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Constitutional and Political Freedom

60 Plus Association: Coalition Letter Urging Opposition to Price Controls on the Healthcare System

By George LandrithFrontiers of Freedom

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia, June 10 — The 60 Plus Association issued the following letter:

To: President Donald J. Trump, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20500; The Honorable Alex M. Azar, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20201; Vice President Michael R. Pence, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20500; The Honorable Seema Verma, Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 7500 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21244; Brooke Rollins, Assistant to the President, Director, Domestic Policy Council, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20500

President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary Azar, Administrator Verma, Mrs. Rollins:

On behalf of millions of taxpayers and consumers across the United States, the Coalition Against Rate-Setting (CARS) urges you to oppose price controls on the healthcare system. For the past year, some members of Congress and some individuals in the Trump administration have repeatedly floated the idea of “fixing” the pressing problem of surprise medical billing through a “rate-setting” system. These fatally flawed proposals would have Washington, D.C.bureaucrats dictating to doctors the prices they should charge patients. Recently, Politico reported that the administration is considering a plan that would, “outlaw health care providers from putting patients on the hook for thousands of dollars in expenses — but without mandating how doctors and hospitals would recover their costs from insurers.”

While such reporting gives cause for cautious optimism, we recognize that much remains to be negotiated. As such, the Coalition would like to reiterate that any mandates or price controls would make surprise billing problems worse and disrupt care for millions of patients across the country. These effects would be particularly devastating as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim far too many lives. We therefore urge you to reject rate-setting and embrace market-oriented solutions to solve the pressing problem of surprise medical billing.

During the worst public health emergency in our lifetimes, millions of patients across the country have found themselves in emergency rooms and healthcare clinics. Many of them reasonably assumed their troubles would be over after being discharged, only to receive a surprise medical bill in the mail days or even weeks after being discharged.

Each year, 1 in 7 patients in the U.S. receive these unwanted, unexpected expenses after being sent home by their doctors. This devastating problem stems from increasingly narrow health insurance networks which increasingly refuse to compensate attending doctors at in-network medical facilities. Far-reaching pieces of legislation such as the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare; signed into law in 2010) have simply made the problem worse, and now, an estimated three-quarters of Obamacare plans feature narrow insurance networks.

Yet, despite federal interventions and regulations making the problem worse, some government officials want to double-down on bureaucratic control over the healthcare system. Members of Congress such as Sen. Lamar Alexander(R-Tenn.) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) have proposed rate-setting for doctors and repeatedly tried to insert this “fix” in Coronavirus-related relief legislation. Officials in the Trump administration have worked hard to get a thorough understanding of this issue and deliberate on their own plan to end unwanted medical expenses. But rate-setting would only make the problem worse, and lead to the widespread consolidation of hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices across the country. California has already tried this failed approach, implementing healthcare price controls in 2017. According to a 2019 American Journal of Managed Care study examining the law, rate-setting has led to healthcare facilities closing their doors and merging with other, larger practices. Doctors are even contemplating leaving California altogether.

On January 22, 14 advocacy groups and think-tanks formed CARS to warn lawmakers and the Trump administration about the myriad unintended consequences of rate-setting. CARS is now 34 groups strong, and its work has been cited extensively by national and state media. On April 28, CARS released a letter signed by more than 160 economists urging officials to reject healthcare price-controls.

CARS urges you to take these scholars’ arguments into account, and remain vigilant against federal overreach in the healthcare system. Millions of doctors are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic treating patients, and now would be the worst possible time to impose onerous price controls on them. Thank you for your time and consideration of this pressing issue.

Sincerely,

Tim Andrews, Executive Director Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Christopher Sheeron, President, Action For Health

Bob Carlstrom, President, AMAC Action

Brent Wm. Gardner, Chief Government Affairs Officer, Americans for Prosperity

Norman Singleton, President, Campaign 4 Liberty

Ryan Ellis, President, Center for a Free Economy

Andrew F. Quinlan, President, Center for Freedom and Prosperity

Jeffrey L. Mazzella, President, Center for Individual Freedom

Thomas Schatz, President, Citizens Against Government Waste

Twila Brase, RN, PHN, President & Co-Founder Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom

Matthew Kandrach, President, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy

Jason Pye, Vice President of Legislative Affairs, FreedomWorks

George Landrith, President, Frontiers of Freedom

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis, President, 60 Plus Association

Mario H. Lopez, President, Hispanic Leadership Fund

Andrew Langer, President, Institute For Liberty

Harry C. Alford, Co-Founder, President/CEO, National Black Chamber of Commerce

Pete Sepp, President, National Taxpayers Union

Robert Fellner, Vice President & Policy Director, Nevada Policy Research Institute

Wayne Winegarden, Ph.D, Senior Fellow & Director, Center for Medical Economics and Innovation Pacific Research Institute

Joshua H. Crawford, Interim Executive Director, Pegasus Institute

Renee Amar, Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs, Pelican Institute for Public Policy

Paul Gessing, President, Rio Grande Foundation

Robert Alt, President & CEO, The Buckeye Institute

David McIntosh, President, The Club For Growth

James Taylor, President, The Heartland Institute

James L. Martin, Founder/Chairman, 60 Plus Association

Jessica Anderson, President, Heritage Action For America


A Police-Reform Agenda as Old as Policing Itself

The founder of the first modern police department suggests a path forward.

By KEVIN D. WILLIAMSONNational Review


The recent death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, and the riots and anti-riot police actions that followed them, have made new radical libertarians out of some of our friends on the left, who are demanding the defunding and abolition of city police departments. As Dan McLaughlin points out, their cheerleaders in the media are undertaking yogic exertions to pretend that left-wing radicals proposing to abolish city police departments are not left-wing radicals proposing to abolish city police departments. Apparently, we are to apply the Selena Zito method and take them seriously but not literally.

There is someone we might consult about a plausible police-reform agenda: the founding father of modern policing, Sir Robert Peel.

Police departments as we know them today are a relatively new kind of agency. We have had courts, sheriffs, bailiffs, etc., for a long time, but the first modern police department did not exist until Peel organized the Metropolitan Police in London in 1829. It is to Peel that we owe the modern notion of “policing with consent,” the principle that police agencies operate legitimately only where they operate with the consent of those subject to their powers. The situation in Minneapolis and elsewhere suggests that the local police agencies have lost the confidence of at least a portion of those to whom they are responsible, and that their legitimacy is therefore in question. If there is anything at all of substance to these riots and the spectacle of Nancy Pelosi kneeling in kente cloth (“dressing up like a Wakandan chess set” in the low-pH assessment of screenwriter Eric Haywood), then that question of legitimacy is it.

(It may be that the riots are only tangentially related to any real policy agenda and are instead simply a manifestation of the ancient instinct to conduct penitential rites during a plague. That’s my read.)

Peel’s nine principles of policing articulate more of a reform agenda than the would-be reformers do. We should consult them.

Peel insisted that civil police were to be understood as a more liberal alternative to (attn: Senator Cotton) using military forces to quell disorder and relying on excessive punishment to terrorize the citizenry into submission, which had been the previous model. We have strayed far from that ideal, not only in relying on the threat of military force during the recent episodes of political violence but also in reshaping our municipal police departments to look and think more like military units than civil authorities. We have given the police military weapons and military uniforms, the results of which have ranged from the ridiculous (the SWAT team in my hometown of Lubbock, Texas, skulking around in woodland camouflage when answering a domestic call in a famously treeless environment) to the dystopian (riot police dressed up like extras from Starship Troopers, that great American testament to aspirational fascism). We arm the police like soldiers and we dress them up like soldiers, and we tell them they are at war — with drugs, with crime, but, ultimately, with the citizens they purport to serve.

And what was Joe Biden’s famous crime bill if not a semi-hysterical attempt to impose through the terror of severe punishment that which could not be achieved through other means?

Peel believed that “the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives” and that the police must “use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice, and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.”

(The “Peelian Principles,” from which I am quoting, may not have been put on paper by Peel himself.)

The death of George Floyd did not result from the “minimum degree of force which is necessary,” or anything close to that. The more general problem is that the police are not generally trusted to ethically and intelligently determine what the appropriate minimum degree of necessary force is and surely do not universally deserve such trust, as many police departments have demonstrated on many occasions.

