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.

RELATED ARTICLES:

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Read Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James’ statement on border security funding.

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Senate Panel May Probe Alleged Plot to Oust Trump

The Daily Signal depends on the support of readers like you. Donate now

EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column with images is republished with permission. The featured Image by skeeze on Pixabay.

The State of the Black Union

During the month of February in America we celebrate Black History Month. As we celebrate the achievements of Blacks in the making of this great country, I can’t help but think about the state of the Black community in 2019.

The state of our Black union is depressing!

We, as a community, must stop asking others to do for us what we should be doing for ourselves. We have more education than our parents and grandparents; yet have a lower quality of life. We have more opportunities than our parents and grandparents yet have less to show for them.

We have more Blacks in elected political offices than ever before, yet our economic indices in cities run by Blacks are horrible, i.e.: Washington, DC, Baltimore, and Atlanta to name a few.

Hardly a week passes by without a Black person having some deadly encounter with law enforcement.

How did we, in the Black community, get to where it seems to be open season on our people by law enforcement? Yes, racism still exists, but racism is not the cause of the condition of our community.

According to the Centers for Disease control and Prevention, over 70% of Black babies are born to unwed mothers. It is estimated that since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in 1973, that over 16 million Black babies have been murdered — 55 million babies in total.

In New York City every year, more Black babies are aborted than are born. Yes, you heard right. According to their Health Department, between 2012 and 2016, 136,426 Black babies were aborted versus 118,127 babies born. Blacks are the only group in America that have more babies aborted than born!

If Black lives matter, does that include their babies?

The solution to this culture of death in the Black community specifically, and America in general, is very simple. We need to reconstitute the family unit; meaning mother, father and children. These perverted variations of the traditional family unit will not restore our traditional values back to our community or our society.

Study after study has shown that if you graduate high school, get married, and then have children, you are almost guaranteed not to live in poverty.

The traditional family unit is the solution to all the ills facing the Black community and America.

But yet, the media appointed Black leaders and their radical liberal groups spend all of their time promoting homosexuality, amnesty for illegals, and Planned Parenthood.

When have you ever heard the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, or the National Urban League talking about the traditional family unit is key to righting the ship in the Black community?

When Bill Cosby gave his famous “Pound Cake” speech, he was eviscerated by the Black liberal elites.

When have you ever heard Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network, Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, or Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League talk about the family unit; or telling girls to keep their damn legs closed if they cannot financially afford to care for a child?

How did the Black community allow the homosexuals to hijack our fight for Civil Rights? Their issue has absolutely nothing to do with Civil Rights.

How did we allow George Soros, Bill Gates, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Mark Zuckerberg to get media-appointed Blacks to put illegals ahead of their own community? Can you imagine willingly training someone who is going to take your job and agreeing with them that they have a right to take your job.

According to Planned Parenthood’s 2017 annual report, they had total revenue of $1.3 billion, $555 million from the federal government. They made a profit of $77 million. Yes, they get paid to kill.

They also have spent over $38 million in political campaigns between 2012-2016. Yes, they buy Black, Democrat politicians!

To paraphrase Jay-Z, “Blacks folks got 99 problems, but homosexuality, amnesty, and Planned Parenthood should not be one.”

We survived slavery, overcame segregation, and fought discrimination and are still standing.

But, in order to restore the Black community, we must turn away from the media-appointed Black leaders. They have sold us out at every chance.

Just imagine if we put the same amount of energy fighting for our own people and causes like we do for other groups.

Just imagine if we took the energy we put into hating President Donald Trump and Republicans [put it] into getting young girls to stop having babies before marriage; getting Black entertainers and athletes to hire Black C.P.A.s, publicists, lawyers, managers, etc.; getting Black churches to stop caving in to the radical homosexual agenda; and creating more Black entrepreneurs.

We don’t need a law to make any of the above reality; but what we do need is leaders who cannot be bought off by those who have no concern for the Black community.

The state of our union can be brighter, but you can’t have union without “u” “n” “i.”

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the official policy or position of BlackPressUSA.com or the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

EDITORS NOTE: This Black Press USA column is republished with permission. The featured photo is by Victor Grabarczyk on Unsplash.

Do Nothing, Get nothing…It’s America Stupid!

Since I got involved in politics it has become more and more evident that the things that I said when I started 10 years ago are now a reality. To my wonderful supporters, I love you. You have given me such insight. Your research enabled to connect the dots (my specialty) and report what is happening, what you can look for, what to expect. We must understand the plan, if we’re going to do anything to “fix” America.  It’s America stupid, says it all.  

Let’s face it, America is the top dog and as we know Dems, Globalists, Communists, etc. want to silence the dog. These people were taught in school by socialists and now believe America’s founding, constitution, Bill of Rights, values, economy are rooted in racism. 

Globaliasts try to convince us that America is a democracy – America is a Constitutional Republic  These Globalists in both parties believe that Donald Trump and his supporters are EVIL, RACISTS and MUST be destroyed.

What are we actually facing? Let’s review:

  1. Goal:  One World Government with the United Nations or some other unelected communist group making the rules, laws and Rights.
  2. How: Money, Power, Control
  3. Tools: Education, Media, Hollywood
  4. Propaganda
  5. Lies, lies and more lies – Example: the environment is the weapon of choice. If you scare the people enough, they will assist in control themselves by giving up things to save the planet – like plastic straws, or AOC’s latest scare about only 12 years left for earth as we know it. What do the lies do?  Put straw manufacturers out of business eliminating competition/opposition while restricting peoples movement. The science is settled you can only say to someone who has NO understanding of science. The purpose of science is to find new frontiers, to explore, therefore science IS NEVER settled. . .    
  1. Overpopulation: too many people to control.  The schools teach there is not enough food, water, resources to support 9 Billion people. There is no G-d and what you feel today might not be acceptable tomorrow.  In a democracy the mob rules. LGBTQ and abortion are promoted as a means of population control.
  2. People dying are hardly noticed unless it fits their narrative.

