‘Drain the Swamp’ Promise Drives Establishment Panic

I’m consistently asked this question by bewildered Republicans and Trump supporters: Why won’t Democrats give President Trump a chance? He was duly elected and yet the attacks began immediately. Why? There was an election and Trump won. Give him a chance.

It’s a reasonable question. And the answer is the perfect confluence of dynamics propelling this phenomena of immediate and historically intense opposition.

First, we need to understand that the response by Democrats, the media and the reactionary, organized and funded street Left, needs to be seen through the prism of why Trump was elected in the first place.

Trump’s campaign and election is a repudiation in every conceivable way of Obama’s policies, many of Bush’s policies and Congress’ game-playing. Many Americans did mediocre under Bush, and most did poorly under Obama. The reasons for which are a different topic, but they fall under the broadest umbrella of “The way Washington does things.” And the way Washington does things is to put Washington interests first. Not Americans’.

Trump tapped into those frustrations and angers at Washington, and into substantial American anxiety over the country’s direction and slow demise. The anger of Trump supporters was largely not race-based. Not immigrant-based. Obviously not gender-based.

It was Washington-based.

The swamp today

Washington is a well-oiled machine — for Washington interests.

The power structure within Washington — the most important, wealthy and powerful capitol in the world — is this: Politicians, beginning with the President and Congress; political appointees, starting with Cabinet members, then their deputies and so on; lobbyists, who are often former members of Congress and former political appointees (that’s the revolving door Trump is trying to close); and finally, the entrenched bureaucracy that makes a solid living by the tens of thousands, often accomplishing little more than self-perpetuating. The leaks damaging to Trump and appointees is coming from this final group.

The Washington metro area never suffered through the long recession and economic downturn that the rest of the country did. It never does. Because the billions of dollars — trillions, actually — just keep pouring into the Capitol.

This is the swamp that hundreds of thousands of Trump supporters chanted about at his campaign stops across the country.

When Trump was elected, he immediately set about keeping the promises he made over and over on the campaign trail. Draining would commence. That in itself is shocking, as it has long been accepted — by the media and “smart” circles, not so much the rest of America — that Republicans and Democrats alike say a lot of things during a campaign to get elected that we all know — wink, wink — they do not intend to act on.

This is the bait and switch. Clinton was never going to provide a middle class tax cut. Bush was never going to cut entitlements. Obama was never going to block gay marriage. The media knows it and is part of the act.

This Beltway acceptance of lying to the American people in “campaign mode” reflects the elite’s expectation that the masses are stupid enough to not see it during governing mode. That’s also how Washington works. But the people saw it, and found someone they believed would do what he said. The results are in. Trump is setting about the draining.

Rapid response

The establishment of both parties was rocked on their keisters by Trump’s election. His campaign mode is the same as his governing mode in terms of doing what he said he would. His quick actions on promises to start undoing the Washington that does not work for most Americans was like poking a mama grizzly in her den with her cubs.

Reaction was swift, from demonstrations without to leaks from within. The small minority of Republicans publicly opposing Trump gave cover to Democrats to go to unexplored extremes, beyond the normal political oppositions all presidents naturally face from the opposing party.

Because of Trump’s own careless linguistic excesses and thin skin, he provides continual fodder for the masses of the angry Left that was being used by the organized, funded elements of the Left.

Remember, these were people who were sure they were going to get the first woman president and losing to such an upstart apple cart over-turner was enraging. The demonstration organizers and funders are able to take that anger and frustration of the Left and use it to leverage their existing infrastructure of protesting machines. While many people in the demonstrations are sincerely upset, they are being used by the Left establishment.

So this impressive array came together: The Democrat establishment, just a small but cover-providing portion of the Republican establishment, the media establishment that Trump continues to engage head-on like no one else, the entrenched bureaucratic establishment (including the intelligence agencies) and ancillary establishments of lobbyists, experts, etc. They aligned in common cause against the man that most seems to threatened the system that has empowered and enriched them.

Trump is a highly imperfect vehicle for this undertaking, but this same array would have come together against any candidate who truly meant to “drain the swamp.” Trump just makes it a little easier with his public carelessness.

If Trump is allowed to do what he says he wants to do, it becomes the first loosening of the plug at the bottom of the swamp. A lot of political oxes will be gored, power and influence will be lost and cozy D.C. establishments on the Left and Right will be up-ended.

They won’t wait to see how he does because it is not in their best interests to do so, and they seem to have all the components in place to not wait.

Seismic change: Tuesday’s address to Congress

Key phrase being “seem to.”

This is vital, because Trump presented a dramatically different image of himself when he address the Joint Session of Congress Tuesday night — a State of the Union for a newly elected president. In it, Trump laid out a vision for the country that was not sifted through the heavy filter of media bias and negativity.

Trump was presidential, controlled, focused on his vision and agenda, compassionate and patriotic. He hit 80 percent conservative notes, 20 percent populist notes. The reviews even in the media were that Trump not only gave a great speech — because expectations are low with him on giving speeches — but a well above-average speech for any State of the Union or equivalent. It was a real effort at post-partisanship (to which the Democrats in attendance gave the metaphorical middle finger) and a forceful vision of a renewed America.

Even his fiercest enemies, such as Van Jones, said: “He became President of the United States in that moment, period.”

So if Trump not only does exactly what he promised to do in terms of the broadest “drain the swamp” actions, but does it with more of the gravitas expected of the office, then the Washington establishment will have two options: dig in deeper and ratchet up or give up and surrender.

There is no reason to think they will easily surrender their power, influence and wealth.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Moral Clarity: Get the Feds Out of Bathrooms

A New Era: Trump vs. Obama, White House vs. Shadow White House

10 Stunning But Quickly Forgotten Obama Comments

Time for a Legislative Override of Activist Courts

Illegal Immigration Drives Income Inequality

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The Revolutionary Act.

Time for the U.S. Department of Justice to crack down on Marijuana

President Trump said during his address to a joint session of Congress,

I have further ordered the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, along with the Department of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to coordinate an aggressive strategy to dismantle the criminal cartels that have spread across our Nation.

We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth — and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.

[ … ]

As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.

In The Daily Signal article “How Trump’s DOJ Can Start Enforcing Federal Marijuana Law” Cully Stimson reports:

On Thursday last week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he “believe[s] that we will see greater enforcement” of the federal laws against recreational marijuana.

While he acknowledged that the question to which he was responding was better directed to the Department of Justice, Spicer said that state legalization of recreational marijuana “is something the Department of Justice, I think, will be further looking into.”

Spicer’s comments are welcome news for those advocating commonsense drug policy.

Scientists agree that marijuana is a dangerous drug, and no major national medical organization advocates legalization. Whether you agree with that or not, marijuana remains illegal for good reason.

Thorough scientific reviews by President Barack Obama’s Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Administration—as well as drug classification reviews by federal judges—have affirmed that marijuana should remain a Schedule 1 drug. Such drugs are defined as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

As I have written here and here, the predictable consequences of marijuana legalization are beginning to emerge in states like Colorado and Washington.

Annual reports from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, and the Colorado Department of Public Safety have analyzed the negative impact that marijuana legalization has had on health and public safety in Colorado.

Read more…

President Trump, unlike his predecessor, has not used drugs and does not drink. President Trump is concerned about the social cost of a society that finds the use, and expected abuse, of drugs and alcohol to be wrong on many levels.

Stimson presents eleven (11) commonsense recommendations which are consistent with an interest in public health and safety of all Americans.

This President can turn the tide on drug abuse and the debilitating effects and crime that accompany it. Crimes such as human trafficking,  murder, sale of heroin and cocaine and death.

RELATED STUDIES:

Is marijuana a gateway drug?

Stages and pathways of drug involvement: Examining the gateway hypothesis

Stages in adolescent involvement in drug use

Video and Full Transcript of Betsy DeVos’ CPAC Interview with Kayleigh McEnany

On February 22, 2017, US ed sec Betsy DeVos participated in an interview with journalist and Trump supporter, Kayleigh McEnany, for the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC).

Below is the full video followed by the full transcript of that interview (approx 9 minutes):

TRANSCRIPT

KM: Hi, Madam Secretary. It’s so great to be here with you.

BD: It’s great to be here with you, Kayleigh.

KM: now, let’s hear you guys if you could not be more excited about President Trump’s pick for secretary of education.

[applause]

KM: You are a phenomenal pick, and you have spent 30 years working on these issues that are so important to children, protecting our future, protecting children of all races, of all identities, is crucial, and you are doing that, and you have a history of doing that, and I couldn’t be more excited for what you have planned for the Department.

BD: Thank you. It’s an honor.

