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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.

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 licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

America • Center for American Greatness • China • Donald Trump • Free Speech • Government Reform • Infrastructure • Post • Technology • Trade

Stop Whining About Google and Do Something

Some friends on the Right are angry about Google’s opaque efforts to block prominent conservative personalities and think tanks from the search engine and the company’s advertising program. Their anger is understandable, but why is anyone surprised? Despite a short-lived and undeserved reputation for libertarianism, the tech industry has always leaned left. Today, Silicon Valley is evangelically liberal and very rich—a nasty combination.

A move toward a kind of left-wing, techno-totalitarianism was predictable—and predicted.

Why else do you think Google happily made common cause with the most totalitarian state in the world, the People’s Republic of China, while at the same time repressing American conservative groups and individuals?

Don’t forget that the Department of Defense, in dire need of support from American tech firms, last year offered a $10 billion contract to whichever American tech firm could build the Pentagon’s cloud computing system. Google was among one of the top bidders. Google would have been a natural fit for the project, since the tech giant is a pioneer in cloud computing. But, following a protest from some employees about helping America’s “war machine,” Google took itself out of contention. Amazon remains a competitive bidder, but the fact that Google abandoned the project not because it might damage their financial interests, but instead out of ideological opposition to the U.S. military, is—to say the least—disturbing.

This occurred, incidentally, as Google was moving its artificial intelligence research arm into China. Undoubtedly, the move to China will help Google’s bottom line. After all, China is a massive untapped market and it is rapidly growing into the world’s most dynamic technology innovation hub. But everyone knows that China has a pernicious state capitalist system. Therefore, any American firm doing business in China will be required to share proprietary data with Chinese state-owned enterprises.

Even if Google desires to keep their artificial intelligence research confined to the civilian realm, they will be unable to keep it that way for long. Inevitably, Chinese entities will get their hands on Google’s research and reproduce it indigenously—and not merely for civilian consumption. In effect, the next generation of advanced Chinese weapons might be run by an artificial intelligence that Google helped to develop, even as they refused to do business with the U.S. military.

While this occurs, Google creates algorithms meant to stymie the free speech of conservative Americans. Many Google employees believe we Rightists are racists, fascists, bigots, war mongers, and homophobes. They hate those of us on the Right for the same reason they refuse to do business with the U.S. military (missing, apparently, the fact that today’s military is increasingly Left-leaning itself). We embody the America of their fathers and grandfathers; we symbolize the America they hate. It also happens to be the America that the Chinese Communist Party despises. So that’s two things they have in common.

Rightists should stop being outraged that their free speech is being infringed upon by a corporation that routinely collects and sells the personal data of its users to the highest bidder, refuses to work with the “warmongering” Pentagon, and gladly jumps into bed with the Chinese Communist Party. Instead, we should support calls to better regulate Google and other tech firms, so that they cannot act with as much impunity as they have done.

Meanwhile, conservatives should drop their obsession with Ayn Rand for a moment and recognize that the U.S. government needs more power to prevent American tech firms from doing business with China.

In that regard, the powers of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) should be greatly expanded. This group is the best way to complicate Google’s (and other corporations’) attempts to sell us out to China. According to the United States Treasury Department, “CFIUS is an interagency committee authorized to review certain transactions involving foreign investment in the United States (‘covered transactions’), in order to determine the effect of such transactions on the national security of the United States.” If a foreign trade is determined to be a national security threat, then CFIUS can block that trade. This happened several years ago when Fairchild Semiconductor was forced to reject an acquisition offer from a Chinese firm. CFIUS blocked the deal out of fear that China would be able to corner the all-important semiconductor industry. CFIUS needs more robust powers, though, to fully defend against Chinese attempts to gain access to critical American technology through trade.

Also, the Pentagon should increase its understanding of the threat that unfettered free trade between U.S. tech companies and China poses to our country.

Few may realize it, but our leaders are woefully uninformed about the extent and nature of the threat that doing trade with China poses the United States, especially in the high-tech sector. This is partly because the private sector and public sector are both terrible about sharing information with each other. This is also because the incentives for American businesses to deal with China are fundamentally different from the incentives for America’s defense establishment to stunt trade with China.

The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) was a great first step toward bridging this knowledge gap. Established in 2015 by the Department of Defense, the DIU is headquartered in Mountain View, California with offices in Boston and Austin (two other major tech corridors in the United States). Currently, the group is focused on providing funds to tech companies that assist the Department of Defense in resolving critical national security issues. It is staffed by a who’s-who compendium of tech sector notables, academics, military officials, and hedge fund types who specialize in funding technology firms.

Yet, it is not enough.

A greater synthesis between the national security sector, the business community, academia, and the political leadership of the United States is needed if we truly and effectively want to prevent American tech firms from building the weapons of tomorrow for China to use against us today. The goal should be to create a comprehensive capability that can protect vital intellectual property and punish corporations acting against America’s best interests. DIU would complement an expanded CFIUS—as well as a stricter regulatory policy for U.S. tech firms—by providing key insights and intelligence to policymakers charged with oversight of the tech sector.

The time for outrage over Google’s transgressions against the American people has long passed. We on the Right have an ally in the White House with a skeptical view both of the tech industry and China’s intentions. What’s more, President Trump is more willing than his predecessors to make corporations pay for their actions when they harm America.

Rightists everywhere would do well to use this to their advantage. The administration has an opportunity to rein in Google and other tech giants that, left to their own devices, would sell out this country, trample our God-given freedom of speech, and empower the Chinese Communist Party. Time is of the essence.

Photo credit: JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

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 licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

America • Americanism • Conservatives • Electoral College • Government Reform • political philosophy • Post • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Culture

The New Social Contract We Must Reject

America’s public life is disordered; our discourse toxic. Competing lists of scandals and abuses (calls for impeachment, “nuclear options,” attacks on free speech, and so on) are long and shop-worn—and often miss the real issue that something profound, systemic, and dangerous has happened to our nation. A hostile ideology now permeates the institutions that inculcate our children’s values, that shape or manufacture public opinion, and that supply the public with our only menu of political options from which to choose.

In effect, our ruling class has declared a new social contract, and they expect us to accept in silent acquiescence.

A social contract reveals itself in action, not ideas, and the true nature of the new, progressive contract emerges in countless examples of applied tyranny rather than its rhetoric of liberation. If we allow this new social contract to become our national norm, we will no longer be Americans in any meaningful sense. We will descend from a self-governing people into the subjects of social democratic elites who will dictate what kinds of political, economic, and social relationships we have with one another and with our new rulers.

American public life grew from a creative tension between two competing but ultimately compatible visions of who we are and what makes our common life meaningful. In effect, Americans have lived in and between two social contracts, which we have come to call “liberal” and “conservative.”

Our liberal social contract is largely individualistic; it stresses natural rights, political consent, and legal protections that extend from protecting contracts to guaranteeing equality of opportunity. Our conservative social contract, accepting much of liberalism, undergirds it by emphasizing the ties of community—of family, church, and local association—that make economic and political cooperation possible and help give life meaning. Freedom and stability, rights and duties, personal drive and the deeper ties and shared stories that bind us, these seeming contradictions have served as the poles of our common life, allowing us to forge a society of dynamic, ordered liberty.

Things have changed. Whether in the sweeping power grab of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal,” the old-style socialism of Senator Bernie Sanders, or the dogged resistance of “mainstream” Democrats to any judicial nominee who recognizes the duty of judges to follow rather than make law, formerly fringe positions have coalesced into a new consensus on the left more radical than anything we have seen previously in our two-party system.

How did this happen?

Barack Obama’s vapid speechifying about America’s coming “fundamental transformation” sounded sophomoric to many of us but inspired others—activists, academics, journalists, and politicians—to believe their vanguard had finally captured all the important cultural and political high ground. The words were conceptually empty but nonetheless important as they signaled a coming out for this vanguard. Feeling free to use naked power to implement their new social and political model, progressives largely immobilized non-progressive elites whose foolish complicity in the building of the new paradigm left them without a script.

This paradigm owes much to the most radical of American Progressives from a century ago. It is laid out most fully, however, in a work of academic philosophy, the 1971 book A Theory of Justice by Harvard philosopher John Rawls.  At one level, Rawls merely restates old leftist prejudices, and his abstruse language hardly conceals the radicalism of a “social contract” demanding that we reject our lived culture, our inherited principles, and the defining traits of our American character in favor of a radical, inhumane, and fundamentally unjust “theory of justice.”  

On another level, Rawls offers the purest form of political abstraction that supported a method of analysis perfectly attuned to the desires of a new generation of radicals for moral certitude and for those who cannot tolerate dissent or pluralism.  In this way, Rawls crafted a very useful and seductive theory for people who want action. Rawls’ contract begins with the question: what type of society would an individual choose from behind a “veil of ignorance” completely masking every aspect of a distinctive self:  gender, class, talents, physical limitations, religious and moral beliefs? Rawls’ answer is a “fair” society, in which the only permissible inequalities would be those that produce disproportionate benefits to the most disadvantaged. The cold abstraction of Rawls’ system produces moral heat against all forms of difference and inequality, and against anyone who fails to parrot the claim that its principles are self-evident. And so, dissent from the new orthodoxy is portrayed as a sign of racist rage and a selfish thirst for power, political majorities are dismissed as brainwashed rubes or mere fictions, and open opposition to the new order is deemed treason. Rawls’ theory effectively closes the mind of disciples in order to prepare them for the long march to power.

If we have learned anything over the last two and a half centuries it is that nothing is so dangerous to real, particular, breathing humans as moralism devoted to abstract visions of the good. Unfortunately, we seem perpetually destined to unlearn such lessons. “Free” college, medical care, and guaranteed incomes, courts determined to legislate against the expressed will of the people, and the poisonous demands of today’s identity politics all share a hostility to the norms of personal responsibility and traditions of due process deeply embedded in our liberal/conservative consensus. They demand rejection of tradition and opportunity in favor of using government and radical pressure groups to redistribute wealth and power according to political standards.

Political conflict is nothing new in America. Nor is all political conflict the product of disagreements over our social contract. For example, much of the tragedy of race relations historically has stemmed from primitive emotions and bad, race-based pseudo-science. But at the core of today’s toxic politics is a battle for America’s soul. We must choose: Are we, as a people, dependents of a central government and those who perpetually run that government, looking for administrators to protect us from all the tragedies of life—including sickness, poverty, feelings of inferiority, and speech we find hurtful? Or are we a free people, possessed of a common story as well as our own stories in our own communities, capable of governing ourselves provided each of us is given fair treatment and room to move in the public square?

The Rawlsian contract demands that every form of inequality—political, economic, and social—pass muster according to rigorous, unrealistic criteria. In effect, every aspect of our lives is to be judged by the most “woke” among us, who will then use the power of the state to enforce their judgement. Promising liberation, the Rawlsian social contract would reduce each and every one of us to a featureless cog in a great machine of constant social reconstruction. This most political of social contracts is the real foundation for the politics of envy and resentment promoted by Occasio-Cortez, Sanders, and their enablers.

At its heart, the Progressive social contract is a rejection of society itself in favor of a pervasive, inescapable politics, guided by a permanent ruling class insulated from the people by tenure, lifetime appointments, civil service rules, and a corrupt political system. Real political consent comes, not from behind a veil of ignorance, nor from the kind of mass, national elections called for by those who would destroy our Electoral College. It comes from people within their own states and local communities. National politics and promises must take a back seat to local concerns and loyalties if we are to regain self-government. For this to happen we first must call out those who would shame normal Americans into submission. It is time to call a radical a radical and a socialist a socialist. Most important, it is time to remind ourselves that, whether conservative or liberal, a majority of Americans still believe in self-government and ordered liberty; this is what has bound us together, and what must continue to bind us together if we are to remain a free people.

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Book Recommendations • Book Reviews • Center for American Greatness • Donald Trump • Free Speech • Government Reform • Greatness Agenda • Post • The Culture • The Media

A Man for This Season

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Disclosure requires at the outset that I mention Victor Davis Hanson wrote a very generous foreword to my book on President Trump, though from a somewhat different angle. I would have declined this assignment if it required, in all honesty, to write a less than favorable review. That is not a problem. This is, and as any Hanson reader would expect, an excellent book. The title is in some respects misleading, as the author does not make the case for Trump as an advocate; he neutrally presents the reasons why an adequate number of Americans, conveniently distributed electorally, chose him as president.

