The president’s ‘transformative’ agenda runs into reality
Sometime in the last week, Democrats looked at the calendar and realized that President Biden is in trouble.
My theory is that the moment of truth arrived on May 27. That was when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had to scramble to save one of his priorities, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, from falling apart. Then, on May 28, the proposed commission into the January 6 riot at the Capitol failed to clear the filibuster.
The panic started. You began seeing articles about the “summer slump” that afflicts presidencies. You started hearing that Biden can’t let negotiations with Republicans drag on. Before leaving for Memorial Day recess, Schumer told reporters that when the Senate returns he plans to hold votes not only on the constitutionally dubious “For the People Act,” but also on the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Equality Act, and two gun-control bills.
And that’s just what the House has passed already. The president’s $4 trillion American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan haven’t come to a vote in either chamber of Congress. They haven’t been put into legislation. The fate of these projects depends in large part on Biden’s ability to strike a deal on infrastructure with Republican senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. The likelihood of a bargain? Not great.
For Democrats, the Biden presidency is an hourglass and the sand is running out. They have two years to enact the “transformational” agenda that, presto change-o, will turn Biden into the new Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And since they have incredibly narrow margins in the Congress—four votes in the House, a tied Senate—they have to remain unified. “That is a problem with the Democratic Party,” the activist Rev. William J. Barber II told the Washington Post. “What you see with Republicans—they stick together no matter what.” He must not see many Republicans.
It is still a problem with the Democratic Party, though, because Democrats agree on one thing alone: They oppose Donald Trump. They’re happy he’s not president. They don’t want him to be president again. Beyond Trump, however, Democrats are all over the place. They have Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema on one side of the caucus and Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the other.
The coalition that elected Biden is even broader, stretching from Cindy McCain to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. An alliance formed on the basis of opposition to one personality is never going to be ideologically uniform. Nor is it going to be stable. The Democrats face a similar problem as the coalition government that was agreed to in Israel this week: What do you do after the boogeyman is gone?
The Senate filibuster isn’t the Democrats’ chief obstacle. Coherence is. Biden is pretending he has 60 votes for the liberal wish list. In reality, he doesn’t have 50. So what does he do? He blames his party’s congressional majority of “effectively, four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.” He doesn’t ask why the majority is so small. He doesn’t rethink his plans. Instead, he amps up the rhetoric. He says Republicans are engaged in an “un-American,” “truly unprecedented assault on our democracy.”
It’s part of a strategy to browbeat Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia into reversing his well-documented support of the filibuster and becoming the 50th vote for the “For the People” Act. More than 100 left-wing groups sent a letter to Schumer this week demanding that the filibuster be junked. As Rev. Barber told the Post, Democrats “need to let Manchin understand we elected Joe Biden—not Joe Manchin—to be president.”
Joe Manchin isn’t president, of course. He’s a senator from a state that gave Donald Trump a 39-percent margin of victory in the last election. Nor is it only Manchin who’s keeping the filibuster alive. Sinema, who won a narrow victory in 2018 in a state that went for Biden by some 10,000 votes in 2020, is too. And Dianne Feinstein seems to agree with them—at least when her staff isn’t around. There are probably several other Democratic senators who are happy to let Manchin and Sinema take the heat for a policy they privately agree with.
If you listened only to Biden, you might conclude that the 2020 election was a victory for the left. It was not. The election continued a three-decade-long partisan stalemate and, for at least two years, handed slight control of government to the Democrats. Why? Because the public disapproved of Donald Trump.
It is this failure to recognize the limited nature of his electoral mandate that has set Biden up for disappointment. “June should be a month of action on Capitol Hill,” he told the audience during his speech in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this week. It more likely will be a month of frustration. The president’s long hot summer is just getting started.
Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak signed into law Friday a bill that would make the Silver State the first in the nation to hold a presidential primary during a general election year.
The measure, which passed both chambers in the Nevada state legislature last month, changes both the manner and date of the Nevada contest. Previously a caucus, delegates to the national nominating conventions would be chosen in a primary held on the first Tuesday in February, The Hill newspaper reported.
Despite Sisolak making the move law with his signature, the major national political parties will still have to approve the calendar change. A refusal by either party to agree to the move puts the state at risk to lose its delegates to the 2024 national nominating conventions.
The move also sets up a fight with New Hampshire, which traditionally and by state law is currently home to the first-in-the-nation primary. At the time this story was written, Gov. Chris Sununu had yet to comment but it is unlikely he and the members of the state legislature will allow its historical role to be eclipsed. Legislation moving the New Hampshire primary to an earlier date so that it would come before the new date set for Nevada is likely.
The Nevada move would also likely push the Iowa Caucus back to an earlier date. Voters there traditionally meet to show support for nominees before the New Hampshire primary. Any contest between these three states (and others that might wish to move their nominating dates toward the beginning of the process) has the potential to move the first balloting for the next presidential race back into 2023.
The Hill reported the initiative to move to a primary in an early position on the calendar was pushed by state Democrats including former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid who, despite his retirement remains a powerful force in state politics. To justify the move they cite at least in part problems with the Iowa caucuses in 2020. In his first and thus far only televised White House press conference, President Joe Biden affirmed he plans to be a candidate for re-election in 2024.
There are certain words one never associates with former President Donald J. Trump. One of them is “coy.” Yet there he is, dancing around the question of whether he’ll run for president in 2024 like a young girl who is asked out for the first time.
Trump remains a power in the GOP, but it’s not certain he’ll run again. In 2016, his carefully crafted image as an outsider bent on shaking things up tapped into the public’s frustration over the way government continually fails to solve problems and, in the process, makes many of them worse.
The Republican presidential field in 2016 was fertile ground for the seeds he would plant. But 2024 is not 2016. Trump’s pathway back to power is not as straight as his overwhelming popularity among likely GOP primary voters makes it appear to be.
Before getting to that, however, it’s useful to review how he originally became the GOP nominee in 2016.
First, because just about everything he said made heads explode at the headquarters of the elite New York media, Republican primary voters immediately concluded he was a trustworthy conservative.
Second, coverage of Trump being outrageous and combative sold papers and generated ratings. Promoting his candidacy became an issue of financial self-interest among the media conglomerates who make and break American presidential candidates.
Third, a cohort of media stars supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton’s bid to become the first female president helped Trump along because they thought he was the Republican it would be easiest for her to beat.
Fourth, no other Republican running in 2016 could have taken down Trump without ending his or her own candidacy. Rather than alienate the voters warming to his message, the large field of Republicans mostly took the punches he threw without punching back. They let him define them. “Little Marco” and “Low-Energy Jeb” worked because Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) were too timid to push back hard enough when it still might have mattered.
Trump has had a good week. His recent speech to a statewide gathering of North Carolina Republicans was generally well-received. And the release of a government report exonerating him of charges that he ordered demonstrators occupying Lafayette Park in May and June of 2020 tear-gassed and dispersed so he could stage a “photo-op” gives his supporters one more media lie to point to.
The other Republicans who want to be president already understand that winning the nomination requires going through Trump. They’re going to have to play rough like him—which, in a much smaller field than the one in 2016, changes the calculation in their favor, not his.
Consider former Vice President Mike Pence, who’s already out making speeches and will soon visit the critical early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. He’ll never say so publicly, but most everyone in GOP circles knows his relationship with Trump is currently frosty and only likely to grow colder. Trump is an anchor around Pence’s neck, whether he runs or not. It’s in the former veep’s political interest to start drawing distinctions early.
If he does, other potential GOP candidates like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will also have openings to differentiate themselves from Trump. Former Trump-era Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley already tried, but did it too early, got slapped for it politically and has had to keep her head down while she repairs the damage.
