President Joe Biden is expected to announce $10,000 of student loan “forgiveness” for low- and middle-income Americans earning less than $125,000 on Wednesday. While the move is ostensibly to give lower-income Americans a lift in Biden’s recession, a closer look at the numbers shows it will disproportionately aid those who are better off.
According to an analysis of Biden’s plan from the University of Pennsylvania out Tuesday, such a wide-ranging bailout will come with a price tag of $300-$980 billion for American taxpayers. Furthermore, the university calculated, “Between 69 and 73 percent of the debt forgiven accrues to households in the top 60 percent of the income distribution.”https://6d58ce0d7a048c3f08548369ea10f680.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
The school’s conclusion is supported by prior data analyzed by the liberal Brookings Institution in 2020 as Democrats vying for the presidential nomination touted similar loan forgiveness as central to their platforms.
According to Brookings, “the highest-income 40 percent of households (those with incomes above $74,000) owe almost 60 percent of the outstanding education debt and make almost three-quarters of the payments.”
“The lowest-income 40 percent of households hold just under 20 percent of the outstanding debt and make only 10 percent of the payments,” the Washington D.C. think tank published along with the chart below:
Meanwhile, students who took the loans are far better equipped to pay them off than many other American taxpayers. A typical worker with a bachelor’s degree is likely to earn nearly $1 million more over their career lifetime than the same person with just a high school diploma.
“About 75 percent of student loan borrowers took loans to go to two- or four-year colleges; they account for about half of all student loan debt outstanding,” the Brookings Institute reported in January 2020. “The remaining 25 percent of borrowers went to graduate school; they account for the other half of the debt outstanding.”
At the same time, the White House’s unilateral plans are legally questionable at best. In January last year, the Department of Education released an eight-page memo stating that the agency lacks the statutory authority to “cancel, compromise, discharge, or forgive, on a blanket or mass basis, principal balances of student loans, and/or materially modify the repayment amounts or terms thereof.”
In other words, without congressional approval, Biden’s decision to wipe out a minimum of $300 billion in student debt at the stroke of a pen is unconstitutional, according to the department.
The Biden administration’s desperate quest for an Iran Deal projects weakness
—New York Times, August 10, 2022
—New York Times, August 12, 2022
—New York Times, August 16, 2022
This is where you’d put a confused face emoji.
Why? Because one of the above headlines is unlike the others. The first two stories reveal the nature of the Iranian regime—a gang of criminal theocrats that since 1979 has spread chaos and murder throughout the world. The third headline reveals the gullibility of Western politicians and diplomats who, despite never-ending reminders of the Islamic Republic’s aims and capacities, persist in trying to appease it.
Negotiations to revive the Iran nuclear deal have been taking place in Vienna since April 2021. They have gone nowhere. Yet the Biden administration insists on playing a starring role in this diplomatic farce. Nothing that happens in the outside world penetrates the bubble where the diplomats reside.
• Iran refused to speak to the United States directly. We obliged. The talks are indirect—a sign of American weakness.
• Ali Khamenei ensured that his potential successor, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline cleric sanctioned by the United States, was “elected” president last summer. Not only did we continue negotiations. We are also now debating whether to provide Raisi an entry visa so he can spout regime propaganda at the U.N. General Assembly next month.
• America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, one year old this week, seriously undermined our credibility and our security. It weakened our influence in the Greater Middle East. Yet Biden didn’t change his foreign policy. He doubled down on his Iran gambit.
• Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February was a hinge of history—a moment when, we have been told, “everything” changed. Everything but the Iran negotiations. Russia, despite its outlaw status on the international stage, continues to serve as Iran’s intermediary. Maybe we should take the hint?
All this happened in the months before the Bolton assassination plot and the attack on Rushdie. And those violations of U.S. sovereignty and rule of law are related to Iranian malfeasance. The Justice Department charged a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for attempting to hire a hit man who would target the former U.S. national security adviser. Rushdie’s assailant may have been in contact with the IRGC, as well, and was unquestionably inspired by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s first Supreme Ruler, Ayatollah Khomenei, who called for the British-American novelist’s death in 1989.
And what, you ask, does Iran continue to demand of the United States as a condition for reentry into the nuclear deal? In a piece for CNBC headlined, “A renewed Iran nuclear deal appears closer than ever. Here are the final sticking points,” Natasha Turak writes, “Iran wants the Biden administration to remove its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from its [i.e., America’s] designated terrorist list, which so far Washington seems unwilling to do.”
Biden would be committing political seppuku if he removes the IRGC from the terror list. Even he can see the danger there. He’d be handing the beleaguered Republicans an issue in the final months before the midterms. It has the potential to taint media coverage of his supposed diplomatic triumph.
The IRGC “sticking point” is politically troubling. Another sticking point is impossible. Iran wants the United States to guarantee that future presidents will abide by the deal. However, the only constitutional way to do this would be to submit the nuclear agreement to the Senate for treaty confirmation. Of course, Biden can’t do that, because the treaty would fail. Leaving Biden at an impasse.
One he refuses to acknowledge. Perhaps the Biden team is now so full of themselves after a string of legislative victories at home that they are ready to make additional concessions to get what they mistakenly believe will be a victory abroad. The press will love this narrative, of Biden going from strength to strength and win to win, no matter the costs to U.S. security and stability in the Persian Gulf and Shiite Crescent.
Another scenario is that, while neither Iran nor America agrees to this latest proposal, the talks continue intermittently because they serve each party’s goals. Iran is using this time to build its nuclear infrastructure. America doesn’t want to face the hard choices that follow from a recognition that diplomacy has failed.
That is why all peace processes or arms control negotiations continue despite the evidence that they achieve nothing. The process itself becomes an end for the West. Meanwhile, the process serves as cover for the West’s enemies.
“We have a miserable, bipartisan track record of not responding to Iranian aggression and terrorism,” Reuel Marc Gerecht of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies observed the other day. Biden has an opportunity to correct the record by demonstrating American strength in response to Iranian outrages. It’s an opportunity he won’t take.
Biden is considering invoking considerable powers, but executive actions taken for a ‘climate emergency’ would be unconstitutional.
The left is pressuring President Joe Biden to declare a climate emergency and his consideration of this declaration is a sign of desperation and weakness. Executive actions taken as a result of a “climate emergency” would die in the U.S. Supreme Court (more on that later).
The reason Biden may declare a climate emergency is simple: His green agenda has stalled. Persistent inflation, led by rising energy costs, and a nation likely in recession, has reduced the likelihood that a narrowly divided Congress will approve the application of additional environmental leaches to an anemic economy.
It appears green dreams are the ultimate First World luxury good — it’s all fun and games until the average family shells out $5,000 a year more for gas, food, electricity, and rent.
Yet the left demands more. Elected representatives are a roadblock. The people don’t know what’s best for them. The Vanguard of the Proletariat have met and decided that if Congress won’t act, then an array of administrative acronyms led by the dogmatic theoreticians of the White House — none of whom who have run a business — will.
The powers Biden is considering invoking are considerable, though none of them were intended by Congress to do what administration is preparing to do.
Even a short summary is terrifyingly breathtaking in ambition and disingenuous creativity.
In March, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed a rule to require “climate-related disclosures for investors.” This rule, if finalized, would deal further hammer blows to the domestic oil and gas industry — just after Biden was forced to go hat in hand to Saudi Arabia to beg Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for more oil. It would do that by requiring publicly traded companies to detail their greenhouse gas emissions, including those of their suppliers, whether they are publicly traded or not. In other words, privately held firms, family-owned companies, and individual proprietorships would be burdened with costly reporting requirements, causing more money to be put into paperwork and less money to be put into productive activity.
