By Victor Davis Hanson • The National Review
Californians brag that their state is the world’s fifth-largest economy. They talk as reverentially of Silicon Valley companies Apple, Facebook, and Google as the ancient Greeks did of their Olympian gods.
Hollywood and universities such as Caltech, Stanford, and Berkeley are cited as permanent proof of the intellectual, aesthetic, and technological dominance of West Coast culture.
Californians also see their progressive, one-party state as a neo-socialist model for a nation moving hard to the left.
But how long will they retain such confidence?
California’s 40 million residents depend on less than 1 percent of the state’s taxpayers to pay nearly half of the state income tax, which for California’s highest tier of earners tops out at the nation’s highest rate of 13.3 percent.
In other words, California cannot afford to lose even a few thousand of its wealthiest individual taxpayers. But a new federal tax law now caps deductions for state and local taxes at $10,000 — a radical change that promises to cost many high-earning taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.
If even a few thousand of the state’s 1 percent flee to nearby no-tax states such as Nevada or Texas, California could face a devastating shortfall in annual income.
During the 2011-16 California drought, politicians and experts claimed that global warming had permanently altered the climate, and that snow and rain would become increasingly rare in California. As a result, long-planned low-elevation reservoirs, designed to store water during exceptionally wet years, were considered all but useless and thus were never built.
Then, in 2016 and 2017, California received record snow and rainfall — and the windfall of millions of acre-feet of runoff was mostly let out to sea. Nothing since has been learned.
California has again been experiencing rain and cold that could approach seasonal records. The state has been soaked by some 18 trillion gallons of rain in February alone. With still no effort to expand California’s water storage capacity, millions of acre-feet of runoff are once again cascading out to sea (and may be sorely missed next year).
The inability to build reservoirs is especially tragic given that the state’s high-speed rail project has gobbled up more than $5 billion in funds without a single foot of track laid. The total cost soared from an original $40 billion promise to a projected $77 billion. To his credit, newly elected governor Gavin Newsom, fearing a budget catastrophe, canceled the statewide project while allowing a few miles of the quarter-built Central Valley “track to nowhere” to be finished.
For years, high-speed rail has drained the state budget of transportation funds that might have easily updated nightmarish stretches of the Central Valley’s Highway 99, or ensured that the nearby ossified Amtrak line became a modern two-track line.
California politicians vie with each other to prove their open-borders bona fides in an effort to appeal to the estimated 27 percent of Californians who were not born in the United States.
But the health, educational, and legal costs associated with massive illegal immigration are squeezing the budget. About a third of the California budget goes to the state’s Medicare program, Medi-Cal. Half the state’s births are funded by Medi-Cal, and in nearly a third of those state-funded births, the mother is an undocumented immigrant.
California is facing a perfect storm of homelessness. Its labyrinth of zoning and building regulations discourages low-cost housing. Its generous welfare benefits, non-enforcement of vagrancy and public health laws, and moderate climate draw in the homeless. Nearly one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients live in the state, and nearly one in five live below the poverty line.
The result is that tens of thousands of people live on the streets and sidewalks of the state’s major cities, where primeval diseases such as typhus have reappeared.
California’s progressive government seems clueless how to deal with these issues, given that solutions such as low-cost housing and strict enforcement of health codes are seen as either too expensive or politically incorrect.
In sum, California has no margin for error.
Spiraling entitlements, unwieldy pension costs, money wasted on high-speed rail, inadequate water storage and delivery, and lax immigration policies were formerly tolerable only because about 150,000 Californians paid huge but federally deductible state income taxes.
No more. Californians may have once derided the state’s 1 percent as selfish rich people. Now, they are praying that these heavily burdened taxpayers stay put and are willing to pay far more than what they had paid before.
That is the only way California can continue to spend money on projects that have not led to safe roads, plentiful water, good schools, and safe streets.
A California reckoning is on the horizon, and it may not be pretty.
By David Harsanyi • The Federalist
Pointing out hypocrisy can be more than a political gotcha. In the case of President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration on the southern border, it’s a useful way to highlight the fact that Democrats who are attempting to regain power have not only refused to live by the rules they’ve set for the opposition, they’re also threatening to break those rules in even more expansive ways in the future.