The thing most likely to keep Trump from winning the nomination is his need for vindication. He keeps talking about voter fraud being responsible for his loss in 2020 without offering verifiable proof that it occurred on the scale he claims. There probably was some fraud—there always is—and the vehemence with which the Democrats try to shut down any discussion of it is puzzling. Nonetheless, it’s an old story that’s getting older by the day. Americans like to look and go forward. They aren’t that much interested in backing up if Bidenflation has wiped out their savings accounts and sent their job overseas.
If Trump wants to be the next GOP presidential nominee, he needs to talk more about what he’ll do to win in 2024 than why he lost in 2020. The chances of that happening, say many GOP insiders, is minimal.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has become increasingly defensive and evasive in answering legitimate questions posed by members of Congress.
This is a problem.
Fauci has no statutory authority to preside over a public health crisis. Nonetheless, he has become the nation’s de facto doctor in chief during the COVID-19 pandemic. He clearly relishes the attention — making an astronomical number of media appearances that promote himself, but not public health. Unfortunately, Fauci has been a horribly ineffective doctor in chief.
Fauci started off the pandemic by telling us that “people should not be walking around with masks.” This initial dismissal of masks was fact-based and rational. But now, Fauci advocates wearing two masks even after vaccination. Where are the reliable scientific studies proving that masks save lives? Or that they are necessary after vaccination?
The idea that those who’ve been vaccinated or have natural immunity should still wear masks for the next year or two on a seasonal basis is one of the most insanely idiotic and anti-science statements made since some worry-warts on Christopher Columbus’s crew expressed concerns that they might sail off the edge of the Earth.
I’d like to hear Fauci explain what he has been doing for the last 50 years to avoid contracting or spreading the deadly smallpox virus or polio. Answer: He’s done nothing because vaccines work.
But Fauci advocates people get vaccinated while also suggesting that it won’t actually help. We still can’t return to normal life, he says. It is little wonder that many question why they should get vaccinated. It is the logical result of Fauci’s anti-science approach!
Here’s the truth — Fauci isn’t a serious doctor or a serious scientist. He’s just a serious government bureaucrat who happens to have a medical degree and often wears a white lab coat.
However, Sen. Rand Paul is a real medical doctor. Even as a senator, he performs eye surgeries for at-need patients around the globe. Paul has asked some very good questions of Fauci. But it is Fauci who sounds like the consummate politician with his bureaucratic two-step of word games and obfuscation. His answers have often been dismissive, combative, and evasive. He defiantly tells Paul he’s wrong but doesn’t bother to explain why. We are simply supposed to take his word for it. That’s not very scientific.
Consider what happened this week when Paul asked Fauci about U.S. government direct and indirect grants (via third party Eco-Health Alliance) to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Since the Wuhan lab may have been where the virus escaped from, taxpayer funding of the lab is an important question. Yet, Fauci flatly denied funding any Chinese “gain-of-function research” — a risky and controversial approach that involves making pathogens more infectious and deadly. But Fauci also admitted he funded “gain-of-function research” in the United States. He also admitted he couldn’t account for how the Chinese used U.S. taxpayer dollars.
If Fauci doesn’t know how the WIV spent U.S. money, he cannot categorically deny that this money was used to fund risky research.
We can draw a lot of conclusions from the way the totalitarian Chinese regime has blocked and interfered with investigations into the origins of this pandemic. That is precisely how the guilty behave. Likewise, Fauci’s answers to Paul give rational people good reason to question his credibility. If Fauci wants to be taken seriously as a doctor and scientist, he should act like a doctor and scientist rather than a politically motivated bureaucrat.
The Michigan Court of Appeals has allowed the process of recalling Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist for abusing their powers and mishandling the COVID-19 pandemic to move ahead.
The effort to recall them is based on the argument they violated the Michigan Constitution’s separation of powers clause by continuing to issue virus-related orders through the state health department even after the Michigan Supreme Court found last October that Whitmer had abused her emergency powers, the website JustTheNews.com reported Wednesday.
The recall petitions, which Michigan’s Board of State Canvasser have already approved charge Whitmer with having exceeded her authority in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, including an extension of a promised “15-day pause” of indoor dining out over an additional two months.
“Whitmer’s continued actions which show an ‘It’s OK for me but not for thee’ mentality is not the mentality of an effective leader to bring Success and Growth to Michigan,” recall petitioner Chad Baase said.
The two Democrats have attempted to keep the recall process from moving forward by arguing in court the petitions fail to “adequately describe the authorities cited as reasons for the recall” and because the language used in them is unclear, citing as an example the use of the term “bars” to mean a public space.
The appeals court rejected that argument, “Any person invited to sign the petition would very likely envision a reference to a conventional tavern, where people can purchase and consume alcoholic beverages” while slapping Whitmer down further in the totality of its decision.
“We conclude that although the governor relied on the appearance of a string of nonsensical characters to support her challenge to the clarity of the petition language, the governor’s hasty conclusion about a word-processing irregularity does not arise often enough to compel reading the petition as featuring some gibberish in place of several normal characters that appear the rest of the time,” the court wrote.
The governor, speaking through a spokesman for her 2022 re-election campaign, said Whitmer intended to appeal the ruling in a further effort to block the attempt to recall her as she prepares to mount a bid for a second term.
Political extremism is by definition problematic. Extremism prevents meaningful discussion and debate and it precludes appropriate compromise — something that in a pluralistic society is necessary as only a tyrant can get 100% of what he wants. The rest of us must, discuss, debate, and work with others to find reasonable and workable compromises.
But extremism isn’t simply believing you’re right. Virtually, everyone who has thought about an issue believes that they are right. That’s entirely normal and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Extremism creeps in when you are so sure you’re right that you feel everyone must agree with you, and that anyone who doesn’t must be forced to accept your views. An extremist doesn’t believe he needs to engage in discussion or debate or build support for his ideas by the logic and power of his arguments. An extremist is willing to use the societal levers of power to force compliance. An extremist has no respect for others to see things differently.
We’ve seen extremists kill others that they deem unworthy or to promote their ideology through fear. This, of course, is extremism in its most heinous and obvious form. We’ve also seen extremism when mobs destroy property, kill others, endanger lives, and demand that the rest of us capitulate to their demands as a result of their threats. This too is easy to condemn. But sadly, some won’t condemn this sort of behavior when it is done by people that they see as aligned with their own views.
But there is another more subtle form of extremism that is widely used in America today and stunningly it is used by many who vociferously claim to be fighting against extremism. What is this form of extremism? Labeling everyone with whom you disagree an extremist, and using the levers of societal power to silence, dismiss and marginalize them.
In the extremist’s mind, other views are not merely wrong — they are so wrong and so entirely without merit that the idea must be silenced and the people who hold that idea must be marginalized and punished. Despite all the talk of unity since the election, there is little evidence that unity is actually sought by the extremists. They demand capitulation and compliance.
For the past decade or longer, Americans who believe that a nation must have secure borders and that immigration must be done according to reasonable and fair laws have been routinely called racists and extremists. Many of these positions were bipartisan or mainstream points as recently as a decade ago.
Likewise, Americans who believe that forcibly shutting down the economy and closing schools during the COVID pandemic was unwise, unnecessary, and even unhelpful are routinely dismissed as not caring about health or life, and now even as Neanderthals. Even the science and data that show little if any benefit from the most strict lockdowns is derided and deemed unworthy of public conversation. The extremists decided that such things couldn’t even be discussed by medical doctors and researchers. In the name of science these topics were forbidden — proving that they have no understanding of what science means.
The label “extremist” is not thrown about because millions of Americans are actually fanatical extremists. Generally, their views have some measure of rationality — if you bother to listen. You don’t have to agree with them. You just have to realize that they are not raving lunatics. You might have different priorities and different interpretations of the facts, but that doesn’t mean their views are so utterly stupid that they must be silenced and marginalized.
The truth is the label “extremist” is too often used as a weapon to silence a large segment of the population, or if it cannot silence them, to dismiss them as unworthy of participating in a national debate. Falsely using the label “extremist” to silence, marginalize and delegitimize others is itself an extremist instinct. A rational and reasonable person is willing to discuss and debate the issues. An extremist doesn’t feel the need to discuss or debate because they already know that they are 100% right, that you are 100% wrong, and that you must be silenced.
