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Reagan Legacy

Democracy Versus the Pandemic

The Coronavirus Is Emboldening Autocrats the World Over

By Larry DiamondForeign Affairs

A protest against a bill to give Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte additional powers, Quezon City, the Philippines, June 2020
Eloisa Lopez / Reuters

In late March, Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte rammed a bill through his country’s parliament that granted him vastly expanded emergency powers, ostensibly to fight the novel coronavirus. The bill authorized Duterte to reallocate the national budget as he saw fit and to personally direct hospitals. “Do not challenge the government,” he bellowed in a menacing televised address. “You will lose.” Six days later, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban pushed even more expansive emergency legislation through his rubber-stamp parliament, enabling him to suspend existing laws, decree new ones, and arrest individuals deemed to be peddling “falsehoods” about the pandemic or “obstructing” the government’s efforts to fight it.

Duterte’s and Orban’s COVID-19 power grabs were especially brazen, but they were far from the only attempts by authoritarian leaders or parties to use the current health crisis as an excuse to curtail civil liberties or undermine the rule of law. Authoritarian regimes in Bangladesh, Belarus, Cambodia, China, Egypt, El Salvador, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Venezuela, and Vietnam have all detained critics, health workers, journalists, and opposition members during the pandemic. Democracies that have lately come under assault, meanwhile, such as Brazil, India, and Poland, have seen populist leaders or ruling parties seize on the crisis to remove checks on their power or weaken the opposition.

It will be some time, probably years, before the pandemic’s full impact on democracy around the world can be judged. The extent of the damage will depend on how long the health crisis lasts and how badly it harms economies and societies. It will also depend on how democracies fare compared with autocracies in containing the health and economic effects of the virus, on who wins the race to a vaccine, and more broadly, on who—China, the United States, or democratic countries collectively—is seen as the most generous and effective provider of global public goods to fight the pandemic. How carefully democracies monitor and circumscribe the enormous increases in governmental power that come with national emergencies will also factor into the equation, as will the ability of established democracies to summon the collective resolve to defend freedom globally in a time of rising danger.  

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So far, there is little reason to be reassured about the global outlook for democracy and plenty of reason to worry. The pandemic hit during the hardest period for democracy since the end of the Cold War, and authoritarian and would-be authoritarian regimes wasted no time in exploiting it to enlarge and harden their power. More danger could lie on the horizon as democratic governments weigh the dilemmas of using new surveillance technologies to fight the virus and holding regular elections in the midst of a pandemic. The downward democratic spiral can still be reversed, but it will require mobilized civil societies, effective democratic management of the health crisis, and a renewal of American leadership on the global stage.

A DEMOCRATIC RECESSION

Democracy was faltering globally even before the pandemic. For each of the past 14 years, according to Freedom House, more countries experienced an erosion of political rights and civil liberties than strengthened political rights and civil liberties, reversing the pattern of the preceding 15 post-Cold War years. While blunt military and executive coups have become rarer, more and more elected leaders have gradually eviscerated democracies from within. Politicians who initially came to power via democratic elections—such as Orban in Hungary, Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, and Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh—have packed courts; co-opted other independent institutions; squeezed the press, political opposition, and civil society; and sought to subvert or prevent the elections that might otherwise remove them. As a result, the rate of democratic breakdown worldwide has risen sharply in the last decade to nearly twice that of the preceding two decades. At the same time, fewer countries have transitioned to democracy. 

Democracy was faltering globally even before the pandemic.

The democratic downturn has been particularly steep in the last five years (2015 through 2019), the first five-year period since 1975 in which more countries transitioned to autocracy than to democracy—twice as many, in fact. In January 2020, the proportion of countries with populations over one million that qualified as democracies fell below 50 percent for the first time since the end of the Cold War. Just as worrying has been the significant decay of democratic institutions and norms in democracies that were thought to be consolidated, such as India, and also liberal, such as Israel and Poland; the more subtle and little-noticed degradation of democracy in South Korea; the steady decline in the quality of democracy in the United States; and the rise of xenophobic populism and political polarization in Europe’s liberal democracies. According to Freedom House, democracy has declined in 25 of the 41 established democracies since 2006.

In short, COVID-19 attacked a world in which democracy was already under threat. The resulting public health crises enabled some leaders (such as Erdogan and Orban) to consolidate authoritarian powers they had already been accumulating and others (such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in India) to intensify their illiberal campaigns against critics, independent news media, and opposition parties. In other words, the pandemic has mostly reinforced existing negative democratic trends, supplying illiberal governments with an incentive and an excuse for repressive tactics. Human rights defenders have paid the price in arrests, killings, and extended jail terms. The virus has cut a particularly deadly swath through prisons, furnishing cynical and murderous autocrats with a perfect weapon to use against indefatigable activists who try to hold them to account.

SURVEILLANCE CREEP, ELECTORAL LAG

Still more damage may lie in store for democracy before the pandemic is done. In the name of managing the disease, governments are already implementing surveillance and tracking systems that could result in permanent losses of privacy. The apps generally work by gaining access to a phone’s GPS location and its range of Bluetooth communication. When someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 comes into contact with other people, the software alerts those contacts and advises them to self-isolate. With the proper democratic oversight and restraints, these apps can be powerful weapons in the fight to control the virus. But without such limits, they can be used to spy on private citizens and expand social control.

In India, for instance, many fear that a new tracking app rolled out in April could become a tool of mass surveillance for a government already bent on trampling civil liberties. Since Modi was first elected prime minister in 2014, his government has been assaulting venerated pillars of Indian democracy: press freedom, religious tolerance, judicial independence, and respect for dissent. Most alarming has been the Modi administration’s escalating campaign against India’s Muslim minority, which, at about 180 million, is the second-largest Muslim population of any country in the world after Indonesia. The narrative—pushed most blatantly by Modi’s extremist followers but condoned by the prime minister with the same wink and nod that U.S. President Donald Trump gave to neo-Nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville—is that Muslims (and sometimes Christians and other non-Hindu minorities) are “internal enemies” with allegiances to lands and peoples outside India. That narrative has grown only stronger during the pandemic, fueled by a vile stream of disinformation that blames Muslims and Dalits for deliberately spreading the virus. Modi has used the COVID-19 crisis to centralize authority over revenue at the expense of India’s states and parliament and to wrest control of state governments from opposition parties. Many rights activists and cyber experts fear that his government will enlist the disease-tracking app, called Aarogya Setu, to compromise privacy and monitor opponents. 

Aarogya Setu was initially voluntary, but as the government eased lockdown restrictions in early May, it made the app mandatory for public- and private-sector employees as well as for people in so-called containment zones, areas with particularly high rates of COVID-19 prevalence. It also required anyone traveling by train to download the app. Later, the government took the positive steps of prohibiting the storage of individual data beyond 180 days and enabling individuals to seek deletion of their data within 30 days. To alleviate concerns about privacy and security, it also eventually opened up the app’s source code to public scrutiny (and improvement). But reasonable suspicion persists, and it may abate only if India does what all democracies should do—appoint an independent ombudsman to ensure that rules on privacy, data gathering, and use are respected.

To comply with international human rights norms, disease-tracking apps and technologies must be grounded in law, publicly deliberated, transparent, limited to the duration of the emergency, and restricted to the specific requirements of combating the virus. The MIT Technology Review has initiated an important effort to study and rate government tracking appsaccording to five criteria, such as whether or not they are voluntary, whether the data they collect can be used only for public heath purposes, how quickly that data is destroyed, and the transparency of the policies and the code that underpin them. By these measures, Aarogya Setu rates only a single star (for data destruction).

Election delays should be limited in time and proportionate to the danger the virus poses.