Next, just because the Supreme Court rolled back regulatory power in June’s West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision doesn’t mean that the EPA won’t still be used to achieve climate goals in ways Congress never authorized. For instance, it’s expected that the EPA will issue new particulate thresholds that would have the practical effect of regulating all combustion for energy and transportation purposes. Particulates are small particles that, in today’s era of clean air, are mostly generated by farming, wildfires, and construction activities — modern combustion is remarkably clean. However, because ambient levels of particulates are very hard to push below a certain level, there will always be an excuse to squeeze for more until every vehicle powered by hydrocarbons is removed from the road or curbed by fees. Put another way, it’s a war on using hydrocarbons to make energy or power vehicles.
The declaration of a climate emergency would also embolden the Biden administration to invoke Section 202 of the Federal Power Act. This law, clearly intended by Congress to be used only in time of war or an emergency due to an increased demand for electricity or a shortage of electricity, will be used to shift electrical power from regions that have responsibly planned for their power needs to states that have gone green and, as a result, have made their grids vulnerable to the vicissitudes of weather. This means that the federal government could literally divert power contracted for by Arizona and shift it to California — a version of this happened a year ago. Essentially, a maximalist use of Section 202 will allow leftwing Biden appointees to turn the power off wherever they choose — all for environmental justice and the planet, of course.
Finally, Biden’s environmental zealots are looking to the Defense Production Act (DPA) to commandeer any part of the economy they feel should be drafted into the fight against climate change. Former President Donald Trump used the DPA to order 3M to produce N95 masks and General Motors to produce ventilators for the federal government. Biden invoked it for Covid-19 purposes as well and then improbably expanded its use to (try to) address the baby formula shortage. With the DPA now unleashed for decidedly non-war applications, the ability to muck with all aspects of the economy for the “climate emergency” are endless.
Fortunately, due to the unlikely success of the duo of Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the federal bench was well-provisioned with constitutionally minded jurists. As a result, the unbridled powers of the administrative state have been in retreat.
Former six-term Indiana Republican Congressman John Hostettler, vice president of federal affairs with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, observes that, “Justice Alito’s concurrence in Gundy v. United States was a clear signal that he is willing to put an end to the administrative state if the right case comes before the Supreme Court. And the left knows it.”
Hostettler was referring to Justice Samuel Alito’s 2019 opinion, which was characterized by his colleague, Justice Neil Gorsuch, as “not join[ing] either the [court] plurality’s constitutional or statutory analysis,” In it, Alito stated:
The Constitution confers on Congress certain “legislative [p]owers,” Art. I, §1, and does not permit Congress to delegate them to another branch of the Government…. Nevertheless, since 1935, the Court has uniformly rejected nondelegation arguments and has upheld provisions that authorized agencies to adopt important rules pursuant to extraordinarily capacious standards….
If a majority of this Court were willing to reconsider the approach we have taken for the past 84 years, I would support that effort. But because a majority is not willing to do that, it would be freakish to single out the provision at issue here for special treatment.
Moreover, Hostettler maintains, “Given the addition of the likely votes of Justices [Brett] Kavanaugh and [Amy Coney] Barrett, there’s even more cause for optimism that the High Court is likely to do what Congress seems unable to accomplish. That optimism was bolstered with the outcome in West Virginia v. EPA. Although West Virginia wasn’t the nondelegation case that Alito’s previous pronouncement called for, it’s close enough to stiffen the resolve of Constitutionalists to come up with the right case so that the Court’s majority can further cement its direction on the ‘major question’ doctrine — the concept that if an agency seeks to regulate on a ‘major question’ the statute must clearly grant that express authority.”
For this reason, Hostettler is confident that the Biden administration’s climate emergency overreach would “do to the expansive power of the administrative state what Dobbs did to Roe v. Wade.”
In war there are casualties — and Biden’s climate war threatens to claim the once-mighty power of unelected bureaucrats and left-wing appointees to rule our lives without our votes.
The president's credibility is shot
Before leaving for the Middle East, President Biden sat down for an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 News. Anchor Yonit Levi asked the president if he would use force to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. “As a last resort, yes,” Biden said.
I’d like to think that Biden is sincere. I hope that he understands the dangers a nuclear Iran would pose to the Greater Middle East, to Europe, and indeed to the world. A nuclear Iran would launch a cycle of proliferation and escalation in the region. Iran’s nuclear missiles would be in range not only of America’s Persian Gulf allies but also of NATO. Iran would intensify its malign activities, from terrorism to proxy war to hostage-taking, knowing that the bomb gives it cover. A nuclear Iran means a world more dangerous, more violent, more flammable than the world is even today.
Which is why Biden is the latest American president to suggest that the use of force remains an option. An air and naval campaign to destroy the nuclear sites known to Western intelligence and to degrade the Islamic Republic’s capacity to retaliate is the best means of delaying and potentially foreclosing the possibility of an Iranian bomb. The objective of such an operation wouldn’t be regime change. The goal would be prevention. Israel and the Gulf States would support us. And Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping would pay attention. They would be put on notice: The American president means what he says.
Does he? In the spring of 2021, President Biden was asked about the record numbers of illegal immigrants who began crossing the southern border after he reversed his predecessor’s asylum policies. Biden dismissed the question. The migrant surge was “seasonal,” he said. It happens “every single solitary year.” Not like this, it doesn’t. The season ended long ago. The migration has continued for a year and a half. Last month saw the largest number of illegal crossings on record. Biden’s flippant answer was grossly mistaken, to say the least. He doesn’t seem to care. In fact, if he’s successful in ending Title 42 protocols allowing for the swift repatriation of illegal migrants, he will continue to make the problem worse.
In the summer of 2021, President Biden gave a speech on the inflation that was starting to appear in the economic data. “Our experts believe and the data shows that most of the price increases we’ve seen are—were expected and expected to be temporary,” he said. Like the “seasonal” migration on the southern border, the “temporary” inflation continues. Last month’s number was higher than expectations. Real earnings fell 4 percent. The president’s economic policies have resulted in a decline in Americans’ standard of living. Nothing he says on the issue has changed the public’s dismal view of his job performance.
It was only a year ago, remember, that President Biden was asked if a Taliban conquest of Afghanistan was inevitable. “No,” he answered. A month later, the holy warriors rolled into Kabul and America was forced into a panicked and dangerous rescue operation that left 13 U.S. servicemen killed and Afghanistan abandoned. Throughout this disaster, Biden spoke and acted as if everything was going according to plan, as if everything was under control. By Labor Day 2021, the public had severed its connection with a president whom it had placed in office simply because it was tired of the incumbent’s excesses. Biden might as well spend the rest of this year in Rehoboth Beach. He operates without public attention and without public support. His words carry no meaning. They don’t land, they don’t register, they don’t signify.
Will Biden use force to stop Iran? Maybe. That’s what he told Channel 12. Yet Biden acknowledged the possibility of a military strike only when Israeli media forced him to. Note the following: In his Washington Post op-ed explaining the reasons for his Middle East trip, Biden wrote that “my administration will continue to increase diplomatic and economic pressure until Iran is ready to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, as I remain prepared to do.” No discussion of how long he will wait for Iran to get “ready to return” to the deal. No mention of what he will do if Iran refuses to comply.
And Iran isn’t complying. Indirect talks between the United States and Iran, mediated by Europe and by, incredibly, Russia, have lasted for over a year. They’ve gone nowhere. Worse than nowhere: Iran’s nuclear “breakout” time is now zero. Last month Iran turned off the cameras that the International Atomic Energy Agency uses to monitor its disclosed nuclear facilities. The cameras remain dark. The Iran crisis is here, but President Biden acts as if it hasn’t yet arrived. The zombie negotiations in Vienna—with endless talks despite longstanding impasses over the status of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and whether Biden’s successor will have the power to scuttle the arrangement (which of course he will)—have become an end in themselves. Nor is there reason to expect the administration to cut them off so long as Iran doesn’t make too much trouble. Especially when Biden would like to bring Iranian oil back on the market.