A review of The Case for Trump by Victor Davis Hanson (Basic Books, 400 pages, $30)


Trump pulled off an extraordinarily perceptive analysis of the areas of discontent—identified both intuitively and by polling carefully. Trump recognized that the post-Reagan presidency and Congress had alienated a large and ever-growing section of public opinion stretching, with rare dissident patches, from upstate New York and Pennsylvania to the Rocky Mountains, and apart from Minnesota and Illinois, from Canada to the border and Gulf of Mexico. This has become the great Republican torso of America, and Hanson limns in always interesting insights about the steadily increasing disaffection of traditional, white, working and middle-class Americans at what they consider the desertion of their interests by the Democratic Party and the disparagement of them and of their opinions by the leadership of the Democratic Party.

Tens of millions of Americans, not necessarily immensely politically sophisticated, but well aware of what they liked and disliked, were steadily more offended by President George H.W. Bush’s frivolous renunciation of his infamous Clint Eastwood-imitative promise: “Read my lips—no new taxes,” and by his, as they perceived it, post-Gulf War foreign policy that was overly deferential to America’s enemies and to free-loading allies. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had been removed from Kuwait yet crowed that he had survived, was developing nuclear weapons and was the tip of the spear of militant, secular Islam. Bush’s support for continued Ukrainian and other ethnic republics’ adherence to the Soviet Union, and praise for the “confederation” of Yugoslavia, vaguely annoyed many Americans, especially when his son led us back into Iraq a decade later. The senior President Bush’s answer to a recession at home was just to spend more, even if it was borrowed, and even if doing so did nothing for the dwindling manufacturing sector of America.

In time, the people that Bill Clinton assured “I feel your pain,” evolved, in considerable measure, into the people that Barack Obama would asperse as “clinging to guns and religion.” They too were irritated. This was hard to take from a man who sat contentedly for twenty years in the pews of racist and anti-American pastor Jeremiah Wright, who dispensed his violent religion in fiery terms to the Obama family. The same loyal Democrats going back to the Roosevelt and Truman and Kennedy and Johnson years were singularly unimpressed by 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton’s consignment of them to the “basket of deplorables,” racists male chauvinists, rednecks, reactionaries, and bigots.

All politically informed people generally knew about this, but Hanson meticulously cites the Democratic leaders and describes Donald Trump’s cunning and well-thought-out pitch to what Richard Nixon called in a different context: “The silent majority.” Despite unprecedented media derision, Trump—once he got going as a candidate—exploited the rather muted proposals for tinkering with the decaying status quo of his talented group of Republican opponents, successful governors and former governors (Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee John Kasich, Rick Perry, Scott Walker), and prominent senators (Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz). They were a capable and previously respected group. 

But as the debates opened, Trump—though gratuitously abused by a vast echelon of the media—apparently was in the lead. In the early days, prominently placed among the contenders, only he dissented from the group-think of the other candidates of both parties. Only he wanted the NATO allies to pay more for their defense that the United States was providing, though it was distant from the possible source of danger, Russia. Only Trump called for the end to unequal trade deals, to a policy of truckling to China which enjoyed a $365 billion trade surplus with the United States and yet extracted exorbitant concessions from American companies to do business in China, and from disadvantageous trade agreements with Mexico, Japan, and Western Europe. Only Trump debunked the Palestinians as a serious interlocutor for peace.

Only Trump, among Republicans and Democrats, despite socialist senator Bernie Sanders’ supposed championing of the American working class, attacked globalism with its implications of supposed allies enticing American companies into their countries from which they would export unemployment back to the United States. All the other candidates in both parties were generally silent on these points, but Americans noticed, and as the primaries rolled by, the conventional wisdom than Trump was just brand-building and creating a great infomercial, gave way to hysterical attempts to “Stop Trump” on the Republican side, and then distance the party and its candidates at other levels from him.

Finally, in effect, they joined Hillary Clinton in protecting the United States from the “great ogre,” the unimaginable prospect of Donald Trump, blow-hard and checkered billionaire, sexist, racist, know-nothing, crook, tax-cheat, and ultimately Manchurian candidate-stooge of the Kremlin, being elected to the presidency. Most noteworthy, only Trump of all the candidates on both sides appeared to be serious about stopping the flow of millions of illiterate peasants across the southern border, contributing to a deadly influx of lethal narcotics. All the other candidates of both parties just repeated the tired platitude of “comprehensive immigration reform,” which everyone understood to mean, naturalizing millions of illegal arrivals and making purposeful (and inconsequential) noises about stopping the future flow of them.

Hanson makes the point very rigorously that Hillary Clinton was the one prominent Democrat who had a more dubious career than Trump’s, despite his less salutary business ventures, such as the unutterable hucksterism of Trump University. It was a fiercely nasty campaign, with both sides regularly charging the other with crimes. If there had been a Democratic nominee apart from the tainted Clinton and socialist Sanders, perhaps even the frequent blunderbuss Vice President Joe Biden, he might have won.

Hanson describes vividly the resonance of Trump’s key campaign arguments: “We don’t win anymore.” No one, he implied, was defending the national interest, and the middle and working classes had been put over the side and were overtly despised by the Democratic leaders over whose backs they had climbed to power, and they were selling America out to foreigners. How was the national interest served by allowing American allies to poach factories from the United States, export back into the country, creating more unemployment, and inducing the profit-making American corporations not to remit profits back to our shores, while Mexico in particular, made the arrangements even more one-sided by exporting illegally into the United States millions of impoverished and unskilled people, who then shipped back $30 billion to Mexico? Trump’s enemies replied that he was a racist, that providing in this way for the welfare of the underdeveloped world built international security and progress, and that it was in America’s interest and was its moral duty also. Only Trump realized that enough of the country was no longer buying into this to win an election with it.

Trump was running against the fading echoes of the Cold War, more than 25 years after the Cold War ended. Hanson, uniquely, makes the case that only Trump of the Republican candidates, could have made these points, (though Rand Paul approached some of them), and that only Hillary Clinton was more vulnerable than Trump was to the imputation of low ethics. When there is added to this the energy and careful targeting and tactics of the Trump campaign, his astonishing victory, the greatest upset in American presidential history, seems more comprehensible. He knew he had no chance in the states where the demographics militate against his positions, especially California and New York, most of New England, and Obama’s home state of Illinois. He focused relentlessly and ingeniously and with all the skills of populist communication he had learned in pulling more than 25 million viewers every week to his reality television production, on susceptible audiences with his very focused message.

Hanson recounts Trump’s generally successful record as president for two years, the astounding economic strength of the country, and his initial successes in facing down trade rivals and the North Korean regime. And he inserts the results of the midterm elections, where, in effect, NeverTrump pretend-Republicans were replaced by Democrats in the House, and the Republicans gained a seat in the Senate and replaced three Republicans hostile to the president with supporters. This enabled his supporters, who now thoroughly control the congressional Republican Party which was skeptical and uncooperative at first, to respond in the Senate to the much-heralded House Democratic investigations into every aspect of Trump’s life. The Mueller report’s benign conclusions for the president came after the book was finished, but only confirm the author’s views.

As only Hanson can, he muses on the possible destiny of this president as a tragic hero like Ajax or Oedipus, whose achievements could be made possible, but also limited, by his excesses. An interesting diversion follows, mentioning a number of literary and film figures.

But Trump could also be a successful president who is not a hero. Not every elevation to high office is a tragedy or a triumph of a hero. I think the betting must now be that Trump will be quite successful and will leave office relatively well regarded by most people. Appalling though it still is, the hatred of him is much less vituperative and self-confident than at the start of his term. And the changes he is seeking to the alliance system and the nature of international power alignments could be substantially realized, and be a stabilizing adjustment to post-Cold War conditions. Mideast peace, NATO, relations with China, all needed reassessment. And freed of the dirigisme and excessive taxation Obama had placed on it, the American economy is flourishing in a way that Trump’s predecessor said could only be achieved with a “magic wand.”

This is an exemplary, fair, and even-sided account of this president, his success as a candidate, and his prospects. It makes no pretense to being a biography and conveys almost nothing about Trump’s life until his emergence as a serious claimant on the presidency. But it is a much-needed and balanced perspective on the Trump phenomenon almost four years after he announced his candidacy to immense hilarity and ridicule.

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 licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

2016 Election • Administrative State • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Donald Trump • Government Reform • History • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • The Left

Mueller’s Report Is a Rerun from the Nixon Era

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The best book on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report—and one that few people have actually seen—came out in January. In fact, the most relevant chapter was published originally in 1992, in an academic journal, and that article was based on a conference paper delivered in 1984.  

The book is John Marini’s Unmasking the Administrative State, which I helped to compile. The chapter to which I refer is “Politics, Rhetoric, and Legitimacy: The Role of Bureaucracy in the Watergate Affair.” Marini updated the original article with a short afterword reflecting on President Trump’s struggle with the bureaucracy—which, as it happens, does not mention Mueller’s efforts or anything about Russian collusion or the other subjects of the report.

Yet Marini’s work will remain for some time the best source for understanding the report’s significance. He makes clear the mere appointment of the special counsel meant that the bureaucracy had won and that Trump’s presidency would be crippled not merely for the tenure of the counsel but even for its duration. With that appointment, the greatest promise of Trump’s presidency was over immediately after it got started, with more allegations to come.

Marini observes that all political scandals are now seen through the lens of the Watergate affair, now nearly 50 years old. But his interpretation of Watergate, and of much else in American politics, stands conventional wisdom on its head.

In Marini’s telling (my summary necessarily lacks the subtlety of his rendition), Richard Nixon—that synonym of infamy, the criminal of all political criminals—becomes the unacknowledged defender of the constitutional order; of the separation of powers and limited government.

“In the broadest sense,” Marini writes, “the issues of Watergate involved the question of legitimacy concerning the use of power in national politics.”

Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society legislation touched all aspects of economic and social life and transformed the lives of Americans, but in giving overwhelming power to a growing, unelected bureaucracy in Washington, it also assailed American constitutional principles of separation of powers and federalism and, moreover, rule by consent of the governed. Barring crises, “administrative rule replaces political rule”—rational bureaucratic expertise replaced elected representatives, amateurs representing their constituents and seeking compromise to reach a common good.

In 1972, Nixon won the most overwhelming victory to date in any presidential election over liberal Democrat George McGovern. As his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger would later put it, the “American people for once had chosen on philosophical grounds, not on personality,” though, Marini acknowledges, Nixon did not campaign on how he would restore power to the majority, silent or otherwise.

Nixon was, however, stubborn in denying the political neutrality of the bureaucracy. This in turn meant “an implicit repudiation of the Progressive view legitimated by the New Deal and made operative in the Great Society, that government could be an ‘engine of compassion.’”

At the heart of Nixon’s “New American Revolution” was the restoration of representative government, through devolution of power to the states and a reorganization of the executive branch. The bureaucracy, in brief, is what Nixon proposed would “alienate . . . nearly every center of power in American life.” The Democrats controlled the House of Representatives (as they would until 1994) and the Senate—and the bureaucracy, not to mention the media and the universities.

Nixon hoped his “administrative presidency” would “break the Eastern stranglehold on the executive branch and the federal government.”  In his memoirs, Nixon saw his enemies as holding four aces—“the Congress, the bureaucracy, the majority of the media, and the formidable group of lawyers and power brokers who operate behind the scenes in the city. It was another thing to give them the fifth ace of a timid opposition party.” This is as succinct a description of the administrative state as possible. And the administrative state, aided by its partisan allies, destroyed him.

In reflecting on his earlier Watergate essay, Marini notes the continuing triumphs of the administrative state, despite Ronald Reagan’s declaration that “government is the problem.” Bureaucracy continues to replace politics—review the history of the Affordable Care Act—and note how “the political rule of law gives way to executive and administrative discretion.”

Marini notes the further aggressiveness of central authority today: “The growth of the administrative state has made it possible to politicize the culture by undermining the institutions of civil society, including the family, church, and nearly all private associations . . . . The various nationally organized interests, whether political, economic, social, media, entertainment, educational, scientific, cultural, or religious, have accommodated themselves to centralized rule.”