Privacy is not the only democratic precept under threat in the time of coronavirus: holding regular elections has become a logistical conundrum. Many democracies are left to decide which poses the greater threat: holding elections on schedule, when the opposition cannot campaign, poll workers and monitors may not show up, and large numbers of people don’t feel safe going to the polls; or postponing elections and perpetuating in power unpopular governments that voters might have otherwise ejected. The choice is straightforward in established democracies that have the time and resources to alter election procedures so that voters can vote safely from a distance, ideally by mail, or at least at fully staffed poll stations that have been disinfected and updated to accommodate physical distancing. But even in the United States—five months away from a general election—some Republicans, led by Trump, have turned voting by mail into a fiercely partisan issue, despite convincing evidence that it won’t give either party an advantage. Imagine, then, how much more fraught elections could become in countries with weaker institutions and less widespread postal services.

According to International IDEA, an intergovernmental organization that supports democracy around the world, more than 60 countries and territories have postponed elections at the national or (much more often) subnational level due to the pandemic. In many cases, doing so may have been the least undemocratic course of action. To avoid enabling authoritarian power grabs, the Kofi Annan Foundation has recommendedthat any decision to postpone elections be guided by rules that the government and the opposition agree upon, that are clearly communicated to the public, and that ensure the inclusion of vulnerable groups. As with the use of potentially invasive tracking apps, election delays should be limited in time, grounded in law and technical expertise, and proportionate to the danger the virus poses.

A DEMOCRATIC RENEWAL?

To protect rights, privacy, and the integrity of elections during a pandemic is a daunting task, but it is not impossible. It will require politicians, bureaucrats, and members of civil society to restrain their partisanship, adhere to sound expert advice, and submit all emergency measures to disinterested monitoring and oversight.

Before the pandemic, democracy-minded people in countries that had slid toward electoral autocracy showed that it was still possible to make democratic inroads through organized political campaigns. A campaign of “radical love” carried the opposition to a stunning victory in municipal elections in Turkey last year, and opposition parties won municipal elections in Prague in 2018 and in Budapest last October.  Even in the absence of a national electoral upset, similar municipal campaigns that engage practical issues and transcend political divisions can limit the ability of autocrats to consolidate power in the pandemic’s wake. Public opinion can also help defend the frayed boundaries of democracy. The original emergency powers bill that Duterte’s office sent to the Philippine Congress in March would have enabled the president to temporarily take control of any privately owned business or utility. But congressional and public resistance forced Duterte to accept much narrower language, involving only the budget and hospitals.

Global democratic recovery will require much of the United States.

Ultimately, the pandemic’s effect on global democracy will be shaped in large part by its effect on the advanced industrial democracies and most of all, the United States. At a time when China and other autocracies are using the pandemic to trash the efficacy of democratic governance and tout their superior capacity to deal with public emergencies, free governments must show that they are up to the task. Some have already done so. Ironically, the “other” Chinese society—Taiwan—has vividly exposed the lie that competent governance in a pandemic requires the extinction of freedom. Australia, Germany, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea have also performed well in containing the virus. The successful governments responded early and vigilantly, with widespread testing and contact tracing, and they communicated with their publics in a transparent, coordinated manner that put health professionals at the forefront. Sadly, few major countries have performed worse than the United States, whose president has routinely flouted such elementary imperatives as wearing masks, respecting science, trusting the public health leadership, and not promoting voodoo cures. The damage has been incalculable—not only to American lives but to global esteem for American democracy and hence, for democracy itself.

Global democratic recovery will require much of the United States. But first, the country must get its own house in order. Fortunately, supplies of ventilators and protective gear have rapidly increased. But national leadership, with discipline and strategic vision, is still lacking. The U.S. government must not only galvanize its people to act responsibly but also spearhead the international effort to distribute protective equipment and—as they become available—vaccines and medicines. Then, when the coronavirus has been vanquished, the United States must resume its leadership of global democracies in defense of liberty and against authoritarianism, corruption, and bullying.


In 2020, the GOP Should Bet the House

By Peter RoffNewsweek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Embracing military innovation to protect America

Technologies such as the Electromagnetic Launch System (EMALS) support the U.S. military

By Steve ForbesThe Washington Times

With the nation’s attention largely focused on the coronavirus, less noticed are threats to our national safety and security that are both long-running and evolving throughout the world — on land, sea, air, and increasingly in cyber and outer space. Losing sight of these threats would be a grave mistake.

Now more than ever, our nation’s leaders must double down on strengthening our military and embracing innovation to protect America and project power when necessary in an unstable, dangerous world. To do so effectively, it is critical that we invest in and equip our men and women in uniform with the most technologically advanced tools and weapons of war available.

Make no mistake, global competitors like China and Russia and rogue states like Iran and North Korea are working diligently to enhance their military capabilities in the hopes of eroding America’s competitive edge.

Fortunately, President Trump has made re-establishing our military strength and global position in the world a national priority after years of neglect during the Obama administration. He has insisted that while the Department of Defense pursues and invests in next-generation technologies, it must do so with taxpayers’ money in mind. And with a defense-wide review underway, expect even more fiscally-minded reforms to materialize over the next several years.

For example, the Ford-class aircraft carriers currently under production are poised to significantly expand our military capabilities, improve the quality of onboard life for our deployed sailors — and exploit the benefits of cutting-edge technologies. The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the first of the Ford-class, returned to sea in January and has now completed aircraft compatibility testing, flight deck certification, and other critical milestones in making the carrier battle-ready.

Mr. Trump has paid keen attention to these new carriers — and he has continuously addressed costs associated with their production. In fact, earlier this year, the Trump administration doubled down on its commitment to the Ford-class by convening the “Make Ford Ready” summit to ensure CVN-78 meets its cost targets moving forward.

These modern carriers are equipped with the latest technologies that ensure our troops will be able to protect our nation at a moment’s notice, whether in the Strait of Hormuz or the South China Sea. They are faster, more lethal, more durable and more technologically advanced than any other carrier ever put to sea by any country. And one key advantage which will improve performance, save money and protect American lives (or take the enemy’s when needed) is the carrier’s electromagnetic launch system technology, which was conceived, developed and produced here in the U.S.

The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System — EMALS — had its initial skeptics, Mr. Trump among them. But its subsequent performance has spoken for itself. Because the system replaces old, steam-based catapult systems developed in the 1950s, the carriers are able to launch the full complement of planes in the Navy’s air wing. This includes the critically important lightweight and heavyweight drones that are increasingly being used in reconnaissance and battlefield operations. And unlike incumbent catapult systems, EMALS is designed to accommodate future aircraft that come into production in the years ahead.

By replacing the complex and large system of steam pipes on the carriers, this new catapult system delivers a 25 percent reduction in the number of crew members needed to operate and maintain the system. The Navy has estimated this will amount to almost $4 billion in savings from operating costs over the ship’s expected 50-year lifespan. And in line with Mr. Trump’s commitment to establishing greater cost discipline for large DOD contracts, more cost savings have been realized through the negotiation of multiple ship production contracts for EMALS.

The second and third Ford-class carriers are already seeing 16 percent to 27 percent production cost savings respectively. Manufacturing, supply chains, production schedules and jobs are becoming stabilized. As the current crisis has put in stark relief, reliable supply chains are critical, and negotiated, multi-carrier contract buys ensure the stability of U.S. jobs and equipment. For taxpayers, this means significant cost savings without compromising our ability to deliver the most modern equipment available to support our warfighters.

Predictably, however, our competitors are now racing to develop similar technologies. For example, China has reportedly commissioned its own electromagnetic catapult system for its aircraft carriers to allow them to launch more advanced planes and other weaponry. Yet, with America’s new carrier class moving further into subsequent production phases, and our allies wanting to benefit from U.S. military innovations like EMALS, we now have a huge advantage that the United States can and should fully embrace to ensure our military supremacy. Any global competitor seeking similar technologies with ill intent will not go unchecked.