Peel advised that the confidence and consent of the public were to be gained “not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy . . . by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.” The word “courtesy” stands out in those sentences. You can have courtesy, or you can have a state of “war” — it is difficult to have both at the same time.

And that may help us to understand why many police critics remain unmoved by data suggesting that there is no obvious widespread racial disparity in the use of deadly force by police; unjust police killings, this line of criticism holds, are only part of a larger pattern of targeting and mistreating African Americans that ranges from disrespect and discourtesy to racial profiling, and so the (contested) data on deaths do not reflect the more general facts of the case. If George Floyd had survived his ordeal, the behavior of the police would not have been any less wrong — it would only have produced a less shocking and dramatic outcome.

That kind of behavior comes from a bunker mentality, an us-and-them view of the world. Peel’s advice foresaw this as well: “The police are the public and . . . the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.” We no longer even pay lip service to the notion that the police are the public and the public are the police, as attested to by such developments as “qualified immunity” and laws establishing that assaulting a member of the general public is a less serious offense than assaulting a police officer. We have taken a civil office and made a kind of caste of it.

The final Peelian Principle: “To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.”

Well.


The Partisan Undermining of Coronavirus Science

Politicians and public-health authorities reveal their hypocrisy — and reduce the chances of the public taking them seriously again.

By PRADHEEP J. SHANKERNational Review

The universal lockdown of the country following the COVID-19 outbreak raised tensions through every segment of American society. The social and economic disruptions sparked protests all over the country, most famously in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. These protests were quickly denounced by media personalities, medical experts, and politicians who claimed that the risk of spreading the virus made it foolish to gather in such ways.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer address the media after several dams breached, in downtown Midland, Mich., May 20, 2020. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Consider Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, who said that those protests were risking the health of the people of her state, that they “make it likelier that we are going to have to stay in a stay-at-home posture,” and that anyone with a platform should encourage others to “do the right thing” and remain home. Or consider Deborah Birx, the lead doctor on President Trump’s coronavirus task force, who said: “It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a co-morbid condition and they have a serious or a very — or an unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives.”

Such concerns were completely reasonable. The nation had just passed the peak of the virus surge in hot spots such as New York and Michigan, and fear of further spread was legitimate. The entire scientific logic for the lockdowns, after all, was to suppress the peak of the surge of the disease, in hopes that our health-care system would have time to learn and adapt.

However, everything changed on May 25, 2020, when Minneapolis resident George Floyd was killed. The outrage over this cruel killing by an officer of the state inflamed the passions of the country, sparking protests, violence, and looting, in the Twin Cities and across the United States. People surged onto the streets, primarily peacefully, to display their full displeasure, fear, anguish, and sorrow.

This time, the response from national pundits and experts to the protest movement was starkly different. Dan Diamond’s excellent article in Politico provides a full accounting of how the medical community has responded to these protests. Jeffrey Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School, admitted that physicians were grappling with conflict between the science, and their emotions:

“It makes it clear that all along there were trade-offs between details of lockdowns and social distancing and other factors that the experts previously discounted and have now decided to reconsider and rebalance.” . . . Flier pointed out that the protesters were also engaging in behaviors, like loud singing in close proximity, which CDC has repeatedly suggested could be linked to spreading the virus. . . . “At least for me, the sudden change in views of the danger of mass gatherings has been disorienting, and I suspect it has been for many Americans.”

“Disorienting” is a very kind way to paint the shift from outright disgust and hatred that many Americans faced when they challenged the logic of the lockdowns to the ongoing celebration of the current protests. Don’t forget just how vitriolic the earlier outrage was: On social media, people were outright called murderers and terrorists; numerous governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey’s Phil Murphy, literally said people would die because of those protests; and media personalities behaved even worse, with Julia Ioffe of GQ calling the protesters selfish and demanding they stay home originally, and Soledad O’Brien calling Ricochet editor Bethany Mandel a “Grandma Killer.”

Suddenly, with the eruption of protests in the name of the murder of George Floyd, those concerns conveniently disappeared. Some former critics, such as Ioffe, have reversed their positions on mass gatherings and openly support them. Others remain silent, demonstrating their cowardice by barely mentioning the threat of the coronavirus to the public at large as thousands of people congregate in protest.

Consider, again, Governor Whitmer of Michigan. Whitmer has been very slow to reduce restrictions on the lockdowns. She and her attorney general, Dana Nessel, famously pursued a barber in the city of Owosso, Mich., who refused to close during the pandemic; the barber has since won his case in court. Whitmer has continued demanding strict masking and social-distancing rules for everyone in the state well into June. Yet when the BLM protests arrived in metropolitan Detroit on June 4, Whitmer was there to greet them. She wore a mask but rejected all social-distancing regulations, marching side-by-side with protesters. Whitmer was more than happy to violate her own executive orders.

Such hypocrisy is not unusual from journalists, or even politicians. However, a much more serious ethical and professional issue arises when doctors and scientists show such blatant hypocritical bias. As scientists, we have sworn to the public that our recommendations would depend on the science and the data, and reject the whims of emotion and personal opinion.

Sadly, this has not been the case. Former head of the Centers for Disease Control Tom Frieden tweeted that he was concerned about losing the community trust by having physicians voice the risks of the virus to protesters. However, back on May 3, he stated, without any fear, “We’re not just staying home in the magical belief that the virus is going to go away. It won’t. Staying home gives us the opportunity to strengthen our health-care and public-health systems.”

Did the virus change in the last month in ways that staying home now doesn’t weaken our system? Frieden is now making the same arguments that lockdown opponents were making a month earlier! In a tweet on June 2, Frieden stated: “The threat to Covid control from protesting outside is tiny compared to the threat to Covid control created when governments act in ways that lose community trust. People can protest peacefully AND work together to stop Covid. Violence harms public health.”

The facts and reality are that the science and data have not substantially changed. We don’t have a good quantification of the risk of viral spread outdoors: the common consensus is the risk is low, but that consensus existed a month earlier as well, and no conclusive, landmark studies have emerged. Nothing about our fundamental understanding of the disease has changed, but Frieden has done a 180-degree reversal of his position regardless.

Many physicians and scientists have likewise let their partisan leanings overshadow the science. An epidemiologist on Twitter stated: “In this moment the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus.” What absurd scientific standards were used to make that remarkable statement?

The short answer is: none. Between 2013 and 2019, police in the United States killed a total of 7,666 people, according to Mapping Police Violence, a research and advocacy group. That data shows that relative to their share of the general population, blacks are 2.5 times as likely as whites to be killed by police; since 2015, 1,252 African Americans have been shot and killed by police, using the Washington Post’s database. These are obviously horrific numbers, and we should stipulate that no citizen of the United States should be complacent about these obvious abuses.

But science shouldn’t deal with emotion or fundamentals. It deals with facts and data. And the facts are these: As of May 26, 2020 (the last date for which race-based data is fully available), the APMResearch Lab documented a total of approximately 88,000 deaths as a result of COVID-19. Of those, 21,878 were African-American. African Americans were shown to die of the coronavirus 2.4 times as often as whites, and 2.2 times as often as Hispanics and Asians. To put that into better perspective, 1 in 1850 black Americans in the entire country perished, versus 1 in 4400 white Americans. African Americans represent 13 percent of all Americans, but have suffered 25 percent of all viral deaths.

These are incredible, and tragic, numbers. And medical science can give us some clues as to the reason for the disproportionate effect. African Americans are less likely to have family physicians, are more likely to have co-morbidities that lead to high risk of complications with coronavirus, and are more likely to use mass-transit systems. Additionally, more African Americans live in multi-generational homes, with possibility of infection from their children and grandchildren. All of these factors likely made them far more susceptible to the disease than the average American. But ultimately what this shows is that the coronavirus is somewhere in the range of 200 to 300 times more deadly than all of the police in the entire country — as a conservative estimate.

To be sure, reducing this complex issue to basic numbers fails to capture the complexities of dealing with racism in our society. These are emotional issues that cannot be distilled scientifically. It is perfectly reasonable for the public to deal with these issues by contemplating the larger context of society, racism, and historical connotations.

But scientists and physicians are supposed to be immune to political or emotional whims. Too many are showing themselves not to be. And the dangers extend beyond hypocrisy. Distrust between the public and the medical community makes it harder for the public to make sacrifices in the name of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Physicians fundamentally rely on trust; the doctor–patient relationship is one of the fundamental philosophical cornerstones in medicine. So, too, do public-health officials, whose recommendations can be disruptive to ordinary people’s lives.