America is at a breaking point that most people are not taking seriously.  This time in history will be considered the Tipping Point.  Will America take a left or right turn? As socialists become more vocal, we must call out restrictions and lies that are hammered constantly about any opposition.  Do the Covington School, Kavanaugh, Dossier scandals ring a bell?  We can look forward to more of these character assignation attacks because they are part of their plan? Character assignation is straight out of their plan, Alinksy’s “Rules for Radicals”.  If you haven’t read “Rules for Radicals” I suggest you do.  It is the blueprint Globalists follow.  If you want to take down the enemy, KNOW THEIR PLAN.

Make no mistake, over the edge lies, now called journalism, are designed to transform America.  When hats, chants and smiles become destructive we see first hand how unnerved the Globalists are. We the People will now be guilty of what George Orwell, 1984, called “facecrimes.” for making “wrong” facial expressions.  The only tool in their tool box is a hammer used to destroy opposition no matter what; for the ends justify the means. Lying is OK as Joy Behar said, “Because we’re desperate to get Trump out of office.”  By calling out Trump, she means the American middle class, his supporters. 

Does America succeed or does the world become a one world government with a new world order?  Just listen to the “criminal” elite attending the Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland who have gotten richer on climate change lies while the people are fooled into using less but pay and pay more

According to them – they are “shaping the future”. As they shape the future, they are slowly using government to create policies to eliminate competition, free speech, private property, private businesses in order to enrich themselves.  I don’t want them shaping my future. Do you?

In Venezuela for example President Maduro is now a billionaire while his people get $8 a month for wages.   

Make no mistake, they are NEW WORLD ORDER. Money, power control is all they are after. Plundering their own country is how they make it happen.  If they can’t kill opposition in the womb, they will use lies and manipulated statistics to control the rest of us.  Why?  Remember Depopulation is the main objective. 9 Billion are too many people to control.  Look at NYS.  Gov Cuomo is celebrating legalized murder by killing babies in the womb up to birth. In NYS you can’t kill a criminal for heinous crimes but you can kill an innocent baby?  If a heartbeat means life, what is a full term abortion of a baby with a beating heart? Is it not murder?  Lack of a science education ensures full term abortion.    From 1970-2016 over 46,151,640 human beings were murdered by abortion. Abortion, drugs, crime, murder, etc no biggie because they just decrease the population and perfectly fits into the current narrative of depopulation. Or maybe they are afraid that if the baby is adopted, the loving couple might be conservative, Christian or Jewish.


In America for the last 60 years these criminal elite think they are in control because we let them.  Look at the deBlazio election in NYC. 8.5% of the population elected Comrade deBlazio and now New Yorkers complain that homelessness, filth, murder and drugs are on the rise.  People are complaining.  Did they vote?  Americans without a civics education see no importance in voting.

We now allow non-government unelected bureaucrats to rule us. Perfect example is the US Chamber of Commerce, who demands through donations to legislators, to keep borders open because open borders are necessary to bring business cheap labor. Do they care about Americans or just what they can plunder from America? With America rich in talented people, land, natural resources plundering is their goal.  The America middle class is in their way so killing the middle class is on the menu.  Obama constantly talked about lifting people into the middle class.  Hello!!! Most of these people were in the middle class until you, our government, regulated them and their businesses to death, sent their jobs overseas just so you could plunder their homes and assets.  One of the biggest lies in 2008 was people bought homes they couldn’t afford.  NO people could afford their homes until YOU sent our jobs overseas.  (I was a mortgage broker and saw this first hand).

We have allowed these people to destroy the middle class (that’s us) by not correcting their lies.  We have allowed them to change the meanings of words to suit each group and when we don’t comply we allow them to call us racists. Remember when Donald Trump made one of his first speeches.  He said he wants to be President of ALL the people. All is an interesting word. It is inclusive of everyone. But because Trump did not say of Back people or Hispanic people etc he was called a racist. NO one corrected them. They were allowed to continue until today saying POTUS is a racist. Yet when you ask for an example, you get no answer.  When POTUS was asked about blacks and Hispanics etc, he said look at the job numbers they are the best they have been in decades. Not good enough since he did not name them by group.  The day I heard Jesse Jackson (sometime in the 1980’s) use the phrase African-American, Black American was the day I realize the division was well underway. America should be first: American Blacks, American Jews, American Hispanics, etc. Why?  If Americans knew their rights and freedoms, Americans would be the largest group of free people, impossible to divide.   

The beauty of America is: You can get anything you want, if you work for it.  That is called equal opportunity.  We ALL have the opportunity to earn the income we want. All of us can make our own choices. The problem is when skills are not taught in all schools, some people have an edge over others.  If I teach skills in a White neighborhood, whites have an advantage. If I teach skills in a Black neighborhood Blacks will have the advantage. Get the picture. School is the perfect set up for divide and conquer. Divide and conquer has many names:  Tracking in school, Income inequality in finances, LGBTQ in culture, Identity Politics in the political arena.  Each one of these “tags” divides the populace and uses jealousy and victimization till now we do not talk to each other.  Mission accomplished. A country divided WILL FALL.

When I speak I am usually asked, “Karen, How did this happen?”  My answer is, “Look in the mirror.”  This one is on us. The insanity is, we know this is happening and we’re not doing anything because it’s easier to say: I’m old.  Who cares I’m not going to be around to see it happen. Who cares I am but one. I can’t make a difference. After all are we not the “Silent Majority”?  All I can tell you is you are buying into their plan, shut up and don’t make waves.  Is it not time to create our own plan?  Let POTUS and the HS students at Covington be our example.  You can’t win if you don’t play the game.

