miami, New York City, and hundreds of other major American cities, government unions have exercised nearly absolute control over the political process. This extends not only to city councils but also to county boards of supervisors, school boards, and special districts ranging from transit systems to departments of water and power. Most government funding is spent at this local level. Most government jobs are at this local level. And the more local these jurisdictions get, the more likely it is that only the government unions have the money and the will to dominate the elections.

In America’s cities, where the union agenda that controls public education trains Americans to be hypersensitive to any alleged infringements on their “identity,” big government is presented as the guardian of their futures and their freedoms. In America’s cities, where poor education combined with over-regulation has resulted in a paucity of good jobs, welfare and entitlement programs are presented as the government’s answer. And the more poverty and social instability we have in America, the bigger government gets.

Take another look at this map that depicts the absolute vote margins by county in 2016. From viewing this map, it is evident that the split that was exposed on November 8, 2016, was not simply urban versus rural. It was government union-controlled areas versus places relatively free of government union influence.

From the above map, only a few places stand out as decisive factors in Clinton’s popular vote victory—Seattle, Miami, New York City, and most prominently, Los Angeles and Chicago.

In Los Angeles County, Clinton received 1,893,770 votes versus 620,285 for Trump. In Chicago’s Cook County, Clinton received 1,528,582 votes versus 440,213 for Trump. Let that sink in for a moment. If just a few blue counties—not blue states, blue counties—were taken out of the equation, the popular vote would have been a toss-up. The political systems and the public schools in all of these blue counties are controlled, many informed observers would say absolutely, by public-sector unions.

Government Union Agenda vs. the Public Interest
It would be cynical and unfair to suggest that politically savvy members and leaders of public-sector unions are consciously supporting policies that undermine America’s democracy, prosperity, freedoms, and culture. But that’s what’s happening.

It doesn’t matter all that much what union members and leaders think; the institutional momentum of their organizations have this effect. The primary agenda of a government union, like any organization, is to survive and thrive. For government unions, this means to acquire more members, collect more dues, and acquire more power and influence. The only way this can be accomplished is for government to expand.

This is where government union reform should be a nonpartisan issue. Because even big-government advocates have the expectation that expanded government programs will be effective. But government unions actually become more prosperous and more powerful when government fails—and, for that matter, when society fails. The worse things get, the more calls there are for new government programs to solve them. The bigger the crisis, the greater the opportunity. And at the forefront of these calls for bigger government to solve every problem are the government unions, using all of their considerable power and influence to make the call.

We see this at the local level all the time. Thousands of local tax and bond measures are placed on ballots across the nation every election cycle, as well as between elections, during primary season, and in special elections. Opposing these proposed new taxes and bonds are the usual hardscrabble assortment of local anti-tax activists; typically a handful of volunteers with almost no money. Supporting these new taxes and bonds are public-sector unions, with standing armies of professionals and, for all practical purposes, unlimited funds. Also supporting the new taxes are the private contractors that stand to gain from the increased spending, as well as the government bureaucrats themselves, who use municipal budgets to fund “information outreach” to voters. But for these unions, the victory is sealed when the new taxes and bonds are approved. If the new revenue they collect and spend fails to solve the problem, it doesn’t really matter.

At the state and national level, it is easy to see the influence of government unions corrupts public policy.

Immigration and climate change are core issues where the inherent interests of government unions are in conflict with the public interest. Immigration to the United States in the 21st century should consist of highly skilled and highly educated immigrants, since America already has millions of unskilled residents who need to choose jobs over welfare. But while the American people would benefit by inviting scientists, engineers, and doctors to immigrate and fill advanced positions for which there is a shortage of qualified applicants, it would not benefit government unions.

The more difficulty America has in assimilating newcomers, the more government jobs are created. If immigrants don’t speak English, public schools must hire teachers with foreign language certifications. If they live in poverty, public schools must develop free-meal programs. If these immigrant communities fail to achieve the educational results that make them employable, the government will need more social workers and welfare administrators. If the ongoing poverty breeds higher crime rates, more police, judges, bailiffs, prison guards, and probation officers are the answer. The worse things get, the more government employees and government benefits become necessary.

And, of course, as these communities fail to become prosperous, they are taught by leftist, unionized social studies teachers that it’s not their responsibility, but rather the fault of their white male oppressors, and they’d better vote for Democrats in order to guarantee their reparative handouts. And to enforce “diversity” quotas—unionized government bureaucrats.

With climate change, the conflict between government unions and the public interest is equally stark. Here again, there is also a strong connection between connected government contractors and the public-sector unions. Instead of building subsidized housing, special needs school facilities, and more prisons—which come with marginally assimilable immigrants—these contractors supply solar farms, wind farms, “smart” appliances, and everything else that comes with mandated climate change mitigation. It doesn’t matter if any of these mandates accomplish anything, so long as profits are made. And overseeing it all are the government unions, who hire more code inspectors, environmental consultants, and a byzantine monitoring and enforcement bureaucracy.

While immigration and climate change are core drivers of government union endorsed government expansion, they aren’t the only factors. In every area of policy and spending, government unions benefit when things are harder for ordinary families and small businesses. In all areas, taxes, borrowing, spending, and regulations, the more there is, the more the government unions benefit.

The Financial Power of Public-Sector Unions
One of the primary reasons government union activists exercise influence disproportionate to their numbers is because behind these activists are billions of dollars in annual dues, collected from government payroll departments across the nation.

In California alone, government unions collect and spend nearly $1 billion a year. Nationwide, government union revenues are estimated to total at least $6 billion per year. Apart from private sector unions, no other political special interest enjoys access to a guaranteed, perennial torrent of money of comparable magnitude. This money is not just spent on federal elections; most of it is directed at tens of thousands of state and local election campaigns.

With this perpetual torrent of funding, fueled almost exclusively through membership dues, government unions engage the permanent services of the finest professionals money can buy. While much of their spending is explicitly political, even more is spent on community organizing and “educational” advocacy which is not reportable as political spending. Thousands of lobbyists, political consultants, grassroots organizers, public relations firms, opposition researchers, academic researchers, and other freelancers are on-call to these unions.

If you study money in politics, you soon realize there is a rough parity between major political donors who contribute to causes and candidates on the Right versus those who contribute to the Left. But the election of Donald Trump in 2016 revealed the so-called Right to be nearly as bad as the Left, as libertarians and NeverTrump Republicans abandoned their base. This abandonment was especially obvious among donors, whose only apparent unifying political theme was lower taxes for wealthy people. Trump and his supporters exposed the libertarian and NeverTrump Right for being just as committed as the establishment Left was to importing workers to drive down wages and exporting jobs to increase corporate profits. As a result, donations to Republicans, while remaining roughly at parity with donations to Democrats, were for the most part not supporting an America First agenda.

An illustration of how this schism within the American Right, and especially among big libertarian donors, persisted into the 2018 midterms is exemplified by their withdrawal of key financial support for pro-Trump candidates. And here’s where the union money becomes decisive. Into the political conflict between Left and Right, between Democrat and Republican, into a battle for financial supremacy already skewed, because half the Republican donors are now exposed as being more committed to a uniparty establishment than to Republican voters, ride the unions. And almost all of the union money goes to Democrats.

The lack of parity in political power and political advocacy becomes further lopsided when accounting for the role of nonprofits and government bureaucracies. Much has been made of the educational nonprofits supposedly beholden to right-wing donors. Their collective spending is indeed impressive, led by heavyweights like the Heritage Foundation, along with well-known stalwarts such as the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation, and several others at the national level along with a growing number of state focused organizations such as the many member organizations of the State Policy Network.

But contrary to the wailing of the establishment media and left-wing pundits, the influence of these organizations is overstated.

First, many of them must adhere to orthodox libertarian principles in order to keep their donors. This makes them useless on immigration and trade, which are two of the defining issues of our time.

Second, because arrayed against these organizations is the entire rest of the nonprofit universe, which while mostly self-declared as nonpartisan, is in reality a part of that great mass of establishment organizations that have reached a consensus on open borders, “free” trade, and climate change activism consistent with the big government coalition: corporations, government unions, and the financial sector.

To provide one example, the combined budget of just a partial list of the major U.S.-based environmentalist nonprofits and foundations totaled over $4 billion per year as of 2018.

The Financial and Cultural Consequences of Unionized Government
Spokespersons for government employee unions perpetuate a myth of staggering absurdity and tragic consequences—that they are protecting hard-working Americans from wealthy corporations and wealthy individuals.

The reality is that government employee unions are focused on one thing: expanding government employee pay, benefits, and privileges. This requires expanding government, and that priority comes in front of everything else, including the cost to society at large. In states where government unions have taken control, such as California, expansive environmentalist regulations have made prices for housing and utilities the highest in the nation. In California, America’s poster child for union control, excessive compensation packages for unionized government workers have resulted in chronic deficits and accumulating state and local government debt that by some measures already exceeds $1.5 trillion. High taxes and over-regulation have made California consistently rank as the most inhospitable place in the nation to run a small business.

Exactly how does any of this protect the poor from the wealthy?

It doesn’t, of course. But the deeper story is how government employee unions are not only failing to “protect” the aspiring multitudes in California, or anywhere else in America, but are in fact enabling the wealthy special interests they claim to protect us from. The most entrenched and massive corporate entities are not harmed by excessive regulations, because they can afford to comply. An obvious example would be calls to increase the minimum wage– a movement almost exclusively restricted to states with powerful public-sector unions. Large corporate entities like McDonald’s will simply automate a few positions, tinker with the menu and recipes, incrementally raise prices, and go forward. Large corporations can hire attorneys and lobbyists, they have access to capital, and when the smaller players go out of business they gain market share. They benefit from over-regulation, but the consumer and workers suffer.

Less obvious but far more consequential is how the financial sector also benefits from an overbuilt, financially irresponsible, unionized government. When excessive rates of pay and benefits consume government budgets, financial institutions step up to extend debt. Bond underwriters collect billions each year in fees to issue new debt and refinance existing debt. When excessively generous pension plans are granted to unionized government employees, pension funds pour hundreds of billions into Wall Street investment firms, earning additional billions in fees. As for “carbon emissions auctions,” also rolling out inexorably in blue states, as that ramps up, virtually every BTU of fossil fuel energy consumed will put a commission into the hands of a financial intermediary. Trillions are on the table.

Unionized government hides behind environmentalism to justify increasing pay and benefits over-investment in infrastructure—which after all is environmentally incorrect. As the cost-of-living inevitably rises through artificial constraints on the supply of land and energy, the unionized government workers negotiate even higher pay and benefits to compensate, and the corporate monopolies that control existing supplies of land and energy get more revenue and profit. And of course the resultant asset bubble is healthy both for pension funds and wealthy investors, even as low and middle-class private-sector workers are priced out of owning homes—or even automobiles—and struggle to make ends meet.

It is crucial to perceive the irony. Government unions empower the worst elements of the capitalist system they persistently demonize. The crony capitalists and speculative financial interests benefit from an overbuilt, over-regulating, state and local government populated with overpaid unionized workers. Those virtuous capitalists who want to compete without subsidies are successfully lumped together with these robber barons, discrediting their support for reform. Those small business owners who want to grow their enterprises are harassed and marginalized.

If government employee unions were illegal, the most powerful political force in California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, and a host of other smaller blue states would cease to exist. But losing these government unions wouldn’t “turn government over to the corporations and billionaires.” Quite the opposite. It would take away the ability of those corporations and billionaires to collude with local and state government unions who currently control the lawmakers. It would force them instead to compete with each other, lowering the cost of living for everyone. It would restore balance to our debate over environmental policy, energy policy, and infrastructure investment.

Wherever government unions become as powerful as they have become in California, their domain increasingly becomes a feudal state, where the anointed and compliant corporations build monopolies, government workers lead privileged lives, the rich get richer, the middle class diminishes, and the poor become dependent on government. Nobody who is serious about reversing California’s decline into feudalism—or America’s potential decline—can ignore the fundamental enabling role unionized government is playing.

It is important to emphasize that the most ominous consequence of unionized government is its complicity in the asset bubbles that, if abruptly deflated, threaten to plunge the United States, if not the world, into a liquidity crisis. Government unions in the United States control the directorships managing trillions of dollars of public employee pension funds. These pension funds are the biggest single player in the U.S. equity markets. They are also major investors in real estate and bonds. One may argue all day as to just how inflated all these asset classes have become, but regardless of your stance on the question, one thing is indisputable: public employee pension funds are dangerously underfunded despite the fact that there has been a bull market in stocks, bonds, and real estate for over a decade. They will use all their influence to keep the bubbles inflated—and that includes ongoing support for extreme environmentalist regulations to create artificial scarcity of everything—houses, energy, water, food, commodities—buoying their prices which boosts profits, as well as mass immigration to create unmanageable demand for homes, also buoying prices and investor profits. The insatiable need for perpetually increasing asset values constitutes an identity of interests between public-sector unions, multinational corporations, and international investors and speculators that is as obscure as it is inviolable.

Government Union Abuses That Provoke Bipartisan Opposition
“Bipartisan” isn’t what it used to be. Now that America’s political establishment has been exposed as supporting with bipartisan unity, regardless of party, the policies of importing welfare recipients, exporting jobs, fighting endless wars, and micro-managing all forms of energy production under the pretext of saving the planet, the term “bipartisan” doesn’t evoke quite the same transcendent connotations it once did. With that noted, it remains true that with respect to public-sector unions, establishment Democrats are worse than establishment Republicans. When it comes to fighting the influence of public-sector unions, most Republicans lack the courage of their convictions, whereas most Democrats have no convictions at all.

Two exemplary issues, however, have the potential to bring Republicans and Democrats together in opposition to public-sector unions. Those issues are public education and pensions. These issues are not only capable of fostering productive, bipartisan reform efforts, but that eventuality is almost inevitable because the status-quo is not sustainable.

Public Education: In blue states, union control over public education is almost unassailable despite strong opposition. California’s failing school districts face insolvencycaused by a combination of administrative bloat and out-of-control costs for pensions and retirement health benefits. The academic achievement of California’s schools is hard to measure objectively. California’s average SAT score, 1076, places it in 34th place among states. According to a study sponsored by U.S. News and World Report, California’s K-12 system of public education was ranked 26th among states.

But this average performance obscures a bigger problem in California’s union controlled public schools. Union work rules are causing the schools in the most vulnerable communities to get the worst teachers. In 2012 a coalition of mostly Democratsfiled a lawsuit, Vergara v. California, attempting to change these rules. Claiming that education was a civil right, they tried via litigation to revise three union work rules; tenure (a job for life) after only two years, dismissal rules (almost impossible to fire an incompetent teacher), and layoff rules (seniority over merit).

The impact of these three rules was, and is, a relentless migration of the worst teachers into the worst performing schools, since they can’t be fired, but they can be transferred. View the closing argumentsof the plaintiffs for a compelling description of how these three union work rules are destroying California’s public schools. In 2016, after a favorable district court ruling, the appellate court ruled againstthe plaintiffs, and California’s Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal. The schools harmed the most by these corrupt union rules are those in the burgeoning low income immigrant neighborhoods of Los Angeles, where literally hundreds of thousands of children are denied a quality education.

For better or for worse, these kids are America’s future. But who wins when society fails? The government unions win. As demographically ascendant low-income immigrant subcultures are permanently handicapped because their children got indoctrinated instead of educated, taxpayers will have to hire more unionized public servants to redistribute wealth and preserve the peace.

The good news? Increasing numbers of Americans of all ethnicities and ideologies are realizing the impact of union controlled schools is denying future opportunities to a generation of children. The battle over charter schools, home schooling, and union work rules in traditional public schools is far from over.

Public Employee Pensions: With pensions, reform is even more inevitable, because financial reality will compel reform. According to Pew Research, in 2016 state and local government pensions plans disclosed assets of just $2.6 trillion to cover total pension liabilities of $4 trillion. This understates the problem. These pension plans assume they can earn, on average, 7.5 percent per year on their invested assets, yet, as discussed, despite nearly a decade of a bull market in stocks, bonds, and real estate, these pension plans are less than 70 percent funded.

Pension finance isn’t as complicated as the experts would have you believe. What “pension liabilities” refers to is how much money would have to be invested, today, for these pension plans to earn enough interest over time to eventually pay all of the future pension benefits that have been earned so far. Think of pension assets as a growing tree, nourished by the water and sun of investment earnings, supplemented by the fertilizer of regular taxpayer contributions, and pruned each year by the payments going to retirees. If this tree is less than 70 percent of the size it needs to be, then it’s going to get pruned faster than it can grow. Eventually, there won’t be any cuttings to provide pensions to retirees.

For clarity, take the metaphor one step further. What if this undersized tree had been enjoying a decade of abundant water and sunshine—the generous investment returns of the bull market—but suddenly that changes, as it always has and always will? What if this undersized pension asset tree now has to endure years of drought and cloudy weather, stunting its growth at the same time as the pension payment pruning for retirees continue at the same pace?

This is what America’s public employee pension funds are already confronting. The tree is too small, and in response more and more fertilizer—payments by taxpayers—have to be applied to keep it alive. This data compiled by the California Policy Center explains what’s coming:

A city that pays 10% of their total revenues into the pension funds, and there are plenty of them, at an ROI of 7.5% and an honest repayment plan for the unfunded liability, should be paying 17% of their revenues into the pension systems. At a ROI of 6.5%, these cities would pay 24% of their revenue to pensions. At 5.5%, 32%.” To restate—according to this analysis, at a 5.5 percent annual return for the pension funds, 32 percent of total tax revenue would have to go straight into the coffers of the pension funds, just to keep them solvent.

