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.
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.
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.”
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.
Politicians ignore felonies in their midst, preferring to hector the misdemeanors of the universe.
One of the weirdest characteristics of our global politicians and moral censors is their preference to voice cosmic justice rather than to address less abstract sin within their own purview or authority. These progressive virtue mongers see themselves as citizens of the world rather than of the United States and thus can impotently theorize about problems elsewhere when they cannot solve those in their own midst.
Big-city mayors are especially culpable when it comes to ignoring felonies in their midst, preferring to hector the misdemeanors of the universe. Notice how New York Mayor Bill De Blasio lords over the insidious deterioration of his city while he lectures on cosmic white supremacy.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg used to sermonize to the nation about gun-control, global warming, the perils of super-sized soft drinks, smoking, and fatty-foods in his efforts to virtue signal his moral fides—even as his New York was nearly paralyzed by the 2010 blizzard that trapped millions of his city’s residents in their homes due to inept and incompetent city efforts to remove snow. Or is the “Bloomberg syndrome” worse than that—in the sense that sounding saintly in theory psychologically compensates for being powerless in fact? Or is it a fashion tic of the privileged to show abstract empathy?
In the last years of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s governorship, Arnold more or less gave up on the existential crises of illegal immigration, sanctuary cities, soaring taxes, water shortages, decrepit roads and bridges, homelessness, plummeting public school performance, and a huge exodus out of state of middle-class Californians.
Instead he began to lecture the state, the nation, and indeed the world on the need for massive wind and solar projects and assorted green fantasies. His old enemies, jubilant that they had aborted his early conservative reform agenda, began to praise him both for his green irrelevancies and for his neutered conservatism—to the delight of the outgoing Arnold who was recalibrating his return to celebrity Hollywood.
More recently, we often see how local sheriffs become media-created philosophers eager to blame supposed national bogeymen for mass shootings in their jurisdictions— killings that sometimes are at least exacerbated by the utter incompetence of local law enforcement chiefs.
Do we remember the horrific 2011 Tucson shooter, the mass-murdering ghoul who mowed down 19 people, killing six and severely wounding Representative Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.)? Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik, without any evidence, immediately claimed that conservative anti-government hate speech had set off the unhinged shooter.
One might have thought from Dupnik’s loud blame-game commentary that supposed outgunned deputies on duty had shot it out with the killer in a running gun battle, and that he was furious that talk radio or right-wingers had somehow impeded him from getting enough bullets or guns to his men to protect the victims from such a right-wing ideologue.
Hardly. This shooter had devoured both the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf. He was mentally unstable, drug addled, and without coherent views on contemporary issues, and thus no foot soldier in some vast right-wing conspiracy or any other conspiracy. He was certainly less connected to the Right than the Washington, D.C. shooter who tried to take out much of the Republican House leadership in 2017 was connected to the Left.
The next time a legislator, mayor, or governor rails about plastic straws or the Paris Climate Accord, be assured that his state’s roads are clogged, his public schools failing—and he is clueless or indifferent about it.
Again, no matter. The ubiquitous Dupnik in his efforts to translate his own incompetence and failure to secure the area where Giffords was to speak into media-driven celebrity, in cheap fashion blasted the Tea Party, critics of President Obama, and, of course, Rush Limbaugh as the culprits.
In truth, security in the supermarket parking lot where Giffords and others were shot was nearly nonexistent, a fact Dupnik never really addressed. He seemed unworried that he had not sent out deputies to ensure a U.S. congresswoman’s safety while conducting an open-air meeting with her constituents.
Florida Sheriff Scott Israel sought national media attention for trying to connect the horrific Parkland Florida mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (17 dead), which took place in his jurisdiction, to the National Rifle Association and Republican politicians in general. But it was Israel’s own Broward County Sheriff’s Office that responded slowly to the killings. In some cases, Israel’s officers exhibited timidity and refused to enter the building to confront the deranged mass shooter.
Before Israel lectured an international television audience on the evils of lax gun laws he might have at least ensured that his own sheriffs were willing to risk their lives to protect the endangered innocent.
If we sometimes wonder why for years saintly Apple, Facebook, and Google have thrived in a sea of homelessness, amid pot-holed streets lined with strapped employees living in their cars, a good indication might be that the cosmic social justice so often voiced as penance by their woke multibillionaire bosses exempts them from worrying about the disasters in their midst.
Pope Francis recently lambasted a number of European countries and leaders for their apparent efforts to secure their national borders against massive illegal immigration from North Africa and the Middle East. Francis plugged European ecumenicalism and seemed to dismiss the populist and nationalist pushback of millions of Europeans, who see the EU as both anti-democratic and a peril to their own traditions and freedoms as citizens.
However, before Francis chastised the continent for its moral failings, he might have explained to Italians or Greeks worried over their open borders why the Vatican enjoys massive walls to keep the uninvited out and yet why other European countries should not emulate the nation-state Vatican’s successful preemptive fortifications.
