Liberals and conservatives are approaching the COVID-19 pandemic through very different moral frameworks.
In a 2008 TED Talk, psychologist Jonathan Haidt said the worst idea in psychology is the notion that humans are born as a “blank slate.”
Like the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, Haidt was rejecting the notion that the human mind is a blank slate at birth, an idea that can be traced to thinkers from Aristotle, to John Locke, to B.F. Skinner and beyond.
“Developmental psychology has shown that kids come into the world already knowing so much about the physical and social worlds and programmed to make it really easy for them to learn certain things and hard to learn others,” explained Haidt, a Professor of Ethical Leadership at NYU’s Stern School of Business.
Citing research from the brain scientist Gary Marcus, Haidt said the initial organization of the brain essentially comes with a “first draft.” Studying the anthropological and historical records, Haidt found that five pillars of morality exist across disciplines, cultures, and even species:
What’s interesting is that these moral pillars differ sharply across ideological lines in America today. Haidt found that both conservatives and liberals recognize the harm/care and fairness/reciprocity values (though liberals value these a little more than conservatives). Things change, however, when examining the three remaining foundational values—loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. While conservatives accept these moral values, liberal-minded people tend to reject them.
The difference is extraordinary, and it helps explain the different ways Republicans and Democrats are experiencing the coronavirus. In May, a CNBC/Change Research survey found that while only 39 percent of Republicans said they had serious concerns about COVID-19, 97 percent of Democrats said they had serious concerns.
While some of the divergence could stem from the fact that blue states have been hit harder by COVID-19 than red states, Haidt’s research would suggest that another reason Democrats are more concerned is because liberals have an intense appreciation of the care/harm moral pillar.
Indeed, the preeminence of the care/harm moral can be found in the rhetoric of many progressives.
“I want to be able to say to the people of New York, ‘I did everything we could do,’” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in March. “And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.”
The care/harm moral is even found in the latest social media emojis. Last month, as USA Today reported in an exclusive story, Facebook rolled out its new “care” emoji.
“The new Facebook reaction—an emoji hugging a heart—is intended as shorthand to show caring and solidarity when commenting on a status update, message, photo or video during the coronavirus crisis that allow users to express how much they care about others,” the paper reported.
Cuomo’s language (and to a lesser extent Facebook’s emojis) suggests that, for many, care for others is the preeminent virtue. As such, efforts to protect people must be taken above lesser social considerations.
Understanding the different moral framework conservatives and liberals are using helps us understand why blue states have taken a much more aggressive approach in efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.
As The Atlantic explains, with a few exceptions, such as Ohio, Republican governors have been much more reluctant to impose sweeping restrictions on their residents than states led by Democratic governors. While governors in these states no doubt value care/harm, their moral framework likely gives them a heightened concern of other social considerations, particularly civil liberties.
The lockdowns, the Constitution Center explains, have threatened many of America’s most cherished civil liberties—the freedom to assemble, the right to purchase a firearm, the ability to freely travel, the freedom to attend church or visit a reproductive health facility. They’ve also put thousands of companies on a path toward bankruptcy by prohibiting them from engaging in commerce.
These infringements tend to be viewed as reasonable to liberals, who emphasize the care/harm moral but are less likely to recognize the sanctity/degradation moral. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, for example, said he never even considered the US Constitution—a document considered sacrosanct by many Americans—when he issued his lockdown order.
“That’s above my pay grade,” Murphy told Tucker Carlson in April. “I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this. We went to all—first of all—we went to the scientists who said people have to stay away from each other.”
Similarly, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer saw no problem in suspending the Freedom of Information Act to prevent outside groups from assessing the model state officials used to justify locking down the entire state.
Those who view civil liberties and constitutional rights as sacred, however, are less than comfortable with such an approach. They will be less inclined to sacrifice sacred principles to support sweeping state efforts to protect people (and are probably more likely to see such efforts as counter-productive).
To be sure, some progressives do see civil liberties as sacred, and some of them have expressed dismay and bewilderment that so many progressives, in their enthusiasm for the care/harm moral, have abandoned civil liberties.
