December 29, 2019
He has praised totalitarian regimes and thinks billionaires shouldn’t exist. What’s not to love?
By MONA CHAREN • National Review
You won’t hear young Democrats deride Bernie Sanders with the “Okay, Boomer” dig. At 78, he’s actually too old for the cohort, but that’s not why he won’t get dinged. He’s the most popular Democrat among the under-35 crowd, and judging by recent polling, he’s the second most popular Democrat overall. Sanders has raised nearly twice as money as the front-runner, Joe Biden, and seems to have scooped up support from a declining Elizabeth Warren in the past 60 days. Despite a heart attack that sidelined him for a week, he marches on, now buoyed by a poll showing that in a head-to-head match-up against Donald Trump, he would do better than Biden — though within the margin of error.
Sanders’s appeal, the experts explain, is founded on “authenticity.” Is he humorless, repetitive, cloying, and rigid? Sure. But these are signs that he really believes something! He’s not a packaged, blow-dried (no argument there), insincere pol cooked up in a political laboratory. He’s the real deal.
Let’s concede that Sanders is sincere, and that he is, with some small hypocrisies (did you know he was a millionaire?), honest. But what people actually believe is kind of important, and Bernie Sanders professes and sells a series of prejudices that do him no credit.
Sanders claims to be a democratic socialist in the European mold; an admirer of Sweden and Denmark. Yet his career is pockmarked with praise for regimes considerably to the left of those Scandinavian models. He has praised Cuba for “making enormous progress in improving the lives of poor and working people.” In his memoir, he bragged about attending a 1985 parade celebrating the Sandinistas’ seizure of power six years before. “Believe it or not,” he wrote, “I was the highest ranking American official there.” At the time, the Sandinista regime had already allied with Cuba and begun a large military buildup courtesy of the Soviet Union. The Sandinistas, Mr. Sanders had every reason to know, had censored independent news outlets, nationalized half of the nation’s industry, forcibly displaced the Misquito Indians, and formed “neighborhood watch” committees on the Cuban model. Sandinista forces, like those in East Germany and other communist countries, regularly opened fire on those attempting to flee the country. None of that appears to have dampened Sanders’s enthusiasm. The then-mayor of Burlington, Vt., gushed that under his leadership, “Vermont could set an example to the rest of the nation similar to the type of example Nicaragua is setting for the rest of Latin America.”
Sanders was impatient with those who found fault with the Nicaraguan regime:
Is [the Sandinistas’] crime that they have built new health clinics, schools, and distributed land to the peasants? Is their crime that they have given equal rights to women? Or that they are moving forward to wipe out illiteracy? No, their crime in Mr. Reagan’s eyes and the eyes of corporations and billionaires that determine American foreign policy is that they have refused to be a puppet and banana republic to American corporate interests.
Sanders now calls for a revolution in this country, and we’re all expected to nod knowingly. Of course he means a peaceful, democratic revolution. It would be outrageous to suggest anything else. Well, it would not be possible for Bernie Sanders to usher in a revolution in the U.S., but his sympathy for the real thing is notable. As Michael Moynihan reported, in the case of the Sandinistas, he was willing to justify press censorship and even bread lines. The regime’s crackdown on the largest independent newspaper, La Prensa, “makes sense to me” Sanders explained, because the country was besieged by counterrevolutionary forces funded by the United States. As for bread lines, which soon appeared in Nicaragua as they would decades later in Venezuela, Sanders scoffed: “It’s funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is, that people are lining up for food. That is a good thing! In other countries people don’t line up for food. The rich get the food and the poor starve to death.”
Bernie Sanders stopped learning about economics and politics about the age of 17. He still believes that corporate “greed” is responsible for human poverty and that the world is a zero-sum pie. The more billionaires there are, the less there is for everyone else. “I don’t think billionaires should exist,” he told the New York Times. So in the Bernie ideal world, we non-billionaires would be deprived of Amazon.com, personal computers, smartphones, fracking (which reduces greenhouse gases), Uber, Walmart, Star Wars movies, and very possibly our jobs. Millions of children would be deprived of school scholarships, while the arts, medical research, and poverty programs would be that much poorer. Billionaires are not heroes, but by making them boogeymen, Sanders betrays his economic infantilism along with a large dose of demagoguery.
December 11, 2019
Column: Harris and Warren fell for the fool's gold of socialized medicine
By Matthew Continetti • The Washington Free Beacon
Pundits have a ready explanation when one of their favorites loses or ends a campaign: The voters just didn’t get to know the candidate the way media do. He or she was too wonky, or eager to please, or insular, or revealing, or uncertain for the masses. The electoral process made it impossible for him or her to connect with voters. The classic example is Hillary Clinton, who has reintroduced herself to the public umpteen times over the decades. A friend who knows her once told me I would like Clinton if only I got to meet her informally. I had a good laugh at that one.
A similar lament greeted the news that Kamala Harris had dropped out of the Democratic primary. Last year CNN ranked Harris first among the contenders. Now it’s back to the Senate. The Washington Free Beacon compiled a short video of media types saddened by Harris’s departure. A New York Times op-ed asked, “Did We Ever Know the Real Kamala Harris?” Writers for the Washington Post said that Harris failed because she lacked “a theory of the case” and wasn’t able “to explain why she was running for president.” Yes, it helps to have a reason for your candidacy beyond media reports that you check all the right boxes. But the argument that Harris flopped because of a failure to communicate lets her off easy.
The Times piece didn’t mention the policy initiative upon which Harris launched her campaign: Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All legislation that would eliminate private and employer-based health insurance. Harris signed on as a cosponsor to the bill last April. It’s haunted her ever since. Medicare for All might look like the sort of “big, structural change” that sets progressive hearts aflutter. For most voters it causes arrhythmia.
The proposal is liberals’ fool’s gold. It appears valuable but is actually worthless. It gets the progressive politician coming and going: Not only do voters recoil at the notion of having their insurance canceled, but candidates look awkward and inauthentic when they begin to move away from the unpopular idea they mistakenly embraced. That’s what happened to Harris earlier this year, and is happening to Elizabeth Warren today.
Harris moved into second place nationwide after her ambush of Joe Biden over busing during the first Democratic debate. But her position soon began to erode. Her wavering position on eliminating private insurance dissatisfied voters. She had raised her hand in support of the policy during the debate, but the next day she walked it back. Then she walked back the walk back. Then, ahead of the second debate, she released an intermediary plan that allowed for certain forms of private insurance. She stumbled again when Biden called her to account for the cost of the bill. Tulsi Gabbard’s pincer move on incarceration, using data first reported by the Free Beacon, made matters worse. By September, Harris had fallen to fifth place.
This was around the time that Warren, bolstered by adoring press coverage and strong retail politics, began her ascent. For a moment in early October, she pulled slightly ahead of Biden in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls. Her rivals sensed an opportunity in her refusal to admit that middle-class taxes would have to increase to pay for Medicare for All. The attacks took their toll. Support for Warren fell. She then released an eye-popping payment scheme that failed to satisfy her critics. In early November, she released a “first term” plan that would “transition” the country to Medicare for All. In so doing, she conceded the unreality of her initial proposal. She came across as sophistical and conniving. Her descent continues.
The national frontrunner, Joe Biden, and the early state leader, Pete Buttigieg, both reject Medicare for All in favor of a public option that would allow people to buy into Medicare. They reflect the polls. Democrats support a public option at higher levels than they do Medicare for All. A November Des Moines Register poll of likely Democratic caucusgoers found that only 36 percent supported a Medicare for All plan that would cancel private health insurance. More than half supported some other alternative to a one-size-fits-all universal government program. The November Quinnipiac survey found that 71 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners were for a Medicare buy-in. That is 12 points higher than the support for Medicare for All.
One reason for Bernie Sanders’s polling stability is that Democrats remain open to the idea of Medicare for All. They just want a candidate to be direct about the costs and tradeoffs associated with the program. Voters in general are not as credulous. When told that Medicare for All would mean additional taxes and the end of private insurance, voters reject it.
A Global Strategy Group poll of 1,113 registered voters in June concluded that support for Medicare for All depends on the way the question is phrased. While the survey found that 51 percent of respondents supported a Medicare for All program in the abstract, support fell to 47 percent when respondents were told that it “would provide the Medicare program to all Americans and eventually eliminate all private health insurance.” Opposition spiked to 53 percent.
The mid-November Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll of adults found that 53 percent favored a version of Medicare for All “in which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan.” A 65 percent majority, however, favored a public option “that would compete with private health insurance plans and be available to all Americans.” That’s music to Biden and Buttigieg’s ears.