Marini goes on to raise the question, “What did Watergate reveal?” The source of the leaks that led to the removal of the legitimately elected president was not known until years later.

“It was not surprising,” he relates, “that Deep Throat, the source for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, turned out to be a high-level official of the Federal Bureau of Investigation . . .  Mark Felt . . . leaked that information to the Washington Post over the course of a year or more. It served to delegitimize the president and alienate him from the electorate and his party. Although Woodward and Bernstein were lauded as investigative reporters, they served merely as a conduit by which the bureaucracy could undermine the authority of an elected officeholder.”

If all of this sounds familiar to anyone paying attention to Trump and his friends and enemies, it is because Mueller is a rerun. The FBI continues today to act in defense of the administrative state. For more, on how Trump differs from Nixon and compromised Republican presidents, I point out to interested readers that Marini’s book contains two chapters on the Trump campaign and his presidency.

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 licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo credit: Gene Forte/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images

Administrative State • Center for American Greatness • Congress • Government Reform • Post

The Administrative State Poisons Everything It Touches

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The sprawling, unaccountable administrative state is strangling America and killing common sense.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) refused this week to join a growing list of countries—including, so far, Ireland, China, Indonesia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Oman, Malaysia, Iraq, Mexico—as well as Europe itself, all of which have permanently or temporarily banned Boeing’s new airplane, the 737 MAX 8, from their airspace.

The 737 MAX 8 has crashed twice in the last five months, resulting in the deaths of 346 people. In Ethiopia, where the most recent crash occurred, the plane was in the air for all of six minutes before it plunged into the ground, tragically cutting short the lives of 157 souls.

The FAA’s obstinacy—it finds “no basis to order grounding the aircraft”—comes in the face of mounting pressure from U.S. lawmakers.

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators has called on the FAA to ground the plane: Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah). Andrew Cuomo, New York’s governor, agrees.

We should pause for a moment, however, and consider the absurdity of this entire situation. Article I of the U.S. Constitution states: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” That is a clear, unambiguous grant of authority—albeit a limited authority—by the nation’s founding charter to the nation’s legislative branch.

What Article I proclaims about the delegation of legislative power is true regardless of what one thinks about the validity of vast delegations of legislative authority to the legion of executive agencies that comprise the modern administrative state and make most of the law in this country; the wisdom of quick, sweeping governmental action in the face of a fluid situation like this; or the relative competence of the FAA compared with Congress to judge the safety of airplanes.

If Congress delegated to the FAA the power to ground the plane, then Congress also has the power to ground the plane. Obviously that must be so. Congress legislated the FAA into being and empowered it ex nihilo via an organic statute; if that agency has the power to ground planes, how can the body superior to it—Congress—not have that power, too?

This is crystal clear evidence of the ways the administrative state warps the entire constitutional structure. Congress has the authority to do what its preening members are whining for the FAA to do. But they won’t do it. Why?

Because it’s more fun to denounce and fulminate than it is to roll up one’s sleeves and draft legislation, which requires compromise, effort, and a concern about fostering the common good—and it might even make one unpopular in a way that threatens one’s reelection prospects. Quelle horreur!

Better, then, to complain about how horrible it is that the FAA isn’t doing what you manifestly could do yourself.

Madison wrote in Federalist 48 about the dangerous nature of the legislature and its propensity for tyranny, because, he thought, it would “everywhere [extend] the sphere of its activity, and [draw] all power into its impetuous vortex.”

Madison probably didn’t precisely envision the existence or precise operation of our modern administrative state—which fits the “vortex” metaphor much better than does our existing Congress—but he did say in Federalist 47 that if something like it ever were to exist—i.e., a massive blob that has the “accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, . . .”— it could “justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

That is the mess we are in now.

Congress is uniquely situated to determine what will advance the common good and act to secure it. Instead, it has decided that it is better willingly to de-fang and disempower itself in the face of an ever-expanding, regulation-mad bureaucracy—all the better, one supposes, to enjoy the aura of power without any of power’s pesky responsibilities and duties.

Congress can safely do that, however, because it knows that the administrative state is hard at work, day and night, making the tough choices that Congress would rather not make; there are for that reason no real downsides or costs associated with congressional abdication, dysfunction, weakness, and general impotence.

The Supreme Court’s life-tenured, robed guardians set national policy every June, ripping out of the sovereign people’s hands the ability to resolve for ourselves, through our democratically elected legislators, some of the the most important questions facing our nation. Congress shrugs in the face of its neglect of this sacred duty and the usurpation of it by judges; after all, impeachment isn’t really an appropriate remedy for judicial lawlessness, they reason, haunted by their failure in 1805 to convict the impeached Justice Samuel Chase. Besides, they’re more than happy to blast unfireable judges for their hubris in front of cameras—great for election-time campaign ads!

The president obviously loves having a massive administrative state at his disposal. Presidential candidates still feverishly seek the job to exercise power, unlike members of Congress, who seem to happy to play the part of “potted plants.”

And Congress gets to pass vague statutes (when they get around to doing that at all) with vague, aspirational, “who-could-possibly-disagree?” purposes like, “We in Congress want clean air” and then complain when the agency goes its own way and angers voters in their home districts.

Everyone benefits from this arrangement. Everyone, that is, except the only group that matters: the American people. We lose something precious, promised to us in the Declaration of Independence—a government that serves our interests, protects our rights, and is subject to our political judgement via regular elections because it derives its “just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The administrative state poisons everything it touches, including Congress, which refuses to act in a paradigmatic case where it should, for the public good. Airplanes are falling out of the sky, imperiling American citizens, but don’t ask Congress to stop their fiddling.

That’s someone else’s job, they say.

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 licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo Credit: Acefitt

Administrative State • America • Government Reform • Post • the Presidency

Desperately Seeking a Reformer to Head the FDA

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Federal regulation affects our lives every day in more ways than we realize. The Food and Drug Administration alone regulates products that account for more than a trillion dollars annually—25 cents of every consumer dollar; and the average cost (including out-of-pocket expenses and opportunity costs) to bring a new drug to market is now about $2.6 billion.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced his resignation on March 5, and the search has already begun for a successor. This transition offers an opportunity: We need a regulatory reformer.

Government regulation provides reassurance and some tangible benefits, to be sure, but it has massive costs, direct and indirect. Regulation that is wrong-headed or that merely fails to be cost-effective actually costs lives, both directly by withholding life-saving products, and also by diverting societal resources to gratuitous regulatory compliance.

Therefore, the number of lives saved or other benefits derived from government regulation should always be large enough to offset the costs. The diversion of resources to comply with regulation—good, bad, or indifferent—exerts an “income effect” that reflects the correlation between wealth and health. The poorest and most vulnerable in society disproportionately bear the costs and impacts of regulation that is not cost-effective, while they enjoy relatively few of the benefits. As economist Diana Thomas has written, “[B]y focusing on the mitigation of low-probability risks with higher cost, regulation reflects the preferences of high-income households and effectively redistributes wealth from the poor to the middle class and the rich.”

In recent years, under Democratic and Republican administrations, the FDA has made egregious errors both in the formulation of policy and in the evaluation of individual products that have had important consequences. While he did a lot of chest-thumping on easier issues, Gottlieb shied away from or stumbled over many tough ones. The FDA’s current dysfunctional regulation of animals developed through modern genetic engineering, the war on e-cigarettes, and the permissiveness toward illegal claims by the organic food industry are good examples.

Although there are exceptions, such as too-lax oversight of homeopathic “medicines” and dietary supplements, most of these missteps have been in the direction of excessive risk-aversion or heavy-handed regulation.

The FDA has arbitrarily introduced various obstacles to drug testing: They have directed researchers at drug companies to begin trials at inappropriately low dosages; injudiciously limited early clinical trials only to single-dose, instead of multiple-dose, studies; demanded unnecessary, invasive procedures on patients; and insisted on efficacy superior to existing drugs.

The late, great economist Milton Friedman observed that to gain insight into the motivation of an individual or organization, look for the self-interest. Where does the self-interest of regulators lie? Not in serving the public interest but in expanded responsibilities, bigger budgets, and grander bureaucratic empires for themselves.

Another incongruity is the widespread misconception that more-stringent regulation is synonymous with greater safety, but, in fact, net benefit to patients is often compromised because of a regulatory anomaly: the asymmetry of outcomes from the two types of mistakes that regulators can make. A regulator can commit an error by permitting something bad to happen (approving a harmful product like a drug with delayed side effects), or by preventing something good from becoming available (not approving a beneficial product in a timely way). Both outcomes are bad for the public, but the consequences for the regulator are very different.

The first kind of error is highly visible, causing the regulators to be attacked by the media and patient groups, and investigations by Congress. But the second kind of error—keeping a potentially important product out of consumers’ hands—is usually a non-event, eliciting little attention.

FDA General Counsel Peter Barton Hutt summarized the regulators’ conundrum this way: “FDA employees have been praised only for refusing to approve a new drug, not for making a courageous judgment to approve a new drug that has in fact helped patients and advanced the public health.”

As a result, regulators make decisions defensively, so they tend to delay or reject new products of all sorts, from fat substitutes to vaccines and painkillers. That’s bad for public health and for physicians’ and consumers’ freedom to choose among a variety of products.

Congressional oversight is supposed to provide a check on regulators’ performance, but rarely does it focus on their unnecessarily delaying product approvals. A premature or mistaken approval makes for more exciting hearings, with injured patients and their families paraded before the cameras.

The impacts of FDA regulators’ self-serving actions range from the creation of disincentives to research and development (and inflated costs for them) to significant threats to public health, such as the years-long delay in approval of a much-needed meningitis B vaccine. Because of the widespread dysfunction that plagues today’s FDA, reforms of several kinds are needed—organizational, managerial, and cultural.

We need structural, policy and management changes that create incentives to regulate in a way that imposes the minimum burden possible.

There are a number of possible approaches and remedies, ranging from radical to more conservative, that could be effective. Many could be accomplished administratively, but FDA is comprised almost exclusively of civil servants, who have little incentive to disrupt the status quo.

Therefore, given the paucity of political appointees at the FDA, if we are to realize the kind of aggressive deregulation called for by President Trump, the new commissioner will need to be a skilled manager and highly knowledgeable about the workings of the agency.

We need regulatory reform, and that will require an agency head who is committed to it. If not now, when?

Photo Credit: MyLoupe/UIG Via Getty Images

America • Americanism • Deep State • Donald Trump • Elections • Government Reform • political philosophy • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • The Left

Do Americans Today Still Deserve Liberty?

Victor Davis Hanson’s brilliant essay, “Autopsy of a Dead Coup,” describes how America’s leviathan bureaucracy effectively attempted a coup against a democratically elected president to abrogate the surprising 2016 election result and continue onward, unabated, in its warped agenda for the country.

This “deep state” of unelected, unaccountable, government bureaucrats, whose identities remain obscure to the American public, was abetted by high-ranking officials in the FBI and Justice Department. These included such names as James Comey and Andrew McCabe, who are now familiar to the public. They were joined, says Hanson, by journalists working for mainstream news outfits like the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, who, alongside DNC proxies conveniently positioned at CNN, collectively worked to prepackage the phony Russian collusion narrative for the public. This was a public that was made ill-disposed to President Trump from months of premeditated, unrelenting negative coverage of him.

In short, a deep state comprised of government bureaucrats launched a full-out assault on a president they despised, for reasons that have to do with power above all. In so doing, they unleashed years of the pent-up frustration of those who are part of the infrastructure of government today, ranging from top-level agency heads to mainstream media allies, and all of this culminated in the first verifiably attempted coup in American history.

In connecting all these dots, one gets the impression that even Hanson remains a bit stunned that such an operation could actually play out. No less, in our purportedly free and democratic republic. These, Hanson concedes:

[are] not oligarchs in private jets, not shaggy would-be Marxists, but sanctimonious arrogant bureaucrats in suits and ties [who] used their government agencies to seek to overturn the 2016 election, abort a presidency, and subvert the U.S. Constitution.

In other words, this isn’t the stuff of a far-fetched Ian Fleming novel. This tried-and-failed coup played out real time in the United States of America. And it happened in a time of relative peace, in the age of information where such things are supposedly thought to be impossible.

