Since the election of Donald John Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America on November 8, 2016, the political culture in the country has gone from mildly insane to absolutely idiotic. Before his election, the constitutional principle that the majority of the electors legitimizes the choice of the citizenry was never seriously challenged. Yet, his opponent’s followers, which included the overwhelming majority of the grossly overrated academia, the self-serving media, the Democrat-installed and ideologically blinded bureaucracy and judiciary, have had a different interpretation of the constitution. In their boundless arrogance they decided that their fellow citizens were politically and intellectually not mature enough to bring about the promised “fundamental transformation of society”, promised by their idol, former President Barack Hussein Obama. Infatuated also by the mirage of political correctness, identity politics, and the “glass ceiling”, they concluded that only a revolutionary minority could lead and bring about the desired Obamaesque political, social, economic, and cultural revolution. What they clearly overlooked was the not so negligible fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s disagreeable personality, her past activities and campaign themes were way outside the constraints of the majority’s political and moral beliefs and, more importantly, ran against almost all the cherished traditions of the people.
To add insult to the already existing injurious situation, the midterm elections of 2018, have cemented a broken political system in Washington, D.C., and beyond. The Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosy, aided by the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have behaved as though they were the majority within the federal government. Moreover, supported by the ubiquitously and fiercely biased media on behalf of the Democrat Party, the President’s and the Senate Majority Leader’s utterances and statements have been systematically misstated, misinterpreted, taken out of context, and even altered, in order to serve the opposition’s nefarious political objectives. A case in point is the titles of lead articles in the Washington Post’s March 23, 2020 edition, in which the authors praised the warlike attitude of European governments in light of shortages of ventilators, beds and other essential medical equipment to fight the coronavirus, while condemned the President for his alleged “ lagging response” to desperate demands for assistance by state, municipal, and city leaders across the nation.
Meanwhile, because they could not directly attack the electoral college enshrined in the constitution, they embarked on inventing perhaps the most absurd lie of American political history, the so-called “Russian interference in the American elections on behalf of the Trump campaign.” Having been aided by the written and electronic media that for many decades have been constitutionally incapable of grasping the fundamental difference between strict adherence to the facts and the capricious presentation of purely subjective, irresponsible, and even maliciously disseminated falsehoods, the overwhelming majority of media personalities have turned into despicable liars par excellence. Having realized that their ideas are not winnable, these ruthless political operatives and extremist propagandists have come to the conclusion that the only way for them to regain their lost political powers enjoyed under the eight years of the Obama administration is to overthrow the legitimately elected President and his administration by outrageously false narratives, defamation of characters, and blatantly illegal or pseudo-legal manipulations. In order to round up this vicious circle of anti-American conspirators, these two groups enlisted the politically corrupt bureaucrats of the government, in particular the leaders of the various intelligence agencies, the upper echelons of the Department of Justice, and its investigative arm the FBI.
The resulting crimes committed by these groups and connected individuals then led to the totally groundless Mueller investigation, the multitude of laughable House proceedings, and finally to the pathetic impeachment trial in the Senate. What has been remarkable in all these political charades that in the name of maliciously invented human rights, worn off Marxist social justice slogans, self-serving and inverted racial discrimination grievances, misguided notions of multiculturalism, disrespectful anti-religiosity, and savage anti-Americanism, they have attempted to convince the majority of Americans that society shall not save all the praiseworthy characteristics that made their country great, but that they must at all cost to annihilate greatness itself. This compendium of destructive rants against the United States of America, its history, and its constitutional principles, has been packaged in the poisonous wrapping of senseless irreverence.
The charge for this kind of irreverence was led from its inception by none other than President Barack Hussein Obama, the most incompetent, yet the most overrated pseuedo-politician in the annals of American history. Having talked about American exceptionalism often and as usual from both sides of his mouth, he has only succeeded to unsettle both himself and everybody else. As a result, his inherent intellectual confusion culminated in total chaos in the minds of his clueless adherents. Out of this intellectual confusion was born the notion of the Obamaesque Democrats that finality does not exist in society, and that permanent chaos is like Trotsky’s permanent revolution, assuredly beneficial to humanity. Again, what they have clearly overlooked is that the United States of America and the rest of the world foremost needed stability. The era of experimenting with dogmas, ideologies, and extremist intellectual ideas was over. While the history of the 20th century was littered with the failures of the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Arab Socialism, African Socialism, Chinese Maoism, etc., the United States of America’s Constitution-and-Bible-based political, legal, and spiritual realms have survived without major interruptions or upheavals.
Thus, the reason President Donald John Trump beat Hillary Rodham Clinton decisively on November 8, 2016, is simple. The former understood better what motivates the American people than the latter. Moreover, the President understood the rest of the world better than his defeated opponent. Therefore, the President has embarked on a whale of a job, namely, to restore and preserve the proven foundations of the Republic, specifically American democracy. In order to accomplish these objectives, the President has spoken truth to the extremist minority. His fighting spirit on behalf of the country has attempted to recreate a feeling of confidence in the institutions of government across the land.
Presently, under the guise of initially blaming the outbreak of the coronavirus on the President, even calling it the “Trump Virus”, and since then vehemently criticizing almost his every decision, the Democrat opposition is hell bent to repeat the outrageous abuse of the rule of law of the last three years, in the hope that they can ride the coronavirus horses of apocalypse to absolute power on November 3, 2020. As recently as last weekend, the Speaker of the House again raised the specter of impeachment against the President for failing to prepare for the pandemic, saying “while the president fiddles, people are dying.” In the same vein, perhaps the most stupid television personality among all the blooming idiots in the American media, NBC’s own Chuck Todd asked Joe Biden whether he believes that the President “has blood on his hands.” This scurrilous and destructive opposition, which is a minority, remains utterly stupefied intellectually by the discredited ultra revolutionary socialist and 19th century syndicalist nonsense. Yet, if it would be successful, it will only accomplish one objective: the total destruction of the Republic, democracy, and the rule of law.
Thus, in today’s health emergency situation the most important task of every government should be to preserve a prudent balance between well-defined legislation enacted by Congress and the strict implementation of the laws by the executive branch. This requirement is important because in the last five decades Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Courts have not performed well in preserving this delicate balance. Particularly, under the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama legislation often suffered from vagueness. Glaring examples of recent congressional sloppiness are the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Massachusetts Senator Elisabeth Warren inspired Consumer Protection Act. In both cases, Congress’s intent was to fundamentally reform major segments of the American economy. In reality, Congress has created significant loopholes in both the meaning of definitions and the interpretation of key provisions. The resulting legal uncertainties have often contributed to bureaucratic overreach and abuses of the Executive Branch’s discretionary powers as well as the inviolability of the principle of the rule of law.
Giving universal value to the rule of law is the responsibility of the judiciary. Decisions handed down by the courts affect individuals in the present, but also will have a more enduring impact on the life of future generations. Thus, judges must be ideologically independent, politically impartial, and therefore not concerned with the politics of the present. For these reasons, judicial activism can be as threatening to the rule of law as the broad discretionary powers granted by the legislature for the executive.
Regrettably, in the present political climate, everybody believes that his or her ideas have the blessings of the future and for this reason rejects out of hand any contradictory arguments. And when these arguments have no or merely miniscule chance to be adapted by the majority, their adherents will try to utilize the powers of the news media and unelected law enforcement and intelligence agencies, as well as the politically and ideologically biased members of the judiciary. In this political tower of Babel the future of the American Republic, democracy, and the rule of law becomes less predictable.
The moral decline and the resulting ideologically misguided politicization of the nation’s political realm is best illustrated by the Democrats’ insistence on pushing their so-called politically correct agenda during the debate about the stimulus package. Spurned by Majority Whip James Clyburn, third in line within the House Democrat leadership, who opined that the Coronavirus crisis provides the Democrats with “…a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision,” the Speaker of the House deemed it appropriate to held up the stimulus package already agreed upon by both parties in the Senate. In this manner, realizing that their outlandish ideas have no chance to be approved by the majority of the voters in the upcoming elections, Nancy Pelosi wanted to blackmail the President and the Republican Party into accepting her and her Party’s takeover of corporate America. Termed by the Heritage Foundation as a “veritable pork barrel for programs that would force corporations receiving government aid to implement diversity and inclusion initiatives that have nothing to do with combating COVID-19,” Pelosi’s alternative stimulus bill pushed social policies that are outrightly destructive to democracy and the free market economy. This is clearly malicious politics.