When Kaiser asked adults if they favored a Medicare for All plan that would “require many employers and some individuals to pay more in taxes, but eliminate health insurance premiums and deductibles for all Americans,” support fell to 48 percent. And when Kaiser asked if they favored Medicare for All that would “increase the taxes that you personally pay, but decrease your overall costs for health care,” support fell to 47 percent. Forty-eight percent were opposed.
Quinnipiac found that support for Medicare for All among all voters has fallen from a high of 51 percent who said it was a good idea in August 2017 to 36 percent today. The picture looks even worse for progressives in the swing states. The most recent Blue Wall Voices project of the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Cook Political Report found that a 62 percent majority of swing voters in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin called Medicare for All a “bad idea.” The top health care priority for voters was lowering prescription drug costs. Medicare for All was last.
Once thought to be the fulfillment of the age-old dream of universal health care, Medicare for All is more like one of those ingenious Acme devices Wile E. Coyote uses to catch the Road Runner. It’s a catapult that launches you into the stratosphere. And right into a wall.
December 1, 2019
In the general election, Bernie would be more competitive
By LUKE THOMPSON • National Review
Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick recently jumped into an already crowded race for the Democratic nomination. Politically, they hope to appeal to center-left voters rightly worried about Joe Biden’s flagging early-state poll numbers. Ideologically, they have cast their candidacies as efforts to save a fading breed of centrist Democrat. Neither Bloomberg nor Patrick is likely to win. Instead, for the first time in recent memory, two leftist candidates stand a good chance of seizing the party’s nomination: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
To many observers, Sanders and Warren closely resemble each other. They represent solidly blue New England states, advocate the nationalization of large parts of the economy, and believe that the ills afflicting society result from a political process hijacked by the wealthy few. Yet Sanders and Warren are hardly interchangeable. Despite shared policy goals, they differ in their coalitions, diagnoses of what ails America, theories of change, and, ultimately, prospects in the general election next November.
The Democratic primary electorate is sharply divided by race, age, and gender. The left wing of the party — younger, whiter, and more female — is overrepresented in the Iowa caucuses. Indeed, while national polling suggests that Sanders has a more racially diverse coalition, and that he does well among younger men, Warren is stronger among women of all ages and college-educated white liberals.
Iowa is a do-or-die test for Warren and Sanders; should either win the Hawkeye State, he or she will be the odds-on favorite to win in New Hampshire, where both enjoy a home-field advantage as New England senators. Organizationally, the Iowa caucuses are a monster. Caucuses take place in the dead of Iowa’s notoriously severe winter and feature runoff voting at each of the state’s 1,681 precincts. A viable campaign needs representatives ready to speak at each caucus and trained to court supporters of candidates who fail to hit the 15 percent viability threshold in the first round. The state, and therefore the nomination, may hinge on whose caucus leaders are better trained.
Warren has lately given Sanders a chance to highlight their ideological differences. On Medicare for All, Sanders has bluntly and repeatedly promised to raise taxes to pay for universal coverage. Taxes will go up, he contends, but costs will go down and Americans will no longer have to worry about losing coverage or wading through a morass of paperwork. Warren, by contrast, has promised to give free health care to every American without raising taxes on the middle class.
Setting aside whether any Medicare for All plan is realistic, Warren’s no-tax promise suggests to many on the left that she lacks the resolve to force through a politically difficult reform and would cave to conventional wisdom. Indeed, leftists have reasons to doubt her commitment. She refuses the label “socialist,” was a Republican earlier in life, and has generally tacked closer to the Democratic mainstream than Sanders has. Some of her struggles with candor raise questions about her character. Warren has never satisfactorily accounted for her multi-decade deployment of imagined Native American heritage for personal and professional gain, for instance. Making an obviously false but politically expedient promise — free health care with no middle-class tax increases — reinforces the impression that Warren is not trustworthy.
Warren’s no-tax plan also undermines her credibility with the press, which has heretofore dutifully relayed her self-presentation as a sophisticated thinker, policy wonk, and technocrat with a plethora of Ivy League–certified schemes. Many of her lower-profile plans will not hold up to scrutiny. If the press comes to see her as a phony, she might have to deal with a running series of bad stories about the unviability of her white papers. Sanders, whose messaging has always been high-level and simple (even simplistic), has not offered much in terms of specifics, but as a result he has a minimal paper trail to defend.
Yet these differences go beyond taxes and messaging. They go to a fundamental tension on the American left. Warren comes from the progressive tradition of the Left, whereas Sanders is a legatee of its populist tendencies. Being a progressive first, Warren prefers the technocratic approach. For her, simmering left-wing populism can be used best to attack entrenched power, by electing a president who will fill the bureaucracy with like-minded experts and pass campaign-finance reform to limit corporate influence. In other words, personnel is policy.
Sanders believes that American government is fundamentally broken. In a divided constitutional system, elected officials and regulators alike will be corrupted by special interests and will default to the status quo unless compelled to act otherwise. Control of the bureaucracy is not enough. Rather, for his “political revolution” to succeed, Sanders needs a movement that will last beyond Election Day and exert political pressure on the elected officials and regulators. Absent a confluence of movement, party, and administration, special interests will prevent the passage of sweeping structural reforms.
Put simply: Warren wants to regulate, Sanders wants to legislate.
Whether that distinction will matter electorally come November is unknowable today. However, we have some evidence on which to hazard a guess. First, the national demographic polls mentioned above, irrelevant in a staggered presidential-primary process, come to bear once the parties have picked their nominees. There are very few prospective Elizabeth Warren voters who did not pull the lever for Hillary Clinton in 2016. A replay of the last presidential election might be enough for Warren to win in 2020, especially given heightened Democratic turnout in elections since 2016. However, Democrats suffered from low minority and youth turnout in the Upper Midwest in 2016, and it cost them the presidency.
Sanders does well with precisely the voters who stayed home when Hillary Clinton topped the Democratic ticket. Younger and more diverse voters were essential to his victory in the Michigan primary, for instance, and while primaries are not the same as general elections, they serve as decent indicators if Democrats need elevated turnout to win. Sanders would get more non-voters to the polls than Warren would, and there are few voters who would vote for Warren but not Sanders.
Sanders has overperformed the Democrats’ partisan vote-share in Vermont, whereas Warren has generally undershot other Democrats in Massachusetts in polling and at the ballot box. Admittedly, Warren represents a state many, many times the size of Vermont. Nonetheless, her underwhelming approval ratings at home suggest that she lacks crossover appeal to independent voters. This is especially true in western Massachusetts, which, like many parts of Vermont, resembles the rural and exurban parts of the Upper Midwest that turned out heavily for Trump and doomed Clinton’s candidacy.
Neither Sanders nor Warren would enter a general election without baggage, and both would have to face a messaging onslaught from President Trump. Incumbent presidents tend to get reelected. Combine that with good economic performance, peace abroad, and wage growth, and Trump, despite his unpopularity, stands a good chance of winning a second term, provided there are no major changes in the next twelve months. However, 2016 was won on the narrowest of margins. When we look at only those states that were decisive, Sanders appears as a bigger threat to Trump than Warren does.
November 19, 2019
The fall of the Berlin Wall was indeed a watershed in the collapse of the Soviet Empire, yet one could argue the true death knell came two months before at a small grocery store in Clear Lake, Texas.
By Jon Miltimore • The Federalist
The fall of the Soviet Union is sometimes remembered as Nov. 9, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall symbolically collapsed. While the physical barrier endured for some two more years, on that day, East German Communist Party officials announced they would no longer stop citizens of the German Democratic Republic from crossing the border.
The fall of the barrier that scarred Germany was indeed a watershed in the collapse of the Soviet Empire, yet one could argue the true death knell came two months before at a small grocery store in Clear Lake, Texas.
On Sept. 16, 1989, Boris Yeltsin was a newly elected member of the Soviet Parliament visiting the United States. Following a scheduled visit to Johnson Space Center, Yeltsin and a small entourage made an unscheduled stop at a Randalls grocery store in Clear Lake, a suburb of Houston. He was amazed by the aisles of food and stocked shelves, a sharp contrast to the breadlines and empty columns he was accustomed to in Russia.
Yeltsin, who had a reputation as a reformer and populist, “roamed the aisles of Randall’s nodding his head in amazement,” wrote Stefanie Asin, a Houston Chronicle reporter. He marveled at free cheese samples, fresh fish and produce, and freezers packed full of pudding pops. Along the way, Yeltsin chatted up customers and store workers: “How much does this cost? Do you need special education to manage a supermarket? Are all American stores like this?”