It took a Herculean effort to institute the lockdowns. But many experts have totally refused to speak up about the risk of these protests to cause future surges of the disease, while they were violently opposing similar, smaller protests a few weeks ago. The narrative is clear: They are willing to stand up for the science, as long as it is politically and emotionally convenient.

Not all experts have stayed silent about the risks that persist to this day. Anthony Fauci has remained consistent in warning about the likely consequences of mass gatherings. But, from the beginning, plenty of people in the public-health and medical communities have expected ordinary Americans to listen to their recommendations while failing to admit their own scientific and knowledge limitations. In a piece in April, I stated that we would need sympathy and empathy nationwide to get through this crisis. We should now add humility to the list as well.


West Virginia Barber’s Arrest Shows Failings Of The Bureaucratic State

A barber who had been cutting hair for more than 50 years never set out to make a stand. He just wanted to pay his bills.

By Jayme MetzgarThe Federalist

When Winerd “Les” Jenkins first became a barber, Neil Armstrong hadn’t yet set foot on the moon. For over five decades, Jenkins has made a living with his scissors and razor. For the past decade, he’s worked his craft from a storefront in Inwood, West Virginia. At Les’ Place Traditional Barber Shop, you can get a regular men’s haircut for $16 and a shave for $14—but come prepared to pay the old-fashioned way: in cash.

His insistence on “cash only” isn’t the only thing that’s old-school about Jenkins. He lives with his wife of 52 years on a small farm, where the couple raises rescued animals. He believes in paying his bills on time. He doesn’t use the internet, email, or text messaging. And he’s skeptical that his profession can become illegal overnight merely on the governor’s say-so.

This combination of old-fashioned values led to the soft-spoken barber’s arrest this spring. His story shows how governments’ uncoordinated coronavirus response has caught working Americans in its crossfire—and how the apparatus of occupational licensing has functioned as the state’s enforcement mechanism to shut down small business.

Denied Unemployment Assistance

When Les Jenkins first heard about the Wuhan coronavirus, his first concern wasn’t for his own livelihood but that of his wife, Sue. She is medically fragile, on oxygen after an illness left her with Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) several years ago. “I thought long and hard about whether I should risk taking the virus home to her,” Jenkins told me. “But this is my only real source of income.”

Even before the state of West Virginia began issuing mandates to contain the virus, Jenkins was already putting his own protection measures in place for Sue’s sake. He wore a mask and gloves, sanitized tools and surfaces, and changed clothes upon coming home every evening.

On March 19, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice ordered all hair salons and barbershops to close. Most salon owners got the message through the media. The West Virginia Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists (WVBBC) published guidelines on its website but didn’t proactively contact its license-holders.

“The West Virginia Board of Barbers never sent me any written instructions, never called, never sent an inspector to tell me to close,” Jenkins said. “The fellow who works with me saw it on the internet and told me about it.”

Jenkins initially complied with the order, using the time off to make renovations to his store. “After about three weeks, money started getting pretty tight,” Jenkins told me. At his local bank, he was turned down for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, due to operating an all-cash business. He called Workforce West Virginia to apply for pandemic-related unemployment assistance. “The unemployment office told me that in order to get assistance, I had to provide evidence that I’d been ordered to close.”

On April 10, to get the documentation needed for unemployment, Jenkins wrote to the WVBBC, requesting a signed letter to confirm the governor’s closure order. He never received a reply.

Reported to the State

By the time two more weeks had gone by with no income, Jenkins was in real fear of losing his home, farm, and business. “I’m 72 years old,” he told me. “What else am I going to do if not this? Who’s going to hire me?”

On Wednesday, April 22, Jenkins quietly opened his shop and cut hair for seven customers—all walk-ins, including several police officers. It would be his only day in operation. The next morning a WVBBC inspector came to the door. “I’ve known her for years, and we talked for a little while about her family,” Jenkins said. “Everything was cordial.”

The inspector told Jenkins the WVBBC had received a complaint the prior week from another local hairstylist, contending that Jenkins was open for business during the shutdown. Jenkins denied seeing customers at the time of the complaint—he was in his shop making renovations—but he admitted to being open the previous day.

He told the WVBBC inspector that he would be willing to close his shop if she would provide him with a copy of the governor’s closure order, signed for verification. The inspector returned to her car. “I assumed she was going to get the letter I had asked for,” Jenkins recalls. Instead, she was calling the sheriff. Two deputies promptly arrived.

After some back-and-forth between the sheriff’s deputies, the state inspector, and the barber, things came to an impasse. “Mr. Jenkins stated that so long as [the inspector] provided him with a copy of the governor’s order with her signature, in writing, he would agree to close his shop,” the sheriff’s deputy wrote in his arrest report. Although the inspector did print a copy of the governor’s order, she refused to sign it, saying that “she was instructed not to provide her signature on the documentation.”

After noting that Jenkins didn’t believe an unsigned document was sufficient, the deputy concluded: “Mr. Jenkins then asked if he may lock up his shop before being placed under arrest, and this deputy allowed him to do so.” Jenkins told me that “no one involved raised their voice or said anything detrimental. Everyone was cordial, professional, and polite.” Nothing in the officer’s report contradicts this characterization.

Jenkins spent three hours in a holding cell before being charged with obstructing an officer and released on a $500 recognizance bond. The misdemeanor charge carries a possible sentence of $50-$500 in fines, and up to a year in jail. Jenkins also worries about potential punitive actions from the WVBBC, which could include fines, suspension, or revocation of his license.

“They’ve Got the Power Over Me”

Today, Jenkins is working again, making up for lost time after six weeks without an income. He never did succeed in obtaining any government financial assistance. “I don’t know if I would have qualified for unemployment,” he told me. “But they wouldn’t even give me the opportunity to try. One bureaucracy dealing with another doesn’t work.”

It’s unclear why the unemployment office told Jenkins he needed to prove he’d been ordered to close his business. Workforce West Virginia did not respond to a request for comment. However, in interviews, other self-employed West Virginians attested to a disorganized, confused, and delayed response in receiving pandemic-related unemployment assistance. The Workforce West Virginia website currently contains a notice that its “systems are experiencing intermittent disruptions and temporary outages” due to overwhelming demand.

It’s still less clear why the state licensing board was unwilling to issue a signed letter at Jenkins’ request. The WVBBC proved far more interested in catching Jenkins breaking the governor’s order than it was in helping him abide by it. Rather than simply provide a document to help one of its barbers obtain assistance from another state agency, the bureaucrats at the WVBBC preferred to see the 72-year-old business owner leave his shop in the back of a police car.

The WVBBC—which did not respond to multiple requests for comment—is just one of an entrenched network of state occupational licensing boards in West Virginia. Last year, the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy released a study comparing the state to two of its wealthier neighbors, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Not only does West Virginia have the most licensing boards of the three, but it also has generally higher fees and more onerous licensing requirements.

Garrett Ballengee, executive director of the Cardinal Institute, doesn’t believe an entity like the WVBBC even needs to exist. He notes that while approximately 5 percent of occupations required licenses in the 1950s, today that number stands at higher than 25 percent. “It’s a protectionist racket,” he says. “If we’re going to have an entity like this for barbers and hairdressers, it should provide voluntary certification or consultative services. It certainly shouldn’t be an extension of the legal system, which it clearly is.”

Indeed, in many states, occupational licensing boards have been a key enforcement mechanism for governors’ shutdowns of small businesses. For instance, Michigan’s own shutdown-defying barber has already had his license suspended. Fortunately, under the direction of President Trump, the federal government has been working to relax the regulatory burden on businesses and restart the national economy. State governments should follow this lead. The last thing small business owners need is to be worried about heavy-handed bureaucrats looking to set examples.

As for Jenkins, he has now hired an attorney from his own pocket, helped out by a few donations from the community. “I don’t want to go to jail for a year,” he told me. “I don’t want to lose my barber license. They’ve got the power over me; they’ve got lawyers funded by the state. I never set out to make a statement or a stand. I just wanted to pay my bills.”


