Schumer’s Green Energy Subsidies Cost Much More Than Trump’s Wall

The government is shut down over border wall funding, but only a month ago Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked President Donald Trump to support billions in green energy subsidies.

Schumer, a New York Democrat, in early December asked Trump to support “permanent tax incentives for domestic production of clean electricity and storage, energy efficient homes and commercial buildings, electric vehicles, and modernizing the electric grid.”

“If left unchecked, the damage caused by climate change will cause untold human suffering and significant damage to the U.S. economy,” Schumer wrote to Trump on Dec. 6.

Extending tax subsidy provisions primarily benefiting wind and solar power would cost nearly $32 billion over the next four years, according to Joint Committee on Taxation estimates. Permanently extending these tax subsidies could add billions more to the tab. The committee estimates solar and wind tax subsidies will cost more than $7 billion in 2019.

Based on committee estimates, continuing solar and wind tax subsidies is nearly six times the $5.7 billion Trump is asking from Congress for a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The total cost of a wall to cover the nearly 2,000-mile southern border could be as high as $25 billion, according to the White House, though other estimates have put the cost of a border wall as high as $60 billion based on the projected per-mile cost.

The battle over border wall funding forced Congress to sideline its year-end debate over “tax extenders,” which includes 11 green energy-related tax benefits that would cost roughly $53 billion over 10 years if they were made permanent, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. Extending these tax credits just one year is estimated to cost roughly $5 billion.

These energy tax subsidies expired at the end of 2017, the costliest of which are tax incentives for biodiesel, alternative fuels, and residential energy efficiency. If made permanent, those programs would cost more than nine times what Trump asked from Congress in border wall funding.

The two costliest green subsidies, the production tax credit and investment tax credit, primarily benefit wind turbines and solar panels, respectively. Many Republicans and conservative groups have called for eliminating green tax subsidies.

Both the production tax credit and investment tax credit are set to expire at the end of 2021. However, given the White House’s opposition to some green energy tax subsidies, some conservatives suggest ending those and put the funds toward a border wall.

“This only makes sense, and with the additional funds we could paint it green,” Dan Kish, a senior distinguished fellow at the free-market Institute for Energy Research, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s a win-win.”

But could a deal like this ever be cut? Dan Whitten, vice president of public affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association, doesn’t think so.

“Given its strong bipartisan support, this seems like a nonstarter,” Whitten told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“As for the notion of terminating the existing ITC (investment tax credit), that is something we would strenuously oppose,” Whitten said. “It is one of the most successful energy incentives to date, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars in economic activity.”

The Solar Energy Industries Association has not asked Congress to extend the investment tax credit, which is set to sunset at the end of 2021. However, there is a permanent 10 percent investment tax credit for solar and geothermal installations.

The American Wind Energy Association did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

Sixteen days after Schumer sent his letter, Trump refused to sign legislation to keep the federal government open without $5.7 billion in border wall funding. Congressional Democrats refused and the government shutdown began.

The ongoing shutdown tied with the 1995-1996 shutdown during the Clinton administration, which lasted for 21 days. On Saturday, the current shutdown will become the longest in U.S. history if no deal to reopen the government is made.

Schumer’s office did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

COLUMN BY

Michael Bastasch

Michael Bastasch is a reporter for The Daily Caller News Foundation. Twitter: @MikeBastasch.

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EDITORS NOTE: This column by The Daily Signal with images 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 for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org. The featured photo is by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash.

The Two Energy Futures Facing America

Energy improvement does not depend on geography or race but on the right institutions. Sustainable energy—available, affordable, and reliable—requires private property rights, voluntary exchange, and the rule of law.

here are two energy futures for America. One is freedom and prosperity. The other is politics, conflict, and waste. As with other goods and services, energy’s availability and affordability will depend on whether natural incentives and economic law are respected or hampered by government policy.

The future of free-market energy is bright and open-ended. “It’s reasonable to expect the supply of energy to continue becoming more available and less scarce, forever,” Julian Simon wrote in his magnum opus, The Ultimate Resource II. “Discoveries, like resources, may well be infinite: the more we discover, the more we are able to discover.” 

Resourceship, entrepreneurship applied to minerals, explains the seeming paradox of expanding depletable resources. Statistics confirmed Simon’s view, yet Malthusian critics belittled him as a naïve romantic. To which Simon responded: “I am not an optimist, I am a realist.”

Julian Simon had once feared overpopulation and resource depletion. The contradictory data, as he explained in his autobiography A Life Against the Grain, reversed his thinking. More people, greater wealth, more resources, healthier environment was the new finding that Simon turned into articles, books, and lectures in the last decades of his life.

Energy coordination and improvement do not depend on geography or race but on the right institutions. Sustainable energy—available, affordable, and reliable—requires private property rights, voluntary exchange, and the rule of law. Cultural and legal freedom unleash human ingenuity and problem-solving entrepreneurship, what Simon called the ultimate resource.

Philosopher Alex Epstein has reframed the energy-environmental debate in terms of human flourishing. Under this standard, consumer-chosen, taxpayer-neutral, dense, storable mineral energies are essential and moral.

Free-market energy is a process of improvement, not a state of perfection. There is always room for betterment as the good is no longer the best and as problems and setbacks occur. Profit/loss and legal consequences propel correction in a way that government intervention does not.

Problems spur improvement in ways that otherwise might not occur. “Material insufficiency and environmental problems have their benefits,” noted Julian Simon. “They focus the attention of individuals and communities, and constitute a set of challenges which can bring out the best in people.”

Government interventionism has plagued domestic energy markets in pronounced and subtle ways. Price and allocation controls during wartime and in the 1970s caused shortages of gasoline, fuel oil, natural gas, and other essential products. More subtly, tariffs, quotas, entry restrictions, efficiency edicts, punitive taxes, tax subsidies, forced access, profit guarantees, and other government intervention distort energy markets away from consumer demand.

Socialism has reversed resource abundance in nations around the world. Venezuela is today’s example and is not unlike Mexico’s plunge into nationalism a century ago. International statism is responsible for much of the price volatility experienced in global oil markets.

