AOC: Reduced Aid to Israel “On the Table”

Apparently Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez along with members of the Democrat Socialist Caucus (the Democratic Party) are considering and pushing forward an agenda to reduce aid to Israel the only Democratic ally the U.S. has in the region. According to AOC reduced aid is “on the table.”

Question: Where are the moderates in the Democratic Party?

Who is in control?

AOC: Reduced Aid to Israel ‘On the Table’ After Netanyahu’s Re-election

By Theodore Bunker for NewsMax

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on Sunday decried the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent victory as part of “the ascent of authoritarianism across the world.”

In an interview with Yahoo News’ podcast “Skullduggery,” the congresswoman said that Netanyahu’s re-election should affect American policy on Israel.

“I think these are part of conversations we are having in our caucus, but I think what we’re really seeing is the ascent of authoritarianism across the world,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I think that Netanyahu is a Trump-like figure, and I think that we — there are so many ways to approach this issue. Betty McCollum even has a proposal that she’s advanced asking the us not to fund child detention, Israeli child detention of Palestinian children. There’s different ways to signal it. I would hope and wish that a diplomatic approach could impact policy.”

Co-host Daniel Klaidman asked if she would “be in favor of reducing military or economic aid to Israel?”

The congresswoman said that reducing aid is “certainly on the table, and I think it’s something that can be discussed, and I think that—and I also acknowledge my role in in this as well in that I hope to play a facilitating role in this conversation and a supportive role in this conversation…

Read more.

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The Destruction of Citizen Cain

In 2016, black businessman extraordinaire, Herman Cain terminated his run for the presidency due to allegations of sexual misconduct. Cain chose to protect his family from the humiliation of enduring leftists’ attempt to destroy a black conservative Republican.

It is unfortunate that negative press was many black Americans’ national introduction to Herman Cain. When Cain dropped out of the presidential race, his accusers magically disappeared. Now that Trump has chosen Cain for the Federal Reserve Board, the allegations have resurfaced to block his appointment.

Folks, we can not continue allowing leftists to hypocritically use this tactic to disqualify good people. When president Bill Clinton was committing adultery by receiving oral sex and using cigars as sex toys with an 18 year old intern in the White House, Democrats and fake news media said, “So what? That is Clinton’s private life which is none of our business.” In response to credible women accusing Clinton of sexual abuse including rape, leftists branded the women trailer-trash sluts and liars. Let us not forget the Bimbo Eruption Squad headed by Hillary Clinton purposed to destroy all the women who might go public with their sexual misconduct encounters with Bill Clinton. 

To minimize president Clinton’s serial sexual misconduct, Democrats and fake news media claimed any man in Clinton’s position would behave the same way he did; receiving oral sex and so on. Fake news media and Democrat late night TV comics destroyed Ken Starr who was assigned to investigate Clinton’s lies and sexual misconduct. Starr was branded a sex obsessed pervert.

Hypocritically, Democrats and fake news media are claiming Herman Cain is unfit for the Federal Reserve based on unsubstantiated allegations which pale in comparison to those against their beloved president Clinton.

Clearly, there is a double standard. Democrats are permitted to live lives of debauchery. Republicans must live saintly lives or be deemed unfit for public service by fake news media. Remember fake news medias’ absurd narrative that Republican Mitt Romney was unfit to be president because he may have bullied a fellow student in high school?

In truth, none of us have lived perfect lives. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But praise God, people can and do change. Moses murdered a man. King David murdered a man and stole his wife. After paying dearly for their sin (crimes), Moses and David changed. Rahab was a prostitute who changed. Moses, David and Rahab were used mightily by God.

Fake news media and Democrats pretending to be concerned about women is extremely repulsive. They seek to exploit women the same way they exploit blacks to further their socialist, progressive, anti-Christian and anti-American agendas.

For example: Women pay a huge longtime devastating emotional and physical price for abortions. And yet, Democrats danced in celebration over passing a new law to abort babies on their date of birth. Shockingly evil, Democrats are seeking to legalize murdering babies even after they are born. Is this the behavior of a political party that champions women?

Sharia Law abuses and suppresses women. It condones beatings, honor-killings and rape in certain circumstances. So, why are Democrats aggressively pushing Sharia Law in America?

My wife Mary watches the TV show, “Counting On” which features the Duggar family. I caught a Duggars’ wedding. I was immediately struck by the overwhelming respect for the young bride shown by her father, her groom and every man at the wedding. She was a princess, presented to her husband as a precious gift from God to be loved, honored and cherished. Such wholesomeness is an anathema to Democrats and fake news media; repulsive as showing Dracula the cross.

Democrats’ and fake news medias’ modern-sexually-liberated-woman has had numerous abortions or appeared on the Maury Povich TV show for a DNA test to discover which of her irresponsible 27 sperm donors is the father of her baby (which Democrats and fake news media wish she had aborted). Which mindset is most respectful of women, the Duggars’ or Democrats’ and fake news medias’?

Democrats and fake news media seek to destroy all successful blacks with a platform to instruct black youths; stop blaming whitey, get an education, work hard, make right choices and you can achieve your American dreams. America is the greatest land of opportunity on the planet for all who choose to go for their dreams. Period.

Herman Cain’s extraordinary success proves that the American Dream is available to all Americans; dismantling Democrats’ and fake news medias’ lie that white America schemes 24/7 to keep blacks down. Cain was elected CEO of the National Restaurant Association because he is excellent, rather than a racist leftist mindset of putting the-poor-inferior-black-guy in charge.

Herman Cain on the Federal Reserve would dispel the lie that Trump is racist. Cain would inspire black youths to thrive for excellence rather than affirmative action and government forcing standards to be lowered. My late dad won “Firefighter of the Year” two times in the 1950s without any special concessions or lowered standards because he was black.

Democrats and fake news media have decreed that Herman Cain is an uppity negro who must be taken down, his black derriere wrestled back to their Liberalism Plantation where he belongs.

VIDEO: DivestU

It’s no longer a secret that many college campuses today are nothing more than leftist indoctrination camps. But what can we do about it? Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, offers a simple and effective solution.

RELATED ARTICLE: There’s Rampant Academic Fraud

EDITORS NOTE: This video was made possible by a generous grant from Colorado Christian University. Learn more at PragerU.com/CCU.

TRANSCRIPT

Year after year, Americans pour billions of dollars into colleges and universities.

I’m not talking about the outrageous tuition costs, living expenses, and fees – the debt pit students fall into. And I’m not talking about the tax money – our money – colleges and universities get from federal and state governments. I’m talking about the money Americans are handing over to these institutions of their own free will.

In 2017, that number was $44 billion. $44 billion in donations in one year from alumni and other donors. And for what? To enhance the education of America’s youth?

Do you really think our college graduates are better educated, more literate, more versed in classical philosophy and American history than they were ten, twenty, or fifty years ago?

If your child goes to college and spends four years partying, skipping class, and playing video games, consider yourself lucky. It’s when they actually listen to their radical professors that you’re in trouble.

So what have our institutions been doing with all this money?

Well, the University of Michigan’s Vice Provost of Equity and Inclusion makes $400,000 a year. The university spends close to eleven million dollars annually on diversity and inclusion staff and programs, according to a recent report.

What do you think Vice Provosts of Equity and Inclusion (and almost all schools have one now) do all day? They, and the small armies they supervise, spend all day, every day, looking for racism, sexism, classism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia and any other phobias they can dream up. If they don’t find some bias somewhere, they’re out of a job. So, guess what? They find it – even where it doesn’t exist.

The University of California at Santa Cruz now has an “activist-in-residence.” His job is to mint new leftist activists – as if we have a shortage.