The question I always ask:  Is America worth saving? 

What are you doing to save America?

Our power is our numbers.  For a very short while there are more of us than them.

Will you call your legislator and say, “vote for money for border security including a wall”?

Will you go to your school board and help get America back into schools?

Will you call a station and correct lies you see, hear or read?

Doing nothing will get us nothing. It’s America Stupid.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is by Pixabay.

Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the Marie Antoinette of the Democratic Party?

In the 1930s Stefan Zweig wrote this about Marie Antoinette, “perhaps the most signal example in history of the way in which destiny will at times pluck a mediocre human being from obscurity and, with commanding hand, force the man or woman in question to overstep the bounds of mediocrity.”


Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Socialist Democrat-NY) Photo; Facebook.

Fast forward to 2018 and the unexpected election of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Socialist Democrat-NY).

Ocasio-Cortez was certainly plucked from obscurity. The question: Is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mediocre (of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance)?

Like the young Marie Antoinette, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is beloved by the Socialists in the Democratic Party. This makes her, like Marie Antoinette, a very dangerous person.

Marie Antoinette’s fairy tale turned into a tragedy when the French Revolutionary people’s court condemned her to death and she was executed just two weeks shy of her 38th birthday, when the guillotine sliced off her head.

In Smithsonian Magazine Richard Covington wrote:

Marie Antoinette would likely have been perfectly happy to have played only a ceremonial part as queen. But Louis’ weakness forced her to take a more dominant role—for which the French people could not forgive her. Cartoons depicted her as a harpy trampling the constitution. She was blamed for bankrupting the country, when others in the high-spending, lavish court bore equal responsibility. Ultimately, she was condemned simply for being Louis’ wife and a symbol of tyranny. 

Unlike Marie Antoinette, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has taken upon herself a dominant role in public policy with her “Green New Deal.” Many look at this, 10 year “Green New Deal” plan to save the planet from destruction from climate change, as trampling the U.S. Constitution and ultimately bankrupting the United States of America. A lavish Democratic Party policy initiative that will cost the American taxpayers trillions of dollars.

Via Americans for Tax Reform:

This morning, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez released an overview of her “Green New Deal” which threatens “a massive transformation of our society.”

Below are the details of the proposal.

Rebuild every single building in the U.S.

“Upgrade or replace every building in US for state-of-the-art energy efficiency.”

Will end all traditional forms of energy in the next ten years.

The Green New Deal is “a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society at a scale not seen since World War 2 to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.”

Plans to ban nuclear energy within 10 years if possible.

“It’s unclear if we will be able to decommission every nuclear plant within 10 years, but the plan is to transition off of nuclear and all fossil fuels as soon as possible.”

Build trains across oceans and end all air travel!

“Build out highspeed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary”.

Don’t invest in new technology of Carbon Capture and Storage, just plant trees instead!

“We believe the right way to capture carbon is to plant trees and restore our natural ecosystems. CCUS technology to date has not proven effective.”

Mandates all new jobs be unionized.

“Ensure that all GND jobs are union jobs that pay prevailing wages and hire local.”

May include a carbon tax.

“We’re not ruling a carbon tax out, but a carbon tax would be a tiny part of a Green New Deal.”

May include cap and trade.

“…Cap and trade may be a tiny part of the larger Green New Deal plan.”

How much will it cost?

No estimate of the total cost of implementing the Green New deal is offered by Ocasio-Cortez.

In a GRABIE NEWS column titled “Ocasio-Cortez: Fixing Global Warming Requires ‘Massive Government Intervention’” Tom Elliott writes:

Democrats’ plans to counteract climate change will involve “massive government intervention” into Americans’ lives, one of the chief proponents admitted in an interview Thursday morning.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she has no qualms about acknowledging a so-called “Green New Deal” will mean unprecedented governmental intrusion into the private sector. Appearing on NPR, she was asked if she’s prepared to tell Americans outright that her plans involve “massive government intervention.”

Elliott noted, “In her weekly press conference today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ducked two questions on the more radical components over Ocasio-Cortez’s plan. Asked twice about remodeling every building in the United States, as the plan calls for, Pelosi said, “I haven’t seen it,” before ending the press conference.” [Video]

Will Ocasio-Cortez’s New Green Deal be the Socialist straw that breaks the back of the Democratic Party? Will Democrats face a political guillotine, slicing off their collectivist heads in 2020 and ensuring that Donald J. Trump gets a second term with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress?

Time will tell.

As President Trump stated in his State of the Union address:

Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country.  America was founded on liberty and independence –- not government coercion, domination, and control.  We are born free, and we will stay free.  Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Washington Post Calls Ocasio-Cortez’s Claim of ‘Doctored’ Green New Deal Documents ‘Misleading’

Green New Deal: “Air Travel Stops Becoming Necessary”

Here’s Every Democrat Who Supports Ocasio-Cortez’s Crazy “Green New Deal”

Minimum Wage Memes: What They Miss and How They Mislead

Sifting through the internet’s conjecture and extracting the economic truth.

f you have spent much time on Facebook the last few days, you may have seen this meme being passed around from a user named Thomas Corbett:

It has already been shared over 109,000 times, and it is just one of a number of similar viral claims regarding minimum wage and housing from people engaged in the #FightFor15 (or I suppose #FightFor33 if you’re the New York Times).

Others include this one from @pookleblinkie on Twitter with over 60,200 retweets:

Or perhaps you’ve seen this infographic created by the National Low Income Housing Coalition:

They each make the case that housing is unaffordable for people working minimum wage jobs, largely in service of the overall case to raise the federally mandated wage floor.

So what’s wrong with these memes?

As it turns out… quite a bit.

One major red flag that should be immediately apparent is that the numbers for all three viral images are completely different. The first claims that the average rent is $1,418, the second claims $1,234, and the third is presented more circuitously but implicitly claims $1,018.

