Historically, efforts to prevent dead set regimes from acquiring nuclear weapons have been marked mostly by embarrassing diplomatic fiascos. The chronology of every state-sponsored nuclear program began with developing the necessary human resources to facilitate domestic plutonium production. In phase two, while diligently laboring on enriching uranium to the critical mass, all these states denied vehemently their intentions to become nuclear powers by emphasizing their governments inherently peaceful nature. In phase three they presented the rest of the world with a fait accompli, namely, the nuclear bomb.
Thus far, the Islamic Republic of Iran has followed the same well-trodden path. Most importantly, from its inception, the Mullahcracy has been, even within the Islamic Ummah, an international pariah. Isolated and therefore devoid of friends and allies, the two Ayatollahs, the late Ruhollah Mostafavi Musavi Khomeini and the current one Seyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, have decided to acquire the ultimate weapon for self-preservation.
Therefore, the quest for a nuclear power Iran has started immediately after the fall of the Shah in early 1979. In 1987, the theocratic regime acquired technical schematics for building a P-1 centrifuge from the Pakistani Abdul Qadeer Khan network. The conversion of the Test Readiness Review that was done in 1987 by Argentina’s Applied Research Institute allowed the regime enrichment to less than 20%. In 2002, the National Council of Resistance on Iran, the political wing of the so-called Mujahideen-e Khalq (MeK), revealed that Iran already built two secret nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak respectively. More ominously, thousands of documents seized by Israeli intelligence agents during a raid of a nondescript hanger in Shorabad district of Tehran in 2018, revealed that the regime never abandoned its clandestine quest for building a nuclear bomb. Among the documents released to the public, one that originated in 2002, contains a proposal for “warhead”, which were given the green light by the regime’s top nuclear official Moshen Fakhrizadeh. His hand-written remark in Farsi in the top left corner of the document reads in English translation: “In the name of God. Right now in a treatment process. Please archive the original script of the document. Fakhrizadeh.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had its own doubts about Tehran peaceful intentions and sincerity. As a result, the Board of Governors adopted a resolution on September 12, 2003, calling on Tehran to suspend all enrichment as well as all reprocessing-related activities. Moreover, the same resolution called upon the Iranian regime to declare all material relevant to its uranium enrichment program. Finally, the Board demanded that the regime allow the IAEA inspectors to undertake unencumbered environmental sampling at any location. The deadline for compliance was set at October 31, 2003.
In its reply, the regime seemingly indicated its readiness to comply. On October 21, 2003, Tehran agreed to meet the IAEA demands by the designated date. However, on June 18, 2004, the IAEA complained of Iran’s non-compliance. Again, Tehran notified the IAEA on November 14, 2004, that it will suspend enrichment-related activities for the duration of talks with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In this manner, Tehran prevented the IAEA Board of Governors to notify the UN Security Council. On February 27, 2005, the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran concluded an agreement to supply fuel for the nuclear reactor in Busher. A provision of this agreement mandated that Iran shall return the spent nuclear fuel to Russia. Next, Tehran announced on August 8, 2005, that it has commenced the production of uranium hexafluoride at its Isfahan facility. Following this announcement, the United States, France, and Germany froze negotiations with Tehran. Shortly thereafter, on September 24, 2005, the IAEA adopted a resolution declaring Tehran in noncompliance with the previous safeguard agreement. Most glaringly, this resolution stated that Iran’s nuclear activities combined with the absence of their peaceful nature are within the competence of the UN Security Council, opening the way for future referrals.
Sure enough, on February 4, 2006, the Board of Governors of the IAEA referred the Islamic Republic of Iran to the UN Security Council. Pursuant to the resolution, the Board of Governors deemed it “necessary for Iran” to immediately suspend its enrichment related activities, reconsider the construction of the Arak heavy-water reactor, ratify the additional protocol to its safeguards agreement, and fully cooperate with the IAEA’s investigations. As a result, Tehran informed the IAEA on February 6, 2006, that it will “voluntarily” implement the additional protocol and other non-legally binding inspection procedures. Nonetheless, on April 11th, Tehran announced that it successfully enriched uranium for the first time to 3.5%. The enriched uranium was produced at the Natanz pilot enrichment plant. On June 6th, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the Federal Republic of Germany (the P5+1) proposed a framework agreement to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Then, on July 31st, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1696, elevating the IAEA’s demand for Tehran to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities legally binding for all member states. Tehran responded on August 22nd. On the one hand, it rejected the demand to suspend enrichment, but on the other hand, added that the resolution contained “elements which may be useful for a constructive approach.”
As a reply and for the first time, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1737 on December 23rd, imposing sanctions on the lslamic Republic of Iran for its refusal to suspend its enrichment-related activities.
According to the resolution, states were prohibited from transferring sensitive nuclear-and missile-related technology to Tehran. Moreover, the states were obligated to freeze the assets of ten Iranian organizations and twelve individuals for their involvement in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.
In 2007, Tehran continued to defy the international community. Thus, the UN Security Council again unanimously adopted Resolution 1747, demanding that the Islamic Republic of Iran suspend uranium enrichment. Three rounds of talks followed. These talks brought forth on August 21st, a so-called “work plan.” This work plan mandated that Tehran must answer specific and long-standing questions about its nuclear activities, including activities suspected of being related to nuclear weapons developments. To make the point, the Bush administration made public on December 3rd, an unclassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program. While stating “with high confidence” that Tehran stopped pursuing its nuclear weapons program approximately around the fall of 2003, it could not state with the same degree of confidence that Tehran had not resumed those activities as of mid-2007. More alarmingly, the National Intelligence Estimate concluded that the Islamic Republic of Iran was technically capable of producing sufficient quantities of weapon-grade
The year 2008 witnessed another UN Security Council Resolution. Resolution 1803, added new sanctions to the previous ones. Among its other provisions, it broadened the blacklist with seven new entities and thirteen more individuals. In conjunction with this resolution, the P5+1 states also proposed that Tehran shall freeze its enrichment activities in exchange for no more sanctions.
The year 2009 was a significant one for the international community. First, Tehran announced on February 2nd its successful launch of a satellite. On
September 25th, the Obama administration revealed the existence of a second secret uranium enrichment facility at Fordow, in the mountains near the holy city of Qom. On October 1st, the Obama administration agreed the supply 20% enriched uranium in exchange for Iran removing from the country the majority of its 3.5% enriched uranium. The so-called “fuel swap”, the stupid brainchild of the Obama administration, was never fully implemented by Iran.
The year 2010 saw the same old pattern. Tehran started to produce 20% enriched uranium on February 9th. On May 17th, diplomacy kicked in once more. A joint declaration by Brazil, Turkey, and the Islamic Republic of Iran tried to breathe fresh air into the old fuel swap proposal. The United States, France, and the Russian Federation rejected the proposal on the grounds that Tehran stockpiled more 3.5% enriched uranium than it is willing to give up and that Tehran systematically misled the IAEA, the UN Security Council, and everybody else concerning its additional enrichment activities. On June 9th, another UN Security Council resolution followed. Resolution 1929 significantly expanded sanctions against the theocratic regime. It also banned Tehran from nuclear-capable ballistic missile tests. Finally, the resolution imposed an arms embargo on the transfer of major weapons systems to Tehran. On June 24th, the U.S. Congress adopted the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, tightening U.S. sanctions against legal entities investing in Iran’s energy sector, and imposing new sanctions on legal entities that sold refined petroleum to Tehran. On July 26th, the European Union joined the United States by agreeing to impose its additional sanctions on Tehran. On September 16th, the Obama administration decided to act. The Stuxnet computer virus attacked the Natanz enrichment plant.
