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Constitutional and Political Freedom

Obamacare for illegal immigrants may cost taxpayers $23 billion a year, study shows

By Stephen DinanThe Washington Times

Taxpayers could have to shell out nearly $23 billion a year to provide Obamacare coverage to illegal immigrants, according to a new analysis being released Thursday that puts a high price tag on one of the Democratic presidential candidates’ top election promises.

Nearly 5 million illegal immigrants have incomes that would qualify them for Obamacare’s subsidies that help pay lower-income Americans’ premiums, and they would average about $4,600 a year, the Center for Immigration Studies calculates.

If all of them signed up, that would total $22.6 billion a year. Even assuming a more realistic enrollment rate of about half, it would cost taxpayers $10.4 billion a year, according to the organization, which advocates for less immigration overall.

Under an alternative plan, in which the lowest-income illegal immigrants are put on Medicaid while others receive Obamacare subsidies, the costs would be similar, the study found.

“Any serious debate on providing health care coverage to those in the country illegally requires a cost estimate,” said Steven Camarota, research director at the organization, who said his findings were a reminder that “tolerating illegal immigration creates a significant burden for taxpayers.”

The group released another report Thursday calculating that immigrants who use Medicaid — legal and illegal — already cost more per family than native-born Americans. The reason, the analysis says, is that they are more likely to be less-educated and have larger families.

It’s become a must-have position for Democratic presidential candidates that illegal immigrants deserve access to government-sponsored health care. At one of the debates, all 10 candidates on stage raised hands when asked if they backed the idea.

But the candidates have different ideas about how to get there.

Sen. Bernard Sanders, father of “Medicare for All,” says he would cover illegal immigrants through his fully government-run system.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden at the debate agreed that illegal immigrants should get coverage — “It’s the humane thing to do,” he said — but later slimmed down that commitment, saying they should be allowed to buy into Obamacare and should be able to get emergency coverage. That latter part is already the law.

Mr. Camarota warned that if illegal immigrants are covered, the next steps could be to offer taxpayer-sponsored health care to guest-workers in the U.S. on temporary visas.

“The high cost of providing healthcare to less-educated workers who earn modest wages is a reminder that tolerating illegal immigration or allowing such workers into the country legally is likely to create a significant burden for taxpayers,” he wrote.

He said he couldn’t calculate how much of an incentive health care could be in enticing people to enter the U.S. illegally.

President Trump is moving in the other direction.

In an executive order last week, he announced a new policy banning entry of immigrants deemed likely to become a drain on the U.S. health care system — chiefly those who show up at emergency rooms, where they can’t be denied care, and then leave the public with the bill.

Whether to extend Obamacare to illegal immigrants was an issue Congress grappled with in 2009 and 2010 as it was debating passage of the Affordable Care Act. The party’s leaders concluded such a step could poison the entire health care effort, since the public seemed opposed to the idea.

It’s not clear much has changed in public attitude.

A CNN poll over the summer found 59% of Americans opposed offering government-sponsored health care to “undocumented immigrants.”

In the absence of federal action, some Democrat-led states have taken steps.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation in July to expand state health care assistance to low-income young adult illegal immigrants, granting them coverage under Medicaid. The state had already covered juvenile illegal immigrants and “Dreamers” who had status under the Obama-era DACA program, but the new law expands coverage to any illegal immigrant up to age 25.

The state estimated roughly 90,000 people will get coverage, at an additional cost of nearly $100 million a year.


Buyer Beware of Big Tech on the Doorstep

By Travis KorsonNewsmax

The video doorbell is by far one of the most ubiquitous smart home devices. In 2018 alone, consumers spent more than $530 million on a total of 3.4 million units, putting electronic eyes on the doorsteps of homes across the country.

In the interest of disclosure, I must admit that I own several smart home products, including a video doorbell, and am relatively happy with its performance and functionality. But like many consumers I am concerned about a rash of recent reports highlighting previously undisclosed privacy concerns associated with these devices.

It was recently reported that Ring has entered into surveillance partnerships with over 400 law enforcement agencies across the country. Participating jurisdictions are provided access to a “Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal” that allows them to directly request video without a warrant, and then store it indefinitely. That raises serious questions about civil rights and liberties and understandably has elicited significant community opposition.

Andrew Ferguson, law professor at the University of the District of Columbia succinctly sums up the privacy dynamics at play with these partnerships:

“The pushback they [Amazon] are getting comes from a failure to recognize that there is a fundamental difference between empowering the consumer with information and empowering the government with information. The former enhances an individual’s freedom and choice, the latter limits an individual’s freedom and choice.”

When law enforcement agencies are the customers, he concludes, a company has an obligation to slow down.

To be clear, I have no problem with civic-minded citizens volunteering resources to help solve crimes and Ring doorbells may help modernize crime fighting. But these partnerships, as they currently exist, threaten to create a new level of government surveillance at the front door if oversight cannot keep up.

The use of facial recognition, a feature that is increasingly found in today’s smart camera and often goes hand in hand with many of these law enforcement efforts has also been receiving increased scrutiny.

Already used by a host of Google Nest products including their Hello Doorbell, the recently released Google Nest Hub Max for the first time has brought full facial recognition into the home. These cameras flag known users through its “familiar faces” which according to a Nest spokesperson is “not shared across users or used in other homes.” That’s for now, at least. When asked about future uses, Nest did not provide additional comment. As Google looks to expand their facial recognition offerings to private sector and government clients, more clarification needs to be provided about potential applications in the future.

While Ring cameras do not currently employ facial recognition technology, their parent company Amazon has filed a patent to put its proprietary video scanning software, Rekognition, into its doorbells. Ostensibly it would be used to identify “suspicious people” and alert users when these individuals are caught on camera. While a spokesperson for the company has said “the application was designed only to explore future possibilities,” Rekognition’s other applications indicate this development warrants further examination.

The software has been used by law enforcement to match suspects caught on surveillance footage against mugshot databases. More recently, Rekognition has been marketed to law enforcement as a way to identify people captured on video in real time. If this technology is connected to video doorbells in the future, this could raise some serious privacy concerns.

Will Ring use this as a way to create a visitor log, in real time, of all guests who visit your house? If a “suspicious person” on your doorstep is “face matched” will law enforcement be alerted or add you to some sort of a watch list? Given the software’s propensity for generating false positives, this latter point is especially concerning and must be addressed.

Privacy concerns also extend beyond civil liberties. Some of these products have been released without simple safeguards such as two-factor password authentication and end-to-end encryption of videos, leaving sensitive information vulnerable to cyber attacks, stalkers, and foreign governments. Other times it has resulted in software bugs that could be exploited to spy on users.

One company even has a team of workers that are watching hundreds of clips per day, some of which capture very intimate moments, to train artificial intelligence algorithms. The fact of the matter is the move fast and break things mentality of the tech world doesn’t work when such sensitive information is at stake.

In order to regain consumer trust these companies must move more deliberately, provide greater transparency over how data will be used, and offer greater user control over their products.