Yeltsin was a member of the Politburo and Russia’s upper political crust, yet he’d never seen anything like the offerings of this little American grocery store. “Even the Politburo doesn’t have this choice. Not even Mr. Gorbachev,” Yeltsin said.
It’s difficult for Americans to grasp Yeltsin’s astonishment. Our market economy has evolved from grocery stores to companies such as Walmart and Amazon that compete to deliver food right to our homes.
Now compare that footage to the images of Yeltsin shopping at a U.S. supermarket. The contrast is undeniable. Yeltsin’s experience that day ran contrary to everything he knew. A longtime member of the Communist Party who had lived his entire life in a one-party system that punisheddissent harshly, Yeltsin had been taught over and over that socialism wasn’t just more equitable, but more efficient.
His eyes were opened that day, and the revelation left the future Russian president feeling sick.
“When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people,” Yeltsin later wrote in his autobiography, “Against the Grain.” “That such a potentially super-rich country as ours has been brought to a state of such poverty! It is terrible to think of it.”
Yeltsin was not the only person fooled, of course. There is copious documentation of Western intellectuals beguiled by the Soviet system. These individuals, who unlike Yeltsin did not live in a state-controlled media environment, saw the Soviet system as both economically and morally superior to American capitalism despite the brutal methods employed in the workers’ paradise.
“I have seen the future, and it works,” the Progressive Era journalist Lincoln Steffens famously said.
Paul Samuelson, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in economics and one of the most influential economists of the 20th century, was a longtime enthusiast of Soviet central planning and predicted it would lead to a higher standard of living. “Who could know that [the data] was all fake?” Samuelson is said to have asked a fellow economist following the empire’s collapse.
Despite decades of propaganda and obfuscation, the great fiction of socialism was eventually fully exposed with the fall of the Soviet Union and the publication of its archives in the 1990s. No longer could academics deny the truth that the people of the Soviet Union endured a painfully low standard of living despite the vast wealth of its empire.
“Their standard of living was low, not only by comparison with that in the United States, but also compared to the standard of living in countries with far fewer natural resources, such as Japan and Switzerland,” the economist Thomas Sowell observed in “Basic Economics.”
Yeltsin deserves credit for laying bare the lie of socialism that so many others had refused to see. “[T]here would be a revolution,” Yeltsin told his entourage that fateful September day in 1989, if the people in the Soviet Union ever saw the prosperity in American grocery stores. Yeltsin was more right than he knew.
November 11, 2019
Socialism is not cuddly or compassionate, and it has been tried many times, to ruinous effect. Will today’s young people have to learn this all over again?
By JOHN FUND • National Review
The Berlin Wall stood for 28 years until in 1989 a wave of citizen protest forced the East German Communist government to open its gates. We’ve now gone longer without the Berlin Wall than it existed.
As we marked the anniversary, on November 9, of its demise, I couldn’t help but recall with wonder how astonishingly quickly the ugly scar of the wall along with its guards, dogs, and mines were all swept away in a wave of euphoria.
I visited the Berlin Wall and crossed into East Germany several times during the 1980s while I worked at the Wall Street Journal. I will never forget the brave dissidents I met on the Eastern side who never accepted the wall, or the bureaucrats who ran the state machinery that sustained it.
While it now appears easy to simply divide the East German population into oppressors and the people they oppressed, I learned that the truth was a bit more complicated even for someone like me who grew up with anti-Communism in his bloodstream.
Here are some snapshots of people I met before the fall of the wall whom I will never forget.
One: Christa Luft, was the last person to serve as minister of economics in the East German government. Appointed just after the wall fell, she faced the daunting challenge of holding together a collapsing centrally planned economy. When I interviewed her just before Christmas 1989, I asked her how long East Germany could have preserved Communism if the wall hadn’t collapsed. With remarkable candor she said: “We had at most six months to a year.” The economy, she explained, was so inefficient at the end that if a machine tool broke down in Leipzig there would likely be no spare part available. A factory manager desperate to produce his quota of goods would often pay to have the needed part stolen for him from a factory in another city.
Excited to hear such a realistic explanation of the collectivist system, I then asked how the American CIA had possibly calculated that East Germany had a higher GDP than Ireland did, and indeed that West German per capita GDP was only 32 percent higher than East Germany’s. A clearly exhausted Christa Luft started to offer a rationalization and then gave up. “We lied,” she suddenly burst out. “But it wasn’t entirely our fault. You in the West believed our lies, and even gave us loans and other money based on our lies.” The wildly inaccurate economic statistics of the regime became so much a part of the system that even the ruling Communist Politburo members were not given the most accurate numbers.
Two: Peter Janz, who was the energetic first secretary of the East German Embassy in Washington during the 1980s and the point man for arranging interviews and journalist visas for me. He was always politem and he never engaged in attempts to peddle the more preposterous of Communist spin.
After the wall came down, he naturally wasn’t kept on by the German Foreign Ministry. I visited him a couple of years later after he’d settled down as owner of a video-rental store in Berlin. I asked him when he first realized that he was working for a regime that didn’t serve its people and was built on untruths.
He explained that as the son of Communist Party insiders, he had gone to high school in Moscow and been trained for a career as a top government official. But a school vacation trip he and four fellow East German classmates earned to the Baltic States changed his perspective.
He explained that he and his friends had been taught that Estonia, Latviam and Lithuania had all been liberated by Stalin from Nazi rule during World War II. They were now proud, loyal republics of the Soviet Union. But when he and his friends spoke Russian on the streets, they were met with hostile glares and suspicion by the local population. When they switched to German, they were approached by curious passersby and greeted warmly. “I suddenly realized my world was upside down. Nazis had indeed brutalized the Baltic States, but the Soviets had been at least as bad and stayed far longer,” he told me.
What did he do with this new knowledge, I asked him. He explained patiently that his options were limited: “I could become a dissident and give up hope of university or a career. I could leave my entire family and try to start over elsewhere. Or I could stay on my career path and try not to become too morally compromised and perhaps even do some good around the margins.” To those who would criticize his choice, he had a tart response: “People who’ve never grown up in a dictatorship should ask themselves how easily they would rebel against it and risk its full wrath,” he said. “Many of us have no idea how we would react until we are confronted directly with such choices.”
Three: Monica Stern, who was one of four teenage girls whom a German friend of mine and I encountered in 1984 while touring an East Berlin museum. Their teacher had brought them from a rural area to see their nation’s capital and had given them the afternoon off. My friend and I knew Berlin far better than they did, so we volunteered to be their tour guides.
By dusk it was time for my friend and I to return to the glittering lights of West Berlin. The girls came along to bid us farewell. They had never seen the Berlin Wall, but they sensed it was close. They stopped on a street corner and said, “We really shouldn’t go any farther. We are not Berliners. If we are stopped, the guards will ask us why we are so close to the border.”
As we stood in the growing darkness, a feeling of sadness came over me. I wasn’t rich, but I could go anywhere in the world from that street corner for a few hundred dollars. They could not go another 100 yards. Their world ended at the wall. They were trapped in a human zoo.
To keep the conversation going, I asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. One said a beautician, one said a nurse, and one said a teacher. But the oldest and wisest, whose name was Monika, looked up at me and said very slowly: “It doesn’t matter what we become when we grow up. They will always treat us like children.”
That sentence really defined Communism in its waning years. People were rarely taken away to a political prison. Instead, there was an insufferable and widespread paternalism. It weighed down people’s spirits and prevented them from becoming what was the best within them.
We parted almost tearfully, exchanging addresses so we could swap postcards at Christmas. She wrote that her application for university studies had been rejected because of her views.
Five years later, in 1989, Monika turned 19 and the Berlin Wall came down. I watched in New York as East Germans crossed over, and I wondered if Monika and her friends were among them.
At about ten o’clock the next morning, the telephone rang. AT&T, already trying to introduce a consumer culture to the 84 percent of East Germans without a telephone, had set up phone kiosks near the wall. They gave prospective customers the chance to make a call anywhere in the world for free. Monika called me. Her first words were, “John, this is Monika. I am over the wall.”
We talked for a few minutes, and I reminded her of our talk on a street corner in East Berlin. “Well, does this mean you country has grown up, and you are no longer to be treated as children?” I asked. She responded with a laugh. “I think my entire country has graduated from kindergarten to high school overnight.”
Today, Monika is happily married and a successful veterinarian. But after more than a generation during which civics, Cold War history, and Communism were barely taught in American public schools, today’s young people know very little about this era.