These types of cutting-edge and innovative investments are critical in rebuilding our nation’s military. They also are firmly aligned with Mr. Trump’s commitment to ensure that our military professionals receive far more technology at less long-term cost to taxpayers. Our nation cannot afford to fall behind.


The Teflon Campaign

Why nothing sticks to Donald Trump or Joe Biden

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pelosi: Still Raising Taxes and Spending as Never Before

By Peter RoffAmerican Action News

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives may have been stuck in their districts because of the coronavirus but Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been working hard on their behalf. On Tuesday she introduced the next in what’s getting to be a long line of COVID relief bills that, true to form, is loaded with tax and spending increases. 

According to a quick but probably not definitive analysis of what she’s calling The Heroes Act by the good folks at Americans for Tax Reform, the Pelosi bill:

  • Extends the $600 per week FPUC supplemental unemployment added to state and federal through January 31, 2021, extended it beyond the original July 25, 2020 termination date by 27-weeks.
  • Provides an additional cash payment of $1,200 per individual dependent, up to a maximum of three dependents, until it begins to phase out at $75,000 per individual in annual income or $150,000 for married couples.
  • Expands the Earned Income Tax Credit 
  • Expands the Child Tax Credit through an advance refundable credit of up to $3,600 for children under 6 and $3,000 for children 6 or older.
  • Expands the child/dependent care credit for 2020 above the currently allowable credit taken against 35 percent of expenses reduced by 1 percent for every $2,000 over $15,000 in adjusted gross income by modifying it to 50 percent of expenses reduced by 1 percent for every $2,000 over $120,000 in AGI.
  • Doubles maximum credit amount from $3,000 for one qualifying dependent, $6,000 for two or more qualifying dependent and makes it refundable.
  • Allows $2,750 in FSA funds to be carried forward to 2021.
  • Increases the above the line deduction for elementary school and secondary school teachers from $250 to $500.
  • Creates $500 above the line deduction for first responders for uniforms, tuition, and fees.
  • Creates a temporary above the line deduction for employees on the “front lines” of the COVID crisis for uniforms, supplies, and equipment for 2020.
  • Provides a payroll tax credit for pandemic related employee benefit expenses, limited to payments of $5,000 per employee, per quarter.
  • Expands the employee retention credit created by the CARES Act. Currently, businesses are allowed a payroll tax credit against 50 percent of qualified wages up to $10,000 in wages per quarter. The new legislation would expand this to 80 percent of wages up to $15,000 per quarter, not to exceed $45,000 in annual wages.
  • Extends payroll credits for paid sick leave/paid family leave for COVID-19 expenses to 2021.

The new Pelosi bill also bails out her political allies, whether they be the cashed strapped, heavily indebted blue states like California, New York, and Illinois or cities like Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia or her wealthy coterie of San Francisco sophisticates who probably also have freezers full of designer ice cream.

First off, she’s calling for $500 billion in funding to assist state governments with the fiscal impacts from the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus, followed by $375 billion in funding to assist local governments. Then she wants $20 billion to assist Tribal governments, $20 billion for the governments of the Territories, and an additional $755 million for the District of Columbia.

But the biggest kick of all is the two-year suspension — for 2020 and 2021 — of the elimination of the cap on the deductibility of state and local taxes on federal tax returns. That deduction, called SALT by the tax policy experts, helps ease the burden of living in high cost, high tax states like California while increasing the total burden of the federal budget sitting on the shoulders of low tax and no tax states like South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, and Florida. To put it another way, it’s a way to get the red states to pay for the upgraded standard of living enjoyed by blue voters in blue states.

Congress and President Donald Trump capped the deductibility of SALT in the Tax Cut and Job Acts, making everything fairer to all. Pelosi wants to undo that permanently, which is probably why her proposed suspension lasts two years — which she figures is enough time for a Biden administration to get repeal through a Democratic Congress. What’s especially galling is how no one is going to call her out on how she and her husband will personally benefit if the cap is lifted. The Pelosis stand to save a lot of money if the SALT cap comes off while many of the rest of us end up paying more. Didn’t she recently call a scheme like that where an elected official stood to profit personally from political action they’d proposed or undertaken an impeachable offense?


AMERICA NEEDS PAYROLL TAX HOLIDAY, NOT MORE PELOSI SPENDING, TO RECOVER FROM THE CORONAVIRUS

Not a moment too soon, the reopening of America has begun.

When the coronavirus crisis began, and the nation’s governors began to order the closure of factories, restaurants, parks, beaches and other public accommodations, very few of us thought we’d have to endure an eight-week long period of self-quarantine. Somehow, the impetus to “flatten the curve” to prevent the hospital system from becoming overwhelmed, as the direst forecasts said possible, mutated into a push for continued isolation while the virus was active.

No one signed up for that. Americans are instinctively a free people who, more than less, would rather the government leave them alone. The crackdown on commingling reached levels in Michigan, California, Illinois and other states that made many uncomfortable with the exercises of police powers on display and the threats from elected officials. Hopefully, those who exceeded their authority will face a day of electoral reckoning sometime in the future while the rest of us get busy rebuilding our lives and our savings. We’re not out of the woods, by any means, but some things are getting better.

What’s not getting better is the financial outlook for the U.S. government. Washington has shoveled so much money out the door since the coronavirus pandemic started that it’s hard to imagine it will ever be repaid. It will be, for the most part, just like the outlays from the savings and loan industry bailout of the 1980s and the 2008 TARP bailout were eventually recouped. What matters now is that Congress put the brakes on spending, a message House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t seem to be getting.

Rather than stop and evaluate the effect of what’s already been done, she’s at work putting together a bill with an estimated $2.5 trillion price tag that, among other things, reportedly contains provisions allowing people who are not working to receive a generous stipend from the U.S. government. And that’s on top of a provision in an earlier relief bill that ended up allowing people to draw more in unemployment than they had been making on the job.

As NewsweekThe Wall Street Journal and other publications have reported, that’s making it awfully hard to get people to come back to work. And if people are coming back to work with one out of every five Americans out of a job according to the latest figures, the recovery we hoped would take off like a rocket is going to stay on the launchpad for far too long.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

Pelosi’s plan to give people even more money is a bad idea. There may be some who need it, perhaps even badly, but their interests do not and cannot be allowed to outweigh the interests of those who kept working during the crisis or who want to get back to work. The government shouldn’t hold people’s hands like mommy walking a child to school on the first day. It should just get out of the way.


Notes on the President’s May 3rd “Town Hall”

A matter of language

By Dr. Larry FedewaDrLarryOnline.com

Fox News presented a “virtual Town Hall” program last evening featuring President Donald Trump answering videotaped questions for two hours. For those who have been catching the President’s daily news conferences, there was little new information. Apparently, the President’s assumption was that the audience had not been following the daily briefings. For those voters this was a status report on the country’s efforts to recover from the pandemic, both medically and economically.

Rather than attempt to summarize the status report – most of which is already familiar to those who follow the news — we will look here at whether the interview was an overall success of the interview.

The first item on that agenda is the President’s style. On the positive side, he reveals his command of the facts involved on a wide variety of issues. Equally important is his candor in admitting when he does NOT know something. Another characteristic which comes through is his sincerity. He clearly believes what he is saying – and it is this sincerity which allows him to connect with people.

On the other hand, he speaks in a sort of stream-of-consciousness style, which is well suited to his amazingly successful rallies but does not serve him as well when the question requires an authoritative response. His manner of speaking is entirely consistent with his overall approach to many of the issues he deals with. That is to say that he is a transactional thinker. He thinks in terms of negotiating each issue rather than in factual terms.

Thus, in answer to a speculative question like, “when will America return to normal?” his answer will be to list some of the elements of the prediction rather than giving a simple answer like “I think we will be back to normal by January 2021”. Instead, he starts thinking of all the elements which go into such a prediction, like: “Americans really want to get back to work. We are not meant to sit around waiting etc.” After surveying the main elements of the prediction, he finally opines that he expects the third quarter, 2020 to be transitional, the fourth quarter to be very vigorous, with a return to the booming economy by the beginning of 2020.