Better yet, the pope might have taken a more forceful stance against the decades-long and ongoing legal dilemmas of hundreds of global Catholic Clergy, who have proven to be pedophiles and yet were not turned over to law enforcement. The cosmic idea of a United Europe is easy to preach about, but reining in what is likely an epidemic of child-molesting clergy is messy. Francis’s frequent abstract moralizing is quite at odds with either his inability or unwillingness to reform pathways to the priesthood, some of whose members have ruined thousands of lives.
What was lacking in the recent Democratic debates were concrete answers to real problems—as opposed to candidates’ nonstop cosmic virtue signaling. It is easy to blast “white supremacy” and “the gun culture” from a rostrum. But no one on stage seemed to care about the great challenge of our age, the inner-city carnage that takes thousands of young African-American lives each year. The inner-city murdering is tragically almost exclusively a black-on-black phenomenon (even rare interracial homicides are disproportionally committed by African-Americans) that occurs in progressive-run cities with strict gun control laws.
When leaders virtue signal about global or cosmic sin, it is often proof they have no willingness or power to address any concrete crisis. The public tires of such empty platitudes because they also see the culpable trying to divert attention from their own earthly failure by loudly appealing to a higher moral universe.
More mundanely, there is the role of hypocrisy: elites themselves never suffer the consequences of their own ethical inaction while the public never sees any benefit from their moral rhetoric. Illegal immigration is not a personal issue for Pope Francis, and most Europeans have more concrete things to worry about than lectures on populism and nationalism.
In the same fashion, New Yorkers in 2011 were worried more about the piles of snow on the sidewalks than they felt threatened by 32-ounce Cokes—while realizing that no snow blocked either the Bloomberg official or private residence.
Note a recent inexplicable Zogby poll that indicated 51 percent of blacks and Hispanics might support Donald Trump. How would such a supposedly counterintuitive result even be possible?
I have a suggestion: minority communities live first-hand with the violence and dangers of the gang gun culture. More policing and incarceration of guilty felons improve their lives. Secure borders mean fewer drug dealers and cartel smugglers in local communities, fewer schools swamped with non-English speakers, and social services not overwhelmed with impoverished non-Americans.
These can all be real concerns for beleaguered minorities. Yet they are virtue-signaled away by progressive elites whose own power and money allow them to navigate around the consequences of their own liberal fantasies that fall on distant others.
Add in a booming economy, rising incomes, and low unemployment for minorities, and the world of shrill yelling on the debate stage about “white privilege” seems some sort of an irrelevant fixation of the elite and privileged, akin to showing off a Gucci bag or Porsche Cayenne—but otherwise nothing to do with dangerous streets, wrecked schools, whizzing bullets, and social services that are becoming inoperative.
The next time a legislator, mayor, or governor rails about plastic straws or the Paris Climate Accord, be assured that his state’s roads are clogged, his public schools failing—and he is clueless or indifferent about it.
How Seattle provides a practical example of minimum wages leading to losses in income and employment
The Seattle Minimum Wage Study, a study supported and funded in part by the Seattle city government, is out with a new NBER paperevaluating Seattle’s minimum wage increase to $13 an hour and it finds significant disemployment effects that on net reduce the incomes of minimum wage workers. I farm this one out to Jonathan Meer on FB.
This is the official study that was commissioned several years ago by the city of Seattle to study the impacts of raising the minimum wage, in a move that I applauded at the time as an honest and transparent attempt towards self-examination of a bold policy. It is the first study of a very high city-level minimum wage, with administrative data that has much more detail than is usually available. The first wave (examining the increase to $11/hr) last year was a mixed bag, with fairly imprecise estimates.
These findings, examining another year of data and including the increase to $13/hr, are unequivocal: the policy is an unmitigated disaster. The main findings:
– The numbers of hours worked by low-wage workers fell by *3.5 million hours per quarter*. This was reflected both in thousands of job losses and reductions in hours worked by those who retained their jobs.
– The losses were so dramatic that this increase “reduced income paid to low-wage employees of single-location Seattle businesses by roughly $120 million on an annual basis.” On average, low-wage workers *lost* $125 per month. The minimum wage has always been a lousy income transfer program, but at this level you’d come out ahead just setting a hundred million dollars a year on fire. And that’s before we get into who kept vs lost their jobs.
– Estimates of the response of labor demand are substantially higher than much of the previous research, which may have been expected given how much higher (and how localized) this minimum wage is relative to previously-studied ones.
– The impacts took some time to be reflected in the level of employment, as predicted by Meer and West (2016).
– The authors are able to replicate the results of other papers that find no impact on the restaurant industry with their own data by imposing the same limitations that other researchers have faced. This shows that those papers’ findings were likely driven by their data limitations. This is an important thing to remember as you see knee-jerk responses coming from the usual corners.
– You may also hear that the construction of the comparison group was flawed somehow, and that’s driving the results. I believe that the research team did as good of a job as possible, trying several approaches and presenting all of their findings extensively. There is no cherry-picking here. But more importantly, without getting too deep into the econometric weeds, my sense is that, given the evolution of the Seattle economy over the past two years, these results – if anything – *understate* the extent of the job losses.