GOP Lawmakers Craft Plan to Battle China in Emerging Tech

Legislation would boost public-private partnership, cut regulations

By Adam KredoThe Washington Free Beacon

The United States is falling behind China when it comes to emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, according to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), who told the Washington Free Beaconshe is working on a package of legislative measures that would boost public-private partnerships to ensure the United States does not lose its competitive edge in these markets.

As China invests $1.4 trillion over the next five years to dominate the field of cutting-edge technologies, the United States must create its own plan to foster innovation in this area, McMorris Rodgers said. Her plan, which is garnering support among House Republicans, would increase federal research into new technologies and remove much of the bureaucratic red tape currently restraining the private sector. While the United States cannot compete by throwing money at the problem, it can eliminate many of the restrictions that have prevented the federal government from partnering with private tech startups already making inroads into these technologies.

“We will never outspend them, we will never out-subsidize these industries like the Chinese government plans to do,” McMorris Rodgers, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told the Free Beacon.

Instead, Republicans aim to level the playing field with an unprecedented legislative package comprised of 15 bills that would force the federal government to identify the areas where it is lagging behind China and work with the private sector to spur growth. This includes beefing up American investments into A.I., facial recognition technology, blockchains, quantum computing, and unmanned delivery services—all areas where China is outpacing the United States due to massive investments.

The legislative package is one of the largest and most comprehensive currently circulating on Capitol Hill. It is part of a larger push by Republican members in the House and Senate to combat China’s massive investment in cutting edge tech at a time when the world is becoming increasingly dependent on the communist regime.

The private sector has become more attractive to the federal government as bloated budgets and bureaucratic regulations slow its foray into a range of fields. These types of partnerships proved successful during the weekend when the United States launched its first man-based mission into space in nearly a decade. NASA partnered with tech billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX to make that mission a reality.

Some Democrats, however, have already balked at the GOP plan, citing concerns about privacy and the potential for civil rights abuses by government authorities. They maintain that these technologies could be used for unethical purposes—much in the way China has used them to solidify its police state and spy on dissidents. If the GOP does not find a way to compromise with its colleagues in the Democrat-controlled House, the bills could be dead on arrival.

Nine of the bills included in the GOP package identify new fields of research where the federal government can help spur private-sector innovation. They include A.I., 3D printing, facial recognition technology, and other new technologies still in development. All of the bills would require the Federal Trade Commission and Commerce Department to identify roadblocks preventing innovation in these fields and then create a plan to reduce bureaucratic challenges, such as restrictions on interstate commerce.

Another set of bills seeks to create protections for sensitive U.S. data to ensure the Chinese government does not intercept them, which comes on the heels of reports about China’s efforts to steal sensitive U.S. research and infiltrate the American academic system.

Other legislative efforts would require the federal government to assess its partnerships with tech startups and other smaller private businesses focusing on fields of interest.

McMorris Rodgers said the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated concerns about China’s influence on the global stage, exposing the United States’ weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Republican lawmakers also want the United States to directly combat China’s weaponization of new technologies that allow it to promote misinformation. One of the bills in the legislative package directs the Federal Trade Commission to determine how A.I. can be used to combat propaganda, such as deepfakes—videos altered to make it appear as if people are saying and doing things they are not.


Preventing Facebook, Google and Twitter from discriminating against conservatives

By Peter RoffThe Washington Times

Photo by: Matt Rourke
FILE – This April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Twitter app icon on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. Twenty-six words tucked into a 1996 law overhauling telecommunications have allowed companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google to grow into the giants they are today. Those are the words President Donald Trump challenged in an executive order Thursday, May 28, 2020 one that would strip those protections if those companies engaged in editorial decisions like, for instance, adding a fact-check warning to one of Trump’s tweets. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

On Thursday, President Trump issued an executive order calling for new regulations under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that, he says, will prevent Big-Tech platforms from continuing what many believe is a pattern of discrimination against conservatives. 

We’re not sure that’s the case — just as we’re not sure that much, even all of it will survive the inevitable challenges it will face in the courts. What we do know is that his effort to change the interpretation of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, just like his call for reform of libel laws during the 2016 campaign, should spark a national conversation about free speech that would be healthy for our republic. 

Instead, the whole thing will ground down in pitched rhetoric passing back and forth between the president’s supporters and those who believe he is single-handedly responsible for the destruction of the nation, especially its core values and its reputation for having a civilized political process.

It seems clear Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, by allowing the presidential tweets to be footnoted, he’s acting like an editor, commenting on posts and making decisions about what other people can see. On its face, this would seem to put his platform outside the safe harbor Section 230 establishes to protect tech companies from being held liable in civil suits for things posted by platform users.

“In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to handpick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet,” the order says. “This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic. When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power. They cease functioning as passive bulletin boards, and ought to be viewed and treated as content creators.”

That ought to be a nifty jumping-off point for a robust discussion of speech and how the protections provided by the First Amendment factor in — or don’t — to the part of the national conversation carried on in cyberspace. Legal scholars can point to numerous decisions upholding the idea the government can not infringe on speech, defined broadly to included campaign contributions, flag burning, pornography, as well as the written and spoken word when it occurs in the public square. That’s clear and has shaped a culture whose values generally extend into private space. 

But what if the “public square,” however one defines it, now exists predominantly in a place that is privately owned. It’s worth discussing whether information carriers and conveyors like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Google have a responsibility to keep the space they own and operate open to all points of view, including the ones with which they disagree as well as the ones they may find abhorrent?

A strict reading of the U.S. Constitution would say as a matter of law, they don’t. But what about, to borrow a phrase so popular these days with those who would regulate just about every other aspect of the U.S. economy, their corporate social responsibility?

Further, the potential removal of Section 230 protections from any platform — which, as a matter of full disclosure, we also enjoy concerning the comments posted by readers of this our anything else we publish but not for the things we publish online or in print — is an opportunity for a vigorous discussion of the costs imposed on speech by the threat someone might get sued. 

On the one hand, as we’ve seen an awful lot in the Trump era, people on both sides of the aisle have been telling outrageous lies and fabrications, made egregious exaggerations, and sullied the reputations of political leaders in both parties, journalists and entrepreneurs.

This had added an unpleasantly coarse overtone to the national debate yet, because of the way charges of libel, slander and defamation are viewed by the courts based on the existing case law, the victims of these slurs are often left without recourse and unable to recoup damages, if any. Tort reform is long overdue, we have long held, but some fresh eyes on this issue might help restore some sanity to a news business, forgive our obvious bias, driven by breaking television segments rather than the more thoughtful approach often taken by print media. 

What the president has ordered is likely more a tempest in a teapot than a challenge to the constitutional order. But it raises issues worth talking about, intensely and for a long time in search of a new consensus concerning the role Big Tech plays in conveying information to the American people. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has it right when he says these platforms shouldn’t be “arbiters of truth.” That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a conversation about what they should be.


In 2020, the GOP Should Bet the House

By Peter RoffNewsweek

It makes a lot of sense for Republicans to run a unified campaign going into the next election—with the intent to not just hold the White House and the U.S. Senate, but to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, as well.

Many election forecasters would say that if the election were held today, that’s a bridge too far. And they’d be right. House Republicans under Kevin McCarthy have offered little in the way of meaningful contrasts on most of the major pieces of legislation taken up over the past few months. But establishing a meaningful contrast with the way the other party runs things (or would run them) is a key component of any winning strategy and, thanks to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s considerable overreach in the last coronavirus bill, Republicans now have a chance to make such a contrast.

The American public is highly dissatisfied with the job Congress is doing. According to Gallup, just 20 percent of those recently surveyed expressed approval of Congress. Even Democrats are unhappy, with just a quarter telling Gallup that things under Pelosi were going well.

Part of this is attributable to the increasing polarization of the American electorate. As veteran electoral analyst Michael Barone has written repeatedly, the number of people who split their vote between the major parties as they move down the ballot has declined steadily since the Bush/Gore election in 2000.Ads by scrollerads.com

Republicans can make polarization work to its benefit, especially in the upcoming election, if they run a campaign based on the idea that the two parties have dramatically different visions of what the nation should be like in the future—a vision clearly defined by what Pelosi and her allies narrowly managed to get through the House in the last COVID-19 relief bill.

That legislation contains lots of wedges issues the GOP can exploit to its benefit. For example, with more people out of work at any time since the Great Depression, it’s highly unlikely most voters would support the distribution of their hard-earned tax dollars to unemployed people here in America who did not go through the legal immigration process. It’s the kind of excess progressives generally favor, but which leaves most Americans probably thinking twice about voting for any member of Congress who supports it.