Deep State Shock
Americans who are halfway attuned to the history of the United States in the post-war era will likely absorb this information in somewhat more measured terms. True, it remains shocking when you begin to realize that the federal bureaucracy has magnified to the point that it could think itself capable of pulling off such a feat (fortunately its attempt backfired—this time). History demonstrates time and again pride’s inebriating effect on the mind, prompting the downfall of powerful individuals.

But consider the history of the United States in the past seven decades or so; the advent of the military-industrial complex, the creation of the permanent political technocratic class, the influence of lobbyists and dark money on federal legislators, the rise of mission creep in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Once America became a global empire, it required the machinery to keep the gears running. This machinery was developed at the expense of America’s own citizens beyond the Beltway, who have been treated like soulless cogs and now suffer even more palpably from the costs of running an impossibly utopian project; one that certainly was never intended by our Founding Fathers.

High rates of suicide and divorce, the loss of meaningful well-paying jobs, the loss of community, and racial resentment are but a handful of the social costs that have accompanied the political atomization and the resurgence of aberrant ideologies like socialism in the electorate. Together these represent the natural outgrowths of a diseased and deracinated public. Or, to paraphrase Tucker Carlson, healthy republics do not elect Donald Trump for president. Though Trump may be a blessing for us now and in the end, the fact that he was needed at all is symptomatic of deeper malignancies that are currently ravaging America.

A Foreshadowing of Our Loss of Sovereignty?
Nearly 50 years ago, Gore Vidal, perched inside his villa overlooking the Mediterranean on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, waxed apoplectic about the condition of the United States. It was in a pitiable condition, he bemoaned in one of many television interviews. He argued that America was controlled by faceless players who do the real work behind the scenes like a black hand, tactfully manufacturing for the rest of the polis an illusion of sovereignty.

In touching on this theme, which he did increasingly in his later years, Vidal would channel his inner-H.L. Mencken in inveighing against the amnesiac condition of his countrymen. On the whole, he opined, they were utterly oblivious or simply indifferent to those who held true power in their foundering republic. They neither tried nor cared to learn more than what they were spoon-fed by the Washington Post or New York Times, for which Vidal harbored deep antagonism.

Separated by time and space, Americans find themselves in as bad a condition as any of Vidal’s wildest premonitions. Today every American—not just conservatives—has more to lose if the political revolution President Trump jumpstarted two-and-a-half years ago becomes immobilized by these anonymous actors. Trump openly has admitted that even he was hoodwinked upon taking office by the sheer extent of their influence. Though many of them profess loyalty to the president in public, they are happy to undermine him at every turn behind closed doors, though no one elected them or asked them to do it.

What Remains to Be Done
The stubborn fact remains there is no guarantee another President Trump will follow on the heels of the current one. From today’s vantage point, the possibility of a similarly minded individual coming to the fore, though possible, is unlikely even if competent to have the original’s seismic effect on the political arena. Trump has no natural successor, which means it’s essential that the work begun in 2016 must be followed through to its intended conclusion if Americans have any hope of political salvation.

That is not hyperbole. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who in a sense is Trump’s anti-establishment counterpart on the Left, proposes an antidote—socialism—that is fundamentally incompatible with America’s design as a free and rights-bearing people. Socialism is a phony palliative for America’s political anxieties, which, if prevented from treatment by the full-package Trump offered on the 2016 campaign trail (the wall and all), could very well trick America into settling into it.

At the turn of the 20th century, Bolshevism may well have taken root in America were it not for the trust-busting escapades of Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s modern-day successor must be given license to see his program to fruition, unadulterated, even if it forever dismembers the old GOP brand. This we must do if we are to circumvent socialism’s insidious clasp on the country.

Unfortunately, it remains most likely that the bureaucratic-media-complex will have its way, possibly catapulting America into the paroxysms of totalitarianism from its own insatiable appetite. This could happen either democratically—if America embraced socialism outright—or through the blithe capitulation of the populace to the shadowy forces that control this country.

Philosophically speaking, liberal societies tend inevitably toward greater dependency: as individual autonomy is maximized to the greatest possible extent, the paternalistic edifices of the state invariably must take hold by replacing family and community. If that is where we end up, it will be in no small part the fault of a citizenry who had the chance to curtail that unenviable outcome with Donald Trump, but instead chose, owing perhaps to its own docility or pride, to fall into subservience in exchange for the illusion of “security.”

Liberty only befits a people competent enough for self-government. The American people have the opportunity at this unique juncture in history to decide whether Donald Trump’s presidency marks the beginnings of true reform or a continued descent into tyranny. If it proves to be the latter; a mere stop-gap or swansong that history would ultimately judge to be an aberration, perhaps that might be explained as the emergency response by our founding fathers who hardwired a last-ditch chance for freedom for a future people on the precipice of absolute tyranny.

If that is the situation that ultimately materializes, we will have no one but ourselves to blame.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Elections • Government Reform • Post • The Left

Teachers Unions Take Charge in West Virginia

West Virginia’s public schools are not academic standouts. Far from it, in fact. The state’s 8th graders ranked 45th nationwide in reading on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Also, according to the state scorecard, 88 percent of West Virginia’s 116 high schools “do not meet standards” in math. In view of these troubling statistics, the state’s legislators decided to take action.

The proposal, Senate Bill 451, was bold. When it was first approved by the state senate in early February, the bill permitted up to 2,500 education savings accounts (ESAs) for families with an annual income below $150,000, and allowed for the establishment of charter schools. (West Virginia is one of just seven states with no charters.) An early version of the bill would have eliminated seniority as the sole criteria for deciding reductions in force and required annual approval before unions could deduct dues from employee paychecks.

Following pressure from the state teachers union, the bill was gutted in the House. The legislation then morphed, and morphed again. A subsequent version gave teachers an additional 5 percent pay raise on top of the 5 percent bump they received after a strike last year. The amended bill also included a $2,000 bonus for certified math teachers, a $250 tax credit for school supply purchases, and would have pumped another $145 million into the state’s K-12 schools.

But from a reform standpoint, the bill was an anemic version of the original. It provided for the creation of a measly seven charter schools statewide and 1,000 ESAs for students with special needs or those who had been bullied. Yet, even with those modifications, the thought of any competition whatsoever from charter schools and ESA’s trumped money and the other perks for teachers.

So for the second time in a year, the teachers of West Virginia went on strike.

The legislature promptly caved and the bill died. And even if the lawmakers had held firm, West Virginia’s opportunistic governor, Jim Justice—a Republican who became a Democrat for a few years, then switched back to the GOP—did no such dance here; he repeatedly distanced himself from the legislation and promised to veto it if it ever reached his desk.

The union honchos, as always, went to their default position and claimed that their two-day strike was for “the children.” West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee made the Orwellian statement that the teachers “weren’t interested in the pay raise if it was going to hurt their kids.”

“The winners in this, once again, are the children of West Virginia (who) are assured of a great public education for all of them, not just a select few,” Lee said.

What an odd statement! It sounds as though since only a small percentage of Mountain State students would be allowed to avail themselves of school choice options, the bill wasn’t fair. It leads one to believe that Lee would favor a universal choice law, which, of course, would be out of the question.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, reading directly from the union playbook, pointed to “outside wealthy interests” and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos who “want to eliminate public schools” as the villains.

What transpired is the latest evidence that teachers unions are all about maintaining power. Period. It’s not that unionized teachers hate children. They don’t. But the kids are an afterthought, their primary aims being job and perks preservation, and killing off any competition whatsoever.

West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael strongly backed the reform bill, stating the obvious that their education system desperately needs to be overhauled. He said he believes “creating competition by introducing charter schools and allowing families to use public funds in private schools would force traditional public schools to perform better.”

“If there’s competition, choice, it raises the level of everyone involved,” Carmichael told the Washington Post.

It has been proven time and again that Carmichael is correct. When competition is introduced, traditional public schools invariably get better. But in West Virginia, a powerful special interest leaned on compliant legislators, who then ruled to maintain the failing status quo, thus perpetuating the big government school monopoly.

As of now, a separate bill, backed by the governor, is advancing through the legislature. It authorizes one part of the original bill: the 5 percent pay raise for teachers. So legislation that was intended to reform education may wind up as nothing more than another pay raise for teachers, which will do absolutely nothing to improve student outcomes. This is, quite simply, an outrage.

In 2012, California State Senate leader Don Perata remarked that the California Teachers Association considers itself “the co-equal fourth branch of government.” He’s correct—it is, and it seems that wannabe West Virginia is well on its way to joining the club.

Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Center for American Greatness • Economy • Government Reform • Post

Social Security Taxes and the ‘Gig Economy’

It is fashionable to refer to the job market of the future as “the gig economy.” In this enlightened, technology enabled wonderland, everyone will be free to balance work and leisure as they see fit. When they want to earn more money, they get online, find a “gig,” and when the job’s performed the money flows into their checking account. Not quite the utopia of Galt’s Gulch, but tantalizingly closer. The problem with the “gig economy” is the troublesome intervention of reality. Tell an Uber driver who has two hungry children, a wife home with the flu (unable to “gig”), who makes $20 per hour and has no health insurance that he’s living in utopia. You may have to duck.

In 2017, the opinion section of the New York Times ran a guest editorial that included a graphic entitled “Our Broken Economy, In One Simple Chart.” That chart was drawn from data gathered by a team of economists that included Thomas Piketty, author of the 2014 bestseller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Each dot on the chart below represents an income percentile. They form two lines, the grey line showing income growth by income percentile between 1946 and 1980, and the red line showing income growth by income percentile between 1980 and 2014.

As can be seen, during the 34-year post-World War II period, the lower income groups actually increased their income (on an annual percentage basis) more than did the higher income groups. In stark contrast, during the 34-year-period from 1980 through 2014, the higher income groups did significantly better. So much so, in fact, that a logarithmic scale is necessary after the 99th percentile, showing a dot for every 10th of 1 percent, then another for every 100th of 1 percent, and so on. And it keeps on rising. Between 1980 and 2014, the top 1/1,000th of 1 percent saw their income rise at an annual rate of 5.5 percent, compared to “only” 2.3 percent for the top-1 percent, compared to zero for the bottom 5 percent.

Piketty’s data is interesting, as is one of the central premises of Capital in the 21st Century. “The rate of capital return in developed countries is persistently greater than the rate of economic growth,” he writes, “and that this will cause wealth inequality to increase in the future.” One may argue Piketty’s premise all day, but his focus—and the focus of his acolytes—tends to be on the very highest income earners, along with the very lowest wage earners. Meanwhile, there remains the great American middle class, which labors to earn and retain income against tremendous institutional barriers. Most significantly, the Social Security tax that, as of 2018, is only assessed up to an income of $128,400.

How does this affect an independent contractor? You know, the people who do “gigs.” It all depends on how much the gig pays.

The next chart shows the cumulative and marginal tax brackets by income based on 2018 state and federal tax rates. California’s state tax brackets are applied in this example, because even there, where high-income households pay very high taxes, the burden on the middle class is higher. Using data compiled by the Institute for Social Research and Data Innovation at the University of Minnesota, a household income of $77,400 is in the 59th percentile in America; a household income of $128,400 is in the 80th percentile. Take a look at the marginal tax rate for these households. Between $70,000 and $80,000 it soars from 33 percent to 43 percent, then peaks at 47 percent at 120,000, before plummeting to 34 percent at $130,000. The rapid rise is the impact of the federal income tax rate growing from 12 percent for earnings below $77,400 to 22 percent for earnings above that amount, plus a steady rise in the California state tax rate (6 percent at $64,000, 8 percent at $89,000, 9.3 percent at $112,000). The sudden fall is the result of the Social Security tax of 12.4 percent going away for incomes over $128,400.

It’s valid to question whether we need Social Security, or any government solution to retirement security, but let’s set that aside for a moment and consider what these assessments do to independent contractors, those members of the “gig economy.” In 2018, roughly 70 million Americans lived in households with incomes between $77,000 and $128,000. Not all of them were independent contractors, but if they wanted to supplement their salaried jobs, chances are they were doing that extra work as independent contractors. This is where the marginal tax bracket is so much more relevant than the cumulative tax bracket. The marginal tax bracket shows what individuals in those household income brackets could expect to keep, after they paid all their taxes. Barely more than half. Take a second job that pays $20 per hour? Keep $10.80 after taxes. Take a second job, working nights and weekends, paying $50 per hour? Keep $27 after taxes. Ouch.