KM: It is. And on that note, a lot of news has been made in the last 24 hours. President Trump rescinded the Obama guidelines on transgender, and [applause] and let’s be very clear why he did that. President Obama acted lawlessly. He promised us that he would use his pen and his phone to circumvent Congress. He did so repeatedly, including with these guidelines that reinterpreted federal statute. So, you put out a letter afterwards basically saying that you want to protect all children, all students, and I wanted to give you an opportunity to clarify what you meant and state what you meant in the ethos of that letter.

BD: Sure. Thank you, Kayleigh. Well, I think the statement spoke to it, for itself to a large extent. But let me just say that this issue was a very huge example of the Obama administration’s overreach to suggest a one-size-fits-all, federal government approach, top-down approach to issues that are best dealt with and solved at a personal level and a local level. And I have made clear from the moment I’ve been in this job that it’s our, it’s our job to protect students, and to do that to the fullest extent that we can, and also to provide students, parents’ and teachers with more flexibility around how education is delivered and how education is experienced, and to protect and preserve personal freedoms.

KM: Absolutely. And on that note, talking about the states and empowering the parents, we as conservatives in this room fully believe that the states are the appropriate, robust actors in the field of education. We want parents to be empowered, and part of that is empowering the states. So, with that said, what is the role of the federal government in the Department of Education vis-a-vis the states?

BD: Well, the Department of Education has, in the past several years, played a very integral role, I would argue, in many ways, too much of a role. With the new implementation of the new ESSA rules and law, we will see a lot of that power returned to the states and a lot of the flexibility given to the states to do what they can do best on behalf of students. I think that’s the right direction. I think the role of the federal government should be as light a touch as possible. And the areas in which the Department of Education has an important role are really around the needs of special needs students and around some of the civil rights issues that we’ve referenced earlier.

KM: Undoubtedly. And one of the things I love in just communicating with you and you’re staff: I really get a sense that you want to unify the country and make real change, and I think there’s even evidence of that. You know, we’re at this time where the country’s so divided and there’s so much anger and so much disrespect for one another that we need people to come together on behalf of children in particular, in your case. And the evidence I saw with being with your staff was on day two, you picked up the phone and you made a call to the teachers union, to the ATF, to Randi Weingarner (sp), and you did this despite the fact that the other teachers union, the NEA, put out a statement saying, we refuse to have a relationship with Secretary DeVos. So, you have one teachers union kind of increasing division and another one, because you reached out and extended a hand, reaching back and extending a hand back to you. And I believe you’re going on a tour of local schools with Randi.

BD: Well, I had a great conversation with Randi, and I think it’s imperative that we work together to find common ground. If students represent 100 percent of our future, we need to be focused around what’s right for them and doing what’s right for them. My conversation with Randi was great, and we’ve agreed to visit schools together. I will visit a school that she selects, a traditional public school, and she will visit a “choice” school. So, I look forward to that opportunity.

KM: That’s fantastic. And another place where this opposition and divisiveness was showcased was during your confirmation hearings. I myself was appalled at the way Senator Warren conducted herself and her line of questioning. But by contrast, you had Senator Scott who told a beautiful story of how you grew up and how your family mortgaged everything they had to start a business, and you painted a cinder block building and worked on an assembly line, and I think that’s such an empowering story and I wonder if you would share a little bit of that because you are the American dream, and a lot of students out there are trying to achieve the same thing that your family achieved.

BD: Sure. Yes, my dad was a great entrepreneur, and inventor, and I recall well as a young child, about 7 or 8 years old, painting the first building with him as he put up a cement block building with his first factory that was a result of mortgaging everything, and I worked through different summers, summer jobs, at the plant, third shift on the visor plant. So, he invented the lighted sun visor for automobiles. So, anybody who enjoys those, you can thank my dad for that great invention. [applause] I think it was at the urging of my mom; she’d like to be able to see to put lipstick on while they were going somewhere at night. But yes, it was a really important experience for me to grow up in a home where everybody pitched in and where my parents really modeled what it was to pursue the American dream in a really meaningful way.

KM: Absolutely. That’s a really great story. And turning another page, because I heard you ask the audience, “Who in here are college students?” and I heard a lot of cheers. Something that’s really important to students, conservative students in particular, you know, I’m a recent law school graduate, so I can empathize with the students out there, is academic freedom, because a lot of times on college campuses, you feel that you speak at your own risk if you speak conservative thought. You are oftentimes bullied by your peers, and sometimes even your professors and your educators. So, what advice would you have for students out there who desperately want to share conservatism but feel bullied in doing so?

BD: Well, I think my first advice would be, don’t shut up. Keep talking. Keep making your arguments. [applause] You can do so respectfully and with civility, but I think you need to do so with confidence. We need to have opposing viewpoints and differing ideas in an academian (sp) environment and in any environment where ideas are necessary to be exchanged. And I just urge and encourage all the college students here– any student– to continue to bring your ideas and your viewpoints. That’s the best way to learn, and it’s the best way for us all to learn how to get along together, as well.

KM: Absolutely. One of the things that I loved about you when you were President Trump’s pick is the work that you have done on behalf of children in poverty. You helped 400,000 families in poverty and assisted them and gave them school choice [applause] and assisted in their educational pursuit. That’s fantastic. [applause] And that’s an absolutely indispensable part of President Trump’s agenda ahead is helping students in inner cities. So, what is your plan at the Department of Education to help children in poverty?

BD: Well, we know that education is the great equalizer, and it’s the real moment of opportunity for every student. And so, the notion that I can choose where my children go to school because I can afford to pay for it but my fellow Americans can’t because they don’t have the same economic means, it’s just it’s not right. It’s unjust. [applause] And I share the president’s view that we must and can do better for all Americans to provide each of them with an equal opportunity for a great education. And we will be working together to advance that during his administration.

KM: That’s great. Well, this nation is so blessed to have you as secretary of education, and President Trump could not have made a better choice. I am just so thrilled for your vision and so excited.

[applause]

BD: Thank you. Thank you.

[applause]

[end]

RELATED ARTICLE: On Education, the Left Protects a Miserable Status Quo

RELATED VIDEO: WATCH New Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s Speech at CPAC 2017

Which Country Punishes Productive People the Most? by Daniel J. Mitchell

Back in 2014, I shared some data from the Tax Foundation that measured the degree to which various developed nations punished high-income earners.

This measure of relative “progressivity” focused on personal income taxes. And that’s important because that levy often is the most onerous for highly productive residents of a nation.

But there are other taxes that also create a gap between what such taxpayers earn and produce and what they ultimately are able to consume and enjoy. What about the effects of payroll taxes? Of consumption taxes and other levies?

Looking at the Evidence

To answer that question, we have a very useful study from the European Policy Information Center on this topic. Authored by Alexander Fritz Englund and Jacob Lundberg, it looks at the total marginal tax rate on each nation’s most productive taxpayers.

They start with some sensible observations about why marginal tax rates matter, basically echoing what I wrote after last year’s Super Bowl.

Here’s what Englund and Lundberg wrote.

The marginal tax rate is the proportion of tax paid on the last euro earned. It is the relevant tax rate when deciding whether to work a few extra hours or accept a promotion, for example. As most income tax systems are progressive, the marginal tax rate on top incomes is usually also the highest marginal tax rate. It is an indicator of how progressive and distortionary the income tax is.”

They then explain why they include payroll taxes in their calculations.

The income tax alone does not provide a complete picture of how the tax system affects incentives to work and earn income. Many countries require employers and/or employees to pay social contributions. It is not uncommon for the associated benefits to be capped while the contribution itself is uncapped, meaning it is a de facto tax for high-income earners. Even those social contributions that are legally paid by the employer will in the end be paid by the employee as the employer should be expected to shift the burden of the tax through lower gross wages.”

Englund and Lundberg are correct. A payroll tax (sometimes called a “social insurance” levy) will be just as destructive as a regular income tax if workers aren’t “earning” some sort of additional benefit. And they’re also right when they point out that payroll taxes “paid” by employers actually are borne by workers.

They then explain why they include a measure of consumption taxation.

One must also take value-added taxes and other consumption taxes into account. Consumption taxes reduce the purchasing power of wage-earners and thus affect the return to working. In principle, it does not matter whether taxation takes place when income is earned or when it is consumed, as the ultimate purpose of work is consumption.”

Once again, the authors are spot on. Taxes undermine incentives to be productive by driving a wedge between pre-tax income and post-tax consumption, so you have to look at levies that grab your income as it is earned as well as levies that grab your income as it is spent.

All Things Considered

And when you begin to add everything together, you get the most accurate measure of government greed.

Taking all these taxes into account, one can compute the effective marginal tax rate. This shows how many cents the government receives for every euro of additional employee compensation paid by the firm. …If the top effective tax rate is 75 percent, as in Sweden, a person who contributes 100 additional euros to the economy will only be allowed to keep 25 euros while 75 euros are appropriated by the government. The tax system thus drives a wedge between the social and private return to work. …High marginal tax rates disconnect the private and social returns to economic activity and thereby the invisible hand ceases to function. For this reason, taxation causes distortions and is costly to society. High marginal tax rates make it less worthwhile to supply labour on the formal labour market and more worthwhile to spend time on household work, black market activities and tax avoidance.”

