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‘Never Again’? Omnibus Bill Is a Product of the Swamp

Thinking about the $1.3 trillion—that’s “trillion” with a “t” for “terrifying”—omnibus spending bill that President Trump signed on Friday, I wonder who is most unhappy about that incontinent, 2,232-page monument to congressional irresponsibility. (A small token of its irresponsibility—and its contempt for the public—was that the bill had to be signed a mere 17 hours after being passed by the Senate. “Otherwise”—cue the scary voice and Halloween music—“the government will shut down!” Is that a threat or a promise?)

There have been all sorts of lists of winners and losers. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that “We Democrats are really happy” with the bill, which will stuff enough cash into the bloated congressional gizzard to keep the government wheezing along through September. Many, nay most, on the other side of the D.C. gastrointestinal tract are not happy. “With Omnibus Signing,” as one representative headline put it, “Trump Formally Surrenders To The Swamp.”

I had myself, like other fiscally responsible Americans, hoped that President Trump would veto that bill, as he suggested he might as late as Friday morning. Still, it is well to keep in mind a fundamental truth that some canny tweeter put with pithy conciseness: “Regardless of how you feel about the #omnibus, it’s still a good day when you wake up and realize Hillary Clinton is not our president.”

True, too true. And remember, politics in democratic countries always involves compromise. I was not convinced that the president got enough of what he wanted—a measly $1.6 billion “down payment” for the border wall, for example (he wanted $25 billion) in exchange for the Candyland giveaways to the Dems. But let’s leave the particular budget items to one side. The bill was simply too big. I think the government should spend less money, especially on things unrelated to national security. That Republicans, reputedly the party of fiscal sanity, occupy the White House, control both houses of Congress (as well as a majority of state legislatures and governorships) and that this is is the best they can do suggests how difficult public thriftiness is.

Rot Runs Deep
Or perhaps it merely suggests how wide and deep the D.C. swamp is, and how corrupt most politicians from both parties really are. It is amazing how quickly the power and perquisites of public office transform ordinary men and women into inveterate swamp dwellers, concerned overwhelmingly with maintaining and enhancing their status, not the commonweal.

Did I mention that Congress gave itself a raise of $60 million in the bill? Spending other people’s money is easy once you get the hang of it. One thing Congress never seems to get around to considering seriously is term limits. Can you blame them? Power. Riches. Influence. Social position. All for life if they’re lucky. Who would wish to turn off that spigot—especially when there are millions upon millions of saps (that would be us taxpayers) willing to pay for it all? Nope, most lawmakers, once they get to the promised land of the Capitol, are not going budge if they can help it.

But I digress. I ask again: Who is most unhappy about the passage of the omnibus spending bill?

It may seem ironic, but I think it may be President Trump. He signaled his dissatisfaction with the bill early on and, as I say, talked about vetoing it. “It’s not right,” he said, “and it’s very bad for our country.” When push came to shove, however, he signed it only, he said, because of the robust provisions it made for military spending: pay increases for those who defend us as well as money for new military hardware.

Noting correctly that the president’s “highest duty is to keep America safe,” Trump said he signed the bill as a matter of “national security.” The U.S. military had suffered grievously under Barack Obama. The world is an increasingly dangerous place and yet our military readiness and capability have been sharply eroded. The military provisions of the omnibus bill will go a long way towards addressing that deferred maintenance.

Far-Fetched Remedies
Nevertheless, he said in announcing his signing of the bill, he would “
never sign a bill like this again.” Like many of his predecessors, President Trump asked for an end to the filibuster. He also asked for a line-item veto so the president was not presented with an all-or-nothing choice.

The problem, of course, is that ending the filibuster would remove not only a major opportunity for partisan grandstanding but also an important tool of legislative blackmail. And providing the president with a line-item veto would introduce an element of transparency into the legislative process that would be deeply incompatible with the imperative to feather one’s nest and grease the wheels of politics without the irritating incursion of public scrutiny and accountability. So: I doubt it will ever happen.

This dog’s breakfast of a spending bill illustrates a fundamental fact about the metabolism of modern American politics. Republicans, when they’re in charge, allow Democrats to indulge in massive domestic spending in exchange for money for the military. Democrats, when they’re in charge, deny Republicans money for military spending in exchange for massive domestic spending and tax increases. You see how it works. It’s analogous to the one-way ratchet the Democrats employ on so-called social issues and judicial decisions. As far as is humanly possible, the trend goes in one direction only: towards more and more “progressive”—and expensive—positions.

It will be interesting to see whether Donald Trump will be able to keep his promise not to sign another such example of fiscal incontinence. It will be interesting, too, to see how his battle against the swamp proceeds. Will he be able to maintain—and, perhaps, even improve on—the tax cuts he won at the end of last year? Will he get his wall? Will he stanch the flow of illegal immigration and do something about the thousands upon thousands of alien miscreants who are here now, preying on our communities? Will he be able to keep up the pace of prosperity-enhancing deregulation? Will his economic policies spark the sustained 3-4 percent growth we need? Will he, finally, manage to evade the real collusion story of our times: the collusion between our intelligence and law-enforcement institutions, on the one hand, and the Clinton campaign and deep state operatives from the Obama Administration, on the other, to destroy Donald Trump’s presidency?

The point is, last week’s passage of the omnibus spending catastrophe did not take place in a vacuum. It is part of the elaborate choreography of the swamp. There are already hints that President Trump may be cannier about swamp draining and fiscal responsibility than is widely appreciated. In any case, this spending bill cannot be understood in isolation from the whole package of D.C. initiatives. There are thousands upon thousands of “civil servants” whose daily suspiration adds, drop by drop, to the swamp. Most of them detest Donald Trump. Most of them cannot be fired. That is the hand the president was dealt. Ronald Reagan faced something similar. He did not get everything he wanted, not by a long shot. But he got some critical things accomplished in his eight years. Were I betting man, I’d wager that Donald Trump has some important, some world-changing victories to look forward to in the nearly seven years he has left as president.

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The Space Race: Ground Control to Elon Musk

When Elon Musk divested of his interest in Paypal in 2002, he was fantastically wealthy but obsessed with technological projects.

Part two of a two-part series. Read part one.

Musk turned to the development of Tesla, an electric vehicle. Contrary to popular opinion, electric vehicles are not new technology. Thomas Edison, who understood the advantages of electric automobiles now evident in Tesla vehicles, had worked furiously to conquer the range and recharge problems that dog Tesla vehicles today. Edison conceded to his young employee, Henry Ford, that the combustion engine was the more robust platform. A triumph of “engineering over design,” the combustion engine ruled the automotive world almost exclusively for more than 100 years.

To achieve success in the development of the electric automobile, Musk needed to co-opt the progressive state to receive extensive subsidies and to co-opt the opinions of a narrowing progressive elite interested in virtue-signaling their environmental commitment while consuming luxuries.

While one might recoil from the “crony capitalism” of Musk’s Tesla, these managerial and political skills have fed into another venture, SpaceX. Like Korolev and von Braun before him, Musk has ingeniously manipulated a state actor interested in other priorities into funding the development of an enterprise the sole purpose of which is the expansion of the human horizon. Musk is precisely the talent needed for human space exploration.

What’s Old is New
SpaceX is superficially billed as lowering the cost of delivering payloads to orbit by means of a reusable first stage, which returns to earth landing vertically on a pad. But this is not a new idea.

The Space Shuttle, too, was a reusable rocket. The Shuttle’s solid rocket boosters parachuted to earth to be recovered, disassembled, and repacked with solid fuel, and the three massive (and expensive) shuttle main engines—Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25s—glided back to earth attached to the orbiter. Only the massive liquid oxygen/hydrogen tank would be lost to reentry. The shuttle’s design failure was that it required extensive inspection of and repair to the underside tiles for every flight. A failure of these tiles caused the loss of Columbia, and the inability of the NASA—stymied by conservatism—to find a solution destroyed the intended cost-effectiveness of the program (although not its ability to inspire).

Musk’s reusable system is the Falcon 9. The Falcon 9, burning liquid oxygen and kerosene, is capable of placing 50,000 pounds of payload in low-earth orbit (LEO). The Falcon 9 gets its name from the nine Merlin engines that provide the thrust needed to launch the payloads and to arrest the descent of the booster. According to SpaceX, the Falcon 9 can complete its mission with the failure of two of the nine engines. This compares favorably to von Braun’s much larger Saturn V, which could complete its mission with the shut down of one of five of its Rocketdyne F-1 engines.

In February, Musk’s SpaceX successfully tested its Falcon Heavy rocket. Falcon Heavy, capable of delivering 140,000 pounds to LEO, has, according to SpaceX, the largest payload to LEO other than Saturn V. If, however, you count the orbiter itself (which weighed 150,000 pounds) as payload delivered to LEO, the Space Shuttle actually had significantly more heavy lift capacity (approximately 220,000 lbs).

Three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together in a lateral plane comprise the Falcon Heavy, with the center rocket core topped with a payload. For the recent February 6 test launch, Musk used as a dummy payload a Telsa convertible, which Falcon Heavy sent on a trajectory to Mars—a brilliant marketing ploy. In our democratic-republic, you win public opinion or you lose. This showcases Musk’s power to manage, inspire, and manipulate, which makes him a potential heir to the genius of Korolev and von Braun.

Questions of Design
Nonetheless, there is a question mark over the Falcon Heavy. As three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together, Falcon Heavy has no less than 27 engines firing at launch.

This raises a serious question of design. When Korolev tried to build a rocket to compete with Saturn V, he lacked a technology that von Braun possessed. The Russians had been unable to develop a large engine like the supermassive F-1 which powered Saturn V. Korolev was forced to include 30 rocket engines in the first stage of his giant N-1 rocket. More engines and turbopumps mean a higher chance of failure. A rocket engine with a failure rate of 1 percent when multiplied by 30 results in a 26 percent chance of failure of one engine of the cluster. Korolev’s complex N-1 never got far off the ground.

The Falcon 9 can fly with two of nine engines shut down. But that does not translate into a successful mission with six of 27 engines shut down on the Falcon Heavy because the failure would depend on the distribution of the failures across all three cores. The lack of development of a large motor with fewer moving parts suggests a high risk that Falcon Heavy will not be able to demonstrate the reliability needed to fulfill its mission of human space exploration and that a new design may be needed, making Falcon Heavy a concept demonstrator, but not the real deal for a manned mission to Mars or even to the Moon.

Falcon 9 has a 95 percent reliability, too low for human payload. Saturn V flew 13 times without a loss, not counting the deaths of Gus Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chafee in the Apollo 1 launchpad fire. The Space Shuttle flew 135 times, with only two losses—and only one on launch—a record of 98.5 percent reliability. The R-7 family of rockets has flown 1,700 times with a 96 percent success rate. R-7 family Suyoz manned missions have a 98 percent success rate overall and a near 100 percent success rate for three decades.

Assuming that the added complexity of Falcon Heavy does not increase risks (a counterfactual assumption because complexity increases risk), a 95 percent success rate multiplied by three produces an appalling 85 percent projected success rate. When Musk himself said of the launch of Falcon Heavy that he gave it a 50 percent chance of succeeding, he was likely thinking of these factors.

SpaceX still has a long way to go if Musk is to fill for this generation the shoes of a Korolev or von Braun. He has mastered the managerial and political art of corralling sponsors into the profitless enterprise of human space exploration. All that is left is for the master engineer to master the technology.

Photo credit: Paul Harris/Getty Images

America • California • Congress • Democrats • Donald Trump • Immigration • Infrastructure • Post

No Fake Walls, Mr. President

With the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program tied up in the courts, the March 5 deadline for “fixing DACA” has been nullified for the time being. DACA recipients will still receive protection under the program, at least until Trump’s decision to end it has  been litigated fully.

With another “must-pass” funding bill approaching at the end of March, however, there is still the opportunity for pro-DACA patrons to try and strike a deal to codify DACA protections in exchange for funding a wall at the southern border.  As the New York Times speculated this week, “such a deal could be tucked into a broad spending bill that lawmakers must approve by March 23 when government funding is set to expire.”

Some on the right argue that codifying DACA protections for the current 700,000 recipients is worth it, as it may be the only way Democrats will agree to end chain migration and fund the construction of Trump’s “big, beautiful wall.”

They could be right. But only if the big, beautiful wall is actually that—a wall.

As I’ve written before, the immigration debate is rife with doublespeak. The phrase “border security,” for example, is used to paper over measures that are actually completely ineffective. Likewise, the various iterations of what constitutes a “border wall” can range from vehicle barriers—concrete posts that provide obstacles for drivers, but not pedestrians—to a few aerial drones that occasionally circle overhead.