These are staggering conclusions. Only a few years ago, opponents of pension reform disparaged reformers by repeatedly asserting that pension costs only consumed 3 percent of total operating expenses. Now those costs have tripled and quadrupled, and there is no end in sight.

The looming pension crisis is already uniting fiscal conservatives, who want smaller, financially sustainable government, and conscientious liberals, who want to protect their cherished government programs from being eliminated in order to pay the pension funds. And as out-of-control pension costs become a problem too big to ignore, it casts a spotlight on the entire question of overcompensation for unionized government employees. Government employees, on average, retire 10 years sooner and enjoy annual retirement benefits two to five times greater than private sector workers. In California, on average, they make twice as much in pay and benefitsduring the years they work, and veteran employees are eligible for as many as 58 paid days off per year, not including sick leave.

A harrowing example of just how skewed political discourse has become can be found in the government union campaign against California’s Proposition 6, placed on the November 2018 ballot by tax reformers. The proposition was struck down by voters, who were barraged with union-funded flyers and television ads featuring a rugged firefighter, in uniform, explaining how public safety would be jeopardized if voters approved Prop. 6. But nobody told the rest of the story, how this firefighter, as readily verified by publicly available online data, made $327,491 in 2017. That’s only a bit unusual. The average firefighterin a California city in 2015 made $200,000 in pay and benefits. It would be interesting to compile more recent data. The number certainly has not fallen.

Teachers and firefighters are our heroes. They are our role models. But the best among them are unrecognized, because the worst among them are not only nearly immune to being fired, but make exactly as much money as the best. The only thing that matters is seniority. It is likely that the finest teachers are underpaid. But overall, and especially with respect to the cost of retirement benefits, unionized public employees are overpaid, and the cost is becoming too much to bear.

These two issues, quality schools and financially sustainable pensions, represent the wedge that could eventually roll back, if not break the power of public-sector unions. Everyone cares about public schools, because their success or failure governs our children’s future. Everyone cares about public employee pensions, or will care, because if they aren’t reformed, they will bankrupt our cities, counties and states. The primary reason public schools are underperforming, and the primary reason public-sector pensions are not reformed, is because public-sector unions fight reform at every turn.

But all their power cannot deceive voters forever. Change is coming.

Fighting Back
In June 2018, in the landmark case of Janus v. AFSCME, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public sector employees cannot be compelled to pay anything to unions as a condition of employment, not even the so-called agency fees. In the months leading up to this case, public-sector unions made Janusout to be a catastrophe in the making, fueled by “dark money” and poised to destroy the labor movement.

In the months prior to the Janus decision, the mainstream press played up the panic. The Economistreported that “Unions are confronted with an existential threat.” The Atlantic went with “Is This the End of Public-Sector Unions in America?” Even the Wall Street Journal was caught up in the drama, publishing a report with the ominous title “Supreme Court to Decide Fate of public-sector unions.”

Maybe some union officials actually thought an unfavorableJanusruling would destroy their organizations, but more likely, they saw it as an opportunity to rally their base and consolidate their power.

The Janus ruling has come and gone, but public-sector unions are as powerful as ever. In ultra-blue states such as California, they still exercise nearly absolute control over the state legislature, along with the city councils and county boards of supervisors in nearly every major city and county. Their control over school boards is also almost absolute.

In a just world, public-sector unions would be outlawed. Until then, their agenda and their impact must be exposed for all to see.

This pattern repeats itself across the United States, especially in ultra-blue states. For example, following the 2018 midterms, fourteen states had democratic “trifectas,” where Democrats controlled both houses of the state legislature, plus the governorship. These would include the powerhouse states of California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Illinois, along with Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Delaware. These states have one overwhelming political variable working in their favor—the politics of their major urban centers are dominated by public-sector unions.

It has been long enough since the Janus decision to assess the initial impact. As of July 2018, unions could no longer collect “agency fees” from workers who didn’t want full membership. Comparing monthly payroll deductions from early 2018 to those from late 2018, one analysis indicated the unions were not very successful in converting these agency fee payers to full members. It is likely that the impact on public-sector unions based on losing their agency fee payers may have caused their revenue to decline by between five and ten percent. That’s a lot of money. Or is it?

In almost any other context, reducing the annual revenue of a network of political players by somewhere between $300 and $600 million per year would be a catastrophe for the organizations involved. But these are public-sector unions, which still have well over $5 billion per year to work with. Losing most of their agency-fee payers clearly had a permanent and significant impact on union revenues, but for them, and only them, it might be most accurately described as a one-time loss of manageable proportions.

The bigger impact that the Janusruling might have regards what is going to happen to their rates of full membership. It is now possible for public-sector union members to quit their unions. But will they? And if they want to, will the unions be forced to make that an easier process?

Some of the tactics the unions have adopted to make the process of quitting more difficult are being challenged in court. These cases would include Uradnik v. IFO, which would take away a public-sector union’s right to exclusive representation, or Few v. UTLA, which would nullify many steps the unions have taken to thwart the Janusruling. How those cases play out, and whether or not public-sector unions can remain accountable enough to their members to keep them in voluntarily, remains to be seen.

Public-Sector Unions and America’s Future
With America’s electorate split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats, between liberals and conservatives, between socialists and capitalists, between Right and Left—however you want to express those polarities, it doesn’t take much to alter the equilibrium. But wherever you identify powerful forces shifting the balance, you find the public-sector unions are the puppeteer.

Should America import millions of highly skilled immigrants whose children will excel in public schools no matter what? Of course not. Private success requires no public money.

Should America reform its financial house of cards before a liquidity crisis crashes the global economy? No. Because pension solvency requires asset bubbles.

Should public-private partnerships fund new infrastructure so private investors can competitively develop new cities on America’s vast reserves of open land? Not a chance. Artificial scarcity keeps property tax revenues up, and helps prop up the real estate asset bubble.

Should incompetent bureaucrats and teachers be fired? No, because the union protects them.

To understand how intractable this problem has become, it’s worthwhile not only to identify the differences between public and private sector unions, but also the differing philosophies that guides them. To be sure, these structural differences are profound: unlike private-sector unions, public-sector unions elect their own bosses, are funded through coercive taxes instead of competitively earned profits, are rewarded by inefficiency and failure which they use as justification to expand government, and operate the machinery of government, which allows them unique powers to harass their opponents.

But these structural differences need to be viewed in the context of the ideological differences between unionized workers in the public and private sectors. These ideological differences are not absolute, but they are nonetheless very real and impact the political agenda of public-sector unions versus private sector unions. There are at least three areas of ideological differences:

Authoritarian vs. Market Driven: Workers for the government exercise political power, whereas workers in the private sector exercise economic power. A private sector union can cause a company to go out of business, an economic threat, whereas a public sector union can cause their manager—the elected politician—to lose their next election, a political threat. This basic difference makes if far more likely that private sector union workers will have a better appreciation of the limits of their power, since if their demands have a sufficiently adverse economic effect on the company they’re negotiating with, that company will go out of business and they will lose their jobs.

Another related manifestation of the authoritarian core ideology among government workers is the simple fact that the government compels people to pay taxes and provides only one option for services, whereas corporations must persuade consumers to voluntarily purchase their products if they want to stay in business. Private-sector union members understand this difference quite well, because they live with the consequences if their company fails in the market.

Environmentalist Restriction vs. Economic Development: Workers in the private sector benefit from major construction projects and resource development. These projects create new jobs, and they yield broad societal benefits in the form of more competitive choices available for basic resources; energy, water, transportation, and housing.

When more development occurs, this increases supply and lowers prices. Development creates jobs and lowers the cost of living. Private sector union members understand this, but public sector union members have an inherent conflict of interest. This is because public sector workers benefit when roadblocks are placed in the way of development. An extended process of permitting and review, labyrinthine regulations impacting every possible aspect of development, creates jobs in the public sector.

The harder the public sector can make it to build things, the more fees they will collect and the more government jobs they will create. Ironically, the public-sector unions have an identity of interests with the most powerful monopolistic corporations on earth in this regard, because they both benefit from barriers to competitive development. Private sector union members just want to see more jobs and a lower cost of living, which development ensures.

Internationalist vs. Nationalist: This area of ideological differences between public and private sector unions is perhaps the least mentioned, and the most subject to overlap and ambiguity. But identifying this difference is crucial to understanding the differing agendas of public- and private-sector unions.

For example, the ideological agenda of the unions controlling public education in the United States are dramatically out of touch with the values of a great many Americans. In states where public education is controlled by powerful teachers unions, classroom materials and textbooks routinely demonize the role of the United States and Western Civilization in current affairs and world history. Their emphasis is to mainstream the marginalized, at the expense of teaching the overwhelmingly positive role played by democracy and capitalism in creating freedom and wealth. Another critical example is how job losses to foreign manufacturers affect members of these respective unions; it has an immediate, deeply negative impact on members of private-sector unions, but is something that has no effect on a public-sector worker.

Members of public-sector unions who consider themselves in favor of free markets and resource development, and harbor pro-American patriotic sentiments, would do well to examine carefully how the leaders of government employee unions have powerful incentives to promote policies in direct opposition to these values. And that is where there might be hope.

The precarious equilibrium between Right and Left in America is maintained not only by virtue of powerful public-sector unions pushing as hard as they can in favor of the Left; public employees themselves constitute a critical swing vote in America’s electorate. Including federal workers, there are nearly 20 million government employees in America, and nearly all of them vote. If you include households with government workers in them, you likely could double that number. These Americans have a tough choice to make: Will they vote for more government, because more government will create more career opportunities for themselves and their loved ones, or will they only ask themselves what political choices will offer the most benefit to all Americans?

Public employees, like all Americans, are awakening to the propaganda that passes as mainstream journalism. Despite rampant suppression of the truth, they can see what has happened to Europe thanks to mass immigration. Despite endless rhetoric coming from the press and public institutions, they realize that campus radicalism and identity politics are a nihilistic dead end. Despite nightly “news” that spends more time on celebrity gossip than global events, they can see the where socialism leads in the devastated nation of Venezuela. They’re even realizing that climate change activism is a cover for globalist rationing and wealth redistribution. They see the hypocrisy.

Public-sector unions are the brokers and enablers of corporate power. As politicians come and go, and business interests rise and fall, they are the continuity, decade after decade. In every city and state where they’ve been allowed, they are the deep state. They are globalist instead of nationalist, authoritarian instead of pluralistic, they favor rationing and regulation over competitive development. They want to make everything harder, scarcer, more expensive. They prefer cultural disintegration and chaos to unity because it empowers them when things get bad. In a just world, public-sector unions would be outlawed. Until then, their agenda and their impact must be exposed for all to see.

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Administrative State • America • California • Center for American Greatness • Cities • Democrats • Donald Trump • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Post • The Resistance (Snicker)

Democrats’ Sanctuary Hypocrisy Shines Through

In just a couple of weeks, Democrat hypocrisy on immigration has gone from a steady flow to an overwhelming torrent. Their complete disregard even for their own policies when it comes to applying them to illegal immigration is remarkable. For no reason other than that it would require them to stop demagoguing Trump and instead start working with him, Democrats once again show that power trumps principle with a few recent examples.

Consider the response to the humanitarian crisis at the border—one that continues to grow apace, directly propelled by our weak asylum laws and lax border enforcement. Democrats scoff at claims by the Trump Administration and Customs and Border Enforcement about the activities of cartels and human smugglers at the border, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

A new report from the nonpartisan RAND Corporation found that smugglers and cartels earned as much as $2.3 billion from Central American migrants in 2017. Failure to address the crisis at the border is directly lining the pockets of, as the report dubs them, “transnational criminal enterprises” (TCOs).

As the report explains:

Drug-trafficking TCOs . . . control primary smuggling corridors into the United States and charge migrants a “tax” known as a piso, to pass through their territories. In addition, drug-trafficking TCOs may also coordinate some unlawful migrants’ border crossings to divert attention from other illicit activities, and recruit or coerce some to carry drugs.

That last finding is key. As Border Patrol resources continue to be diverted away from actually policing the border toward dealing with the massive influx of families and unaccompanied minors, cartels and smugglers are able to engage in cross-border mischief with almost no interference. Members of Congress who take the time to go to the border have seen it first-hand.

The human smuggling industry is also growing like gangbusters. The RAND report puts the take for all kinds of smuggling from $200 million to $2.3 billion in 2017. And the stories of sexual abuse—particularly of migrant women and girls—are well documented by leading left-wing outlets: the New York Times, Huffington Post, even Doctors Without Borders.

Yet not a peep is heard from the Left, the party that tells us they believe all women, and who supports a #MeToo movement that, by its own words, was founded to “help survivors of sexual violence, particularly Black women and girls, and other young women of color from low wealth communities.”

In other words, human smuggling, criminal violence, and sex trafficking matter—but only with regard to select victim groups. Because acknowledging that criminal activity is running rampant at the border means Democrats would have to stop protesting Trump and work with him to acknowledge and address the role our lax enforcement and weak asylum laws play in encouraging the victimization of these groups.

But this should not be a surprise, given that lip service is a Democratic specialty. Look no further than their response to a suggestion by the Trump administration to release detained immigrants into “sanctuary cities”—cities who intentionally disregard federal immigration enforcement law.

The Left howled at Trump’s suggestion, calling it “manufactured chaos” and as well as cynical and cruel. But, why? The president’s suggestion (which the White House has now disregarded as a policy option) is simply a logical extension of what Democrats have said for years that they want.

Over the last two years, the party has sought to limit the detention resources available to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and some have gone so far as to say the entire agency should be dismantled. Democrats are largely fine with a large number of illegal immigrants simply being able to live freely in the United States, without consequence.

In 2013, then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) flatly stated Democrats’ “view of the law is that . . . if somebody is here without sufficient documentation, that is not a reason for deportation.” Former San Antonio mayor and presidential candidate Julián Castro has suggested that illegal border crossings be decriminalized entirely: “The truth is, immigrants seeking refuge in our country . . . shouldn’t be a criminal justice issue.” His fellow presidential contender, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) has openly advocated tearing down existing border barriers.

That’s why liberal cities have fashioned themselves as “sanctuary” jurisdictions, after all. They see nothing wrong with the act of crossing the border illegally. In fact, illegal immigrants who live in College Park, Maryland, and San Francisco, can now vote in municipal and school board elections. California’s new governor, Gavin Newsom, used his inaugural address in January to propose strengthening the state’s sanctuary law by making illegal immigrants eligible for the state’s version of Medicaid care until age 26.

So, why, then, were so many Democrats up in arms over Trump’s proposal to simply give them what they say they want? They’ve intentionally made their cities magnets for illegal immigrants, why shouldn’t they want the responsibility of supporting them?

Ironically, in “resisting” Trump, the singer Cher stumbled onto the point (and, also managed to highlight the hypocritical irony of the entire situation). “I understand helping struggling immigrants,” she tweeted, “but my city (Los Angeles) isn’t taking care of its own. What about the 50,000+ citizens who live on the streets. People who live below poverty line, and hungry? If my state can’t take care of its own (many are vets) how can it take care of more?”

Yes, Cher. Exactly. The country cannot encourage and then support the creation of a permanent underclass of illegal immigrants when our resources are already strained to the breaking point. It cannot be a shining example of justice while willfully ignoring the black market for human beings created in response to our border policies.

If the Left is consistent is anything, it is in their loudly telling the rest of us how to live while refusing to acknowledge the consequences of what they espouse or live up to their own principles.  

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Cities • Democrats • Elections • Government Reform • Identity Politics • Political Parties • Post • Republicans

The Way Back for Urban Republicans

Democrats run almost all of the country’s big cities, in many cases virtually unopposed. Right now, they’re in the process of repeating almost all of the mistakes of the 1960s and ’70s, plus a few new ones. The resulting decay and discontent will be extremely unpleasant, but it may offer savvy Republicans an opening. Republicans should understand that no openings come without risks.

Urban Republicans are, if not extinct, then at least endangered. They are mayors of only 13 of the country’s largest 50 cities, and of those, seven are under 500,000 in population. Once you add in the dearth of city council seats, things look even more bleak.

In the 2018 midterms, Republicans lost their buffer: the suburbs. Ring counties across the country turned blue, or bluer. In Colorado, where I now live, Arapahoe, Adams, and Jefferson counties all went Democrat, sweeping away even longtime Republican office-holders. In the Virginia suburbs of D.C., where I grew up, once reliably Republican Fairfax County is now solidly blue, and Democrats made inroads into Prince William and Loudoun Counties.

Things might, or might not, get better in the 2020 presidential year, but the long-term trend is undeniable. We may blame ballot harvesting for the loss of all of Orange County, California’s congressional seats, but even supposing the worst to be true there, there can be no denying that as recently as 10 years ago, it would never have been close enough for Democrats to cheat.

For the Republican party and conservatives to survive, we have no choice but to stand and fight on this ground. We’re simply running out of real estate.

What to do?

The State of Our Cities
Part of the answer lies in the state of these cities. Urban progressive rule, far from being benign, is incredibly destructive. We all know the litany: Los Angeles and its typhoid-ridden homeless encampments, San Francisco and its “poop maps,” Portland’s city center routinely terrorized by Antifa. Seattle can mandate a minimum wage but can’t build a trolley or rebuild a highway; Chicago has third-world murder rates; New York’s transit system has given back two decades of improvement virtually overnight; in Washington, rain water cascades down the stalled, broken escalators to the Metro.