Google for one has issued a set of plain-English privacy commitments that tells users what kind of data is collected and how it is used. Amazon, in recognition of the ongoing privacy backlash to their cameras will roll out a “Home Mode” function this fall that will allow owners to turn off audio and video recording while they are home. Both companies, as well as a host of other tech companies have asked for clearer government regulation of facial recognition technology. These are steps in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go.

There does not need to be a false choice when it comes to the utility and privacy of smart home devices. Consumers are demanding more transparency over what data is collected and control over how their data is used. Policymakers at all levels should get involved and provide proper oversight. At the end of the day these products can be valuable tools, but it is incumbent on us to set the rules now that will prevent Big Doorbell in the future.


Mischief or Misfud? Barr Calls Reveal Ongoing Investigation, Not Incrimination

By Jonathan Turleyjonathanturley.org

William Barr

Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the allegations that Attorney General Bill Barr is now somehow “implicated” in the Ukraine controversy because he spoke with counterparts in England, Italy, and Australia about assisting in the investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham. If those calls were truly about the Durham investigation, it would be entirely proper for Barr to ask for such assistance. I have always maintained that the Congress has a legitimate interest in investigating the Ukraine controversy. However, the chorus of recriminations on the Barr matter reveal the hype triggering much of the hypoxia.

Here is the column:

With all of the breathless headlines of the last two weeks, it is astonishing that the entire city of Washington is not swooning from hypoxia. Much of the media have blasted out the news that Attorney General William Barr is “implicated” in the Ukraine scandal, after sources said he pressed leaders in Australia, Italy and England to supply evidence about the origins of the Russia investigation. Esquire Magazine was a tad more descriptive, proclaiming Barr was now “far up s–t creek” because of his calls.

Yet not only is there a valid reason for such calls, but they could indicate that the creek could become a storm of sorts for Democrats over the coming weeks. The calls made by Barr were reportedly linked to the ongoing investigation by United States Attorney John Durham into the origins of the Russia investigation. It is not uncommon for an attorney general, or even a president, to ask foreign leaders to assist with ongoing investigations. Such calls can shortcut bureaucratic red tape, particularly if the evidence is held, as in this case, by national security or justice officials. A call to request assistance for the Durham investigation would “implicate” Barr in nothing other than an official investigation.

I supported the appointment of a special counsel after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. I also supported an investigation into the origins of the FBI investigation. The country is divided on the merits of both with legitimate concerns raised on each side. With the start of a House impeachment inquiry, it is more important than ever to have transparency along with a review of both investigations.

Moreover, Durham could answer some disturbing aspects of the origins of the Russia investigation, including the mysterious role of Professor Joseph Mifsud. Efforts by Durham to gain cooperation from Australia, England, and Italy likely concern figures such as Misfud. The professor seemed eager and focused in revealing that there were “thousands of emails” in the hands of the Russians in conspicuously opportunistic meetings with key figures. 

An academic from Malta, Mifsud has long been tied to Russian interests and appears at critical moments throughout the Russia investigation. He met with former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos in both Rome and London. In one of those meetings, he referenced the existence of hacked emails.

We have never established the real facts or loyalties of Mifsud. Some have suggested that he may have been a Western asset working for American, British, or Italian intelligence services. Fueling that speculation was the fact that the special counsel report indicates Mifsud lied repeatedly to investigators on sensitive national security issues. While Robert Mueller charged others for minor discrepancies in the stories that they told investigators, Mifsud somehow escaped any such charge.

Information on Mifsud would be found in countries like Australia, England, and Italy, as would be information on the work of former British spy Christopher Steele. The Clinton campaign paid him and an American opposition research firm a large sum of money to seek dirt on Trump, including Russian and other foreign sources. Such information is not easily shaken loose without a high level prompt from someone like Barr.

However, many of the very same figures in Congress and in the media who previously called for full disclosure of every aspect of the Russia investigation are now criticizing the effort to gather evidence in the Durham investigation. It appears the public “right to know” does not extend that far. The reason is that a key report by Durham likely would come at a most importune time in advance of the 2020 election.

Democrats already are moving to impeach Trump on the Ukraine matter. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others have told fellow Democrats to focus on Ukraine instead of on Russia conspiracy or obstruction, which led to more than two years of investigation. One reason for this is that Trump would be able to call his own witnesses during a Senate trial, particularly with a Republican majority dictating the rules. If the Russia investigation winds up as part of an impeachment trial, then Trump would be able to use these reports and earlier disclosures to place the conduct of the Obama administration under the spotlight before the public.

Trump would have plenty to work with in such a trial. The original focus was on his campaign aide Carter Page, who ultimately was not indicted on any crime. Mueller could not find a single crime by George Papadopoulos other than a marginal false statement that led to a whole 12 days in jail. Mueller ultimately found that no Trump official knowingly dealt with Russian hackers or trolls. If Durham finds irregularities and improper conduct in the Russia investigation, it will reinforce the claim by Trump that his campaign was improperly targeted by hostile FBI officials.

Even worse is there could be a one two punch coming on the Russia investigation. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is said to be close to releasing his report on the secret surveillance targeting Trump officials. The report is expected to be both comprehensive and damaging for many involved in the start of that investigation. Durham and Horowitz will not be easily dismissed. Both are widely respected and are working with career investigators. If either finds improper conduct, it could reinforce the position of Republicans and moderate Democrats in voting against the impeachment or removal of Trump, who strongly maintains that the Obama administration not only improperly targeted his campaign for investigation but proved lax in investigating allegations against Democrats ranging from Hillary Clinton to Joe Biden.

Convicting a president in an impeachment trial requires evidence and clarity. Even if Democrats only proceed on the Ukraine call, Trump will be able to claim that he sought evidence tied to the Russia investigation to assist Horowitz and Durham in their own investigations. He will be able to call witnesses like Hunter Biden on his business dealings in Ukraine while his father handed out more than a billion dollars in aid.

It is doubtful that Democrats could resist references to the Russia investigation in an impeachment trial, which would trip the wire for Trump to bring in countervailing evidence from the Horowitz or Durham reports. Esquire Magazine could right about the nature of this river, but while it may lead to many things, clarity is not likely one of them.


The Curious Case of the Incurious Press

By Frank MieleRealClear Politics

Back in the old days, it was understood that reporters were supposed to hunt down stories and seek out hidden truths. There was even a name for it. A good reporter was said to have a nose for news.

So what happened? How did we reach the point where journalists presented with a major scandal — an almost self-evident abuse of power — just yawn and turn away?

Obviously, I am not talking about President Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. That topic, along with the “whistleblower” complaint filed about it, has turned reporters into hornets hit with a smoke bomb. They instantly flew into an involuntary frenzy and chased after Trump and his supporters with stingers at the ready. We were assured that Trump had used the powers of the presidency to “gather dirt” on his political opponent (Joe Biden) and threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine until prosecutors there had manufactured evidence of wrongdoing by Biden and his son Hunter, who for no doubt entirely innocent reasons was drawing hefty paychecks from a Ukrainian energy company.

