This is where you can read our posts, listed chronologically. We hope you find them thought-provoking, informative and/or in some other way worthwhile reading.
This is where you can read our posts, listed chronologically. We hope you find them thought-provoking, informative and/or in some other way worthwhile reading.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has not even formally announced his independent candidacy for president, and already conventional wisdom has solidified: It will only help President Donald Trump.
The logic goes something like this: Schultz basically has left-of-center views and, therefore, will pull votes away from whichever of the 100 or so Democratic candidates eventually emerges as the party’s nominee in the fall next year.
The conventional wisdom is wrong, or at least, far from certain.
First, the consensus. From the right, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on “Fox & Friends” urged Schultz to run and strongly suggested it could push Trump over the top.
“I fully expect the president is going to be our nominee, and with Howard Schultz in the race, he will have an absolutely smashing victory over whoever the Democrat is,” he said.
You can tell how thoroughly the left agrees with that sentiment from the intensity of the anguish that Schultz has inspired. The folks at “Morning Joe” on MSNBC ambushed him with a silly question about the cost of Cheerios. Progressives pounced on his ignorance as evidence that he is an out-of-touch billionaire.
Twitter users pounded MSNBC contributor and fierce NeverTrump (former) Republican strategist Steve Schmidt for expressing a willingness to work for Schultz. Some users declared they were unfollowing Schmidt. Pundit Eleanor Clift accused Schultz and Schmidt of “Playing Russian Roulette With 2020 Election.”
Eric Garland, executive director of Competitive Futures, insinuated that Schultz might be disloyal to the United States. He tweeted that Schmidt is a partner at a consulting firm that did work for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
It is impossible almost two full years before the election to predict how the race may play out. Schultz ultimately may not even go through with a bid.
But if he does, there are many reasons to believe the effort will amount to very little. First, Schultz has no political experience. Trump, of course, also had no experience as a candidate before his successful run for the White House. But he had spent decades in political environments and in front of TV cameras. He was a professional performer who had given hundreds – perhaps thousands – of interviews.
Trump may not have known much about governing or the nuts and bolts of a campaign, but he was intimately familiar with a key ingredient to a successful political run – media savviness.
Second, Schultz has no obvious issue or cause to rally a base of support. Ross Perot nabbed 19 percent of the vote in 1992 as an independent candidate largely on the strength of his folksy attention to two issues that resonated with voters and that the major-party candidates either did not talk much about or had no credibility on – the national debt and trade.
Perot is the rare independent candidate who made a major impact on a presidential race. Most third-party candidates get a percentage point or two.
And Schultz lacks the kind of geographic base that say, George Wallace, enjoyed when he ran as the candidate of the South in the waning days of segregation.
Theoretically, Schultz presents as a middle-ground candidate who could appeal to voters turned off by partisan warfare. In practice, it is hard to see who Schultz’s constituency would be. Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters are eager – desperate even – to get rid of Trump. It is unlikely they would fool with Schultz if it jeopardizes that goal.
And Schultz is not likely to endear himself to Democratic-leaning voters with comments like this, offered Wednesday to Joe Scarborough: “No, I’m not a Democrat. I don’t affiliate myself with the Democratic Party, who’s so far left, who basically wants the government to take over health care, which we cannot afford, who wants to give free college to everybody.”
At the same time, Schultz is not a natural fit for Republican voters. Even those voters who may be leery of four more years of Trump are likely to balk when they examine Schultz’s conventionally Democratic views. He favors abortion rights and gun control. He opposed the tax cuts passed by Congress and is no fan of Trump’s immigration policies.
The fact is, independents rarely take substantially more votes from one major-party candidate over another. In Perot’s case, as detailed in FiveThirtyEight’s “The Perot Myth,” the split was down the middle. Exit polls showed 38 percent of Perot voters would have supported Bush, another 38 percent would have voted for Clinton and the rest would have skipped the election.
If Schultz runs, a similar outcome is likely – only with a much smaller overall share. He’d maybe get a few disaffected NeverTrump Republicans, a handful of Democrats worried their party has gone too far left and some unaffiliated voters who dislike the two-party system.
Whether Trump wins or loses, though, Schultz almost certainly will not be the difference.
On Tuesday, America learned that former Sen. Jeff Flake would not be running for president next year.
