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The Best and Worst Cities in the United States

There are several options if you want to measure economic freedom and competitiveness among nations (rankings from the Fraser InstituteHeritage Foundation, and World Economic Forum).

You also have many choices if you want to measure economic freedom and competitiveness among states (rankings from the Tax FoundationMercatus Center, and Fraser Institute).

But there’s never been a good source if you want to know which local jurisdiction is best.

Dean Stansel of Southern Methodist University is helping to fill this gap with a report looking at the relative quality of government policy in various metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs encompass not just a city but also economically relevant suburbs):

…the level of economic freedom can vary across subnational jurisdictions within the same country (e.g., Texas and Florida have less-burdensome economic policies and therefore much greater economic freedom than New York and California). However, levels of economic freedom can also vary within those subnational jurisdictions. For example, the San Jose metro area has substantially higher economic freedom than Los Angeles. The same is true for Nashville compared to Memphis. In some places, metropolitan areas straddle state borders, skewing state-level economic data. This report quantifies those intra-state disparities by providing a local-level version of the EFNA, ranking 382 metropolitan areas by their economic freedom levels.

So who wins this contest?

Here are the five most-free MSAs. It’s worth noting that all of them are in states with no income tax, which shows that good state policy helps:

What if we limit ourselves to large cities?

Here are the five most-free MSAs with populations over one million. As you can see, Houston is in first place, and zero-income-tax Texas and Florida are well represented:

Now let’s shift to the localities on the bottom of the rankings.

Which MSA is the worst place for economic freedom in America?

Congratulations to El Centro in California for winning this booby prize. As you can see, jurisdictions in New York and California dominate:

What if we look at larger jurisdictions, those with over one million people?

In this case, Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario is the worst place to live.

Though if you want to focus on big cities, the NYC metro area deserves special mention:

Now let’s consider why economic freedom matters.

I’ve shared charts showing how more economic freedom leads to more prosperity in nations.

The same thing is true for states.

So you shouldn’t be surprised to discover that it also is true for metro areas:

Last but not least, here’s a map showing freedom in all MSAs:

I’m not surprised to see so much red in California and New York, but I didn’t realize that Ohio (thanks for nothing, Kasich), Oregon, and West Virginia were so bad.

And the good results for Texas and Florida are predictable, but I didn’t think Virginia would look so good.

This article was reprinted with permission from International Liberty.

COLUMN BY

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a Washington-based economist who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review. 

RELATED ARTICLE: These are the worst cities to live in America. Is yours one of them?

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is by Pixabay.

Trump’s Tax Plan Is Brilliant Politics and Even Better Economics by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Donald Trump’s tax plan seems to mark a new chapter in his presidency, from floundering around with strange and sometimes scary policies (bombings, border closings, saber rattling) to focusing on what actually matters and what can actually make the difference for the American people and the American economy.

Under Trump’s plan, taxes on corporate profits go from 35% to 15%. They should be zero (like the Bahamas), but this is a good start. Taxes on capital gains go from 23.8% to 20%. Again, it should be zero (as with New Zealand), but it is a start. Rates for all individuals are lowered to three: 10%, 25%, and 35%. The standard deduction for individuals is doubled (politically brilliant). The estate tax and the alternative minimum tax is gone. Popular deductions for charitable giving and mortgage interest are preserved. The hare-brained idea of a “border adjustment tax” is toast.

All of this is wonderful, but the shining light of this plan is the dramatic reduction in taxes on corporate profits. The economics of this are based on a simple but profoundly true insight. Economic growth is the key to a good society. This is where good jobs come from. This is how technology improves. This is what gives everyone a brighter outlook on life. If you can imagine that your tomorrow will be more prosperous and flourishing than today, your life seems to be on track.

Tax Capital, Wreck Prosperity

Where does economic growth come from? For decades dating back perhaps a hundred-plus years, people imagined that it could come from government programs and policy manipulation. Surely there are some levers somewhere in the center of power that can cause this thing we call economic growth. We just need solid experts with power, resources, and intelligence to manage the system.

This turns out to be entirely wrong. It hasn’t worked. Since 2008, government has tried to mastermind an economic recovery. It has floundered. We are coming up on a full decade of this nonsense with economic growth barely crawling along. We are surviving, not thriving, and income growth, capital formation, and entrepreneurial opportunity restricted and punished at every turn.

The Trump tax plan is rooted in a much better idea. Economic growth must come from the private sector. It must come from investment in private capital. The owners of this capital who are doing well and earn profits should be allowed to keep them and invest them. This creates new job opportunities. It allows for more complex production strategies. It expands the division of labor.

The crucial institution here is capital. Sorry, anti-capitalists. It’s just true. Capital can be defined as the produced goods for production, not consumption. It is making things for the purpose of making other things. Think about it. Without capital, you can still have markets, creativity, hard work, enterprise. But so long as you have an absence of capital, you are forever floundering around just working to make and sell things for consumption. This is called living hand to mouth.Without capital, and the private ownership of capital, and security over your property rights, you can’t have economic growth. You can’t have complex production. You can’t raise wages. You can’t live a better life. Every tax on capital, capital formation, capital accumulation, and business profit reduces the security of property rights over capital. This is a sure way to attack economic growth at its source.

And this is precisely what American policy has done. The rest of the world has been wising up about this, reducing taxes on capital for the last 15 years. But the US has languished in the mythology of the past, regarding capital not as a font of prosperity but rather a fund of stagnant resources to be pillaged by planners in government. It is not surprising that this strategy results in slow growth and even permanent recession.

What This Can Do for Growth

I have no regression to present to you but this much I can say out of experience and intuition. If this tax plan goes through, the entire class of entrepreneurs, investors, and merchants will receiving a loud signal: this country is safe for you to realize your dreams and make the dreams of others come true.It wouldn’t surprise me to see GDP growth go from an anemic 1-2% to reach 4% and higher in one year. There is so much pent-up energy in this country. This tax cut will unleash it. And think what it means for the next recession or financial crisis. It prepares the entire country to weather such an event better than we otherwise would.

The beauty of unleashing the power of private capital is that the brilliant results will always be surprising. We don’t know what kind of experimentation in investment and business expansion this will create. This is the nature of a capitalist economy rooted in the freedom of enterprise. It defies our every expectation. No model can forecast with precision the range of results here. We only know that good things will come.

Now, of course, the opponents will talk of the deficit and the national debt. What about the lost revenue? The problem is that every revenue forecast is based on a static model. But an economy rooted in capital formation is not a static one. It is entirely possible that new profits and business expansion will produce even more revenue, even if it is taxed at a lower rate.If you want to cut the deficit, there is only one way: cut spending. I see no evidence that either party wants to do this. Too bad. This should change. But it is both economically stupid and morally unsound to attempt to balance the budget on the backs of taxpayers. Letting people keep more of what they earn is the right thing to do, regardless of government’s fiscal problems.