The year 2011 commenced on a negative note. The January 21st and 22nd meeting in Istanbul between the P5+1 group and the Islamic Republic of Iran ended without any real results, because the latter laid down two unacceptable conditions. First, Tehran demanded that the P5+1 group recognize its right to enrich uranium. Second, that sanctions must be lifted unconditionally. On May 8th, the Bushehr nuclear power plant started operations and, according to Russia’s Atomstroyexport, it successfully achieved a sustained chain reaction. On the same day, Tehran announced that it intends to triple the rate of 20% enriched uranium production, utilizing more advanced centrifuge designs. In addition, it declared that production will be shifted to the Fordow plant. On July 12, Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief sent a letter to the chief negotiator of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saeed Jalili, proposing “meaningful discussions on concrete confidence building steps” to address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear “ambitions.” On November 8th, the IAEA published a report underlying the concerns of the organization about Tehran’s nefarious intentions. To wit, on the last day of the year, the U.S. Congress passed legislation to empower the federal government to sanction foreign banks doing business with the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The year 2012 began with a sour note for Tehran. The European Union decided in early January to ban all member states from importing Iranian oil, beginning on July 1, 2012. Moreover, the decision also barred member countries from providing the legal protection and indemnity insurance for tankers carrying Iranian oil. The intervening months between March and August were spent on arduous negotiations between the P5+1 group and Tehran with barely any meaningful progress. In August, the IAEA highlighted the futility of diplomacy with Tehran. On the 30th of this month, it was reported that Tehran produced more 20% enriched uranium than was needed to fuel its research reactor. The IAEA upped the ante on November 16th, by stating that Tehran was busy installing more centrifuges at Natanz and Fordow.
The year 2013 was consumed by slowly progressing negotiations between the P5+1 group and the Islamic Republic of Iran at a variety of locations.
On January 9, and January 10, 2014, the member states of the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran met a third time in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action, agreed upon on December 30-31, 2013, in the same place. As a result, the parties agreed that the implementation will begin on January 20th. Simultaneously, the IAEA certified that Tehran in compliance with the provisions of the Joint Plan of Action. Accordingly, the United States and the European Union waived the specific sanctions listed in the November 24, 2013, deal and also released a schedule of payments for Tehran to receive the oil money that various states withhold.
Subsequent meeting mainly in Vienna, Austria, between February and July 2014, involved negotiations concerning a comprehensive nuclear agreement. The rest of the year was consumed with more negotiations. In January 2015, negotiations continued in Geneva. In February, additional negotiations took place in Vienna.
Ominously enough, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opined in his speech before a joint session of the U.S. Congress that any Iran deal “would all but guarantee that Iran gets (nuclear) weapons, lots of them.” In the same vein, Senator Tom Cotton of Kansas and forty five of his colleagues signed an open letter to the Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They warned, as it turned out prophetically, their counterparts that any agreement reached without Congress’s approval could be revised by the next president “with the stroke of a pen.”
During the month of March, more negotiations took place in Lausanne, Switzerland. Finally, on April 2, 2015, the parties announced that they reached an agreement on the general framework of a comprehensive deal.
Again, the Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution that required the president to submit any agreement to Congress for a vote. This resolution was approved by the full Senate on May 7, 2015, by a vote of 98-1.
On July 14, 2015, the member states of the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran signed the nuclear deal, officially named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna, Austria. Commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal or simply Iran Deal, it mainly dealt with enrichment-related activities. Tehran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium was reduced by 97%, from 10,000.00 kg to 300.00 kg. This reduction had to be maintained for fifteen years. For the same period, Tehran was ordered to limit its enrichment of uranium to 3.67%. Yet, after fifteen years, all physical limits on enrichment will be removed. Moreover, for ten years Tehran must put two-thirds of its centrifuges in storage, with enrichment capacity being limited to the Natanz plant. There, the centrifuges must be the type IR-1. The IR-2M centrifuges must be stored in Natanz and monitored by the IAEA. Finally, Tehran shall not build any new uranium-enrichment facilities for the next fifteen years.
On the other hand, Tehran was allowed to continue its research and development work on enrichment, but only in Natanz. The Fordow facility was barred from enriching uranium for fifteen years.
To monitor the implementation of the JCPOA, a comprehensive and multilayered inspection regime was set up. However, prior to January 16, 2016, several exemptions were granted to Tehran that weakened from the get go the severity of the enrichment provisions.
Sanctions in the form of “snap back” provisions were also included in the JCPOA. Specifically, the deal established a “dispute resolution” process. Accordingly, a Joint Commission was created to monitor implementation. If the Joint Commission cannot resolve the dispute, the UN National Security Council had to be notified. Finally, future reinstatement of the sanctions allowed Tehran to leave the JCPOA altogether.
After fifteen years, Tehran will be free to do whatever it wants.
Criticism of the JCPOA both within Iran and in the rest of the world was instantaneous. Benjamin Netanyahu called the Iran nuclear deal a “historic mistake.” Addressing President Barack Obama he stated: “In the coming decade, the deal will reward Iran, the terrorist regime in Tehran, with hundreds of billions of dollars. This cash bonanza will fuel Iran’s terrorism worldwide, its aggression in the region and its efforts to destroy Israel, which is ongoing.” In the United States, criticism centered on ignoring Tehran’s ballistic missile program and the lack of provisions regarding the regime’s support for terrorist groups and organizations across the region. The $150 billion plus money transfer from the Obama administration
to Tehran in cash only strengthened opposition to the deal.
On October 13, 2015, the Iranian Parliament approved the deal. The next day, the Guardian Council ratified the JCPOA. Two days later, the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran formally adopted the JCPOA.
On October 21st, the United States raised Iran’s ballistic missile test as a possible violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929 at a meeting of the Security Council.
On November 21st, Tehran tested another medium-range ballistic missile in clear violation of Resolution 1929.
On January 16, 2016, the IAEA verified that Tehran met its nuclear related responsibilities. On February 26th, the IAEA published its first quarterly report on Tehran’s post-implementation day nuclear activities. The report noted that Tehran met its general obligations with some minor deviations. However, missile launches continued unabated.
More ominously for the JCPOA, then Republican candidate Donald Trump stated at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference on March 21, 2016, that his “number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.” After having been elected president on November 8, 2016, Donald Trump again labeled the JCPOA as the worst deal ever negotiated and pledged its renegotiation.
On January 28, 2017, Tehran test fired a medium-range ballistic missile, in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231. On March 23rd, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, introduces the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017, targeting Tehran’s ballistic missile program and its support of global terrorism. In spite of Democrat opposition, the full Senate passed the Act 98-2. On July 25th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3364, the Countering Adversarial Nations Through Sanctions Act, which was designed to impose new sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia.
As the years have gone by, the JCPOA has turned out to be a great hoax. Its main objective to prevent Tehran from achieving military nuclearization within ten or even fifteen years could not have been accomplished. The reason for this was and is obvious. Tehran was building and operating many secret enrichment plants that were not included in the JCPOA, which only listed Natanz and Fordow. In this manner, Tehran has operated two nuclear programs: one for the gullible international community and a secret one that has continued to develop military nuclear capability unabated. For this reason, the IAEA quarterly statements concerning Tehran’s compliance with the limitations of the JCPOA were technically correct, but in reality absolutely meaningless. Clearly, President Obama and his administration intentionally fooled themselves, lied to the American people, and misled the entire international community.
Adding insult to injury, the JCPOA has never been a mutually ratified international treaty. The Obama administration did not even submit it to the U.S. Senate for ratification. According to U.S. as well as international law, the JCPOA has remained a nonbinding agreement among the signatory states.
Thus, President Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018, based on what he termed as “Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program” was absolutely justified. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, maintaining the fiction of the JCPOA merely would have resulted in certain nuclearization of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The recent elimination of Qassem Soleimani, the resulting threats by Tehran to withdraw from the JCPOA, and the invocation of the dispute resolution process by Great Britain, France, and the Federal Republic of Germany were the last nails in the coffin of this fake and, therefore, useless agreement.
Legally, the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is much more significant. Based on this Treaty, Tehran is subject to all the limitations on its enrichment activities. Accordingly, Tehran cannot exceed enriching uranium to more than 5% U-235. Any violation of this limit will automatically trigger the intervention of the IAEA and the UN Security Council. Should Tehran repudiate the NPT, UN Security Council Resolution 1540 must be activated.