Recall President Obama’s claim in 2011 that the border fence authorized in the Secure Fence Act of 2006 was “basically complete” with 652 of the 700 miles constructed. What constitutes “complete,” however, depends on what you consider to be a fence.

In reality, only 36.3 miles were built with the double-layered fencing that the law required, while 300 miles of the so-called “fence” were covered by rickety vehicle barriers and single-layer pedestrian fencing. The law itself granted a tremendous amount of discretionary authority to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), allowing the agency to waive the double-fence requirement as well as a number of deadlines. Worse still, a law passed in 2008 erased the requirement that the fence had to be double-layered.

In other words, the last major legislation passed by Congress to build a border wall resulted in nothing more than a hodge-podge of rickety pedestrian fencing, unmanned aerial drones (which the DHS Inspector General determined were ineffective in conducting surveillance) and makeshift vehicle barriers masquerading as meaningful border security.

This raises a critical point for the 72 percent of Republicans that favor a border wall.

If a deal is going to be struck that exchanges DACA for a border wall, it must actually be for a border wall that prohibits movement—not an assortment of flimsy solutions that have already been proven ineffective.

How will we know if Congress is considering an operationally effective wall? It will look like the 15-foot double-layered fence in the San Diego corridor, which reduced apprehensions from 100,000 a year to 5,000.

Or it could look like the border wall in Yuma, Arizona, where border patrol agents were arresting an average of 800 illegal aliens a day until the construction of a double and triple-layered fence that included lighting, roads and increased surveillance.

It may also follow the example of the border walls constructed in 65 countries around the world, many of which successfully keep the peace in regions fraught with tension. For example, Israel’s double-layered security style fencing dropped terror attacks by 90 percent. Morocco stopped Algerian terrorist attacks after it built a 1,700-mile system of sand berms, fences and ditches. Likewise, Saudi Arabia has just built a wall along its border with Yemen to prevent entry by Yemeni-based terrorists.

All of these successful walls share a fundamental trait: they are permanent physical structures with double, sometimes triple layers of fencing. Many have security zones running down the middle, in addition to lighting, video surveillance and technology for tunnel detection.

These are all features that make a border wall successful, requirements for which must be included in any legislation that authorizes Trump’s wall. The eight border wall prototypes currently awaiting Trump’s review in California are promising starts. But as we know from previous experience, the devil is in the details.

If a big, beautiful wall is going to be successful, three things will be guaranteed: money, a firm deadline, and criteria for a permanent structure that cannot be undermined by agency bureaucrats.

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Understanding the California Mind

Nancy Pelosi gave a marathon speech on illegal immigration the other day. But how would she know much about the realities of open borders, given her palatial retreat in Northern California and multi-millionaire lifestyle that allows wealthy progressives like herself to be exempt from the consequences of her own hectoring? In the end, the House minority leader was reduced to some adolescent racialist patter about her grandson wishing to look more like his Mexican-American friend.

I was thinking of the San Francisco Democrat’s speech last week, during a brief drive into our local town, in a region that is ground zero of California’s illegal immigration experience.

Illegal immigrants are neither collective saints nor sinners, but simply individuals who arrive from one of the poorest regions in the Americas, without legality or much in the way of English, or high school education.

They encounter an American host that has lost confidence in its once formidable powers of assimilation and integration as well as its ability to mint Americans from diverse races, religions, and ethnicities. Instead, American culture has adopted an arrogant sense that it can ensure near instant parity as redemption for supposed past –isms and –ologies. That may explain the immigrant’s romance for Mexico to which he fights any return, and the ambiguity about America in which he fights to stay.

We dare not mention illegal immigration in California as a factor in the state’s implosion. But privately, residents assume it has something to do with the 20 percent of the state’s population that lives below the poverty level. Illegal immigration plays a role in the fact that one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients lives in California and that one of four state residents was not born in the United States—or that one-half of all immigrant households receives some sort of government assistance, and that one in four homeless people lives in California.

Note a final statistic. A record of nearly $30 billion a year is forecast to be sent this year as remittances home to Mexico. If the sum is assumed to be wired largely by the reported 11 million illegal aliens, then illegal immigrants are sending per capita around $2,700 home per year. Again, in per capita terms, a household of five would average about $1,100 sent home per month to Mexico—a generosity impossible without the subsidies of the American taxpayer. (Some might wonder whether the U.S. could tax that sum to build the wall or at least declare that proof of remittances disqualifies one for public support.)

Much Ruin in a State
On the way to town, I passed three neighbors’ parcels. All have something in common: several families are living on lots zoned for single-family residences in an array of illegal sheds, shacks, and stationary trailers. The premises are characterized by illegal dumping, zoning and building code violations, illegal electrical hook-ups, and petty misdemeanors of unlicensed dogs and strays. I remember similar such rural settlements from my early youth in the 1950s, over a decade after the final end of the Great Depression. Now, in our back-to-the-future state, we see some concrete reminders of what my parents used to relate about life in the 1930s.

In this strange “day in the life” melodrama, at the dry cleaner in town, a car collided with mine in the parking lot. We both got out to inspect the fender-bender damage (he had more damage—maybe in the range of $500-800—than I did—probably around $400). I showed him my license, registration, and insurance authentication and asked him to do the same to complete the exchange of information.

But he seemed either to have no license, registration or insurance authentication or was reluctant to show me what he had. I suggested then that we call the police to verify our likely insurance claims, and let them determine whether either one of us was at fault. He said no and suggested instead cash, as if perceived comparative damage outweighed assigning culpability. He spoke limited English. I gave him $50 in cash (all I had in my wallet) and he sped out. I figured that my damage would not have exceeded the insurance deductible and his was likely greater. I suppose he felt a possible insurance claim was not worth even theoretical exposure to deportation. Our negotiation was calm and respectful.

On the way home, I went a different route. The roadside of an adjoining farm parcel has become a veritable dump: I stopped and counted the following sorts of trash piled by the almond orchard: two infant car seats; one entertainment center, three bags of wet garbage, one mattress, one stroller, five tires, and a stack of broken cement, paint cans, and drywall.

Pulling into my driveway, I noticed that a pit bull mix had been dumped at my house during my brief absence (I have already five rescue dogs). We called the animal control officer and are waiting for a reply. I think the result will be predictable, as in the case of my recent misadventure in purchasing expensive solar panels: though they were installed over three months ago, I am still waiting for Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the local utility, to hook the idled system to the grid.

Some time ago I was bitten by two dogs while biking down a rural avenue nearby. The animals’ owners did not speak English, refused to tie up the unlicensed and unvaccinated biters, and in fact let their other dogs out, one of which also bit me. It took four calls to various legal authorities and a local congressional rep to have the dogs quarantined in an effort to avoid rabies shots. The owners were never cited.

The California solution is always the same: the law-abiding must adjust to the non-law-abiding. So I quit riding out here and they kept their unvaccinated, unlicensed, and untied dogs.

All that is a pretty typical day, in a way that would have been atypical some 40 years ago.

Traveling Halfway in Reverse
In California, civilization is speeding in reverse—well aside from the decrepit infrastructure, dismal public schools, and sky-high home prices. Or rather, the state travels halfway in reverse: anything involving the private sector (smartphones, Internet, new cars, TV, or getting solar panels installed) is 21st-century. Anything involving the overwhelmed government or public utilities (enforcing dumping laws, licensing dogs, hooking up solar panel meters to the grid, observing common traffic courtesies) is early 20th-century.

Why is this so, and how do Californians adjust?

They accept a few unspoken rules of state behavior and then use their resources to navigate around them.

1) Law enforcement in California hinges on ignoring felonies to focus on misdemeanors and infractions. Or rather, if a Californian is deemed to be law-abiding, a legal resident, and with some means, the regulatory state will audit, inspect, and likely fine his property and behavior in hopes of raising revenue. That is a safe means of compensating for the reality that millions, some potentially dangerous, are not following the law, and can only be forced to comply at great cost and in a fashion that will seem politically incorrect.

The practical result of a schizophrenic postmodern regulatory and premodern frontier state? Throw out onto the road three sacks of garbage with your incriminating power bill in them, or dump the cooking oil of your easily identifiable mobile canteen on the side of the road, and there are no green consequences. Install a leach line that ends up one foot too close to a water well, and expect thousands of dollars of fines or compliance costs.

2) Elite progressive virtue-signaling is in direct proportion to elite apartheid: the more one champions green statutes, the plight of illegal aliens, the need for sanctuary cities, or the evils of charter schools, so all the more the megaphone is relieved that housing prices are high and thus exclusionary to “them.”

The more likely one associates with the privileged, so too the more one avoids those who seem to be impoverished or residing illegally, and the more one is likely to put his children in expensive and prestigious private academies. One’s loud ideology serves as a psychosocial means of squaring the circle of living in direct antithesis to one’s professions. (I do not know how the new federal tax law will affect California’s liberal pieties, given the elite will see their now non-deductible state taxes effectively double.)

3) California is no longer really a single state. Few in the Bay Area have ever been to the southern Sierra Nevada foothill communities, or the west side of the Central Valley, or the upper quarter of the state. Coastal California is simply far more left-wing than other blue states; interior California is far more right-wing than most red states; increasingly, the former dictate to and rule the latter.

The sharp divide between Massachusetts and Mississippi requires 1,500 miles; in California, the similar cultural distance is about 130 miles from Menlo Park to Mendota. Add California’s neo-Confederate ideas into the equation—such as nullification and sanctuary cities—and we seem on the verge of some sort of secession. (Would the Central Valley follow the path of West Virginia, split off, and remain in the Union?)

4) The postmodern 21st-century state media in its various manifestations is committed to social justice, not necessarily to disinterested reporting. Few read about environmental lawsuits over the planned pathway of a disruptive high-speed rail project; not so in the case of planned state nullification of offshore drilling.

In many news accounts, the race and ethnicity of a violent criminal are deduced in the cynical (and often quite illiberal) reader comments that follow. Is the newspaper deliberately suppressing news information to incite readership, who, in turn, through their commentaries flesh out the news that is not reported and simultaneously spike online viewership by their lurid outrage?

Folk wisdom in California translates into something along the following lines: an unidentified “suspect” in a drunk driving accident that leaves two dead on the side of the road can for some time remains unidentified; a local accountant of the wrong profile who is indicted by the IRS has his name and picture blared.

Progressive Winners and Losers
There are progressive exceptions: universities—in email blast warnings to students and faculty about mere suspects seen on campus in connection with reported burglaries or sexual assaults—are not shy in providing physical characteristics, dress, and perceived racial identities. The media, in other words, feels by massaging its coverage of California realities, it can serve an invaluable role in guiding us to our fated progressive futures—with exceptions for income and class.

Californians, both the losers and beneficiaries of these unspoken rules, have lost confidence in the equal application of the law and indeed the idea of transparent and meritocratic government.

Cynicism is rampant. Law-abiding Californians do whatever is necessary not to come to the attention of any authorities, whose desperate need for both revenue and perceived social justice (150,000 households in a state of 40 million residents pay about 50 percent of California income tax revenue) is carnivorous.

A cynical neighbor once summed up the counter-intuitive rules to me: if you are in a car collision, hope that you are hit by, rather than hit an illegal alien. If someone breaks into your home and you are forced to use a firearm, hope that you are wounded nonlethally in the exchange, at least more severely than is the intruder. And if you are cited by an agency, hope it is for growing an acre of marijuana rather than having a two-foot puddle on your farm classified as an inland waterway.

I could add a fourth: it is always legally safer to allow your dog to be devoured by a stray pit-bull than to shoot the pit-bull to save your dog.

In the former case, neither the owner nor the state ever appears; in the latter both sometimes do.

In a state where millions cannot be held accountable, those who can will be—both to justify a regulatory octopus, and as social justice for their innate unwarranted privilege.

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A Tale of Two Countries

Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass.) had the unenviable task of rebutting President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address this week. Kennedy found himself repudiating Trump’s advocacy of traditional Democratic Party issues, including government accountability, fair trade, job training, paid family leave, prison reform, and rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

The privileged political tyro also had the misfortune of having to begrudge the tax cuts and regulatory reform that has helped create 2.4 million new jobs (200,000 of them in manufacturing), enabled employers to raise wages substantially for the first time in years, and brought black and Hispanic unemployment levels to historic lows.

