The Dire Urgency For Trump’s Wall

How national security, public safety, and Americans’ jobs are on the line.

Although the partial government shutdown has ended, temporarily, President Trump has made it clear that in three weeks he will again shut down part of the federal government if funding is not provided for the construction of the border wall/barrier.

The mainstream media has said that “conservative Republicans” are unhappy with the President for re-opening the government while Democratic politicians are claiming a victory in the battle over the construction of a border wall.

In fact, all Americans should stand behind the President and back his demands for a border wall.

Superficially it would appear that the battle is being waged over a simple difference of opinion to determine the best way to secure the problematic southern border of the United States. In fact, this is how the mainstream media is portraying this struggle.

However, there is far more going on and far more at stake than a difference of opinion.

The battle is actually being fought over the goals of President Trump versus the Democrats’ ultimate goals. The Democrats are at war not just with Trump, but with America and Americans, and are willing to sacrifice national security and public safety in order to attain their goals.

As we shall see, the Democrats have no desire to actually secure our borders and, in fact, have taken many steps to undermine border security and effective immigration law enforcement. Some Democrats have called for the dismantling of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) altogether.

We will explore this shortly, but let’s begin by noting that our immigration laws make absolutely no distinction about the race, religion or ethnicity of aliens, only if their presence would undermine national security, public safety, public health and/or the livelihoods of Americans.

As I have noted in previous articles, an effective barrier along that troubled border would not prevent any people or commerce from entering the United States legally, but funnel all traffic to ports of entry where CBP inspectors can vet these aliens and create records of their entry into the United States and thus help to prevent the entry of alien criminals including members of the drug cartels, transnational gangs, fugitives from justice and international terrorists.

That threat was the focus of my commentary, Jihadis And Drug Cartel At Our Border.

Funneling all commerce through ports of entry would enable CBP inspectors to also screen vehicles and cargo to prevent contraband such as narcotics, weapons and counterfeit products from being smuggled into the United States.

This is vital for public safety, public health, and certainly for national security. The preface of the official report that was authored by members of the 9/11 Commission staff, 9/11 and Terrorist Travel, began with this unambiguous paragraph:

It is perhaps obvious to state that terrorists cannot plan and carry out attacks in the United States if they are unable to enter the country. Yet prior to September 11, while there were efforts to enhance border security, no agency of the U.S. government thought of border security as a tool in the counterterrorism arsenal. Indeed, even after 19 hijackers demonstrated the relative ease of obtaining a U.S. visa and gaining admission into the United States, border security still is not considered a cornerstone of national security policy. We believe, for reasons we discuss in the following pages, that it must be made one.

Additionally, many illegal aliens enter the United States intent on working illegally in the United States so that they can send money back to their families in their home countries around the world. 

Securing the border against the entry of illegal alien workers and narcotics would enable the wall to pay for itself in a very short period of time as I noted in an earlier article, “America Needs A Border Wall Like Houses Need Insulation.”

Prior to World War II the U.S. Labor Department bore the primary responsibility for the enforcement and administration of our immigration laws. The concern was that foreign workers would displace American workers. Furthermore, aliens from Third World countries bring with them expectations of Third World wages and working conditions. When large numbers of such alien workers enter the labor force they consequently drive down wages and working conditions for American and lawful immigrant workers who are similarly employed.

It is beyond reason that the Democratic Party now stands united in opposition to the construction of a secure border structure even though the U.S. Border Patrol, through its leadership and the leadership of the union that represents America’s Border Patrol agents, have all publicly and unequivocally insisted that such a structure would be of huge assistance to them in securing our dangerous southern border.

The Democrats insist that walls are “old fashioned” and that in this day and age we should not erect walls but use drones and high-tech sensors. President Trump’s response was perfect. He said that wheels are also “old technology” but very effective.

During my January 22nd appearance on Fox & Friends I noted that a homeowner would not be likely to install a sophisticated burglar alarm on his/her home without also putting a secure front door on his/her home. Technology on the border without a barrier would be the equivalent of a house with a burglar alarm but without a locking front door to block the entry of an intruder.

The problem is that the Democratic Party of today is certainly not the Democratic Party of years past.

The old Democratic Party supported the concerns and aspirations of blue-collar Americans and sought to pass and enforce laws that protected these workers who are the backbone of America.

The new Democratic Party has turned on its traditional base, blue-collar and union workers, and is now intent on flooding America with a virtually unlimited number of foreign workers, although these illegal aliens are destroying job opportunities and wages for Americans. The Democrats seek to destroy the middle class to push millions of Americans to the left and thus to vote for them when they promise to provide financial assistance to struggling families.

The Democratic Party devised “Sanctuary Cities” that harbor and shield illegal aliens from detection by ICE agents in apparent violation of 8 U.S. Code § 1324, which includes the following felonies:

(iii) knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, conceals, harbors, or shields from detection, or attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, such alien in any place, including any building or any means of transportation;

(iv) encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law;

The Democrats have also provided a plethora of economic incentives for illegal aliens by, for example, providing them with in-state tuition.

These actions certainly encourage huge numbers of illegal aliens to enter the United States, confident that once here, a growing number of municipalities and even states such as California and New York will go to extremes to shield them from ICE even if they are found guilty of committing crimes.

Although border barriers can be extremely effective and have been used successfully in countries around the world, Pelosi has referred to such a barrier as being “immoral,” and other politicians have referred to the barrier as being a “wall of hate.” 

Some have said that the Democrats are determined to prevent President Trump from keeping his campaign promise that formed his core platform during the election campaign.

Certainly there may be some truth in that, but let us not forget that the Democrats have been vocal in their opposition to immigration law enforcement even where transnational gangs and violent criminal aliens are concerned.

The consequences of uncontrolled immigration, the obvious goal of the Democratic Party would profoundly and irrevocably change America, and not for the better. 

Flooding America with cheap and exploitable foreign labor is certainly not an act of compassion but is immoral as well as illegal. It is also an act of national suicide. Labor is a commodity and when the market place is flooded with any commodity its value plunges.

Alan Greenspan, as I noted in a previous article, “Open Borders Facilitate America’s Race To The Bottom,” in testifying at a hearing conducted in 2009 by the Senate Immigration Subcommittee before Chuck Schumer, actually explained that making Americans compete with foreign workers for jobs in the high-tech industries would reduce the “wage premiums” being paid to American workers, whom he outrageously described as the “privileged elite,” to help reduce “wage inequality” between highly-skilled Americans with American workers who had lesser skills.

Greenspan, at that hearing, also acknowledged that illegal aliens would suppress the wages of the working poor, American workers who had not graduated from high school. Here is the sentence from his testimony:

Some evidence suggests that unskilled illegal immigrants (almost all from Latin America) marginally suppress wage levels of native-born Americans without a high school diploma, and impose significant costs on some state and local governments.

Incredibly, Greenspan claimed that the economic gains would offset wage suppression and the costs that would be imposed on state and local governments.

Here is the irrevocable truth and likely reason for the Democrats’ opposition to border security: Open borders would irrevocably push economically-beleaguered Americans to the Democrats who promise to provide financial assistance to Americans who, through no fault of their own, could no longer survive without government assistance that the Democrats are happy to offer.

It would appear that the “long game” for the Democrats is to essentially create a one-party government by wresting political power from the Republicans.

The Democrats have to know that by not securing our borders America would be that much more vulnerable to international terrorists and transnational gangs and drug cartels but, for them, apparently, the carnage that would result is simply “collateral damage” as they seek political dominance.

EDITORS NOTE: This FrontPage Magazine column with images is republished with permission. The featured Image by 849356 on Pixabay.

House Republicans Vote Twice to Pay Government Employees During Shutdown

House Republicans have now twice voted to pay government employees during the partial shutdown, but neither bill has passed the Democrat-controlled chamber.

“House Republicans have repeatedly introduced measures that would pay federal employees during the stalemate,” Rep. Mike Johnson, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal. “Unfortunately, Democrats refuse to budge.”