Here’s their data for various developed nations.

Keep in mind that these are the taxes that impact each nation’s most productive taxpayers. So that includes top income tax rates, both for the central governments and sub-national governments, as well as surtaxes. It includes various social insurance levies, to the extent such taxes apply to all income. And it includes a measure of estimated consumption taxation.

And here’s the ranking of all the nations. Shed a tear for entrepreneurs in Sweden, Belgium, and Portugal.

Slovakia wins the prize for the least-punitive tax regime, though it’s worth noting that Hong Kong easily would have the best system if it was included in the ranking.

U.S. Ranking

For what it’s worth, the United States does fairly well compared to other nations. This is not because our personal income tax is reasonable (see dark blue bars), but rather because Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were unsuccessful in their efforts to bust the “wage base cap” and apply the Social Security payroll tax on all income. We also thankfully don’t have a value-added tax. These factors explain why our medium-blue and light-blue bars are the smallest.

By the way, this doesn’t mean we have a friendly system for upper-income taxpayers in America. They lose almost half of every dollar they generate for the economy. And whether one is looking at Tax Foundation numbers, Congressional Budget Office calculations, information from the New York Times, or data from the IRS, rich people in the United States are paying a hugely disproportionate share of the tax burden.

Though none of this satisfies the statists. They actually would like us to think that letting well-to-do taxpayers keep any of their money is akin to a handout.

Now would be an appropriate time to remind everyone that imposing high tax rates doesn’t necessarily mean collecting high tax revenues.

In the 1980s, for instance, upper-income taxpayers paid far more revenue to the government when Reagan lowered the top income tax rate from 70 percent to 28 percent.

Also, keep in mind that these calculations don’t measure the tax bias against saving and investment, so the tax burden on some upper-income taxpayers may be higher or lower depending on the degree to which countries penalize capital formation.

P.S. If one includes the perverse incentive effects of various redistribution programs, the very highest marginal tax rates (at least when measuring implicit rates) sometimes apply to a nation’s poor people.

P.P.S. Our statist friends sometimes justify punitive taxes as a way of using coercion to produce more equality, but the net effect of such policies is weaker growth and that means it is more difficult for lower-income and middle-income people to climb the economic ladder. In other words, unfettered markets are the best way to get social mobility.

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

EDITORS NOTE: Marcus Tullius Cicero in 55 BC said,

 “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.”

The Ex-Im Bank Is the Heart of the Swamp by Daniel J. Mitchell

I’ve written many times that Washington is both a corrupt city and a corrupting city. My point is that decent people go into government and all too often wind up losing their ethical values as they learn to “play the game.”

I often joke that these are people who start out thinking Washington is a cesspool but eventually decide it’s a hot tub.

During the presidential campaign, Trump said he wanted to “drain the swamp,” which is similar to my cesspool example. My concern is that El Presidente may not understand (or perhaps not even care) that shrinking the size and scope of government is the only effective way to reduce Washington corruption.

In any event, we’re soon going to get a very strong sign about whether Trump was serious. With Republicans on Capitol Hill divided on how to deal with this cronyist institution, Trump basically has the tie-breaking vote on the issue.

In other words, he has the power to shut down this geyser of corporate welfare. But will he?

According the Susan Ferrechio of the Washington Examiner, Trump may choose to wallow in the swamp rather than drain it.

President Trump now may be in favor of the Export-Import Bank, according to Republican lawmakers who met with him privately Thursday, even though Trump once condemned the bank as corporate welfare.

Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center is one on the Ex-Im Bank’s most tenacious opponents, and she’s very worried.

…if the reports are true that Trump has decided to support the restoration of the crony Export-Import Bank’s full lending authority, it would be akin to the president deciding to instead happily bathe in the swamp and gargle the muck. …If true, the news is only “great” for Boeing, GE, and the other major recipients of Ex-Im’s corporate welfare. It is also at odds with his campaign promises since much of the way the program works is that it gives cheap loans — backed by Americans all over the country — to foreign companies in China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Restoring Ex-Im’s full lending-authority powers is renewing the policy to give cheap loans backed by workers in the Rust Belt to companies like Ryanair ($4 billion in guarantee loans over ten years) and Emirates Airlines ($3.9 billion over ten years) so they can have a large competitive advantage over U.S. domestic airlines like Delta and United. It continued to subsidize the large and prosperous state-owned Mexican oil company PEMEX ($9.7 billion over ten years). Seriously? That’s president Trump’s vision of draining the swamp?

Ugh. It will be very disappointing if Trump chooses corporate welfare over taxpayers.

What presumably matters most, though, is whether a bad decision on the Ex-Im Bank is a deviation or a harbinger of four years of cronyism.

In other words, when the dust settles, will the net effect of Trump’s policies be a bigger swamp or smaller swamp?

The New York Times opined that Trump is basically replacing one set of insiders with another set of insiders, which implies a bigger swamp.

Mr. Trump may be out to challenge one establishment — the liberal elite — but he is installing one of his own, filled with tycoons, Wall Street heavyweights, cronies and a new rank of shadowy wealthy “advisers” unaccountable to anyone but him. …Take first the Goldman Sachs crowd. The Trump campaign lambasted global financiers, led by Goldman, as having “robbed our working class,” but here come two of the alleged miscreants: Gary Cohn, Goldman’s president, named to lead the National Economic Council, and Steven Mnuchin, named as Treasury secretary. …Standing in the rain during Mr. Trump’s inaugural speech, farmers and factory workers, truckers, nurses and housekeepers greeted his anti-establishment words by cheering “Drain the Swamp!” even as the new president was standing knee-deep in a swamp of his own.

I’m skeptical of Trump, and I’m waiting to see whether Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin will be friends for taxpayers, so I’m far from a cheerleader for the current administration.

But I also think the New York Times is jumping the gun.

Maybe Trump will be a swamp-wallowing cronyist, but we don’t yet have enough evidence (though a bad decision on Ex-Im certainly would be a very bad omen).

Here’s another potential indicator of what may happen to the swamp under Trump’s reign.

Bloomberg reports that two former Trump campaign officials, Corey Lewandowski and Barry Bennett have cashed in by setting up a lobbying firm to take advantage of their connections.

The arrival of a new president typically means a gold rush for Washington lobbyists as companies, foreign governments, and interest groups scramble for access and influence in the administration. Trump’s arrival promises to be different—at least according to Trump. Throughout the campaign, he lambasted the capital as a den of insider corruption and repeatedly vowed to “drain the swamp,” a phrase second only in the Trump lexicon to “make America great again.” …Trump’s well-advertised disdain for lobbying might seem to augur poorly for a firm seeking to peddle influence. …“Business,” Lewandowski says, “has been very, very good.”

This rubs me the wrong way. I don’t want lobbyists to get rich.

But, to be fair, not all lobbying is bad. Many industries hire “representation” because they want to protect themselves from taxes and regulation. And they have a constitutional right to “petition” the government and contribute money, so I definitely don’t want to criminalize lobbying.

But as I’ve said over and over again, I’d like a much smaller government so that interest groups don’t have an incentive to do either the right kind of lobbying (self-protection) or the wrong kind of lobbying (seeking to obtain unearned wealth via the coercive power of government).

Here’s one final story about the oleaginous nature of Washington.

Wells Fargo is giving a big payout to Elaine Chao, the new Secretary of Transportation.

Chao, who joined Wells Fargo as a board member in 2011, has collected deferred stock options —  a compensation perk generally designed as a long-term retention strategy — that she would not be able to cash out if she left the firm to work for a competitor. Her financial disclosure notes that she will receive a “cash payout for my deferred stock compensation” upon confirmation as Secretary of Transportation. The document discloses that the payments will continue throughout her time in government, if she is confirmed. The payouts will begin in July 2017 and continue yearly through 2021. But Wells Fargo, like several banks and defense contractors, provides a special clause in its standard executive employment contract that offers flexibility for awarding compensation if executives leave the bank to enter “government service.” Such clauses, critics say, are structured to incentivize the so-called “reverse revolving door” of private sector officials burrowing into government. …Golden parachutes for executives leaving firms to enter government dogged several Obama administration officials. Jack Lew, upon leaving Citigroup to join the Obama administration in 2009, was given a cash payout as part of his incentive and retention awards that wouldn’t have been paid if he had left the firm to join a competitor or under ordinary circumstances. But Lew’s Citigroup contract stipulated that there was an exception for leaving to work in a “full time high level position with the U.S. government or regulatory body.” Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Northrop Grumman are among the other firms that have offered special financial rewards to executives who leave to enter government.

This rubs me the wrong way, just as it rubbed me the wrong way when one of Obama’s cabinet appointees got a similar payout.