The significance of this fact—that upper middle income households pay far less on their extra income than middle income households—has profound implications. People who take on extra work to feed their families, know they’re going to pay not 12 percent federal income tax, but 22 percent (for all income between $77,000 and $165,000), and as an independent contractor they know they’re going to pay 12.4 percent tax for the employer and employee share of Social Security. Add to that Medicare (employer and employee portions), and a high state tax (such as in California), and they know they’ll give back nearly half of what they earn to the government. Crappy gig. But if they’re making over $128,400, they’ll only give back about one-third of what they make to the government. Not a crappy gig.

The implications of this disparity are likely reflected in the attitudes and habits of those who are paying far higher taxes on their extra work. The advantages of working off the books would be hard to resist. The decision to vote for higher taxes on wealthier individuals would be easy to justify. Not depicted on the chart, but worth mentioning, is that once you hit around $165,000 in household income, your taxes don’t increase significantly until you’re making over $400,000 which is where the federal income tax rate jumps to 32 percent. And even in California, the overall marginal tax rate paid by people making under $128,400, 47 percent, is never significantly exceeded, not reaching 48 percent until household income is nearly $700,000. In states without state income tax, the marginal rate (there is no cap on Medicare payments) tops out at 41 percent, well below what people making under $128,000 have to pay.

What might people on either side of this great tax divide think about issues such as immigration and trade? It’s tempting to generalize. The people paying 46 percent on every extra dime they make might wish to see an end to mass immigration of unskilled laborers, since the result of their influx is even higher taxes and lower wages. The higher income people who only pay about one-third of their extra income in marginal taxes might not want to curtail the flow of unskilled migrants, since the more who come in, the less they’ll have to pay for house cleaners and gardeners.

On the question of trade, the people with well-paying manufacturing jobs probably still make less than $128,000 a year, and would like to see fair trade practices. The people making more than $128,000 per year probably have so-called white collar jobs in the “services” sector, relatively immune from globalization. With respect to Piketty’s chart, showing the maddening growth in income inequality between 1980 and today—how much of that had to do with trade and immigration policies? Ideological fill-in-the-blanks answers not accepted.

Coming back to the issue of Social Security, it’s easy to take the libertarian position that everything should go into private accounts. Compounding returns! Market-based! Private sector! Rah rah! But as with so many libertarian fantasies, privatizing Social Security ignores critical factors. To name a few: Social Security mitigates against long-term market risk, whereas private accounts can lead to the complete destruction of savings for an entire generation. Investments perform according to unpredictable long-term cycles, meaning some decades may be far kinder to people living off their investments than others. Social Security also mitigates against mortality risk, wherein some people may outlive their investments, and others may die young and oversave.

There’s more: Social Security benefits— to cross into rank heresy—are progressive, which means it pays higher returns to people who had lower lifetime earnings. And then one must consider the impact of dumping the entire Social Security fund into the global investment markets, exacerbating the already challenging reality of too much speculative money chasing too few high-return investments. Finally, Social Security is not a “Ponzi scheme,” because Ponzi schemes imply a return of principal, nor is Social Security a “Pyramid scheme” because Pyramid schemes require increasing numbers of entrants and therefore must always eventually collapse.

Here’s a better idea. Why not take away the cap on Social Security tax, and use all that extra money to make Social Security forever solvent? At the same time, why not decide once and for all who is a U.S. citizen and stick to that, so Social Security benefits aren’t diluted by payments to people who didn’t contribute to the system their entire life? And while we’re at it, why not liquidate public employee pension funds, and convert all public employee retirement benefits to Social Security (and Medicare), so that every citizen in the United States faces the same set of challenges and opportunities?

Whether or not the “gig economy” is a desired feature of the brave new world we’re entering largely depends on just how much that “gig” is paying. Because if their extra gig puts them into a marginal tax bracket that’s under $128,400, they owe the government nearly half the money they make from their “gigs.” But if they make more than that, they actually pay far less in taxes.

A fitting, if somewhat ambivalent way to sum this up would like this: Make America’s tax system fair, so that no matter how much you make, you pay the same percentage of your income into Social Security, or, get rid of Social Security entirely. As long as 70 million Americans are paying more in taxes than the people who make more than them have to pay, it is a farce to tout the gig economy as part of an inevitable and desirable future.

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 licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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America • Congress • Conservatives • Democrats • Donald Trump • Economy • Government Reform • Post • taxes

Own the Libs, or Let the Libs Own Us?

Brandon Weichert, whose excellent writing has caught my eye for a while now, exhibits his worthy independence from party orthodoxy with his article on Monday asking: Why not tax the rich more? Weichert’s instincts here are good, but as a wizened old-timer (you may call me Obi-Wan), let me sweep back my gray robes and say: slow down with that tax-power lightsaber, young Padawan!

I share Weichert’s view that President Trump and the GOP missed a great opportunity when it disdained Steve Bannon’s proposal to raise marginal tax rates by 5 percent on incomes over $5 million. In fact, I am tempted to reply—I was there first!

In 2011, I wrote an article for the center-left Breakthrough Journal arguing that “modernizing conservatism” required rethinking the categorical conservative opposition to tax increases. You can imagine the negative reaction! I got called names. Unpleasant names. Also accused of bad motives. Joseph Bast of The Heartland Institute said I was merely trying to preserve my Georgetown Cocktail Party privileges, somehow missing the news that I had left Washington. (For the record, by the way, in my 15 years in Washington I only attended four Georgetown cocktail parties. They are way overrated. Parties in Kalorama are better, or were until Obama moved there.)

My case was simple and straightforward: the old strategy to “starve the beast” with tax cuts had failed. I was persuaded by some good empirical evidence (“empirical evidence” is not always an oxymoron) by several sound conservative economists that tax cuts, in fact, had backfired as a means of imposing spending restraint. Americans got used to receiving a dollar’s worth of government for only 60 cents of taxes (for many people, close to zero cents of taxes).

Now, I argued, we ought to consider a strategy of “serving the check”: if Americans were made to pay for all the government they receive, they might want less of it. We’re already seeing a glimpse of how this might work: residents of high-tax blue states are just now starting to realize the effect of losing the state-and-local-tax deduction (SALT) from the Trump tax reform, which was my favorite part of the Trump bill, and the deserved cost of Democratic intransigence. (Scuttling the elimination of SALT was the primary Democratic demand of the 1986 tax reform talks with Reagan, and they got it easily. The imperatives of #TheResistance in 2017 meant they couldn’t deal with Republicans, so now blue states are taking it in the neck. I call that “winning.”)

Everyone Pays
I am still convinced of the essential logic of supply-side economics, but Weichert is correct that the supply-side prescription was suited to another time and place, namely, 70 percent income tax rates and 50 percent capital gains tax rates at a time of high inflation that made these tax rates 
de facto wealth confiscation.

The role of inflation in the supply-side story is forgotten these days, if it was ever understood clearly in the first place. Tax cuts in 1981 were an essential anti-inflationary policy, though the conventional Republicans of the day (cough cough Bob Dole cough cough) had it exactly backwards. That is not the world we live in today. And I don’t think the difference between a 35 percent top income tax rate and a 39 percent income tax rate is the difference between economic nirvana versus economic ruin. It’s not 1979. (Thank God. I hated disco, the Bee Gees, bell bottoms, and leisure suits. Young Padawan Weichert, you have no idea how good you have it.)

“Serving the check,” however, requires taxing everyone, not just the super-rich. This is true not just on political grounds but on fiscal grounds as well.

Repeat after me: the middle class is where the money is. And just here is the hazard for the Weichert Tax Plan. A tax curve that looks like a fallen-over L-shape won’t match up to our drunken spending habits, won’t have the salutary and transformational effect on public opinion, and won’t last for long.

When Democrats say they want to raise taxes on the super-rich, it has always been a cover for raising taxes on the middle class, because even 70 percent income taxes on the rich along with a 2 percent wealth tax on people with more than $50 million in assets won’t begin to raise enough revenue to pay for existing entitlement programs, let alone the long list of new freebies liberals are panting for.

What Scandinavian Socialism Gets You
Here we should take liberals at their word that they aren’t literal socialists, but are only aiming at having us emulate Denmark or Sweden. Fine. Let’s note, then, that Denmark’s top income tax rate of 60 percent kicks in at about $55,000 of income, which is rather less than $10 million. Ditto Sweden. 
Tilt! Add to that the 25 percent value-added tax on virtually all transactions, and you have a tax burden that the middle class in America won’t support.

Denmark and Sweden are fine places, and their people are mostly happy. But Americans aren’t Swedes or Danes. We’re Americans. Disposable income in Denmark and Sweden is quite low. I was stunned on my first visit to Copenhagen a few years ago to see how crappy are the bicycles Danes ride around their bike-friendly city. That is a function of their high taxes. New cars there come with a 100 percent excise tax. Yeah—go ahead, make my day, libs: please propose that here.

This is why it is important to make the libs own the tax hikes to come. If we cooperate or lead the charge, the libs may end up owning us.

Weichert is right that “Wealth in this country has simply become too concentrated in the hands of a very few, mostly leftist globalists.” If I was king for a day, I’d design a tax system that soaked leftist billionaires. Call it a “virtue-signaling excise tax.” Or maybe a “Bonhoeffer Levy”—no cheap grace for leftist billionaires. Every time Google does some stupid intersectional identity politics nonsense, its corporate tax rate should go up by 1 percent.

But that is a hard tax system to design in the real world. Likewise Weichert’s notice of Trump’s forgotten pledge to rein in the “carried interest” tax treatment of hedge funds. The carried interest treatment of hedge fund management fees that covers regular income into lower capital-gains tax rates is arcane enough to defeat targeted fixes but is susceptible to a simple fix that could help the middle class.

The case for a lower capital-gains tax is sound on the merits, but one solution is to treat capital-gains at the same rate as regular income, with one adjustment. If we’re going to go back to 1950s-style marginal income tax rates, why not also re-institute the provisions of the tax code in that era that exempted the first $100 dollars of dividend income (except adjust it for inflation, so make it $5,000 or so today), and likewise exclude something like one-third or half of capital gains from taxation (which is simpler than trying to adjust for inflation), which would also help the small investor and retail saver while limiting the gamesmanship of Wall Streeters.

One other thing: we should insist that Senator Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax be applied to those huge tax-free hedge funds that run a small college on the side, like Harvard and Yale. Let’s watch the professoriate scream over that. I’m buying popcorn futures. I just hope Weichert won’t tax away all of my easy gains from this obvious trade!

Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

America • American Conservatism • Center for American Greatness • Democrats • Donald Trump • feminists • Government Reform • Greatness Agenda • Identity Politics • Post • Pro-Life • The Left • The Resistance (Snicker)

The Art of the SOTU

Do you remember Hillary Clinton?

I know, I know.

Now, do you remember her campaign slogan? It was “I’m with her!”

Incredibly, I still see the peculiar blue-on-white bumper sticker with an “H” on the odd Prius or Volvo in Washington, D.C. It always reminds me of the international symbol for “Hospital.” Appropriate, no?

Now, let me ask you a harder question.

Do you remember what candidate Trump did to that slogan? How he took it, twisted it, and deployed it as a truly deadly rhetorical H-bomb against Hillary?

It was June 22, 2016, and the future president was speaking in New York City, where he said: “She thinks it’s all about her. Her campaign slogan is ‘I’m with her.’ You know what my response to that is? I’m with you, the American people!”

For those who study strategic communications, those 30 little words were a political “kill-shot.” In just four sentences, Donald Trump had perfectly encapsulated everything that was so wrong about Hillary Clinton: her arrogance, her sense of entitlement, her disregard for any other human being, and her naked and destructive ambition.

At the same time, he was able to tell Americans with utmost succinctness why they should vote for him: he had it all and didn’t need the job; he was there to fix a broken system; to serve Americans, not himself. And it was that message that took him to the White House.