American citizens must be educated on the perils of politicized energy and corporate cronyism at all levels of government. Capitalist institutions need to be introduced in state-dominated oil regions. Subsoil mineral rights and infrastructure privatization are golden opportunities for wealth creation and wealth democratization around the world.

“The world’s problem is not too many people,” Julian Simon concluded, “but a lack of political and economic freedom.” He explained:

The extent to which the political-social-economic system provides personal freedom from government coercion is a crucial element in the economics of resources and population…. The key elements of such a framework are economic liberty, respect for property, and fair and sensible rules of the market that are enforced equally for all.

This message for 2019 will be the same a century hence. It is optimistic and realistic. And it points toward a continuing open-ended role for natural gas, coal, and oil as the master resource.

Let freely functioning supply meet demand, and let market demand meet supply. Banish alarmism, pessimism, and coercion—the very things that incite and define government intervention and socialism where markets can and should prevail.

COLUMN BY

Robert L. Bradley Jr.

Robert L. Bradley Jr.

Robert L. Bradley Jr. is the CEO and founder of the Institute for Energy Research.

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

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.

De Blasio’s Plan For New York Universal Health Care Is Smoke And Mirrors.

On January 7th, the same day President Trump appeared on national television to discuss immigration, the government shutdown, and border security, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that the City of New York will guarantee health care for everyone regardless of insurance or immigration status.  In all, the plan will cover 600,000 people, half of whom are undocumented, and he is going to do it for $100 million.  In fact, argued the mayor, the program will not cost the city anything because of the savings realized from the dramatic reductions in emergency room care.

In defense of the plan, De Blasio averred that health care is a right and that it is time for New Yorkers to start conducting their affairs as such.  Since the federal government is trying to disrupt our health care system, he proclaimed, it is time for New Yorkers to take matters into their own hands and guarantee people’s inherent right to health care.  

Despite De Blasio’s uncontained enthusiasm, there are two fatal problems with his program.  First, as we know and the left continues to ignore, health carenot a right.  And second, in point of fact, his amazing program adds virtually nothing to what New Yorkers already have at their disposal

Health Care Is Not A Right.

What is a right?  

There are many different kinds of rights. First, there is the undisputed interest. This is what attaches when one has a just or legal claim or title upon a property or object, such as when one strikes gold in a Nevada minefield. Under those circumstances, the person owning the land or declaring his or her stake upon it has a right to that land and to the minerals within it.  This right is commensurate with ownership or possession.  Since health care is not a defined, palpable property, then this cannot be the type of right of which De Blasio speaks.  

A right can also be statutory; created by government.  In this case, the “right’ is given to you by the government.  One example is the right to a trial by jury.  Here, one has the undisputed access to a trial by jury because the state has declared it to be the so.  This particular right is based on the foundational principles giving rise to the United States, the declarations contained within the Bill of Rights, and guaranteed by the constitutions of the various states.  

A statutory right is not inherently yours, as the government has provided it for you.  In other words, there would be no trial by jury; no trial at all in fact; if it weren’t for the fact that the government constructed the framework with which to provide it.  Generally, this kind of right is associated with a price tag.  It takes money to hire a defense attorney, a prosecuting attorney, a judge, and a building in which to conduct it.  And yes, the jury is hired as well.  Since no American government has declared a statutory right to health care, this too is not the type of right to which De Blasio is referring.  

The third is the fundamental right, or human right; the ones the Founders called “inalienable.”  These rights are afforded to us by the Creator.  They belong to us.  They are not for government to give or to take away, although under some circumstances, through the consent of the governed, government may regulate them.  Our inalienable rights include a right to life, liberty, the pursuit of property, the right to labor, the right to speak, the right to seek the truth, the right to defend yourself, the right to bear arms, the right to your own beliefs, and of course, the right to pursue happiness.  Each of these is yours by right.  They are inherent in you.  

It appears this last category of right is the one to which De Blasio refers when he speaks of a right to health care, but he would be wrong.  

You cannot have a right to health care because you need others to realize it.  What isyours, like the right to pursue happiness or property, is your right to pursuehealth care.  

So, is health care a privilege? Yes, it is.  

It is a privilege to have someone toil over you.  It is a privilege to have someone attend to you.  It is a privilege to have someone sell you something.  So when De Blasio says health care is a right, he is wrong.  It doesn’t matter how many times he says it and repeats it, and that all the liberals say it and repeat it.  It doesn’t matter that 100% of all people are convinced that health care is a right, it still doesn’t make it a right because you can’t force another person to slave and toil over you to obtain the product or service. 

What is a right is your freedom to approach someone offering the service and to ask him or her to provide the service.  That is the pursuit of health care and that is your right.  This is exactly in keeping with Benjamin Franklin’s words, “The Constitution only give people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”

De Blasio’s Plan Is Mathematically Impossible.

De Blasio says he is going to cover 600,000 people with $100 million.  This would mean that his health care plan would cover 600,000 individual lives at a price tag of $167.00 per person per year.  

Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is.

In point of fact, what De Blasio says he is going to achieve for New York for the first time in the city’s history, New York already has.  New York City already spends $8 billion per year on health care to treat 1.1 million people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to care.  This includes the undocumented.  The effort traces back to the 18th century with the inception of Belleview Hospital. Anyone without insurance can go there to get treated, either through the emergency room or through a primary care doctor.  

So if all these things already exist, what’s De Blasio offering that’s new?  

Nothing really, just better customer service.  

New York HHC Director Mitchell Katz saidwhen asked on the matter, “You can definitely walk into any emergency room, you can go to a clinic, but what is missing is the good customer service to ensure that you get an available appointment. . . That’s what we’re missing and the mayor is providing.”  

The New York Times seemed to agree when it wrote,  “The $100 million would go to both establishing the customer service component and hiring additional doctors and nurses.”  

Adding to the lacklusterness of the proposal is the uncertainty in the details, as is often the case when politicians try to take credit for nothing.  According to The New York Times, “. . . officials could not provide a breakdown of how much would be spent on each [component of the program].  Indeed, details of how those seeking care could do so under the new plan were not immediately clear, nor was an exact start date.”  The Federalist Pages met with the same problem in its review of De Blasio’s proposal.