Conversely, the guarantee of good politics resides in the characters of the policymakers too. Attempting to promote a dictatorial version of Socialism is tantamount to placing an already discredited political agenda, namely government takeover of the national economy with the goal of establishing a classless society, ahead of the well-being of the American people, is by definition against the national interests. In the same token, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s advocacy of Communism in the guise of “Social Democracy” is equally bad, because of its irrationality and its practices of concluding bad compromises. His revolutionary fantasies amount to an idiotic hoax. What his intellectually blinded followers do not understand is that Senator Bernie Sanders’s call for “revolution” means the violent overthrow of the political, legal, economic, and social order of the Republic. In politics, one can traffic in contradictory ideas, but cannot play with contradictory emotions. In essence, the Democrats have declared war against the unity of the nation, the cohesion of the family, and the Judeo-Christian religion, the three enduring pillars of the American Republic.
It looks more and more like the President clearly understands what is transpiring in the United States of America. His opponents appear to dig in deeper and deeper in their destructive tactics. To provide practical solutions to challenges in general and to the present pandemic crisis in particular are what the overwhelming majority of the people want. Telling Americans how to think and how to live, when they mostly disagree with the Democrats’ prescribed impractical cures, is not conducive of national unity and individual happiness.
History, in its dealings with great nations, has in many instances played havoc with their destinies exactly when they have been at the apex of their powers. However, what has distinguished a great nation from a mediocre or a bad one has been its superior ability to manage crises. Ultimately, the character of a nation and the qualities of its leaders is defined by the manner they triumph over a crisis situation.
Now, the origin of the Coronavirus pandemic is not the primary matter. This question can be researched and analyzed later by the experts. What is presently important, however, is the fact that the entire world is in a biological warfare situation. As in the aftermath of every war in the past, the world has had to adjust to the changes brought about by those extraordinary events. In this respect, two fundamental questions must be answered: Will the solution or solutions contain the lessons learned during the crisis? What kind of changes will happen in the future in the various societies as a result of the crisis?
Clearly, the world is in a turmoil. The member states of the European Union are on the verge of deep recessions and possibly a ubiquitous depression. Politically, the disunity between the western and the eastern parts of the Union is threatening the very survival of the organization. Instead of having shrunk, the economic and cultural differences between these two poles have been growing exponentially.
Russia has historically been the sick nation of Europe. With the exception of its military might, Russia is a political, financial, and economic basket case. President Vladimir Putin is a gambler. His obsession with reintegrating Belorussia and the Ukraine into Russia, his incompetent handling of his country’s economy, and his adventurism across the globe, do not bod well for the future stability of his dictatorship, and the general well-being of Russia itself.
Contrary to all the optimistic predictions, the People’s Republic of China has been in a steady decline politically, economically, and financially since 2012. The rigid dictatorship that President Xi Jingpin has cobbled together with blood and extreme coercion has also been detrimental to China’s continual progress. Under his limitless rule, his country will regress toward the state of stagnation and even the deterioration of the Mao era. Adding insult to injury, China’s over-extension internationally, will only accelerate its ongoing domestic and global decline.
Japan’s economy, once the envy of the world has been stagnating since the end of the 1980s. With its demographic challenges, it will never regain its status as an economic powerhouse. Politically, Japan cannot stand up to the Chinese challenge without the help of other Asian states and the United States of America.
India is growing, but so does its population. Multi- ethnic and multi-religious, it will face enormous problems and challenges to its tenuous democracy in the future. Its economic progress has been slow. The current global crisis will only make growth more difficult.
The greater Middle East is a powder keg. It is only a question of time before the entire region will explode in a protracted and extremely violent combination of civil wars and wars among all the Arab nations. In Iran, the Mullahcracy will collapse and the ensuing chaos will break up the country. Africa will also fall back to tribalism, civil wars, and ubiquitous decline.
The overall picture does not look better in Central and South America. Bloody upheavals, senseless revolutions, self-serving dictatorships will destroy progress in most countries. Experimentation with Marxist, pseudo-Marxist, Chinese, and even local revolutionary models will follow. The result will be enduring chaos and extreme poverty.
The restrictions that have been introduced in the United States of America and in many other countries across the world to combat the spread of the coronavirus have negatively affected their economies. As the number of coronavirus cases here in America surpassed 160,000 as of Monday – the dilemma facing policymakers has already been raised by a Wall Street Journal editorial on March 19, 2020, concerning the safeguarding of public health versus the shutdown’s effects on the health of the economy. This dilemma of the “cure is worse than the disease,” and the President’s musing about it, has again awoke the worst political instincts of his opponents. Pointing triumphantly at the President’s statement, in which he said that “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” while omitting the second part that added the following caveat: “At the end the 15 day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go,” they have declared that the President would prefer to kill Americans rather than let the economy further deteriorate.
To bolster their claim of questionable accuracy, they have quoted Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the CDC, who said that it might take several more weeks until people can start going about their lives in a more normal fashion. In reality, the President has already extended the CDC guidelines until the end of April.
Politicizing a life and death challenge for each individual as well as for the society at large is clearly counterproductive to support national unity and well-intentioned cooperation in a global crisis situation. In the same vein, the major national television stations, with the exception of the Fox Network, have threatened to stop broadcasting the President’s and the Coronavirus Task Force’s daily briefing because of its alleged inaccuracies and even outright lies. As a result, instead of a direct broadcasting of the President’s and the Task Force members’ statements, the viewers might be confronted with the interpretations of the extremely biased and mostly incompetent commentators about the briefings. That much about the mainstream media’s commitment to free speech and democracy.
A more cynical interpretation might point to the latest poll numbers, according to which the President’s approval rating shot up to 60%, exactly as a result of his daily communication with the nation and his competent handling of the coronavirus crisis. Complaints from the anti-Trump media about “completely ruling the news cycle” by the President and thus eclipsing Joe Biden are abound. Thus, it appears that for the anti-Trump crowd, defeating the President in November is more important than fulfilling their responsibilities of providing the public with up to date and objective information. While the President has demonstrated leadership, his opponents have managed to reveal to the nation their small-minded and contemptuous disposition.
No doubt that this crisis created by the coronavirus is both political and economic. The historic stimulus package officially named the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or “CARES” Act, will inject in the American economy a staggering $2.2 trillion to support businesses, public institutions, and individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 880-page legislation is not perfect. It suffers from vagueness and is replete with the provisions of the usual “pork barrel” politics. Yet, for the first time from the beginning of the crisis, it is the product of a broad bipartisan consensus. Its expanded unemployment benefits will surely help even those who are not employed full time, such as gig workers, contract workers, and freelancers. The Act also includes an additional $600 per week on top of the already existing state benefits to support the jobless to survive the crisis. These benefits are time-limited and will run out after four months.
Small businesses are helped with $350 billion, up to $10 million per individual business. In addition, a separate $10 billion in emergency small business grants of up to $10,000 is also set aside by the Small Business Administration.
Larger businesses will be bailed out, when needed, from a pool of $500 billion. The Act also sets aside $100 billion for hospitals and health providers.
One of the most significant parts of the Act are the direct cash payments to most Americans. These cash payments include $1,200 for adults and $500 for children. Over an adjusted gross income of 75,000 for single filers and 150,000 for couples filing jointly the payment phases out by $5 for every $100 in extra income. Single filers without children earning $198,000 will not receive any benefits.
The coronavirus pandemic has also generated global fear. Fear of the barely understood disease, fear of economic collapse, fear of government overreach, fear of any other already existing and future, real and imaginary threats and dangers. Such all encompassing and often unpredictable fears in many instances threaten relations between and among states. The more a government perceives the danger of losing power through elections or by being overthrown, the more willing they become to reach for emergency powers. Such developments can increase the danger of misinterpretation or even misunderstanding of foreign intentions, thus raising the possibility of different levels of confrontations between and among states. The ensuing mistrust and insecurity can ultimately result in war and global anarchy. Clearly, the world in general and humanity in particular need global leadership. The only country that can provide it is the United States of America. Consequently, as soon as this pandemic will subside domestically, we must ready ourselves to assist others. The quality as well as the quantity of this assistance will determine the future of America’s position in the world. Equally importantly, our international policies will also define the future direction of freedom across the globe. Upon the fulfilment of these responsibilities will depend the fate of America as well as the future of the entire world.
The recent coronavirus pandemic has left Americans scrambling to adjust to the new reality of state-sanctioned isolation. As governments struggle to address the crisis, big conglomerates have been trying to leverage this scare to get public approval wins and points with legislators.
We’ve all received emails from companies this week who can’t wait to talk about how much they’re helping. Amazon is conducting a massive hiring push; utility companies are postponing payments. But don’t be fooled. They never have, and never will, set aside their own self-interest and have only the consumers’ best interest at heart.
As this crisis continues, we should observe their interactions with legislatures and be vigilant in monitoring the favors for which they are asking.