This is done daily online with ideological bullies like FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter and Google. The so-called fact checkers label false and misleading almost anything that they disagree with. The “fact checkers” tend to do this zealously to one side, but are more tolerant of the “satirical” or “metaphorical” posts of those they generally agree with. I’ve also noticed that their claims of wanting to provide more “context” is disingenuous because they seem to provide said context mostly for the views with which they disagree and rarely for the ones that support their bias.
Sadly, many of the so-called fact checkers have extremist instincts, and exercise those instincts daily — all while telling us that they are combatting extremism.
The entire point of a debate is to allow both sides to make their best case. If both sides make good cases, great. If one side makes a good case and one does not, that’s good too. It all helps inform the public. But when fact-checkers try to intervene and declare one side is correct, they are simply short-circuiting the debate process. That is far more dangerous than most appreciate — particularly when it is so clearly politically motivated.
I’ve recently seen how this type of extremism can even encourage violence. My mother, also a great grandmother, attended a sign wave during the presidential election, along with about a dozen other senior citizens.
Only a few minutes after gathering, a very angry man in his 20s or 30s stormed over, ripped the signs out of their hands, and shouted threatening profanity while denouncing the senior citizen’s support for the then-current President. My mother asked for her sign back and he hit her so hard that he knocked her to the ground and she lost consciousness. Fortunately, police were nearby and stopped the man and arrested him. My mother has since had surgery to repair her arm that was damaged in the politically motivated attack.
This man was so sure that he was 100% right and that my mother and the others were so completely wrong, that he didn’t need to engage them in a discussion because they were not worthy of a discussion. The online bullies and the media bullies taught him that he needn’t respect people who supported that man. So he decided it was acceptable to steal their signs, physically intimidate them, and assault them.
Additionally, a week or two before the election, I got a call from a concerned citizen warning me that an extremist group with a history of organizing and promoting mob violence had created an online interactive map that was marked with targets that they were directing their groupies to “visit.” I learned that my name and address were marked on the map as a “target” to help the angry mob find me. Evidently, because I’m a conservative, I am worthy of intimidation, threats and perhaps even violence.
This is extremism at its core. And yet, the self-proclaimed opponents of extremism online and in the media are generally silent. It is now acceptable for people to maintain an “enemies” list for the purpose of preventing political adversaries from finding gainful employment. The people who do this are not silenced or marginalized. But the people they do it to are silenced and marginalized.
We should all stand up for free speech and robust discussion and debate. Let’s oppose violence and intimidation wherever and wherever we see it, and not make excuses for it if its practitioners are sympathetic to us. Likewise, let’s oppose the extremist instinct to silence and marginalize people that we disagree with. Sadly, this form of extremism is alive and well in America and it does great harm to the health of our society.
A Lakeland, Colorado citizen’s group filed suit Thursday in federal court challenging the constitutionality of a city law regulating the organization’s reporting on candidates in its newsletter.
Attorneys with the Institute for Free Speech who are representing the Lakewood Citizens Watchdog Group said the city’s requirement for the newsletter to identify donors and to include campaign disclaimers in its articles because the cost of publishing and distributing it crossed a $500 threshold violate the First Amendment.
“If the council can redefine reporting and commentary as campaigning, it can punish news outlets that criticize candidates in the months leading up to an election. Congress and the state of Colorado both exempt the media from their campaign finance laws to avoid this precise outcome,” said Institute for Free Speech Senior Attorney and Deputy Vice President for Litigation Owen Yeates said in a release.
The suit asks the court to find the newsletter, The Whole Story, is protected by the constitutional guarantees of free speech and a free press and that the $3,000 fine it was assessed for violating a local ordinance is unconstitutional.
From 2015 to 2018, the Watchdog published The Whole Story without encountering any problems. In 2019 the city council passed an ordinance imposing regulations on any entity spending more than $500 on communications that mentioned a candidate for office within 60 days of a municipal election. As the new rule made no exemption for the media, it became impossible for the group to report on local elections without potentially being forced to register with the city, publish disclaimers on articles, and expose their supporters, its attorneys said.
The Watchdog’s fall 2019 issue, which covered that November’s elections for mayor and city council, was found by a city adjudicator to be guilty of making “unambiguous references to current candidates” in The Whole Story and ordered to pay $3,000 in fines. To cover future local elections, the group would have to file invasive reports about its supporters with city officials and print campaign-style disclaimers in its newsletter.
While Lakewood’s laws pose a threat to any media outlet, the people behind The Watchdog are not surprised they were targeted first. “We report stories other media outlets won’t, and we aren’t afraid to blow the whistle on the city government. The council may not like it, but that’s what the First Amendment is for,” Dan Smith, president of the Lakewood Citizens Watchdog Group said.
“By failing to exempt news gathering and reporting from its campaign finance laws, Lakewood has unconstitutionally infringed on the freedom of the press,” the group’s brief says. “That freedom is essential to a functioning democracy, even more so in the context of elections. Politicians may wish to control who can speak about them, but they can’t regulate The Whole Story.”
The Watchdog is an independent publication mailed to Lakewood residents two to three times per year, with a circulation of approximately 22,000. The case is Lakewood Citizens Watchdog Group v. City of Lakewood.
We defeated the Soviet Union during the Cold War because our economy was relatively strong and they could not keep up. We didn’t bomb them into submission. We didn’t invade them. We simply grew economically at a rate that they could not keep up with. China hopes to do that to us. The question is will we cooperate with their goals and place ourselves in their grasp? The answer is — only if we are stupid.
Joe Biden’s and Congressional Democrat’s plan to give the United States the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world will harm America’s economy, kill American jobs, and give China a leg up in their quest for world domination. If Biden and congressional Democrats get their way, our corporate tax rate would be substantially higher than Communist China’s rate. American workers would suffer the most as their jobs are exported abroad to lower taxes and lower cost nations.
But it isn’t just corporate income taxes that the Democrats and Biden want to raise. They also want to raised taxes on Global Intangible Low Tax Income (GILTI) to 21 percent. This has the effect of imposing a minimum tax and creates a stimulus program for workers around the globe, but not in the U.S. Biden’s plan would penalize American companies with a massively higher minimum tax and at the same time exempt foreign competitors. There is no good reason to hamstring American companies, kill off incentives for good paying jobs to remain in America, or make jobs our primary export. But that is precisely what the Biden tax plan would do.
Even the left-leaning Tax Policy Center agrees that Biden’s plan will make US companies easy targets for foreign companies — including those owned or controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. They concluded that “Biden’s proposal would likely reignite corporate inversions — transactions where US multinationals become foreign multinationals, usually through acquisition by a foreign company.”
The Tax Policy Center also acknowledges that “Biden’s platform argues that a greatly strengthened foreign minimum tax is needed to prevent US firms from investing and shifting profits offshore, where taxes are lower. These practices can lower US wages and tax revenue.”
So it isn’t just right-leaning economists who see this policy as dangerous and harmful. Biden’s tax policy simply is harmful to both the US and American workers. The primary beneficiaries would be foreign competitors — China in particular. China has to be rooting for this tax plan because it will play into their hands and make their plans of world dominance much more easily achieved. If you want to know what a world dominated by the Chinese Communist Party might look like, ask Hong Kong who is being brutally repressed or ask the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities who are being held in concentration camps and raped and murdered because the regime doesn’t like them.
It isn’t very often that people think of tax policy as a national security issue, but in this case it clearly is. Having a strong and robust economy isn’t just good for American workers or American investors, it’s good for America’s national security. Exporting jobs and economic well-being only strengthen’s China’s hand and makes it easier for them to rule the world as is their stated goal.