A new poll by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation finds that Communism is viewed favorably by more than one in three Millennials (36 percent). Only 57 percent of Generation Z and 62 percent of Millennials believe that China is a Communist country and not a democratic country. And finally, only 57 percent of Millennials (compared with 94 percent of the World War II ‘Silent Generation’), believe that the Declaration of Independence guarantees freedom and equality better than the Communist Manifesto does.
Luckily, many Millennials either don’t understand what collectivism is, or they want “an imaginary, pure, democratic, cuddly socialism,” in the words of Daniel Hannan, a British member of the European Parliament. “Even where history has given us laboratory-condition experiments — East and West Germany, and Hong Kong and mainland China — they refuse to infer anything from them, airily dismission each actual instance of socialism as ‘not real socialism.’”
West Berlin’s fight for freedom is now part of history, but here’s hoping that the human-rights story of 2019 — the fight of another isolated “island of freedom” called Hong Kong to protect its institutions from an authoritarian takeover — similarly captures the attention of the world and prompts young people to better comprehend the difference between free and controlled societies.
October 20, 2019
By Sen. Rand Paul • Fox News
Most socialist governments rise up claiming to be the solution to a widespread economic disaster, such as peasants starving while corrupt leaders wage pointless wars. However, today’s socialists have to overcome the longest economic expansion in American history.
When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., arrived in Washington, she set off a race on the left to see who could endorse the most extreme proposals. If you first heard about the “Green New Deal” by word of mouth, you might be forgiven if your initial impression was one of disbelief.
The cost alone is mind-boggling. Former Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director Douglas Holtz-Eakin estimates that the low-carbon electricity grid alone will cost $5.4 trillion. The “New Zero Emissions Transportation System” will cost about $2 trillion. Ocasio-Cortez’s program for a “guaranteed job for everyone”— somewhere between $6.8 trillion and $44.6 trillion. Wow!
“Medicare-for-all” — over $30 trillion. Guaranteed “green” housing, $1.6 to $4.2 trillion, and “food security,” $1.5 billion. Anybody else alarmed that the projects are so grandiose that the cost can only be approximated to within a few trillion dollars?
But is the Green New Deal socialism? Let’s consider how AOC and Bernie and their merry troupe of socialists will accomplish their dream. How and who will close down the fossil fuel factories? What government SWAT team will shut down the automobile manufacturers and the gas stations? Who will force the people from their current homes into “green living quarters”?
And what about all those carbon-producing cows? AOC is ready with an answer. In the outline she and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., released, they explained that they “set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.”
Don’t laugh. California is well on its way to regulating cows out of existence. According to the Los Angeles Times, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District claims that “gases from ruminating dairy cows, not exhaust from cars, are the region’s biggest single source of a chief smog-forming pollutant.”
It would be funny if these climate change alarmists weren’t serious. It’s not only cows these crazies want to eliminate, but humans as well. CO2 exhalers — aka all animals, including humans — are a big part of the problem, according to environmentalist Diane Francis. Writing at the Canadian National Post, she claims that “the world’s other species, vegetation, resources, oceans, arable land, water supplies and atmosphere are being destroyed and pushed out of existence as a result of humanity’s soaring reproduction rate.”
Francis’s answer? She believes that a “planetary law, such as China’s one-child policy, is the only way to reverse the disastrous global birthrate currently, which is one million births every four days.”
Think about that. In addition to eliminating the belching cows, some environmental extremists actually propose emulating China’s mass abortion and mandatory reproductive limitations.
Beyond the mind-boggling costs and outright lunacy of restricting the populations of humans and cows, the Green New Deal also promises a primary goal of socialism — communal ownership.
AOC’s legislative resolution calls for “providing and leveraging, in a way that ensures that the public receives appropriate ownership stakes … [in] businesses working on the Green New Deal mobilization,” as well as “community ownership” in “local and regional economies.”
September 30, 2019
By Elizabeth Matamoros • Washington Free Beacon
Medicare for All is not free and will require anyone earning more than $29,000 a year to pay more in taxes, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said on The Late Show Thursday.
“Is health care free? No, it is not,” Sanders told host Stephen Colbert. “So what we do is exempt the first $29,000 of a person’s income. You make less than $29,000 you pay nothing in taxes. Above that, in a progressive way with the wealthiest people in this country paying the largest percentage, people do pay more in taxes.”
Sanders’s 2020 campaign website details the Vermont senator’s Medicare for All plan, but contains no mention of a tax increase on the middle class. Colbert confronted the Vermont senator about whether his proposal would lead to tax increases. Sanders acknowledged that taxes would have to rise if the government took control of one of the nation’s largest industries.
Sanders said people will no longer pay premiums, co-payments, or out-of-pocket expenses, offsetting the higher taxes once the government takes control of the health care sector. Sanders also said there will only be a private health care market for non-basic health care services, such as cosmetic surgery.
Colbert previously asked the same question of rival 2020 candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.). Warren and Sanders are among the leading Democratic presidential candidates who have adopted Medicare for All as a key component of their 2020 campaign platforms. Warren declined to directly answer when Colbert asked about middle class taxes, focusing only on broad health care spending.
“So, here’s how we’re going to do this,” Warren said. “Costs are going to go up for the wealthiest Americans, for big corporations … and hard-working middle-class families are going to see their costs go down.”
“But will their taxes go up,” Colbert asked a second time. Warren did not clarify.
Presidential candidate and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg (D.) criticizedWarren for being “evasive” about how she would pay for Medicare for All.
“Senator Warren is known for being straightforward and was extremely evasive when asked that question,” Buttigieg told CNN after her appearance. “And we’ve seen that repeatedly. I think that if you are proud of your plan and it’s the right plan, you should defend it in straightforward terms.”
September 26, 2019
By Tristan Justice • The Feralist
A new study shows Democrats running to embrace socialism in the Trump era as radical progressives dominate the 2020 Democratic primary field.
The study, conducted by the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, shows a dramatic shift towards socialism among Democrats since 2016, with 64 percent of Democrats holding a favorable view of it today compared to 56 percent three years ago. Today, only 45 percent of Democrats hold favorable views of capitalism while 58 percent shared the same view in 2016, according to Cato.
Half of Democrats blamed President Donald Trump for making them “like capitalism less.”
While Democrats increasingly flock to socialism, the study shows that a vast majority of Americans still favor critical elements of a capitalist society and report being skeptical of government programs to alleviate poverty.
The study found that 84 percent of Americans believe it’s not wrong for people to make as much money as they can honestly, and 69 percent of respondents agreed that billionaires “earned their wealth by creating values for others.” The authors also found that 60 percent of Americans rejected the idea that welfare programs were created to bring people out of poverty.
The report comes in the middle of the Democratic presidential primary where left-wing candidates supporting proposals such as “Medicare for All,” a “Green New Deal,” reparations for slavery, and other massive expansions of the U.S. welfare state are conquering the field, proposals which experts say are mathematically impossible to fund even with near-impossible tax increases on the rich.
The Democratic primary’s front-runner, former vice president Joe Biden, has worked to frame himself as the moderate in the race, which, compared to the rest of the candidates in the race appears accurate. As The Federalist’s Emily Jashinsky has pointed out however, Biden is by no means a moderate, the whole field’s platforms are just farther left. The former vice president’s platform itself has gone even further leftward of Hillary Clinton’s in 2016.
On health care, climate change, and criminal justice reform, Biden has adopted the prescriptions of the left with the drastic expansion of the federal government cloaked in moderation by the cover provided by openly socialist candidates competing in the race.
September 11, 2019
Alex Gorsky, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Johnson and Johnson announces the Business Roundtable "Statement on the Purpose of the Corporation," August 20, 2019. Photo: Kevin Allen, Business Roundtable.
By DOUGLAS J. DEN UYL • Law & Liberty
Lenin reportedly said, “When it comes time to hang the capitalists, they will vie to sell us the rope we will use to hang them.” This reference to greed as the essence of the motivation of capitalist actors might seem to stand in sharp contrast to the latest pronouncement of the Business Roundtable. According to them, the obligations of management are no longer primarily to the shareholders and the maximization of profits, but rather to what are called “stakeholders.” The Roundtable, composed of CEOs of nearly 200 major corporations, stated that they “share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders”—each of whom “is essential”—while pledging “to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities, and our country.”
Stakeholders are various groups in the public, including shareholders, that may be impacted by the actions of a business. These groups include employees, suppliers, advisors, and customers, but could conceivably include any social grouping one might imagine as being affected in any way by a business. Unlike the limited group of shareholders that once claimed priority—even exclusivity—over those who manage a corporation because of their investment in it, the members of the Business Roundtable now see their obligation to be essentially to the public at large. Investors are no more compelling to the attentions of management than any other stakeholder.