But the more I think about it, the real question isn’t whether government officials get to keep stock options and other forms of deferred compensation when they jump to government.

What bothers me much more is why companies feel that it’s in their interest to hire people closely connected to government. What value did Jacob Lew bring to Citigroup? What value did Chao bring to Wells Fargo?

I suspect that the answer has a lot to do with financial institutions wanting people who can can pick up the phone and extract favors and information from senior officials in government.

For what it’s worth, I’m not a fan of Lew because he pushed for statism while at Treasury. By contrast, I am a fan of Chao because she was one of the few bright spots during the generally statist Bush years.

But I don’t want a system where private companies feel like they should hire either one of them simply because they have connections in Washington.

I hope that Trump will change this perverse set of incentives by “draining the swamp.” But unless he reduces the size and scope of government, the problem will get worse rather than better.

Republished from International Liberty.

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

VIDEO: Universal Basic Income is Even Worse than Welfare by Bryan Caplan

Libertarians have a standard set of fundamental criticisms of the welfare state.

  1. Forced charity is unjust. Individuals have a moral right to decide if and when they want to help others.
  2. Forced charity is unnecessary. In a free market, voluntary donations are enough to provide for the truly poor.
  3. Forced charity gives recipients bad incentives. If the government takes care of you, you’re less likely to take care of yourself by work and saving.
  4. The cost of forced charity is high and growing rapidly, leading to a future of exorbitant taxes or financial crisis.

Taken together, I think these criticisms justify the radical libertarian view that the welfare state should be abolished. But this is an extremely unpopular view, so it’s natural for libertarians to consider more moderate reforms like the Universal Basic Income. And when you’re considering moderate reforms, the right question to ask isn’t: “Is it ideal?” but “Is it better than the status quo?”

My claim: The Universal Basic Income is indeed worse than the status quo. In fact, all the fundamental criticisms of the welfare state apply with even greater force.

  1. Some forced charity is more unjust than other forced charity. Forcing people to help others who can’t help themselves – like kids from poor families or the severely disabled – is at least defensible. Forcing people to help everyone is not. And for all its faults, at least the status quo makes some effort to target people who can’t help themselves. The whole idea of the Universal Basic Income, in contrast, is of course, to give money to everyone whether they need it or not. Of course, the UBI formula normally reduces the net payment as income rises; but if a perfectly able-bodied person chooses never to work, the UBI gravy train never stops.
  2. The UBI is an extremely wasteful form of forced charity. Helping the small minority of people who can’t help themselves doesn’t cost much. Giving an unconditional grant to every citizen wastes an enormous amount of money. If you were running a private charity, it would never even occur to you to “help everyone,” because it’s such a frivolous use of scarce charitable resources. Instead, you’d target spending to do the most good. And unlike the UBI, the status quo makes some effort to so target its resources.
  3. Overall, the UBI probably gives even worse incentives than the status quo. Defenders of the UBI correctly point out that it might improve incentives for people who are already on welfare. Under the status quo, earning another $1 of legal income can easily reduce your welfare by a $1, implying a marginal tax rate of 100%. But under the status quo, vast populations are ineligible for most programs. Such as? You guys! If you’re an able-bodied adult, aged 18-64, who doesn’t have custody of any minor children, the current system doesn’t give you much. Switching to a UBI would expand the familiar perverse effects of the welfare state to the entire population – including you. And if taxes rise to pay for the UBI, the population-wide disincentives are even worse.
  4. A politically acceptable UBI would be insanely expensive. Libertarian economist and UBI advocate Ed Dolan has a detailed, fiscally viable plan to provide a UBI of $4452 per person per year. But every non-libertarian I’ve queried thinks it should be at least $10,000 per person per year. Even with a one-third flat tax, that implies that a family of four would have to make $120,000 a year before it paid $1 of taxes. This is pie in the sky.

But doesn’t the UBI give people their freedom? In some socialist sense, sure. But libertarianism isn’t about the freedom to be coercively supported by strangers. It’s about the freedom to be left alone by strangers.

If abolition of the welfare state is extremely unlikely and the UBI is worse than the status quo, does this mean libertarians should accept the welfare state as it is? Not at all. There’s a straightforward moderate path to a freer world: AUSTERITY. Cut benefits. Restrict eligibility. Remind the world of the great Forgotten Man: the taxpayer. We probably can’t convince the majority to end the welfare state. But “Welfare should be limited to genuinely poor people who can’t help themselves” has broad appeal – and unlike the UBI, it’s a clear step in the libertarian direction.

Reprinted from Library of Economics and Liberty.

Complete video of ISFLC’s UBI debate:

Bryan Caplan

Bryan Caplan

Bryan Caplan is a professor of economics at George Mason University, research fellow at the Mercatus Center, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and blogger for EconLog. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

Problem Solved: Asylum seekers streaming into Quebec to escape Trump order

The Canadian Border Security Agency says Quebec is now the flashpoint for “asylum seekers” or double refugees who first entered the U.S. as refugees and are now fleeing there and trying to sneak into Canada over fears that President Donald Trump will have them deported.

The asylum seekers are graciously accepting the warm welcome from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who responded to Trump’s ban by saying they were welcome to Canada.

Trudeau has not paid attention to the fateful, historic mistake Angela Merkel made in her once-enthusiastic welcome of refugees into Germany, which turned out to be disastrous for Germany and for her politically.

“Illegal Refugees Now Streaming Across Quebec-New York Border”, by David Krayden, Daily Caller, February 14, 2017:

Despite all the media reports of refugees illegally entering Canada from the U.S. at remote Manitoba crossings, more are actually getting through along the Quebec-New York border — and it can be just as cold as the temperatures reported along the prairies that have sometimes induced frostbite.

The Canadian Border Security Agency says Quebec is now the flashpoint for “asylum seekers” or double refugees who first entered the U.S. as refugees and are now fleeing there and trying to sneak into Canada over fears that President Donald Trump will have them deported.

The numbers speak for themselves, with 42 asylum claimants showing up at the Quebec border last weekend alone and 452 for January — a 230 percent increase from the year before.

RCMP spokesman Cpl Camille Habel told CBC News that he attributes the popularity of the Quebec border to its relative closeness to major U.S. cities like New York and Washington, D.C. and the fact that international airports are nearby.

“Bigger cities on each side can mean more people trying to cross here.”

The “refugees” are deliberately crossing illegally so they can bypass the Safe Third Country Agreement, which is supposed to prevent people seeking asylum from choosing more than one “safe” destination when the flee their country of origin. The U.S. and Canada are both considered safe under this international legislation. But, paradoxically, the act only applies at legal border crossings; so double refugees are crossing illegally in order avoid their official refugee status from being questioned.

But the agreement only holds at official border crossings, so people crossing illegally into Canada are able to apply for asylum here, even if they arrived in the U.S. first.

Julie Lessard, who specializes in business immigration law, told the CBC that the current illegal flow of refugee claimants that is spreading across the longest undefended border in the world is fast becoming the status quo….

RELATED ARTICLES:

U of Michigan: Muslim student who faked anti-Muslim hate crime won’t be charged

Robert Spencer: Answering an Islamic apologist (Part VI)

Honor The Earth: Trashing Capitalism in the Name of the Environment

honor the earth posterHonor The Earth (HTE) was established in 1993 by Winona LaDuke and the Indigo Girls music duo, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. LaDuke has served as the group’s executive director since its inception.

HTE’s twofold mission is to “create awareness and support for Native environmental issues,” and to “develop needed financial and political resources for the survival of sustainable Native communities.” Reasoning from the premise that capitalist economic policies are inherently harmful to the natural environment and to poor people, the organization maintains that “a sustainable world is predicated on transforming economic, social, and political relationships that have been based on systems of conquest, toward systems based on just relationships with each other and with the natural world.” Favoring a blend of socialism and radical environmentalism, HTE aims to “restor[e] a paradigm that recognizes our collective humanity and our joint dependence on the Earth.”

“With climate change quickly becoming a reality,” says HTE, “Indigenous peoples around the globe are feeling the [e]ffects of droughts, floods and other climate catastrophes.” To address these matters, the organization calls for the rapid development of “renewable energy” technologies in the form of wind and solar power, so as to “transform a highly inefficient and exploitative energy production system into one that is safe and clean, a transformation that would signify an era of energy justice.”

HTE condemns “the rise of a highly inefficient American industrial society on our lands,” a reference to mining enterprises in the heart of Anishinaabe territory in the Keewenaw Bay (an arm of Lake Superior) and the Mesabe Iron Range of Minnesota. Noting, in a similar vein, that the regions of Diné Bii Kaya, the Crow Nation, the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, and the Powder River Basin are “home to one-third of all western coal reserves,” HTE complains that “this land has been exploited for over fifty years for coal mining.” HTE also opposes the oil and gas extraction method known as fracking, because “methane and [other] dangerous materials are released” in the process, potentially “pollut[ing] the aquifers that sustain the life of our communities in a way that can’t be fixed.” Describing the United States as a “highly extractive” society whose “highly inefficient” energy policies have rendered the earth irreparably “scorched” and damaged, HTE “is interested in the transition from this destructive economy and way of life, back towards land-based economics,” where “intergenerational and inter-species equity are valued.”