So who’s right? According to the US Census, nobody.

The NLIHC graphic comes close, but the latest numbers show that as of 2017, the real median rent in the United States was $1,012 per month. This makes Thomas Corbett’s rental price claim 40 percent higher than reality and it makes the one from “pookleblinkie” about 22 percent higher, so we can dismiss both of those as factually off-base from the start.

NLIHC’s website states that their source for housing prices is HUD’s “Fair Market Rents” database, so for the sake of argument, I’m happy to overlook any minor discrepancies there. To their credit, they also show a state-by-state comparison, which is important because the average cost of living varies significantly depending on what part of the country you’re in.

That said, even state-by-state data is probably insufficient as the significant cost of living differences are found between urban, suburban, and rural areas. Not merely based on what state you happen to live in.

Still, the idea that low-income earners have absolutely no way to afford housing is a popular belief, and even if the median rent for the United States is $1,012 a month, that would still be well out of range for someone earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour. In fact, even if 100 percent of the minimum wage earner’s income went into housing—which is clearly impossible—they still would not be able to afford a home at all.

But here’s where we see another serious flaw in the argument.

We’re not comparing apples to apples.

It makes no sense to compare median rental prices to the lowest possible wages. It would only make sense to compare the bottom of the wage distribution to the bottom of the rent distribution. Making a more accurate comparison reveals a completely different picture. For instance, when we compare median rental prices to the median household income in the United States for 2017, we find that the annual cost of renting would be $12,144 on a salary of $60,336/year.

That means that the median rental price is only 20 percent of the median household income.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe there’s any way to break down rental home price data by quintile, but anyone familiar with the concept of a “median” knows that it is the number that falls in the middle of the data distribution.

This means that just as there are an immense number of rental homes that cost significantly higher than $1,012/mo. throughout America, there are an equal number of rental homes that cost less than $1,012/mo. There are also a number of housing options that make a lot more sense than trying to rent a place by yourself as someone working a single minimum wage job.

As someone who has spent his entire adult life post-bachelor’s degree living in expensive major cities (New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Atlanta), I had roommates in every apartment I lived in long after my wages exceeded minimum wage. This is perfectly normal, and sharing costs is hardly something to see as a hardship or a social justice issue. As an added bonus, some of my former roommates are still close friends.

Another way to reduce living expenses is to rent a single room in an existing house—something I have also done at various points in my life. That can bring rental expenses down to the low hundreds of dollars per month even in city centers.

And speaking of city centers, the closer you live to the hub of urban activity, the more expensive rental prices are going to be, so expanding your apartment search to homes that are farther away and commuting in can also save hundreds of dollars a month on rent.

Like many adults, I’ve used each of these approaches to pay less than the median rental price in multiple cities, and I don’t think anyone should regard any of these experiences as humiliating or cruel. To the contrary, they are all frugal ways to make the most of your income.

This is also to say nothing of policy changes that would make new home construction more affordable and less time-consuming by streamlining the permitting processes, reducing zoning restrictions, reducing the number of aspects of the process that require city approval, and just generally lowering the barriers to building. Those kinds of policies would pave the way (pun intended) for an increase in the supply of new homes, which would reduce the cost of existing properties.

Tragically, the inaccurate cost claims are not the only major errors embedded in these images. They’re also more subtly deceptive regarding the demographics of minimum wage earners themselves.

Each of these memes suggests or implies that minimum wage workers are primarily adults with families who have only one income-earner. They also imply that a significant number of people are stuck in minimum wage jobs for their entire lives. And from the way our society frequently talks about minimum wage earners, you’d think that they were a massive group of people.

None of these implications are accurate.

In fact, just 2.6 percent of all wage and salary workers in the United States are working at minimum wage occupations. The overwhelming majority of our workforce earns more than minimum wage. What’s more, 50.4 percent of people working minimum wage jobs are under 25 years old, and 24 percent are still teenagers (16-19). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Although workers under age 25 represented only about one-fifth of hourly paid workers, they made up about half of those paid the Federal minimum wage or less.

Furthermore, people who work minimum wage jobs are far more likely to be unmarried/never-married, to lack a high school diploma (hardly a surprise when a large portion are still in high school), and most—64 percent—are working part-time. If when you picture minimum wage workers, you think of the high school or college-aged kid working at a grocery store or a quick-service food restaurant, your picture is pretty accurate.

That’s not to say that there aren’t older people with children trying to support themselves on minimum wage jobs. There are, but they are comparatively rare. Only about 15 percent of all minimum wage workers are the primary provider for a family with one or more children. That’s just 0.39 percent of the total workforce, which is around 600,000 people in the entire United States.

And of course, that group certainly qualifies for numerous forms of public assistance, including EBT and housing subsidies—which has not been factored into any of these memes either.

I know this has been a lot of statistics and math, but my goal is to arm the valiant readers who have made it to the end of this article with some better information and some logic so that when you’re browsing Facebook and come across misleading memes, you’re better able to spot the errors.

COLUMN BY

Sean Malone

Sean Malone

Sean Malone is the Director of Media at FEE. His films have been featured in the mainstream media and throughout the free-market educational community.

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

The Perils of Cash

People have been asking me as of late about holding cash, at least those that are reading the writing on the wall. Besides the fact that there is a war on cash and a cashless society coming soon,  there are other reasons as to the perils of cash. With the talk of a global financial reset, coupled with the stock market gyrations and the unsustainable debt, many people have gone to cash. It used to be known as “cash is king”. Well today, I say “cash is trash”. So what are the perils of holding an excessive amount of cash?

Perils of Cash

Low Interest:  Cash and cash equivalent accounts these days are paying perhaps about 1%-2% at best, often times less than that. If you are not keeping pace with the real rate of inflation, you are falling behind in purchasing power and may run out of money down the line.