The mad cry of “Impeachment!” was shouted in celebratory tones throughout the hallowed halls of D.C. The narrative came together seamlessly within hours, as suddenly the Democrats in Congress and the information gatekeepers in the news media informed us with one voice that this was bad for President Trump. Very bad.

It was almost as though the facts didn’t matter. They certainly didn’t matter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who announced an “impeachment inquiry” before having read either the whistleblower complaint or the actual transcript of the call between Trump and Zelensky. Nor did they matter to news anchors, editors and reporters, who somehow all magically became experts on political corruption in the Ukraine, Hunter Biden’s corporate history, and impeachment itself.

Remarkably, the public confession of former Vice President (and soon-to-be former 2020 Democratic front-runner) Joe Biden that he had applied pressure to the former Ukrainian president in order to get a prosecutor fired attracted zero interest from the lethargic newshounds at CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Nor did the fact that the actual call between Trump and Zelensky revealed no quid pro quo, no pressure, no demand from Trump other than what you would expect from any president — that the laws be faithfully executed.

Instead of expressing curiosity about why the Bidens had been the subject of a criminal investigation in Ukraine, reporters fell into lockstep with the Democrats’ impeachment narrative. Everywhere you turned for the last two weeks, whenever a reporter was talking about Biden at all, it was to talk about how he was being maligned by Trump, that he had been cleared of any wrongdoing, that the claim that he had gotten a prosecutor fired to protect his son was a “debunked conspiracy theory.”

When you asked who cleared Biden, you got no answer except the news media themselves. When you asked who debunked the claim that Biden had pressured the Ukrainian president to fire the prosecutor by threatening to withhold aid, you got no response except that other European countries also wanted the prosecutor fired (as if that proved anything). When the president stymied the impeachment narrative by releasing the transcript compiled by national security officials who listened in on the offending phone call, which proved that the whistleblower was actually blowing smoke, the media circled the wagons. The Washington Post created its own conspiracy theory that up to two-thirds of the call between Trump and Zelensky had mysteriously been elided into non-existence. I debunked that far-left conspiracy theory myself, but hardly any mainstream reporter seems interested in looking at the facts.

From ABC News: “Trump is referring to unfounded allegations that as vice president, Biden tried to protect his son by stopping an investigation into the Ukrainian company that his son worked for.”

From NBC News: “There is no evidence either Biden did anything wrong.”

You can find the same dubious claims on channel after channel, but let’s not let supposedly pro-Trump Fox News off the hook. Ed Henry, in an exchange with commentator Mark Levin about the call with the Ukrainian president, asked, “You’re OK with one president asking another president to dig up dirt on a candidate?”

When challenged by Levin for asking a dishonest question, Henry claimed, “That’s a quote from the transcript, sir.”

Actually, it’s not, but maybe Henry was relying on a transcript of the “fake call” that Rep. Adam Schiff used to punk the president during a congressional hearing about the whistleblower. It’s like a grade-school game of Telephone, where you start with a perfectly innocent conversation between two world leaders talking about political corruption and send it through three levels of hearsay, anonymous sources, and biased reporters, and you wind up at “There are naked pictures of Trump in Vladimir Putin’s safe.” Say what?

If you need irrefutable evidence of the curious lack of curiosity in the mainstream media, you need look no further than Peter Schweizer, the author of “Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends.” Chapter 4 of that book is titled succinctly “Bidens in Ukraine.”

Schweizer recently sat for an hour-long interview with Levin on “Life, Liberty & Levin,” where he talked about the extensive evidence of corruption against the Bidens. If you want a real whistleblower, Schweizer is your man.

As vice president, Joe Biden had oversight of U.S. relations with just two countries for the Obama administration — Ukraine and China. As we now know, Hunter Biden had lucrative contracts with companies in both of those countries, but let’s just focus on Ukraine and the energy company named Burisma that hired the younger Biden as a consultant, adviser and board member.

“What’s important … to note,” Schweizer told Levin, “is that Hunter Biden has no background in energy, he has no background in Ukraine. He’s being hired to help them with regulatory compliance. I don’t know how he’s going to help them with that, but that’s really not the reason he was hired.”

He was being paid $83,000 a month by Burisma, which Schweizer says is “probably the most corrupt company in Ukraine” and was founded by an oligarch with funds stolen from the Ukrainian government. The rest of the story, as told by Schweizer:

“The point is that Hunter Biden joined forces with a very corrupt oligarch, got a big payday, and he got a payday that he didn’t deserve … because he wasn’t selling his expertise. He had none, and the key question here that no one seems to want to ask in the media is, ‘What was he being paid for?’ He wasn’t being paid for his expertise. What was he being paid for, and what were the Ukrainians expecting to get in return? And I think when you overlay the financial payments with the fact that Joe Biden is point person on Obama administration policy to Ukraine, was steering billions of dollars of Western money to Ukraine, it becomes crystal clear exactly why they were paying him money. They wanted access and they wanted to influence Joe Biden. And Joe Biden’s been around a long time and he had to know exactly why his son was being paid this money.”

Sadly, the  Washington press corps has displayed no such awareness. Far be it from them to show the slightest curiosity in the published and unchallenged assertions by Schweizer that our former vice president was a corrupt manipulator who enabled his son to enrich himself and then helped him evade prosecution.

It is important to note that “Secret Empires” was published in March 2018, a year and a half ago. Yet as Levin elicited from Schweizer, the author has not been contacted by a single Democrat chairman in the House to testify, nor by a single Republican chairman in the Senate. The media is no more curious.

“When my book came out, it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list,” said Schweizer. “I got no contact whatsoever from the mainstream media. They don’t want to hear any of it. Part of it is there is a caste system in Washington, D.C., that they protect. Now, I think one of the reasons that there is so much animosity towards Trump … is that he represents a massive disruption to the business model of Washington, D.C., which is you come in, you juice in your family, you juice in your friends, you serve in public service, you come out rich and when you leave office you cash in even further. … [Trump] represents a threat and a challenge to that, and they don’t like it.”

The voters who elected Trump had better wake up before it is too late. The idea was to “Drain the Swamp,” not to protect the swamp critters. As Schweizer concludes, “If it’s not possible to investigate Joe Biden now, then it’s never possible to investigate him.”

We might add: If it’s not possible for the corrupt news media to do their job now, then when will they? Don’t hold your breath.


Pelosi’s Impeachment Bank Shot

Column: What's behind the Democrats' power play

By Matthew ContinettiWashington Free Beacon

Democrats are rushing into impeachment despite the knowledge that, given what we know now, the Senate will not remove Donald Trump from office. Why is Nancy Pelosi doing this?

Because she has resigned herself to the argument that impeaching Trump is the way for Democrats to win the presidency and Senate 13 months from now. Pelosi’s bank shot isn’t aimed at Trump’s conviction on the Hill. It’s aimed at his loss at the polls.