Why are we voluntarily giving billions and billions of dollars to hopelessly corrupt institutions that overcharge, underdeliver and undermine the most basic values of Western Civilization? We should be starving this beast. Instead, we’re feeding it.

Are there exceptions to this rule? Colleges that are actually dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom? Of course, there are – and they are worthy of your financial support. But you can count them on two hands. The rest have a different mission. And they have more than enough coin to carry it out.

The aforementioned University of Michigan has an endowment of 12 billion dollars. But that’s small potatoes compared to Yale’s $30 billion or Harvard’s $40 billion. And donors keep giving them more.

It’s time to stop.

You’d be better throwing your money into a bonfire. That’s just a waste. But when you donate to your average university, you’re actually hurting your society.

You’re the reason kids – maybe your kids – are coming home:

• Loving socialism and hating free market capitalism; • Believing male and female don’t objectively exist; • Excusing rockets being shot into Israel, then blaming Israel for defending itself; • Romanticizing Che Guevara and reviling George Washington; • And dismissing America, arguably the most decent country ever created, as racist, genocidal, imperialist, white-supremacist, hate-filled, and misogynistic.

Your children are being fed a steady diet of this nihilism in grade school, middle school, and high school. But they have to come home for dinner every night.

College is where the leftist deal is sealed. They’re free of your influence and under the sway of their leftist professors and leftist peers.

Stop supporting institutions that don’t support your values; that, in fact, despise your values. And, believe me, they despise you when you’re back is turned. The only thing they love about you is your money.

Oh, you might say, I would never give money for all that diversity, equity, and inclusion nonsense! I designate my donations to the business school or the medical center. If you think that, you’re fooling yourself. Money is fungible. You can designate it for anything you want, but you can’t control what the university does with it.

I travel around the country every week trying to rescue kids from the leftist cult that is college. It’s bad enough that I have to battle administrators, professors, and leftist student bodies. I shouldn’t have to fight you, too.

College has become a big business. Most indoctrinate rather than educate. The best way to force them to change is to take away their cash. Your cash. Start today.

I’m Charlie Kirk, founder and president of Turning Point USA, for Prager University.

VETO!

Fox News published the below comments and video titled “Trump signs first veto of his presidency | Full Remarks” on it YouTube channel:

President Trump delivers remarks and issues his first veto on legislation attempting to strike down his declaration of a national emergency at the southern border.

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The “Angel of Death” for Unions is Socialism

“I favor the public ownership of utilities, banks and major industries.” – Bernie Sanders, Burlington Free Press, October 1976.


On August 19, 2013 I wrote a column titled “The decline and fall of America’s unions” stating,

The “angel of death” for unions is progressivism, its primary weapon is big government bureaucrats, the anti-union soldiers.

I felt the need to update this column to help working class trade union members understand that the end is nearer than even I expected.

The “angel of death” is at your front door and her name is “socialism.”

The big government bureaucrats have unionized and have become the anti-union soldiers bent on destroying all other trade unions.

As political power becomes more centralized there is an irreversible decline in the power of unions. It is a cause and effect that cannot be denied or stopped.

Green New Deal

The Green New Deal takes away two key powers that make trade unions important to middle class workers, their power to negotiate wages and benefits.

In a column titled “The True Meaning of That Green New Deal” Lee Edwards writes:

Sponsors of the Green New Deal—including Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.—list these goals: Phase out conventional fuels (that is, oil, natural gas, and coal) by 2030, only a decade from now; implement a federal jobs guarantee; retrofit all U.S. buildings; overhaul transportation with high-speed rail; and provide universal health care. [Emphasis added]

If you have a federal jobs guarantee and universal healthcare then why have any trade union? If everyone works for the government then the only union that matters is the union representing the bureaucrats, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in its 2019 Union Members Summary report notes:

The union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.9 percent) continued to be more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.4 percent).

If the Green New Deal becomes law then blacks will be harmed most as they are “more likely to be union members than White, Asian, or Hispanic workers” according to BLS.

As some point even public-sector workers like teachers and SEIU members will also lose their ability to negotiate salary and benefits. These public sector unions will slowly fade away.

Angels of Death

Oleg Atbashian, a citizen of the former Soviet Union, in his book Shakedown Socialism writes, “Union perks mean nothing when there is nothing left to redistribute. The Soviets learned it the hard way. The American unions don’t seem to be able to learn from the mistakes of others.”

The example of Poland’s Solidarnosc, an independent union that spearheaded the overthrow of the oppressive Communist regime in 1989.  Why? Because, “…Current [union] perks can only exist in a free and competitive economy that ensures growth and generates wealth – known as ‘capitalist exploitation’ in the lingo of the champions of ‘redistributive justice’.”

Unions are only relevant if they retain their control to collectively bargain for wages and benefits in a free and competitive economy. If the government takes over this role, as it did workplace safety with OSHA, then unions are doomed.

The angels of death for trade unions are: Medicare for All, The Minimum Wage and Green New Deal. Socialist programs pushed by the Socialist Democrats.

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Venezuela’s Road To Disaster Is Littered with Chinese Debt

I barely need to reiterate what you already know: the close links that exist between our people and the people of Venezuela and Hugo Chavez, the promoter of the Bolivarian Revolution and the United Socialist Party he founded. Fidel Castro. When you see people starving in Venezuela and fleeing into neighboring countries and realize that this is a country that once had the world’s largest oil reserves, you realize that they’ve ruined a very good prospect with ideas that sounded good but didn’t turn out well.   – Thomas Sowell

We’re in a global war, facing an enemy alliance that runs from Pyongyang, North Korea, to Havana, Cuba, and Caracas, Venezuela. – General Michael T. Flynn

Venezuela sits at the northern tip of South America with Columbia on the west and Guyana on the east.  The country is collapsing. The constant blackouts have put hundreds of patients at risk and many have already died, food is rotting, and water is at a shortage. According to media reports, schoolchildren and oil workers have begun passing out from hunger, and sick Venezuelans have scoured veterinary offices for medicine. Link  Malaria, measles, and diphtheria have returned with a vengeance. The country’s infrastructure is falling apart along with their decaying power grid, and telecommunication networks have collapsed.

America has offered humanitarian aid, but Maduro has rejected it.  He is taking his cues from communist Havana.  Unfortunately, Venezuela never diversified; oil dominates their exports and government revenue and barrel prices of oil are down.

With Venezuela’s collapse, Maduro is begging Beijing; China’s price will be high as Venezuela’s debt to them is already in the billions.  Xi Jinping needs a presence of power that encourages foreign governments to believe they should play ball with Beijing, not Washington. And that means China’s increased military presence around the world, and what better place than Venezuela or one of her islands in the southern Caribbean.

Would Maduro risk U.S. ire by allowing Chinese basing rights? I think so. Maduro is already increasing his rhetoric against Washington and has repeatedly threatened Colombia. At the same time, the Venezuelan leader knows the U.S. and its allies believe he is an irredeemable despot: They want no part of a rapprochement with his regime.

Xi Jinping, Putin and Maduro

The Venezuelan and Chinese economies seem like they could hardly have less in common. The government of Nicolas Maduro has looted the state-run oil monopoly company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) to pay for the “Bolivarian revolution,” the socialist movement under the late leader Hugo Chavez. Eleven billion has been stolen from PDVSA in a decade.

With oil prices down, the country is unable even to repair rigs or pay workers to generate income, and the government now faces the prospect of a mass uprising. Meanwhile, half a globe away, China’s gleaming malls stand in stark contrast to Venezuela’s empty shelves.

But Venezuela’s ruinous state has more to do with China than one would think, specifically, with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plan for expanding China’s global influence through financial diplomacy.