The greedy capitalists of the old shareholder model of corporate responsibility had one thing in common with their shareholders, namely, both were largely motivated in the same way. Management was incentivized to maximize profits, and investors invested so that those managers would do so. Under the new stakeholder dispensation, presumably management is to be concerned with the public good. Greed and self-interest are replaced by concern for public well being. Of course there might still be a way to interpret the actions of management under this new dispensation as self-interested. They can now avoid having to answer solely to the group most likely to monitor their activities—their investors—in favor of a concern for their stakeholder pool in general. This might be another way of saying they don’t have to answer to anybody while pretending to care about everybody.
But let us not descend into such cynical speculations. Let us suppose that corporate executives are genuinely moved by public spiritedness towards all their stakeholders. We need to be clear, however, about one thing before moving on: the shareholder model did not say to either ignore or treat badly one’s “stakeholders.” It simply said that one’s actions in this regard should always keep in mind the primary obligation to the shareholder in the form of return on investment. Good practices towards “stakeholders,” were often sensible and good business. But once that “bottom line” measure is removed as the primary standard and motivation, it’s not at all clear what is to replace it, since “stakeholders” are an amorphous body with amorphous, and potentially conflicting claims and desires. Although the so called “separation between ownership and control” (shareholders and management), does pose some issues—not the least of which is opening the door to the very claims of the Business Roundtable—it still retains the traditional structure of obligation. Return on investment is a clear and measurable standard when compared to what it means to “provide value” to one’s stakeholders.
Assuming the best of intentions also does not touch the problem of fiduciary responsibility. Under the shareholder model, executives had a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders. In effect, the shareholders “hired” them. Under the stakeholder model, by contrast, it is not only not clear to whom exactly managers owe their responsibility, but more importantly who will be deciding those lines of responsibility? It’s a good bet that it will not be the managers themselves. Most likely it will be the state through various sorts of public “committees.” The reverse side of this issue of responsibility is equally troubling: who exactly has the liability when things go wrong and what is to keep a corporation from being liable for just about everything? In the first case, since managers now work for the public at large perhaps “the public” is liable when things go wrong. But if managers think that by this move they can foist responsibility off of the corporation on to the general public they might need to think again. When the lines of responsibility are fuzzy, it is more likely that liability payments by the corporation will increase, not decrease. Accompanying this probability of having to pay out more is the growing opportunity for more liability claims to be made in the first place. After all, now that the corporation is a thoroughly public entity with ambiguous lines of responsibility, virtually any claim can be foisted upon them.
Ambiguity, however, is not the central problem here. The problem is one of identity. However well-intentioned we might want to imagine corporate executives to be, they still presumably manage a private and partial dimension of society. What kept corporations private and partial was their limited scope of services and limited obligation to their investors. To now make their realm of obligation to stakeholders as wide as “the nation” is to effectively make them equivalent to the state itself. The logic of this is such that it is now even unclear what exactly is the nature of the product the corporation is to provide? Since maximizing profits is no longer the central measure, perhaps what is “good” for people should define our product choices or perhaps need should determine the price paid for a product. And when one firm wants to merge with or acquire another, removing the bottom line simply means that other “social” criteria will be used instead of looking strictly to financial benefit.
Elizabeth Warren calls this economic patriotism, but another name for all this might be socialism, since the call here is for corporations to become thoroughly socialized. This goes well beyond “crony capitalism,” where corporations buddy up with the state for benefits that arguably might also return financial gains to the shareholders. This is corporations saying, “L’etat c’est moi.”
It might be objected that the stakeholders are different from one corporation to another, thereby allowing corporations to retain their private character. But apart from the impossibility of sorting out where exactly the lines are being drawn between businesses when “community” and “nation” are the standard, such a claim simply highlights the identity issue by trying to be at once both private and public. The pull here, however, can only be towards ever more socialization, since any disaffected stakeholder group can always appeal to the corporation’s general obligation to society at large. However badly the state may often be at general impartiality, such impartiality towards all is nonetheless the government’s function. The capitalist, by contrast, is a private “person” pursuing private ends. To conflate or merge the two can only result in the obliteration of the private portion and thus of the essence of capitalism.
The capitalists are thus not competing to sell the rope to the state; they are simply handing it over. They may think they’ll have a role to play as business persons in this new world order. Lenin was wiser.
August 7, 2019
The consistent failures of single-payer health care worldwide are well-documented
By Scott W. Atlas • The Washington Times
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) directly harmed America’s health care, far more than just breaking promises about keeping your doctor and your insurance. Its extensive regulations made private insurance unaffordable, as premiums for individuals doubled and for families increased by 140 percent in four years, even though deductibles also increased substantially.
It funneled massive taxpayer dollars to add millions to substandard Medicaid insurance, widely known to have worse outcomes than private insurance and far less acceptance by doctors, even by doctors with contractual agreements to accept it. It dramatically reduced choice of hospitals and specialists for patients with private insurance, so that almost 75 percent of private ACA plans became highly restrictive. And it generated a record pace of consolidation across the sector, including anti-consumer mergers of doctor practices and hospitals that are associated with higher prices of care. The ACA was significantly damaging to patients and cost taxpayers enormously.
The antidote most Democratic presidential candidates now propose to the regulatory nightmare of Obamacare is the ultimate hyper-regulation of health care — socialized medicine, clothed in more pleasing terms like “public option” and “Medicare for all.” And their simplistic messaging is enticing; who wouldn’t want “guaranteed, free health care?”
The answer to “who wouldn’t want it?” is found in existing single-payer systems all over the world, in countries with decades of experience, which offer those same “guarantees.” People with the financial means increasingly choose to circumvent single-payer systems for private health care. Even though they already pay £125 billion per year, equivalent to $160 billion, for their single-payer health care, half of all Brits who earn more than £50,000 buy or plan to buy private health insurance, according to Statista 2017.
In Sweden, about 650,000 who can afford it buy private insurance despite already paying $20,000 per family per year through taxes for their nationalized system, according to Insurance in Sweden 2015. And more than 250,000 Brits spend out-of-pocket cash for private care. According to the European insurance and reinsurance federation (CEA), private insurance in the EU bought by those who can afford it grew by more than 50 percent over a decade to 2010, specifically to fill the “ever growing gaps in coverage” in public health systems. Only the poor and the middle class are stuck with nationalized, single-payer health care, because only they cannot afford to circumvent that system.
Americans should wonder why those with financial means would need to spend even more money than their already high taxes for something that is “guaranteed and free.” Unbeknownst to Americans and hidden by single-payer advocates, consistent failures of single-payer health care are well documented, proven to be inferior to the U.S. system in important objective measures of access to care and quality. As a direct consequence of explicit restrictions on specialists, surgeries, drugs and technology, single-payer systems have factually worse outcomes than the U.S. system from almost all serious diseases, including
August 1, 2019
A Washington Post article erroneously claimed Abraham Lincoln and Karl Marx were ‘friendly and influenced each other,’ and that Lincoln had strong sympathies for socialism.
By Elad Vaida • The Federalist
The Washington Post has seen better days. The newspaper that once brought us Watergate published an article last week titled “You know who was into Karl Marx? No, not AOC. Abraham Lincoln,” claiming that Lincoln and Marx were “friendly and influenced each other,” and that Lincoln had strong sympathies for socialism. The article distorts history, and relies on questionable evidence and flimsy anecdotes.
Gillian Brockell, who wrote the article, states that Lincoln was “surrounded by socialists and looked to them for counsel,” citing his close connections with the leadership of the New York Tribune as proof. Brockell mentions Lincoln’s close friendship with Horace Greely, founder of the Tribune, a man who “welcomed the disapproval of those who championed free markets over the interests of the working class, a class he recognized as including both the oppressed slaves of the south and the degraded industrial laborers of the north.”
Lincoln was also close to Charles A. Dana, managing editor for the Tribune and a close friend of Marx. During the Civil War, Dana worked as Lincoln’s “eyes and ears in the War Department,” and the president would wait “eagerly” for his dispatches. Under Dana and Greely’s watch, the Tribune published almost 500 articles by Marx, and since Lincoln was an “avid reader” of the Tribune, Brockell assures us that “it’s nearly guaranteed that… Lincoln was reading Marx.”
Good for Greely, and good for Dana, but what does this have to do with Lincoln being “into Karl Marx”? If being friends with socialists makes you a socialist, that means almost every single conservative on college campuses today would be “into Marx.” Neither does Lincoln’s “avid readership” of the Tribune make him a socialist. It’s not “nearly guaranteed” that he read Marx’s articles, and even if he had, there’s no guarantee he was sympathetic to or agreed with them.