Take, for example, Exelon. Exelon is a national energy supplier that operates in five states and the District of Columbia. It generated over $33 billion in revenue last year alone, and during the crisis has tried to drum up headlines by donating more than $1 million through its family of companies to fight the pandemic.
Additionally, they have suspended service disconnections to customers and have made direct donations to relief efforts. All of this is undoubtedly good for consumers and the public, but what do they want in return?
We’ve seen plenty of examples of what companies want when they work with governments. It’s the same thing they want from consumers: money. Whether it’s Foxconn and Amazon asking for relocation tax credits, or local developers cashing in on bad government policy, big companies do whatever it takes to turn their cash-grabs into positive PR.
You’ve seen the photo-ops. Company heads and elected officials standing together, praising the potential economic gains that will be made by these deals. In reality, however, these deals rarely amount to anything more than a taxpayer-giveaway to special interest groups.
In examining what the end goal is for some of these corporations, let’s look at an example of lobbying issues currently happening in Illinois. The state is looking to do an overhaul of the energy sector by passing a green energy bill, known as the Clean Energy Jobs Act.
State lawmakers created sections within the bill that would allow Exelon to inflict even higher costs on taxpayers, but then corruption probes into the company’s lobbying and relationship with state lawmakers got in the way and sidelined the bill in 2019. Now with the virus presenting an opportunity for a PR victory, it’s not surprising to see the neighborhood utility conglomerate strike a more helpful appearance right before the state legislature is expected to move the bill.
While $1 million and some customer bill relief may sound generous, it’s barely even a fraction of the hundreds of million this Fortune 100 company receives in subsidies from taxpayers annually. And what Exelon would get in return with the passage of this new bill will amount to substantially more than its $1 million PR push. At the end of the day, companies do what’s best for their bottom line.
Companies like Exelon operate as opportunists when disasters provide a chance to gain support from the public (think Oakley sunglasses with the Chilean miners.) Still, we can’t allow that to distract from the predatory actions these same companies use when pushing to gain access to tax dollars.
Exelon has attempted to hijack a clean energy jobs bill to receive more business and subsidies — ensuring continued cash flow regardless of performance, all while destroying any good the bill would do.
As we watch the world respond to this terrible crisis, we must remain vigilant to the cronyism that persists in the economy today from massive corporations whose entrepreneurial instincts have led them to reach for the state coffers in hopes at an easy payday.
While we should praise the companies who commit to actions that better the public good, we must never lose sight of the possible corruption these conglomerates are perpetrating. The health of our nation depends on it.
The Wuhan Flu’s impact on the U.S. economy is self-evident — and not just because we’ve seen three years’ worth of stock market gains wiped out in three weeks’ time. There’s a human cost, not just for the people who’ve become sick and for those who didn’t recover but for everyone whose life has been turned upside down.
Congress and President Donald Trump have thus far managed to enact several economic stimulus proposals, none of which have been perfect but all of which have been necessary. That process stopped over the weekend when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s demanded — and Senate Democrats bowed to her wishes — that every item on her party’s wish list be included in the latest package.
That fight may be resolved, or everything may freeze where it is. What that means, as the global pandemic spreads and we work out what to do, is uncertain. The already approved plan to move Tax Day to July 15 is a winner. So is the proposal to suspend payroll tax collection through the end of the year, retroactive to March 1. That plan, authored by Steve Forbes, Art Laffer, and Stephen Moore would give business a temporary but immediate 7.5 percent reduction in the cost of each worker and give each worker a temporary but immediate 7.5 percent increase in pay.
The big issue for many, especially those in the upwardly mobile middle class, is the burden imposed by home mortgages. For most families it’s their single biggest expense each month. And if one or both parents aren’t working because their workplace has been shuttered as part of government-mandated efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, lots of people may be thinking they might lose their homes.
That’s a fear the Washington politicians must face head-on. This probably means some form of forbearance for homeowners by taking actions to persuade mortgage providers to allow a reduction or temporary halt in monthly mortgage payments.
To lessen such a burden for needy Americans, any attempt to do this must also ensure continued liquidity for certain companies that lend to borrowers, through no fault of their own, most in danger of financial collapse. A consumer level pause on mortgage payments does not, however, alleviate of lenders the requirement they pay what is owed to those underwriting the mortgages in the first place.
For the so-called big banks, forbearance would likely not pose any real short term risk. Thanks to Dodd-Frank, they’re sitting on huge capital reserves that can be leveraged against any cash-flow concerns a temporary lull in payments might create.
This would be a huge step, many would say in the wrong direction, especially if the government or the Federal Reserve ordered the big banks to do it. That’s in part because nearly half of all mortgages are now held by what are called non-depository lenders.
There are lots of reasons for this. One is convenience. Another is the big banks’ increasing unwillingness to play in the mortgage market. And some credit-worthy applicants are simply unable to meet the mandatory threshold for credit, income, and/or other factors necessary and must go elsewhere.
Non-depository institutions accept applicants whose circumstance impose a slightly higher risk. Their mortgages are made available to those buying a first house, providing for children in a single-parent home, and veterans returning from active combat and transitioning back into civilian life.
These lenders, which include firms like AmeriSave, Reali Loans, and Freedom Mortgage, provide mortgages to Americans who would benefit most from forbearance as the jobs in their sectors of the economy are most at risk in the slowdown the pandemic has triggered. Unfortunately, these lenders do not have the same degree of liquidity as the big banks and would be disproportionately affected by a mortgage payment moratorium.
If lenders are ordered to offer forbearance as a form of financial support to borrowers, as many expect Congress will do in one form or another, then additional liquidity for non-depository lenders must be provided alongside what the big banks will receive.
It’s undeniable things have improved for lenders and consumers since the sub-prime mortgage crisis almost took the U.S. economy down in 2007. Still, that led to a bailout of a size and scope we should not routinize, even if the funds were mostly paid back. This time big banks may be hoping to recoup their losses by scarfing up assets of failed non-depository lenders that crash once their income stream stops. The “big boys and girls” should look elsewhere, perhaps to the overages on their balance sheets, and Congress should make sure this happens.
The choice of rates and options provided by the big banks’ competitors is a net positive for consumers and the overall economy. Forcing their collapse while saving the name-brand institutions who’ve already been bailed out once would be a major mistake.
By Red State•
After returning to Washington from a week away in San Francisco, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brought her caucus’ new demands for passing a coronavirus relief bill. While the focus of the bill is supposed to be helping the American people through this pandemic, the Speaker’s bill is filled with special handouts to her political supporters, donors and well-connected California friends.
Pelosi is following the advice of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, who argued that the rush to enact legislation to assist the American people is a political opportunity to “restructure things to fit out vision.”
Take the solar subsidies section of the House bill. While they do little to help the hospitals and families that are supposed to be a focus of these efforts, they do help Pelosi’s well-connected California cronies like Elon Musk and his corporations.
This wouldn’t be the first time Musk received hefty payments from federal coffers. Under President Obama, Musk was able to secure billions for his solar operation, even though his company still nearly went bankrupt. It was only after merging with Tesla that SolarCity’s insolvency came to light. After that merger, the company also had to settle with the Department of Justice for nearly $30 million because of allegations that it cheated the government, including by deliberately overstating the cost of its installations to receive inflated government grants off the taxpayers’ backs.
Tesla’s go at solar has been equally as abysmal as SolarCity’s. Reports earlier this month showed that Tesla’s energy partner was pulling out of their agreement because of the company’s failing (and heavily subsidized) solar factory in New York. The company is struggling to meet the terms of its current subsidies with the state of New York, and now, with sales dropping, Elon could apparently use another bailout.
Pelosi coming to the aid of Musk, her home state business interest whose companies have a history of misleading the government and investors to receive more aid, with government subsidies and corporate giveaways, is par for the course. In the past, when electric vehicle tax credits were phasing out, the Speaker singled out electric vehicle manufactures like Tesla for renewed subsidies. These EV subsidies benefit no one other than Musk and the overwhelmingly wealthy Americans who make six figures or more a year that purchase his cars. It’s money that could’ve went to vulnerable Americans instead. Then again, Pelosi has a history of putting her political interests above those of the American people, so her cozy relationship with Musk shouldn’t surprise anyone.
If these direct bailouts to “green” energy interests within the Democrats’ COVID-19 relief demands aren’t enough, they’re also adamant about passing other radical parts of the Green New Deal within this package. They’re tying relief loans to the airline industry to new, stricter emission standards. It’s only a matter of time before more significant automotive restrictions enter the arena as automakers rush to deal with shuttered factories and tapering sales.