How would he try to pull off this trick? By describing a country and a people that exist on a different planet in a parallel universe:

Trump’s America: We endured floods and fires and storms. But through it all, we have seen the beauty of America’s soul, and the steel in America’s spine. Each test has forged new American heroes to remind us who we are, and show us what we can be.

Kennedy’s America: We see … [h]atred and supremacy proudly marching in our streets.

Trump’s America: We saw the volunteers of the “Cajun Navy,” racing to the rescue with their fishing boats to save people in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane. . . . [S]trangers shielding strangers from a hail of gunfire on the Las Vegas strip . . . Americans like Coast Guard Petty Officer Ashlee Leppert, who . . . braved live power lines and deep water, to help save more than 40 lives. . . . Americans like firefighter David Dahlberg [who] faced down walls of flame to rescue almost 60 children trapped at a California summer camp threatened by wildfires.

Kennedy’s America: [“Dreamers”] wade through flood waters, battle hurricanes, and brave wildfires and mudslides to save a stranger.

Trump’s America: Over the last year, the world has seen what we always knew: that no people on Earth are so fearless, or daring, or determined as Americans. If there is a mountain, we climb it. If there is a frontier, we cross it. If there is a challenge, we tame it. If there is an opportunity, we seize it. So let us begin tonight by recognizing that the state of our Union is strong because our people are strong.

Kennedy’s America: Many have spent the past year anxious, angry, afraid. We all feel the fault lines of a fractured country. We hear the voices of Americans who feel forgotten and forsaken.

Trump’s America: The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion in value. That is great news for Americans’ 401k, retirement, pension, and college savings accounts. . . . [R]oughly 3 million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses—many of them thousands of dollars per worker. Apple has just announced it plans to invest a total of $350 billion in America, and hire another 20,000 workers.

Kennedy’s America: We see an economy that makes stocks soar, investor portfolios bulge and corporate profits climb but fails to give workers their fair share of the reward.

Trump’s America: We eliminated an especially cruel tax that fell mostly on Americans making less than $50,000 a year—forcing them to pay tremendous penalties simply because they could not afford government-ordered health plans. . . . One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. . . . I have directed my administration to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities. Prices will come down. . . . My administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need. The struggle will be long and difficult—but, as Americans always do, we will prevail.

Kennedy’s America: We choose a health care system that offers mercy, whether you suffer from cancer or depression or addiction.

Trump’s America: [T]o every citizen watching at home tonight—no matter where you have been, or where you come from, this is your time. If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything. . . . We want every American to know the dignity of a hard day’s work. We want every child to be safe in their home at night. And we want every citizen to be proud of this land that we love. . . . We can lift our citizens from welfare to work, from dependence to independence, and from poverty to prosperity.

Kennedy’s America: For [this administration], dignity isn’t something you’re born with but something you measure. By your net worth, your celebrity, your headlines, your crowd size. Not to mention, the gender of your spouse. The country of your birth. The color of your skin. The God of your prayers.

Trump’s America: My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans—to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream. Because Americans are dreamers too. . . . This is our new American moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American Dream.

Kennedy’s America: Their record is a rebuke of our highest American ideal: the belief that we are all worthy, we are all equal and we all count. In the eyes of our law and our leaders, our God, and our government. That is the American promise. But today that promise is being broken. By an administration that callously appraises our worthiness and decides who makes the cut and who can be bargained away.

Trump’s America: Americans love their country. And they deserve a government that shows them the same love and loyalty in return. . . . [T]his Capitol, this city, and this nation, belong to them. . . . The people dreamed this country. The people built this country. And it is the people who are making America great again. . . . As long as we have confidence in our values, faith in our citizens, and trust in our God, we will not fail.

Kennedy’s America: And to all the “Dreamers” watching tonight, let me be clear: Ustedes son parte de nuestra historia. Vamos a luchar por ustedes y no nos vamos alejar. … You proudly marched together last weekend—thousands deep—in the streets of Las Vegas and Philadelphia and Nashville. You sat high atop your mom’s shoulders and held a sign that read: “Build a wall and my generation will tear it down.”

When Trump looks at America, he sees optimism and opportunity. When Kennedy looks at America, he sees despair and deprivation. Given their reactions to the State of the Union, most viewers prefer to live in Trump’s America. And that’s bad news for Democrats in the midterm elections when voters choose actual candidates, not answer poll questions about generic ballots.

America • American Conservatism • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Congress • Donald Trump • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Infrastructure • Post

Drowning the Swamp

President Trump heeded the urgings of his putative friends and vociferous foes for a uniting speech to Congress. The nags got what they deserved: Trump’s statesmanlike analysis of the stasis, or gridlock, that infects Washington.

The most successful partisanship is that which has the patina of nonpartisanship. Americans have always despised parties—understanding them to be, at best, a necessary evil. Which do you prefer: the stupid party or the evil one?

President Trump’s first State of the Union address earns high marks for its successful partisan rhetoric—hurling his sullen Democratic opponents outside the political consensus on a host of issues. At the same time, he has shown his conservative allies on immigration how to win on their issues, appearing to offer amnesty for millions of illegals in return for other immigration policies (e.g., ending chain migration) that would blow up the leftist coalition of identity politics interests. “Americans are dreamers too,” he reminded us. And he proposed a Democratic-style infrastructure reform with a $1.5 trillion price tag to horrify his deficit hawk friends.

Thus, Trump attempts to take up this paradoxical task: he is draining the swamp by drowning or flooding it with appeals to higher principles. He speaks of the common good and good sense of the people, something forgotten or pushed aside in the more condescending rhetoric of both parties. Whether the force of these refreshing rhetorical waters will be sufficient to push through any of these policies—or whether he really wants to—are separate issues. The politics of the situation now are that whichever party suffers the most, Trump can emerge the winner. But his won’t be a mere personal victory—with his victory American principles triumph and the American people are ascendant, as I will argue.

Reading Trump’s speech in light of other State of the Union addresses makes evident its political deftness. This is not some ham-handed Bill Clinton-esque (as per his 1995 address) savaging of “illegal aliens” in a cynical ploy at triangulation (this, right after he deplored Americans for “shouting at each other more”).

Former Clinton adviser Elaine Kamarck comes closer to the mark in her rundown of State of the Union speeches throughout our history, contrasting the ridiculous with the sublime, and heaping praise on Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 address—the famous “Four Freedoms” speech. Much can be learned from that speech which stands as a standard for effective partisanship.

And as it happens, Trump’s speech meets and exceeds the criteria for success that FDR set. (Thank you, Henry Olsen.)

No Democrat today could match Roosevelt. They can only pretend to his greatness, in pantomime fashion. Roosevelt made it clear: “The best way of dealing with the few slackers or trouble makers in our midst is, first, to shame them by patriotic example, and, if that fails, to use the sovereignty of government to save government.”

In his “Second Bill of Rights” speech in 1944, Roosevelt claimed that Republicans of the 1920s embodied “the spirit of Fascism here at home.” He was not shy about suggesting that his political opponents were anti-American. In fact, Roosevelt insisted they were. Today’s Left continues with this tradition but, as I mentioned, in ways that are but a pathetic echo of Roosevelt and out of touch with the animating spirit of the American people.

In point of fact, it is bizarre that anyone could accuse Trump of fascism or authoritarianism when the Left’s favorite or second-favorite president took such pleasure in wielding power, often recklessly. But Democrats remain as ignorant of their own party’s history as they are of what constitutes America’s core.

As we see from Trump’s speech on Tuesday, he is the one who best embodies the strength of Roosevelt and the moderation of Reagan. Who stands for freedom of speech today? Not the universities or the media, but the leading enemy of political correctness, Trump. Who stands for robust freedom of religion? Not the Democrats.

Roosevelt also hailed “equality of opportunity” and “The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living” among the traits of democratic life. Contemporary elites do not think in such terms, though ordinary people do. These were themes in Trump’s address as he spoke of America as a “nation of builders.” Trump, the consummate builder, turns out to know a thing or two about what it takes to build a great people.

A prosperous economy and peace at home and abroad also reflect Trump’s economic policies on taxes, trade, and regulation and his America-First foreign policy. They add up the security FDR sought for the ordinary citizen ensured by our unquestioned strength at home and abroad.

Trump’s attacks on the “administrative state” reflect those of Reagan in his first inaugural: “From time to time, we have been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?” So let cabinet secretaries fire their bureaucrats!

Love of country makes demands on the government, Trump explained: “Americans love their country. And they deserve a government that shows them the same love and loyalty in return.” Following an artful weaving of extraordinary stories of individual heroism with policy positions, Trump’s final defense of American greatness is his flooding of the swamp.

“And freedom stands tall over one more monument: this one. This Capitol. This living monument to the American people . . . this Capitol, this city, and this nation, belong to them.” Which means, “Our task is to respect them, to listen to them, to serve them, to protect them, and to always be worthy of them.” Trump returned to the themes of his inaugural and contrasted the real Capitol, the mostly dubious sorts in front of him, with his ideal Capitol of the American people, such as the heroes in the gallery. Trump is their tribune.

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.

Administrative State • America • American Conservatism • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Democrats • Donald Trump • Economy • Government Reform • Immigration • Infrastructure • Law and Order • Post • self-government • Terrorism • The Left • Trump White House

Trump Restores the ‘We’

In The Meaning of Conservatism and several other books, the English philosopher Roger Scruton argues for the importance of the first-person plural—the “We” that binds us together as a community, a people, a nation. Tuesday night, in his magnificent State of the Union Address, Donald Trump did something similar.

Trump’s speech was full of memorable lines: the “new American moment,” “Americans are Dreamers, too,” “complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation.” But perhaps the most memorable line, playing off the president’s campaign slogan, came at the end: “It is the people who are making America great again.”

Any dispassionate observer has to acknowledge that over the last year Donald Trump has given a series of great speeches. I use the word “great” advisedly. His speech in Riyadh about naming and battling Islamic terrorism; in Warsaw about supporting the core values of Western civilization; national security speeches emphasizing the ideal of peace through strength. Those were speeches for the history books. And on top of all those was Tuesday night’s speech at the Capitol. Its theme? Putting aside the partisan passions that divide us in order to go forward as a people united in the goal of making a better America.  

Republican pollster and former Trump critic Frank Luntz was stunned by the address. The speech was, Luntz said in one tweet, “a perfect blend of strength and empathy.” In another, he added: “Tonight, I owe Donald Trump an apology. Tonight, I was moved and inspired. Tonight, I have hope and faith in America again.”

Many people agreed with him. And it is easy to see why. Over the past year, Donald Trump has racked up victory after victory. In his judicial appointments, in his energy policy, his attack on illegal immigration, his efforts to dismantle or at least pare back the Leviathan that is the administrative state, scrapping the individual mandate of Obamacare, hugely reducing the tax burden for both businesses and individuals, strengthening America’s military: in these and other initiatives he has taken bold steps to fulfill his campaign promises to return power from Washington to the People and “make America great again.”

And his efforts have borne fruit, as the evidence of the stock market, consumer confidence, new jobs, historically low unemployment, and robust economic growth demonstrate.

As Frank Luntz suggested, the great art of Trump’s speech was its dialectic of compassion and composure. It would be nice, Trump said, if someday in the future mankind could dispense with the awesome instruments of war and live in peace. But until that utopian day arrives, the better part of wisdom is articulated in Kipling’s “The Gods of the Copybook Headings”:

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.

Trump’s speech reached with an open hand across the bitter partisan divide that has disfigured our public life these last couple of decades and whose destructiveness was ratcheted sharply upwards with this president’s improbable election. There were two leitmotifs to his speech: strength, on the one hand, and a willingness to compromise on the other. The pressing question for what the commentator Ron Radosh has eloquently called the “leftover Left” is whether they will grasp the proffered hand or drown in their own petulance.

The evidence on display last night was not encouraging as the bitterest precincts of Democratic animus were on parade. The president announces that black unemployment is the lowest on record. The red side of the chamber, and many sensible Democrats, rise and applaud. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and their churlish partisan enablers like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer glower and remain seated.

Tuesday night, caught unawares on the stage of history, the childish party looked like so many deer caught in the headlights of actual progress. There they sat, mute and frozen as ideas and accomplishments they might well have lauded only yesterday were trotted out in quick succession. Donald Trump was cheerfully, extravagantly specific as he peppered the crowd with aspiration after aspiration, achievement after achievement. $4,000 extra a year for a middle-class family of four making $75,000 per annum, Kemo Sabe—and what (the implied question was) has the other side done for you lately? It was said with a smile. It was all delivered with seriousness and patience and patently genuine concern.