Increased density may not be a Democratic electoral strategy but it’s certainly one for central planners. Stanley Kurtz wrote extensively about the Obama Administration’s use of federal incentives and rules to tie the suburbs more closely to the urban core. And in cities all over the country, regional planners have obliged, compressing development into “transit corridors,” trying to recreate the 1950s’ commuting patterns, using light rail and bike lanes instead of the old commuter rail.

In my own city, Denver, the municipal government has responded to growth by spending its citizens’ money to make their lives worse. Already known as the heroin capital of the West, Denver has decided to protect illegal aliens who deal in the drug rather deport them, and open a “safe” injection site instead of cracking down on users.

The city, through its influence in the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) has deliberately increased density, worsening traffic, and its attendant aggravation and cost. By working assiduously to keep people from spreading out, these governments have only made housing more expensive than the substantial population growth would have done on its own.

Homeless encampments are popping up across the city, and the police response is to extend “outreach units.” The largest of these just north of downtown, is practically a law unto itself, protected by the efforts of City Councilman Albus Brooks. Since 2008, per capita property crime is up 8 percent. Violent crime per capita is up 41 percent since 2005.

It has declared a policy of not improving the city streets for cars. Actual car lanes on heavily-used downtown commuter surface streets have been removed to make way for bike lanes, even as bike ridership is down nationally. And now, major streets are about to lose more lanes to so-called bus rapid transit, all in the name of getting people out of their cars, against their will.

Denver’s Regional Transit District prefers to spend money on an overpriced, under-utilized light rail whose one useful line to the airport is at risk of being shut down because it can’t figure out how to get its at-grade crossings to work.

Bus service, which would actually improve the lives of citizens, is treated like the red-headed stepchild of transit. The city refuses to buy frontage for cut-outs, because that might improve the lives of drivers stuck behind the buses. Fares are the highest in the country, and service is continually being cut, punishing the lower-wage earners who have been forced out of the city by through housing unaffordability.

Astonishingly, few in city government see anything wrong with this. Their distaste for the aesthetics of sprawl outweighs their distaste for homelessness and the misery of commuters.

Denver isn’t alone in this, it isn’t even on the cutting edge. Unconscionably, our city council has taken as its governance model cities such as San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, which are already in worse shape because of making these same mistakes.

Do the Hard Work and Offer Real Solutions
Conservatives have the answers to these problems. Focus on what the city government should be doing—solving the basic problems of its citizens and providing a platform for them to make their lives better.

Police the streets. Get traffic moving. Stop inflicting an ongoing behavior modification program on the people. Stop taking so much of their money that they feel trapped and powerless.

Solve problems. In particular, solve the problems the Democrats and progressives have caused.

Be open to new technologies like ride-sharing apps, short-term rentals, and 5G cell towers, but recognize the obligations those impose on us to help the people who will have to adjust to such changes. Don’t be Luddites, don’t stand in the way of new technology, and at the same time, don’t pretend that scooters are the answer to our traffic problems.

But as conservatives, we also know that government can’t solve all our problems. The hopeless effort to do that has led to the mess we’re in. To that end, we must vigorously defend our nonprofits, our religious institutions, and civic organizations from government encroachment.

We will also likely have to de-emphasize social issues. As we do that, we must also aggressively defend the independence and liberty of non-governmental institutions which will have to pick up the slack. They must be around to shape society and conserve social capital. Otherwise, there won’t be much of a society to defend.

Indeed, we would do well to recognize that Americans at the lower end of the economic spectrum benefit the most from and contribute the most to charities, as a percentage of their income.

At a practical political level, Republicans need to go places we’re not used to going, places that will make us uncomfortable. NAACP meetings. Union meetings. PTA meetings. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce events. The goal is to listen first, not to persuade. Take an interest in people, treat them with respect, and they’ll respond in kind. If we’re looking for a world that has accepted conservative political principles, we need to be open 24/7/365, not just in October of even-numbered years.

In many cities, we no longer have the luxury of being taken seriously simply because we’re one of the two major parties. Instead, we have to earn that respect by being involved as citizens in our cities, getting appointed to local boards and commissions, spending time learning about issues, and recruiting candidates with deep ties to their communities.

Reliving the 1960s and ’70s?
The last time we did this to ourselves—liberalized our attitudes towards drugs, going soft on crime, and generally made our cities expensive, unlivable, cesspools—people fled to the suburbs. The poor decisions of the 1960s and ’70s led to the frustrations of the 1980s and ’90s, and cities found their way back to sanity. Losing population, commerce, tax base, and relevance, it was adapt-or-die time for the urban cores.

And the growing suburbs, which had generally been reliably Republican, helped boost Republican fortunes in Congress and eventually in state legislatures.

The flight to the suburbs may repeat itself, but may not bring those electoral benefits. Why not? The suburbs are becoming denser. Places with denser populations almost invariably vote for Democrats. Also, as younger people follow in the footsteps of previous generations, they’ll bring more liberal attitudes and voting patterns with them. Finally, given artificially inflated housing costs, moving to the suburbs may not be an option; already millennials and post-millennials find themselves with cash, but not enough cash to buy a home.

We won’t be able to use the strategy of running away to the suburbs or the exurbs, building something nice there, and waiting for the cities to figure it out, because increasingly, there’s nowhere to run.

Instead, we’ll have to meet people where they are, sympathize with their frustrations, regain their trust, and show them we can govern and solve the problems that government legitimately is there to solve.

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America • Center for American Greatness • Cities • Economy • Energy • Environment • Europe • Immigration • Infrastructure • Post • The Culture • The Left

Twilight of the Malthusians

Thomas Malthus was an English cleric and scholar living in the early 19th century who developed the theory that global population increases exponentially, while global production increases arithmetically. His theory—and the eventual collapse of civilization that it implies—enjoys influence to this day. In California, it found early expression in a 1976 speech by Governor Jerry Brown, who announced that we had entered an “era of limits.” For more than 40 years now, influential politicians such as Brown, supported by like-minded environmentalists, have embraced the Malthusian vision. But an alternative exists.

First, global population growth was only increasing “exponentially” for a few decades in the middle of the 20th century. As the chart below indicates, using data from the United Nations, the annual rate of global population growth peaked in 1980 at just over 2 percent. Since then, it has already dropped to half that rate, estimated at around 1 percent per year in 2020. By the end of this century, global population is projected to be growing at a decidedly “arithmetic” rate of under 0.2 percent per year.

At the same time that the rate of global population growth is slowing significantly, global productivity continues to increase. Virtually all recent estimates—World Bank, International Monetary Fund, United Nations—forecast global GDP growth to exceed 3 percent per year into the foreseeable future. This rate of growth is low by historical standards and, notwithstanding temporary disruptions caused by future recessions, is likely to be much higher over the next several decades. Put another way, the rate of global wealth creation currently exceeds the rate of human population increase by at least 50 percent, and that ratio is likely to improve over the long-term.

Enough Resources to Sustain Global Economic Growth?
By now, most Malthusians have to acknowledge that global population is leveling off, but they will nonetheless assert that too many people are already here, and there simply aren’t enough resources left on Planet Earth to fuel long-term economic growth. But the prevailing challenge facing humanity when confronted with resource constraints is not that we are running out of resources, but how we will adapt and create new and better solutions to meet the needs that currently are being met by what are arguably scarce or finite resources. If one accepts this premise, that we are not threatened by diminishing resources, but rather by the possibility that we won’t successfully adapt and innovate to create new resources, a completely different perspective on resource scarcity and resource management may emerge.

Across every fundamental area of human needs, history demonstrates that as technology and freedom are advanced, new solutions evolve to meet them. Despite tragic setbacks of war or famine that provide examples to contradict this optimistic claim, overall the lifestyle of the average human being has inexorably improved across the centuries. While it is easy to examine specific consumption patterns today and suggest we now face a tipping point wherein shortages of key resources will overwhelm us, if one examines key resources one at a time, there is a strong argument that such a catastrophe, if it does occur, will be the result of war, corruption, or misguided adherence to counterproductive ideologies, and not because there were not solutions readily available through human creativity and advancing technology.

Energy, water, and land are, broadly speaking, the three resources one certainly might argue are finite and scrupulously must be managed. But in each case, a careful examination provides ample evidence to contradict this claim.

Abundant Energy: According to the most recent BP Statistical Review of World Energy, proven reserves of fossil fuel could provide enough energy to serve 100 percent of worldwide energy requirements at a total annual rate of consumption twice what is currently consumed for at least another 367 years. That is based on adding together the known reserves of the three primary fossil fuels. Using natural gas exclusively, 27 years; oil, 90 years; coal, 250 years. Moreover, additional reserves of fossil fuel are being discovered faster than fossil fuel is being depleted. And this abundance of available fossil fuel is estimated without accounting for vast deposits of so-called unconventional reserves such as methane hydrates.

In addition to fossil fuel, there are proven sources of energy such as nuclear and hydroelectric power, and new sources of energy including wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass, that have the potential to scale up to provide comparable levels of power production. And then there is the eventual promise of limitless, clean fusion power, and perhaps other sources of energy we can’t yet imagine. With these many energy alternatives, combined with relentless improvements in energy efficiency, it is difficult to imagine human civilization ever running out of energy.

Abundant Water: In many regions of the world, the challenge of meeting projected water needs appears more daunting than the challenge of producing adequate energy. But fresh water is not a finite resource. There are countless areas throughout the world where desalination technology can provide water in large quantities—in 2017 over 24 billion cubic meters of the world’s fresh water was obtained through desalination, an amount equivalent to 5 percent of all urban water use worldwide in that year. For large urban users, desalination is affordable and requires surprisingly little energy input.

Another way to provide abundant water is to redirect large quantities of river water via inter-basin transfers from water-rich areas to water poor areas. Finally, water is never truly used up, it is continuously recycled, and by treating and reusing water, particularly in urban areas, there should never be water scarcity.

With water, as with energy, innovation is providing solutions heretofore unimaginable. Densely populated urban areas around the world are turning to high-rise agriculture, where food is grown indoors using water that is perpetually recycled, fertilizer from waste streams, with zero need for pesticides.

Abundant Land: The question of finding adequate land for humans is clearly different from that of finding energy or water, since unlike energy or water, land is truly finite. But even here, key trends indicate land is now becoming more abundant, not less abundant. This is because for decades, all over the world, people have been migrating into densely populated cities. Using World Bank data, as summarized on the bar chart, the global rural population (red) has slowly increased from 2 billion in 1960 to an estimated 3.4 billion in 2020. By 2050, the rural population worldwide is actually expected to decrease, back down to 3.1 billion.

Meanwhile, the global urban population has accommodated nearly all population growth over the past sixty years. These urban populations are concentrated in megacities that, while vast, consume a small fraction of land area on earth. In 1960, humanity’s 1 billion urban dwellers constituted only 34 percent of the global population. By 2050, an estimated 6.6 billion people will live in cities, comprising 68 percent of all humanity. Moreover, this transition has been voluntary. Most people apparently prefer the amenities and opportunities of urban life.

This massive voluntary migration to cities from rural areas, combined with new agricultural innovations, is depopulating landscapes faster than what remains of human population growth will fill them. This seismic shift in the distribution of humans on earth, combined with new high yield crops, aquaculture, and urban high-rise agriculture, promises a decisive and very positive shift from land scarcity to land abundance in the next 25-50 years.

The Ideology of Abundance vs. the Ideology of Scarcity
If one accepts the possibility that humanity is not on a collision course with resource scarcity, entirely new ways of looking at policy options are revealed. Rather than attempting to manage demand, based on the premise that supplies are finite, we might also manage supply by increasing production. While, for example, utility pricing might still be somewhat progressive, if we assume resources will not run out, it doesn’t have to be punitive. If someone wishes to use more energy or water than their neighbor, if their pricing isn’t so punitive as to effectively ration their consumption, but instead is only moderately progressive, then overconsumption leads to higher profit margins at the utility, which in-turn finances more investment in supplies.

Another consequence of rejecting the Malthusian conventional wisdom is a new understanding of what may truly motivate many powerful backers of the doomsday lobby. By limiting consumption through claiming resources are perilously scarce and by extracting them we may destroy the earth, the vested interests who control the means of production will tighten their grip on those means.

Instead of pluralistically investing in this last great leap forward to build megacities and infrastructure for the future—in the process extracting raw materials that either can be recycled or are renewable—the public entities and powerful corporations who benefit from scarcity will raise prices and defer investment. It is the interests of the emergent classes, whether they are entrepreneurs in prosperous, advanced economies, or the aspiring masses in developing nations, which are harmed the most by the Malthusian notion of inevitable scarcity.

Abundance is a choice, and it is a choice the privileged elite must make—in order for humanity to achieve abundance, elites must accept the competition of disruptive technologies, the competition of emerging nations, and a vision of environmentalism that embraces resource development and rejects self-serving anti-growth alarmist extremism. The irony of our time is that the policies of socialism and extreme environmentalism do more harm than good both to ordinary people and the environment, while enabling wealthy elites to perpetuate their position of privilege at the same time as they embrace the comforting but false ideology of scarcity.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact

America • Cities • civic culture/friendship • Economy • Post • The Culture

American Civic Life Tries to Make a Comeback

PITTSBURGH—It’s just before 7 p.m. on a frigid December night, and already the Allegheny Elks Lodge No. 339 on the city’s North Side is filling up quickly—both the long bar and the tables in the adjacent hall.

There’s a woman collecting for a 50-50 raffle. (You may as well give in; she won’t take no for an answer.) Elks volunteers young and old are manning the bar and the kitchen, where the special tonight is a gourmet grilled cheese (black forest honey ham, Gouda cheese, and bacon).

Upstairs a six-lane sparkling white and red art deco bowling alley straight out of the 1920s is filled with young people from a local league. The floor above that is where lodge meetings are held; it is a beautiful ballroom also straight out of the Roaring ’20s.

The beer is cheap and cold. The food is cheap and tasty. Soon the entire building is packed to the rafters, people lining the walls in the hall and the bar. It’s as if Frank Capra made a movie in this century.

Tonight is Banjo Night, the weekly event when the Pittsburgh Banjo Club takes to the stage in the 90-year-old building. The event attracts an eclectic mix of college students; suburbanites; pink-haired, inked, multi-pierced artists; and octogenarians all joining in to sing along to tunes like “Daisy, Daisy” and “You Are My Sunshine.”

There’s even a free song sheet, but it carries a stern warning: “Thou shall not take with you.”

This is not an Elks event, as the Banjo Club rents the hall every week. Still, its presence at the lodge has helped reignite interest in the civic organization that first came into being just after the Civil War. A group of young actors initially formed a social club to elude New York City’s strict Sunday tavern hours of operation. Theatrical shows would end too late for them to grab a drink after a show.

The Jolly Corks, as they were originally called, evolved into a charitable civic group through tragedy. One of the original members died, leaving his widow and children destitute, and they all chipped in to ease her financial stress. This moment transformed their organization from the social Jolly Corks to the service-oriented Elks.

Memberships in civic organizations such as the Elks or Masons or Rotary Clubs peaked across America after both world wars, and they began falling in the 1960s when Americans began shedding fraternal socialization and front porches for television shows in their living rooms and backyard decks.

Since the late ’90s, all of them have rapidly faced near extinction, thanks to the isolating effects of gaming and smartphones, and the anti-social components of social media. These things erase that sense of community, security and civic duty that fraternal organizations can cultivate.

By 2012, the membership at this Elks had hit a low, only 340 members remaining, and most of them were closer in age to 80 than to 70. The community was ebbing in fast-forward, and that social capital was evaporating.

And something else was fading: the tradition of elders sharing stories, sometimes tall tales, passing on their wisdom and experiences to the young people in the community. It’s the kind of knowledge and information you can’t Google or ask Alexa to find for you, the kind of knowledge that shapes the character of men and women and a community.

Today the membership is nearly double its 2012 low point. Weekly outside events like Banjo Night and the monthly jazz and bluegrass nights bring the crowds. Annual events like the Lenten Fish Fry and the very popular Johnny Cash Night, which always falls on the late crooner’s birthday and typically features several Cash cover bands, have raised enough awareness about what Elks actually do that membership has soared.

And the scope of its work, all volunteer, is astounding, from supplementing federal food stamp deficiencies for the local poor, to summer day camps for at-risk kids, to youth drug-awareness programs, to veterans programs, to visiting nurses, to a holiday charity drive.

There was even a luggage charity drive to collect gently used luggage, totes and book bags for foster children transitioning between homes and women transitioning in or out of women’s shelters. This provided a bit more dignity than the black trash bag Health and Human Services provides.

They also raised money for the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and for the Tree of Life Synagogue Victims & Families Fund in the aftermath of the mass shooting this fall.

All of these only touch the tip of the iceberg of the philanthropic work this one lodge does, with many of the new members having first walked through the lodge doors on Banjo Night, looking for a place that could become a second home of sorts, a place to connect with people they were somehow missing in their lives.

Too often people think that to make significant change in the world they have to get involved in global issues or lobbying the central government. What they miss is that most things that improve the world begin in a small community civic organization like this Elks—even something like helping homeless veterans get a free haircut, interview clothing, and housing until they get on their feet.

That vet or the kid who gets a scholarship through the Elks will, in turn, keep alive the notion of service and go on to improve the world in his or her own way.