HTE strongly opposes the construction and/or expansion of oil pipelines — some of which would pass through Indian reservations — in various places across North America. Most notable among the projects rejected by HTE are the Dakota Access Pipeline (from North Dakota to Illinois); the Sandpiper Pipeline (from North Dakota to Wisconsin); the Alberta Clipper Pipeline (from Alberta, Canada to Wisconsin); the Keystone XL Pipeline (from Alberta to Nebraska); and the MinnCann Pipeline (in Minnesota).

HTE claims that “there is an epidemic of sexual violence being perpetrated [by oil-industry workers] against indigenous women in the Great Lakes region, driven by extreme extraction in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and the Tar Sands of Alberta.” The “context” of “this epidemic,” says HTE, is America’s “history of colonization, genocide, and systemic violence against Indigenous peoples, which has always disproportionately affected women and girls.” To address the problem, HTE “is working with a coalition of women’s and Native American organizations to convene ongoing hearings and investigations.” As its first action, this coalition requested a formal intervention by the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Important past campaigns conducted by HTE include the following:

  • The “Standing Strong for Carbon Regulation in New Mexico” campaign sought to severely restrict the degree to which utility, oil, and gas companies – which were allegedly “taking advantage of New Mexico families, low-income families, and minority communities by poisoning the air” – could “bur[n] coal and other fossil fuels” and thereby “releas[e] mass amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air.” To address the matter, HTE supported a petition that had been filed before the Environmental Improvement Board, calling for a 25 percent reduction (by 2020) in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels.
  • The “Dooda Desert Rock” campaign aimed to prevent the construction of a proposed 1,500-megawatt mine-mouth plant in the Four Corners Region of the Navajo Reservation. By HTE’s telling, “Desert Rock would … emit 12.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, the primary greenhouse gas causing global warming. Along with greenhouse gases, the plant would emit pollutants associated with asthma, pulmonary disease, increased rates of heart attack and stroke and increased rates of birth defects and developmental delays.”
  • The “Stop The Tar Sands” campaign called for an end to the extraction of crude oil from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, on the premise that the extraction process was highly destructive to the environment and to public health. Said HTE: “The downstream Indigenous community of Ft. Chipewyan has unheard-of rates of rare cancers. The fish are not safe to eat, and the land is littered with toxic ponds and craters.”
  • The “Stop The Big Stone II Plant” campaign pressured the Otter Tail Power Company to withdraw its commitment to the construction of a proposed 580-megawatt coal-fired power plant called “Big Stone II” in South Dakota. By HTE’s telling, the plant’s coal emissions would inevitably “poison the air and water of the nearby Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate [tribes]”

RELATED ARTICLE: Winona LaDuke: Protecting “Mother Earth” with Identity Politics

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on Discover The Networks.

U.S. Ed Sec Betsy DeVos’ Letter to State Superintendents Re: ESSA State Plans

On Friday, February 10, 2017, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos sent to state superintendents a letter regarding the formulation of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans.

In short, she notes that the ESSA guidance composed under the direction of former US Ed Sec John King could be scrapped by Congress but that states should continue drafting plans knowing that any revised ESSA guide will include fewer requirements, not more.

In her February 10, 2017, letter, DeVos also offers what appears to be an olive leaf to Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) by specifically mentioning education of homeless youth, a major concern of Murray’s. (Prior to DeVos’ confirmation, Murray asked DeVos numerous questions in writing about the care of homeless youth; Murray also voted against DeVos’ confirmation.)

Below is the full text of DeVos’ letter, which can be found her among the US Department of Education (USDOE) press releases:

February 10, 2017

Dear Chief State School Officer:

Thank you for the important work you and stakeholders in your State are engaged in to develop new State plans and transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). I am writing today to assure you that I fully intend to implement and enforce the statutory requirements of the ESSA. Additionally, I want to provide you with an update on the timeline, procedures, and criteria under which a State Educational Agency (SEA) may submit a State plan, including a consolidated State plan, to the Department. States should continue to follow the timeline for developing and submitting their State plans to the Department for review and approval.

On November 29, 2016, the Department issued final regulations regarding statewide accountability systems and data reporting under Title I of the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA, and the preparation of State plans, including consolidated State plans. However, in accordance with the memorandum of January 20, 2017, from the Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff, titled “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review,” published in the Federal Register on January 24, 2017, the Department has delayed the effective date of regulations concerning accountability and State plans under the ESSA until March 21, 2017, to permit further review for questions of law and policy that the regulations might raise. Additionally, Congress is currently considering a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) (5 U.S.C. §§ 801- 808) to overturn these regulations. If a resolution of disapproval is enacted, these regulations “shall have no force or effect.”

In a Dear Colleague Letter dated November 29, 2016, the Department notified SEAs that it would accept consolidated State plans on two dates: April 3 or September 18, 2017. The Department also released a Consolidated State Plan Template that States were required to use if they submit a consolidated State plan. Due to the regulatory delay and review, and the potential repeal of recent regulations by Congress, the Department is currently reviewing the regulatory requirements of consolidated State plans, as reflected in the current template, to ensure that they require only descriptions, information, assurances, and other materials that are “absolutely necessary” for consideration of a consolidated State plan, consistent with section 8302(b)(3) of the ESEA. In doing so, the Department, in consultation with SEAs as well as other State and local stakeholders, will develop a revised template for consolidated State plans that meets the “absolutely necessary” requirement by March 13, 2017. The Department may also consider allowing a State or group of States to work together to develop a consolidated State plan template that meets the Department’s identified requirements through the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The regulatory delay and review, and the potential repeal of recent regulations by Congress, should not adversely affect or delay the progress that States have already made in developing their State plans and transitioning to the ESSA. The Department will be notifying States and the public of the revised template once it becomes available. In the meantime, States should continue their work in engaging with stakeholders and developing their plans based on the requirements under section 8302(b)(3) of the ESEA. In doing so, States may consider using the existing template as a guide, as any revised template will not result in descriptions, information, assurances, or other materials that States will be required to provide other than those already required under the ESEA. The Department will still accept consolidated State plans on April 3 or September 18, 2017.

For your reference, the following programs may be included in a consolidated State plan:

  • Title I, part A: Improving Basic Programs Operated by Local Educational Agencies;
  • Title I, part C: Education of Migratory Children;
  • Title I, part D: Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth Who Are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk;
  • Title II, part A: Supporting Effective Instruction;
  • Title III, part A: English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement Act;
  • Title IV, part A: Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants;
  • Title IV, part B: 21st Century Community Learning Centers; and
  • Title V, part B, subpart 2: Rural and Low-Income School Program.

In addition, pursuant to ESEA section 8302(a)(1)(B), I am designating the Education for Homeless Children and Youths program under subtitle B of title VII of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act as a program that may be included in an SEA’s consolidated State plan.

I appreciate the hard work and thoughtful attention you are giving to implementing the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA. I understand that a great deal of work has already gone into the planning and preparation of your State plans, whether that is a consolidated State plan or individual program plans. One of my main priorities as Secretary is to ensure that States and local school districts have clarity during the early implementation of the law. Additionally, I want to ensure that regulations comply with the requirements of the law, provide the State and local flexibility that Congress intended, and do not impose unnecessary burdens. In the near future, the Department will provide more information on its review of existing regulations, as well as additional guidance and technical assistance.

We have a unique opportunity as we implement the ESSA. I look forward to working with you, districts, and parents to ensure every child has the opportunity to pursue excellence and achieve their hopes and dreams.

Sincerely,

Betsy DeVos

When President Donald Trump first mentioned his $20 billion plan to expand school choice a la portability of funding, he included no indication of the exact origin of such funding. Some have speculated that both ESSA Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) would have to be defunded in the process.

Still, Trump could not divert the money without Congressional approval. And so far, given her letter included above, there is no indication from DeVos that any Congressional efforts at ESSA Title I defunding is in the works….

I take that back: See HR 610: Choices in Education Act of 2017:

Choices in Education Act of 2017

This bill repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and limits the authority of the Department of Education (ED) such that ED is authorized only to award block grants to qualified states.

The bill establishes an education voucher program, through which each state shall distribute block grant funds among local educational agencies (LEAs) based on the number of eligible children within each LEA’s geographical area. From these amounts, each LEA shall: (1) distribute a portion of funds to parents who elect to enroll their child in a private school or to home-school their child, and (2) do so in a manner that ensures that such payments will be used for appropriate educational expenses.