By playing along with Pelosi’s shameful D.C. insider games, House Democrats this time around have shown they’ve learned nothing from past mistakes and want to take needed funding away from struggling small businesses and give it to the protected billionaire class.
Whether it’s expanding unrelated subsides or putting burdensome regulations in place, these so-called “lawmakers” are making it clear the only interests they represent are of those who fill their pockets and fall in line. As our country faces a once in a generation crisis, we must hope that our representatives use their place of power to advance the best societal interests, not for those of the already well-off. As the corona aid enters the final stage, lets’ hope Congress takes a stand for the hard-working American people and passes a clean relief bill. The nation is watching.
President Donald John Trump, 45th president of the United States of America, has just made the biggest gamble of his career.
On the unanimous recommendation of the public health professionals, he decided to close down the US economy in a manner more severe than any other measure ever taken by a U.S. president, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln’s declaration of martial law on September 15, 1863.
Clearly, no one can reasonably disapprove of the need to save American lives by containing the deadly coronavirus. If the next few weeks occur as expected by the public health experts, the virus will peak and begin to recede, allowing normality to return. If that sequence of events is delayed much longer than a total of 30 days or so, the country risks falling into a recession that could rival the Great Depression of the 1930’s – 25% unemployment, long bread lines, starvation staring out of the hallow eyes of children.
The President is fully aware of this danger. He knows he is risking becoming another Herbert Hoover, who was unjustly blamed for the Depression and lost the presidency by a landslide in 1932. One big difference is that Hoover was a victim of circumstances, whereas Trump’s fate will be seen as the inevitable result of his own decision.
Closing down the economy was not the only choice that could have been made. Woodrow Wilson did nothing to affect the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918-20, and the result was the Depression of 1920. Wilson was in his second term and could not run again (although this did not stop Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 and 1944). Wilson’s Democrat party lost the 1920 election in a landslide.
George Bush did invoke a few measures to mitigate the immediate effects of the 9-11-2001 attack but concentrated his primary efforts on foreign policy actions. He survived the temporary shutdown and won re-election in 2004. Barak Obama did very little to fight the outbreak of West Africa Ebola of 2013-16, which ultimately killed 11,310 victims but was not a candidate in 2016.
President Trump could have followed any of these strategies. Instead, he gave the public health experts full reign over the nation’s response to the threat of the new virus. Their prescription for countermeasures has had temporarily catastrophic effects on the economy. These people have dedicated their lives and talents to saving and enriching all our lives by seeking effective cures for the diseases which threaten us and identifying the best preventative measures to mitigate the ones that cannot be cured. These are truly noble goals.
However, that perspective has its limitations. It emphasizes one dimension of human life, namely, physical health — often to the exclusion of all other factors. Among those other factors are the economic and social needs which are also shared by all people. The compromise we are now living out is “Let’s follow the public health scientists until we beat the virus, and then we will revert to normal life.” The gamble is: “Will normal life still be possible after we beat the virus?”
For President Trump, the stakes are very high. If he wins, he will be the Savior who rescued the nation from disaster. If he loses, he will lose everything, including his second term, the destruction of all his innovations, as well as his reputation. His legacy will be remembered as either victory or tragedy.
For the American people, the stakes are even higher. Never before have we faced the near shutdown of the economy, even for a day, let alone a month. The closest we have come is the Great Depression, when things were so desperate that Russian communism was openly advocated. We don’t know if the damage will be permanent, overcome quickly, slowly, this year, or if it will take years to regain our momentum.
What we have to remember, especially in this perilous time, is that we Americans have survived many other crises in our history. We have flourished throughout the ages no matter the obstacles. In fact, America’s history is the story of crises happening and crises overcome.
Our greatest crisis was the Civil War, when we fought ourselves and lost an estimated 650,000 lives, a whole generation of young men. But the newly reunited nation came roaring back in the Gilded Age (c.1870 – 1900), a period of extraordinary growth in all areas of American life, including technology, manufacturing, transportation, and higher learning, among many other areas.
In the 1930’s, the Great Depression nearly destroyed America’s will to survive. Yet the country rallied out of the Depression when the Japanese Navy destroyed the Pearl Harbor naval base in 1942, proving that the American spirit was not only not dead but so filled with vitality that we won both the war with Japan and saved Europe from the Nazis – at the same time! And it took us only three years to go from a dead stop to overdrive.
We are seeing much of the same spirit of unity in the “war”, as was evidenced in WWII, as political opponents join forces (except the Governor of Michigan) with companies and whole industries to shore up scarce supplies and bring supply chains back home. Likewise, stories of outstanding generosity and kindness on the part of individuals and local businesses are beginning to surface. This generation is proving that the American spirit of our forebears is still alive as we rally to save our country from disaster.
The moral of the American story is that Americans can overcome every threat we have ever faced, and we will overcome this one – whichever way it goes!
This is not an emergency virus bill. It is a Democratic election wish list, at a time hundreds are dying, thousands are losing their businesses, and millions are out of work in the United States.
The weekend began with a bipartisan plan. People were hopeful. Outside of Washington, business owners told The Federalist they finally saw light in all the darkness. They thought they’d be able to hire their employees back again. These are employees who have families, mortgages, and lives; people who have never once asked for public assistance and never thought they’d have to.
The mood in Washington was optimistic as well. “We’re having good bipartisan agreements,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN Saturday, predicting a Monday passage of their plan. “The initial bill Leader [Mitch] McConnell put in didn’t have any Democratic input and we were worried that we just try to put it on the floor and not consult Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi because the House still has to pass this, but actually, to my delight and surprise, there has been a great deal of bipartisan cooperation thus far.”
On Sunday, Schumer met four times with Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin to continue negotiations.
And then Pelosi came back to town from her week-long vacation and announced the rare, rare bipartisan cooperation the country had seen in the Senate would end with her — and election politics would begin.
“Oh, I don’t know about Monday but we are still talking,” she said Sunday evening. “It’s on the Senate side now because that’s their deadline for a vote but we’ll be introducing our own bill and hopefully it’ll be compatible with that they discussed on the Senate.”
It was difficult to guess how she’d do this with the House in recess, but on Monday her office miraculously introduced a 1,400-page bill. Miraculous, until it became clear she’d simply unloaded the Democratic Party’s election platform into a bill intended to save Americans from bankruptcy and death in the face of a global pandemic.
The list of unrelated provisions is truly incredible. Pelosi’s emergency virus bill includes “collective bargaining… for federal workers,” a federal “study on climate mitigation efforts,” tax credits for wind and solar energy, and demands that the airlinesinvolved buy carbon credits “to fully offset [their] annual carbon emissions.” It includes “same day [voter] registration,” national early voting and “grants for conducting” election audits.
Pelosi’s emergency virus bill legislates “funding standards for community newspaper” retirement plans, cancels $10,000 off peoples’ college debts, and forces a $15 minimum wage and permanent paid leave on aid recipients. It awards more than $33 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “for necessary expenses to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus,” and $35 million to Washington’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Pelosi’s emergency virus bill cancels the Post Office’s considerable debt to taxpayers and grants it “additional borrowing authority.” It gives Washington oversight of the “corporate board diversity” for the companies involved, mandates “a comparison of pay amongst racial and ethnic minorities… as compared to their white counterparts and comparison of pay between men and women,” orders the companies to start “diversity and inclusion offices” and give those offices “officials and budget dedicated to diversity,” and it establishes a program “to expand the use of minority banks and minority credit unions.”
This, it is clear, is not an emergency virus bill. It is a Democratic election wish list, politically poisoned at a time when hundreds are dying, thousands are losing their businesses, and millions are out of work in the United States.
“This,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn told Democrats Thursday, “is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”
It’s truly an incredible political act by the speaker, and the entire Democratic Senate fell in step behind her. By Monday afternoon, while Republican after Republican took the floor to speak on the bill, most Democrats were not even in the chamber.
“I thought we were doing great work,” Sen. Jim Inhofe lamented to a half-empty chamber. “Everything was great until last night.”
Everything had been great for Pelosi and the Democrats’ political fortunes as well. Early in the crisis, the speaker took a lead role, passing a Democratic wish list with the first round of emergency aid. Republicans in the House and Senate passed her bill despite its severe problems and near-complete lack of compromise.
McConnell was absent from early negotiations, providing zero cover while Mnuchin, a former Democrat with a bipartisan reputation as a terrible negotiator, surrendered on the president’s asks. The president himself fluctuated between defensive and tired, giving an Oval Office address that was so poorly received he rebooted his communication strategy. Today, McConnell and Republicans are at the forefront, the president’s handling of the crisis is popular across the country, and even Pelosi’s allies in the corporate media are struggling to explain her actions.