Donald Trump had plans and policies; he came bearing understanding and accomplishments and a willingness to compromise on such key issues as immigration reform. The Democrats—the Pelosi-Schumer Axis of it, anyway—came bearing its hatred of Trump. The commentary on the speech reeked of sweaty desperation. Fact checkers discovered that Donald Trump exaggerated when describing his tax cut as the biggest ever. It was only one of the biggest ever. See? See?

That was it really. That’s all they have. “The Resistance.” “Literally Hitler.” Scream at the sky, comrades! A truly pathetic commentator at Slate (pardon the pleonasm) asserted that, when Trump called on Congress to empower the Cabinet to dismiss federal workers who were not doing their jobs, he was asking Congress “to end the rule of law.” Yes, really. This is not provocative. It is sclerotic, partisan insanity. It reminded me of the end of Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias”:

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

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.

Administrative State • American Conservatism • Congress • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Greatness Agenda • Identity Politics • Immigration • Infrastructure • Obama • Political Parties • Post • The Constitution • The Culture • The Left • The Resistance (Snicker)

10 Things the President Could Say to Drive the Left Even Crazier (2018 State of the Union Edition)

Part of the fun of Donald Trump’s presidency has been watching him strip the thin veneer of sanity away from the formerly “respectable” Left. Then again, how sane can anyone be who insists that the former Bruce Jenner is, in fact, a woman . . .

President Trump seems to understand the fun here. And along the way, it appears that he has taken some of our suggestions:  He has driven the Left nuts by defending Western Civilization, (a suggestion from our second list), and his administration is, in fact, cracking down on discrimination against Asian Americans at Harvard. (A suggestion in our first list). President Trump, meanwhile, has yet to take up our favorite suggestion—from a commenter on our first list, in fact—to “identify as a woman and claim to be the first female president.” Maybe he’s saving that one for Mother’s Day?

Tonight, however, we have the president’s first State of the Union. Even though the speech has been in the works for weeks, we humbly offer 10 very late additions to drive the Left even crazier. Because prime time is the right time. Here we go…

  1. With Democrats expected to have “Dreamers” as guests in the gallery, President Trump should be sure to have a line or two in his speech quoting Democrats on immigration. For example, he might cite Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who once said, “When we use phrases like ‘undocumented workers,’ we convey a message to the American people that their government is not serious about combating illegal immigration.” He might also cite Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who observed: “‘open borders’ is a Koch brothers proposal.”
  2. Continuing with the immigration theme, he should note, “It’s not right that the United States should take all of the best and brightest from Africa. That just makes inequality worse . . .”  
  3. He might also highlight the scandal of New York City taxi drivers refusing to pick up black CEOs on Wall Street. And then he should point out that most NYC cab drivers are from immigrant communities. Assimilation, it turns out, is essential for combating racism.
  4. Trump should quote the “Rev.” Jesse Jackson calling abortion “genocide” of black babies, and note the tendency of Planned Parenthood to put clinics in minority neighborhoods. He could also mention that Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger once gave a speech to the Ku Klux Klan. (Snopes can explain it away all they want—our understanding is we’re living under a kind of “one drop rule” for associating with racists.)
  5. Propose an “Alternative Maximum Tax” of 25 percent or 33.3 percent of income in any given year. Because some guys need to pay.
  6. Name check domestic terrorist Bill Ayers. Ask why President Obama commuted the sentence of the terrorist Oscar Lopez-Rivera.
  7. Call for a commission of historians to study a century of Soviet or Russian efforts to influence American politics, from Hollywood to the anti-fracking movement and beyond—including Russian efforts to undermine Trump after the election.
  8. Call his infrastructure bill the “National Recovery Act” to “Make America Great Again.” Borrow Roosevelt’s logo from the original NRA.
  9. End Justice Department use of “disparate impact.” Discrimination is terrible, but, as scientists always remind us, correlation is not causation.
  10. Invite Howard Root and victims of John Doe in Wisconsin as well as other targets of abuse by government employees to be his special guests at the State of Union. Then mention that while he is a big supporter of private sector unions, he plans to rescind President Kennedy’s executive order allowing federal government workers to bargain collectively. And, of course, he should quote Franklin Roosevelt’s opposition to unionizing government workers in the first place.

What did we miss? Add your comments! And God bless America.

*The Editors would like to acknowledge the help of our pseudonymous friend, “Freeborn American,” in compiling this list as well as the others we have posted periodically.

America • American Conservatism • Americanism • California • Cities • Conservatives • Democrats • Economy • Elections • GOPe • Government Reform • Infrastructure • Political Parties • political philosophy • Post • Progressivism • Republicans • self-government • Silicon Valley • taxes • The Culture • The Left • Uncategorized

California’s Left-Wing Oligarchy Profits from “Scarcity”

There is no good reason for home prices and rent to be so much more expensive in California than they are in the rest of the country. The supposed shortages of land, energy, and water, as well as the poor condition of our roads and freeways, are all problems that might have been avoided by good government.

California’s punitively high cost of living is the result of conscious choices made by California’s state legislature, and the primary force behind these choices is not desire to protect the environment, it is greed. The people who profit by artificial, contrived scarcity, don’t want anything to change. They are the utility companies, the trial lawyers, the Silicon Valley “green” entrepreneurs, and billionaires who already own the artificially limited supplies of land and housing.

California receives between 150 and 300 million acre feet of precipitation per year. This, plus desalination and sewage reuse, along with reasonable conservation measures, guarantee ample supplies of water. There is no water shortage, only a shortage of creative policies to increase water supply.

California has 163,000 square miles of land, and less than one-fourth of that land is prime agricultural land. In fact, the absolute prime farmland is less than one-tenth of that amount. It is an absurd falsehood to state that new suburbs, even if they’re built to house another 10 million residents, are going to use up all of California’s open land. There is no shortage of land.

California sits on the Monterey shale formation, a massive onshore deposit of oil and gas that could yield tens of billions of barrels of oil. If California permitted safe extraction of in-state natural gas and built natural gas power plants to generate more electricity, their electricity would be cheap and affordable instead of the highest priced in America. There is no shortage of energy.

Public sector unions, the senior partners in California’s leftist coalition, love the doctrine of scarcity. When no tax revenue goes into infrastructure spending, there’s more money available to keep their pension systems solvent. Endlessly appreciating asset values thanks to artificial scarcity also helps the pension funds which invest in these assets. And when home prices are stratospheric, property tax revenue also helps pay their bloated compensation. Ironically, if these public servants made less, it would help free public investment in infrastructure to lower the cost-of-living so they wouldn’t have to make so much to live and work there.

California’s left-wing oligarchy distracts voters with unfounded panic over environmental concerns, as if Californians, of all people, cannot figure out how to safely build up water infrastructure, energy extraction, and new home construction. Public funds, and, more significantly, unleashed private funds and private investment via regulatory reform, could easily facilitate abundant supplies of water, energy, and housing.

The trump card used to stifle dissent, however, is the threat of “climate change,” wherein virtually any development, anywhere, is alleged to contribute to “greenhouse gas emissions.” California’s left-wing oligarchy has convinced the average Californian that anyone who even questions these theories is either morally bankrupt or mentally unhinged. All development projects must tip-toe around the beast of climate change, which in practical terms means only permitting ultra-high density housing and rationing of energy and water.

If that trump card isn’t sufficient, and it usually is, the other trump card wielded by California’s left-wing oligarchs is to completely change the subject, and convince millions of voters that the only thing really worth thinking about are issues of race and gender discrimination—concerns that have far less basis in fact than the reality of California being totally unaffordable. And they are laughing all the way to the bank.

America • California • Democrats • Infrastructure • Post

Will Unfinished Train Overpasses Become California’s Stonehenge?

Nobody quite knows who built Stonehenge some 5,000 years ago in southern England. The mysterious ring of huge stone monoliths stands mute.

Californians may leave behind similarly enigmatic monuments for puzzled future generations. Along a 119-mile pathway in central California from Bakersfield to Madera, there are now huge, quarter-finished cement overpasses. These are the totems of the initial segment of a planned high-speed-rail corridor.

Californians thought high-speed rail was a great idea when they voted for it in 2008. The state is overwhelmingly progressive. Silicon Valley reflects California’s confidence in new-age technology. Californians are among the highest-taxed citizens in the nation. They apparently are not opposed to borrowing and spending for ambitious government projects—especially to alleviate crowded freeways.

Planners assured voters that the cost for the first 520 miles was going to be an “affordable” $33 billion. The rail line seemed a good way to connect the state’s economically depressed interior with the affluent coastal corridor.

The segment from Madera to Bakersfield was thought to be the easiest to build. Rural land was cheaper to acquire in the interior of California. The route was flat, without the need to bore tunnels. The valley is considered seismically stable. Economically depressed counties welcomed the state and federal investment dollars.

But projected costs have soared even before one foot of track has been laid. The entire project’s estimated costs, according to various projections, may have nearly doubled. The current cost for the easiest first segment alone has spiraled from a promised $7.8 billion in 2016 to an estimated $10.6. There is no assurance that enough Central Valley riders will wish to use the line.

The real problem is that this environmentally friendly mass transportation project is being undertaken in a state known for high taxes, litigiousness, chronic budget crises, byzantine regulations, a dysfunctional one-party political system and challenging geography.

Will the federal government bail out California high-speed rail? So far, the Trump Administration has shown no real affinity for blue-state California in general, or for the idea of subsidizing mass transit in particular.

Can California find its own money? Maybe not. The state has been on a spending spree driven by social welfare and health-care and pension costs. The state budget has ballooned 44 percent over the last seven years to an inconceivable $190 billion when all annual costs (including bond spending and special funds) are added up.

More worrisome, new federal tax codes allow only $10,000 in state and local tax deductions. Given California’s exorbitant taxes and property assessments, high-end earners will soon learn that what they owe the IRS has skyrocketed.

How will the state raise taxes even higher when only about 150,000 households out of 40 million state residents already pay almost half the state’s income tax? Given the proximity of several low- and no-tax states, thousands of affluent retirees might move once they see the effects of losing federal tax deductions.

California imposed new taxes on gasoline and licenses to raise $5.2 billion in order to fix decrepit roads—which in some sense were shorted by the decision to spend billions on high-speed rail. Some surveys rate the state’s once cutting-edge freeways among the worst in the country. There is not much of a fallback tax base. California has the nation’s highest percentage of impoverished residents when factoring in cost of living. One in three welfare recipients in the United States lives in the California. One in four California residents was not born in the United States.

Outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown just warned that in the foreseeable future it may be impossible to honor pension obligations to the state’s retirees. They may be already underfunded by nearly half a trillion dollars. California’s once-impressive annualized GDP is slowing. Despite the tech boom and the national economic renaissance, the state has recently slipped from fifth in America to 35th in annual economic growth.

How has California’s state government reacted to the challenges to the high-speed-rail project?

The state is still talking about a new $400 billion single-payer health plan. It just became a sanctuary state, vowing to resist enforcement of federal immigration law and to use state funds to sue on behalf of undocumented immigrants. In crazy (and likely illegal) fashion, the panicked legislature is dreaming of schemes to redefine state taxes as “charitable contributions” to dodge new IRS rules.

Central Valley drivers on the state’s main north-south artery, State Route 99—often referred to as the “highway of death”—are frequently bottlenecked in ancient two-lane “freeways” that ironically run right next to unfinished high-speed-rail overpasses.

The answer to all these premodern problems of financial insolvency, illegal immigration and mass transportation is not postmodern dreaming. If the state does not wake up fast, future generations of Californians will wonder who built the mysterious Stonehenge-like monoliths — and why?

(C) 2018 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

America • civic culture/friendship • Congress • Democrats • Donald Trump • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Infrastructure • Post • Republicans • self-government • The Constitution • The Left

DACA, the Wall, and the Deal

Earlier this week President Trump, in a masterful political move, invited some top congressional leaders to discuss immigration with him on live television at the White House. Trump was engaged, humorous, showing himself to be extremely reasonable as he controlled the conversation for almost an hour. And despite the breathless narrative of the Left in recent days, he also showed that he is very much in possession of his mental faculties (thank you, very much). It was a brilliant move, one likely inspired by Trump himself.

Now, with the Russia collusion fairytale in shambles, and the economy and markets picking up steam, President Trump’s political capital is growing with some initial good news from tax reform. Republicans on the Hill are warming to him because, as the saying goes, “Nothing succeeds like success.” Or, to be more blunt, everyone likes a winner, and Trump is winning.