In the meantime, these pious incantations of the word “deficit, deficit, deficit,” should be seen for what they are: excuses to continue to loot people of their just earnings.

The Politics of It

Already the opponents of this plan are kvetching in the predictable way. This is a tax cut for the rich! Well, yes, and that’s good. Rich capitalists  – sorry for yet another hard truth – are society’s benefactors.

But you know why this line of attack isn’t going to work this time? Take a look at the standard deduction change. It is doubled. Not a single middle-class taxpayer is unaware of what this means. This is because they are profoundly aware of how the tax system works. If you take the standard deduction from $6,200 to $15,000, that means people are going to keep far more of their own money. There is not a single taxpayer in this country who will not welcome that.

This is why it strikes me as crazy for Democrats to inveigh against this plan. Doing so only cements their reputation as the party of pillage. Do they really want the United States to be outcompeted by every other nation in the OECD? What they should do is rally behind this, forgetting all the ridiculous pieties about the deficit and the rich and so on. Do they favor the interests of the American people are not?It’s also fantastic politics to retain the deductions for charitable giving and mortgage interest. These are popular for a reason. They are two of the only ways that average people can save on their tax bill. It always pained me when the GOP would propose a “flat tax” that eliminated these provisions. People are very aware: taking away an existing tax break is a terrible foreshadowing of bad things to come. So this Trump plan dispenses with all that. Good.

As for compliance costs of the current system, the elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax will do worlds of good.

What I love most about this plan is its real-world economic foundation. It embraces a truth that so many want to avoid. If you want jobs, rising wages, and economic growth, you have to stop the war on capital. You have to go the other way. You need to celebrate capital and allow rewards to flow to those who are driving forward economic progress.

It’s a simple but brilliant point. Finally, we’ve got a tax proposal that embraces it.

Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

Let’s Stop with the Carbon Con Already

The side that defines the vocabulary of a debate, wins the debate. So we could ask: as we fight the global-warming scam, why are we using the language of the scammers? It’s harder to combat “carbon” taxes, “carbon” credits and callow “carbon” appeals if we accept that at issue is “carbon.”

Calling CO2 “carbon” is like calling H2O “hydrogen.” Carbon is about as useful to a plant aspiring to photosynthesize as a tank of hydrogen is to a dehydrated man in a desert. Carbon dioxide and carbon are not the same thing any more than a fox and foxglove are the same thing.

If chemical formulas are meaningless and one element or atom between friends can be ignored, try inhaling copious amounts of CO. It’s also “carbon,” being in fact more “carboney” ratio-wise than CO2. But carbon monoxide is poisonous to fauna and flora while carbon dioxide is plant food, which is why botanists pump it into greenhouses.

Likewise, would you like some chlorine with your food, sir? Sodium is poisonous; chlorine is poisonous. Combine the two — NaCl — and you have table salt. Chemistry is our friend.

It would be nice to think that the carbon crew is just being friendly and familiar. But not only would calling CO2 Mr. Dioxide be just as inaccurate, there’s clearly an agenda here. Carbon, the primary element in coal, conjures up images of spewing sky-blackening soot into the air. It’s a dark brand of marketing.

In fact, I challenge those crafting “carbon tax” bills to call CO2 “carbon” in their legislation’s text. They won’t because I suspect it wouldn’t stand up in court, as factories don’t actually emit carbon. The alarmists will either specify carbon dioxide or define, tendentiously, what “carbon” means for the “purposes of the bill.”

Of course, carbon isn’t really a villain, either. It’s the fourth-most abundant element in the universe, and man is known as a “carbon-based life form.” Given the latter, if extra atoms and elements and how they react with each other can be ignored when formulating labels and definitions, we could say that Al Gore’s birth was a carbon emission.

Honest people should reclaim the language and reboot the debate by rejecting “carbon” talk. As for those knowingly using the term for propaganda purposes, they should have a huge carbon footprint placed firmly on their carbon-based posteriors.

Contact Selwyn Duke, follow him on Twitter or log on to SelwynDuke.com

A review of Florida Constitutional Amendment 4 — Solar Devices by James Lampe

As you consider your vote remember this is a Constitutional Amendment, and once passed the chances of changing it are slim and none.  Before we change the Constitution, shouldn’t the Amendment be clearly beneficial to most Floridians?  Unfortunately, the vast majority of Floridians will be hurt if Amendment 4 is passed.  The Amendment will raise electric rates and ad valorem taxes.  Vote NO on this Amendment.

amendment 4 ballot language

Summary:  This Amendment will exempt solar devices installed on homes or businesses from ad valorem taxes, until 12-31-2037.

First of all, homeowners who install Solar-Electric systems already get a 30% federal tax break!

This financial assistance from the federal government, has been around for years.  Secondly, Florida state government has helped by exempting “solar energy systems or any component thereof” from sales tax.  And now we have this amendment, a third gilded gift to prop-up the failing solar industry.

Nonetheless, let’s see how many people this Amendment will help.  A review of the US Census Fact Finder data on the table below, shows that 30% (2,166,215) of all Floridians live in “Rental Occupied” units, and therefore, no-one in that group would invest in solar-electric systems.  As shown in the “Owner-occupied” category, that leaves 4,986,629 potential customers.

amendment 4 survey

In addition, even if you own a house you may not be able to afford to invest in a solar-electric system.  People who own lower valued housing units valued at $50,000-$150,000, are not likely to invest $30,000 (cost estimate to buy, install, and connect a solar-electric system to the electric grid) for solar system.  So of the 4,986,629 total housing units, we can subtract 1,593,957 for the lower valued houses.  That gives 3,392,697 as the remaining moderate to higher priced housing units that would be the target market for solar-electric systems.

However, there are about 1,000,000 condominiums in Florida, whose owners would also be prevented/impeded from modifying or otherwise changing their common roofs, so the total possible number of housing units for solar falls to 2,392,697, or ~34% of all housing units.

With only ~34% of housing units available for solar-electric systems, how can this Amendment be considered fair?  Worse yet, many snow-birds and residents have mobile homes that are included the housing units, but there is no itemized number for them.  So the 34%, would be even lower if mobile home units were subtracted from the total number of units.

florida solar amendment

In 2015, the Nevada PUC changed the rules for “net metering,” which allows homeowners to sell their excess solar generated electricity to their utility at retail rather than wholesale rates.  But because that arrangement was too costly, the PUC changed the rule.