The fact of the matter is that, predictably, the City of New York’s less-than-Utopian system is already present and operating; with a shortfall, of course.  For years New York’s hospital system has been under severe financial strain.  Indeed, according to New York’s Independent Budget Office, New York hospitals anticipate budget shortfalls of more than $156 million in 2018, increasing to $1.8 billion in 2022.

As expected, De Blasio continues to deceitfully sell fake, utopic visions.  It’s high time sound policy analysts call him out on it.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Federalist Pages. It is republished with permission. The featured photo is by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash.

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.

Poll: 79 Percent Of Americans Think Border Is In ‘Crisis’ Or Is A ‘Problem’

A vast majority of American voters believe that the United States is facing a “crisis” or a “problem” on the southern border, according to a new poll by Politico and Morning Consult.

While less than half of those surveyed (42 percent) agree with President Donald Trump’s assertion that the border is in “crisis,” another 37 percent concede that there is a “problem” — meaning 79 percent of voters believe the situation at the border is a serious issue.

Only 12 percent of voters polled said that the situation at the border is neither a crisis nor a problem.

According to data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an average of nearly 2,000 immigrants are apprehended at the border each day attempting to cross illegally into the United States.

The poll, which was conducted January 4-6 during the second week of the partial government shutdown, also found that 44 percent of respondents support a border wall.

While Trump previously took credit for the government shutdown in an Oval Office meeting with then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, he is now shifting the blame to Democrats, who he says are refusing to negotiate until the government is re-opened. However, 47 percent of those polled say Trump is mostly to blame and just 33 percent say Democrats are to blame for the continual shutdown.

COLUMN BY

Amber Athey

Amber Athey

White House Correspondent. Follow Amber on Twitter.

RELATED ARTICLES:

WATCH: ‘Israel’s Security Wall is 99.9 Percent Effective,’ Trump Tells US

4 Things to Know About Trump’s Ability to Declare an Emergency to Build a Wall

The Ironies of Illegal Immigration

The Falsehoods That Drive ‘Open Borders’ Theory

US Border Patrol Reports 300% Increase Of Border Violence, Illegal Immigrants Assaulting Agents

How Mexican drug baron El Chapo was brought down by technology made in Israel

Students Caught Stunned on Video After Hearing Democrats’ Past Pro-Wall Remarks

EDITORS NOTE: This column with images by The Daily Caller is republished with permission.

VIDEO: President Trump’s Address To The Nation On Border Security

TRANSCRIPT

My fellow Americans:

Tonight, I am speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.

Every day, Customs and Border Patrol agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country. We are out of space to hold them, and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country.

America proudly welcomes millions of lawful immigrants who enrich our society and contribute to our nation. But all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled, illegal migration. It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages. Among those hardest hit are African Americans and Hispanic Americans.

Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border. More Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War.

In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records, including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings. Over the years, thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country, and thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now.

This is a humanitarian crisis — a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.

Last month, 20,000 migrant children were illegally brought into the United States — a dramatic increase. These children are used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs. One in three women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico. Women and children are the biggest victims, by far, of our broken system.

This is the tragic reality of illegal immigration on our southern border. This is the cycle of human suffering that I am determined to end.

My administration has presented Congress with a detailed proposal to secure the border and stop the criminal gangs, drug smugglers, and human traffickers. It’s a tremendous problem. Our proposal was developed by law enforcement professionals and border agents at the Department of Homeland Security. These are the resources they have requested to properly perform their mission and keep America safe. In fact, safer than ever before.

The proposal from Homeland Security includes cutting-edge technology for detecting drugs, weapons, illegal contraband, and many other things. We have requested more agents, immigration judges, and bed space to process the sharp rise in unlawful migration fueled by our very strong economy. Our plan also contains an urgent request for humanitarian assistance and medical support.

Furthermore, we have asked Congress to close border security loopholes so that illegal immigrant children can be safely and humanely returned back home.

Finally, as part of an overall approach to border security, law enforcement professionals have requested $5.7 billion for a physical barrier. At the request of Democrats, it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall. This barrier is absolutely critical to border security. It’s also what our professionals at the border want and need. This is just common sense.

The border wall would very quickly pay for itself. The cost of illegal drugs exceeds $500 billion a year — vastly more than the $5.7 billion we have requested from Congress. The wall will also be paid for, indirectly, by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.

Senator Chuck Schumer — who you will be hearing from later tonight — has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past, along with many other Democrats. They changed their mind only after I was elected President.

Democrats in Congress have refused to acknowledge the crisis. And they have refused to provide our brave border agents with the tools they desperately need to protect our families and our nation.

The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only: because Democrats will not fund border security.

My administration is doing everything in our power to help those impacted by the situation. But the only solution is for Democrats to pass a spending bill that defends our borders and re-opens the government.

This situation could be solved in a 45-minute meeting. I have invited Congressional leadership to the White House tomorrow to get this done. Hopefully, we can rise above partisan politics in order to support national security.

Some have suggested a barrier is immoral. Then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences, and gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside. The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized.

America’s heart broke the day after Christmas when a young police officer in California was savagely murdered in cold blood by an illegal alien, who just came across the border. The life of an American hero was stolen by someone who had no right to be in our country.

Day after day, precious lives are cut short by those who have violated our borders. In California, an Air Force veteran was raped, murdered, and beaten to death with a hammer by an illegal alien with a long criminal history. In Georgia, an illegal alien was recently charged with murder for killing, beheading, and dismembering his neighbor. In Maryland, MS-13 gang members who arrived in the United States as unaccompanied minors were arrested and charged last year after viciously stabbing and beating a 16-year-old girl.

Over the last several years, I’ve met with dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal immigration. I’ve held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the grief-stricken fathers. So sad. So terrible. I will never forget the pain in their eyes, the tremble in their voices, and the sadness gripping their souls.

How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?

To those who refuse to compromise in the name of border security, I would ask: Imagine if it was your child, your husband, or your wife whose life was so cruelly shattered and totally broken?