In this case, Tehran’s production of weapons-grade uranium must be considered as a “threat to international peace and security” pursuant to Chapter VII of the UN Charter that calls for necessary actions against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Throughout 2017, 2018, and 2019, Tehran’s noncompliance with its obligations under numerous UN resolutions, in particular Resolution 2216 respecting the prohibition of “direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer” of short-range ballistic missiles and other equipment to Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, and Egypt, has become legendary. In addition, Tehran has continued to flaunt the JCPOA restrictions on the number and type of centrifuges that it was allowed to operate under the agreement. On September 7, 2019, Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, announced that technicians introduced UF6 to cascades of 20 IR-4 and 20 IR-6 centrifuges, clearly exceeding the number of machines permitted in a cascade under the research and development terms of the JCPOA.
On September 16, 2019, cruise missiles and drones attacked a Saudi Arabian Oil Company (ARAMCO) facility in Abqaiq, eastern Saudi Arabia. The investigation launched after the strikes determined that the missiles and the drones were fired from Iranian territory. The rest of the year 2019, was filled with threats and lies by AyatollahKhamenei, President Rouhani, and Foreign Minister Zarifagainst the United States and President Trump personally.
Most recently, on January 15, 2020, PresidentRouhani made the announcement that his country now enriching uranium at a higher level than before. To wit, Ayatollah Khamenei, the real leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, just followed up with another provocative sermon on January 17, 2020. The so-called Supreme Leader praised the retaliatory strike against the United States and described all Americans as “clowns” who cannot be trusted. Reacting to the Iran-wide protests against the regime and him personally he mocked President Trump’s sympathy declaration for the Iranian people calling it a “poisoned dagger” into the back of the entire nation.
Without a doubt, the Mullahcracy in Tehran has been constituted from its inception as a theocratic dictatorship that uncompromisingly has been committed to foment permanent instability across the globe, especially in the greater Middle East and South-East Asia. Internally, the regime has established a ruthless and cruel oppression against its opponents and anybody else deemed to challenge and thus jeopardize the religious and cultural uniformity of the country. Internationally, the Mullahcracy has become the source of permanent instability in the greater Middle East and beyond. The timeline of recent events has demonstrated the increasing aggression of Tehran, which has been connected with the regime’s internal predicaments. The most recent attacks against American military installations and the shooting down of the Ukrainian civilian airplane have shown the increasing desperation of the Mullahs.
The more than forty years of Mullahcracy has demonstrated that the regime has been incapable of reforming itself. On the contrary. Even according to official Iranian statistics, in the year 2018 alone, more than 100,000 Iranians committed suicide, and many more were killed or executed. Tragically, 75% of the suicide victims were between the ages of fifteen and thirty four. These numbers show that the younger generation that comprises the majority of the population reject the religious, ideological, and political foundations of the theocratic regime. Clearly, the regime is increasingly incapable of suppressing the opposition by only applying ruthless terror. Since the fraudulent elections of 2009, the Islamic Republic of Iran has experienced six major nationwide uprisings. Now, the Iranians’ patience broke irreversibly. By discrediting itself in the eyes of the world, the bloody and corrupt Mullahcracy signed its own death warrant. With the exception of a minority that benefits from the all-pervasive corruption of the regime, nobody trusts and supports the Islamic Republic. Presently, even the resignation of the Ayatollah Khamenei will not pacify the Iranian people any more, because the reason for the rot of the regime is he himself.
More disappointingly, the Mullahs have shown total resistance of any moderation both domestically as well as internationally. Now, when the regime is bankrupt both ideologically and economically, the Ayatollah’s and his minions’ diminishing rule will surely be more ruthless at home and increasingly aggressive abroad. Under these circumstances, diplomacy definitely will not work. The only solution is to remove by any means this cancerous tumor from the international body politics. Nothing but total regime change will bring a permanently satisfactory solution for the Iranian nation and the rest of the world.
A bipartisan plan to erase barriers to equity ownership would be productive and beautiful.
It’s an article of liberal faith: Thanks to President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the prosecco is popping on Wall Street, while the unsold Pepsi gathers dust on Main Street, where Americans are too poor to buy soft drinks.
“Workers are delivering more, and they’re getting a lot less,” former vice president Joe Biden told the Brookings Institution last summer. “There’s no correlation now between productivity and wages.”
Americans “are sick and tired of the income and wealth inequality that sees the rich getting much richer,” Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) told CapitalAndMain.com last month.
“Wages have largely stagnated,” the campaign website of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) complains, while “fundamental changes in our economy have left millions of working families hanging on by their fingernails.”
These grim, lachrymose myths cannot mask this incredibly upbeat fact: The sparkling wine is flowing on Wall and Main streets, and it’s running more rapidly on Main, where take-home pay is expanding the most among those with the least.
Never mind the liberal lies. Hard data reveal this reality. The Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank’s monthly Wage Growth Tracker shows that Americans are making more money, particularly those who have been forgotten for decades.
Between November 2018 and November 2019, overall median wage growth climbed 3.6 percent, a healthy pace that should lift spirits, too. Those in the bottom 25 percent saw wages advance 4.5 percent, while the top 25 percent lagged, with pay rising just 2.9 percent. This is the 180-degree exact opposite of what Democrats relentlessly bellow. They have equal access to the Atlanta Fed’s website. This confirms their rank dishonesty.
For further sanguine results of Trumponomics, see Sentier Research’s analysis of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. Sentier clocked U.S. median household income last November at $66,043 — $5,070 higher than this key metric’s position when President Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017: $60,973. This 8.3 percent increase in middle-class income in less than three years crushes the two-term, eight-year performances of Obama ($1,043, up 1.7 percent) and G. W. Bush (an emaciated $401, or a paltry 0.7 percent boost).
Today’s Employment Situation also is encouraging. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported at 8:30 a.m., the unemployment rate remains steady at 3.5 percent, maintaining the lowest joblessness level since 1969 — Richard Nixon’s first year in office. Employers created 145,000 new jobs last month, a healthy, if not breathtaking, number. And 2.9 percent wage growth, from December 2018 to December 2019, lags the Atlanta Fed’s figures but still approximates the 3 percent mark that seems to trigger warmth and toastiness. Scarlett O’Hara’s words should soothe any naysayers here: “Tomorrow is another day.”
Democrats should stop loathing Trump long enough to show some love for the poor people they claim to represent. Democrats should stop lying to themselves and the country about low-income wages lagging those of the affluent. This is not happening. Democrats should acknowledge the wonders that Trump and Republicans have done via tax reduction, regulatory relief, and a pro-business tone in Washington.
Then, Democrats should make this challenge to Republicans. The 55 percent of Americans who are in the stock markets, per Gallup, are seeing their portfolios soar, as the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average, and Nasdaq break records. Since Trump’s victory, these markets have rocketed 53 percent, 58 percent, and 77 percent, respectively, as of Thursday’s highest-ever closing bells.
But the 45 percent of Americans who own no stocks — directly or as part of 401(k)s or IRA accounts — are missing this bonanza.
Democrats should ask Republicans to work with them to make it as easy as possible for those not invested in the stock market to buy in. A bipartisan plan to erase barriers to equity ownership would be productive and beautiful.
Conversely, Democrats can keep weeping among themselves as their have-not base actually grows richer more swiftly than the haves the Democrats love to hate.
It is arguable that foul, fetid, fuming, foggy, filthy Philadelphia is already so messed up that it can’t be made much worse, but some new City Councilmen are going to try. From The Philadelphia Inquirer:
by Laura McCrystal | Updated: January 6, 2020 | 5:00 AM
A younger, more liberal City Council is coming to Philadelphia.
Council members will take their oaths of office Monday at the Met Philadelphia, where Mayor Jim Kenney also will be inaugurated for a second term.
Poverty, gentrification, gun violence, education funding, and cleaning up environmental hazards in city schools are among the issues likely to take center stage in 2020. That’s according to interviews last week with several of the 17 new and returning members. Although Council members did not offer many specifics on bills they plan to introduce, they said there’s new energy and political will to focus on those issues.
“Council seems to be coalescing around those critical needs,” said Councilmember-elect Jamie Gauthier, who upset longtime incumbent Jannie L. Blackwell to represent the Third Council District in West Philadelphia. “And I think that’s because of what we’re hearing from people in neighborhoods and because we’re looking at the hard numbers.”