So much of Biden’s rhetoric feels performative: He recycles the standard lines not to state policy or rally public opinion but simply to move on to the next question. Where he is most sincere, it seems to me, is his reluctance to deploy our forces abroad. Think of his Afghanistan withdrawal, and his self-deterrence vis-à-vis Russia in Ukraine. “I will be the first president to visit the Middle East since 9/11 without U.S. troops engaged in a combat mission there,” he said in the final line of his Washington Post op-ed. “It’s my aim to keep it that way.”
That’s the real Biden—the Biden who believes that he’s been right on every foreign policy issue of the last half century, when he almost always has been wrong—the Biden whose credibility is shot. Should Israel and America’s Middle East partners take him seriously? Look at his actions rather than his words. And if he fails to act, others should.
Enough of one that they have decided it’s good policy, and better political optics, to bully gas station owners over how much they charge at the pump. The president’s Twitter team published this gem over the long holiday weekend:
My message to the companies running gas stations and setting prices at the pump is simple: this is a time of war and global peril.
Bring down the price you are charging at the pump to reflect the cost you’re paying for the product. And do it now.
Setting aside the notion that an American president feels the need to harangue the franchise owner on the corner…the economic illiteracy on display in Mr. Biden’s tweet is inexcusable.
It would be generous and kind to blame the communications staff for this. But the buck stops with Joe, so the blame is all his. As such Mr. Biden deserves the strong corrective he gets from, among others, The Wall Street Journal:
More than a quarter of gas stations have closed since the 1990s because they couldn’t make the economics work. If retailers were to sell fuel at cost, most would go out of business. Perhaps those owned by large refiners would survive, but they’d be accused of predatory pricing by Mr. Biden’s antitrust cops.
The President’s economic ignorance isn’t a one-off. In recent months he has accused oil and gas companies of price gouging and demanded that they increase production even while his Administration threatens to put them out of business. Mr. Biden doesn’t understand that businesses make long-term decisions based on demand expectations and policy signals. Jeff Bezos called the President’s weekend tweet “either straight ahead misdirection or a deep misunderstanding of basic market dynamics.” They aren’t mutually exclusive.
Indeed, the Biden team’s misdirection is just a manifestation of its misunderstanding…of market function, prices, incentives, regulation and so on.
And if you think the gas station episode was bad, buckle-up, because Team Biden is about to face a cascade of troubles thanks to one of his oldest political backers…Big Labor:
…the labor contract for 29 West Coast ports, which covers 22,000 dockworkers, lapsed over the weekend.
For now, talks continue; the two sides are reportedly fighting over port managers’ desire to automate more operations, as major ports in Europe and Asia have already done. But if a work stoppage or slowdown results, it could wreak havoc on the country’s already-fragile supply chains, with potentially catastrophic consequences for inflation and the economy.
Also, of course, for Democrats’ chances in the midterms.
This isn’t some remote risk. The last time this contract was being renegotiated, starting in 2014, talks broke down and work slowdowns led to expensive shipping delays. The Obama administration had to intervene. Labor disruptions (strikes, lockouts, slowdowns) also occurred during West Coast port contract negotiations in 2002, 2008 and 2012.
Does Biden side with his old allies in the labor movement? Or does his professed determination to fight inflation convince him to convince them to get back to work?
Given Biden’s grasp of economics, we should prepare for the worst.
The Biden presidency is a disappointment to Americans. That goes for people who voted for him—who thought he’d do a better job—and people who, even as they voted against him, did not believe he could make as much of a hash of things as he has.
The list of problems is long and growing longer. More COVID-19 cases than there were under Donald Trump. Inflation like we haven’t seen since the Carter years. Rapidly rising interest rates. Shortages. The debacle in Afghanistan. War in Ukraine. It’s no wonder a growing majority of Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction.
According to a new Associated Press-NORC survey, 85 percent of American adults—including more than 7 in 10 Democrats—say the country is not on the right track. Almost two-thirds—60 percent—blame the president for that, with just 39 percent of those participating in the survey saying they approve of his overall presidential leadership. As if that were not bad enough, 69 percent of those surveyed, including 43 percent of the Democrats who responded, rated his handling of the economy “poor.”
Democrats need to face facts. If the president’s age is not an argument against his seeking a second term, his poll numbers are. Support for him has dropped to his predecessor’s level. Trump, at least, benefited from a highly motivated, energized bloc of diehard supporters upon whom he could always count. Biden was always a compromise choice about whom no one was truly enthusiastic.
As of now, the president’s numbers are more likely to get worse than they are to get better. It is much easier, as a friend of mine likes to observe, for his approval rating to fall deeper into the 30s than to get back above 50 percent. This is good news for the Republicans, because it makes it increasingly likely the GOP will win back control of one or both congressional chambers in November, all but guaranteeing the Biden agenda, such as it is, will grind to a full stop.
That may not put the Republicans in charge of the government, but it would effectively make Biden a “lame duck.” He won’t be able to get anything major through and won’t have anything on which to campaign for a second term. Recognizing that, GOP leaders need to be extremely strategic in deciding who they want to run in 2024.
The likely choice, most polls say, is Donald Trump. He’d be the easy winner—in a race against Biden. But what if the Democrats nominate someone else? What if Trump decides not to run? What then? It’s a puzzle, and one that’s not easily solved.
Biden has set the bar so low that it would not be too hard to find a better president among the list of potential GOP nominees—which extends well beyond the list currently being bandied about. The challenge is to find the best president, the one who will right the ship of state the current administration sent headlong into a typhoon.
The GOP needs a nominee who doesn’t just say he or she will put America’s interests first and is on the right side on critical issues like economic growth, taxes and spending, guns, abortion, and school choice, but who has demonstrated leadership on those issues. Someone who has a dynamic vision of the future most all Americans can embrace with enthusiasm.READ MORE
These people do exist. The best candidates to be “the best president” are out there now, in the U.S. Senate and running the red states. In the next campaign, their records will be what matters most. What a candidate says he wants to do needs to be measured against what he’s accomplished—or at least tried to accomplish. That goes for candidates’ record building the party as well. Did they help expand the party and its representation in Congress and the state legislatures? How many Senate, House, and gubernatorial candidates did they help? How much money did they help raise for others compared to how much they raised to fuel their own ambitions? Do they adhere to Reagan’s 11th Commandment (“thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican”), or do they resort to sharp elbows and cutting remarks against foes who should be considered friends? In short, what kind of leader do Republicans want for the next four, and perhaps eight, years?
The answer is not obvious, even for those who’ve already decided to back Trump again. He accomplished much. It’s fair to say he delivered on his promise to “Make America Great Again”—at least before the lockdowns started. His commitment to keeping his word on judges is directly responsible for the overturning of the constitutionally suspect 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which was bad law no matter which side of the issue you were on.
Trump was right for his time—but is he right for the future? He’ll get a chance to make his case after November if he chooses to run. Whether he does or doesn’t, the others who want the job will get the same chance. The Republicans who are tasked with choosing the candidate in 2024 need to keep their options open and think seriously about who can best get the country where it needs to go. If they want to win, they need to make the candidates come to them.
Biden's drift and weakness
“Which way am I going?” asked President Biden when he ended Thursday’s press conference at the NATO summit in Madrid. He began to exit stage right, before someone redirected him toward stage left. This combination of ignorance and indecision was not new. Throughout his 18 months as president, Biden has been confused, uncertain, sluggish. He behaves as if he is guided by unseen forces. He moves on a course set by hidden captains.