To every member of Congress: Pass a bill that ends this crisis.

To every citizen: Call Congress and tell them to finally, after all of these decades, secure our border.

This is a choice between right and wrong, justice and injustice. This is about whether we fulfill our sacred duty to the American citizens we serve.

When I took the Oath of Office, I swore to protect our country. And that is what I will always do, so help me God.

Thank you and goodnight.

TRANSCRIPT OF THE FULL REMARKS OF SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE CONGRESSWOMAN NANCY PELOSI (D-CA) AND SENATE MINORITY LEADER SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY)

Speaker Pelosi.

Good evening. I appreciate the opportunity to speak directly to the American people tonight about how we can end this shutdown and meet the needs of the American people.

Sadly, much of what we have heard from President Trump throughout this senseless shutdown has been full of misinformation and even malice.

The President has chosen fear. We want to start with the facts.

The fact is: On the very first day of this Congress, House Democrats passed Senate Republican legislation to re-open government and fund smart, effective border security solutions.

But the President is rejecting these bipartisan bills which would re-open government – over his obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall – a wall he always promised Mexico would pay for!

The fact is: President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety and well-being of the American people and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers across the nation – many of them veterans.

He promised to keep government shutdown for ‘months or years’ – no matter whom it hurts. That’s just plain wrong.

The fact is: We all agree that we need to secure our borders, while honoring our values: we can build the infrastructure and roads at our ports of entry; we can install new technology to scan cars and trucks for drugs coming into our nation; we can hire the personnel we need to facilitate trade and immigration at the border; and we can fund more innovation to detect unauthorized crossings.

The fact is: the women and children at the border are not a security threat, they are a humanitarian challenge – a challenge that President Trump’s own cruel and counterproductive policies have only deepened.

And the fact is: President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must re-open the government.

Thank you.

Senator Schumer.

Thank you, Speaker Pelosi.

My fellow Americans, we address you tonight for one reason only: the President of the United States – having failed to get Mexico to pay for his ineffective, unnecessary border wall, and unable to convince the Congress or the American people to foot the bill – has shut down the government.

American democracy doesn’t work that way. We don’t govern by temper tantrum. No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down, hurting millions of Americans who are treated as leverage.

Tonight – and throughout this debate and his presidency – President Trump has appealed to fear, not facts. Division, not unity.

Make no mistake: Democrats and the President both want stronger border security. However, we sharply disagree with the President about the most effective way to do it.

So, how do we untangle this mess?

There is an obvious solution: separate the shutdown from the arguments over border security. There is bipartisan legislation – supported by Democrats and Republicans – to re-open government while allowing debate over border security to continue.

There is no excuse for hurting millions of Americans over a policy difference. Federal workers are about to miss a paycheck. Some families can’t get a mortgage to buy a new home. Farmers and small businesses won’t get loans they desperately need.

Most presidents have used Oval Office addresses for noble purposes. This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his Administration.

My fellow Americans, there is no challenge so great that our nation cannot rise to meet it. We can re-open the government AND continue to work through disagreements about policy. We can secure our border without an expensive, ineffective wall. And we can welcome legal immigrants and refugees without compromising safety and security.

The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a thirty-foot wall.

So our suggestion is a simple one: Mr. President: re-open the government and we can work to resolve our differences over border security. But end this shutdown now.

Thank you.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of President Trump delivering an Oval Office address on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2018 on border security. Photo via WINK News.

Trump to Address Nation on Border Security as Pence Says Democrats Won’t Negotiate

On the eve of President Donald Trump’s prime-time address to the nation Tuesday night about border security, Vice President Mike Pence asserted that congressional Democrats are unwilling to negotiate.

After weekend talks, senior Democratic congressional staffers agreed with Trump administration officials that a crisis exists at the southern border, but weren’t ready to negotiate a plan to address it, Pence said Monday.

“Senior Democratic staff did not dispute our facts about the border,” Pence told reporters at a briefing in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, held in the same conference room where the weekend talks occurred.

Trump is trying to reach an agreement with congressional Democrats to gain funding for a wall along the southern border and end the partial government shutdown that began Dec. 22.

Trump announced Monday that he will deliver the address to the nation at 9 p.m. Tuesday, then visit the border Thursday.

“They informed us they would not negotiate until the government is opened,” Pence said. “The president is not going to reopen the government on the promise that negotiations will go on sometime after.”

Democrats asked the administration for revised budget estimates based on Trump’s requests for increased border security.

The biggest request from Trump in the revision is $5.7 billion for construction of a steel border wall, a $4.1 billion increase from the Senate-passed bill in December designed to keep the government running.

Pence got multiple questions about Trump’s comment Friday that he has considered declaring a national emergency to build and pay for the wall. The vice president said he hopes it doesn’t come to that, adding that he believes Democrats care about border security.

“What I’m aware of is that he is looking at it. The president is considering it,” Pence said. “There is no reason in the world that Congress shouldn’t be about rolling their sleeves up and compromising and working together on the crisis on the southern border.”

Many Democrats voted in 2006 to build fencing or another barrier along the border, but the needed money never has been appropriated.

Congress has funded most of the government. The current shutdown affects only about 25 percent of the government, including the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, State, and Transportation.

Pence said he sympathizes with the 800,000 federal employees affected by the partial shutdown, but also with “tens of millions of Americans” who expect the government to provide stronger border security.

The vice president also said Trump made a “good faith offer” to Democrats on the day the shutdown began to keep the government open. Pence declined to provide specifics.

The administration is working to make the partial shutdown “as painless as possible consistent with the law,” said Russell Vought, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Vought said the National Park Service will have the money to ensure trash pickup and clean restrooms through the end of the month, and that the IRS will mail out tax refund checks on time.

The administration’s revised budget estimate for fiscal year 2019 also includes a $563 million request for 75 additional immigration judges—consistent with what the Senate passed in its bill to keep the government running.

The administration asks for $211 million in the revised request to hire 750 more Customs and Border Protection agents—an increase of $100 million over the Senate version.