We defeated the Soviet Union during the Cold War because our economy was relatively strong and they could not keep up. We didn’t bomb them into submission. We didn’t invade them. We simply grew economically at a rate that they could not keep up with. China hopes to do that to us. The question is will we cooperate with their goals and place ourselves in their grasp? The answer is — only if we are stupid.
The bottom line is the Democrat tax plan is to make American companies pay higher taxes than their foreign competitors. To make matters worse, Biden wants every country to impose a minimum tax on foreign earnings of domestic companies. Why would they do this? Because Biden is promising to keep the US minimum tax higher than other nations. What does that mean? President Biden is promising that he will make American companies and workers uncompetitive in the world marketplace. He is promising to make our tax code advantageous to communist China.
These are important questions: Why do Democrats in Washington, DC, led by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, think it is a good idea to push the US corporate tax rate higher than communist China’s tax rate? Who will benefit from this policy? Are Americans ready to return to an era where American firms are regularly downsizing and moving operations abroad? Or selling their operations to foreign companies or governments?
America must maintain its strength — both militarily and economically — if it hopes to be the victor in the 21st Century. If America thinks it would be better if China is the victor, then by all means, back the Biden-Harris tax plan. But if you think the world looks like a more free and prosperous world with America as the world’s primary power, opposing the Biden plan is a good start.
In the years after World War II, the United States dominated the world economy–so much so that no other nation came close to the U.S. in its global influence and economic might.
But this dominance meant that the United States had no concerns about competing powers or threats to U.S. prosperity. Other countries did have to worry, so they constantly worked to make their tax and regulatory system more competitive. Over time, other countries surpassed the U.S. in various ways.
A Modern Tax Code
One of the most important ways that other countries surpassed the U.S. was in modernizing their tax codes. A modern tax system avoids double taxation of capital income and has the lowest possible corporate tax rate. A modern tax system also recognized the global economy. To be strong at home, and to serve foreign markets, companies usually need to produce and build factories in the markets they serve. This does not mean moving jobs overseas. It means keeping headquarters jobs in the home country. The headquarters jobs are associated with management and R&D. Headquarters jobs produce a disproportionate share of income and represent the highest salaries and benefits. The more operations overseas, the stronger the headquarters is at home. The point of having a global operation is to support the home base.
Therefore, beginning especially in the 1970s and 1980s, countries began to adopt tax systems that encouraged their home companies to go global and earn foreign profits that could make the home companies stronger, resulting in better jobs and more R&D in the home market. The new model of taxation was territorial. Home companies paid taxes at home, and they paid taxes on their foreign operations in foreign countries. There was no barrier to bringing profits home. Also, importantly, business decisions in one country had no bearing on business decisions in another country, at least for tax purposes. Under a territorial principle, every country was independent, and so there was no need to worry that tax policy in one country would interact with another. Also, a business decision in one country would have no adverse tax consequences in another. The territorial principle is all about simplicity on one level. But it is also about growing a global network that supports the home office.
The U.S. Lags Behind
Ironically, the United States was the victor in World War II, but it saw no reason to update its pre-World War II tax system. Before World War II, the model for international business was export trade. Companies made widgets in their home countries, and they exported them overseas. For a long time, the United States was the best place and most competitive place to make widgets, so the U.S. tax system relied on taxing overseas sales. The U.S. tax system worked on what is called a worldwide principle since U.S. companies paid taxes in the U.S. on their worldwide income. This made sense when international trade was mostly about trade involving exported goods, and the U.S. was far and away the best place for manufacturing, farming, mining, and many types of business. But over time, the nature of trade changed. Trade became more about intellectual property, and international investment, to build a global network production that supported the home base, or the headquarters operation, by sending profits home. But while most other countries in the OECD adopted the territorial principle, the U.S. stubbornly insisted that U.S. companies should be taxed worldwide. One result of this was that any business decision overseas had both foreign and U.S. tax consequences, which made business planning complicated.
Then another thing happened. It was President Ronald Reagan’s Tax Reform Act of 1986. Reagan cut the corporate tax rate from 50 percent to 35 percent. At the time, this was one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the world. Suddenly other countries began to cut their corporate tax rates too and kept cutting them, to be more attractive as company headquarters. By 2017, other countries had cut their tax rates so much that the United States had the highest corporate tax rate in the OECD—and the other countries, the United States applied its corporate tax rate of 35 percent on a worldwide basis. This meant that if U.S. companies made money overseas, they had to pay U.S. tax on any profits they brought home. Since the U.S. tax rate was higher than all foreign tax rates, and sometimes much higher, this meant that companies avoided bringing profits home for reinvestment in the U.S. Instead, they declared they declared their foreign profits to be permanently reinvested overseas as a way of avoiding U.S. tax on repatriated earnings. This defeated the purpose of a tax policy to support global trade. Instead of allowing money to flow home, U.S. tax policy pushed investment dollars overseas. The U.S. had adopted a “Do Not Invest in America” policy.
Headquarters Move Overseas
There was something even worse that happened. Headquarters offices with headquarters jobs started moving overseas. This is because foreign companies were able to buy U.S. companies on a scale that had never been possible before. Foreign companies could buy U.S. companies because they could afford to pay a higher price for U.S. companies than U.S. companies or investors could. Indeed, foreign companies could pay more than U.S. companies for acquisitions outside the United States as well.
The price one pays for a company is a multiple of the after-tax income it produces. If a company produces $1 million in earnings per year, and the valuation multiple for that industry is ten times, then a foreign investor that pays no foreign taxes on its U.S. income can buy the company in the U.S. for $10 million. This is called an inbound acquisition. However, if a U.S. company wanted to buy a foreign country overseas, in an outbound acquisition, it would have to account for the difference between foreign taxes and U.S. taxes. If the tax rate in the foreign country was 20 percent, about the OECD, average, then the U.S. company would have to account for a 15 percent difference between the foreign taxes and the U.S. taxes. The U.S. company buying a foreign company would effectively pay a 15 percent tax on its purchase, whereas the foreign company buying a U.S. company would pay no additional tax at home.
By the early 2000s, foreign companies were buying U.S. companies at an impressive rate. To some extent, this reflected the globalization of the economy and increased prosperity worldwide since World War II, which is a good thing. But because of the tax differential, the number of inbound acquisitions of foreign companies buying U.S. companies far exceeded the number of comparable outbound acquisitions in which U.S. companies bought foreign companies. This had two results. One was that iconic U.S. brand names and companies started moving overseas, and the corporate headquarters jobs that had been in the U.S. moved overseas as well. Famous American companies with foreign owners now include Chrysler (French), Budweiser (Belgian), Ben & Jerry’s (Dutch), Good Humor (Dutch), Burger King (Brazilian), and even Kraft Heinz (also Brazilian). But the real impact came in pharmaceuticals, where Europeans were not far behind the U.S. and competitive to begin with. The greatest U.S. pharma companies started moving steadily to Europe. The crown jewel of America’s industrial R&D, Bell Labs, similarly became a French company with its parent, Lucent Technologies, was acquired by Alcatel in 2007. As a result, at least in part, the U.S. has no manufacturer of 5G telecom equipment.
The other impact had to do with startup companies, which are often a source of innovation, growth, and intellectual property. When a U.S. company competed with a foreign company to buy a startup, the foreign company often won because it could pay a higher price. The U.S. company could not pay as much, because it had to factor the OECD’s highest corporate tax rate into what it could afford to pay.
More recently still, China has entered the scene. Chinese companies are subsidized at home, and they pay no Chinese taxes on their foreign earnings. Chinese companies have been aggressively buying startup and mature companies alike in the U.S. and Europe.
Where has this led us? Chinese companies are buying top startups and smaller firms with attractive technology portfolios. U.S. companies have been reliant on Chinese suppliers since the U.S. tax code makes it cheaper to buy from Chinese suppliers than to build factories and facilities in the U.S., or to produce in China from U.S.-owned facilities. In the time of the covid pandemic, the U.S. is dependent on China for most of its basic medical supplies. In a world where 5G will soon dominate the airwaves, and become the basis for the Internet of Things, the U.S. has no company that produces 5G telecom equipment. It’s a tax-induced disaster, made all the more dangerous by China’s aggressive intentions to dominate the world and impose its authoritarian style of government elsewhere.