At the end of the last Council session, lawmakers enacted the first changes to the controversial 10-year tax abatement for new construction in almost two decades. And Council President Darrell L. Clarke has convened a special committee to address poverty, with an ambitious goal of reducing the number of Philadelphians living in poverty by one-quarter, from about 400,000 to 300,000, in the next four years.
Let’s get real here: the City of Brotherly Love has been governed by the Democrats for decades upon decades. Bernard Samuel, who left office on January 7, 1952, was the last Republican Mayor of Philadelphia. Put another way, George VI was still King of England the last time Philly had a Republican leadership.
The new Council will be younger and more progressive, as four newcomers take office. Councilmember-elect Kendra Brooks of the Working Families Party won an at-large seat long held by Republicans, one of two effectively set aside for candidates outside the Democratic Party. She will be joined by three new Democratic colleagues: Gauthier and at-large members-elect Katherine Gilmore Richardson and Isaiah Thomas.
Now, what do these new members want to do? Kendra Brooks wants to impose rent control, because, naturally, cutting the profits of landlords is going to make them invest more money into their properties. Helen Gym wants to reduce the 10-year developmental tax abatement to produce additional tax revenue to go into ‘affordable housing,’ because of course developers will want to build more affordable housing if it makes them less money. Jamie Gauthier wants to change zoning laws to ‘require affordable housing’ in new developments, because it just goes without saying that reducing the values of higher end housing by building lower-end housing next to them will generate increased profits and encourage developers.
Philly is a city in which the unions have a stranglehold over construction: while it’s possible to try to build with non-union labor, pickets and other union harassment impose all sorts of additional costs. Thus, the price of construction is higher than it might otherwise be, and the ‘progressive’ councilmembers want to lower profit margins even more.
Misses Gym and Brooks have made statements that they’d like to impose a local version of the ‘Green New Deal’ on the city, which can only increase costs on everybody, a kind of silly way to combat poverty.
Liberals have held almost total control in Philadelphia for decades, but liberal policies haven’t helped much, and the city has “lost 600,000 population since 1950, 70,000 in the last decade alone,” according to a Wharton School paper from 2017. People have been fleeing the city, because the Democrats’ policies haven’t worked. The city has a consistently high crime rate, which the City Council is attempting to solve by hiring the aptly-named Danielle Outlaw, formerly the top cop in Portland, Oregon and a Deputy Police Chief in Oakland, California — which has the Pyrite State’s highest crime rate — as Police Commissioner. Under Commissioner Outlaw’s tenure in Portland, that city had a crime rate significantly above the national average. Combine that with District Attorney Larry Krasner, who hates the police and doesn’t pursue supposedly petty offenses, and it’s a prescription for even more disaster.
Well, let’s just call it an experiment. The voters took a liberal local government, and pushed it even further to the left. Only time will tell whether Philadelphia gets better or gets worse. But it makes me glad that I no longer pay taxes in Pennsylvania.
How good is the U.S. economy? So good that even CNN, the monomanically anti-Trump television network, was forced to admit it last week.
“As 2019 comes to a close, the US economy earns its highest ratings in almost two decades,” CNN reported, dourly relaying findings of a poll it commissioned. “Overall, 76% rate economic conditions in the US today as very or somewhat good, significantly more than those who said so at this time last year (67%). This is the highest share to say the economy is good since February 2001, when 80% said so. Almost all Republicans (97%) say economic conditions are good right now, as do 75% of independents and 62% of Democrats. Positive ratings are up across parties compared with August of this year, when 91% of Republicans, 62% of independents and 47% of Democrats said the economy was in good shape.”
It’s no surprise that Americans are pleased with their economic situation this holiday season. Consider the data: The unemployment rate is 3.5 percent, indicating essentially full employment. Anyone who wants a job can get one, in other words. Wage growth, long stagnant, is ticking up, likely because of full employment — and, perhaps because illegal immigration has been somewhat curtailed. Total gross domestic product is chugging along, growing at more than 2 percent annually. The stock market is stratospheric, buoying not only individual investors but also anybody who has a retirement account. What’s all the more striking is that earlier this year there was plenty of loose talk about a looming recession. Sure, that could still happen (and eventually it will), but it doesn’t seem to be on the immediate horizon.
The strength of the economy can be chalked up to Republican tax cuts (which unfortunately also contributed to yawning federal deficits), deregulation and the unrelenting optimism of the American consumer. Some 70 percent of U.S. GDP is attributable to consumer spending, so the economy rises and falls with it. That Americans are spending on everything from houses to cars to dinners out contributes to economic growth and healthy jobs figures — which in turn likely contribute to more consumer spending. This is a classic virtuous cycle.
The strength of the economy no doubt has political effects as well. President Donald Trump will certainly benefit. Even CNN conceded that Americans’ bulging wallets will “[potentially boost] President Donald Trump in matchups against the Democrats vying to face him in next year’s election.”
“As perceptions of the economy have brightened, the poll also shows matchups between the top Democrats vying for the 2020 nomination and Trump tightening. In October, four Democrats tested in hypothetical head-to-head contests with Trump among registered voters led by anywhere from 6 to 10 percentage points, all advantages outside that poll’s margin of sampling error,” CNN continued. “Now, just two of those candidates hold edges at or above the error margin: former Vice President Joe Biden leads Trump nationally 49% to 44%, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tops Trump 49% to 45%. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg each run about even with the President.”
Mr. Trump will face significant headwinds in next year’s election to be sure: a fired up opposition, various global crises and an intemperate personality that many Americans, understandably, find distasteful. But he will no doubt delight in asking Americans: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” For large majorities, the answer will be yes.
It’s official. Black Lives really don’t Matter. At least not inside the Democratic Party.
For a party so thoroughly obsessed with race, it is amazing just how white they are.
If you were one of the Americans who declined to tune into last week’s Democratic debate, you missed just how thoroughly white the party of Barack Obama has become.
There was one candidate white as the snow drifts of Minnesota, two white socialists from the Northeast, a bumbling white former vice president and a white billionaire. And then a white mayor of a university town in Indiana.
The only drop of pigmentation on the stage came in the form of businessman Andrew Yang, who also happens to be the least insufferable of the bunch. Actually, Mr. Yang can be downright interesting at times and seems like he is at least trying to be honest when he speaks — something you cannot say about anybody else presently running for the Democratic nomination.
Obviously, the vast, vast majority of normal Americans have long ago moved on from paying any mind to such irrelevant nonsense. But the Democratic Party remains obsessed with race and making everything about race. So, if we are going to judge anyone by those standards, we should start with the Democratic Party.
Adding actual injury to insult, one of the dazzlingly white Democrats on the stage last week actually spent her entire white-privileged adult life pretending to be a woman of “color” to take advantage of programs designed to help actual people of color overcome past inequalities.
Part of me really hopes that Sen. Elizabeth Warren wins the nomination so that political opposition researchers can dig up all the deserving people who were denied opportunities at Harvard so that Ms. Warren could play cowboys and Indians.
Nowhere do Democrats’ pandering claims about Black Lives Matter ring more hollow than in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Gov. Ralph Northam remains in office despite his sordid history of wearing blackface, dressing up as — or alongside — a Ku Klux Klan member and calling himself “Coonman,” which many perceived as a racially motivated pejorative. Such a scandal would sink any politician.
But Ralph Northam? The leader of the Virginia Democratic Party? Nope.
Turns out, if you really don’t give a rip about all your party’s platitudes about racial sensitivity and how Black Lives Matter, you can do whatever you want and never pay a price. Also, it helps to be utterly shameless.
Nobody is prouder of this than Mr. Northam himself.
“I am the leader of this party,” he bragged in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch as the anniversary of his blackface scandal drew near.
“Virginians have stuck with me and I am proud that they have,” he said, modestly, without providing evidence for such a claim.
“If you look at my life, at least my adult life, it’s been one of service,” he said. By “adult life,” Mr. Northam presumably meant his post-blackface life.