The effect of this style is frustration on the part of the listener. The President seems to be wandering all around the problem, touching on some points that seem irrelevant before finally stating – or not stating – a simple answer to what seems like a simple question. In his mind, he is reviewing all the possible items that might influence an action; he is “negotiating” with the questioner.

It is for this reason that several results occur: 1) he is hard to listen to when the questions concern results rather than the elements of an answer; 2) he is better judged on the basis of his actions rather than his words; 3) a more effective presentation of his accomplishments is done by others. This latter point was graphically illustrated last evening when Vice President Mike Pence and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin appeared with the President in the last segment and explained the President’s accomplishments more convincingly than did the President himself.

Another aspect of the President’s transactional mode of thinking occurred near the end of the interview when he was asked about his intentions regarding tariffs on China’s imports. He indicated that the question was forcing him to explain his negotiating position prior to opening talks with China on the issue. In other words, like any good trader, he does not want to reveal his “hold card” (his true goals) in advance. It is often the case that only if the opposition is approached with no prior conditions will talks even commence.

I have noted this characteristic many times before, specifically in terms of his press relations. Reporters always want to know the goals of any negotiation before it even starts, obviously so that they can judge the results as success or failure. They don’t realize that such an approach to negotiations constitutes a set of demands rather than a negotiation. After all, prior to engagement, how does anyone know what might be agreed to in the final outcome. But the press just doesn’t get it. The bottom line is that President Trump likes to play his cards close to his vest – and the press hates him for it!

My conclusion is that President Donald Trump is better judged on results than on discussions. Let him tell his story in his own words at rallies and let others tell us about his accomplishments at town halls, virtual or otherwise. After all, in the end what counts is, “Promises made, promises kept!”


It’s Up to the U.S. Government to Stop China from Monopolizing Our Smartphone Market

By Peter RoffAmerican Action News

How the U.S. telecommunications industry helped America manage and get through the COVID-19 pandemic can be a lesson for other industries and for the U.S. government, which has been hamstrung by a failure of imagination common to those working in bureaucratic institutions. Consider where we’d be if the phone, cable, and satellite companies had been unable to keep us connected.

The migration was rapid and thorough once the closures began. Collegiate and local classrooms moved online. Grocery items started coming into our homes from web sites rather than the mall. Telehealth exploded as doctors began to see patients over webcams instead of in the office. Examples of America’s resilience and resourcefulness were everywhere. The Internet allowed families to visit, for all of us to stay up to date on the latest advisories, and for each of us to remain plugged into civilization while unable to participate in it.

Mobile devices are just as important as the networks that connect them. Our smartphones have become our eyes and ears to the outside world. Their signals go where we now cannot, only because the Internet is an American product, governed largely by American ideals. If it were not, if the Chinese were in charge, for example, the official response to the pandemic would have probably included enforceable restrictions on Internet access or a complete shutdown of the ‘Net to stop the spread of information.

Whether it remains free and open depends on many factors. The People’s Republic of China has an unfair advantage in the global race to 5G. It has developed, through its Huawei subsidiary, technologies it’s trying to force the rest of the world to adopt. If they succeed, as I’ve written before, it would be a clear and present danger to the future of global commerce and the free flow of information.

In recognition of this, the Trump Administration has been right to acknowledge that a threat exists and to take steps to keep China and Huawei from winning. The Commerce Department is finalizing regulations aimed at limiting American firms’ sale of chips to Huawei. The Justice Department has charged them with conspiracy. That’s only a start. A government-wide effort is needed to blunt the impact of Huawei’s efforts to make it the global provider of choice for the world’s 5G needs.

As part of that, American consumers must continue to be allowed to buy smartphones and tablets made by companies other than Huawei. An obscure Irish company called Neodron, which recently filed patent complaints with the U.S. International Trade Commission, could make that difficult.

Neodron, which is backed by some of the same people who brought us the mortgage securities financial crisis, has filed two complaints with the ITC alleging that virtually every non-Chinese smartphone and tablet maker – Apple, Amazon, Motorola, LG, and Samsung, to name but a few – is infringing on patents related to touchscreens.

If the commission agrees finds that to be so the only remedy it can impose would be an exclusion order that would effectively block the importation of any device found to be infringing on the patents at issue. That would include greater than 90 percent of all smartphones and over 90 percent of all tablets currently available in the U.S. market. The only device manufacturers left would pretty much be Chinese companies which could, therefore, control American markets. As we’ve seen over the past several months as the COVID-19 virus has spread, the Chinese cannot be trusted.

The ITC needs to dismiss the Neodron complaint post haste. It’s bad enough the company could lodge a complaint that might paralyze a critical sector of our economy. The U.S. government has no business giving away the kind of strategic advantage we could never get back to a potential enemy. The Chinese operate by their own rules when it suits them – even when it makes them poor global citizens. They’re out to dominate every aspect of the world economy. We’d be foolish to let that happen – and it would if the ITC finds in Neodron’s favor.


America Can’t Face China Alone

Facing the China threat requires new institutions and renewed alliances

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

You can’t beat something with nothing. But America seems determined to try.

America’s attempt to integrate China into the global economy as a “responsible stakeholder” failed. China’s economy has become more statist, its political system more repressive, its foreign policy more bullying, its ambitions more outsized than they were 20 years ago. China did not challenge American leadership directly. It altered the character of international institutions from within.

The multilateral institutions that comprise the American-led liberal international order have been decaying for some time. Coronavirus has accelerated the deterioration. NATO, the United Nations, the European Union, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization—they are unresponsive, unaccountable, divided, demoralized, defunct. The world is a more dangerous place.

We are used to autocratic domination of the U.N. General Assembly and the secretariat’s various commissions. No one bats an eye when Russia or China vetoes a Security Council measure. Less publicized were the concessions made to China as part of the Paris Climate Accord. Or the fact that the World Trade Organization treats the world’s second-largest economy as a “developing” nation. But the way Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director of the WHO, caviled and covered for Beijing as the coronavirus spread throughout the world is impossible to ignore. Drift, confusion, and chaos result.

There are three options. The first is to work within the system to revitalize the existing structures. The second is to build alternative institutions. The third option is to do nothing.

President Trump has tried a hybrid of options one and three. But with a twist. Where others might try a kind word or some quiet diplomacy to inspire reform and collaboration, he turns against the very institutions America created to force them to live up to their commitments. He browbeats NATO members into spending more on defense. He cheers for Brexit and supports the EU’s internal critics. He cripples the WTO’s arbitration mechanism and threatens to withdraw entirely. He suspends funding for the WHO.

It’s the “America First” foreign policy Trump promised. And the results have been mixed. NAFTA was replaced. NATO budgets are up (for now). Mexico agreed to have asylum-seekers wait on its side of the border while their claims are adjudicated. China signed a “Phase One” trade deal.

But there’s a cost. Allies may accede to your demands, but resentment builds. The foundations of the alliance weaken. Unpredictability inspires fear and caution. If sustained for too long, though, it conveys irresoluteness and fecklessness. Adversaries begin to probe. They buzz flights and collapse the oil price, resume shelling U.S. troops and harassing U.S. naval vessels, begin tailingcontainer ships in the South China Sea.

The democracies look inward. NATO is silent, the EU split, America distracted and distressed. China exploited this strategic vacuum. It launched a global disinformation campaign falsely assigning responsibility for the pandemic to the United States. Its agents pushed scurrilous and panic-inducing messages to U.S. cellphones saying that President Trump was about to impose a national lockdown policed by the National Guard. Its diplomatic “Wolf Warriors” enforce the party line whenever foreign governments challenge Beijing’s preferred narrative.