Brockell also cites a perfunctory correspondence between Lincoln and Marx to prove Lincoln’s supposed sympathy for socialism. In January 1865, Marx wrote to Lincoln on behalf of the International Workingmen’s Association, a “group for socialists, communists, anarchists and trade unions,” to “congratulate the American people upon [his] reelection.”
A few weeks later, U.S. Ambassador to Britain Charles Francis Adams wrote back to Marx, saying that Lincoln accepted his message “with a sincere and anxious desire that he may be able to prove himself not unworthy of the confidence which has been recently extended to him…by so many of the friends of humanity and progress throughout the world.”
That’s it? A short congratulatory letter from Marx and a routine diplomatic response from an American ambassador are now proof that Lincoln and Marx were “friendly and influenced each other”?
Brockell graciously concedes that Lincoln was “not a socialist, nor communist, nor Marxist”—which is kind of her to do after spending half the article making the case that the Great Emancipator was cozy with socialists, sympathetic to their cause, and best buds with Karl Marx and Co. It would be even more gracious if she mentioned Lincoln’s view that “it is best for all to leave each man free to acquire property as fast as he can. Some will get wealthy. I don’t believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good.” You can almost see Marx cringe.
Lincoln put his words into action when he became president. He signed the Homestead Act in 1862, which offered settlers large parcels of land in America’s western territories and streamlined the process for getting land titles, a major economic boost to millions of Americans who wanted to own land. Moreover, in his support for American industry, infrastructure improvements, and higher tariffs, Lincoln seems downright Trumpian.
Yet the biggest difference between Marx and Lincoln is not their economic views, but their views of democracy. Marx saw democratic institutions as the tools the bourgeoisie used to oppress the working class. He favored instituting a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” and once warned that the only way to shorten the “murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society” was “revolutionary terror.”
Lincoln, meanwhile, had an unshakable faith in American democracy. He acknowledged the evil of slavery but knew the best way to destroy it was by working through the constitutional system instituted by the Founding Fathers, not by taking a sledgehammer to our founding ideals. Lincoln favored limiting the expansion of slavery and supported “compensated emancipation,” a system that would pay slaveholders to release their slaves. Only when the southern states seceded did he finally resort to military force to keep the country united.
Most importantly, Lincoln still allowed for democratic elections to take place in 1864, despite the temptation to forego elections during the worst crisis the country had ever experienced. Lincoln’s reelection chances looked very poor in 1864 due to the bloody cost of the Civil War, which had continued for three years with no end in sight. Despite his doubts of victory, he made his cabinet sign a letter to “offer their unwavering loyalty and commitment to the preservation of the Union, regardless of the election’s outcome.”
The most shocking thing in the Post article is its effort to convince us that we don’t need to be worried about socialism. All this fear mongering about socialism, you see, is merely a “new arrow in [Trump’s] quiver of attacks,” a form of neo-McCarthyism. It’s ironic that Brockell warns us that socialism isn’t a rising threat even as she tries to rehabilitate Marx and portray Lincoln as a socialist sympathizer.
Perhaps the Post would have done better to publish a story on Grace Bedell. Grace was an 11-year-old girl who wrote Lincoln, urging him to “let [his] whiskers grow” because he would “look a great deal better” with facial hair. Within a month, Lincoln grew a beard, making an obscure little girl more influential over our 16th president than Karl Marx ever was.
July 18, 2019
Column: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez turns the 116th Congress into Thunderdome
By Matthew Continetti • The Free Beacon
Not so long ago—as recently as the cover of the March 2019 Rolling Stone, in fact—they seemed like the best of friends. I’m referring to Nancy Pelosi and the members of “The Squad”: Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and (not pictured) Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. They shared some good times.
It was the dawn of a new era. House Democrats had returned to power after eight years. And these Democrats were remarkably diverse in age, ethnicity, race, and gender. Ideology, too: Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib belong to the Democratic Socialists of America. “Our nation is at an historic moment,” Pelosi said in January. “Two months ago, the American people spoke, and demanded a new dawn.”
Well, the sun has set. And fast. Whatever Pelosi’s plans might have been, they’ve been lost in a fog of anti-Semitism and left-wing radicalism. If Ilhan Omar isn’t causing Pelosi trouble, Ocasio-Cortez is. And vice versa. One day the speaker has to respond to the charge that Jewish money controls American foreign policy. The next she has to downplay flatulent cows. It’s enough to make one pity her. Almost.
Pelosi’s bind began on election night. As Republicans learned from 2011-2015, holding one chamber of Congress isn’t worth that much. The president and the upper chamber block legislation. Frustrated by inaction, the majority turns inward. Divisions grow. The more extreme members target leadership. The speaker spends more time negotiating with her own party than with the president and Senate majority leader.
Recently it seemed as though the major divide would be over impeachment. Pelosi’s terrified by the prospect. The idea isn’t popular, especially with voters in battleground districts. And Mueller’s report didn’t give her much to work with. She would have been in a better position had the special counsel actually said that he thought President Trump obstructed justice. But he copped out, leaving people confused and Pelosi forlorn. She’s let Nadler, Schiff, and Cummings fire their subpoena cannons at will. But this war of attrition favors the president. And deepens the frustration of Democrats who wish Trump had been impeached on inauguration day.
The crisis at the border revealed another division. Shouldn’t have been much of a surprise: Immigration is the defining issue of our time, its tendrils entangling themselves in the politics of democracies around the world.
Democrats, and many Republicans, object to the conditions facing detained asylum-seekers. What separates the Democrats is what to do about it. The majority, including representatives from Trump districts, takes the classic approach: throw money at the problem. The Squad has a different idea. It voted against border funds to “make a point.” And strike a pose.
Ocasio-Cortez’s outlandish rhetoric isn’t helping. She’s described the detention centers as “concentration camps.” Already in favor of abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, this week she said she’s open to shutting down the entire Department of Homeland Security. Why stop there? I’m guessing she doesn’t like the Department of Defense, either. Karl Rove, who in 2002 won a midterm election over DHS, said Ocasio-Cortez’s comments were “moronic, stupid, naïve, and dumb.” That was an understatement.
She’s something, Ocasio-Cortez. At 29 years old, she perfectly embodies her generation’s uniquely irritating combo of self-righteousness and cluelessness. Passionate and charming at first blush, her appeal quickly wears off. In a March Quinnipiac poll her favorability was underwater by 13 points.
What Ocasio-Cortez understands is that, in the culture of social media celebrity, the worst possible thing to do is back down. So, when Pelosi stated the obvious to Maureen Dowd—that for all the attention The Squad receives from the media it is, in the end, four votes—Ocasio-Cortez insinuated the speaker is a racist. And they say liberals oppose nuclear war.
If Pelosi’s racist, then America is in serious trouble. The absurdity of the claim was best expressed by Congressman Lacy Clay, who is black. “You’re getting push back so you resort to using the race card?” he asked. “Unbelievable.” But the very absurdity highlights the position in which the Democratic leadership finds itself. An aging elite must contend with a vocal, far-left cadre of social justice warriors even as the majority depends on legislators who don’t frighten moderates. The differences between the contestants in this liberal Thunderdome are generational, ideological, methodological, and demographic. How Pelosi escapes is a mystery.
Maybe she can’t. Maybe The Squad really is the future of the Democratic Party. After all, Jeremy Corbyn moved from the fringe to the leadership of the Labour Party in the U.K. And the trend of the Democrats has been leftward for a while. If that’s the case, then Pelosi faces a grim future.
And maybe the Democrats do, too. Even if you assume that Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter and Instagram following counts for something in the real world, she’s not about to help Democrats win Senate races in red states. President Trump and the Republican Party want nothing more than to define the choice in 2020 as between socialism and Americanism, socialism and prosperity, socialism and security. And for whatever reason, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is eager to help him.
July 9, 2019
By Tristan Justice • the Federalist
U.S. senators and 2020 presidential rivals Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) both announced new plans over the weekend for government to redistribute private wealth differently according to recipients’ race.
Both announced these plans at a cultural and music festival hosted by Essence Magazine, a monthly magazine for African-American women. The festival attracted several high-profile speakers, including former first lady Michelle Obama and six 2020 White House hopefuls: Harris, Warren, U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX.), and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Harris and Warren took the opportunity to showcase new proposals aimed at government picking economic winners and losers according to race and sex.
Harris’ plan targets homeownership, pledging a $100 billion grant to support black families and individuals to secure homes in communities where financial institutions have historically denied loans to people of color, a practice known as red-lining. The money, Harris says, would be used to cover down payments and closing costs for as many as four million families or individuals.