Thanks to a malevolent dictatorship pushing disastrous economic policies aided by another communist benefactor willing to extend near bottomless credit, the country is at collapse. This same toxic mix is present throughout many of the countries receiving large amounts of Chinese lending under China’s Belt and Road Initiative.  China provides large amounts of ruinous lending that pushes developing countries to financial ruin.  The Belt and Road Initiative scheme isn’t offering concessionary lending or international aid but market-based lending rates with high-interest loans. The borrower countries then have to use Chinese firms, inputs, and workers to build out their railways and ports. The Chinese firms are third rate at best.

Since the economic shift in Venezuela, up to 5 million Venezuelans are estimated to have left the country crossing the border mostly to Columbia, while inflation in Venezuela hovers around 1 million percent.

According to a UN report, about 90 percent of the population lives in poverty. The country’s oil revenue is at its lowest in three decades.

America Supports Opposition Leader Juan Guaido

The two communist countries of China and Russia have kept Venezuela afloat by lending billions to the economically crippled petrostate, sometimes with cheap oil thrown in as a sweetener for the two creditors.  “Not only are they getting oil, but they’ve also gained access to pretty good acreage in Venezuela,” said Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

Those deals were struck with President Maduro, whose leadership is facing a serious challenge from Juan Guaido, and it’s not clear what happens to that debt if Maduro is kicked out of office.  America would like to see Guaido take over the country, and apparently so would the Venezuelan people.  However, Russia and China are working in and out of the shadows, complicating U.S. efforts to foster change.

Venezuela is indebted to external creditors by a total of something close to $100 billion.  Yet, the socialist state is home to the largest oil reserves on the planet, but endemic corruption has devastated its economy. Beijing and Moscow have helped the country stave off collapse by repeatedly extending financial lifelines — to the tune of tens of billions of dollars over the last decade.

Maduro’s re-election last year was marred by charges of widespread vote-rigging, vote-buying, and other irregularities, but more fundamentally it failed to meet constitutional requirements. As such, Guaido, due to his role as head of the National Assembly, appears to be the legitimate president.

Guaido has been recognized by the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and a slew of European countries.

China and Russia Support Maduro

Juan Guaido is not recognized by either China or Russia. They back Maduro to the hilt because they have much to lose if his leftist government falls. From 2007 to 2014, China lent Venezuela $63 billion — 53 percent of all its lending to Latin America during this time. Of that amount, somewhere between $10-$25 billion remains outstanding to China and Russia’s state-backed oil company Rosneft is owed another $2.3 billion, excluding interest.

There was an important catch to this largesse; to guarantee repayment, Beijing insisted on being repaid in oil, but when oil dropped to $30 a barrel in 2016, this caused Venezuela’s price tag for serving its debt to explode. To repay Beijing, Venezuela must now ship two barrels of oil for every single barrel it originally agreed to.  Chavez’ 2002-2003 purge of 25,000 skilled oil workers at PDVSA resulted in massive problems.  As well, reinvestment in the fields and help from foreign oil firms was gone.  Venezuela struck it poor.

Venezuela’s mother lode, the Orinoco heavy oil belt, holds more than a trillion barrels of tarlike bitumen, which makes it much more difficult to extract because when it comes out of the ground, it’s almost solid and cannot flow through pipelines.  It then needs to be upgraded to something resembling liquid oil before sale. Doing all that takes the kind of cash and sophisticated know-how PDVSA lacked at the time.

The heavy oil needs chemicals, diluting agents such as naphtha, to turn into a lighter substance that can eventually be exported. Sanctions include a ban on US firms exporting these agents to Venezuela.

Military Advantages

“Russia and China are using Venezuela as a proxy conflict to challenge the U.S. This is more than just economic support. Russia and China are leveraging its economic support to establish a military-industrial presence in Venezuela,” Joseph Humire, executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society, an independent global research group, told Fox News.

China and Russia maintain crucial military facilities in the country, such as China’s satellite-tracking facility inside the Capitan Manuel Rios Air Base in Guarico, while Russia has a cyber presence at the Naval Base Antonio Diaz “Bandi” in La Orchilla, an island north of Caracas.  Link

According to one U.S. intelligence and defense official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, the threat of “asymmetric warfare” looms large as the Venezuelan crisis deepens – especially given Russia’s supply of arms and equipment to its Venezuela ally. “Maduro still sits on the largest proven oil reserves in the world. That’s the grand prize. China could say that the more Venezuela becomes a pariah, the cheaper they want it,” noted the intelligence insider. “And the more leverage Russia then has to build a bigger base in the Western Hemisphere, and closer to the United States nonetheless.”

“At a minimum, they could harass the United States, if not cause a lot more trouble. This makes the Cuban Missile Crisis look like child’s play.”  Link

Venezuela and Iran

In General Michael T. Flynn’s book, The Field of Flight, he states, “The war is on.  We face a working coalition that extends from North Korea and China to Russia, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.  We are under attack, not only from nation-states directly, but also from al Qaeda, Hezbollah, ISIS, and countless other terrorist groups.  Suffice to say, the same sort of cooperation binds together jihadis, Communists, and garden-variety tyrants.”

“Once we bailed out of Iraq in 2011, the power of the Islamic Republic immediately expanded and rapidly filled the void left by our departure.  The mullahs have already established strategic alliances in our own hemisphere with Cuba and Venezuela and are working closely with Russia and China.”

General Michael T. Flynn is absolutely correct.

As Iran and Venezuela become increasingly isolated and sanctioned by the U.S and much of the international community, the two governments are said to be tightening their bond – with the help of Tehran’s proxy group, Hezbollah, in the middle of the action.

Training between Iran and Venezuela has increased in the past few years as part of a larger plan between the Venezuelan regime, consisting of increasing the number of Hezbollah operatives and their supporters across Latin America,” Johan Obdola, President of the Canada-based Global Organization for Intelligence (IOSI) and former counter-narcotics chief in Venezuela, told Fox News. Hassan Rouhani and Nicolas Maduro have established a very firm and close relationship, which was of course initiated by Chavez.”

Drug Trafficking, Iran and Cuba

Caracas, Venezuela and Havana, Cuba are the only two places Tehran, Iran can fly into or out of with people and contraband.  Both are sanctioned by the United States. Venezuela’s ambassador to the United States is defending his country’s controversial airline service to the capitals of Syria and Iran — both countries that are designated by the U.S. as state sponsors of terrorism.

Drug trafficking within the Venezuelan regime is called, “The Cartel of the Suns.”  Criminal cartels have always run drug trafficking but in Venezuela it is managed from within government.  Instead of sidelining those accused of drug trafficking, Maduro has promoted them to the highest offices, perhaps calculating that they have the most to lose if his regime falls and will therefore fight the hardest to preserve it.

The most powerful figures in the Bolivarian regime now have the taint of drug trafficking to differing degrees.

Colombia’s criminal groups and Venezuelan political officials are connected to one another by the cocaine supply chain. Colombian groups produce coca and refine it into cocaine, and some Venezuelan elites’ profit from its transit through their country. Though government action has weakened Colombia’s insurgents and other drug traffickers, the cocaine trade remains a key, illicit industry that will continue to affect both countries.

In 2005 Venezuela severed ties with the United States Drug Enforcement (DEA), accusing its representatives of spying.  Following the departure of the DEA from Venezuela and the expansion of DEA’s partnership with Colombia in 2005, Venezuela became more attractive to drug traffickers.  Between 2008 and 2012, Venezuela’s cocaine seizure ranking among other countries declined, going from being ranked fourth in the world for cocaine seizures in 2008 to sixth in the world in 2012.