Column: Thank his opponents
President Trump ends 2019 in a better position than when he started. The year began with the swearing in of Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House. The Mueller probe dragged on. The legislative agenda of Trump’s first two years in office had petered out. The Democratic frontrunner, Joe Biden, was beating him by double digits in the polls. A little more than halfway through the year, bond prices signaled recession.
Look where things stand now. Pelosi’s decision to impeach Trump already has cost her a seat and stands zero chance of resulting in a Senate conviction. Not only has Mueller shuffled off the stage, but Michael Horowitz’s report on FBI malfeasance also raises serious doubts about the credibility of the government and media elites who spent years arguing that Trump and his associates were Russian agents. Mitch McConnell blocks liberal bills from the House while confirming additional conservative judges. Biden is damaged and the problems of his candidacy manifest as he sleepwalks toward his party’s nomination. The economy is gangbusters.
Nothing the Democratic majority has done has hurt Trump’s approval rating. At this time last year, he stood at 42 percent approval and 52 percent disapproval in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. As I write, the RCP average of Trump’s approval rating is 45 percent and disapproval is 52 percent. Trump’s numbers are remarkably stable and closely track President Obama’s at this point in his presidency. Biden began the year with big leads over Trump. Since then his margin has dwindled to 4 percent. And that’s before Trump drops $1 billion in negative social media on him (or whoever the nominee is) next year.
Of course, Trump cannot say that he has been consistently popular. The opposite is true. And a 4-point victory for Biden still would be a victory—though not necessarily under the rules of the Electoral College. What Trump can say is that efforts to remove him from office have failed, or are about to fail, and have not prevented him from delivering the disruptive change that his supporters desire. Trump’s destiny is not to be a broadly popular president, if that is even possible anymore. He has been a consequential president. And may well be a reelected one.
Trump’s opponents have contributed to his success ever since he became the focal point of our national life in 2015. He fashioned himself into a political bulldozer and rolled over decades-old dynasties, demolished Republican shibboleths, ground into dust codes of presidential behavior, and plowed through entrenched obstacles to conservative policymaking in the bureaucracy and courts. Throughout it all, he has benefited from the contrast between his policies and results on one hand and the possibility of the “bold, structural change” desired by woke Democrats on the other. He also has made the most of his adversaries’ weaknesses: not just the character traits he turns into nicknames but the zealotry that manifests itself in overreach and radicalism.
The hinge point of Trump’s good year was Friday, March 22, when the Justice Department acknowledged receipt of the Mueller report into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Two days later, Attorney General William Barr released his summary of the report’s contents. The full report was made available to the public on April 18. It was clear by then that despite all of the time, energy, resources, and indictments and convictions, Mueller had not uncovered a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia and was not willing to assert that the president obstructed justice. Mueller’s testimony before Congress on July 24 was a flop. The Russia investigation that had begun in the summer of 2016 and consumed the media since it was made public the following year ended in a whimper.
It was shortly after Mueller’s appearance on Capitol Hill that Trump had his “perfect” call with President Zelensky of Ukraine. The whistleblower complaint that was filed with the intelligence community inspector general afterward, and made public on September 26, set into motion the president’s impeachment, culminating in Wednesday’s House vote. No president wants to be impeached, and no president ought to be impeached in the absence of compelling and damning evidence, but there is an argument to be made that in some ways impeachment has benefited Trump.
For one thing, impeachment has focused Trump’s attention. In between the end of the Mueller investigation and the beginning of the impeachment inquiry, President Trump engaged in a series of incendiary battles with left-wing Democrats, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and the late Elijah Cummings. While Ocasio-Cortez and Omar are unpopular, the controversies nevertheless stirred up issues of race and gender that make suburbanites extremely uncomfortable.
Absent impeachment, these last few months might have been spent in endless social media flame wars with celebrities, progressives, wayward Republicans, and whoever else wandered into the crossfire. Instead, President Trump and the GOP have been “on message” against the whistleblower, Adam Schiff, and Nancy Pelosi to a degree that is nothing short of remarkable. Think about what they might accomplish if Republicans were similarly focused on the state of the economy.
Impeachment crowded out all else. This made freshmen Democrats from districts Trump won in 2016 anxious. Pelosi had to give them something in return for impeachment that they could take back to their districts. That something was the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement—which just happens to be a top priority of the president’s. At the end of this process, Trump will have kept his job through at least January 2021 and pocketed a significant diplomatic accomplishment and campaign promise. No small feat.
Impeachment also distracted from the Democratic primary. There are six weeks until the Iowa caucuses and hardly anybody besides the candidates and their immediate families seem to care. The Ukraine scandal involves the Democratic frontrunner but in an unusual way. Trump’s desire that President Zelensky look into the energy company Burisma, where Hunter Biden sat on the board, confirmed Joe Biden’s status as the preeminent threat to Trump. But it also reminded people that over the years members of the Biden family have benefited from Joe’s high office. And Biden’s clumsy response to allegations of unseemly profit-seeking was another reminder of his weaknesses as a candidate. This flawed frontrunner, already defined by his son’s influence peddling, maintains his lead in the polls because Democratic primary voters see his 14 rivals as too radical or unelectable.
President Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago impeached but defiant, with a new NAFTA and a “Phase One” China deal, Space Force, 185 federal judges, the lowest unemployment in half a century, a stock market that has increased by 50 percent since Election Day 2016, a unified party, and an opposition barreling toward a confusing and bruising primary. Trump won 2019, but this is the preseason. The real game begins in 2020.
Column: The post-WWII order is ending—and nothing has replaced it
Economists at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund must feel pretty lucky these days. They work for just about the only institutions set up in the aftermath of World War II that aren’t in the middle of an identity crisis. From Turtle Bay to Brussels, from Washington to Vienna, the decay of the economic and security infrastructure of the postwar world has accelerated in recent weeks. The bad news: As the legacy of the twentieth century recedes into the past, the only twenty-first century alternatives are offered from an authoritarian surveillance state.
The pressure is both external and internal. Revisionist powers such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea undermine the foundations of global governance and hijack institutions to the detriment of the liberal international order. The institutions themselves lack the self-confidence necessary to further the cause of human freedom. Meanwhile, the most powerful nation in the world has turned inward. Its foreign policy is haphazard and improvisational, contradictory and equivocal. The confusion and zigzagging contribute to the erosion of legitimacy. It delays the emergence of new forms of international organization.
The breakdown was visible at last week’s NATO summit in London. Remarkably, the source of the immediate ruckus wasn’t President Trump. It was French president Emmanuel Macron, who doubled down on his criticism of the Atlantic alliance that he’d expressed in a recent interview with the Economist. Trump disagreed with Macron’s description of NATO as “brain dead.” He and other allies didn’t back Macron’s call for rapprochement with Russia and China and renewed focus on terrorism.
Macron wasn’t the only troublemaker. Turkey’s autocratic leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently tested his Russian S-400 air defense systems againsthis American F-16s, said he would block a Balkan defense plan unless NATO designates the Kurdish YPG a terrorist group. The summit ended with a leaked video of Macron, Justin Trudeau, Boris Johnson, and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte sharing a laugh at Trump’s expense. Haughty euro-elites mocking the American president is always an affront, but it is especially counterproductive now when the alliance is under attack from prominent voices within the United States.
When it was founded, NATO was one part of a strategy whose goal was the prevention of another global war. Security guarantees and the forward deployment of conventional forces bound America to Europe and the Europeans to each other. Another part of the strategy led to the EU. It integrates the economies of nations that unleashed the two most devastating conflicts in human history. It was thought that trade relations contribute to peace and nationalities can be submerged under a continent-sized umbrella. What the architects of Europe didn’t anticipate was popular resentment of bureaucratic administration, the imbalances and fiscal consequences of monetary union without political union, and the reassertion of national identity that results from large-scale immigration.
Today the politics of every major European country is a mess. I write these words on the day of a British election that will determine whether the United Kingdom leaves the EU and whether an anti-Semitic socialist lives in 10 Downing Street. Germany flirts with recession, its chancellor is a lame duck, the grand coalition hosts an SPD under far-left leadership, and the largest opposition party is the Alternative for Germany. Macron might want to spend more time on domestic politics: His approval rating is around 30 percent, striking workers have paralyzed France, and 13 French soldiers were killed in Mali.