Inflation: The government reports the inflation rate today to be at around 2%, but like the unemployment numbers, this is not really the case upon further inspection. You see back in the days of Bill Clinton, changes were made to just how it is that the government reports the inflation rate to the American people. It is known as the Boskin Commission. The Boskin Commission, formally called the “Advisory Commission to Study the Consumer Price Index”, was appointed by the United States Senate in 1995 to study possible bias in the computation of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is used to measure inflation in the United States. How To Rewrite Economic History? Here’s how.

The real rate of inflation as reported by Kirk Elliott, PhD, is at 6.12% today. Based upon Trump’s weak dollar policy and the Fed’s raising of interest rates, we can expect inflation to be on the rise. Interest rate cycles run 28 years on average. We just finished a 30-year declining interest rate environment and as of November 2016, we have embarked upon a rising interest rate cycle. So cash for now is trash. Hold some in the bank and perhaps some at home for emergencies and opportunities.

Global Financial Reset: What exactly is being reset? The debt is being reset and the value of the dollar will decline over time until sound money is restored. Easier said than done. Stay tuned. So once again excess cash may not be wise at this particular time in history. President Trump is now taking on the Federal Reserve, Rothschild World Banking Dynasty and the IMF as a move to restore sound money in order to MAGA. We will more than likely see a gold backed currency. So, buy gold (and silver). There is a reason you hear and use the expression, “it’s as good as gold”, own some. The signs are there indicating the reset is in motion. President Trump takes on the Fed.

Bank Bail-In: We learned all about the bank bail out in 2008-2009. How about the bank bail-in? A bail-inand a bailout are both designed to prevent the complete collapse of a failing bank. With a bank bail-in, the bank uses the money of its unsecured creditors, including depositors and bondholders, to restructure their capital so it can stay afloat. How much of your funds do you want caught in the bail-in? Again, right now cash is trash. Oh yeah, FDIC barely covers a fraction of the trillions on deposit. Take note. So what to do?

GOOTS

Get Out of the System: Well you cant really get out of the system unless you leave the planet. But there are alternative asset classes to consider in this paradigm shift of global economic and monetary policy to consider. I have a proprietary model which is truly a paradigm shift in thinking offering a new sound, superior, proactive approach to protecting and preserving wealth, utilizing both alternative paper assets as well as tangible assets. Follow the trend. The trend is your friend. The goal as wise and prudent investors is to identify and minimize risks and maximize returns keeping pace with inflation.

Does Wall Street have Main Street’s best interest in mind? I think we know the answer to this. While so many others will continue to operate in the deceitful and flawed modalities being advised by an industry they no longer trust. A great change is now upon us. The time for action is now. Better a day early than a day late. Request a copy of the Global Financial Reset Report here. To be continued…

EDITORS NOTE: This John Michael Chambers column with images is republished with permission.

10 U.S.C. § 284: The Law That Will Build The Wall

Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL) asked the Under Secretary for Policy John Rood several key questions that confirm that President Trump can build the wall without declaring a state of emergency or the need for Congress to pass any bill. The answer is 10 U.S.C. § 284.

Watch:

TRANSCRIPT

BROOKS: I want to direct your attention to 10 United States Code § 284 which authorizes President Trump to deploy the United States military to the southern border to build fences and to do a lot of other things, and for clarity, if you look it up in the dictionary the word fence includes the word barrier and the word barrier includes walls made of a wide variety of different materials.

So that having been said, it seems to me that 10 U.S. Code § 284 can be used by the President of the United States to direct the United States military to build a wall. Now as of today, you’ve mentioned military forces along the southern border, have any of them been deployed pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 284?

ROOD: Congressman, I don’t believe any of our forces have been deployed pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 284. You are correct, however, that that use of authority would authorize the secretary of defense to erect barriers, roads, fencing, those types of materials to disrupt drug smuggling.

BROOKS: Does 10 U.S.C. § 284 as you understand it, require the declaration of a national emergency before it is implemented?

ROOD: No.

BROOKS: It does not?

ROOD: No.

BROOKS: Has President Trump, to your knowledge, ever used 10 U.S.C § 284 to direct the military to build the wall that is necessary for border security?

ROOD: No, not to my knowledge, Congressman.

BROOKS: If President Trump were to direct the Pentagon and the United States military pursuant to 10 U.S.C § 284 to build such barriers as are necessary to secure our southern border from drug trafficking and international crime cartels would the United States military obey that order?

ROOD: If we judge it to be a lawful order, yes sir. And I assume it would be.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is by Dorian Hurst on Unsplash.

Long Before the Covington High Incident, Orwell Revealed the Truth about Hate

If the media is “creating and fomenting” anger, this is only part of a bigger story. It may be time to take a lesson from ‘1984’, the political allegory by George Orwell.

What could be a better story for a media devoid of “journalistic ethics” than a group of Catholic high school students, wearing MAGA hats, seemingly mocking a Native American elder?

On social media, people expressed wishes to inflict harm on Nicholas Sandmann. Nicholas is the student who, rather than mocking Native American Nathan Phillips, was stoically smiling. Even after exculpatory evidence was available, some double-downed on their first assessment of Sandmann.

If the media is “creating and fomenting” anger, this is only part of a bigger story. It may be time to take a lesson from 1984, the political allegory by George Orwell. In the totalitarian society created by Orwell, the hate expressed towards the Party’s enemy Emmanuel Goldstein already existed in the minds of the haters. The media are responsible for their lack of ethics, but we are accountable for our own hatred.

In Orwell’s society, the population is required to engage in a daily ritual called Two Minutes Hate. The Party’s enemies, often Emmanuel Goldstein, are made to seem grotesque. Party members are mandated to rage at these hideous scapegoats:

The next moment a hideous, grinding speech, as of some monstrous machine running without oil, burst from the big telescreen at the end of the room. It was a noise that set one’s teeth on edge and bristled the hair at the back of one’s neck. The Hate had started. As usual, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People, had flashed on to the screen.