Yet the immigration issue, especially as it applies to DACA, is one that should be navigated carefully. Trump has made it clear that there is no deal on DACA if there is no wall. But it’s not so simple as a straight up trade of DACA for the wall, and in the days following the meeting, the White House has correctly laid out the parameters for the potential DACA deal: funding for a physical wall and other border security measures, an end to chain migration, and an end to the visa lottery system. In a perfect world, voter ID and E-verify would be added as well, though those are likely to be a part of the much larger immigration reform.

In return for those items, it should be stressed that the deal for Dreamers is not immediate citizenship, but potentially green cards and a five-year process to become citizens. They would give them immediate legal status to prevent deportation. The fact of the matter is that it is in no one’s interests to deport the Dreamers, and in spite of a vocal minority, many in Trump’s base don’t believe it is the right thing to do. And yes, in this process the Dreamers would be put on a path to citizenship. While some will decry that they came illegally, it should also be acknowledged that they came as children and not of their own volition.

What is fascinating to watch in this debate is the Democrats seeming abhorrence to a physical wall. Not so long ago, Democrats actually used to be for physical barriers on the southern border. In 2006, four Democrat Senators by the names of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer voted for the funding for the Yuma Sector Wall. That wall, essentially a massive 20-foot high steel curtain, has brought about a decrease of over 90 percent in illegal crossings since it was built. The fact is, strong physical barriers work. Hungary’s heavy fencing on its 96-mile wall with Serbia has cut illegal crossings to almost nothing. Israel’s 143 miles of heavy fencing on its southern border in the Sinai has cut illegal crossings from hundreds a month to only 11 total in 2016, a 99 percent drop in illegal crossings.

President Trump is absolutely correct in stressing there must be a wall, because it really was one of the top three reasons he was elected. People did not chant, “Build the fence!” at his rallies. They chanted, “Build the wall!” It would be viewed as a deep betrayal if there was not full funding for the southern wall. By the Department of Homeland Security’s estimates in February 2017, 1,250 miles of wall—with some fencing—would cost $21.6 billion and take three and a half years to build. There are expectations that this is the minimum funding needed to build the wall. It is also expected by Trump’s base that in many places as possible there will be a physical wall.

The framework for much of this overarching deal is laid out in Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s proposed legislation. Everyone from Speaker Ryan to Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), leader of the Freedom Caucus, have expressed support for Goodlatte’s bill, with many feeling that the bill could in fact pass the House. What the Senate would do is, of course, anyone’s guess.

We are in a moment where there can be a major reset on our immigration policy in this country. Because our failures on immigration have been building for decades, resulting in a snarled, warped system, the untangling and cleaning up of it will be messy.  

 

But in politics there is the art of principled pragmatism, in which two deeply opposed parties come to the table and understand each with get something they want and also walk away from the table feeling like they didn’t get enough.

 

If the Democrats are serious about protecting the Dreamers, they will take this deal. They will get legal status for them and get them on a path to citizenship. In return, Trump will get his wall and Republicans would get an end to chain migration and the absurd visa lottery. While this potential DACA deal won’t solve all of our immigration problems, it would be a significant step in the right direction.

America • Cities • Donald Trump • Economy • Environment • Infrastructure • Post • Trade

On the Road Again: Fixing America’s Infrastructure

There is no road ahead for America without the roadways of America: the literal highways that form our Interstate Highway System. Those highways are the great achievement of President Eisenhower and a chance for our current president to achieve greatness in his own right. Repairing those highways would be a stroke of genius by President Trump.

These highways run longer than any river or railroad. They traverse the country with almost twice the mileage of the circumference of the earth—and they will collapse into the earth, bigger than the biggest sinkhole in history, unless we undertake one of the biggest military missions in history.

This is a military mission because the Interstate Highway System is the result of Eisenhower’s insistence on defending the nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic. It was then, and is now, an inseparable part of our personal freedom and our national independence; because a country that does not know itself cannot begin to protect itself, not when it allows that which connects the country to secede from the States through neglect and mismanagement. The preservation of that highway system echoes not from the road, but from the rostrum, where President Trump said: “We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.”

Those roads are wonderful things. They never cease to attract the attention of adventurers even after the adventure ceases; as the roads do cease, when they merge elsewhere or end where there is nowhere else to go, while the journey continues—the cause endures on the page and on the stage—introducing us to characters as romantic as any riverboat captain and as solemn as any solitary man.

The story thrives on the radio, where the needle on the AM dial receives the voice of a journeyman of the airwaves; the DJ and raconteur who, between changing records and breaking for a word from his sponsors, tells hour-long tales that last for many more hours, in the hearts and minds of listeners, as the miles pass and the hours go by.

This fabulist has no script, which makes his performance all the more impressive, since there is an epic quality to the way he talks. He is a monologist who uses his studio as a campfire, making the radio panel glow wherever the signal reaches a driver; wherever that signal fills the interior of a car with the sound of everyone’s favorite uncle, of the narrator of a series of stories about family trips gone awry and holidays gone haywire, where the host’s “old man” does battle with a variety of foes, from a blasted basement furnace to a pack of mongrel dogs.

His talk entertains us, while talk radio engages us. Both are products of the highway, because there is no Rush (Limbaugh) without rush hour. There is no talk, period, without that ribbon of highway and that endless skyway. This land is not your land—this land is not our land—without the Interstate Highway System that was made for you and me.

This land is no land, then, for scenes about ingénues and ennui. Nor is it the place for an actress who wants to feel the rhythm of the fast lane and ride the rapids of the freeway. Not unless she plans to play a soldier or spy who races through the streets of Baghdad or Basra, where she dodges rocket-propelled grenades and sniper fire, while she drives from some pockmarked shell of an apartment building to a safe house on the outskirts of town. Not unless her car has the shocks of a monster truck, because our highways can inflict as much damage as any improvised explosive device.

President Eisenhower would not recognize these highways, were he alive today, because he would sooner diagnose himself with battle fatigue than accept this attack on his legacy. He would not be wrong to think so, given the transformation of America from the landscape of the victor into the homeland of the vanquished.

This assault from within threatens our physical safety and our fiscal solvency. It forces drivers to turn around, while local businesses see no turnaround in sight. It proves the obvious; that a nation cannot be great if its infrastructure is in gruesome shape; that an external blight can worsen into an economic burden; that an internal crisis can become a source of international condemnation.

We ruin the greatness of America when we run roughshod over the legends of America. When we turn the dream of the open road into a nightmare of road closures and foreclosure signs. When the freedom to drive anywhere yields to the fear of never leaving our driveways. We become, in a way, less American.

The hope of a better road ahead must sustain us, provided we uphold the promise to restore our most important roads. Those roads are the lifeblood of the last best hope of earth. They link the beauty of America with the bounty of America, from sea to shining sea.

It would be a disgrace to let those roads deteriorate further. It is a disgrace to have permitted the slow undoing of those roads, year after year, until all the hopes of future years depend on what we do this year.

Good, in this respect, is not good enough. Not when the price of greatness is responsibility. Not when it is our responsibility to make America great again.

American Conservatism • Congress • Conservatives • Deep State • Donald Trump • GOPe • Government Reform • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Infrastructure • Post • Trade

2018: A Year of ‘Must-Haves’ for the Trump Agenda

For President Trump and his supporters, there is no denying that 2017 has been a phenomenal year. On every front imaginable—from the economy and foreign policy to illegal immigration and the judiciary—things have been getting better as the president fulfills many of his promises.

But 2018 should be even better.

Without question, one of the biggest blights on Trump’s first year in office was the inefficiency of the Republican Congress. For almost a full year, the Republicans on Capitol Hill—and particularly in the Senate—became notorious for infighting over the very issues they promised to address for almost a decade. They spent six months working first on efforts to repeal Obamacare. A handful of belligerent and self-interested senators scuttled the effort. They spent another six months working on tax reform, which narrowly passed in both houses, finally marking a major legislative achievement.

In the midst of all that chaos and drama, congressional Republicans seem to have forgotten why they hold (slim) majorities in the House and the Senate. And many of them have no idea why Trump is in the White House. Their amnesia and general cluelessness threaten their hold on power in the coming election year.

Remember: Trump ran on a very different platform than conventional Republicans. Where most Republicans focused on Obamacare, he homed in on immigration; where Republicans focused on taxes, Trump talked about trade. As previous Republican presidential candidates foundered on uninspiring fiscal issues, Trump drove voter enthusiasm and successful crossover appeal with key issues that have long-term implications for the very fabric of our nation.

Quite simply, he won on three issues: Immigration, trade, and infrastructure. Immigration fired up the base, while trade and infrastructure are what won him support in the Rust Belt from former Democrats or previously apathetic voters. Focusing on immigration and trade roused previously unenthusiastic voters because those issues speak to the palpable decline of our country, our culture, and our economy. These voters in Rust Belt states were the first to feel the effects of this decline and they see things that those elected to represent them have chosen to ignore. There is a reason why supporters at Trump rallies were chanting “Build the wall!” instead of “tax re-form!” Trump knew which issues would drive up enthusiasm, and he ran with all of them.

And yet, with 2017 coming to a close, the Republican Congress has yet to address any one of those three issues.

Too Much Time on Old Issues
Where is the infrastructure bill? Nowhere. Where are the immigration reforms? The revolutionary
RAISE Act, sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) and endorsed by Trump, has fallen off the political radar. While the House has approved other key immigration legislation such as Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, as well as funding for Trump’s border wall, the Senate has taken no action.

Instead, the Congress has focused on the same tired old issues that establishment Republicans have touted for years: Obamacare repeal (which failed, and was only partially enacted by Trump’s executive order and then the tax bill’s repeal of the individual mandate) and tax reform (which, again, passed by the skin of its teeth).

Now there is talk, even as Trump economic advisors such as Gary Cohn want to tackle infrastructure next, congressional Republicans would prefer to take on welfare reform instead. While these are issues that Trump would support, they are not his signature and winning issues.

As such, the Republican majorities in both houses are in great peril because of their own stubbornness, selfishness, and short-sightedness. They have hijacked the Trump Train and replaced its cargo with the conventional GOP agenda that has never been able to sustain a winning national coalition.

Congressional Republicans have cast aside the key issues of immigration—which the base desperately wants handled—as well as trade and infrastructure—which could make or break the GOP’s future in the Electoral College. Trade and infrastructure, quite simply, would bring hundreds of thousands of former Rust Belt Democrats into the Republican fold. If Trump single-handedly locked down the Rust Belt in 2020—perhaps even flipping Minnesota in addition to holding Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—then the GOP would become competitive again against the Democrats’ new blue wall of the Northeast and the West Coast.

Aside from the low approval ratings for Congress, the effects of this blind rejection of the Trump agenda are telling. The latest example is the debacle of the special Senate election in Alabama; with the turnout at a measly 40 percent, Roy Moore lost because enough Republican voters stayed home and allowed Democrat Doug Jones to win the seat.

Low Republican turnout represents a sheer lack of enthusiasm for Republicans in Congress, who are ignoring the will of the voters even as they struggle to pass their own agenda. Voters in Alabama saw this race for the Senate—by far the more incompetent of the two houses of Congress—and essentially said “What’s the point? The Senate Republicans don’t get anything done anyway. And they’re not even addressing the issues that we want addressed.” This widespread decrease in enthusiasm could prove disastrous in 2018.

An Agenda More Popular Than the Man
It is no secret that Trump is the only reason many voters still remain with the Republican Party. He is the reason for the RNC’s
record-breaking fundraising over the course of 2017, far outpacing the DNC during this same period of Obama’s presidency, and leaving the current DNC in debt. Gallup polls show that he is the most popular president in modern history among Republican voters. Trump and his policies are far more popular than the old-school Republican Party’s policies, and Trump’s policies are even more popular than Trump himself. Gone away is any semblance of popularity for the Bush-era neoconservative agenda; here to stay is the national populist agenda that gave Trump the White House. Addressing Trump’s issues is clearly the best way for legislative Republican candidates to go.

It is understandable why Trump would prefer the congressional GOP take the reins on the legislative calendar of 2017. He had just assumed his first political office ever and still needed to learn the ropes, on top of dealing with many of the executive matters such as regulations and foreign policy. And given that set of circumstances, he has fulfilled many promises. His foreign policy has even drawn concessions from the New York Times, his regulatory rollbacks are hitting unprecedented levels, and he has easily ripped up bad international deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris Climate Accord, the “Cuban Thaw,” and the Iran Deal.

But if Trump hopes to see the core of his agenda actually implemented into law, he needs complete the take over of the party in 2018. That year must become the year of the Trump agenda, just as much in Congress as it is in the White House.