This paper not only makes numerous valuable contributions to the economics literature, but should give serious pause to minimum wage advocates. Of course, that’s not what’s happening, to the extent that the mayor of Seattle commissioned *another* study, by an advocacy group at Berkeley whose previous work on the minimum wage is so consistently one-sided that you can set your watch by it, that unsurprisingly finds no effect. They deliberately timed its release for several days before this paper came out, and I find that whole affair abhorrent. Seattle politicians are so unwilling to accept reality that they’ll undermine their own researchers and waste taxpayer dollars on what is barely a cut above propaganda.
I don’t envy the backlash this team is going to face for daring to present results that will be seen as heresy. I know that so many people just desperately want to believe that the minimum wage is a free lunch. It’s not. These job losses will only get worse as the minimum wage climbs higher, and this team is working on linking to demographic data to examine who the losers from this policy are. I fully expect that these losses are borne most heavily by low-income and minority households.
There’s her backtracking on busing and her waffling on Medicare for All, not to mention her prosecutorial scandals.
A new national CNN poll of the 2020 Democratic primary has some pretty brutal numbers for Kamala Harris. When CNN last polled the presidential race shortly after the first Democratic debate in June, Harris was on Joe Biden’s heels, trailing just 17 percent to 22 percent. But according to the latest survey by CNN, conducted August 15 to 18, Biden has rebounded to 29 percent, while Harris has dropped all the way down to 5 percent, tied for fourth place with South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.
What went wrong for Harris?
The second Democratic debate was a clear defeat for the California senator, but it’s now also obvious that her June debate performance was a Pyrrhic victory.
At the first debate, Harris staked everything on attacking Joe Biden’s record on busing. It worked for her that night: Biden’s immediate response was hapless, Harris was widely declared the winner, and she got a significant bump in the polls.
But Harris’s line of attack raised an obvious and problematic question for her: Would she support reinstating the policies that Biden opposed?
Logically, the answer would appear to need to be “yes.”
“I support busing. Listen, the schools of America are as segregated, if not more segregated, today than when I was in elementary school,” Harris said on June 30. “Where states fail to do their duty to ensure equality of all people and in particular where states create or pass legislation that created inequality, there’s no question that the federal government has a role and a responsibility to step up.”
But there was a problem for Harris: Busing policies were abandoned because they were wildly unpopular, and there’s no reason to think they’ve magically become popular. So Harris equivocated and then backtracked.
That attacking Biden on busing would paint the attacker into a corner was predictable. It was in fact predicted. See, for example, the end of this article from March in National Review.
Going on the offensive and then retreating on busing made Harris seem inauthentic. And the candidate had been dogged by questions of inauthenticity since the start of her campaign because of her waffling on the issue of Medicare for All, the policy at the center of the 2020 Democratic primary.
First Harris indicated at a CNN town hall that she supported abolishing private insurance, as Medicare for All proposes. Then Harris said she didn’t support abolishing private insurance: She tried to hide behind the fig leaf that Medicare for All allows “supplemental insurance,” while obscuring the fact that “supplemental coverage” would be legal for only a very small number of treatments not covered by Medicare for All, such as cosmetic surgery. And cosmetic-surgery insurance doesn’t even exist.
Harris thought she’d finally figured a way out of the Medicare for All mess in July: She introduced her own plan shortly before the Democratic debates. It tried to split the difference: She promised to transition to a single-payer plan in 10 years (as opposed to Sanders’s four-year deadline). This was meant to reassure progressives that they’ll get there eventually while also reassuring moderates that there will be at least two more presidential elections before the country goes through with anything crazy.
Harris’s provision of Medicare Advantage–type plans was also supposed to reassure moderates, but the second debate demonstrated that she still wasn’t ready to respond to the fact that her plan would eventually abolish existing private health plans for everyone, and she has no serious plan for how to pay for single-payer.
Then there were Joe Biden’s and Representative Tulsi Gabbard’s devastating attacks on Harris’s record as a prosecutor at the second Democratic debate. “Biden alluded to a crime lab scandal that involved her office and resulted in more than 1,000 drug cases being dismissed. Gabbard claimed Harris ‘blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until she was forced to do so.’ Both of these statements are accurate,” the Sacramento Bee reported after the debate.
As Harris’s backtracking on busing made clear, no one is seriously considering resurrecting the deeply unpopular policies of the 1970s. But criminal justice is very much a live issue in Democratic politics, and that’s why the attack on Harris’s record as a prosecutor has had such a greater impact than the attack on Biden’s record on busing. Biden continues to do very well among African-American voters, while Harris continues to struggle.
So Harris’s problems go deeper than the fact that she had one good debate followed by one bad debate on matters of style. Both debates revealed she has serious weaknesses on matters of substance. And the hits keep coming on Medicare for All: On Monday, she was savaged by Bernie Sanders after it was reported that Harris told wealthy donors in the Hamptons that she was not “comfortable” with Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All bill, which she co-sponsored and supported until a few weeks ago. There are still five months left until the Iowa caucuses, but the past two months have demonstrated that Harris has deep problems that she can’t paper over with some well-rehearsed, well-delivered lines in subsequent debates.
