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New Mexico, Other Western States, Native American Tribes All Up In Arms Over Biden Energy Decisions

By Nick AramaRed State

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

We touched on the concerns of folks in New Mexico over Joe Biden’s 60-day moratorium on new oil and natural gas leases and drilling permits. 

But it’s a huge problem now and would devastate the state if that were made permanent, according to leaders in New Mexico. Not to mention if Biden then forbids fracking on public lands. 

Half of New Mexico’s production is on federal lands. It provides over 100,000 related jobs and it’s what provides money for education and other government programs. It will crush the state’s economy which is already struggling, according to Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway. 

From AP: 

“During his inauguration, President Biden spoke about bringing our nation together. Eliminating drilling on public lands will cost thousands of New Mexicans their jobs and destroy what’s left of our state’s economy,” Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway told The Associated Press on Friday. “How does that bring us together? Environmental efforts should be fair and well-researched, not knee-jerk mandates that just hurt an already impoverished state.”

Plus the order is halting all regulatory activity, even that which does what Democrats claim they want, requests for rights of way for new pipelines to reduce venting and flaring which Democrats claim exacerbates climate change. 

One could say all this was out there to know, but New Mexico was called for Biden. So what were the people who actually voted for Biden there thinking? They were seduced by media about President Donald Trump’s ‘mean tweets.’ Meanwhile now they’re going to get hit hard. 

It’s not just New Mexico that’s going to suffer, it’s other Western states as well, including the states who didn’t vote for Biden. 

Utah said that such a widespread suspension is unprecedented and incredibly harmful and they asked Biden to reconsider his “arbitrary decision.” 

But it’s not just states that Biden is attacking with this, as a Native American tribe points out. Luke Duncan, the chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee, minced not words when he called Biden’s decision a “direct attack on our economy, sovereignty, and our right to self-determination.”

Here’s what their letter said.

From Daily Wire: 

The Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation respectfully requests that you immediately amend Order No. 3395 to provide an exception for energy permits and approvals on Indian lands. The Ute Indian Tribe and other energy producing tribes rely on energy development to fund our governments and provide services to our members.

Your order is a direct attack on our economy, sovereignty, and our right to self-determination. Indian lands are not federal public lands. Any action on our lands and interests can only be taken after effective tribal consultation.

Order No. 3395 violates the United States treaty and trust responsibilities to the Ute Indian Tribe and violates important principles of tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Your order was also issued in violation (of) our government-to-government relationship. Executive Order No. 13175 on Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments, and Interior’s own Policy on Consultation with Tribal Governments.

The order must be withdrawn or amended to comply with Federal law and policies. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. We look forward from hearing from you.

While we might say if any of these folks voted for Biden, they should have known better, unfortunately this is not going to just hurt all these people, but it’s going to hurt all of us, translating in more expensive energy prices and losing that energy independence that President Donald Trump worked so hard to get for us.

It’s only Day 4 into this calamitous mess. How’s it going so far?


Contradicting Her Own Claim, Yellen Says Minimum Wage Hike Would Result in ‘Minimal’ Job Loss

Yellen backed 2014 report forecasting 500,000 lost jobs from minimum wage hike

By Collin AndersonThe Washington Free Beacon

Treasury secretary nominee Janet Yellen previously backed a 2014 report that found a $10.10 federal minimum wage could kill half a million jobs. On Tuesday, she claimed that a $15 minimum wage would result in “minimal” job loss.

Yellen testified before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday morning, nearly two months after President-elect Joe Biden announced her nomination to head the Treasury Department. When Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.) criticized Biden’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15, noting that it could “hurt our economy as much as it would improve our economy,” Yellen defended the proposal.

“I think that the likely impact on jobs is minimal,” Yellen said. “That’s my reading of the research.”

But Yellen endorsed a 2014 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicting up to 500,000 lost jobs as a result of a $10.10 minimum wage. While the Obama administration lambasted the report, Yellen defended the CBO, calling the agency “good at this kind of evaluation” and adding that she “wouldn’t argue with their assessment.” The CBO later found that a $15 minimum wage could kill as many as 3.7 million jobs, with total real family income dropping by $9 billion.

Biden has made a $15 minimum wage a key pillar of his economic package, but the policy is likely to face hurdles in an evenly split Senate. At least 10 Senate Republicans must back Biden’s proposal to avoid a filibuster, and many GOP lawmakers have already expressed their opposition. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), for example, said that the proposal would cause “many low-income Americans” to “lose their current jobs and find fewer job opportunities in the future.”

Employment Policies Institute managing director Michael Saltsman echoed Toomey’s claim, telling the Washington Free Beacon that a $15 minimum wage would harm small businesses struggling to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s frankly irresponsible for the Biden administration to propose this at any time, but especially at a time when restaurants are dealing with huge 2020 losses, continued mandatory closures, and millions of jobs that haven’t come back since the start of the pandemic,” Saltsman said.

The Biden transition team did not return a request for comment.


Watchdog Calls for Transparency from University of Pennsylvania’s Biden Center

Calls come as center's director, Biden's secretary of state nominee, undergoes Senate confirmation process

By Alana GoodmanThe Washington Free Beacon

Biden secretary of state nominee Antony Blinken / Getty Images

A good-government watchdog is calling on secretary of state nominee Antony Blinken to disclose any foreign-funding sources for the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Biden Center, where Blinken served as director, as part of his Senate confirmation vetting process.

The National Legal and Policy Center (NPLC) is arguing thatany foreign money that made its way into the Penn Biden Center could pose a conflict of interest for Blinken, who served as the center’s director from 2017 to 2019 and received a more than $79,000 salary, according to his financial-disclosure records. The watchdog group said the university also saw a significant spike in contributions from China after the Penn Biden Center opened in 2017, raising questions about whether the funding had any connection to the policy center.

While President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to tighten ethics standards for his incoming administration, the Penn Biden Center’s lack of financial candor raises questions about the Biden cabinet’s commitment to transparency as Blinken testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday afternoon.

“The Penn Biden Center is the poster child for revolving-door conflicts of interest,” said Tom Anderson, director of the NPLC’s Government Integrity Project. “It’s time they disclose their donors and allow the American people the opportunity to evaluate whether any lines have been crossed.”

The Penn Biden Center was founded by Joe Biden at the University of Pennsylvania in 2017. Biden’s other policy-research institute at the University of Delaware has faced similar criticism over a lack of transparency and has no plans to disclose its donors after the president-elect takes office. Both organizations have served as cabinets-in-waiting, employing former Biden advisers who are now expected to join his administration.

Stephen MacCarthy, a spokesman for the University of Pennsylvania, told the Washington Free Beacon that the Penn Biden Center “is funded entirely with University funds” and doesn’t engage in fundraising.

“The University has never solicited any gifts for the Center. Since its inception in 2017 there have been three unsolicited gifts (from two donors) which combined total $1,100. Both donors are Americans,” said MacCarthy.

MacCarthy declined to discuss additional details of the center’s funding, or the sudden spike in donations from China, on the record.

Foreign contributions to the University of Pennsylvania tripled since the Penn Biden Center’s soft opening in March 2017, rising from $31 million in 2016 to over $100 million in 2019. The largest foreign contributor was China, which significantly increased its gifts to the university after the Penn Biden Center opened.

The University of Pennsylvania took in around $61 million in gifts and contracts from China between 2017 and 2019, according to records from the Department of Education. This was a substantial uptick from the prior four years, when the university received $19 million from China.

Many of the Chinese contributions were listed as coming from “anonymous” sources, according to the university’s disclosure records. Between March 2017 and the end of 2019, the university received a total of $22 million in anonymous gifts from China—a spike from less than $5 million during the preceding four years.

