Global Virtue Replaces Local Accountability

Victor Davis Hanson writes at American Greatness Cosmic Injustice. The article comprises an extensive list of political escape artists, who raise abstract global concerns to distract from their incompetence facing real local problems and suffering. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Politicians ignore felonies in their midst, preferring to hector the misdemeanors of the universe

One of the weirdest characteristics of our global politicians and moral censors is their preference to voice cosmic justice rather than to address less abstract sin within their own purview or authority. These progressive virtue mongers see themselves as citizens of the world rather than of the United States and thus can impotently theorize about problems elsewhere when they cannot solve those in their own midst.

Mayors Preach Empathy While NYC Deteriorates

Big-city mayors are especially culpable when it comes to ignoring felonies in their midst, preferring to hector the misdemeanors of the universe. Notice how New York Mayor Bill De Blasio lords over the insidious deterioration of his city while he lectures on cosmic white supremacy.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg used to sermonize to the nation about gun-control, global warming, the perils of super-sized soft drinks, smoking, and fatty-foods in his efforts to virtue signal his moral fides—even as his New York was nearly paralyzed by the 2010 blizzard that trapped millions of his city’s residents in their homes due to inept and incompetent city efforts to remove snow. Or is the “Bloomberg syndrome” worse than that—in the sense that sounding saintly in theory psychologically compensates for being powerless in fact? Or is it a fashion tic of the privileged to show abstract empathy?

Governor Schwarzenegger Goes Green While California Goes Down

In the last years of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s governorship, Arnold more or less gave up on the existential crises of illegal immigration, sanctuary cities, soaring taxes, water shortages, decrepit roads and bridges, homelessness, plummeting public school performance, and a huge exodus out of state of middle-class Californians.

Instead he began to lecture the state, the nation, and indeed the world on the need for massive wind and solar projects and assorted green fantasies. His old enemies, jubilant that they had aborted his early conservative reform agenda, began to praise him both for his green irrelevancies and for his neutered conservatism—to the delight of the outgoing Arnold who was recalibrating his return to celebrity Hollywood.

Where Were the Sheriffs When Shooters Came

More recently, we often see how local sheriffs become media-created philosophers eager to blame supposed national bogeymen for mass shootings in their jurisdictions— killings that sometimes are at least exacerbated by the utter incompetence of local law enforcement chiefs.

Do we remember the horrific 2011 Tucson shooter, the mass-murdering ghoul who mowed down 19 people, killing six and severely wounding Representative Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.)? Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik, without any evidence, immediately claimed that conservative anti-government hate speech had set off the unhinged shooter.

One might have thought from Dupnik’s loud blame-game commentary that supposed outgunned deputies on duty had shot it out with the killer in a running gun battle, and that he was furious that talk radio or right-wingers had somehow impeded him from getting enough bullets or guns to his men to protect the victims from such a right-wing ideologue.

Hardly. This shooter had devoured both the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf. He was mentally unstable, drug addled, and without coherent views on contemporary issues, and thus no foot soldier in some vast right-wing conspiracy or any other conspiracy. He was certainly less connected to the Right than the Washington, D.C. shooter who tried to take out much of the Republican House leadership in 2017 was connected to the Left.

Again, no matter. The ubiquitous Dupnik in his efforts to translate his own incompetence and failure to secure the area where Giffords was to speak into media-driven celebrity, in cheap fashion blasted the Tea Party, critics of President Obama, and, of course, Rush Limbaugh as the culprits.

In truth, security in the supermarket parking lot where Giffords and others were shot was nearly nonexistent, a fact Dupnik never really addressed. He seemed unworried that he had not sent out deputies to ensure a U.S. congresswoman’s safety while conducting an open-air meeting with her constituents.

Florida Sheriff Scott Israel sought national media attention for trying to connect the horrific Parkland Florida mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (17 dead), which took place in his jurisdiction, to the National Rifle Association and Republican politicians in general. But it was Israel’s own Broward County Sheriff’s Office that responded slowly to the killings. In some cases, Israel’s officers exhibited timidity and refused to enter the building to confront the deranged mass shooter.

Before Israel lectured an international television audience on the evils of lax gun laws he might have at least ensured that his own sheriffs were willing to risk their lives to protect the endangered innocent.

Dot-Com Wealthy Live High Above the Disasters on Their Doorsteps

If we sometimes wonder why for years saintly Apple, Facebook, and Google have thrived in a sea of homelessness, amid pot-holed streets lined with strapped employees living in their cars, a good indication might be that the cosmic social justice so often voiced as penance by their woke multibillionaire bosses exempts them from worrying about the disasters in their midst.

Pope Francis Calls for Open Borders from Behind Vatican Walls

Pope Francis recently lambasted a number of European countries and leaders for their apparent efforts to secure their national borders against massive illegal immigration from North Africa and the Middle East. Francis plugged European ecumenicalism and seemed to dismiss the populist and nationalist pushback of millions of Europeans, who see the EU as both anti-democratic and a peril to their own traditions and freedoms as citizens.

However, before Francis chastised the continent for its moral failings, he might have explained to Italians or Greeks worried over their open borders why the Vatican enjoys massive walls to keep the uninvited out and yet why other European countries should not emulate the nation-state Vatican’s successful preemptive fortifications.

Better yet, the pope might have taken a more forceful stance against the decades-long and ongoing legal dilemmas of hundreds of global Catholic Clergy, who have proven to be pedophiles and yet were not turned over to law enforcement. The cosmic idea of a United Europe is easy to preach about, but reining in what is likely an epidemic of child-molesting clergy is messy. Francis’s frequent abstract moralizing is quite at odds with either his inability or unwillingness to reform pathways to the priesthood, some of whose members have ruined thousands of lives.

Politicians Unwilling to Address Concrete Crises

What was lacking in the recent Democratic debates were concrete answers to real problems—as opposed to candidates’ nonstop cosmic virtue signaling. It is easy to blast “white supremacy” and “the gun culture” from a rostrum. But no one on stage seemed to care about the great challenge of our age, the inner-city carnage that takes thousands of young African-American lives each year. The inner-city murdering is tragically almost exclusively a black-on-black phenomenon (even rare interracial homicides are disproportionally committed by African-Americans) that occurs in progressive-run cities with strict gun control laws.

When leaders virtue signal about global or cosmic sin, it is often proof they have no willingness or power to address any concrete crisis. The public tires of such empty platitudes because they also see the culpable trying to divert attention from their own earthly failure by loudly appealing to a higher moral universe.

More mundanely, there is the role of hypocrisy: elites themselves never suffer the consequences of their own ethical inaction while the public never sees any benefit from their moral rhetoric. Illegal immigration is not a personal issue for Pope Francis, and most Europeans have more concrete things to worry about than lectures on populism and nationalism.