To be eligible to receive a block grant, a state must: (1) comply with education voucher program requirements, and (2) make it lawful for parents of an eligible child to elect to enroll their child in any public or private elementary or secondary school in the state or to home-school their child.

HR 610 would also allow states to feed kids less healthy food:

No Hungry Kids Act

The bill repeals a specified rule that established certain nutrition standards for the national school lunch and breakfast programs. (In general, the rule requires schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat free milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat in school meals; and meet children’s nutritional needs within their caloric requirements.)

HR 610 is an extreme bill. Whether it gets out of the House Committee of Education and the Workforce remains to be seen.

More likely, Trump and DeVos will issue a joint press release about a much more scaled-down version of a *competition* to entice states in the direction of portability of funding– a *Vouchers to the Top*, of sorts.

Keep your eyes on those USDOE press releases.

RELATED ARTICLE: #BLM Protester Who Assaulted DeVos from Entering School is Actually Afghani Refugee, Charged With Crime

Presidents Trump and Lincoln and Managing the Bureaucracies

President Abraham Lincoln knew what to do with an intransigent bureaucracy bent on sabotage.

Can the Presidency of the United States be sabotaged? The answer is a resounding yes!

The Democrats have without a doubt embarked upon a road to delay Presidential appointments and sabotage him and his agenda whenever and where ever it can. They sponsor mass hostile rallies, disinformation, misrepresentation and vilification in their arsenal and will and are using the Courts to derail the President’s agenda notwithstanding the damage it will do to the Country.

However the Federal bureaucracy is the most dangerous of all because it is is their financial interest to damage Trumps presidency. They fear Trump will reduce the size of government and its bureaucracy.

Politically the bureaucracy is overwhelming hostile to the President.


Presidents Trump and Lincoln and Managing the Bureaucracies

By Newt Gingrich and Allen Guelzo

Presidents Trump and Lincoln and Managing the BureaucraciesPresident Trump will soon discover that federal bureaucrats are far more hostile, destructive, and obstructionist than federal judges.

Ninety-five percent of federal bureaucrats’ donations were for Clinton (99 percent at the State Department, 97 percent at the Department of Justice), so it is clear there will be continuing resistance to President Trump’s policies.

And the intense hostility of the Left will encourage these pro-Clinton bureaucrats to feel noble about undermining and betraying the president.

Eventually, President Trump will be faced with a choice: either dramatically shrink his goals and accommodate the Left or learn from Abraham Lincoln and force bold, deep change on the bureaucracy.

Once he took office, Lincoln fired almost 80 percent of federal employees. This aggressiveness enabled him to replace pro-secession bureaucrats, who would have ensured the North lost the war, with pro-Union enthusiasts who helped him win.

Allen Guelzo, a Henry R. Luce professor of the Civil War era and the director of the Civil War Era Studies Program at Gettysburg College, has written on Lincoln’s experience. The Trump team should meet with Guelzo. He writes:

“Until the 1883 Pendleton Act every federal office-holder – from cabinet secretaries to postmasters – could be removed without cause or explanation by the president. And since federal appointments generally paid better than their private-sector equivalents, competition for these jobs was intense, and tended to be handed out as compensation for political services. In the 19th century, political parties did not command huge campaign chests of their own; political operatives worked largely in the expectation that their time and services would be paid-for by appointment to political office. That, in turn, meant that presidents guarded their appointment powers jealously, since dangling the prospect of federal jobs was the surest way of guaranteeing the loyalty of a political party’s ground-game.

“Lincoln was fully as willing to work the patronage lever when he became president. Lincoln’s White House staffer, William O. Stoddard, remembered that Lincoln hired and fired federal office-holders with dizzying energy. ‘I doubt if ever before there was so general displacement as at the beginning of Mr. Lincoln’s term.’ Partly, this was because patronage appointments remained the principal means of securing political loyalty. But it was also a matter of ‘draining the swamp.’ Lincoln, as the first Republican – and first anti-slavery – president, came to Washington after six decades of almost-uninterrupted Democratic dominance of the executive branch. Successive Democratic presidents, from Thomas Jefferson to James Buchanan, had stocked federal offices with pro-slavery Southern appointees who would not shrink from sabotaging the presidency of Lincoln, ‘the Black Republican.’

“As Stoddard explained, ‘the departments fairly swarmed with the family dependents and connections of the Southern political magnates who then, for so long a time, had controlled the dominant party.’ John Floyd, a Virginian who had been Secretary of War under Lincoln’s predecessor, had actually arranged to ship artillery and munitions to Southern arsenals before leaving office in the expectation that these could then be seized by Southern secessionists. But the possibility of betrayal from within was not limited to Southern Democratic appointees. ‘Many of the men from the North were strong Southern sympathizers,’ Stoddard explained, ‘and so accustomed were they to consider their offices their property that even avowed secessionists considered themselves bitterly injured when required to make way for more loyal men.’

“So, once in office in 1861, Lincoln did not hesitate to purge the executive branch of anything which hinted at disloyalty. Of the 1,520 executive branch positions immediately under Lincoln’s oversight, Lincoln fired 1,195 of their occupants, which amounted to ‘the most sweeping removal of federal officeholders in the country’s history up to that time.’ Lincoln especially ‘liked to provide for his friends, who were often remembered gratefully for services given him in his early struggles in life,’ wrote Noah Brooks, who was himself in line to receive a White House appointment at the time of Lincoln’s death. ‘Sometimes he would ‘break the slate,’ as he called it, of those who were making up a list of appointments, that he might insert the name of some old acquaintance who had befriended him in days when friends were few.’

“Lincoln also cast a keen eye on patronage appointments which were technically under the control of the Secretary of the Treasury and the Postmaster General. In August, 1861, Lincoln notified James Pollock, the director of the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, to find a job for an Illinois political operative at the mint. When Pollock hesitated, Lincoln tartly wrote to him:

My dear Sir, You must make a job of it, and provide a place for the bearer of this, Elias Wampole. Make a job of it with the Collector, and have it done. You can do it for me, and you must. Yours as ever, A. LINCOLN

“As Emanuel Hertz wrote in The Wizardry of Lincoln’s Political Appointments and Party Management, ‘Lincoln never abdicated his power of appointing and filing the appointive position in his administration. He had no general almoner or dispenser of patronage. He looked into every appointment himself and no matter how low were the fortunes of war he was always read to consider the strengthening of the party in one place or another by judicious distribution of patronage.’”

Within a month or two it will be clear that large elements of the federal bureaucracy are dedicated leftists who believe it is their duty to stop the Trump Administration and destroy it if possible.

The challenge to President Trump and his team is going to be real and unavoidable.

RELATED ARTICLES:

GOP senator: Don’t box Trump in on Russia

Battle over Trump nominee switches to new target

GOP shifting on immigration

RELATED VIDEO: How the Republican Party went from Lincoln to Trump

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of VOX.

ATF Associate Deputy Director Pens ‘White Paper’ on Reducing Needless Firearms Regulations

On Monday, the Washington Post reported on a “white paper” written by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Associate Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer Ronald Turk that outlines several changes that ATF could make to decrease the burdens placed on gun owners and the firearms industry while maintaining public safety. Titled “Options to Reduce or Modify Firearms Regulations” and dated January 20, 2017, the document covers a raft of issues that NRA has previously worked to address, and vindicates NRA’s long-held contentions about the dubious efficacy of many firearms regulations. While the white paper does fail to address some of the legitimate concerns of gun owners in certain areas, the majority of document should serve to inform ATF regulatory reform efforts moving forward.

The document correctly concludes that “There are many regulatory changes or modifications that can be made by or through ATF that would have an immediate, positive impact on commerce and industry without significantly hindering ATFs mission or adversely affecting public safety.” And to this end, the paper individually addresses a handful of areas where regulation could be curtailed.

[Click here to read “Options to Reduce or Modify Firearms Regulations” by ATF Associate Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer Ronald Turk.]

Sporting Purposes Test

Under 18 U.S.C. § 925(d), “The Attorney General shall authorize a firearm or ammunition to be imported or brought into the United States or any possession thereof if the firearm or ammunition… is generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.”

Infamously known as the “sporting purposes test,” this portion of federal law has been used as justification to prohibit the importation of certain types of firearms to the U.S. In 1989, President George H.W. Bush used the sporting purposes test to bar the importation of 43 types of semi-automatic rifles. Unsatisfied with the breadth of the Bush ban, President Bill Clinton used this provision to ban the importation of 58 additional types of semi-automatic rifles. The abuse of the law was so evident that Clinton White House staffer Jose Cerda remarked, “We are taking the law and bending it as far as we can to capture a whole new class of guns.”