Whose Party Now?
In January, Trump should meet with all 290 Republicans in the House and Senate. He needs to make this painfully clear to them—from their year of almost nothing getting done, to their abysmal approval ratings—and he needs to put his foot down. He should emphasize that immigration is important not only for all of the obvious reasons but also to prevent the importation of millions of new Democratic voters. He must emphasize that such reform has bipartisan voter support, even if it is lacking significant Democratic legislative support. He could point, for example, to the overwhelmingly high 
approval polls for the RAISE Act in Rust Belt states. He could make the obvious point about the bipartisan appeal of infrastructure legislation. And as NAFTA renegotiations come to an end, Congress should be ready, for the sake of the country, to craft a new deal when and if he withdraws from the old deal. Trump has easily pulled out of other bad deals with no need for a replacement (TPP), but something as big as NAFTA very well could require a replacement deal—which only Congress can do.

He needs to say: “This is my party now.”

The congressional GOP can no longer just cover their ears and turn away. They tried—and barely succeeded—to ignore the Trump agenda in favor of their own in 2017. But unless they actively want to lose the 2018 midterms to the even more incompetent Democratic Party (which would be just beyond embarrassing), and thus lose their largest congressional majority in almost a century, they must face the music: They must address the national populist agenda that elected Donald Trump, and saved the GOP from electoral extinction. When Donald Trump says “This is my party now,” their only response should be: “Yes, Mr. President. Yes, it is.”

Administrative State • Big Media • Economy • Free Speech • Infrastructure • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology

Against Net Neutrality

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Net neutrality has a nice ring to it. Who doesn’t want an even playing field? But the internet evolved rapidly in a deregulated environment. And most of its trappings—a lack of censorship, equal access, tremendous diversity of viewpoint, an alternative means of accessing media, and deep stores of information—evolved before net neutrality was a legal mandate.

After numerous attempts at congressional action failed to result in new laws, the Federal Communications Commission in 2015 adopted net neutrality rules in under the leadership of Obama appointee Tom Wheeler. Now, under chairman Ajit Pai—a Trump appointee—net neutrality is at risk, as its legal underpinnings have come under greater scrutiny.

But should the end of “net neutrality” worry anyone?

Who Subsidizes Whom?
It’s worth thinking for a moment about how the internet works, and from where the FCC gets its authority. The internet, as we know, is a network. It is minimally regulated, and those regulations chiefly involve the routing of data packets and the addressing of websites. The internet involves a combination of public infrastructure as well as private architecture. The latter includes broadband cables that lead to neighborhoods, apartment complexes, and individual homes.

Internet service providers (ISPs) are a critical part of the system. They’re the ones who are paid monthly by customers for internet access and include companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. They provide the extensive and expensive “last mile” of architecture. This access is typically priced based on speed and often bundled with other offerings, such as landline telephone service, cable television, or, in the case of mobile phone providers, cellular phone service. Historically, ISPs offer something of a commodity product. And in many locales, particularly rural areas, ISP provision is not terribly competitive, growing as it does on the backbone of what were once government-protected monopolies in phone or cable television service.

As Netflix and other streaming applications have become more popular, more data-intensive use by customers taxed ISP networks that were designed for discrete and less-data-intensive website usage.

Net neutrality is particularity aimed at preventing any kind of discrimination among content, including “throttling” or price discrimination against data-hogs like Netflix. It would not allow, for example, a higher price to be charged for streaming movies versus a more modest use of data to check an email account. More important, it would not allow an ISP to privilege its own data streams; for example, if Amazon teamed with an ISP, they would not be allowed to do so in a bundled way that charged less for access by preferring Amazon’s own streaming movie and TV services. Such a joint venture couldn’t even do so in order to subsidize the extension of broadband access to rural areas currently without high-speed internet access.

Far from a sinister outlier, this kind of cross-subsidization is a familiar feature of economic life. We all know you’re not supposed to bring your own popcorn into a movie theater; the pricey concessions are part of how the theater makes a profit. In devices like Xbox or PlayStation, only compatible games work on the system. The platform provider is able to pay for its initial investment, in part, by the prospect of returns by these partially locked-in customers.

Improving Platforms
The prospect of channeling internet customer usage to favor a platform should not be worrisome, so long as there are a variety of choices on providers. These full platform modes of competition historically lead to competition at the platform level. The risk of monopoly abuse is countered because technology changes too quickly to allow any single platform to remain locked in for long.

Consider gaming systems. The move from Atari, Nintendo, and Play Station, and then to the Xbox and PS4 systems, have led to improved quality, lower prices, and wide choices for consumers. On the other hand, if Atari and its competitors were mandated to make their platforms accessible to all content providers at its height in the mid-1980s, the return on investment to create the competing platforms likely would never have occurred. But, hey, at least PacMan would be available for everybody on a “net neutral” basis.

That consequences of mandating access to ISPs as “common carriers” under Title II of the Communications Act is the chief reason conservatives should be wary of government-mandated “net neutrality.” Disruptive players are not typically neutral. They usually provide partial (and profitable) access in order to establish themselves. This model would be disallowed by “net neutrality.”

Remember the 1930s?
More ominously, numerous other regulations drafted in 1934, in the days of local telephone monopolies, could be applied to ISPs, such as limits on technology, price controls, and the like. Right now, the FCC’s “net neutrality” rules only are abstaining in this regard voluntarily, i.e., forbearance. But net neutrality rules would allow this regulatory overreach in principal.

By way of reminder, old-fashioned taxicabs are common carriers, but Uber started as a more limited access system. The unknown Uber of the future internet cannot come into existence under the net neutrality regime.

The old rules of common carriers typically involved a regulatory bargain. A limited number of cabs were permitted to operate—the limits vouchsafed by their pricey medallions—and in exchange, prices were set, and the providers were required to serve all comers on an equal basis. This limit on competition was more explicit in the case of expensive local networks with natural monopoly features, such as cable television, landline telephone, and the like.

But these natural monopolies, in spite of their monopoly protections, were often left behind by technological change. Landline use is down today due to the rise of cheap, mobile phone technology. Widespread high-speed internet access has cut into the typical “necessity” of cable television. And, as discussed above, the sharing economy has undermined the traditional market power of regulated industries like cabs, hotels, and others.

All of these disruptive technologies typically grew up not because of protective government regulation, but in spite of it. Indeed, and Uber is a perfect example, new services offered on a non-neutral basis often evolved to meet a need that was only partially and poorly met by a government regulated system.

Once upon a time, conservatives were wary of excessive regulation. They knew it meant increased government power, slowing down technological innovation, and an opportunity to substitute the goals of government regulators for the diverse desires of market participants. Attempts to corral technological growth in ways that place government regulators over ISPs are worrisome. We’ve seen other types of gatekeeping stifle technological change. One classic example is “catalytic converters,” where the technological solution was mandated by government regulators in the 1970s. Alternative, cheaper methods to accomplish the same goal have been unexplored during the interim. Similarly, in the age of “Ma Bell,” everything that hooked into the telephone network was controlled, including the telephone handsets themselves. Only when freed from regulation, did everything from answering machines to Mickey Mouse phones proliferate.

Dangers to Free Speech
The internet is empowering. But its empowering elements, not least anonymity and content neutrality, are far less endangered by the actions of ISPs than they are by the role of content aggregators like Facebook or Twitter and search engines like Google. Each of these important virtual gatekeepers has abandoned content neutrality to favor the distinct, socially liberal, but technocratic economic outlook of Silicon Valley.

In recent months, Twitter has silenced a significant number of conservative voices with their selective use of “verification” and outright bans of individuals. Facebook has gotten in bed with the Anti-Defamation League to root out “hate speech.” Web service hosts have kicked off controversial websites, almost always for right-wing views of one kind or another. And Google notoriously plays games with its search algorithm to channel viewer’s search results in a particular and ideologically-tinged direction. If these voices—some of whom are strong proponents of so-called net neutrality—continue in this direction, the prospect of neutral ISPs will matter little, as the virtual gatekeepers of the Internet will stifle free expression by leveraging their privileged, near-monopoly positions to do so.

The legacy internet—what Pai calls the “free internet”—would allow, for example, an ISP to charge Netflix or other heavy-users of web infrastructure greater access fees to reach their customers. These charges could subsidize the expansion of broadband to underserved areas. In addition, it would allow new, unseen ISPs, to offer subsidized services of their own.

Few would sign on for a highly restrictive ISP. But that doesn’t mean some might not be willing to pay less for a lower-speed offering when they currently don’t use streaming services. And fewer still would complain if that lower speed offering were bundled with limited, high-speed access to proprietary offerings made by an ISP. An overly restrictive ISP would likely face competition from alternatives, including pure wireless alternatives that can move into underserved areas with greater ease.

More internet investment and freer access to internet content is, on balance, a good thing. Like any technology, it can be used or abused. But in areas ranging from telephony to tractors, government mandates stifle innovation, favor connected companies, and allow the imposition of ideological goals. Net neutrality, far from making the internet freer, would make it more expensive, both in terms of cost and in the unknown “price” of future, ideologically driven government mandates.

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America • Center for American Greatness • Cities • Cultural Marxism • Economy • Energy • Environment • Infrastructure • Post • The Culture • The Leviathian State • The Media

Say ‘No’ to the Driverless Car—for Civilization’s Sake

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One of the hallmarks of the American experiment has been freedom of movement. Facing a vast, largely unoccupied continent, the pioneers headed west at the first opportunity, pushing the boundaries of first the colonies and then the new nation inexorably over the mountains, across the plains, past the mighty Rockies, and finally all the way to the Pacific.

James Fenimore Cooper gave this distinctly American ethos a memorable literary incarnation in the form of Natty Bumppo, the fictional hero of the Leatherstocking Tales—the most famous of which is The Last of the Mohicans, but whose titles also include The Pioneers and The Prairie.

Ever westward was Hawkeye’s motto, and Cooper’s novel both codified existing American sentiment and made it aspirational as well; whenever civilization in the form of Aunt Sally encroached, a Real American like Huck Finn simply lit out for the territory, as he does at the end of the first great American novel, Huckleberry Finn:

But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.

But an American didn’t always have to go west in order to escape “sivilization” or even just to seek his fortune in wild and woolly places. Everybody knows the opening three words of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, but to really understand this greatest of all American novels, you need to know the first three paragraphs, the first of which includes this memorable declaration of belligerent American independence:

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball.

These days, Real Americans don’t much go to sea to relieve the damp, drizzly Novembers in our souls, but we do like to fire up the muscle Mustang or the F-150 truck with the gun rack and head out on the open road, following our noses and letting the trade winds blow us where they may.

Or at least we used to like it. But with the advent of the abomination known as the “self-driving car,” one of our most precious freedoms is now in jeopardy.

I mean, who asked for this? Communists? Women? (I know, same thing, voting-wise.) Sob sisters, pantywaists, geeks, pencil necks, and nancy boys? I suspect them all. It’s bad enough to climb into the cockpit of a new car these days and be confronted with a home entertainment center on wheels, complete with giant video screens that don’t do a damn thing electronically a 1934 Packard couldn’t do manually back in the day when men were men, women loved them for it, and we had the culture to prove it.

Now what? A “self-driving” car is an oxymoron, in the same way that “paying for a tax cut” is. Someone or something is going to be driving that car, and the whole point here is that it ain’t going to be you, brother.

For while you may at first think you are directing the destination of the vehicle, the fact is you’re a passenger in a computer-controlled mobile living-room whose every move is dictated by Big Brother, whether directly or remotely. It’s bad enough now, when the computers in your car can rat you out to highway checkpoints, and your Bluetooth-connected cell phone broadcasts your whereabouts to every law enforcement officer in the county.

But once the “self-driving” car juts its snout into the marketplace, and tries to drive out the you-driving cars, whom do you think is going to be calling the shots? In quick succession, say hello to the road-mileage tax and ever more vehicles on the roads, given that no one will have to qualify for a vision-tested or skills-tested drivers’ licenses anymore.

Be also prepared for restrictions on where and when you can be chauffeured around in robot-propelled comfort; which kinds of gasoline you may purchase, and when; and with whom you may someday be forced to share your vehicle as the cars are pre-programmed at the factory to respond to commands from elsewhere, including checking IDs. We used to want God to be our co-pilot; instead, we’re going to get Google.