Readers of 1984 are uncertain if Emmanuel Goldstein really exists. Fictitious or not, Goldstein is perceived as the biggest enemy of the state. Orwell describes the ritual of the daily rage:

The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.

Tellingly, Orwell writes, “[T]he rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.” Read Orwell’s observation carefully: The Party depends on its ability to tap into pre-existing rage. Individuals blinded and bonded by rage are easily controlled by the state.

On social media following the Covington High student incident, as in 1984, “a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through [the critics of Nicholas Sandmann] like an electric current.”

A universal truth about human minds is revealed in 1984 and in the events involving the Covington High students. In Stephen Covey’s words, “We see the world, not as it is, but as we are—or, as we are conditioned to see it.”

Through our beliefs, thoughts, and feelings, we interpret what we see and mistake our interpretations for reality. We don’t realize, as Covey puts it, that “When we open our mouths to describe what we see, we in effect describe ourselves, our perceptions, our paradigms.”

“When other people disagree with us,” Covey writes, “we immediately think something is wrong with them.”

We are sure our perceptions are true. The real truth is we rage because we want to rage. Who among us wants to see ourselves as a rager? We want our rage to be someone else’s fault. Enter projection.

Projection is our ego’s attempt to absolve itself of responsibility for our thoughts and feelings by denying they exist in us and finding what we have denied in other people.

If it snows where you live, you have probably experienced a snowplow operator undoing your snow clearing efforts. Municipal snowplow operators don’t remove snow to make your personal snow removal easier; that’s just a fact of life. Yet every winter there seems to be a news story of an incensed homeowner attacking a snowplow operator. A snowplow operator can’t cause rage, yet one’s interpretation of the operator’s actions can.

Do you see yourself as a considerate person? Do you value being recognized as considerate? There will be times your actions are less than considerate. If you don’t acknowledge the less-than-kind part of your mind, there are consequences.

If we think of ourselves as considerate but act inconsiderately, our buttons will be pushed by people whose actions we perceive as inconsiderate. We will project our inconsiderate side onto someone else whose weakness we see as more egregious than our own. By not cleaning up our own act, we will be driven to find our failures in a family member, a colleague, or someone else we don’t even know.

Not willing to acknowledge our own shortcomings, we might shout from the rooftops or, in today’s age, tweet: I have found the guilty SOB who deserves to be punished. There is a reason other people push our buttons—when we are not aware of our own failings, we try to get rid of the resulting guilt by making a psychological punching bag of someone else.

When I get angry over the failings of others, I strengthen—not release—that sense of failure in myself. Projection guarantees I won’t change. Instead, I will have more of what I am trying to get rid of by seeing it in others. As in 1984, rage begets more rage. Projections boomerang.

We have a choice: we can look honestly at what is in our mind, or we can attack others.

Donald Trump is the great psychological scapegoat of our time. Daily, we hear he is the stupid one, or he is the cruel one, or he is the lazy one. I can’t recall another American being the object of so much scorn. Is Trump today’s Emmanuel Goldstein?

Not that Trump isn’t, for example, a lazy, undisciplined thinker. The point is, we can discern something without getting incensed by it. We don’t have to get irate at the bus driver speeding down the street; wisely, we choose to not step off the curb. When you experience intense thoughts of judgment and feelings of anger, take notice. The key to understanding that you are projecting is the anger and judgment you feel.

We do not hate others for their failures, but for our own. We can’t help but hate ourselves for our mistreatment of others. This is so because in everyone’s mind is a memory, however dim, of our connection to all of humanity.

In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius expressed his belief that “Everything is interwoven, and the web is holy; none of its parts are unconnected.” Yet we often forget; separation rather than connectedness seems to be reality. To overcome the tendencies of his mind, Aurelius practiced a mental discipline:

Keep reminding yourself of the way things are connected, of their relatedness. All things are implicated in one another and in sympathy with each other. This event is the consequence of some other one. Things push and pull on each other, and breathe together, and are one.

Ryan Holliday writes that sympatheia—“the belief in mutual interdependence among everything in the universe, that we are all one”—is “perhaps the most radical idea in all of Stoicism.”

Projection is antithetical to sympatheia. When we project, we set out to show our false perceptions of our own virtues are true. To prove our innocence, someone else has to be guilty. We think our perception of bad conduct in others justifies our own lousy behavior. When our mind clears we see how ridiculous our posturing is. In his book, Bonds That Make Us Free, philosopher Terry Warner equates our displays of self-righteousness with bad acting:

Those who are not self-deceivingly stuck in their own accusing thoughts and feelings will see our public presentation of ourselves for what it is—an insecure, self-conscious, anxious striving to make a point about ourselves that is always a bit excessive, like bad acting.

People may be bad actors, but those who won’t take responsibility for their own failings are placing the rest of us in harm’s way. Damon Linker warns: “[I]t’s just a matter of time before real-world violence breaks out in response to an online conflagration.”

Those who became unhinged over the hatred they perceived in the Covington High students were projecting the unexamined hatred in their own minds. Instead of projecting, we can offer understanding and kindness.

Orwell was right, haters are going to hate. Yet, when we are willing to look at our unexamined self and take responsibility for it, there is nothing to project. In that space, nothing is left but our common humanity—we all have a right mind and a wrong mind and the power to choose again.

COLUMN BY

Barry Brownstein

Barry Brownstein

Barry Brownstein is professor emeritus of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore. He is the author of The Inner-Work of Leadership. To receive Barry’s essays subscribe at Mindset Shifts.