Blinken’s work outside of the Penn Biden Center also involved China and university funding.

Blinken cofounded the consulting firm WestExec, which helped U.S. universities raise money from China without running afoul of Pentagon grant requirements, the Free Beacon reported last month. WestExec scrubbed the details of this work from its website over the summer.

Anderson said his group is preparing to file a supplement to a Department of Justice complaint filed against the University of Pennsylvania last year.

The NLPC’s complaint asked the DOJ to look into whether the University of Pennsylvania or the Penn Biden Center violated the Foreign Agent Registration Act by accepting foreign funding in exchange for promoting the interests of foreign governments. Anderson said the new complaint will include Blinken’s work assisting universities that receive funding from China.

Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters that the committee will likely vote on Blinken’s confirmation on Monday.


San Francisco’s “Progressive” Drug Policies Kill Hundreds Annually

By Lee OhanianHoover Instituion

Last year, 621 people died of drug overdoses in San Francisco. To put this in perspective, 173 people died from COVID-19, which is identified as the primary public health crisis in the Bay Area. 

For years, San Francisco has tacitly encouraged drug abuse with remarkably lenient policies, and those policies are now inadvertently killing hundreds of people annually. San Francisco uses a policy approach called “harm reduction,” which stresses “culturally competent, non-judgmental treatment that demonstrates respect and dignity for the individual.”

But this approach, as it is practiced within San Francisco, is inhumane and cruel. It is destroying the dignity of the lives that some could have with more sensible policies. In addition to overdose deaths skyrocketing, drug abuse has increased in San Francisco, and it is becoming more difficult for addicts to affect positive change.

If you spend much time in San Francisco, you know this, as several areas of the city have become de facto open-air drug bazaars, with drug abuse and drug sales taking place for all to see. Harm-reduction policies are expanding drug use among youths through the dispensation to homeless adolescents of “safe snorting kits” and “safe smoking kits” for crack use. As if any crack use could be considered “safe.”

There are an estimated 25,000 drug users in San Francisco, which if anything is too low of a count since that estimate is nearly two years old. This exceeds San Francisco’s high school population by more than 50 percent and works out to about 522 drug users per city block.  Sadly, thousands of human tragedies unfold every day, eviscerating those who use drugs, and forever affecting the lives of those who see it daily, including many children.

Drug abuse is challenging to treat, but a recent handbook of best practices for substance abuse treatment by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that targeted treatment can be very effective, particularly when intervention occurs early.  

But a drawback to San Francisco’s acceptance and facilitation of drug use is that it prevents early intervention. Unless San Francisco completely changes how it views drug abuse, these numbers will become even worse. The country’s most progressive city needs to understand that their policies are creating implicit death sentences for many who could be helped with a different policy approach.

Understanding this begins with the simple economics about drug use, which highlights why harm reduction has failed. On the demand side, drug users come to San Francisco from elsewhere because they know the city tolerates and facilitates drug use, which includes providing free hypodermic needles. While giving away nearly 5 million clean needles annually (which boils down to nearly 6 needles for every San Franciscan) admirably reduces communicable diseases, it has created a public health hazard, because about two million used needles are disposed of on city sidewalks. Over $30 million has been spent on dealing with drug abuse within the public transit system, but one could hardly tell this by viewing transit stations that anything has been done to deal with this issue. 

On the supply side, selling drugs in San Francisco has become extremely profitable, given a demand side of 25,000 consumers and the city’s tolerant policies. In contrast to most other cities, the drug trade in San Francisco operates within what is almost a normal marketplace setting, where buyers and sellers can find each other easily, and with a relatively small chance of being arrested. Both of these factors promote relatively low prices, which stimulate demand, and high profits, which stimulate supply.

By normalizing drug abuse, San Francisco has created a perfect storm of a vibrant, well-functioning market of buyers and sellers who trade drugs much like a basket of fruit is traded at a farmer’s market. Unfortunately, the basket that is being traded in San Francisco’s drug bazaar is increasingly becoming the opioid Fentanyl, which can be 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Fentanyl is sufficiently strong that much less than one milligram is used as general anesthesia during major surgery. Just two milligrams—the equivalent of about 25 grains of sand—can be lethal. Emergency personnel responding to a Fentanyl overdose must take precautions so that they do not accidentally inhale Fentanyl. And yet Fentanyl is now being widely traded every day in San Francisco, driving up overdose deaths to about two daily.

What to do? Drug addiction can be treated medically and compassionately without viewing it as part of normal, everyday life, which is what is being practiced today in San Francisco. The city currently allocates over $5 billion to community health and human welfare.

Surely those budgets can be repurposed to treat drug abuse using best practices as outlined by the Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with greater efforts to identify family members who can assist with treatment and support. At the same time, the city must reduce the amount of Fentanyl and other lethal drugs that are being sold routinely in open-air markets.

Many of San Francisco’s drug users have lost control over their lives. The last thing that drug addicts need is another drug pusher, but this is what San Francisco’s policies have created. Lives can be saved, but not unless policies are changed.


United States Cut China Aid In Half In 2020

By Alex NesterThe Washington Free Beacon

Getty Images

President Donald Trump cut aid to China by 52 percent over the last year, the Spectator reported Friday.

The United States slashed $32 million in aid to China in fiscal year 2020, from $62 million in 2019 to $30 million, according to an Office of Management and Budget report.

The first government-wide China spending report comes as Trump enters the final days of his presidency. His administration implemented aggressive economic policies against China in an effort to thwart the Chinese Communist Party’s growing influence in the United States and the global market.

Trump campaigned in 2016 on combating Chinese economic policy, which he said “took advantage” of American citizens through trade imbalances and the manipulation of currency values.

The president’s efforts to curb Chinese influence in global politics and markets heated up last year after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic: In July, Trump moved to pull out of the World Health Organization for its failure to hold China accountable for its role in the deadly COVID-19 outbreak. He levied additional sanctions on companies that supported the Chinese military and fought Chinese influence at the United Nations. Additionally, the United States imposed $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports during fiscal year 2020.

Trump also cracked down on Confucius Institutes, which are tied to the Chinese Communist Party, for propagating Chinese disinformation at American universities.

Last week, Trump imposed sanctions on two Chinese apps over concerns that Chinese Communist Party officials could use them to collect data on Americans, including federal employees.

President-elect Joe Biden (D.) has criticized the president’s trade war with China. But he could face backlash from Congress if he softens the United States’ stance on Beijing, as politicians on both sides of the aisle support implementing economic measures to punish China for its human-rights abuses and combat the communist regime’s growing influence abroad.


Union Corruption Hurts Everyone. But It Harms the Most Vulnerable the Most.

By George LandrithTownhall

Union Corruption Hurts Everyone. But It Harms the Most Vulnerable the Most.
Source: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

This past year was one of the most tumultuous in memory. Widespread economic collapse, social and societal upheaval, violent riots, an acrimonious election cycle, and a worldwide pandemic are just a few of the major sources of upheaval.

These sorts of massive disruptions to the norm create opportunities for change and improvement. Some use those opportunities productively to work for solutions that fix real problems and improve lives. But sadly, many use these disruptions to cynically advance their own agenda while feigning concern for the plight of others. Unfortunately, organized labor falls into this latter group. 

In a time when so many Americans desperately want a job and a way to fund the hopes, dreams and aspirations of their family, too many union leaders are slamming the door shut on the very people they claim to serve. To make matters worse, too many union leaders are also padding their own pockets and working to advance their own power and influence at the expense of their members.

Here are a few recent examples. Dennis Williams, the former president of United Auto Workers (UAW), pled guilty to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the union. And this scandal was preceded by his successor at the UAW, Gary Jones, admitting that he helped steal more than a million dollars from union workers. That’s a bad trend line! 