“[The COVID-19 crisis is] raising serious civil liberties issues, from prisoners trapped in deadly conditions to profound questions about speech and assembly, the limits to surveillance and snitching, etc.,” the progressive journalist Matt Taibbi recently wrote in Rolling Stone. “If this disease is going to be in our lives for the foreseeable future, that makes it more urgent that we talk about what these rules will be, not less—yet the party I grew up supporting seems to have lost the ability to do so, and I don’t understand why.”
If Haidt’s theory is correct, the reason is liberals and conservatives are, generally speaking, approaching the COVID-19 pandemic through divergent moral frameworks.
After all, the argument isn’t whether we should protect people.
“In any country, the disagreement isn’t over harm and fairness,” Haidt says. “Everyone agrees that harm and fairness matter.”
The argument isn’t even over how to best balance the care/harm moral with other considerations.
The disagreement is over whether efforts to protect individuals from COVID-19 should be balanced against other considerations—including constitutional and economic ones—at all.
Column: Why Rush Limbaugh matters
Florida governor Ron DeSantis spoke to Rush Limbaugh last fall at a gala dinner for the National Review Institute. The radio host was there to receive the William F. Buckley Jr. award. “He actually gave me one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever had,” Limbaugh told his audience the next day. “He listed five great conservatives and put me in the list.” DeSantis’s pantheon: William F. Buckley Jr., Ronald Reagan, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Limbaugh.
Good list. No media figure since Buckley has had a more lasting influence on American conservatism than Limbaugh, whose cumulative weekly audience is more than 20 millionpeople. Since national syndication in 1988, Limbaugh has been the voice of conservatism, his three-hour program blending news, politics, and entertainment in a powerful and polarizing cocktail. His shocking announcement this week that he has advanced lung cancer, and his appearance at the State of the Union, where President Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, are occasions to reflect on his impact.
It’s one thing to excel in your field. It’s another to create the field in which you excel. Conservative talk radio was local and niche before Limbaugh. He was the first to capitalize on regulatory and technological changes that allowed for national scale. The repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 freed affiliates to air controversial political opinions without inviting government scrutiny. As music programming migrated to the FM spectrum, AM bandwidth welcomed talk. Listener participation was also critical. “It was not until 1982,” writes Nicole Hemmer in Messengers of the Right, “that AT&T introduced the modern direct-dial toll-free calling system that national call-in shows use.”
Limbaugh made the most of these opportunities. And he contributed stylistic innovations of his own. He treated politics not only as a competition of ideas but also as a contest between liberal elites and the American public. He added the irreverent and sometimes scandalous humor and cultural commentary of the great DJs. He introduced catchphrases still in circulation: “dittohead,” “Drive-By media,” “feminazi,” “talent on loan from God.”
The template he created has been so successful that the list of his imitators on both the left and right is endless. Even Al Franken wanted in on the act. Dostoyevsky is attributed with the saying that the great Russian writers “all came out of Gogol’s ‘Overcoat.'” Political talk show hosts came out of Limbaugh’s microphone.
Limbaugh’s success prefigured more than the rise of conservative radio. His two bestsellers, The Way Things Ought to Be (1992) and See, I Told You So (1993), were the leading edge of the conservative publishing boom. And his television program, The Rush Limbaugh Show, produced in collaboration with Roger Ailes, was a forerunner of the opinion programming on Fox News Channel. “I had to learn how to take being hated as a measure of success,” he told a Boy Scouts awards dinner in 2009. “Nobody’s raised for that. And the person that taught me to deal with this and to remain psychologically healthy was Roger Ailes.”
Limbaugh is not fringe. His views fit in the conservative mainstream. He idolizes Buckley. “He was a fundamental individual in helping me to be able to explain what I believed instinctively, helping me to explain it to others,” Limbaugh said last year. The ideas are the same but the salesman is different. Limbaugh is Buckley without the accent, without the Yale credentials, without the sailboat and harpsichord. Limbaugh is a college dropout from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, who spends Sundays watching the NFL and speaks in plain language. His background connects him to the audience—and to the increasingly working-class Republican voter.
Limbaugh entered stage right just as Ronald Reagan made his exit. He took from Reagan the sense that America’s future is bright, that America isn’t broken, just its liberal political, media, and cultural elites. “He rejected Washington elitism and connected directly with the American people who adored him,” Limbaugh said after Reagan’s death. “He didn’t need the press. He didn’t need the press to spin what he was or what he said. He had the ability to connect individually with each American who saw him.” The two men never met.