Chinese propaganda used to amplify achievements and repress criticism. Now it attacks directly overseas enemies of the state. The strategy, writes Laura Rosenberger in Foreign Affairs, “aims not so much to promote a particular idea as to sow doubt, dissension, and disarray—including among Americans—in order to undermine public confidence in information and prevent any common understanding of facts from taking hold.” It’s working.

China isn’t invincible. It is reaping the economic whirlwind of the coronavirus it hid from the world. None of its neighbors are thrilled about the growth of Chinese power. Its internal political situation may be unstable. But the speed with which it has used the pandemic for geopolitical advantage is extraordinary. Look at how it plays favorites with its distribution of pharmaceuticals and personal protective equipment, how it stepped into the breach with a new flow of cash for its friend Dr. Tedros. Confronting China’s rise requires “a common understanding of facts,” and partners with whom to share those facts in common. These days, America is lacking in both.

By all means, punish the World Health Organization for collaborating with China. But also be prepared to stand up another mechanism to do the good work its founders intended. Go ahead, demand allies live up to their commitments. But also recognize that partnerships of like-minded nations were critical to success in the First Cold War. This is the time to build new institutions that reflect the realities of a 21st century that pits liberal democracies against an authoritarian surveillance state. For every moment that passes without American leadership brings us closer to a world where the sun never sets on the five golden stars.


America Must Defend Against Current Missile Threats

By George LandrithNewsmax

misslile china

There is no doubt that China’s communist regime made the COVID-19 pandemic much worse across the globe by hiding the truth and affirmatively lying to the world about it. The totalitarian regime’s mendacity is highlighted by the fact that while it lied about the virus, it was collecting medical materials to deal with the pandemic.

Another impact of the pandemic is that it has distracted us from some other very dangerous and troubling things that the communist regime is doing. For example, China is conducting secret and illegal nuclear weapons tests. Likewise, China is developing a new generation of missiles that put Americans at much greater risk. And they’ve been acting provocatively on top of it all. If COVID-19 can fundamentally disrupt and destabilize American society, imagine what Chinese missiles could do.

We live in a nation of great research and development capabilities. At this very moment, the Pentagon is working with thousands of contractors to develop the next great development in defense weaponry on planet Earth.

Research and development are key to our survival and we should rest easy that we are the best at it in the world. As long as we are vigilant, we will keep ahead of the threats. But we cannot afford to set our eyes so far into the future that we fail to see the now. Puzzlingly, that is the exact situation our leaders are putting us in when it comes to our homeland missile defense capabilities.

As the global threat of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) is growing, the Pentagon recently committed to developing the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI). We have come a long way from President Reagan’s “Star Wars” and have developed reliable technologies and weapons to literally “intercept” and destroy a warhead in the air.

The NGI promises to not only address current threats we face from rogue actors like North Korea and Iran to world-power enemies like China and Russia, but will evolve with both enemy and American technologies.

Like any government initiative, the details are in the timeline. The NGI is estimated to be operational by 2026. We all know the Federal Government’s ability to miss deadlines, but we will give them the benefit of doubt on this one and say that America’s new missile defense to protect all of us will be operational in 2026. But some experts are speculating the technology will not be ready for as many as 12 years.

The possible mistake I foresee is the sacrifice of the “now” for the “next.” The gap between now and 2026 or perhaps 2032 is an unacceptable risk.

America has spent billions of dollars, tested and retested, and ultimately placed our homeland missile defense in our current Ground Based Interceptor (GBI) technology and infrastructure. Currently, the United States only has 44 interceptors in our arsenals based in Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

As Russia and China invest heavily in their military abilities, is it really in America’s best interest to leave the entire Eastern portion of our nation vulnerable and undefended? Sure, possibly in 12 years we can see a scenario where the technology can make up for that lack of defense, but to not place it there in the meantime?

It is purely American to desire a better technology than what we currently have, but it would be negligent to take funding and emphasis away from the proverbial basket in which we have placed our homeland defense. Actors like North Korea are not attempting to meet the technology we may or may not have in a decade, they are attempting to come up with ways to get around our current systems that we have in place.

Let’s think back to late last year when America was on the brink of war with Iran. We were not able to intercept the missiles that we knew were coming, targeting bases we have occupied for over a decade. That should sound alarm bells that we need to focus on beefing up our current GBI technologies across the board. The whole situation should offer mainland Americans a cold shiver when it comes to thinking about our current vulnerability.

Our desire to invest in building the better mouse trap should be met with equal investment in our current technologies and infrastructure. America does not have to choose between investing in current technology and charting a new future for missile defense.


Op-Ed: China’s Ambition Demands the U.S. Maintain Its Presence in Africa

By Peter RoffThe Western Journal

Back in January, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was talking openly of the need to rebalance the allocation of U.S. forces around the world.

As he explained it, the need to address potential military threats from Russia and Chinese expansionism in the Pacific Basin may have to be given precedence over American commitments elsewhere.

Gen. Milley’s remarks were footnoted by the suggestion any changes were, at that point at least, notional and would be presented to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and through him to the president as options for the future. Nonetheless, many see his comments as foreshadowing a major change in the importance the U.S. has assigned the war on terror.

President Trump entered office vowing to bring home many of the U.S. troops pursuing terrorists and prosecuting “unwinnable” wars.

He can take pride in the fact he is keeping those promises, having successfully subdued if not eliminated ISIS, entered into continuing negotiations aimed at allowing the U.S. to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and, by using a drone strike to take out Iranian Revolutionary Guard leader and terrorist mastermind Qassem Soleimani, perhaps turned an important corner in Iraq.

None of that justifies a U.S. withdrawal from its commitments in the Middle East or North Africa. Both regions are rife with the kind of radical Islamic extremism from which anti-U.S. terror cells develop.

The raging conflagrations in these regions, feared by many, may have cooled to embers — but extinguishing those embers will take time and is linked inexorably to the same future conflicts to which Gen. Milley suggests the U.S. may need to shift its focus.

In Africa, we have assisted our allies there in the fight against extremism. The nations of North Africa have moved in our direction. Mauritania, Algeria and Morocco have vanquished terrorists within their borders and, with U.S. training and logistical support, proven themselves invaluable in the fight against those threatening the entire region.

To abandon them would be a mistake that would be, ironically, to Beijing’s benefit.

The Chinese, as we’ve most recently seen in the way they have conducted themselves through the coronavirus crisis, cannot be trusted. They operate by their own rules when it suits them, no matter what.

In many ways, they are economic partners with the West. They trade with us and we with them, but they are not our allies and cannot be treated as such.

From a national security perspective, we must remain vigilant – which is why reducing the limited U.S. troop commitments in North Africa would be a major mistake. If America leaves, China moves in – as it has been doing all over the developing world while engaging in rapprochement with Washington.

The current troop levels are small as such things go, fewer than 10,000 spread out among different countries on different missions. Merely by being there, however, the American military prevents the creation of a vacuum into which China would be glad to move to increase its economic and military presence on the continent.

This would fit perfectly into Beijing’s long-term strategic plans. Through its trillion-dollar “Belt and Road” initiative, the Chinese have been “helping” the developing world build commercial and civil infrastructure since 2013.

By acting as a predatory lender, China has gotten its hooks into nearly 70 counties and international organizations, saddling them with projects so expensive that the money borrowed cannot possibly be repaid.

The U.S. Agency for International Development has been pushing back against this initiative by sending teams of advisers into countries to demonstrate that anyone considering saying “yes” to China is making a bad deal. But that’s not enough.

To prevent the creation of satellite outposts available to further Beijing’s global ambitions requires something more than accountants and attorneys.

Any hopes we once had of the world becoming a safer place with the fall of the Berlin Wall must now, unfortunately, be held in abeyance.

A new global order is forming, something President Trump rightly recognizes and is preparing for militarily as well as economically.