American University professor Allan Lichtman best expressed the political logic in a recent op-ed. His “13 keys” model, along with most quantitative forecasts, currently favors Trump’s reelection. Lichtman says impeachment would change that by tarnishing the incumbent with scandal. The facts of the case, and whether the Senate convicts, do not matter.

Impeachment alone would not doom Trump according to Lichtman’s model. What it might do is trigger additional events that would help Democrats. The cumulative effect would be a Republican loss.

The conventional wisdom that impeachment backfired on the Republicans in 1998 has been overturned. Yes, the argument goes, the GOP gave up some House seats. That did not stop them from winning the presidency and both chambers of Congress two years later. Impeachment contributed to “Clinton fatigue.” It boosted the chances of a candidate who promised to restore dignity to the White House. The same could happen in 2020.

Advocates of impeachment say the inquiry, whether an official “proceeding” or not, might damage Trump’s approval rating to such an extent that he will draw forth a significant primary challenger, a third-party candidacy, or both. Nor is political tumult and uncertainty helpful for a global economy roiled by trade war and lack of investment. Recession would make Trump’s downfall even more likely.

If impeachment comes to a vote in the House, Democrats representing Trump districts will be risking their political futures. Pelosi seems willing to take that risk. She knows this knife cuts both ways.

Mitch McConnell says that if the House votes to impeach, the Senate will hold a trial. It won’t just be Democrats Doug Jones (who is in cycle) and Joe Manchin, Jon Tester, and Kyrsten Sinema (who are not) in awkward positions. So will Republicans Susan Collins, Martha McSally, Cory Gardner, and Thom Tillis, all up for reelection. Democratic victory in the Senate is critical for progressives. McConnell is Horatius standing between Elizabeth Warren and structural reform of the Senate, the judiciary, and the U.S. economy.

Pelosi has fixed impeachment on the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky for three reasons. The scandal fits on a television chyron: “Trump pressured Ukraine for dirt on Biden.” The process can be run through her ally Adam Schiff’s Intelligence Committee rather than through the obstreperous Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary. And the national security connection provides cover for the seven moderate freshmen with backgrounds in defense and intelligence agencies.

What makes Ukraine different from the Russia investigation is the simplicity of the alleged wrongdoing. Everyone can read the transcript of the Trump-Zelensky phone call and decide whether its contents warrant impeachment and removal from office in an election year. The Democrats need to move quickly, however, and maintain focus. Otherwise they risk losing the plot.

Speed is essential if Ukraine is to avoid the fate of other supposedly Trump-destroying scandals that collapsed from either a dearth of outrage or internal contradictions. Stormy, Avenatti, Omarosa, Scaramucci, Cohen have all gone the way of the dodo. The Russia investigation was too confusing, its results too murky, its special counsel too confused to end or cause lasting damage to Trump.

For Ukraine to be different, the Democrats must uncover evidence that will convince independents and some Republicans the president abused his office. That hasn’t happened yet. Already there are signs of overreach: the attempt to rope in William Barr and Mike Pompeo, tenuous arguments that the Zelensky call somehow broke the law, and calls for canceling Rudy Giuliani’s media appearances and for shutting down the president’s Twitter feed. Pelosi is moving quickly under the assumption that the longer the process takes, the more opportunities Trump will have to wriggle out of this vise, and the more Democrats will become distracted and dissolute.

“How can I lose?” asked Paul Newman’s character Fast Eddie in The Hustler. Pelosi might ask the same question as she enters her own high-stakes tournament. Eddie thought he had a pretty good bank shot, too.


Americans Could Learn From Ellen DeGeneres And George W. Bush

By Tristan JusticeThe Federalist

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres and former President George W. Bush were spotted enjoying a Sunday afternoon together watching the NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers in the Dallas stadium.

After the cameras televising the game put the two on screen, the moment immediately went viral with many Twitter users quick to shame the liberal comedian and television host for spending time with the former conservative president.

On Monday, DeGeneres addressed the backlash on her show, giving Americans a much needed lesson in civility, quipped with humor and humility.

“During the game, they showed a shot of George and me laughing together, and so, people were upset,” DeGeneres explained. “They thought, why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president? Didn’t even notice I’m holding the brand-new iPhone 11.”

DeGeneres continued to make a point that Americans would do well to live by in an age of historic levels of political polarization saturated with contempt.

“Here’s the thing. I’m friends with George Bush. In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have,” DeGeneres said. “We’re all different. And I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s okay that we’re all different.”

DeGeneres analogized to having friends who wear fur, saying that while she also didn’t like it when people wear fur, it doesn’t stop the former vegan from being friends with those who do.

“Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything, doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them,” DeGeneres said. “When I say be kind to one-another, I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone.”

The message to be kind is simple. In fact, it’s a lesson learned as children, but often appears to be forgotten in the political world as America’s growing addiction to contempt continues to sow division in a deeply divided nation.

According to a 2016 poll from the Pew Research Center, 55 percent of Democrats said they had a “very unfavorable” view of Republicans while 58 percent of Republicans held the same view of Democrats. A more recent Pew survey published in July shows 85 percent of American adults believing the “tone and nature” of our political discourse has become more negative in recent years.

The deterioration of civil discourse in America has led to the destruction of genuine relationships essential to the human condition, which, as DeGeneres explains is unnecessary. A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 15 percent, or one in six Americans, reported that they had either stopped talking to a close friend or family member over the result of the 2016 presidential election.

It is not however, simply the restoration of American civility that will save the country from further division, but it is the eradication of contempt for one another. The country has developed a sick addiction to deeming people with different political beliefs as less than human, and not worth listening to. Perhaps even, “deplorable.” One can be civil and tolerant with another and still avoid discourse.

DeGeneres’s monologue is an important message that is so simple yet so easily forgotten in the modern political environment, but is imperative to healing the nation. DeGeneres’s speech is a good reminder for many that life should not be defined by one’s political preferences.


Let’s Rediscover Our Individual Rights To Solve Our Political Polarization

By Nathaniel S. HamiltonFrontiers of Freedom

As modern Americans, we have inherited the most significant philosophic and political revolution in the history of the World. That very revolution gave rise to a government that established a meticulously-calibrated system of checks and balances and important protections for individual liberty.

However, with the highly partisan and ideological rhetoric of today’s political rhetoric. The stability and harmony our government was designed to foster can seem under attack. The last time that Americans seemed to be this divided ideologically was during the Civil War.

Nevertheless, despite the ideological differences, we are still more united than divided. We may have varying individual opinions on particular issues, party affiliations, and ideologies, but we all agree that our rights as Americans must be preserved, protected, and defended. Many times we just don’t see eye to eye on how best go about reaching these rights.

But as long as we respect our opponents’ intentions, we all should celebrate and not balk at disagreement.

Let us not forget that before anything else, the United States was instituted as an experiment in individual liberty. Examine some of King George III’s actions that ultimately led to the American Revolution, as Thomas Jefferson laid out in the Declaration of Independence. 