People notice. Every time I speak to a conservative audience, I am asked who is really in charge in the White House. My answer has been that the president is in command. After all, institutions take on the character of their leaders. If all the White House has to offer is excuses, if decisions are made either slowly or randomly, if the communications team and the president and vice president seem to live on different planets, if incompetence and mismanagement appear throughout the government, it is because the chief executive allows it. No conspiracy is required to explain the ineptitude. This is Joe Biden we are talking about.
Lately, though, I have been having second thoughts. Not that Barack Obama or Ron Klain or Dr. Jill are running the show in secret. What I have been wondering, instead, is whether anyone is leading the government at all. There is no power, either overt or covert, in or behind the throne. The throne is empty.
Think of the economy, the border, and Ukraine. From time to time, Biden addresses these issues. He may even answer questions about them. The White House sends out press releases describing its latest initiatives. Vice President Harris or the second gentleman pops up somewhere to talk about all the good she and he are doing.
Yet each of these elements—the president, his staff, his spokesperson, his vice president, his policy—comes across as disconnected, discombobulated, as if each inhabits a separate sphere of activity. Whether because of Biden’s age, or his weekend trips to Delaware, or years of remote work, or lower-level staff turnover, or a painstakingly slow decision-making process, or ideological stubbornness, or a lack of a strategic plan, this administration drifts from crisis to crisis, and from one bad headline to the next. And nothing improves.
The June 29 Reuters/Ipsos poll has Biden’s job approval rating at 38 percent. By far, Americans say the economy, unemployment, and jobs are the most important problems facing the country. What is Biden’s plan? He blames Vladimir Putin and the energy industry for high gas prices. He says it’s the Federal Reserve’s job to reduce inflation. He asks Middle East autocrats to pump more oil rather than easing the burden on domestic fossil fuel production. He wants more spending, more tax hikes, more regulation. Will Congress give him what he wants? Okay, you can stop laughing.
The result: America slouches toward stagflation because the alternative—reducing (non-China) tariffs, suspending “Buy American” provisions, reversing his entire energy policy, dropping his tax plans, committing to spending cuts—is unacceptable to the president.
Earlier this week, authorities found at least 50 dead people in a tractor-trailer on the side of a road in El Paso, Texas. The victims were illegal immigrants who had paid human traffickers to bring them to the United States. This ghastly discovery was a reminder of illegal immigration’s human toll, and of the inadequacy of Biden’s migration policies. One reporter asked White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre for her response to Republican critics. “The fact of the matter is the border is closed,” Jean-Pierre said, “which is in part why you see people trying to make this dangerous journey using smuggling networks.”
Closed? Unauthorized crossings hit another milestone in May, when Border Patrol encountered some 239,000 individuals. At that time, however, authorities could expel illegal migrants under public health regulation Title 42. The status of the Remain in Mexico program was unclear. Biden, of course, wants to end Title 42, and the Supreme Court ruled on June 30 that he has the authority to shut down Remain in Mexico. If you think the border is “closed” now, just wait.
Biden could explain to the nation why it is in our interest to admit as many asylum-seekers as possible, even if a rise in illegal entries and in cross-border human and drug trafficking is the consequence. Or he could admit that his policies are responsible for a humanitarian disaster and withdraw his earlier executive orders. Or he could use whatever political capital he has left to pass an immigration reform bill that combines legal pathways to entry with workplace enforcement. But he won’t do anything. Why? Because he is either satisfied with the situation or simply overwhelmed by it. Neither option is reassuring. And the problem grows worse.
Where Biden is most engaged is Ukraine. He warned against the invasion, rallied NATO against Russia, encouraged Sweden and Finland to join the Western alliance, and committed America to supply Ukraine with aid and weapons. “The generic point is that we’re supplying them with the capacity—and the overwhelming courage they’ve demonstrated—that, in fact, they can continue to resist the Russian aggression,” Biden told reporters Thursday. “And so, I don’t know what—how it’s going to end, but it will not end with a Russian defeat of Ukraine in Ukraine.”
Shouldn’t the leader of the Free World have some idea of how this brutal conflict might end? The war has taken a horrible human toll. Its effects on energy and food markets have been devastating. The goal should be to end the war.
How? Not by giving Putin what he wants. By giving Ukraine what it needs to push Russia back to the pre-war line of control. A Russia on defense is more likely to sue for peace.
Biden makes this prospect more difficult by limiting the systems we provide to Ukraine, by dribbling them out over time, and by insisting that we won’t provide Ukraine with weapons that could strike targets inside Russia. From the start of the war, Biden has been more interested in signaling to Russia what he won’t do than in causing Putin to fear what he might do. His self-constraint extends the fighting rather than shortens it and provides Russia the space for its slow roll through eastern and southern Ukraine. The war has become another disaster that Biden allows to play out in the background, in between bike rides and scoops of ice cream from Starkey’s.
American aid to Ukraine is just and necessary. Since 1947, the policy of the United States has been to “support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” But Biden won’t be able to sustain the domestic support for American involvement in a years-long war of attrition. He needs to match his actions with his words and drop his inhibitions on the aid we provide the Ukrainians. And he could do so while launching a peace initiative, thereby restoring coercive diplomacy as a tool of American foreign policy.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda. Decisive leadership is not Joe Biden’s calling card. And so, the crises continue to mount. And Americans are left with feelings of aimlessness and fear.
The closer attention you pay to Biden, the less he has to say
President Joe Biden is “rattled,” according to NBC News, and “looking to regain voters’ confidence that he can provide the sure-handed leadership he promised during the campaign.”
How? By trying to change the media narrative. On May 30, Biden published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that explained “My Plan for Fighting Inflation.” The next day, Biden wrote a “guest essay” for the New York Times on “What America Will and Will Not Do in Ukraine.”
Bad poll numbers and a collapsing domestic and international situation have excited the typically drowsy president into action. There’s a problem, though. The closer you read Biden’s op-eds, the less he has to say. This new, annoyed, engaged Biden may be a prolific writer and speaker. But he’s not an incisive one. He won’t admit that there is a connection between his ideology and America’s problems. He can’t decide between giving Ukraine the weapons necessary to defeat Russia or settling for a war of attrition.
Biden’s Journal op-ed is a masterclass in passing the buck. He doesn’t bring up his “plan for fighting inflation” until midway through his thousand-word piece. My inner college professor wanted to send the article back to him with suggestions for revision. Number one: Always move your best material to the top!
The plan itself is gauzy and thin. “The Federal Reserve has a primary responsibility to control inflation.” You wouldn’t know that from listening to Progressives, including some of Biden’s nominees to the Federal Reserve, who argue that the Fed’s interest in price stability distracts it from promoting full employment, green energy, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Now Biden wants the Fed to correct not only its mistakes, but his own. Let’s see if his faith in an independent central bank can stand the test of higher interest rates, higher unemployment, and lower incomes.
Parts two and three of Biden’s inflation plan are the remnants of his Build Back Better agenda: some clean energy and housing subsidies here, a few tax hikes there. He mentions his use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower gas prices, but not his appeals to Venezuela and OPEC to boost the oil supply. As for the obvious answers to America’s energy problems—a complete reversal of Biden’s hostility to oil and gas exploration and production, huge investments in nuclear power, and emergency efforts to increase refinery capacity—Biden has no words. His devotion to the environmental lobby and to green energy blinds him. If the Progressive Left rejects nuclear power, the “clean energy future” it desires won’t arrive.
This mismatch between ends and means is visible in Biden’s Ukraine policy. The president tells New York Times readers that the United States sends Ukraine weapons “so it can fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.” The desired end state is “a democratic, independent, sovereign, and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression.” And Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is in the driver’s seat. “I will not pressure the Ukrainian government—in private or public—to make any territorial concessions.”