Limbaugh assumed Reagan’s position as leader of the conservative movement. In a letter sent to Limbaugh after the 1992 election, Reagan wrote, “Now that I’ve retired from active politics, I don’t mind that you have become the Number One voice for conservatism in our Country. I know the liberals call you the most dangerous man in America, but don’t worry about it, they used to say the same thing about me. Keep up the good work. America needs to hear ‘the way things ought to be.'”
In a long and evenhanded cover story in 1993 by James Bowman, National Review pronounced Limbaugh “the leader of the opposition.” Bowman quoted R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., editor of The American Spectator. “We need to have people who can dramatize ideas,” Tyrrell said. “You need that literary spark. Luigi Barzini had it; Buckley has it. And, though he’s a great talker rather than a great writer, Rush has it too.”
More than a decade later, after the Republican defeat in 2008, Limbaugh once again stepped into the breach. The media likened Barack Obama to FDR. Republicans wavered. Should they cooperate with President Obama in building a “New Foundation” for America? Limbaugh gave his answer on January 16, 2009. “I’ve been listening to Barack Obama for a year and a half,” he said. “I know what his politics are. I know what his plans are, as he has stated them. I don’t want them to succeed.” Limbaugh said he hoped Obama failed. “Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it?” The monologue, and the speech he delivered to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., a month later, became a sensation. They set the tone for the Tea Party and Republican victories in 2010 and 2014.
Limbaugh did not mock Trump when the businessman announced his presidential campaign in June 2015. “This is going to resonate with a lot of people, I guarantee you, and the Drive-Bys are going to pooh-pooh it,” he said. He spent the primary reminding listeners of the importance of defeating Hillary Clinton. Trump was not an ideological candidate, he said. Trump was a missile aimed at the establishment. If ideology matters, then you should vote for Ted Cruz. “If conservatism is your bag, if conservatism is the dominating factor in how you vote,” Limbaugh said in February 2016, “there is no other choice for you in this campaign than Ted Cruz, because you are exactly right: This is the closest in our lifetimes we have ever been to Ronald Reagan.” But, Limbaugh added, the feeling in the country might be so anti-establishment that Trump’s unusual coalition could win the presidency. It did.
To say that Limbaugh supports the president would be an understatement. Last December he introduced the president at a Turning Point USA summit. He mentioned a recent encounter on a golf course. Someone told him it is hard to defend President Trump. “I said, ‘What? Hard to defend the president? It’s one of the easiest things in the world to do.’ President Trump does not need to be defended.” The crowd cheered. A few seconds later Limbaugh said, “How do you defend Donald Trump? You attack the people who are attempting to destroy him. They’re trying to destroy you. They’re trying to transform this country into something that it was not founded to be.”
Bold, brash, divisive, funny, and amped up, President Trump’s style is similar to a shock jockey’s. His presidency is another reminder of Limbaugh’s staying power. The American right has been molded in his anti-elitist, grassroots, demotic, irreverent, patriotic, hard-charging image. Rush Limbaugh is not just a broadcaster. He defines an era.
The Republican Party has a choice to make about its future. It can either adapt to America’s societal and demographic changes or rely on its current strategy. One of these options leads to a party that reflects the United States; the other renders the party obsolete.
Many on the right have argued that the GOP must broaden its base by assertively courting minority voters if it wishes to remain relevant. So far, many in the party have ignored or even resisted such outreach. However, if a recent announcement from Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) is any indication, a new approach is on the horizon.
Hurd, who retires next year, is starting an organization that will support diverse candidates in primary races across the country. The group, known as Future Leaders Fund (FLF), will “go into primary races around the country where there are good, conservative, and diverse candidates to build the future of the Republican Party,” according to its website.
FLF’s objective is to help the GOP shed its “party of old white men” label by creating “a diverse crop of future elected officials to be ambassadors to our party,” who will “attract new voters disenfranchised by the socialist left to join our party.”
The group plans to spend millions of dollars next year to ensure that minority, female, and young candidates get on the ballot. During the announcement, Hurd explained his reasons for this new endeavor: “America is becoming more diverse, while the Republican Party is becoming less popular with minority voters,” he said, pointing out that the GOP “lost 76% of minority voters.”