The Nevada scenario seems like a no brainer, but apparently there was enough grant money to make up for the losses, until one day when the math didn’t work, and the people in Nevada realized that the more electric generated by solar, the less profits the utilities collect.  The utilities need profit to pay staff to restore power after storms, sustain street lighting, and maintain the electric grid, etc.  In addition, utilities work on economies of scale, and their efficiency is reduced when customers convert to solar, because it costs more to generate a KW of electricity.

This Amendment is an obvious attempt by state bureaucrats to boost the heavily subsidized, yet nearly bankrupt solar industry.  It’s not fair or prudent, to let the state pick winners and losers in a free market economy, and we should not let this cronyism go unnoticed.

Vote NO on Amendment 4.

German asylum seekers refuse to work: ‘We are Merkel’s guests’

Decisions on Muslim migration made by leftist politicians have become a scourge on the German people and other European citizens, who have witnessed the slow metamorphosis of their peaceful communities while they pay with their tax dollars for the recklessness of their leaders such as Angela Merkel. Tens of thousands of crimes and assaults have been committed by Muslim migrants in Germany, but these are less of a concern to the politicians who walk with their security detail and their bank accounts intact.

Even in the midst of the Muslim migrant crisis in Germany, Mayor Bernd Pohlers of the eastern town of Saxony Waldenburg, where the asylum seekers refused to accept work, stated his concern about this latest piece of news playing “into the hands of those opposing the mass migration,” evincing yet again the all too familiar stench of political posturing and a cruel disregard for those who cast their votes in trust.

“German asylum seekers refuse to work insisting ‘We are Merkel’s GUESTS’”, by Siobhan McFadyen and Monika Pallenberg, UK Express, August 18, 2016:

ASYLUM seekers in Germany are refusing to undertake work to counteract boredom – using Chancellor Angela Merkel’s generous hospitality as an excuse.

According to mayor Bernd Pohlers of the eastern town of Saxony Waldenburg, the asylum seekers refused to accept the work that was offered to them after they arrived in the country.

The local council spent £600 arranging for the men to have uniforms but were stunned when they were told they would not complete it because they were “guests of Angela Merkel”.

While asylum seekers are not allowed to work under immigration rules within the EU, they are allowed to do voluntary work.

However officials in the district of Zwickau came up with a plan to help encourage those without employment to get back to work and to help them become more accepted within the local community.

In order to do this they created voluntary jobs which included a nominal payment of £18 for 20 hours work.

But all of the male residents of the local refugee accommodation who initially agreed to get involved in the charitable activities quit after discovering there was a minimum wage £7.30 (€8.50) in Germany.

The men had been picked up and offered transportation from their paid-for housing where they are also given food and then dropped home.

Mayor Pohlers said: “It was subsequently argued by these people that they are guests of Mrs. Merkel and guests do not have to work.

“Furthermore, they were of the opinion that there is a minimum wage (€8.50) in Germany, and that this had to be paid by the City Waldenburg.”

Despite attempts at mediation the asylum seekers refused to return to work.

Mayor Pohlers added: “In a specially convened meeting with an interpreter the authorities explained the rules again.

“Unfortunately, no agreement could be reached on the continuation of the measure.”

Now all seven of the jobs have been scrapped.

The mayor spoke out in a bid to highlight the issue of the asylum crisis in Germany.

He said he is aware his statements could play into the hands of those opposing the mass migration.

However after having raised money from the local community to help aid the asylum seeker’s transition into the community, he felt compelled to speak out…..

RELATED ARTICLE: Italians reject plans for mosque next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa

GOP Puts a Lid on Bathroom Crisis

The Family Research Council in an email writes:

Conservatives have wanted to eliminate the Department of Education for decades. And Thursday, President Obama gave them the best reason yet. The agency’s outrageous order that public schools ignore the basic biology of their students in the use of bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers may have finally awakened a sleeping giant.

Parents, governors, House and Senate leaders, religious groups, and superintendents are incensed that the White House would threaten to pull funding for children’s education over something as ridiculous and unpopular as gender-free restrooms.

Within hours of firing off this letter to every public school, college, and university in America, the blowback was fast and fierce. Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (R) and Governor Greg Abbott (R) called on states to resist, insisting that the Lone Star State would give up all of its federal funding before letting the administration bully them on an ideology that the American College of Pediatricians calls “child abuse.” Together with Abbott, Patrick called on schools to ignore the DOE and Justice Department’s guidance. “This will be the end of public education, if this prevails,” he warned. ‘People will pull their kids out, homeschooling will explode, and private schools will increase.”

In local schools, administrators like Rodney Cavness didn’t need convincing. “I got news for President Barack Obama,”the Port-Neches-Groves superintendent told a local news outlet: “That letter is going straight to the paper shredder. I have five daughters myself, and I have 2,500 girls in my protection. Their moms and dads expect me to protect them. And that is what I am going to do. Now I don’t want them bullied… but there are accommodations that can be made short of this. He is destroying the very fiber of this country. He is not a leader. He is a failure.”

Fresh off of his bid for the GOP presidential nomination, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had strong words for the man occupying the office he sought.

“Having spent many years in law enforcement, I’ve handled far too many cases of child molesters, of pedophiles, of people who abused little kids. The threats of predators are serious, and we should not facilitate allowing grown men or boys to be in bathrooms with little girls… I encourage every school superintendent, school board, and parent across this nation to disregard this barely veiled threat from the White House aimed at overturning the utterly reasonable practice of preventing men and boys from entering girls’ restrooms and changing rooms. As a father of young girls, I wouldn’t want my daughters being forced to change in the same room as men and boys. It’s that simple. And parents across this country shouldn’t have to tolerate it either.”

His Texas and Tennessee colleagues, John Cornyn (R) and Lamar Alexander (R), agreed, insisting that the president’s job “is not to intervene in state and local affairs under our constitutional scheme.” “Frankly,” Cornyn went on, “I think his involvement is unwelcome.” From Arkansas to Ground Zero in North Carolina, leaders were irate over the White House’s power grab.

Read more.

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3 Ways Conservative Lawmakers Could Respond to Obama’s Bathroom Directive

North Carolina Lawmaker Blames Media, Activist Groups for Bathroom Bill ‘Falsehoods’

Mississippi Lawmakers Demand State Education Department Oppose Obama’s Transgender Guidelines

Target, Transgenderism, and Transformation

Government Shouldn’t Decide Who Uses Which Bathroom by Doug Bandow

There’s Simply No Single Right Answer.

The North Carolina legislature voted in March to require that people use the bathroom designated for their biological sex. The state was criticized for violating gay and transgender rights. The Obama administration may cut federal education, housing, and transportation aid to North Carolina in response.

Bathroom use has been an issue in other states, including Illinois, Texas, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, and South Dakota. Legislation proposed and passed differs by state on how to define gender — ranging from chromosomes to birth certificate to anatomical sex. Obviously, people can’t change their chromosomes. They can, however, change their gender identity and its associated physical traits, which is where the controversy begins.