President Donald Trump planned on seeking a second term based largely on the strength of the economy. Unemployment is down to a 50-year low. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the creation of nearly 6 million new jobs since he came into office. Wages and profits and revenues to the federal Treasury are up. The stock market is generally surging, and economic growth is once again the order of the day.
It’s an enviable economic record, especially when compared with his two most recent predecessors. Things are going so well, some of the president’s bitterest foes predict it’s strong enough to carry him across the 2020 finish line first.
The naysayers—those who’ve never liked Trump—point to a few statistics to suggest the fundamentals of the economy are softer than they appear. The inverted yield curve that appeared this week, now that the yield on 10-year U.S. government bonds is lower than that for two-year notes, has some people saying a recession sometime in the next two years is possible.
The U.S. economy is the world’s strongest right now but, says the president, would be even stronger had the Federal Reserve not raised interest rates too high too fast. Others say if things head south, it will be because of the ongoing trade war with China.
“I think we’re going to have a very long period of wealth and success,” Trump told reporters on Thursday. “Other countries are doing very poorly, as you know. China is doing very, very poorly. The tariffs have really bitten into China. They haven’t bitten into us at all.”
In response to the U.S. imposition of tariffs on its exports, Beijing weakened the yuan, effectively blunting their effect. Trump countered by delaying until December the next round of tariffs, mostly on consumer goods, scheduled to take effect on September 1 until mid-December.
That’s right in the middle of U.S. retailers’ most profitable period and could cause trouble at home. These and other moves have caused dramatic fluctuations in the stock market. The U.S. Trade Representative says everything’s just “next steps” in the process of getting China to do a deal.
Whether that’s true is a subject for debate. Capital Alpha Partners’ James Lucier counseled investors to view the delay of the tariff imposition as being as advertised and not as “backtracking in policy or a ‘blink’ by the U.S.” and “a case of the White House and President Trump, in particular, getting ahead of his own administrative machinery.”
If the economics are sound, the politics are shaky. A second Trump term depends on Midwestern farmers and industrial workers and others whom the tariffs potentially affect adversely in critical states like Florida, Michigan, and Ohio.
These are places where the economy is always issue No. 1, where the three things voters care about most are jobs, jobs and more jobs. And, as of now, the tariffs are not working to the president’s advantage. As much as the China-bashing rhetoric may excite his base, it’s not helping them make ends meet.
Florida’s exports to China total about $1.6 billion annually. That includes $533 million in gold because Miami is now the leading hub for refiners and processors who then sell to China for use in manufacturing. Civil aircraft parts, the state’s second-biggest export, brings in $126 million now and more in the future as China becomes, over the next 20 years, the world’s largest single market for civilian aircraft sales.
The Miami Customs District alone did $7 billion worth of business with China in 2017. In South Florida, manufacturers are suffering because of the steel and aluminum tariffs.
Michigan has a $3.6 billion export relationship with China, with $1.2 billion comprising car parts. The Wolverine State contains 75 percent of North America’s auto R&D, and China is, by volume, the world’s largest automaker. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says higher-priced cars resulting from the tariffs could potentially lead to the loss of 700,000 American jobs.
It’s not just cars. Over half of all U.S. soybeans are exported, with 60 percent of them going to China and $700 million coming from Michigan. “The noose is getting tighter,” Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, told the Detroit Free Press in May. “We have lost market opportunities. We’re not shipping soybeans around the world like we normally would. We’re not shipping them to China. China was our biggest soybean consumer, and they’re not moving.”
Ohio’s exports to China total $3.9 billion, with more than $691 million worth of soybeans—the state’s top agricultural export—shipped to China in 2017. “This will be tough to take. China takes one out of every three rows [of soybeans],” Bret Davis, a Delaware County farmer and governing board member of the American Soybean Association of China, told The Columbus Dispatch about proposed tariffs in 2018. An Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership survey of 457 Ohio manufacturers conducted in January found that 14 companies were hurt by tariffs for each it helped.
The Trump tariffs have already impacted negatively states that were key to him winning the presidency in 2016 and will be just as important in 2020. If the president wants to continue his record of economic success, he should focus on ending the trade war before Florida, Michigan and Ohio swing in the other direction.
The Great Depression of the 1930s was by far the greatest economic calamity in U.S. history. In 1931, the year before Franklin Roosevelt was elected president, unemployment in the United States had soared to an unprecedented 16.3 percent. In human terms that meant that over eight million Americans who wanted jobs could not find them. In 1939, after almost two full terms of Roosevelt and his New Deal, unemployment had not dropped, but had risen to 17.2 percent. Almost nine and one-half million Americans were unemployed.
On May 6, 1939, Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s treasury secretary, confirmed the total failure of the New Deal to stop the Great Depression: “We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. . . . I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot!” (For more information, see “What Caused the Great Depression?“)
In FDR’s Folly, Jim Powell ably and clearly explains why New Deal spending failed to lift the American economy out of its morass. In a nutshell, Powell argues that the spending was doomed from the start to fail. Tax rates were hiked, which scooped capital out of investment and dumped it into dozens of hastily conceived government programs. Those programs quickly became politicized and produced unintended consequences, which plunged the American economy deeper into depression.