Venezuela has been a path to the United States for illegal drugs originating in Colombia, through Central America and Mexico and Caribbean countries such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

Conclusion

While Chinese engagement could be seen by other Latin American countries as an attractive path to development, the short-term benefits often lead to long-term dependency. Chinese investments focus on extracting natural resources and trading high value-added manufactures from China for Latin American commodities. China’s appetite for commodities will only increase. Link Their plan is global…in 30 years they expect to be the world’s superpower.

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Trump’s 2020 Budget Seeks More Border Wall Funding, Work Requirements for Welfare

President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget proposal would eliminate the federal deficit in 15 years, add new work requirements for welfare recipients, and fund additional construction of a border wall.

The reaction to the spending blueprint by Democrats was predictably negative.

The $4.7 trillion proposal, which projects a $1.1 trillion deficit, also asks Congress to cut discretionary spending, something it hasn’t done in recent years, even when under Republican control.

“You mention mandatory spending. It is a driver. We have more reforms than any other president’s budget in history, but, look, what has happened for far too long is that Congress has blamed mandatory spending and then increased discretionary spending, which they have a vote on every single year by large degrees,” Office of Management and Budget acting Director Russ Vought told The Daily Signal on Monday.

The fiscal 2020 spending blueprint cuts non-defense discretionary spending by 5 percent across the board, for a total of $2.7 trillion in savings for taxpayers over 10 years.

The OMB projects a balanced budget by 2034. Deficit spending, now 5 percent of the gross domestic product, would fall to 1 percent by 2029, according to the projections.

“They continue to let a paradigm exist in this country that says for every dollar in defense spending, we’re going to increase nondefense spending by a dollar,” Vought said at a press briefing. “We think we need to break that paradigm. We don’t think that paradigm allows us to get our fiscal house in order.”

Presidents are constitutionally required to present a budget proposal, but such proposals are never enacted as delivered. The document stands as an outline of administration priorities and represents what each department is requesting from Congress.

The budget requests seek $8.6 billion for an additional 722 miles of border wall construction, with $5 billion for the Department of Homeland Security and $3.6 billion for the Defense Department construction budget to go toward the wall.

The budget proposes $478 million to hire and support 1,750 additional law enforcement officers and agents for Customs and Border Protection and for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The budget also would implement a requirement of at least 20 hours a week for work or job training for certain welfare benefits, such as food stamps. Work requirements for recipients in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was core to the welfare-reform legislation passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, in 1996.

“In terms of work requirements, it’s something that has been viewed as a success since the 1990s. We expand on it,” Vought said. “It is something we have long viewed as important with the same principles of reducing dependency that we saw in TANF and apply them to housing and to food stamps and to Medicaid. … There will be many workforce-development programs that will be funded as part of this budget.”

The Trump budget proposes spending $750 billion for the Defense Department. Of that, $718 billion is for the National Defense Strategy’s efforts to rebuilding readiness and for improving performance and affordability through reform. It also focuses on strategic competition with China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran.

It includes $4.8 billion in the Department of Health and Human Services for prevention and treatment programs for opioid abuse.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement Monday the administration’s proposal benefits the “wealthiest 1 percent.”

“After adding $2 trillion to the deficit with the GOP tax scam for the rich, President Trump wants to ransack as much as $2 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid,” she said. “While demanding billions more for his wasteful, ineffective wall, President Trump will steal from students and hungry families, from rural communities and American farmers, from clean air and clean water, and from vital, job-creating investments nationwide.”

The proposal would also limit what Medicare recipients have to pay for prescription drugs. Currently, Medicare has a 5 percent co-pay for high-priced medicines that could cost as much as $1,000 per pill. The dollar amount wasn’t specified.

Vought responded to one question about whether that constituted “cutting Medicare.”

“He’s not cutting Medicare in this budget,” Vought explained. “What we are doing is putting forward reforms that lower drug prices. Because Medicare pays such a very large share of drug prices in this country, this has the impact of finding savings.

“We’re also finding waste, fraud, and abuse. But Medicare spending will go up every single year by healthy margins, and there are no structural changes,” he said.

COLUMN BY

Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal and co-host of “The Right Side of History” podcast. Send an email to Fred. Twitter: @FredLucasWH.

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Budget for a Better America – whitehouse.gov


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EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column is republished with permission.

Minnesota Rep: We aren’t going to make Food Stamp recipients work!

Egads!  What is going on in Minnesota?  It’s not just MN Rep. Ilhan Omar making news, but now we see that Democrat Rep. Collin Peterson—the dean of the Minnesota delegation!—is making news by telling Trump:

“I’ll guarantee you it’s not going to happen.” 

He is referring to the Trump initiative to tell states they must enforce work requirements for able-bodied adults receiving food stamps!

Peterson’s district is considered the most Republican in the state, but obviously not Republican enough or they wouldn’t have re-elected him to represent them since 2007.

The district has a growing Somali population due to BIG MEAT/POULTRY wanting the cheap refugee labor.

See what he said as reported by Watchdog.org on Tuesday,

House Ag Chairman: Requiring SNAP recipients to work is ‘not going to happen’

The Democratic chairman of the House Agriculture Committee says the Trump administration’s policy requiring states to enforce work-requirements for SNAP recipients “isn’t going anywhere.”

“I’ll guarantee you it’s not going to happen,” U.S. Rep Collin Peterson said.

Peterson’s comments came after U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue testified last week before the House Agriculture Committee about the state of the rural economy. Committee members asked him about the impact of tariffs on farmers, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, the effects of natural disasters, and the expansion of rural broadband access, among other questions.

The Trump administration is revising a 22-year-old federal regulation that has enabled states to acquire waivers exempting able-bodied adults without dependents (ABWDs) from having to work or undergo job training to receive taxpayer-funded food stamps.

Reforming the rule would reduce the taxpayer burden and enable more individuals to move from federal dependency to self-sufficiency, according to the administration.

Peterson’s remarks also came after a new Government and Accountability Office (GAO) report identified at least $1 billion in food stamp fraud. The extent of the fraud is uncertain, the GAO warns, estimating the abuse of the program could be as high as $4.7 billion.

Peterson’s position, according to Kristina Rasmussen, vice president of federal affairs at the Foundation for Government Accountability, isn’t helping SNAP recipients move from welfare to work or to find gainful employment. It’s also supporting an abuse of taxpayers’ money, the FGA argues.

[….]

Roughly 20 million lower-income households receive $64 billion in SNAP benefits. But the GAO*** found that instead of being used for food, many stores are defrauding the program by “selling” cash instead of food.

The fraud, known as “retailer trafficking,” costs taxpayers at least $1 billion. However, the real cost could be “anywhere from $960 million to $4.7 billion,” the GAO adds.

By the way, I’ve noticed that food stamp fraud busts have been happening less frequently then say 5-10 years ago when I first started tracking them and when almost all practitioners of this fraud were ‘new American’ followers of the ‘religion of peace.’

I don’t know if that is because food stamp use is down generally or whether the worst frauds have been caught.  It is also possible that the busts are not being reported by the media.

***I mentioned that GAO report here.

question markHave a convenience store or mom & pop gas station near you?  Keep an eye on the comings and goings!  I’m told it is pretty easy to spot the stores where food stamp trafficking is happening—shelves not well stocked, people going in and out all day and night, a new American behind the cash register!  Easiest thing to do is to take your suspicions to the local police and let them set up a sting operation.

No, We’re Not All Socialists Now

On Sunday, New York Post had an editorial about how many millennials embrace “socialism,” while not really knowing what it means:  “Millennials — ignorant of socialism’s appalling economic and human-rights history — increasingly embrace socialism and its naively unrealistic prescriptions for ending all human want.”

I’m reminded of a college student who wrote his dad: “Dear Dad, No mon. No fun. Your son.”

His dad wrote back: “Too bad. So sad. Your Dad.”