Ray Link, the young “exalted ruler” of this lodge, says there are a dozen or so new members about to be sworn in to this Elks beginning in 2019. Even the mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, has been a member in good standing for a couple of years.

Joining has been something Americans have been doing for centuries. In the past decade, we’ve sadly replaced our participation in churches and civic organizations with a heavy participation in politics and social media, neither of which really does much for us or our communities.


America • Big Media • Cities • Democrats • Elections • First Amendment • Free Speech • Political Parties • Post • the Presidency

The Puritanical President

When Thucydides writes his History of the Cola Wars, when he finishes his account of the Eastern Front in which a billion reds, alongside an equal number of whites and blues, defeated the Red Army, when he explains how so many tin soldiers did what France and Germany failed to do—what neither all the marshals under Napoleon’s charge could accomplish nor all the generals of the Wehrmacht could achieve—when the history of this triumph reads like a tragedy, while we experience it as a farce, it will be too late; for there will have arisen an American Bonaparte. He will bestride a pedestal of phone books to deliver his inaugural address. He will hail himself as a conqueror not of men but of molecules, of sucrose and sodium chloride; of sugar and salt.

The media will call him President Michael R. Bloomberg.

Before we stockpile bottles of soda like oenophiles on a very limited budget, shelving six-packs of Coke and Pepsi like crates of Screaming Eagle and Château Lafite, before we lift the floorboards and bury liters of Dr Pepper and Mountain Dew so as to hide contraband from this ninny of a nanny, let us stop his presidential campaign before it begins.

We need only reveal Bloomberg’s record as mayor of New York City.

It is a record of contempt toward the little people—by a little man—who wanted New Yorkers to banish from their homes what he bans from his life: the brine, the butter, the layers of fat, the pools of oil and the rivers of grease, the smell of cigar smoke and the scent of smokehouses, the brisket brushed with syrup and the burnt ends braised with spices, the sound of the griddle and the sizzle from the spatula pressed against raw meat, the fried foods and the trans fat, the gallons of ice cream and the oceans of root beer white with foam.

It is a record of contempt for the law, too.

Not content to abide by the rules, he changed them.

Not content to serve two terms as mayor, and unwilling to respect the limits of power, he had New York’s City Council expand his powers by abolishing any limits in his pursuit of power.

Thus did Bloomberg win a third term by sugar-coating his pride with the sweet nothingness of patriotism, by saying he could save the city—because no one else knew how to spare the city—from a financial crisis that nonetheless struck New York and all other cities.

Such is the immodesty of a man with much to be modest about, including his disregard for history and tradition and his simultaneous regard for reason as a trump card against factions and feelings.

Such is the danger of politicians trained as engineers, who treat politics as a form of social engineering.

Such is the way Bloomberg, who is an electrical engineer by training, would train us to follow not the rule of law but the laws of physics: as if we were the input to his conceived output, as if the city—and the country, if not the whole world—were one vast circuit board, as if were transistors and transformers, as if we were relays and resistors; not resistant to change but designed to regulate heat and reduce any hindrance involving maximum efficiency.

Such is the way Bloomberg would code us to conform.

He wants us to surrender our guns by forfeiting our right to bear arms. He uses the First Amendment, which is his right, as a way to repeal our right to exercise the Second Amendment.

Even worse, he wants us to buy what he typed.

He wants us to order—and read—Bloomberg by Bloomberg, Revised and Updated.

Thus does he use the First Amendment as a way also to erase the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

As cruel to read in Braille as it is insufferable to see in print, the book is the stuff of a loser’s bid to be president of his high school class.

Boring because it is banal, and banal because it is so ordinary, Bloomberg all but dares us to defile his book by defying his words so we may follow the words of a great book—a masterpiece about book burning.

Though there are 451-plus reasons to burn it, it is better to print bad books than it is to burn them.

Some things, after all, are worse than sugar and salt.

A Bloomberg presidency is one of them.

Photo credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Administrative State • America • Big Media • Cities • Congress • Democrats • Donald Trump • Post • The Culture • The Left • The Media

Trump, Scientism, and Puerto Rico

With Hurricane Florence churning over the Carolinas, the media seems to be licking its lips in anticipation of President Trump’s “Katrina moment.” Trump isn’t playing along, however, so instead of retreating he recently bragged about his administration’s record to date when it comes to natural disasters, including Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year. Thinking that meant they had an opening instead of recognizing the trap, the media began countering the narrative by highlighting the almost 3,000 people who, they say, died as a result of that disaster.

Then things got interesting. Trump refused to accept their 3,000 dead narrative, calling it fake news. In challenging this media narrative, Trump brings to the fore one of the most pernicious aspects of our ongoing cold civil war.

Where the Number Came From
claim that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria is a lie. It is a pernicious lie because it is so casually repeated and accepted without question.

“Nearly 3,000 people died,” you say? Any normal person immediately thinks 3,000 people clearly died in the hurricane or immediately after. Perhaps one thinks of a list of 3,000 names or 3,000 funerals. Surely no one would make a claim like this without such lists. Not so fast.

Politicians and the media only estimate that almost 3,000 people died and this number is based only on “studies” conducted by so-called “experts” using computer models. Whatever the language used to make these studies the end result is still an approximation.

“To estimate excess mortality associated with Hurricane María,” explain one group of researchers, “it was necessary to develop counterfactual mortality estimates, or estimates of what mortality would have been expected to be had the disaster not occurred.”

In other words, to estimate, the experts first had to . . . you guessed it . . .  estimate. Then they had to guess how many people might have left Puerto Rico—another estimate. Moreover, the total estimates are based on information from September 2017 to February 2018—five months! Worse still, they admit they cannot establish any actual causality for the estimated number of deaths. They had to estimate it!

All that estimation seems a bit uncertain, one might say. It isn’t clear how estimations by experts are any more factual than estimations by nonexperts. They might be better estimates (key word: might), but it does not mean they are true. But what about an appeal to consensus? Multiple studies by multiple groups estimated similar things. But saying “everyone agrees” does not make an estimate a fact any more than expert opinion does. And why wouldn’t we suspect these studies were conducted by people with certain biases?

But . . . But . . . FACTS!
So along comes President Trump with his non-expert opinion and common sense, and he says:

3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000. This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!

The media and leftists were flabbergasted. How could Trump deny “the facts?” Doesn’t he know that it is “science?” Trump appealed to common sense reasoning about what happened and the motives of others. The rest of the talking heads claim to have science on their side.

This difference of emphasis on common sense as opposed to unquestioning acceptance of things said to be taking part in “scientific method” reminded me of a passage from Leo Strauss’s What is Political Philosophy? in which he described what is sometimes called “scientism,” which is the view that only scientific knowledge is real knowledge.

The belief that scientific knowledge, i.e., the kind of knowledge possessed or aspired to by modern science, is the highest form of human knowledge, implies a depreciation of pre-scientific knowledge. If one takes into consideration the contrast between scientific knowledge of the world and pre-scientific knowledge of the world, one realizes that positivism preserves in a scarcely disguised manner Descartes’ universal doubt of pre-scientific knowledge and his radical break with it. It certainly distrusts pre-scientific knowledge, which it likes to compare to folklore. The superstition fosters all sorts of sterile investigations or complicated idiocies. Things which every ten-year-old child of normal intelligence knows are regarded as being in need of scientific proof, which is not only not necessary, is not even possible…Pre-scientific knowledge, or “common sense” knowledge, is thought to be discredited by Copernicus and the succeeding natural science. 

Strauss goes on to point out that this mistake—the rejection of common sense—is one of the subjects of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.

A Mania That Destroys Reason
Scientism, which emerges from Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, and others, is criticized by Swift, David Hume, C. S. Lewis, and G. K. Chesterton. Hume explained how “skepticism about the senses” and modern scientific investigation apart from the lessons of common life lead to ludicrous conclusions. Chesterton described the preoccupation with modern science as a sort of mania that destroys reason.

All of these thinkers realized that a blind faith in the scientific method leads one to detach from reality in the pursuit of the abstract. Common sense becomes despised in favor of a knowledge we call “expertise” today. But for this expertise and science to have any authority, we must forget that the experts and the scientists are mere men. We must forget or deny the common sense that men can wield science for personal or political gain or corrupt knowledge through incompetence and dishonesty. Thus science converts to scientism, a blind faith in the power of science and those who claim to use it.

Along the way, we tend to become enamored of “facts” that can only be expressed in numerical or quantitative terms. Eventually, all morality is nothing but emotion, while truth is that which can be explained in numerical charts, graphs, and regressions. Soon, anything that can be explained with a graph, chart, or in terms of numbers is assumed to be true. Any claims seeking to counter those charts are assumed to be false or unsupported.

What We Think We Know Matters
And so we arrive at almost 3,000 dead in Puerto Rico. Trump makes the only sane claim: we don’t really know how many people died as a result of the hurricane, but it is awfully suspicious that the numbers went up so dramatically only to be used as a cudgel in our hyperpartisan debate. This seems both factually correct and commonsensical. But a large segment of the population, including most of the “highly educated,” believed Trump has denied science because there exist charts that make different claims.

Trump took the debate right to the heart of one of the biggest parts of our cold civil war: our different understandings of how we know what we think we know.

This epistemological disagreement is one of the least discussed aspects of the great political debate of our time. It remains one of the most important, however, because people have a hard time agreeing about anything if they can’t agree upon what is knowable. This isn’t some backroom academic debate for philosophy nerds; it has real political consequences for today and it must influence the statesmanship necessary to address our circumstances.

I don’t expect to change the mind of anyone who is a faithful adherent of scientism. I could never produce charts enough to satisfy them they are wrong. But for those with common sense, this episode serves as a useful reminder or example of how deeply we are divided in American politics today. We don’t just disagree about policy or even about what justice is. We disagree about how we can even know anything at all. The fact is, grappling with that problem might change the dynamic as we wrestle with our path forward.

Photo credit: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

America • California • Center for American Greatness • Cities • Government Reform • Law and Order • Post • Progressivism • The Left • The Media

‘I Left My Shart in San Francisco’

The tax reform and regulatory policies of President Trump and the Republican Congress can claim much credit for facilitating the green wave of economic growth sweeping the nation. Yet they can’t claim all the laurels.

No, the Left gets the credit for the new job opportunities now opening up on the sullied streets of Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco.

According to Heather Knight of the San Francisco Chronicle:

[In a city] where people called 311 to report [human] feces a whopping 14,597 times between Jan. 1 and [August 13], public piles of poop are serious business. For the record, that’s about 65 calls regarding sidewalk poop every day. And it’s 2,427 more calls on the stinky subject than were made in the same time period last year.

With residents slipping and sliding across its soiled sidewalks, ankle deep in the rising crisis Mayor London Breed stepped into the fray and beckoned to the heavens and the Department of Public Works: “I’ve been talking to the Department of Public Works director on a regular basis, and I’m like, ‘What are we going to do about the poop?’”

While we don’t know the heavens’ response, we do know the DPW chief and the mayor seemed to adopt a fatalistic attitude toward the fecal deluge. “He and I talked about coming up with some different solutions,” said the mayor. “I just want the city to be clean, and I want to make sure we’re providing the resources so that it can be.”

Not that reducing the number of vagrants could ever be an option in the City by the Bay. No, conjuring up the Rutles lyrics vis-à-vis the elected officials and the defecators—“You’re so pusillanimous, oh yeah, nature’s calling and I must go there”—the city created a Poop Patrol to spray and sweep the streets to wipe away the mounting mounds of excrement.

Nor is that the only municipal response. Again, per the Chronicle: “The city’s latest budget includes nearly $100 million in expenses designed to mitigate the disaster plaguing San Fran’s public streets and sidewalks.”

Indeed, as broken down by the Daily Wires Emily Zanotti:

In addition to the [$830,977] Poop Patrol, the city is spending $72.5 million on a street cleaning budget, $12 million on cleanup services for homeless encampments, $2.8 million on biohazard removal, $.23 million for specially designed street sweepers that use steam (which can effectively sanitize areas affected by human waste and drug use), $3.1 million for a series of portable toilets that won’t be open at night, $364,000 for a “needle team” similar to the Poop Patrol but charged with locating and eliminating drug use waste, and $700,000 for a “needle cleanup squad” that requires its own vehicle to transport bio-hazardous waste.

Ah, how compassionate one can be spending other people’s money!

Speaking of which, while I feel sorry for the residents of San Francisco who don’t wish to have their tax dollars continue to subsidize the insanity of the Left’s unsanitary policies, I shan’t begrudge the people who perform these sanitary civic duties from making as much money as they can—specifically, “$71,760 a year, which swells to $184,678 with mandated benefits.” As Zanotti noted, it’s a “Crap Job”—literally—and these folks should be paid a crapload of money to do it.

As for the rest of us, what do we gather from this vulgar vignette?

Yet more proof of what I and others have said all along: the Left is not progressive—the Left is regressive. It is regressive in both its ideological roots in Rousseau’s screed that insists we must all be “forced to be free” from corrupting civilization and returned to a state of “noble” savagery and in the practical consequences of said ideology’s application upon the rest of us—such as the poor San Franciscans who daily go slip, sliding away in alleys, off sidewalks, and from civilization itself because the Left’s “compassionate” policies have turned their beautiful city into a septic tank.

Unless, of course, you think turning “the City by the Bay” into an open-air sewer is “progress.”

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact

Photo credit: Getty Images

America • Cities • Cultural Marxism • Donald Trump • Post • The Culture

Trump Anxiety Disorder (and Other Maladies)

Upon visiting New York’s Times Square earlier this year, it struck me how pointless the whole place is. What is billed as a “must-see” by people keen to broaden their like counts into the magic three-figures, is really an epileptic seizure.

Of course, I jostled among the gawkish lemmings, paid $2 for a selfie stick as disposable as the memory itself, and selfied my own faux-excitement for the apparent benefit of those not lucky enough to spend hours submerging themselves in the flicker and folly of hashtag paradise.

I learned a lot. McDonald’s sell hamburgers. Friendships are built on Coke. Buy a Jeep and one will explode as an atomic devastation of testosterone.

Later on, I learned real New Yorkers detest Times Square. Can’t blame them. That pulsing narcotic neon: Buy! Buy! Buy! Each convulsion inducing a Pavlovian drooling upon the targeted.  Or perhaps I am mildly cynical.

Leaving the seething looming maddening Times Square, I felt denuded. Did I really need to buy a Jeep? It is enough to push anyone to the sauce.

Admittedly, my “ordeal” hardly warrants a $5 monthly donation. Nor a few hours with a therapist. I doubt they’d have the time, anyway. There are apparently far more pernicious first-world problems flopping across the chaise longues of Planet Xanax.

Donald Trump said he’d be the “greatest jobs president this country had ever seen.” And he is right. Jobs figures are undoubtedly strong. Even New York Times journalists recently had to admit it. So, en route to his nearest practice, a bewildered New York therapist probably puzzles while his Trump-supporting cab driver no doubt smirks.

Because therapists are inundated with patients “suffering” from “Trump Anxiety Disorder.” Frazzled liberals have gummed up therapy offices ever since President Trump waltzed into office.

They report problems like: feeling a loss of control, helplessness, fretfulness about daily life, and spending excessive time on social media. One patient said she often woke at night to check headlines.

TAD also affects the president’s supporters. Many of whom say they’ve been cut off from friends and family, even divorced, for supporting President Trump’s agenda, even if most of them wince at his flame-throwing tactics.

Therapists, no doubt coining it in, say their patients often resemble children raised by personality-disordered parents—those imbued with “grandiosity, excessive attention-seeking, and a severe lack of empathy.”

There’s little doubt we live in what often seems like a computer simulation commandeered by perennially bored and curious teenagers guffawing at our daily renewed puzzlement. I’m not the only one to still double-take when “President Donald Trump” emblazons along the chyron.

The American Psychological Association even reports a 5 percentage point rise in anxiety during the Trump era (from  52 to 57 percent) over six months before, during, and after his 2016 election. American stress levels are at a 10-year high. Two-thirds say they are “stressed” about the future.

It’s not a mystery as to why a nation is fraying into sickness—psychologists have established links between politically-related stress and digital news consumption.

Log on to Facebook, or if you really are a masochist, Twitter, and count how long it takes your face to harden, or your eyes to roll. Worse yet: see how long it takes before you actually log off and end the torment.

Social media compounds our misery. President Trump, to those seeking therapy at least, is not the real issue. Rather it is what therapists call the “presenting problem.” Americans, indeed citizens across the West, were frazzled long before Trump began lighting up Twitter.

Much is said about my own Millennial generation. And, yes, the majority of us probably do deserve the “snowflake” moniker. All jokes aside: Millennials aren’t inured to the strange tapestry of modern times. The average millennial reports anxiety levels on par with the average 1950s psychiatric patient.

But it isn’t President Trump making people ill. It’s the system he is trying to overturn, without much help from those it poisons.

Resoundingly strong economic figures are dusted with salt between the pages and pixels of virtually the entire old media. Imagine if Obama hit 4.1 percent growth. He’d be World King.

Everything Trump does is amplified to the extreme. Yes, the all-caps Twitter tirades are deeply upsetting to those who appreciate the English language. The errant capitalizations rob my lungs of air. Those exclamation marks! Trump tweets like a sugared-up problem child.

But he wasn’t elected for his grammar. Americans didn’t vote for a pastor, but a disruptor tasked with bringing down the last 25 years of economic, social, and cultural rot.