The New York Times changed their Sunday headline three times, starting correctly with “Democrats Block Action On $1.8 Trillion Stimulus,” then shifting the truth to “Democrats Block Action On Stimulus Plan, Seeking Worker Protections,” and finally editing the headline to pure farce with “Partisan Divide Threatens Deal On Rescue Bill.”
“Take us inside the politics here,” MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle asked after the speaker’s Monday speech quoting the pope to justify her actions. “How about this: What was the point of that?”
“Well,” correspondent Garrett Haake replied, “this is an opportunity for Democrats to show what their priorities are in this crisis.”
Indeed. And Americans are unlikely to be thrilled with those priorities while our economy careens toward devastation.
“Today, 102 Americans died while the Democrats blocked consideration of this bill,” Sen. Ted Cruz yelled from the floor of the Senate in a fiery response. “One Texan died while this chamber decided not to show up for work and do their job!”
“What the hell do the emissions standards on airplanes have to do with thousands of people dying and millions of people out of work in the coronavirus epidemic!?”
“What in the hell does a windmill have to do with this crisis, other than there are some Democratic lobbyists getting fat and rich and they’re willing to extort a crisis for a political agenda!?”
“One of the reasons the Democrats think they will get away with this,” Cruz closed, “is they expect the media to be utterly complict.” The corporate media is doing its best.
“For the moment,” Schumer had told CNN just 36 hours earlier, “we’re just trying to work together for the good of the country.”
The moment was brief, their miscalculation tremendous, and the political impact could — and should — be lasting.
The coronavirus was originally thought of as a health care issue. But then the stock market started to tank, and it became an economic issue. Now with the nation on virtual lockdown, the economic losses are not just paper losses in the nation’s stock portfolio. Hourly employees at America’s ballparks and arenas, restaurants, hotels, malls, airports, etc. are all facing economic disaster. But it doesn’t stop there — the economic slowdown will impact us all. Even if we never become infected, we are all victims of the virus.
This economic destruction is difficult to imagine, given that only a few weeks ago, our economy was strong and growing rapidly and all the indicators were that it was going to continue. But now economic catastrophe is staring us in the face as extraordinary measures are taken to protect the public health and the gears of our economy grind to a virtual halt.
The good news is that we can mitigate the severity of the outbreak so as to not strain the health care system to its breaking point. But in so doing we can’t let sectors of our economy that were vibrant until just last week be destroyed forever. This moment will require extraordinary measures by the U.S. government to protect and defend not only the public health, but also the waiters, waitresses, and hourly workers across our country who are in trouble. It will also require aid to some very large, very established companies — whose employees and the innovation and global competitiveness they support — are also at risk. In many cases, this isn’t just an economics question, it is also a matter of national security.
Some might call the emergency actions that need to be taken to inoculate the nation’s economy against the Coronavirus a “bailout” (and as a conservative, my default position is to oppose bailouts). Subsidizing bad economic decisions is wasteful and unwise. But to be completely candid, this crisis is not akin to the bank bailouts of 2008, which I strenuously opposed. This economic downturn wasn’t caused by foolish business decisions. Rather, we are now facing a shock and downturn similar to that caused by the 9/11 attacks — only this may be far worse in size and scope.
One of the sectors whose plight has been most acute is commercial aviation. With airlines slashing flights and grounding fleets, there are cascading impacts across the flight attendants, baggage handlers, mechanics, ticket and counter representatives who serve the industry. Beyond these front lines are an additional 17,000 companies and 2.5 million good paying jobs responsible for building the airplanes. In the midst of this crisis, domestic and foreign airlines will not be buying more planes and they may not be able to pay for the planes they have already committed to.
We can’t afford to allow the health of our aerospace manufacturing sector to languish. These manufacturers and their high-tech suppliers are also a critical part of our national security apparatus and a foundational part of our ability to defend ourselves. Our nation’s leadership in aerospace is not something we can take for granted, as competitors in Europe and China work every day to outcompete our aerospace and defense capabilities. To cede this sector for the long term would do serious damage to our nation’s economy and security, as well as millions of workers in all 50 states.
Crude oil prices fell dramatically over the weekend. Between March 4 and March 9, Brent crude, the international benchmark, fell from $51.13 to $34.36 per barrel, a drop of 32.8 percent. As of this writing (the afternoon of March 10, EDT), the price has recovered to $36.89 per barrel. The price of U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude, the standard measure of U.S. oil prices, fell from $46.78 on March 4 to $31.13 on March 9, a drop of 33.5 percent. Pippa Stevens at CNBC wrote that “U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude and international benchmark Brent crude are both pacing for their worst day since 1991.”
Why worst? Implicit in Stevens’s statement is the idea that low oil prices are bad. All other things equal, of course, low oil prices are bad for oil producers. But also, all other things equal, low oil prices are good for oil users. And the latter includes all of us. How do we assess whether the net effect of the plunge in oil prices is good or bad? We have to look at why they fell suddenly. We pretty much know why: a temporary collapse of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC.) For that reason, the drop in oil prices over the weekend is good. It’s roughly a wash for the U.S. economy and it’s good for the overall world economy.
A most useful principle I learned in my Ph.D. economics program at UCLA, about which Professor Benjamin Klein never failed to remind his students, is “Never reason from a price change.” Scott Sumner, an economist at the Mercatus Center and one of my co-bloggers at EconLog, often points that out in his posts.
Let’s apply that lesson here. There are three (and only three) reasons that oil prices drop: (1) demand decreases, (2) supply increases, or (3) the monopoly power of oil producers falls.
When economists say that demand decreases, we mean something very specific—that at any given price, the amount demanded decreases. There are two main ways that can happen: a slowing of the world economy or an increase in the supply of a substitute.
If the world economy slows—and it certainly looks as if it has slowed, or will, due to the COVID-19 virus and people’s reaction to it—the demand for oil will fall. With a given supply, that will cause the price of oil to fall. The fall in the price of oil is not bad per se; rather, it’s a consequence of something bad, namely, the slowing of the world economy. And it certainly appears that a fall in demand due to a slowing economy caused prices to fall before last weekend. But it’s unlikely that there was a sudden fall in demand last weekend. We have to look elsewhere.
The other possible cause of a fall in the demand for oil is an increase in the supply of a substitute for oil. If, for example, solar or nuclear energy became more competitive, the demand for oil would fall. In that case, the fall in oil’s price would be a sign of something good happening in the economy. Did solar, nuclear, or any other energy source suddenly become more competitive over this weekend? No. So that’s not it.
How about an increase in supply? If supply increases, then, with a given demand, prices will fall. Notice that I’m using the word “supply” to mean not the quantity supplied, but the whole supply curve. When an economist says that supply increased, he means that at any given price, the quantity supplied has increased. The whole supply curve has shifted to the right. This sounds wonky and may remind you of an old economics class in which the professor insisted on the distinction between a shift in supply and a movement along a stable supply curve. But here we need a little wonkiness to help us analyze.
But there were no major discoveries of oil or breakthroughs in technology over the weekend that would cause the supply to increase. So that’s not what drove prices down.
There’s one culprit left: a decrease in monopoly power. If buyers and sellers in the stock market think that a major monopolist in the world market has lost market power, the world price of oil will fall. So let’s look more carefully at OPEC to see what went on last weekend.
First, recall that OPEC is a cartel. Government officials of the member countries get together and try to agree on a price. They want a price above what the competitive, non-colluding price would be. To achieve that cartel price, the members must produce an output below the output they would ideally like to produce. Each firm or, more accurately, government (since we’re talking about OPEC) would like to produce more and have every other country produce less. The members of OPEC meet regularly in Vienna to hash out their differences and try to reach an agreement. This time, though, there was real tension between Saudi Arabia’s desires and those of Russia. OPEC lists its members on its website, and although the Russians attended the latest meeting, and typically attend OPEC meetings, Russia is not, and never has been, an OPEC member.
Saudi Arabia is the most important OPEC producer; Russia is the most important non-OPEC producer that attends the meeting. This time, the Saudis and the Russians had a big disagreement. The Saudis wanted to slow or stop the price erosion that had happened due to the drop in demand by cutting output: that of OPEC members and that of other countries that attend OPEC meetings but are not members. The Russians wanted the output cut too but didn’t want to be the ones doing the cutting. As CNBC’s Brian Sullivan put it on Friday, they wanted to have their cake and eat it too. In that respect, the Russians are like the non-Saudi members of OPEC: all of them want the Saudis to cut output. Although the violin I will play for the Saudis’ predicament is very tiny, it is true that they have traditionally been the “swing producer:” the country that sucks it up and reduces output to maintain the price while many other members of the cartel cheat like crazy. At times, the Saudis have produced as little as 4 million barrels a day to support the price; at other times, they have said the hell with it and have produced as much as 10 million barrels per day.