Many of the issues below are still present today:

The King levied taxes on Americans without their consent. Currently people and businesses across the United States face ill-advised government policies, taxes, and regulations on a daily basis.

Along with Parliament, the King legislated upon Americans in every aspect of their lives. The modern Administrative State is threatening to do the same, with the will of bureaucrats taking precedence over the will of the people.

The King established a bureaucracy that hounded Americans and violated their property rights. The modern bureaucracy continues to subject Americans to this kind of harassment on a daily basis.

The King also denied people accused of crimes the due process of law. Countless people are being deprived of basic due process and subjected to excessive punishments under the modern criminal justice system.

And finally, for years King George III ignored pleas of Americans for relief. The people need to take action with the courts or in the court of public opinion when the government no longer lends them an ear.

Despite all of our differences, we Americans agree on far more than we disagree. 

Regardless of our political leanings, protecting individual liberty remains the story of the United States of America. We all want to safeguard the rights of everyone to ensure that they can fulfil their potential and enjoy all the benefits of participating in our inimitable American system.

We will only be able to rise above our evident differences and unite under our shared principles and destiny as Americans if we can learn to assume each other’s motives, respect one another’s sincerity, and acknowledge that we do agree on certain profound ideals.


Warren Backs AOC’s Illegal Immigrant Welfare Plan

Bill package includes federal rent control, welfare for illegal immigrants and ex-cons

By Collin AndersonWashington Free Beacon

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren endorsed a Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) policy proposal that includes taxpayer-funded welfare benefits for illegal immigrants.

Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, dubbed “A Just Society,” calls for nationwide rent control and bans the federal government from denying welfare benefits based on an individual’s immigration status and previous criminal convictions. Warren became the first Democratic presidential candidate to endorse the plan, calling it “just the type of bold, comprehensive thinking we’ll need” to make “big, structural change.”

Ocasio-Cortez is considered to be “one of the most important endorsements in America,” and Warren’s immediate support of her latest policy marks another attempt to win the freshman congressman’s nod of approval. Warren’s quick embrace of Ocasio-Cortez’s plan is the latest sign of the social media superstar’s policy impact on the Democratic presidential field.

Neither Ocasio-Cortez nor Warren returned requests for comment.

Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, consisting of six separate bills, calls for the expansion of welfare. Bills three and four make it illegal for the federal government to deny welfare benefits to ex-convicts and illegal immigrants. The legislation does not address how to pay for the rising cost of welfare, nor does it explain how it would accomplish its goals.

“It’s been really hard for me to find housing. I have the money to move places and stuff, but they deny me for my felony history. It’s not right,” a man with a face tattoo said in the legislative package’s announcement video.

Ocasio-Cortez’s second bill, titled “The Place to Prosper Act,” calls for federal rent control by imposing a 3 percent national cap on annual rent increases. Similar legislation has failed at the local level amid concerns that such policies increased housing prices while limiting supply. A recent study by the American Economic Association found that San Francisco rent control policy “drove up market rents in the long run, ultimately undermining the goals of the law.” The Council of Economic Advisers found that in 11 metropolitan areas with housing regulations, deregulation would reduce homelessness by an average of 31 percent. More than 80 percent of economists surveyed by the University of Chicago in 2012 found rent control to be bad policy.

Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal also includes an official poverty guideline that accounts for “new necessities,” such as internet access, while the fifth bill creates a “worker-friendly score” based on union membership and other factors that would be used to evaluate or award government contracts.

The last bill in Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal establishes health care, housing, and healthy food as government-provided rights.

A Just Society is Ocasio-Cortez’s latest major policy initiative since introducing the Green New Deal, a $94.4 trillion environmental policy proposal that would have no effect on the environment.

All major Democratic presidential candidates quickly supported the Green New Deal, including Warren, Sanders, former vice president Joe Biden, and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.

To date, only Warren has endorsed “A Just Society.”


Intel Community Secretly Gutted Requirement Of First-Hand Whistleblower Knowledge

Federal records show that the intelligence community secretly revised the formal whistleblower complaint form in August 2019 to eliminate the requirement of direct, first-hand knowledge of wrongdoing.

By Sean DavisThe Federalist

Between May 2018 and August 2019, the intelligence community secretly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings. This raises questions about the intelligence community’s behavior regarding the August submission of a whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump. The new complaint document no longer requires potential whistleblowers who wish to have their concerns expedited to Congress to have direct, first-hand knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing that they are reporting.

The brand new version of the whistleblower complaint form, which was not made public until after the transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and the complaint addressed to Congress were made public, eliminates the first-hand knowledge requirement and allows employees to file whistleblower complaints even if they have zero direct knowledge of underlying evidence and only “heard about [wrongdoing] from others.”

The internal properties of the newly revised “Disclosure of Urgent Concern” form, which the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) requires to be submitted under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA), show that the document was uploaded on September 24, 2019, at 4:25 p.m., just days before the anti-Trump complaint was declassified and released to the public. The markings on the document state that it was revised in August 2019, but no specific date of revision is disclosed.

The complaint alleges that President Donald Trump broke the law during a phone call with the Ukrainian president. In his complaint, which was dated August 12, 2019, the complainant acknowledged he was “not a direct witness” to the wrongdoing he claims Trump committed.

A previous version of the whistleblower complaint document, which the ICIG and DNI until recently provided to potential whistleblowers, declared that any complaint must contain only first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoing and that complaints that provide only hearsay, rumor, or gossip would be rejected.

“The [Intelligence Community Inspector General] cannot transmit information via the ICPWA based on an employee’s second-hand knowledge of wrongdoing,” the previous form stated under the bolded heading “FIRST-HAND INFORMATION REQUIRED.” “This includes information received from another person, such as when an employee informs you that he/she witnessed some type of wrongdoing.”

“If you think that wrongdoing took place, but can provide nothing more than second-hand or unsubstantiated assertions, [the Intelligence Community Inspector General] will not be able to process the complaint or information for submission as an ICWPA,” the form concluded.

Markings on the previous version of the Disclosure of Urgent Concern form show that it was formally approved on May 24, 2018. Here is that original Disclosure of Urgent Concern form prior to the August 2019 revision:

Here is the revised Disclosure of Urgent Concern form following the August 2019 revision:

The Ukraine call complaint against Trump is riddled not with evidence directly witnessed by the complainant, but with repeated references to what anonymous officials allegedly told the complainant: “I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials,” “officials have informed me,” “officials with direct knowledge of the call informed me,” “the White House officials who told me this information,” “I was told by White House officials,” “the officials I spoke with,” “I was told that a State Department official,” “I learned from multiple U.S. officials,” “One White House official described this act,” “Based on multiple readouts of these meetings recounted to me,” “I also learned from multiple U.S. officials,” “The U.S. officials characterized this meeting,” “multiple U.S. officials told me,” “I learned from U.S. officials,” “I also learned from a U.S. official,” “several U.S. officials told me,” “I heard from multiple U.S. officials,” and “multiple U.S. officials told me.”