Disconnected from Real World Dangers

In the same fashion, New Yorkers in 2011 were worried more about the piles of snow on the sidewalks than they felt threatened by 32-ounce Cokes—while realizing that no snow blocked either the Bloomberg official or private residence.

Note a recent inexplicable Zogby poll that indicated 51 percent of blacks and Hispanics might support Donald Trump. How would such a supposedly counterintuitive result even be possible?

I have a suggestion: minority communities live first-hand with the violence and dangers of the gang gun culture. More policing and incarceration of guilty felons improve their lives. Secure borders mean fewer drug dealers and cartel smugglers in local communities, fewer schools swamped with non-English speakers, and social services not overwhelmed with impoverished non-Americans.

These can all be real concerns for beleaguered minorities. Yet they are virtue-signaled away by progressive elites whose own power and money allow them to navigate around the consequences of their own liberal fantasies that fall on distant others.

Add in a booming economy, rising incomes, and low unemployment for minorities, and the world of shrill yelling on the debate stage about “white privilege” seems some sort of an irrelevant fixation of the elite and privileged, akin to showing off a Gucci bag or Porsche Cayenne—but otherwise nothing to do with dangerous streets, wrecked schools, whizzing bullets, and social services that are becoming inoperative.

The next time a legislator, mayor, or governor rails about plastic straws or the Paris Climate Accord, be assured that his state’s roads are clogged, his public schools failing—and he is clueless or indifferent about it.

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Too Many People, or Too Few?

A placard outside the UN headquarters in New York City, November 2011

Some years ago I read the book Boom, Bust and Echo. It described how planners for public institutions like schools and hospitals often fail to anticipate demographic shifts. The authors described how in North America, the baby Boom after WWII overcrowded schools, and governments struggled to build and staff more facilities. Just as they were catching up came the sexual revolution and the drop in fertility rates, resulting in a population Bust in children entering the education system. Now the issue was to close schools and retire teachers due to overcapacity, not easy to do with sentimental attachments. Then as the downsizing took hold came the Echo. Baby boomers began bearing children, and even at a lower birth rate, it still meant an increased cohort of students arriving at a diminished system.

The story is similar to what is happening today with world population. Zachary Karabell writes in Foreign Affairs The Population Bust: Demographic Decline and the End of Capitalism as We Know It. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

For most of human history, the world’s population grew so slowly that for most people alive, it would have felt static. Between the year 1 and 1700, the human population went from about 200 million to about 600 million; by 1800, it had barely hit one billion. Then, the population exploded, first in the United Kingdom and the United States, next in much of the rest of Europe, and eventually in Asia. By the late 1920s, it had hit two billion. It reached three billion around 1960 and then four billion around 1975. It has nearly doubled since then. There are now some 7.6 billion people living on the planet.

Just as much of the world has come to see rapid population growth as normal and expected, the trends are shifting again, this time into reverse. Most parts of the world are witnessing sharp and sudden contractions in either birthrates or absolute population. The only thing preventing the population in many countries from shrinking more quickly is that death rates are also falling, because people everywhere are living longer. These oscillations are not easy for any society to manage. “Rapid population acceleration and deceleration send shockwaves around the world wherever they occur and have shaped history in ways that are rarely appreciated,” the demographer Paul Morland writes in The Human Tide, his new history of demographics. Morland does not quite believe that “demography is destiny,” as the old adage mistakenly attributed to the French philosopher Auguste Comte would have it. Nor do Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson, the authors of Empty Planet, a new book on the rapidly shifting demographics of the twenty-first century. But demographics are clearly part of destiny. If their role first in the rise of the West and now in the rise of the rest has been underappreciated, the potential consequences of plateauing and then shrinking populations in the decades ahead are almost wholly ignored.

The mismatch between expectations of a rapidly growing global population (and all the attendant effects on climate, capitalism, and geopolitics) and the reality of both slowing growth rates and absolute contraction is so great that it will pose a considerable threat in the decades ahead. Governments worldwide have evolved to meet the challenge of managing more people, not fewer and not older. Capitalism as a system is particularly vulnerable to a world of less population expansion; a significant portion of the economic growth that has driven capitalism over the past several centuries may have been simply a derivative of more people and younger people consuming more stuff. If the world ahead has fewer people, will there be any real economic growth? We are not only unprepared to answer that question; we are not even starting to ask it.

BOMB OR BUST?
At the heart of The Human Tide and Empty Planet, as well as demography in general, is the odd yet compelling work of the eighteenth-century British scholar Thomas Malthus. Malthus’ 1798 Essay on the Principle of Population argued that growing numbers of people were a looming threat to social and political stability. He was convinced that humans were destined to produce more people than the world could feed, dooming most of society to suffer from food scarcity while the very rich made sure their needs were met. In Malthus’ dire view, that would lead to starvation, privation, and war, which would eventually lead to population contraction, and then the depressing cycle would begin again.

Yet just as Malthus reached his conclusions, the world changed. Increased crop yields, improvements in sanitation, and accelerated urbanization led not to an endless cycle of impoverishment and contraction but to an explosion of global population in the nineteenth century. Morland provides a rigorous and detailed account of how, in the nineteenth century, global population reached its breakout from millennia of prior human history, during which the population had been stagnant, contracting, or inching forward. He starts with the observation that the population begins to grow rapidly when infant mortality declines. Eventually, fertility falls in response to lower infant mortality—but there is a considerable lag, which explains why societies in the modern world can experience such sharp and extreme surges in population. In other words, while infant mortality is high, women tend to give birth to many children, expecting at least some of them to die before reaching maturity. When infant mortality begins to drop, it takes several generations before fertility does, too. So a woman who gives birth to six children suddenly has six children who survive to adulthood instead of, say, three. Her daughters might also have six children each before the next generation of women adjusts, deciding to have smaller families.

The population bust is going global almost as quickly as the population boom did in the twentieth century.  The burgeoning of global population in the past two centuries followed almost precisely the patterns of industrialization, modernization, and, crucially, urbanization. It started in the United Kingdom at the end of the nineteenth century (hence the concerns of Malthus), before spreading to the United States and then France and Germany. The trend next hit Japan, India, and China and made its way to Latin America. It finally arrived in sub-Saharan Africa, which has seen its population surge thanks to improvements in medicine and sanitation but has not yet enjoyed the full fruits of industrialization and a rapidly growing middle class.

With the population explosion came a new wave of Malthusian fears, epitomized by the 1968 book The Population Bomb, by Paul Ehrlich, a biologist at Stanford University. Ehrlich argued that plummeting death rates had created an untenable situation of too many people who could not be fed or housed. “The battle to feed all of humanity is over,” he wrote. “In the 1970’s the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked on now.”