Having worked for Donald Trump before January 20, 2017, and for President Trump as his White House strategist after the inauguration, I never thought I would see him out-do that ultimate exemplar of political communication. I always enjoyed seeing him leave the White House and hit the road to give stump speeches as opposed to formal, teleprompter-driven addresses, where the instinctual, non-politician I knew could be unleashed, but I never thought he could do better than that day in New York. I was wrong. And I am very happy to admit it.

Tuesday night’s State of the Union was the best speech Donald J. Trump has ever given, before or after becoming our 45th commander-in-chief. This is for two reasons. First, in terms of substance. Pick any issue that elevated Donald Trump into the White House—or any issue that has since then become centrally important, such as the abortion-to-infanticide horror—and he didn’t back down on any of them. Not the wall, not ObamaCare. Not deregulation, not infrastructure. Not lowering the outrageous cost of prescription drugs, not withdrawing from Obama’s disastrous Iran deal. None of it. There was no watering-down. No dilution to please the Republican RINO Coward Caucus, or the intransigent and increasingly radical Democratic Party. He held the line.

But more than that, President Trump took Tuesday’s speech to America and the World to send as clear a message as possible on other issues that were not part of his original MAGA agenda. He picked up the gauntlet again and again. There was no backing down, no attempt to just move past issues or to ignore issues that have taken center stage since he was elected.

Nor was anything so powerful as his statement that, as president, he is proposing the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” given the shocking moves by Democrats in New York State and Virginia to legalize not only third-trimester abortion but also post-birth murder. Not only did the president not avoid the issue, he charged at it head-on, as his choice of words for the bill’s title signals, he is calling out all the Democrats who subscribe to Margaret Sanger’s culture of death. The title doesn’t skirt what we are talking about. It doesn’t talk about “embryos,” it calls the most vulnerable life in the womb what it is: a child. Bravo, Mr. President.

But it is outside the issue of direct content of the State of the Union that the president truly outdid himself. In New York, with those 30 words, he revealed the ugly truth of one greedy, dangerous and un-American woman. Last night, he did the same to the whole Democratic Party.

Donald Trump managed to trigger the whole room into singing “Happy Birthday” to one of the Jewish survivors of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Holocaust survivor Judah Samet, and he playfully conducted them through their celebration. Then in an incredibly moving double tribute to the victims of the Shoah and our military veterans he recognized Sergeant Herman Zeitchik who had liberated the Dachau death camp and one of its prisoners, Joshua Kaufman, the man sitting next to him in the chamber. That was a direct broadside over the hull of the DNC, which, with the evaluation of representatives like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, has embraced institutionalized Anti-Semitism within in its ranks.

But most skillful of all, was how President Trump managed to get the Democrats—especially the “Mean Girl Caucus” dressed in white—to reveal themselves for who they truly are.

The party that has built its image as the party for the oppressed, for minorities, for the working class, sat scowling as the president regaled everyone else with the news of how his policies have brought employment, security, and prosperity to our nation, the likes of which the world has never seen, and especially to exactly those groups. Freshman diva Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) couldn’t even bring herself to applaud the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent President Trump recognized for rescuing more than 300 girls and women from human-traffickers. Ah, yes, the “party of women.”

But the masterstroke was the president’s decision to celebrate women—even those scowling women.  He celebrated especially the historic number of women gainfully employed, including within the halls of Congress. Suddenly at that mention, the self-declared suffragettes looked at each other, decided to stand up, high-five the air and cheer. For themselves. And they had no idea what he had just done.

This was rhetorical jujitsu the likes of which I thought I would never see again since Trump’s “I’m with you!” moment in New York. In one deft joyous flourish of heartfelt celebration for the fairer sex, Donald Trump the master orator showed the “New Wave” Democrats for who they truly are: a selfish, mean-spirited, parochial, clique that only care for themselves and not for real Americans. No number of policy papers or campaign ads could do that. Pure genius.

Oh, and just remember, Hillary could have been giving Tuesday’s State of the Union.

God is good.

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 licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

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.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

America • Donald Trump • Government Reform • Immigration • Post • The Constitution

Some Best Possible Outcomes of the Shutdown

The longest-lasting partial federal government shutdown in U.S. history affords President Trump the opportunity to kill off an over-the-hill political spectacle, drain some of the swamp and maybe—just maybe—build the wall.

Trump is a disruptor and a breaker of political norms that need to be broken. Among the more irritating contemporary norms is the State of the Union address delivered to a joint session of Congress every January and televised nationwide during prime time.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday asked the president to reschedule this year’s address until the shutdown is over, citing security concerns. Some outlets reported Pelosi’s suggestion as an “un-invitation.” It wasn’t. But Pelosi did dangle a tantalizing prospect: “Consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress” on Jan. 29.

Yes! Perfect! Definitely do that!

Read the rest at the Sacramento Bee.
Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images
America • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Democrats • Elections • Government Reform • Identity Politics • Post • Progressivism • The Culture

Beto O’Rourke Is Our Postmodern Nostradamus

It was a light snow, a slick snow, out by the road our driveway, needing shoveling, got me thinking Beto…

Far too many on the Right have taken a less than guilty pleasure in mocking former Texas U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke’s existential angst and skewering his “on the road” blog posts. To wit:

Have been stuck lately. In and out of a funk. My last day of work was January 2. It’s been more than 20 years since I was last not working. Maybe if I get moving, on the road, meet people, learn about what’s going on where they live, have some adventure, go where I don’t know and I’m not known, it’ll clear my head, reset, I’ll think new thoughts, break out of the loops I’ve been stuck in?

How did these flinty-hearted haters respond to Beto’s doleful admission? By citing his poor grammar and putting him (for writing it) and themselves (for reading it) on a suicide watch.

Once I was as these myopic cynics, assessing Beto’s earnest, urgent missives were merely an “on the roadkill” Kerouac wannabe’s political “prog whistles” to his leftist compatriots, rife with references to sundry regressive issues and identity narratives. Really, wasn’t the irony on the benighted Beto for writing:

This was the most intense fog I’d seen. A thick all-encompassing blanket. I figured that by the time I’d finished breakfast at the Pancake House in Liberal (top three pancakes I’ve ever had) the sun would burn through, but it didn’t . . . . I left Liberal with a full stomach, and with gratitude for my hosts at Southwind. But since I came in at night and left in a fog, I had no idea what the town really looked like.

Recalling the passage, chuckling to myself, snow and me falling . . .

Then it hit me—or rather my head hit the driveway when I slipped shoveling snow. Only then did the fog surrounding my brain dissipate while a radiant light drew me toward its epiphany as I emerged from my coma: Beto isn’t just another politician-cum-travel agent pimping social media to run for president; no, Beto is our postmodern Nostradamus.

The parallels are as striking as my head was on the icy cement. Nostradamus, too, was ridiculed in his day, as Beto is mocked in his. Both men’s writings appear abstruse to the unenlightened eyes who cannot (or is it will not?) dare to glean the world-redeeming prognostications which are so patently evident to we, the enlightened. Yet there is a difference. Nostradamus’ crystalline quatrains predict what will happen; Beto’s rambunctious prose prognosticates what will come to pass—if we allow it.

Together.

Head bandaged, recuperating in a criminally underfunded community health care clinic, hearing about the benefits of Obamacare from the orderly who’s a Libra, rolling toward my CAT scan, I barely had time fully to absorb my suppository and this Beto nugget:

Learned about pump storage, battery technology, the role that production tax credits have had in making New Mexico a leader in wind energy production.

Redolent with the imagery of Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” Beto’s pump cannot be vandalized because it has been securely stored. This pulsating pump of public policy is then combined with the people’s energy (battery technology) and selfless sacrifice for the common good (production tax credits) and, when viewed in the context of a thinly veiled homage to the fresh infusion of life (wind energy production) being blown into the United States by immigrants (New Mexico), the result is that Beto’s deconstructed subtextual meaning is unambiguous: Trump sucks—but only if we let him.

Together.

Got good news from the underpaid, underappreciated social worker, who said I may get to go home soon, though it might take some time and TLC to regain what passes for my full faculties, just like the schools suffering teacher shortages. Uncool.

But the down time will give me more time to pore over these auguries with Beto breath, get the bowels moving, back on the driveway, shoveling, listen to the snow plow drivers, wave at least as they jam charcoal sludgy snow against my driveway so I can’t get the damn car out in the street and get on the road and one day I’ll find out where those bastards live and show them “fair is fair,” hopefully they won’t know who I am and find me and kick my ass, but that’s a later adventure, ’cause right now they’re cleaning my bandages while I reset my head, think new thoughts with knee-high socks, break out of the loopy restraints the orderly tied around my wrists and the bed rails, and change the future like a diaper.

Together.

Sly smile, furtive, to the orderly I whisper, “Have ya seen Sister Morphine?”

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Center for American Greatness • Congress • Democrats • Donald Trump • Government Reform • Political Parties • Post • Republicans • The Media

Giving Pelosi a Taste of Her Own Medicine

Oh, boy. The look on Representative Adam Schiff’s face was priceless as the California Democrat disembarked the Air Force bus on Thursday.

A few days ago, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent a letter to the White House, practically disinviting the president of the United States from giving his State of the Union Address on January 29. She cited security concerns and suggested that the president reschedule his address for a time after the government shutdown. But everyone knew that her explanation was absolute nonsense.

Clearly, this was a political move meant to trap President Trump and to derail his ongoing negotiations to get a physical barrier along the southern U.S. border. It was a simple calculation—Pelosi wanted to make Trump hurt. She wanted to go after something she perceived as important to him. Everyone with a brain understood the motive.

And so, President Trump grounded Nancy Pelosi’s plane—something that she cared about. Using the same rationale that she had used to stymie his State of the Union.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) quickly tweeted that “one sophomoric response does not deserve another.”

Au contraire, senator! Sophomoric responses seem to be the only responses that sophomores can understand. It’s sad because it seemed as though Graham was in the process of growing a spine. We should suppose that old habits die hard.

Newfound Respect
Many establishment conservatives, for some reason, hate getting their hands dirty. They hate engaging in the mudslinging that is the very hallmark of politics. Perhaps it’s because they’re afraid it’ll look bad on the front page of the failing New York Times.

After all, it is uncouth. Undignified. Beneath them. And they have kept parroting these platitudes for decades, while politically savvy operatives from the other side have continued smearing and slandering them and their friends.

If we learned anything from the funerals of John McCain, George H. W. Bush, and Mitt Romney (OK, fine . . . it was only a self-immolating op-ed in the dastardly pages of the Washington Post, but for the purposes of this argument, that’s close enough), it is that the only conservatives and Republicans the mainstream media and its surrogates are capable of respecting are either dead or emasculated.

Perhaps the only surprising fact here is that more NeverTrumpers haven’t joined the former category; excessive hand-wringing and pearl-clutching cannot be good for one’s health.

We must have learned something from years of abuse from an overly biased media and sophomoric political pundits who seem more concerned with scoring cheap political shots than actually governing the country and preserving its well-being. In fact, we obviously did learn something. We elected Donald Trump.

Turning Their Weapons Against Them
Abuse and cheap political shots are easy. And if one side won’t dignify them with a response, let alone a retributive attack, they are an exceedingly effective weapon. If a politician baselessly accused of racism, sexism, and pedophilia responds by saying that he will not dignify the accusations with a response, the negative advertisements write themselves.

The only way to deter such base tactics is to use the same tactics effectively against the perpetrators. A taste of one’s own medicine often cures the wanton pettiness and shamelessness that spurred an original unwarranted attack. And it certainly helps if someone can outplay the disgusting would-be character assassins at their own game.

The incalculable schadenfreude that many downtrodden conservatives have felt over the past few years as they have watched President Trump mercilessly troll the Democrats is only amplified by the ironic fact that the president was able to do so simply by using the Democrats’ tactics more skillfully than they could.

It’s the most satisfying manifestation of “instant karma” that we have seen in recent history.

And if that weren’t enough, the Left is now decrying their own tactics on a daily basis. They scream bloody murder at tactics that they themselves have employed for decades. And we are now treated to daily explanations of civic virtue, the value of robust institutions, and yes, morality. You know, the same things that they have tried to disassemble for decades.

If you spend years attacking the rule book and explaining how those rules are oppressive and immoral, you don’t suddenly get to cling to those rules when your opponent finally agrees with you and decides to fight you on your own terms.