More specifically, Powell observes, the National Recovery Administration, which was Roosevelt’s centerpiece, fixed prices, stifled competition, and sometimes made American exports uncompetitive. Also, his banking reforms made many banks more vulnerable to failure by forbidding them to expand and diversify their portfolios. Social Security taxes and minimum-wage laws often triggered unemployment; in fact, they pushed many cash-strapped businesses into bankruptcy or near bankruptcy. The Agricultural Adjustment Act, which paid farmers not to produce, raised food prices and kicked thousands of tenant farmers off the land and into unemployment lines in the cities. In some of those cities, the unemployed received almost no federal aid, but in other cities — those with influential Democratic bosses — tax dollars flowed in like water.
Powell notes that the process of capturing tax dollars from some groups and doling them out to others quickly politicized federal aid. He quotes one analyst who discovered that “WPA employment reached peaks in the fall of election years. In states like Florida and Kentucky — where the New Deal’s big fight was in the primary elections — the rise of WPA employment was hurried along in order to synchronize with the primaries.” The Democratic Party’s ability to win elections became strongly connected with Roosevelt’s talent for turning on the spigot of federal dollars at the right time (before elections) and in the right places (key states and congressional districts).
Powell’s book is well researched and well organized. His chapter titles are a delight. He synthesizes a mass of secondary sources (and some primary sources) in making a strong and persuasive case that the New Deal was a failure and that the Roosevelt presidency, at least in its first two terms — was a disaster. Powell covers all the major New Deal programs; he draws on the research of historians both “liberal” and conservative; and he is nuanced — this is no hatchet job — in that he concedes that some of Roosevelt’s policies, such as tariff revision, were more economically sound than, say, his industrial and agricultural policies.
FDR’s Folly takes its place on the shelf alongside Gary Dean Best’s Pride, Prejudice, and Politics and his more recent Retreat from Liberalism as liberating revisionist works that challenge the long-standing adulation of Roosevelt given by almost all historians. In the most recent Schlesinger Presidential Poll (1997), the historians and “experts” chosen by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., collectively ranked Roosevelt as the greatest president in American history, even though every other American president had lower unemployment rates than Roosevelt did for his first eight years in the White House. As late as 1999, David Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize for a book (Freedom from Fear) that largely praised the New Deal as a legislative program and Roosevelt as its author.
With the dawning of the 21st century, we may be witnessing the final departure of Roosevelt’s loyal academic propagandists and those targeted recipients of his federal largess. In such a climate, Jim Powell has given us, with FDR’s Folly, a refreshing, must-read account of the New Deal.
American’s trust in our politicians’ ability to handle domestic and international problems is at its lowest point in more than two decades. A Gallup poll in January showed 35 percent of Americans do not trust the U.S. government to handle domestic problems, and only 41 trust it to handle international problems.
If Americans’ faith could be restored in our politicians’ ability to make prudent decisions, we would no doubt see an increase in trust. To be this trusted politician, the Greek philosopher Aristotle said requires practical wisdom, also called prudence. Such a man or woman must be able to choose the clever choice of action and have good intentions.
There are two components to our choices. One is our moral goal, the other is our practical goal. What moral thing do we want? Good choices not only involve good moral intentions, but they also involve practical decisions that pick through the circumstances to determine the correct action.
Dr. Larry P. Arnn said in his free online lecture at Hillsdale College that prudence “is the facility to calculate circumstances and find and issue true command.” It is practical wisdom about things that are always changing.
“Statesmanship is the scene where practical judgment is demanded intensely all the time,” Arnn said. Things are constantly changing, demanding good judgement of situations.
Practical wisdom is different than knowledge, however. Aristotle defines knowledge as “knowing a thing that is fixed and can be relied on,” Arnn said. Practical wisdom and judgement, on the other hand, are adaptable, as they are about changeable things.
Practical judgement is “a truth-disclosing active condition involving reason that governs action, concerned with what is good and bad for a human being,” Aristotle wrote in “Nicomachean Ethics.” It finds the truth about what to do and then does it. It is key that the judgement fit the circumstance.
We learned in Book One of “Ethics” that something is good only if it fulfills its purpose. A cup is only good if it has a bottom; otherwise it is not a cup. Likewise, a judgement is only good if it fits the circumstance that it is in. It requires wisdom because accurately placing judgement on ever-changing circumstances is difficult.
This is how we can determine a good politician in these always changing circumstances. Those who can calculate means and ends, and can understand evolving circumstances, tend to serve their nations well.
There are three distinctions to practical judgement. Astuteness is understanding the moving parts of a situation but does not issue action. Cleverness does issue action, as it knows how to insert oneself to get what one wants. Prudence, or good judgement, pursues action with good intent.
Arnn pointed to Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill as examples of cleverness and prudence. Both were lethal individuals who knew how to get their way, yet used their discernment and action for opposite ends. Hitler used his charisma and cleverness for evil ends, while Churchill used his for good.