Pulling out of commitments that don’t make sense and asking our allies to shoulder a greater burden of the cost of those that do are steps in the right direction. Pulling out of commitments that do make sense, like our limited but successful activities in North Africa, would be folly and we’d regret it later if we do.

According to the AFP, Gen. Milley said “economy of forces does not mean zero” and that Washington was not pulling out of Africa completely. Let’s hope Secretary Esper and the president affirm this soon.


The Second Masked Ballot

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

As Bernie Sanders exits stage left, the general election begins. Where do things stand?

Our unprecedented president—the first to win office without prior government or military experience—confronts an unprecedented situation: A pandemic that has forced the government to put the economy to sleep months before a presidential election.

The last time America faced something similar was 1918. The Spanish Flu decimated a population mobilized for its first European war. State and local governments implemented lockdowns, quarantines, and other social-distancing measures to slow the spread of infection.

The midterm campaign was conducted against a background of fear. In San Francisco, authorities required poll workers and voters to wear masks. It was, said the San Francisco Chronicle, “the first masked ballot ever known in the history of America.”

If this masked ballot is anything like its predecessor, the incumbent is in trouble. The voters who showed up on Election Day 1918 rebuked Woodrow Wilson’s Democratic Party. It lost control of both the House and the Senate. Two years later, Democrats lost the White House as well.

As Jason Marisam observes in an excellent paper on the 1918 election, the epidemic changed campaign practices. Mass gatherings were canceled. Candidates relied on newsprint and direct mail. It was a preview of the campaign that may be in our future, where coronavirus task force briefings replace MAGA rallies and Joe Biden addresses a virtual Democratic National Convention from his rec room.

The other noticeable effect of the flu was low turnout. Indeed, when you look at voting patterns during times of emergency—times of war, hurricanes, earthquake, tornado, and plague—you see low turnout across the board. It’s the one constant.

A low-turnout election would interrupt the recent trend upward. Who would benefit? It is too early to say. Republicans have the mistaken impression that high turnout favors Democrats. That is not necessarily the case. After all, Republicans have a larger pool of irregular voters—whites without college degrees—to draw from. And in a polarized environment, in a base mobilization election, every marginal voter counts.

President Trump needs massive turnout from his rural and exurban supporters. He starts this race behind. For the past month, Biden has led in every poll but one in the RealClearPolitics average. (Fox has a tie.) That lead may narrow when pollsters screen only likely voters. That lead might not be as great as Hillary Clinton’s was at this point in 2016. But this race is different.

Trump isn’t an outsider staring down the epitome of the Beltway elite. He’s the incumbent. His personality and record have been on display for four years. And Biden isn’t Clinton. He is winning big margins among voters who hold unfavorable views of both candidates—a group that went for Trump by double digits in 2016.

Trump trades within a narrow band. He won the Electoral College with 46 percent of the popular vote, a level of popularity he has exceeded only once in the RealClear average since February 2017. On the other hand, he hasn’t fallen below 40 percent job approval since March 2018. Election analyst Henry Olsen estimatesTrump’s pre-election approval rating needs to stand at 46 or 47 percent for him to win a second term. As I write, he is at 45 percent.

What must worry Republicans is the effect that rising jobless numbers will have on President Trump’s fortunes. As the saying goes, when the economy is the issue, it’s the only issue. And the direction of the economy matters more than static figures. The pre-coronavirus economy over which Trump presided was a political asset. Things were on the upswing. Americans were confident about their future. A deep and prolonged recession will be a liability.

Which is one reason many Republicans are eager for the economy to reopen. Trump as well as the jobless would benefit from a “V-shaped” recovery in the weeks before Election Day. The question is whether that is a likely possibility. Some skepticism is warranted. Nor is it the case that the president simply can announce the economy is reopened. Most authority lies in states and localities. And the ultimate verdict is the people’s. Everyone from Trump to Pelosi to DeWine to Cuomo could say it’s time to work and shop and dine out. If Americans are still worried about contracting the virus, they will stay home.

The president’s job is to demonstrate competence and compassion while leading the federal response to coronavirus. I’ll leave you to judge his performance. The public seemed to approve of his initial handling of the outbreak, but now things are reverting to the mean. It’s a position that leaves Donald Trump little room for error as America prepares its second masked ballot.


Republican activist agenda for 2020 elections

Republicans have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to become the majority party!

By Dr. Larry FedewaDrLarryOnline.com

Washington DC. April 11, 2020 by Dr. Larry Fedewa) For Republican activists who would like to a plan of action for the summer and fall, I would suggest that they work to increase the Republican Party’s base. There are three constituencies which the Republicans need to capture if they wish to return to majority party status:  black voters, Hispanics, and suburban women.

Black voters

Background

Remember that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in 1863 and black Republicans were the first elected officials of their race during Reconstruction. This phase ended when the Democrats struck back with the Ku Klux Klan and began a reign of terror against southern blacks which lasted until Republican Dwight Eisenhour signed the Voting Rights Bill of 1957, the first victory of the civil rights movement.

Between 1960 and 1968 a major player in securing the black vote was Robert Kennedy, an ally of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., both of whom were assassinated in 1968. After Democrat Lyndon Johnson championed the Civil Rights Bill of 1967, Democrat George Wallace led a states’ rights third party rebellion against desegregation in the 1968 presidential election, splintering the “Solid South” between conservatives who voted for Wallace and liberals who voted for the Democrats.

The black vote turned definitively Democrat during the 1972 election when Wallace was sidelined by an assassination attempt and his followers turned to Republican Richard Nixon, who beat ultra-liberal Democrat George McGovern. The Democrats became identified with the welfare society of President Johnson and were later successful in combining the ideals of desegregation with aid to the poor, who included many of the black population of the era. Since then, the Democrats have held the black vote.

Today

But times have changed. Today, many black Americans have taken advantage of the opportunities opened up by the change in cultural acceptance and have formed a solid middle class. In general, they are a family-centered, church-going, hard-working people, who fought in every war and are naturally conservative. They are natural Republicans!

In the meantime, the Democrats have been seduced by identity politics – and have discovered a whole new menu of identities, all of whom are victims – racial, sexual (gay, bi-sexual, transgender, women, lesbian), etc.) – in other words, everybody except white males, who are the bad guys. This legion of victims cries out for justice, which, say the Dems, can only be found in big, BIG government. They have taken in other causes as well – the green movement, the climate changers, the abortionists, the internationalists, the Socialists, and the anti-constitutionalists.

The Case

Most loyal Americans find this whole agenda a major threat to the freedoms we have always enjoyed as Americans. It is time for black voters to return to their natural home in the Republican party. Why haven’t they? Because they have not been invited.

Republican candidates have accepted the Democrats’ ownership of the black vote, with a few exceptions like Jack Kemp and Bob Livingston. Republicans usually don’t even bother to campaign in black neighborhoods, consult black clergymen, speak to black organizations, join black clubs. They don’t even know many black folks.

So, what can volunteers do to help these candidates? They can start by reaching out to black people themselves, paving the way for white Republican candidates. They can make known their lack of support for those candidates who won’t even try to listen to their black constituents. They can invite black voters to join their clubs, go to their meetings, make some friends. As activists, they can have a lot of influence on elections, local as well as state and national.

Hispanic voters

Much of what has been said regarding the black voters applies equally to Hispanic voters. As former two-term governor of New Mexico (2011-2019), Republican Susana Martinez tells her story: she and her husband were invited to dinner by some Republican activists. They proceeded to describe what Republicans believe in — “God, family and country”—and she said to her husband on the way home, “Damn, I guess we’re Republicans!” She went on to become the first Republican Governor of New Mexico in recent history.

Of course, the history of Hispanics in America is far different than that of the blacks, and in fact not all Hispanics have the same history. There are two major groups whose native language is Spanish: the descendants of the Mexican immigrants, and those of other Spanish-speaking nations, especially Cuban refugees from the Castro regime. More recent immigrants are from other Latin American countries, such as, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, and others.