Call it what you may. The populist realignment raging across Europe and America is a flat rejection of globalism and neoliberalism, and their corruption in service to special interests.

Indeed, far worse than a little Trump-induced flutter is the specter of despair deaths. Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton found that death rates amongst non-Hispanic White Americans without a college degree (the apparently white-privileged) were surging.

In 1999, white men and women ages 50-54 with a high school education had a mortality rate 30 percent lower than that of black Americans. By 2015, it was 30 percent higher. Something is not right.

Watch the video, here. The standout quote underlines the current malaise: “If we can only generate good lives for an elite that’s about a third of the population, then we have a real problem.”

Anne Case and Angus Deaton’s pathbreaking study of mortality and morbidity in the 21st century found that the erosion of blue-collar jobs led to a frightful increase in suicides, overdoses, and drug and alcohol-related deaths. This haunting reality has hardened since the 2008 financial crash—the danse macabre of the neoliberal age.

And those counties with the highest rates of despair deaths? They overwhelmingly voted for Trump. They will continue to do so, given the president’s agenda to bring back the jobs entire communities depended upon until some bright-spark market fundies got their way.

Perhaps those seeking therapy for a few salt-mining tweets should “check their privilege.” Myself included.

Photo Credit: iStock/Getty Images

America • Center for American Greatness • Cities • Immigration • Law and Order • Post • Progressivism • The Left • The Media

Hathawayan Idiocy Underscores the Left’s Moral Bankruptcy

Tragedy struck when Nia Wilson, a black teenager, was stabbed and killed in Oakland last week. The suspect, a white man named John Lee Cowell, was out on parole following a two-year prison sentence for second-degree robbery with a fake gun and a box cutter.

Wilson’s murder was the latest in three separate killings connected to the Bay Area Rapid Transit system. But it was not until Wilson’s death that the BART killings took on a national and hysterical character.

“White people—including me,” the actress Anne Hathaway wrote on Instagram, “must take into the marrow of our privileged bones the truth that all black people fear for their lives daily in America and have done so for generations.”

Is that obsequious and self-abasing enough? Not for Hathway. “We must ask our (white) selves—how ‘decent’ are we really? Not in our intent, but in our actions? In our lack of action?” Leave it to Hollywood to serve as a beacon of moral authority.

A History of Mental Illness and a Long Rap Sheet 
Cowell had been paroled not from a prison but rather from a psychiatric hospital. According to his family, he has suffered from mental illness most of his life. “When he was released from the Atascadero State Mental Facility inside the Atascadero State Prison on [May 8], there was not a place for him to go with most of the mental institutions being shut down,”
 Cowell’s family said in a press statement. Some of Cowell’s family members mentioned they had a restraining order against him. He has a rap sheet that goes back to 2009—including an assault conviction for punching a woman in the stomach when he was 18.

“Knowing that he was diagnosed with being bipolar and schizophrenia, the system has failed in this instance,” the family added. Cowell had been living on the streets at the time of the murder.

Understand, Cowell’s family are offering no excuse or rationalization for his crime. Neither am I. To be clear, though, Oakland investigators “have found no evidence of racial motivation” and Cowell was a certified schizophrenic—and a manic-depressive one at that. Moreover, Oakland is in a county with violent crime and homicide rates well above the California state average. There are 803 registered sex offenders living in Oakland and the city itself has one of the highest crime rates in America, with property and violent crime rates that soar above the national average. But far be it from me to suggest that we should refrain from ascribing race as the motive of this particular crime in one of America’s most violent cities.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement that the attack “stirs deep pain and palpable fear” in black people. This coming from the official who tipped off illegal aliens in her city to an imminent ICE sweep—one that netted 115 criminal illegals with serious prior convictions. But more than 800 others escaped after Schaaf warned them about the impending raid. It’s a wonder Oakland is such a rough town.

Inconvenient Details Undermine “Privilege” Narrative
In Schaaf and Hathaway, we get a glimpse of what is the 
true white leftist privilege. “White privilege” in the sense leftists wish to convey is a myth. White leftist privilege, however, is a reality. Fact is, Wilson was one of three BART passengers slain in the span of a weekend. It has been established that her killer was a white transient, who should never have been on the streets (thanks, California), and who is severely mentally ill. But what of the other killers?

The first victim, identified as 50-year-old Gerald Bisbee, was assaulted at the Pleasant Hill Station on July 18. Bisbee was attacked, sustained a cut, and died July 20 from an infection in the wound. Authorities have identified the suspect as 20-year-old Abdul Bey. I’m no sleuth, but “Abdul Bey” is probably not Irish or Norwegian.

Then, in the early morning of July 21, police officers responded to a report of an injured man on the platform of the Bay Fair Station. The victim was identified as 47-year-old Don Stevens, a transient, who succumbed to his wounds and was declared brain dead by the time the transit police were able to get him to a hospital. Although witnesses could not confirm what exactly had happened, camera footage revealed an unidentified black man punching Stevens in the side of the head. Stevens fell to the floor, bashing his head against the cement, and later died.

Wilson was murdered on July 22.

If you read the New York Times report about the three killings, you might notice that although Bisbee and Stevens were killed first, the bulk of the story concerns Wilson. “Mr. Cowell is white,” the story notes, “the woman he is accused of killing was black.” Following a vigil for Wilson, “[s]ome residents told reporters that they were unsettled by what they saw as a double standard in the way the authorities treat white suspects compared with black ones,” the Times noted.

The Times published a picture of Cowell, but no pictures of Abdul Bey or the unnamed, at-large black male suspect in the Stevens killing. Surely, the Times’ reach could help authorities locate the suspected murderer. Surely, not including those pictures was an oversight. Right?

Bias is insidious. Of course, the Times reporters and their editor—or editors—decided to focus on the race of one killer and play down the race of the other suspects. Intentionally or not, the Times has betrayed its disregard for life—at least when it cannot be politicized. Two minority suspects claim two victims, no one bats an eyelash. A deranged white transient claims one black life, suddenly whites have a moral imperative to check their privilege and end crime as we know it.

Virtue Signaling on Parade
Here we arrive at “Hathawayan idiocy”—the inexorable leftist drive to make everything about their perverse worldview and, ultimately, about themselves. Anne Hathaway does not
care for human life as much as she cares to indulge in public self-flagellation and moral preening. Otherwise, this conversation would be about a mayor who aids and abets criminals and about California’s inability to keep dangerous, mentally ill people off the streets. But those are hard problems that require real solutions.

In virtue signaling against mythical white privilege, Hathaway, along with self-hating whites and their nonwhite auxiliaries, implicitly have announced that life matters only when they can ascribe political value to it. Such are the noxious wages of leftist identity politics.

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America • Cities • Department of Homeland Security • Foreign Policy • Immigration • Law and Order • Post

Build the Wall: It’s the Humane Thing to Do

Ask Americans what they think are some of the most violent conflicts in the world, and the usual responses will be Iraq, Afghanistan, or Syria. (If they’re really smart, they’ll mention Libya or Yemen). However, I hardly ever hear anyone mention Mexico. That’s a mistake.

After Syria, the drug war in Mexico is the deadliest conflict on the planet—and it is spilling into the United States. This devastating war has been brewing for over a decade and is becoming more of a threat to the safety and security of U.S. communities, especially along the border. Drug cartels count on our porous border to gain access to their largest market: us. They smuggle not only narcotics but also illegal weapons, human body parts, and sex slaves. All of this is turning once safe and peaceful communities into gang-infested war zones.  

For this reason alone, the United States needs to seal the border with Mexico until safety and stability return.

The Rise of the Corrupt Cartels
In December 2006, Mexican President, Felipe Calderon launched Operation Michoacán, a joint operation of the Mexican Federal Police and their military to eliminate drug plantations and drug trafficking in the country, beginning with one of its most volatile states. The goal was to take out the leaders of La Familia Michoacána, a powerful cartel at the time with most of its operations based out of Michoacán.

Calderon and his predecessor, Vicente Fox, were the first presidents of Mexico since 1929 who were not members of the Industrial Revolutionary Party (PRI). Under PRI’s uninterrupted 71-year rule over Mexico, the drug cartels formed and grew powerful because of the central government’s inherent corruption and unwillingness to confront criminal groups that had embedded themselves in the governing apparatuses of the nation. Calderon and Fox ran successfully on an anti-corruption platform.

Following the demise of the Colombian Cali cartel and Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel in the early 1990s, many of the Mexican drug cartels filled the void and took over the illicit drug market. By 2007, Mexico’s cartels controlled 90 percent of the cocaine entering the United States. Over the next decade, the cartels grew even more powerful and influential in Mexican society. Murder rates reached all-time highs and, according to one report by PBS Frontline, between the years of 2007 and 2014 there were more cartel-related deaths in Mexico than war-related deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

These powerful criminal enterprises are now so out of control they have driven local communities to form their own self-defense militias, known as “autodefensas” because the local police are corrupt and do the bidding of local drug kingpins. This is especially prevalent in Michoacán, which has some of the worst cartel violence in the country despite the government’s efforts there. Moreover, and not surprisingly, some of these vigilante groups organized to fight the cartels have also been corrupted and now do the bidding of the drug lords.  In many cases, these groups have allowed criminals into their ranks and have even begun to fight amongst each other, leading to even more violence and murder.

International Terrorism and a Silent Coup
In addition, the cartels have had the help of international actors. The Zetas Cartel, one of the most powerful and ruthless in Mexico, has enlisted the help of the Lebanon-based, Shia Islamic terror group Hezbollah, which has provided weapons and training. Hezbollah terrorists have been assisting with drug trafficking, as well as instructing cartel members how to make IEDs (improvised explosive devices) to use against rivals. In exchange for the weapons and training, Hezbollah has benefited by piggybacking on cartel smugglers to infiltrate and operate within the United States.

The Sinaloa and Zetas cartels, among others, manipulate politicians and in some cases directly control cities, forcing communities to pay dues, their own form of taxation. These cartels are in a constant power struggle for control over politicians, police, and the military and often resort to full-scale battles with authorities.

Mexico, in many respects, is a full-scale war zone. This type of violence has gone beyond our southern neighbor and has even affected communities in the United States to the point where cartels are actually attempting to implement control over American communities. With all the issues in the world, many Americans seem not to realize the magnitude of one of the most dangerous and violent conflicts, one that is right at our doorstep and must be stopped.

Trouble North of the Border
On the American side of the border, the cartels’ activities have begun to cause direct harm to Americans right in our own backyard. One of many examples are the stories of U.S. ranchers and farmers along the border who have had to resort to arming and protecting themselves from drug runners and human traffickers who have no regard for private property. Many of them have been warned by cartels not to call the border patrol when they are trafficking across their farmland, otherwise they or their family members may be killed. In one specific case, workers on a sugarcane field in Hidalgo County, Texas were told by cartel members to stop harvesting the crop “or else,” because the sugarcane provides cover for cartel drug smugglers.

Not only is this ongoing drug war a terrible burden both to the stability and security of the United States, it is also destroying the stability, security, and morality of an entire generation of Mexicans who have known nothing but drug violence and killing their entire lives.

It has sparked a new subculture among youth, who view the cartel kingpins as idols. An entire new genre of music called “narcocorridos” or drug ballads has been created because the war has had such an impact on Mexican society. This new genre of music, as well as the supposed glamorous narco lifestyle, is affecting young Mexicans’ cultural outlook in a negative manner. Where many had lacked an identity or niche, they now do with the trendy narco-culture which has been romanticized through pop culture. This will have long-lasting effects on Mexican society if the drug war continues, and there seems to be no end in sight.

How the Wall Would Help
The unfortunate reality is the United States absolutely needs to seal the border with Mexico. The drug war is far too dangerous a conflict to ignore. Drug traffickers threaten the lives of Americans, operate with Hezbollah infiltrating the United States, and bring illegal weapons to sell on the black market, which contributes to inner-city gang violence. Refusing to act out the fear of being labelled a racist is not an option. It has come to the point where we need fully militarized fortifications with 24-hour supervision and surveillance along the whole southern U.S. border.

The need is not fueled by the families and workers who wish to come here to escape the violence and find a better life. Their hopes for escape are completely understandable, but among the communities of those families and workers are the criminals, the rapists, and the murders who President Trump so “notoriously” mentioned. Until we see an end to the incessant violence, mass corruption, and narco-culture that has taken over Mexican society, we have to do what we can to keep these elements out of our own country.

Mexico has potential to be a stable, peaceful nation with a strong economy, like many of its Latin American counterparts such as Panama, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Chile. It has a long way to go, however, and a mountain of problems to address before that happens. We cannot and should not allow their problems become our own, at the expense of our national security and the safety of our communities.

In the long term, moreover, attention to border security will have a negative effect on the cartels’ ability to bring in revenue, as their largest export market, the United States, would become much more difficult to access. What would be the consequence of starving the cartels of their wealth? The extravagant lifestyles of cartel leaders, politicians, the military, and police that are supported by the drug trade would come to an abrupt and painful halt. The potential carnage following this will tear the powerful cartels apart. But Mexicans would have the potential to make Mexico great again.

Photo credit: David Maung/Bloomberg via Getty Images

America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Cities • civic culture/friendship • Cultural Marxism • Greatness Agenda • Identity Politics • Law and Order • Post • race • The Left • The Media

No, White Communities Aren’t Less Safe than Diverse Ones

The Los Angeles Times last week published a provocative claim for our “woke” era: “White people should be more afraid of other whites than they are of people of color.” So argues Mike Males, a senior research fellow at the San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

On the face of it, Males’ assertion is perfectly reasonable, even mundane. America remains a majority-white country, therefore it’s more likely that whites will fall victim to crimes at the hands of other whites.

But that isn’t what Males is saying at all. Using his own analysis of U.S. Centers for Disease Control data between 2011 and 2015, Males wants us to conclude that whites are in far greater danger of being victims of violent crime than Latinos, blacks, Asians, and Native Americans, and moreover, whites living in counties that supported President Trump in 2016 are in the most danger of all. He makes more than a few dubious claims to reach that conclusion.

Males says he examined CDC “statistics on murder, gun killings and illegal-drug overdoses among white Americans,” but later writes the data pertains to “rates of homicides, gun killings and illicit-drug fatalities.” The column focuses on this claim: “Rates of homicides, gun killings and illicit-drug fatalities are highest in counties where nine in 10 residents are white and where President Trump won.” Word choice is important here. Males initially writes “murder,” then writes “homicide, gun killings”—yet gun killings are not necessarily murder.

Males provides just one link to the CDC WONDER database, which most readers wouldn’t bother figuring out how to use. It is difficult to know, then, what Males means by “homicide, gun killings” if this category terms can encompass manslaughter, suicide, killing in self-defense, police-involved killings, accidental death, and murder. By prefacing his analysis with the mention of murder, readers take “homicide, gun killings” to mean murder simply. This may not necessarily be the case.

In addition, it matters little if nine in 10 residents are white. What matters is who is committing the crimes; that is, are nonwhite minorities inflating crime rates? Males relies on the reader not thinking this through.

In 2014, the Washington Post compiled a list of the “five large counties (with populations above 10,000) that are whitest.” The same year, The Atlantic made a list of the most and least diverse counties in the United States. Males for his part, names Boone County, West Virginia, Washington County, Utah; Baxter County, Arkansas; and Brown County, Ohio.

Many of these white majority-least diverse counties are rural, including those listed by Males, and some compete either for the least populous or second-least populous counties in their respective states. As the Los Angeles Times has noted in its crime data, “in areas with relatively low populations, a small number of crimes can generate a large per capita rate.” More to the point, rural, white-majority regions are where we will find the highest rates of suicide and high rates of addiction—correlating with blue collar job loss—or “gun killings and illicit-drug fatalities.” Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of suicide, while West Virginia is ranked fifth in the nation for gun suicides. Males gives the impression that these regions are rampant with white violent crime, but the reality is much more tragic.

Shrinking job opportunities and crumbling social structures, coupled with the “associated stress that leads to physical or mental effects on health,” have all fueled gun-involved suicides and drug use.

I reached out to a team director with County Health Rankings (CHR), a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, that also draws data from CDC WONDER. According to the team director, homicide in CHR’s data is synonymous with murder, while “firearm fatalities,” or gun killings, means “all firearm-related deaths are included in our measure, both intentional and non-intentional, self-inflicted or other.” This is where Males the Semanticist is revealed.

Using CHR, I examined the homicide and firearm fatalities data in the largest county Males mentions, Washington County, Utah.  It shows a low homicide rate (among the nation’s lowest) but a significantly higher firearm fatality rate. Washington County is located in Southwestern Utah, part of a region known as America’s “Suicide Belt.” Utah’s suicide rate consistently ranks in the national top 10 and ranks the highest in the nation for “prevalence of suicidal thoughts, at 6.8 percent, almost twice the national average.” Thus, “gun killings”—Males’ word choice—reflects the suicide rate of Utah, not the murder rate—although Males clearly seeks to give a different impression.

Boone County, the second largest of the counties Males mentions, shows firearm fatalities three times higher than the homicide rate. In a state with one of the highest rates of suicide, Boone’s is higher than the West Virginia average. In homicide rates, McDowell County far surpasses Boone County. McDowell, although also heavily white, is more racially diverse than Boone. Thus, the question of who is committing the crimes in areas with a predominantly white population is more pertinent to examining the truthfulness of Males’ conclusions than is white predominance by itself. Males adds:

Correspondingly, the white Americans who are safest from such deaths are those who live in racially diverse areas such as Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, where two-thirds of residents are nonwhite, where millions of immigrants live, and where voters favored Hillary Clinton in 2016. Nonwhites also are safer in these areas overall, though rates vary by location.