Likewise, the Pelosi-built bill included an extension of the so-called bonus payment being given to many unemployed workers who now find themselves making more money while out of work than they did while gainfully employed. That’s bad policy, not just because it adds considerably to the annual deficit, but because it is also a perverse incentive to stay out of the labor market just as job openings are once again about to become plentiful.

Throughout the political activities related to COVID-19 relief, the Democrats have insisted on all kinds of new spending, adding to the budgets of agencies that are not involved in fighting the pandemic and liberally passing out money to friends and favored interests. Most everything Democrats have accused President Donald J. Trump of doing for his so-called “billionaire buddies,” they’ve themselves done for the interests that keep them in power.

All this creates a contrast with Republicans, who, at least at one time, used to argue for responsible spending and balanced budgets. Trump was never part of that, but he did take the lead, by cutting the corporate tax rate and deregulating industries, in getting the American economy growing at something like the level it is supposed to during good times.

Pelosi’s plan for America, like Joe Biden’s, is the anthesis of that. Incredibly, the former vice president recently proposed taking the corporate tax rate back up to a level higher than even China’s. So much for global business competitiveness during a time when the pressure will be high on America’s manufacturers to come home to the United States.

A coherent, well conceived and executed plan could get the GOP within striking distance of a House majority. It could even push Republicans over the top if they make the effort to produce the proper policies. The money and the organization are there. If they have ideas to go with it, Pelosi may have to pass the gavel next January—which would be good for America.


Reopening America’s Houses of Worship

By Peter RoffNewsweek

After nearly nine weeks of self-imposed quarantine, the reopening of America is finally underway. The evidence, such as it is now, suggests the shutdown may have done little to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Maybe. Maybe not. It will likely be months, if not years, before we know for sure. It has become evident that the early forecasts of a new kind of “Black Death” were overstated and based on models that should have been subjected to more rigorous scrutiny than they received.

If things went as predicted, then what happened in Georgia and Florida, where the lockdown ended earlier and was far less stringent than in other states, and South Dakota, where it didn’t happen at all, should have been far worse than what New York and New Jersey experienced. Instead, it’s the opposite, suggesting that those who hit quickly on the need for “herd immunity” may have been more right than the constant chatter has acknowledged.

The most controversial part of it all—and the list of controversial acts taken by state governments is long—was the decision to ban in-person worship in churches, synagogues and mosques. The action was taken without any apparent regard for the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of worship, which the Fourteenth Amendment applied to the states, as well.

The argument, as it was made, went something like this. People who come to worship are packed tightly together in enclosed spaces and are, therefore, likely to allow the virus to spread quickly to many people if even one is infected. Therefore, churches and synagogues and mosques needed to close.

No effort was made to find reasonable accommodations. Most of the houses of worship moved services and prayer meetings and scriptural study online—which, many have argued, left few people worse for wear.

That may be true, but it’s hardly the point. Religious freedom is a core American value, which is why the Founders put into the Bill of Rights that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The ban on corporate worship, by executive order yet, is a clear violation of both the spirit and letter of the law.

If that were not bad enough, some governors used the police powers available to them to enforce this decision even when, as in Kentucky, parishioners went to churches for service that would have been carried out while they remained in their cars. License plate numbers were taken down, citation threats were made and, were it not for the actions of a federal judge who knows the law means what it says and who stayed the governor’s order, it is likely those who chose continually to disobey the governor’s order would have been arrested for the alleged crime of worshipping in public.

That is now ending. On Friday, President Donald J. Trump said that getting the nation’s houses of worship open was an “essential” national priority. Shortly thereafter, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines to allow them to do that—and which are available here.

Among the suggestions:

  • Promote healthy hygiene practices.
  • Use cloth face coverings.
  • Intensify cleaning, disinfection and ventilation.
  • Promote social distancing.
  • Take steps to minimize community sharing of worship materials and other items.
  • Train all clergy and staff in the recommended safety actions.
  • Check for signs and symptoms.
  • Plan for when a staff member or congregant becomes sick.
  • Maintain healthy operations.
  • Post signs and messages.
President Donald Trump
President Donald TrumpALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

All these are sensible and reasonable—and, if followed, should allow faith organizations to reopen and operate pretty much as they did before the pandemic started.

That, however, does not bring the discussion of how the rights of the faithful were violated. It has not been lost on anyone that these institutions were often left off the list of those considered “essential”—something that would have come as a surprise to Alexis de Tocqueville and others who have, over the years, taken the trouble to explain why America is indeed an exceptional place—while supermarkets, cell phone stores and abortion clinics often made the list.

It is probably the case, had the nation’s governors who ordered the closure of faith institutions merely requested worship leaders to comply with what was desired rather than ordering it, that most of them would have voluntarily complied. And it would not have been a tough call, especially given the New Testament instruction to render unto Caesar the things that are his. Instead, it was made into an order—and one that violated the right to freedom of worship the Constitution guarantees us all.

A day of reckoning is coming. The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause has been treated by the federal courts as being rather elastic since the 1960s. The time may be coming when the voters who consider themselves people of faith will demand similar flexibility in favor of their interests, as far as “free exercise” is concerned. And given the way Trump has reshaped the federal bench with his appointments over the last three years, they’d likely prevail.


Memorial Day – Moments to Remember

By Peter RoffAmerican Action News

There are certain incidents, indelibly etched on the memory of the American people, that have done much to shape our national character. Some, like 9/11, are still fresh in our minds. Others, like December 7th, 1941, are slipping away into the mists of time as the number of those who heard the dramatic news bulletins or experienced the attacks dwindles towards its inevitable destination.

Further in the past, events like Lexington and Concord, Washington crossing the Delaware, and the Battle of Yorktown have become the thing of myths. No one alive and no one who knew anyone alive at the time they occurred stills walks among us. We must rely on the historical record, embellished though it may at times be, to teach us what happened there.

Why these events are important though is a matter left to our judgment. Things change over time, as can be witnessed in the ongoing struggle to interpret — and reinterpret — the justifications for the American Civil War and the reasons men on both sides chose to fight.

It remains a divisive point in our history. At its end some were led out of bondage and into a form of freedom while others were to a degree subjugated as punishment for having been on the losing side. This was not what history tells us Abraham Lincoln wanted.

The vision of our martyr-president, laid out so eloquently by him in so many manuscripts and speeches still with us, was of a nation where all men and women were free and equal. He wanted a gentle peace, one that brought the people of the Union together once again as brothers and sisters. He made this clear many times, but perhaps best at the dedication of a cemetery for soldiers fallen in around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

The battle itself is regarded as the turning point of the war. It was certainly a time of heroics, from Chamberlain’s Mainers surge down Little Round Top, out of ammunition and bayonets affixed, to Pickett’s Charge and beyond. It was three horrific days of brother fighting brother yet, less than 100 years later, veterans of the North and veterans of the South came together again in this same place as one, in memory of fallen comrades and looking ahead to a nation once again knitted together by the toil and sweat and allegiance to the same Constitution.

Let us remember this on Memorial Day as we remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country and of the freedoms for which it stands as a bright light, signaling the preeminence of liberty on our shores to all the world.

FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO OUR FATHERS BROUGHT FORTH ON THIS CONTINENT, A NEW NATION, CONCEIVED IN LIBERTY, AND DEDICATED TO THE PROPOSITION THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.

NOW WE ARE ENGAGED IN A GREAT CIVIL WAR, TESTING WHETHER THAT NATION, OR ANY NATION SO CONCEIVED AND SO DEDICATED, CAN LONG ENDURE. WE ARE MET ON A GREAT BATTLE-FIELD OF THAT WAR. WE HAVE COME TO DEDICATE A PORTION OF THAT FIELD, AS A FINAL RESTING PLACE FOR THOSE WHO HERE GAVE THEIR LIVES THAT THAT NATION MIGHT LIVE. IT IS ALTOGETHER FITTING AND PROPER THAT WE SHOULD DO THIS.