Fixing the Problem
President Donald Trump recognized the problem. President Trump’s tax reform did two things right away. First, it lowed the corporate tax to 21 percent, which is about the middle of the pack in the OECD–not the highest, not the lowest, but close to the average and competitive. Then, it adopted the same territorial principle that nearly all of the major trading partners of the U.S. in the OECD use, so the United States was suddenly more competitive that way too. In a big change from its post-war arrogance, the U.S. studied the lessons of foreign countries. It may come to the surprise of many, but Trump’s all-American, America-first tax reform was designed to make the U.S. tax code look like the tax codes of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, which long before the United States ever existed were already among the most successful trading nations of all time, and whose Anglo-Dutch model of shareholder capitalism was the foundation of the U.S. economy as well.
But to address three uniquely American problems, President Trump built three features into his tax system. One feature was designed to make sure that income earned in the United States was actually taxed in the United States, and not exported to lower-tax countries through leaks in the nominally worldwide but also obsolete and antiquated tax code of the U.S. This was called the Base Erosion and Anti-abuse Tax (BEAT). Another feature was designed to deal with the problem of U.S. industries that were based primarily on intellectual property, such as tech and pharma, earning profits overseas but never sending these profits back to the U.S. because of U.S. tax. This was a tax on a category of income called Global Intangible Low Taxed-Income (GILTI). For example, before BEAT, the world’s most valuable company, Apple, shifted many of its U.S. profits into low-tax Ireland. Also, before GILTI, Apple made profits worldwide and moved these profits to Ireland as well, never paying U.S. tax or moving the profits back to the U.S. GILTI respects the territorial principle, and it does not tax U.S. companies making normal profits in a foreign country. However, the tax applies a test for supernormal profits, and if a company is making more than a 10 percent return in any country, GILTI assumes that some of the unusually high profits in the foreign country result from shifting profits out of the United States, and therefore it applies a certain level of U.S. tax to them. Then there is the tax on Foreign Derived Intangible Income (FDII). This is a tax on income that results from unusually high profits on export sales of goods made in the U.S. FDII assumes that some of these supernormal profits result from headquarters activity, R&D, or patents and intellectual property held in the United States, so in this case, it applies a level of U.S. tax as well.
GILTI and FDII are designed to work in complement to one another. To discourage companies from moving their patent portfolios or research operations to foreign countries, GILTI and FDII have incentives and penalties to make sure that no country in the world offers better tax treatment of intellectual property for U.S. companies, but also that the U.S. tax treatment of U.S. intellectual property is the most favorable in the world. Together, GILTI and FDII mimic something called a “patent box,” which is used in the UK and European countries to ensure that intellectual property gets a preferential rate in those countries, as long as the R&D was performed there and the resulting patents are housed there as well.
Don’t Turn Back the Clock
For a long time, the United States pursued unilateral disarmament with regard to tax policy while other countries engaged in an arms race to make their tax systems more competitive. We see the result in the loss of U.S. headquarters companies from the U.S. and the dangerous ascendancy of China, which seeks to dominate and monopolize the technologies of the future while putting them at the service of its totalitarian system. President Trump put the U.S. back on the offensive and at the top of its game.
But President Joe Biden comes to office with a different set of values, in which government supposedly drives economic growth, and the government imposes high corporate taxes to support the welfare state, redistribute income, and reward its favored constitutions such as big labor. The major reason the United States took decades to overhaul its tax system while other countries made rapid progress is that labor unions fought to keep the U.S. on a worldwide tax basis. They argued the only possible reason for a U.S. company to locate overseas was to avoid U.S. labor costs, and for that matter, U.S. labor unions. But in fact, this is a view of global business that is decades behind the times. The primary model for global business today is not the export of commodities and manufactured from products from the U.S. That is important but is even more important for U.S. industries based on intellectual property to be able to operate anywhere, and for companies that serve foreign markets to support their U.S. headquarters by building factories and facilities around the world that still get their competitive edge from the U.S. knowledge economy. Big Labor wants to turn back the clock, and retreat to an outdated economic model, while China, with a more modern tax system, threatens both U.S. prosperity and national security, and even friendly trading partners have been acquiring many of our best and brightest companies and moving their headquarters overseas in a lopsided, one-way flow of mergers and acquisitions.
The Trump tax reform is a territorial system that makes the U.S. competitive with its top trading partners. The Trump tax reform incorporates GILTI, FDII, BEAT, to make sure that the U.S. benefits from U.S. intellectual property while also enjoying the financial benefits and good jobs that come to headquarters companies at the center of a global network. But Biden’s view is different. He wants to go back to a worldwide system, where U.S. companies have the highest tax rate in the OECD at home and must pay a global minimum on their overseas earrings as well. The problem is that China has no global minimum tax, and China is the biggest threat today.
J.P. Lucier is a tax policy analyst.
With the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin over the tragic death of George Floyd, recent police shootings, and continuing riots all dominating news coverage, it is time to have a serious conversation that honestly examines the situation. To be honest, whatever we are doing right now doesn’t seem to be working — unless the goal is to tear the nation apart.
No reasonable person can watch the video of George Floyd’s arrest and say it was good policing. Likewise, no reasonable person can seriously argue that an officer’s wrongdoing convicts an entire nation of 330 million people. Whatever Chauvin’s motivations may have been, they do not make you or I racists or even complicit. We are each responsible for our own actions — not for the actions of others. But we are responsible as citizens to create a society based in freedom, opportunity and accountability.
The truth is virtually all of America was horrified by the video of George Floyd’s arrest and tragic death. While his condition may have been compromised by an overdose of fentanyl, virtually no one who saw that video thought it was good policing, or that Floyd deserved to die. This fact is proof that America is not broadly or fundamentally racist.
The mad rush to label America a racist nation and to conclude racism is so ingrained in Americans that we are racist even without knowing it is not factual, accurate, fair or reasonable. And perhaps even more troubling, it misdiagnoses the problem and thus won’t correct things. In fact, the so-called cure will only further divide and Balkanize our nation.
The evidence is strong that Americans want justice and opportunity not only for themselves, but for others. In a nation of 330 million people, there are certainly some who are racists. But they are a very small minority. Most Americans properly see racism as loathsome. That is why people of color from all over the world try to make their way to America — they see it as a land of opportunity.
So let’s look for real solutions and leave the slogans out of it. For example, defunding the police will fix nothing. In fact, where police departments have been defunded, crime rates and murders have soared and city councils are scrambling to undo the harm they predictably helped cause by their foolishness.
What might actually help? We now know that Chauvin had 22 complaints filed against him for inappropriate policing tactics. Yet the union backed him and only once was he disciplined — when it now seems clear he shouldn’t have been a police officer. Had he been fired years ago, George Floyd would likely be alive and Chauvin would likely be making a living in some other field for which he was better suited. Perhaps we should look at how public employee unions blindly protect their membership from accountability. We can also look at police training.
Likewise, we must honestly admit that many police officers every year are killed in action — some execution style. And in many of the police shooting cases, the victim fights and/or pulls a weapon. As a society, we should teach and encourage respect for the police and the law.
Some commentators now frequently claim that people of color are more afraid of police than of a criminal trying to gain access to their home. That makes no sense at all. The data is very clear that the overwhelming majority of gun shot victims in the minority community are at the hands of violent felons, not police officers. If there are people of color who are more afraid of police than criminals, it is because media coverage has repeatedly misrepresented the facts and exaggerated the risks. This in turn is likely to increase the very circumstances that could lead to more tragedies.
