The best way to ensure better medical care for all is to reject Medicare for All.
Health care ranked as most important issue, save for “the ability to beat Donald Trump,” for Democratic voters in a FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll taken before and after last week’s presidential debate.
The debate revealed fissures among the party’s presidential aspirants on health care.
Bernie Sanders pronounced his desire that “every American has health care as a human right and not a privilege.” But under the senator’s “Medicare for All” scheme, private health insurance becomes illegal.
Would any American regard it as in keeping with the First Amendment if the government limited all 330 million of us to one church or one newspaper? The senator’s conception of rights, several opponents seemed to say, is wrong.
“While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill,” Amy Klobuchar quipped. She objected to Medicare for All forcing about half of Americans off their existing private insurance. “I don’t think that’s a bold idea,” the Minnesotan noted. “I think that’s a bad idea.”
Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he supported “Medicare for all who want it.” He objected to the one-size-fits-all quality of Sanders’ plan. “I trust the American people to make the right choice for them,” he told Sanders. “Why don’t you?”
Joe Biden balked at the price, estimated to eclipse what the federal government currently takes in in revenues. The former vice president pointed out, “Nobody’s yet said how much it’s going to cost the taxpayer.”
Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who supports his plan, pushed back. Vermont’s junior senator railed against “the drug companies and the insurance companies.” Warren explained, “I’ve never met a person who likes their insurance company.”
Given that insurance companies issue bills to consumers, this necessarily makes them unpopular. But the majority of costs come from hospitals (33 percent) and physician and clinical services (20 percent), according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). We want to kill the messenger. Those primarily responsible for the message — $25 for two aspirin pills, $120 for a cloth sling, $57,000 for a knee replacement — somehow not only escape our wrath but also win our admiration.
Hospitals gouging patients occurs most glaringly in places where hospitals operate as a monopoly and in emergency situations. The common denominator in both circumstances involves the inability to compare and shop.
In a paper published earlier this year in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, academics at Yale, Penn, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon note hospital price increases for the privately insured when competition decreases. “Prices at monopoly hospitals are 12% higher than those in markets with four or more rivals,” their abstract reads.
Monopoly hospitals also have contracts that load more risk on insurers (e.g., they have more cases with prices set as a share of their charges). In concentrated insurer markets the opposite occurs — hospitals have lower prices and bear more financial risk. Examining the 366 mergers and acquisitions that occurred between 2007 and 2011, we find that prices increased by over 6% when the merging hospitals were geographically close (e.g., 5 miles or less apart), but not when the hospitals were geographically distant (e.g., over 25 miles apart).
In the emergency room, when circumstances necessarily kill the ability to shop, spending per patient more than doubled from 2008 to 2017, according to research compiled by Kevin Kennedy and John Hargraves for the Health Care Cost Institute.
Reducing health-care costs requires more competition, not a monopoly. Change soon comes, and not necessarily legislative change of the Medicare for All variety. Data stored in the cloud and available via an app may make medical costs and outcomes transparent, which should reduce cost. Medicare for All will retard this process since the whole health-care industry will lobby against the smartphone apps, and the consolidation of the entire industry necessarily leads to less competition.
Beyond transparency enabling health-care consumers to shop, the industry appears ripe for new players. Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway, for example, entered the field last year. If they do not ultimately seek to dethrone the status quo, why did UnitedHealth’s Optum sue to stop a former employee from working at the trio’s health-care startup? A $3.6 trillion industry remains too big a cash cow for the giants of tech and finance to resist a milking.
Competition is coming. Price transparency is coming. If Medicare for All is coming, then neither is coming.
To listen to most Democrats, they’ve got President Trump on the run when it comes to immigration.
The “big beautiful” wall he promised to build along the border with Mexico hasn’t gone up, and House Democrats will no longer fund even the border-security projects they supported in the past. Federal courts have also been preventing Team Trump from pushing through its efforts to crack down on illegal immigrants, let alone to attempt to fix a broken asylum system gamed by economic migrants from Central America who don’t fit the traditional definition of refugees fleeing for their lives.
But anyone who believes sanctuary-movement backers and Dems seeking to decriminalize illegal immigration are beating the president needs a reality check.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled to permit the administration to go on refusing to accept applications for asylum from migrants who have passed through another country without being denied asylum there, while a case challenging this common-sense policy works its way through the courts.
That comes on the heels of the court’s decision in July to allow Trump to use money from the defense budget to build the border wall. It was yet another significant victory for the administration’s initiatives and a sign that the left’s judicial guerrilla war that had been stymieing the president is starting to crumble.
Expect liberal efforts to prevent Trump from overturning President Barack Obama’s executive orders that effectively granted amnesty to millions of illegals to meet the same fate.
Fact is, despite the beating Trump has continued to take from the media about government tactics aimed at stemming the surge of illegal immigrants over the southern border, his policies have started to show signs of success.
While no one expects Mexico to pay for Trump’s wall, it is doing something more important: using its resources to stop its people from crossing over into the United States illegally. It has, for example, reinforced security on its southern border and set up checkpoints on highways leading north, dispatching 21,600 police and troops across the nation in the effort.
So far in 2019, the US Border Patrol has arrested more than 400,000 migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras for crossing the border illegally. But only 4,300 Mexicans were caught doing so.
It’s all strong evidence that, far from ignoring or rejecting Trump’s efforts to jawbone them into doing something to stop the flood of illegals, America’s most important southern neighbor is listening to him. Recall that Mexico stepped up actions to control the migrants in a bid to avoid tariffs Trump had threatened to impose.
The message has also gotten through to those seeking to come to the United States illegally. Mexican officials have said there has been a “significant decrease” in the number of Central Americans entering their country this year for the purpose of illegally immigrating to the United States.
It makes sense. The campaign by Obama and other Democrats to grant amnesty and a wide array of benefits to illegal immigrants fueled the surge across the border, with new migrants seeking the same lenient treatment. That led to the crisis in which federal resources were overwhelmed by the sheer number of asylum-seekers, prompting much grandstanding and crocodile tears from the left.
Trump’s critics have libelously denounced his attempts to enforce the law — and restore order at the border — as reminiscent of the Nazis and evidence of racism. Yet those efforts seem to be having the intended effect on those contemplating coming here without permission.
With the courts recognizing Trump’s right to use his power to protect the border and with Mexico now cooperating with the United States, perhaps there’s a chance to break the long deadlock over immigration in Washington.
Of course, everyone knows America’s immigration system is badly broken, but Democrats, who hope they will win control of both Congress and the White House next year, have prevented a compromise that would allow the so-called “Dreamers” to stay in the country in exchange for the building of a border wall. So a fix may have to wait until after the 2020 election.
But no matter who wins next year, Trump has shown that, his intemperate rhetoric on the issue not withstanding, strict enforcement policies combined with the help of both the Supreme Court and the Mexicans can provide a way forward to fix an illegal-immigration problem that has long seemed insoluble.
Linda Greenhouse omits the anti-Catholic bias at the heart of a new case before the Court.
The headline is jolting. “Religious Crusaders at the Supreme Court’s Gates.” Thus starts Linda Greenhouse’s analysis of the actual and potential religion cases before the Court during its October term. Her thesis is that the Court’s relative restraint in its religion cases the previous term represented the justices’ merely “biding their time.” This term the gloves may come off. Now the Court may well “go further and adopt new rules for lowering the barrier between church and state across the board.”
She focuses on an Institute for Justice case that the Court has accepted for review, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. It involves a Montana supreme-court-ordered termination of a state tax-credit scholarship program that “helped needy children attend the private school of their families’ choice,” including religious and nonreligious schools. The precise issue before the Court, in dry legalese, is this: whether the Montana court’s decision “violates the religion clauses or the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution to invalidate a generally available and religiously neutral student-aid program simply because the program affords students the choice of attending religious schools.”
Greenhouse is incredulous. If SCOTUS rules against Montana, then, according to her, “the logical consequence is that a state that once had a program offering financial support to religious and nonreligious schools alike . . . and that subsequently shut down the program entirely can be deemed to have violated a principle of religious neutrality.”