BUT, IN A LARGER SENSE, WE CAN NOT DEDICATE — WE CAN NOT CONSECRATE — WE CAN NOT HALLOW — THIS GROUND. THE BRAVE MEN, LIVING AND DEAD, WHO STRUGGLED HERE, HAVE CONSECRATED IT, FAR ABOVE OUR POOR POWER TO ADD OR DETRACT. THE WORLD WILL LITTLE NOTE, NOR LONG REMEMBER WHAT WE SAY HERE, BUT IT CAN NEVER FORGET WHAT THEY DID HERE. IT IS FOR US THE LIVING, RATHER, TO BE DEDICATED HERE TO THE UNFINISHED WORK WHICH THEY WHO FOUGHT HERE HAVE THUS FAR SO NOBLY ADVANCED. IT IS RATHER FOR US TO BE HERE DEDICATED TO THE GREAT TASK REMAINING BEFORE US — THAT FROM THESE HONORED DEAD WE TAKE INCREASED DEVOTION TO THAT CAUSE FOR WHICH THEY GAVE THE LAST FULL MEASURE OF DEVOTION — THAT WE HERE HIGHLY RESOLVE THAT THESE DEAD SHALL NOT HAVE DIED IN VAIN — THAT THIS NATION, UNDER GOD, SHALL HAVE A NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM — AND THAT GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE, SHALL NOT PERISH FROM THE EARTH.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

NOVEMBER 19, 1863


Trump’s Leadership Underrated

Look past the words at the actions

By Dr. Larry FedewaDrLarryOnline.com

As the saying around Washington goes, “President Donald J. Trump frequently steps on his own message”. Nowhere is that observation more accurate than in the matter of his leadership during the current crisis. His verbal descriptions of the steps he has taken and the reasons for each step sound a lot like bragging – even, at times, a plea for credit. But in few cases do they clearly and accurately convey either the obstacles or the strategy that led to these decisions – both of which have been significant.

Let’s do a brief recap. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the country into the worst crisis since Pearl Harbor. The President started our national response virtually alone. As the crisis began to take shape, he enlisted the aid of the public health experts, the national laboratories, the privately-owned laboratories, then the hospitals, the manufacturing industry, and so on, as new requirements arose, one after the other. When called upon, these Americans put aside their personal feelings and opinions about politics and proceeded to perform nearly miraculous feats –as when the Army Corps of Engineers created a hospital in Central Park in three days!

What inspired this sensational cooperation? Trump’s mixture of salesmanship and pressure. The appeals of the President to the patriotism of the participants would not have been sufficient to effect the desired outcomes had the President not presented each group with specific, well-thought-out tasks which fit the capabilities of each party. This is called detailed planning.

The result was that each party was asked to do something they knew how to do and were capable of doing. And, in problem after problem – from medical supplies to hospital beds to pharmaceuticals to supply chains to manufacturing — the results were astonishing.

Then the President organized the governors of the 50 states and the territories into the most important role they have ever played as a group – perhaps in American history! Even the bitterest critics of the President joined the coalition and developed a working relationship with the federal administration and the President and Vice President (a former governor). We witnessed the greatest example of federalism in the history of the Republic – James Madison would have been proud the see it in action.

And there were also side effects of this strategy. First of all, it was the most practical solution to the extremely complex problems of a national recovery which featured thousands of varying local circumstances and conditions. Clearly, the Democrats’ call for a “national” one-fits-all policy would not work.

But that observation reveals another side effect. By sticking to the Constitution, the President’s approach also made those criticisms of the opposition so obviously misguided that even the friendly Press disregarded them.

In all, we saw the most impressive example of presidential leadership perhaps since Franklin Roosevelt in 1933.

The Press, of course, missed this amazing spectacle which was unfolding before their very eyes. For the most part, those eyes were blinded by the same unthinking bias which had caused them to join the Dems’ insane attempt to overthrow that presidency earlier this year.

I have commented in the past that other speakers, such as Vice President Pence, frequently describe the President’s actions more clearly and convincingly than does the President himself. However, the forum does make a difference.

The President is very effective during his famous rallies in describing the mountains he has climbed as president and the results he has achieved. In fact, his ability to attract and entertain thousands of people in his rallies is unparalleled in modern politics. In this realm only entertainers can compete. This ability is so unique that any discussion of Donald J. Trump’s communication skills must begin with his rallies.

Next would be his set speeches which have improved with practice and since he learned to use the teleprompter. Finally, would be his impromptu press briefings on his way to the airport. But his formal press conferences not so much.

In the end, of course, as the Bible says, “By his works you shall know him.”


The Teflon Campaign

Why nothing sticks to Donald Trump or Joe Biden

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

It was congresswoman Pat Schroeder, Democrat from Colorado, who labeled Ronald Reagan the “Teflon” president in a fit of exasperation in August 1983. What frustrated Schroeder was that nothing “stuck” to Reagan—not the recession, not his misadventures in Lebanon, not his seeming detachment from his own administration. Reagan’s job approval had plunged to a low of 35 percent at the beginning of that year, but his numbers were rising and his personal favorability remained high. “He is just the master of ceremonies at someone else’s dinner,” she said.

Ironically, the one thing that did stick to Reagan was Schroeder’s nickname. The phrase was so catchy that writers applied it to mobsters (“Teflon Don” John Gotti) and to Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. Teflon presidents, gangsters, candidates—we have had them all. What we have not experienced until now is a Teflon campaign.

Between March 11, when the coronavirus prompted the NBA to suspend its season, and May 14, some 84,000 Americans died of coronavirus, more than 36 million lost their jobs, and Congress appropriated $3.6 trillion in new spending. It is not foolish to suppose that these world-shaking events would affect the presidential election. On the contrary: One would expect a dramatic swing toward either the incumbent or the challenger. But look at the polls. Not only has there been no big shift. There has been no shift.

On March 11, Joe Biden led Donald Trump by 7 points in the RealClearPolitics average. On May 14, he led Trump by 5 points. “Biden’s advantage,” says Harry Enten of CNN, “is the steadiest in a race with an incumbent running since at least 1944.” He has never been behind. His share of the vote has been impervious to external events.

Neither good nor bad news has an effect. Bernie Sanders ended his campaign on April 8 and endorsed Biden on April 13. Biden received no bump from this display of party unity. Tara Reade accused Biden of sexual assault on March 25, and Biden did not respond directly to the allegation until May 1. His margin over Trump did not shrink. It remained the same.

Why? The incidents of this election cycle are not the reason. Epidemics, depressions, and sex scandals have happened before. What is distinct are the candidates. One in particular.

If this race has been the steadiest in memory, it is because public opinion of the incumbent has been the most consistent in memory. “Trump’s approval rating has the least variation of any post-World War II president,” notes Geoffrey Skelley of FiveThirtyEight. Whatever is in the headlines matters less than one’s view of the president. And he is a subject on which most people’s views are ironclad.

When the crisis began, Trump’s approval rating was 44 percent in the RealClearPoliticsaverage. On May 14, it is 46 percent. A social and economic calamity befell the country, and Trump’s approval ticked up. Not enough for him to win, necessarily. But enough to keep him in contention.

Americans feel more strongly about Trump, either for or against, than about any other candidate since polling began. His supporters give his approval ratings a floor, and his detractors give his ratings a ceiling. There is not a lot of room in between.

For years, Trump voters have said that they are willing to overlook his faults because they believe the stakes in his victory and success are so high. Heard from less often have been Trump’s opponents, who are so desperate to see him gone that they dismiss the failings and vulnerabilities of whoever happens to be challenging him at the moment.

Recently the feminist author Linda Hirshman wrote in the New York Times that she believes Tara Reade’s story but will vote for Joe Biden anyway. “Better to just own up to what you are doing,” she wrote. “Sacrificing Ms. Reade for the good of the many.” Hirshman is the mirror-image of the Trump supporter who, as the president once said, would not be bothered if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue. Intensifying tribalism makes this election a nonstick surface.

What gives Biden the upper hand is that there are more people who feel negatively than positively about Donald Trump. What gives Trump a chance is the uneven distribution of these people across the country. That was the case before coronavirus. It is still the case today.

Watching the numbers hardly budge over these past months, I have sometimes wondered what could move them. War? Spiritual revival? Space aliens?

Don’t think so. Throw anything at it. Nothing adheres to this Teflon campaign.


THE PURSUIT OF MICHAEL FLYNN AND THE PURSUIT OF JUSTICE

It may just be that Donald Trump’s biggest sin—as it was with Newt Gingrich and Ronald Reagan and others who preceded him on the national stage—is that he has blocked what the intellectual heirs of Marx who populate the Democratic Party believe is the United States’ inevitable slide into a permanent socialist welfare state.