The president’s position appears to be that people have a legal right to use the bathroom of their choice, regardless of their gender, however defined. With the club of federal funding, he is attempting to socially engineer America.

This is central planning run riot.

Good people should approach anyone in the midst of gender change with humility and compassion. For most of us, it is unimaginable what would cause someone to desire to shift genders. It is a personal issue of the most profound nature. It shouldn’t be debated and decided in the public square.

And politicians aren’t doing a good job addressing the question. It may not make sense to most people for someone who looks like a guy to use the ladies room, however he sees himself, but neither does it seem right to force someone who looks like a guy to use the ladies room because he was born female. And it certainly makes no sense to let one person or group of people force everyone else to comply with their preference, even when that group is a majority of voters.

Bathroom use shouldn’t be a question for bureaucrats, politicians, lawyers, or judges to answer.

Who should use which bathroom? If it’s in your home, you decide. Likewise, a private company or other private organization should set the rules for its building. What does the owner want? What do customers or members prefer? What is the best way to balance competing interests given the community’s dominant moral sense?

Most people in most places probably believe that people should use the bathroom that matches their physical characteristics, whether changed or not. And we know from the current debate that many (if not most) people prefer not to share a bathroom with someone who appears to be of the other sex, irrespective of the gender with which he or she identifies.

However, one can imagine a “progressive” individual, business owner, or group deciding otherwise. And whether that decision reflected special solicitude for vulnerable individuals or a desire to shape public attitudes, it would be no cause for complaint.

There’s simply no single right answer — and no justification for government to intervene in such intimate, private decisions.

What about bathrooms in public facilities, such as a government office, school, airport, or military base? These are all theoretically “owned” by everyone. Everyone has a stake in the issue — and thus a “right” of some sort — but there’s no accepted, overarching principle that determines with whom you must share a bathroom. A local majority may need to rule in such cases, but someone will always be unhappy with the result, especially if the relevant decision-makers are far away, protected from the consequences.

For Washington pols to insist that, say, teenage girls in a small town in downstate Illinois accept as a bathroom mate a child who appears to be a boy is an act of extraordinary chutzpah. The girls’ refusal to do so does not necessarily reflect malevolent discrimination; it may simply be an understandable reaction to basic biology. Politicians have no right to impose their particular agenda.

Of course, differing opinions don’t justify ignoring the interests of those in the midst of gender change, whether it involves surgery or not. Access to a bathroom is critical for almost everything people do — going to school, working outside your home, going shopping, and traveling. Some kind of accommodation should be made. But what kind?

Again, there’s no single solution that fits every public establishment, let alone private entity, across the country. Larger buildings could offer more options, such as separate bathrooms, like family-friendly single facilities. Communities and student bodies differ in attitudes and openness. Even those who are transgender may desire different outcomes in different circumstances.

Most important, all participants need to demonstrate understanding and sensitivity. No one of goodwill wants to add to the distress of someone changing gender. At the same time, those going through the process should not try to use government to impose their preference on schoolmates, neighbors, coworkers, and others. People should look for alternatives and compromises to work it out. Compromise, compassion, private property rights, and decentralized decision-making are enough to resolve this issue.

Politicians already control education, manage health care, provide social services, and underwrite businesses — and now they even decide who should use which bathroom. It’s time to return life’s most important decisions to the people. A good place to start would be keeping government out of our bathrooms.

Doug BandowDoug Bandow

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of a number of books on economics and politics. He writes regularly on military non-interventionism.

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Three reasons why Trump’s support of transgender bathrooms is wrong

EDITORS NOTE: Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-District 16) did an email survey of constituents on the issue of transgender bathrooms. Here is the question and responses as of May 16th, 2016:

Do you support the new Obama administration directive requiring all public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice?
  • Strongly support
 23.16%
  • Somewhat support
  8.39%
  • Somewhat oppose
  5.59%
  • Strongly oppose
 62.84%

Why Is the United States Funding a Hamas-Linked Charity — Again?

The U.S. has given $270,000 to Islamic Relief Worldwide, a group which was banned in Israel for funding Hamas and in the UAE for Muslim Brotherhood links.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently gave a grant of $270,000 to a Muslim Brotherhood linked charity, according to The Daily Caller.

Islamic Relief Worldwide, a UK based charity and the largest Islamic Charity in the world, has been banned in Israel and the United Arab Emirates for dispersing funds to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Last month it received the money for its work in Kenya, specifically aimed at promoting “global health security as an international priority” as part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s global health security partner engagement initiative.

While the specific program the U.S. government is funding may be perfectly innocuous, the charity itself is not.

“The IRW is one of the sources of Hamas’s funding and a means for raising funds from various countries in the world” Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said in July 2014. “We do not intend to allow it to function and abet terrorist activity against Israel.”

In 2006 Israel arrested and deported Iyaz Ali, IRW’s Gaza branch project director, for working “to transfer funds and assistance to various Hamas institutions and organizations.”

In 2014 Islamic Relief Worldwide announced they had conducted an independent audit which found no ties to terrorism whatsoever.

“Islamic Relief abhors terrorism in all its forms” the group said in a statement. “We are an impartial, independent, purely humanitarian organization whose sole focus is to alleviate poverty and suffering.” They refused to name the auditor due to “sensitivities in the region.”

Israel and the United Arab Emirates rejected the findings and stood by their designations. Israel charged that Islamic Relief Worldwide “funnels millions of dollars a year to Hamas institutions.”

This is not the first time the U.S. government has funded Islamic Relief Worldwide despite concerns being raised about the group’s links to terrorism.

In December 2015 the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded a grant of $100,000, also for the organization’s work in Kenya.

By continuing to fund charities with ties to terrorism, the U.S. government is legitimizing all aspects of their work, not just those areas they are directly supporting.

There are plenty of underfunded and laudable projects around the world with no ties to the Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas.

Why isn’t the U.S. government funding them instead?

RELATED ARTICLE: USAID Gives Muslim Brotherhood Tied Charity $100,000

Will America Ever Have A ‘Wise And Frugal Government’ Again

Sometimes it is said that a man cannot be trusted with the government of himself.  Can he then be trusted with the government of others?  Recent history has proven that to be very true.  No one of with any measure of moral conscience will deny the recent history of government being shepherded toward oblivion by proponents of evil.  ­I hate to bring it up, but the Obama administration is perhaps the premier example of a man that cannot be trusted and should not be have been granted the privilege of governing our republic.  But unfortunately therein lies another problem that must be addressed as we engage perhaps the most important election in our nation’s history.