This time the Saudis said the hell with it. They will produce more and the Russians will produce more. Thus the lower price. And it doesn’t take a whole lot more production to drop the price. The reason is that the demand for oil is inelastic: a one percent increase in output will lead to a ten percent drop in price. So all it takes for a 30 percent drop in price is a three percent increase in output.
Is it bad that the price of oil will drop due to a reduction in monopoly power? No, it’s good. Ever since the fall of 1973, when OPEC raised the world price of oil from $3 per barrel to $11, OPEC has had some monopoly power in the world oil market. This causes the price to be higher than the competitive price would be and we oil users respond by using less oil than we would use at that lower competitive price. When the monopoly power comes about, not due to innovation or invention, but due to collusion, as with OPEC, economists almost unanimously object to monopoly: it holds output off the market for which consumers would pay an amount greater than the cost of production. This underproduction causes what economists call a “deadweight loss,” a loss to consumers that is not captured by producers. That’s what OPEC does. In his article on monopoly for The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, the late Nobel Prize winner and University of Chicago (and Hoover) economist George Stigler laid out the reasoning behind deadweight loss.
So the cut in the price brings the world oil market closer to the competitive price.
Does that mean that the price cut is good for the United States? No. The price cut is good for any country that is a net importer of oil. In recent decades, therefore, the United States would have gained big time from the cut in the world price. The loss to U.S. producers would have been less than the gain to U.S. consumers because we consumers would have gained on every barrel we used and the producers would have lost on the smaller number of barrels they produced.
But something important has happened in the last decade: fracking. As I noted in my most recent Defining Ideas article, fracking substantially increased the U.S. supply of oil and natural gas. In December 2019, the United States became, for the first time since 1949, a net exporter of oil. So the drop in prices is bad for the U.S. economy as a whole: the loss to the producers will exceed the gain to consumers. But it’s only slightly bad because the United States is barely a net exporter.
For the world economy as a whole, then, the drop in oil prices due to demonopolization is a net plus. That should be no more surprising than the fact that the increase in competition in the retail sector is a net plus.
So why has the stock market fallen so much? Part of the reason is, no doubt, the increased panic, possibly justified, about the loss in output due to the Covid-19 virus. You might expect that if the only event affecting the stock market was OPEC’s temporary loss in monopoly power, the losses to industries that produce energy would be only slightly larger than the gain to industries that use energy as an input. But that ignores the fact that a large percentage of the gain from the drop in price is to final consumers, and most of us consumers don’t sell stock in our wealth. There’s no stock called David Henderson, Inc., for example. So a large part of the gain is not visible on the stock market.
French economist Frederic Bastiat wrote, back in the 1840s, that we should always take account of the unseen as well as the seen. The seen is the stock market losses of energy producers. The unseen is the gain to ultimate consumers.
We don’t know what will happen in the next few months, either with the Covid-19 virus, the world economy, the stock market, or oil prices. As Danish physicist Niels Bohr said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” But we should be clear that the drop in oil prices due to OPEC’s loss of pricing power is a gain to the world, and close to a wash for the United States.
Column: Is American society ready for the coronavirus pandemic?
A few months after September 11, 2001, David Brooks went back and looked at coverage of Pearl Harbor for an article in the Weekly Standard (“After Pearl Harbor,” December 10, 2001). What he saw intrigued him. A sense of unity and patriotism followed both surprise attacks. But media after Pearl Harbor had none of the sorrow, sensitivity, and angst that filled the news, with reason, after 9/11. Recognizing the inevitable costs of war, Americans on the home front at the outset of World War II were nonetheless eager to carry on as usual. They did not apologize or second-guess. They soldiered on. “When you step back and contemplate the range of post-Pearl Harbor media,” Brooks wrote, “you are struck by how extraordinarily proud of itself America then was.”
I revisited Brooks’s article this week while thinking about the differences between America during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919 and America during the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic today. Some of the distinctions are self-evident. America is far more wealthy, free, and technologically advanced than it was then. We enjoy the benefits of incorporating half the population into our economy and society, of ending de jure anti-black racism, of attracting the best and most ambitious talent from across the globe. We are no longer a rising power but a reluctant hegemon. A raw deal awaits any American who trades places with a doppelgänger from midway through Woodrow Wilson’s second term.
What changed is the American ethos. Expressive individualism replaced self-restraint. Narcissism and the therapeutic sensibility triumphed over the reticence and sense of tragedy that comes from living in places and times where there is no safety net and death is a constant presence. The culture of debunking, revisionism, and repudiation informs education, entertainment, art, and occasionally sport.
The size, scope, and ambition of the federal government and its managers is far greater now than it was then. So are the public’s expectations of government capabilities and performance. The institutions that stand between the individual and state have weakened where they have not crumbled. Family, community, religion, and voluntary association attenuate as modernity deprives them of their traditional functions.
The United States is beginning to shut down and self-isolate. Its G7 partners range from states of quarantine (Italy) to lockdown (France) to closed borders (Germany). Countries do not make such decisions on a lark. Nor is the reason for these extraordinary measures a secret. What terrifies the authorities is the prospect of surges in infection that would push public health systems beyond capacity and result in mass death. To prevent a medical catastrophe, the authorities guarantee an economic one.
The social capacity of America has received less attention. The worst-case scenarios anticipate an epidemic that lasts until a vaccine can be mass produced 18 months from now. Do we believe that American society could withstand until then the additional pressures that have been put on it over the past week?
The typical discussion of how coronavirus will change your life focuses on a specific practice or sector of industry. You hear a lot about telework, home schooling, vote by mail, or movies released on Video on Demand rather than in theaters. This piecemeal approach is understandable. Perhaps the problem is so complex, the potential extent of the disruption so massive, that the way to approach it is to study one aspect at a time.
But an extended lockdown will affect more than activities. It will warp institutions. There is a debate over how Congress might operate under social distancing. What about churches, synagogues, and mosques? Church attendance was falling before the virus. Even if the pandemic were to revive the religious impulse, would-be prodigal sons won’t be able to attend services. Church finances—nonprofits in general—will be harmed. In some cases, the damage will be irreparable.
The family enters this crisis beleaguered. My American Enterprise Institute colleague Nicholas Eberstadt writes in National Affairs of “the collapse of work for adult men, and the retreat from the world of work of growing numbers of men of conventional working age.” The recent improvements in the overall labor force participation rate will disappear if the economic fallout of the pandemic is large and enduring. Long-term joblessness and lack of prospects are barriers to marriage and to family formation. And the two-parent family is the seedbed for the character formation of young people. The social costs are enormous. And they are mounting.
Bill de Blasio’s indecision over whether to close New York City schools revealed that these institutions perform parental functions as much as educational ones. The school has become much more than a place of instruction. It is the site of feeding, caring, and supervision (if not disciplining) of children. Deprived of the shelter of the local school, children and young adults will have to look to parents for meals, instruction, and surveillance. Are parents ready to fulfill the responsibilities assumed by the state? What will happen when parents return to work or look for new employment? Will teenagers obey a guidance or curfew that is not enforced under penalty of law?
Large pools of nonworking or truant males are not associated with social or political stability. But they loom large in our future. The economic self-isolation of America can continue only for so long as American society permits. And if Americans, as they have tended to do, revolt against strictures from above, how will authorities respond? None of the answers are comforting. If the coronavirus overwhelms America’s social capacity, our government won’t be in a position to choose between an economic crisis or a pandemic. It will have both.
Working from home is a massive lifestyle change, but there are things you can do to make it easier.
This week, owing to the coronavirus, many Americans are going to experience the highs and lows of working from home. While there are definite plusses to working from your own abode, it’s not all sliding across the living room floor in a white button-down shirt and socks.
I have worked from home for the past two years and it takes discipline, fortitude, and a solid work ethic. I have none of these things. So how do I manage?
A friend years ago told me that his mother and father met at work. The first thing his mother noticed was that when the boss left, his father was the only one who kept working. That’s a big part of working from home, that kind of self-motivation. But there’s a flip side to that: when home and work mix you are always at home, but you are also always at work. It’s important to set some boundaries.
Small things can make a big difference when you work from home. My biggest piece of advice might be to go outside during the day. Did you ever have that thing where you neglected to drink water for several hours and then you feel awful and you’re like, What is wrong with me? Then you drink water and instantly come back to life? Going outside is like that when you work from home. You go stir crazy like a boiling frog otherwise.
It’s very easy for the walls to start feeling like they are closing in when you telecommute. That’s why keeping your place clean is more important and more difficult. Not to sound too much like Jordan Peterson, but a messy place makes it harder to work effectively.