So buy that car you’ve been fancying—you know, the one with a functioning steering wheel, accelerator, and brakes; the one that goes where you want it to, more or less—while you still can, because an unholy alliance of national-security TSA types, social justice warriors, and tech nerds are bound and determined to take it away from you. We can’t have folks mucking about inside of Fortress America, free to go when and where they please, without so much as a by-your-leave. From King of the Road to a sack of spuds, suitable for carting, in just a few postwar generations: welcome to the world of the Emasculated American Male.

What could possibly go wrong with a technological marvel like this? Edgar Rice Burroughs told us in Thuvia, Maid of Mars:

He had been but testing an invention of his own with which his flier was equipped—a clever improvement of the ordinary Martian air compass, which, when set for a certain destination, will remain constantly fixed thereon, making it only necessary to keep a vessel’s prow always in the direction of the compass needle to reach any given point upon Barsoom by the shortest route.

Carthoris’ improvement upon this consisted of an auxiliary device which steered the craft mechanically in the direction of the compass, and upon arrival directly over the point for which the compass was set, brought the craft to a standstill and lowered it, also automatically, to the ground . . .

“In aggravated cases, that is when the obstructions are many, or of such a nature as to deflect the bow more than forty-five degrees in any direction, or when the craft has reached its destination and dropped to within a hundred yards of the ground, the mechanism brings her to a full stop, at the same time sounding a loud alarm which will instantly awaken the pilot. You see I have anticipated almost every contingency.”

The forward servant pushed almost to the flier’s side. His eyes were narrowed to slits. “All but one,” he said. “Come,” urged the Prince of Helium. “Speak!” The man hesitated. It was evident that he regretted the temerity that had made him the centre of interested observation. But at last, seeing no alternative, he spoke.

“It might be tampered with,” he said, “by an enemy.”

So just in case you think things can’t get any worse, think again: “Airbus is looking towards a future of pilotless planes.”

We’ve seen this movie before, and we all know how it ended.

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America • Center for American Greatness • China • Economy • Infrastructure • Post • Silicon Valley • taxes • Technology • Trade

Stop Griping About Musk, Start Spending on R&D Again

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Conservatives are angry about Elon Musk and all of the subsidies his companies receive from the federal government. Musk reaps hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, whether it’s lucrative contracts for SpaceX from NASA or energy rebates and other incentives to manufacture his Tesla electric sports cars. To many Americans on the right, it smacks of corporate welfare. And why in the world should the federal government subsidize a product—in this case, an electric car costing upwards of $135,000—that few people want and even fewer can afford?

But Musk’s critics miss the mark. The reason to back Musk and his ventures isn’t so one-percenters can get a discount on a new Model S. More important than the products he makes are the research and development he undertakes. Musk’s ideas will very likely result in everything from cheaper rockets and smaller, higher-capacity batteries.

Yes, of course, Musk stands to become even wealthier than he is today. But that kind of R&D is gold for the country that adopts harnesses the resulting technology first. Properly understood, R&D isn’t corporate welfare—it’s an investment in the future.

U.S. Lags in New Innovation
A generation ago, the United States led the world in semiconductor and fiber-optic technologies that fueled the information revolution. Much of the research that made those innovations possible was government-funded.

Today, China is in danger of overtaking the United States with advances in quantum computing, nuclear fusion, and renewable energy development. America is lagging in those and other fields of cutting-edge research, in no small part because we’ve let research and development slip away while our international competitors have stepped it up.

Without question, China, not the United States, is leading the way in technological innovation. A recent KPMG tech innovation survey of 841 international technology industry leaders found that most believe Shanghai, not Silicon Valley, would lead the world in innovation by 2020.

Meanwhile, China has surpassed the United States as the leader in global patent applications. Hong Kong has been ranked as the “most economically free” place in the world for the 22nd year in a row. The United States, on the other hand, is ranked 17th . . . and falling. Since the 1980s, despite billions of dollars and innumerable fads passing for “reform,” the U.S. education system largely has failed in terms of preparing Americans to compete in the global market. This, at a time when China is surging forward in producing the world’s next great innovation leaders.

And, it’s not just in the science and technology fields that Chinese students are besting their American counterparts. For instance, you’re looking for young people studying and performing the music of Bach and Beethoven, they are most likely in Shanghai, not San Francisco.

Historians once credited Islam with “preserving” part of Western civilization during the so-called “Dark Ages” in Europe. Similarly, China might one day become the place where American children from elite families go to learn and experience the treasures of the West, as Western Civilization declined into mediocrity—unless we start getting more competitive in the new global information and technology economy.

Certain Investment, Uncertain Outcome
As the United States has consistently underfunded R&D, our economy has suffered. The industries of the future all have some technological component that, if not developed fully, will hamstring the entire economy—and
weaken our national security.

Elon Musk and others like him recognize the value of developing and testing new technologies that many today consider unnecessary or haven’t bothered to consider.

The thing about innovation is that nothing is certain. Trying really does count. Ask yourself: how many people attempted to build a working flying machine before the Wright Brothers pulled it off? Did the Wright Brothers simply invent the technology from nothing, or did they build upon theories and concepts that others had tested?

Fact is, most great innovations are the result of years of trial and error. Innovation is hard to follow and, given the requirements in today’s technical world, it is an extremely onerous—and expensive—task. Yet, it is the sine qua non of a modern economy. We should be celebrating the few who have the gumption and willingness to try, not relishing in the defeats of those innovators.

Learn to Stop Worrying and Love (Some) Subsidies
Philosophically, I understand and share in a distaste for government subsidies to industry. But innovation is indispensable for remaining competitive in the world today. We should be helping innovators whenever possible, not griping about the subsidies.

Historically speaking, subsidizing successful innovations has proven to be the silver bullet for maintaining America’s overall dominance. The Chinese have no qualms about fully supporting their tech innovators—no matter how many failures those innovators may suffer before they create the next “killer app” (emphasis on “killer”).  

Here’s another fact: nonrenewable sources of energy, such as oil, natural gas, and coal, despite their popularity today, are declining in terms of availability. This explains why Russia and ExxonMobil are racing to the inhospitable Arctic in search of new oil and natural gas fields (and if they ever can tap them fully, where do they go when these new Arctic sources have been depleted in 30 or 40 years?). It’s also why Saudi Arabia is trying desperately to cut its reliance on the petro-economy by 2030. In 2015, Goldman Sachs reported that we reached peak coal, and thus far no data has arisen disproving this assessment. This also explains why China has been seriously squawking about reducing their own considerable reliance on coal.

All of this indicates that the world is going to need new sources of energy outside of fossil fuels. Neither wind nor solar are practical solutions (despite what several people, including Musk, argue). Nuclear fusion is likely going to be our future. Even if solar and wind do end up working as advertised, America will be increasingly dependent on things like electric cars. So, Tesla’s commitment to developing the electric car is a net benefit for society.

Otherwise, We Lose
Without greater direct investment in R&D, however, the only incentive the government can offer is in the form of subsidies and tax breaks. Whatever happens with the profitability of Tesla Motors, the research that Tesla has done will go a long way into making electric cars more efficient in the years ahead. As society moves closer toward fully embracing electric cars and renewable sources of energy, American firms might just have a decisive advantage, since groups like Tesla were experimenting with the technology before the Chinese ever took the product seriously.

Elon Musk isn’t our savior. And for the record, Musk this summer insisted the federal government stop subsidizing Tesla Motors. (Despite what many conservatives argue today, Tesla’s subsidies are nothing compared to the subsidies other industries receive.) Nevertheless, Musk and other innovators like him will be responsible for keeping America competitive—and dominant—in the global tech economy.

America doesn’t win just because we used to win in the past. Winning the future means making an investment today (and adapting to the new, competitive international environment, where state-owned enterprises are serious competitors for American firms). The country needs Elon Musk and the few others who are like him, and we need to help them remain competitive against cutthroat international opponents.

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2016 Election • America • Big Media • Donald Trump • Economy • Government Reform • Infrastructure • Post • Technology

How Trump’s FCC Can Help Rural America

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When Donald Trump won a surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election, he did so mainly because rural counties voted overwhelmingly in favor of the real change he promised. Voters in Livingston County in New York, where I live, gave Mitt Romney a 10-point victory in 2012—but it gave Trump a whopping 28-point victory in 2016. Rural Americans turned out for Trump-Pence in droves. This is why a county-by-county map of the election results paints an America that is virtually solid red, with only a few small islands of stubborn blue where urban liberals bucked the nationwide trend.

One reason for Trump’s popularity among rural Americans is his consistent emphasis on bringing economic opportunity to people long ago forgotten by our country’s globalized elites.

It is no secret that the steady loss of factory jobs to nations like China and Mexico has been killing many communities across the United States. Often, those job losses hurt the most in small towns and rural areas, where the departure of a single major employer can mean the difference between prosperity and destitution—and not just for those directly employed by that employer. Many of the smaller operations that grow up around the larger employer, offering support services and jobs, tend to go away as well. When bad times befall rural Americans, moreover, they often have great difficulty in pivoting to take advantage of new economic opportunities. Why? Partly because educational institutions, internships, apprenticeships, and job training programs concentrate in cities and suburbs. Not only are people in the countryside cut off from access to the kinds of opportunities urban elites enjoy, but they are also cut off from the tools to improve their skills and make connections with potential employers.

Recently, an exciting new proposal has surfaced that may allow the Trump administration, and specifically the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to turn this depressing situation around. This solution would use existing communications infrastructure to expand horizons for rural Americans in a way that wouldn’t cost taxpayers a penny. Given the economic desolation confronting so much of “Trump country,” this is an opportunity that we cannot afford to miss.

In simple terms, the idea would be to use broadcast frequencies currently dedicated to television programming to bring broadband internet access to rural America.

In today’s economy, access to broadband internet is increasingly crucial for anyone wanting to connect with employers and gain valuable new skills. More than 20 million rural Americans, however, lack broadband internet access, mainly because of the logistical and technical challenge of offering it to people living in remote locations. Virtually the entire nation, however, is already connected to the broadcast frequency infrastructure in question. It could be repurposed to serve this need rather than television broadcasts. Moreover, many of these frequencies are unused, and the provision of broadband internet to millions of forgotten Americans would require only three, 600 MHz-range channels in each market (less than 10 percent of the total number) to be reassigned this noble purpose.

Individual consumers wouldn’t be alone in gaining connectivity, either. Farms and health care providers would benefit too, boosting agricultural potential and saving lives. Nonetheless, television broadcasters are opposing this move, because they refuse to share even the frequencies they aren’t using with any other industry.

What we have here is a classic case of outdated federal regulations impeding economic progress. “Economic progress,” though, hardly seems like a strong enough term, when the very survival of many rural communities is at stake. These are the areas where the opioid epidemic, deindustrialization, depopulation, and other crises, are deeply entrenched. We should do everything in our power to help these communities.

In this case, however, the federal government doesn’t have to do anything. The feds wouldn’t have to spend any money, either. They merely need to get out of the way, stop protecting the narrow interests of the television industry, and allow the marketplace to operate freely to fill the need for broadband internet access all across America.

The dedication of the Trump Administration to extirpating unnecessary and burdensome regulation to date has been marvelous to behold, and the reaction of the stock market to President Trump’s pro-business policies speaks for itself. The Trump boom, however, cannot and should not affect only those who happen to own stocks. The forgotten millions in rural America voted for Donald Trump because they expected a genuine change in economic policies to favor “the little guy” and to protect and multiply American jobs. By updating current FCC policies on broadcast frequencies, the Trump Administration could deliver on this promise in a way that would help lift up rural America.

As President Trump said on Election Night: “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.” Now is the time to translate words into deeds, and to provide rural Americans with the educational and economic opportunities that so many of us already take for granted.

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America • Americanism • civic culture/friendship • Democrats • Donald Trump • Government Reform • Infrastructure • Post • Progressivism • self-government

Puerto Rico as Progressive Playground

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President Trump’s press conference in Puerto Rico made clear that whatever the island’s political designation may be, Puerto Ricans are Americans and he will act accordingly. The Commonwealth’s recovery—and not just from this hurricane—is part of the goal of making America great again. But the difficulties involved extend far beyond differences in political status or institutions. Clearly, Puerto Rico’s lack of a strong civic culture hinders reconstruction and the storm that caused this mess is of a kind much worse than hurricanes.

For the most part, the battered island has been portrayed in the media as utterly helpless, dependent on a trickle of U.S. aid and battling a hostile president, who because he tweeted that some Puerto Rican politicianswant everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort” is now taken to mean that there is something inherently and irredeemably wrong about the Puerto Rican people. The slander is as unjust as it was predictable. But focus on that distraction will only hinder efforts to help solve Puerto Rico’s current and ongoing real problems.