As “We the People” prepare to choose who will lead our republic, perhaps we should take a closer look at ourselves and refine our vision of what kind of America do we want going forward.  To aid in our search let us consider what do we want to leave for our children.  History will answer that question loud and clear with the results of our decisions.  If we do not reconnect with the Christian based values that were the foundational building blocks of our America we shall witness the completion of the destructive mission of the progressive enemies from within our population ranks.  Let us as Americans with courage and confidence pursue our own federal and republican principles.

As part of his 1801 Inaugural address, President Thomas Jefferson stated: Enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter.  With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? (I couldn’t help but pause here and ask this question.  Have you noticed how the further Americans are indoctrinated against the principles and beliefs that made the United States the  envy of the world, she is actually both less happy and prosperous?)

Still one thing more, fellow citizens—a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned…You should understand what I deem the essential principles of our government…. Equal and exact justice to all men, of, whatever state or persuasion, religious or political…the arraignment of all abuses at the bar of public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of a person under the protection of the habeas corpus and trial by jury impartially selected…

Unfortunately, our nation has succumbed to the lowest common denominator when it comes to morality, government function, individual liberties, as well as the economy and other relevant concerns.

If our republic is to reemerge as a beacon of light and liberty, to the teeming masses that would want to come to America legally to become Americans, our nation will first have to return to being the actual America that good and decent people around the world would want to be a part of.  Think about it, as our nation has become increasingly immoral, she has also degenerated from a land of liberty into a semi big government police state over every aspect of our lives.  In other words, the government takes over a people that don’t use self-control.

Without any effort, immorality replaces under utilized or untaught morality.  That is why the immoral from around the world are the majority of individuals now filing illegally into our nation with the permission of a corrupt government that appeases our enemies who want to come in and wreak havoc at taxpayer expense, just to add insult to injury.  That is why the Obama administration was ready to take Arizona to court and put a hurting on Texas for daring to protect the border with Mexico since the immoral federal government has gone loco.

Despite all of the negative developments over the past several decades that have culminated in the worst administration in our nation’s history and could potentially harm our nation beyond repair.  (After all, Obama did say he wanted to fundamentally change America.)  Obviously, his interpretation of changes could not have even been enacted before the turn of the century.  I believe that I have witnessed the real beginning of renewal in our country.  Many people of faith are finally becoming interested enough to learn about and care what happens to the United States of America.  Remember, it was an active, brave and intelligent church that was an integral part of the fight for independence and later against slavery.

Remembering the wise words of orator, author statesman, and abolitionist Frederick Douglas: The Declaration of Independence is the ringbolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it.  The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles.  Stand by them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and whatever cost.  I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Douglas.  America, if you are to be great again, you must first seek to be good, for it is then you shall make better decisions and take right actions that will recalibrate our destiny from utter disaster to undeniable recovery and greatness.

Can Socialist Monopoly compete with Capitalist Monopoly?

We all know how the game of Capitalist Monopoly works: one player wins and the rest lose, at least until the next round. But what if you are a permanent loser? That is unfair. The most obvious solution to this crisis is to remake the rules in your favor.

Brilliant minds among the loser community have made repeated attempts to make new rules that would allow them to become winners. They mostly ended up with appointing one of the players to be a dictator (usually themselves), who promises to redistribute everything on the board equally so that everyone wins. The dictator appoints assistants and together they become the government. For this plan to work, the government must forcibly take over all the property on the game board. Thus the government becomes a monopolist and the sole big winner. All the others become perpetual lesser winners: equal among themselves, but not equal to the government and its officials. Let’s broadly describe it as Socialist Monopoly.

But not all the state-run rental properties on the board are equal, so the game goes on. Now the selection of winners becomes wholly dependent on a player’s personal relationship with the government. Those who are not the relatives or good friends with the government, become losers. The latter can still stay in the game by participating in an intricate system of bribes, kickbacks, and exchange of favors. Those unwilling to play by these rules become the ultimate losers and are despised by everybody. Usually they are the people who would previously win in Capitalist Monopoly.

When all the redistribution has been completed, Socialist Monopoly becomes a really boring and tedious game. The government deflects the growing dissatisfaction by adding a new rule: all players must blame the former winners of Capitalist Monopoly for sabotage and obstructionism. After all the said former winners quit and leave the table, the interest in the game is sustained with the help of cheap vodka, which also helps to suppress mutual resentment and hatred. The game ends when all players, including the government, lose all motivation to go on, or fall under the table into a puddle of their own vomit, whichever comes first.

The most common explanation for the failures of Socialist Monopoly is that the brilliant minds of the loser community simply haven’t got it right yet. This gives everyone hope that someday there will appear a sharper, more brilliant loser who will get it right.

And so the dream lives on, about a game where everyone can be an equal winner while still being able to enjoy the game without ending up hating everyone else, sending the most successful players to jail, and falling under the table in a drunken stupor.

Thus, the efforts to reinvent Capitalist Monopoly never stop. Below are just some failed examples. Will you take the challenge and create a game of Socialist Monopoly that actually works?

Progressive Monopoly

Monopoly_Socialist.jpg
Communist Monopoly

Monopoly_Communist.jpg
Socialist Monopoly with lines – Polish style

Monopoly_Communist_Poland.jpgAnd so on…

EDITORS NOTE: This political satire originally appeared on The Peoples Cube.

Yes, Students Are Customers, but the Customer Isn’t Always Right by Kevin Currie-Knight & Steven Horwitz

“College students are not customers. That analogy needs to die. It needs to be drowned in the world’s largest bathtub. It needs a George R.R. Martin–esque bloodbath of a demise.”

These are the strong words of education writer Rebecca Schuman in response to Iowa’s recent attempt to pass a law tying professors’ job security to their teaching evaluations. Such laws, Schuman and others think, are based on the misguided idea that students are akin to customers.

OK, So College Isn’t Like a Restaurant

To an extent, we agree with Schuman, but we think she vastly oversimplifies. In one way, it is hard to deny that students are customers. They (or someone acting on their behalf) pay for a service and, like customers in any other market, students can take their tuition money elsewhere if they aren’t satisfied.

Whether the educational experience was to the student’s “liking” may not be a good measure of the quality of the university’s educational services. 

On the other hand, as Schuman points out, college education looks quite different from many other businesses. Unlike restaurant patrons, for example, students are buying a service (education) that isn’t geared toward customer enjoyment. A good college education may even push students in ways they don’t enjoy.

Whether the tilapia was prepared to the patron’s liking is a good measure of the restaurant’s food. Whether the educational experience was to the student’s “liking” may not be a good measure of the quality of the university’s educational services.

Rather than this distinction being evidence for Schuman’s claim, however, it actually points out one of its flaws. She overlooks the fact that not all customers have the same sort of relationship with a business as we see in the restaurant industry, which serves as the only basis of her customer analogy.