“Can that possibly be the law?” she asks. But her summary isn’t exactly right. She pays short shrift to the key fact of the case. The Montana court’s ruling was based on the state’s Blaine amendment, an artifact of odious 19th-century anti-Catholic bigotry. In fact, the words “Blaine amendment” appear nowhere in her piece.
A brief history lesson is in order. As Mike McShane explained in an instructive Forbes piece last year, in the latter part of the 19th century, America’s public schools were often “nominally Protestant.” They would frequently start their days with prayer, the students would read from the King James Version of the Bible, and they’d sometimes even sing hymns.
So when Senator James Blaine proposed amending the United States Constitution to state that “no money raised by taxation in any State for the support of public schools, or derived from any public fund therefor, nor any public lands devoted thereto, shall ever be under the control of any religious sect; nor shall any money so raised or lands so devoted be divided between religious sects or denominations,” he was not attempting to stamp out public-school religiosity. He was attempting to deny aid to Catholic parochial schools.
Blaine’s federal amendment failed, but his language found its way into 37 state constitutions. As McShane notes, the anti-Catholicism of the amendments is betrayed by the words “sect” or “sectarian.” In the language of the time, Protestant instruction was “nonsectarian.” Catholic instruction was “sectarian.”
Let’s look at the relevant language of the Montana constitution. The section at issue is entitled “Aid prohibited to sectarian schools” and prohibits the use of public funds “for any sectarian purpose or to aid any church, school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other literary or scientific institution, controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.”
Mr. Blaine, meet your amendment.
So let’s go back to the question posed by Linda Greenhouse. “Could that possibly be the law” that states are prohibited from ending “a program offering financial support to religious and nonreligious schools alike”? Yes, it can possibly be the law. Indeed, it should be the law — when the state ends support because it’s enforcing a legal provision that in purpose and effect engages in blatant religious discrimination.
The twin constitutional pillars of religious liberty in the United States — the free-exercise clause and the establishment clause — don’t just protect liberty by disestablishing religion (by preventing the formation of a state church). They protect liberty by preventing punitive anti-religious policies. They prevent the state from targeting religion for disfavored treatment.
Targeting religion for disfavored treatment is exactly what Blaine amendments do. They were aimed squarely at Catholics. Yet as so often happens with attacks on liberty that are allegedly narrowly targeted, the government expanded its scope. Now the law aimed at Catholics affects all people of faith. When it comes to participation in public programs — programs they bought and paid for with their own dollars — Montana’s religious citizens and religious institutions are entitled to equal treatment under the law.
'I'm just so surprised that candidates are making conclusions here that are impossible to make'
Morning Joe hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough ripped the New York Times‘s decision to run a story about new allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh without including vital context about the story.
The Times published an essay adapted from a forthcoming book about the Kavanaugh confirmation battle in which two Times reporters claimed to have “uncovered a previously unreported story” about alleged sexual misconduct during Kavanaugh’s college years.
“A classmate, Max Stier, saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student,” the Times reporters wrote. They added that this allegation “echoes” the allegation made by Deborah Ramirez, who alleged Kavanaugh “thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent” during a party in college.
On Sunday night, the Times added a note to the story correcting a factual omission. The reporters excluded that the victim of Stier’s alleged incident “declined to be interviewed and friends say that she does not recall the incident.”
“Wait a second, a woman who Stier claims was abused by Kavanaugh, has she denied this? Has she claimed this happened? Why is there this glaring omission in The New York Times story? There were Molly Hemingway and others on Twitter were saying that, in fact, she had no recollection of this happening and her friends were saying the same thing,” Scarborough said.
“And I could not believe The New York Times would write this piece without that information contained in it. Are you surprised 24 hours—is it 24 hours went by before they clarified that fact?” he said, adding the article also did not note that Stier was the opposing counsel to Kavanaugh during their work on the Monica Llewinsky scandal.
“I don’t understand why they didn’t put this information in the article. Did that strike you as strange?”
“Yeah, that’s certainly good context being provided here about Stier. We were talking about this yesterday and were puzzled and remain so that if the woman involved is saying that she didn’t remember, that raises questions about the piece,” Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire responded. “Certainly, The New York Times has made their own editorial judgments about what should be included.
Scarborough pointed out each of the major three allegations against Kavanaugh had issues with corroborating witnesses.
“Here we have, again, a New York Times piece where Brett Kavanaugh is accused of something and, again, the very woman who was the alleged victim in this alleged incident is saying she doesn’t recall it happening,” he said.
Brzezinski addressed the political implications of the new allegations. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) called on Kavanaugh to resign, along with fellow 2020 candidates Beto O’Rourke (D.), Julian Castro (D.), and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D.). Both former Vice President Joe Biden (D.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) called for further investigation into the allegations.
“There has not been any new statements from any of the candidates since the Times updated the story overnight, that the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say she does not recall the episode,” Brzezinski said, pointing out there are still many unanswered questions.
“I’m just so surprised that candidates are making conclusions here that are impossible to make, again.”
Even the ‘moderate’ proposals would sabotage private coverage, driving everyone into a government-run system. That’s probably why Democrats don’t really answer questions about their health proposals.
For more than two hours Thursday night in Houston, 10 presidential candidates responded to questions in the latest Democratic debate. On health care, however, most of those responses didn’t include actual answers.
As in the past several contests, health care led off the debate discussion, and took a familiar theme: former vice president Joe Biden attacked his more liberal opponents for proposing costly policies, and they took turns bashing insurance companies to avoid explaining the details behind their proposals. Among the topics discussed during the health care portion of the debate are the following.
Most notably, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren again declined to admit whether individuals will lose their current insurance, or whether the middle class will pay more in taxes, under a single-payer health care system. By contrast, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders claimed that while all (or most) Americans will pay higher taxes to fund his single-payer system, middle class families will come out ahead due to his plan’s elimination of deductibles and co-payments.
The problems, as Biden and other Democratic critics pointed out: First, it’s virtually impossible to pay for a single-payer health care system costing $30-plus trillion without raising taxes on the middle class. Second, even though Sanders has proposed some tax increases on middle class Americans, he hasn’t proposed nearly enough to pay for the full cost of his plan.
Third, a 2016 analysis by a former Clinton administration official found that, if Sanders did use tax increases to pay for his entire plan, 71 percent of households would become worse off under his plan compared to the status quo. All of this might explain why Sanders has yet to ask the Congressional Budget Office for a score of his single-payer legislation: He knows the truth about the cost of his bill—but doesn’t want the public to find out.
Believe it or not, Biden once again repeated the mantra that got his former boss Barack Obama in trouble, claiming that if people liked their current insurance, they could keep it under his plan. In reality, however, Biden’s plan would likely lead millions to lose their current coverage; one 2009 estimate concluded that a proposal similar to Biden’s would see a reduction in private coverage of 119.1 million Americans.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar echoed Biden’s attack, saying that while Sanders wrote his single-payer bill, she had read it—and pointing out that page 8 of the legislation would ban private health coverage. (I also read Sanders’ bill—and the opening pages of my new book contain a handy reading guide to the legislation.)
For his part, Sanders and Warren claimed that while private insurance would go away under a single-payer plan, people would still have the right to retain their current doctors and medical providers. Unfortunately, however, they can no more promise that than Biden can promise people can keep their insurance. Doctors would have many reasons to drop out of a government-run health plan, or leave medicine altogether, including more work, less pay, and more burdensome government regulations.
While attacking Sanders’ plan as costly and unrealistic, Biden also threw shade in Warren’s direction. Alluding to the fact that the Massachusetts senator has yet to come up with a health plan of her own, Biden noted that “I know that the senator says she’s for Bernie. Well, I’m for Barack.”
Biden’s big problem: He wasn’t for Obamacare—at least not for paying for it. As I have previously noted, Biden and his wife Jill specifically structured their business dealings to avoid paying nearly $500,000 in self-employment taxes—taxes that fund both Obamacare and Medicare.
Tax experts have called Biden’s avoidance scheme “pretty aggressive” and legally questionable, yet neither Democrats nor Thursday’s debate moderators seem interested in pursuing the former vice president’s clear double hypocrisy about his support for Obama’s health care law.
I’ll give the last word to my former boss, who summed up the “contrasts” among Democrats on health care:
Dem debate on health care:@berniesanders: If you like your health plan, too bad, we are going to take it away now.