In challenging the legitimacy of the current configuration of the sporting purposes test, the paper notes the increasing use of semi-automatic firearms in the modern shooting sports. Turk explains,

Since the sunset of the Assault Weapons ban in 2004, the use of AR-15s, AK-style, and similar rifles now commonly referred to as “modern sporting rifles” has increased exponentially in sport shooting. These firearm types are now standard for hunting activities. ATF could re-examine its almost 20-year-old study to bring it up to date with the sport shooting landscape of today, which is vastly different than what it was years ago. Action shooting sports and organizations such as 3 Gun and the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) have also drastically expanded in recent years. 

This would be a departure from ATF policy, which has historically dismissed the modern shooting sports when making sporting purposes determinations. As recently as July 2012, when ATF released an update to their “Study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns,” the agency rejected arguments by public commenters that practical shooting competitions should come within the definition of sporting purposes. Straining to deny the legitimate sporting uses of many semi-automatic shotguns, ATF compared the number of members of the United States Practical Shooting Association to the obviously much larger total number of licensed hunters in the U.S. The difference, ATF contended, showed that the modern shooting sports should have no bearing on determining whether a firearm is “suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.” Turk’s recognition of this folly is a welcome development.

The paper goes on to explain that the import bans do not advance a public policy goal. Turk notes, “Restriction on imports serves questionable public safety interests, as these rifles are already generally legally available for manufacture and ownership in the United States.”

Suppressors

In recent years, NRA has worked to roll back state laws that restrict the possession or use of suppressors. This, and advances in the industry, have led to something of a renaissance in the production and use of firearm suppressors. The increasing popularity of these devices, and their health benefits for shooters, has led NRA, pro-gun lawmakers, and even Donald Trump Jr., to lead an effort to remove suppressors from the registration and tax burdens imposed by the National Firearms Act.

It appears at least some in ATF acknowledge the benefits of suppressors and support their removal from the NFA. The white paper notes, “In the past several years, opinions about silencers have changed across the United States. Their use to reduce noise at shooting ranges and applications within the sporting and hunting industry are now well recognized.”

The paper goes on to explain the outmoded nature of the current regulation of suppressors and that  removing the devices from the NFA poses little public safety risk, as they are rarely used in crime. Turk notes, 

While DOJ and ATF have historically not supported removal of items from the NFA, the change in public acceptance of silencers arguably indicates that the reason for their inclusion in the NFA is archaic and historical reluctance to removing them from the NFA should be reevaluated. ATF’s experience with the criminal use of silencers also supports reassessing their inclusion in the NFA. On average in the past 10 years, ATF has only recommended 44 defendants a year for prosecution on silencer-related violations; of those, only approximately 6 of the defendants had prior felony convictions. Moreover, consistent with this low number of prosecution referrals, silencers are very rarely used in criminal shootings. Given the lack of criminality associated with silencers, it is reasonable to conclude that they should not be viewed as a threat to public safety necessitating NFA classification, and should be considered for reclassification under the [Gun Control Act]. 

FFL Reform

In 1993, President Bill Clinton directed the Treasury Department to further scrutinize Federal Firearms Licensees and applicants in order to reduce the overall number of firearms dealers. These efforts had the effect of significantly reducing the number of FFLs in the country, eliminating many small dealers who operated out of their homes.

The white paper contemplates efforts to loosen some of the business-related requirements for obtaining an FFL. The paper notes,

The marketplace has changed significantly in recent years, and ATF’s guidance to FFLs on these issues has not kept pace with developments in commerce. Classic “brick and mortar” storefronts with an on-hand inventory and set “front-door” business hours often no longer apply in today’s modern marketplace.

This, Turk explains, “would have no negative impact to public safety” and – in his view – might have salutary effects, as it “would encourage more sales and business through a licensee.”

Further, Turk discusses permitting FFLs to conduct sales at gun shows outside of the state in which they are licensed. Permitting such sales, Turk argues, “would have no detrimental effect on public safety.”

Pistol Stabilizing Braces

In recent years firearm owners have increasingly made use of products like Sig Sauer’s SBX or SB15 pistol stabilizing brace. A boon to disabled shooters, the ATF has approved such items for use on pistols. However, in January 2015, ATF issued an open letter explaining that,

[a]ny person who intends to use a handgun stabilizing brace as a shoulder stock on a pistol (having a rifled barrel under 16 inches in length or a smooth bore firearm with a barrel under 18 inches in length) must first file an ATF Form 1 and pay the applicable tax because the resulting firearm will be subject to all provisions of the NFA.

According to ATF’s convoluted logic,

“[b]ecause the NFA defines both rifle and shotgun to include any “weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder,” any person who redesigns a stabilizing brace for use as a shoulder stock makes a NFA firearm when attached to a pistol with a rifled barrel under 16 inches in length or a handgun with a smooth bore under 18 inches in length.”

In challenging this interpretation of the law, the white paper points out, “ATF has not made another NFA determination where a shooter’s use alone was deemed be a ‘redesign’ of the product/firearm resulting in an NFA classification.” Turk also suggests that,

To mitigate this confusion and concern, ATF could amend the determination letter to remove the language indicating that simple use of a product for a purpose other than intended by the manufacturer – without additional proof or redesign – may result in re-classification as an NFA weapon.

Re-importation of Defense Surplus Firearms

Longtime NRA supporters will be familiar with the long-running effort to repatriate tens of thousands of M1 Garand rifles and hundreds of thousands of M1 carbines from South Korea. NRA has repeatedly worked with our friends in Congress to promote a legislative remedy that would allow for these firearms to be brought home for the benefit of American collectors.

In 2010, Hillary Clinton’s State Department blocked the importation of these rifles, citing public safety concerns. At the time, a State Department spokesperson commented that “The transfer of such a large number of weapons — 87,310 M1 Garands and 770,160 M1 Carbines — could potentially be exploited by individuals seeking firearms for illicit purposes.”

Rejecting this rationale, the paper notes,

There is no clear public safety reason why taxpayer-funded US-origin C&R defense articles should be denied re-importation to the American public, while many non-U.S.- origin C&R items are approved. Additionally, these items do not represent any discernable public safety concern, as demand lies with collectors of vintage military firearms.

Turk also points out,

Many M1 Garand rifles have been approved for importation in the past, setting precedence for this to occur. The more recent denials were in part due to perceived potential that they may be used in crimes, for which there is little, if any, evidence for such a concern.

Firearms Registration

As with most government products, the ATF white paper is not perfect. The document is a bit too dismissive of the concerns of gun owners and dealers regarding some firearm transfer recordkeeping requirements.

In 2011, President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice announced a firearm transfer reporting scheme, the purported purpose of which was to combat Mexican drug cartels. The measure requires gun dealers in the Southwest border states to report to ATF information pertaining to the multiple sale of rifles that are larger than .22-caliber and able to accept a detachable magazine that are made to a single individual within a five-day period. Turk appears to approve of this effort, claiming that it has some beneficial use.

First, regardless of any perceived value the reporting requirement may have, the scheme is a blatant perversion of federal law. Permitting ATF to operate this demand letter scheme allows the agency to circumvent important safeguards in 18 U.S.C. § 923(g) that are meant to protect FFLs from agency harassment. Further, 18 U.S.C. § 923(g)(3)(A) requires FFLs to report multiple sales of handguns to a single buyer within five consecutive days. That Congress did not impose this same requirement for multiple rifle sales makes clear that they did not intend to burden rifle transactions in this manner.

Second, for those who have made lawful purchases of this type, the reporting requirement amounts to gun registration. This scheme not only creates significant privacy concerns for gun owners in the Southwest border states, but also circumvents 18 U.S.C. § 926(a), which prohibits the federal government from creating a firearms registry.

Overall, Turk’s ATF white paper is an important contribution to the development of a more intelligent firearms regulation regime, informed by actual experience in administering ATF regulations. Unsurprisingly, gun control groups, who have little knowledge of how firearms regulations work in practice and are unconcerned with the efficacy of a given rule aside from its ability to burden gun owners and the firearms industry, have been vocal in their condemnation of the paper. ATF should ignore such reflexive comments to this well-considered document and move forward with efforts to free gun owners, the firearms industry, and the agency from regulations that serve no public interest.

VIDEO: In A World Of Runaway Judges — ‘Checks and Balances’ Cut Both Ways

Dinesh D’Sousa in an email writes:

Why is there so much pushback against Trump’s immigration executive order? Instead of using a simple test of constitutionality on the E.O., a federal judge struck down the order on the grounds that there was no “rational basis” for it. But my question for this judge is this: who is in a better position to decide the “rationality” of an executive action—a judge, or the president who gets national security briefings?

[ … ]

If the judiciary is supposed to be a check on executive overreach, the executive branch is also supposed to be a check on judicial overreach. Sorry, but checks and balances cut both ways. I guess someone has to tell Soros’ hoards of paid rioters.