The representative then issued a stark warning: “If the Republican Party doesn’t start looking like America and resonating with all Americans, then there won’t be a Republican Party in America.” Hurd, the only black Republican in the House, announced that he would not seek re-election next year. He endorsed Tony Gonzalez, a Hispanic American, to replace him. After announcing his retirement, he indicated that he was not finished with politics, and it appears this initiative will occupy his time in 2020.
Until the present, the Republican Party has focused the bulk of its campaigning and messaging efforts on white voters in rural and suburban areas. Since the 1960s, this strategy achieved varying levels of success. Nevertheless, this approach will likely become ineffective going forward because the nation’s demographics are changing. The solution is simple: The Republican Party must adopt a plan that will expand its base.
Hurd and other conservatives are correct in this assessment. Unless the GOP reforms into a party that looks like the rest of the country, it will become irrelevant. Some on the right are resistant, arguing that engaging with minorities constitutes the same type of pandering that Democrats love, but this argument misses the point. Interacting with minority voters is not pandering. It is stimulating dialogue and demonstrating the areas where conservative solutions can make a positive difference. To keep the GOP vital in the years to come, the party must enlarge and revitalize its base.
The left's new extremism condones assaulting conservatives in public. Antifa's attack on a journalist is yet another example that our norms have changed.
Over the weekend, the Washington Post published an opinion article written by Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. Wilkinson famously kicked out White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family last June over what Wilkinson felt was a moral obligation to stand up to the Trump administration. The restaurant owner not only ejected Sanders, but followed her into another restaurant to continue the harassment.
Wilkinson doubled down on her actions in her Washington Post article, claiming that all restaurants and businesses have a moral obligation to prevent dissenters from participating in public life because, as she said, “this isn’t about politics. It’s about values, and accountability to values, in business.”
Her position, like many others, is that President Trump is akin to a murderous dictator, that he is an unabashed anti-LGBT racist, despite no evidence to support this. She has subscribed to the rules and followed them to the letter, so naturally, anyone who shares any values with the conservative president is the enemy. In closing, she suggests:
When the day comes that the world feels returned to its normal axis, I expect we’ll see fewer highly charged encounters making headlines. In the meantime, the new rules apply. If you’re directly complicit in spreading hate or perpetuating suffering, maybe you should consider dining at home.
The New York Times ran a companion article this weekend in their opinion section that suggested civilians should expose those attempting to address the humanitarian crisis at the border. Author Katie Cronin-Furman, an “assistant professor for human rights,” didn’t mean the human smugglers and the scores of people exploiting children to gain access to the United States, but the government employees of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She cited the cash-starved agencies as being solely responsible for the deplorable conditions at the detention facilities.
The author further suggests that the best way to combat the crisis at the border, which was repeatedly denied by the left until very recently, was to obtain the names and identities of government agents and shame them publicly in their home towns and churches. She said, “Immigration lawyers have agent names; journalists reporting at the border have names, photos and even videos. These agents’ actions should be publicized, particularly in their home communities.”
Cronin-Furman further suggested that attorneys should think twice about representing these government agents: “the American Bar Association should signal that anyone who defends the border patrol’s mistreatment of children will not be considered a member in good standing of the legal profession.” Mind you, even serial killers, rapists, terrorists, and pedophiles have the right to legal representation in this country. But apparently U.S. government employees attempting to deal with a crisis our Congress refuses to address do not.
These are the new rules of civility. Last week, a server at The Aviary, an upscale cocktail lounge in Chicago, spit in the face of the president’s son, Eric. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot condemned this, as did the owners of The Aviary, but public support for the server was astronomic. A fundraising page for the employee (later determined to be fake) raised more than $5,000 in less than two days.
Carlos Maza, an employee of liberal outlet Vox, made headlines in June for causing YouTube to yank ad revenue from conservative Steven Crowder. He claimed Crowder was guilty of “hate speech” and harassment. Crowder frequently poked fun at Maza and his extremely leftist views on his show, “Louder with Crowder.” Just a month earlier, however, Maza suggested attacking all conservatives by hurling drinks at them. In a tweet, he said, “Milkshake them all. Humiliate them at every turn. Make them dread public organizing.”