The Arizona Republican, a Hamlet-like figure due to his penchant for indecisiveness, is extremely popular in the halls of Congress, America’s newsrooms and not much of anywhere else. He ended months of speculation about his future during a “CBS This Morning” interview.
“I have always said that I do hope that there is a Republican who challenges the president in the primary,” he said. “I still hope that somebody does, but that somebody won't be me. I will not be a candidate.”
In taking a pass, Flake recognized political reality: “There really isn’t a path right now that I could see.”
History shows pretty clearly that even damaged incumbent presidents do not lose party primary challenges. The closest case was in 1968, when then-President Lyndon Johnson dropped out of the race after the New Hampshire primary – a contest he actually won, by the way.
Primary challenges usually are disastrous for the challenged incumbent. Sen. Ted Kennedy helped sink Jimmy Carter with his Democratic Party primary challenge in 1980, although the senator avoided any long-term damage to himself.
Pat Buchanan’s challenge of then-President George H.W. Bush in 1992 helped reveal the incumbent’s fundamental weaknesses and set the challenger on a path that led him out of the party.
Incumbent Gerald Ford nearly lost a challenge by Ronald Reagan and did not survive the general election against Carter in 1976. Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who carried Johnson’s torch in 1968 after the president dropped out of the race, also lost.
It’s hard to separate causation from correlation. In all of the modern primary challenges, the incumbent had severe weaknesses to begin with. That helps explain why they drew challengers in the first place. So, all might have lost their general election races even without primary opposition. But having a divided party surely did not help.
Given Trump’s lowish approval ratings, the consternation that his provocative tweets cause and the continued presence of a number of prominent NeverTrump Republicans, a primary challenge seems likely. But it is hard to see where a viable candidate would come from.
Trump remains popular among rank-and-file Republicans. An Economist/YouGov poll published Jan. 30 pegged his support among Republicans at 85 percent. Not only would a challenge be doomed to fail, it likely would damage the standing among Republican voters of the man or woman who made the challenge.
That would seem to eliminate any Republican with genuine presidential ambitions. A challenger would have to be someone with nothing really to lose. Flake fits that category. He didn’t even bother to run for re-election to his Senate seat last year because he concluded he could not win a Republican primary after his persistent and vociferous opposition to Trump.
He was one of the most unpopular senators in the country with the home voters, according to an October Morning Consult poll, with a 49 percent disapproval rating.
With no plausible future in politics, Flake could have taken on a presidential run as a lark. With him out, the duty to challenge Trump will have to fall to others. Politico named Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich as potential contenders.
Hogan is popular in his own state but little-known outside it. And he is decidedly more moderate than the average Republican primary voter.
Kasich, of course, already ran against Trump and got thumped in 2016. And that was at a time when Trump was just another candidate, not the incumbent with the full backing of the Republican National Committee.
A measles outbreak that prompted Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to declare a state of emergency raises new questions about whether states should take a harder line against parents who do not want to inoculate their children.
Inslee acted on Friday after the announcement of 32 measles cases, mostly in Clark County, which borders Portland, Oregon.
Measles and other childhood diseases once thought confined to the pages of history in the United States have been making a comeback amid rising skepticism over vaccinations. Although medical experts nearly unanimously concur that the risks of skipping vaccinations greatly outweigh the risks of the vaccines, themselves, some people stubbornly cling to fears that their children will become ill.
The number of children entering school without vaccinations increased in 2018 for the third consecutive year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of those unvaccinated children are entering school under exemptions given out by most states.
Almost every state allows people to opt out of the vaccines required for public school attendance if it violates their religious beliefs. Washington and 17 other states also allow people to assert “philosophical or personal” objections.
Three states – Mississippi, California and West Virginia – do not allow any non-medical exemption.
Dramatic harm can be caused by low vaccination rates – not just to unvaccinated children, but also to children who have had vaccines, due to reduced “herd” immunity. Given that, it should be an easy call for states to eliminate exemptions for general “philosophical” objections, which are open-ended and, by definition, determined by the applicant.
The government does not allow people to opt out of other legal requirements. Libertarians may have philosophical objections to taxes, but no government would stand for non-payment on those grounds.
Religious objections are trickier, given America’s long experience of tolerance toward people of faith. The country has a history of bending over backward to accommodate minority religions. The government allowed Quakers to opt out of military service during periods when the draft was in effect, for example, and prisons provide special diets for Jewish and Muslim prisoners.