The Post points out that a majority of Democrats view socialism positively—yet the very same poll finds them in favor of small business and free enterprise.  Therefore, many claiming to embrace socialism are apparently not aware that socialism refers to government control of the means of production.

Meanwhile, New York Magazine had a title story: “When Did Everyone Become a Socialist?”

The article claims, “Pinkos Have More Fun.”

Well, I’m certainly not a socialist. And most of the people I know are not either. For the record, can anyone name a square inch on the planet where socialism has improved life for its citizens?

Russia?

China?

Vietnam?

Cambodia?

Cuba?

Venezuela?

It seems that between socialism and capitalism, the latter has the worse “branding.” Capitalism is supposedly greedy and self-serving. Socialism is supposedly caring and sharing. But that is not the reality.

Young people have been fed a steady diet of pro-socialism in the media and in academia. Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center once told me in a TV interview: “In the movies from a cultural standpoint, the themes are that capitalism is bad; it’s evil, the free market system is evil, the wealthy are the greedy rich.”

Jim DeMint, former US Senator noted, “As secularism replaces faith in America, we become less free and more socialistic; in other words, the government is controlling more things and things are controlled from the top down rather than the bottom up….You have central decision makers. That hasn’t worked any time in history, it always results in some form of tyranny.”

With socialism, the state replaces God. But the Bible says, God alone is God, and we should worship and love Him above all, and not the state, nor anything else.

Dr. Everett Piper, the president of Oklahoma Wesley University, says, “I do believe that socialism is on the rise right now and I think it’s a direct correlation to the loss of a biblical world view – the vacuum. When you create a vacuum it’ll always be filled, and if you take God out it’ll be filled by man. And God always gives us more liberty and freedom than man does.”

The Bible says we should love our neighbor. But is it really loving our neighbor to wish on them a socialistic economic system like that in Cuba or Venezuela?

Dr. Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, notes, “And if you want a modern example of why socialism doesn’t work and what it produces, look at Venezuela. Venezuela was one of the most affluent countries in Latin America; it is now a complete basket case.”

Today’s socialists like to say that Sweden, Norway, and other Scandinavian countries are the model—not Venezuela. I was married in Norway. I have many in-laws that still live there. Its economy is still more of a capitalist one—with high taxes for socialized medicine. But it’s a much smaller country with a limited population. Furthermore, my wife always points out that Norway is coasting on its past Christian work ethic.

Socialism violates the command, “Thou shalt not steal.” The Ten Commandments also say we should not envy—but socialism is built on envy, envy of the wealth of others.

More and more Americans seem comfortable with “the politics of envy.” The New Republic published an article by Alex Shephard (3/1/19), entitled, “The Sensible Politics of Soaking the Rich.” The article shows the picture of Democrat socialist leader, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, newly elected to Congress, who argues that $10 million should be the limit on what people can keep, regardless of their contributions to the market.

Last week at CPAC (a conference of conservatives), Larry Kudlow, the director of President Trump’s National Economic Council, said socialism needs to be confronted quickly: “I want you, and everybody in this room and your friends and your neighbors, I want you to put socialism on trial, that’s what I’m asking….I don’t want us to stand idly by….I don’t want to let this stuff fester. I want it challenged. I want it debated. I want it rebutted. I want to convict socialism.” For example, he called “the Green New Deal” promoted by Congresswoman  Ocasio-Cortez, “central planning on a grand scale.” 

Indeed, the time has come for a necessary national discussion on socialism vs. free enterprise. On big government vs. market-based solutions. Let the debate begin.

EDITORS NOTE: This column is republished with permission. The featured image by TheDigitalArtist on Pixabay.

Consumers Beware: PayPal Weaponized the Financial System

Free markets, whether they be economic markets or the marketplace of ideas, represent American ideals. The free exchange of ideas communicates that for the most part, all are welcome to share their unique points of view — until recently. Certain American freedoms seem to be approaching “endangered species” status as big, powerful interests increasingly choose to manipulate their platforms to control speech. As troubling as that is in a constitutional democracy, it’s not just the marketplace of ideas that are under attack, but the access to economic markets via commerce and banking. Case in point: PayPal.

To continue reading, click over to my op-ed on Fox News


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


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EDITORS NOTE: This FRC column with images is republished with permission.

House Democrats Unveil Plan to Bring Total Government Control Over American Health Care

Liberal House Democrats just unveiled the Medicare for All Act of 2019, a comprehensive bill to abolish virtually all private health plans—including employer-sponsored coverage—and impose total federal government control over Americans’ health care.

Despite its sweeping and detailed government control, as well as the imposition of huge but unknown costs, the 120-page bill has nonetheless initially attracted 106 Democrat co-sponsors, almost half of all Democrats in the House.

The legislation is profoundly authoritarian.

For example, Section 107 ensures that no American, regardless of their personal wants or medical needs, would be able to enroll in any alternative health plan that “duplicates” the government’s coverage. 

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the bill’s primary sponsor, is at least open about the bill’s intent: “The Medicare for All bill really makes it clear what we mean by ‘Medicare for All.’  We mean a system where there are no private insurance companies that provide these core comprehensive benefits.”

Under Section 201, Congress would decide the content of the health benefits package, what is and is not to be available in the new government health plan. The bill forbids cost sharing, a statutory prohibition guaranteed to induce demand and hike Americans’ overall health costs. 

Americans would not be able simply to spend their own money for medical care from a doctor of their choice. Personal contracts between doctors and patients outside of the government plan would be tightly restricted. Under Section 301, “ … no charge will be made to any individual for any covered items or services than for payment authorized by this Act.”  

Under Section 303, a provider “ … may not bill or enter into any private contract with any individual eligible for benefits under the Act for any item or service that is a benefit under this Act.”  

Even private contracts for “non-covered” medical services require the doctor to report them to the health and human services secretary. Section 303 also stipulates that a private contract between a doctor and a patient for “covered” services would be permissible if and only if the doctor signs and files the affidavit with the secretary of HHS and refrains from submitting any claim for any person “enrolled under this Act” for two full years.

Altogether, these restrictions, layered atop the prohibition on private insurance coverage, would virtually eliminate private agreements between doctors and patients.

In practice, Americans could spend their own money on their own terms with just the very few doctors who could afford to see cash-paying patients entirely outside the system.  

In most respects, the new House bill is broadly similar to Sen. Bernie Sanders’, I-Vt., bill. Beyond creating a government monopoly of health insurance, it centralizes key health care decisions in the office of the secretary of HHS; establishes a national health budget; and it creates a temporary Medicare-style “public option” (along with subsidies for enrollees) in the moribund Obamacare exchanges. 

Like Sanders’ bill, the House bill would also eliminate Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the Obamacare exchange plans, and Tricare, the health program for military dependents. All of these beneficiaries would be absorbed into the new government plan; it would not be a matter of personal choice.  

In striking contrast to the earlier version of the House “Medicare for All” bill, the new House bill contains no tax or funding provisions. This is a conspicuous omission. This is especially so because the House sponsors (under Section 204) also incorporate long-term care coverage, including nursing home and community-based care, into the basic benefit package. This coverage would likely be hugely expensive.

Recall that independent analysts from the Mercatus Center and the Urban Institute roughly agree that the true 10-year cost of Sanders’ similar plan would be approximately $32 trillion.

Ken Thorpe of Emory University, formerly an adviser to President Bill Clinton, estimates that the federal taxation needed to finance the Sanders’ plan would amount to an additional 20 percent tax on workers’ income, and more than 7 out of 10 working families would end up paying more for health care than they do today.

The federal spending and taxation needed to fund the new House bill would certainly be larger. Beyond the potential impact of the bill on the nation’s deficits and debt, independent analysts and economists will also focus laser-like on the size and impact of the new federal taxes on individuals and families at various income levels.