Trump also wants $571 million for 2,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel, which was not included in the Senate bill, and $4.2 billion to pay for 52,000 ICE detention beds—a $798 million increase from the Senate bill.

Pence identified two areas in the revised budget request as “consensus items” where congressional Democrats agree with the administration.

One is Trump’s request for $800 million to address humanitarian needs at the border, including medical support, temporary facilities for processing, and short-term custody of vulnerable populations. The agreement includes in-country processing of asylum requests by unaccompanied minors.

The other item of agreement is spending $675 million on technology designed to allow Customs and Border Protection to “detect and deter” contraband such as drugs and guns and materials that pose nuclear and radiological threats.

Pence said the administration’s stand “isn’t about” pleasing the president’s voter base but about border security, because the president is “driven by the facts” at the border.

Many of the facts are included in a Department of Homeland Security reportthat DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen initially provided to Congress before talking about Monday with reporters at the briefing.

The DHS report says the solutions are finishing the border wall, updating the law on how to treat unaccompanied children, and reversing the Clinton-era “Flores settlement” that required officials to separate some children from adults in family units.

The numbers show a 73 percent increase in fentanyl, one of the deadliest drugs, at the southern border from fiscal 2017 to fiscal 2018. That amounts to 2,400 pounds.

The agency also reports a 38 percent increase in methamphetamine at the southern border over the last fiscal year, and a 38 percent increase in heroin.

Criminal organizations gain $2.5 billion in annual profit from smuggling migrants into the U.S., the DHS report says.

In fiscal 2018, which ended Sept. 30, Customs and Border Protection agents caught 17,000 adults at the southern border who had criminal records. They captured 3,755 known or suspected terrorists entering the U.S. in fiscal 2017.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement also apprehended 6,000 members of gangs, including the violent MS-13, at the border.

The report states that the past five years saw a 2,000 percent increase in asylum claims, yet 72 percent of migrants report making the journey for economic reasons, so they wouldn’t qualify for asylum.

The report says 60,000 unaccompanied children and 161,000 family units arrived in fiscal 2018. About 50 migrants per day are referred to medical providers.

Customs and Border Protection rescues about 4,300 migrants in distress each year, according to the report, which also says that 31 percent of female migrants say they were sexually assaulted on the journey to the U.S.

Immigration courts have a backlog of nearly 800,000 cases and 98 percent of family units and unaccompanied alien children never are removed from the country, the report says.

Asked why Trump didn’t request the $5.7 billion in his budget proposal for fiscal 2019, Nielsen told reporters that “the humanitarian crisis has skyrocketed since February.”

COLUMN BY

Portrait of Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas

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

RELATED INFORMATION: BorderFacts.com

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EDITORS NOTE: This column with images by the Daily Signal is republished with permission. The featured image is by lovepixs on Pixabay.

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.

How Medicare For All Could Become the Leading Cause of Death In America

People assume universal health insurance would equal better health outcomes. This isn’t true.

The top three leading causes of death in the US are heart disease (614,348), cancer (591,699), and seeking medical treatment. Yes, you read that correctly. According to a 2016 study by Johns Hopkins, medical errors contribute to the deaths of more than 250,000 Americans annually, which places it as the third leading cause of death in the US.

Other estimates have actually placed those numbers even higher at around 440,000 annual deaths because errors by health care providers are not included on death certificates.

Our current health care system is based on a fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursement model that rewards doctors for providing more treatments than necessary because payment is dependent on the quantity, not quality, of care.

Each time you visit the doctor’s office, consult a specialist, or stay in a hospital, you pay for every single test, treatment, or procedure, even though some of these services may be unnecessary.

These unnecessary tests and treatments have accounted for $200 billion annually and have been found to actually harm patients. That’s because the FFS system is volume-based, not necessarily value-based. Therefore, any increases in the volume of care equal increases in medical errors.

Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) contribute to the deaths of nearly 100,000 people annually, leaving almost two million of the total afflicted population requiring treatments that cost over $25 billion a year. These costs could be passed along to taxpayers under Medicare for All, instead of private insurers and employers, as they are now.

Take one HAI, for example: central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), which occur when germs enter the bloodstream from a catheter (tube) that health care providers insert in the veins (neck, chest, or groin) of patients to supply them with medication or fluids or to collect blood.

According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, CLABSIs may cause an “estimated 80,000 catheter-related bloodstream infections and, as a result, up to 28,000 deaths among patients in intensive care units (ICUs).” These deaths often occur after patients have spent a significant amount of time and money in the hospital.

The CDC admits the infections are preventable, yet ICUs still experience high numbers of them. A 2003 study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins revealed that hospitals can eliminate CLABSIs entirely and very cheaply simply by requiring physicians and hospital staff to follow a five-step checklist when inserting central lines, which include obvious sterilization and precautionary measures.

The researchers tested the checklist at 103 ICUs in Michigan and published their findings a few years later. They found the rate of CLABSIs fell by two-thirds while saving over 1,500 lives and $200 million.

The simple explanation for most medical mistakes is human error; in CLABSIs’ case, neglecting simple precautionary measures. The problem is hospitals have no incentive to change the issue because they generate more money from treating infections than preventing them.

It’s evident that iatrogenic events caused by medical oversights or mistakes spur higher health care consumption. An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that issues with quality in outpatient care and medical errors exclusively caused “116 million extra physician visits, 77 million extra prescriptions, 17 million emergency department visits, 8 million hospitalizations, 3 million long-term admissions, 199,000 additional deaths.”

Patients from HAIs spend, on average, an additional 6.5 days in the hospital and are five times more likely to be readmitted and twice as likely to die, while surgical infections add another $10 billion in annual costs.

If third-party payers (insurance companies, government, employers) weren’t obscuring the true cost of health care by covering patients’ medical bills, patients would be less likely to permit hospitals to give them highly profitable, easily preventable infections.

If Medicare for All covered all 325 million Americans—which include the nearly 30 million uninsured Americans and the 41 million more with inadequate health insurance—it would be the most disastrous third-party payer ever, once cost was not a primary factor.