But here’s the strange thing about vaccinations: Almost no organized religion objects to them. A roundup of religious teachings in the journal Vaccine, summarized by The Arizona Partnership for Immunization, lays out a comprehensive accounting of what religions teach about vaccinations.
None of the four major sects of Hinduism has ever stated a concern about vaccinations. Neither have the Buddhists. The Dalai Lama, in fact, was involved in a polio vaccination program.
Ditto for Jainism. Jewish scholars have supported vaccines, and most Christian religions have no doctrinal objection, either. Like Jews, Muslims are forbidden from eating pork. But as with Jews, even though some vaccinations are made from pork products, Islamic teaching holds that the life-saving value of vaccines outweighs dietary rules.
Even the Amish, who shun modern ways and mixing with the broader culture, have no church-based objections.
Although Jehovah’s Witnesses opposed vaccinations in the early 20th century, by the 1950s, the church had adopted a neutral stance. By the 1990s, the church started encouraging vaccinations.
That leaves the Christian Scientists, who counsel the power of prayer over medical treatment, and the Dutch Reformed Church, which opposes vaccination on grounds that vaccines interfere with the relationship with God.
A CDC study concluded that those beliefs, which have resulted in low vaccination rates in some parts of the Netherlands, contributed to an outbreak of 2,700 measles cases there in 2013 and 2014.
As for Christian Scientists, it is not clear that they object to vaccinations if required by law. A 2015 Slate article quotes Church of Christ, Scientist, founder Mary Baker Eddy as saying, “Rather than quarrel over vaccination, I recommend, if the law demand, that an individual submit to this process, that he obey the law, and then appeal to the gospel to save him from bad physical results.”
A lack of a doctrinal basis for a religious objection has not stopped people from claiming them, however. Two New York State Catholics received religious exemptions, even though Catholic dogma has no quarrel with the practice. (Despite the exemption, the parents sued in 2014 when the school made their children stay home during a chicken pox outbreak; they lost in court).
There is nothing stopping states from severely limiting the religious exemptions they grant parents who do not want their children vaccinated. They could require applicants to demonstrate that they are practicing members of a faith that is on record as opposing vaccines on doctrinal grounds.
If the only children without vaccinations were those with legitimate medical reasons and a handful of Christian Scientists and members of the Dutch Reformed Church, the chances of outbreaks would diminish considerably.
Socialism is all the rage in Washington and among regular Democrats throughout the country.
Americans – particularly the young – increasingly view socialism favorably. A recent Gallup poll found 51 percent of adults 18 to 29 viewed socialism positively, compared with 45 percent who said the same about capitalism. Among Democrats, that split was 57 percent to 47 percent in favor of socialism.
Last week, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) explained to Yahoo! News how the government could pay for the massive increase in social welfare spending that she advocates
“We could increase the taxes that people are paying, who are the extremely wealthy in our communities,” she said.
How much more?
Omar answered 70 percent to 80 percent.
“We’ve had it as high as 90 percent,” she said, later adding, “The 1 percent must pay their fair share.”
Compared to Omar, fellow freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is more moderate. She has called for a top marginal tax rate of just 70 percent.
But her policy adviser, Dan Riffle, tweeted: “Sorry everyone, my bad. I’ll talk her up to 90.”
Riffle believes in punitive tax rates so much that his new Twitter handle is titled, “Every Billionaire Is A Policy Failure.”
He seems to mean that literally, tweeting that it does not matter if Microsoft founder Bill Gates is a good person.
“Still, he's a policy failure,” Riffle wrote. “The acquisition of that much wealth has bad consequences. A moral society needs guardrails against it.”
Riffle’s boss evidently agrees. Ocasio-Cortez said at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event that a system that “allows billionaires to exist” is “immoral.”
What Does Socialism Mean?
Last year’s Gallup poll had some interesting insights to explain the rise of socialist sentiment in America. In large measure, it has to do with a changing definition of the term. The survey found that only 17 percent of Americans defined socialism as government ownership of the means of production. That is less than half of the percentage of Americans who defined it that way in 1949.
So, Americans – and, presumably, their representatives – are defining the term as a system with a large and generous safety net. Think Scandinavia, not Venezuela.
But if Norway and Sweden are the models, Omar, Ocasio-Cortez and their supporters may be disappointed.
First, the socialist democracies of Europe have their share of policy failures, er, billionaires. According to Forbes magazine’s most recent accounting of the world’s richest people, Sweden has 31 billionaires – just two fewer than Japan, despite having a fraction of the population.