Simply taxing “the rich” will not cut it.    

The House co-sponsors of the Medicare for All Act intend a rapid transformation of American health care.

Under Section 106 of the bill, they authorize the completion of this massive disruption of today’s public and private health insurance arrangements within just two years.

In the meantime, analysts at the Congressional Budget Office have a very big job to do.

They need to get on it. Now.

Let the debate begin.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Robert Moffit

Robert Moffit

Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D., a seasoned veteran of more than three decades in Washington policymaking, is a senior fellow in domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column with images is republished with permission. The featured image is by Wikimedia Commons.

“Restaurant Recession” Hits NYC Following $15 Minimum Wage

This will be a rough year for full-service NYC restaurants as they try to navigate a future with significant economic headwinds and significantly higher labor costs from the city’s $15 an hour minimum wage.

An article in the New York Eater (“Restaurateurs Are Scrambling to Cut Service and Raise Prices After Minimum Wage Hike“) highlights some of the suffering New York City’s full-service restaurants are experiencing following the December 31, 2018 hike in the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, which is 15.4% higher than the $13 minimum wage a year earlier and 36.4% higher than the $11 an hour two years ago. For example, Rosa Mexicana operates four restaurants in Manhattan and estimates the $15 mandated wage will increase their labor costs by $600,000 this year. Here’s a slice:

Now, across the city, restaurant owners and operators are reworking their budgets and operations to come up with those extra funds. Some restaurants, like Rosa Mexicano, are changing scheduling. Other restaurateurs are cutting hours and staffers, raising menu prices, and otherwise nixing costs wherever they can.

And though the new regulations are intended to benefit employees, some restaurateurs and staffers say that take home pay ends up being less due to fewer hours — or that employees face more work because there are fewer staffers per shift. “The bottom line is, we have to reduce the number of hours we spend,” says Chris Westcott, Rosa Mexicano’s president and CEO. “And unfortunately that means that, in many cases, employees are earning less even though they’re making more.”

In a survey conducted by New York City Hospitality Alliance late last year, about 75% of the more than 300 respondents operating full-service restaurants reported they’ll reduce employee hours this year because of the new wage increases, while 47% said they’ll eliminate jobs in 2019.

Note also that the survey also reported that “76.50% of respondents report reducing employee hours and 36.30% eliminated jobs in 2018 in response to mandated wage increases.” Those staff reductions are showing up in the NYC full-service restaurant employee series from the BLS, see chart above. December 2018 restaurant jobs were down by almost 3,000 (and by 1.64%) from the previous December, and the 2.5% annual decline in March 2018 was the worst annual decline since the sharp collapse in restaurant jobs following 9/11 in 2001.

As the chart shows, it usually takes an economic recession to cause year-over-year job losses at NYC’s full-service restaurants, so it’s likely that this is a “restaurant recession” tied to the annual series of minimum wage hikes that brought the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour at the end of last year. And the NYC restaurant recession is happening even as the national economy hums along in the 117th month of the second-longest economic expansion in history and just short of the 120-month record expansion from March 1991 to March 2001.

Here’s more of the article:

“There’s a lot of concern and anxiety happening within the city’s restaurant industry,” says Andrew Rigie, executive director of the restaurant advocacy group. Most restaurant owners want to pay employees more, he says, but are challenged by “the financial realities of running a restaurant in New York City.” Merelyn Bucio, a server at a restaurant in Soho that she declined to name, says her hours were cut and her workload increased when wage rates rose. Server assistants and bussers now work fewer shifts, so she and other servers take on side work like polishing silverware and glasses. “We have large sections, and there are large groups, so it’s more difficult,” she says. “You need your server assistant in order to give guests a better experience.”

At Lalito, a small restaurant in Chinatown, they used to roster two servers on the floor, but post wage increases, there’s only one, who is armed with a handheld POS (point of sale) system, according to co-owner Mateusz Lilpop. Having fewer people working was the only way for him to reduce costs, he says. Since the hike, labor costs at Lalito have risen about 10 percent — from 30 to 35 percent to 40 to 45 percent of sales, he says.

These changes get passed onto the diner, some restaurateurs argue. Service can suffer due to fewer people on the floor, or more and more restaurateurs will explore the fast-casual format over full-service ones. Some restaurants are also raising prices for customers. According to the NYC Hospitality Alliance’s survey, close to 90 percent of respondents expect to raise menu prices this year. Lalito’s menu prices have increased by 10 to 15 percent. Lilpop says, and it’s not just the cost of paying his staff driving prices up — it’s a ripple effect from New York-based food purveyors’ own labor cost increases.

“If you have a farmer that has employees that are picking fruit, he has to increase his labor costs, which means he has to increase his fruit prices,” Lilpop says. “I have to buy that fruit from him at a higher rate, and it goes down the chain.”

A few economic lessons here.

  1. A reduction in restaurant staffing that results in a decline in customer service (e.g., longer wait times, less attentive wait staff, etc.) is equivalent to a price increase for customers.
  2. The increases in the city minimum wage to $15 an hour, in addition to directly increasing labor costs for restaurants, also affects the labor costs of companies that supply food, liquor, restaurant supplies, menus, etc. and causes a ripple effect of indirect higher operational costs throughout the entire restaurant supply chain as described above.
  3. Even for workers who keep their jobs, a higher minimum wage per hour doesn’t necessarily translate into higher weekly earnings, if the reduction in hours is greater than the increase in hourly wages. For example, 40 hours per week at $13 an hour generates higher weekly pre-tax earnings ($520) than 33 hours per week at the higher $15 an hour ($495).

Prediction: This will be a rough year for full-service NYC restaurants as they try to navigate a future with significant economic headwinds and significantly higher labor costs from the city’s $15 an hour minimum wage.

This article was reprinted from the American Enterprise Institute.

COLUMN BY

Mark J. Perry

Mark J. Perry

Mark J. Perry is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus.

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column with images is republished with permission. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

The True Meaning of That Green New Deal

It would be easy to dismiss the Green New Deal as an impossible progressive dream, but that would be a mistake.

The Green New Deal is not the bucket list of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow travelers, but a blueprint to turn America into a socialist state. It is the culmination of a 90-year campaign, begun with FDR and the first New Deal.

“The first obligation of government is the protection of the welfare and well-being, indeed the very existence, of its citizens,” presidential nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt said at the 1932 Democratic National Convention.

Roosevelt said that in the depths of the Great Depression. In electing him, a panicky American people, faced with 25 percent unemployment, a plummeting stock market, and cashless banks, accepted a new leading role for the federal government after 150 years of free markets and representative democracy.

Since then, successive waves of progressives have worked to expand and extend the government through Harry Truman’s Fair Deal, LBJ’s Great Society, Bill Clinton’s Third Way, and Barack Obama’s transformative Obamacare. The only president who sought to reverse the swing to socialism was Ronald Reagan, and even he said he would not attempt to do away with the New Deal.

Sponsors of the Green New Deal—including Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.—list these goals: Phase out conventional fuels (that is, oil, natural gas, and coal) by 2030, only a decade from now; implement a federal jobs guarantee; retrofit all U.S. buildings; overhaul transportation with high-speed rail; and provide universal health care.

Scant mention is made of the cost of this radical “retrofit” of America and who would pay for it. It’s easy being green when all you have to do is pick other people’s pockets.       

No wonder that, according to one poll, half of millennials say they would prefer to live under socialism rather than capitalism. Entitlement is all they and their parents and their grandparents have known. They think they are entitled to a free education, free health care, a job whether they want one or not, subsidized housing, and (who knows?) free pot.

No one has bothered to teach millennials the lessons of socialism, such as the tragic story of Venezuela. Once one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America, it is now ravaged by runaway inflation and massive government corruption and ruled with an iron fist by a socialist dictator.