“A typical black family has just $10 of wealth for every $100 held by a white family,” Harris told the audience. “So we must right that wrong and, after generations of discrimination, give black families a real shot at homeownership – historically one of the most powerful drivers of wealth in our country.”
The program Harris proposed would be administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and provide home buyers of certain racial backgrounds up to $25,000 each from taxpayers. Families making more than $100,000 annually or $125,000 per year in high-cost areas would be ineligible for these taxpayer subsidies. The cap is lower for individuals, at $50,000 and $75,000 for those living in what bureaucrats would define as high-cost places.
Harris’ proposal also calls for more government interference in alleged housing discrimination and new taxpayer funding for financial literacy. The California senator also proposed changes to how credit scores are calculated. Credit scores are based on people’s financial decision-making histories, and lenders use them to decide loan interest rates and eligibility.
Credit scores today are calculated based on individuals’ payment histories for debt such as credit cards, student loans, and mortgages. Harris wants to require credit-scoring agencies to take other payments into account including rent, phone bills, and utilities.
Harris also wants to change the way applicants’ debt is calculated when applying for a home, from the debt-to-income ratio being based on one year of income to a monthly basis. The change to a debt-to-income ratio based on monthly expenses would affect approximately 7.5 million black households and 5 million Latino households, according to Harris.
According to the Harris campaign, giving taxpayer money to black and Latino Americans to buy houses and forcing financial institutions to use politically calculated standards for lending would shrink the wealth gap between black and white households by 31 percent and bring up the median wealth of black households by approximately $32,000, and by $29,000 for Latino households.
Warren’s plan aims at creating new rules for contractors working for the federal government, which employs approximately one-quarter of the nation’s workers. Warren released her plan Friday and discussed it at the Essence Festival Saturday, calling on an executive order to require federal contractors to increase their employment of people who are not white and getting government involved in deciding what women and minorities should be paid.
“It’s up to the federal government to say what the terms of those contacts are,” Warren asserted to the festival crowd. “It’s not enough to talk the talk about equal pay for equal work. It’s not enough to talk the talk about the diversity of your work force. You’ve got to walk the walk, or you’re not getting those federal contracts.”
Under Warren’s plan, companies seeking federal contracts would be prohibited from asking potential hires about previous salaries or criminal history. Contractors would also be barred from using forced arbitration and non-compete clauses,
The proposals from the two top-tier presidential candidates come as both senators have picked up steam following well-received performances in the first round of presidential debates held in Miami last month. Their campaign momentum has come at much of a cost to Democratic front-runner former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), both of whom have seen their support drop in the polls but remain competitive in the race.
Harris saw her poll numbers jump the most out of any other candidate following the debate, practically doubling her support from pre-debate levels at 7 percent to above 14 percent, according to Real Clear Politics’ latest aggregate of polls. The California senator garnered positive attention when she attacked Biden on stage for the former Delaware senator’s opposition on forced busing and for his recent remarks touting friendships with segregationist senators as examples of civility.
Even so, Biden remains the front-runner by a solid lead. The latest polling on display from Real Clear Politics still shows Biden with an average ten-point lead ahead of every other candidate.
June 28, 2019
Until recently, they had eschewed the S-word, but now they embrace it
By KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON • National Review
The unfinished business of the Democratic party is socialism. Don’t take my word for it — consult Bernie Sanders.
Senator Sanders gave a madcap speech in which he ridiculed past conservative critics, beginning with Herbert Hoover and Ronald Reagan, for characterizing the expansive welfare-state ambitions of the New Deal and the Great Society as movements toward socialism. And then he . . . characterized the expansive welfare-state ambitions of the New Deal and the Great Society as movements toward socialism.
“This is the unfinished business of the Democratic party and the vision we must accomplish,” he said. “These are my values, and that is why I call myself a democratic socialist.”
President Hoover, the prescient man, is owed an apology.
As my colleagues and I recently documented over the course of two special issues of National Review, socialism — not exactly progressivism, certainly not liberalism — is ascendant among Democrats, including Democratic elected officials, and on the American left more generally. Senator Sanders is a declared and avowed socialist, one who is attempting to posthumously recruit the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. to his cause. (King took a hard economic turn toward the left in his later years and spoke of socialism on a few occasions, but to deputize him on behalf of the gentleman from the whitest state in the Union is a bit much, and more than a bit unseemly.)
Senator Sanders is not alone in this. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the callow young Democrat from New York, is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), as is Representative Rashida Tlaib, the Jew-baiting strange-o from Michigan, along with about 40 other candidates who were elected as Democrats in 2018. “We are building a pipeline from local positions all the way to national politics,” the Socialists said in a statement after the 2018 elections. Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper was hooted and jeered at when he affirmed on the stage of the California Democratic convention that “socialism is not the answer.”
And yet . . .
Ronald Reagan, an FDR man, spent his entire career insisting that he was a New Deal Democrat estranged from his party: “I didn’t leave the Democratic party — the party left me!” Many conservatives see in the tax-cutting, Cold War–fighting John Kennedy a kindred spirit. Much of the Republican criticism directed at the hilariously misnamed Affordable Care Act asserted that it would undermine Medicare, the jewel of Lyndon Johnson’s so-called Great Society program — and some of those Republicans even meant it.
Richard Nixon insisted that by the 1970s we were all Keynesians. Are we all socialists now?
There are two important factors at play here: The first is ignorance of the past, and the second is ignorance of the present.
Socialism is an idea with a history. (And a body count of some 100 million human beings in the 20th century, but leave that aside for the moment.) The most ordinary and traditional kind of government spending is on public goods, which are defined in economics as non-rivalrous and non-excludable in consumption. Think of a missile-defense system: Missile defense is a non-excludable good in that a system that protects the civic-minded taxpaying citizens at No. 7 Main Street also protects the freeloading deadbeats at No. 9 Main Street, whereas a guy selling apples can exclude those who do not pay; it is non-rivalrous in that Smith’s enjoyment of protection from Nork nukes does not diminish Jones’s possible enjoyment of the same, whereas every apple Smith eats leaves one less apple available for Jones.
In theory, spending on such public goods as defense and law enforcement is most of what liberal governments are supposed to do, with some political disagreement over what counts as a public good. (Roads? There are both public and toll models.) In reality, most of what modern liberal governments spend their money on is social welfare, the public provision of non-public goods such as food and education, both of which can be (and historically have been) provided on an ordinary market basis. These are not public goods rigorously defined, but they are publicly provided in practically all modern democracies on the theory that a society as a whole is better off if there is guaranteed universal access to a minimum of them.
The public provision of non-public goods is sometimes described as socialism, but it is distinct in that socialism requires an additional factor: central planning, often but not necessarily in concert with state ownership of the means of production. Food stamps are social welfare, but government-run farms and groceries are socialism; housing-support vouchers are welfare, but government-owned housing projects are socialism. American conservatives spend a fair amount of effort trying to convert or partially convert such genuinely socialistic projects as the monopoly K–12 education system (in which the means of production are state-owned and the workers are state employees) into more conventional social-welfare programs by replacing or augmenting direct-provision models with vouchers or other market-enabling alternatives. There is a significant difference between government funding of services and government provision of services, which is why, for examples, most Republicans have made their peace with Medicare but resist a British-style socialist-monopoly model of health care.
But, then, most European countries resist that model, too, which is why there is no NHS-style national single-payer system in France, Germany, Sweden, etc., and no state-provided health care at all in happy, well-governed Switzerland. And this is where the ignorance of socialism as an idea with a history meets the ignorance of actual political and economic practice in the European states, particularly the Scandinavian ones, that America’s self-proclaimed democratic socialists claim to admire. Senator Sanders et al. point to countries such as Sweden and Denmark and conclude that the lesson to be learned from them is that the United States should do . . . exactly what Senator Sanders et al. always have desired and always will desire to do: enact punitive redistributive taxes notionally targeting the wealthy and corporations (as though middle-class workers, particularly in the public sector, were not major corporate shareholders through their retirement funds) while building new entrenched and centralized bureaucracies to be staffed by comfortable, highly compensated Democratic constituents.