Including fatal medical errors and the hundreds of thousands of deaths resulting from longer wait times—already exhibited by VA health care—this could presumably make Medicare for All the single biggest factor to the leading cause of death in the US.

Medicare for All would not only be benefiting those who didn’t contribute 40 or more years into the Medicare Trust, but it also wouldn’t substantially improve conditions because it would forcibly thrust all Americans into a system that costs billions of dollars in unnecessary treatments that don’t necessarily improve patient outcomes but rather impose tremendous harm.

The fundamental flaw people assume about health care is that being universally insured equals better health outcomes. Not true!

Canada has a single-payer system, and not only are they experiencing increased wait times every year (average of 21.2 weeks from primary care doctor to specialist for treatment) for health care but their mortality rates from diseases such as cancer (22 percent) are actually 3.5 percent higher than US cancer deaths (18.5 percent) relative to population size. Canadian deaths from heart disease (14.3 percent) fall only 5.4 percent lower than US deaths from heart disease (19.7 percent), so Canada is not significantly healthier because of its single-payer system.

US Medicare is wasteful, ineffective, and expensive. The Dartmouth Atlas documents variations in health care utilization in the US, and it can reveal spending differences on Medicare patients in separate geographical locations with demographically homogeneous populations.

Further, studies show the variances between patients in these separate regions were not due to differences in prices of medical services or levels of illness but rather the aggregate amount of medical services, which did not generally correlate with better patient outcomes.

More spending in the higher-cost regions results in “supply-sensitive” services by providers: more frequent doctor visits mean more use of diagnostic tests and procedures, which result in more costly hospital visits.

Medicare currently enrolls 57 million Americans and suffers $60 billion in annual fraud, waste, abuse, and improper payments (a single payer would reduce some improper payments) using up 10 percent of Medicare’s total annual budget. Adding another 268 million Americans under Medicare for All would certainly raise that annual $60 billion significantly higher.

Medicare reimbursement rates are set by physicians, which leads to inflated pricing of medical services, and most enrollees are covered by traditional FFS Medicare so there’s no guarantee Medicare for All would decrease the volume of services or the associated negative effects which, altogether, would equate to higher taxes, increased medical injuries, and more fraud under Medicare for All.

Medicare doesn’t cover all health care expenses for its enrollees, so expecting a Medicare for All plan to cover 325 million Americans for “free” looks a lot more like “Medicaid for All” than “Medicare for All,” which would be an even more dreadful scenario.

The private insurance market largely follows Medicare’s reimbursement rates and the types of health care services Medicare reimburses. Changing what Medicare reimburses would change the entire incentive structure because private insurance companies could cover evidence-based treatments that improve health outcomes, and provider services would be aligned with what insurers cover so it would transform the entire health care industry.

Successful attempts have been made by identifying high-cost, high-tech medical interventions such as cardiac catheterization, coronary angioplasty, and stent implantation that are less effective than low-cost, low-tech interventions such as intensive cardiac rehabilitation (or lifestyle medicine)—which actually reverses heart disease.

Value-based strategies such as lifestyle medicine that address lifestyle factors (i.e. nutrition, physical inactivity, and chronic stress) improve health outcomes of patients, and these strategies should be implemented into the current system before committing $32 trillion in new costs for a Medicare for All plan that is more a political talking point than a medical solution to improve the overall health outcomes of Americans.

COLUMN BY

Nicholas DeSimone

Nicholas DeSimone

Nicholas DeSimone is a policy researcher for Reason Foundation in Washington, D.C. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and has written for Reason FoundationThe Daily Caller, Townhall.com, New Jersey Libertarian Party, and Penn Political Review. Follow him on Twitter.

RELATED ARTICLE: I’m a Mom. Here’s How Government-Run Health Care Could Hurt My Kids.

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

The Green New Deal Is a Trojan Horse for Socialism

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is ready to tax the rich to make her Green New Deal a reality.

“People are going to have to start paying their fair share in taxes,” the recently elected New York Democrat told TV show “60 Minutes” in an interview set to air Sunday.

Speaking of prior decades’ taxation rates in the country, Ocasio-Cortez added, “Once you get to the tippy tops, on your 10 millionth dollar, sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the avowed “democratic socialist” went with the predictable “tax the rich” formula in order to pay for a massive government program to combat climate change.

But it would hardly be good news for most Americans if Ocasio-Cortez got her way.

In fact, such a scheme would mean that her constituents in New York City would pay a max income tax rate of 82.6 percent, as Americans for Tax Reform was quick to point out. Perhaps New Yorkers deserve what they voted for, but does the country?

Interest in the Green New Deal

While Democratic House leadership has so far balked at the Green New Deal, it enjoys strong support from over 40 members of Congress, per The Daily Caller.

poll released in December also shows Americans might be more inclined than you’d think to support the plan. The poll, from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, showed that 8 out of 10 Americans hadn’t heard about it.

But when asked if they would support it—albeit with a very favorable description of the deal that didn’t discuss higher taxes, for instance—81 percent of registered voters said they would back it.

However, polls tend to change quickly when people learn about how much policies cost them, and the details of the Green New Deal demonstrate that it’s about more than just a higher tax on a tiny number of rich people.

A Radical Agenda

In fact, the tax hikes on the rich would be one of the least radical parts of the agenda.

It’s no exaggeration to say that if implemented, the Green New Deal would upend our way of life and destroy the liberty and prosperity that Americans, of all backgrounds, currently enjoy.

Among its goals are meeting “100 percent of national power” demand through renewable sources, retrofitting “every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort, and safety,” and eliminating “greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing, agricultural, and other industries.

Those changes are going to come with real costs. According to an editorial for Investor’s Business Daily, moving the economy away from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable energy will come “at a cost of about $5.2 trillion over 20 years.”

So much for America’s newfound energy renaissance that has in large part come through innovative new oil drilling techniques.

Energy Status Quo Couldn’t Change This Fast

Even if we’re willing to shoulder the costs, it’s, well, impossible to achieve.