Some will argue this is nonsense. They may be right about that—but the debate about these luminaries on the political right so often devolves into character assassination and the politics of personal destruction that it is hard to be sure. The leaders of America’s elite culture, who have the power to shape people’s thinking and economic behavior as well as influence how they vote, are a leftward lot who cannot be happy they are saddled with Sleepy Joe Biden as a presumptive presidential nominee.

Since coming into office, Trump has complained that he has been the victim of a coordinated campaign to discredit him. The allegation that his campaign colluded with Russian intelligence operatives to tilt the election in his favor—which so many senior congressional Democrats and former Obama administration senior officials assured everyone was both serious and substantive—turns out not to have been true at all.

This is troublesome. Some of the same people who were on television as often as possible reiterating there was truth in the charge were telling congressional investigators that they had no evidence to back up their claims. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

We’ll probably never know everything that went on but, from what we do know, there’s more true than not true about the suggestion, for example, the FBI under James Comey—perhaps at his own direction—sought to intervene in the 2016 election to Trump’s detriment. Using a phony “dossier” as cover that they apparently knew to be full of falsehoods (and paid for, in part, by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign), they wiretapped Trump campaign headquarters looking for dirt. And they set up retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who, for a brief time, served as national security advisor, on the charge of having lied to them.

There are those—and count me among them—who find the idea that lying to the FBI is a crime questionable, especially since the United States Supreme Court has affirmed the FBI and other police agencies can lie to you without penalty or sanction in the course of an investigation. That, it seems reasonable to assert, tips the scales of justice unfairly towards the interests of the state. But that’s an issue of another day.

Michael Flynn
Michael FlynnALEX WROBLEWSKI/GETTY IMAGES

The fact the Flynn investigation is so badly tainted by misconduct, not just by the investigators but also by the prosecutors, taints all the subsequent investigations and prosecutions touching on the Russia collusion investigations. Perhaps they deserve reconsideration, especially the case against longtime Trump political associate Roger Stone—which moved forward, he claims, only after he refused an entreaty to make everything go away if only he would go along with the government’s assertions regarding phone conservations with the president that matched the narrative the FBI was trying so hard to establish.

This whole saga is a black stain on the American system of jurisprudence. The Stone case, from the obvious bias of the judge and jury foreman to how a key witness, it was recently learned, contradicted himself between his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee and what he said in federal court, ratifies rather than reassures the American public that something is rotten in Washington.

It’s not too much of a stretch to suggest, were there not profound political considerations connected to the action, that President Trump should pardon everyone who was convicted or pled guilty to process crimes arising out of the collusion investigation.

Which brings us to the unfortunate tale of Judge Emmett Sullivan. By inviting the submission of amicus briefs and appointing a retired federal judge to argue against the dropping of the case against Flynn—as the Justice Department now wants to do—Judge Sullivan is only prolonging the inevitable. Even if Flynn’s plea of guilty to the charge he lied to the FBI is somehow sustained in Sullivan’s courtroom, it will almost certainly be reversed on appeal.

A pardon would short-circuit that but would make it hard for Flynn and others to claim they were both set up and exonerated. Justice requires they be able to do both.


COVID-19 is Real, but Some Bailout Demands are as Phony as a Three Dollar Bill

By George LandrithRed State

The COVID-19 virus, which was effectively shipped to the U.S. and around the world from China, and the political response to the virus seem to be the lead story every day.

In this veritable flash flood of virus news coverage, one thing many media outlets have missed is the U.S. Postal Service’s release of its second quarter financials. Perhaps, Postal Service financial information sounds boring, but we must pay attention because they’ve been requesting $85 billion in what is essentially bailout funds as part of the numerous stimulus packages.

If the Postal Service gets its way, you and your children may be on the hook once again for the Postal Service’s failed business model and its refusal to get its finances in order. After all, the USPS has lost more than a billion dollars for 13 consecutive years. And it has promised time and again to revise its business model and reform itself but has not made good on that promise. As a result, they are coming back to the taxpayer asking for billions in bailouts.

Maybe the public doesn’t really care if the USPS is losing money or uses a failed business model. After all, if some local business operates inefficiently and loses money, the problem will solve itself as it will go out of business and others who perform the service or provide the product more efficiently will take its place. But that’s not how government related things work.

When a government related organization loses money and begins to fail, the taxpayer is asked to pump billions into it to keep it afloat. It refuses to change its business model or to right its financial ship because it doesn’t have to. It can go to Congress and ask for more cash. Why restructure? Why innovate? Why focus on core profitable business products? Just ask Congress to give you billions to maintain the inefficient and wasteful status quo. That’s the Postal Service’s business model.

One of the curious things revealed in the financial report is that the Post Office claims that its package delivery business is highly profitable and it experienced an almost exponential increase in its package delivery business. That should be good news. Anytime a normal business is able to sell more of its profitable goods or services, that means higher profits. But not so with the Postal Service which still claims to be losing billions. How do you dramatically increase the sale of your most profitable products and still lose money?

Separately, in regard to letter mail, the Postal Service has a government granted and enforced monopoly on First Class Mail. It is illegal for any competitor to provide a competing First Class Mail service. So naturally, the Postal Service makes a lot of money on First Class Mail.  Quite frankly, if you can’t make money as a legally sanctioned monopolist, you’re horrible at what you do.

The Postal Service takes the profits from that monopoly business and uses it to compete with other private companies in the package delivery business. And despite the Postal Service’s claims, it is clearly losing a lot of money on its package delivery business. Their financial records and cost attribution practices are so poor and substandard that they can lose billions and still claim that almost all of their products, including packages, are profitable. But the bottom line can’t lie and the bottom line reveals that the Postal Service is losing its shirt in package delivery.

That may explain why a group of USPS customers have come out to support the Postal Service’s request for a taxpayer provided bailout. If you could get taxpayer subsidized shipping and thereby lower your costs, you’d be for it too. It’s just a matter of self interest.

So these companies using the Postal Service’s package delivery services are effectively asking every American to subsidize their multi-billion dollar business and help them keep their shipping costs below market rates so that they can increase their profits. Wouldn’t it be great if all of us could reach into the taxpayer’s pocket to increase our salaries?

All of this is troubling. But the fact that a government sanctioned monopoly is using its monopoly profits to subsidize competition with other legitimate businesses is even more troubling. Imagine if the government set up a monopoly with guaranteed profits and then unleashed that monopoly to compete with you and used its monopoly subsidies to undercut your line of work. They could afford to lose a ton of money, but still harm your business, reduce your salary and profits, and get the taxpayer to cover their massive losses. Does that sound fair?  Is that a good use of government power and taxpayer funds?

While the Postal Service claims that its package delivery service is profitable, that simply cannot be true. If it were true, as their package business grew, they would stop hemorrhaging so much money. But they haven’t stopped losing money. Every quarter, when they release their financial reports, it’s just more bad news. If you drill down in their financial information, it is clear that the Postal Service is delivering packages at a loss. But the USPS uses its profits from First Class Mail to subsidize those losses. And when their losses overwhelm their monopoly profits, they call upon the taxpayer to bail out their failed business model.

It is time for real reform at the Postal Service. It is time to stop the perpetual taxpayer bailouts. If nothing is done, next year even after COVID-19 has passed, the Postal Service will concoct another excuse to get more taxpayer bailouts. The Administration should impose meaningful reform because it is in the taxpayer’s interests for the Postal Service to get its business model and financial house in order. COVID-19 shouldn’t be used as a phony excuse to bailout failed monopolists.


America Between Good And Evil

By Dr. Miklos RadvanyiFrontiers of Freedom

The United States of America is being tested acutely in the crucible of the COVID-19 emergency.  This novel coronavirus outbreak has followed closely at the heels of perhaps the most grievous constitutional crisis in American history.  Alternately dubbed “the Russia Collusion” or “the Russia Hoax,” this extremely well organized campaign to delegitimize the 2016 presidential election and its winner Donald J. Trump has been designed to upset the peaceful transfer of executive powers from one administration to the next.  