Yes, colleges certainly have a different relationship with students than restaurants have with patrons. Patrons are there to get what tastes good and satisfies them for that specific visit. Students are (presumably) there to receive a good education, which may not instantly please them and may sometimes have to “taste bad” to be effective. (Most people who go to the dentist don’t find it immediately pleasurable, either, but, in the long run, they are certainly glad they went.)

No Pain, No Gain

We can think of three alternative business analogies for the university-student relationship.

First is personal training or physical therapy. Like university education, they involve services that aren’t geared toward immediate consumer happiness. To help a client achieve good results, a trainer often has to make the workout difficult when the client might have wanted to go easier. And good physical therapy often involves putting the client through painful motions the client would rather not undergo.

Yet, these businesses see their clients as customers and probably take customer feedback quite seriously. Trainers need to push customers past where they want to go, but this doesn’t mean trainers dismiss negative feedback.

Credible Credentials

Second are certification services, firms that provide quality assurance for other firms. Such providers may find themselves at odds with their customers when they withhold certification, but if the firm asking for certification really wants an assurance of quality for its customers, that firm will understand why its unhappiness at being denied isn’t a reason for the certifying organization to just cave to whatever its customers want.

Schuman suggests that if students are customers, the university must be a profit-grubbing business.

For example, a manufacturer of commercial refrigerators might seek certification from Underwriters Laboratories to prove to restaurant owners that its appliances have been independently tested and proven to hold food at safe temperatures that won’t sicken customers. If tests reveal that the fridges aren’t getting cooler than 50 degrees — far above food safety guidelines — the fridges won’t get certified.

Any certifying bodies that give in to pressure to certify all paying customers will end up being punished by the market when someone (a competitor? a journalist?) reveals that the company’s certification doesn’t really certify anything. Protecting the quality of the certification process is in everyone’s interest, even if it makes some of a certifier’s customers unhappy with particular outcomes.

College students may well be like the firms seeking a certification of quality, with employers and graduate schools being the analogue of their customers, who will only hire or admit “certified” students.

The Cheapest Product at the Highest Price?

A third analogy is the nonprofit organization. Schuman suggests that if students are customers, the university must be a profit-grubbing business, and since a “business’s only goal is to succeed,” a customer-focused university will “purvey… the cheapest product it can at the highest price customers will pay.”

But does viewing the people one serves as customers necessarily turn one into a business whose concern is to sell poor products at a high price rather than to provide a good service? Credit unions, art museums, area transportation services, and, yes, private K–12 schools are often organizations that don’t operate for profit and yet provide services directly to paying customers.

Nonprofit museums charge admissions and nonprofit ride services charge for rides; therefore, they serve paying customers. But this does not mean they aim to make the maximum profit possible, or in fact any sort of profit, by providing the lowest quality at the highest price. (Of course, we would take issue with Schuman’s characterization of even more traditional profit-seeking firms as aiming to sell junk at high prices, but we can leave that to the side for our purposes here.)

Schuman is wrong to think that if universities see students as customers, this must turn them into profit-driven businesses in this narrow sense.

Is the Customer Always Right?

For all that, we sympathize with some of the basics of Schuman’s argument. As college professors, we understand her concern over putting too much stock in student evaluations of teacher performance. Even if students are customers, they surely aren’t customers in the same way the restaurant patron is a customer. And a restaurant will not automatically treat every customer comment card as equally influential in changing how it does business. Some restaurant customers have unrealistic expectations or don’t understand the food service business, and restaurants often have to decipher what feedback to take seriously and what to disregard.

We suspect that Schuman’s confusion may result from universities and professors thinking that they are selling something different from what students may think they are buying. Students generally want the degrees that come from education, with education being the process to get the degree. Universities (and professors) sell knowledge and skills, and the degree is simply the acknowledgement that students have obtained that knowledge.

Professors may think that they are selling something different from what students think they are buying.

Good learning may be difficult and, in the short run, unpleasant. But for students aiming for a degree, it would be better to go through classes that are agreeable and aren’t too difficult. If this is right, you can see why there’d be a mismatch between how students think their education is going and how it may actually be going, and why the former may not be the best gauge of the latter.

With a restaurant, the customer and the seller both agree on what the product is: a good meal (and good restaurateurs will generally defer to what the customer wants). With personal training, it may be that the trainer’s job involves pushing customers past where they’d go on their own, but the trainer and customer do still generally agree on the service: the trainer helps customers achieve their goal of fitness.

We appreciate and share Schuman’s concern that universities not over-rely on student evaluations and the degree to which students find their educations pleasurable in a narrow sense. But the issue isn’t as simple as saying that, because professors’ job security shouldn’t come down entirely to student evaluations, students aren’t customers.

Yes, there is a danger in treating students the way restaurateurs treat patrons. But there is also danger in the other extreme: if we stop viewing students as customers in some sense of the term, then instead of treating them with the respect we generally see in the personal training and certification industries and among nonprofits, we risk turning universities into something more like the DMV.

Kevin Currie-KnightKevin Currie-Knight

Kevin Currie-Knight teaches in East Carolina University’s Department of Special Education, Foundations, and Research. His website is KevinCK.net. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

 

Steven HorwitzSteven Horwitz

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions.

He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

RELATED ARTICLE: This State Offered Free College Education. Here’s What Happened.

Have some fun at USA Spending.gov: $296 million went to Lutherans since Obama took office!

The other day I suggested that each and every one of you can be an investigative reporter, see that post by clicking here.

So here we are, a winter weekend, can’t do much outdoors, and maybe you aren’t into the Super Bowl, so how about having fun searching for how much of your hard earned tax dollars are going to charities—especially to ‘religious’ charities pretending to be doing the Lord’s work while spending your money!

USA Spending graphicI haven’t written about USA Spending.gov for awhile, so last night when a reader asked about a local Catholic Charity, I tried that government website again.  It is much improved because it now contains the sub-grants in addition to the amounts that are direct grants.  I think there was a grace period for grantees to get their information on sub-grants to USA Spending.gov, but they are there now.  (Here is a bit of information about how grantees need to be ready to provide sub-grant information.)

So back to the USA Spending.gov website I looked up the specific Catholic Charities my reader was interested in and was blown away when I saw the millions of dollars just one little local Catholic Charities was getting.

I then decided to just pick one of the nine federal refugee resettlement contractors (which have in the vicinity of 350 sub-grantees or sub-contractors), to see what the biggies were getting.  Here (below) is Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service which resettles refugees in your towns and cities and also agitates for amnesty for illegal aliens.

LIRS is lobbying (with your money!) as we speak for 100,000 Syrians to be admitted to the U.S. before Obama leaves office.