Ehrlich’s prophecy, of course, proved wrong, for reasons that Bricker and Ibbitson elegantly chart in Empty Planet. The green revolution, a series of innovations in agriculture that began in the early twentieth century, accelerated such that crop yields expanded to meet humankind’s needs. Moreover, governments around the world managed to remediate the worst effects of pollution and environmental degradation, at least in terms of daily living standards in multiple megacities, such as Beijing, Cairo, Mexico City, and New Delhi. These cities face acute challenges related to depleted water tables and industrial pollution, but there has been no crisis akin to what was anticipated.

Doesn’t anyone want my Green New Deal?

Yet visions of dystopic population bombs remain deeply entrenched, including at the center of global population calculations: in the forecasts routinely issued by the United Nations. Today, the UN predicts that global population will reach nearly ten billion by 2050. Judging from the evidence presented in Morland’s and Bricker and Ibbitson’s books, it seems likely that this estimate is too high, perhaps substantially. It’s not that anyone is purposely inflating the numbers. Governmental and international statistical agencies do not turn on a dime; they use formulas and assumptions that took years to formalize and will take years to alter. Until very recently, the population assumptions built into most models accurately reflected what was happening. But the sudden ebb of both birthrates and absolute population growth has happened too quickly for the models to adjust in real time. As Bricker and Ibbitson explain,

“The UN is employing a faulty model based on assumptions that worked in the past but that may not apply in the future.”

Population expectations aren’t merely of academic interest; they are a key element in how most societies and analysts think about the future of war and conflict. More acutely, they drive fears about climate change and environmental stability—especially as an emerging middle class numbering in the billions demands electricity, food, and all the other accoutrements of modern life and therefore produces more emissions and places greater strain on farms with nutrient-depleted soil and evaporating aquifers. Combined with warming-induced droughts, storms, and shifting weather patterns, these trends would appear to line up for some truly bad times ahead.

Except, argue Bricker and Ibbitson, those numbers and all the doomsday scenarios associated with them are likely wrong. As they write,

“We do not face the challenge of a population bomb but a population bust—a relentless, generation-after-generation culling of the human herd.”

Already, the signs of the coming bust are clear, at least according to the data that Bricker and Ibbitson marshal. Almost every country in Europe now has a fertility rate below the 2.1 births per woman that is needed to maintain a static population. The UN notes that in some European countries, the birthrate has increased in the past decade. But that has merely pushed the overall European birthrate up from 1.5 to 1.6, which means that the population of Europe will still grow older in the coming decades and contract as new births fail to compensate for deaths. That trend is well under way in Japan, whose population has already crested, and in Russia, where the same trends, plus high mortality rates for men, have led to a decline in the population.

What is striking is that the population bust is going global almost as quickly as the population boom did in the twentieth century. Fertility rates in China and India, which together account for nearly 40 percent of the world’s people, are now at or below replacement levels. So, too, are fertility rates in other populous countries, such as Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico, and Thailand. Sub-Saharan Africa remains an outlier in terms of demographics, as do some countries in the Middle East and South Asia, such as Pakistan, but in those places, as well, it is only a matter of time before they catch up, given that more women are becoming educated, more children are surviving their early years, and more people are moving to cities.

Both books note that the demographic collapse could be a bright spot for climate change. Given that carbon emissions are a direct result of more people needing and demanding more stuff—from food and water to cars and entertainment—then it would follow that fewer people would need and demand less. What’s more, larger proportions of the planet will be aging, and the experiences of Japan and the United States are showing that people consume less as they age. A smaller, older population spells some relief from the immense environmental strain of so many people living on one finite globe.

The Reinvention of Chess

That is the plus side of the demographic deflation. Whether the concomitant greening of the world will happen quickly enough to offset the worst-case climate scenarios is an open question—although current trends suggest that if humanity can get through the next 20 to 30 years without irreversibly damaging the ecosystem, the second half of the twenty-first century might be considerably brighter than most now assume.

The downside is that a sudden population contraction will place substantial strain on the global economic system.

Capitalism is, essentially, a system that maximizes more—more output, more goods, and more services. That makes sense, given that it evolved coincidentally with a population surge. The success of capitalism in providing more to more people is undeniable, as are its evident defects in providing every individual with enough. If global population stops expanding and then contracts, capitalism—a system implicitly predicated on ever-burgeoning numbers of people—will likely not be able to thrive in its current form. An aging population will consume more of certain goods, such as health care, but on the whole aging and then decreasing populations will consume less. So much of consumption occurs early in life, as people have children and buy homes, cars, and white goods. That is true not just in the more affluent parts of the world but also in any country that is seeing a middle-class surge.

The future world may be one in which capitalism at best frays and at worst breaks down completely.
But what happens when these trends halt or reverse? Think about the future cost of capital and assumptions of inflation. No capitalist economic system operates on the presumption that there will be zero or negative growth. No one deploys investment capital or loans expecting less tomorrow than today. But in a world of graying and shrinking populations, that is the most likely scenario, as Japan’s aging, graying, and shrinking absolute population now demonstrates. A world of zero to negative population growth is likely to be a world of zero to negative economic growth, because fewer and older people consume less. There is nothing inherently problematic about that, except for the fact that it will completely upend existing financial and economic systems. The future world may be one of enough food and abundant material goods relative to the population; it may also be one in which capitalism at best frays and at worst breaks down completely.

The global financial system is already exceedingly fragile, as evidenced by the 2008 financial crisis. A world with negative economic growth, industrial capacity in excess of what is needed, and trillions of dollars expecting returns when none is forthcoming could spell a series of financial crises. It could even spell the death of capitalism as we know it. As growth grinds to a halt, people may well start demanding a new and different economic system. Add in the effects of automation and artificial intelligence, which are already making millions of jobs redundant, and the result is likely a future in which capitalism is increasingly passé.

If population contraction were acknowledged as the most likely future, one could imagine policies that might preserve and even invigorate the basic contours of capitalism by setting much lower expectations of future returns and focusing society on reducing costs (which technology is already doing) rather than maximizing output.

But those policies would likely be met in the short term by furious opposition from business interests, policymakers, and governments, all of whom would claim that such attitudes are defeatist and could spell an end not just to growth but to prosperity and high standards of living, too. In the absence of such policies, the danger of the coming shift will be compounded by a complete failure to plan for it.

Different countries will reach the breaking point at different times. Right now, the demographic deflation is happening in rich societies that are able to bear the costs of slower or negative growth using the accumulated store of wealth that has been built up over generations. Some societies, such as the United States and Canada, are able to temporarily offset declining population with immigration, although soon, there won’t be enough immigrants left. As for the billions of people in the developing world, the hope is that they become rich before they become old. The alternative is not likely to be pretty: without sufficient per capita affluence, it will be extremely difficult for developing countries to support aging populations.