National populism has transformed Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic and plays a significant role in Germany, France, Austria, and Sweden. No longer deputy prime minister of Italy, Matteo Salvini remains the most significant political figure in his country. “Recent opinion polls indicate that if elections were held tomorrow, Mr. Salvini would not only easily become prime minister, but that a coalition of the League, the post-fascist Brothers of Italy and the remainder of Mr. [former prime minister Silvio] Berlusconi’s Forza Italia would command an absolute majority in parliament,” writesMiles Johnson of the Financial Times. The European leaders who fear Salvini are nonetheless ambivalent about the threat posed by Vladimir Putin and by Ayatollah Khamenei. They are happy to advance the Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream pipelines and circumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Frenetic institution building accompanied victory in World War II. The Allies created organizations devoted to international security, diplomacy, health, and economics. The first to go was the Bretton Woods agreement on international finance, which ended when Richard Nixon took America off the gold standard in 1971. The next was the United Nations, which revealed its corruption and domination by dictatorships in its resolution equating Zionism and racism in 1975. The Iraqi nuclear facility at Osirak (fortunately destroyed by the Israeli Air Force in 1981) was evidence that the Non-Proliferation Treaty is only as good as the regimes that sign it. NATO and the EU survived the Cold War and flourished in the two decades after the dissolution of the Soviet Union but both have run up against the limits of expansion. Both have lost sight of their historic function to preserve the peace.
Sometimes changing circumstances render institutions powerless. That is happening to the World Trade Organization. The WTO, endowed in 1995, was built for a unipolar world. When China joined in 2001, its GDP was one-tenth the size of America’s. Now it’s more than half and China has emerged as a military, industrial, and technological rival. But the WTO still designates China as a “developing” country, which entitles it to certain advantages. President Trump’s campaign against this exorbitant privilege reached an impasse December 10, when his administration blockedjudicial appointments to the organization’s dispute-resolution court. It no longer has the capacity to arbitrate. The WTO is toothless. Hollowed out. What will replace it? Nothing has been proposed.
The motive power behind all of these institutions was American commitment. What upheld the structure was our willingness to sustain the costs of international security and global defense of democracy. That engagement began to wane after the Cold War. By 2008 it was practically nonexistent. The president’s disinterest in foreign affairs is a reflection of his countrymen’s. His administration, to its credit, has proposed great power competition as the basis for a renewed American grand strategy. The follow-through has been difficult.
That has left us with entropy. The international scene is filled with decayed institutions and unpalatable choices. On one hand is the status quo. On the other is China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Made in China 2025. “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born,” wrote philosopher Antonio Gramsci. “In this interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” And no one has a cure.
Despite polls going in that showed the race was tight, Boris Johnson and the Tories won a smashing victory in Thursday’s U.K. election. The biggest win for the right since Mrs. Thatcher.
Why they did will be hotly debated—here and there—for some time to come.
Some attribute the outcome to Johnson’s successful mobilization of Brexiteers in both the Conservative and Labour parties. Frustrated after three years of parliamentary inaction following passage of the June 2016 referendum to pull the U.K. out of the EU, they wanted change. But that doesn’t explain everything.
The British elites spent the interregnum between the referendum and the Thursday’s election telling everyone the original result, influenced heavily by disinformation from the pro-Leave side, was a fluke. They predicted confidently a second referendum, if one were held, would show this to be true and end differently.
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They were wrong. Thursday’s election was a referendum on Brexit. Johnson made it one. It passed again, with turnout between 70 and 80 percent in many constituencies, making it hard to argue the first vote was a fluke. The Remainers are a spent political force—and may always have been so.
The outcome, as I wrote here last week, should encourage those who feared the people’s will is eclipsed by a tyranny of experts, elites and bureaucrats. This does not argue for populism—Edmund Burke correctly warned officeholders that sacrificing their judgment to the opinion of the people they represent would betray them—but it is a welcome reminder that votes count for something. The efforts of the political, economic, academic and media elites to put their thumb on the scale to block Brexit finally appear to have been thwarted.
As to the counter-narrative popular today in the United States, that Labour’s radicalism led to the party’s worst showing since the 1930s, it’s not clear that’s so. According to Lord Ashcroft’s post-election poll, 72 percent of those who voted Conservative said the need to “get Brexit done” was their primary reason for voting as they did. Only 25 percent said they were motivated by a desire for “the right leadership.”
This helps explain the tremendous inroads the Tories made in Labour strongholds in the North of England. Johnson breached the “red wall” by tapping into the strong pro-Leave sentiment evident in there during the referendum. Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to nationalize broadband, rail and postal services, as well as expand spending on the National Health Service (which the Conservatives also promised, though by not as much), was not enough to keep some of his most loyal voters inside his coalition.
This suggests the lesson for U.S. politicians looking ahead to 2020 is not what the instant analysis suggests. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner for his party’s nomination, argued strongly Friday Labour moved too far to the left to be electable. That, he said, argues for a more moderate candidate to be named standard-bearer next year, one who would not abandon the middle, as Corbyn is said to have done.
Perhaps. But Lord Ashcroft found “Labour won more than half the vote among those turning out aged 18-24 (57 percent) and 25-34 (55 percent), with the Conservatives second in both groups. The Conservatives were ahead among those aged 45-54 (with 43 percent), 55-64 (with 49 percent) and 65+ (with 62 percent).” Corbyn’s radical manifesto helped cost him the election—being more popular perhaps with the rich around London than among the nation’s working class—but it was a winner with younger voters.
For Biden, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and the others who want their party’s nomination, it suggests a quandary. Stay to the left to win the nomination with appeals to the activist base, split up among state delegations because “winner take all” contests have been abolished? Or moderate to appeal to older voters, who, surveys tell us, are more likely to vote in the general election?
The answer is not clear, especially since the so-called “superdelegates,” the sober-minded party solons who typically play an outsized role in picking the Democratic nominee, are unable to participate in the first-round balloting at the convention in Milwaukee. All too often, arguments about electability prevail over ideology only when made to experienced pols with cooler heads than those voting first.
Corbyn’s Labour Party was too extreme for modern Britain. He’s stepping down, but not without trying first to lead the post-election autopsy to prevent his message from being discredited. There may be those in Labour who long for the return of the days of Tony Blair, whose constituency, incidentally, went Conservative in the election, but they don’t hold the reins of power. The opposition response to the initiatives coming out of Downing Street will come from the radical left, not the center, giving the prime minister more room to accomplish more than Brexit. And on Thursday, he got the votes to do it.
Over at The Bulwark, Tim Miller more or less pleads for Democrats to start acting like they mean it when they claim President Trump is a unique danger to American values.
He writes: “I have the sneaking suspicion that a lot of Democrats don’t actually view Trump as a unique crisis. Or rather: They don’t view him as being more than a difference in degree from the “emergency-crisis” Republicans always represent. For these Democrats, all of Republican/conservatism has been inevitably leading to Trump and the only difference between Trump and, say, George H.W. Bush, is that Trump says the quiet part out loud.”
If we want a better politics and more effective government, political leaders and activists will need to rediscover the ability to differentiate among their opponents on the other side of the aisle. From the perspective of conservatives, American politics was better when the Democratic Leadership Council was pushing for ideas like welfare reform, charter schools, public school choice, and middle-class tax cuts in that party. From the perspective of liberals, American politics was better when the Republican Main Street Partnership was a more significant force in the GOP, pushing for the most pragmatic options and trying to find policy solutions that wouldn’t freak out soccer moms. While you may want to defeat as many of the opposing party’s candidates as possible in November, you’re probably going to have to work with some of them after the elections. If the Trump presidency offers any lesson for the country, it’s that once everybody’s considered to be as bad as the devil, then nobody is treated like they’re as bad as the devil.
HBO host Bill Maher realized the mistake on the eve of the 2016 election: “I know liberals made a big mistake because we attacked your boy [George W.] Bush like he was the end of the world. And he wasn’t. And Mitt Romney we attacked that way. I gave Obama a million dollars because I was so afraid of Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney wouldn’t have changed my life that much or yours. Or John McCain. They were honorable men who we disagreed with and we should have kept it that way. So we cried wolf and that was wrong. But this is real. This is going to be way different.”