All good. Why, then, limit the weapons deliveries to systems with ranges of 40 miles? Why slow-walk and agonize over each tranche of support? Why engage with Russia in farcical and dangerous negotiations over Iran’s nuclear weapons? Why not take a more active role in peace talks between Ukraine and Russia? The Biden policy is static even as the shape of the war changes in ways that favor the aggressor. The president’s goals are laudable. But his tactics are calibrated for a war that Ukraine is winning.
And Ukraine is not winning. At least not now. The Ukrainians defeated Russia’s attempt at regime change. But they have been less successful in removing Russia from eastern Ukraine and from their port cities in the south and southeast. Absent a change in Biden administration policy—in the ranges of weapons systems America provides Ukraine, in the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to relieve the Russian blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, or in a major diplomatic effort—the war will turn into a frozen conflict with no clear resolution and with mounting humanitarian costs. How that situation would help anyone, including Biden, is unclear.
Then again, little Biden says or does makes sense from the vantage point of either policy or politics. He’s right to be rattled. He’s also clueless.
Free Beacon Investigates: Five cities, five free crack pipes
Crack pipes are distributed in safe-smoking kits up and down the East Coast, raising questions about the Biden administration’s assertion that its multimillion-dollar harm reduction grant program wouldn’t funnel taxpayer dollars to drug paraphernalia.
The findings are the result of Washington Free Beacon visits to five harm-reduction organizations and calls to over two dozen more. In fact, every organization we visited—facilities in Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Richmond, Va.—included crack pipes in the kits.
The kits became the subject of national attention in the wake of a Free Beacon report in February indicating that a $30 million harm-reduction program was set to fund the distribution of free crack pipes in “safe-smoking kits.” Pressed on the matter in a Feb. 9 press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a full-throated denial.
“They were never a part of the kit, it was inaccurate reporting,” Psaki said of the pipes. “A safe smoking kit may contain alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases.”
While the contents of safe-smoking kits vary from one organization to another—and while those from some organizations may not contain crack pipes—all of the organizations we visited made crack pipes as well as paraphernalia for the use of heroin, cocaine, and crystal methamphetamine readily available without requiring or offering rehabilitation services, suggesting that pipes are included in many if not most of the kits distributed across the country. All of the centers we visited are run by health-focused nonprofits and government agencies—the types of groups eligible to receive funding, starting this month, from the Biden administration’s $30 million grant program.
None of the organizations responded to inquiries about whether they applied for government grants. It is not clear which organizations will receive those grants, nor has the administration said how it will ensure the kits will not contain crack pipes. The Department of Health and Human Services, which will oversee the Biden grant program, declined to provide a list of groups that have applied for funding, citing “confidentiality.” The Biden administration is set to announce grant recipients on May 15.
The Free Beacon‘s findings contradict claims from a raft of fact-checkers who, based on the White House’s ex-post-facto denial, deemed the Free Beacon‘s reporting false.
A USA Today headline asking, “What’s inside a safe smoking kit?” answered: “No, it’s not a crack pipe.” The outlet based its fact-check solely on the administration’s denial and does not appear to have done any additional research on safe smoking kits. The author, Michelle Shen, did not respond to a request for comment.
A survey of more than two dozen harm reduction organizations found that not all harm reduction organizations distribute safe smoking kits, but those that do almost always provide crack pipes. The few that don’t include crack pipes in their kits say they are willing to, but unable to.
At Washington, D.C.’s Family and Medical Counseling Service, Inc., for example, a member of the group’s needle exchange team told the Free Beacon that the organization would love to offer crack pipes as part of its safe smoking kit but hasn’t been able to purchase them.
“I would if I knew how,” said Tyrone Pinkney, who distributes clean needles from a recreational vehicle and said he did not know where to buy crack pipes to include in the kits.
Pinkney, however, appears to be an exception. Here is what the Free Beacon found in each city.
At Charm City Care Connection, a nonprofit that provides harm reduction services to combat “oppression,” an employee said that identification is not required to receive a smoking kit, but did ask for initials, a date of birth, and zip code before handing over two smoking kits containing glass crack pipes as well as Chore Boy copper mesh, a cleaning product used to hold the crack rock at the end of the pipe.
The bag included directions for how to use the pipe, heat-resistant mouthpieces, wooden sticks for packing the mesh into the pipe, and alcohol wipes. Most importantly, the organization provides all drug paraphernalia recipients an “Authorized Harm Reduction Program Participant Card” that serves as a get-out-of-jail-free card to show to law enforcement, because the paraphernalia is otherwise illegal in the state of Maryland.
Charm City Care Connection receives funding from both the Baltimore city and Maryland state governments, as well as at least $200,000 from left-wing billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Foundations as part of the organization’s “Addiction and Health Equity Program.” According to the group’s disclosures, it received $200,000 in government grants in 2019. It has a partnership with Johns Hopkins University and half of its board of directors work for the university.
Women in Baltimore can have crack pipes delivered to their door. Katie Evans, the outreach director of the SPARC Women’s Center, says the organization will deliver smoking kits with crack pipes to anyone with “non-men identities.” The center, which is run through Johns Hopkins University, will also deliver syringes, snorting kits, and “sex supplies,” Evans said.
Evans would not say whether SPARC Women’s Center applied for a Health and Human Services grant. Charm City Care Connection also did not respond to a request for comment about whether it had applied for a Health and Human Services grant.
In Boston’s South End neighborhood, a man was seen injecting a needle into his calf about 30 feet away from a police car outside the Access, Harm Reduction, Overdose Prevention and Education facility, which is run by the Boston Public Health Commission.
Inside the facility, an employee recorded our initials, date of birth, housing situation, and HIV status before offering an array of drug equipment. The bin of crack pipes was visible just above a bin of syringes labeled “biggie smalls” and “ultra fine,” different options for injecting drugs into different parts of the body.
“One pipe per person, once a day,” a worker, who emerged with a crack pipe, meth pipe, and additional drug accessories such as Chore Boy copper, told the Free Beacon.
An employee said the facility no longer offers get-out-of-jail-free cards because the police don’t arrest people for drug possession any longer.
“We’re way past that,” the employee said, though possession of drug paraphernalia is still a crime in the city. The Boston Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.
The Boston Public Health Commission did not respond to a request for comment about whether it had applied for a Health and Human Services grant.
At the Alliance’s Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center, a young staffer offers up a long menu of drug paraphernalia available free of charge. Included on the menu was a “booty bump” kit for rectal ingestion of narcotics, which is recommended by many harm reduction centers as a safer way to use meth.
After providing initials, date of birth, and zip code, the Free Beacon was given two drug pipes, one for crack and one for meth, as well as an authorized program card similar to what was given out in Baltimore. The smoking kits include literature with “safer smoking tips,” including a warning that “crack and meth use can lead to unprotected sex by increasing your sex drive or making you more sexually passive.” Other tips advise addicts obtain crack from a “source you trust,” and to “smoke only a little bit first if unsure about its purity.”
In addition to the Chore Boy copper mesh, the center gave out pipe screens, which work as an alternative to hold crack rocks in the pipe. The center advertises that its pipes are made of Pyrex, a stronger tempered glass designed for high heat.
The Alliance for Positive Change, also known as AIDS Service Center NYC, has received $20 million from Health and Human Services since 2004—mostly for AIDS and HIV-related programs—with the majority of grants distributed during the Obama administration. The organization has received $74 million in government grants since 2009.
The Alliance for Positive Change did not respond to a request for comment about whether it had applied for a Health and Human Services grant.
Just about a mile from the U.S. Capitol and within blocks of two elementary schools, a harm reduction center in Washington, D.C., had readily available pipes for crack and meth, as well as Chore Boy mesh, copper screens, and the same mouthpieces offered in Baltimore.
“Which kind do you want?” a volunteer asked after this reporter inquired about smoking kits. No information was recorded, and the center declined to look at identification that was offered. Program cards are no longer distributed by the center because possession of drug paraphernalia is decriminalized in the nation’s capital.