“Moderate” Dem: If you like your health plan, don’t worry, we will gradually take it away.#DemDebate #DemocraticDebate2078:47 PM – Sep 12, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy104 people are talking about this
As I have previously noted, even the “moderate” proposals would ultimately sabotage private coverage, driving everyone into a government-run system. And the many unanswered questions that Democratic candidates refuse to answer about that government-run health system provide reason enough for the American people to reject all the proposals on offer.
The following is adapted from a speech delivered on April 30, 2019, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.
Once upon a time, the Electoral College was not controversial. During the debates over ratifying the Constitution, Anti-Federalist opponents of ratification barely mentioned it. But by the mid-twentieth century, opponents of the Electoral College nearly convinced Congress to propose an amendment to scrap it. And today, more than a dozen states have joined in an attempt to hijack the Electoral College as a way to force a national popular vote for president.
What changed along the way? And does it matter? After all, the critics of the Electoral College simply want to elect the president the way we elect most other officials. Every state governor is chosen by a statewide popular vote. Why not a national popular vote for president?
Delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 asked themselves the same question, but then rejected a national popular vote along with several other possible modes of presidential election. The Virginia Plan—the first draft of what would become the new Constitution —called for “a National Executive . . . to be chosen by the National Legislature.” When the Constitutional Convention took up the issue for the first time, near the end of its first week of debate, Roger Sherman from Connecticut supported this parliamentary system of election, arguing that the national executive should be “absolutely dependent” on the legislature. Pennsylvania’s James Wilson, on the other hand, called for a popular election. Virginia’s George Mason thought a popular election “impracticable,” but hoped Wilson would “have time to digest it into his own form.” Another delegate suggested election by the Senate alone, and then the Convention adjourned for the day.
When they reconvened the next morning, Wilson had taken Mason’s advice. He presented a plan to create districts and hold popular elections to choose electors. Those electors would then vote for the executive—in other words, an electoral college. But with many details left out, and uncertainty remaining about the nature of the executive office, Wilson’s proposal was voted down. A week later, Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts proposed election by state governors. This too was voted down, and a consensus began to build. Delegates did not support the Virginia Plan’s parliamentary model because they understood that an executive selected by Congress would become subservient to Congress. A similar result, they came to see, could be expected from assigning the selection to any body of politicians.
There were other oddball proposals that sought to salvage congressional selection—for instance, to have congressmen draw lots to form a group that would then choose the executive in secret. But by July 25, it was clear to James Madison that the choice was down to two forms of popular election: “The option before us,” he said, “[is] between an appointment by Electors chosen by the people—and an immediate appointment by the people.” Madison said he preferred popular election, but he recognized two legitimate concerns. First, people would tend toward supporting candidates from their own states, giving an advantage to larger states. Second, a few areas with higher concentrations of voters might come to dominate. Madison spoke positively of the idea of an electoral college, finding that “there would be very little opportunity for cabal, or corruption” in such a system.
By August 31, the Constitution was nearly finished—except for the process of electing the president. The question was put to a committee comprised of one delegate from each of the eleven states present at the Convention. That committee, which included Madison, created the Electoral College as we know it today. They presented the plan on September 4, and it was adopted with minor changes. It is found in Article II, Section 1:
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.
Federal officials were prohibited from being electors. Electors were required to cast two ballots, and were prohibited from casting both ballots for candidates from their own state. A deadlock for president would be decided by the House of Representatives, with one vote per state. Following that, in case of a deadlock for vice president, the Senate would decide. Also under the original system, the runner up became vice president.
This last provision caused misery for President John Adams in 1796, when his nemesis, Thomas Jefferson, became his vice president. Four years later it nearly robbed Jefferson of the presidency when his unscrupulous running mate, Aaron Burr, tried to parlay an accidental deadlock into his own election by the House. The Twelfth Amendment, ratified in 1804, fixed all this by requiring electors to cast separate votes for president and vice president.
And there things stand, constitutionally at least. State legislatures have used their power to direct the manner of choosing electors in various ways: appointing them directly, holding elections by district, or holding statewide elections. Today, 48 states choose their presidential electors in a statewide, winner-take-all vote. Maine and Nebraska elect one elector based on each congressional district’s vote and the remaining two based on the statewide vote.
It is easy for Americans to forget that when we vote for president, we are really voting for electors who have pledged to support the candidate we favor. Civics education is not what it used to be. Also, perhaps, the Electoral College is a victim of its own success. Most of the time, it shapes American politics in ways that are beneficial but hard to see. Its effects become news only when a candidate and his or her political party lose a hard-fought and narrowly decided election.
So what are the beneficial effects of choosing our presidents through the Electoral College?
Under the Electoral College system, presidential elections are decentralized, taking place in the states. Although some see this as a flaw—U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren opposes the Electoral College expressly because she wants to increase federal power over elections—this decentralization has proven to be of great value.
For one thing, state boundaries serve a function analogous to that of watertight compartments on an ocean liner. Disputes over mistakes or fraud are contained within individual states. Illinois can recount its votes, for instance, without triggering a nationwide recount. This was an important factor in America’s messiest presidential election—which was not in 2000, but in 1876.
That year marked the first time a presidential candidate won the electoral vote while losing the popular vote. It was a time of organized suppression of black voters in the South, and there were fierce disputes over vote totals in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Each of those states sent Congress two sets of electoral vote totals, one favoring Republican Rutherford Hayes and the other Democrat Samuel Tilden. Just two days before Inauguration Day, Congress finished counting the votes—which included determining which votes to count—and declared Hayes the winner. Democrats proclaimed this “the fraud of the century,” and there is no way to be certain today—nor was there probably a way to be certain at the time—which candidate actually won. At the very least, the Electoral College contained these disputes within individual states so that Congress could endeavor to sort it out. And it is arguable that the Electoral College prevented a fraudulent result.
Four years later, the 1880 presidential election demonstrated another benefit of the Electoral College system: it can act to amplify the results of a presidential election. The popular vote margin that year was less than 10,000 votes—about one-tenth of one percent—yet Republican James Garfield won a resounding electoral victory, with 214 electoral votes to Democrat Winfield Hancock’s 155. There was no question who won, let alone any need for a recount. More recently, in 1992, the Electoral College boosted the legitimacy of Democrat Bill Clinton, who won with only 43 percent of the popular vote but received over 68 percent of the electoral vote.
But there is no doubt that the greatest benefit of the Electoral College is the powerful incentive it creates against regionalism. Here, the presidential elections of 1888 and 1892 are most instructive. In 1888, incumbent Democratic President Grover Cleveland lost reelection despite receiving a popular vote plurality. He won this plurality because he won by very large margins in the overwhelmingly Democratic South. He won Texas alone by 146,461 votes, for instance, whereas his national popular vote margin was only 94,530. Altogether he won in six southern states with margins greater than 30 percent, while only tiny Vermont delivered a victory percentage of that size for Republican Benjamin Harrison.
In other words, the Electoral College ensures that winning supermajorities in one region of the country is not sufficient to win the White House. After the Civil War, and especially after the end of Reconstruction, that meant that the Democratic Party had to appeal to interests outside the South to earn a majority in the Electoral College. And indeed, when Grover Cleveland ran again for president four years later in 1892, although he won by a smaller percentage of the popular vote, he won a resounding Electoral College majority by picking up New York, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and California in addition to winning the South.
Whether we see it or not today, the Electoral College continues to push parties and presidential candidates to build broad coalitions. Critics say that swing states get too much attention, leaving voters in so-called safe states feeling left out. But the legitimacy of a political party rests on all of those safe states—on places that the party has already won over, allowing it to reach farther out. In 2000, for instance, George W. Bush needed every state that he won—not just Florida—to become president. Of course, the Electoral College does put a premium on the states in which the parties are most evenly divided. But would it really be better if the path to the presidency primarily meant driving up the vote total in the deepest red or deepest blue states?
Also, swing states are the states most likely to have divided government. And if divided government is good for anything, it is accountability. So with the Electoral College system, when we do wind up with a razor-thin margin in an election, it is likely to happen in a state where both parties hold some power, rather than in a state controlled by one party.