Having started out with a huge bang and having been kept illegally alive for more than three years through the totally baseless Mueller investigation as well as the absurd impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives, which ended with an embarrassing whimper in the Senate, the attempted coup d’etat by the Democrats against the duly elected President has demonstrated the fragility of the constitutional republic vis-a-vis the nefarious quest of a determined minority for absolute power over the majority.     

The only true meaning of the constitutional republic and of its accompanying system of government called democracy is that through the eligible members of the whole society, the majority elects its representatives among those candidates who would govern according to their views, traditions, and morality.  Therefore, the objective of democratic elections is to determine the present and future course of a nation, according to the mentality and the ideas of the majority and not to allow a minority to “fundamentally” change, experiment with, or overthrow the practical and spiritual realms of the nation.

On November 8, 2016, the Republican Donald J. Trump beat the Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton by the electoral margin of 304 to 227.  Put it simply, the majority of voters in the majority of states rejected the attempted overthrow of the constitution, its principles, and the Bible-based spiritual order of American society, with the vague notions of duplicitous social justice, fake human rights theories with their multiculturalism and non-existent “white supremacy” lies, economically destructive and baseless global warming hysteria, anti-religious revolution, and the already debunked utopian ideal of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.

Prior to the 2016 presidential election, in the United States of America, the loser(s) accepted the verdict of the citizenry and organized itself to remain in opposition until the next election in four years.  Meanwhile, this opposition labored hard on developing ideas and policies that would meet with the approval of the majority of the electorate.  Clearly, constructive opposition has confidence that those ideas and policies are sound enough to win the next presidential election.  However, when the opposition does not believe that its ideas and policies are winnable, the only way to gain the coveted political power is to delegitimize, or even to attempt overthrowing the legitimately elected president and his administration.  The preferred methods are pseudo-legal, outrightly illegal manipulations with the help of corrupt civil servants, and defamation of character.       

The Democrat Party and its representatives have been guilty of all of the above.  Moreover, to achieve their illegitimate goals, they have enlisted the unelected and corrupt heads of several intelligence agencies, the equally unelected and corrupt heads of the premier law enforcement agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as well as the overwhelming majority of the written and electronic media.  

In the absence of a constructive opposition, America is devoid of a political middle.  What the country has is an extremely radicalized Democrat Party on the proverbial Left, with its presumptive, washed out presidential nominee.  On the other side, there is a sitting President fighting for his political future amidst increasingly strong headwinds.  

Meanwhile, the victim of this abysmal situation is the United States of America and its citizenry.  Judging by the wave of unconstitutional measures under the guise of saving lives at all cost, the Democrat governors and their colleagues in Congress again have been pursuing criminally destructive policies, in order to damage as much as possible President Trump in particular and the Republicans in general.  From arbitrary prohibitions to idiotic actions they have been pushing ultrarevolutionary socialist and communist agendas to the detriment of democracy and the rule of law.  The most glaring examples have been the violations of the First, Second, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments.  While selling alcohol and drugs of all kinds as “essential” goods, churches and gun shops have been closed – supposedly for the sake of protecting the health of all Americans.  Moreover, the House of Representatives, with its clueless Speaker, has been blackmailing the President and the Senate with her unrealistic economic and financial fantasies, and pursuing vehemently the release of President Trump’s tax returns.  To add insult to injury, Representatives Schiff and Nadler have been searching feverishly for new phantoms, which might be grounds to impeach the President again.  Finally, former President Barack Obama has shown a new small-minded and vindictive self.  Attempting to destroy an American hero just because he hated him, and masterminding a coup d’etat against his successor, are vivid remainders of his true character.

Nobody is perfect.  However, President Trump has been fighting against all odds to restore the constitution and the Judeo-Christian ethos of America.  On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats have been waging a war against the nation, religion, and family.  Their ideas and policies are bad, because they lead to faulty compromises.  And bad compromises always end in bottomless vacuums, or hopeless cul-de-sacs.  Yet, one could traffic in antithetical ideas but cannot play with contradictory emotions.

Tradition, religious spirituality, respect for the rule of law are the cornerstones of peace and stability in every society.  Without those values, no great nation can endure long.     

          


Judge Stops Illinois Governor From Extending State Lockdown

The judge’s temporary restraining order sets the stage in Illinois and perhaps nationally for a legal battle over public health experts’ far-reaching demands for public confinement.

By Dennis ByrneThe Federalist

In one of the nation’s first successful legal challenges to mandatory quarantine directives, an Illinois state judge has thrown a wrench into Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s extension of his stay-at-home order until at least May 30.

The judge’s temporary restraining order sets the stage in Illinois and perhaps nationally for a legal battle over public health experts’ far-reaching demands for public confinement against the rising fear about the drastic consequences of a nationwide economic shutdown.

In the case, Downstate Circuit Court Judge Michael McHaney on Monday temporarily restrained Pritzker from enforcing the lockdown order against state Rep. Darren Bailey, a Downstate Republican from tiny rural Xenia. Bailey sued Pritzker for violating a provision of the state Emergency Management Act that allows such drastic closure actions for only 30 days. Because Pritzker originally issued his order on March 8, Pritzker’s authority expired on April 8, Bailey argued.

Bailey said he is “irreparably harmed each day he is subjected to” Pritzker’s executive order. In a statement, he said, “Enough is enough! I filed this lawsuit on behalf of myself and my constituents who are ready to go back to work and resume a normal life.”  The judge cited in his order Bailey’s right, in “his liberty interest to be free from Pritzker’s executive order of quarantine in his own home’

The suit follows an argument made earlier made by Northbrook, Illinois attorney Michael Ciesla, who first pointed out on his law firm blog how Pritzker’s extension violated the 30-day provision and that even the governor is required to follow the law. Ciesla’s argumentation was widely ignored while Pritzker, Democratic Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and the Chicago media scorned or dismissed the suit as a cheap political stunt.

So when McHaney saw enough merit in the lawsuit to issue an injunction against the extension, Pritzker and Lightfoot claimed the action threatens everyone’s health. But they utterly failed to address the heart of the lawsuit—the plain language of the act that clearly lays out the 30-day restriction.

Technically the decision applies only to Bailey, but legal experts agree that the precedent gives weight to any Illinoisan who chooses to challenge the order. Just how seriously Pritzker and Lightfoot take the decision can be measured by the depth of their denunciations.

Pritzker warned that if his order were immediately lifted “people would die” and deaths would “shoot into the thousands by the end of May…. Our hospitals would be full, and very sick people would have nowhere to go.” Lightfoot called the decision “troubling and wrong” and despite it would continue her lockdown policies “to stay the course.”

The “course” is some of the country’s most stringent controls, such as Lightfoot’s closing of parks and other outdoor activities. Pritzker’s new order, effective May 1, would among other things require everyone in Illinois to wear a face mask outdoors, while including some modifications such as opening state parks.

Bailey says he was hoping to push Pritzker into creating a “more realistic plan” reflecting the fact that Illinois is such a diverse region, requiring different approaches for the mostly rural Downstate and metropolitan Chicago. Bailey’s hometown of Xenia has a population of 364. It’s located about 100 miles east of St. Louis in Clay County, which has recorded just two confirmed coronavirus cases and no deaths.

Chicago’s Cook County has 31,953 confirmed cases and 1,347 deaths, but the most feared outcome hasn’t materialized. The city’s sprawling exhibition hall, McCormick Place, had been fitted with 3,000 emergency beds to handle the expected overflow from jammed hospitals, but because of low usage, 2,000 beds are now being removed.

Tensions between the state’s two regions are an historic constant. Most recently those differences show up in a growing movement by Downstaters to separate Chicago from the rest of the state. In this, Illinois is but a microcosm of how heavily infected, urbanized New York and vast swathes of Middle America are vastly different and require tailored approaches in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. It also reflects the argument—opposed by many liberals—that the fight is best carried on the local level.

Illinois’ regional differences will play out in an expected high-speed appeal of McHaney’s stay. The Downstate appeals court that would hear the case is dominated by Republicans, who, being elected, would not be expected to overturn McHaney’s decision. The Illinois Supreme Court, which could hear the appeal directly, is controlled by Democrats, and considered likely to ultimately back Pritzker.

Still, with growing sentiment that the various shutdown orders have gone too far, with increasing public protests against the restrictions, crushing unemployment, and the unease that epidemiologists and their models are running the country, what’s happening in Illinois could presage even more objections to unprecedented assaults on liberty.


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