“It is disingenuous to express outrage over the approximately 800,000 workers missing paychecks, but then continue to vote in favor of withholding their pay. That is precisely what the majority of Democrats are doing,” Johnson added.

In a statement provided to The Daily Signal, Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., said Democrats’ failure to vote with Republicans to pay federal employees is telling.

“Before choosing to go home early for the weekend, 215 Democrats voted to deprive hard-working federal workers of their pay,” Hice said, adding:

Once again, they blocked a good faith effort to ensure all federal employees receive pay during this stalemate as we allow negotiations to continue on border security. This is just the latest example that Nancy Pelosi and Democrats are only interested in hurting President Trump instead of actually solving problems.

Texas freshman lawmaker Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, says “actions speak louder than words,” noting that most Democrats failed to join House Republicans and vote to pay federal employees during the partial government shutdown.

“House GOP voted again to pay federal employees,” Crenshaw tweeted Wednesday. “This time just ten Democrats joined us,” he said, adding that the prior time Republicans voted to pay federal employees, only six Democrats had joined them.

The partial government shutdown has now been ongoing for 34 days due to the fight over $5.7 billion in funding for a barrier at the border.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., suggested in a tweet that House Democrats had no “sense of urgency” to end the shutdown.

“Democrats decry federal workers not getting paid in one breath and then cancel votes to leave town early in another,” Meadows tweeted Thursday. “Ridiculous—the shutdown is 33 days old. Where is the sense of urgency? There is zero reason anyone in Congress should go home until this is resolved. Period.”

The Senate will be voting on a package to end the shutdown on Thursday, but it is not expected to pass, Politico reported.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called on the Senate to pass the package, but did not acknowledge the votes the House has taken to fund federal employees despite the shutdown.

“As the #TrumpShutdown hits Day 34, the consequences of this senseless shutdown continue to build,” Pelosi tweeted. “President Trump and Senate Republicans must allow us to do the responsible thing and re-open government.”

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., also introduced legislation Jan. 9 to pay federal employees during the government shutdown who are “tasked with securing our border and deterring illegal immigration,” and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., told The Daily Signal in an email that Democrats should stop their obstruction.

“Nancy Pelosi and Democrats continue to vote against giving our federal workers a paycheck,” Gosar said. “It’s time for Democrats to stop this nonsense and come to the table and end this shutdown. I remain committed to securing our border and getting Americans back to work.”

Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., also highlighted on Twitter Thursday that “214 Democrats voted against paying our federal employees at [the Department of Homeland Security].”

COLUMN BY

Portrait of Rachel del Guidice

Rachel del Guidice

Rachel del Guidice is a reporter for The Daily Signal. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Forge Leadership Network, and The Heritage Foundation’s Young Leaders Program. Send an email to Rachel. Twitter: @LRacheldG.

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 is from Congressman Dan Crenshaw’s Facebook page.

Russians and Eastern Europeans Steal Credit Card Information, Rip-off Washington State Residents

Looks like they just flew in and set up a credit card skimming fraud scheme.

credit card skimming
Did you know you could take a course (if you speak Russian) in how to steal credit card data!  

Check out this story from the Tri-City Herald, a paper serving Kennewick, Pasco and Richland, Washington.  And, check out this fantastic reporting by Kristin Kraemer!  This is reporting as it should be!

No typical politically-correct reporting identifying the perps as “man,” or Washington “man” here.

No ‘secret decoder ring’ needed!

Straight up in the headline—these are foreign crooks!

Two are Russians, the other two are from Romania and Moldova.

From the Tri-City Herald (hat tip: Robin):

These foreigners ran a credit card skimming ring in the Tri-Cities, say police

Dozens of Tri-Citians were the victim of a highly sophisticated credit card scam that ended with the arrests of four Eastern Europeans.

Police say the alleged thieves weren’t caught until they had already siphoned $17,000 from accounts just after Christmas.

And there may be dozens more unknowing victims throughout Eastern Washington since police confiscated at least 268 gift cards, each one loaded with a separate account number, name and PIN number.

While the suspects were nabbed at Numerica Credit Union in Richland, court documents show they were operating out of hotels in Yakima County and driving rental cars from Seattle and Southern California.

[….]

Emil Kabirov, 21, Denis Legun, 24, Ana Onici, 22, and George Vasile, 35, appeared Friday in Benton County Superior Court.

Judge Joe Burrowes raised Kabirov’s bail to $500,000 — an amount typically reserved for defendants in murder, violent assault and certain child sex cases.

Bail is set at $100,000 each for Legun and Vasile with the stipulation that they surrender their passports before posting bond. If they don’t hand them over but want to be released, the bail amount increases to $500,000 on each.

[….]

The suspects may have used a skimming device attached to an ATM, gas pump or a card reader in a store to record legitimate transactions.

The stolen information, or metadata, is then downloaded from the device, providing scammers with account numbers and access PINs.

Often, that information is used to make counterfeit cards with blank gift cards so the thieves can use them like credit or debit cards at various ATMs to unlawfully withdraw money from those accounts.

Much more here.

Kabirov and Legun are identified as Russians, Vasile is Romanian, and Onica is from Moldova and all are ordered to appear in court in February.  A fifth suspect got away.

Kudos to Ms. Kraemer!

So why can’t we have reporting like this more often—reporting that doesn’t shy away from telling the public when the crooks are immigrants of some sort!

However, I still have one question:  which legal immigration program did this bunch use to get in to the US, or did they arrive illegally somehow?  How can we ever reform immigration if we don’t know where the loopholes are that crooks like these creeps take advantage of?

EDITORS NOTE: This column by Frauds, Crooks and Criminals with images is republished with permission. The featured photo is by Two Paddles Axe and Leatherwork on Unsplash.

Remittances: The “R” Word No One Talks About

The next time you see a gushing news story where you live about how “new Americans” are causing your city’s economy to blossom, check the study and see if the “Welcoming” gang has factored in the amount of money LEAVING your community!

trump mexico build the wall
A small fee on Remittances will do it Donald! 

Remittances are the dollars, US dollars, leaving the US economy and are the primary reason countries like Mexico, El Salvador, India, countries in Africa (e.g. Somalia!) and so forth want their migrants to get to the US where they can find employment and welfare (and fraud/crime) in order to send money back ‘home.’

I’ll bet you will never find any figure in any glowing economic study written by the likes of  Welcoming America and the New American Economy globalists that shows how much money is leaving your city or state for a foreign country.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform and other immigration restriction groups see those huge outflows as a source of funding for border security and the wall.

From FAIR’s Bob Dane,

Legal and illegal migrants sent $53.4 billion in remittances back to Mexico and Central America in 2018. That’s $53.4 billion – with a “B” – and more than double the projected cost of building a border barrier.

Remittances to Mexico alone reached $33.7 billion in 2018, up 21 percent from roughly $27.8 billion in 2016, the World Bank reported.

Remittances to Central America are spiking with a growing inflow of asylum seekers benefiting from U.S. catch-and-release laws. Wire transfers to Central America hit $19.7 billion last year, up from $15.8 billion in 2016. The southbound windfall includes payments to human-trafficking cartels.

With an estimated 83 percent of Mexicans who enter the U.S. illegally sending money home, a surcharge on remittances is one sure way for President Trump to make good on his promise to make Mexico pay for the wall.

For a few cents on the dollar it wouldn’t take long for Mexico to pay for the wall! Dane continues,

At the current (and rising) rate of remittances, a nominal 2 percent surcharge on Mexico-bound funds would raise $674 million for a border wall in the first year. Slap a fee on all foreign remittances — $150 billion last year — and the 2,000-mile barrier is fully paid off within eight years.

See the World Bank study. There is big money for global banks in this migration business, while those billions leaving the US are no longer available for circulation in your local economy!

Looking for something to do?