As soon as Trump declared a national emergency to fund the building of a wall on the Mexico-U.S. border—a clear attempt to circumvent the legislative branch and one that I hope leads to the Supreme Court overturning the abused National Emergencies Act (NEA)—the first thing Democrats did was promise to use the law for their own partisan ends, immediately exposing any supposed apprehensions about executive overreach as a fiction.
“Once we beat Donald Trump, we promise the word and spirit of the Constitution will be upheld, because the proper checks and balances are far more important than any fleeting political gain” said not a single Democrat ever. Instead, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bennet, Chris Murphy, and a slew of others senators threatened to use the same emergency powers for “real” crises like climate change and gun violence. Because it’s not the abuse of power they find problematic, but the objectives Trump wants to use that power for that bother them. Continue reading
By Rich Lowry • National Review
The Left distorts what happened in El Salvador in the 1980s.
In a viral exchange at a congressional hearing last week, the new congresswoman from Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, who is quickly establishing herself as the most reprehensible member of the House Democratic freshman class despite stiff competition, launched into Elliott Abrams. She accused the former Reagan official and Trump’s special envoy to Venezuela of being complicit in war crimes.
“Yes or no,” she demanded, “would you support an armed faction within Venezuela that engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, if you believe they were serving U.S. interest, as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua?”
Omar was cribbing from the Left’s notes on U.S. Latin American policy, and doing it badly. She made much of the 1981 El Mozote massacre in El Salvador. The idea that Abrams is somehow directly implicated in this bloodcurdlingly awful event is completely absurd. Continue reading
By Aaron Kliegman • Washington Free Beacon
To Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), American support for Israel is based on Jewish money. Seriously, she actually said that on Twitter. On Sunday, the first-term Democrat accused American politicians of supporting the Jewish state because of the “Benjamins”—that is, money. When a journalist followed up by asking Omar who is paying American leaders to be pro-Israel, the lawmaker simply responded, “AIPAC.”
It’s all about the Benjamins baby ? https://t.co/KatcXJnZLV
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 10, 2019
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019
If those tweets seem anti-Semitic, it is because they are. The notion that Jews use their wealth to acquire and wield their nefarious, outsized influence is one of the oldest anti-Semitic canards. Also implicit in Omar’s tweets is the charge of dual loyalty—the idea, in this context, that Jewish Americans put Israel’s interests above America’s. Continue reading
by Tom Rogan • Washington Examiner
Economic growth and broadly shared prosperity matter. They matter because they inform whether people can pursue their dreams or whether they suffer unnecessarily. Thus follows a question: Why did Democrats refuse to applaud President Trump’s statement of fact in Tuesday’s State of the Union address that minority unemployment rates are at the lowest levels ever recorded?
As Trump said:
“Unemployment has reached the lowest rate in half a century. African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded. Unemployment for Americans with disabilities has also reached an all-time low.”
That statement speaks to lives being made better in new jobs being found, new skills being learned, and new means of rising up the economic ladder being reached. Continue reading
By Brian Flood • Fox News
Media outlets bent over backwards Tuesday night to fact check President Trump’s State of the Union address — but were accused of reaching with a string of rapid-response tweets and other analysis that came off as nitpicking.
Politico, for instance, was slammed on social media for declaring that Trump’s claim that “one in three women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north” to America was only partly true — because it’s actually 31 percent.
SOTU fact check: Trump said “one in three women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north.” That’s partly true.
— POLITICO (@politico) February 6, 2019
Politico’s GIF of the fact check was quickly “ratioed,” getting way more negative comments than retweets or likes. Activist Obianuju Ekeocha responded with a woman using a magnifying glass captioned, “Politico fact checkers desperately looking to find the difference between 31% and 1 in 3.” Continue reading
Jim Geraghty • National Review
For those who gripe that I’m always so negative about Trump . . . last night’s State of the Union address was terrific. A home run.