If you work 9-5 outside the house, then you probably spend about 7 or 8 hours awake in your house at most on a weekday. Now you will be doubling that, and the more time you’re in your place the messier it gets. Trust me on this: it accumulates fast. Maybe while everyone is hoarding toilet paper you can hoard some paper plates. Work is an excellent excuse to not do the dishes.
Now, this is going to sound pathetic and sad, but social media can be your friend when you work from home. In an office environment you chitchat, water cooler yak, call it what you will. The day at work is sprinkled with social interactions. Checking in on Twitter or Facebook isn’t just a time suck when you work from home; it helps keep you sane by socially interacting, albeit imperfectly, with other people.
Another thing worth considering is the concept of a virtual commute. Whether your IRL commute is short or long, it’s probably riddled with ritual. You might stop for a bacon, egg, and cheese, read the Post on the subway, pull in for a Half and Half at Dunkin, etc.
The commute is a home to work limbo. You aren’t working, but you are compelled to be where you are. Giving yourself a half-hour before and after working with similar rituals, like listening to a podcast, reading a book, or playing a game on your phone can help.
The most overwhelming thing about working from home for an extended period of time is that it is a lot of time in your own head. Traditional workspaces are full of novel diversions and distractions; your place is kind of just your place. In the absence of external stimulation, your mind turns in on itself, which can be a little jarring. Weird stuff will pop into your head. If you get mental claustrophobia, take some breaks. There’s no reason the rhythm of your workday has to be the same at home as it is at work.
Making your home your office, especially if it goes on for a long time, is a major lifestyle switch. But it’s one that is in many ways under your own control. Give some thought to what you want it to be like, how you want it to flow, and experiment with schedules and work patterns that work for you.
Finally, when you close the laptop, close the laptop. This is easier for some of us than others. As a journalist I’m always at work in some sense; news never stops, especially these days. But I still need to carve out time to log out and watch a movie, or do some cooking while listening to music. Let your home become your home again — at least until you wake the next day and start it all over again.
For almost a year, politicians in Washington have talked about the need to fix the problem of surprise medical billing. But, per usual, they haven’t done anything about it.
It shouldn’t be this hard. To review: the bidding – surprise billing, as people call it – occurs when a person with health insurance gets a bill they weren’t expecting from an out-of-network provider whose services they didn’t know upfront they’d engaged.
You might think you could plan for such events and avoid them. But it’s getting harder, thanks to hedge funds and insurance companies that are blurring the lines, some say deliberately. Surprise billing is becoming a medical cash cow in an era where profit margins are being slashed by regulatory efforts to bend the cost curve downward.
The proliferation of undisclosed out-of-network services during in-network procedures has allowed insurers to get from under what their customers believe are their contractual obligations to pay. It’s making doctors and investors rich while giving the Medicare-for-All crowd ample ammunition to move their idea forward.
Medicare-for-All and its ugly cousins all share a few things in common. One of them is the potential that rationing will eventually be used to keep costs from rising. Another is that they all rely on government-imposed cost controls to make the healthcare system work. And that, in case it’s not clear, is exactly the wrong way to go.
The Senate HELP Committee bill is not a good solution. It is bi-partisan and reflects a deal reached in 2019 by the leaders of the House Energy and Commerce and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees. It would essentially ban providers from sending surprise bills and require insurers to pay them, based on the “average price” for the services provided.
It would be better for Congress to do nothing to address the issue than enact a regime that uses cost controls or benchmarking – as the HELP Committee proposal has been labeled – to bring down the price of healthcare. It’s an artifice that changes nothing to the good except a consumer’s perception of what services cost. Controls retard innovation, suppress investment, and create incentives for high-quality medical care to move offshore.
Yet two committees of the U.S. House of Representatives are moving in that very direction.
Proposals recently introduced include one in the Ways and Means Committee that establishes a mediation process for insurers and out-of-network providers when they can’t agree on a payment rate for services provided. A second, coming from the Energy and Commerce Committee last year and adapted this year by the Education and Labor Committee, would decide payment rates using a blend of both arbitration and a benchmark.
Both proposals amount to price-fixing no matter what it’s called. Maryland Republican Andy Harris, a medical doctor by training, put it this way: “By design, placing such price controls on purely private transactions would reduce access to care, increase the power of the federal government, and result in negative, unintended consequences.”
It’s easy, when writing about healthcare reform, to invoke the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors requiring them to put the interests of patients first. And it should be kept in mind when addressing the issue of surprise billing because it is about people and the care they receive, not just the bottom line.
Health insurers helped write the last round of reforms. They made money – and made sure there were bailouts built into the new system in case they didn’t. Consumers ended up with fewer choices, higher premiums, even higher deductibles, and plans that changed year after year. It wasn’t what they wanted. Some would say the cure ended up being worse than the sickness.
Now the big insurers are spending to position themselves to influence the pathway forward dealing with the surprise billing problem. They’re pursuing new laws and regulations to insulate them from their responsibilities to their customers, to protect them from liability, and to avoid paying for services using a variety of what can best be called coverage loopholes. “Price controls” and “government rate-setting” are a large part of what helped wreck the U.S. healthcare system in the first place.
Insurers need to own their responsibilities to their customers and level the playing field on their own.
Apparently, the majority of Democratic presidential contenders want to parade student debt sob stories around. These stories don't show the full picture.
Of all the pandering showcased during Democrats’ attempts to win back the presidency, wiping out student debt ranked at or near the top.
“I believe that education is the future for this country,” socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders barked during the first round of Democratic primary debates, explaining that’s why we must “eliminate student debt and we do that by placing a tax on Wall Street.” Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke similarly. “I can tell you this,” the Minnesota senator demagogued, “if billionaires can pay off their yachts, students should be able to pay off their student loans.”
There can be no serious discussion of this issue, however, in 60-second sound bites. So, beyond the soak-the-rich shtick that shades every Democratic economic debate point, the candidates resorted to two tactics: shock and sob stories.
The size of student debt provides the jolt necessary to peddle their plans to the American populace. “I got $100,000 in student loan debt myself,” California Rep. Eric Swalwell bemoaned. “College affordability is personal for us,” South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg shared, noting that his household has “six-figure student debt.” So, sure, “I believe in reducing student debt,” Buttigieg announced.
Next came the sob stories. Those student loans are suffocating a generation, the candidates suggested. After all, “40 million of us who can’t start a family,” the diaper-changing daddy Swalwell contradictorily proclaimed, adding that they “Can’t take a good idea and start a business and can’t buy our first home.”
“We can’t put people in a position where they aren’t able to go on and move on,” frontrunner Joe Biden agreed.
Tellingly, when not constrained by the debate format, these same politicians push the same narrative to garner support for bailing out student loans, all while the media provides the Democrats a free assist.
“With loans totaling more than $130,000,” Buttigieg’s household is “among the 43 million people in the United States who owe federal student loan debt,” the Associated Press reported last month, before highlighting the myriad plans to bail out student debt pushed by a cadre of presidential candidates. The AP then furthered the narrative by using statistics to shock the public into socialism:
The debtors are so numerous and the total debt so high—more than $1.447 trillion, according to federal statistics—that several of the Democratic candidates have made major policy proposals to address the crisis. Their ideas include wiping away debt, lowering interest rates, expanding programs that tie repayment terms to income and making college free or debt-free. Student loan debt is often discussed as an issue that mostly affects millennials, but it cuts across age groups. Federal statistics show that about 7.8 million people age 50 and older owe a combined $291.9 billion in student loans. People age 35 to 49, a group that covers older millennials such as Buttigieg as well as Generation X, owe $548.4 billion. That group includes more than 14 million people.
Then the sad tales continue the sales pitch for a government solution to student debt—a ploy that began well before the 2016 elections. Here’s one of myriad media examples.
“Shayna Pilnick, 28, would like to buy an apartment but can’t afford a mortgage. Jacqueline Mannino, 23, and her boyfriend, Benjamin Prowse, 26, want to get married. Jacob Childerson, 24, and his wife, Jennifer, 25, wish they could start a family, but they live with Jennifer’s parents,” is how USA Today opened its 2013 profile of millennials unable to obtain their dream life because they are “tethered” to “tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.”
There are many ways to counter these arguments, based on both economics and equity. But it’s hard to counter soundbites with sense, so instead, here are my inquiries for these politicians, the press, and all the students demanding relief from the burdens of their debt: Tell me your sob stories from age 12 on, not what you can’t do now, but what you couldn’t do then. Tell what you had to do then and through college to avoid what is now, to you, crushing student debt.