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

Only Economic Growth Will Save the United States of America

Gordon Gekko missed the mark with his famous Wall Street monologue about American capitalism. It is not greed but economic growth that is, for lack of a better word, good. Growth is right. Growth works. Growth clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Growth has marked the upward surge of mankind. And growth—you mark my words—will save that malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

This is probably pretty obvious to most Americans. Strong economic growth means more jobs and higher wages. Just take a look at the current expansion. It has only been moderate as goes the pace of growth, but it has been sustained. And month after month of a growing economy has brought down the unemployment rate to its lowest level since 1969, even as real wages continue to grow for all income levels. That’s especially true for working-class Americans. The 3.5 percent unemployment rate for Americans with only a high school diploma is the lowest since 2000. Indeed, despite all the debate about income inequality, earnings have been growing faster for those at the bottom than at the top.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump tours a Carrier factory with Vice President-elect Mike Pence in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., December 1, 2016. Reuters/Mike Segar

Or look at it this way: In their research paper “Productivity and Pay: Is the link broken?” Harvard’s Anna Stansbury and Lawrence Summers find that higher productivity growth is associated with higher average and median compensation growth. The economists show that if productivity growth had been as fast from 1973 to 2016 as it was from 1949 to 1973—about twice as high—median and mean compensation would have been around 41 percent higher.

Yet a growing number of policymakers and pundits on the left and right are questioning the primacy of growth as the key objective of national economic policy. Democrats and progressives are focused on new policies to redistribute wealth, such as Medicare for all, a federal jobs guarantee, or a universal basic income. Meanwhile, Republicans and conservatives, grappling with a president who questions the value of free trade and immigration, have grown publicly skeptical of market capitalism. “The free market has been sorting it out for a while, and America has been losing,” said Vice President Mike Pence. And they have become skeptical of the core goal of increasing economic growth.

Leading the charge among the wonks is Oren Cass, a Manhattan Institute scholar and former policy director for the 2012 Mitt Romney presidential campaign. In his new book, The Once and Future Worker, Cass writes that although “economic growth and rising material living standards are laudable goals … they by no means guarantee the health of a labor market that will meet society’s long-term needs.”

The criticisms of growth skeptics range from the ahistorical to the utopian. Of course, a fast-rising tide of economic growth does not guarantee all boats will rise at the same pace or at a pace that society deems sufficient. “Guarantee,” after all, is a strong word. Depending on the strength one attributes to it, it’s possible nothing can “guarantee” the outcome that some growth critics want: all winners, no losers, no trade-offs, no disruption. But if by guarantee we don’t mean “ensure with ironclad certainty” but only “approximate more closely than any available alternative,” economic growth remains society’s best bet. Indeed, this very urge to undervalue growth’s benefits is the surest sign that growth in America has become a victim of its own success.

G.K. Chesterton famously noted how modern types of reformers see institutions or practices and think, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the wise reply, “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away.” Institutions and policies that endure decade after decade often serve a useful purpose even if that purpose isn’t immediately apparent, and we should be cautious before shrugging them off as unimportant. Our growth-oriented economic policy is a perfect example. It brings tremendous benefits, yet we now risk taking it for granted.

And what an odd time to question the benefits. The Obama administration was much derided for its apparently self-serving claim, made in the 2013 Economic Report of the President, “that in the 21st Century, real GDP growth in the United States is likely to be permanently slower than it was in earlier eras.” But it was a perfectly reasonable baseline forecast that continues to reflect the economic consensus from Wall Street to Washington. For instance: The Federal Reserve’s long-term, real GDP forecast stands at 1.8 percent, about half the average pace from 1947 to the start of the Great Recession. And even that reduced pace of growth seems a tad too optimistic for JP Morgan, which pegs the economy’s long-term growth potential at 1.5 percent.

There are good reasons why the experts seem so gloomy. The most important—and, perhaps, most inescapable—is demographics. The aging of the labor force, lower birth rates, and a slowing rate of immigration suggest a slowdown in the growth of the American labor force to around 0.5 percent annually going forward—as compared with roughly 2 percent in the 1960s and 1970s. The U.S. economy expanded at a 4.1 percent annual pace during the ’60s—a decade that today’s nationalist populists look back on with great nostalgia. But growth would have been less than 3 percent if the labor force had been growing as slowly back then as it is currently.

The other big obstacle to faster growth is weak productivity, which downshifted just before the Great Recession and has yet to rebound. For the American economy to grow as fast in the future as it has overall since World War II, output per worker will need to rise sharply. Indeed, that is a big goal of the 2017 Republican-pushed corporate tax cuts. They are supposed to increase business investment and eventually productivity growth. But there are no signs either is happening yet, much to the dismay of many conservative economists. The only other hope lies beyond Washington’s tinkering: The private sector continues to innovate. Maybe Silicon Valley will eventually come to the rescue, as innovation in areas such as artificial intelligence and robotics eventually spreads throughout the non-tech economy. The history of radical technological advances, such as electrification, suggest that it can take some time before businesses figure out how to effectively employ them.

It can be easy to dismiss all this talk of growth rates as the abstract muttering of economists far removed from the everyday concerns of the average American. As a corrective, George Mason economist Tyler Cowen poses a useful thought experiment in his latest book, Stubborn Attachments. Imagine we redo U.S. history, he says, “but assume the country’s economy had grown one percentage point less each year between 1870 and 1990. In that scenario, the United States of 1990 would be no richer than the Mexico of 1990.”

Michael Strain, my colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, makes a similar point when he writes:

Imagine the world in the year 1900. There was no air travel, no antibiotics, no iPhone, no Amazon Prime, no modern high school and no air conditioning. … Anyone who played down growth a century ago wouldn’t have known they were arguing against any of these things, because none of these growth-enabled features of modern life had been invented yet. But they would have been putting the existence of all these at risk by stifling, even marginally, the economic engine that allowed for their creation.