Despite these benefits of the current system, opponents of the Electoral College maintain that it is unseemly for a candidate to win without receiving the most popular votes. As Hillary Clinton put it in 2000: “In a democracy, we should respect the will of the people, and to me, that means it’s time to do away with the Electoral College.” Yet similar systems prevail around the world. In parliamentary systems, including Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom, prime ministers are elected by the legislature. This happens in Germany and India as well, which also have presidents who are elected by something similar to an electoral college. In none of these democratic systems is the national popular vote decisive.
More to the point, in our own political tradition, what matters most about every legislative body, from our state legislatures to the House of Representatives and the Senate, is which party holds the majority. That party elects the leadership and sets the agenda. In none of these representative chambers does the aggregate popular vote determine who is in charge. What matters is winning districts or states.
Nevertheless, there is a clamor of voices calling for an end to the Electoral College. Former Attorney General Eric Holder has declared it “a vestige of the past,” and Washington Governor Jay Inslee has labeled it an “archaic relic of a bygone age.” Almost as one, the current myriad of Democratic presidential hopefuls have called for abolishing the Electoral College.
Few if any of these Democrats likely realize how similar their party’s position is to what it was in the late nineteenth century, with California representing today what the South was for their forebears. The Golden State accounted for 10.4 percent of presidential votes cast in 2016, while the southern states (from South Carolina down to Florida and across to Texas) accounted for 10.6 percent of presidential votes cast in 1888. Grover Cleveland won those southern states by nearly 39 percent, while Hillary Clinton won California by 30 percent. But rather than following Cleveland’s example of building a broader national coalition that could win in the Electoral College, today’s Democrats would rather simply change the rules.
Anti-Electoral College amendments with bipartisan support in the 1950s and 1970s failed to receive the two-thirds votes in Congress they needed in order to be sent to the states for consideration. Likewise today, partisan amendments will not make it through Congress. Nor, if they did, could they win ratification among the states.
But there is a serious threat to the Electoral College. Until recently, it has gone mostly unnoticed, as it has made its way through various state legislatures. If it works according to its supporters’ intent, it would nullify the Electoral College by creating a de facto direct election for president.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, or NPV, takes advantage of the flexibility granted to state legislatures in the Constitution: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.” The original intent of this was to allow state legislators to determine how best to represent their state in presidential elections. The electors represent the state—not just the legislature—even though the latter has power to direct the manner of appointment. By contrast, NPV supporters argue that this power allows state legislatures to ignore their state’s voters and appoint electors based on the national popular vote. This is what the compact would require states to do.
Of course, no state would do this unilaterally, so NPV has a “trigger”: it only takes effect if adopted by enough states to control 270 electoral votes—in other words, a majority that would control the outcome of presidential elections. So far, 14 states and the District of Columbia have signed on, with a total of 189 electoral votes.
Until this year, every state that had joined NPV was heavily Democratic: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The NPV campaign has struggled to win other Democratic states: Delaware only adopted it this year and it still has not passed in Oregon (though it may soon). Following the 2018 election, Democrats came into control of both the legislatures and the governorships in the purple states of Colorado and New Mexico, which have subsequently joined NPV.
NPV would have the same effect as abolishing the Electoral College. Fraud in one state would affect every state, and the only way to deal with it would be to give more power to the federal government. Elections that are especially close would require nationwide recounts. Candidates could win based on intense support from a narrow region or from big cities. NPV also carries its own unique risks: despite its name, the plan cannot actually create a national popular vote. Each state would still—at least for the time being—run its own elections. This means a patchwork of rules for everything from which candidates are on the ballot to how disputes are settled. NPV would also reward states with lax election laws—the higher the turnout, legal or not, the more power for that state. Finally, each NPV state would certify its own “national” vote total. But what would happen when there are charges of skullduggery? Would states really trust, with no power to verify, other state’s returns?
Uncertainty and litigation would likely follow. In fact, NPV is probably unconstitutional. For one thing, it ignores the Article I, Section 10 requirement that interstate compacts receive congressional consent. There is also the fact that the structure of the Electoral College clause of the Constitution implies there is some limit on the power of state legislatures to ignore the will of their state’s people.
One danger of all these attacks on the Electoral College is, of course, that we lose the state-by-state system designed by the Framers and its protections against regionalism and fraud. This would alter our politics in some obvious ways—shifting power toward urban centers, for example—but also in ways we cannot know in advance. Would an increase in presidents who win by small pluralities lead to a rise of splinter parties and spoiler candidates? Would fears of election fraud in places like Chicago and Broward County lead to demands for greater federal control over elections?
The more fundamental danger is that these attacks undermine the Constitution as a whole. Arguments that the Constitution is outmoded and that democracy is an end in itself are arguments that can just as easily be turned against any of the constitutional checks and balances that have preserved free government in America for well over two centuries. The measure of our fundamental law is not whether it actualizes the general will—that was the point of the French Revolution, not the American. The measure of our Constitution is whether it is effective at encouraging just, stable, and free government—government that protects the rights of its citizens.
The Electoral College is effective at doing this. We need to preserve it, and we need to help our fellow Americans understand why it matters.
The Congressional Budget Office reported on Tuesday that, with one month to go, the federal deficit for fiscal year 2019 has already topped $1 trillion. As night follows day, Trump administration critics blamed the tax cuts.
And once again, the data prove them wrong.
The CBO report says that the federal deficit reached $1.067 by the end of August. That’s up $168 billion from the comparable period in fiscal year 2018. The deficit this year will be larger than the entire budget was in 1987.
Where did the increase come from? Why, tax cuts, of course.
But the report shows that revenues climbed 3.4% so far this fiscal year – a growth rate that’s faster than GDP. Spending, however, shot up by 6.4%.
Look within the data, in fact, and you see that the tax cuts are working as promised – by accelerating economic growth, they’re at least partially paying for themselves.
Take corporate taxes. Ask any Democrat running for president and they will bemoan the tax “giveaways” to giant corporations. What they won’t tell you is that corporate tax revenues are up 5%.
In fact, corporations paid $8 billion more in the 11 months of this fiscal year than they did in the same period of fiscal year 2018. That increase alone is enough to fully fund the Environmental Protection Agency for an entire year.
What’s more, the CBO notes that corporate income tax payments through May were on 2018 activities. When you compare corporate taxes from June through August to same months last year, they are already up $18 billion – a 48% increase!
Meanwhile, individual income and payroll taxes are up $82 billion – a 3% increase over the prior year. Payroll taxes alone, which are a good indication of how well the job market is because they are automatically deducted from every worker’s wages, are up 6.4%.
Now look at the spending side of the equation.
The CBO report shows that while revenues have climbed by $102 billion, spending shot up by $271 billion.
The entire increase in the deficit over last year is due to rampant spending increases, not the Trump tax cuts.
Spending increases were across the board.
Social Security costs climbed 5.7%; Medicare, 6.5%; Medicaid, 4.6%.
Defense spending is up 7.9%, but spending on everything else in the budget has climbed by 4.5%.
Here’s the really worrisome figure: Interest payments on the national debt is up 14% over the prior year.
It should go without saying that these levels of spending growth are unsustainable. Yet instead of confronting them, lawmakers and the Trump administration are aggravating them. Entitlement reform is a non-issue at the moment. Every increase in defense spending has to be matched with a hike in spending on domestic programs. The national debt continues to explode.
And while Republicans appear indifferent to the debt explosion, Democrats are eager to more than double the size of the federal government, without saying how they’d pay for that increase let alone bring existing annual deficits down to earth.
To paraphrase Herbert Stein, something that can’t go on forever, won’t. The only question is when it won’t.
When Ronald Reagan was asked what his plan was for dealing with the communist threat, he responded, “We win, they lose.” Those four words led to an impressive victory for human freedom around the world. To this day, there are boulevards named after Reagan all over the world in nations that were once dominated and enslaved by communism’s hatred of freedom and lust for control.
In an extemporaneous moment at ground zero, President George Bush said, “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” Because reasonable people can argue in good faith with some of Bush’s decisions in his efforts to protect America, it is perhaps too easy to forget some of the unassailable truths we learned or were reminded of on September 1, 2001.
