Update: EU Deep State Vs. Brexit

Christopher Caldwell writes at Claremont Review of Books insightfully about the Brexit struggle Why Hasn’t Brexit Happened?  Excerpts in italics with my bolds

Caldwell tells the story of how Britain and the EU got to this point, and makes two important points.  Almost inadvertently, the EU pact removed British sovereignty and the British constitution.  He explains:

In Britain as elsewhere in the world, the struggle has been unleashed by innovations in administration that have arisen since the Cold War. These shift power from electorates and parliaments to managers of information, inside government and out. From thousand-year-old constitutional ideas to five-year-old ones. From habeas corpus to gender identity. Because it was Britain that did the most to construct the ideal of liberty which is now being challenged, Brexit clarifies the constitutional stakes for the world as nothing else.

Many statesmen warned from the outset that British ideas of liberty would not survive a merger with the E.U. The most eloquent early diagnoses came from the Labour Party, not the Tories. That is because the fundamental disposition of the E.U. is to favor technocratic expertise over representative government, and the Tories have not generally been the British party that placed the highest priority on the passions of the masses. In 1962, as Tory Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was eying EEC membership, Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell warned, “[I]t does mean the end of Britain as an independent nation state.… It means the end of a thousand years of history. You may say ‘Let it end’ but, my goodness, it is a decision that needs a little care and thought.”

What Britain Lost in Joining the EU

Gaitskell was right, but it is only in recent years that people have begun to see exactly why he was right. It was always understood that joining the EEC in 1973 compromised Britain’s national sovereignty. All countries that joined had to acknowledge the supremacy of E.U. law over their own. This was a deadly serious thing if you reasoned the consequences to the end. For one thing, it deprived Britain’s monarchy of its (already somewhat vestigial) logic. Monarchs are not underlings: in joining the EEC, Britain could be said to have deposed its queen. Pro-E.U. politicians assured their voters that it wasn’t as serious as that. Britain, they said, had to give a little bit of its sovereignty up in order to receive the benefits of cooperation, the way it did in, say, NATO. Other European countries had done so without wrecking their systems.

But this was a false analogy, as the political scientist Vernon Bogdanor explains persuasively in his recent book, Beyond Brexit. NATO was a treaty. The EEC was a merger. What is more, the EEC that Britain joined had been designed by the major countries of continental Europe in line with their own traditions and interests. It was not in line with Britain’s. Britain had no institutions like the European Commission, an unelected body that could (and still does) initiate legislation. Britain’s politicians didn’t understand the rules intuitively and were less able to work the system. British political institutions were unsuitable as a “farm system” for training E.U. politicians.

And there was an even larger problem than the loss of national sovereignty, Bogdanor shows. The E.U. destroyed the system of parliamentary sovereignty at the heart of Britain’s constitution. For all its royalist trappings, Britain has traditionally been a much purer representative democracy than the United States, because it excludes courts from reviewing legislation on any grounds. British politicians tried to calm the public with assurances that, where British law and E.U. law clashed, British law would prevail. But the acknowledgement of E.U. legal supremacy in the treaties meant that E.U. law was British law.

In the 1980s, British judges began finding that parliamentary laws had been invalidated by later British laws—a normal and time-honored process, except that these new “British” laws had been imported into British statute books not by legislation but by Britain’s commitment to accept laws made on the continent. Bogdanor, who is a Remainer and a defender of human rights, does not necessarily condemn this development. But it meant that, through the back door, judicial review was being introduced into a constitutional culture that had never had it.

Quangos and foundations began designing cases—concerning migrants’ rights, gay rights, search-and-seizure—that unraveled the centuries-old fabric woven from the rights and duties of British citizenship. A new fabric began to be woven, based (as are all such systems in Europe) on post-Civil Rights Act American law and on the litigative ethos of the American bar.

In 1998, Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair passed the Human Rights Act, which swept into British law the European Convention on Human Rights (a pre-E.U. document dating from 1953). It also bound Britain to abide by decisions reached by the European Court of Human Rights, which sits in the French city of Strasbourg. Article 8.1 of the Convention (“Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”) was supposed to protect people from the prying eyes of the state, as our Fourth Amendment does. But as the judge and scholar Jonathan (Lord) Sumption noted in a series of lectures this summer, it quickly became the “functional equivalent” of the due process clause of the American 14th Amendment—grounds for all kinds of judicial adventurism. 