Injustice occurs when people do things that unfairly harm others. Some of those things may be relatively small — like being cut off in traffic. And some may be quite significant and even tragic, like George Floyd’s treatment. But in a nation of 330 million people, we will experience or see small injustices every day. And we will likely hear of larger more significant injustices every week or month. That’s just a statistical probability in a large, populous nation.
But we seem to have entered a very unhealthy and irrational sphere of thinking where every time an officer shoots a minority that is proof of a broadly racist society. In fact, it is not only the most frequently repeated explanation in the media, we have gotten to the point where reluctance to accept this explanation is itself viewed as racist. We should examine the facts of each case, not merely assume or presume that race was the deciding issue.
If we assume that every slight and every injustice is racially based, we will become more racially divided. If I assume that when I get cut off on the highway by a person of a different race, that it was racially motivated, I’d be wrong almost all the time. They might have been distracted, or not seen me, or misjudged the space available and speed of traffic. But it’s very unlikely that they saw me and thought, “I’m gonna cut that guy off because I hate him for racial reasons!”
As a nation, let’s strive as Martin Luther King encouraged, to judge each other “by the content of their character” rather than the “color of their skin.” Let’s hold police accountable when they act outside the law. But otherwise, let’s respect and honor the law and the police. And let’s not rush to label every error or misdeed a racially motivated attack. Let’s seek to unify and recognize that despite our differences, virtually every America seeks a just and fair society where freedom and opportunity abound and where individuals who break the law are held accountable in accordance with the law.
While migrants from Central America stream to the U.S. border, any positive effects of Biden’s 'root-cause' strategy will be slow and incremental at best.
The journey of Central American migrants to the U.S. border — a perilous trip across thousands of miles of mountains and deserts — starts in places like the dry corridor in western Honduras.
Many of the region’s 1 million small farmers still live in adobe huts with no running water and suffer acts of humans and nature. Corrupt Honduran officials have invested too little in stabilizing or modernizing the region, allowing violent gangs to extort families. Recent droughts and hurricanes have created widespread hunger.
“It’s been one crisis after another,” says Conor Walsh, the Honduras representative for Catholic Relief Services in Tegucigalpa, the capital. “Many people have already migrated and others are evaluating whether they can stay on their farms.”
These longstanding problems throughout Central America are driving the current crisis on the southern U.S. border, where more than 170,000 migrants arrived in March in search of jobs and asylum. As the Biden administration grapples with this mounting surge, it’s also proposing a $4 billion long-term plan to attack the root causes of migration — corruption, violence, and poverty in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
The initiative is as ambitious as it is familiar. Presidents as far back as John F. Kennedy have pursued similar aims only to come up short. Joe Biden himself ran the troubled Central America initiative during the Obama administration. It encountered the same obstacles that have stymied past U.S. efforts — governmental leaders and business elites who resist good governance and anti-corruption reforms to protect their own interests, according to a study by the Wilson Center, a policy research group in Washington.
Consider Honduras, a showcase of government criminality. President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s election in 2017 was tainted by fraud. He is now under investigation by U.S. prosecutors who have brought a string of cocaine smuggling cases against prominent Hondurans. Members of the National Congress in Tegucigalpa have a habit of embezzlement, thereby robbing citizens of funding for health care, education, and jobs.
Nonetheless, U.S.-funded programs have struggled to make a difference in a nation in which government is a big part of the problem. Catholic Relief Services, for one, has helped boost the corn and bean yields and income of thousands of subsistence farmers in the Honduran dry corridor, offering a glimmer of hope. But a lack of roads, electricity, and credit for farmers means that only a sliver of them benefit from the technical aid. As a result, an unprecedented 47 percent of families in the dry corridor that stretches across Central America are moderately to severely food-deprived, according to an alarming 2017 United Nations study.United Nations World Food Program.
Now comes Biden’s crack at the region. He’s tweaking the U.S. aid playbook in hopes of a better outcome. The administration says fighting corruption is now the top priority since nothing will change until elected officials stop stealing and the governments become more accountable to citizens. Countries will have to meet stricter conditions, such as adopting governance reforms, before receiving aid, and officials face the threat of financial sanctions and revoked visas. The proposed $4 billion strategy, the biggest ever for the region, gives the administration some added leverage.
Vice President Kamala Harris heads the strategy team, which includes White House aide Juan Gonzalez and Ricardo Zuniga, the special envoy to the region. Zuniga was born in Honduras and both men worked on Western Hemispheric affairs in the Obama White House. In March, they traveled to the region and had “very frank discussions” with leaders about transparency, good governance, and anti-corruption, said one administration official.
The Treasury Department followed up those talks with sanctions in late April against Felipe Alejos Lorenzana, a Guatemalan Congressman, and Gustavo Adolfo Alejos Cambara, a former official. They reportedly facilitated payments to lawmakers and judges to try to interfere with the appointment of magistrates and protect against corruption prosecutions, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“You have to create a system of accountability that goes after the very corrupt elements within these governments,” added Steven Dudley, co-founder of InSight Crime, which investigates organized crime in Latin America. “The people Biden put in place have the experience and ideas, but the bridge between that and actually doing something is long.”
The get-tough diplomacy is already hitting resistance. In early April, Zuniga visited El Salvador to press the case against corruption. But President Nayib Bukele, miffed over criticism from a State Department official about his commitment to the rule of law, refused to meet with the envoy.
The snub would be familiar to a long line of presidents who have stumbled in the region. Since 1960 administrations have strategically deployed about $24 billion in foreign aid to Central America and the Caribbean.
During the Cold War years, aid was meant to reduce poverty to build support against leftist movements in El Salvador and its neighbors. It didn’t work. When the decades-long civil wars in the region finally ended in the 1990s, peace did usher in a long stretch of economic growth and declining poverty rates. In the ensuing decade, as drug trafficking and gang violence soared, the George W. Bush administration took its turn in Central America. It sent assistance to combat crime. But the programs lacked coordination and had a limited impact, according to another Wilson Center report.
The Obama administration had bigger ambitions. It expanded on Bush’s security initiative by adding governance and economic programs. The $2.4 billion “strategy for engagement” for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras began in 2014 and included 370 projects to make local officials more accountable, reduce crime and create jobs. In an op-ed supporting the strategy, Vice President Biden praised the nations’ commitment to reform and even met with President Hernandez at the White House in 2015 — an endorsement that proved too bullish.
After five years, the Government Accounting Office was blunt in its assessment of the projects that were mostly run by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Those reviewed by GAO achieved only 40 percent to 70 percent of their own technical targets, such as the number of police officers trained. Officials didn’t even bother to evaluate most of the projects or whether they helped improve governance, security, and economic opportunity.
When the biggest wave of migrants in more than a decade hit the U.S. border in 2019, the Trump administration pulled the plug on the Obama root cause strategy. USAID, now run by Samantha Power, a former envoy to the U.N. under President Obama, didn’t provide a spokesperson to comment for this story despite several requests.
Biden, who now has a second chance to get it right, faces his biggest test in Honduras. Its economy, which was once dominated by exports of coffee and bananas to the United States, has produced a number of ultra-wealthy clans resistant to the idea of cleaning up corruption.
Miguel Facusse, whose nephew served as president of Honduras, became rich from palm oil production and consumer products. But his legacy is tainted by accusations from human rights investigations that his security forces were involved in deadly clashes with small farmers over their claim to land in the region where his plantations operate.
As the economy became more service-oriented, former Vice President Jaime Rosenthal made a family fortune estimated in 2015 at $690 million from banking, telecommunications, and other businesses. But before his death two years ago, Rosenthal was indicted by U.S. prosecutors for participating in a money-laundering scheme with Honduran drug traffickers.
Honduras emerged as a cocaine transshipment point between South America and the United States a few decades ago. The 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted President Manuel Zelaya opened the door to more trafficking. Zelaya, a Liberal Party politician, had raised the minimum wage by 60 percent and defended the land rights of small farmers. Even more worrisome to business leaders like Facusse was that Zelaya had become cozy with leftist despots in the region and pushed to amend the constitution in an apparent attempt to extend his own presidency.