So the demographic future could end up being a glass half full, by ameliorating the worst effects of climate change and resource depletion, or a glass half empty, by ending capitalism as we know it. Either way, the reversal of population trends is a paradigm shift of the first order and one that is almost completely unrecognized. We are vaguely prepared for a world of more people; we are utterly unprepared for a world of fewer. That is our future, and we are heading there fast.

See also Control Population, Control the Climate. Not.

Supremes May Rein In Agency Lawmaking

This post consists of a legal discussion regarding undesirable outcomes from some Supreme Court rulings that gave excessive deference to Executive Branch Agency regulators. Relying on the so called “Chevron Deference” can result in regulations going beyond what congress intended by their laws.

Professor Mike Rappaport writes at Law and Liberty Replacing Chevron with a Sounder Interpretive Regime. Excerpts in italics with my bolds

The Issue

The need for a new interpretive arrangement to replace Chevron is demonstrated by a climate change example cited at the end.

Importantly, this new arrangement would significantly limit agencies from using their legal discretion to modify agency statutes to combat new problems never envisioned by the enacting Congress. For example, when the Clean Air Act was passed, no one had in mind it would be addressed to anything like climate change. Yet, the EPA has used Chevron deference to change the meaning of the statute so that it can regulate greenhouse gases without Congress having to decide whether and in what way that makes sense.

Such discretion gives the EPA enormous power to pursue its own agenda without having to secure the approval of the legislative or judicial branches.

Background and Proposals

One of the most important questions within administrative law is whether the Supreme Court will eliminate Chevron deference. But if Chevron deference is eliminated, as I believe it should be, a key question is what should replace it. In my view, there is a ready alternative which makes sense as a matter of law and policy. Courts should not give agencies Chevron deference, but should provide additional weight to agency interpretations that are adopted close to the enactment of a statute or that have been followed for a significant period of time.

Chevron deference is the doctrine that provides deference to an administrative agency when it interprets a statute that it administers. In short, the agency’s interpretation will only be reversed if a court deems the interpretation unreasonable rather than simply wrong. Such deference means that the agency can select among the (often numerous) “reasonable” interpretations of a statute to pursue its agenda. Moreover, the agency is permitted to change from one reasonable interpretation to another over time based on its policy views. In conjunction with the other authorities given to agencies, such as the delegation of legislative power, Chevron deference constitutes a key part of agency power.

There is, however, a significant chance that the Supreme Court may eliminate Chevron deference. Two of the leaders of this movement are Justices Thomas and Gorsuch. But Chief Justice Roberts as well as Justices Alito and Kavanaugh have also indicated that they might be amenable to overturning Chevron. For example, in the Kisor case from this past term, which cut back on but declined to overturn the related doctrine of Auer deference, these three justices all joined opinions that explicitly stated that they thought Chevron deference was different from Auer deference, suggesting that Chevron might still be subject to overruling.

But if Chevron deference is eliminated, what should replace it? The best substitute for Chevron deference would be the system of interpretation employed in the several generations prior to the enactment of the Administrative Procedure Act. Under that system, as explained by Aditya Bamzai in his path-breaking article, judges would interpret the statute based on traditional canons of interpretation, including two—contemporaneous exposition and customary practice—that provide weight to certain agency interpretations.

Under the canon of contemporaneous exposition, an official governmental act would be entitled to weight as an interpretation of a statute (or of the Constitution) if it were taken close to the period of the enactment of the provision. This would apply to government acts by the judiciary and the legislature as well as those by administrative agencies. Thus, agency interpretations of statutes would be entitled to some additional weight if taken at the time of the statute’s enactment.

This canon has several attractive aspects. First, it has a clear connection to originalism. Contemporaneous interpretations are given added weight because they were adopted at the time of the law’s enactment and therefore are thought to be more likely to offer the correct interpretation—that is, one attuned to the original meaning. Second, this canon also promotes the rule of law by both providing notice to the public of the meaning of the statute and limiting the ability of the agency to change its interpretation of the law.

The second canon is that of customary practice or usage. Under this framework, an interpretation of a government actor in its official capacity would be entitled to weight if it were consistently followed over a period of time. Thus, the agency interpretation would receive additional weight if it became a regular practice, even if were not adopted at the time of statutory enactment.

The canon of customary practice has a number of desirable features. While it does not have a connection to originalism, it does, like contemporaneous exposition, promote the rule of law. Once a customary interpretation has taken hold, the public is better able to rely on the existing interpretation and the government is more likely to follow that interpretation.

Second, the customary interpretation may also be an attractive interpretation. That the interpretation has existed over a period of time suggests that it has not created serious problems of implementation that have led courts or the agency to depart from it. While the customary interpretation may not be the most desirable one as a matter of policy, it is unlikely to be very undesirable.

This traditional interpretive approach also responds to one of the principal criticisms of eliminating Chevron deference: that it will give significant power to a judiciary that lacks expertise and can abuse its authority. I don’t agree with this criticism, since I believe that judges are expert at interpreting statutes and are subject to less bias than agencies that exercise not merely executive power, but also judicial and legislative authority.

But even if one believed that the courts were problematic, this arrangement would leave the judiciary with much less power than a regime that provides no weight to agency interpretations. The courts would often be limited by agency interpretations that accorded with the canons—interpretations adopted when the statute was enacted or that were customarily followed. Since those interpretations would be given weight, the courts would often follow them. But while these interpretations would limit the courts, they would not risk the worst dangers of Chevron deference. This interpretive approach would not allow an agency essentially free reign to change its interpretation over time in order to pursue new programs or objectives. Once the interpretation is in place, the agency would not be able to secure judicial deference if it changed the interpretation.

Importantly, this new arrangement would significantly limit agencies from using their legal discretion to modify agency statutes to combat new problems never envisioned by the enacting Congress. For example, when the Clean Air Act was passed, no one had in mind it would be addressed to anything like climate change. Yet, the EPA has used Chevron deference to change the meaning of the statute so that it can regulate greenhouse gases without Congress having to decide whether and in what way that makes sense. Such discretion gives the EPA enormous power to pursue its own agenda without having to secure the approval of the legislative or judicial branches.

In short, if Chevron deference is eliminated, there is a traditional and attractive interpretive approach that can replace it. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will take the step it refused to take in Kisor and eliminate an unwarranted form of deference.