The EU Empowers the Rich with Deep State Power

The transfer of competences from legislatures to courts is a superb thing for the rich, because of the way the constitution interacts with occupational sociology. Where the judiciary is drawn from the legal profession, and where the legal profession is credentialed by expensive and elite professional schools, judicialization always means a transfer of power from the country at large to the richest sliver of it. This is true no matter what glorious-sounding pretext is found to justify the shift—racial harmony, European peace, a fair shake for women. In a global age, judicial review is a tool that powerful people expect to find in a constitution, in the same way one might expect to find a hair dryer in a hotel room.

Most commentary on Brexit dismisses those who sought it as fantasists and the Parliament that debated it as a madhouse. “Bungle” is the favored verb in most articles on the subject, which generally explain that Britain’s difficult winter and spring illustrate what a misbegotten idea Brexit was in the first place. The Dutch diplomat Frans Timmermans, a veteran E.U. commissioner involved in negotiations, told the BBC that his British counterparts had been “running around like idiots.” European Council president Donald Tusk said, “I’ve been wondering what the special place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan of how to carry it safely.” Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria said in March, “Britain, famous for its prudence, propriety, and punctuality, is suddenly looking like a banana republic as it makes reckless decisions, misrepresents reality and now wants to change its own self-imposed deadline.”

But the reasons for the chaos of the past winter—and for the fact that Brexit has still not happened—lie elsewhere. Brexit is an epochal struggle for power, and an exemplary one. It pits a savvy elite against a feckless majority. There have been scares before for those who run the institutions of global “governance”—the rise of Syriza in Greece, with its attack on the common European currency, the election of Donald Trump, the nation-based immigration restrictions put forward by Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini and Hungarian president Viktor Orbán. But it is Brexit that has hit bedrock. If Brexit happens, our future will look one way. If not, it will look another. Those people who warn, as Zakaria does, that voting for Brexit has decreased Britain’s importance in the world—are they joking?

Only when the Leave side won the referendum did it become clear that the vote had been about not just a policy preference but also an identity. It raised the question for each voter of whether he considered himself an Englishman or a European, and of whether it was legitimate to be ruled by one power or the other. As such it made certain things explicit.

The main legacy of the European Union in the past three decades has been the suppression of democracy and sovereignty in the countries that belong to it. We can argue about whether this is the main purpose of the federation, but suppression of self-rule certainly counts as one of its purposes. Extinguishing national sovereignty was E.U. technocrats’ way of assuring that what Germany, Italy, and Spain set in motion in the 20th century would not repeat itself in the 21st. The architects of the Brussels order proclaimed this intention loudly until they discovered it cost them elections and support. The E.U.’s suspicion of nationalism is understandable. But its hostility to democracy is real.

The self-image of today’s E.U. elites is still that of protecting Europe from its historic dark side. They are confident history will regard them as the fathers of a Common European Home. In the imaginary biography he carries around inside his own head, a British builder of the European Union, whether a human rights lawyer or a hectoring journalist, will cast himself as one of the righteous heroes of his time, one of the enlightened. He is a man who “stood alone” to “fight for his principles” and so on. Maybe posterity will even see him as a European James Madison.

Many people in all member states have sought to puncture this kind of “Eurocrat” self-regard, but Britain’s anti-E.U. intellectuals have been particularly direct and pitiless. In mid-July, Robin Harris, a longtime adviser to Cold War Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, wrote an article in the Telegraph urging Boris Johnson to carry out “a peaceful but revolutionary seizure of power by the British people from a supranational authority and a home-grown but deracinated, collaborationist elite.”

Imagine how it strikes a man who has spent decades working for the E.U. dream—Tony Blair or Donald Tusk, for instance—to see his work likened to “collaboration.” Special place in hell, indeed! Those who sought the Brexit referendum placed a proposition before the British electorate that these self-styled architects of “Europe,” these idealists, had been, all along, not Europe’s Madisons but its Quislings. Worse, when that proposition was placed before the British people, they assented to it.