The repeated references to information the so-called whistleblower never witnessed clearly run afoul of the original ICIG requirements for “urgent concern” submissions. The change to the “urgent concern” submission form was first highlighted on Twitter by researcher Stephen McIntyre.

The complainant also cites publicly available news articles as proof of many of the allegations.

“I was not a direct witness to most of the events” characterized in the document, the complainant confessed on the first page of his August 12 letter, which was addressed to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the respective chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees. Hearsay is generally inadmissible as evidence in U.S. federal and state courts since it violates the constitutional requirement that the accused be given the opportunity to question his accusers.

The anti-Trump complaint also made several false claims that have been directly refuted and debunked. While the complaint alleged that Trump demanded that Ukraine physically return multiple servers potentially related to ongoing investigations of foreign interference in the 2016 elections, the transcript of the call between Trump and Zelensky shows that such a request was never made.

The complainant also falsely alleged that Trump told Zelensky that he should keep the current prosecutor general at the time, Yuriy Lutsenko, in his current position in the country. The transcript showed that exchange also did not happen.

Additionally, the complaint falsely alleged that T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, a U.S. State Department official, was a party to the phone call between Trump and Zelensky.

“I was told that a State Department official, Mr. T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, also listened in on the call,” the complaint alleged. Shortly after the complaint was released, CBS News reported that Brechbuhl was not on the phone call.

In a legal opinion that was released to the public along with the phone call transcript, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) determined that the complainant’s submission was statutorily deficient and therefore was not required to be submitted to Congress. The White House nonetheless declassified and released the document to Congress late Wednesday evening.

“The complaint does not arise in connection with the operation of any U.S. government intelligence activity, and the alleged misconduct does not involve any member of the intelligence community,” the September 3 OLC opinion noted. “Rather, the complaint arises out of a confidential diplomatic communication between the President and a foreign leader that the intelligence-community complainant received secondhand.”

“The question is whether such a complaint falls within the statutory definition of “urgent concern” that the law requires the DNI to forward to the intelligence committees,” the OLC opinion continued. “We conclude that it does not.”

It is not known precisely when the August 2019 revision to the whistleblower complaint form was approved, nor is it known which, if any, version of the Disclosure of Urgent Concern form the complainant completed prior to addressing his complaint to Congress.

Reached by phone on Friday afternoon, a Director of National Intelligence official refused to comment on any questions about the secret revision to the whistleblower form, including when it was revised to eliminate the requirement of first-hand knowledge and for what reason.


Remembering Jamal Khashoggi and the Future of U.S.-Saudi Relations

By Peter RoffMediaite

Jamal Khashoggi

For all we know, what’s left of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is fertilizing olive trees in the hills outside Istanbul. It’s been a year since he went missing but the people who know what really happened to the well-known critic of the Saudi regime who disappeared after entering his country’s Turkish consulate aren’t saying.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salam, who probably knows all, is giving lots of interviews as the anniversary of the disappearance approaches. He denies he ordered him killed but admits it “was a heinous crime,” as he told CBS’ 60 MinutesSunday. “I take full responsibility as a leader,” he said, adding it would be ridiculous to expect him to keep close track of the activities of the millions in the employ of the family business the rest of the world calls the Saudi government.

His denial is hard to swallow. A few senior officials lost their posts over the whole business but probably got to keep their heads. Which is more than can be said about Khashoggi, if the widely accepted rumors concerning his demise are true. Generally, things go on as before, with the Trump Administration and the Saudis continuing to cozy up in pursuit of regional peace.

The degree to which the Khashoggi affair has ceased to be a topic of conversation among American journalists is disturbing. Presuming he was killed (there’s no reason to believe he wasn’t) consider why. He was killed over his criticisms, because he made them and because they had power and were starting to be believed. One need not have liked him to be outraged. One does not have to believe what he wrote to be inflamed. And even if he was working, as some opinion writers friendly to Saudi interests working on behalf of another government have claimed, it is still gobsmacking that expression of his opinions got him killed.

The U.S. response has been weak, likely because presidential adviser Jared Kushner’s much-touted plan for Middle East peace depends so heavily on a lead role for the Saudis in checking Iran’s ambitions. The risks associated with opposing or even deposing MBS, as the crown prince is typically referred to, are considered too high to allow for decisive action against him.

MBS knows this and uses it to his full advantage. The interviews he’s giving now are designed to take the edge off through an expensive damage control operation, providing just enough cover for him to be welcomed into the family of global leaders once his father, the current King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud finally folds his tents and goes gently into the night.

It doesn’t have to be that way. MBS’s succession to the Saudi throne is not automatic. The order of succession is not clearly defined. In 2006 a royal decree still in effect established the need for future kings to be elected by a committee of Saudi princes rather than see possession of the throne go from brother to brother or father to son.

This new wrinkle may explain why MBS imprisoned members of the royal family and some of the nation’s wealthiest businessmen in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton for an extended period ending in 2018. Instead of the anti-corruption effort, he said it was, it may have been what in western parlance is called “an effort to line up votes” for his eventual ascent to the throne. Those formerly imprisoned have been left living in what more than one publication termed “a climate of fear and uncertainty.”

Before the U.S. settles on MBS as the person around whom the future relationship with the Saudis will be built, policymakers need to think carefully about what they’re doing. In addition to Khashoggi’s murder and the imprisonment of much of the country’s political and business elite, MBS’s fingerprints are said to be all over the war in Yemen and the kidnapping of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. He plays hardball, without a doubt, but can he be trusted to play it in a way that coincides rather than conflicts with U.S. interests over the next 40 or 50 years or does the United States need to look for other options?

With MBS in charge, there might be just as much of a reason to move Saudi Arabia onto the lists of state supporters of terrorism as there is to consider them our closest Arab ally in the region. Before we decide what to do, MBS needs to make a full account regarding what happened to Jamal Khashoggi. That won’t absolve him of all his sins by any means, but it would be a good start at the kind of candor we need from someone who says he wants to be our ally.


Sanders: Medicare for All Not Free for the Middle Class

By Elizabeth MatamorosWashington Free Beacon

Medicare for All is not free and will require anyone earning more than $29,000 a year to pay more in taxes, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said on The Late Show Thursday.

“Is health care free? No, it is not,” Sanders told host Stephen Colbert. “So what we do is exempt the first $29,000 of a person’s income. You make less than $29,000 you pay nothing in taxes. Above that, in a progressive way with the wealthiest people in this country paying the largest percentage, people do pay more in taxes.”

Sanders’s 2020 campaign website details the Vermont senator’s Medicare for All plan, but contains no mention of a tax increase on the middle class. Colbert confronted the Vermont senator about whether his proposal would lead to tax increases. Sanders acknowledged that taxes would have to rise if the government took control of one of the nation’s largest industries.