First, America has enemies because America stands for freedom. We can waste time in self-flagellation trying to figure out why evil terrorist troglodytes hate us and we can even blame ourselves for their hateful, murderous actions. But we should accept the undeniable truth is that we attract the hatred of those who hate freedom.
Second, America must actively defend itself from those who hate freedom and therefore hate us. We have the right to do so. We do not need to die at the hands of cowardly terrorist madmen to prove we are the champions of freedom. They are working relentlessly to destroy us. Are we working tirelessly to defend ourselves and defeat them?
Third, we must be patient and be prepared for a long battle on the way to victory. Because America responded correctly after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and mobilized to protect itself and the cause of freedom, the course of history was changed for the better. America was the beacon of hope to freedom loving peoples in every oppressed land. After a long struggle, Soviet communism collapsed, the world became safer, and Russians and Eastern Europeans began to enjoy more freedom.
Likewise, the events of September 11, 2001, or more precisely, how we respond to those events, will shape the 21st Century and beyond. Defeating communism took more than four decades. Defeating this new variant of murderous freedom-hating thugs will likely take as long and could take longer — this enemy does not have obvious national boundaries and the movement of its troops cannot be traced by satellite.
Fourth, there are those in the world who are not obviously troglodytes, but who quietly support and aid these murderous neanderthals. We must stop them from lending aid. Those who aid the troglodytes toward their goal must be stopped — diplomatically if possible, with force, if necessary.
To President Reagan, it was clear that America is exceptional and that we have an extraordinary role to play in the world if the cause of human freedom is to advance. Sadly, in contrast, Obama does not see America in the same light. Sure, America has its flaws, but Obama seems far too quick to apologize for imagined foibles and too reluctant to acknowledge our true strengths and virtues. In his own words, Obama believes “in American exceptionalism, just as … Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism” — which is to say that he does not believe that America is exceptional in any important way.
America is exceptional! Part of the reason for that exceptionalism is that America has not only defended its own interests, but it has also championed freedom for others. Today, Russians and Eastern Europeans enjoy freedoms they could not have dreamed of when President Reagan was first elected. These once oppressed peoples were not Reagan’s enemy. They, too, longed for freedom. They were victims of communism. Reagan understood this. And his battle was not with the oppressed, but with their oppressors.
Likewise, today Americans understand that Arabs and Muslims are not our enemy. But their oppressors — Al Qaeda, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, and other terrorists — are. America has no quarrel with Muslims or Arabs. Many of our brave fighting men and women are of Arab descent. Like the Russians and Eastern Europeans who now enjoy more freedom, the Arab world will experience greater freedom and opportunity when the oppressive troglodytes are finally defeated.
We look back on the “greatest generation” with admiration because they faced the enemies that confronted them and soundly defeated them even at great personal sacrifice. Will future generations will look back on us as another “greatest generation” because we defeated the barbarians at the gate no matter how long it takes — or as unworthy laggards of the American dream of freedom and opportunity because we lost interest in defending freedom?
We must maintain the purpose and resolve we felt on September 11, 2001. We cannot allow that day to become a distant memory or merely a footnote in history. It must continually motivate us to champion freedom and to defeat those who intend to rule the world with fear and violence and who plan to subjugate our children to their intolerant, violent ideology of hatred.
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George Landrith is the president of Frontiers of Freedom, a public policy think tank devoted to promoting a strong national defense, free markets, individual liberty, and constitutionally limited government. Mr. Landrith is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was Business Editor of the Virginia Journal of Law and Politics. In 1994 and 1996, Mr. Landrith was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District. You can follow George on Twitter @GLandrith. This article was originally published at Frontiers of Freedom and OpEds.com on Sept. 11, 2011.
Column: How the left uses corporate America to evade democracy
Time was, CEOs of mighty enterprises shied away from politics, especially hot-button social and cultural issues. They focused instead on the bottom line. They maximized shareholder value by delivering goods and services to customers. Some businessmen still operate by this principle. In doing so they provide not only for their employees and CEOs and board members but also for the institutions—pensions, individual retirement plans, index funds, hospitals, philanthropies—invested in their companies.
That is no longer enough for many of America’s richest and most powerful. Suddenly, corporate America has a conscience. Every week brings new examples of CEOs intervening in political, cultural, and social debate. In every instance, the prominent spokesmen for American business situate themselves comfortably on the left side of the political spectrum. Shareholder capitalism finds itself under attack. Not just from socialism but also from woke capitalism.
These outbursts are not just virtue signaling. Nor is the left-wing tilt of corporate America merely a response to the “rising American electorate” of Millennial, Gen Z, and minority consumers. What is taking place is not a business story but a political one. What is known as “stakeholder capitalism” is another means by which elites circumvent democratic accountability.
Corporate managers find themselves at odds with at least 46 percent of the electorate. The divergence is not over jobs or products. It is over values. The global economy generates social inequalities as much as economic ones. Many of the winners of the global economy justify their gains by adopting the rhetoric, tastes, ideas, and affiliations of their cultural milieu. Their environment is inescapably center left.
Even so, the social justice agenda of corporate America is not only meant to appease voters, or even to placate Elizabeth Warren. Some of these businessmen really believe what they are saying. And they are beginning to understand that they have another way—through social position and market share—to impose their cultural priorities on a disagreeable public.
The trend began as a response to the Tea Party. In 2010 the “Patriotic Millionaires” began advocating for higher marginal tax rates. A few years later, when state legislatures passed laws opposed by pro-choice and LGBT groups, corporations threatened or waged economic boycotts. Large individual donations made up more than half of Hillary Clinton’s fundraising; for Donald Trump the number was 14 percent.
CEOs protested the implementation of President Trump’s travel ban in 2017. The following year, after two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks, Howard Schultz closed stores nationwide so his more than 175,000 employees could be trained in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Earlier this summer, Nike pulled shoes featuring the Betsy Ross flag after Colin Kaepernick raised objections. Recently four major auto companies struck a deal with the state of California to preserve fuel economy standards the Trump administration opposes.
Business has provided ideological justification for its activities. In mid-August, a group of 181 members of the Business Roundtable, including the CEOs of Morgan Stanley, GM, Apple, and Amazon, issued a statement redefining the purpose of a corporation. “Generating long-term value for shareholders” is necessary but insufficient. In the words of Jamie Dimon, business must “push for an economy that serves all Americans.” A few weeks later, one of the Business Roundtable signatories, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, announced that America’s largest retailer would end sales of ammunition for handguns and for some rifles. Once its current inventory is exhausted, of course.
“We encourage our nation’s leaders to move forward and strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger,” McMillon wrote. “We do not sell military-style rifles, and we believe the reauthorization of the Assault Weapons ban should be debated to determine its effectiveness.” Note the use of the first-person plural. Of Walmart’s 1.5 million employees, more than a few, one assumes, do not believe it is necessary to “strengthen background checks” or debate “the Assault Weapons ban.”
To whom does the “we” in McMillon’s statement refer? To everyone who thinks like he does.
“You have a business acting in a more enlightened and more agile way than government,” is how one MSNBC contributor enthusiastically describedWalmart’s directive. Left unsaid is why government has not, in this case, been “enlightened” or “agile.” The reason is constitutional democracy. The electorate, like it or not, continues to put into office representatives opposed to gun registration and to a renewal of the Assault Weapons ban. And these representatives, in turn, have confirmed judges who believe the Second Amendment is just as important to self-government as the First and Fourteenth.
Much of Western politics for the last decade has involved elites figuring out new ways to ignore or thwart the voting public. Barack Obama was following in the EU’s footsteps when he went ahead with Obamacare despite Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts in January 2010, and when he expanded his DACA program to the parents of illegal immigrants brought here as children despite Republican gains in the 2014 election and despite his own admission that he lacked authority.
James Comey’s towering ego and self-regard compelled him to interfere in the 2016 election with consequences we can only begin to reckon. Over the last two-and-a-half years, district judges and anonymous bureaucrats have impeded and obstructed the agenda of a duly elected chief executive. A few weeks ago a former governor of the Federal Reserve suggested in Bloomberg that the central bank should thwart Trump’s reelection. And in England, elite resistance to the results of the 2016 Brexit referendum and to the 2017 parliamentary invocation of Article 50 has brought the government into a crisis from which there seems no escape.