The British Fight for Liberty

Brexit was not an “outburst” or a cry of despair or a message to the European Commission. It was an eviction notice. It was an explicit withdrawal of the legal sanction under which Brussels had governed Europe’s most important country. If it is really Britain’s wish to see its old constitutional arrangements restored, then this notice is open to emendation and reconsideration. But as things stand now, the Leave vote made E.U. rule over the U.K. illegitimate. Not illegitimate only when Brussels has been given one last chance to talk Britain out of it, but illegitimate now. What Britons voted for in 2016 was to leave the European Union—not to ask permission to leave the European Union. It is hard to see how Britain’s remaining in the E.U. would benefit either side.

And yet, given that Britain is the first country to issue such an ultimatum, given that pro-E.U. elites in other European countries have reason to fear its replication, given the moral ambitions of the E.U. project, given that the British who support Remain have transferred their sentiments and their allegiances across the channel, given the social disparity between those who rule the E.U. and most of those who want to leave it, how could the reaction of Britain’s establishment be anything but all-out administrative, judicial, economic, media, political, and parliamentary war? The battle against Brexit is being fought, Europe-wide, with all the weaponry a cornered elite has at its disposal.

It has proved sufficient so far.

 

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Closing the Endangered Species Piggy Bank

By Ronald W. Opsahl writes August 26, 2019, at Real Clear Policy Trump’s Environmental Reforms: Good for the Environment, Bad for Lawyers.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Between 2016 and 2018, environmental groups filed over 170 lawsuits alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act, making the ESA one of the most abused environmental laws in the United States. On Monday, the Trump Administration announced much needed revisions to regulations of the ESA.

The response of leading environmentalist groups was entirely predictable. They immediately threatened lawsuits. Indeed, lawsuits make up the core business plan of many purported wildlife conservation groups. They sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for alleged violations of the ESA, and often force agency decisions that do not actually benefit any species.

These groups then seek, and frequently succeed, to recover their attorneys’ fees from the federal government, drawing limited funding away from actual species conservation and into their war chests to fund additional ESA litigation. And the cycle goes on and on.

Major environmentalist groups not only earn money directly from litigation, but they also use lawsuits as a fundraising tool, rallying their donors by claiming to “fight” for endangered and threatened species in the courts, even when those lawsuits do little to promote actual conservation.

Big Environmentalism is doing brisk business these days. Since these groups essentially earn a living by abusing the ESA, they have a lot invested in the status quo. ESA reform is a genuine threat to their business model. They characterized Trump’s proposed reforms as a rollback of protections for species at risk of extinction, but it is actually a rollback of their lucrative legal work that terrifies them.

The Trump Administration is proposing three main changes. The change attracting the greatest criticism involves presenting the public with the economic impacts of listing decisions. It is true that listing decisions under the ESA are supposed to be based upon scientific evidence, without regard to economic impact. However, there is no prohibition on preparing and disclosing the potential economic impacts that would result from listing a species. In fact, officials are required by law to consider economic impacts whenever they designate a critical habitat for a species.

Environmentalists may want to keep the public blind to economic impacts, but that could hardly be said to be in the public’s interest. Too often, environmentalists seek critical habitat designations under the pretense of conserving species, but in fact their true intent is to prevent any resource development.

A second revision raising environmentalist ire is the elimination of its so-called “blanket rule,” which automatically affords threatened species the same protections granted to endangered species. Instead, going forward, FWS will evaluate the threats to newly listed threatened species, and tailor the conservation measures to each species’ needs.

Tailored conservation is smarter conservation. The National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency responsible for protecting marine species under the ESA, has never employed the “blanket rule” and has always tailored protections to species’ needs. Furthermore, the “blanket rule” is not provided for by the text of the ESA. Thus, the proposed changes would bring the government’s application of the ESA back into alignment with the Congress’ actual intent.

A third proposed revision to the regulations would clear up some disputed language in the law. Under the ESA, a species may be listed as threatened if it is at risk of becoming endangered in the “foreseeable future.” Previously, the term was undefined, leading to numerous lawsuits intended to force the agency to list species as threatened based upon little more than speculation.