James W. Cahill, a powerful and politically well-connected union leader, was indicted on racketeering and fraud charges. Federal prosecutors allege that he and others accepted bribes to aid companies that had hired nonunion labor. So the charges include accepting under the table money to work against your own members. But we are supposed to believe that the union is working to help union workers.

Chuck Stiles, the Director of the Teamsters Solid Waste and Recycling Division, has allegedly been taking large annual payouts of $65,000 for a “phantom job” on top of his $150,000 annual salary. These allegationsdon’t come from some union-hating critic, they come from an active member of the Teamsters Union. On top of that, there are allegations that Stiles’s son has also received a difficult-to-explain $10,000 payout from union funds. 

This sort of double self-dealing, if true, is very troubling and it raises the question — are these unions really representing their members or are they simply pretending to, and then enriching themselves while carrying on the charade.  

The cynicism doesn’t end with corrupt payments or self-dealing. For example, Stiles has decided to try to leverage the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement to increase support for the struggling labor movement. Yet the labor movement has not historically been the friend of racial minorities. And Stiles has no history of supporting minority candidates or causes. Interestingly, a public photo of Stiles in blackface has also recently emerged. So the idea that Stiles has some deep commitment to helping blacks or other minorities is a little hard to swallow. It is a fair question to ask — how serious and how sincere is this newfound interest in minorities and their economic welfare? 

More than five million manufacturing jobs disappeared from the American economy between 1999 and 2011. The exodus of good paying jobs continued through 2016. China was the single biggest factor. This massive jobs exodus harmed working-class blacks, yet BLM has been silent on China and refused to support policies that would reverse our economic losses to the Communist Country. Instead, they’ve focused on odd conspiracy theories about obesity and diabetes in the black community — as if that has been more consequential to black employment and poverty than jobs being exported abroad.

Given all that has transpired, when BLM and unions claim to be teaming up to protect and promote the interests of working-class blacks, a huge dose of realism is needed. Who actually benefits when unions “team up” with BLM but they both refuse to actually do what is needed to promote good paying manufacturing and other skilled labor jobs? It won’t be minority workers. 

Someone who claims they support workers, must point to how they’ve helped make real improvements in the lives of workers — more jobs, higher wages, etc. This is not the track record of unions or BLM in the past two decades. They have done a good job of enriching themselves and raising money and obtaining political power for themselves. But where is the evidence that they have done anything for the average American worker — black or white? And why haven’t they supported policies that have actually worked and benefited American workers — and particularly minority workers?  

These questions answer themselves. Both unions and BLM do more posturing than actual good, and they are teaming up hoping to hide this inescapable truth so that they can continue to prosper while feigning concern for those they claim to represent.


‘The Elements of the China Challenge’: A Reply to Critics

By Peter BerkowitzRealClear Politics

In mid-November, the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff — I serve as the director — published “The Elements of the China Challenge.” The paper argues that the core of the challenge consists of the concerted efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to reconfigure world order to serve the CCP’s authoritarian interests and aims. It explains the errors that nourished the hope on both the right and the left that economic liberalization in China, coupled with Western engagement and incorporation of Beijing into international organizations, would bring about China’s political liberalization. It describes the characteristic practices of the communist dictatorship, traces China’s brazen programs of economic co-optation and coercion in every region of the world, examines the Marxist-Leninist dogma and hyper-nationalist beliefs that provide the intellectual sources of the CCP’s quest for global supremacy, and surveys China’s vulnerabilities — both those endemic to authoritarian regimes and those specific to the People’s Republic of China. In conclusion, the paper lays out a framework for securing freedom.

Reaction to the paper has been instructive. The Chinese Communist Party responded with ritual denunciation. In contrast, public intellectuals, scholars, and public officials from around the world have expressed appreciation for the Policy Planning Staff’s efforts to gather in one place the evidence of the CCP’s  predatory policies, to distill the party’s governing ambitions, and to sketch a way forward for the United States and all nations dedicated to preserving the free, open, and rules-based international order. The best of the American responses to the paper have coupled praise, in some cases grudging, with strictures, sometimes angry, about the paper’s limitations. The domestic criticisms are especially revealing, both for the serious issues they raise and for the misconceptions that they promulgate.Recommended  

“The Elements of the China Challenge” has its origins in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s reorientation of the State Department — consistent with the Trump administration’s 2017 National Security Strategy and a number of other administration documents — around the new round of great-power competition launched by the CCP. The administration’s attention to the China challenge does not entail — as many mistakenly suppose — that the United States must turn its back to the rest of the world. To the contrary, the Policy Planning Staff paper stresses that to counter China’s quest for global supremacy, the United States must renew its alliance system and must reform international organizations so that they serve America’s vital interest in preserving an international order that is composed of free and sovereign nation-states and that is grounded in respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Trump administration policy reflects this reorientation. For starters, the administration has led in exposing the CCP’s initial cover up of the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent disinformation campaign. The administration intensified efforts to combat China’s massive intellectual property theft. It placed the United States at the forefront of efforts to hold China accountable for gross human rights violations, especially the brutal imprisonment of more than a million Uyghurs in re-education camps in Xinjiang — the United States is the only nation to impose sanctions on CCP officials for these unconscionable abuses. It terminated Hong Kong’s special trading status in the spring, when the CCP crushed freedom in the city. It increased weapons sales to Taiwan, embarked on an inaugural U.S.-Taiwan economic dialogue, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Taiwan on health, science, and technology. It invigorated the Quad (Australia, India, Japan, and the United States) and, with its strategy for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, affirmed the region’s critical importance. It revamped the Development Finance Corporation and reformed the Export-Import Bank to improve the ability of United States and its allies and partners to invest in other nations’ physical and digital infrastructure. And, the Trump administration has convinced more than 50 countries and counting to join the Clean Network, which promises secure telecommunications — unlike the technology offered by Chinese “national champions” Huawei and ZTE, which are CCP extensions whose hardware and software threaten individual privacy and national security.

By stepping back, taking a broader view, and documenting the pattern and purpose of China’s actions, “The Elements of the China Challenge” explains why these policies are urgently needed, and why much more must be done. And by identifying 10 tasks that the United States must undertake — from restoring civic concord at home to, where possible, cooperating with Beijing based on norms of fairness and reciprocity, and to championing freedom abroad — the Policy Planning Staff paper lays the foundations for refashioning U.S. foreign policy to meet the China challenge.

A common theme of the critics, reputable as well as disreputable, is that the paper falls short of the work of George Kennan, a career foreign service officer who in 1947 founded the Policy Planning Staff and became its first director. At the dawn of the Cold War, Kennan’s 1946 “Long Telegram” from Moscow and his 1947 Foreign Affairs article “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” illuminated the threat to freedom posed by the Soviet Union. The most influential documents produced by a State Department official, they served as sources of inspiration for the Policy Planning Staff, but we did not seek to replicate them since, as Kennan well understood, different challenges and moments demand different undertakings and emphases. Above all, today’s Policy Planning Staff learned from Kennan’s insistence on the combination of “ideology and circumstances” that determines great-power conduct, and took to heart his counsel that “to avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.”

As for the disreputable critics, they give no evidence of having read the paper. The Global Times, a daily tabloid and wholly owned subsidiary of the Chinese Communist Party, was first out of the gate. The CCP newspaper dismissed “The Elements of the China Challenge” the day after it appeared as an “insult to Kennan” amounting to little more than “a collection of malicious remarks from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other anti-China U.S. politicians and senators.” At his regular press conference the following day, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian denounced the Policy Planning Staff paper as “just another collection of lies piled up by the those ‘living fossils of the Cold War’ from the U.S. State Department.”