What time did you get up to deliver papers in junior high? How many hours a week did you work since 14 to save for college? How many toilets did you scrub? How many high school football games did you miss because you were working? What dream college did you forgo to avoid taking out student loans?
Which 8 a.m. class did you take so you could complete your major’s requirements and still work in the afternoon? Which bus line did you take to get to your job because you didn’t borrow to buy a car? What job did you work full-time while completing your MBA at night?
What did you do to afford college? What didn’t you do because of the cost of college? Were you getting tattoos and traveling your way through college? Were you pledging and partying? Did you go to your top-choice university? Maybe an out-of-state public university with higher tuition rates? Which spring break and study abroad destinations did you visit along the way?
Did you splurge on your fairytale wedding instead of paying down your student loans? What cars did you buy or lease? Where did you live? What electronics did you own? What clothing and other personal expenditures did you have? In short, show me the money and how you spent it!
None of my business? You’re right. Nor is your student debt my business or my problem.
Dear Majority Leader McConnell:
Many Americans share concern for the cost of medicine, particularly our country’s seniorcitizens. And President Trump has rightly called out “foreign freeloaders” whose government monopoly health systems drastically underpay for (American-developed) pharmaceuticals. However, most of the proposals go about addressing this matter not only in the wrong way, but in highly destructive ways.
Conservatives for Property Rights (CPR) is a coalition of organizations representing millions of Americans. CPR emphasizes the central importance of private property in all its forms — physical, personal, and intellectual. The right to private property ranks among the unalienable rights the Founders referenced in the Declaration of Independence, and patents and copyrights are the only rights for which the U.S. Constitution itself provides. As you appreciate, we should not harm our patent-centric research and development sectors by gutting their property rights.
While Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s H.R. 3 is the most radical and destructive of the “drug pricing” legislation, CPR wants to make perfectly clear that the Senate Finance Committee’s Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act is also very harmful and destructive. In no way is S.2543 any sort of “compromise” or “middle-ground” alternative. This bill passed committee by a majority of liberal Democratic votes; fewer than half the majority Senators voted for it. Notably, S. 2543 does zero to remedy “foreign freeloading.” CPR regards S. 2543 as unacceptable and urges all Senators to oppose this bill.
Of this measure’s provisions harmful to America’s leadership in pharmaceutical innovation (and thus harmful to American patients), perhaps most egregious is the inflationary penalty price control mechanism. This price control would impose a confiscatory excise tax on earnings when a Medicare medication in Parts B or D exceeds the inflation rate. Such an unpredictable, disruptive government price control would wreak havoc in drug R&D, injecting much uncertainty into and causing significant loss of R&D funding from the pharmaceutical innovation process.
Conservatives for Property Rights strongly opposes the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Actand urges Senators to reject this counterproductive legislation.
James Edwards, Executive Director, Conservatives for Property Rights
Seton Motley, President, Less Government
George Landrith, President, Frontiers of Freedom
Dick Patten, President, Campaign for Liberty
Jenny Beth Martin, Honorary Chairman, Tea Party Patriots Action
Jim Martin, Founder/Chairman, 60 Plus Association
Kevin L. Kearns, President, U.S. Business & Industry Council
C. Person Noell III, President, Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.
Tom DeWeese, President, American Policy Center
Tim Andrews, Executive Director, Taxpayers Protection Alliance
Ed Martin, President, Phyllis Schlafly Eagles
Matthew Kandrach, President, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy
Saulius “Saul” Anuzis, President, 60 Plus Association
Freelancers are rising up in opposition to the state’s new law regulating “gig workers.”
By City Journal•
Are California Democrats—responsible for the state’s new anti-gig-worker law, AB5—so out of touch that they’re not aware of the growing anger of their constituents? It appears so.
Since AB5 took effect on January 1, hundreds of thousands of Californians are finding their businesses in tatters. Musicians can’t join bands for a one-night gig, chefs can’t join forces with caterers, nurses can’t work at various hospitals, and writers must cap their submissions per media outlet to 35 per year. Under the law, these freelancers can no longer conduct the same business-to-business transactions they have for years or even decades. Clients with whom they fostered valuable relationships are gone—as are their successful careers and incomes. An overwhelming majority of professionals in fields affected by AB5 identify as liberals and have generally voted along the blue line. Today, however, many are so disillusioned with their representatives that they’re changing political loyalties.
When Gloria Rivera, a San Diego-based, Peruvian-born translator and interpreter, achieved U.S. citizenship, the first thing she did was register as a Democrat. “Now I’m seeing a lot of people like me who are either going Independent or Republican,” she says, “myself included. The Democrats are not listening to us.”
Lorena Gonzalez, the San Diego assembly member who authored AB5, faces public condemnation wherever she goes. Online and in person, independent contractors are confronting Gonzalez and demanding a repeal of the law. Her condescending response: independent contractors need the protection of union-driven labor laws. In a damning KUSI news interview, Gonzalez denied that AB5 has resulted in widespread income loss. Her dismissive attitude has fueled outrage against Democrats. “Lorena Gonzalez is doing a great job turning everybody red,” says Rivera.
Gonzalez deserves much of the blame for the AB5 train wreck, but she had plenty of support from her party: nearly every assembly member who approved AB5 is a Democrat, including Governor Gavin Newsom. Those opposed: Republicans and Independents. Senator Patricia Bates, a Republican state senator representing parts of Orange and San Diego counties, has been hearing from constituents who had no idea that they were swept up in the AB5 net. “They’re asking, ‘Who did this to me?’” says Bates. “I don’t like to make it partisan, but I have to tell them the majority party that runs the show did it. There’s a new awareness about the anti-business environment and how it affects their right to work, to be free.”
Independent contractors are entering new territory. Suddenly, a more conservative approach seems more attractive. “My entire political mindset has changed drastically following the enactment of AB5,” says Cathy Hertz, a freelance copyeditor of STM (science-technology-medicine) books, from Loma Linda. Hertz campaigned for Barack Obama cross-country at her own expense in 2008; she campaigned for him locally, in Los Angeles, in 2012. “Now I feel that the rights of entrepreneurs are being stifled, trampled upon, violated,” she says. “Free enterprise is one of the main pillars of modern democracy.”
Apparently oblivious to the reaction in California, congressional Democrats have passed HR 2474, a national version of AB5, known as the “Protecting the Right to Organize” or “PRO Act.” The PRO Act, designed to boost union membership, will put 57 million independent contractors across the country out of work if it becomes law. These enterprising professionals will be forced into low-paying jobs—if they can find them—with none of the autonomy, flexibility, or opportunity that they currently enjoy. When the Trump administration denounced the bill, people who normally hiss at mention of the president’s name found themselves in a peculiar position: feeling grateful.
As for Gonzalez, she’s up for reelection this year and is aiming for secretary of state in 2022. Her campaigns will be tougher than she likely imagines. The movement against her is ramping up.
“I see a revolution on the horizon,” says David Mills, a musician from Lake Elsinore who created the Facebook group Freelancers against PRO Act. “This may be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back. But I think it’s leading to something good. The American people on all sides are waking up. We’ve gotten too caught up in partisan support. Now we’re paying attention. There is a huge uprising. People had to lose their jobs to find out what it was.”
Kevin Kiley, a Republican assembly member representing a large swath of Sacramento and a vocal ally of independent contractors, agrees. In January, he led a rally on the steps of the state capitol against AB5 and introduced a bill to repeal it. “We have a capital that’s controlled by special interests, and the public good isn’t even considered,” says Kiley. “That disconnect is stark. I’m more motivated to change this law than anything I’ve ever worked on because it has such a direct and negative impact on peoples’ lives. I believe very deeply in economic freedom, the right to pursue your calling. AB5 is a grave moral offense. So if there’s a silver lining to all this, it’s giving a diverse range of people a window into the dysfunctional nature of politics in Sacramento. For those who are disenchanted with the political majority, there is now an opportunity for alternatives.”
Such alternatives are popping up around the state. Evan Wecksell, a comedian and tutor by trade, is running for state senate as a write-in candidate for District 25, which encompasses parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino county. He was registered as a Democrat until recently. Today, he’s a Libertarian.
“I definitely sense a change,” says Wecksell. “People who swore they would never vote for a Republican are doing it. We were not up to speed with knowing what was going on in Sacramento, but AB5 was a lesson and we’re learning from it. They’re taking away our natural human rights.”
Independent contractors are a unique bunch. Deeply committed to individual liberty, they’re becoming a unified group of fighters in California. They come from all walks of life and political persuasions, and if voting differently means that they can continue to run their businesses as they see fit, then so be it. Unless Democrats change course, the AB5 revolt may be the Brexit that the U.S. never saw coming. California certainly didn’t.