In such an environment, one begins to see the appeal of nongovernmental instruments of power. What might be rejected at the ballot box can be achieved through “nudging” in the market and in the third sector. If you can’t enact national gun control through Congress, why not leverage the economic and cultural weight of America’s largest corporations? The market, we are told, is not a democracy.
Oh, but it is. The market may be the ultimate democracy. “The picture of the prettiest girl that ever lived,” wrote Joseph Schumpeter, “will in the long run prove powerless to maintain the sales of a bad cigarette.” Woke capitalists remain accountable to consumers and to shareholders. The audiences of ESPN and of the NFL cratered when those institutions elevated politics over consumer demand. Hollywood’s anti-American offerings routinely flop. Public opinion, in the form of popular taste, rules. Shareholders of publicly traded companies are a type of electorate. The companies that do not satisfy customers will disappear. Or shareholders will demand changes to management to prevent such an outcome.
The politicization of firms is a double-edged sword. The responsible stakeholder CEOs may have the best of intentions. They might assume they are doing the right things not only by their companies but also by their societies. What they fail to understand is that corporations acting as surrogates of one element of society, or of one political party, will not be treated as neutral by other elements, by the other party. By believing their superior attitudes will save capitalism, our right-thinking elites are undermining its very legitimacy, and increasing the severity of the ongoing populist revolt.
Pocahontas recklessly repeats the Michael Brown 'murder' accusation
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has again apologized — sort of — for lying about being an American Indian back when it helped advance her academic legal career.
At a Native American presidential forum in Sioux City, Iowa last Monday, the Massachusetts Democrat framed her prevarications as a mistake:
“I want to say this, like anyone who’s been honest with themselves, I know that I have made mistakes. I am sorry for harm that I have caused. I have listened, and I have learned a lot, and I am grateful for the many conversations that we’ve had together.”
It’s a variation on the old “mistakes were made” defense; at least she admitted to being the one who made the “mistakes.”
Ms. Warren, who is as white as Ivory Snow, was identified as a “minority faculty member” by the University of Pennsylvania. She herself asked the school to change her status from white to Native American, according to the Federalist’s David Harsanyi. She self-identified as a “minority” in the school’s legal directory, and was listed by Harvard Law School as one of the “women of color” that they had hired for diversity.
This was not just a “mistake” or exaggeration; it was an ongoing lie, as her DNA test last October embarrassingly revealed. She may or may not have a lone Native American ancestor going back several generations, but she apparently has less Indian blood than the average American white person.
But this is not her worst lie.
On August 9, Sen. Warren tweeted: “5 years ago Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Michael was unarmed yet he was shot 6 times. I stand with activists and organizers who continue the fight for justice for Michael. We must confront systemic racism and police violence head on.”
This is many times more egregious than the lie that earned her the “Pocahontas” sobriquet by President Trump. The false “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative triggered waves of riots, looting, arson and at least one death, 16 injuries, including to six police officers, and millions of dollars in damage.
It has fueled Black Lives Matter’s hate campaign against police and forged a false picture of America as a uniquely racist country for which socialism is the only cure.
There are some well-publicized cases of indefensible police violence, like the horrendous shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago in 2015, for which an officer has been charged with murder. But these are rare. Nationally, blacks comprise 13 percent of the population, but account for 26 to 28 percent of police gun fatalities.
That seems disproportionate. But, “officers are deployed to where people are most being victimized, and that is primarily in minority neighborhoods,” writes Heather MacDonald. Her book “The War on Cops,” also notes that the majority of criminals and crime victims are minorities.
In many cities, the police are the only thing preventing anarchy. When authorities stop having their backs, as in Baltimore, the crime and murder rate skyrocket.
The Ferguson narrative began on Aug. 9, 2014, when Brown, a six-foot-four-inch 18-year-old, held up a convenience store and tried to grab Officer Darren Wilson’s gun while the officer sat in his car. Brown then walked away before charging back, forcing Mr. Wilson to shoot multiple times in self-defense, investigators found.
Initial witnesses told the media that the unarmed Brown had held up his arms in surrender. However, more credible witnesses said Brown attacked Mr. Wilson twice. And Brown’s DNA was found inside Mr. Wilson’s vehicle.
On Nov. 24, 2014, St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced that the county grand jury had declined to indict Officer Wilson. On March 4, 2015, Obama’s Justice Department issued its own report, ruling it self-defense.
Knowing all this, longtime law professor Warren went ahead and recklessly repeated the “murder” accusation. She wasn’t the only Democrat running for president to do so. Minutes before Ms. Warren, Kamala Harris tweeted:
“Michael Brown’s murder forever changed Ferguson and America. His tragic death sparked a desperately needed conversation and a nationwide movement. We must fight for stronger accountability and racial equity in our justice system.”
Trolling for minority votes does not begin to excuse incendiary rhetoric of the type that has already cost some officers their lives.
On July 7, 2016, a racially-motivated Army vet ambushed police officers in Dallas, Texas at a Black Lives Matter protest, killing five, injuring nine and also wounding two civilians before being killed by police. He told authorities that he had “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.” Other police have been executed at point blank range in their vehicles.
Perhaps Ms. Warren and Ms. Harris might want to explain themselves to the officers’ spouses and to other police families who worry every day that their father or mother will never return because of some hate-fueled assassin during a traffic stop.
Citing the Justice Department report and 13 witnesses who saw Brown attack Mr. Wilson, The Washington Post “Fact Checker” Glenn Kessler gave Ms. Warren and Ms. Harris four “Pinocchios,” the worst rating he awards.
I’m not sure there can be enough Pinocchios to do this justice. How about four Clintons?
By Fox News•
The New York Times is outraged that a Trump-affiliated group is exposing old bigoted tweets made by a Times staffer.
Members of the media haven’t thought twice about using past words to cancel the careers of anyone outside their own political world.
They’ll use anything that, by today’s standards, looks “problematic.” But it’s hypocrisy.
When the Times unearths a controversial comment, the newspaper calls it “scrutinizing people in positions of power.”
But return the favor by exposing one of its own journalists for anti-Semitic tweets, and you are “seeking to harass and embarrass anyone affiliated with the leading news organization.”
Ha. They pretend their organization hasn’t been in a position of power for a century, using it and abusing it as they see fit, making billions pushing an ideology that holds you in disdain.
Meanwhile, Huffington Post Editor Lydia Polgreen says that outing public statements “should worry anyone who cares about independent journalism.”
But why? Surely journalists should welcome this scrutiny. Or is this the kind of “speaking truth to power” they hate?
Maybe it’s time to give the gander what it’s been doing to the goose by targeting the hall monitors with their own words. The media are being taught a lesson about ruining the lives of others for ideological spite and sport.
And that maybe forgiveness should be applied to all of us, not just those who work for the Times.
As part of its ambitious “1619” inquiry into the legacy of slavery, The New York Times revives false 19th century revisionist history about the American founding.
Across the map of the United States, the borders of Tennessee, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona draw a distinct line. It’s the 36º30′ line, a remnant of the boundary between free and slave states drawn in 1820. It is a scar across the belly of America, and a vivid symbol of the ways in which slavery still touches nearly every facet of American history.
That pervasive legacy is the subject of a series of articles in The New York Times titled “The 1619 Project.” To cover the history of slavery and its modern effects is certainly a worthy goal, and much of the Project achieves that goal effectively. Khalil Gibran Muhammad’s portrait of the Louisiana sugar industry, for instance, vividly covers a region that its victims considered the worst of all of slavery’s forms. Even better is Nikole Hannah-Jones’s celebration of black-led political movements. She is certainly correct that “without the idealistic, strenuous and patriotic efforts of black Americans, our democracy today would most likely look very different” and “might not be a democracy at all.”
Where the 1619 articles go wrong is in a persistent and off-key theme: an effort to prove that slavery “is the country’s very origin,” that slavery is the source of “nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional,” and that, in Hannah-Jones’s words, the founders “used” “racist ideology” “at the nation’s founding.” In this, the Times steps beyond history and into political polemic—one based on a falsehood and that in an essential way, repudiates the work of countless people of all races, including those Hannah-Jones celebrates, who have believed that what makes America “exceptional” is the proposition that all men are created equal.