It would have been more accurate to refer to “the living victors of the Cold War,” but more telling still is the CCP’s failure to notice that the Policy Planning Staff distinguishes the China challenge from the Soviet challenge. While underscoring that, like the former Soviet Union after World War II, China today presents the foremost threat to freedom, the paper also stresses the distinct forms of power at work. “The Soviet Union,” the paper argues, “primarily enlarged its dominions and sought to impose its will through military coercion.” In contrast, and notwithstanding its development of a world-class military, China “primarily pursues the reconfiguration of world affairs through a kind and quantity of economic power of which the Soviets could only have dreamed.”

Of the reputable critics, Odd Arne Westad, a Yale history professor and China scholar, is among the most distinguished. In a Foreign Affairs essay titled “The U.S. Can’t Check China Alone,” he asserts that the “report correctly sees China as the greatest challenge to the United States since the end of the Cold War, showing how Beijing has grown more authoritarian at home and more aggressive abroad.” The paper also, according to Westad, “rightly recognizes how China has tried to gain an advantage by applying economic pressure and conducting espionage — as well as by exploiting the naiveté that causes many foreigners to miss the oppressive nature of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Nevertheless, Westad charges, “the report is limited by ideological and political constraints; given that it is a Trump administration document, it must echo President Donald Trump’s distaste for international organizations, even though they are key to dealing with China.” The professor also takes the paper to task on the grounds that it “almost completely ignores the most basic fact about the current situation, which is that the United States can compete effectively with China only through fundamental reform at home.”

A meticulous scholar of Chinese history, Westad imputes to the Policy Planning Staff paper opinions not found there and overlooks arguments it prominently features. It is not true that our paper, as Westad writes, “suggests that it is now in the United States’ interests to destroy and then selectively rebuild existing international institutions.” Rather, the Policy Planning Staff calls for a reassessment of international organizations to determine where they serve freedom and where they no longer advance the objective for which they were created, arguing for reform where possible and the establishment of new institutions where necessary.

Contrary to Westad, moreover, the Policy Planning Staff highlights the domestic foundations of effective foreign policy. Five of the 10 tasks we identify as crucial to securing freedom involve reform at home — from the renewal of American constitutional government and the promotion of prosperity and civic concord to restoring the U.S. educational system at all levels.

Hal Brands, another reputable critic and leading scholar, finds “valuable insights” in “The Elements of the China Challenge.” Despite the juvenile taunt in the title of his Bloomberg op-ed, “There’s No George Kennan in the Trump Administration,” Brands — a professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies as well as a Bloomberg columnist — writes that the paper “explains, more completely than any prior U.S. policy document, the sources of Chinese conduct — namely the mix of Marxist-Leninist ideology, extreme nationalism and quasi-imperialism that drives the Chinese Communist Party.” In addition, according to Brands, the paper “shows that China’s objectives are not limited to its immediate periphery, but include fundamental changes in the international system”; it “details the troubling aspects of Chinese behavior, from economic predation to Beijing’s menacing military buildup, as well as the deep vulnerabilities — endemic corruption, inescapable demographic problems, economic instability — that threaten its continued ascent”; and it “outlines reasonable steps America should take to strengthen its position.”


McConnell’s Right – The $2000 Checks Are a Bad Idea

By Peter RoffNewsweek

How much is enough? It’s a question America is going to have to answer, and soon, lest the need for additional COVID relief packages overwhelm the nation’s ability to pay for them. The national debt, which was close to a single year’s gross domestic product when Donald J. Trump came into office four years ago, has more than doubled, thanks in no small part to efforts to alleviate the impact of the economic lockdown used to prevent the disease from spreading.

As the numbers show, it didn’t work. The states with some of the most severe restrictions on commercial activity, like California and New York, continue to lead the rest of the states in deaths per capita and new infections. It’s almost as if the wearing of masks, the requirements that people stay six feet apart from one another and not venture out into public and the closures of small businesses like restaurants and churches have done almost nothing to keep COVID-19 from spreading.

There are more than a few commentators who’ve been bold enough to suggest that outright. It’s going to take a lot more study of the data to determine if they’re right but what we now know is sufficient to suggest there’s more truth to these presumptions than many of the so-called experts driving the national dialogue are willing to entertain may be the case.

All that is for later. What matters now is whether the latest COVID-19 package is enough or, as President Donald J. Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer believe, if the American people need another round of so-called stimulus checks from Washington to make it though.

They don’t—and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was right when he stopped the bill to do just that from moving forward. If he erred, and it is not clear he did, it was in offering his own version of the bill that, along with the $2000 checks would eliminate a provision of federal telecommunications law that conservatives say allows major platforms like Twitter and Facebook to censor posts with impunity and establish a federal commission to make recommendations to combat voter fraud.

The Democrats could never vote for such a measure—big tech has invested too much in the party’s electoral success for them to sign on—so offering it as an alternative is a crafty way for McConnell to kill the so-called stimulus while making it look like the fault of Schumer and company, not the GOP. Some of his partisan colleagues up for reelection in 2022 may need the political cover his effort provides but, in all honesty, he should have stood his ground and just said “no.”

Mitch McConnell Trump stimulus checks Republicans twitter
Right-wing Republicans on Twitter are praising Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky over President Donald Trump after a McConnell introduced a Senate proposal which could deny Trump and Democrats an increase in COVID-19 stimulus checks intended for American adults economically harmed by the ongoing pandemic. In this September 30, 2020 photo, McConnell talks to reporters following the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY

It’s not that the money would go to families that don’t need it. The economics of the distribution algorithm would allow families making several hundreds of thousands a year declared eligible to receive a check, perhaps for more than $2000 depending on marital status and number of dependents. They don’t need it but—as both Sen. Schumer and Speaker Pelosi have many constituents among the caviar-consuming, designer-ice-cream-eating, Louis Vuitton-carrying crowd who would qualify, it’s little surprise they’re on board. They probably also appreciate the optics associated with seeming like Santa Claus while McConnell comes across as Scrooge.

Except McConnell isn’t, at least not as far as the economics are concerned. A one-time payment of $2000 may help some families clear some debts but it won’t do anything to get the economy going. What we know from the available data is that the open states, most of them red states, are doing better than the mostly blue states where the lockdowns continue.

If the lockdowns aren’t doing much to mitigate the impact of COVID, if the disease is still mostly passed from person to person in home and family settings, and if most all the people who die from it would have shortly died from something else—all things much of the available data show are true—then the best stimulus the economy could have would be for the shuttered states to reopen so everyone could go back to work.

If stopping the checks means more people clamoring for a return to normalcy, then McConnell has done the nation a great service. Larry Summers, the liberal economist who served as Bill Clinton‘s treasury secretary and director of Barack Obama‘s National Economic Council has said: “There is no good economic argument” for universal checks. The economy is roaring back, in fits and starts, with third-quarter 2020 growth at a never-before-seen 33 percent, adjusted on an annualized basis. The checks Trump, Pelosi and Schumer want can’t improve on that. They can put our children and grandchildren deeper into debt than they already are.

McConnell should maintain his hard “no.” As Ronald Reagan said, “The best welfare program is a job” which, expanded out, means the best form of stimulus—and what we need right now—is to let the American people get back to work, not subsidize their continuing to stay home.


Will The Covid-19 Pandemic Confound Or Enable China’s Strategic Ambitions?

By Robert G. KaufmanHoover Institution

Will China’s negligence unleashing the coronavirus and mendacity exploiting it catalyze a reckoning with the PRC, comparable in significance to the Czech Coup of 1948? And will it crystallize long-term American determination to contest China’s scheme to supplant the United States as the world’s preeminent power? Or will China ultimately emerge as the winner from the devastation it has wrought because of a deficit of strategic and moral clarity within the United States and among our allies?