The harm reduction center goes by HIPS, which formerly stood for Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive but has been altered to stand for Honoring Individual Power and Strength.
HIPS since 2018 has received $3.1 million from Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which oversees the Biden administration’s harm reduction program. The funds are provided through two separate programs: one for LGBTQ housing and another for medication-assisted treatment.
HIPS did not respond to a request for comment about whether it had applied for a Health and Human Services grant.
Employees of the River City Harm Redux organization were found at a table set up outside a hotel on the outskirts of Richmond, Va. This reporter asked for two crack smoking kits, but was told only one remained in the day’s offerings. To make up for the shortcoming, the employees added a meth pipe along with two “snorting kits,” which include straws, a plastic razor blade to break up drugs, short plastic straws, a small spoon, and a bedazzled playing card to snort drugs off of.
The organization is not an authorized harm reduction site recognized by the Virginia Department of Health. Possession of drug paraphernalia in Virginia is a Class 1 misdemeanor. A conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia can result in up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
“If they are not authorized they are not protected by the law that allows sites to furnish paraphernalia,” Bruce Taylor, the drug use coordinator for the department, told the Free Beacon. Taylor said Virginia does not allow harm reduction facilities to include crack pipes in their smoking kits, and that his department is not aware of River City Harm Redux.
River City Harm Redux did not respond to a request for comment about whether it had applied for a Health and Human Services grant.
The administration recently proposed a new Department of Education rule to make it more difficult for nonprofit organizations to open charter schools, forcing them to comply with many unnecessary regulations and bureaucratic paperwork requests.
President Biden is keeping a campaign promise that will, unfortunately, make life more difficult for students and parents.
The administration recently proposed a new Department of Education rule to make it more difficult for nonprofit organizations to open charter schools, forcing them to comply with many unnecessary regulations and bureaucratic paperwork requests. The rule would also prevent for-profit charter school organizations from accessing federal start-up grants.
Regrettably, the president’s approach is out of touch with what parents across the country are demanding for their kids: more choices outside of the traditional public school system.
Nationwide, public school enrollment has fallen since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as many teachers unions blocked in-person learning and parents sought other opportunities for their kids. Charter schools, in contrast, largely successfully navigated the pandemic. A January 2022 poll of more than 1,200 parents with school-age children by EdChoice, a nonprofit advocating for school choice, found that 92 percent of parents with charter school students were satisfied with their children’s educations compared to the 76 percent of traditional public school parents who were satisfied.
Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found privately managed charter schools in New York, California and Washington state were “very successful” at meeting students’ needs from the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 through June 2021. Similarly, a National Center for Education Statistics survey of more than 80,000 public- and private-school teachers and principals found, “Sixty-three percent of private-school teachers, during the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, reported using scheduled real-time lessons that allowed students to ask questions through a video or audio call” but just 47 percent of public-school teachers did the same.
The Biden administration’s proposal is also disappointing because it ignores the important role for-profit enterprises play in public education. Traditional public schools routinely use for-profit companies to provide students with transportation, technology, building management and much more. Although there have been some egregious examples of self-dealing in the for-profit charter school world, policymakers shouldn’t paint with too broad a brush. Some for-profit charter management organizations have produced impressive results for students.
“In the recent U.S. News & World Report Best High School rankings, four of the five top schools in the country are associated with a for-profit education company,” noted Andrew Rotherham, co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners.
Equally concerning is how Biden’s proposal would place new burdens on non-profit entities that want to use federal funds to open charter schools in their communities. To access federal funding under the proposed rule, nonprofits looking to establish a new charter school would need to create reports for the federal government proving there is a demand for a new school, detailing myriad ways the school plans to engage with the community, an in-depth analysis of neighborhood demographics, how the school plans to attract a racially diverse student body and staff, and more.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said Biden’s proposal “would create roadblocks that would make Charter Schools Program funds almost completely inaccessible — particularly to new schools in Black, Brown, rural or indigenous communities.”
In many communities, charter schools are basically privately managed public schools that are stepping up to give students better options. In the case of for-profit schools, ideally, they wouldn’t need federal funding at all, but the current education finance system is so dysfunctional that many do, and thus the administration’s targeting of them is misguided.
Across the country, parents are telling elected officials they need more education options for their children. Sadly, the Biden administration’s charter school rule would do the opposite, limiting education options for the communities that need them most.
Inaction by the Biden administration and an aversion towards long-term strategic policy goals has put the United States in an exceedingly vulnerable position, with China and our adversaries aggressively advancing their plans to overtake the United States on the world stage.
Our nation’s current leadership has failed to act on forward-thinking initiatives to strengthen the economic and national security of America. It is imperative that new voices be sent to Washington who recognize future challenges and implement strategic plans to protect the wellbeing of American industry, security and freedom.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict underscores the need for a comprehensive plan to confront geopolitical and domestic challenges before they arise. This conflict was driven by Joe Biden’s withdrawal of United States Energy Independence at the world stage, all while the intelligence community and lawmakers having advance knowledge of a Russian invasion into Ukraine. Instead of acting to deter the Russian threat, lawmakers and the Biden administration failed to issue a preemptive sanction package. By lacking the foresight and courage to act, Biden disgraced American diplomacy and strength on the world stage.
It’s paramount that our next class of lawmakers address the needs of tomorrow’s America and develop long-term policies that strengthen United States national security and economic interests. I led the fight for energy independence and stood with President Trump’s successful policies by suing the Biden administration over the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline and filed suit against Biden’s disastrous ‘Social Cost of Greenhouse Gas’ rule. We must strengthen the American energy sector, and never become a pawn of another nation’s exports.
The lab leak in Wuhan, China exposed critical vulnerabilities in our country’s national security and economy. As Missouri Attorney General, I’ve fought China at every turn, suing the Communist Chinese Party in 2020 to hold them accountable for unleashing COVID-19 on the United States. But more must be done. We must eliminate funding for gain of function research, as seen in the NIH-funded Wuhan lab. The United States, through financing the NIH lab in Wuhan, placed an economic weapon in the hands of our greatest adversary.
This is an unacceptable lack of foresight our country can never allow to happen again. In the U.S. Senate, I will be relentless in my pursuit to hold accountable, whether foreign or domestic, those responsible for unleashing the pandemic on the world.Through Iran-Contra-like investigations, I will ensure that our enemies will never have the opportunity to use American research funding against us again.
Energy independence and opposing China, along with the foresight and willingness to take on these big fights like President Trump did so effectively is what our country needs, with the threat to our nation at the highest point in decades. International turmoil, rising inflation, and economic stagnation embolden our enemies and have been perpetuated by the Biden administration. We must do better. We need fighters. And we need long-term solutions. That’s why I’m running for the United States Senate.
I joined the Marine Corps two weeks out of high school, deployed to Afghanistan, and earned my degree using the GI Bill
By Fox News•
As President Biden considers forgiving student loan debt, there are important factors to consider, including the impact on our military and veterans who earned opportunities to pursue an affordable college education.
For most veterans, the choice to join the military was foremost about serving our country. But for many, it was also about receiving benefits to attend college without debt. Earning the GI Bill meant giving up years of their lives, serving in dangerous jobs and situations. The student loan debate is leaving out the impact cancellation will have on the veteran and active-duty community.
That’s probably why, in a recent Mission Roll Call poll of 6,202 veterans, 77% opposed student loan forgiveness.
College is expensive, and it’s only getting pricier. But since an undergraduate degree — even if unrelated to one’s subsequent career — has become a barrier to entry for most professional career tracks, most prospective students feel like they have no other option. They become saddled with student loans that don’t go away in bankruptcy and can delay important life events like buying a home or having children.Video
But there has always been a path to free higher education. For over 80 years, military service and the GI Bill have enabled millions of Americans to pursue college debt-free, or nearly free. Serve in the military, and the federal government will help ensure you have the resources necessary for success without burdensome debt.