Here is Mr. D’Sousa being interview by Brian Kilmeade on the need for checks and balances:

FLASHBACK: Remembering the African family reunification MORATORIUM that began in 2008

Someone reminded me that in all of the yakking about the power of the President when it comes to determining which refugees (how many and from where) entering the U.S., the U.S. State Department in 2008 halted all family reunification (the so-called P-3 program) from Somalia and a few other African countries.  Why?

Random DNA testing found widespread FRAUD.  The so-called family members were lying about who was family!

Over 20,000 African ‘refugees’ are believed to have entered the U.S. fraudulently in a period beginning in October 2003 and ending when the fraud was uncovered in 2008. They claimed family relationships that were found to be false.

They were making up “ghost children.”
somalis-in-mn

We first saw the news at the Wall Street Journal in 2008, here.  Then we followed the drama as the refugee contractors (among others) tried to stop the State Department from requiring DNA tests for all family reunification.

Here is a post I wrote in 2015 with several important links to follow to understand what happened leading up to the FOUR YEAR moratorium on Somalis being able to apply for their ‘family’ members to join them in your home towns!

For ambitious readers, click here for one of my earliest posts in 2008 with updates.

Be sure to read the fact sheet published by the DOS at the time (you will see it in its entirety here).

In recent years, applications to the P-3 program have been overwhelmingly African – primarily Somalis, Ethiopians and Liberians – accounting for some 95% of the P-3 applications.

Then this:

The rate of fraud discovered varies among nationalities and from country to country, and is difficult to establish definitively as many individuals refused to submit DNA samples. We were, however, only able to confirm all claimed biological relationships in fewer than 20% of cases (family units). The remainder contained at least one negative result (fraudulent relationship) or refused to be tested.

This is what I said based on the numbers:

95% of immigrants using this program are from Africa.  36,000 alone came in the years since 2003 and as high (or higher!) than 80% of those are most likely here illegally.

As far as we know none of the fraudulent entrants were identified and removed.
The President through his Department of State does have the power to selectively block certain ethnic groups from entering the US.

I followed the issue closely and I never saw the mainstream media question the Administration’s right to stop these groups of so-called ‘refugees.’

RELATED ARTICLES: 

On refugee numbers permitted entry, Trump is on firm ground, he can stop resettlement now for this fiscal year

Sanctuary Cities Targeted by Trump Receive Billions in Federal Funds

Leftover Obama Refugee Deal With Australia Draws Questions

EXCLUSIVE: House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs Committee Members Compromised By Rogue IT Staff

Going to Canada! African failed asylum seekers passing through Minnesota to get to border

EDITORS NOTE: To read the U.S. Department of State archive on the African refugee fraud finding click here.

Law Center Defends North Carolina Law Preserving Religious Freedom

The Thomas More Law Center (“TMLC”), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI, and its affiliated attorney B. Tyler Brooks of Millberg Gordon Stewart PLLC in Raleigh, NC, filed an amicus curia (friend of the court) brief defending the right of state magistrates to opt out of performing marriages based on religious objections.  The religious accommodation was contained in North Carolina’s Senate Bill 2, which was passed in 2015 shortly before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage throughout the nation.

Under the North Carolina law, magistrates may recuse themselves from performing all marriages and thereby avoid violating their sincerely held religious beliefs.  The law also requires the state to ensure that any couple desiring to wed has access to a magistrate who performs marriages.  Additionally, it created an exemption allowing county register of deeds employees to opt out of issuing marriage licenses.

TMLC’s affiliated attorney, B. Tyler Brooks, commented:

“If we are to have a truly tolerant society, government employers must possess the legal ability to accommodate the religious beliefs of their employees.  Here, even though there is no allegation that this law has prevented any couple from marrying, the plaintiffs are nonetheless fighting to have the federal courts nullify a state legislature’s carefully crafted religious accommodation.”

The lawsuit resulting in the appeal was filed in March 2016 by three couples, including two same-sex couples, against Marion Warren, the Director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts.  In their complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that the religious accommodations contained in the state law violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.  Federal District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr., however, dismissed the case on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked the “standing” required to bring the lawsuit.  The plaintiffs then appealed to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA.

In its brief supporting Marion Warren before the Fourth Circuit, the Thomas More Law Center argues that this attack on reasonable religious accommodations constitutes a full assault on the ability of persons of faith to obtain and maintain employment with governmental entities and agencies.  The case could even result in an undermining of all religious accommodation laws if the court of appeals revives the suit, thereby further silencing Christians and banishing them from the public square.

The amicus brief filed by TMLC acknowledges that all too often in modern America “the law is used as a bludgeon to punish those who refuse to express ideas inimical to their faith” as various forms of litigation and laws have targeted everything from Catholic hospitals to adoption services and homeless shelters because of their religious teachings, making the need to stop the assault on religious freedom all the more imperative.

Read TMLC’s full brief here.

TMLC Logo(1)ABOUT THE THOMAS MORE LAW CENTER

The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life.  It supports a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America.  The Law Center accomplishes its mission through litigation, education, and related activities.  It does not charge for its services.  The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization.  You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at www.thomasmore.org.

Trump Protects U.S. — World Enraged

President Trump’s executive orders to build a Mexican border wall and to place a temporary ban on immigration from seven hotbeds of jihad terror have the national and international Left — and its jihadi allies — in an uproar.

How dare he move to protect American citizens?

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said, during a meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, that both countries were “concerned” about Trump’s immigration policies:

Welcoming refugees who are fleeing war is part of our duty … his decision can only cause us concern.

A “duty”? According to whom? Wasn’t protecting Ayrault’s own citizens from jihad terrorists known to be entering France among the “refugees” his duty? All of the jihadis who murdered 130 people in Paris in November 2015 had just entered Europe as refugees.

France apparently found jihad less distasteful than vetting refugees; France now has the option it chose.

Mayor Michael Müller of Berlin pontificated:

We Berliners know better than most the pain caused when a whole continent is split by barbed wire and walls. … I call on the president of the USA not to go down that road to isolation and ostracism.

Müller’s statement has been widely circulated and greeted with joy — among the clueless Left, which is acting as if it opposed the Berlin Wall when it was up. They did not.

Remember?

Ronald Reagan declared: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”, and they recoiled in horror.

For the young leftist millennials, apparently there wasn’t time in high school to learn about East Germany. They were instead learning the U.S. was founded by white male slave-owners and has a history of oppression, racism, and imperialism. Today’s self-righteous Left largely doesn’t know or care that the Berlin Wall was constructed by a totalitarian Leftist government to keep people in, not out.

The mayor of Berlin — he, of all people, should know better — is putting globalist Leftism above the safety of his own people.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani jumped in on the phony Berlin Wall theme, too. Rouhani tweeted:

Let’s help neighboring cultures, not build walls between nations. Let’s not forget what happened to the #BerlinWall.

Unlike the Berlin Wall, Trump’s wall is simply a national security initiative. Perhaps Rouhani, whose regime has ordered its citizens to chant “Death to America” every week in their mosques, shouldn’t have helped create a security threat. With his tweet, note that Rouhani has an obvious vested interest in opposing any step the U.S. takes to defend its citizens.

According to CNN, Iran says it now will:

… ban all U.S. citizens from entering the country in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order limiting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Who else already had a Spring Break flight booked to Tehran? Guess I’ll hit my second choice, Mogadishu.

While Iran has a great history, as I explain in my book The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran is so repressive and authoritarian — and so hostile to the United States — that American citizens would be foolish to go there.

People who have family in Iran will be hit by Iran’s ban, and that is unfortunate. But there is a grown-up choice to make here — we’re choosing between death and inconvenience. We can inevitably admit terrorists to the United States, or we can inconvenience good people for a temporary period. France chose the former.

Others to be hard-hit by Iran’s new ban are the likes of Carl Ernst, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill pseudo-academic. His work on Islam is so whitewashed, so fawningly apologetic, so complete in its denial of the jihad doctrine and Sharia oppression, that he was given an award in 2008 by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — the genocidal anti-Semite who was at that time president of Iran.

Ernst happily flew to Tehran to accept. The incident was emblematic of how much American academia has degenerated.

The Iranian government’s statement said Trump’s ban was “an obvious insult to the Islamic world and in particular to the great nation of Iran.” Why is it an “obvious insult to the Islamic world” when the U.S. takes steps to defend itself from jihad terrorism? Because any defensive move taken by a non-Muslim entity is always seized upon by Islamic supremacists and jihadis as food for propaganda, which they produce when calling the defensive move an “unprovoked” act of aggression….

Read the rest here.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Hugh Fitzgerald: “I’m a Muslim — Ask Me Anything,” Answers 1-6

Dubai’s Head of Security: “We completely support Trump in ban on entry to those who may cause breach in America’s security”

RELATED VIDEO: Is Muslim Brotherhood Organizing Travel Ban Protests? CNN video of “Travel Ban” protest organizers exposes those who are sympathetic to Muslim Brotherhood.