The next time you see any mention in local news about how your city is booming because of “new Americans,” call the reporter, ask him/her for the study the news is based upon and look to see if any mention is made of money leaving your city or state for a third world country.  If it’s not there, write a letter to the editor to tell the public that the study is bogus.

And, hey, I will bet there is no mention of costs for the criminal justice system in the glowing economic report either.  There might not even be the costs for your local school system!

EDITORS NOTE: This column by Frauds, Crooks and Criminals with images is republished with permission. The featured photo is by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash.

George Bernard Shaw Was so Enamored with Socialism He Advocated Genocide to Advance It

For decades, Shaw was a staunch proponent of genocide, refusing to soften his views even after the full horror of the Nazi death camps was brought to light.

In an excerpt from her recently published book Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism, Kristen Ghodsee freely quotes from the works of the playwright and Fabian Socialist George Bernard Shaw to bolster her argument that capitalism is inherently sexist. The free market forces women to be reliant upon men, wrote Shaw, turning sex into a virtual bribe for financial security. Based on Shaw’s analysis, Ghodsee concludes that capitalism makes slaves out of women who, under socialism, would supposedly be happy and free.

To say the least, citing Shaw is an odd choice if one is advocating for greater freedom and independence. An apologist for the world’s most brutal and oppressive dictators, Shaw had a passionate hatred for liberty, writing,

Mussolini, Kemal, Pilsudski, Hitler and the rest can all depend on me to judge them by their ability to deliver the goods and not by … comfortable notions of freedom.

For Shaw, “the goods” could only be delivered if the people were bound in universal slavery to the state. This enslavement was necessary for the people’s welfare; most of the population were brutes who, when left to their own devices, could not fend for themselves and thus required the state to “reorganize” their lives for them.

In Shaw’s eyes, the pinnacle of civilization had been reached by the Soviet Union. During his 1931 “pilgrimage” to Stalin’s wonderland, Shaw was given a glimpse of what he referred to as a “land of hope.” He denied that the regime had imprisoned significant numbers of political dissidents, describing the gulags as popular vacation destinations. “From what I gather, they can stay there as long they like,” he said.

That’s not to say he was willfully ignorant of Stalin’s atrocities. Rather, he defended them. Blindly accepting Communist propaganda, Shaw argued that the dictator was forced to organize mass executions to keep the country safe from “exploiters and speculators.” Mass murders were also necessary to maintain a competent workforce. As Shaw wrote in 1933, the “unfortunate Commissar” must shoot his own workers “so that he might the more impressively ask the rest of the staff whether they yet grasped the fact that orders are meant to be executed.”

But killing the disobedient and inefficient was only the first step in building a better society. Shaw also advocated for a far-reaching eugenics program. “[I]f we desire a certain type of civilization and culture,” he wrote, “we must exterminate the sort of people who do not fit into it.” This included a whole range of “defectives.”

In a 1931 newsreel, he excitedly echoed Nazi sentiment, stating,

If you can’t justify your existence, if you’re not pulling your weight … then clearly, we cannot use the organizations of society for the purpose of keeping you alive, because your life does not benefit us and it can’t be of very much use to you.

But his murderous impulses didn’t stop there. A considerable number of people, Shaw argued in 1948, will never toe the line and are therefore no use to the rest of society. “[T]he ungovernables, the ferocious, the conscienceless, the idiots, the self-centered myops and morons, what of them?” he asked rhetorically. “Do not punish them. Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill them.”

Though many early 20th century intellectuals were enamored with eugenics, arguably none were as committed to the wholesale slaughter of millions as George Bernard Shaw. For decades, Shaw was a staunch proponent of genocide, refusing to soften his views even after the full horror of the Nazi death camps was brought to light. And yet, there are many leftists today who continue to look to Shaw for political wisdom.

Writing for The Irish Times, Fintan O’Toole declares “The world has never needed George Bernard Shaw more.” Employing a fittingly violent metaphor, O’Toole lauds the way in which Shaw trained his machine gun-like personality on the “pieties of Victorian imperial patriarchy.”

Like Kristen Ghodsee, O’Toole praises Shaw for his polemics against gender inequality and the “tyranny” of family life. No mention is made of his fondness for eugenics. Other writers have taken to Shaw’s defense, admitting he sometimes said distasteful things but ultimately brushing off his more extreme statements as mere “satire.” However, given that Shaw’s penchant for promoting totalitarianism carried on for decades, it’s difficult to believe there was anything “satirical” about it. His bloodthirsty political philosophy seems to be have been all too genuine.

Nonetheless, Shaw was also a steadfast critic of capitalism and “Victorian” social values. His fiery denunciations of wealth inequality and traditional sexual morality resonate well with modern progressives. For them, an individual’s adherence to socialist orthodoxy is enough to absolve him of almost any crime.

From the relatively quiet and “respectable” anti-semitism of Ilhan Omar to the brutal and homicidal radicalism of Che Guevara, socialists have not only been willing to ignore the bigots and authoritarians in their midst but have gone so far as to embrace them. And few have been more adored than that eccentric playwright and unapologetic Stalinist George Bernard Shaw.

COLUMN BY

Tyler  Curtis

Tyler Curtis

Tyler Curtis works as a lender at a community bank in Missouri. He also holds an undergraduate degree in Economics from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

RELATED VIDEO: George Bernard Shaw: Justify Your Existence

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

Boston Mayor Proposes Draconian Interrogation Health Care Measure In The Name Of Gun Safety.

On January 10, City of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced his legislative agenda for 2019.  In what represents the latest leftist assault on privacy rights and gun ownership, the Mayor proposed that medical professionals be required “. . . to ask patients about the presence of guns in their homes. . . ”  The government mandated interrogation is to be undertaken “. . . with the goal of identifying red flags that could indicate risks relative to suicide, domestic violence, or child access to guns.”  

In point of fact, the Mayor’s proposal is the latest end-around towards developing a comprehensive registry of gun ownership within Boston, a clear violation of Bostonians’ privacy rights and an intimidation tactic designed to shame gun owners into relinquishing their guns.  

Amazingly, the topic of physician inquiries into their patients’ gun ownership status is marred with controversy.  This is largely due to the incredulous position and legislative efforts undertaken by the American Academy of Pediatrics in support of banning handguns.  In 1992, the AAP, an organization created for the purpose of promoting pediatrician education and representing issues important to pediatricians, actually thought it was sound legislative policy to intrude onto the expressed constitutional rights of American citizens by supporting legislation that would “prohibit the possession, sale or manufacture of handguns in the United States.” Stupidly, the AAP then went on to post it on their website as one of its stated missions.

The issue came to a head when, in the State of Florida, legislation was introduced that would fine a physician $5 million for merely asking a patient if he or she had a gun in his or her home.  The proposed legislation arose from an incident where a dense physician in Ocala, Florida, refused to see a patient because she would not disclose her gun ownership status.  The logical and sane conclusion to the controversy would have been for the woman to simply see another doctor and share with her friends and community the lunacy of the physician through personal or media communications.  At most, she could have reported this physician’s unethical practice to the Board of Medicine and let the issue play itself out that way.  Instead, she chose to approach her state legislator who propagated the insanity by proposing a multi-million dollar punishment for physicians who merely ask a question.  The fact that the state legislature even considered the bill is a testament to the absurdity of the times in which we live.

Ultimately, the bill was watered down so that what was passed, the Firearms Owners’ Privacy Protections Act (FOPA), prohibited physicians from documenting a patient’s gun ownership status unless it was directly relevant to the care of the patient.  The bill also prohibited physicians from discriminating against an individual based on the person’s gun ownership status.  Violation of the law was punishable by “. . . a fine of up to $10,000.00, a letter of reprimand, probation, suspension, compulsory remedial education, or permanent license revocation.”

The ensuing multi-year, multi-million-dollar, social and legal controversy ended with an Eleventh Circuit Federal Court ruling tossing the law out as unconstitutional, but the ridiculous, unnecessary, and painful process did bring to light a number of issues regarding the nexus between health care, medical documentation, and personal liberties.  