There are also complications for many as to their legal status. To the extent that the more recent immigrants themselves or their families or associates have immigration issues, to that extent they can be expected to oppose the President. On the other hand, these people are not voters either (at least yet!).

In any attempt to reach out to these communities, care must be taken to consider these factors. However, it is also clear that the Hispanics who are citizens tend to fall into the same category as the black voters – family-centered, God-fearing, church-going, traditional people who are natural Republicans but just don’t know it, because no one ever explained it to them. George W. Bush got 40% of the Hispanic vote, and that is a good base to build on.

Suburban women 

This is a constituency which is familiar to most Republicans. In fact, many Republican women could say,” I are one!!” The case here is far removed from the other groups we have been discussing. The objection of these women tends to be personal dislike of President Trump rather than any historical or ideological disagreement.

The answer is very simple, “Trump as opposed to whom?” We are living in an age where our very freedoms as Americans are being threatened. Donald Trump may not be the type of neighbor you would invite to a party, but he is a true American patriot, no matter what a biased press says about him. His opposition wants to ditch our Constitution, take over our lives, give the government untold authority over our weapons, our religions, our food and climate and radically change our lifestyle.

For proof, look at the Dems in Congress. Led by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, they want to carry forward the policies of Barack Obama – a weak military, high taxes, apologetic foreign policy, abortion of living babies after birth, outlaw guns, take over our health care and dictate our education from kindergarten through college.

Conclusion

We are truly at a crossroads. Trump may not be perfect, but neither was any other president we ever had. This is not the time to put personalities ahead of principles. We can’t afford that luxury. Nor can we forget that expanding the party requires that we win the down ballot contests as well. No president, governor or mayor can succeed without the legislature.

If the Republican base is increased in any substantial way, the Republican Party is poised to become the majority party once again as it did after the Civil War until 1932. In the process, the Union will once again be saved.


In the Current Crisis, Postal Preservation Must Come Before Postal Reform

By Peter RoffTownhall

America is – and for some time will be — a long way from what any of us would describe as normal. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has us living in near isolation, has disrupted every aspect of our lives. Which, it should go without saying, includes the way we supply and resupply our homes and functioning businesses.

The public health experts advising the president and the governors of the states say self-quarantine is vital to flattening the curve. They say it’s the only way to ensure the number of new cases — when added to those already diagnosed and under treatment — don’t overwhelm the healthcare system.

That means a lot of things. President Donald J. Trump and the Coronavirus task force have been hard at work trying to procure and distribute essential hospital supplies, create more bed space in over-burdened cities like New York, and prevent a public panic. And, despite what the critics say, they’ve done an exceptional job considering the way this all came about and how unprepared the nation was.

Who’s at fault, well, that’s a conversation for another day. What matters now is to make sure people get the care they need and those sheltered inside their homes get the food and supplies and medicines they need to survive so they can venture out as little as possible.

Thanks to the Internet, that’s happening. People can order everything from prescriptions to crackers to toilet paper (when they can find it) – from online retailers who, most of the time, can ship it right to their front door. Eventually, those shipments may also include test kits and vaccines.

The American supply chain is an amazing, resilient thing. What most don’t know, however, is how dependent they are on the United States Postal Service for all that. There are other shippers, but only the USPS is required to provide delivery to every front door in America. For many, especially those living in remote and rural areas, it’s a lifeline.

It’s axiomatic that the USPS has been ill-managed for years. It’s short of money, deeply in debt, and has resisted pressure to reform for some time. Things need to change. Efficiencies need to be found. Accommodations need to be made. But now is not the time to force the issue. The pandemic has sent USPS costs up and revenues down. COVID-19 isn’t rain, snow, sleet, or gloom of night: it is even more unpleasant. Yet every day, six days a week, your friendly letter carrier continues to come to your door to deliver the things you need to survive this crisis – and will continue to do so until it runs out of money to operate.

Recognizing this, Congress, in the last COVID stimulus bill, granted the Postal Service new borrowing authority but it can only access those funds if it agrees to terms imposed by the Treasury Department.  Unfortunately, the Treasury is reportedly using that as a lever to force policy changes that would force the Postal Service to increase prices and cut back on service.

That’s a mistake. Forcing these changes now will put further strain on the pocketbooks of the American people and financial security of American business at a time when far too many people are already in need of relief.

Reforms are needed but now is not the time to wield the carrot and the stick. The USPS can no more be allowed to shut down or curtail service during this pandemic than a hospital can be allowed to close. Its continuing function is vital to the economic and personal security of every American – especially those living in rural areas who have no affordable alternatives.

The postal service needs to be more efficient. There’s a lot that can be done, much of which USPS management, its labor unions, and its employees probably won’t like. Hopefully, they’ll be willing to give a little once the current crisis is over and, if they’re not, then the politicians in Washington need to bring the hammer down. But that’s for later, not now. This is an extraordinary time and the circumstances are unique. We need to focus on keeping the lifeblood of the nation flowing which means keeping the mail going. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin needs to reverse course and approve the borrowing of the funds needed to tide it over without any strings.


I Went to a Socialism Conference Last Year. Consider Me Scared.

Socialism is having its moment on the left.

By Jarrett StepmanNational Review

Key point: There wasn’t a wide gap between what was being discussed at Socialism 2019 and the ideas emerging from a growing segment of the American left.

While you were enjoying your Fourth of July weekend, I was attending a national conference on socialism.

Why? Because socialism is having its moment on the left.

Since there’s often confusion as to what socialism really is, I decided to attend the Socialism 2019 conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend last year.

The conference, which had the tag line “No Borders, No Bosses, No Binaries,” contained a cross-section of the most pertinent hard-left thought in America. Among the sponsors were the Democratic Socialists of America and Jacobin, a quarterly socialist magazine.

The walls of the various conference rooms were adorned with posters of Karl Marx and various depictions of socialist thinkers and causes. 

Most of the conference attendees appeared to be white, but identity politics were a major theme throughout—especially in regard to gender.

At the registration desk, attendees were given the option of attaching a “preferred pronoun” sticker on their name tags.

In addition, the multiple-occupancy men’s and women’s restrooms were relabeled as “gender neutral,” and men and women were using both. Interestingly enough, the signs above the doors were still labeled with the traditional “men’s” and “women’s” signs until they were covered over with home-made labels.

One of the paper labels read: “This bathroom has been liberated from the gender binary!”

While the panelists and attendees were certainly radical, and often expressed contempt for the Democratic Party establishment, it was nevertheless clear how seamlessly they blended traditional Marxist thought with the agenda of what’s becoming the mainstream left.

They did so by weaving their views with the identity politics that now dominate on college campuses and in the media and popular entertainment. The culture war is being used as a launching point for genuinely socialist ideas, many of which are re-emerging in the 21st century.

Here are six takeaways from the conference:

1. Serious About Socialism

A common line from those on the modern left is that they embrace “democratic socialism,” rather than the brutal, totalitarian socialism of the former Soviet Union or modern North Korea and Venezuela. Sweden is usually cited as their guide for what it means in practice, though the reality is that these best-case situations show the limits of socialism, not its success.

It’s odd, too, for those who insist that “diversity is our strength” to point to the culturally homogenous Nordic countries as ideal models anyway.

It’s clear, however, that while many socialists insist that their ideas don’t align with or condone authoritarian societies, their actual ideology—certainly that of those speaking at the conference—is in no sense distinct.

Of the panels I attended, all featured speakers who made paeans to traditional communist theories quoted Marx, and bought into the ideology that formed the basis of those regimes.

Mainstream politicians may dance around the meaning of the word “socialist,” but the intellectuals and activists who attended Socialism 2019 could have few doubts about the fact that Marxism formed the core of their beliefs.

Some sought to dodge the issue. One was David Duhalde, the former political director of Our Revolution, an activist group that supports Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and that was an offshoot of Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.