The President’s bluntness about the absence of local civic associations and vigorous local government once again exposes a sad—if incomplete—truth about Puerto Rico. It is absolutely fair to say that it lacks the emphasis on individual freedom Tocqueville appreciated in Americans, as working to benefit neighbors and cooperate in local ventures for the common good. This culture of civic engagement spurred by confident and free citizens helps explain the Texas and Florida reactions to less severe, but still deadly and destructive, storms.

But even beyond the much-commented on financial and other acute crises that permeate the culture of civic friendship in Puerto Rico, there is still more under the surface that helps to explain the deep roots of the problems that will make Puerto Rican disaster recovery much more difficult than it otherwise might have been.

The Commonwealth labors under a severe debility—not merely a “culture of poverty” abetted by Spanish imperialism—but rather its subjugation to the cutting edge of Progressive theory and practice. Puerto Rico could have been a model for how freedom might be a blessing for nations that dared for a higher dignity than colony status. Instead, as Puerto Rico was liberated from Spain, American Progressives made it a model for government planning and dependence. If President Trump is serious about deconstructing the administrative state, then those same principles that apply to the United States proper should apply even more to Puerto Rico. All Americans deserve freedom.

As crucial as Franklin Roosevelt is for understanding the way the United States is governed today, it is even more the case that understanding Rexford Tugwell (1891-1979) is crucial for understanding Puerto Rico. Tugwell was FDR’s appointee from 1941-1946 as Puerto Rico’s Governor and New Deal Brain Truster. To encapsulate the economist Tugwell’s ambitions, it is revealing that novelist Philip K. Dick (of Blade Runner fame) made Tugwell his “hero” in an earlier novel, The Man in the High Castle, about the U.S. under Nazi and Japanese rule.

The non-fictional Tugwell, however, poured his ambitions into turning Puerto Rico into a laboratory for the New Deal. He gushed that the island “was a planning agency of the kind that I had said to myself I would someday try to see set up somewhere. This was my opportunity.” According to historian Michael Lapp, “it used to be said there that when one asked Puerto Ricans to describe the typical family on the island, they would answer: ‘the father, the mother, the children, the grandparents and the resident social scientist.’” Tugwell’s conceit was that social scientists would make Puerto Rico a “showcase for democracy” and a model for post-colonial development.

Tugwell enlisted the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) to establish a planning board that would issue top-down reforms of the government, the university, and the economy, including state-owned industries and infrastructure. His successor governors continued this Progressive experimentation. The current governor, a graduate of MIT, with a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Michigan, is from the PDP.

As Lapp summarizes, Catholic “Puerto Rico in the 1950s became the chief testing ground for the birth control pill. That decade also witnessed the rapid increase in the number of sterilizations performed, to the point where, according to one study, more women had what became known as ‘la operacion’ than in any other country in the world.” Everything, including the existence of human beings, would result from planning.

Such a territory, Tugwell and later his planners averred, could provide an alternative to Communist ambitions for the Third World. The blend of races would, they hoped, present a multicultural face to the world.

But the Puerto Rico we see today is not this hoped for utopia. Instead, it is the administrative state gone amok. Tugwell’s progressive influence remains on the island, and the results should stand as a testament to the flaws of progressivism. When we see Puerto Ricans waiting for the government to act, we are seeing the atrophy of civic culture brought about by many decades of big-government Progressive ideology.

This attitude is very much the product of unhinged ideological schemes. We should keep in mind Tocqueville’s observation that Americans help out people who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances—as their fellow Americans in Puerto Rico are today—but that they cease their generosity after a while, to show that they respect the independence of the unfortunates; their inherent ability to use and enjoy their freedom.

That is what America owes all Americans. As the World Series approaches, we recall baseball heroes from Puerto Rico such as the late Roberto Clemente and Carlos Beltran, who are also our fellow Americans. Puerto Rico is part of the American team. In rebuilding the island, the Trump administration needs to roll back its Progressive legacy and allow the island to be the truly American model Governor Tugwell, because of his Progressive blinders, failed so miserably to create.

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America • Donald Trump • Infrastructure • Post • Technology

Artificial Intelligence Can Eat Me?

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I read the news today… Kick ass. Now they tell me I’m gonna get munched by a machine.

No, I didn’t have a nightmare after a 2 a.m. Taco Bell run. No, I didn’t stand too close to that musician self-medicating his “glaucoma.” What I did was to catch a tweet informing me bad times are coming for humanity, because even the Kremlin’s election hacking kingpin fears artificial intelligence will “eat us.”

As reported in a September 22 online article by the Daily Mail’s Iain Burns, during a tour of the Russian internet firm Yandex with its chief, Arkady Volozh, Vladimir Putin aired his fear that he and we could all soon be cyber-snacks. In turn, Volozh very politely countered that past technological advances have proven “better than humans,” specifically juxtaposing excavating machines against manually operated shovels. Unconvinced, Putin reiterated his AI angst that humanity could be digging its own grave.

Before one writes off Vlad the Bad as a Luddite, Tesla Founder Elon Musk has called for regulation of AI before “it’s too late.” What is ominous about this odd couple’s shared concern is that it’s also an object of concern for an increasing number of their fellow AI proponents. Perhaps their concern stems from many of them having childhood nightmares after viewing “The Terminator;” one suspects, however, far fewer of them may have ever viewed (let alone read and understood) Frankenstein.

What is really spurring their fears is the absence of a concretely defined end for AI. This creates a concomitant absence of limits on the creation or the implementation of the technology. Putin, himself, summed up this quandary by expressing his belief (hope?) that “whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” At least until said leader in turn becomes AI’s appetizer.

The problem remains rooted in the human condition: a technology is as helpful or harmful as the hand that holds it. For example, a fountain pen was a technological improvement upon a quill pen; however, either one could be used to write a poem or poke out an eye. While AI proponents endeavor to resolve this problem by by intrinsically diminishing unpredictable humanity’s control of it, they also concede ever more openly that they may not be able to control the extent to which the technology will permit human control. Of course, in their hubris, AI proponents rationalize away their concerns with the old canard that they can control their creation and, in the end, help birth a better world—you know, like when they split the atom.

Evidently dispirited by the news proving incorrect the popular myth that human beings only use 10 percent of their brain capacity, AI proponents miss a critical distinction in their blithe race to a better day. In the past, the ultimate purpose of technological advances was to improve upon humans’ external interactions with the world and each other; today, the ultimate purpose of AI is to improve upon humans. The only better day it promises is a better day for robots.

Consequently, these 21st century Frankensteins program away with their sterile-suited Igors fully cognizant that their AI monster’s raison d’etre is to get out of hand; and, coming to consider humanity an inhibiting systems virus, turn its masters into its slaves—and, per Putin, its supper.

Not being a Luddite, myself, and in full disclosure having earned a science degree (ok, it was in political science, but let’s not quibble), I’m fond of many technological advances, notably the electric guitar and distortion pedal. But what I’m not fond of is these cats taking it upon themselves to improve humanity by prying open AI’s Pandora’s Box and—oops!—too late discovering it’s a sardine can chock full of fresh slabs of you and me served up as an exotic hors d’oeuvre for our robot overlords.

Lest we find out for whom the dinner bell tolls, pray that sooner not later the proponents programming AI remember and reflect upon a humble verity before the robots label it on gas station packages of “A00100110’s 100 percent Tasty Human Jerky”: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

 

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America • Donald Trump • Economy • Energy • Environment • Greatness Agenda • Infrastructure • taxes • Technology • Trade

It’s the Capital Supply, Stupid!

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Republicans insist that creating jobs is all about “tax cuts,” while Democrats insist it is all about other people paying their “fair share” of income taxes.

Both parties buy into the fairy tale that the purpose of national economic activity is to “compete” in some fabled “global economy.” Both parties tell us we need to manipulate the tax code to move our workers into the “jobs of the future.”

Whatever those are. As if they know.

What’s worse, no amount of revenue—not even the current record-setting influx of $3.27 trillion in cash into the federal coffers this past tax season—comes close to satiating both parties’ reelection-driven lust for new and ever-higher levels of spending.

They can’t even balance a budget, these self-styled mavens of “job creation.”

Politicians: Masters of the Economy?
“It’s the economy, stupid,” was the relentless refrain of Bill Clinton’s “moderate” Democrats in the 1990s, and conventional wisdom holds that his focus on this mantra accounts for his surviving impeachment.

But the economically illiterate platforms of both parties today are double-blind proofs that the only art the parties have mastered is the art of messaging for the purpose of getting elected.

Consider the current uninspiring state of our public finances: some 20 years after the D.C. punditocracy discovered in their focus groups that the “economy” was the most important thing to most people, we are $20 trillion in federal debt with greater than $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities weighing on an economy that is struggling to eek out a paltry 3 percent annual growth rate.

We used to be wealthy, the world’s largest creditor. Now we are the biggest debtor in the history of civilization. Even faster than we became a superpower, we are becoming fiscally undone.

This is the legacy of the idea that we elect politicians to run the economy. How do we fix this?

Current Misunderstandings
In his 1952 talk, “Capital Supply and American Prosperity” the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises pinpointed what made the United States economically exceptional:

The average standard of living is in this country higher than in any other country of the world, not because American statesmen and politicians are superior to the foreign statesmen and politicians, but because the per-head quota of capital invested is in America higher than in any other countries.

He went on to explain:

Capital is more plentiful in America than in other countries because up to now the institutions and laws of the United States put fewer obstacles in the way of big-scale capital accumulation than did those foreign countries.

Finally, Mises concluded:

No party platform is to be considered as satisfactory that does not contain the following point: as the prosperity of the nation and the height of wage rates depend on a continual increase in the capital invested in its plants, mines, and farms, it is one of the foremost tasks of good government to remove all obstacles that hinder the accumulation and investment of new capital.

Donald J. Trump is the first president in my adult lifetime to grasp this truth.

Modern presidents of both parties have been strangely beholden to an ideological commitment to “free trade” (a.k.a. “fair trade”). This, combined with serial abuses of our tax code for election purposes, has assured the U.S. capital supply would eventually decline, as the law of equilibrium inexorably draws capital investment away from high-wage, high-tax nations (like ours) and redirects it to low-wage countries, even countries run by autocrats and dictators.

The only thing left to produce the illusion of prosperity when your capital supply evaporates is exactly what we’ve been living high on ever since: fiat money and federal debt.

Returning to Economic Exceptionalism
Trump’s non-ideological view of the role of government in national economic affairs, which is paradoxically both pro-labor and pro-business, expresses itself in a two-pronged policy.

First, he would remove obstacles to large-scale capital investment in American industry. Second, he would encourage such investment in American labor by capitalists—foreign and domestic—using both his bully pulpit and whatever legislative inducements he can cajole from an otherwise feckless Congress.

Trump’s “economic nationalism” rather more resembles the hybrid approach of our Founders than the laissez-faire religion of Conservatism, Inc., or the dystopian fantasies of the progressive Left.

America’s Founders rejected federal income taxes of any kind, fearing they would become oppressive and vest too much power in the national government. To raise federal revenue, they instead instituted a regime of ad valorem tariffs on all foreign merchandise. If you were an American worker or an investor in American industry, and you bought only American goods and services, then by design you paid no tax at all.

This approach put the emphasis precisely where it should be today: on making large-scale private capital investment in American labor advantageous for everyone. It protected our wage and price structure and our capital supply from all intervention, both foreign and domestic, and set the stage for the most rapid cycle of capital accumulation the world had yet seen.

In turn, the federal government had an incentive to keep conditions optimal for American workers and investors in U.S. labor, since ironically the government’s only source of revenue was from foreign trade.

A Congress thus incentivized doesn’t argue about raising self-imposed “debt ceilings,” or “creating jobs of the future,” much less “healthcare for all,” or greasing a glide path to citizenship for illegal aliens, but focuses instead on performing its enumerated constitutional duties, strictly within its results-based means.

In a world of constant conflict over finite resources, economics is not some monopoly board game played by career politicians, but a matter of life and death for any society that seeks the unique combination of political independence, economic prosperity, and peaceful republican self-rule set forth in our national charter.

Our politicians should be competing against each other for our consent to govern rather than sacrificing us in competition against largely nameless global forces serving foreign ideologies, all for the sake of their own fleeting ambitions. The only metric that matters is whether per-capita capital investment in our domestic labor rises or falls, and this should be the main criteria by which we assess their proposals, and hire or fire our politicians when we consider their relative economic prowess

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