Norway has 14 members of the “Three-Comma Club.”
Both nations, in fact, have more billionaires per capita than the United States.
Then again, maybe it is Venezuela they are thinking of as the ideal. Its people may be starving, but it only has two billionaires.
Socialist Countries Soak the Middle Class
The other surprise might be taxes. It turns out, the socialist democracies pay for their generous social spending with high taxes – and not just on the wealthy.
According to an analysis by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, average taxpayers in most developed countries fork over a much higher percentage of their income than their counterparts in the United States.
For instance, the average-earning married couple with a single earner and two kids in Norway pays 22.5 percent of gross income in taxes after factoring in transfer payments like child tax credits. In Sweden, the rate is 18.8 percent. France takes 18.2 percent.
In the United States, the average family in that group pays 14.2 percent.
It is a similar story for childless couples with one income earner. The average such household pays 31.5 percent of income in Denmark, 28.6 percent in the Netherlands, 26.6 percent in Norway and 25 percent in Sweden.
The average tax bill in the United States? Just 21 percent.
Single parents with two kids get a worse deal in the United States. But the 17.1 percent average tax rate is still less than their counterparts in Norway (19.4 percent) and Sweden (18.8 percent).
And that analysis includes only income taxes. It does not factor in other taxes. For instance, while the United States has no national sales tax – a regressive levy that hits the poor harder – Europeans pay anywhere from 17 percent to 27 percent in value-added taxes. Those are levies imposed at every level of production, which increases the retail price of most things consumers buy. The standard rate is 25 percent in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and 21 percent in the Netherlands.
Bottom line: While Europeans get a lot more from government than Americans, they don’t rely on the wealthy to pay for it.
And for good reason. The wealthy simply don’t have enough money to pay for the welfare state imagined by the likes of Omar and Ocasio-Cortez. It is true, as Omar noted, that the United States used to have extremely high taxes on the richest people. In the 1950s, the top marginal rate was 91 percent.
But as tax policy analyst Brian Riedl pointed out on Twitter earlier this month, it only kicked in at an extremely high income threshold. And due to shelters and loopholes, hardly anyone paid it. In 1960, for instance, it hit just eight taxpayers. Not 8 percent of taxpayers – eight individual returns.
Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, pointed out that the top 1 percent actually had lower effective rates, after loopholes and deductions, than they do today. And the macro data bear it out. The federal government collected less tax revenue, as a percentage of the gross domestic product, than it does today.
Citing IRS data, Riedl notes that if the government confiscated all income over $1 million, it would account for just 3.8 percent of GDP. And that assumes people would keep working and not flee to low-tax countries. The total amount raised would not even be enough to balance the current budget, much less pay for Medicare for All, free college and other programs advocated by progressives.
UPDATE: President Donald Trump has agreed to reopen the government for three weeks, without and funding for his proposed border wall.
A pair of votes in the Senate on Thursday highlighted the most likely path to the end of the record-long partial government shutdown – Republican capitulation.
With the dispute now stretching past the one-month mark, neither President Donald Trump nor Democratic leaders in Congress appear ready to give an inch over a proposed border wall.
That leaves Senate Republicans, many of whom never were crazy about the proposed wall in the first place. The longer the shutdown goes on, the more pressure will build on vulnerable Republicans in the Senate – particularly those who face potentially tough re-election contests next year or who come from Democratic-leaning states.
The first signs of those cracks appeared in a pair of votes Thursday to end the stalemate. One included money for the wall, while the other did not.
Both failed, but the momentum is on the Democrats’ side. Their bill attracted 52 “yes” votes. That included “ayes” from six Republicans – Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
The Republican proposal got only 50 votes, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) the only Democrat to break ranks.
It seems unlikely Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will be able to pry away any more Democratic votes going forward. And even if they did, a House controlled by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is not going along.
On the other hand, Thursday’s vote likely is just the beginning for wavering Republicans.
The Republicans who voted with the Democrats on Thursday stressed the need for bipartisanship.
“Tennesseans elected me to make government work, not to shut it down,” Alexander tweeted. “I will continue working to re-open the government and get federal employees back to work as quickly as possible.”
Tweeted Collins: “This shutdown must come to an end. Today I voted twice to reopen government because it is my top priority.”
Gardner emphasized bipartisanship and “compromise,” as did Romney.