First, indisputably, a physician ought to be able to ask a patient about guns.  The issue of accidental gun deaths is a serious problem in American society.  Anywhere between 77 and 113 pediatric, gun-related deaths take place in our country each year.  Efforts at curtailing these deaths are generally laudable, and the fact is that primary care physicians such as pediatricians engage in all sorts of health screenings designed to prevent disease or injury.  Gun safety should be no different.  

On the other hand, gun ownership is a cherished right that is to be zealously guarded. Any organization, including the AAP, seeking to decimate that right must be vehemently opposed.  The act of refusing a gun owner service merely because that owner is wishing to protect a right expressly enshrined in the Constitution is unconscionable and becomes even more egregious when the patient’s ownership status becomes part of his or her permanent record and accessible by the government.  Perhaps, the greater problem is our acquiescence to government funding of our health care and to giving it access to our personal information, but that is another issue altogether.  

The principal benefit to our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is to provide a check upon the power of government.  That effect is undoubtedly endangered when the government is allowed to know exactly who owns such weapons and unduly regulates who accesses them.

Florida and its physicians learned valuable lessons about gun rights and health care through its experience with the Doc v. Glocks drama; lessons that apparently were not heeded by Mayor Marty Walsh.  

Mayor Walsh’s proposal is vastly more draconian than either the Ocala physician’s actions or the state legislature’s response to it.  Walsh wants to mandate that physicians interrogate patients about gun ownership.  This would no longer be a situation where a pretentious physician on an individual basis decides to ask a question to the point of sacrificing his relationship with his patient.  What Walsh is proposing is that physicians work as agents of the state to collect information from patients regarding their most sacred rights and record it for the government’s benefit.  The very idea of this proposal strikes a dictatorial and oppressive tone. 

Adding to the tyrannical optics, it is the Police Commissioner who is out in public heralding the benign intent of the proposal. Boston Police Commissioner William Gross explained that the goal would be to identify those at risk for domestic violence, suicide or child access to guns in order to guide people to mental health counseling, resources or other help. In short, he said, “We’re just asking [medical professionals] to help identify ways to save lives.” 

Isn’t it interesting that practically every oppressive idea proposed by the left is buttressed by the goal of saving lives?  And by the way, despite the Police Commissioner’s comment, the government wouldn’t be asking for help, it would be mandating it.  In short, anyone harboring a concern regarding excessive governmental intrusion ought to instinctively recall Benjamin Franklin’s words: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

From a practical nature, it is clear that neither the Mayor nor the Police Commissioner have given their proposal sufficient thought.  Not only does their recommendation clearly intrude on people’s liberties, but what happens when a patient refuses to divulge such information? Are we going to refuse him or her treatment?  Will we fine him or her, or jail the person?  What happens if a physician refuses to participate?  And what happens if there is a gun-related accident, death, or suicide following a contact with a physician, does the doctor become liable? 

Mayor Marty Shaw’s proposal is a bad idea at so many levels.  It is draconian, offensive to the Constitution, disrespectful to the free and unencumbered practice of medicine, and an undue intrusion into patient’s privacy rights.  Bostonians must oppose it lest the mayor’s disease spread elsewhere.

EDITORS NOTE: This column from The Federalist Pages is republished with permission. The featured photo is by Jason Leung on Unsplash.

Find Out The Cost Of Electricity In Your State. . .

Choose Energy has produced information on the cost of residential electricity by state. The data is most reveling.

According to Choose Energy :

Where you live affects your electricity rate

October 2018 data, the latest available, show that the average U.S. price – 12.87 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) – rose 0.5% compared with a year ago. If you live in Louisiana, you paid the lowest average residential electricity rates of any state in the country – 9.11 cents per kWh. The next lowest rate is in Arkansas, where residents pay an average of 9.34 cents per kWh.

Below are the cheapest 10 states to live in based on residential electricity rates:

RankStateOctober 2018 Electric Rate
1Louisiana9.11
2Arkansas9.34
3Washington9.68
4Utah10.32
5Idaho10.33
6Tennessee10.70
7Missouri10.71
8Kentucky10.77
9North Dakota10.83
10Georgia10.96

Below are the 10 most expensive states to live in based on residential electricity rates.

RankStateOctober 2018 Electric Rate
1Hawaii32.46
2Alaska22.51
3Connecticut21.87
4Rhode Island21.46
5Massachusetts21.30
6New Hampshire20.23
7New York19.29
8Vermont18.42
9Maine16.47
10California15.73

Residential Electricity Rates by State

(cents per kWh for latest month available)

StateAverage Electric Rate:October 2018Average Electric Rate:October 2017% up/downChoose Energy Price Index(see below)Index rank
Alabama12.4212.661.9130.348
Alaska22.5121.783.4114.841
Arizona13.2612.783.8118.044
Arkansas9.3410.178.287.412
California15.7315.700.274.44
Colorado21.8721.292.773.63
Connecticut22.0521.263.7134.449
DC13.6013.441.294.5
Delaware13.8914.202.7113.739
Florida11.6711.851.5113.337
Georgia10.9611.524.9107.834
Hawaii32.4629.3010.8141.750
Idaho10.3310.260.785.110
Illinois13.2313.120.883.89
Indiana12.3912.752.8104.430
Iowa12.8211.778.995.719
Kansas13.3213.380.4103.527
Kentucky10.7711.173.6104.329
Louisiana9.119.938.397.623
Maine16.4716.052.677.75
Maryland14.1914.371.3122.046
Massachusetts21.3020.454.2110.336
Michigan15.4215.122.089.015
Minnesota13.7213.362.790.617
Mississippi11.2211.101.1116.743
Missouri10.7111.153.996.421
Montana11.4811.232.280.77
Nebraska11.2310.893.194.418
Nevada12.1612.794.997.222
New Hampshire20.2319.871.8105.632
New Jersey14.9614.662.089.316
New Mexico12.9712.960.170.72
New York19.2918.742.999.225
North Carolina11.9411.454.3113.638
North Dakota10.8310.941.097.924
Ohio12.4812.812.696.120
Oklahoma11.0011.171.5103.928
Oregon11.2410.893.288.513
Pennsylvania14.1014.603.4102.526
Rhode Island21.4619.559.8108.735
South Carolina12.4313.014.5124.147
South Dakota12.3512.481.0104.731
Tennessee10.7010.610.8114.540
Texas11.6911.095.4116.844
Utah10.3210.511.866.91
Vermont18.4217.972.587.411
Virginia11.9011.790.9115.242
Washington9.689.760.879.96
West Virginia11.2711.975.8107.333
Wisconsin14.9414.711.688.214
Wyoming11.0811.564.281.48

EDITORS NOTE: This column by Choose Energy is republished with permission. The featured photo is by Brian Patrick Tagalog on Unsplash.

Slowing Productivity and Rising Inequality Have a Common Driver: Government Intervention

Mainstream economists are overlooking a key connection.

A growing chorus of alarmist voices decries the rising economic inequality in the Western world, especially in the United States. Surprisingly enough, the same mainstream analysts complain about the anemic growth of labor productivity without seeing the correct link between the two.

Data shows a strong correlation between labor productivity and economic inequality (the two charts below). From the end of the Second World War until the mid-1970s, labor productivity grew at a robust rate of almost 3 percent per annum (p.a.), while income inequality declined. Afterward, both trends reversed—labor productivity slowed to below 2 percent growth p.a. on average and has almost stagnated since the Great Recession, while both wealth and income inequality expanded steadily.

What common factor could explain the two divergent trends that the mainstream analysts seem to overlook? In the 1940s, Mises was impressed by the ”miraculous” rise in the standards of living of American wage earners, which had been going on for more than two centuries. For him, the answer was straightforward: capital accumulation is the driving force behind both labor productivity and standards of living convergence.