Sanders said people will no longer pay premiums, co-payments, or out-of-pocket expenses, offsetting the higher taxes once the government takes control of the health care sector. Sanders also said there will only be a private health care market for non-basic health care services, such as cosmetic surgery.

Colbert previously asked the same question of rival 2020 candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.). Warren and Sanders are among the leading Democratic presidential candidates who have adopted Medicare for All as a key component of their 2020 campaign platforms. Warren declined to directly answer when Colbert asked about middle class taxes, focusing only on broad health care spending.

“So, here’s how we’re going to do this,” Warren said. “Costs are going to go up for the wealthiest Americans, for big corporations … and hard-working middle-class families are going to see their costs go down.”

“But will their taxes go up,” Colbert asked a second time. Warren did not clarify. 

Presidential candidate and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg (D.) criticizedWarren for being “evasive” about how she would pay for Medicare for All.

“Senator Warren is known for being straightforward and was extremely evasive when asked that question,” Buttigieg told CNN after her appearance. “And we’ve seen that repeatedly. I think that if you are proud of your plan and it’s the right plan, you should defend it in straightforward terms.”


New Poll: 64 Percent Of Democrats Now Support Socialism

By Tristan JusticeThe Feralist

A new study shows Democrats running to embrace socialism in the Trump era as radical progressives dominate the 2020 Democratic primary field.

The study, conducted by the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, shows a dramatic shift towards socialism among Democrats since 2016, with 64 percent of Democrats holding a favorable view of it today compared to 56 percent three years ago. Today, only 45 percent of Democrats hold favorable views of capitalism while 58 percent shared the same view in 2016, according to Cato.

Half of Democrats blamed President Donald Trump for making them “like capitalism less.”

While Democrats increasingly flock to socialism, the study shows that a vast majority of Americans still favor critical elements of a capitalist society and report being skeptical of government programs to alleviate poverty.

The study found that 84 percent of Americans believe it’s not wrong for people to make as much money as they can honestly, and 69 percent of respondents agreed that billionaires “earned their wealth by creating values for others.” The authors also found that 60 percent of Americans rejected the idea that welfare programs were created to bring people out of poverty.

The report comes in the middle of the Democratic presidential primary where left-wing candidates supporting proposals such as “Medicare for All,” a “Green New Deal,” reparations for slavery, and other massive expansions of the U.S. welfare state are conquering the field, proposals which experts say are mathematically impossible to fund even with near-impossible tax increases on the rich.

The Democratic primary’s front-runner, former vice president Joe Biden, has worked to frame himself as the moderate in the race, which, compared to the rest of the candidates in the race appears accurate. As The Federalist’s Emily Jashinsky has pointed out however, Biden is by no means a moderate, the whole field’s platforms are just farther left. The former vice president’s platform itself has gone even further leftward of Hillary Clinton’s in 2016.

On health care, climate change, and criminal justice reform, Biden has adopted the prescriptions of the left with the drastic expansion of the federal government cloaked in moderation by the cover provided by openly socialist candidates competing in the race.


The Sixth Circuit Pounds Another Nail in the Coffin of the University Speech Code

The day when universities are forced to rediscover their historic role as guardians of open inquiry and debate is coming, whether they like it or not.

By DAVID FRENCHNational Review

There was a time, in the recent past, when universities were in the grip of a kind of speech-code fever. Even as recently ten years ago, after a wave of litigation striking down campus speech regulations, the vast majority of American colleges and universities still kept clearly unconstitutional speech codes on the books. They kept losing in court, yet they still couldn’t quit their codes.

Fast-forward a decade and that’s changed. Between 2009 and 2019, the portion of surveyed American universities with what the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education classifies as “red light” speech codes has shrunk from 74.2 percent to a mere 28.5 percent, and a total of 17 states have enacted some form of campus free-speech legislation. But the impulse to censor dies hard, and some schools have been nothing if not creative in their efforts to control speech without explicitly and clearly running afoul of the law. Witness, for example, the phenomenon of the “bias-response team.”

While the system varies from university to university, in general a bias-response team represents an institutional effort to identify alleged student bias and bigotry and eliminate it through some form of reeducation. Students report speech they find discriminatory or otherwise problematic, a university team investigates the “incident” — including sometimes meeting with the alleged offender — and then often creates a report describing the events. Sometimes bias-response teams can and will refer conduct to university disciplinary officials or university police if they feel more substantial punishment is warranted.

Last year, a group called Speech First filed an important lawsuit against the University of Michigan, challenging the content of the university’s bullying and harassment policy and its bias-response team’s procedures. The district court denied Speech First’s request for an injunction, holding in part that the group lacked standing to challenge the policy. Under the law, a court will not grant standing to a plaintiff in the absence of what’s called an “injury in fact,” and the question was whether the members of Speech First had suffered an “objective chill” to their free-speech rights or a mere “subjective chill.” For the chill to be objective, there must be proof that a “concrete harm” (enforcement of a statute or regulation) “occurred or is imminent.” If the plaintiff is concerned merely with the defendant’s “data-gathering activity,” and can’t meet the “concrete harm” standard, then the chill is subjective.

Make sense? To put it as plainly as possible, Michigan argued that the courts should move along — that there was nothing to see here because the bias-response team itself couldn’t punish anyone. Speech First said that actually, there was a problem, because the bias-response process itself could act as a form of punishment, and the team could still refer incidents to those with power to explicitly punish students.

Yesterday, in a decision with national implications, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Speech First, reversed the district court and ordered it to reconsider the group’s request for an injunction. Its ruling recognized the obvious power of the bias-response team:

The Response Team’s ability to make referrals — i.e., to inform OSCR or the police about reported conduct — is a real consequence that objectively chills speech. The referral itself does not punish a student — the referral is not, for example, a criminal conviction or expulsion. But the referral subjects students to processes which could lead to those punishments. The referral initiates the formal investigative process, which itself is chilling even if it does not result in a finding of responsibility or criminality.

This is quite right: There isn’t a student alive who wouldn’t find the bias-response team’s investigative process intimidating. But the problem extends beyond the team’s ability to refer students for punishment; it reaches to the team’s power to request a meeting with an accused student, as the court went on to explain:

Additionally, the invitation from the Response Team to meet could carry an implicit threat of consequence should a student decline the invitation. Although there is no indication that the invitation to meet contains overt threats, the referral power lurks in the background of the invitation. It is possible that, for example, a student who knows that reported conduct might be referred to police or OSCR could understand the invitation to carry the threat: “meet or we will refer your case.” Additionally, the very name “Bias Response Team” suggests that the accused student’s actions have been prejudged to be biased. The name is not the “Alleged Bias Response Team” or “Possible Bias Investigatory Team.” It is the “Bias Response Team.”

The dissent argues that Speech First did not present any evidence of actual or imminent interaction with the bias response team, but — as the majority notes — that’s the entire point of the chilling-effect analysis. When the spectral threat of government action looms, private actors will refuse to engage in any speech that could even potentially result in state investigation.