The answer to these questions depends considerably on the policies adopted by the next president. Start with the good news. Negative views of China have soared to a record high of 73 percent of Americans, according to a Pew Foundation Poll released in late July 20201. Chinese behavior during and since the coronavirus also has elicited strong negative reactions across the Indo-Pacific, especially in Japan, India, and Australia, where views of China’s ambitions and behavior already trended strongly in a negative direction. Even in Western Europe, long committed to engaging and conciliating rather than confronting China, COVID-19 has generated an anti-China backlash, more muted on the continent but stronger in Britain where British Prime Minister Boris Johnson joined President Trump in imposing a complete ban on Chinese 5G vendor Huawei.

Even so, this contingent good news might prove ephemeral rather than enduring if the United States and our allies should waver in the reckoning with China that President Trump deserves credit for initiating. The reelection of President Trump would have offered the best practicable option for building and intensifying the Administration’s first term strategy of contesting China comprehensively and vigorously—a vital condition for bolstering deterrence, or defeating China at the lowest possible cost and risk should deterrence fail. Unlike his predecessor––who “welcomed China’s rise,” who significantly shrank American defense spending while China armed prodigiously, and whose national security statements of 2010 and 2015 omitted naming China or any other great power as an adversary––the Trump Administration designated China from the outset as our number one adversary. The President has not only increased the American defense budget substantially, but invested in threshold technologies such as strategic defense and created an independent Space Force. The President has pushed back hard against China’s implacable economic warfare against us on trade and intellectual property that his predecessors rationalized away. The President’s economic policies before COVID-19 intervened had generated prodigious economic growth on which American military preeminence depends. Trump began, too, the long overdue decoupling of the U.S. economy from China’s, the imperative of which our inordinate dependence on China for essentials such as antibiotics exposed in high relief during this pandemic. President Trump strengthened relationships with a decent democratic India and Japan, vital, value-based allies who share our strategic priorities and alarm about the trajectory of China’s policies at home and abroad—relationships his predecessor, with the support of Vice President Biden, allowed to languish while courting China and other adversaries.

Trump’s recalibration of our China policy that COVID-19 has broadened, deepened, and accelerated is a good start, but only the end of the beginning of what is necessary for the United States and our allies to prevail. For all the considerable merits of President Trump’s approach towards China, the President would enhance the effectiveness of his policies by doing some recalibrating as well. The President’s rhetoric has undervalued the importance of American ideals as well as self-interest in identifying friends, foes, threats, and opportunities. Many Americans who are increasingly alarmed by China rightly advocate calling out China with no pale pastels on human rights, stressing the tyrannical nature of the Chinese regime, while championing the importance of a value-based alliance system of fellow democracies in the Indo-Pacific, grounded firmly in geopolitics. The President’s spokesmen—particularly Secretary of State Pompeo and Vice President Pence—have done much better articulating this dimension of the contest with China than the President, whose actual policies on this and many other issues are often better than he makes them sound. A greater emphasis on human right also may elicit greater support for sterner policies towards China from our Western European allies, where resolve—especially in Germany—is fragile at best even now with disillusionment with China running much higher than usual.

A second term Trump presidency also would run the risk of undermining the significant progress the Administration achieved in the first term if the President decided to settle for a deal rather than staying the course. This temptation is not only organic to President Trump’s nature, but would loom large for whoever became president because of the huge budgetary deficits that COVID-19 has compounded. President Trump’s salutary hectoring our allies to do more—yielding impressive results in Europe his predecessor failed to match—also ran the risk of reaching a culminating point counterproductive to forging a muscular strategic consensus that actively counters China’s ambitions.

With President Trump’s defeat, the odds diminish that China loses more than it gains by unleashing and exploiting COVID-19. Granted, the most recent Pew Foundation Poll found that many Democrats as well as even more Republicans advocate tougher policies on toward China on human rights and trade. An increasing number of prominent Democrats have become rhetorically more willing to criticize rather than conciliate China. Even so, President-elect Biden has a long record of advocating engagement with China while downplaying the idea that the PRC has become a serious strategic rival. The leftward lurch of the current Democratic Party also does inspire confident that a Biden Administration will follow through on President Trump’s policy of robust resistance towards China’s predatory behavior. On the contrary, Senator Biden had moved steadily in a more dovish direction on national security even before becoming President Obama’s Vice President and cheerleading for Obama’s Dangerous Doctrine President Trump has repudiated in its entirety. Neither Biden nor his surrogates said much of anything about China at the Democratic convention despite the urgency of addressing the paramount national security threat of our time.

Will a Democratic Party reluctant to condemn the breakdown of law and order in a growing number of municipalities its leaders have governed for decades—a party seriously considering deep cuts in law enforcement amidst the mayhem—pursue the types of muscular national security strategies essential for credibly reassuring our terrified real and prospective allies in the Indo-Pacific that it is safer to stand up to China rather than to capitulate? Will a party committed to a vast expansion of government domestically—with deficits cascading, taxes poised steeply to increase if President Biden has his way—have the resources much less the inclination to spend enough on defense to counter China’s relentless military buildup aimed at driving the United States out of the Western Pacific? Will a Biden Administration also designate China’s grandiose ambitions and predatory behavior as danger number one? Or will the President-elect and his party revert instead to the default position of President Trump’s predecessor, who considered climate change the paramount gathering danger, envisaging China as a partner in fighting it?

Concluding with an optimistic plausible caveat about the consequences of a Biden victory for our struggle with China, history furnishes ample examples of policies confounding expectations. Recall the Truman Administration’s decision to resist North Korea’s June 1950 attack on South Korea just six months after Secretary of State Dean Acheson seemed to exclude South Korea as a vital interest in his speech to the Washington Press Club in January 1950. Recall, the strategic metamorphosis of heretofore isolationist Senator Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan into a stalwart supporter of President Truman’s policy of vigilant containment. In the immortal words of the Beach Boys, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” if a Biden Presidency underwent a similar metamorphosis in this direction. It would be a triumph of hope over experience, however, to count on it. This version of the Democratic party has purged itself of all vestiges of the Truman/Scoop Jackson tradition of muscular Cold War liberalism congenial to the President’s hawkishness on China. The party’s political banishment of Former Senator Joseph Lieberman—the last of the Cold War Democrats—sadly attests to that.

May a Biden Presidency, too, be better than it sounds. Otherwise, the COVID-19 pandemic may turn out to be a strange and stinging defeat for the United States instead of a defeat for its perpetrator.


Retailers stepping up in more ways than one

By Peter RoffNew Rockford Transcript

Despite the grim economic news, the V-shaped economic recovery President Donald Trump has talked about may soon be a reality.

The news that several novel coronavirus vaccines will soon be available may allow the lockdowns to end. If all goes as planned, Operation Warp Speed could lead to the nation recovering lost economic ground in months rather than years, even if the number of cases continues to rise.

Retailers across the country are contributing to Operation Warp Speed by ordering freezers, thermometers, and the additional medical gear needed to administer vaccines once they’re available. It makes sense. Since grocers and pharmacies offer flu shots, their support in delivering the vaccine is crucial given their thousands of locations in every city and county in the nation.

These public-private partnerships in Operation Warp Speed not only show we can beat this pandemic, but also highlight the benefits when America’s private sector steps up.

Over the last 10 months, retailers have taken the lead, offering “hero pay,” additional bonuses, and greater safety measures to keep their employees and customers safe. Their story is just one of many waiting to be told once all of this is behind us. But that’s not the only way this one segment of American business is stepping up to address the nation’s critical problems.