What Males omits, of course, is the fact that those cities are ethnically and racially fragmented. Although the cities themselves are “diverse,” the neighborhoods aren’t necessarily, because people cluster into homogenous communities. According to the Los Angeles Times, Bel-Air and Century City, predominantly white, are among the safest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Conversely, where there are virtually no whites, Chesterfield Park and Harvard Park are L.A.’s most violent neighborhoods.

Based on data compiled by the Times, Los Angeles County is 52 percent white and consists of 265 neighborhoods. Sixty-one of these neighborhoods are greater than 66 percent white, while 131 are less than 33 percent white—these can be considered “not diverse” due to the strong majority/minority dichotomy. Meanwhile, just 73 neighborhoods are between 33 percent and 66 percent white, or “diverse,” where there’s a slim racial majority or plurality.

So, yes, although L.A. appears “diverse” from afar, it’s actually segregated along clear ethnic and racial lines—the units of segregation are simply smaller than the city itself. The irony, then, is that these neighborhoods end up to be just as ethnically homogenous as the white Republican regions Males seemingly despises. This pattern appears in Chicago and New York as well. (And in San Francisco, for that matter.)

When we examine homicide statistics exclusively, the counties and independent cities—i.e., county equivalents matched up to those used by the U.S. Census Bureau—with the highest murder rates follow the pattern of increased diversity. CDC WONDER mortality data from 2010 through 2016 on murder rates confirm this.

Using CDC data, CHR compiled a list of national rankings for murder rates by county. The top 10 counties for number of murder deaths per 100,000 people are: Orleans, Louisiana (41); Baltimore City, Maryland (35); Coahoma, Mississippi, and St. Louis City, Missouri (34) (tied); Petersburg City, Virginia and Phillips, Arkansas (31) (tied); Dallas, Alabama (30); Washington County, Mississippi (27); and Macon, Alabama (26). All 10 of these cities and counties have a black plurality or majority, and are thus “diverse.” This trend can be observed on a city level as well.

Using FBI data on murder from 2016, NeighborhoodScout compiled a list of the cities that constitute America’s “murder capitals.” The top 10 are: East St. Louis, Illinois; Chester, Pennsylvania; Camden, New Jersey; St. Louis, Missouri; Gary, Indiana; West Memphis, Arkansas; Flint, Michigan; Detroit, Michigan; and New Orleans, Louisiana. Although Chicago is noticeably missing from that list, it is among 30 across the nation that have experienced rising murder rates. All 30 cities are “diverse,” with a black plurality or majority.

So, how does Males make his claims? Mostly through careful word choice and by relying on reader ignorance.

For example, much of Males’ argument hangs on the fact that “according to FBI data for 2015, when whites are murdered anywhere in the country, the murderer is five times more likely to be white than nonwhite.” And, my favorite, the “more white and Republican a county is, the greater the risk for white Americans.”

Males clearly presents this as damning evidence of a white (and Republican) proclivity for murder, but this is sophistry. “In reality, murder is an overwhelmingly intra-racial phenomenon, as whites kill whites, blacks kill blacks,” writes criminologist Scott Bonn. Additionally, the claim that there is a connection between Republican predominance and murder is hard to reconcile with the fact that the mayors of the top-10 most murderous cities in America are Democrats. Likewise, in 14 of the top 15 most dangerous cities in America, the mayors are Democrats.

When Males claims whites are less likely to be murdered in more diverse regions, he is partially correct, in the sense that whites are less likely to be murdered by other whites. Males takes a partial truth and stretches it into a whole lie, as FBI data shows 500 black-on-white killings and 229 white-on-black killings in 2015. Here Males, again, relies on readers not taking the time to check his facts. Males’ claims about crime are ultimately the inverse of the truth. According to an exhaustive report by Heather Mac Donald at the Manhattan Institute:

. . . white violence against blacks is dwarfed by black on white violence. In 2012, blacks committed 560,600 acts of violence against whites (excluding homicide), and whites committed 99,403 acts of violence (excluding homicide) against blacks, according to data from the National Crime Victimization Survey provided to the author. Blacks, in other words, committed 85 percent of the non-homicide interracial crimes of violence between blacks and whites, even though they are less than 13 percent of the population. Both the absolute number of incidents and the rate of black-on-white violence are therefore magnitudes higher than white-on-black violence.

Beyond misinforming readers, Males’ deceit plays into a much larger problem, what LAPD Captain Lillian Carranza has called a “systemic pattern of under-reporting certain crime statistics.” The Los Angeles Times has documented numerous such instances.

Carranza said she has found errors “in categorizing violent crimes that were never fixed” that resulted in LAPD “under-reporting violent crime for 2016 by about 10 percent.” Carranza said she believes “staff members may have falsified information,” or engaged in “cooking of the books . . . in order to get promotions, accolades and increased responsibility.”

Worst of all, Carranza charged that inaccurately reporting crime “affects the way we deploy resources, the support we get from federal grants, and in my case and in my officers case, who gets the support of discretionary resources and who doesn’t.” Males, then, is accomplice to a systemic issue that results in communities being underserved.

Males believes that President Trump is exploiting “macabre” concerns over immigration and therefore demonstrates his sympathy with racist elements in American society. Yet it stands to reason that whites living in areas where nonwhites commit disproportionate amounts of violent crime will support a president who campaigns on law and order—though this is tantamount to bigotry as far as Males is concerned, another way to view it is concern for your community and common sense.

Males stoops to deceit through biased presentation of data, exploiting suicide and addiction rates in regions hit hardest by globalization, for the purpose of generalizing about whites and Republicans as murderers, racists, and debauches. Males abuses the trust of his readers and makes light of the tragic deaths of so many Americans in order to make his false claims. Shame on the Los Angeles Times for enabling him.

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Administrative State • America • Americanism • Cities • Congress • Democrats • Donald Trump • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Post • The Courts • The Leviathian State • the Presidency • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trump White House

It’s Time for Congress to Take Action on ‘Sanctuary’ Jurisdictions

Just days after taking office, President Trump issued Executive Order 13768 to block certain federal funds from flowing to sanctuary jurisdictions—that is, municipalities, cities and states which deliberately choose not to enforce federal immigration law within their borders.

Yet, in what seems to be a contradictory effort, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has just approved $1.7 billion in federal grant funding to these same cities.

How and why are sanctuary cities still receiving money in contravention of the president’s order? The answer lies in a complex thicket of legal cases that are still working their way through the court system.

But to Trump’s supporters, the issue is clear. Speaking to McClatchy earlier this week, Ralph King, co-founder of the Main Street Patriots put it this way: “If you don’t want to enforce the federal laws of this country . . . you don’t get the federal funding.”

King’s statement reflects the frustration of many around the country who wonder why their tax dollars are going to fund the well-being of cities who willfully flout federal immigration laws. Moreover, many of these same folks pulled the lever for Trump precisely because of his promise to do something about it.

For their part, the Trump administration is making a genuine effort, but once again has been immobilized by low-level federal judges seeking to amplify their own self-importance.

Setting aside the nuances of the legal questions, however, what the Trump administration is seeking to do is actually fairly straightforward. And, in some areas, already settled law.

Put simply, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security are trying to bar immigration enforcement-specific federal grants from going to municipalities, counties and states that, according to DOJ, “willfully refuse to comply” with federal immigration law.

In other words, the DOJ is attempting to implement as a policy the very sentiment expressed by Ralph King: Jurisdictions that deliberately flout the law will not receive funds that are statutorily conditioned upon following that same law.

Though the flurry of legal activity would have you believe otherwise, the law in question here is actually quite clear. At the center of the DOJ’s argument is 8 U.S.C. § 1373, which expressly prohibits states from barring or restricting communication and cooperation between state and local law enforcement and federal Immigration and Naturalization Services.

Yet that is exactly what these sanctuary jurisdictions are doing. Approximately 300 sanctuary jurisdictions throughout the country prohibit their law enforcement agencies from complying with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), denying ICE access to interview incarcerated aliens, and impeding the exchange of information about immigrant arrests.

What does this look like, in practice? In California, jurisdictions have withdrawn cooperation with federal officials on sex-slavery and drug-smuggling cases. Cities and towns plagued by an opioid epidemic that has 80 percent of its roots in Mexican drug smuggling refuse to help the federal government arrest those responsible. In March, the mayor of Oakland, California, went so far as to warn illegal immigrants in advance that ICE was planning an operation in the Bay Area, thus helping criminal aliens avoid arrest.

In aggregate, the Center for Immigration Studies estimates that since 2014, approximately 10,000 criminal aliens who were released due to sanctuary policies were arrested—again—for new crimes.

Sanctuary policies make the country less safe, to say nothing of making an open mockery of the rule of law. This is exactly what the DOJ is trying to get at — using the authority of the executive to compel states to follow immigration law.

Though this is the subject of an active court challenge, the question of whether or not the executive has this authority, to a great extent, has already been settled. As one of the U.S. District Court judges opposing the Trump administration grudgingly admitted in a recent opinion, “Through the Immigration and Nationalization Act, Congress granted the executive branch near-plenary power over the regulatory and enforcement of immigration laws in the U.S.” (Emphasis added.)

There is a key distinction here that liberals, in particular, often fail to make. While the executive cannot make immigration law, as President Obama did by constructing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program quite literally out of thin air, the executive has tremendous authority to apply regulations that work to enforce the existing laws that Congress has already passed.

Whether the Trump administration should feel bound by the various court decisions as they continue to wind their way through the justice system is another question. In authorizing $1.7 billion in federal grants to sanctuary cities, Nielsen deferred to the courts in an as-yet-unsettled legal matter. At least one report indicates that she did so in contradiction to the advice from her top aides, who urged her to withhold money from sanctuary jurisdictions.

While one can only speculate on Nielsen’s reasons for failing to follow through on a top Trump commitment, it certainly counts as a missed opportunity for the administration to underscore its priorities. As Roy Beck, president of Numbers USA put it, Nielsen’s position “does sound a bit like backing down.”

Nielsen’s billion-dollar sign off, coupled with the plodding pace of the courts, means the swiftest way to resolve this issue is to insist on congressional action. While the administration has running room to regulate and enforce immigration laws, only Congress has the authority to impose meaningful consequences on sanctuary jurisdictions. Lawmakers have a key opportunity to address this in their upcoming funding bills, which they must pass before September 30.

Congressional Republicans already missed a key opportunity to restrict funding for sanctuary jurisdictions when they failed to address it in the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill passed in March. They should not treat this next opportunity as flippantly—if not because of a genuine commitment to the policy, then at least for the integrity of their own political promises. Just like Trump, nearly all congressional Republicans campaigned on a stricter approach to jurisdictions that openly violate immigration law. Over a year into a full Republican majority, voters are still waiting for them to follow through.

Until they do, sanctuary jurisdictions across the country will continue to receive taxpayer money while deliberately violating the federal laws on which the funds are based—openly mocking the country’s laws while making its citizens less safe.

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California • Cities • Democrats • Donald Trump • Immigration • Law and Order • Post • Progressivism • race • Technology • The Resistance (Snicker)

Criminal Lobby is Rolling in Cash—Thank Soros

President Trump last week met with California public officials who oppose the state’s sanctuary law which, as the president said, “provides safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on Earth, like MS-13 gang members putting innocent men, women and children at the mercy of sadistic criminals.

California Governor Jerry Brown tweeted that Trump “is lying on immigration, lying about crime and lying about the laws of CA,” though the short-timer chief executive offered no details. Brown did not note, for example, that Luis Bracamontes, who gunned down police officers Danny Oliver and Michael Davis in 2014, was a Mexican national in the country illegally, and had not been handed over to officials for deportation.

Brown did not recall that San Francisco officials released Jose Inez Garcia Zarate—or whatever his real name is—rather than hand him over to federal immigration officials. In July 2015, the repeatedly deported Mexican national gunned down Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier. Trump mentioned the case during his campaign but Brown did not say how the president might have lied about it. Prosecutors said the case was all about “immigrants’ rights.”

California Democrats claim they are not protecting criminals but they keep federal official from the jails where false-documented illegals are already in custody. State Supreme Court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye objects to federal ICE agents “stalking” illegals in courthouses. Public officials who swear to uphold the Constitution have instead become a criminals’ lobby.

This is not a new development in the Golden State.

Shielding Killers
Protecting false-documented felons from deportation is dangerous for innocent civilians. Yet, Governor Brown charged that it was Trump’s policies that were “reckless,” tweeting “we, the citizens of the fifth largest economy in the world, are not impressed.”

Nobody in the state’s media establishment pointed out that economies don’t have citizens. No state pundit recalled that in 1976, 1980 and 1992, Jerry Brown ran for President of the United States, an actual nation that does have citizens. Nobody recalled that the worst murderer in state history was not even supposed to be in the United States.

Mexican national Juan Corona was deported in 1956 but again violated U.S. immigration law. By 1960, the Mexican became a labor contractor for local American farmers, including Goro Kagehiro. Corona murdered, sodomized and mutilated at least 25 farm workers, and not a single one was Mexican.

Today, if employer Goro Kagehiro reported Juan Corona to federal authorities, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra would fine the grower and let Corona do as he pleased. If ICE agents sought to contact Corona in a courthouse, state Supreme Court boss Cantil-Sakauye would call that “stalking.” And any attempt to protect innocent people from this predator would be branded “reckless” by California’s hereditary governor Jerry Brown, who gave sanctuary to AIM fugitive Dennis Banks back in the 1970s.

Muddling DNA Evidence
Last month, Brown and Becerra stayed rather quiet when Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced the arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo. The D.A. is charging that the 72-year-old former police officer was the Golden State Killer, the Original Night Stalker, and the East Area Rapist who terrorized the state from the late 1970s through 1986.

With 12 murders and more than 40 rapes, DeAngelo was by some accounts the most prolific criminal to avoid capture. DNA was crucial to the arrest and victims and relatives alike expressed relief that their nightmares were over.

The Golden State Killer’s murder victims included Keith Harrington, 24, and his wife, Patrice Harrington, 27, who was also raped in the 1980 crime. As Keith’s brother Bruce Harrington explained, when DNA kicked in as a crime-solving tool, he urged the State Senate’s public safety committee to establish a DNA database but “ran into a buzz saw of opposition.” The loudest anti-DNA voice was Senate boss John Burton, who chaired the state Democratic Party until 2017. After the DeAngelo arrest, the anti-DNA forces mounted another surge.

“If there’s anything to be cautious about,” wrote Erika Smith of the Sacramento Bee,“it’s the collection and storage of genetic material from thousands, if not millions, of people.” For McClatchy national correspondent Stuart Leavenworth, the tactic of DNA matching “has put genetic testing companies on the defensive and raised questions about their ability to protect consumer privacy as investigators increasingly seek out DNA databases to solve crimes.”

Police got DeAngelo’s DNA from the rape kits. Sheriff Scott Jones deployed a team of officers who got more DNA from objects the criminal discarded after they identified him through a relative who left a sample on GEDmatch, an open-source database. Schubert organized the press conference that brought district attorneys from central and southern California, where the Golden State Killer had raped and murdered.

The arrest was a long-delayed triumph, but Schubert finds herself a target of a criminals’ lobby bankrolled by leftist billionaire George Soros. In the June 5 election, Soros money is promoting  Noah Phillips, a self-proclaimed progressive who touts “social justice” themes.

As the Sacramento Bee reports, “Soros has funneled about $400,000 to Phillips through his California Justice & Public Safety PAC” and has been “spending heavily this year to flip district attorney races for progressive candidates all over California and in several other states.”

Jerry Brown, proud citizen of the world’s fifth-largest economy, has no problem with that. Neither does the state’s former state attorney general, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, who got her start under Willie Brown (literally) and received $5,400 from Soros for her 2016 senate campaign. Clearly, “justice” doesn’t come cheap.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

Administrative State • America • Americanism • California • Cities • civic culture/friendship • Democrats • Donald Trump • Drugs • Economy • Elections • Government Reform • Identity Politics • Immigration • Jeff Sessions • Post • The Leviathian State • the Presidency • Trump White House

Yes, NPR: Illegal Immigration Does Increase Violent Crime

As members of an alien caravan beat their fists at the gates, the experts provide the rationalization for inviting them in.

John Burnett wrote last week for National Public Radio, “four academic studies show that illegal immigration does not increase the prevalence of violent crime or drug and alcohol problems.” But Burnett curated studies that conflate much and misinform plenty.

My favorite among the four is Alex Nowrasteh’s Cato Institute study, because you could tell Burnett pulled it from the top of a pile he kept on hand for just such occasions, to convince Americans that the decay they’re witnessing in their communities is actually “cultural enrichment.”

The Cato study selectively sources data from the Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS), and it notes that what we’re reading is the “[a]uthor’s analysis” of that data. In other words, Nowrasteh presents data in a way that suits his ends. Data analysts, like those in Cato’s salon, have an interest in producing specific results. Or as one data analyst says, “they know the results the analysis should find.”

Nowrasteh’s study claims that among 952 total homicides, “native-born Americans were convicted of 885 homicides,” while “illegal immigrants were convicted of just 51 homicides.” Setting aside the fact that those 51 killings—like all crimes committed by illegal aliens—were completely avoidable, a few other questions come to mind.