Vice published an article in May titled, “How to Make the Perfect Milkshake for Throwing at Fascists,” which encouraged readers to hurl the beverages at any conservative they recognize in public. Food blog Eater doubled down on Vice’s suggestion with a tongue-in-cheek piece about the best throwing food for “fighting fascism.”
The Boston Globe published an article in April that suggested food service workers should tamper with the food of conservatives, including of Bill Kristol, who has never supported the Trump administration in any way. The Boston Globe later removed their article after severe backlash. Throwing any object at a person is considered assault.
In the past year, nearly a dozen members of the Trump administration and conservative lawmakers have been chased out of restaurants and pelted with milkshakes, not for causing civil disruption, but simply for being in public. The new rules being touted so strongly by the media aren’t limited to lawmakers and cabinet members any longer, however. Milkshakes, harassment, and public shaming are now excused penalties for anyone who doesn’t fully subscribe to their ideology.
In that vein, any journalist critical of policies now considered by the left to be nothing short of moral imperatives would also be unwelcome in the public square and therefore a complicit “fascist.” After the shocking moment in Thursday night’s Democratic debate when all ten candidates raised their hands in favor of unlimited taxpayer-provided health care for illegal immigrants, noted Trump critic Andrew Sullivan suggested their extreme position could cost them the election. He was quickly labeled on social media as a Trump apologist and racist.
Then there was the attack on journalist Andy Ngo this weekend in Portland, Oregon, by Rose City Antifa. While the extreme left continues to tout their new rules of civility as being merely “peaceful protests,” Ngo was targeted and brutally attacked by black-mask-wearing members of an extremist organization. As Antifa pelted Ngo with fists, milkshakes, and other objects, stealing his camera and phone as he lay bleeding on the ground, police stood idly by under directives of a very liberal mayor in a very liberal city. Just three arrests were made. Ngo was hospitalized with a brain bleed.
Ngo, who is openly gay, is an editor for Quillette, a magazine that stays in the center politically but often publishes articles that fall outside of the “correct way” of thinking as laid out by extreme progressives. The new rules seem to ban any contradicting thought from public life, and if peaceful protesting doesn’t make people fall in line, then more forceful, violent methods now have received the green light.
The political line in the sand between the left and right has evolved into a fracture so deep and wide that the idea of crossing it in either direction has become almost unthinkable. Progressive liberals have set a far-left course that has been followed by most congressional Democrats, even those who once considered themselves to be moderate. They’ve laid out their rules for the “correct” way to think, to speak, and to vote.
“Correct” for the new left includes eliminating border enforcement, giving government benefits to illegal immigrants, socializing education from pre-K all the way through college, striking private health insurance in favor of Medicare, and using taxpayer revenue to pay for abortions without restriction. The stunning ascension of such extreme policy proposals from high-profile Democrats has further cast conservatives, moderates, and many in their own party as the villains in a battle between good and evil.
What has been made abundantly clear in recent days is that the new left has no intention of negotiating their terms. In addition to laying out the way they feel every man, woman, and child should think, the party of “decency” and “tolerance” has become totally intolerant of dissenting thought. Those who challenge their ideas are often branded as racists, misogynists, and even Nazis because to the new left, their extremism isn’t a political ideology, it’s the new national code for morals and values.
By John McCormack • National Review
In Tuesday’s Wisconsin supreme-court election, conservatives appear to have scored a shocking upset victory. With only a handful of precincts left to report, conservative-backed Brian Hagedorn leads liberal-backed Lisa Neubauer by nearly 6,000 votes out of 1.2 million cast, according to unofficial results.
The liberal Neubauer called for a recount, which a losing candidate may do — if she pays for it herself — when the margin is less than one percentage point. (Taxpayers pick up the tab at margins less than 0.25 points.) But a lead of 6,000 votes would almost certainly be insurmountable in a recount, assuming there were no unusually large tabulation errors Tuesday night, as there was in a 2011 supreme-court election in the state.