This Democratic presidential primary has been fascinating to watch from the perspective of the Right, because every once in a while, one of the trailing candidates makes a point that leaves conservatives nodding their heads. Tulsi Gabbard acknowledges some moral complexity on the issue of abortion and vents frustration with American overseas military operations that never seem to end satisfactorily, Marianne Williamson warns of an intangible but real crisis in the country’s spiritual health, and Andrew Yang seems like a bright guy who’s thought long and hard about the ramifications of growing automation in our economy. Conservatives are extremely unlikely to vote for those candidates, but you can see room for a productive dialogue. A Republican president who had to work with a Democratic House of Representatives full of Gabbards, Williamsons, and Yangs could probably reach a lot of compromises and productive agreements.
Meanwhile, much more prominent and influential Democratic figures keep acting like once a Democrat is in the White House again, they’ll never need to compromise with Republicans. They keep offering magic wand solutions that ignore every likely obstacle — wrangling a diverse House caucus, getting a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, injunctions from federal courts, a Supreme Court decision that the idea violates the Constitution.
December 7 is a solemn day for the U.S. Navy and in our nation’s history. This year marked the 78th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, when our nation entered a World War with a devastated naval fleet. After Pearl Harbor, and facing a grave threat, our country came together to rebuild the fleet, which ultimately helped win the war. And just as it has throughout history, the Navy continues to defy the odds and innovate in order to remain the most powerful force on the world’s seas.
More than ever, we need to build for the future and invest in new technologies that will support our warfighters, maximize value for taxpayer dollars, and maintain our nation’s global competitive edge. Equipping our troops and sailors with the best, most advanced capabilities to defend our national interests should always be our objective.
It is in this spirit that the second Ford-class aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), was christened on December 7. This is a huge step forward for naval aviation technology and for moving the Navy into the 21st century. Following tradition, Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the ship’s namesake and its sponsor, will break a bottle of American sparkling wine on the carrier’s hull. The ship is a testament to ingenuity and a symbol of American force, but it’s what lies under the hull that truly sets it apart.
The Ford-class carriers are both the most efficient and technologically advanced aircraft carriers ever developed. The Ford-class will save the Navy billions over its lifetime thanks to new technologies and efficiencies. One such technology is the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which is replacing steam catapults on carriers. EMALS is a critical technology leap in modernizing the Fleet to address evolving threats while also meeting the needs of the Navy of the future.
Currently, decades-old steam technology limits the capabilities of our Fleet in terms of which types of aircraft it can launch, and with respect to the integration of future weapons systems. EMALS allows the launch of the full range of aircraft in current and future air wings. Critically, this also includes the ability to launch drones – something our current carriers cannot do, and which could make a life or death difference to troops in harm’s way.
In addition to expanding the types of aircraft that can be launched, EMALS significantly improves the launch rate. With EMALS integrated, the Kennedy and other Ford-class carriers will have a sortie generation rate (the number of aircraft able to be launched per day) improved by a full 33 percent over our existing carriers. In other words, EMALS allows our Navy to launch more aircraft more efficiently.
The new technology on Ford-class carriers isn’t just theoretical. It works. These and other critical new technologies on the Ford-class will help the Navy stay ahead of our competition. As China and Russia continue to invest in their militaries, naval technology is at the forefront of their development. In fact, China is currently in the process of building a carrier using its own electromagnetic aircraft launch technology. We cannot afford to fall behind.
India and France have also shown an interest in these technologies. Adoption of EMALS by our allies will provide greater opportunity for coordination and interoperability between our navies in training exercises, disaster relief, humanitarian aid and military missions.
As we wrap up 2019 by remembering Pearl Harbor and celebrating the christening of the Kennedy, we must also ensure our nation’s leaders remain focused on equipping our military forces with the best technologies and capabilities possible for the years and decades ahead. The costs of not doing so are too great. Instead of trying to keep pace with our adversaries, the focus should be on remaining ahead of the curve and the envy of militaries across the world. Let’s put the future in the hands of the men and women who fight for our freedom every day.
Amid apparently lagging interest in the whole impeachment drama on Capitol Hill, the Democrats leave Washington for the Thanksgiving recess with a serious question to ponder. They have to decide whether to pursue their impeachment strategy toward what looks like a bitter end, or to construct an alternate strategy. It looks increasingly like the practical politicians versus the true believers.
As this column has pointed out, the stakes are very high: almost certainly the control of the House in 2020 and probably the presidency as well. The House is currently split with 233 Democrat seats versus 197 Republican seats (+4 vacancies).
The Republicans need to gain a net 18 seats to resume control. Their prospects seem to depend on re-gaining the 31 so-called “Trump districts”, i.e. seats that Democrats won in 2018 that had voted for Trump in 2016. Historical trends are against the Republicans, since control of the House has flipped during a presidential election only twice (1948 and 1952) since 1900.
The Republicans’ best hope of regaining the House thus focuses on the Trump districts. The trends reported by the current polls seem to indicate that the more the public learns about the Dems’ impeachment efforts, the less popular it is becoming.
This is, of course, contrary to the assumptions made by the leadership that the country, especially the independent voters on whom electoral success depends, would welcome this action and believe the ruinous assaults on the President’s reputation. The desired result was to so discredit him as to render him unelectable in 2020. Success of this strategy would defeat his election with the by-product of guaranteeing the election of the Trump district Democrats.
Instead, it appears that this strategy is turning those critical independents against the Dems. And that leaves the House leadership with a fateful decision to make. But what are their alternatives?
They can’t simply drop the whole idea; they have come too far for that. The only way they can back off with some credibility would seem to be an announcement that their “inquiry” was truly honest and concluded that the offense revealed did not prove any “high crimes or misdemeanors” and then come up with a censure motion instead. (Talk about “a silk purse from a sow’s ear”!) Such a solution sounds like an admission that they were victims of bad judgement from the beginning – even worse than the original approach.
So, there does not seems to be any way to gracefully retreat from the current strategy. Therefore, an impeachment vote seems inevitable. But how will the 31 vote? Remember, they were elected on the promise to work with the President and the Republicans to do great things including international trade deals with Mexico, Canada, China, Britain and Europe, as well as FY2021 budget, infrastructure, prescription drugs, increase manufacturing jobs, etc.
Instead, they will face their constituents with their failure to get Republican support for their agenda because they were spending their time trying to overthrow the President and adding immeasurably to the political division which they promised to try to reduce.In the shadow of that story to the voters, it is possible that the Dems might lose the vote to impeach – or at least more seriously cloud their integrity even further. Not a good choice either.
So stay tuned.
It is a puzzlement whether the cottage industry of international election observers populating the American commentariat really understand what is at stake in the upcoming British parliamentary election. It should be more widely discussed than it is. And analyses should focus on what is motivating voters, rather than whether the Tories or Labor are more likely, according to the polls, to come out ahead.
In reality, the future of representative democracy may be on the line, at least as far as the idea the people deserve to get what they voted for. It has been more than three years since 51.9 percent of those participating in a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union took the position it should not. Yet, after three different prime ministers and one general election, the U.K. is still in the EU.
The why is easy to understand. The elites, including what has proved to be a majority of Parliament, think the people made the wrong decision and have done all they can to block Brexit from moving forward. But is that really appropriate?
Boris Johnson, the current prime minister, is a confirmed Brexiteer. He joined and later resigned from the government of his immediate predecessor when it became clear she had bollixed up the whole business. And he has pushed for this election in order to replace the anti-Brexit members of his own party with those who support his position and will vote with him to withdraw from Europe.
This is not a new issue. It has perplexed governments going back to Margaret Thatcher’s. Indeed, there are those who still believe her opposition to Britain joining the EU was the principal reason members of her Cabinet eventually plotted her overthrow. But the British elites—leaders in the permanent government, as well as the financial community, media, academia and foreign policy establishment—wanted in and, for their sins, they got their way.