Civility and etiquette are nice things. And they are also expensive when deployed only by one side. While we might feel morally righteous by extending them to those who do not reciprocate our efforts or even seem to appreciate them, this moral righteousness is a privilege that many conservatives can’t afford to sacrifice on people unwilling to do likewise.

And after all, we should not reward a bitch that bites the hand that feeds her.

So, President Trump, continue playing hardball with Nancy Pelosi. We’re all getting immense enjoyment from the fact that the opposition suddenly has to face the same abuse that we have endured for decades. And, for all of our sakes, let’s pray that Lindsey Graham grows a spine soon.

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Democrats • Donald Trump • Government Reform • History • Post • Progressivism • Republicans • statesmanship • The Culture • The Left • the Presidency

Take This SOTU and Shove It

In the annals of American political showboating, it’s tough to top the annual circus called the State of the Union message. Mandated by the Constitution—and at first delivered to Congress in written form—it has metastasized since the Wilson Administration into a full-blown political rally, celebrating not the party in power, but the president of the United States personally. Once a year, at the invitation of the Speaker of the House, he commands the attention not only of the Congress, but also members of the Supreme Court. It’s the nearest thing we have to a monarchical moment: all pomp and damn little circumstance, offering a president the chance to reel off, at stupefying length, a laundry list of policy prescriptions that have almost no chance ever of being realized. In short, the hot air that keeps the Capitol dome inflated doesn’t get much hotter than this.

This year, however, may be different. In their ongoing tug-of-war over the partial government shutdown, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has decided to stick her thumb in the eye of President Donald Trump and, citing security concerns, has asked him to delay his scheduled January 29 State of the Union address until the government re-opens or, alternatively, send it up the Hill in writing, as every president from George Washington to William Howard Taft did.

What a good idea.

The key to understanding what the SOTU was meant to address in the first place can be found in its Article II constitutional wording, which states that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Accordingly, early presidents concentrated on the nuts-and-bolts of government, including budget requests, the general economy, and other mundane matters.

It wasn’t until Wilson, who prior to the election of Barack Obama was the most “progressively” radical president we’d ever had, that the annual message started morphing into the thing we know today—a full-throated advertisement for the president’s foreign and domestic policies, symbolizing the shift of power from the legislative branch to the executive.

Now, thanks to Pelosi, Trump has an opportunity to turn it into something else altogether: an actual report on the “State of the Union.” As Pelosi’s sidekick, U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), cracked: “the state of the union is off.” Boy, is it ever.

As Pelosi suggested, Trump can easily send a written report to the Congress. He should do just that. Even better, he can then take his disinvitation and move the venue elsewhere. He could then deliver his speech from the Oval Office—although he just gave a short talk from behind the Resolute Desk. Or, he could take it to Trump Country, and find a 50,000-seat stadium somewhere in Indiana or Texas and rock the house; if the SOTU is little more than a campaign speech in disguise, might as well go whole hog.

Or, more audaciously, he could take it into the heart of Progville—San Francisco, say, or Chicago, or his hometown of New York City—and let his political opponents see just how many folks even in their own constituencies agree with him. As the victorious Roman consuls and commanders knew, there is much to be said for triumphalism, just as long as there is always the one slave, riding in the quadriga behind the victorious Caesar, holding the laurel wreath above his head while whispering in his ear: “Memento homo”—remember, you are only a man.

And what should he say? That the State of the Union is not good, and is not emotionally strong. That after nearly 75 years of cultural-Marxist battering at the doors of all the major American institutions, half the country thinks its own nation is fundamentally illegitimate; that it was founded in venality and exploitative racism and sexism, for the purpose of establishing “white privilege” in North America—and no amount of evidence to the contrary will persuade them otherwise. That as faith has foundered, a new, secular religion has arisen, whose first burnt offerings were wafted aloft by the Wilson Administration, a government of experts celebrating a rule by the elites, a faith in which any gender could grow up to be president, as long as that gender went to Yale or Harvard.

More: that the other half of country has finally had its manners and its good will tested long enough; that it liked the way we used to be, and saw nothing either evil or exploitative about our country. That it resents the influx of Marxist professors—vipers, whom it welcomed as refugees—who via their sacred tenet of Critical Theory encouraged their naïve charges to pull down the pillars of American society. All the social troubles we have witnessed since, from the Weather Underground to the current racial and sexual unrest, derives from them. But wrapped in their false flag of “real patriotism,” they demand that the impossibly perfect always be the enemy of the good, and ascribe only villainy to their opponents.

He should say that the bloated federal bureaucracy is far too large and expensive, and that he will begin reductions in force as soon as practicable. He should say that trillion-dollar deficits—at a time of record tax revenues—prove not that taxes are too low but that government is too big, and that henceforth all extra-constitutional functions will be wound down, including the regulatory agencies created by Congress, until we at least reach some stasis point.

He should assert the equality of all three branches of government when it comes to interpreting and defending the Constitution, inform the lesser federal judges that they have no power over the executive acting either in his constitutional administrative capacity or as commander-in-chief, and tell them that henceforth he will ignore restraining orders and injunctions that are, in his opinion, unconstitutional, until such time as they are adjudicated by the Article III-established Supreme Court (the only federal court not established by Congress, as it happens).

Most important, he should say that the state of our union in a time of Cold Civil War is weak, but could once again be strong if we accept that we are all Americans, benefiting from the same system of government and living in the same blessed land, and that the sooner we remember that, the better. That we don’t have to be prisoners of imported central-European Marxism. That the genius of the American Founding was precisely that it was not ideological, systemic, academic, or programmatic, but based simply on the notion of individual freedom and Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”—a society built from the bottom up, not the top down.

In that way, the president can extend an olive branch to his enemies, “with malice toward none, with charity for all,” as Lincoln put it in his Second Inaugural, and try to turn the corner on the bitterness of the 2016 election. The Trump election signaled a desire for a sea-change and, now that things have come to this pass, it’s time to sink the showboat on the Potomac and move on.

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Administrative State • America • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Department of Homeland Security • Donald Trump • Government Reform • Law and Order • Post • Russia • The Constitution

The FBI Has Become Too Dangerous

If you’re not the first lady, being alone in the Oval Office with the president of the United States is a rare occurrence. Even visiting heads of state will be accompanied by an interpreter, or an official notetaker, when they meet privately with the most powerful man in the world.

So I will never forget the day, in June 2017, when I found myself in front of the Resolute Desk, with just President Donald Trump in the room with me.

I was there for something that pertained to my job as strategist to the president—if memory serves, it was to discuss our plan to undo the 44th president’s disastrous Iran Deal—when the topic of Russia came up.

Suddenly the president stopped, looked at me, and said: “They will find nothing because there is nothing.”

Since he shared that declaration with me, good men like General Mike Flynn have been charged with process crimes, shady characters like Paul Manafort have been convicted of wire fraud, and young men such as George Papadopoulos have served time in federal prison as a result of their foolish self-aggrandizing. Yet, none of the charges made or convictions brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller have linked the activities of the Trump campaign with the Kremlin, which of course, was Mueller’s mandate.

Two years later, at a reported cost of well over $25 million, not one charge or conviction has proven the original allegation of “Russian collusion.” At any other time, this would have led otherwise reasonable people to say: Enough! Time for Mueller and his team—a dozen of whom are registered Democrat donors—to close shop and for the former FBI director to end what President Trump justifiably has called a “witch hunt.”

Instead, the Left, and the Left’s domesticated media, have escalated their attacks.

Monday, as the president was preparing to board Marine One on the North Lawn, Kristen Welker, a member of the White House Press Corps working for NBC, actually asked him whether he is working for Russia.

This following a New York Times story, in which we learned that the FBI’s leadership initiated an investigation into the president after he fired James Comey, positing that he was, in fact, an agent of the Kremlin.

President Trump was right to call Welker’s question disgraceful. But we must go further.

First, there is the issue of facts. After two years in which Donald Trump as president has raised the defense budget, sent anti-tank missiles to the government of Ukraine, scolded NATO nations for not taking the threat from Russia seriously and encouraging them to keep their commitments to the alliance, as well as authorizing the killing of more than 200 Russian paramilitary “contractors” in Syria. How can any sane person who values the truth—and her own professional integrity as a journalist—even ask such a ridiculous and surreal question?

But there is an even more serious question, one that raises the specter of sedition at the highest levels of our republic.

As former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy noted on my show, “America First,” the FBI is part of the executive branch and its mandate to execute counterintelligence investigations serves one person and one person alone: the incumbent president.

McCarthy, remember, helped put the mastermind of the first World Trade Center attack, Omar Abdel Rahman (the Blind Sheik), behind bars. As he has written time and again, counterintelligence operations are not exercises in evidence gathering designed to lead to a prosecution of a crime in a federal court. They are instead secret activities designed to provide the chief executive with information on what enemy nations or inimical non-state actors are doing to the country so that the president can direct responses to the threat, be it from Soviet agents during the Cold War, or ISIS terrorists here in America today.

This is not what happened in 2017.

Instead, a rogue FBI decided unilaterally to investigate the newly elected president in order to undermine him—rather than serve the elected official who bears ultimate responsibility for the safety of all Americans. Never before in our history has this happened.

The FBI has had problems since the days of J. Edgar Hoover. But never has the seventh floor of FBI Headquarters decided by itself to launch a clandestine operation to target a newly elected president under the cover of working for an alien power simply because they wanted political revenge for their candidate losing an election. Yet this is exactly what happened. Instead of being horrified, the establishment perpetuates the outré assertions day in and day out to further weaken the president.

So what is to be done?

Given the last two years of continued assaults against President Trump by Mueller and Obama-holdovers such as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the confirmation of a new attorney general might not be enough.

There may be one solution that preserves the patriotic agents who are protecting the nation while helping drain the Beltway swamp: dissolve the FBI, fire all the senior political operators still in the Hoover Building, and make the 56 FBI field offices across the nation—where the real agents work—the counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and criminal investigations division of the Department of Homeland Security.

This way we may prevent the next palace coup.

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Administrative State • Donald Trump • Economy • Government Reform • Post • the Presidency

Who Needs the World Bank?

NeverTrump Republicans are buoyed by a sense of opportunity following the unexpected announcement on January 7 that World Bank president Jim Yong Kim is resigning in the middle of his second five-year term.

The World Bank and its companion institution, the International Monetary Fund, were established by the United States and our allies during the last days of World War II, in anticipation of what were believed to be essential arrangements for international public finance and monetary systems following an Allied victory.

The head of the commission that designed the World Bank system was the British economist John Maynard Keynes. A key intent of the bank was to make low-cost loans available to poor countries that could not get financing from commercial banks. The bank’s shareholders are member governments, which pay in capital and sponsor the bank’s bureaucracy and its “poverty reduction” schemes.

The United States holds the largest number of shares, but not a majority. For more than 70 years, the bank president’s job has always gone to a American appointee nominated by the U.S. president who, until now, has been able to muster enough votes from allied governments with large shareholdings.

Since 2012, when President Obama nominated the Korean-born naturalized American Jim Yong Kim to his first term, the World Bank presidency no longer has been a sure thing for U.S. nominees. Obama had to struggle to gain the needed votes to elect Kim.

Now that the plum of all globalist plum jobs is open, NeverTrumpers and other Republicans in name only have suddenly discovered within their breasts the strong heartbeat of nationalism. It is all-important, they say, to keep the job in U.S. hands.

They say that, of course, because they expect the job to go to one of their kind.

The Best and the Brightest?
The World Bank began operations in 1946, and its first president, an appointee of Harry Truman, was Eugene Meyer, the owner of the Washington Post and father of the newspaper’s longtime publisher, Katharine Meyer Graham.

One of the longest-serving World Bank presidents was Robert McNamara, who was appointed by Lyndon Johnson in 1968 and held the job until 1981. Under McNamara, who had done so much to harm the well-being of the United States and its allies as architect of the no-win war in Vietnam, the bank became the breeding ground for nearly every imaginable crackpot and pernicious left-wing economic and social policy that made the 1970s the mess that they were.

George W. Bush, believing that the United States had won decisive victories in Iraq and Afghanistan, bestowed the World Bank presidency triumphantly in 2005 upon the architect of those wars, deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz resigned under a cloud after only two years at the bank because of the flagrancy with which he had given a cushy job and very high compensation to his mistress.