“Producing 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources is a practical impossibility in the near future,” stated a report issued by the Senate Republican Policy Committee in December. The report, which looked at the Green New Deal, continued:

Scientists doubt it would be achievable by 2050, let alone 2029, the deadline Democrats would set. Such a massive overhaul in power generation would require the closure and replacement of about 83 percent of U.S. electricity generation, including all coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants.  … Today, renewable electricity—mainly wind, solar, and hydroelectric—provides only 17 percent of American electricity.

Make no mistake: While progressives have long been focused on green extremist policies, the Green New Deal proposals are significantly more radical than other environmentalist ideas like carbon taxes and subsidies for green industries. Foregoing the sticks-and-carrots approach to addressing climate change, this deal would instead rely on the ruthless bludgeoning of private industry and citizens through the levers of the state.

In fact, the plan outright dismisses attempts to “incentivize the private sector” toward greener policies as “simply inadequate to transition to a fully greenhouse gas-neutral economy as quickly as needed.”

Instead, the plan calls for direct government intervention to be its “prime driver.” (And in a mere 10 years, no less!)

A Trojan Horse of Liberal Goodies

But that’s not all. There’s more.

The Green New Deal doesn’t just include environmentalist proposals: It also includes a grab bag of other left-wing goodies to “mitigate deeply entrenched racial, regional, and gender-based inequalities in income and wealth (including, without limitation, ensuring that federal and other investment will be equitably distributed to historically impoverished, low-income, deindustrialized, or other marginalized communities in such a way that builds wealth and ownership at the community level.)”

Among the liberal wish list items included, the Green New Deal contains a proposal for universal health care and a basic minimum income program to make up for all the jobs lost in the process of transitioning to a fully green economy.

Of course, this will all come with an immense cost.

Citing an analysis by the Mercatus Center, Bob Moffit, a health care expert at The Heritage Foundation, wrote that the “Medicare for All” legislation proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would cost $32.6 trillion over 10 years. A universal minimum income or basic income plan would also likely cost trillions of dollarsa year.

The entire federal budget in 2018 was $4 trillion. The Green New Deal would require the U.S. to massively expand this already-bloated budget that is burying us in debt.

How do Green New Deal proponents propose to pay for this extreme growth in government?

“[I]n the same ways that we paid for the 2008 bank bailout and extended quantitative easing programs, the same ways we paid for World War II and many other wars,” the plan says. “The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments, new public banks can be created (as in WWII) to extend credit and a combination of various taxation tools (including taxes on carbon and other emissions and progressive wealth taxes) can be employed.”

In other words, by massively hiking taxes, and then borrowing and ultimately printing money. Then it would use public banks run by unaccountable bureaucrats to carry the whole thing out.

That’s not very democratic, but it is socialistic—an American version of a Soviet-style five-year plan focused on command-and-control economic solutions that have proven to fail the world over.

As Justin Haskins, executive editor at the Heartland Institute, wrote for the Washington Examiner: “Make no mistake about it: This is one of the most dangerous and extreme proposals offered in modern U.S. history. It’s the sort of thing you’d see in the Soviet Union, not the United States.”

The Stakes Just Got Higher

If there is one positive thing the Green New Deal does, it’s that it brings to light the fact that much of the environmentalist agenda is just a thinly veiled vehicle for implementing far-left socialism.

Given the fact that nearly half of millennials say they’d rather live under socialism or communism than capitalism, according to a 2017 poll conducted by the Victims of Communism, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that these ideas didn’t die at the end of the Cold War.

They’ve been repackaged by young, hip millennials, like Ocasio-Cortez, who can deceive a generation, mostly detached from history, into believing that the failed flim-flam sauce of socialism can somehow work this time around.

Despite overwhelming evidence of failure and suffering, the American left is now more openly embracing socialism—a worrying and disturbing trend that needs to be countered.

It’s no longer just Sanders waging this crusade in Congress. It is a growing cohort of younger, even more extreme members who are attempting to revive ideas that should have been left in the ash heap of history. As Sanders himself recently noted in a CNN interview, his 2016 campaign helped make certain positions “mainstream” that were previously “considered extreme and fringe.”

Whatever one thinks about Ocasio-Cortez, it’s undeniable that she connects with a large and growing subset of voters. Her everywoman persona and ability to seem truly genuine is making her a potent voice on the left.

The Instagram cooking advice and dance routines may be charming and relatable—especially to millennials—but attention to these trivial matters masks the radicalism and bankruptcy of her views.

Socialism is not the cure for what ails America, and it hardly takes a history lesson to figure this out.

The agony of a collapsing Venezuela, praised as an economic model for the future just a decade ago, is a stark example of how badly this can end for people of all income groups.

The Venezuelan regime started out as “democratic” socialism, too. It’s ending in failure, tyranny, and collapse.

Let’s not let dancing videos and Twitter hot takes distract us from that fact.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Jarrett Stepman

Jarrett Stepman

Jarrett Stepman is an editor and commentary writer for The Daily Signal and co-host of “The Right Side of History” podcast.Send an email to Jarrett.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column with images is republished with permission. Photo: SteveSands /NewYorkNewswire/MEGA/Newscom.

Mass Transit Is a Colossal Government Failure

“Due to moderate gas prices, increasing auto ownership, and the growth of the ride-hailing industry, the nation likely reached ‘peak transit’ in 2014.”

I like subways and spent most of my adult life taking them to work. Unfortunately, most people prefer to drive. It can take an hour and a half to take buses and trains to work for a commute that would take only half an hour by car.

Mass transit is largely a failure and continues to decline despite growing subsidies to many mass transit systems. Light rail systems are white elephants. The money spent on light rail would be better spent on bus lines. The underground corridors used for some subways might better be devoted to self-driving cars.

Randal O’Toole describes just what a failure mass transit is in this country, a failure on every level, in a recent Cato Institute report:

Nationwide transit ridership has declined steadily since 2014, with some of the largest urban areas, including Atlanta, Miami, and Los Angeles, losing more than 20 percent of their transit riders in the last few years. While this recent decline is stunning, it results from a continuation of a century-long trend of urban areas becoming more dispersed and alternatives to transit becoming more convenient and less expensive.