Economics #1 Law vs. Politics #1 Law

Dan Sanchez writes at Real Clear Markets ‘Free Everything’ and Thomas Sowell’s First Law of Politics. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The other night, a politician criticized Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for offering voters “free everything and impossible promises.” Remarkably, the critique came, not from a Republican fiscal conservative, but from a fellow Democrat during a primary debate. John Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland, said such policies were based on “fairy-tale economics.”

As economist Thomas Sowell wrote, “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”

So it was surprising to see a presidential candidate give a nod to the first lesson of economics and lay off the first lesson of politics for a moment.

The word “free” slips freely from the lips of Sanders and Warren: free health care (“Medicare for All”) and free college are two of their most popular promises. But in a sense, something is only “free” when it is not scarce: when there is so much of it to go around that Group A can use it as much as they want without diminishing Group B’s ability to do the same. Economists call that “superabundance.” In most cases, air is “free.” My intake of oxygen doesn’t meaningfully deprive anyone else of anything.

Health care and education are not “free” in that sense. Pills and pencils, surgeries and lectures, are scarce. The same pill can’t be swallowed by two people. And the material and labor that go into producing those things are also scarce. Resources cannot be endlessly lavished on one area without making other uses of those resources impossible. To think otherwise would indeed be “fairy-tale economics.”

When scarcity is a factor, “how can we afford this?” is a key question, and “we can’t” is a possible answer.

But to a politician like Elizabeth Warren, such an answer is unacceptable, even baffling. When the debate moderator asked Warren to respond to Delaney’s critique, she said (emphasis added):

“I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for. I don’t get it.”

She doesn’t get it because she’s following Sowell’s first law of politics. Disregarding scarcity is simply best practice in her profession. Scarcity may limit what you can deliver on, but it doesn’t limit what you can offer. And voters have a poor track record on holding politicians accountable to their promises. So if you’re running to win, it often pays to out-promise your competitors, even if that means veering into fairy-tale territory. Letting pesky realities like scarcity get in the way of that can be political suicide, as I’m guessing Delaney will find out soon.

To be fair, the same individuals who tend to be gullible as voters are typically savvy as customers. When they are let down by a business, they readily take their money elsewhere. That is how they hold entrepreneurs accountable. That is why entrepreneurs are concerned, not just with promises, but with delivery. And that is why entrepreneurs abide by Sowell’s first law of economics: why they take scarcity seriously.

Because customers hold them accountable, entrepreneurs also do a much better job than politicians at alleviating scarcity through efficient, value-creating production. Entrepreneurial projects do fail, but then they go away when their customers do, clearing the stage for something better.

Since government projects are financed by involuntary “customers” (taxpayers), they are ultimately unaccountable and “free” to fail indefinitely.

That is why entrepreneurs give us goods and services that are amazing and yet widely affordable (even “free” to the user, when ad-supported), while politicians give us programs that are “free” but perpetually struggling and unsatisfactory.

For example, in the realm of education, think about how much learning happens on YouTube and through podcasts these days: and how much those platforms have grown and progressed as educational resources in just a few years. Compare that to the decades of frustrated attempts to reform public schools.

And in health care, contrast the customer service of walk-in health clinics at CVS and Walgreens versus the Veterans Administration.

Keep these track records in mind when politicians promise vast expansions of “free” education and health care. These sectors are indeed crying out for reform. But count on accountable entrepreneurs, not unaccountable politicians, to deliver.

Dan Sanchez is the Director of Content at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and the editor-in-chief of FEE.org. He co-hosts the weekly web show FEEcast, serving as the resident “explainer.”

Eco Footprint Nonsense

Michael Shellenberger writes at Forbes Why Earth Overshoot Day And The Ecological Footprint Are Pseudoscientific Nonsense. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Starting today through the end of the year, humankind will start consuming more resources than our planet can sustainably produce, according to the Global Footprint Network (GFN), which has been organizing such days since 1986.

“Humanity is using nature 1.75 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate,” says the group. “This is akin to using 1.75 Earths.”

Rich nations use up resources faster than poor ones, GFN says. The US, Australia, Denmark and Canada use up their resources before the end of March, while Cuba, Nicaragua, Iraq, and Ecuador don’t do so until December.

“Earth Overshoot Day” is based on something called the “Ecological Footprint,” which is used by the World Wildlife Fund, the United Nations Environment Program, the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

But is the Ecological Footprint good science? It’s not.

Six years ago I helped debunk Earth Overshoot Day and the Ecological Footprint calculation it’s based upon in a paper for the peer-reviewed scientific journal, PLOS Biology called “Does the Shoe Fit? Real vs. Imagined Footprints.”

We broke down the six measures that comprise the Ecological Footprint and found that five of the six, including food and forestry, were either in balance or surplus. The only thing out-of-balance were humankind’s carbon emissions.

But solving that problem doesn’t require that rich nations become poor — or that poor nations remain poor — but simply that we move toward energy sources that don’t produce carbon emissions, a process known as “decarbonization.”

And the only two cases of nations significantly decarbonizing their energy supplies, France and Sweden, did so not by becoming poor but rather by becoming far richer thanks to the use of nuclear energy. Today, France spends little more than half as much as Germany to produce electricity that produces one-tenth of the carbon emissions, thanks to nuclear.

How did the creators of the Ecological Footprint hide what they had done? By assuming that the only way to solve climate change was by expanding forest cover to absorb all industrial carbon emissions.

In other words, the Ecological Footprint converts emissions of carbon dioxide into a land-use category, thereby ignoring all the other ways of absorbing or never emitting CO2.

It gets worse. Different forests absorb carbon dioxide at different rates over time. But the Ecological Footprint arbitrarily chooses a single number to represent the rate of carbon uptake for all forests around the world for all time. The Ecological Footprint method is best known as “garbage in, garbage out.”

The implication of the Ecological Footprint is thus either that everyone in wealthy developed nations like the US, Europe, and Australia should try to live like Cubans and Nicaraguans, or that we should convert all of the world’s old-growth forests to fast-growing tree farms.

When we published our paper in 2013, it was widely covered in the media, including by Scientific American, New Science, and Le Monde, but that hasn’t stopped the European Commission and other governmental bodies from recognizing “Earth Overshoot Day” on social media.

The Ecological Footprint and Earth Overshoot Day were created at the same time that Western European nations and the United Nations embraced a neo-Malthusian approach to environmental problems.

Ironically, the UN promoted the use of wood fuels over nuclear. In a 1987 report called “Our Common Future,” the UN denounced nuclear energy and insisted that poor nations should use wood fuel more sustainably. “The wood-poor nations must organize their agricultural sectors to produce large amounts of wood and other plant fuels.”

The lead author of “Our Common Future” was Gro Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, a nation which just a decade earlier had become fabulously wealthy thanks to its abundant oil and gas reserves.