Employees from Albertsons, Kroger, and Ahold recently ratified agreements with 27 local unions to withdraw from a union multi-employer pension fund circling the drain and join the newly formed UFCW and Employer’s Variable Annuity Pension Plan. This change includes investments of nearly $2 billion from these companies that will improve the security and stability of future benefits for employees and modernize retirement benefits.

The issue of pension reform has been before Congress for some time, but it’s been stuck. If the nation’s pension plans fail in any significant way, with far too many of them currently underfunded, the required bailout that would follow would imperil any recovery, as well as long-term future prosperity.

What has just been accomplished is great news for all involved. Millions of workers in other pension plans may not be so lucky. Rather than bicker over the best way back to a pre-COVID economy, policymakers ought to be focusing on the pitfalls ahead. Many of them, like the need to reform the pension system, are not hard to spot.

Pension reform has long been an issue that elected officials on both sides of the aisle have recognized and have attempted to address but that never went far enough. For example, there are about 1,400 pension funds that are, according to the federal Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation “collectively bargained plan(s) maintained by more than one employer, usually within the same or related industries, and a labor union” that are potentially in trouble.

Policymakers must take a balanced approached to the issue of troubled multi-employer pension funds that provide participants with the retirement income they depend on while not placing undue burdens on the employers who participate in them. A solution must be found soon to protect the 10 million or so workers millions enrolled in employed by manufacturers and retailers and mining and shipping concerns to prevent them from having their benefits reduced significantly or cut entirely.

The PBGC’s safety net for pension funds that default is shrinking. Insolvency may come as soon as 2025 as more and more multi-employer plans face financial challenges and member companies fail or enter bankruptcy. Many of these companies have been hit hard by the coronavirus lockdowns and been unable to keep up their contributions.

Companies like Albertsons, Kroger, and Ahold did not wait for government incentives to make the switch. They moved ahead because it’s the right thing for workers and that’s good for the corporate bottom line. Other companies and industries will hopefully follow suit because it’s good for workers, good for taxpayers, and great for America.

If Operation Warp Speed is to be deemed a success in the months ahead, it will be thanks not only to the pharmaceutical companies who created the vaccines but to the retailers who distributed and vaccinated Americans at record rates. Should our recovering economy continue its current trend, we will prevail because private companies invested their profits and resources to make it happen.


California’s Democratic dominance may soon prove deadly

By Bill WhalenThe Washington Post

Demonstrators demand the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Nov. 21 in Huntington Beach, Calif. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

As of Sunday, most Californians are under strict stay-at-home orders. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) lockdown shutters businesses, bars and cultural centers; makes restaurants takeout-only; and sends religious services outdoors. Gatherings with people in other households are banned — through Christmas.

That’s a lot for authorities to ask — especially when they appear so out of touch with the people they’re trying to govern.

Many residents are furious over being asked to make sacrifices that state and local officials themselves won’t. Newsom is by now notorious for his minimum $350-a-plate meal at the ultra-elite French Laundry in violation of his own guidance to Californians, exacerbated by his lieclaiming the meal followed outdoor distancing policies.

The mayor of San Francisco, London Breed, had her own coronavirus-noncompliant dinner at the same tony venue. Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl was spotted dining alfresco at an Italian restaurant in Santa Monica not long after voting to ban outdoor dining for her 12 million fellow Angelenos. San Jose’s mayor had to apologize after traveling to his parents’ house for a Thanksgiving dinner in violation of state requirements. When five state lawmakers were busteddining out in Sacramento this week by a reporter, one asked, “Can we not have dinner?” before pulling his mask out of his pocket.

Why are these officials so flagrantly violating rules they expect their own voters to follow? Is it arrogance? Delusion? Indifference? All of the above?

Perhaps. But I have another theory: The tone-deafness is what comes from living in a bubble where political competition is scant. In California, Democratic voters outnumber Republicans nearly 2-1. Only two Republicans have won statewide office since 2000. Newsom, Breed and Kuehl received 62 percent, 71 percent and 76 percent of the vote, respectively, in their last races.

In other words, it is precisely because California is so heavily Democratic that Democratic officials don’t feel the need to be responsive to their constituents. But there is mounting evidence that even in this one-party state, voters are no longer unquestioningly swallowing what their leadership is feeding them.

In the case of the pandemic crackdown, residents are mounting resistance to lawmakers’ hypocrisy. One county plans to challenge Newsom’s covid-19 policies in court. Cities are exploring forming their own public health departments to avoid county-level restrictions. Sheriffs are refusing to enforce state curfews. Business owners are planning open rebellion.

This year’s ballot initiatives, too, should raise alarms, as measures that Democratic tail winds should ordinarily have swept to victory instead went down to surprising defeat. One was Proposition 15, which sought to hike commercial property taxes, ostensibly to fund public schools (the state’s teachers’ union spent $20 million trying to push the measure through). Proposition 16, meanwhile, would have reinstated the use of affirmative action in California public university admissions and public sector hiring.

Both measures enjoyed overwhelming support from progressive activists, state Democratic elected officials and Newsom. And both should have benefited from anti-Trump turnout. But Prop. 15 received nearly 2.9 million fewer votes statewide than President-elect Joe Biden did. Prop. 16 trailed Biden by almost 3.9 million votes.

Newsom and state Democratic leaders were also embarrassed by Proposition 22. In September 2019, Assembly Bill 5 — a law mandating that companies treat “gig workers,” such as Uber and Lyft drivers, like full-time employees — passed easily in the overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature, with a 29-11 vote in the state Senate and a 61-16 vote in the Assembly. The measure was eagerly signed into law by Newsom. Then Prop. 22 took the matter to voters, who decisively rejected their Democratic overlords — 59 percent to 41 percent.

These measures failed, in part, because their Democratic champions were clueless about where voters actually were on the issues. Prop. 15, for example, rested its hopes on an ambitious media blitz featuring teachers railing against corporate loopholes that allegedly deny schools deserved money. But at a time when shuttered schools and substandard virtual learning are shortchanging millions of California kids, was a plea for sympathy for teachers’ unions a wise tactic?

These rebukes point to an unsettling phenomenon. Because relatively little is demanded of them, California’s elected leaders have an easy time getting elected, but haven’t yet mastered the part that comes after — leading.

Newsom, for example, was nurtured, educated and sent up the political ladder in a deep-blue range from Marin County to the southern end of Silicon Valley — coasting from one Democratic-friendly post to another, never having to develop shrewd professional and personal judgment. He and his fellow state and local lawmakers apparently still need to master the arts of convincing and persuading, of finding the right policies that appeal to broad coalitions, of being the role models they expect voters to follow.

In a few months, the embarrassments of failed ballot propositions will probably have faded. But in the case of the covid-19 resistance, Democratic officials’ alienation from their voters could prove deadly. If there’s a silver lining to the crisis, maybe it will be that it finally prompts complacent politicians such as Newsom to look beyond their own whims to what their voters actually want and need.


California’s COVID Economic Recovery Task Force Provides Political Cover But Little Else

By Lee OhanianHoover Institution

After seven months, California’s one-hundred-plus-member economic recovery task force has finished its recovery recommendation report.  What could have been a game-changing opportunity to reduce the state’s high cost of living, increase efficiency in bureaucracies, and reform tax and regulatory policies never got off the ground.

Just 23 pages long, you will be hard-pressed to find substantive economic recommendations, much less any major new ideas, in a report that somehow took seven months to write. The COVID recovery task force was ingenious political theater to show that the state’s major business leaders, including Apple CEO Tim Cook and Disney CEO Bob Iger, were professing buy-in to Governor Gavin Newsom’s economic shutdown. This was never about reforming state economic policies that are among the worst in the country. It was about providing broad-based political cover.