Murkowski focused on the pain caused by the shutdown.
“From individual industries such as aviation and fisheries to entire communities—Alaskans are facing widespread, detrimental impacts as a result of the partial government shutdown,” she tweeted. “@USCGmembers are still hard at work—maintaining national security and protecting life & property.”
How much longer the shutdown lasts is anyone’s guess. But how it ends is getting clearer. Adding a likely “yes” vote from Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), who did not vote Thursday, would bring the total to 53. That means Democrats would need seven more votes to break a filibuster.
Possible candidates for breaking with the Republican majority include Sen. Pat Toomey, who barely won re-election in Pennsylvania in 2016 and whose state leans Democrat; Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), whose state has a growing number of Hispanics; and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va), a moderate whose state has a high number of federal workers.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) hails from a state that increasingly has become competitive. He also has broken with Trump on some immigration issues. Count Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) as another moderate who comes from a competitive state. Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) represent states where re-election cannot be taken for granted.
That would be enough to send a bill to Trump’s desk. Although it would not be a veto-proof majority, it undoubtedly would turn up the temperature even higher.
The shutdown already has taken a toll on Trump’s standing with voters. His approval rating, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, is at 40.9 percent. His disapproval rating has risen sharply and currently sits near an all-time high of 55.7 percent.
The more unpopular Trump gets, the more Republican lawmakers will look for cover.
Democrats have President Donald Trump on the run over the partial government shutdown, so the question is: Why don’t they extract something tangible from him?
Having watched Republicans lose control of the House of Representatives in November, Trump saw his signature campaign promise of building a border wall slipping away. So, he rolled the dice and launched a long-shot bid to coerce Democrats to fund the U.S.-Mexico border barrier by shutting down the government.
The strategy has gone about as expected. The wall never enjoyed widespread support among the public. Most of the news coverage predictably framed the issue in a way that makes Trump look petulant and obstinate. And Trump has offered up plenty of statements bolstering that characterization.
Democrats have remained steadfast and have watched polls grow stronger in their favor over the past 33 days. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) even has denied Trump the State of the Union speech while the government remains closed, a prohibition that the president meekly acquiesced to Wednesday evening.
Democrats, it would seem, are in the perfect position to win significant concessions from Trump. Instead, they seem to prefer simply defeating him and keeping the status quo.
It is an odd position, particularly considering how much pain has been caused to federal workers and others who depend on the federal government.
It may well be possible, for instance, to persuade Trump to agree to a broad amnesty for the so-called dreamers, young adult illegal immigrants brought to America as children. This group has been a political football for more than a decade. It certainly is conceivable that Trump might agree to a law that would lead to green cards for perhaps 2 million people.
Indeed, Trump over the weekend offered to essentially codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an initiative created by Barack Obama’s administration that offers legal protections and work permits but stops short of citizenship or legal permanent residency.
There was little reason to think Democrats would go for that. After all, multiple federal courts have blocked Trump from winding down the DACA program, and one judge even ordered the administration to resume taking new applications.
Green cards, on the other hand, would be a significant win for Democrats – not to mention the dreamers, themselves. Getting that would require Democrats to give Trump the wall – or at least one year’s worth of funding for it.
But that should not be too heavy a lift. Many prominent Democrats have voted in the past for border barriers. One of those Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), last year offered border wall funding to Trump in exchange for dreamer amnesty.
The deal fell through because Trump held out for changes to the legal immigration system. But in his current position, he may well accept a deal that includes green cards and a path to citizenship.
For an idea of whether that is a win for Trump or the Democrats, look no further than the border hawks who ordinarily support the president’s immigration agenda. They are terrified that a desperate Trump would agree to a dreamer deal. They even condemned Trump’s offer of DACA codification in exchange for the wall.
“Trading any form of amnesty for a small down payment on the border wall is not only a bad deal, but a betrayal of the trust of the American people,” the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Dan Stein, said in a statement. “For the last two decades, Congress has promised to secure the borders and it has repeatedly failed.”
Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, had a similar take: “The offer the President announced today is a loser for the forgotten American workers who were central to his campaign promises. An amnesty-for-wall trade would once again reward previous immigration lawbreakers without preventing future immigration lawbreakers.”
House Democratic leaders said Wednesday they were prepared to give Trump a large amount of money – maybe even equaling the $5.7 billion the president wants for the wall – as long as the money would go to non-wall border security expenditures and as long as the government reopens first.