First, how many of those “native-born” convicted killers were anchor babies? That is, how many of those convicted killers have parents who entered the country illegally? How many arrived through chain immigration?

That is a fair question, considering Latino gangs recruit heavily from kids as young as 10 years old, and the fact many of these immigrants come from countries with some of the highest homicide rates in the world.

Mexico is the most dangerous conflict zone in the world outside of Syria, with some Mexican states more deadly than Afghanistan. Looking at mass shootings since 2000 that have left at least four people dead, we find that first and second-generation immigrants account for 47 percent of all such shootings. The anchor baby question, when considering the pervasiveness of  the violent narcoculture in Latin America (that we now import), is valid.

Second, “convicted” is an operative word. The Cato study only takes into consideration killers who were caught, properly identified, and convicted.

Consider that Kate Steinle’s killer was not convicted either of manslaughter or murder. He committed the crime, but he wasn’t convicted. In fact, there was confusion over the killer’s identity as he used 30 aliases, had been deported five times, and committed seven felonious crimes. Federal authorities stated his name was “Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate,” but the criminal alien left a trail through the “immigration system and criminal courts for nearly a quarter of a century as  Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez and Juan Jose Dominguez de la Parra,” to name just two others.

Texas has porous borders and it’s a sad fact that illegal aliens enjoy the luxury of moving relatively freely across the border, whether for trafficking operations or simply for the purpose of avoiding Mexican authorities. A sizable number of illegal aliens work with drug cartels that operate within the United States. Some of them are killers.

“In 2009,” writes Steven A. Camarota for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), “57 percent of the 76 fugitive murderers most wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were foreign-born. It is likely however that because immigrants can more readily flee to other countries, they comprise a disproportionate share of fugitives.” How many of those were illegal aliens?

In fact, an internal Texas Department of Public Safety report revealed that between 2008 and 2014, 177,588 illegal alien defendants were “responsible for at least 611,234 individual criminal charges over their criminal careers, including 2,993 homicides and 7,695 sexual assaults.” Maybe the Texas authorities didn’t trust Cato with the good stuff. Or maybe Nowrasteh didn’t ask.

One thing is certain: the more substantive TDPS report paints illegal immigration in a much less favorable light than does the report selected by Cato and promulgated by NPR.

But the TDPS report also comes with a glaring caveat. “The 177,588 criminal aliens identified by Texas through the Secure Communities initiative only can tag criminal aliens who had already been fingerprinted,” writes J. Christian Adams, a former U.S. Justice Department employee.

“That means that the already stratospheric aggregate crime totals would be even higher if crimes by many illegal aliens who are not in the fingerprint database were included,” Adams concludes.

Cato, then, is misinforming Americans and perhaps hoping that no one looks below the surface of Nowrasteh’s study. This is not surprising as Cato emphatically endorses open borders, or as I prefer to call it, civilizational suicide. Thus, Burnett chose this specious source because it aligned with his cosmopolitan prejudices. Neither is a good look for a NPR.

A second study Burnett highlighted reports on “50 states and Washington, D.C., from 1990 to 2014 to provide the first longitudinal analysis of the macro‐level relationship between undocumented immigration and violence.” Assuming crime statistics are accurately reported, it stands to reason that if we look at immigration nationwide, lumping all “undocumented immigrants” into the same pool, things might not appear as bad as they actually are.

Crime statistics, however, aren’t always accurately reported—remember that Steinle’s killer won’t be reported as a homicide conviction. Although crime has decreased nationwide, it has risen in certain cities and counties. A “macro-level” glance might miss that.

In counties like Los Angeles, which has a high concentration of illegal aliens, authorities don’t have the best track record when it comes to accurately reporting crime, prompting investigations every now and again. Nevertheless, Los Angeles County has also seen crime rates increase, while they have fallen elsewhere across the nation.

Echoing Burnett, Steve Lopez writes in the Los Angeles Times that concern over sanctuary policies and tying immigration to higher crime rates is baseless. He maintains that it is a bigoted political formula and not much else. Lopez invokes Wayne Cornelius, a UC San Diego professor emeritus, “who has studied immigration for decades,” and “said there is no correlation between sanctuary cities and crime rates.”

Neither Burnett, Cornelius, nor Lopez understand why “14 Southern California cities and two counties have passed ordinances, and in some cases filed lawsuits,” against state sanctuary laws. After all, say the experts, sanctuary policies don’t protect bad guys; and noncitizens—specifically illegal alien Latinos—are less likely to engage in crime than the “native-born” population anyway.

If you don’t believe Lopez, take it from Cornelius. He received the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest honor bestowed upon foreigners by the formalized narco-kleptocracy Mexico calls a “government.”

To understand how unethical and fundamentally obscene this narrative is, a look at California’s history with sanctuary policies, crime, and immigration might be instructive.

City of Angels

The beginnings of sanctuary can be traced back to a 1979 Los Angeles memorandum stating: “Officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person. Officers shall neither arrest nor book persons for violation of title 8, section 1325 of the United States Immigration code (Illegal Entry).”

California progressives, in their brilliance, decided to adopt sanctuary just as the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, was coming onto the scene—although other Latino gangs were already entrenched in California.

Born in the barrios of Los Angeles in the 1980s, the membership of MS-13 was comprised of “refugees” from El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. This is relevant, considering the origins of the migrant activists demanding asylum from the United States today.

As a token of their appreciation to the United States, these foreigners formed the rank and file of one of the most vicious gangs in the world. It didn’t take long for the Mexican Mafia, or “la eMe,” to incorporate MS-13 into its Latino gang alliance, a coalition that came to be called the “Sureños.” More than a dozen gangs, including Hezbollah, Los Zetas, the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Gulf Cartel, all operate under the Sureños alliance.

In 2007, federal agents discovered businesses in Los Angeles that were peddling cocaine and counterfeit designer clothing in a front operation run by the Mexican mafia that financially benefited Hezbollah.

Between 1990 and 2000, the Latino population of the United States increased by 63 percent—from 22 million to 35 million. Suffice to say, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was overwhelmed. So were prisons. More to the point, this wave of mass immigration meant more recruits for Latino gangs.

Manhattan Institute Fellow Heather Mac Donald recounts how a “confidential California Department of Justice study reported in 1995 that 60 percent of the 20,000-strong 18th Street Gang in southern California is illegal; police officers say the proportion is actually much greater.” The 18th Street Gang collaborated with la eMe “on complex drug-distribution schemes, extortion, and drive-by assassinations, and commits an assault or robbery every day in L.A. County”; and the gang “has grown dramatically over the last two decades by recruiting recently arrived youngsters, most of them illegal, from Central America and Mexico.” As early as the 1990s, Latinos were importing narcoculture to the United States.

“In 1997, the INS simply had no record of a whopping 36 percent of foreign-born inmates who had been released from federal and four state prisons without any review of their deportability,” writes Mac Donald. “They included 1,198 aggravated felons, 80 of whom were soon re-arrested for new crimes.”

Mass immigration also brought with it a violent prejudice all too well known in Latin America: vitriolic hatred directed at blacks.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that in the 1980s when Highland Park in Southern California it “fell heavily under the control of the Mexican Mafia . . . eventually becoming fundamentally racist as a result.” As deceptive and dishonest as it often is, even the feverishly leftist SPLC couldn’t deny what was happening, because doing so would mean denying the plight of one of America’s protected minority groups for the sake of another.

Still, none of this seemed troubling enough to cinch up the border at the time. By 2000, “nearly 30 percent of federal prisoners were foreign-born,” Mac Donald writes. She adds that the L.A. County Sheriff also “reported in 2000 that 23 percent of inmates in county jails were deportable.”

Considering how difficult it is for minorities to be convicted of hate crimes, it is impressive that not only did Latino illegal aliens bring crime, they brought prolific amounts of hate crime the likes of which put the Klan to shame. By 2007, 75 percent of Highland Park residents were Latino, while just 2 percent were black.

Latinos developed a singular reputation for carrying out coordinated hate crimes that defied national trends. “Researchers found that in areas with high concentrations, or ‘clusters,’ of hate crimes, the perpetrators were typically members of Latino street gangs who were purposely targeting blacks,” the SPLC reported.

Los Angeles became home to random “racially motivated crimes” perpetrated throughout “the 88 cities of Los Angeles County by the members of Latino gangs.” Among these Latino gangs were “the Pomona 12 in the city of Pomona, the 18th Street Gang in southwest Los Angeles, the Toonerville gang in northeast L.A., and the Varrio Tortilla Flats in Compton.”

But the violence from Latino gangs against blacks wasn’t limited to Los Angeles. The same SPLC report notes that “six members of a Latino gang in Carlsbad, California, were arrested and charged with hate crimes for allegedly hurling racial slurs at a black teenager—who police said was not a gang member—while kicking and punching him.”

Meanwhile in Fresno, California, two Latino gang members “were convicted of attempted murder in what police described as the random hate-crime shooting of a 41-year-old black man.” Police reported that “the shooters used racial epithets and told the victim, ‘We don’t like your kind of people on our street.’”

The viciousness of Latino gangs was matched only by its pervasiveness. Although different in some respects, Latino gangs shared two common characteristics: hatred toward blacks and ranks augmented with illegal aliens thanks to porous borders.

Citing U.S. attorney Luis Li, Mac Donald noted that the “leadership of the Columbia Lil’ Cycos gang, which uses murder and racketeering to control the drug market around L.A.’s MacArthur Park, was about 60 percent illegal in 2002.”

The Cycos gang was controlled by a member of la eMe, an illegal alien, who ran the gang from prison, “while serving time for felonious reentry following deportation.” By 2004, “95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide [in Los Angeles] (which total 1,200 to 1,500) target[ed] illegal aliens,” and as many as “two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (17,000) [were] for illegal aliens.”

To argue, as Burnett, Lopez, and Cornelius do, that “there is no correlation between sanctuary cities and crime rates” is to offer a bad joke. But the litany of Latino gangs goes on, while the intelligentsia preaches tolerance to the communities that have been terrorized by this nightmare.

In 2009, 147 alleged Varrio Hawaiian Gardens members—that’s a Mexican gang—were indicted “on charges ranging from racketeering to kidnapping and attempted murder.” These crimes, said U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien, were motivated by “explicit racial hatred.”

The scale at which these gangs coordinated and mobilized against blacks was terribly formidable. In 2012, la eMe “put the word out for Hispanic street gangs to stop battling each other, to ‘focus on getting the blacks out’ of their territories,” writes Eva Knott, citing a police gang specialist.

The violence hasn’t stopped, and neither have the lies about sanctuary or illegal immigration.

In 2016, the “Eastside Latino gang tried to firebomb black families out of a community the suspects claimed as their own,” to “get the nigger out of the neighborhood,” federal authorities said. One firebomb landed in a room where a mother had been sleeping with her baby, but the family managed to escape.

The George W. Bush Administration made some headway in dealing with Latino gangs, but Democrats during the Obama era enabled them to replenish their ranks. Under Democratic Party leadership, California enacted a plan to release 13,500 inmates every month to reduce overcrowding, including those sentenced for “stalking” and “battery.” Early release of “nonviolent, low level prisoners,” coupled with ICE field offices being directed to cease arresting gang members for immigration violations or minor crimes, meant Latino gangs could resupply their numbers. This happened at the same time that California made it even harder for immigration authorities to apprehend and deport illegal aliens. Indeed, from 2015 to 2017, California denied 3,348 ICE detainer requests.

“Progressive” policing meant preventing federal authorities from screening thousands of dangerous aliens, when one in four “MS-13 gang members arrested or charged with crimes since 2012 came to the U.S. as part of the Obama-era surge of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC).”

Jessica M. Vaughan, director of policy studies for the CIS, reports that “ICE officers were no longer permitted to arrest and remove foreign gang members until they had been convicted of major crimes.” This resulted in gang arrests plummeting, “from about 4,600 in 2012 to about 1,580 in 2014.”

Vaughan also notes the “location of these MS-13 crimes corresponds with locations of large numbers of UACs who were resettled by the federal government.” MS-13 gang members have been apprehended after entering the country by claiming they were refugees “fleeing the violence in El Salvador.” Indeed, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen last month warned Congress that gangs like MS-13 “recruit young children, they train them how to be smuggled across our border, how to then join up with gang members in the United States.”

This is the insanity that sanctuary, mass immigration, and inability to enforce border security or immigration laws have wrought.

The Politics of Propaganda

Between 2005 and 2012, the Los Angeles Police Department incorrectly classified 14,000 assaults as minor offenses, “making the city’s crime rate look significantly lower than it really is.” Josh Sanburn reports that the LAPD routinely classified aggravated assaults as “simple assaults,” therefore artificially reducing the city’s numbers for violent crime.

“We know this can have a corrosive effect on the public’s trust of our reporting,” said Assistant Chief Michel R. Moore, who oversees the LAPD’s system for tracking crime. “That’s why we are committed to . . . eliminating as much of the error as possible.”

Then, the LAPD did it again. The department “misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes“ in 2014, “including hundreds of stabbings, beatings and robberies.” That’s not exactly an inconsequential clerical error. With this correction, the rate of serious assaults during that time would have been around 14 percent higher than what the LAPD reported, while overall violent crime would have shown 7 percent higher. This problem is “systemic,” according to a San Fernando Valley LAPD captain.

Capt. Lillian Carranza says “the department’s systemic pattern of under-reporting certain crime statistics” isn’t just skewering crime data, “it affects the way we deploy resources, the support we get from federal grants, and in my case and in my officers case, who gets the support of discretionary resources and who doesn’t.”

Carranza said she found errors “in categorizing violent crimes that were never fixed” that resulted in LAPD “under-reporting violent crime for 2016 by about 10 percent.” Carranza said she believes “staff members may have falsified information,” or “cooking of the books . . . in order to get promotions, accolades and increased responsibility.”

Progressives love to bash cops, but they avoid connecting the dots between underreporting serious crime and violent crime, with regions where illegal aliens are concentrated appearing safer than they are.

Why should Californians assume Los Angeles is the only city obfuscating the truth about sanctuary policies, immigration, and crime? California is the state, after all, where Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, an outspokenly progressive Democrat, tipped off illegals to an ICE sweep, claiming a “duty and moral obligation as mayor to give those families fair warning when that threat appears imminent.” She had a duty and moral obligation least of all to American citizens, it seems.

Oakland also happens to be one of the least safe cities in America.

CityRating reports Oakland’s violent crime rate in 2016 as higher than the national average by 259.04 percent, higher than the California average by 220.13 percent. Oakland’s property crime rate was higher than the national average by 129.96 percent, higher than the California average by 120.75 percent. Further, CityRating reports an overall upward trend in crime based on “data from 18 years with violent crime increasing and property crime increasing,” and based on this trend, “the crime rate in Oakland for 2018 is expected to be higher than in 2016.”

When Mayor Schaaf refuses to enforce the law, she contributes to Oakland’s growing crime problem.

Still, why do people like Krishnadev Calamur claim that “[s]tudy after study after study” show “[i]mmigrants largely commit crimes at a lower rate than the local-born population”? Calamur says those “numbers are true even of the children of immigrants.”

Because “study after study after study” conflate the children of immigrants whose parents entered our country legally holding a postgraduate degree, like many Nigerians do, and the children of Latino gang members, whose parents entered the United States illegally. Both are second-generation, both are lumped together, but they are not the same. Sometimes, these studies even conflate legal and illegal aliens.

“Fact Checker” Salvador Rizzo writes for the Washington Post, “every demographic group has its share of criminals, but the research shows that immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than the U.S.-born population.”

“Fact Checker” may not be an appropriate title for Rizzo.

Like Calamur, Rizzo argues, “most of the available data and research say immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the U.S.-born population.” But a closer look at Rizzo’s narrative is instructive of other common misinformation tactics.

First, Rizzo makes no distinction between legal and illegal alien crime statistics, when lumping the two together will obviously give a better impression of illegal alien crime alone.

Second, in later immigration “fact checks,” Rizzo uses data that excludes non-violent crimes committed by illegals, such as identity theft, racketeering, arson, most property crimes, drug and alcohol-related crime, grand theft, counterfeiting, fraud, and so forth. Human trafficking involves dangerously transporting vulnerable people, often women and children, against their will, but this offense can be labeled “non-violent.”

Suffice to say, Rizzo’s fact-checking is extremely misleading.

A look at U.S. Sentencing Commission data from 2016, pertaining to 67,742 felony and Class A misdemeanor cases, shows noncitizens accounted for 41.7 percent of all offenders. Further broken down: noncitizens accounted for 72 percent of drug possession convictions, 33 percent of money laundering convictions, 29 percent of drug trafficking convictions, 23 percent of murder convictions, and 18 percent of fraud convictions. Commission data doesn’t report on state and local prisons and jails, but the Government Accountability Office does.

The GAO found that among 251,000 criminal aliens incarcerated in federal, state, and local prisons and jails, these criminal aliens were arrested 1.7 million times, for nearly 3 million combined offenses. Fifty percent had been arrested at least once for assault, homicide, robbery, a sex offense, or kidnapping—around half had been arrested at least once for a drug violation. The GAO consistently reports the number of noncitizens (legal and illegal aliens) constituting 25 percent of the federal prison population. That slice of the pie would require noncitizens to commit crimes around three times the rate of citizens.