A Fresh Opportunity
Donald Trump began his administration giving numerous top foreign policy appointments to persons who did not support his candidacy or his campaign promises. These included establishment Republicans as well as Democrats in military uniform. Tillerson, Haley, McMaster, and Mattis—all now gone—are the best known of these.

Meanwhile, still in office at the next tier down where the real mischief gets made, are appointees who represent the antithesis of what Trump voters thought they were choosing. One is liberal RINO Henrietta Fore, who ran the U.S. Agency for International Development under free-spending George W. Bush and now, incredibly, has secured Trump’s appointment as head of UNICEF in New York. Another is ex-House Speaker Paul Ryan’s protégé and former Wisconsin congressman Mark Green, a sentimental humanitarian whom Trump—surely under the influence of Ryan and Tillerson—appointed to head USAID.

To give you a sense of just how bad things are—just how much USAID today might as well be operating under a President Carter or Clinton instead of a President Trump—look at the fatuous statement on the home page of the agency’s website.

“The purpose of foreign aid,” says USAID administrator Green, “is to end the need for its existence.”

This stunning lack of originality, is the very same horse manure spread by every USAID administrator, Democrat or Republican—while always expanding the wasteful and ideologically addled aid bureaucracy that has persisted since the 1960s.

One can only hope that now, with Tillerson, Haley, and McMaster gone, President Trump might decide to call the globalists’ bluff. He could take his case over the heads of Congress and the permanent bureaucracy and tell the American people the plain truth that most foreign aid spending, and certainly the USAID bureaucracy, no longer need to exist.

In 2007, when Wolfowitz was ousted from the World Bank presidency, a free market economist writing in National Review raised the proper existential question:

Do we really need the World Bank?

Free market capitalism is spreading like gangbusters across the globe, and with it, the proliferation of private capital markets to channel investment everywhere.

Instead of making cheap loans at below market rates to state planning governments in Africa and elsewhere, the real key to fighting poverty is putting markets—not World Bank bureaucrats—in the driver’s seat.

Both the IMF and the World Bank are unnecessary artifacts from a bygone, post-WWII reconstruction era. Instead of government-to-government lending, poor nations need pro-market reforms that will then attract private capital flows. This will subject low-income nations to the same marketplace discipline that China, India, Russia, Eastern Europe and Latin America have all been subjected to.

The thousands of World Bank bureaucrats with their tax-free salaries know very well that private market capitalism is overtaking their mission. So they want to morph the World Bank into some kind of super-sized global warming bureaucracy—something we clearly don’t need.

That economist’s advice in 2007 was ignored by George W. Bush and the RINOs who directed his foreign aid programs, but it is every bit as relevant today as it was then.

Maybe, just maybe, President Trump will heed those words of advice now. The economist who wrote them was Larry Kudlow, director of the president’s National Economic Council.

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Administrative State • America • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Economy • Government Reform • political philosophy • Post • Religion and Society • The Culture • The Left • The Leviathian State

Tucker Carlson’s Witness

Tucker Carlson’s now ubiquitous 15-minute monologue from his January 2 show is causing some conservatives a bit of consternation. Not because what he said was new or groundbreaking (it wasn’t, really), but apparently because Carlson dared to say it in the first place.

What is most alarming, however, is that it needed to be said at all, and more so, that it has to be defended not just from the Left but also from the legacy conservative media. The American vision that Carlson described used to be understood. It is at the heart of our founding documents, woven into our nation’s fabric, the shine of the city on the hill.

Carlson’s message resonated with many of us. In it, I heard echoes of another great conservative thinker of the mid-20th century, Whittaker Chambers. Chambers’ autobiography, Witness, had such a profound impact on Ronald Reagan that he “could recite passages” from it “verbatim,” according to biographer Paul Kengor. Chambers’ influence on Reagan was “evident in speeches throughout his public life,” most notably in his famous Evil Empire speech.

In his monologue last week, Carlson, like Chambers, “hit something else” when he “took up [his] little sling and aimed” it. Communism was Chambers’ Goliath, and the “something else” he struck were “the forces of that great socialist revolution, which, in the name of liberalism, spasmodically, incompletely, somewhat formlessly, but always in the same direction, has been inching its ice cap over the nation. . . .”

Since Chambers’ time, that ice cap has become a glacier. Carlson’s 15-minute barrage of stones similarly hit the mark and cracked its veneer—and people heard it. The “conservative” corner, however, seems to hear with different ears. And their response, has been enlightening.

What Are Conservatives For?
Carlson targeted several “isms” in his monologue: conservatism, capitalism, liberalism, socialism, interventionism, libertarianism, feminism, environmentalism, as well as the “private equity model,” the ruling class, banking, diversity, and marijuana use, among other problems that plague us. But fortifying all of these salvos was something much larger and more powerful. At the heart of it, Carlson was asking what should America really stand for?

Recall what Chambers wrote in Witness: “A man is not primarily a witness against something. That is only incidental to the fact that he is a witness for something.”

It has been a long time since conservatives thought of themselves in terms of presenting what they are for.

In the middle of a long list of what ails us, Carlson asserted, “Anyone who thinks the health of a nation can be summed up in GDP is an idiot. The goal for America is both simpler and more elusive than mere prosperity. It’s happiness. There are a lot of ingredients in being happy: Dignity. Purpose. Self-control. Independence.”

Channeling more of Chambers, Carlson went on to say: “. . . one of the biggest lies our leaders tell us that you can separate economics from everything else that matters. Economics is a topic for public debate. Family and faith and culture, meanwhile, those are personal matters. Both parties believe this.”

In Witness, Chambers similarly refuted that lie. “Economics is not the central problem of this century,” he argued. “It is a relative problem that can be solved in relative ways. Faith is the central problem of this age.”

It was Carlson’s reference to faith, perhaps, that spurred Trump critic David French to pen a rebuttal. Fellow Trump critic Ben Shapiro took Carlson to task for his omission of the words “pursuit of” before “happiness.” And both seemed to object primarily to what they felt was Carlson’s attribution of blame: in short, to the government/elites and their bad policies. French and Shapiro place the blame on the people, an attitude apparently shared by many NeverTrumps, often manifesting itself as a shameful disdain.

French’s title to his piece summed up this contempt neatly: “The Right Should Reject Tucker Carlson’s Victimhood Populism.” French argues,“Yes, we need public officials to do their best to create and sustain a government most conducive to human flourishing, but the primary responsibility for creating a life of virtue and purpose rests with families and individuals.”

That’s true as far as it goes. But what French seems to underestimate is the smothering, uncontrolled growth of Chambers’s “icecap.” This glacier we now face is certainly not going to recede on its own. Instead, as the many examples Carlson mentioned reveal, ever more impediments to pursuing a “life of virtue and purpose” have been erected and incentives removed.

Carlson simply noted what should, by now, be obvious: that our government should create incentives and remove impediments to secure the blessings of our liberty. Further, that conservatives should make this their focus, rather than “free trade” coupled with a sort of laissez-fairethey failed themselves” attitude toward the people harmed (or at the very least, not inspired to be more virtuous and responsible) by such policies.

Instead of acknowledging this, French insisted, “This is still a land where you can determine your own success more than can any political party or group of nefarious elites.” He concluded: “Contrary to Carlson’s contention, America isn’t being destroyed. It’s being challenged.”

Stumbling Into Philosophic Materialism
Whether we’re merely “being challenged” or more seriously engaged in a “cold civil war” seems to be the core of the disagreement between the NeverTrump-leaning conservatives and the pro-Trump faction, a phenomenon first observed in the heated reaction to Michael Anton’s “Flight 93 Election” essay, which Shapiro labeled “incoherent, mind-numbing horseshit.”

In a more polite response to Carlson, Shapiro titled his rebuttal: “Tucker Carlson Claims Market Capitalism Has Undermined American Society. He’s Wrong.”

After listing some facts and figures he thinks refutes the notion that our situation is dire, Shapiro notes, in agreement with French, that “Carlson seems to suggest that our system itself is to blame for individual shortcomings, and that collective restructuring of free institutions will alleviate and cure those shortcomings. This is simply not reflective of conservatism, or of founding ideology.”

The gist of Shapiro’s argument seems to be that although he somewhat agrees with Carlson’s list of American society’s ills, Carlson erroneously attributes “America’s troubles not to government interventionism, but to government non-interventionism.” He says that Carlson is “wildly wrong”—that “[t]he goal for America wasn’t happiness. It was the pursuit of happiness—the framework of freedom that allows us to pursue happiness.”

Chambers, in his 1957 scathing review of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, had something to say about that “pursuit.” Here are just a few of Chambers’ wonderful takedowns of the godless, “philosophic materialism” of Rand’s utopia:

[M]an’s fate, without God, is up to him, and to him alone. His happiness, in strict materialist terms, lies with his own workaday hands and ingenious brain. His happiness becomes, in Miss Rand’s words, “the moral purpose of his fife.”

. . .

Here occurs a little rub whose effects are just as observable in a free-enterprise system, which is in practice materialist (whatever else it claims or supposes itself to be), as they would be under an atheist socialism, if one were ever to deliver that material abundance that all promise. The rub is that the pursuit of happiness, as an end in itself, tends automatically, and widely, to be replaced by the pursuit of pleasure . . .

. . .

[I]n a wicked world, a materialism of the Right and a materialism of the Left first surprisingly resemble, then, in action, tend to blend each with each, because, while differing at the top in avowed purpose, and possibly in conflict there, at bottom they are much the same thing. . . . The question becomes chiefly: who is to run that world in whose interests, or perhaps, at best, who can run it more efficiently?

Chambers nails the fundamental problem of American life in that series of observations: we live in a materialistic, “wicked world,” both Left and the Right. “Much wickedness,” C.S. Lewis observed, “when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way.” Indeed, the road to Hell (and socialism) is lined with such pursuits.

Capitalism can become dysfunctional—crony capitalism. Welfare programs often become enabling and destructive. Tax law grows into a voluminous collection of favors for special interests. Regulations grow into smothering mountains. Economic programs result in benefit to an elite few. Laws can frequently limit individual flourishing, freedom, and liberty rather than promote it. Speech, instead of being protected, is silenced.

Most importantly, our nation can either protect our “freedom of religion” or limit it to “freedom of worship.” That latter term was used by both President Obama and Hillary Clinton, and, as Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon explains, they are two monumentally different concepts. Had Clinton been elected instead of Trump, we would have felt the impact of that shift, further ripening our society for the takeover of the Godless socialist revolution that Chambers warned us against.

As historian Christopher Henry Dawson noted: “The process of secularisation arises not from the loss of faith but from the loss of social interest in the world of faith. It begins the moment men feel that religion is irrelevant to the common way of life and that society as such has nothing to do with the truths of faith.” And further, “Secularism is terrible not only on account of its emptiness but because there is a positive power of evil waiting to fill the void.”

A very liberal neighbor of mine once admitted that the more he distanced himself from the Catholic faith of his upbringing, the more leftward he leaned politically.

Carlson concluded his monologue with this warning:

Socialism is a disaster. It doesn’t work. It’s what we should be working desperately to avoid. But socialism is exactly what we’re going to get, and very soon unless a group of responsible people in our political system reforms the American economy in a way that protects normal people.

Although President Trump is certainly no saint, he has been working on doing just that. Besides weakening the legacy media’s control of the conversation, he’s accomplished many things that protect and improve the lives of “normal people,” such as tax cuts and reduced regulations. But his emphasis on trade policies that favor the United States and the interests of our people over those of our trading partners is also important.

Another fight Trump is fighting that has been practically ignored but is yet critical is the fight to end the Johnson Amendment and its ban on political speech in church. This is an important step—for it was in America’s churches that the people first spoke revolutionary ideas of freedom and liberty. It was in churches that slavery was condemned. Of course, faith is personal, but it is also a worldview that does and ought to “live loudly” within us. If politics is downstream from culture, culture is downstream from faith.

To channel Reagan channeling Chambers, our crisis exists to the degree that we are indifferent to God and collaborate in materialism’s attempt to make man stand alone without God. We can answer this challenge provided that our faith in God and in the freedom He enjoins is as great as materialism’s faith in Man.

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