For over 80 years, military service and the GI Bill have enabled millions of Americans to pursue college debt-free, or nearly free
Already in college? Join the ROTC. In the military and want to use the GI Bill for graduate school? Use tuition assistance. Not sure what you want to do out of high school? Enlist and earn your GI Bill. Already have a degree or want to make the military your career? Transfer the GI Bill to your kids.
I joined the Marine Corps two weeks out of high school, deployed to Afghanistan, and earned my degree using the GI Bill. I know firsthand the sacrifices service members made to earn that benefit. They all made a choice. In most cases, joining the military meant receiving the GI Bill and the chance to go to school for little to no cost. They earned that opportunity.
The U.S. military is an all-volunteer force; the active-duty component makes up less than 1% of the total civilian population. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans earn the GI Bill as an incentive for their service. It isn’t something freely given, and it isn’t something any civilian can feel entitled to.
For veterans and active troops who want to pursue a debt-free education through honorable service, policies that forgive student loan debt minimize their efforts and experiences.
Joining the military is not the only way to attend college, but it’s a vital option for service members who want a degree without having to saddle themselves with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. It was certainly the right of those who chose not to serve to find different options, but it should not be at the literal and figurative expense of those who served our nation.
Serving in uniform takes commitment and courage. And as our nation’s leaders discuss student loan forgiveness, we hope they adequately consider the life-changing decisions service members make for our country and honor their service in this debate.
Our increasingly ugly inflation problem is a perfect illustration of the Biden administration’s uncanny ability to get everything everywhere wrong all at once.
The Biden administration’s first response to any problem is to pretend that it isn’t a problem. That’s how inflation went from a minor problem to a major one. Unwilling to take the necessary steps to rein in inflation early — pushing the Fed to raise interest rates and slowing down the torrent of money going out the Treasury’s doors — Biden and congressional Democrats at first insisted that inflation wasn’t a real problem: “Transitory,” they called it.
And then when inflation turned out not to be transitory, they thought they could just pin it on the Russians. Jen Psaki sniffed smugly at the “Putin price hike,” as though Americans were too stupid to understand that inflation at home had started long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That gambit fizzled, too.
When you don’t have any fresh ideas or real principles — and when your long-term goals are limited by the fact that the president, who was born during the Roosevelt administration, isn’t exactly buying any green bananas — then the easiest thing to do is to throw money at every problem.
Throwing money at things is how you make inflation worse.
Washington had already thrown a lot of money at the economy during the COVID-19 emergency, and, predictably, the emergency spending outlasted the emergency. By the time Biden was elected in 2020, Washington had thrown $2.6 trillion in budgetary resources at COVID and had authorized as much as $4 trillion in subsidized federal lending. That was new money amounting to about a third of GDP sloshing around the economy. Biden’s first priority was pushing out another $1 trillion in a phony infrastructure bill (that has little to do with actual infrastructure) and a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, even though the Consumer Price Index was already rising steeply, according to the Federal Reserve.
Our inflation problem is only partly an issue of dovish monetary policy and reckless spending. There are problems in the real-world physical economy, too, those “supply-chain issues” we hear about. The Biden administration has done extraordinarily dumb things to make these worse, too, keeping in place the worst of the Trump administration’s anti-trade policies. That “Made in the USA” talk sounds good on the stump, but the truth is we need a lot that we don’t make at home and aren’t going to — including much of the steel and other vital inputs for the high-value manufacturing we actually do here.
The incredible fact is the Biden administration still had punitive tariffs on Ukrainian steel while it was seeking financial aid for the Ukrainians — it wasn’t until the Chamber of Commerce and conservative critics started making a stink that the administration changed its stance.
Biden has rejected obvious reforms such as waiving the Jones Act, which keeps goods — and fuel — from moving from one US port to another via ship. It has backed union efforts to prevent operators from improving the capacity and efficiency of our ports through automation, sacrificing that progress in favor of a make-work policy for the benefit of longshoremen. Nearly none of that “infrastructure” money has made its way to any project that would actually ease supply-chain issues.
Interfering with trade during a supply-chain crisis is how you make inflation worse.
The United States, Canada and Mexico together make up a formidable energy superpower. But it does not matter how much oil and gas you have if you cannot get it to refineries and then get the refined products to consumers. Biden killed the Keystone XL pipeline, and his EPA is standing on the neck of developing any new conventional energy infrastructure. As gasoline prices skyrocket, US refineries in the Gulf are sending much of their gasoline to Mexico to be sold, because there is no economic way to get it to the Northeast or the West Coast.
Biden is contemplating a trip to Saudi Arabia to beg OPEC to produce more oil —apparently, nobody has told him that Midland, Texas, is a hell of a lot closer.
Driving up energy prices for no good reason is how you make inflation worse.
Inflation is sometimes associated with a booming economy, but our economy shrank in the last quarter. Biden, who was in the Senate in the 1970s, is old enough to remember the word “stagflation,” which is what you get when you have a stagnant economy and inflation at the same time.
And it is what you get when you combine the wrong monetary policy with the wrong fiscal policy, the wrong trade policy, the wrong regulatory policy, and the wrong energy policy.
And that’s how you make inflation worse.
Obsession with reversal of Trump policies proving disastrous
On 30 September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain joined France and Italy in the Munich Agreement which pledged that these countries would not interfere with Germany’s annexation of the Sudeten section of Czechoslovakia, which was inhabited by ethnic Germans.
This treaty became known as the “Munich Betrayal” because it violated mutual defense treaties signed in 1924 and 1925 by France and Czechoslovakia. Subsequent events showed that this treaty simply allowed Adolph Hitler the additional time he needed to conquer Europe one victim at a time. Eventually, he turned on Britain as well. For those reasons, Neville Chamberlain’s name has become synonymous with “appeaser”, “coward” and “naïve”.
In 2022, Joseph Biden is facing a similar dilemma. Russia and China are both asserting the same claim that Hitler used as an excuse to begin his invasion of most of Europe, namely, the ethnic heritage of the target countries. To date, Biden, like Barack Obama, seems inclined to imitate Chamberlain rather than Churchill.
The irony is that Biden himself has created this dilemma. His predecessor had implemented a set of solutions aimed at avoiding the very problems Biden is now facing. Underlying all of these problems is the Bidens’ lack of understanding that many actions taken in governing the homeland have foreign policy consequences as well. Biden and his cohorts appear to be living in a little bubble.
The present situation in Europe is a case in point. Much to the satisfaction of the radical Left, the new President cancelled the Keystone Pipeline, then the Anwar Pipeline in Alaska, followed by declaring all federal lands and seas off limits to all new oil drilling and pipelines, effectively crippling the energy industry in America and, incidentally, eliminating the USA’s energy independence as well as our ability to export energy products to other countries, especially Europe, Japan and China.
In a spasm of righteousness, he also reversed America’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear materials production agreement as well as the other “green planet” agreements of the Obama administration. He also abandoned Israel and Afghanistan. And Germany got to keep the Nord Stream Pipeline. What he seemed to miss was the effect all this would have on Germany, NATO and Russia – with China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan in the wings.
Our adversaries are watching all this. They have also seen the invasion of foreigners through our southern border, the steep inflation of our economy, the deep division of our population, and the paralysis around the COVID 19 pandemic.
They decided to take advantage of all this and make their play for their own dreams of conquering new territory. Russia covets control of Ukraine now, with the rest of the former Soviet empire on its agenda. China, having already broken its treaty with the UK and taken control of Hong Kong, now wants to annex Taiwan on its way to replacing the USA as the dominant power in the Western Pacific. (USA interests are commercial trade relationships rather than territorial – including China.)