Prepare to be shocked!  Since August 2008, this one ‘religious’ non-profit received $296 MILLION dollars from you in 143 transactions with federal agencies.(And, I will bet you LIRS is not the wealthiest!)

Click here and see for yourself!  (Sorry the screenshot isn’t very clear!)

Screenshot (22)

I urge you all to try the website.  Unfortunately for PRO-Open Borders Catholic agencies, there are too many of them and they aren’t all in one place. So try your local Catholic Diocese first.  Then think of all the other non-profits that have their hands in your wallet and see how much and from where their grants are flowing.

They will all say they help the poor with your money, but I repeat, they are also lobbying for more (poor) migrants to be admitted to the US!  Our founding fathers must be rolling in their graves to see the federal treasury used in this way.

Then you must get the information you learn out to others beyond your circle. Maybe take your facts and write a letter to the editor. Ask to write an Op-ed for your local paper. Go on talk radio. Write a blog!  Send what you learn to your elected officials and ask why on earth they are giving your money to Open Borders Leftwing organizations masquerading as religious charities.

Come to think of it, where is the ACLU on the separation of church and state?

And, while you are there, be sure to see yesterday’s post about Marco Rubio and his fan boy Grover Norquist (or is it the other way around?).

RELATED ARTICLES:

Australian Immigration Minister proposing stricter standards for some Muslim refugees

Alabama governor gets on wrong side of CAIR with comments about refugees

President Obama Wants You to Pay More for Oil

Apparently oil prices are too low, so President Barack Obama thinks it’s a good idea to slap on a $10 per barrel oil tax. Politico reports:

Obama aides told POLITICO that when he releases his final budget request next week, the president will propose more than $300 billion worth of investments over the next decade in mass transit, high-speed rail, self-driving cars, and other transportation approaches designed to reduce carbon emissions and congestion. To pay for it all, Obama will call for a $10 “fee” on every barrel of oil, a surcharge that would be paid by oil companies but would presumably be passed along to consumers.

Based on current prices, this would be a roughly 30% tax on a barrel of oil.

It’s disturbing that the president’s reaction to an industry slashing jobs and cutting investments in a tough business environment is to place a massive tax on the product they produce.

It’s also troubling to see that President Obama thinks of the tax as a quid pro quo for ending the oil export ban. (Something he opposed.)

“You’re allowed to export, but we’re also saying is that we’re going to impose a tax on a barrel of oil,”President Obama said at a press conference.

Thankfully this tax is already “dead on arrival” in Congress, said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

President Obama knows this, but doesn’t care. As Politico notes, “It’s mostly an effort to jump-start a conversation.” And it falls squarely with his mission to end fossil fuel use in the United States.

“It’s really about taxing the energy they don’t like to make President Obama’s favored energy sources,” said Institute for Energy Research President Thomas Pyle.

The president acknowledged this. When questioned by reporters, President Obama said if imposed, the tax “will have further weaned our economy off dirty fuels.”

But his sweeping plan runs straight up against reality. Americans will be using oil and other fossil fuels for decades to come. Until economically viable alternatives are developed that offer the same benefits (convenience, reliability, energy density), fossil fuels will be needed to keep America’s economy moving.

There’s no question we need more revenue to fix America’s broken roads and bridges, but the oil tax covers over the real intention behind the proposal: The radical transformation of America’s energy economy.

MORE ARTICLES ON: ENERGY

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image of President Obama is by photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg.

Catching Up with some Common Core Profiteers: Beyond the Project Veritas Videos

The Big Government-Big Education alliance has also had positive trickle-down effects for professors, who have benefited with publishing contracts and grants for their institutions.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the biggest funder of Common Core, continues to support universities that help in implementing their education initiatives.  Professors hopped on the Common Core gravy train at the get-go. There was the curious fact that Bill Ayers gave a keynote address at the 2009 convention of the Renaissance Group, “a national consortium of colleges, universities and professional organizations” dedicated to teaching and education.  Now if we could only learn how much Bill Ayers was paid for that keynote speech in Washington in 2009.

James O’Keefe’s undercover videos reveal what activists have been saying for years: Common Core is a set of standards written not for the benefit of students, but to enrich crony capitalists, such as mega-curriculum companies, Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt, Pearson, and National Geographic Education.

The latest, the fourth video, records former Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt executive Gilbert Garcia describing the constant “politicking” among school board members and superintendents, and former Pearson employee Kim Koerber describing how the 2013 $1.3 billion contract for supplying I-Pads to the Los Angeles school district was “written for Pearson to win.”  After an FBI investigation into bid-rigging, Pearson, in 2015, agreed to pay the district $6.4 million in a settlement.

Pearson issued a statement calling remarks in the videos “offensive,” asserting that they do not reflect the values of the company’s 40,000 employees.

But the Big Government-Big Education alliance has also had positive trickle-down effects for professors, who have benefited with publishing contracts and grants for their institutions.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the biggest funder of Common Core, continues to support universities that help in implementing their education initiatives.  To name a few, in November, the Foundation announced a grant of $34.7 million for “transformation centers” to improve teacher preparation programs on the campuses of the University of Michigan, Texas Tech University, and the Relay Graduate School of Education, as well as at the National Center for Teacher Residencies, and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  That same month, a grant of $1,799,710 was awarded to “support collaboration between Vanderbilt [University] and the Tennessee Department of Education in the area of education research and improvement,” and $764,553 was awarded to the University of Florida for “teacher leader fellows.”

Professors hopped on the Common Core gravy train at the get-go, as I described in 2012, in my report for Accuracy in Media, “Terrorist Professor Bill Ayers and Obama’s Federal School Curriculum.” There was the curious fact that Bill Ayers gave a keynote address at the 2009 convention of the Renaissance Group, “a national consortium of colleges, universities and professional organizations” dedicated to teaching and education.  Of course, I made no claim that Ayers wrote the standards; I just noted that he appeared at this conference in Washington with then-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, his under secretary, and a representative from Achieve, the company that orchestrated Common Core.  Ayers’s close colleague, Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond, led Obama’s education transition team and oversaw one of the two national Common Core tests.

Less well-known professors, who had bristled at the imposition of “standards,” suddenly began embracing Common Core standards.  This was the case with education professor Lucy Calkins and her colleagues at Columbia Teachers College, Bill Ayers’s alma mater, long a bastion of anti-testing/anti-standards.  These professors began writing teacher guidebooks, and presenting talks and workshops.  Since co-authoring Pathways to the Common Core, Calkins continues to do work for the publisher, Heinemann, a part of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Her “Units of Study” curriculum is described by the publisher as a bestseller.  She also writes performance assessments, including the Grade 1 “Units of Study” in “Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing.”  (Yes, students in first grade are expected to write op-eds.)  In a short video, Calkins explains her teaching philosophy that involves mini-lessons and group work.