The people were a different matter. Until the June 2016 referendum, it was conventional wisdom that it was only the cranky, fringe elements in U.K. politics who objected to EU membership on the grounds that British sovereignty was being impinged upon and for other reasons, those who populate the corridors of power found silly or unworthy of attention.
The referendum smashed that conception. To the shock of all the elites, a majority of the country ratified the “U.K. out the EU” position, believing they were setting out on a course to regain the nation’s independence. Yet the people’s choice has been thwarted, time and again.
First came the effort to discredit the vote, blaming it on anti-immigrant racism and fears of job loss in areas already economically depressed. That proved to be untrue. A survey of 12,369 voters in the United Kingdom conducted the day of the referendum found the No. 1 issue propelling people to vote to leave was their belief that the U.K. should remain a self-governing entity not responsible to some supranational body writing rules and regulations about the economy and other matters. Once that failed, the machinations began in Parliament and elsewhere to prevent the withdrawal agreement from ever being approved, which brings things to where they are now.
The election analysts who are part of America’s own elites have been strangely silent about all this. It may they are distracted by the ongoing congressional foofaraw over President Donald Trump’s interaction with the president of Ukraine to notice the global significance of events in the U.K. It’s not wrong to point out the similarities between Johnson’s effort to get a deal done and Trump’s effort to bring the American government to heel. Here, too, there seems to be considerable confusion, as Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman inadvertently confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee considering the impeachment of the president, about who makes policy and just who’s in charge.
In the end, if it is affirmed the people are in charge and that they exercise their authority by delegating it to their elected representatives, up to and including the president of the United States, then things will work out fine. The American writer H.L. Mencken, a friend reminds, once described democracy as being “the theory that the people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”
Here in the U.S. and in Britain, there are those with power who believe it’s their job to keep the people from making what they regard as a mistake. If the battle over Brexit, which is one of those “mistakes,” goes the way they want, then all the small “d” democrats around the world have some serious soul-searching to do before we can regain the power we’ve apparently lost.
Raising concern “about the direction the health care policy debate is moving” – particularly among conservative lawmakers – the National Center for Public Policy Research has joined with more than 70 other conservative and free-market organizations to warn Congress about the dangers of price fixing.
In trying to remedy the issue of surprise medical bills for out-of-network emergency treatment, and insurers balking at covering all of such costs, some typically conservative politicians are favoring proposals to essentially enact price controls on these health care services. This would prohibit doctors and hospitals from setting their own rates and potentially make them operate at a loss.
Senator Rand Paul has explained that this could compromise the quality of American health care by driving people out of the medical field. “If you fix the price that ER doctors work at,” he said, “you will get a shortage.” He suggested that what has happened to the economy in Venezuela could happen in the United States as a result of such changes to the marketplace.
In a letter to conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the National Center and others note:
[W]hat is troubling is how often otherwise right-of-center policymakers are resorting to one of the key pillars of the Medicare for All playbook – government imposed price controls. Whether it is called price fixing, rate setting, subsidy capping or inflation capping, government price controls have wormed their way into the healthcare reform plans of too many of our friends in Washington.
The National Center is joined on the letter by organizations including Americans for Tax Reform, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Frontiers of Freedom, the Discovery Institute, the Institute for Policy Innovation and Eagle Forum.
The coalition letter concludes:
This was a bad idea a half century ago with gasoline line rationing, and it’s a bad idea today in health care. Something can only be affordable if it’s available to buy in the first place.
To read the entire letter and see all of its signers, click here.
By Red State•
Will the Trump administration ensure Hollywood remains driven by market principles?
Past harsh, critical comments from both President Trump and William Barr, his attorney general, demonstrate that the White House accepts the entertainment industry for what it is: a leftist, anti-capitalist blob that seeks not only to distort the culture war and remove Republicans from office, but also to rig the competitive market system to artificially increase its power and influence.
However, the question becomes how does the White House address its abuse in a free market way?
It’s a delicate balancing act, to be sure. While Hollywood often acts anti-competitively for personal gain – see: Steven Spielberg’s attempt to kill Netflix films’ ability to compete for Oscars – like every other industry, it also suffers from big-government edicts that unfairly harm their businesses. And, for all of the donating to Hillary Clinton they just made a few years ago, the movie and music industries have sounded alarm bells with the administration that the latter is a major concern to them.
Despite all the flack that the current White House gets for being rash and careless, the Trump administration is working tirelessly to ensure it treats its Hollywood detractors fairly and in line with the conservative principles it preaches.
Through a sweeping antitrust consent decree review, the Department of Justice is trying to successfully achieve this balance. Since April of last year, it has been examining the antitrust judgements that have been on DoJ’s books for generations. Its objective is to determine which are still needed to protect consumers against anti-competitive behavior, and which, at this point, act more as pointless red tape than anything else.
Seemingly as a result of multiple advocacy pushes, the clear focus of this effort quickly became those governing the entertainment industry. Namely, the Paramount consent decrees, which restrain the movie industry, and the ASCAP/BMI decrees, which created guidelines for the Big Music monopolies to follow.
On Nov. 18, the DoJ came to terms with its first major decision, announcing that it will ask the court to phase out the Paramount movie consent decrees. They prohibit the big five movie studios of the 1940s from harming small theaters by making exclusive deals with regional theaters (“circuit dealing”) and mandating that small theaters purchase their films in bundles (“block booking”).
DoJ made the right move. While at the time these decrees were necessary, modern-day innovation has made them obsolete and harmful to market competition.
Today, the Big Five studios from the 1940s are still far from angels, but there are plenty of new distributors that have taken their power away. Just look at Netflix, which plans to release over 50 films this year – more than Paramount, Disney, and Warner Bros. combined. Unlike in the 1940s, there are plenty of other studios with which theaters can do business should MGM, Warner Bros., RKO, Paramount, and 20th Century Fox – the five companies restrained by the decrees – provide terms to small theaters that are not agreeable. In fact, only two of those companies are still even in the Top 5 for market share.
If the DoJ let the decrees continue to restrict these studios while leaving their major competitors that have risen over the last 70 years unchecked, it would distort the marketplace by picking winners and losers. That would work to the detriment of, not the benefit to, consumer choice.
While the DOJ’s decision on Paramount was the right one for the free market, Barr’s department needs to be extra cautious on its next entertainment industry review – the ASCAP/BMI music consent decrees.
ASCAP and BMI – monopolies that control the rights to music licenses for public performance – are pushing for the DoJ to terminate or modify these antitrust guardrails. In an open letter to DOJ, they claimed that doing so would open the free market, which “would create a more productive, efficient and level playing field for everyone involved.” However, a dozen free market groups, including Frontiers of Freedom, have cautioned the DoJ that, contrary to what those monopolies are saying, doing so would run the free marketplace in the music industry to the ground.
The reason the ASCAP and BMI decrees went into place in the first place was to prevent ASCAP and BMI from enacting predatory pricing on small businesses. After all, the two monopolies’ very existence is emblematic of everything that Washington created antitrust law to prevent.
Both ASCAP and BMI are comprised of otherwise competing songwriters and publishers that banded together into these two groups to set prices for a joint product at a joint price. Both institutions were created with the explicit purpose of working together to increase prices. Put simply, there is nothing competitive or free market about them.
For the relaxation or removal of its decrees, ASCAP and BMI would have to prove that price-fixing is no longer a fundamental concern. As alluded to already, that is going to be hard to do when considering that the whole reason for their creation was to price-fix. It is going to be especially be hard to prove when considering how, unlike in the movie industry, their combined market share has barely moved at all since the 1940s – remaining at 90-percent of all performing rights. The fact that ASCAP had to settle a civil contempt charge with the DoJ for violating its decree just three years ago for nearly $2 million shouldn’t help its case either.
By giving everyone – including its political opponents, like the major entertainment industry conglomerates – the benefit of the doubt and the courtesy of a thorough review of present-day regulations, the Trump administration is yet again proving how serious it is about its deregulatory agenda. It is not governing on partisan or electoral grounds, but rather out of a desire to see fairness and accountability restored for everyone – even its enemies.
The White House is off to a good start, but for the sake of the free market and the consumers who depend on the fair playing field it creates, here’s hoping that it finishes strong.