Sustained and solid growth is what makes these advances possible and is what separates the median American today from the median residents of the world’s developing economies. Sacrificing a tenth of a percentage point here and two-tenths there to, say, protect favored industries from foreign competition or levy punitive taxes on obscenely rich entrepreneurs may seem like a worthwhile tradeoff in the moment. But because of how growth compounds over time, in the long-term such trade-offs aren’t just unappealing but inexplicable. As the Nobel Laureate in economics Robert Lucas wrote, “Once one starts to think about [exponential growth], it is hard to think about anything else.” Marginally slowing down economic growth to achieve other policy goals might cause little harm to us, but it seems both less fair and less wise when the welfare of ensuing generations are accounted for. In Strain’s words, “What in the world of tomorrow doesn’t yet exist? We need growth in order to find the answer, both for ourselves, and for posterity.”

It is strange that intellectuals are dismissing the importance of economic growth at just the point when it is becoming harder to generate—and doubly weird after a long stretch of sluggish growth that has almost certainly played a role in the surge of populist politicians such as President Trump. And these populist leaders are pushing the sorts of policies that make a future of slow growth even more likely.

Trump looks back to the immediate decades after World War Two as the golden age of the American economy. His presidential campaign, for instance, made a point of promising the return of mass employment in the industrial-age industries of steel and coal. Cass, too, has pointed to those decades as an alternate model of economic growth. As he said during a recent think-tank event:

The period of time when productivity growth was really booming most in the American economy was a time when tax rates were much higher, immigration rates were much lower, there was virtually no international trade by the standards of the 1920s or today, and there was a much smaller or non-existent safety net. The idea that what we currently call the pro-growth agenda is actually what has aligned with high growth isn’t true.

That is a wrong-headed interpretation of economic history. While it is true that the so-called golden age era is known for fast economic and productivity growth, economists generally do not credit the lack of trade or immigration. Rather, notes the Congressional Budget Office in a review of research literature on the subject, “the golden age may be more accurately interpreted as the full final exploitation of an earlier burst of innovations through electrification, suburbanization, completion and increasing exploitation of the highway system, and production of consumer appliances.” In other words, huge technological advances in the 1920s and 1930s reaped benefits for decades.

Unfortunately, those productivity gains, along with American industrial superiority over its war-ravaged competitors, have created a myth about the postwar American economy—a myth that populists continue to spread. Yet Fortress America entered the 1970s ill-prepared for the inevitable global competition as the rest of the world’s advanced economies finally recovered.

Both Trump and Cass, therefore, have it backward. It wasn’t too much globalization and economic openness that undermined large swaths of the manufacturing economy, but too little. As Adrian Wooldridge of The Economist and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan write in Capitalism in America:

The 1970s was the decade when Americans finally had to grapple with the fact that it was losing its leadership in an ever widening range of industries. Though the best American companies such as General Electric and Pfizer powered ahead, a striking number treaded water. They had succeeded during the long postwar boom not because they had any particular merit, but because Europe and Japan were still recovering from World War Two and they collapsed at the first sniff of competition.

The last thing the American economy needs today is a reduction in competitive intensity, whether achieved by shielding industries with tariffs or keeping out the immigrants that help grow the workforce and provide expertise to key industries, especially technology. Nearly half of our “unicorn companies,” another name for U.S. startups worth over $1 billion dollars, were founded by immigrants. Immigrant scientists and entrepreneurs play a disproportionate role in driving the tech progress necessary for sustained productivity growth. Forty percent of Fortune 500 companies have a first- or second-generation immigrant founder. Immigrants may compete with other Americans, but they also employ them.

The critics of a growth-above-all approach might grant that no other national policy is better at generating material prosperity. But, they say, life requires more than mere materialism. We crave community, beauty, and a certain degree of stability. It is this objection that Harvard’s Benjamin Friedman sought to address in his 2006 book, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. True, capitalism and the creative destruction that drive it can disrupt traditional cultures or degrade the environment. And from the Old Testament to the present, men have fretted over usury’s effects on one’s soul (today we might say finance’s effects on one’s morals). But growth doesn’t only erode individual and societal morality. Besides improving material conditions, growth improves moral ones, as well.

Friedman notes how sustained growth “shapes the social, political and, ultimately, the moral character of a people” and “more often than not fosters greater opportunity, tolerance of diversity, social mobility, commitment to fairness, and dedication to democracy.” Slow growth, on the other hand, leads to ugly consequences, especially if voters begin to feel it is inevitable. In times of stagnation, economic policy tilts toward dividing up a fixed pie rather than enlarging everyone’s share. It could mean a society that is less willing to entertain the benefits of international trade, more hostile toward immigration and immigrants, and more comfortable with regulating business.

In fact, “could” is putting it mildly. The tariffs, legislative efforts to reduce immigration, and frequent threats to regulate America’s most successful companies, such as Google and Amazon, already show some of the consequences of the sluggish recovery from the Great Recession—and this from what is supposed to be America’s pro-growth party.

Growth is, and remains, good. Growth is right, staving off a zero-sum politics defined more by group conflict than productive cooperation. Growth works, improving everyone’s standard of living, if not always equally, at least steadily. Growth clarifies, exposing business to competition, and prevents industrial calcification. Growth signifies the evolutionary and upward surge of mankind, evident in everything from modern medicine to interstellar space travel. And a policy geared toward increasing economic growth—pursued attentively and unapologetically—will save the United States of America. All other national economic strategies are but pale imitations.

This article was reprinted from the American Enterprise Institute.

COLUMN BY

James Pethokoukis

James Pethokoukis

James Pethokoukis is a columnist and blogger at the American Enterprise Institute. Previously, he was the Washington columnist for Reuters Breakingviews, the opinion and commentary wing of Thomson Reuters.

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EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column with images is republished with permission. Image credit: Image by geralt on Pixabay.