Building on Mises’s work, Rothbard explained in detail what capital accumulation requires: (i) new capital investment that lengthens the structure of production and (ii) technological progress that overcomes the diminishing returns accompanying the increase in the supply of capital goods. However, Mises also warned that depletion of the capital stock would hamper capital accumulation and labor productivity. Unfortunately, mainstream analysts and the United States seem to have forgotten this valuable lesson.

In terms of technological progress, the US has maintained its world leadership during past decades. It ranks second in the world to Switzerland in terms of both innovation and business sophistication, spends more for Research & Innovation than the OECD or EU on average relative to GDP, and makes up the majority of the top 25 universities in the world. Moreover, it has issued the same amount of patents over the last three decades compared with the previous 150 years.

In terms of capital stock, the picture is completely different. According to estimates of the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the stock of private non-residential assets per worker has increased in real terms at about 1 percent p.a. from 1947 to 2009 and stagnated since the Great Recession (left chart below). However, BEA’s alleged sustained pace of capital growth seems hard to reconcile with the falling private investment and savings since the mid-1970s (right chart below).

In addition, the BEA methodology presents some serious shortcomings. Except for cars, BEA uses the “perpetual inventory method” to estimate fixed assets. According to it, the value of the capital stock is indirectly estimated as the sum of past investment flows minus the estimated depreciation. It means that all past investments are considered sound by default, which is certainly not the case nowadays when recurrent booms and busts cause significant volumes of malinvestments. Other question marks relate to the accurate estimation of depreciation rates in the face of rapid technological progress and the use of GDP deflators as their accuracy is unreliable, especially with regard to real estate investment.

All these considerations have led not only us but also the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) to suspect that BEA’s estimates of the US capital stock are overvalued. It is intriguing that the FRB adjusts the BEA estimates downward, especially with regard to real estate assets— “structures” in BEA’s jargon when it uses them as input for the calculation of the capital stock in manufacturing. As a result, there is a substantial difference between BEA and FRB estimates of the evolution of the volume of manufacturing capital stock from 1952 to 2016, in particular for the real estate component (left chart below). Therefore, we tried to recalculate the BEA estimate of the total stock of private non-residential capital per employee by extrapolating the difference between the two manufacturing indexes coming from BEA and FRB (right chart below).

The new results suggest that the real stock of capital per worker grew in a clear and sustained manner only until the end of the 1970s and fell afterward until the trough of the Great Recession. The recalculated capital stock is more consistent with the observed declines in investment and productivity since the mid-1970s and also confirms Mises’s prediction that wrong policies would lead to capital consumption.

For the United States, the failed economic policy is the exponential growth of government intervention in the economy in the 20th century, which stifled entrepreneurship and capital accumulation. This is obvious in the rise of both government spending that redistributes away economic resources from their originators (left chart below) and the amount of regulatory burden (right chart below). Another key factor taking a toll on capital endowment is inflation, which gained traction following the de facto abolishment of the gold standard in 1971.

Most importantly, inflationary policies trigger boom-bust cycles via the artificial lowering of interest rates below their free-market level. In a recent article on the business cycle, Salerno emphasizes that “overconsumption” and “malinvestment” are the two salient marks of the boom—not “overinvestment,” as wrongly understood by some mainstream critics. It is no surprise that the capital stock per worker dropped during the business cycles that have occurred regularly since the 1970s and that culminated in the Great Recession. The illusion of the boom fuels not only capital consumption but also the polarization of wealth and incomes in the society. The fiduciary credit expansion fuels an increase in asset prices, most commonly on stock exchanges and in real estate (charts below).

Although starting from a limited number of transactions, all owners calculate their net worth with the newly inflated asset prices, boosting the value of household assets in excess of liabilities. As a result, the rich appear to get even richer in an economy on steroids. This explains why both the US national wealth has grown much faster than national income since the end of the 1970s (left chart below), and the number of wealthy people increased significantly (right chart below).

The rising inequality since the 1970s has been fueled by both the decline in labor productivity and monetary expansion inflating asset prices. Both are perverse effects of government interventionist policies, which led to a gradual erosion of the US capital stock per employee. This is the correct linkage between inequality and productivity as explained by Mises and other Austrian School economists.

People have different skills and preferences, so the free market does not lead to a complete equalization of incomes and wealth. Nevertheless, it does ensure the proper allocation of capital to increase labor productivity and satisfy the most urgent needs of consumers. As a result, the gap between the well-off and the poor is not only gradually diminishing but also gets less significant in terms of consumption. Eventually, the disadvantage of wealth inequality becomes mostly a psychological one. As long as the capitalist consumes only a fraction of his wealth and invests the rest into productive businesses, the real beneficiary of the increase in labor productivity is the poorer part of society.

This article was reprinted from the Mises Institute.

COLUMN BY

Mihai Macovei

Dr. Mihai Macovei is an associated researcher at the Ludwig von Mises Institute Romania and works for an international organization in Brussels, Belgium.

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

Data Show California Is a Living Example of the Good Intentions Fallacy

“Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.”

During a speech at Harvard several years ago, Charlie Munger related a story about a surgeon who removed “bushel baskets full of normal gallbladders” from patients. The doctor was eventually removed, but much later than he should have been.

Munger, the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, wondered what motivated the doctor, so he asked a surgeon who participated in the removal of the physician.

“He thought that the gallbladder was the source of all medical evil, and if you really love your patients, you couldn’t get that organ out rapidly enough,” the physician explained.

The doctor was not motivated by profit or sadism; he very much believed he was doing right.

The anecdote is a perfect illustration of the righteousness fallacy, which Barry Brownstein noted is rampant in modern politics and a key driver of democratic socialism.

The Righteousness Fallacy (also known as the fallacy of good intentions) is described by author Dr. Bo Bennett as the idea that one is correct because their intentions are pure.

It recently occurred to me that California is a perfect example of this fallacy. Consider these three facts about the Golden State:

  1. California spends about $98.5 billion annually on welfare—the most in the US—but has the highest poverty rate in America.
  2. California has the highest income tax rate in the US, at 13.3 percent, but the fourth greatest income inequality of the 50 states.
  3. California has one of the most regulated housing markets in America, yet it has the highest homeless population in American and ranks 49th (per capita) in housing supply.

That politicians would persist with harmful policies should come as little surprise. The Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman once observed the uncanny proclivity of politicians “to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”

In his book Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman described the danger of such thinking.

[The threat comes] … from men of good intentions and good will who wish to reform us. Impatient with the slowness of persuasion and example to achieve the great social changes they envision, they’re anxious to use the power of the state to achieve their ends and confident in their ability to do so. Yet… Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it. 

I don’t doubt that California lawmakers, like the physician who was removing healthy gall bladders, believe they are doing the right thing. Yet they, like the physician, need to wake up to reality and realize they aren’t making people better.

COLUMN BY

Jon Miltimore

Jon Miltimore

Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. Serving previously as Director of Digital Media at Intellectual Takeout, Jon was responsible for daily editorial content, web strategy, and social media operations. Before that, he was the Senior Editor of The History Channel Magazine, Managing Editor at Scout.com, and general assignment reporter for the Panama City News Herald. Jon also served as an intern in the speechwriting department under George W. Bush.

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

DOD IG Reveals The Pentagon Let $27.7 Billion ‘Expire’ As Trump Seeks $5.7 Billion In Border Wall Funding

The Defense Department has relinquished over $27 billion to the U.S. Treasury since 2013 simply because it couldn’t spend the money quick enough, according to a DOD Inspector General report released Tuesday.

The DOD was required to fork over the “expired funds” because the Pentagon failed to spend it “within the legal timeframes,” according to the report.

The revelation comes as President Donald Trump is considering declaring a state of emergency that would allow him to bypass Congress and leverage unobligated military funds to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The partial shutdown of the federal government entered its 19th day on Wednesday as Trump remains steadfast in his demand for $5.7 billion in border wall funding from Congress. Democrats, in turn, say they won’t negotiate with the president on the wall until the government reopens.