Those trends include a dispersion of jobs away from downtowns and increasing automobile ownership, both of which began with Henry Ford’s development of the moving assembly line in 1913. As a result, per capita transit ridership peaked in 1920 at 287 trips per urban resident per year, and have since fallen to just 38 trips per urbanite in 2017.

Congress began federal subsidies to transit with passage of the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964, and since then federal, state, and local governments have spent well over $1 trillion on subsidies aimed at reversing transit’s decline. Yet those subsidies have failed to do more than slow the decline, as the trends that have made transit obsolete and nearly irrelevant to the vast majority of urban Americans have overwhelmed the subsidies….transit carries fewer than 3 percent of commuters to work in half the nation’s 50 largest urban areas, as well as in the vast majority of smaller ones, making transit nearly irrelevant to those regions except for the high taxes needed to support it. Due to moderate gas prices, increasing auto ownership, and the growth of the ride-hailing industry, the nation likely reached “peak transit” in 2014.

The supposed social, environmental, and economic development benefits of transit are negligible to nonexistent. Federal, state, and local governments should withdraw subsidies to transit and allow private operators to take over where the demand still justifies mass transit operations.

His very readable and interesting full report is at this link.

So-called bullet trains generally turn out to be white elephants. South Korea is abolishing its celebrated high-speed rail line from its capital, Seoul, to a nearby major city because it can’t cover even the marginal costs of keeping the trains running. Most people who ride trains don’t need maximum possible speed, and most of those who do will still take the plane to reach distant destinations.

Despite Japan’s much-vaunted bullet trains, most Japanese don’t take the bullet train either; they take buses because the bullet train is too expensive. Bullet trains do interfere with freight lines, so Japanese freight lines carry much less cargo than in the United States, where railroads—rather than trucks—carry most freight, thereby reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

California’s so-called bullet train is vastly behind schedule and over budget, and will likely never come close to covering its operating costs once it is built. As Reason magazine noted, transportation officials have warned that California’s misnamed “bullet train” is a disaster in the making. California is drastically understating the costs of its high-speed rail project. Just the first leg of this $77 billion project will cost billions more than budgeted. And the project is already at least 11 years behind schedule.

This article is reprinted from Liberty Unyielding.

COLUMN BY

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law.

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

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Brian Kolfage, a triple-amputee shares how he overcame adversity after his life-changing injury that occurred while he was deployed in Iraq in 2004.

Kolfage hasn’t let his injuries get in the way of his life – so much so, you can catch him snowboarding, scuba diving and even water skiing.

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Despite Senator Schumer’s Assurances, Democrats Do Not Support Border Security.

On November 27, 2018, Senator Chuck Schumer stood in the Capitol before a crowd of reporters and reassured them that Democrats favor border security.  Sadly, the overwhelming evidence points to the contrary.  

Democrats have long been engaged in a battle to dismantle America’s border defenses.  On November 8, 1971, Berkeley, California became the first city in the United States to offer itself up as a sanctuary city. Many municipalities followed in the 1980s such that today, a host of local jurisdictions are refusing to cooperate with ICE.  (To access ICE’s list of sanctuary jurisdictions click here.) 

To a tee, these municipalities are democratically controlled, and in 2017, California, a Democratic stronghold, became the first and still only sanctuary state.

As we know, imparting sanctuary status upon a jurisdiction serves to protect the illegal inhabitant from detainment by ICE, as the jurisdiction will not cooperate with such detainers.  Such a permissive policy serves as a magnet for illegal immigrants who stand a significantly lower chance of being turned over to federal authorities should they break the law.  

Democrats have also proclaimed their support for open borders.  Ignorantly, Democrats have repeatedly argued that the unencumbered flow of people across the border, including that of the United States, is a human right and should be allowed as a matter of justice.  They voice disdain at the Trump Administration’s reticence in cooperating with the United Nation’s global migration pact.  Specifically, in 2017, when President Trump said he would not be sending American representatives to the United Nations’ conference on migration in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Democrats attacked him over the decision.

It likely bears no need for explaining, but a no-borders policy by the United States and the world stands in direct opposition to efforts at securing America’s borders.  

In 2018, when the caravan was headed north to America’s southern border, Democrat elements denied the caravan’s existence maintaining that it was a fabricated problem used by President Trump only for political expediency.  Today, these are the same Democrats decrying the horrible conditions of these migrants in the hopes that they are given free passage into the United States.

With few exceptions, the party leading the charge to maximize the standing for asylum seekers to gain legal entry into the United States is the Democratic Party.  The party that dismisses the injustice of having those same asylum seekers enter the United States, remain there for over three years before their case is evaluated by an immigration judge, and then not show up for the hearing is the Democrat Party.

The Democrats support catch and release and want to abolish ICE.  They oppose allocating $5.7 billion of the national, multi-trillion dollar budget to the construction of a wall at our southern borders despite the fact that the President has compromised on his initial ask of over $20 billion and despite the fact that the difference between the two parties is $3.3 billion. And when Senator Schumer repeatedly goes to the airwaves and says that the President will never get his wall despite risking a government shutdown, it is clear that Schumer could not care less about border security.

Adding to the evidence of their contempt for border security is the Democrats’ ire towards any attempt at keeping illegal immigrants out of the United States and their repeated misrepresentations of both the demographics of the problem and America’s justifiable response to it.

And let’s not forget, it is the Democrat Party that remains silent when an illegal immigrant guns down an American citizen while ignoring the grave and unpalatable injustice of having had that illegal immigrant previously released by a sanctuary jurisdiction.

No.  Despite Schumer’s reassurances, the Democrats are not in the least bit interested in border security.  They have never made it a driving issue for their party nor have they supported it actively in their daily undertakings.  Schumer’s claim to the contrary represents a mere, disingenuous capitulation to the fact that the majority of Americans find controlling our borders fundamentally important to our security, our economy, and our safety. 

Sadly, and despite the fact that every major American political party should be lock-step on this issue, if an American citizen values border security (and the rule of law for that matter) he or she cannot stand with the Democrats despite the Schumer’s fake assurances.  

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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Federalist Pages. The featured photo is by Radek Homola on Unsplash.