Zelaya’s ouster by the military led to a period of internal tumult, forcing the National Police to focus on restoring order, often violently cracking down on protesters. By 2015, 90 percent of cocaine coming to the United States passed through Central America, with Honduras as the major hub. More recently Hondurans have developed labs to produce cocaine, extending its tentacles in the economy, according to a report by InSight Crime.
Today, President Hernandez tops a list of Honduran politicians, military, and police officers who are under investigation or have been convicted of operating what seems like a state-sponsored drug cartel, according to the U.S. prosecutors. They say in 2013 Hernandez, who was then in Congress and campaigning for the presidency, got access to millions of dollars in cocaine from a murderous trafficker. In return, the politician allegedly told the trafficker, who was convicted in a U.S. court in March, that the military and attorney general would protect his operation. The president has repeatedly denied any involvement in trafficking.
The president’s brother, former congressman Tony Hernandez, was involved in every aspect of the cocaine trade. The end game was political power. He funneled millions of dollars in profits into National Party campaigns for three presidential elections, including the two his brother won in 2013 and 2017, prosecutors say. Tony Hernandez was handed a life prison sentence in March.
The Biden administration points to the silver linings in the dark clouds of the region’s recent history. In the last five years, an effort to root out political corruption made remarkable progress before it was quashed. In 2016, large street demonstrations over the looting of at least $300 million from the public health care system — a small amount of which found its way into Hernandez’s first presidential campaign — forced the president to set up an anti-corruption commission in partnership with the Organization of American States. The United States embraced the move with funding and political support.
The commission’s quasi-independence — it was led by Peruvian prosecutor Ana Maria Calderon Boy and others from outside Honduras — keyed its initial success. The commission set up a new unit of vetted prosecutors within the national government. It went on to reveal an embezzlement scam that later allegedly implicated more than 350 politicians, including President Hernandez, according to the Wilson report. Amid the scandal, he essentially disbanded the commission last year — a decision that brought condemnation from a bipartisan group of U.S. House leaders.
The Biden administration now aims to set up a new anti-corruption group as its main weapon. This time even more independence will be crucial if it’s to work. Zuniga, the special envoy, had discussions with nonprofits in Central America that want to form a U.S.-backed civil society commission. It would draw on the expertise of these groups in exposing corruption and operate outside the reach of national governments to shut it down. But local prosecutors would still have to pursue the cases.
“Instead of creating another commission that the governments can kick out, the United States can support nonprofits that have years of experience doing this work,” says Kurt Ver Beek, co-founder of the Association for a More Just Society in Honduras, who joined the talks with Zuniga. “We will make the corruption cases public and, along with the United States, pressure the governments to bring charges.”
The U.S.-backed effort to reform the National Police also got off to a promising start five years ago. The police served as a tool for cocaine smugglers, who easily exploited lowly paid officers with payoffs for dirty work. “Officers hijacked cars from citizens, dealt drugs for gangs, and lent out their services as hitmen,” according to a 2016 report by Ver Beek’s ASJ, the Christian nonprofit, which received funding from the State Department.
The revelation in 2016 that top police officials organized the assassination of Honduran’s anti-drug czar finally forced President Hernandez and Congress to set up another commission. Two ASJ leaders joined the group, which moved quickly to purge a remarkable 5,000 tainted and inexperienced beat cops and top officials — including six generals — equaling a third of the entire force.
The purge was a watershed moment showing that Hondurans could topple a fortress of criminality. But four years later drug smugglers are beginning to penetrate the police again, forcing good officers to choose whether to take a bribe or a bullet. “Traffickers tell cops, ‘I’ll kill you if you don’t help me, or take a bunch of money,’” says Ver Beek, a Cornell University-trained sociologist. “So they take the money.”
American agencies funded other projects such as community policing to reduce crime in Honduras, which a decade ago had the highest murder rate in the world. In her congressional confirmation hearing, Power, Biden’s new USAID administrator, pointed to the agency’s record of crime-fighting in the country as a bright spot to build on. “In districts where USAID had programming aimed at curbing violence, there was a drop in homicide rates,” she told senators in March. “That is encouraging.”
However, extortion of businesses by criminal gangs — a major driver of migration — may be getting worse. Gang members approach small businesses, such as barbers, food merchants and taxi drivers, and demand a small monthly payment that keeps going up until the owner can no longer pay it and flees. Hondurans refer to extortion as a “war tax,” which victimizes as many as half of all small businesses, Ver Beek estimates.
While officials pilfer public funds and gangs drive businesses to close, it’s no wonder that half of the Honduran population remains almost locked in poverty. The high rate hasn’t improved much over the last decade and is twice the level of neighboring El Salvador. As the Obama administration learned, foreign aid alone can’t do much to help kids escape this poverty trap.
USAID’s Future Employment program had ambitions in 2016 to train 7,500 at-risk youth in Honduras and place half of them in jobs to lure them away from gangs. The program struggled to find enough recruits in tough neighborhoods and enough employers willing to take a chance and hire them. Then the Trump administration cut off funding for projects across the three countries. By the end of 2019, fewer than 1,000 participants had found some employment, mostly in retail, in the year following training, according to a USAID evaluation.
While they certainly benefited from a job in the short term, their prospects of upward mobility are dim without more support from the Honduran government. For instance, the country has a federal minimum wage law that’s set above the poverty line and could help close the inequality gap. But almost half of employers ignore it and the government does little to enforce it, academic studies show.
“We have not produced the same kind of results that I’ve pointed to when it comes to physical security and crime,” Power said of USAID’s economic programs. “Hopefully we can begin to make a dent.”
Power could start by changing the way her agency runs projects in places like Honduras, nonprofit veterans believe. Aid experts have criticized the agency for hiring U.S. and international contractors to administer most of the program funding. The setup marginalizes local organizations that better understand on-the-ground issues and misses an opportunity to develop local advocates to push for reforms, says Sarah Bermeo, who specializes in foreign aid in Central America at Duke University.
“U.S. contractors are certainly overused compared to their ability to deliver results,” Bermeo says. “There is certainly room to improve outcomes by increasing the involvement of local groups in the design and implementation of AID-financed efforts.”
Meanwhile, migrants from Central America are streaming to the U.S. border. The increase that began a year ago has accelerated under Biden, threatening to top 1 million this year, the highest total in more than a decade. Biden’s root-cause strategy won’t change anything at the border in the short run. Advocates say progress will be incremental at best and measured in decades, not years.
“It’s going to be difficult but not impossible for the administration,” says Ariel Ruiz Soto, an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. “The U.S. investment has to occur over decades for there to be a real change.”
The effort to knock off U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski – the last legitimately pro-life Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives – was a multi-year project undertaken by some of the progressive movement’s most important and influential organizations. When it finally succeeded, it automatically conferred rising star status on the woman who beat him.
Now that woman – US. Rep. Marie Newman – is midway through her first term in Congress and finds that star tarnished by allegations she promised a job to a potential primary opponent in exchange for him agreeing not to enter the 2020 Illinois Democratic congressional primary.
According to CBS’s Chicago affiliate, WBBM-TV, Iymen Chehade, a Palestinian-American adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago, is suing Newman saying she agreed to give him a well-paying job on her staff if he stayed out of the primary “so she could win more easily.”
Newman won the 2020 Democratic nomination for Illinois’ 3rd congressional district seat with 47.3 percent of the vote against three other candidates including Lipinski, in no small part by emphasizing her support for legalized abortion. There’s no way to tell if an additional candidate might have made a difference in either 2018 — when Lipinski eked out a win, 51-49 percent — or in 2020. Given that Newman’s eventual margin of victory over Lipinski was just about 3,000 votes, the possibility exists that the presence of one more office-seeker on the ballot might have produced a different outcome.