Legal analysts say Trump would have the authority to leverage unused DOD funds to construct a wall in the event he declares a national emergency.

“My instinct is to say that if he declares a national emergency and uses this pot of unappropriated money for the wall, he’s on very solid legal ground,” Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet told NBC News.

The Pentagon reported an “expired unobligated balance” of $27.7 billion in its most recent financial report, a figure that represents the amount of unused funds the Pentagon returned to the Department of the Treasury during the five-year period between fiscal years 2013 and 2018.

Funds from the federal government “expire” if they aren’t obligated on a contract anywhere between one to three years after their date of appropriation, according to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Working Group.

The $27.7 billion the Pentagon returned to the Treasury between FYs 2013 and 2018 represents “approximately 1 percent of our overall budget,” Pentagon spokesperson Chris Sherwood told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s not as big as it may seem.”

A border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border could cost up to $21.6 billion, the Department of Homeland Security reported in 2017.

The Pentagon lost out on even more funds between FYs 2012 and 2017, when it failed to spend $33.6 billion on time, according to the DOD’s financial report.

Despite the Pentagon’s failure to fully commit its existing budgets on time, Trump has backed plans to increase the DOD’s budget to $750 billion in FY 2020, an 8 percent hike from the $692 billion defense budget signed into law in December 2017, according to Task & Purpose.

COLUMN BY

Andrew Kerr

Andrew Kerr

Investigative Reporter. Follow Andrew on Twitter. Contact Andrew securely at AndrewKerrNC@protonmail.com.

RELATED ARTICLE: Here’s What Would Happen if Trump Declared A National Emergency To Build The Wall

EDITORS NOTE: This column with images by The Daily Caller is republished with permission. Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

The 116th Congress is Off and Running … But Where To?

The 116th U.S. Congress was sworn in on January 3rd. As expected, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA) was elected Speaker of the House, who has the unenviable job of binding up a divided chamber of Congress, as well her own party, the Democrats. This will be Mrs. Pelosi’s last hurrah and will likely mark her legacy in the history books. Whereas the House is in the hands of the Democrats, the Senate remains under Republican control. Translation, nothing of substance will happen for the next two years as the two chambers will be hopelessly gridlocked. In terms of House Democrats, the Speaker will likely have trouble controlling the far left who fought her election as Speaker.

Beginning from Day One, the Democrats have drawn a line in the sand to confront Republicans and President Trump. The subject of impeaching the President raised its ugly head again and as I predicted the desire to do so will prove to be irresistible to Democrats. Frankly, the charges are frivolous, and veteran House Democrats know even if it is passed in their chamber, the president will be exonerated in the Republican controlled Senate. So, why go through this futile exercise? To simply besmirch the character of the president as a prelude to the 2020 presidential election. The only problem is, they will likely raise the ire of the American people who elected Mr. Trump, and this is what concerns the party’s leadership. It is more about character assassination as opposed to introducing legislation to solve our problems.

Freshmen Democrats are already rattling sabers. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI) unapologetically called the president a Mother******. This was followed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accusing the president of being a “no question” racist in a 60 Minutes interview. Neither taunts will play well in Poughkeepsie.

More trouble is in the offing though. Rep. Steve Cohen (TN) introduced legislation to eliminate the Electoral College in presidential elections, relying on the popular vote instead. Devised by our founding fathers, the Electoral College is simply brilliant in terms of maintaining parity between the interests of rural America and large metropolitan areas. Unfortunately, it is not well understood in the country anymore, particularly since Civic classes are no longer being taught in high schools. Should this legislation pass the House, it will not see the light of day in the Senate, as it would mean people in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, will dictate who becomes president, with little regard for main stream America. This is precisely the scenario our founding fathers hoped to avoid.

Rep. Cohen also introduced legislation to prohibit presidents from issuing pardons to themselves, their families, their administration or their campaign staff. This is a major change as the presidents have long possessed the right to pardon. What they want to avoid is a situation, such as in the final days of President Bill Clinton’s administration where he pardoned his Whitewater cronies, such as Susan McDougal. This too will likely not pass the Senate.

Also, legislation has been introduced mandating the publishing of tax returns of presidential candidates and executives in office. As I have reported in the past, this has always been an optional report for candidates to produce. It is likely the main stream media is driving this initiative. Personally, I believe your finances are your own personal affair. If you want to disclose it, fine, if not, that is fine also. Frankly, if the Democrats believe strongly in this, this should be made equally applicable to ALL government officials, including Congress and the Supreme Court, along with state, county, and municipal governments. What is good for the goose, should be good for the gander. This legislation will likely not pass as well.

Last, but certainly not least, the House and the president are at a stalemate regarding reopening the government and funding a wall for the southern border. The irresistible force has met the immovable object, and no amount of negotiations is going to change anything as it will be viewed as a sign of weakness by both sides. The one exception might be if President Trump does as he suggests and declares a national emergency which would allow him to appropriate funds for the wall. This will likely happen as the president has been releasing data and testimonies of the problems at our southern border in recent weeks. Should the president declare an emergency, it offers Democrats a way out of the confrontation without losing face, and the government can start back up again.

All of this highlights the gridlock in the nation’s capitol which we better get used to. The intent of the Democrats is to make the president look bad as we approach 2020. In addition to the legislation listed here, we will likely see a flurry of subpoenas designed to tie up the president and his administration, thereby obstructing his agenda. Because of the gridlock, we will not see anything of substance resulting from the 116th Congress, certainly not health care reform (which the Democrats campaigned on).

The only possibility might be in the area of addressing the nation’s decaying infrastructure but I am not optimistic about passage of such legislation as we are now embroiled in a game of one-upmanship, and neither side want to give the other a win.

Rep. Pelosi’s legacy will likely be defined by the gridlock of the Congress and the Democrat’s inability to bring this president to heel. If their shenanigan’s persist, they will run the risk of angering the American people, and assuring the Republicans regain the House, not to mention securing President Trump a second term. It will also likely fracture the Democrats, leaving us wondering who will become leader of their party in the House following Mrs. Pelosi’s tour of duty. People like Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD), Rep. Ray Lujan (NM), and Rep. James Clyburn (SC) will likely be viewed as clones of Mrs. Pelosi and may very well be rebuffed by younger Democrats who will want to chart a new course to the left.

The only thing we know for sure about the next two years is that it certainly will not be boring and the news media will support whoever emerges as an effective leader of the party.

Keep the Faith!

RELATED ARTICLE: What, precisely, do Democrats want to impeach Trump for?

EDITORS NOTE: This Bryce Is Right column is republished with permission. The featured photo is by Jomar on Unsplash. All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Sweden Isn’t Socialist [+Video]

For years, I’ve heard American leftists say Sweden is proof that socialism works, that it doesn’t have to turn out as badly as the Soviet Union or Cuba or Venezuela did.

But that’s not what Swedish historian Johan Norberg says in a new documentary and Stossel TV video.

“Sweden is not socialist—because the government doesn’t own the means of production. To see that, you have to go to Venezuela or Cuba or North Korea,” says Norberg.

“We did have a period in the 1970s and 1980s when we had something that resembled socialism: a big government that taxed and spent heavily. And that’s the period in Swedish history when our economy was going south.”

Per capita gross domestic product fell. Sweden’s growth fell behind other countries. Inflation increased.

Even socialistic Swedes complained about the high taxes.

Astrid Lindgren, author of the popular “Pippi Longstocking” children’s books, discovered that she was losing money by being popular. She had to pay a tax of 102 percent on any new book she sold.

“She wrote this angry essay about a witch who was mean and vicious—but not as vicious as the Swedish tax authorities,” says Norberg.

Yet even those high taxes did not bring in enough money to fund Sweden’s big welfare state.