Not only do these data show 7 percent of the population accounts for one-fifth of all federal murder convictions, but when Rizzo excludes non-violent crimes, he clearly excludes a staggering lot. Thus, Rizzo deliberately avoids confronting a mountain of data that directly contradicts his narrative.

Like Burnett, Lopez, Cornelius, and Calamur, Rizzo is willing to deny that communities have been and continue to be violently afflicted, while criminals have been given sanctuary, just because it satisfies his liberal paternalism. Minorities must be shielded from criticism, even if that means offering up the very principles that attracted them to this country, particularly those of justice and the rule of law, on the altar of progressivism.

End of the Narrative

The folkish polka tunes of Los Tucanes de Tijuana belie the vile narcoculture they extol in their music. “Somos gente de el cartel de el diablo, Les decían a los federales, De inmediato les abrían el paso, Era mas que se activa la clave, Saben bien que si no hacían caso, Sus cabezas volarían al aire.” We are the people of the devil’s cartel, they tell the federales and they let us through, they know what happens if they don’t obey, their heads will fly through the air.

Los Tucanes are banned from performing in their namesake Tijuana, the consequence of a 2008 concert in which the band’s members gave a shout out to Tijuana’s most wanted men, “El Teo and his compadre, El Muletas.”

Raydel Lopez Uriarte, alias “El Muletas,” ran a drug-trafficking cell known for murdering police officers, numerous kidnappings, and beheading victims. Garcia Simental, known as “El Teo,” helped turn Baja into a place where “soldiers patrolled in convoys and manned bunkers flanking highways. Torture victims’ bodies hung from overpasses, and once-crowded beaches became playgrounds for mob bosses and their entourages.” An insider who wanted to help “clean up [his] country” eventually turned on Simental and gave him up to the feds. Needless to say, gangster rap doesn’t hold a candle to the vicious culture extolled by narcocorridos.

Although banned in Tijuana, the Tucanes enjoy immense popularity in the United States; in fact, you can catch them at the San Diego County Fair, they’re billed as “global ambassadors of Norteña music and corridos and ballads.” They tour throughout the states, playing in Central Park, Dodger Stadium, the Astrodome. They have a massive following in Texas.

The United States isn’t just importing violent crime, it’s importing the culture that has made narcoterrorism acceptable, even desirable, in countries like Mexico—and our media is paving an express lane. When Juan Williams said, “Now is the time to defund NPR,” he might have been on to something.

After California Democrats appointed an illegal alien to statewide office, Lizbeth Mateo sent out an inaugural Tweet to Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “Fuck you @jeffsessions!! You coward piece of shit. You think this is going to change the resolve of these families? You don’t know the strength and courage of my community.”

Apart from the vulgarity and unhinged tone, what stands out are two words: “my community.”

Mateo is not an American. She is a Mexican living in America. Her community is not the American people; it is the Mexican people. The appointment of an illegal alien to state office—who serves on a financial advisory committee, thus directing the use of taxpayer dollars—and the obvious extranational loyalties of that illegal alien are seditious, and the bureaucrat kings of California made this happen. Sessions recently declared, “We are not going to let this country be invaded. We will not be stampeded. We will not capitulate to lawlessness,” while the president has hinted at possibly “closing up the country for a while.”  

I say pour it on. Give California hell, because that is what it has given its citizens. Now, this not a declaration of war against immigrants who came to this country for the right reasons. It is, rather, a declaration of war against criminals and the bureaucrats who are actively importing the heinous culture that has compelled so many to seek refuge elsewhere; now their children will be recruited by MS-13 here, rather than over there.

California is strangling the very society that immigrants once came to become a part of, for no less noble a cause that consolidating political power with an electorate they have cowed into fealty, or shackled to the welfare-state.

California wants to go to war with America—perhaps America should grant California’s wish.

Photo credit:  Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

America • California • Cities • Conservatives • Political Parties • Post • The Constitution • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

Calexit 2020? Yeah, Right!

California sometimes reminds me of an old Mad Magazine novelty record, “It’s a Super-Spectacular Day.” Maybe you remember it. The song starts out as a jaunty little ditty: “It’s a great big beautiful, wonderful, incredible super-spectacular day!” All the bells are ringing and a little bird’s singing on your window sill …

Until . . . !

Some crazy calamity occurs. What made the record novel was that the second part of the song was different depending upon where you put the needle on the record. The mob mistakes you for a fink and “breaks your arm and does bodily harm.” A UFO abducts you. You die of some freakish disease. A freight train hits you. Funny stuff like that.

California is a great big beautiful, wonderful, incredible, super-spectacular state until some random calamity strikes. An earthquake destroys a major thoroughfare. A devastating wildfire wipes out half of Napa Valley. Somebody decides the state should secede.

Read the rest at the Sacramento Bee.

Administrative State • America • Center for American Greatness • Cities • Government Reform • Identity Politics • Political Parties • Post • Progressivism • race • The Culture

Clown World

As we all learn as children, “In an emergency, dial 911.” One likes to think that this essential service will work when you need it. Indeed, it needs to work all of the time. And it would, but for the fact that we live in Clown World.

The Creshenda Williams saga reveals the dangers of making the government a jobs program for the politically favored classes, rather than a place with high standards and a thorough-going commitment to excellence.

As reported last week, the Houston 911 dispatcher “didn’t have time for that”:

Crenshanda Williams. “Houston 9-1-1, do you need medical, police or fire?” she asked.

“This is a robbery,” Li blurted out.

Li heard a sigh, then nothing. The call had been disconnected again.

On Wednesday, Williams was sentenced to 10 days in jail and 18 months on probation after she was convicted of hanging up on thousands of calls during the 18 months that she worked as a 911 dispatcher for the city of Houston, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Williams’ incompetence jeopardized thousands of people because she was given a job that she had no business doing. The exact circumstances through which she was hired can’t easily be known, but we do know that Houston has announced: “[t]he goal of the City of Houston is to have a diverse workforce that reflects the ethnic and cultural makeup of the community it serves.” The city’s priorities, and those of too many others, are clear.

This commitment is not cost-free. Former New Orleans Police Department officer Len Davis was convicted of arranging the 1994 murder of a woman who had filed a brutality complaint against him. Officer Mohammad Noor in Minneapolis was a highly celebrated Somali police officer, right up until he was arrested for the trigger-happy killing of an Australian woman. A connected and diverse engineering firm’s pedestrian bridge fatally collapsed days after opening in Miami. The engineers decided to sound the alarm with a mere voicemail.

The thread that unites these failures is government hiring characterized by a lack of commitment to standards and excellence. Those standards have been displaced by political goals, whether small ball ones like patronage and partisan politics, or larger ones, like systematically discriminating in favor of whole populations at the expense of others.

Restore Civil Service
The abandonment of excellence is never more dramatic than in the case of affirmative action, where the entire concept involves favoring individuals of demonstrably lesser ability, skill, and qualifications when hiring for important jobs where there is little margin for error. Whether the position is air traffic control, police work, firefighting or the
Marine Corps, mistakes in these fields cost lives. In these types of jobs, the only consideration that should prevail is moral and technical excellence.

Once upon a time, government hiring had a means of ensuring excellence, or at least meritocracy. The civil service exam system was designed to regulate government hiring—long mired in corruption, patronage, and randomness—with standardized criteria. This system allowed the selection and placement of talented people into jobs for which they were qualified regardless of race. Indeed, under the civil service exam system, a classification was made not only regardless of race, but regardless of political party, political machines, good or bad interviewing skills, or nepotism.

The federal government had a universal civil service exam until 1981. As Steve Sailer has reported, “the feds themselves once had an excellent test for entry-level job applicants. One of the last malignant relics of the Carter Administration is the enduring hash it made of civil servant hiring by abolishing the Professional and Administrative Career Examination (PACE) in January 1981. That this disastrous step has disappeared down the memory hole exemplifies the reigning prejudice in modern America against publicly discussing about how best to select people.” Instead, for federal hiring, we now have the pseudo-meritocracy that comes from interviews, diversity statements, and “KSAs.” As we see in Houston, things fare little better at the local level.

Not Everyone is Qualified
When cities and states have tried to use standardized tests, they run into an artificial obstacle: endless lawsuits under the rubric of disparate impact. No test has been invented that can achieve a perfectly proportional outcome between the various races, and the “gap” has surfaced in such varied tests as the
SAT, firefighting exams, and the old civil-service exam.

Our society is at a crossroads: it must decide if the highest goal is equality, to include the pretend equality generated by affirmative action, or if it believes in prioritizing excellence.

There are no doubt a great many people of all races who could meet the minimal qualifications to be a 911 dispatcher. But not everyone can, and it is better that this essential system be manned by the most qualified and conscientious people, than that the makeup of dispatchers—whom no one sees and most people rarely interact with—matches Houston’s demographics.

While endemic, multigenerational poverty is frustrating to people of good will, the solution must be some combination of realism about what is possible, moral renewal, the reduction of wage pressure from globalism and immigration, and controlling the “bad apples” who prey on their neighbors. Make-work jobs in life-and-death fields like police work and 911 dispatch is a costly solution with real and deadly consequences for the people who it is supposed to help.

This problem with 911 is apparently of longstanding, and the victims of this kind of affirmative action include the disproportionately minority population in poorer and higher crime neighborhoods. As the great philosopher Flava Flav taught us:

Now I dialed 911 a long time ago
Don’t you see how late they’re reacting
They only come and they come when they wanna
So get the morgue truck and embalm the goner
They don’t care cause they stay paid anyway

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America • California • Cities • Education • Healthcare • Post • The Culture • The Media

America Has a Loneliness Epidemic

Americans are lonely. Our loneliness is killing us.

It’s true. Loneliness is deadlier than obesity. Deadlier than smoking. And, yes, a great deal deadlier than the “assault weapons” some people are so obsessed with banning lately. A gun might kill more quickly, but loneliness will hasten death as surely as a bullet. One in five Americans, for example, say loneliness is “a major source of unhappiness in their lives.” At the same time, around 30 million Americans take antidepressants of one kind or another. Are we depressed because we’re lonely or we lonely because we’re depressed?

You may have seen news stories about “the loneliness epidemic.” It’s a real thing, not a public-relations gimmick. The man who coined the term about a decade ago passed away earlier this month . . . 

Read the rest at the Sacramento Bee

America • Big Media • Cities • Donald Trump • Drugs • Economy • Identity Politics • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • The Left • The Media

The Left’s Small-Minded View of Small-Town America

In her recent New York Times story, “Suicides, Drug Addiction, and High School Football,” reporter Juliet Macur investigates the problems of Madison, Indiana, a small town on the Ohio River. Macur starts off by limning the picturesque location and the wonderful things the place has to offer, describing it as “the prettiest little town.” Having graduated from nearby Hanover College a couple of years ago, I can attest to the beauty and charm of Madison. It is pretty, all right, and the people there are a good cross-section of the American Heartland: some are impressively hard-working, good-hearted, and devoted to God, country, and family, and others are less so.

Macur’s article, however, soon takes a turn toward the sinister, describing an epidemic of drug abuse and suicide plaguing the town.

As anyone paying attention to the news these days can attest, however, this epidemic is by no means confined to small-town Indiana. Rather, it has become sadly commonplace throughout the depressed towns and rural landscapes of middle America. Although the use of one town as an example of a social situation is a valid journalistic technique, nearby Austin, Indiana, would have been more apt, given that it has the state’s highest rates of heroin abuse and AIDS. Austin, however, is not nearly as picturesque as Madison, and hence its decline might seem to Macur and the Times rather less tragic because less steep.

Madison, Macur writes, “is at the center of a drug-trafficking triangle connecting Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Louisville. It is battling life-and-death problems.” Yes, Madison is battling serious ills, but it is by no means at the center of drug trafficking. The place is 25 miles from the nearest interstate, tucked along a bend of the Ohio River, far from being a natural crossroads. That may be why Macur writes as if data were the plural of anecdote, telling us of a waitress whose son committed suicide, a dishwasher whose daughter died of complications from drug abuse and left behind a drug-addicted infant child, a suicide of a recent high school graduate, and a suicide in Indianapolis of another Madison native.

Madison by the Numbers
Macur concedes that the unemployment rate in the county where Madison resides is around the national average and the median household income and poverty rate are unexceptional, but “beneath all that are the crises that threaten to drag this town under: suicide, depression, child neglect, abuse and addiction to drugs.” The suicide rate in the surrounding county is 3.2 times the national rate, she notes.

She does not, however, identify the suicide rate specifically in Madison. “At least three students in the [Madison High School] class of 2015 and one from 2014 have committed suicide,” Macur writes instead.

Those are awful, tragic incidents, and they certainly suggest that Madison is no longer an idyllic small town for every one of its residents. The data, however, contradict Macur’s characterization of Madison as being in the throes of a catastrophe. The number of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches is below the state average. Graduation rates, while declining, remain above the state average. The average SAT at the high school is above the Indiana average.

Disciplinary problems are where Madison falls short, with higher rates of both in-school and out-of-school suspensions and student absenteeism almost three times that of Indiana and twice the national average. Macur suggests that the over-prescribing of opioid drugs is at the heart of the town’s problems, saying that Madison has been “hit especially hard by the opioid crisis,” yet she offers no data on opioid use in the town. In fact, Macur mentions in passing, “Madison won a national award for being a ‘stellar community.’”

More “Redneck Porn”
After painting her overly bleak picture of the town, Macur proceeds to dangle one seeming glimmer of hope: Madison Consolidated High School’s football team, the Cubs, and head coach Patric Morrison. Morrison is definitely a good guy. He understands that his job as head coach affects much more than just football, and he makes a personal commitment to the well-being of his players, similar to what Coach Ken Carter did at Richmond High School in Richmond, California, an area also affected by drugs and violence. Macur devotes much of the article to Morrison.

Small towns are clearly on the decline in the United States, but instead of making a convincing case that Madison is truly representative of the problems and identifying the factors behind the alleged pathologies, Macur creates a sentimental drama in which a dedicated football coach rescues his players from incipient self-degradation while the world crumbles around them. The apparent rise of suicide and drug addiction in a formerly thriving town is a dramatic backdrop, but the failure to explain the causes makes her implied solution—individuals such as Morrison deploying compassion—a dubious proposition.

Without such information and lacking insights into causality, Macur’s story is just another instance of “redneck porn,” in which coastal elites hold their noses long enough to observe the inmates of small-town America for a few days and predictably find them greatly wanting. One motivation for such articles is evident and natural to the human condition: the great satisfaction of pontificating about people beneath one’s social station.

Another observable motivation, however, is political: the need to find some great evil to blame for the election of the coastal elites’ personal Satan: President Trump.

Poor, mostly white, Christian conservatives in red states are an easy target. They have no outlets through which to speak up for themselves, and the mainstream media never speak for them, just about them. Macur’s sympathy for the residents of Madison is evident, but her refusal to identify any cause of their woes other than pharmaceutical corporations renders her article a stealthy dose of coastal superiority. Ruth Mayer, who wrote “I detest Trump, but a ‘Redneck’ Fixed My Prius With Zip Ties” perfectly exemplified this attitude, explaining, “I have been so angry about Donald Trump this past year. I have been angry at my country for electing this man, angry at my neighbors who support him, angry at the wealthy who sacrificed our country and its goodness for tax breaks, angry at the coal miners who believed his promises.”

This undying anger seems to blind coastal elite types to the fact that the decline of small-town America long preceded Donald Trump’s election, and that Trump’s strongly and repeatedly stated sympathy for ordinary Americans, backed up by policies intended to remedy the fundamental causes of their problems by giving them a chance to repair their local economies, is exactly what moved so many people in these communities to vote for him.

Half-Century Struggle over Government’s Role
As in the 1960s, our federal government’s policies increasingly favor coastal elites and their satraps while making things difficult for strivers in the nation’s heartland.

The Left has been doing everything it can to prevent the United States from securing its borders, which has increased job competition at the low end of the scale and driven people into protracted unemployment. The Left has fought furiously against work requirements and drug testing for government welfare recipients, thus trapping people in the squalor of the welfare system instead of moving them toward self-reliance. They have fought school choice every step of the way, denying parents the chance to make the best decisions for their children, trapping kids in inferior schools based solely on their ZIP codes and creating dependency on government by making generations of good people unemployable.

All of these policies and countless others place an undue burden on small towns and rural Americans as well as those trapped in the inner cities.

Such favoritism toward the powerful is the inevitable outcome of big government: the most aggressive and self-centered people will use government force to turn things to their advantage. It should surprise no one, then, that government policies that destroy local economies and create dependency, plus the constant rebukes by leftists of poor and working-class people in the “flyover” states, have led to widespread despair.

The targets of this rhetoric, however, were smart enough to see how fabulously the decades-long habit of voting for Democrats has worked out for Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, and countless other such places. In 2016, Hillary Clinton deepened this impression by refusing to take the time to remind voters in America’s depressed areas that she knew of their existence, let alone their problems. She then had the gall to go to India, of all places, and chastise middle America for not voting for more of the same in the last presidential election.

What Madison—and Middle America—Needs
However good Macur’s intentions might have been, her story ultimately contributes to the self-aggrandizement of liberals on the coasts, providing another brick in the wall upon which they are perched and looking down their noses at the plight of ordinary Americans. If they were truly interested in helping these Americans, the power brokers on the coasts would stop promoting policies that do them such tremendous harm. Instead, they would work to empower the American public and allow people to make their own choices in life.

Madison doesn’t need pity: it needs freedom.

Photo credit: via Getty Images