Alas, astuteness does not guarantee possession of all virtues. Hitler can be considered brave, but not just. To be clever but not prudent is incredibly dangerous. While not many are as dangerous as someone like Hitler, politicians without prudence may only pursue their own gain.
Perhaps our politicians can learn something from Aristotle, and learn to pursue a good beyond themselves and for the country.
If the National Popular Vote drive kills the Electoral College, rural and small town Americans who supply our food and energy will lose their voice.
By USA Today•
Should rural and small-town Americans be reduced to serfdom? The American Founders didn’t think so. This is one reason why they created checks and balances, including the Electoral College. Today that system is threatened by a proposal called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, or NPV.
Rural America produces almost all our country’s food, as well as raw materials like metals, cotton and timber. Energy, fossil fuels but also alternatives like wind and solar come mostly from rural areas. In other words, the material inputs of modern life flow out of rural communities and into cities.
This is fine, so long as the exchange is voluntary — rural people choose to sell their goods and services, receive a fair price, and have their freedom protected under law. But history shows that city dwellers have a nasty habit of taking advantage of their country cousins. Greeks enslaved whole masses of rural people, known as helots. Medieval Europe had feudalism. The Russians had their serfs.
Credit the American Founders with setting up a system of limited government with lots of checks and balances. The U.S. Senate makes sure all states are represented equally, even low-population rural states like Wyoming and Vermont. Limits on federal power, along with the Bill of Rights, are supposed to protect Americans from overreaching federal regulations. And the Electoral College makes it impossible for one population-dense region of the country to control the presidency.
This is why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016. Instead of winning over small-town Americans, she amassed a popular vote lead based on California and a few big cities. She won those places with huge margins but lost just about everywhere else. And the system worked. The Electoral College requires more than just the most raw votes to win — it requires geographic balance. This helps to protect rural and small-town Americans.
Now a California millionaire named John Koza is trying to undo this system. He is leading and funding the National Popular Vote campaign. Their plan is to get state governments to ignore how their own citizens vote in presidential elections and instead get them to cast their electoral votes based on the national popular vote. If it works, this will be like getting rid of the Electoral College but without actually amending the Constitution.
California has already passed NPV, along with 13 other states plus Washington, D.C. Nevada, with six electoral votes, could be next. NPV only takes effect if it is joined by enough states that they control 270 electoral votes, which would then control the outcome of all future presidential elections. If that happens (NPV needs 81 more electoral votes), and if the courts do not strike it down, big cities will gain more political power at the expense of everyone else.
The idea that every vote should count equally is attractive. But a quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin famously reminds us that democracy can be “two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for lunch.” (City dwellers who think that meat comes from the grocery store might not understand why this is such a big problem for the lamb.) And when you think about it, every check on government power, from the Electoral College to the Bill of Rights, is a restraint on the majority.
The Electoral College makes it even harder to win the presidency. It requires geographic balance and helps protect Americans who might otherwise have their voices ignored. All Americans should value constitutional protections, like the Electoral College, that remind us that the real purpose of government is to protect our individual rights.
Last week, at the invitation of Sen. Ted Cruz, I spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee about Google’s having placed more than 60 Prager University videos on its restricted list. Any family that filters out pornography and violence cannot see those particular videos on YouTube (which is owned by Google); nor can any school or library.
This statement is as much about what I and PragerU stand for as it is about Google. Those interested in viewing the presentation can do so here:
It is an honor to be invited to speak in the United States Senate. But I wish I were not so honored. Because the subject of this hearing — Google and YouTube’s (and for that matter, Twitter and Facebook’s) suppression of internet content on ideological grounds — threatens the future of America more than any external enemy.
In fact, never in American history has there been as strong a threat to freedom of speech as there is today.
Before addressing this, however, I think it important that you know a bit about me and the organization I co-founded, Prager University — PragerU, as it often referred to.
I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My late father, Max Prager, was a CPA and an Orthodox Jew who volunteered to serve in the U.S. Navy at the start of World War II. My father’s senior class thesis at the City College of New York was on anti-Semitism in America. Yet, despite his keen awareness of the subject, he believed that Jews living in America were the luckiest Jews to have ever lived.
He was right. Having taught Jewish history at Brooklyn College, written a book on antisemitism and fought Jew-hatred my whole life, I thank God for living in America.
It breaks my heart that a vast number of young Americans have not only not been taught how lucky they are to be Americans but have been taught either how unlucky they are or how ashamed they should be.
It breaks my heart for them because contempt for one’s country leaves a terrible hole in one’s soul and because ungrateful people always become unhappy and angry people.
And it breaks my heart for America because no good country can survive when its people have contempt for it.
I have been communicating this appreciation of America for 35 years as a radio talk show host, the last 20 in national syndication with the Salem Radio Network — an organization that is a blessing in American life. One reason I started PragerU was to communicate America’s moral purpose and moral achievements, both to young Americans and to young people around the world. With a billion views a year, and with more than half of the viewers under age 35, PragerU has achieved some success.