Figures like Brundtland promoted the idea that poor nations didn’t need to consume much energy, which turned out to be howlingly wrong. Energy consumption is as tightly coupled to per capita GDP today as it was when today’s rich nations were themselves poor.

There is no rich nation that depends primarily on wood for energy, just as there is no poor nation that depends primarily on fossil fuels or nuclear.

The Ecological Footprint has as much scientific merit as astrology, phrenology, and flat-earth theories. It’s time to treat the Ecological Footprint as the pseudoscientific theory it is.

Ecological Footprint theory is pseudoscience on par with astrology, phrenology, and flat earth theories. SHUTTERSTOCK

Footnote:

Steve Maley wrote at Quora on When Global Warming Began:

Global Warming began in Muncie, Indiana on June 17, 1953 at 2:30 in the afternoon. It was a Tuesday.

Up until that time, weather was “average” all the time.

That is, except for the Dust Bowl, the Little Ice Age, Medieval Warm Period, etc.

Up until then, people had ideal, sustainable lifestyles. 90% of men spent all day in the fields looking at the backsides of two mules. Their spare time was spent chopping wood in hopes they could make it through another winter.

Women stayed at home and had babies. They had to have 8–10 because 2 or 3 of them wouldn’t live to see their 10th birthday.

Farm to Table was a thing. Since nobody had any money, it was a choice between raising your own food or starving.

Yes, it was an idyllic lifestyle. Damn fossil fuels screwed it all up.

How? By changing the atmosphere. Gases other than CO2 used to be 99.97% of the air we breathe. Now it’s 99.96%.

The horror.

Dangers of the Echo Chamber

In a modern example of winning, yet being clueless without the slave’s reminder, we have Andrew Klaven writing at the Daily Wire about the downfalls of partisan triumphalism: Clueless Chuck Todd And The Democrats. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

This week, we witnessed a delightfully comic demonstration of why it’s not such a good thing for the Democratic Party to own at least 90 percent of the communication apparatus in America. The mainstream news media is nearly all Democrat. Hollywood blacklists you if you’re not Democrat. The universities, publishing companies and most of the music industry are populated by Democrats. So Democrats, wrapped in a smothering blanket of mirrors, their own ideas reflected back to them endlessly, begin to develop the wholly ridiculous idea that their absurd version of reality is reality in fact.

As a result, when Robert Mueller released a report revealing that Donald Trump had not colluded with the Russians to steal the election, and that, by any normal legal standard, he had to be considered not guilty of attempting to obstruct justice, the Democrats felt justified in thinking the report provided them with grounds for impeachment. After all, the news media agreed. The late-night comics all agreed. The experts wrote op-eds and they agreed. Even search engines and social media highlighted all the agreement.

So why wasn’t the public demanding impeachment too? Weren’t they watching the news? Weren’t they listening to the late-night comedians? Weren’t they reading the articles by professors? How could they be so blind as to think that a report clearing Trump had cleared Trump?

The Democrats’ answer: it must be because reading the report was too hard for ordinary folks. Maybe if Mueller testified to what was in the report, then the public would see what the Democrats saw all around them: in the news, on the comedy shows, in the academic op-eds and online.

So Mueller testified.

“We found insufficient evidence of the president’s culpability,” he said.

“At any time during your investigation was your investigation curtailed or stopped or hindered?” he was asked.

“No,” he said.

In the eloquent phraseology of Donald Trump: “No collusion, no obstruction.”

Only a Democratic Party swathed and smothered in media mirrors could have been shocked to hear Mueller declare that what was in the Mueller report was in the Mueller report.

Which brings me back to Chuck Todd, the pure spirit of Cluelessness in the Clueless Holy of Holies in the land of Clueless. Todd diagnosed the Democrats’ problem thusly: “The fact is we are living in this 21st century new type of asymmetrical media warfare that we’re in. And you have a propaganda machine on the right. And that’s what it is. It’s a full-fledged propaganda machine on the right that the Democrats haven’t figured out how to combat very well yet.”

I would feel better about the news media if I thought Todd was just a liar, but, no, I think he is actually clueless. Because as an American journalist he is, just like the Democrats, surrounded by people who reflect and echo his ideas. There’s no one near him to ask: What propaganda machine, Chuck? Aside from one cable station — Fox News — what network, what newspaper, what university, what comedian or movie-maker or search engine or social media does anything but spew left-wing propaganda all day every day? There’s no one to demand he produce his evidence. There’s no one to require him to show his work.

Every once in a while, they ought to visit the rest of us, here in Reality. It might keep them from making such utter fools of themselves.

 

Replacing Soggy Paper Liberal Straws

Reuseable Trump straws in durable plastic never stop keeping you hydrated.  Now available for $15 a pack; proceeds go to a worthy cause: Trump re-election campaign.

“Now you can finally be free from liberal paper straws that fall apart within minutes and ruin your drink,” stated Trump Campaign Manager Brad Parscale in a fundraising email. “Trump Straws are custom made with the Official Trump Logo, recyclable and reusable, and, as always, 100% MADE IN AMERICA.”

Liking him or not doesn’t matter:  He is the one stopping the climate lunatics from taking over the asylum.

Modern Politics Seen as Classes Power Game

Joel Kotkin makes sense of the confusing US politics around the 2020 presidential campaigning. He writes A class guide to the 2020 presidential election in Orange County Register. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

America’s electorate in 2020 has been dissected by race, region, cultural attitudes and gender. But the most important division may well be, in a nation that has become profoundly unequal, along class lines. All politicians, from Donald Trump to Elizabeth Warren, portray themselves as “fighting for the middle class” and “working families.”

Yet our increasingly neo-feudal America is best broken down into four broad groups — the oligarchs, the clerisy, the yeomanry and the serfs. The oligarchs dominate the economic realm, including control of information media. Below them are sometimes allied members of the clerisy, the well-educated middle class who set the country’s intellectual and cultural context.

Below them are the two most numerous classes — the property-owning yeomanry and, most numerous of all, the expanding new serfdom. Understanding these groups provides a valuable insight into 2020’s realities.

The candidates of the oligarchy

The oligarchs, roughly the top .01 percent, now own the highest share of wealth in almost a century. They can fund nonprofits, media outlets, campaigns and political action committees with almost unlimited largesse. The oligarchy’s wealthiest and most influential members hail from the tech sector, Wall Street and Hollywood. In recent decades they have created a plutocrat-funded Democratic Party backing economically non-threatening but culturally and environmentally liberal figures like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

 

At first Joe Biden seemed to be winning the battle for oligarchal support. But his poor performance has opened the field for Kamala Harris, who enjoys long-standing financial ties, both political and through her husband’s law practice, to big media companies, telecom providers, Hollywood and, most of all, Silicon Valley. Harris offers gentry liberal delight — telegenic, smart, female, non-white but without posing the threat to oligarchal power represented by Elizabeth Warren and, even worse, Bernie Sanders.