Hagedorn’s likely victory comes as a surprise to many. There wasn’t any public polling, but one Republican GOP operative in Wisconsin tells National Review that private polling in the closing weeks showed Hagedorn trailing by mid-to-high single digits. Continue reading
Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s new nominee for the Supreme Court, is a whip-smart legal conservative. As a judge in the highest-profile appeals court in the nation, he has shown an exemplary dedication to the rule of law. He has defended the separation of powers against threats coming from multiple directions. He has repeatedly cautioned his colleagues on the bench not to attempt to play a legislative role. He has also insisted on enforcing constitutional structures of accountability on government agencies. He has vindicated the right to free speech (against certain campaign-finance regulations), to bear arms (against the D.C. government’s attempts to implement sweeping bans), and to religious liberty (against a version of the Obama administration’s “contraceptive mandate”). And he has followed Supreme Court precedents even when gently suggesting they should be rethought.
His decisions have also been influential, with the Supreme Court repeatedly adopting his analysis and in one case running several block quotes from his opinion. Some conservatives have faulted the reasoning of a few of his opinions, but usually have not disagreed with the decisions he reached. His ruling on a Continue reading
Economy: Have Donald Trump’s policies had a big impact on the U.S. economy and its competitiveness? The answer, we think, is an obvious yes. Now comes a new report, based mainly on “hard” data, that confirms that.
The report comes from the IMD Competitiveness Center in Switzerland. Each year it ranks countries by 256 different variables to come up with its global competitiveness rankings.
For 2018, there was a surprise: The U.S. leapt three places to take over the top spot in global competitiveness — just ahead of Hong Kong, Singapore, the Netherlands and Switzerland. That jump was based on its “strength in economic performance and infrastructure,” ranking first in both areas.
That this is so shouldn’t shock anyone with any knowledge of what’s going on in the economy.
Since Trump took office, GDP growth has Continue reading
By Grover Norquist and Alex Hendrie • The Hill
The tax cuts passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump six months ago are already impacting our nation in these ways.
Americans are paying less in taxes
Ninety percent of wage earners around the country are already seeing increased take-home pay because of tax reform. Under the bill, a family of four with annual income of $73,000 will see a tax cut of more than $2,058, a 58 percent reduction in federal taxes. Similarly, a single parent with one child with annual income of $41,000 will see a tax cut of $1,304, a 73 percent reduction in federal taxes.
Workers are getting raises and bonuses
Immediately after passing of the GOP tax cuts bill, businesses responded by giving their employees pay raises and bonuses. AT&T announced it would provide each of its 200,000 U.S. employees with a $1,000 bonus. Altria is Continue reading
By Lindsey Burke • National Review
“Education Savings Accounts will be our most significant step yet in giving parents and children the ability to choose the education path that is best suited for them,” declared New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu in his latest State of the State address.
A new proposal would make New Hampshire the seventh state to enact ESAs, and potentially the first to provide all families the opportunity to use them. With an ESA, parents who need to find a school or education option that is a better fit for their child can access some of the money the state would have spent on their child in the public system. They can then use those funds to pay for private-school tuition, online learning, special-education services and therapies, private tutoring, and a host of other education-related services, products, and providers. Parents can also roll over unused funds from year to year.
Last spring, the state senate passed a proposal to create a nearly universal ESA option that Sununu correctly boasted had the potential to be “a gold standard for the rest of the country to follow.” Under the state senate’s legislation, any student entering kindergarten or first grade or switching out of a public district or charter school would be eligible to receive an ESA.
The New Hampshire House Education Committee, however, took a more cautious approach. After a series of hearings and work sessions, the committee adopted a significantly scaled-down version of the proposal that would make ESAs available only to families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty line, as well as Continue reading
By Mattie Duppler • National Review
There is now discussion of reviving earmarks: the practice, banned in the House of Representatives since 2010, of inserting funding for lawmakers’ pet projects into bills to secure their support. Earmarks epitomize the obsequious logrolling that makes Washington the most hated place in the nation (on earth?) — and their absence has proved crucial to the Republican effort to restrain government spending, one of the great untold success stories of the past eight years. That Republicans would even suggest earmarks should be restored reveals at best an unsophisticated grasp of spending mechanisms, and at worst a complete abandonment of the victories the party has scored in restraining Washington’s spendthrift instincts.
It is often forgotten what two years of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid triumvirate augured for the size of government. Federal spending, which had generally held steady around 20 percent of GDP in the modern era, was projected to rise to more than 26 percent of GDP by 2020 after just two years of Democratic control.