Unfortunately, the weaponization of the ESA will continue until the law is fundamentally changed to eliminate the big dollar incentives that lead to endless litigation in the name of “species conservation.” More reform is needed to curb the rampant abuses of the law by environmental groups. Until then, the “sue and settle” approach will continue clogging up the courts, consuming vast federal resources in endless lawsuits, and taking those resources away from the real work of conservation.

Nevertheless, the proposed reforms are a step in the right direction. The Trump Administration’s ESA rule revision takes power out of the hands of lawyers and puts it back in the hands of scientists and trained wildlife management officials—where it belongs.

Ronald W. Opsahl is an attorney with Mountain States Legal Foundation, specializing in natural resources law, and is a trained wildlife biologist.

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.

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.”

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.

It’s Curtains for Mueller

Special Counsel Mueller is exiting the stage.  In taking his final bow, he emulated Yasser Arafat, famous for never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.  The editors of IBD explain how, instead of seizing the moment to do the right thing, Mueller completely failed his profession and his country.

Mueller’s Final Statement Turns Jurisprudence On Its Head. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller today spent 10 minutes publicly stating that his 448-page, two-part, $35 million and 22-months-in-the-making report speaks for itself, as he announced he was closing shop and retiring. In so doing, he said he couldn’t charge a sitting President with a crime, but if he could have exonerated him he would have said so.

This starkly politicizes presidential investigations going forward and indicts, if we may say so, the already-dubious system of weaponizing a lawyer with a blank check, no deadline, and an open-ended mandate for him to fish where he likes with minimal oversight.

“If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime,” Mueller said. “We concluded that we would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the president committed a crime.”

What kind of strange new standard is Mueller setting here?

Mueller had all the time and money he could want, recorded countless hours of testimony, compiled a mountain of documents, got multiple plea deals, chased down out every conceivable lead, and then says he couldn’t prove the president didn’t commit a crime.

Since when is the job of prosecutors to determine innocence beyond a reasonable doubt? And, short of that, feel free to dump all the evidence that didn’t lead to a criminal charge, but that makes the defendant look a suspect nonetheless.

How would the average American citizen like this said of him or her after a couple of years of 18 prosecutors scrutinizing his or her affairs? After reviewing all the evidence, we don’t have enough evidence to say that John Doe robbed that store. But we can’t say definitively that he didn’t rob that store, so here’s a bunch of embarrassing revelations about him that we uncovered along the way. Have fun.

When the Mueller report came out, I&I’s Tom McArdle noted “that in the United States, we don’t let prosecutors publicly blemish the reputations of law-abiding citizens for actions that fall short of criminality. At least we didn’t until special counsel Robert Mueller.”

A prosecutor’s job is — or at least used to be — to charge or not charge, not choose this or that shade of gray.

Mueller compounds this error with an equally nonsensical claim that he’s somehow protecting Trump. Mueller says the only reason he didn’t bring criminal charges against Trump for obstruction was because the President can’t be charged with a crime while serving in office.

“It would be unfair,” he said in his statement, “to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.”

But what Mueller has done is worse. He’s left the public with the impression that Trump is — nudge, nudge, wink, wink — guilty of something, even if Mueller can’t say what exactly it is. And in doing so, he’s laying the groundwork for Democrats to impeach Trump, without ever having to actually accuse Trump of anything. How exactly is that fair?

Ex-terrorism prosecutor Andrew McCarthy of National Review noted earlier this month that Mueller had options if he actually thought Trump had committed a crime. If there were a case against Trump, he says, “then it is the prosecutor’s job to recommend indictment. The question of whether the (Office of Legal Counsel) guidance should then be invoked to delay indictment should then be up to the attorney general. The guidance should not burden the prosecutor’s analysis of whether there is an indictable case. Yet Mueller chose not to see it that way.”

Mueller’s dark hints of wrongdoing will no doubt add fuel to the Democrats’ longstanding desire to start impeachment proceedings.

In the wake of what will go down as the most outrageous curtain call in the history of political Washington, it is now hard to explain his report and his concluding statement in any way other than impeachment having been Robert Mueller’s design all along.

Comment:  

We have reached the logical conclusion of identity politics:  Trump is guilty of being Trump.  That’s that, and that’s enough.  The tribe has spoken.