No one has bothered to teach millennials about the miracle of India, which has switched from a broken socialist system to an expanding, neocapitalist economy that has created a middle class of 300 million, the largest in the free world.

No one has bothered to teach millennials the first law of socialism—abolish private property. So, millennials, hand over your iPhone and iPad.

No one has bothered to teach young Americans that the second law of socialism is that religion is an opiate of the people and will be terminated. Instead, you will be obliged to worship Big Brother.

No one has bothered to teach millennials that neither Denmark nor Sweden is a socialist country, but have put their industries in the hands of entrepreneurs who live by the rules of a free market economy.

The Green New Deal is a direct threat to the American spirit, which would be transformed irretrievably if it became law. But its introduction as a nonbinding resolution in Congress represents an opportunity to promote the American spirit.

As Ed Feulner and Brian Tracy wrote, in 1776 the American spirit—courageous, optimistic, enterprising, devout, generous, and devoted to liberty—gave rise to a novus ordo seclorum, a “new order for the ages” that allowed ordinary men and women to chart their own destiny. 

As it was then so it is now, if Americans are willing to accept their destiny.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Lee Edwards

Lee Edwards

Lee Edwards is the distinguished fellow in conservative thought at The Heritage Foundation’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics. A leading historian of American conservatism, Edwards has published 25 books, including “Just Right: A Life in Pursuit of Liberty.”

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EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column with images is republished with permission. The featured image is from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Facebook page.

The Future is Now: Bitcoin Acceptance is Growing

Over the last couple of years, many folks have been lured to the cryptocurrency space expecting to hold or trade their way to riches. Despite the 2018 downtrend in markets, those who bought in pre-summer 2017 are likely still looking at some healthy profits.

Bitcoin wasn’t just created for speculation though. The clue is in the name – digital currency. That said, the process of turning some of your gains into usable money can be arduous. You first must bring your funds out of cold storage, get them to a Bitcoin exchange that allows fiat withdrawals, register your bank details, and wait for the withdrawal. It’s all a bit convoluted. Fortunately, you often don’t have to worry about any of that (or the harsh withdrawal and exchange fees that usually accompany it).

Just about any purchase you could possibly make can already be completed entirely using Bitcoin. From web services to outdoor gear, online entertainment to real estate, the future is already here. Hell, you can even buy that famous cup of coffee that many Bitcoin protesters are always banging on about. Let’s look at some of the options in more detail.

Online Purchases

There are loads of ways to spend your Bitcoin in a strictly online capacity. Any firm that supports credit or debit card transactions can technically accept the digital currency. It’s actually a lot simpler than making a legacy systems payment too. Just scan a QR code or copy a string of digits into your wallet and hit send. You don’t have to worry about personal data being stolen by hackers from the site either!

Here are some of the main online retailers accepting Bitcoin as a payment for goods and services:

  • Overstock.com – this online retailer sells mostly homewares, along with toys, sporting goods, jewellery, clothes, and gadgets. Their prices are pretty good too!
  • Shopify stores – merchants operating their own stores on e-commerce platform Shopify can opt to accept Bitcoin if they choose so. You’ll find an eclectic bunch of goods offered for the virtual currency there.
  • Subscription services – some massive names accept Bitcoin to pay for the subscriptions they offer. These include Microsoft, 4Chan, Reddit, Bloomberg, WordPress.com, NameCheap, and Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Travel services – when booking your next flight or hotel, check out some of these options to spend your Bitcoin in getting you from A to B. You can even get somewhere to rest up when you arrive: Expedia, airBaltic, AirTreks, and CheapAir.com. If you really want to splash the cash on the most exotic trip possible, head over to Virgin Galactic and check out their Bitcoin offerings.

Real-World Purchases

Real-world purchases with Bitcoin are a little trickier than their online counterparts, for now. That’s because when you want to have a quick bite to eat or even to pay for a home in person, you’re limited by your geographical location. Since many retailers haven’t begun to accept Bitcoin yet, finding one might be more trouble than it’s worth!

  • Real-estate – if you did really well from Bitcoin’s meteoric rise over the last five years, you could buy property with the virtual currency. All budgets are catered for too. There was the famous example of the massive Moscow mansion selling for Bitcoin. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, a man from Grimsby, UK, offered to sell his modest, terrace house for crypto last year. The US has also joined the trend, and if you are looking to buy a lake house in the state of Minnesota, you can pay for it with Bitcoin at some real estate agencies.
  • Bars, restaurants, and coffee shops – this one is a little bit location-dependent. However, if you live or are visiting one of the destinations on the growing list of Bitcoin-friendly cities, you’ll have loads of options to spend your gains. Berlin, Reykjavik, and Ljubljana are amongst the top spots for live Bitcoin purchases. The likes of KFC Canada have even had cryptocurrency promotions in the past. However, these were for a limited period only.
  • Entertainment – if you’re out in Vegas at a loose end, you can even pay for a spot of late-night activities using Bitcoin in the flesh. A strip club in Las Vegas has seen the advantages of a pseudonymous payment system early, and some of their exotic dancers come adorned with QR codes, so you can tip them directly using Bitcoin.
  • Charity – the Twin Cities, which are Minneapolis and Saint Paul, have long embraced cryptocurrencies with Bitcoin ATMs popping up regularly across the area. But, it’s not the only space the community is seeking to disrupt. Recently, Minnesota’s charity organizations have started accepting Bitcoin donations. The relevant authorities believe this will not only contribute to the public good, but also help boost mass adoption of cryptocurrencies. 

Mixing the Virtual and the Physical

Finally, if the store you wanted to shop at doesn’t directly accept Bitcoin, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it. Several gift card services have sprung up in the last couple of years. You pay for the card in Bitcoin (or another supported cryptocurrency) and you receive the voucher to your email. You can then use the code from the card online or print the voucher off and take it down to the store to do your shopping in an old-school style.

The following services are more than happy to sell you a gift card in exchange for some Bitcoin: GiftOff, eGifter, and Gyft. These vendors offer gift cards for some massive companies including but certainly not limited to:

  • Decathlon
  • Tesco
  • Pizza Express
  • Nike
  • Amazon
  • Adidas
  • Domino’s
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Macy’s

It’s even possible to use a peer-to-peer marketplace and sell your Bitcoin to someone directly in exchange for a gift voucher. You’ll be amazed at the price increase you can charge too. We’ve seen a trader offering Bitmain vouchers in exchange for Bitcoin with a 75% markup!

The list of places you can spend your Bitcoin continues to grow each week. With options to suit just about every taste, it can be quite difficult not to abandon your strategy and just blow a hefty chunk on a two-man kayak canoe, those Nike sneakers you’ve been pining after, or even a luxury apartment.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is by Pixabay.

What’s Good, Bad, and OK in the Omnibus Bill

Congress is back at it with a last-minute, massive spending bill that no one will have time to read.

Late Wednesday night, House and Senate negotiators released text of a nearly 1,200-page omnibus spending bill that does nothing to reduce wasteful spending and is a letdown for America’s taxpayers.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill by Thursday evening, less than 24 hours after its release, leaving no time for a thorough debate and amendment process.

In total, the compromise agreement provides $333 billion to fund the nine remaining Cabinet agencies and related programs through Sept. 30.

As is the case with most compromises, the bill is far from perfect. It makes no effort to rein in wasteful spending and would limit funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide detention beds.

However, the agreement could have been even worse. Unlike past omnibus bills, this legislation does not include a laundry list of add-ons and does provide additional resources for border security.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the OK of the fiscal year 2019 omnibus bill.