House Republicans, driven to power by Americans who recoiled at this looming threat of unstable government growth, promised to turn this around. And they did: Through dogged spending cuts in bimonthly continuing resolutions, and then with the imposition of budget caps in the Budget Control Act in August of 2011, Republicans erased the spending legacy of the Pelosi- and Reid-led Congress, which only a few years earlier had been eyed wearily as the new normal. Today federal spending stands at about 21 percent of GDP.
By Ramesh Ponnuru • National Review
Gorsuch confirmed, ISIS defeated, taxes cut: The Trump administration has compiled a solid record of accomplishment in its first year, one that compares well with the records of many of its predecessors.
Two of the biggest accomplishments came late in the year. The prime minister of Iraq declared victory over ISIS on December 9. Republicans reached a deal that seemed to secure passage of a tax bill on December 15. Until then, it appeared possible that 2017 would end without an all-Republican government enacting any major legislation.
Now the Republicans’ policy record looks better, at least as most conservatives see it. The tax bill advances several longstanding conservative objectives. It cuts tax rates for most Americans, slashes the corporate-tax rate for the first time in decades, expands the tax credit for children, limits the reach of the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, and scales back the tax break for expensive homes. By scaling back the deduction for state and local taxes, it may encourage a more conservative fiscal politics in the states. And it allows drilling to proceed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
By Ali Meyer • Washington Free Beacon
President Donald Trump’s tax reform framework could raise GDP by as much as 5 percent and wages by as much as 7 percent, according to a new study from Boston University economists.
“We find that, depending on the year considered, the new Republican tax plan raises GDP by between 3 and 5 percent and real wages by between 4 and 7 percent,” the economists explain. “This translates into roughly $3,500 annually more annual real take-home pay for the average American household.”
Economists believe this growth can happen due to the plan’s aim to reduce the marginal effective corporate tax rate from 34.6 percent to 18.6 percent, which they believe will grow the capital stock by 12 to 20 percent. Continue reading
By Marcus Winters • National Review
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos likes to point to Florida’s education reforms from the Jeb Bush era as a potential model for expanding school choice. It’s a reasonable place to start given that adoption of these policies in the early 2000s coincided with outstanding educational improvements in the state. Statewide progress on the National Assessment for Educational Progress, a test administered over time by the federal government, has far outstripped that of the nation and nearly all states.
But the new emphasis on Florida has put a target on the state’s back. Two recent pieces, one in the Washington Post, the other in the New York Times, take direct aim at the state’s two expansive school-voucher policies. Both stories seek to highlight the limitations of the school-choice reforms. Neither is convincing. And both are often highly misleading.
In the Post, reporter Emma Brown takes up Florida’s corporate tax-credit program, which offers vouchers worth up to $5,886 for students from households with income below 260 percent of the federal poverty line. Last year nearly 100,000 students used scholarship, or voucher. If it were a school district, it would be about the size of Baltimore’s. Continue reading
by Steven Horwitz • Foundation for Economic Education
Critics of liberalism and the market economy have made a long-standing habit of inventing terms we would never use to describe ourselves. The most common of these is “neo-liberal” or “neo-liberalism,” which appears to mean whatever the critics wish it to mean to describe ideas they don’t like. To the extent the terms have clear definitions, they certainly don’t align with the actual views of defenders of markets and liberal society.
Economists have never used that term to describe their views. Another related term is “trickle-down economics.” People who argue for tax cuts, less government spending, and more freedom for people to produce and trade what they think is valuable are often accused of supporting something called “trickle-down economics.” It’s hard to pin down exactly what that term means, but it seems to be something like the following: “those free market folks believe that if you give tax cuts or subsidies to rich people, the wealth they acquire will (somehow) ‘trickle down’ to the poor.” Continue reading
by Senator Mike Lee • Washington Examiner
This Thursday, after months of hard work, a bipartisan group of senators and I introduced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015.
Most people, including many conservatives, might think criminal justice reform is a progressive cause, not a conservative one.
But, like many pearls of conventional wisdom, this is simply untrue.
Just look at the history of criminal justice in the 20th century. The most successful reformers — whether they be academics or evangelists, policymakers or community leaders — have advocated for conservative goals: law and order built on tight-knit communities, a vibrant civil society, strong, intact families and personal responsibility. Continue reading