Newman, Chehade’s suit alleges, promised him a government job with a $135,000 to $140,000 salary and the twin titles of “foreign policy advisor” and “legislative or district director” if she won. This was memorialized in an employment contract entered into in December 2018 in which he agreed to help her as an “informal advisor” to draft her campaign stance on Israeli-Palestinian relations.
“Newman was conscious of the fact that there was a large Palestinian-American community in her district and that her chances of success in the Democratic primary would improve if she had significant support within that community,” the suit he filed against Newman charges. Through a spokesman, Newman denied what Chehade claims in his suit.
“Mr. Chehade was never and has never been a candidate in a congressional race for Illinois’ 3rd District. Mr. Chehade was not hired in part because he not only misrepresented his qualifications but was ill-suited for a senior role in a congressional office, as demonstrated by his interactions with Ms. Newman and her campaign volunteers,” the spokesman told Chicago’s Channel 2.
“In fact, in the summer of 2019, Mr. Chehade explicitly conveyed to Ms. Newman over the phone that he could not work with her. It was only after several months of no direct communication between the two that Mr. Chehade contacted Ms. Newman pleading to her to hire him in her official office,” the unidentified spokesman continued, claiming also that Chehade had “spent over a month making false statements to the press.”
The suit, of course, is not Newman’s only problem. What Chehade has alleged is bigger than just a dispute between him and the congresswoman over her failure to live up to an employment contract, says noted election law attorney Cleta Mitchell.
“It is a criminal offense under federal law to promise a job or appointment of any kind for the purpose of securing support for a candidacy. If the facts of the complaint have any merit whatsoever, the FBI should be investigating this matter. In addition, the Office of Congressional Ethics should open its own investigation, which it can do without any third party filing a complaint,” Mitchell says. “OCE has the authority to open the investigation on its own and that is what they should do. This is the kind of law-breaking we’ve come to expect from leftists who preach about how idealistic they are when, in reality, they are just partisan thugs. “
In Washington, there are two kinds of Republicans: those who care what The New York Times writes and those who don’t. As hard as it is to believe, there are still some in the GOP who care deeply about what the liberal media establishment says, though it’s not clear why.
The Times has been losing readership for years, along with its power to set the national agenda. It still has influence in the Acela corridor—that swath of urban liberalism between Washington, D.C., and Boston—and among the people who select the stories the major networks will cover. But most Americans get their news from the internet, where, as far as information about politics is concerned, it’s still the wild, wild west.
Among folks who use the internet as their primary source of information, the Times has about as much impact as a fly on an elephant’s back. To these people, what the so-called paper of record says about the GOP, conservatives in general and Donald Trumpspecifically doesn’t matter a swivel-eyed tinker’s damn.
To the elites, Wyoming representative Liz Cheney’s ouster from the No. 3 position in the House GOP leadership is a big deal. To them, it’s all about Trump—a person whose influence, Cheney and her newfound brethren seem to believe, must be cleansed from the party. To those who follow the House closely and understand how these things work, it’s not such a big deal.
Regarding Trump, Cheney is at odds with most of her Republican colleagues. Most of them, it seems clear, either continue to embrace the former president or would rather avoid talking about him, and instead prefer to spend their time and political capital opposing the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris vision for America.
This is not an unreasonable position to take. Nor is Rep. Cheney’s—as an individual member of Congress. If she wants to spend her time crusading against Trumpian elements within the Republican Party, she has every right to do so. However, as a member of House GOP leadership, she has obligations that go beyond the dictates of her own conscience. She is responsible to the colleagues who put her in office and who—earlier this term—voted to keep her there. That means she should be on the Sunday shows and out in the hustings helping GOP candidates take control of the House back from Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats. She can’t do that if all she wants to talk about, as she’s made clear, is Trump.
The Republicans should be favored to win back the majority in 2022, based on reapportionment and redistricting alone. For all the Democrats’ protestations about gerrymandering—which they used to extend their own congressional majority for at least an additional 10 years beginning in 1982 without a word from elite media save for the Wall Street Journal editorial page—a fair map drawn without any demographic trickery should easily add the number of seats needed for the GOP to reach and exceed the magic number of 218. But, because nothing in politics is certain, unfocused GOP leadership could throw a wrench into the works and prevent it from happening.
The list of things that could go wrong for Republicans’ House prospects is long and largely speculative. High atop it, though, is a campaign in which Democrats and major media outlets force GOP congressional candidates to defend Trump day in and day out instead of taking the attack to Biden and the Democrats. In that environment, Cheney’s repeated condemnations of the former president and his influence on the party would not have been helpful to winning the House Republican Conference a majority for the two years before the next presidential election. And it would have been fatal to the Republican Party’s attempt to regain control of the Senate.
Members of the congressional leadership are expected to be team players. Leaders, even in the minority, must balance the interests of all members of their conference against their own. It is not easy and not a job for the faint of heart. But the number one priority, former House speaker Newt Gingrich once told me, is “Don’t do anything that will start a civil war inside your own party.” Cheney broke that rule and received the appropriate consequence. She has not been thrown out of office or stripped of her committee assignments. She’s now free to pursue what she thinks best for herself and the GOP without diminishing the prospects the other Republicans serving with her will be reelected.
In Washington, that matters. Out in America, where real life exists, not so much.
As a political issue, crime is back.
Between the uproar over police shootings in Minneapolis and other cities, the demands by activists to “defund the police,” and a spreading “blue flu” pandemic that seeing veteran police officers walk off the job – in some cases not to return – crime in America is on the rise. Even if the national political media hasn’t yet caught on.
But they will. It’s inevitable because few issues hit home as closely as personal safety does. What drives many BLM adherents into the streets to protest police shootings is not just the sense, amplified by the media coverage, that they aren’t safe in their neighborhoods but that the biggest threat comes from the very people who are supposed to protect them.
It turns out, a new poll says, that your sentiments on the issue are influenced considerably by which television news network you watch. “Fewer than 50 unarmed black suspects were killed by police last year and more people were killed with knives than with so-called ‘assault weapons,’,” the polling firm Rasmussen Reports said Friday, “but viewers of MSNBC and CNN are far more likely than Fox News viewers to get those facts wrong.”
The firm found 50 percent of likely U.S. voters who identified CNN or MSNBC as “their favorite cable news outlet” believed the number of unarmed African Americans who were fatally shot by police in 2020 exceeded 100. “By contrast, only 22 percent of Fox News viewers believe police shot more than 100 unarmed black people last year.”
The poll, found just about one in four of CNN viewers and one-in-five MSNBC viewers thought cops “fatally shot more than 500 unarmed black suspects last year” while only one in ten Fox viewers thought the same thing.
“Fox News viewers (60 percent) were about three times more likely than viewers of MSNBC (19 percent) or CNN (23 percent) to correctly estimate the number of unarmed black people shot and killed by police in 2020 as less than 50. Sixty percent (60 percent) of talk radio listeners also estimated the number correctly,” the firm said the data collected showed.
Each year about 1,500 U.S. homicides annually are committed with knives and fewer than 500 are committed with rifles. However, 30 percent of likely voters thought the number of annual homicides involving rifles was more than 500, including 18 percent who said they believed it was more than 1,000 homicides, Rasmussen Reports said.
“Thirty percent of MSNBC viewers correctly estimated the number of homicides committed with rifles as between 100 and 500, as did 22 percent of CNN viewers and 19 percent of Fox News viewers. However, while 63 percent of Fox viewers underestimated the number of killings with rifles as less than 100, viewers of CNN and MSNBC were more likely to overestimate the number of homicides committed with rifles. Forty-three percent of CNN viewers and 40 percent of MSNBC viewers believe rifles are used in more than 500 homicides annually, compared to just 19 percent of Fox News viewers. Only 26 percent of talk radio listeners overestimated the number of homicides committed with rifles.”
The survey of 2,000 U.S. likely voters was conducted on April 29-May 3, 2021 by the Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence. To see survey question wording, click here.)