My philosophy of life is easily summarized: God wants us to be good. Period. God without goodness is fanaticism and goodness without God will not long endure. Everything I and PragerU do emanates from belief in the importance of being a good person. That some label us extreme or “haters” only reflects on the character and the broken moral compass of those making such accusations. They are the haters and extremists.
PragerU releases a five-minute video every week. Our presenters include three former prime ministers, four Pulitzer Prize winners, liberals, conservatives, gays, blacks, Latinos, atheists, believers, Jews, Christians, Muslims and professors and scientists from MIT, Harvard, Stanford and a dozen other universities.
Do you think the secretary-general of NATO; or the former prime ministers of Norway, Canada or Spain; or the late Charles Krauthammer; or Philip Hamburger, distinguished professor of law at Columbia Law School, would make a video for an extreme or hate-filled site? The idea is not only preposterous; it is a smear.
Yet, Google, which owns YouTube, has restricted access to 56 of our 320 five-minute videos and to other videos we produce. “Restricted” means families that have a filter to avoid pornography and violence cannot see that video. It also means that no school or library can show that video.
Google has even restricted access to a video on the Ten Commandments … Yes, the Ten Commandments!
We have repeatedly asked Google why our videos are restricted. No explanation is ever given.
But of course, we know why: because they come from a conservative perspective.
Liberals and conservatives differ on many issues. But they have always agreed that free speech must be preserved. While the left has never supported free speech, liberals always have. I therefore appeal to liberals to join us in fighting on behalf of America’s crowning glory — free speech. Otherwise, I promise you, one day you will say, “First they came after conservatives, and I said nothing. And then they came after me. And there was no one left to speak up for me.”
Perhaps it’s time for Bernie Sanders to put his money where his mouth is and pay his staffers a “living wage”—and the overtime they should be entitled to.
For all is rhetoric, it may turn out that socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders is just another hypocritical politician who takes money from big corporations, invests in Wall Street and, reportedly, pays his workers “poverty wages” (and NO overtime)—despite the fact that they’re unionized.
Back in March, to show his “pro-union” bonafides, Bernie Sanders made headlines when he encouraged his staffers to unionize with the United Food & Commercial Workers, turning his campaign into the first-ever unionized presidential campaign.
However, as often happens when activists who campaign to dictate standards upon others actually have to live under those standards, things do not always go as planned.
On Thursday, the same day that the House of Representatives passed a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour—which Sanders has long advocated for—the Washington Post ran an article that shed some light on a wage dispute that is currently going on within his campaign.
Apparently, Sanders’ campaign workers are lashing out at campaign management regarding the low wages that they are receiving.
“I am struggling financially to do my job, and in my state, we’ve already had 4 people quit in the past 4 weeks because of financial struggles,” one field organizer reportedly wrote on a message board to Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir.
Another employee wrote his co-workers “shouldn’t have to get payday loans to sustain themselves.”
Then, there was this interesting statement:
The draft letter estimated that field organizers were working 60 hours per week at minimum, dropping their average hourly pay to less than $13. [Emphasis added.]
As field organizers are paid an annual salary of $36,000 under their new union contract, things would be fine—if they are only working 40 hours per week.
However, it appears they are not.
If they are truly working 60 hours per week (or 3,000 hours per year), on a salary of $36,000, they are only making $12 per hour, instead of the $17.30 they should be making on a standard 40-hour week, 2,080-hours per work year.
Obviously, $12 per hour is far less than the $15 Bernie Sanders claims to support.
However, it’s worse than that.
Based on the article, it also appears that Sanders is not paying overtime.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, employees who are not exempted from the law are entitled to time and one half pay for every hour worked after 40 hours in a given workweek.[Some states (and, more importantly, some union contracts) actually mandate time and one half after eight hours.]
If the Sanders campaign workers are not exempt from the FLSA and are entitled to overtime, they should be making nearly $26 per hour for every hour worked over 40.
Following the 2016 election, the DNC was sued by former field organizers who alleged that the “the state party defendants conspired with one another and with Defendant DNC to unlawfully designate Plaintiffs, and those similarly situated, as exempt employees under the FLSA and applicable state wage statutes, thereby denying Plaintiffs full and appropriate compensation.”
Unfortunately for the DNC’s field organizers, the suit was dismissed in 2018.
In dismissing the overtime suit, according to this summary, “the Court relied on an often-overlooked defense to the Fair Labor Standard Act (“FLSA”) – namely, that the FLSA only covers employees engaged in interstate commerce as opposed to employees engaged in purely local activities. [Emphasis added.]”
That case involved multiple state parties (as well as the DNC)–and not a singular candidate.
In the case of Bernie Sanders, however, a court could determine his campaign to be a singular employer…and, if so, it is definitelyoperating across state lines (interstate commerce).
It is also possible that the new union contract may aid a court in establishing that employees are not exempted from the FLSA. However, neither the campaign, nor the UFCW has released the contract to the public.
Perhaps it’s time for Bernie Sanders to, quite literally, put his money where his mouth is.