For one thing, the idea that, in Hannah-Jones’ words, the “white men” who wrote the Declaration of Independence “did not believe” its words applied to black people is simply false. John Adams, James Madison, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others said at the time that the doctrine of equality rendered slavery anathema. True, Jefferson also wrote the infamous passages suggesting that “the blacks…are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind,” but he thought even that was irrelevant to the question of slavery’s immorality. “Whatever be their degree of talent,” Jefferson wrote, “it is no measure of their rights. Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the person or property of others.”
The myth that America was premised on slavery took off in the 1830s, not the 1770s. That was when John C. Calhoun, Alexander Stephens, George Fitzhugh, and others offered a new vision of America—one that either disregarded the facts of history to portray the founders as white supremacists, or denounced them for not being so. Relatively moderate figures such as Illinois Sen. Stephen Douglas twisted the language of the Declaration to say that the phrase “all men are created equal” actually meant only white men. Abraham Lincoln effectively refuted that in his debates with Douglas. Calhoun was, in a sense, more honest about his abhorrent views; he scorned the Declaration precisely because it made no color distinctions. “There is not a word of truth in it,” wrote Calhoun. People are “in no sense…either free or equal.” Indiana Sen. John Pettit was even more succinct. The Declaration, he said, was “a self-evident lie.”
It was these men—the generation after the founding—who manufactured the myth of American white supremacy. They did so against the opposition of such figures as Lincoln, Charles Sumner, Frederick Douglass, and John Quincy Adams. “From the day of the declaration of independence,” wrote Adams, the “wise rulers of the land” had counseled “to repair the injustice” of slavery, not perpetuate it. “Universal emancipation was the lesson which they had urged upon their contemporaries, and held forth as transcendent and irremissible [sic] duties to their children of the present age.” These opponents of the new white supremacist myth were hardly fringe figures. Lincoln and Douglass were national leaders backed by millions who agreed with their opposition to the white supremacist lie. Adams was a former president. Sumner was nearly assassinated in the Senate for opposing white supremacy. Yet their work is never discussed in the Times articles.
In 1857, Chief Justice Roger Taney sought to make the myth into the law of the land by asserting in Scott v. Sandford that the United States was created as, and could only ever be, a nation for whites. “The right of property in a slave,” he declared, “is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution.” This was false: the Constitution contains no legal protection for slavery, and doesn’t even use the word. Both Lincoln and Douglass answered Taney by citing the historical record as well as the text of the laws: the founders had called slavery both evil and inconsistent with their principles; they forbade the slave trade and tried to ban it in the territories; nothing in the Declaration or the Constitution established a color line; in fact, when the Constitution was ratified, black Americans were citizens in several states and could even vote. The founders deserved blame for not doing more, but the idea that they were white supremacists, said Douglass, was “a slander upon their memory.”
Lincoln provided the most thorough refutation. There was only one piece of evidence, he observed, ever offered to support the thesis that the Declaration’s authors didn’t mean “all men” when they wrote it: that was the fact that they did not free the slaves on July 4, 1776. Yet there were many other explanations for that which did not prove the Declaration was a lie. Most obviously, some founders may simply have been hypocrites. But that individual failing did not prove that the Declaration excluded non-whites, or that the Constitution guaranteed slavery.
Even some abolitionists embraced the white supremacy legend. William Lloyd Garrison denounced the Constitution because he believed it protected slavery. This, Douglass replied, was false both legally and factually: those who claimed it was pro-slavery had the burden of proof—yet they never offered any. The Constitution’s wording gave it no guarantees and provided plentiful means for abolishing it. In fact, none of its words would have to be changed for Congress to eliminate slavery overnight. It was slavery’s defenders, he argued, not its enemies, who should fear the Constitution—and secession proved him right. Slaveocrats had realized that the Constitution was, in Douglass’s words, “a glorious liberty document,” and they wanted out.
Still, after the war, “Lost Cause” historians rehabilitated the Confederate vision, claiming the Constitution was a racist document, so that the legend remains today. The United States, writes Hannah-Jones, “was founded…as a slavocracy,” and the Constitution “preserved and protected slavery.” This is once more asserted as an uncontroverted fact—and Lincoln’s and Douglass’s refutations of it go unmentioned in the Times.
No doubt Taney would be delighted at this acceptance of his thesis. What accounts for it? The myth of a white supremacist founding has always served the emotional needs of many people. For racists, it offers a rationalization for hatred. For others, it offers a vision of the founders as arch-villains. Some find it comforting to believe that an evil as colossal as slavery could only be manufactured by diabolically perfect men rather than by quotidian politics and the banality of evil. For still others, it provides a new fable of the fall from Eden, attractive because it implies the possibility of a single act of redemption. If evil entered the world at a single time, by a conscious act, maybe it could be reversed by one conscious revolution.
The reality is more complex, more dreadful, and, in some ways, more glorious. After all, slavery was abolished, segregation was overturned, and the struggle today is carried on by people ultimately driven by their commitment to the principle that all men are created equal—the principle articulated at the nation’s birth. It was precisely because millions of Americans have never bought the notion that America was built as a slavocracy—and have had historical grounds for that denial—that they were willing to lay their lives on the line, not only in the 1860s but ever since, to make good on the promissory note of the Declaration.
Their efforts raise the question of what counts as the historical “truth” about the American Dream. A nation’s history, after all, occupies a realm between fact and moral commitments. Like a marriage, a constitution, or an ethical concept like “blame,” it encompasses both what actually happened and the philosophical question of what those happenings mean. Slavery certainly happened—but so, too, did the abolitionist movement and the ratification of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. The authors of those amendments viewed them not as changing the Constitution, but as rescuing it from Taney and other mythmakers who had tried to pervert it into a white supremacist document.
In fact, it would be more accurate to say that what makes America unique isn’t slavery but the effort to abolish it. Slavery is among the oldest and most ubiquitous of all human institutions; as the Times series’ title indicates, American slavery predated the American Revolution by a century and a half. What’s unique about America is that it alone announced at birth the principle that all men are created equal—and that its people have struggled to realize that principle since then. As a result of their efforts, the Constitution today has much more to do with what happened in 1865 than in 1776, let alone 1619. Nothing could be more worthwhile than learning slavery’s history, and remembering its victims and vanquishers. But to claim that America’s essence is white supremacy is to swallow slavery’s fatal lie.
As usual, Lincoln said it best. When the founders wrote of equality, he explained, they knew they had “no power to confer such a boon” at that instant. But that was not their purpose. Instead, they “set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.” That constant labor, in the generations that followed, is the true source of “nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional.”
Why do we, as a nation, react the way we do anytime a lone gunman opens fire in a public space, killing and injuring multiple people? It can’t be because of the numbers alone. In the same week as El Paso and Dayton, one year prior, more people were killed and injured in separate incidents in Chicago.
No, it’s something else. Something tougher gun control laws or increased awareness of mental illness will not by themselves resolve. The carnage in Ohio and Texas—like at the Parkland, Florida, high school, the Las Vegas music festival, the Fort Hood Army base and elsewhere—was so seemingly random, it struck at our sense of personal safety.
These mass shootings are so threatening in an existential sense because each of us could just as easily be a victim as those who were. Any of us could be in the wrong place at the wrong time, defenseless against the madness that suddenly surrounds us.
The folks pushing for stricter gun control laws—for a ban on the sale of certain kinds of guns because they look particularly dangerous (in reality, all guns are dangerous), the expansion of gun-free zones or the creation of tougher “red flag laws” that may not pass constitutional muster because they short-circuit the due process each one of us is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights—are wasting their time and energy. None of these proposals do anything to get us to the real solutions that come about by bridging the gap between technology, physical safety issues and information sharing in times of crisis.
That’s what John South, a man with more than 25 years of managerial experience in security and large-scale business operations who served in both the U.S. military and law enforcement, is trying to do. After the April 2013 Boston bombing, when two homemade devices detonated 12 seconds and 210 yards apart, killing three and injuring hundreds gathered near the finishing line of the city’s famous marathon, South started thinking about the need to apply new technology to the problem of keeping people safe.