Trump, of course, also boasts oligarchal supporters from older sectors of the corporate elite — retail chain owners, builders of single-family homes, manufacturing and energy executives. Given the Democratic embrace of the Green New Deal, massive redistribution of income and reversing corporate tax cuts, a lot of old economy money will flow into Dr. Demento’s coffers this time around.

The clerisy’s favorite

What analyst Michael Lind calls the “overclass” — made up of academics, the media and well-paid professionals — represents some 15 percent of the American workforce. This group has done better than the traditional middle class, let alone the working class, but over the past few decades has lost much ground against the oligarchs, who have reaped the vast majority of the economic gains.

Like the rising professional classes of the gilded age, many in the clerisy are offended by the huge wealth of the oligarchs. Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren reprises the role performed by Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson over a century ago. Her most radical proposals target not the affluent middle class but the super-rich, notably through anti-trust, while her wealth tax impacts only people with over $50 million. Most of her financial support, not surprisingly, comes from women’s groups and academics. Only Pete Buttigieg, with his base of gay support, comes close to competing in the intersectional sweepstakes.

Warren’s insistence on calling herself a “capitalist” separates her from Bernie Sanders’ full-throated socialism, with its odd Soviet nostalgia. It helps her appealing to those who still have something to protect. Sanders also loses by dint of his race and sex; Warren may have to failed to prove her Native American credentials, but her gender remains an asset at a time when being old, white and male is not the preferred brand among progressives.

The Yeomanry: Trump’s to lose

Most of America sees itself as middle class. But there’s a growing gap between the yeomanry — small business and property owners — and the clerisy as well as a vast, expanding class of permanently landless permanent serfs. Most members of the yeomanry work in the private sector; unlike the clerisy, for them government regulation provides not employment, but a burden.

They gained little from the largely asset-based prosperity of the Obama years but have done far better under Trump Many suburban dwellers and property owners may find Trump personally abhorrent (which is easy to do) but are directly threatened by a Democratic Party anxious to force up worker wages, control rents, boost regulations and raise taxes.

Many of these voters also would not like to give up their private health insurance, which Warren, Sanders and, intermittently, Harris have demanded. As the Democrats go further left, this constituency is likely to line up largely with Trump or simply abstain, given the awfulness of the choices.

Serfs and the “blue tidal wave”

The property-less working class does not tend to vote as much as the yeomanry, but their numbers are growing. Some are déclassé millennials unable to launch full careers or afford to buy houses. Unlike previous generations, they also have been reluctant to start businesses.

Many of the new serf class inhabit the precariat, a modern proletariat lacking the protections of steady work and trade unions. Many participate in the gig economy as Uber drivers, trainers, personal assistants and contract technicians. Most depend on their gigs for their livelihood income, and they are often lowly paid; according to one study nearly half of gig workers in California are under the poverty line.

With little stake in the capitalist economy, the youthful members of the precariat have been drawn to the socialist appeals of Sanders and, increasingly, Warren. The leftist American Prospect sees them driving a potential new “blue tidal wave.”

Yet if economics may impel this class toward the Democrats, two factors may work against them, particularly those who did not attend college and are older. First, low-income workers, including minorities, generally have done better under Trump than under Obama, something the president’s handlers will no doubt emphasize.

The other is support for such things as reparations, health care for the undocumented, open borders and virtually unlimited right to abortion. These positions may not play well in blue-collar communities, particularly in the Midwest, Great Plains and the south. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination cannot win based only on support from the clerical and oligarchal elites but also by winning over the serf vote, which they now are in danger of squandering.

Joel Kotkin is the R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism (www.opportunityurbanism.org).

Trump Wins on Principles

I don’t do many posts on politics, but am reblogging this essay as especially insightful. It comes from Loren Thompson, a Democratic political operative experienced with US Presidential campaigns, and who is not rooting for Trump. He writes in Forbes Five Principles That Will Power President Trump’s Reelection. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

If you are eagerly awaiting each new development in America’s quadrennial drama to select a president, then please regard the opening sentence to this commentary as a spoiler alert.

I have seen this movie before, and I know how it turns out. In fact, I have seen the movie several times.

I was there in 1972 when President Nixon soundly defeated the left-wing candidacy of George McGovern. I was actually in the McGovern campaign, and I was in on the early stages of the Dukakis campaign 16 years later, when George H.W. Bush defeated the liberal Massachusetts governor. I wasn’t associated with the Mondale campaign in 1984, but it was pretty much the same plot: left-wing Democrat wiped out by right-wing Republican. Mondale, like McGovern, only managed to carry one state (Dukakis won eight).

So, as the candidates seeking next year’s Democratic presidential nomination compete to outdo each other on issues like socializing medicine, opening borders and providing racial reparations, I think I have a pretty good idea of how this drama is going to turn out.

President Trump is going to be reelected.

With Democratic presidential hopefuls steadily trending Left, President Trump has good reason to be smiling about his reelection prospects. OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD

The American electorate simply doesn’t like left-wing ideologues. You can trace this pattern back over a hundred years to the defeat of William Jennings Bryan in three different presidential runs, during each of which he offered radical cures for what supposedly ailed the country. Even in the depths of the Great Depression, FDR knew he had to run as a centrist and populist rather than a socialist to bolster his chances of getting elected (Carter and Clinton successfully embraced the same lesson).

Today’s Democrats have decided they can’t win the party’s nomination unless they go far Left, and that will be their undoing come November of next year. As we have all learned the hard way, the Internet has a memory. Trying to move to the center after securing the party’s nomination doesn’t work the way it once did because the other side won’t let you forget all those awful things you said during the primary season about ICE, gun owners, coal miners et. al.

But wait, you say. Isn’t Trump different from past candidates—so eccentric that the usual rules applying to electoral outcomes aren’t operative? I don’t think so. His reelection campaign will massage the president’s policy initiatives and pronouncements into a platform that sounds like something Dwight Eisenhower or Ronald Reagan would have had no trouble supporting.

In fact, I can already predict in advance what that streamlined expression of Trump principles will look like. Unlike the Democratic platform, which will consist almost entirely of domestic economic and social issues, the Trump principles will be heavy on security and nationalism. When the smoke clears late on Election Day, Trump will have prevailed against the Democrats’ latter-day Dukakis. And here are the ideas that will do the trick.