“People couldn’t get the pension that they thought they depended on for the future,” recounts Norberg. “At that point the Swedish population just said, ‘Enough, we can’t do this.’”

Sweden then reduced government’s role.

They cut public spending, privatized the national rail network, abolished certain government monopolies, eliminated inheritance taxes, and sold state-owned businesses like the maker of Absolut Vodka.

They also reduced pension promises “so that it wasn’t as unsustainable,” adds Norberg.

As a result, says Norberg, his “impoverished peasant nation developed into one of the world’s richest countries.”

He acknowledges that Sweden, in some areas, has a big government: “We do have a bigger welfare state than the U.S., higher taxes than the U.S., but in other areas, when it comes to free markets, when it comes to competition, when it comes to free trade, Sweden is actually more free market.”

Sweden’s free market is not burdened by the U.S.’s excessive regulations, special-interest subsidies, and crony bailouts. That allows it to fund Sweden’s big welfare programs.

“Today our taxes pay for pensions—you (in the U.S.) call it Social Security—for 18-month paid parental leave, government-paid childcare for working families,” says Norberg.

But Sweden’s government doesn’t run all those programs. “Having the government manage all of these things didn’t work well.”

So they privatized.

“We realized in Sweden that with these government monopolies, we don’t get the innovation that we get when we have competition,” says Norberg.

Sweden switched to a school voucher system. That allows parents to pick their kids’ school and forced schools to compete for the voucher money.

“One result that we’ve seen is not just that the private schools are better,” says Norberg, “but even public schools in the vicinity of private schools often improve, because they have to.”

Sweden also partially privatized its retirement system. In America, the Cato Institute proposed something similar. President George W. Bush supported the idea but didn’t explain it well. He dropped the idea when politicians complained that privatizing Social Security scared voters.

Swedes were frightened by the idea at first, too, says Norberg, “But when they realized that the alternative was that the whole pension system would collapse, they thought that this was much better than doing nothing.”

So Sweden supports its welfare state with private pensions, school choice, and fewer regulations, and in international economic freedom comparisons, Sweden often earns a higher ranking than the U.S.

Next time you hear Democratic Socialists talk about how socialist Sweden is, remind them that the big welfare state is funded by Swedes’ free-market practices, not their socialist ones.

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COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of John Stossel

John Stossel

John Stossel is host of “Stossel” on the Fox Business Network, and author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails—But Individuals Succeed.” Twitter: @JohnStossel.

RELATED VIDEO: Sweden: Lessons for America? – Full Video by the Free To Choose Network.

EDITORS NOTE: This column with images by the Daily Signal is republished with permission. The featured photo by is John Fornander on Unsplash.

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Cash-Desperate Illinois Is Now Taxing Lap Dances

Government is now taxing lap dances. What does it mean?

As anyone who’s ever stepped into a “gentlemen’s club” knows, lap dances can get pretty pricey. But owners of an Illinois strip joint believe the nearly $2 million tax bill they received for lap dance services provided is a bit much.

Court records show that proprietors of Polekatz Gentlemen’s Club, a strip club in Bridgeview, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, are suing Cook County, alleging its revenue department is illegally demanding $1.7 million for lap dances under its “amusement tax.” That figure includes interest and penalties, according to The Cook County Record.

Some people may not be familiar with “amusement taxes,” which are relatively new.

In fact, in the late 1970s, when this writer was born, amusement taxes were almost non-existent, accounting for just $120 million in aggregate revenue among the 90,000 government units in the US. But as state and local governments grew (see below), so did their need to find tax revenues to sustain them.

By 1997, amusement tax revenue had increased more than tenfold to nearly $1.95 billion, according to the data website Statista. Less than a decade later, the figure had tripled to more than $6 billion nationwide (see graph below).

Still, compared to sin taxes, which exceeded $32 billion in state revenue alone in 2014, amusement taxes are rare—outside of Illinois, that is.

Statistic: State and local amusement tax revenue in the United States from 1977 to 2016 (in billion U.S. dollars) | Statista

The Land of Lincoln has been perhaps the nation’s boldest pioneer on the amusement tax front. While Chicago’s 2015 ruling, which expanded the amusement tax to cover streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu (and has since landed on Playstation users), has captured most of the national headlines, local governments such as Cook County and the city of Bloomington have also found ways to tax fun.

In fact, this isn’t the first time Illinois has been accused of illegally taxing strip joints (which are natural targets for revenue-hungry public do-gooders) with an amusement tax.

More than a decade ago, the 1st District Appellate Court in Chicago said that Chicago and Cook County ran afoul of the law with their amusement tax on strip clubs. Lawmakers had exempted live performances from the tax but failed to include establishments offering nude dancing, prompting a three-judge panel to rule that the tax constituted “content-based regulations on speech.”

Illinois politicians and bureaucrats have learned a few things since then, however. The language of Cook County’s current law (and Chicago’s) is much more inclusive. Amusement is defined as follows:

Amusement means any exhibition, performance, presentation or show for entertainment purposes, including, but not limited to, any theatrical, dramatic, musical or spectacular performance, promotional show, motion picture show, flower, poultry or animal show, animal act, circus, rodeo, athletic contest, sport, game or similar exhibition, such as boxing, wrestling, skating, dancing, swimming, riding on animals or vehicles, baseball, basketball, softball, soccer, football, tennis, golf, hockey, track and field games, bowling, or billiard and pool games.

Unlike Cook County’s previous amusement tax, strip clubs do not appear to be unfairly or unlawfully targeted. Polekatz, located about a dozen miles southwest of the Chicago Loop, is simply one of hundreds of Cook County businesses designated an “amusement operator;” therefore, the club is unlikely to receive legal protection on free expression grounds.

Polekatz’s legal strategy appears to reflect this. According to the Cook County Record, Polekatz is not arguing that the amusement tax is unconstitutional. Rather, they say the nearly $1.7 million tax bill they received is “excessive.”

To most people, the idea of taxing lap dances sounds as absurd as courts deciding if stripping is a form of artistic expression, as one New York strip club argued in 2012 in the hopes of getting a tax exemption. (In the end, after several years of litigation, a New York judge concluded that pole dancing is art; lap dances are not.)

Indeed, the idea of taxing amusement sounds a little strange to us. People are generally more comfortable with “sin” taxes, which tax naughty things like cigarettes and alcohol. But the truth is amusement taxes and sin taxes are equally awful. We give lawmakers too much credit if we assume they want or know what’s best for us.

If anything, the rise of amusement taxes illustrates an important truth: Government really doesn’t care what they tax. They’ll tax anything—work, play, or “sin”—if it sustains their ravenous appetite for spending, which is precisely the case with Illinois.

The political and economic dysfunction in Illinois is well-chronicled.

In 2017, as Illinois appeared poised to become the first US state with a “junk” credit rating, CNN ran an article explaining how Illinois became “America’s most messed-up state.”

That Illinois is on the verge of economic disaster is hardly a secret.

“We’re not Greece or Puerto Rico yet,” Adam Schuster, an economist with the Illinois Policy Institute, told The Weekly Standard in October. “We’re not functionally insolvent. But we’re right on the doorstep.”

But it’s not just the state government that’s a total mess. As City Journal recently reported, Chicago finds itself facing an incredible $28 billion pension gap, not to mention another $9 billion in outstanding debt owed to general-obligation bondholders.

The city’s plan? Borrow another $10 billion through a bond offering (despite the fact the city’s bonds are already rated as “junk.”)

It’s no mystery why the people of Illinois find themselves in this mess. Lawmakers are making extravagant promises to give people things with other people’s money. Amusement taxes are just the latest and most convenient device to help them achieve this, though hardly sufficient.

Illinois gives proof to Chief Justice John Marshall’s famous axiom: The power to tax is the power to destroy. Fortunately, the Founders created a system that allows Americans to vote with their feet, which evidence suggests many are doing. New census data show an exodus from tax-punishing states is underway.