Duhalde said that Sanders is a creation of the socialist movement—having had direct ties to the Socialist Party of America in his youth—but hasn’t maintained an official connection to socialist political organizations throughout his political career.

Sanders’ position, according to Duhalde, is “anti-totalitarian” and that he favors a model based on “neither Moscow, nor the United States, at least in this formation.”

It’s a convenient way of condemning capitalist-oriented societies while avoiding connections to obviously tyrannical ones.

It was also difficult to mistake the sea of red shirts and posters of Marx that adorned the walls at the conference—or the occasional use of the word “comrades”—as anything other than an embrace of genuine socialism, but with a uniquely modern twist.

2. Gender and Identity Politics Are Ascendant

Transgenderism, gender nonconformity, and abolishing traditional family structures were huge issues at Socialism 2019.

One panel, “Social Reproduction Theory and Gender Liberation,” addressed how the traditional family structure reinforced capitalism and contended that the answer was to simply abolish families.

Corrie Westing, a self-described “queer socialist feminist activist based in Chicago working as a home-birth midwife,” argued that traditional family structures propped up oppression and that the modern transgender movement plays a critical part in achieving true “reproductive justice.”

Society is in a moment of “tremendous political crisis,” one that “really demands a Marxism that’s up to the par of explaining why our socialist project is leading to ending oppression,” she said, “and we need a Marxism that can win generations of folks that can be radicalized by this moment.”

That has broad implications for feminism, according to Westing, who said that it’s important to fight for transgender rights as essential to the whole feminist project—seemingly in a direct shot at transgender-exclusionary radical feminists, who at a Heritage Foundation event in January argued that sex is biological, not a societal construct, and that transgenderism is at odds with a genuine feminism.

She contended that economics is the basis of what she called “heteronormativity.”

Pregnancy becomes a tool of oppression, she said, as women who get pregnant and then engage in child rearing are taken out of the workforce at prime productive ages and then are taken care of by an economic provider.

Thus, the gender binary is reinforced, Westing said.

She insisted that the answer to such problems is to “abolish the family.” The way to get to that point, she said, is by “getting rid of capitalism” and reorganizing society around what she called “queer social reproduction.”

“When we’re talking about revolution, we’re really connecting the issues of gender justice as integral to economic and social justice,” Westing said.

She then quoted a writer, Sophie Lewis, who in a new book, “Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family,” embraced “open-sourced, fully collaborative gestation.”

3. Open Borders Is Becoming a Litmus Test

It’s perhaps not surprising that socialists embrace open borders. After all, that’s becoming a much more mainstream position on the left in general.

The AFL-CIO used to support immigration restrictions until it flipped in 2000 and called for illegal immigrants to be granted citizenship.

As recently as 2015, Sanders rejected the idea of open borders as a ploy to impoverish Americans.

But Justin Akers-Chacon, a socialist activist, argued on a panel, “A Socialist Case for Open Borders,” that open borders are not only a socialist idea, but vital to the movement. 

Akers-Chacon said that while capital has moved freely between the United States and Central and South America, labor has been contained and restricted.

He said that while working-class people have difficulty moving across borders, high-skilled labor and “the 1%” are able to move freely to other countries.

South of the border, especially in Mexico and Honduras, Akers-Chacon said, there’s a stronger “class-consciousness, as part of cultural and historical memory exists in the working class.”

“My experiences in Mexico and my experiences working with immigrant workers, and my experiences with people from different parts of this region, socialist politics are much more deeply rooted,” he said.

That has implications for the labor movement.

Despite past attempts to exclude immigrants, Akers-Chacon said, it’s important for organized labor to embrace them. He didn’t distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants. 

For instance, he said one of the biggest benefits of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was that there was a brief boost in union membership amid a more general decline in unionism.

Besides simply boosting unions, the influx “changed the whole AFL-CIO position on immigrants, [which was] still backwards, restrictive, anti-immigrant,” Akers-Chacon said.

“So, there’s a correlation between expanding rights for immigrants and the growth, and confidence, and militancy of the labor movement as a whole,” he said.

4. ‘Clickbait’ Communism Is Being Used to Propagandize Young Americans

The magazine Teen Vogue has come under fire recently for flattering profiles of Karl Marx and promoting prostitution as a career choice, among other controversial pieces.

It would be easy to write these articles off as mere “clickbait,” but it’s clear that the far-left nature of its editorials—and its attempt to reach young people with these views—is genuine.

Teen Vogue hosted a panel at Socialism 2019, “System Change, Not Climate Change: Youth Climate Activists in Conversation with Teen Vogue.”

The panel moderator was Lucy Diavolo, news and politics editor at the publication, who is transgender.

“I know there’s maybe a contradiction in inviting Teen Vogue to a socialism conference … especially because the youth spinoff brand is a magazine so associated with capitalist excess,” Diavolo said. “If you’re not familiar with our work, I encourage you to read Teen Vogue’s coverage of social justice issues, capitalism, revolutionary theory, and Karl Marx, or you can check out the right-wing op-eds that accuse me of ‘clickbait communism’ and teaching your daughters Marxism and revolution.”

The panel attendees responded enthusiastically.

“Suffice to say, the barbarians are beyond the gates. We are in the tower,” Diavolo boasted.

5. The Green Movement Is Red

It’s perhaps no surprise that an openly socialist member of Congress is pushing for the Green New Deal—which would essentially turn the U.S. into a command-and-control economy reminiscent of the Soviet Union.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti recently said, according to The Washington Post: “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.”

“Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti asked Sam Ricketts, climate director for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is running for president in the Democratic primary. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

Economic transformation barely disguised as a way to address environmental concerns appears to be the main point.

One of the speakers on the Teen Vogue climate panel, Sally Taylor, is a member of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-oriented environmental activist group that made headlines in February when several elementary school-age members of the group confronted Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., about her lack of support for the Green New Deal.

The other speaker on the Teen Vogue climate panel was Haven Coleman, a 13-year-old environmental activist who has received favorable coverage for leading the U.S. Youth Climate Strike in March. She was open about the system change she was aiming for to address climate change.

She noted during her remarks that she was receiving cues from her mother, who she said was in attendance.

Haven said the answer to the climate change problem was moving on from our “capitalistic society” to something “other than capitalism.”

Interestingly, none of the glowing media profiles of Haven or the Climate Strike mentioned a link to socialism or abolishing capitalism.

6. Socialism Can’t Be Ignored as a Rising Ethos on the Left

According to a recent Gallup survey, 4 in 10 Americans have a positive view of socialism. Support among Democrats is even higher than among the general population, with a majority of Democrats saying they prefer socialism to capitalism.

But many who say they want socialism rather than capitalism struggle to define what those terms mean and change their views once asked about specific policies.

As another Gallup poll from 2018 indicated, many associate socialism with vague notions of “equality,” rather than as government control over the means of production in the economy.

What’s clear from my observations at Socialism 2019 is that traditional Marxists have successfully melded their ideology with the identity politics and culture war issues that animate modern liberalism—despite still being quite far from the beliefs of the average citizen.

Socialists at the conference focused more on social change, rather than electoral politics, but there were still many core public policy issues that animated them; notably, “Medicare for All” and government run-health care, some kind of Green New Deal to stop global warming (and more importantly, abolish capitalism), open borders to increase class consciousness and promote transnational solidarity, removing all restrictions on—and publicly funding—abortion, and breaking down social and legal distinctions between the sexes.

They were particularly able to weave their issues together through the thread of “oppressor versus oppressed” class conflict—for instance, supporting government-run health care meant also unquestioningly supporting unfettered abortion and transgender rights.

Though their analyses typically leaned more heavily on economic class struggle and determinism than what one would expect from more mainstream progressives, there wasn’t a wide gap between what was being discussed at Socialism 2019 and the ideas emerging from a growing segment of the American left.


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