“In today’s world, ‘safety’ is a term we hear more often with the increase in soft target attacks in the U.S. and abroad,” the U.S. military veteran and former law enforcement official told me. “In any emergency, everyone wants to be saved. My goal was to find a way to do that using existing technology, as well as the tools we have built to enhance the process of saving lives.”
His solution, marketed through the company he founded, Patrocinium Systems, is already at work saving lives. According to company officials, after the Paris stadium bombing in 2015, the Patrocinium’s technology—which was still being beta-tested at the time—found and accounted for all its users in under 20 seconds. And it’s all based on smartphones.
“Almost everyone walks around with a phone in their pocket. Our phone has become the platform we use in social and work interaction almost every moment of every day. I realized the same device could and should be used for communications and location data in emergencies. My goal from inception, with a great understanding of security from my past, is to provide real-time awareness of emergency data, as well as the ability to respond to people faster with more accurate information to save more lives,” South told me.
It is, in a sense, astonishingly simple. It relies on existing sensors and software to generate information about what’s happening as it happens when an event takes place. South suggests thinking of it as being like Waze—the smartphone mapping app that partially relies on user inputs to provide a real-time picture of what’s happening on the roads—but for crisis situations like bombings, shootings, fires and other events that trigger the need for first responders.
According to South, the system notifies users if they are in danger based on their location, allows people to check in as being “safe” or “unsafe,” and visualizes the real-time location of users for a heightened response. “In the fire in Paradise, California, the system could have been deployed in 10 minutes, used for communication and location of people in need by neighborhood in seconds, creating a triage of greater response,” he said.
This is the kind of thinking America needs to take on the challenge posed by mass shootings. The frenzied demands made by politicians and anti-gun advocates in the aftermath of the latest tragedies might win them votes, but it won’t make us any safer. For that, we need visionaries like John South and others in the technology sector taking the lead.
Think corporate suppression of speech isn’t a problem? Think again. Silicon Valley is just getting warmed up in its efforts to shape public opinion for the 2020 elections.
YouTube on Monday banned three more independent commentators: James Allsup, “The Iconoclast,” and “Way of the World.” Their crime? Outspoken defense of Western Civilization, which apparently now is considered “hate speech.” Taken together, the videos posted by these three commentators had been watched more than 100 million times.
The most prominent of the newly banished, James Allsup, had over 450,000 subscribers. Thanks to this latest move by YouTube, America’s de facto Ministry of Truth, nearly a half-million Americans now have less reason than ever to believe their First Amendment rights will be respected, or, by extension, any of their constitutional rights.
Do the masters of YouTube fear “right-wing extremism?” Then they need to stop taking extreme measures that provoke extreme resentment. They need to stop engaging in fascist censorship.
For those of us who have never considered ourselves extremists, and who don’t necessarily agree with everything Allsup and these other banished commentators ever did or said, this is nonetheless a matter of principle. It is intolerable to let private business interests lobotomize our collective consciousness in pursuit of their corporate political agendas. That should not be happening here, in a nation that considers freedom of speech to be one of its fundamental principles.
One independent commentator who hasn’t yet had his tongue ripped out by the YouTube overlords, Vincent James, posted a scathing reaction to this latest act of corporate censorship:
The CEO of YouTube recently came out and talked about how they have an obligation to bring you the news, how they have an obligation to push down fake news and prop up authoritative news sources, and this sounds a lot like a publisher, and not like a platform.
Later in his video, James elaborates:
This is a matter of free speech in a new public town square that is the internet. There is no soapbox in the middle of the town square any longer, “town square” is social media. These social media companies have gotten by far too long with this protection and immunity by the federal government for what their users post.
There’s a whole community of people who smoke meth and film themselves on YouTube. This is illicit material, and those videos aren’t being taken down. If YouTube and Facebook and Twitter and all these different media companies were responsible for the content we post, they would be sued into absolute bankruptcy a long time ago. They have this blanket immunity from the federal government because they promote themselves as platforms, as a blank piece of paper where anyone can post anything as long as it follows the law of the land where they reside.
The law of the land in the United States does not include hate speech, as a matter of fact the supreme court has ruled on this multiple times unanimously. The “hate speech,” the “unpopular speech,” is the speech that needs to be protected the most.
Many free speech advocates may disagree with some of the commentaries Vincent James has offered, but he is absolutely right about the First Amendment, and he is absolutely right about these social media companies. They are either platforms or they are publishers. They cannot be both at the same time. This is a matter that requires executive action, or an urgent court battle, or legislative remedy. Don’t hold your breath.
Silencing online commentators takes many forms. They can be completely terminated, which is something occurring with increasing frequency. But they can also be deboosted, or shadowbanned, where the traffic to their sites is reduced.
Some of the ways this is done are through manipulated search results, removal from “recommended videos,” removal from trending topics, or by throttling down their bandwidth. Sites can also be demonetized, where ads are no longer served onto their pages, or, even more insidiously, partially demonetized, where ads still arrive, just fewer of them.
Unwanted commentators can also be attacked by throwing them off of subscription platforms such as Patreon, or even by expelling them from the payment processors such as PayPal.
Anyone who doesn’t think this is happening, and happening disproportionately to conservatives, is ignoring a mountain of evidence. Here, compiled by Vincent James, is a list of websites that have been censored by the social media companies. Here, published earlier this year by American Greatness, is a similar list of politically incorrect vloggers, and here is a list of politically inconvenient climate information websites.
There are alternative platforms, at least until the SJWs apply enough pressure to those to make them engage in similar censorship. BitChutenow hosts James Allsup, Way of the World, and The Iconoclast. But BitChute is buggy, slow, and has a bad search engine. Its global Alexa traffic ranking is 3,790. Think that’s good? YouTube ranks second, right after Google.
BitChute will improve. But it is a fantasy to pretend these alternative platforms will challenge the monopolistic reach of Google’s search algorithms or YouTube’s videos. They will be stigmatized as a right-wing ghetto, and they will barely show up on search results. As a result, they will not offer the viral, serendipitous discovery to open-minded virtual wanderers.
How many of us found many of these powerful alternative voices by accident? Unless the monopolies, who reach everyone, change their ways, that will never happen again.
When principles as fundamental as the First Amendment are violated, there are consequences. The immediate consequence is a rising fury and potential radicalization of every American who is watching this travesty unfold and sees the injustice, and sees either indifference or active misrepresentation coming from the establishment media and establishment politicians.
The more far-reaching consequence is the fact that if this isn’t stopped, right now, and reversed, moderate conservatives and moderate nationalists will develop increasing sympathies for their more extreme counterparts.
Why wouldn’t they? Every shred of content coming out of the mainstream media and entertainment, social media, corporate marketing, academia, K-12 public education, and nonprofit advocacy groups is globalist pablum. It’s sickening to watch, and now, we are expected to tolerate censorship of alternative voices found online?
An article published last month by the BBC comes embarrassingly close to revealing the motives behind escalating online censorship. Security correspondent Gordon Corera writes: “The more mainstream these narratives become, the greater the tension will be over whether they really are extreme or whether they represent acceptable political discourse, and the views of a substantial number of real people.”
“These narratives.” That is the threat. What if “real people” don’t want open borders? What if they would like the facts, not a bunch of skewed BS, regarding how immigration policies affect the economy and social cohesion? What if they want balanced opinions, or just want to hear the other side for a change, on the issues of multiculturalism, race, feminism, gender “equity” and social justice? What if “real people” sometimes find an unrepentant critic of identity politics to be a breath of fresh air? What if they believe there should be a robust and honest debate over globalism, or over climate change?
Everyone knows what these social media companies are doing. They are trying to influence public opinion in favor of a globalist progressive agenda. No national borders. Anti-racist racism. Anti-sexist sexism. Gender “fluidity.” Corporate socialism. And of course, “Trump is Hitler.”
It’s working. But they must stop. Because if they do not stop, there will be a credible case to be made that the upcoming 2020 election results are not legitimate. Remember how the Democrats made that claim in 2016, because Russian “bots” allegedly swayed a few thousand votes? Determined social media manipulation of the entire online public square will affect millions of votes.
YouTube, and all the rest—back off.