Every president since Ronald Reagan has saluted extraordinary Americans invited and seated in the gallery — “Lenny Skutnicks” is the Washington slang. Trump’s selection was terrific and he and his team wisely determined that the antidote to the angriest and most partisan environment in Washington in a long time was a celebration of heroes and figures far beyond the realm of politics: astronaut Buzz Aldrin; drug-dealer-turned-sentencing-reform-activist Alice Johnson; drug-dealer-turned-law-clerk Matthew Charles; ICE Special Agent (and legal immigrant) Elvin Hernandez; 10-year-old brain-cancer survivor Grace Eline; Tom Wibberley, whose son, Navy Seaman Craig Wibberley was killed on the U.S.S. Cole; Pittsburgh SWAT officer Timothy Matson; Judah Samet, who survived both the Holocaust and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting; Holocaust survivor Joshua Kaufman; World War Two veteran Herman Zeitchik, who fought at Normandy and liberated Dachau. Their stories made the speech . . . actually interesting to hear. It was a long speech, but it was never boring.
Sure, the guests were used to illustrating various policy proposals or arguments. But that’s just effective communicating. At last month’s Koch network winter meeting, Johnson said, “People won’t remember statistics, but they’ll never forget a face.”
Trump’s last State of the Union was widely praised, as was his first address to a joint session of Congress. When Trump sticks to the teleprompter, lays out his agenda, stops talking about himself and starts talking about what his policies would do for the American people, you get a glimpse of the president he could be with a little more discipline and focus and a little less self-absorption and sensitivity to criticism.
But we’ve learned that the tone of Trump’s State of the Union addresses and the tone of the rest of his presidency are, at most, distant cousins. There are plenty of Trump-friendly Republicans who wish he would stop jumping online to denounce every CNN anchor or pundit who irritates him with criticism, and some variation of “Sad!” “Witch hunt!” “Enemy of the People!” If Trump stayed off Twitter for a week, just as an experiment, it would be fascinating. My suspicion is that he would end up giving more media oxygen to the repellent freakshow that the Democrats are turning into, from Ralph Northam to cheers for socialism to the draconian measures of the Green New Deal. Before you scoff that the media would never cover Democratic infighting and scandals, keep in mind this is the most wonderful time of the presidential cycle for those of us on the Right, as Democratic candidates attempt to shiv each other through leaks of opposition research.
But there’s ample evidence that what’s said in the State of the Union address doesn’t actually mean much in terms of policy change. Ramesh observed Trump ad-libbed a comment that suggested he’s making a dramatic change to his stance on immigration . . . or he just doesn’t pay much attention to what he’s saying at any given moment “Trump said, in a line absent from his prepared remarks, that he wanted legal immigration ‘in the largest numbers ever.’ Never mind that last year he endorsed large cuts to legal immigration, and rejected a Democratic offer of funding for a wall in part because it did not include those cuts . . . ”
If the State of the Union address really articulated the policy stances of the administration, we would be talking about Trump’s triangulation: nationwide paid family leave, a “government-wide initiative focused on economic empowerment for women in developing countries”, $500 million dollars over the next 10 years for childhood cancer research, “eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years,” “[prescription drug] legislation that finally takes on the problem of global freeloading and delivers fairness and price transparency for American patients,” “ legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment” . . . On paper, the Trump administration and Congressional Democrats could find common ground and compromise on any of those policy priorities. But the Democrats have spent the last three years publicly insisting that Trump is Beelzebub. You can’t go to your constituents and say, “Hey, I worked out a great compromise on highway funding with that guy I told you was Evil Personified.”
If you’re a conservative, this speech had sufficient servings of red meat. On illegal immigration and smuggling, “humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smuggling, and plans for a new physical barrier, or wall, to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry.” A call to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade, which isn’t all that different from NAFTA. A full-throated call for “legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children.”
The State of the Union has turned into a game where the president says good things that are happening that he may or may not deserve credit for and dares the opposition to not stand and clap for it. Democrats were slow to rise to applaud fighting sex traffickers, were “meh” on the good jobs and economic news that Trump bragged about, higher wages, lower unemployment for women and minorities, higher energy production . . .
But when he congratulated the new record of women in Congress — boy, did they jump up and applaud themselves.