So, let’s connect the dots. The most urgent issue at the moment is Russia’s interest in Ukraine. Why is that a concern of the United States? That is a good question. The answer really goes back to 1945.
World War II ended when Nazi Germany found the eastern half of the country occupied by the Soviet Union and the other half by the Allies, led by the United States, which had saved Europe from the Nazis, aided by the UK and France.
The Americans wanted to stop fighting and go home. The Soviets, however, saw no reason not to extend their occupation and they had the army standing by to replace the Germans as the conquerors of the rest of Europe.
Actually, the Allies faced the distinct possibility of that happening if they did in fact go home. To avoid the possibility of the Soviet Union using its army to occupy the rest of Europe after the surrender, US President Roosevelt and UK Prime Minister Churchill were able to persuade their other ally, Soviet Leader Josef Stalin, to divide Germany into four zones: USA, Soviet Russia, UK, and France, thus leveraging their power which Stalin still needed to win the war. (That treaty was the controversial Potsdam Agreement.)
When the actual surrender came, then, General Dwight Eisenhower, as Supreme Allied Commander, authorized the Soviet occupation of what came to be called East Germany (for which he was criticized in some quarters).
This caution was further justified in 1948 when the Soviets blockaded Berlin. Only the outstanding performance of President Harry Truman’s US Army Air Force in the Berlin Airlift avoided another war. This incident led to the formation in 1949 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to protect Europe from the Soviet Union.
The ultimate concern of the NATO countries with Ukraine (not a member of NATO – although they want to join) is the same that Chamberlain faced in in 1938 with the Nazis, namely, that Russia will keep conquering one country after another until they control all the European countries – by far the major trading partners of the United States. Already, Russian President Vladimir Putin has added Georgia, Belarus, and Crimea and now he is threatening Ukraine (again). At some point in this scenario, World War III would start. Nevertheless, the objections to US involvement in Ukraine are already starting in America.
The force that stands in the way is NATO. It was formed for this purpose and has been successful for 72 years. The mainstay of this alliance on the European continent has been Germany, the most prosperous nation in Europe. However, Germany has a soft underbelly, namely its lack of sufficient sources of energy to support its population. This has become a critical concern of German authorities in recent years.
The closest source for 40% of the energy Germany needs is the new Nord Stream Pipeline which has been built under the Baltic Sea to link Russian oil directly to Germany. This creates a dependence of Europe’s largest and most prosperous nation on the European continent to the Russian Federation. This dependence gives Russia a potential weapon which can be used at any time to cripple the German economy as well as that of France.
The Trump administration dealt with this threat by succeeding in stopping the construction of the pipeline and substituting American energy for Russian energy, thus diffusing the entire issue. At the same time, President Trump strengthened NATO by requiring member nations to contribute their share of the cost of the Alliance and re-arming Poland and other nations bordering Russia one more time. Putin’s hands were tied by this strategy and the threat of war averted.
Joe Biden doesn’t’ have any of these levers. With childish delight he killed America’s energy industry, so that instead of supplying Europe with LNG, we are now pleading with Putin to sell us more of his supply. We have gone from seller to buyer. Biden has painted himself into a corner.
To add to his inept diplomacy, his administration has openly threatened Russia with an American cyber attack, not realizing apparently that American intelligence is unanimous in estimating that Russian cyber warfare capabilities exceed America’s. Russia is thought to possess EMP (electromagnetic pulse) technology which could cause a nuclear explosion powerful enough to cripple our entire electrical grid – a catastrophic weapon. The Americans have spent little on hardening our electrical grid, and our military spends more time on CRT briefings than on developing an offensive EMP weapon. So, Biden is playing with fire. We can only hope that we don’t get burned.
The bottom line is that there are consequences to every major action of an American president. To ignore these consequences is to disqualify oneself and one’s advisors from office.
Maybe impeachment isn’t such a bad idea after all. . .
Biden gets desperate
A wise man once said: “When the economy is bad, people blame the party in power. When the economy is good, people look at other issues.”
Well, the economy is bad. Nice-sounding growth, job, and wage numbers do not count for much when the American standard of living is in decline. Inflation has outpaced income gains since last year. It remains at a 40-year high. Gas costs more than four dollars per gallon—sometimes much more—in every state. Americans under 40 years old are experiencing consumer delays, shortages, and scarce necessities, including baby formula, for the first time in their lives. According to the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of Americans say that inflation is “a very big problem.”
It’s also a very big problem for the party in power. President Biden’s economic approval rating is 34 percent in the most recent CNN poll. His overall job approval rating is 41 percent in the FiveThirtyEight average of polls. Republicans have held a slight but durable lead in the congressional generic ballot since last October. The midterm election is less than six months away. To preserve their narrow majorities in Congress, Democrats need to change the trajectory of this campaign. Right now.
Their solution? Pretend that the election isn’t a referendum on Biden’s job performance but a choice between Biden and Donald Trump. Scare voters with references to the extremism of the right. Invoking Trump alone is not enough, however. Terry McAuliffe tried that approach during last year’s Virginia gubernatorial campaign and it flopped. McAuliffe lost. Running against Trump and the Make America Great Again (MAGA) movement doesn’t work when Trump is neither president nor on the ballot. Democrats have convinced themselves that victory in the fall requires something scarier than MAGA. It requires Ultra-MAGA.
On May 10 Biden contrasted his policies with the “Ultra-MAGA Agenda.” Haven’t heard of it? According to Biden, it’s the brainchild of Senator Rick Scott of Florida, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. (In his remarks, Biden erroneously said Scott hails from Wisconsin.) Back in February, Scott released a policy document that remains controversial within the Republican Party and that few Republican candidates have endorsed in full.
Biden isn’t subtle. He wants to use Scott’s proposals as an electoral cudgel, just as Barack Obama campaigned against Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” in 2012. Hence Biden’s description of “the ultra-MAGA plan put forward by congressional Republicans to raise taxes on working families; lower the incomes of American workers; threaten the sacred programs American count on like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; and give break after break to big corporations and billionaires.” Biden says that his foes are not ordinary Republicans. They are not run-of-the-mill Trump voters. They are “Ultra-MAGA Republicans.”
Someone has been spending too much time in focus groups. The Biden administration and congressional Democrats must think that the prefix “ultra” makes a noun sound spooky. But the president and his underlings will have to specify who really counts as an Ultra-MAGA Republican, what the Ultra-MAGA agenda entails, and when “ultra” should be capitalized before voters stop worrying about rising prices, violent crime, insecure borders, and craziness in schools. In its current usage, “ultra-MAGA” comes across as comical. It’s a hackneyed slogan. Some people may even find it appealing.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the other day that “ultra-MAGA” is the president’s coinage for Republicans who support Rick Scott’s plan, Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion returning abortion law to the states, and Governor Ron DeSantis’s (R., Fla.) fight with Disney. “And so,” said Psaki, “to him, adding a little ‘ultra’ to it, gives it a little extra pop.”
A little extra pop? What is Psaki talking about—a new flavor of Pringles?
The Democrats are unable or incapable of running on their accomplishments. Their economic agenda is discredited among voters grappling with inflation. Their traditional advantage on education has narrowed because of parental fury at school closures, mask rules, confusing COVID guidance, and politically correct school boards. They have fallen back on scaremongering and name-calling.
Not for the first time. Nor for the last. Expect the alarm bells to ring louder as autumn approaches. By Election Day, Biden will have moved from “Ultra-MAGA” to “Mega-MAGA,” “Super-Duper MAGA,” “MAGA Deluxe XXL,” and, in homage to his love of ice cream, “All-Out Triple Scoop Chunky Monkey MAGA with Extra Deplorables.” Voters will respond as they usually do when Biden speaks. They will ignore him.