This response to the example of Sweden — which is in many ways a well-governed and prosperous nation — makes sense only if you do not know very much about Sweden. Senator Sanders, for example, desires to radically increase the tax on inheritances for moralistic reasons. Sweden’s inheritance tax is 0.00 percent. Senator Sanders wants to centralize the provision of health care in a federally funded and federally administered cluster of bureaucracies; health care in Sweden is radically decentralized, funded and administered mostly at the local level. Left-leaning Democrats such as Senator Kamala Harris of California have criticized Republicans for not doing enough to cut middle-class taxes (Senator Harris, who does not seem to know how tax refunds work, blasted the 2017 bill as “a middle-class-tax hike”), but what in fact distinguishes the Scandinavian model (and most Western European countries) from the United States is not how they tax the rich but how they tax the middle class — which is to say: They do it. While about half of U.S. households pay no federal income tax, and middle-class households pay relatively little, middle-class earners in Denmark pay about 50 percent in taxes. Taxes in the United States are disproportionately paid by those with high incomes — disproportionately even when you take the income difference into consideration: The top 1 percent takes home less than 20 percent of total income and pays almost 40 percent of federal income taxes. Taxes in the Scandinavian countries fall heavily on the middle classes, which also are the main beneficiaries of the programs those taxes fund.
Senator Sanders is an ideologically blinkered man, and he is not an intellectually curious one. His views have been set since he was honeymooning in the Soviet Union as a young man, and his speeches and writing testify that he simply lacks the intellectual capacity for growth and change. Sweden has changed radically since the 1970s, but Bernie Sanders has stood still in time, an irritable red ant suspended in amber.
But the so-called intellectuals of the Democrats’ new socialist vanguard have no such excuse. Some of them are simply dim and poorly educated (poorly but expensively, in the case of Representative Ocasio-Cortez), but many of them are intellectually dishonest. A particularly dishonest young socialist writer with something of a following recently published an income-disparity ranking of countries that was supposed to show how the Scandinavians had cracked the inequality problem. And Northern Europe was well represented on the list, which also included France, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Estonia, among other nations, in the top ten. Which is to say, the top ten countries represented radically different modes of government, radically different health-care systems, different labor markets, and different tax systems (Switzerland, for example, does not tax capital gains, something our progressive Europhiles rarely mention), to say nothing of radically different cultures. (And many scholars of governance agree that culture is a key ingredient in the Scandinavian secret sauce.) But even among the Nordic countries, there are very large differences: Iceland, for example, has one of the world’s highest work-force-participation rates; Finland’s is down about where ours is, and ours is higher than the overall EU rate. There isn’t a single, unified policy story to be derived from all that diversity.
But that is beside the point, for the Democrats. What Senator Sanders stands for is the continuation of a very old and very dumb kind of politics: adolescent anti-Americanism. It does not matter that Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland have fundamentally different political and economic models: These countries are only rhetorical cat’s-paws deployed in the fundamental progressive project: establishing that the United States and its institutions are hopelessly corrupt, and that they may therefore be cleared away to make room for something new. In this regard, the energetically nationalistic Franklin D. Roosevelt is a poor model for them — their actual lineage traces to Woodrow Wilson, whose racism and warmongering make him an unattractive totem but whose frank rejection of the Constitution and the founding principles of the nation presages their own. In this way, the socialist renaissance may be understood as distinct from the broader progressive project but also subsumed within it. The overall economic model is essentially the Democrats’ health-care model writ large: Destroy and discredit what’s there, and then . . . improvise.
Senator Sanders, in his speech, gives some thought to the Constitution — and finds it wanting. What good is the Bill of Rights, he asks, when one must struggle so hard for mere material existence? “Are you truly free if you are forced to work 60 or 80 hours a week?” The median American work week is, as of this writing, less than 35 hours a week, significantly lower than it was in 1980. What in fact distinguishes low-income households is not on average that they have too many hours of work to do but that they have too few: Only 40 percent of the working-age poor (those below the federal poverty line) in 2014 worked at all. Among those who do work, many are involuntarily relegated to part-time or seasonal work. High-income households average more work hours, not fewer, than low-income households. The unemployment rate for those without a bachelor’s degree is twice that of those with one. The problem the poor face is not long hours at the salt mine but unemployment.
But what are a few inconvenient facts when there’s a utopia to be built?
And that is the proper context in which to understand what it is that Senator Sanders et al. stand for. They may, like Senator Elizabeth Warren, roll out 55 five-point policy proposals per hour, offering them with varying degrees of seriousness, but theirs is fundamentally a negative platform. What they hate and wish to liquidate is the system of markets, trade, law, regulation, and taxes that we call, for lack of a better term, “capitalism,” and their reasons are as much tribal (they resent the social status conferred by wealth as least as much as the political power attending it), moral, and aesthetic as they are economic. But their policy proposals are almost always the same: “Pillage the rich and create a lot of new public-sector jobs for me and my friends.” And that much has remained constant whether they call themselves liberals, progressives, or socialists.
Socialists used to care a great deal about history — “historical materialism,” they called their big metaphysical idea. Something for Senator Sanders to contemplate in his waterfront dacha.
June 19, 2019
By Editorial • Investor's Business Daily
Socialist Goodies: Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has yet another bright idea to fuel her White House ambitions: A sweeping plan to provide free, high-quality childcare for everyone earning less than $50,000, and subsidized childcare for the rest of us. No one would ever spend more than 7% of income for childcare. What could possibly be wrong with such a wonderful idea?
Plenty, as it turns out. It’s another in a long line of nanny-state programs put forward by the left that sound sweet at first, then sour when you realize what they really mean.
That’s definitely the case for Warren’s plan. First off, let’s begin with a fact: There is no such thing as “free.” Someone always pays. The question is “who?” and “how much?”
To pay for this “free” service, Warren would impose an “ultra-millionaire tax” on those with a net worth of more than $50 million to pay for the estimated cost of $700 billion over a decade.
But the estimate of “just” $700 billion for her program’s cost is highly deceptive. Because Warren’s cost estimates include the supposed economic benefits of childcare for families, but not the cost of less investment by those who are taxed. Costs would likely soar way above the initial estimate, leading to higher taxes for all. Not “free” at all.
As Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner observes, “(Warren’s) proposal to extend affordable childcare to everybody relies on dishonest accounting to create the impresion that it is more fiscally sound” than it really is.
Par for the course for socialist policies, of course. It boils down to this: Promise everything, but deliver as little as possible. Watch the costs, always underestimated, grow out of control. Then blame the political opposition — or capitalism, or the “free market” — for your program’s failure.
It happens over and over again, and we all fall for it. As the shampoo commercials say, “lather, rinse and repeat.”
It happened in Britain. There, childcare subsidies for government-run centers pushed costs below the market rate. So private businesses that provided childcare couldn’t compete.
The same, no doubt, will happen here.
“In short, instead of reducing the costs of providing care through much-needed supply-side reform, this new demand-side scheme will further drive up the market price of childcare, with taxpayers on the hook now for increased use of formal care,” wrote Cato Institute’s Ryan Bourne, who holds the R. Evan Scharf Chair for the Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute.
What emerges from all this looks a lot like a government takeover of childcare, similar to what happened with healthcare and education. The cost soars, but the quality declines. And, in this case, the private companies that continued in business would become little more than appendages of a new federal childcare bureaucracy, with all the idiotic and costly rules that entails.
Parents would deliver their precious children to be guided by, as Warren’s plan would have it, “curriculum standards” and “standards similar to those that now apply to Head Start.” In other words, the federal government would be teaching your kids and instilling their values and morals. Parents lose control as the state raises their children.
Sound good to you?
As the Heritage Foundation recently noted, “The Department of Health and Human Services released the scientifically rigorous Head Start Impact Study in 2012, which tracked 5,000 3- and 4-year-old children through the end of third grade. The results? Head Start had little to no impact on the parenting practices or the cognitive, social-emotional, and health outcomes of participants. Notably, on a few measures, access to Head Start had harmful effects on participating children.”
Other studies of pre-school and childcare programs are equally inconclusive as to benefits. Yet the costs are enormous.
Moreover, in surveys, most parents would prefer caring for their children at home — not putting them into the hands of strangers. But Warren’s plan is specifically intended to institutionalize children in federally run institutions nearly from the time they’re born until the time they leave school.
The point is, “free” isn’t really free, and you get what you pay for. Leftists like Warren love to promise free things paid for by others, but then walk away when the quality turns out to be poor or just plain awful. This is the essence of socialist thinking, and also the way it gets voters to keep falling for socialists’ impossible promises of heaven on earth.
If you want care for your children, the last place you should look for help is the federal government. Think of letting Amtrak or the Postal Service care for your kids, and you get the idea.
Even if you still believe federal government should involve itself in your private arrangements, a better plan would be to give vouchers to families based on need.
“Universal” preschool or childcare will not solve any problems, but it likely will cause many others, while further tearing apart American families and institutionalizing their children from an early age. A bad outcome for families, and a worse outcome for America.