With more than one hundred members appointed by Newsom, you knew that nothing important would ever be accomplished. Granted, the unique problems of COVID meant the task force would include representation from several economic sectors, but creating a committee of over one hundred could have been straight out of the CIA’s 1944 “Simple Sabotage Field Manual,”which recommends creating as large of a committee as possible to ensure that nothing happens.  

Labor unions garnered the most task force representation, with 14 members, including two from the politically important Service Employees International Union. And even though the pandemic is a public health problem, the task force included only a handful of members from the health care industry, broadly defined.

The report opens with a discussion of the importance of viral testing and the state’s new, expensive purchases of protective equipment and medical supplies. I wonder how task force member Arnold Schwarzenegger felt, as the substantial investments he made in these important supplies several years ago when he was governor—for just such a pandemic—were given away by the state because they were considered to be too expensive to maintain. Oh well.

After reading the report, you get the uneasy feeling that you were indeed snookered. It reads like a “what I did this summer” back-to-school report. There was much listening to others. Hand-wringing about the impact of COVID, but not too much, lest there be any hint that the report is at all critical of state policies. There are roughly 30 references to diversity, equity, and racism in the report, but only one reference to efficiency. There is much admiration for the governor’s leadership, and considerable self-congratulation, including advocating for the use of electronic signatures on government documents and refurbishing used school computers. Tim Cook and Bob Iger were needed for this?

Not surprisingly, you get the feeling that the task force members ultimately hit their breaking points as they tried to navigate what amounted to a ship without a sail. With California COVID cases rising rapidly, it is strange the task force would disband now, when presumably their input is more important than ever. But after seven months of accomplishing little, task force members probably were done in. Iger resigned even earlier, when the state would not come up with a plan for theme park reopenings.

If something important were to have been accomplished, then problems would first have to be identified and prioritized. But this was never going to happen, because Newsom appointed his chief of staff, Ann O’Leary, as one co-chair, who could be the de facto gatekeeper. The other co-chair was Tom Steyer, the former Democratic presidential candidate who spent $250 million to run for president earlier this year, and who failed to receive any delegates.  

Steyer previously made a fortune investing in coal, one of the dirtiest of energy sources. Now a born-again activist for climate and progressive causes, Steyer is willing to spend his and other people’s money to create a carbon-free California as soon as possible, even if the most optimistic assessments of its benefits do not come close to offsetting the costs.

Newsom got what he wanted in Steyer as a well-heeled partner who would support all climate initiatives, including Newsom’s executive order banning the sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2035.  Because California accounts for less than one percent of global carbon emissions, the state could probably move the climate needle more by paying China to stop using soft coal than by mandating that all new California homes require solar panels, extra insulation, and highly energy-efficient windows and appliances, all of which increase new home construction costs by $30,000 or more.

The O’Leary-Steyer task force report is about as different as it possibly could be from a recovery task force report written in 1992 for then governor Pete Wilson. Chaired by Peter Uberroth, a 17-person committee took just four months to write “California’s Jobs and Future.” This was produced when the California economy had lost 500,000 jobs, about four percent of the state’s employment.

The Uberroth report pulled no punches in identifying the state’s key economic policy shortcomings. In 128 densely written pages, the report described a “government that is no longer working” and a state on “its way to fiscal disaster.” The report describes unaffordable housing. An underperforming school system. A shift to low-wage service-sector jobs. Losing businesses to states and countries with lower costs. Inadequate entrepreneurship. Environmental restrictions that do not pass a sensible cost-benefit assessment. All of this written in 1992.

The report provided plenty of sensible solutions, built around the ideas of redesigning government so that it was no longer in an adversarial position with businesses and taxpayers, an overhaul of the workers’ compensation system to root out widespread fraud, incentivizing school performance, and streamlining regulations and implementing tax incentives for business investment.

For schools, recommendations included stricter cost accountability; a statewide open-enrollment plan, meaning school choice; an extra hour per school day and a two-hundred-day school year; English comprehension requirements for third graders; and expanded career training for 11th and 12th graders. This would have made a significant difference in the effectiveness of California schools, but little was implemented, largely for political reasons.

Perhaps the most striking difference between the two reports, written nearly 30 years apart, is the tenor of the conclusions. Steyer stated, “We will come back stronger and better than we have ever been.” In sharp contrast, the Uberroth report warned that the state was risking bankruptcy if their policy recommendations were not implemented. For the most part, the recommendations weren’t adopted, and bankruptcy has been averted only by a series of large tax increases that place California among the highest-taxing states in the country.

Viewed over the last 28 years, the Uberroth report has been chillingly accurate. Sadly, its prescience will continue. 


President Trump Is Right to Push Back Against China’s Expansionism

By Ernest IstookKOH AM Newstalk

President Trump Is Right to Push Back Against China’s Expansionism

President Trump is making a post-election push of his MAGA agenda.

An executive order of Nov. 12 cuts off American investments in Chinese “military-controlled” companies, banning them from American stock and investment markets, and from being held in pension fund portfolios, effective in January.

Americans have subsequently been told to divest themselves within a year of their holdings in those stocks and securities as well.

In the wake of this executive order and to little surprise, prices quickly plunged in China and Hong Kong’s stock market.

The ban is a follow-up to this summer’s Pentagon report that listed 31 major Chinese companies doing business in the United States while assisting the Chinese military — which controls those corporations. Congress ordered the list — which is heavy with companies involved in electronics, space and aviation, communications, construction and shipbuilding — to be compiled.

The Defense Department additionally determined that each company “supports the modernization goals of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by ensuring its access to advanced technologies and expertise acquired and developed by even those PRC companies, universities, and research programs that appear to be civilian entities.”

Trump’s executive order is a blow to two major initiatives of China’s Communist Party:

1. Its “Made in China 2025” strategic plan to expand the manufacturing sector of the PRC (People’s Republic of China), and

2. Its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) plan to control global trade and transportation infrastructure

The Belt and Road Initiative, with a presence in over 100 countries, involves $1.3-trillion dollars spent by China to build or buy control of the transportation and logistics facilities that are critical to global trade.

That dollar figure comes from Australian conglomerate BHP, which says the BRI is seven times larger than the Marshall Plan funded by America to rebuild Europe after World War 2.

As Forbes puts it, China has been on a “seaport shopping spree” buying control of major port facilities worldwide. Furthermore, another Department of Defense report says the BRI is “leveraging civilian construction for military purposes; and . . . logistics . . . for military purposes.”

A new assessment by the Center for Strategic and International Studies notes that China’s state funding is building over a third of the world’s ocean-going merchant ships, producing 96 percent of the world’s shipping containers, and controlling the largest port and logistics company in the world, all to serve as “the maritime supply arm of the People’s Liberation Army.”

The result is that China builds about 1,200 merchant ships a year, while the United States only builds eight.

With regards to combat ships, an October report from the Congressional Research Service warns Congress that China’s fast-growing navy is now “a major challenge to the U.S. Navy . . . in the Western Pacific — the first such challenge the U.S. Navy has faced since the end of the Cold War.”

Since 90% of global trade travels by ship, China is developing a chokehold that it could apply to threaten the economies of every nation, including the United States, in order to enforce its Communist will.

Sadly, there are some who want to invite China to expand its grip on America by repealing the Jones Act a, law prevents any vessel from conducting internal trade within American waters unless it’s American-built, American-owned and American-crewed.

This applies to cargoes carried on our waterways, along the intercoastal canals, and between American ports.

It would require a major U.S. commitment to reverse the trend of Chinese dominance of global trade. But keeping the Jones Act prevents China from accelerating the trend by taking control over our internal waters. Homeland security would be at risk if any foreign power infiltrated into the American economy in that way.