So, if Illinois residents decide taxes on their lap dances are just a bit too creepy, they have the freedom to say enough is enough.

COLUMN BY

Jon Miltimore

Jon Miltimore

Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. Serving previously as Director of Digital Media at Intellectual Takeout, Jon was responsible for daily editorial content, web strategy, and social media operations. Before that, he was the Senior Editor of The History Channel Magazine, Managing Editor at Scout.com, and general assignment reporter for the Panama City News Herald. Jon also served as an intern in the speechwriting department under George W. Bush.

EDITORS NOTE: This column with images by FEE is republished with permission. The featured Image by StockSnap on Pixabay.

New Year’s Resolution: Get Your Coffee At Chick-fil-A (And Peet’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts) Instead Of Starbucks

Throughout the week, 2ndVote has urged conservative shoppers to make New Year’s consumer Resolutions. We’ve also vowed to work more closely with you to ensure that corporations are held accountable for how they spend your money. Today, we are asking you to make a final resolution in 2019: make the best possible choice when it comes to where you buy your coffee

As you know, Starbucks is the world’s largest coffee chain and a supporter of a slew of left-wing causes such as redefining marriage and sanctuary cities. Starbucks is also a financial supporter of abortion giant Planned Parenthood. Instead, consider getting your coffee from three other chains — Dunkin’ Donuts, Peet’s, and Chick-fil-A!

We are encouraging you to swap Starbucks for Dunkin’ DonutsPeet’s, and Chick-fil-A because they largely focus on you, the customer, instead of political activism. Dunkin’ Donuts’ ranks at a 2.7 out of 5 in 2ndVote’s rankings, Peet’s is a neutral 3, and Chick-fil-A ranks a 4. We are especially proud to endorse Chick-fil-A because of their well-known Christian values as well as their massive company growth which Business Insider concluded was due to amazing customer service.

2ndVote consumers won’t be alone in putting the brakes on Starbucks’ purchases in 2019. A recent stock market analysis concluded that Starbucks is facing stiff competition from other coffee chains. Competition plus 2ndVote consumer engagement could easily cause Starbucks significant heartache in the new year. Perhaps this will teach them to listen to customers all the time instead of when it’s politically convenient.

Help us continue developing this content to help conservative consumers hold companies accountable by becoming a 2ndVote Member today!

EDITORS NOTE: This column with images by 2ndVote is republished with permission. The featured image is from Shutterstock.

Gun Controllers Want Credit Card Companies to Monitor and Restrict Lawful Purchases

Gun controllers frustrated that their federal agenda has been repeatedly rejected by Americans through their elected representatives are seeking to restrict gun rights by way of the private financial system. The goal is to pressure financial services companies into either not doing business with the firearms industry and gun owners or to comprehensively surveille their lawful activity.

On December 24, the gun confiscation supporters at the New York Times ran a thinly-veiled advocacy piece by Andrew Ross Sorkin in the news section, titled, “Devastating Arsenals, Bought With Plastic and Nary a Red Flag.” The piece outlined how some of the perpetrators of high-profile mass murders had purchased firearms and ammunition in the same manner that many ordinary law-abiding Americans do, with credit cards. 

The online edition of the piece carried the headline “How Banks Unwittingly Finance Mass Shootings,” suggesting that financial services companies were somehow complicit in violence by facilitating the exchange of lawful goods that were ultimately used for criminal purposes. Under such juvenile logic the U.S. Treasury Department should have to answer for all of the unlawful conduct they’ve facilitated by printing dollars and minting coins.

According to the misbranded op-ed, banks and other financial services companies are “uniquely positioned” to monitor gun owner purchasing habits. Under Sorkin’s preferred scenario, credit card companies would require retailers to tag firearms-related purchases with additional data that could be used by the credit card companies to compile information on gun owners. The surveillance data could then be used to flag suspicious purchases for law enforcement.

Moreover, the piece suggests that this data collection could be used to restrict certain types of lawful firearms transactions outright. Sorkin suggested,

Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods this year announced that they would not sell firearms to anyone under 21. If banks chose to use the systems they already have in place, they might decide to monitor such customers, perhaps preventing them from buying multiple guns in a short period of time.

To their credit, when asked for comment by the Times’s advocate, the major financial transaction firms expressed a reluctance to violate the privacy of their law-abiding customers. A Visa spokesperson explained, “We do not believe Visa should be in the position of setting restrictions on the sale of lawful goods or services… Asking Visa or other payment networks to arbitrate what legal goods can be purchased sets a dangerous precedent.” A Mastercard spokesperson added that the transaction company values the privacy of their customers’ “own purchasing decisions.”

Sorkin’s “news article” echoes many of the ideas he advocated in a February 2018 Times commentary. Making clear Sorkin has none of the objectivity on this topic one might have expected from a professional journalist pursuing a news story, the earlier piece overtly advocated for leveraging the private financial system to restrict firearms transactions. Sorkin contended that it would take “leadership and courage” on behalf of the financial services industry in order to implement his private firearms restrictions, which included a plan to eliminate commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms “from virtually every firearms store in America.” Were journalistic ethics as integral to the operation of the legacy press as those institutions purport, Sorkin’s authorship of the more recent item may have drawn interest of a forthright editor, ombudsman, or the Columbia Journalism Review.

The Sorkin article is just part of a wider-ranging effort to attack firearms owners through the financial system. In April 2018, Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety expressed their support for increased credit card company surveillance of firearms transactions. Moreover, the anti-gun organization has developed “guidelines” for financial institutions doing business with the firearms industry. Under the guidelines, firearms manufacturers and retailers would be forced to adopt a host of gun control measures in order to do business with financial services providers.

In 2013, Eric Holder’s Department of Justice instituted Operation Chokepoint. Under the program, the DOJ leveraged the power of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to discourage banks from transacting with lawful businesses they deemed to be “associated with high-risk activity,” including members of the firearms industry.

The anti-gun proposals targeting credit card companies should be of grave concern to all gun owners. As the Federal Reserve regularly reports, consumer use of credit and debit cards is growing. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s 2017 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice reported that “[i]n October 2017, the period covered by this DCPC, consumers made most of their payments with cash (30.3 percent of payments), debit cards (26.2 percent), and credit cards (21.0 percent).”

The recent credit card proposals also prompt important questions. Under what a scenario would a gun owner’s purchases be flagged as suspicious or be outright denied? Might the criteria be defined by anti-gun activists to include any volume of firearms-related goods they consider deviant? Gun owners routinely purchase large quantities of firearms products and ammunition for the same reason consumers buy anything in bulk, to save money.

Moreover, gun owners should be aware that any increase in the information that the financial services companies collect may wind up in the federal government’s hands. A June 2013 item in the Wall Street Journal reported that the National Security Agency was scooping large quantities of data from credit card providers. At the time, experts speculated that the NSA would not be able to obtain the exact products an individual purchased, but could see where the purchases were made and the merchant category codes. Changing merchant category code data to be more descriptive is one of the ways control advocates intend to advance their credit card company gun control scheme.

Even those who do not value the right to keep and bear arms but do cherish their other civil liberties should be concerned with the recent credit card transaction proposals. Back in early 2018, when some of these ideas were first floated, Georgetown University Law Professor Adam Levitin pointed out, “There’s a privacy angle here… There’s the slippery slope danger if it’s guns today maybe it is pornography tomorrow and the day after it’s right-wing literature.” 

And with even mainstream television fare such as “Friends,” “Seinfeld,” and “The Simpsons” having come under fire by today’s social justice vigilante mob, it’s difficult to imagine any product or service that could be immune from their perpetually outraged sensibilities.

New rules or surveillance procedures imposed by the credit card industry on firearms transactions would have a profound negative effect on gun owners and the firearms industry and pose a broader threat to all liberty-minded Americans. NRA will continue to monitor these efforts and keep our members apprised of any further developments.

EDITORS NOTE: This column with images by NRA-ILA is republished with permission.