The Good

Disaster Funding and Other Add-Ons Not Included

It was assumed that any compromise agreement would include billions of dollars in uncapped disaster spending. In the past month, the House and Senate both pursued disaster packages of $14.2 billion and $12.7 billion respectively.

While supplemental disaster funding is sometimes warranted, neither proposal directed any funding toward Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund, the federal government’s primary lead in disaster response efforts. Instead, much of the money would have continued to abuse the disaster spending designation by sending funding to ineffective grant programs and subsidies that have no direct role in disaster response. 

Just because the omnibus didn’t include disaster funding doesn’t mean that Congress won’t pursue a package later. But the fact that Congress is separating disaster spending from a “must-pass” spending bill is a step in the right direction. It allows for a more thorough debate and alleviates the pressure for lawmakers to vote for something they may not agree with just because it is tied to a broader funding bill. 

The omnibus also didn’t attach reauthorization language for programs such as the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and Violence Against Women Act programs. In the past, government shutdown threats have been exploited as an opportunity to stuff legislation full of unrelated provisions. Not doing so will allow these programs and other federal expenditures to be more fully and openly debated outside the context of a massive spending bill.

The Bad

Adheres to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 Spending Levels

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 increased the Budget Control Act of 2011 discretionary spending caps by $296 for fiscal year 2018-19. This omnibus adheres to the higher spending levels.

Instead of using this bill as an opportunity to exhibit fiscal restraint and roll back some of the $68 billion in fiscal year 2019 domestic spending increases, Congress has instead chosen the status quo.

With the national debt now over $22 trillion, that’s doesn’t cut it. Lawmakers must get serious about making spending reforms and putting the budget back on a path to balance. This bill should have been the time to start taking small steps toward that goal.

Uses Gimmicks to Increase Spending

Changes in Mandatory Programs are one of the most commonly used gimmicks in the appropriations process. On paper, mandatory spending is delayed, creating new savings that can be put toward unrelated discretionary spending.

In reality, the vast majority of the delayed funding would never have been spent in the first place and generated no real savings. Each year, billions of dollars in new spending is enabled through Changes in Mandatory Programs.

The largest change each year is delayed spending from the Department of Justice’s Crime Victims Fund. The bill would cap spending from the Crime Victims Fund at $3.35 billion dollars in fiscal year 2019. However, the fund would consistently carry a balance of around $13 billion, meaning that any unobligated balance above $3.35 billion can now be captured as savings and used to circumvent the Budget Control Act caps.

And the Crime Victims Fund is not the only Change in Mandatory Programs. In fiscal year 2018, changes with no real savings increased spending by nearly $18 billion.

This gimmick undermines fiscal accountability and transparency and wastes taxpayers’ money. Congress must take steps to end this practice once and for all.

$3.3 Billion Federal Pay Raise Ignores Performance While Increasing Pay Inequity

The omnibus includes a 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees, costing roughly $3.3 billion in 2019, and more than $40 billion over the next 10 years.

This would overturn a December 2018 executive order from President Donald Trump freezing federal pay. And, for more than half of federal workers, it will serve as their second pay raise in 2019 because federal workers receive both cost-of-living increases as well as step increases based on tenure.

On average, federal employees receive $121,000 in total compensation, compared to average private-sector total compensation of $69,000. Part of this differential stems from the fact that federal workers have more education and experience, on average, but studies consistently find that federal employees receive a significant compensation premium.

While a freeze in federal pay is not the most efficient way to address this gap (primarily because the government’s highest-level employees are actually undercompensated), it is one way of chipping away at the growing inequity.

Until Congress enacts comprehensive federal compensation reforms, lawmakers should not increase the compensation gap through automatic pay raises that ignore performance. A better solution would have been to provide funding for the president’s proposed $1 billion workforce fund to attract, retain, and reward the government’s highest performers.

Limits Funding For Immigrant Detention Beds and Fails to Close Loopholes

The area of the bill with the most potential for harm is in the critical areas of immigration enforcement, particularly detention beds.

As the number of caravans, children, families, and asylum seekers has drastically risen, the administration has been handcuffed by loopholes and prevented from quickly removing many illegal immigrants. The result is that many illegal border crossers or asylum seekers are “caught and released,” and many will disappear into the public and never be seen again.

The Trump administration has attempted to limit catch and release, both at the border but also in the interior, by expanding the number of detention beds.

In this bill, Democratic efforts to set a hard cap on immigration detention were stopped, but the bill does try to push the administration to reduce the number of detention beds by limiting funding. That said, administration is allowed to transfer or reprogram funds to expand detention, but does so at the expense of other homeland security programs.

In essence, the bill forces the Department of Homeland Security to steal from other important security and preparedness missions in order to fulfill the immigration enforcement mission.

Critically, the bill fails to address the key loopholes in U.S. immigration law that have encouraged the drastic increases in asylum claims and families and children coming to the border. Without fixes to these loopholes and other immigration enforcement tools, border security is only a superficial fix and detention beds will always be too few.

Overall, the bill may take some steps forward on immigration, but it falls short of providing the fixes we desperately need.

Continues Congress’ Dysfunctional Budget Process

Text of the 1,169-page compromise bill was released just before midnight on Wednesday. Within 24 hours, Congress will likely have voted on it and by Friday morning, the omnibus could already be law.

Once again, Congress is ignoring its own budget rules. The House requires that text of legislation be available for at least 72 hours before a vote is held.

This is not the way the process is supposed to work. It leaves no time for lawmakers to even read the bill, let alone have a chance to debate and offer amendments to improve the legislation.

That’s just a symptom of the larger problem. The fiscal year is already more than four months old and Congress still hasn’t finalized funding. If lawmakers were doing their job and passing budget and appropriations bills on time, continuing resolutions, omnibus bills, and government shutdowns could become obsolete, or at least the exception rather than the rule.

Congress should strengthen the budget process that it has in place and provide incentives to make the process function more smoothly.

One potential option would be a “no budget, no pay” provision, in which lawmakers’ salaries are withheld when budget deadlines are missed. This could motivate them to abide by budget deadlines. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Imd., recently introduced a bill that would implement this enforcement mechanism.

The OK

Provides New Border Wall and Technology Funding

The most controversial elements of the bill are the immigration provisions.

The bill includes $1.375 billion for new border wall funding—short of what the president has requested, but which will still be put to good use in high-traffic areas in the Rio Grande Valley Sector.

It also included much-needed technology and tools that can support physical infrastructure and also support inspection of vehicles at ports of entry. Given that most dangerous drugs like Fentanyl and other opioids enter the U.S. through U.S. ports of entry, such tools are important additions.

These provisions strike a good balance between cost-effective border barriers, border security technology, and valuable infrastructure and tools at our ports of entry—yet they are unlikely to be enough to secure the border.

The bill also worryingly adds some limits on where border barriers can be placed, such as in various natural parks and some cities.

Taxpayers Deserve a Responsible and Transparent Spending Process

While the omnibus bill is not exactly what conservatives would have wanted, it could have been worse—for instance, spending even more money on wasteful programs and less money on border security.

But the process that led to this bill was a complete failure. Lawmakers must get serious about following the budget process that is already in place and stop this dysfunction. Taxpayers cannot afford year after year of bloated spending bills and budget uncertainty.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Justin Bogie

Justin Bogie

Justin Bogie is a senior policy analyst in fiscal affairs at The Heritage Foundation. Twitter: @JustinBogie

Portrait of David Inserra

David Inserra

David Inserra specializes in cyber and homeland security policy, including protection of critical infrastructure, as policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies. Read his research. Twitter: @dr_inserra

Portrait of Rachel Greszler

Rachel Greszler

Rachel Greszler is research fellow in economics, budget, and entitlements in the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget, of the Institute for Economic Freedom, at The Heritage Foundation. Read her research.

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