In 2012, Marc Aronson, a lecturer in communications and information at Rutgers University, was advertising himself as a “Common Core Consultant,” speaker, and author.  Today, he describes himself on his personal website as an “author, professor, speaker, editor and publisher who believes that young people, especially pre-teens and teenagers, are smart, passionate, and capable of engaging with interesting ideas in interesting ways.”

Aronson apparently believes that pre-teens and teenagers are smart enough to weed out the lies in his Common Core-compliant middle school and high school textbook, Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies.  As I noted in my report, Aronson presents the KGB-fabricated lies about the FBI director’s homosexuality as probable.  For the benefit of 11-year-olds, he posits that photographs of Hoover with his friend Clyde Tolson “might be seen as lovers’ portraits.”  The book is filled with sexual innuendo and dwells on such irrelevant details in order to ascribe motives to Hoover for his presumably unfounded fears about the communist threat.  The accompanying discussion guide is a masterpiece of disguise: as ideological questions bearing their own answers.

It is therefore not surprising that Aronson would now write an article in the School Library Journal casting a skeptical eye on O’Keefe’s undercover videos and asking readers to “consider the source,” as the subheading to the headline, “Is Common Core Just a Scam to Sell Books?” asks.  He distances himself from the sales executives but never directly names the “source” that one should “consider.”  (Innuendo seems to be his modus operandi.) The implication is O’Keefe.  Aronson admits, “As a nonfiction fan, author, and editor, I have a stake in this.”  He denies that his stake is in the rise in nonfiction sales that have come as Common Core standards have edged out literature in favor of “informational texts.”  No, Aronson fell “in love with the standards” when he first read them, “years before they had any impact on royalty statements.”

Aronson also claims to have served recently on the New Jersey team that evaluated that state’s English Language Arts (ELA) and Math standards.  Contrary to the executives’ statements captured in the videos, his “team” carefully examined the standards “one by one, grade by grade, and listened to extensive comments from teachers, administrators, parents, professionals, and business leaders.”  He claims that he saw “commitment, not greed.”

He presents a “guiding principle” that sounds very familiar to those of us whose eyes have glazed and brains have flopped like dying fish from the Common Core sales literature: “From the first, our guiding principle was this: What will someone awarded a high school diploma be ready for? The group looked at each educational stage and benchmark to consider what students would need to know to be ready for the next step, and the next, so that after graduation they would have the skill set to begin the next phase of their lives.”

Aronson’s team included comments by Amy Rominiecki, a Certified School Library Media Specialist, on behalf of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians, in their report. (He links back to her statement when she testified in support of Common Core.)  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also funded studies for the American Library Association (the parent organization of the American Association of School Librarians) on such things as Technology Access, training, and participation in the federal E-rate program.

Aronson attributes the continuing low performance of 12th graders in math and reading to economic inequality, stating, “If more students had more resources (social, emotional, financial, cultural, and technological), more would be ready to meet the challenges and opportunities that follow after secondary education.”

Of course, this author and educational entrepreneur has only the purest motives: “the children.”  Money may be important, “yet, there is a role for standards to play.” To that end, “as educators and communities who care about our nation’s youth, it is necessary we establish a path that’s best for as many students.”

Such bromides bring big bucks in the education world.  I am reminded of words by Bill Ayers at an education conference in 2013, something about being finite creatures hurtling through infinite space.  Now if we could only learn how much Bill Ayers was paid for that keynote speech in Washington in 2009.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research website.

The Islamic State vs. the Laffer Curve by Daniel J. Mitchell

Based on my writings, some people may think I’m 100 percent against higher taxes.

But that’s not exactly true. In some cases, I like punitive taxation. Or, to be more precise, I sometimes take pleasure when punitive tax policy backfires on bad people.

Here’s an example. An interesting article in Slate, authored by Adam Chodorow of Arizona State University Law School, looks at how a terrorist group’s attempt to form a government is being stymied by an inability to collect taxes.

Revolution is easy. Governing is hard. And there are few things more difficult than taxes. Operating a country requires money, and that typically requires taxes. … 

The population in this area is estimated to be between 7 million and 8 million, about the same as the population of Washington state. While ISIS currently collects about $1 billion annually, countries of similar size collect about $16 billion, suggesting that ISIS has a long way to go if it wants to operate like a real state.

But the comparatively low levels of tax revenue are not because of a Hong Kong-type commitment to limited government.

Instead, the terror group is discovering that people don’t like giving their money to politicians and bureaucrats, even ones motivated by Islamic fundamentalism.

Taxes aren’t a great way to ingratiate oneself with the governed. … More than one government has fallen because of its tax policy. ISIS must face these challenges just as any emerging polity does… ISIS may have displayed prowess on the battlefield, but it has revealed that it is as stymied and constrained by the complexities of taxation as the rest of us. …

ISIS’s taxes appear to be … no more popular in the territory it controls than they would be here in the U.S. As the Times reported, ISIS’s taxes are now so onerous that large numbers of people, who were apparently willing to tolerate ISIS’s religious authoritarianism, are fleeing Syria and Iraq to escape them. At some point people will either rise up or leave, threatening ISIS’s internal revenue source.

So taxes are becoming so onerous that taxpayers (and taxable income) are escaping.

Hmm… excessive taxation leading to less taxable economic activity. That seems like a familiar concept — something I’ve written about one or two times. Or maybe 50 or 100 times.

Ah, yes, our old friend, the Laffer Curve!

ISIS is … constrained by a lack of administrative resources and the simple reality once sketched on the back of a cocktail napkin by the economist Arthur Laffer: that tax rates can only get so high before they actually drive down government revenues.

Given current conditions, ISIS may be near or at the limits of its ability to tax, even if it can recruit jihadi tax accountants to its cause. Thus … it’s not clear how much room the group has to grow internal revenues. More important, its efforts to do so may do more to damage its prospects than outside forces can accomplish.

This sounds like the tax equivalent of War of the Worlds, the H.G. Wells’ classic in which alien invaders wreak havoc on earth until they are felled by bacteria.

Tom Cruise was the star of a 2005 movie adaptation of this story, but I’m thinking I could rekindle my acting career and star in a movie of how the Laffer Curve thwarts ISIS!

But to have a happy ending, ISIS has to be defeated. And Professor Chodorow closes his article with a very helpful suggestion.

Rather than send in ground troops … view our tax code as a weapon of mass destruction. … We could make full use of it in the war on ISIS, perhaps by translating it into Arabic in the hopes that the group adopts it.

Sounds like the advice I once gave about threatening Assad with Obamacare.

A version of this post first appeared at Dan Mitchell’s blog International Liberty.

Daniel J. MitchellDaniel J. Mitchell

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