Keeping the Jones Act by itself will not remedy the problem of China’s militant expansionism. Cutting off U.S. funds from China’s commercial/military complex may help.

However, to develop real solutions, a first step is that the American people must be better-informed about what China is doing.


Impartial Independent Dispute Resolution Needed for Surprise Medical Bills

By George LandrithWBAP

Impartial Independent Dispute Resolution Needed for Surprise Medical Bills

Large unexpected expenses are never welcome. No one likes a costly surprise. That may explain why Congress is talking about government imposing a “fix” to “protect” patients from surprise medical bills.

That may sound good, but healthy skepticism is warranted. One only needs to remember how the Obama-Biden administration repeatedly promised to save us all thousands of dollars every year and allow us to keep our health insurance and our doctor. None of that turned out to be true.

We need a solution to surprise medical bills that rescues consumers from being caught in between the doctor’s or hospital’s bill and the insurance company’s refusal to pay it. But we also need a solution that empowers consumers, not government bureaucrats, and that promotes innovation and harnesses the power of the marketplace to ensure high quality care at the lowest prices.

We must be 100% sure that we avoid government mandated procedures that effectively impose price controls because they also reduce the likelihood of future healthcare innovations and slow the development of promising medicines and procedures. Government mandates almost invariably shift power to government bureaucrats and health insurance companies, rather than giving consumers more control over their own healthcare.

The most common cause of a surprise medical bill is when a person uses a healthcare provider that is not in their insurance plan’s network of providers. While it doesn’t happen often, it is a real challenge for consumers when it does happen. Insurance companies have contracts with healthcare providers to provide medical services at discounted rates. That makes them “in-network.” The “out-of-network” providers charge a price without any pre-negotiated discounted rates. The problem arises when consumers get stuck between the insurance company that doesn’t want to pay and the doctor who should be paid.

The best way to solve the nation’s surprise medical bill problem is to implement a fair and open independent dispute resolution (IDR) process. A fair IDR process simply means that both sides of the out-of-network bill dispute, the physician and the health insurer, are allowed to submit all relevant information to make their case. Then the arbitrator or decision-maker can weigh the evidence and provide a fact specific resolution to what the insurance company should pay and what the doctor should accept.

This would relieve the patient of worrying about the bill, and it would make sure that difficult or complex medical procedures and treatments don’t become devalued or more difficult to find.

Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bill Cassidy are rumored to be working on a “compromise” that purports to use a form of IDR. But we should be on high alert because all indications are that the “compromise” will include a rigged or sham IDR process that puts the heavy hand of government on one side of the scales of fairness and justice. There is no reason to use a process that from the start tips the scales in favor of either the doctor or the insurance company.

This “compromise” will favor insurance companies over doctors. If the government-imposed process ends up being a price control system, it will simply be a step toward socialized medicine and will make finding doctors to treat you more difficult. What we should all want is a fair and balanced process.

A fair and impartial IDR process that resolves the pricing dispute would prevent the consumer from getting caught in the middle. It would also empower consumers, not government.

Additionally, it would harness the power of the marketplace to keep quality up and prices down. It is important to remember that government regulations don’t have a track record of reducing costs. Moreover, government mandates will do nothing to reward innovation, or to empower consumers.

Regardless of what their true motives were or are, the results we have witnessed in the last 50 years from politicians promising “fixes” has been that things end up costing a lot more than promised, and government gets more and more control. Those who can afford lobbying efforts may escape the costly impact of these government mandates. But rarely do these promised fixes on balance help the average citizen.

Instead of continuing to empower government, insurance companies, and those who can afford lobbyists to protect their interests, let’s try reforms that put economic power back in the hands of healthcare consumers. Let’s trust the marketplace to do what it does so well — boost quality and keep prices comparatively low. We trust the marketplace to provide us with food, housing, technology, and thousands of other very important things. Why not our healthcare, as well?

We can do all of this with a fair and balanced IDR process that allows both sides of the out-of-network bill dispute to submit all relevant information to make their case. If this happens, we protect consumers from surprise medical bills and we keep burdensome government mandates out of our healthcare choices. That’s a win-win!


Nancy Pelosi Snuck $350M for 50 Richest Zip Codes into COVID Relief Bill, Analysis Reveals

The Democrats included huge cash handouts for wealthy constituents in predominantly liberal areas in their emergency response package.

By Brad PolumboFoundation for Economic Education

Custom Image By FEE | CC 2.0 Via WikiCommons, Pixabay

At some point, when the election chaos is finally settled, Congress will likely turn to passing another COVID-19 stimulus/relief bill. (Despite the last one being plagued by rampant fraud and dysfunction). One starting point for negotiations will be the “HEROES Act,” a $2.2 trillion bill the House passed in October on a party-line vote by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats.

One of the most significant aspects of the HEROES Act is that it allocates nearly $700 billion in federal money for state, local, and tribal governments. 

Proponents say this gives localities the funds they need to pay emergency responders and fund programs necessary to protect their communities. Critics point out that much of this money is used to “bail out” blue states that were already mismanaging their budgets and running up large unfunded pension programs before the pandemic.

Indeed, the left-leaning Brookings Institution has projected that “state and local government revenues will decline $155 billion in 2020, $167 billion in 2021, and $145 billion in 2022.” Simple math shows us that the CARES Act gives states and localities hundreds of billions more in federal money than they are actually projected to lose due to pandemic-related decreases in revenue.

This alone should be a red flag. Yet a new analysis also reveals that Pelosi and her fellow “progressives” snuck millions of dollars in cash for some of the nation’s wealthiest zip codes into their emergency COVID-19 package.

Watchdogs from OpenTheBooks.com inspected the fine print of the HEROES Act and found that it allocates $350 million to the 50 richest communities in America. The average annual income in these areas ranged from $262,988 to $525,324.

“It’s unclear why such wealthy neighborhoods need so much money to weather the storm,” Adam Andrzejewski of OpenTheBooks.com wrote.“Should American taxpayers from lower-income areas be subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich and famous?

Some might reasonably look at a figure like $350 million and conclude that, in the context of a $2.2 trillion bill, it is a relatively small amount of money. But we mustn’t forget that this figure is only looking at a tiny sample size. It is not all the money this bill allocates to wealthy zip codes, just a snapshot.

We can extrapolate from this figure that the HEROES Act would dole out many hundreds of millions if not billions more to other wealthy towns and cities. 

It’s not even the only provision of the bill that can be fairly characterized as a handout for the rich. The package also includes items such as student debt relief, which further burdens cash-strapped taxpayers yet only helps a relatively well-educated and well-off subset of society.

But wait: Aren’t Democrats supposed to be the progressive party fighting for the working class? That’s certainly what their rhetoric would suggest. Yet the Democrats included cash handouts for wealthy constituents in predominantly liberal areas such as Wellesley, Mass., Malibu, California, and Old Greenwich, Conn. in their emergency response package nonetheless. 

This offers another painful reminder that government officials—no matter their professed partisan or ideological principles—will always and inevitably end up wielding their power in a manner prone to favoritism and clientelism

“There is no such thing as a just and fair method of exercising the tremendous power that interventionism puts into the hands of the legislature and the executive,” Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote. “In many fields of the administration of interventionist measures, favoritism simply cannot be avoided.”

Humans are fallible beings—and power corrupts. This is why, from tax loopholes to crony regulations to spending bills, sweeping government interventions will always end up skewing in favor of powerful constituencies. However, when power is left to the individual level rather than government, that decentralization helps limit abuses.

It’s not a matter of electing the right people. Fundamentally, progressive and conservative government officials alike face the same incentive structures. 

The only way to really prevent the abuse of government power and expenditure of taxpayer resources in favor of the well-off and well-connected is to limit the scope of the government itself. 


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