Peace. Trump said this week that if he hadn’t been elected, the U.S. would be at war with North Korea. That’s a stretch, but he has demonstrated repeatedly that he is not eager to use America’s military overseas. In addition to smothering North Korean despot Kim Jong Un with love, he has signaled from day one he wanted to get along with a nuclear-armed Russia; refrained from bombing Iran; tried to pull all remaining U.S. troops out of Syria; avoided sending forces to remove Venezuela’s discredited dictator; and told his advisors he wants to get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. Having watched what happened in past presidential elections to parties that were blamed for unpopular wars, Trump is not going to let anybody accuse him of being a military interventionist.

Prosperity. The single most reliable indicator of whether an incumbent president will be reelected is whether the economy is doing well. Under Trump, the economy is going gangbusters—in fact, better than most economists predicted was even possible. With unemployment at record lows and the stock market at record highs, there isn’t even a hint of inflation. Trump stimulated an economy thought to be in the late stages of expansion, and gave it a new lease on life. Democrats will say his trade policies are undermining prosperity, but the nation’s yawning trade deficit actually cuts a full percentage point off the economic growth rate each year, so there’s a link between all his tariffs and bolstering prosperity.

Sovereignty. If a country can’t control its borders and can’t stop foreign entities from interfering in its domestic affairs, then it has diminished sovereignty. Nationalists like Trump believe the sovereignty of nation-states, at least legitimate ones, should be absolute. So of course the fact that apprehensions of illegal migrants on the southern border were averaging over 3,000 per day in April is an issue, especially given uncertainty as to how many illegals were not apprehended. And signing onto multilateral treaties like the Paris climate accords or the Trans-Pacific Partnership can also be construed as potentially infringing sovereignty. Trump’s campaign will say he wants to restore America’s control of its destiny. How the Democrats will explain their incoherent approach to border security is anyone’s guess.

Self-sufficiency. Like sovereignty, self-sufficiency is not a term Trump would likely invoke at a campaign rally. But the two ideas are related. Trump doesn’t subscribe to the theory of comparative advantage among nations, or to free trade, or to economic globalization, because he believes every nation is out to get the best deal for itself even if that means breaking the rules. In that regard, the international economy is not much different from the New York real-estate market where Trump made his fortune. So rather than sacrificing his generation to a principle (as Churchill might have put it), Trump wants America to be self-sufficient in key commodities and manufactured items. That’s why he tells Apple to make its iPhones here, and Mercedes to make its cars here. He doesn’t care if that violates trade rules—and neither do most voters.

Energy. I’m not talking about fossil fuels here, I’m talking about initiative. Trump is an activist who is relentless about pursuing his agenda, whether the topic is deregulation of the economy or denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. His energy level surpasses the performance of any president in living memory, and once he decides what his goals are he doesn’t pay much attention to critics. Having an activist at the helm conveys a sense of dynamism about the administration and the nation that is largely missing from the politics of other nations. You don’t need to agree with Trump’s agenda to see why nobody in Republican circles is talking about “passing the torch.”

Peace, prosperity, sovereignty, self-sufficiency and energy are the ideas that will win President Trump a second term. A handful of Democratic hopefuls such as Mayor Pete might give Trump a run for his money in the general election, but any candidate espousing a left-leaning agenda in a strong economy is doomed to failure. That’s what the historic record shows. Trump’s low approval rating don’t really matter, because come Election Day, many voters will be casting their ballots against a candidate they can’t stand, rather than to support a candidate they like. That’s the way these things usually play out.

 

Trump Just Cured Health Care (No One Noticed)

The Editorial Board of Issues and Insights tells the story ignored by others in their article Trump Just Revolutionized Health Care — And Nobody Noticed. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Few have ever heard of “Health Reimbursement Accounts,” but they could fundamentally change the nation’s health care system — for the better — and destroy the Democrats’ case for socialized health care.

Late last week, the Trump administration finalized rules that will let companies put money into tax-exempt HRAs that their employees could then use to buy an individual insurance plan on their own. Seems like no big deal, right? Except it will start to unravel a 77-year-old policy mistake that is largely responsible for many of the problems the health care system suffers today.

Back in 1942, the Roosevelt administration imposed wage and price controls on the economy. But it exempted employer-provided benefits like health insurance, and the IRS later decreed that these benefits wouldn’t be taxed as income.

The result was to massively tilt the health insurance playing field toward employer-provided insurance. Today 88% of those with private insurance get it at work.

The massive tax subsidy — now valued at more than $300 billion — also encouraged overly generous health plans, because any health care paid by insurers was tax exempt, while out of pocket spending had to come from after-tax dollars.

So not only did this Roosevelt-era mistake create an employer-dominated health insurance market, it made consumers largely indifferent to the cost of care, since the vast bulk of it was picked up by a third party.

But while health care experts across the political spectrum recognize this mistake, Democrats’ response has been to get the government even more involved in health care, with the latest proposal a total government takeover under the guise of “Medicare for All.”

Republicans, to their credit, have been pushing in the opposite direction. The introduction of Health Savings Accounts — a GOP reform idea Democrats fiercely opposed — 14 years ago helped to remedy one of the tax distortions, by allowing some people to pay out of pocket costs with pre-tax money.

Even with all the restrictions Congress put on HSAs, the market for high-deductible HSA plans exploded — climbing from nothing in 2005 to nearly 30% of the employer market today. By the end of last years, consumers had saved up $10 billion in these accounts.

The rise in these “consumer directed” plans was at least partially responsible for the slow-down in health spending in recent years, according to official government reports, as consumers increasingly started shopping around.

Trump’s HRA rules will have a far more profound impact.

Under the plan, employers will be able to fund tax-free Health Reimbursement Accounts for their workers, who can then use the money to buy an individual insurance plan — thereby taking another step toward fixing the 77-year-old tax distortion. The rule also lets employers fund a different account to buy cheaper “short-term” plans.

This subtle, technical tweak has the potential to revolutionize the private health insurance market,” wrote Avik Roy, one of the smartest health care experts around, in the Washington Post.

The administration figures that 800,000 employers will eventually move to HRA plans, and 11 million workers will get their benefits this way.

At the same time, Trump also loosened the federal rules that had needlessly impeded “association health plans.” These are plans that let members of various groups band together to buy insurance. The result will be more competition, and more affordable choices for millions of people.

The Democrats’ response? Attack these changes as another attempt by Trump to “sabotage” Obamacare. What they really fear, however, is that the two new rules will destroy their case for socialized medicine.

As Roy put: “Together, over time, these changes would give workers more transparency into — and more control over — the health-care dollars that are now spent by other people on their behalf. That transparency and control, in turn, would create a powerful market incentive for health-care payers and providers to lower prices and increase quality.”

Once that happens, the last thing these millions of newly empowered health care shoppers will want is to be shuffled into a one-size-fits-all government plan designed for the masses by socialists like Bernie Sanders.