The university will now be required to defend its response team on the merits, and it is highly likely to lose. But even this standing ruling alone is likely to spawn additional litigation, including in different federal circuits. Once again, universities will find themselves on the defense — at least until the day comes when they at long last rediscover their true historical purpose, to serve, in the court’s words, as “guardians of intellectual debate and free speech.”


Pelosi’s 95% Retroactive Tax on Medicines will Harm Americans in Need of Cures

Frontiers of Freedom President, George Landrith, made the following statement on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s so-called Lower Drug Costs Now Act:

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s drug pricing plan to impose up to a 95 percent excise tax on hundreds of prescription medicines is the definition of insanity!  Even more strange is the counter-intuitive title she’s given it — the Lower Drug Costs Now Act.  It is difficult to imagine a more dishonestly named bill. The idea that such actions will reduce prices defies logic.  Government obstacles and taxes only raises prices and slow innovation and the development of new medicines and drugs. Imposing confiscatory taxes is no way to encourage innovation or lower prices and it is a huge stride towards socialized healthcare which leaves consumers and patients at the mercy of government bureaucrats. Imagine when you are sick having an experience like at the Department of Motor Vehicles – long lines, lots of waiting, and poor service. 

“Pelosi’s plan isn’t even constitutional because it imposes a confiscatory retroactive tax on the total sales of a drug, not the profits, but the gross receipts. To escape this ruinous and confiscatory tax, Pelosi’s plan allows first to agree to government set prices. This is so abusive that it makes the mob’s protection money schemes look legitimate. 

“In the long run, the biggest losers will be the Americans who will suffer and die because the medicines that could have been developed to cure their condition will not exist or be developed. So as American age and need cures for cancer, Alhiemers, diabetes, etc, they won’t exist and it will be Nancy Pelosi’s fault. These policies have long term consequences. If she were serious about improving things, she would unleash the power of the market and competition. Instead, she empowers government at the expense of Americans. 


The Economic Blowback If California’s Independent Contractors Are Eliminated

By Lee OhanianHoover Institution

Last week, the California Senate passed a new bill that will cause somewhere between one million to two million workers, perhaps even more, to lose their status as independent contractors. If California governor Gavin Newsom signs the bill, an independent contractor will have to satisfy the following legally binding criteria:

  1. Be free from the “control and direction” of their employer
  2. Be performing work that is “outside the course” of the company’s usual business
  3. Have their own independently established trade, occupation, or business

The first of these three requirements highlight just how difficult it will be to qualify as an independent contractor in California. And all three requirements taken together will make it nearly impossible to be classified as an independent contractor. The obvious intent of this worker reclassification bill is to force workers who presently work as independent contractors into old-school employer-employee contracts.

Are you looking to hire a gardener, housekeeper, handyman? Be careful, because according to this new bill, all these people may be required to be treated as your formal employees. 

The law is sufficiently confusing that some believe it will affect one million workers while others expect it to affect two million workers.

This is an incredibly dangerous bill, and not just for gig-economy companies such as Uber and Lyft. Following the bill’s passing in the state senate, media headlines trumpeted “Big Win for Labor,” but this is about as misleading as can be. Rather, this bill is likely to be a big loss for most everyone other than unions, politicians who are supported by unions, and the state’s unemployment and disability reserves. And the biggest losers will be those whom the bill’s “winners” claim to support: immigrants, workers without advanced education, lower-income households, and women, who often require much more flexible schedules than men.

Sharply curtailing the use of independent contractors will raise business costs, which in turn will raise prices, reduce demand, increase business failures, and depress economic activity. When analyzing economic policies, there is no more of an inconvenient truth than the laws of supply and demand, which tell us that this bill will be a huge negative for the State. But the bill’s supporters are turning a blind eye to this.

Higher business costs will not be due to businesses that previously were “exploiting workers and shirking their social responsibilities,” as has been frequently argued by supporters of the bill, including Newsom. Rather, app-based businesses will have to completely change their organizational structure and create entirely different business plans.

App-based businesses such as Uber and Lyft are rightly concerned, because forcing them to hire their independent contractors as formal employees requires them to depart sharply from what they currently do, which is to create proprietary software that matches drivers with riders, and manage how that software is used.

Instead, Uber and Lyft will now become taxi companies, in which they will need a much larger human resources department, as well as a scheduling and strategy department to figure out where to send drivers and when. They would need to deal with the myriad issues that arise when managing employees, including determining which drivers get peak-demand schedules, such as Friday nights, and which get low-demand schedules, such as Sunday mornings. 

Not surprisingly, Uber and other app-based companies have pledged $90 million to fight this bill should it become law.

There is no doubt that the costs of complying with this bill will be much higher for gig-economy businesses such as Uber. An important reason this bill is so dangerous is that much of our recent economic growth is from these gig-economy businesses. Forbes estimates that roughly 36 percent of today’s workers are in the gig economy, accounting for about 57 million US jobs.

These 57 million jobs have been created in just the last 10 years. The Great Recession was kept from being much worse because the gig economy developed around the same time and created new and much-needed economic opportunities when jobs across many traditional sectors, including autos, construction, and finance, were plummeting.

Governments should be thanking those who took enormous risks, particularly at the time of the Great Recession, to create these entirely new app-based businesses. They are now a fundamental part of the US economy and are creating substantial new economic opportunities, as well as providing new services that consumers desire.

But instead, California is risking killing the goose that laid those 57 million golden eggs. It is hard to conceive of a worse state-level economic policy that realistically could become law.

So who benefits from this? It is potentially a win for unions, who want the bill because it creates a large new pool of potential union members. I say “a potential win,” because unionization in the private sector is now below six percent, and there is no reason to expect that trying to unionize gig businesses will be any different. And since unions want the bill, it is no surprise that state lawmakers, who are supported by unions, want it.

But this bill can devastate economic opportunities for those who are presently independent contractors and who would be forced to become employees. A recent Los Angeles Times column included interviews with those who presently are independent contractors but who would lose that classification if the bill becomes law.

The interviews predictably show that current independent contractors value schedule flexibility very highly and are extremely concerned about scheduling difficulties should they become employees. One Uber driver noted that his wife was fighting breast cancer, and his ability to determine his own driving schedule meant that he was able to take her to all her medical appointments. He worries about what will happen if he must become an employee and lose his ability to determine his own driving schedule.  

Another Uber driver, one who supports the bill, claims that his pay is too low, and hopes that this reclassification will increase his pay. And Uber, which lost $5 billion last year and is currently laying off some of its professional staff, might agree with him that his driving services are undervalued. But what matters is the market value that riders – not rideshare drivers – place on this service. Rideshare drivers who support this bill may very well be in for a negative surprise if this bill becomes law.

Not so long ago, this bill would not have seen the light of day in California. At one time, state political leaders understood that their job was to promote freedom and economic opportunities for all. Sadly, this is no longer the case, and the most vulnerable in the state are the ones who will lose the most if this bill becomes law.


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