By Fox News•
Like most people who follow the news, I’ve seen the difficult stories of families crossing the southern border into the U.S. and how they are treated, no matter if they crossed legally seeking asylum or illegally. My heart breaks seeing little children with no shoes and threadbare clothes clinging to their parents.
What could I do to help? Turns out, quite a lot. Here’s what I experienced on Saturday in Texas at a humanitarian respite center run by Catholic Charities. But first, a little background…
I’m an outspoken pro-life woman. A movie, “Unplanned,” was made about my conversion from Planned Parenthood clinic director to pro-life advocate. While being pro-life is certainly about helping women in crisis pregnancies and caring for their needs, it’s also about helping the most vulnerable, no matter where they are.
Volunteers unloading the truck of supplies at respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
I have eight children, I run a non-profit ministry, and I travel around the world as a speaker — I’m a good multi-tasker. I can help people in my community, in my country and even in other parts of the world.
My friend, Destiny Herdon-De La Rosa, who runs New Wave Feminists, is also a pretty good multi-tasker and came up with the idea to help these immigrants we were seeing in the news. I jumped right in because that’s what a pro-life woman should do.
The Bottles2TheBorder campaign was born from pro-life women who wanted to do more to help others. And we weren’t alone. We created a registry of items needed at the respite center run by Catholic Charities in McAllen, Texas.
Warehouse of supplies in respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
That registry sold out in a matter of days so we created another one, which we had to close because we had too many items to take down there and needed time to sort it all before bringing it to the border.
A man from a local church in Houston heard about our efforts and donated an 18-wheeler to haul the items to McAllen. Over $120,000 worth of items were donated, which was used to purchase water, pull-ups, powdered milk, and a host of other supplies to bring with us.
When we got to the respite center on Saturday there was a press conference with several Democratic members of Congress at the same location.
Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, New Wave Feminists, unloads water at respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
National media were covering their field trip, which reached its lowest point when aides to the Congressmen and women gave them cheap toys, which they, in turn, gave to the little kids at the respite center in front of all the cameras for the ideal photo op.
They were dressed in starched suits and pressed dresses, pants, high heels, and polished shoes.
I headed into the center in shorts and a T-shirt I had snagged from Groupon, minutes after pumping milk for my six-week-old baby, and walked up to the group after their photo-op because I had something to say.
Abby Johnson (in shorts and black top) speaking with Democratic members of Congress at the respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
I introduced myself and said we had an 18-wheeler arriving at the respite center in the next 20 minutes full of supplies for these poor people, who had nothing and needed help unloading it. I told them their cheap toys and photo op wasn’t helping these people.
Abby Johnson and others getting ready to unload supplies at the respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
If they truly wanted to help, they could lend a hand in unloading the semi-truck in the 102-degree heat with all of us women who came from all over Texas to help.
They looked stunned that someone had the gall to ask them to actually do something, as in not just for the cameras. They told me they couldn’t help because they only had 10 more minutes, which they used to move to the other side of the room and continue their press conference — for another 30 minutes. They told me they “would help,” but they had another press opportunity to get to.
Volunteers line up to get supplies from the truck into the respite center warehouse in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
President Ronald Reagan once said that the most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” He should have added, “…to help and to have a photo op.” This trip to the border wasn’t about politics; it was about people. But seeing those Congressional representatives blatantly use those immigrants for their own political purposes was sickening, especially since there was a legitimate opportunity to do something to actually help them right at the center.
We didn’t give up though. Rep. Vincente Gonzalez, D-Texas, who donated $1,000 to the center, according to the monitor, walked by our 18-wheeler as we were just getting ready to start unloading and we asked him again to help.
Donated diapers for respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
With a dismissive wave of his hand, he smugly said “I’ll send someone” and then walked to his air-conditioned car and left. No one from his office came to help. Are you surprised?
In the end, we had about two dozen women and a handful of awesome men unload the truck. We unloaded it in the smelly back alley next to half a dozen dumpsters to get everything into the back door of the center, up the dilapidated conveyor belt and into the warehouse.
Volunteers unloading supplies into respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
It took us over three hours in 102-degree heat to unload 119,608 diapers, 13,230 bottles of water, 6,660 pull-ups, 30,000 pairs of shoelaces, 16,172 ounces of formula, 420 canisters of Nido powdered milk, 8,100 maxi pads, 3,100 drawstring backpacks, and thousands of deodorant, baby wipes, bottles, nursing supplies, Lysol, Germ-X, hair ties, baby blankets, Dramamine, Tylenol, Advil, DayQuil, and chapstick.
Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, New Wave Feminists, and Abby Johnson taking a break from unloading supplies at respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
As we walked through the respite center, we saw moms and dads cradling infants and trying to stem toddler tantrums.
We saw wide-eyed children who were perhaps seeing freedom for the first time.
We saw smiling volunteers handing out whatever the families needed.
We were sore and tired and thirsty and probably smelled horrible. But we did something the government couldn’t do — we used whatever resources we had to make something happen for the good of vulnerable human beings. And the offer still stands for elected officials to help us out next time.