That means for the sake of beating Trump on the wall showdown, Democrats would be willing to accept more Border Patrol officers, more detention space, more drones and other tools that would result in the arrest and deportation of foreigners caught crossing into the United States. And they would get nothing for the dreamers or any other part of their agenda.
That seems like a strange position for a party that has the president on the ropes.
As the partial government shutdown continues with no end in sight, rhetoric increasingly focuses on the supposed racist symbolism at the heart of the dispute – President Donald Trump’s desire to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) last week called on Trump to “end his request for a racist and xenophobic wall.”
Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) said the existing barrier that separates her home town of El Paso from Mexico is a “a monument to division.”
Previewing President Donald Trump’s Oval Office speech earlier this month, National Urban Radio White House correspondent April Ryan told CNN’s Don Lemon that the address would be “about a wall to keep brown people out. That is a problem.”
Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote a piece titled, “No, it’s not the economy, stupid. Trump supporters fear a black and brown America.”
Likewise, Star-Ledger cartoonist Drew Sherman last year penned a column decrying Trump for “building walls to keep brown people out.”
And that is just a sampling. But the criticism misses an important point – a wall is merely a means to enforce laws already passed by Congress. The illegal immigrants sneaking past the U.S. Border Patrol officers, by definition, have no legal right to be the United States. Americans decided, through their elected representatives, to keep those particular brown people out.
It is one thing to argue a wall would be ineffective, as Democrats sometimes do, or that it would be too expensive. A debate along those lines can end in compromise. One could imagine a deal in which Trump gets less than the $5.7 billion he has requested for this fiscal year, but enough for the government to begin construction.
But when cast in moral terms, it becomes difficult to compromise even a little bit.
But again, the government already decided long before Trump took office to keep out foreigners with no authorization to live here. If Democratic lawmakers think the wall is immoral, then logically, they must think any means to prevent them from entering the country also is immoral.
If Democrats truly believe that these “brown people” should not be blocked from the United States, then they ought to propose laws to change the rules of immigration to allow them to enter lawfully.
Because it makes little difference whether a fence or a wall or drones or border agents are used to prevent foreigners from crossing the border. The result is the same.
Today, America celebrates the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth, but to view the political discourse, one would think the civil rights leader’s dream is little closer to fulfillment than when he enunciated it.
Everywhere, America is told, African-Americans are under attack.
Black America has its share of problems, and racism has not been extinguished. But the data show that blacks have made significant strides since the 1960s. Consider:
In addition to education and income outcomes, racial attitudes clearly have changed. A recent report by the University of Illinois chronicles that change over the decades. Only 32 percent of whites in 1942 believed whites and blacks should attend school together. By 1995, 96 percent of whites agreed.
In 1944, 45 percent of whites thought blacks should have “as good a chance as white people to get any kind of job.” Almost all whites – 97 percent – agreed with that statement by 1972.
Whites overwhelmingly supported laws against interracial marriage; in 1963, 38 percent of whites opposed such laws. By 2002, 90 percent of whites opposed them.
In 1958, just 37 percent of whites said they would vote for a black presidential candidate, according to Gallup. In 1997, 95 percent said they would. (And then, of course, a black candidate actually won the office a decade later).
Support for racial equality, measured by those questions, is so universal that most pollsters do not even bother asking them anymore.
In 1963, only 22 percent of whites disagreed with the notion that “blacks shouldn’t push themselves where they’re not wanted.” That figure had nearly tripled by 2002.
Whites also increasingly reject racial stereotypes. As recently as 1990, nearly two-thirds of whites believed whites worked harder than blacks. That has dropped to 37 percent in 2004 and to 34 percent in 2014.
Belief among whites that black people are less intelligent than whites declined from 57 percent in 1990 to between 23 percent and 27 percent since 2004.
There is more division over the question of whether the federal government should intervene to ensure fair treatment in areas like jobs and housing. For instance, asked whether the federal government should see to it that blacks receive fair treatment in employment, support among whites fell from 40 percent in 1972 to 23 percent in 2008.
Interestingly, support among blacks also has fallen – from 92 percent in 1964 to 59 percent in 2008.
Perhaps that indicates that many blacks and whites agree such federal invention no longer is as necessary as it once was?
This is not to minimize the obstacles black Americans still face. Black households tend to have less wealth, in part because African-American families in previous generations had less to bequeath their children and grandchildren. This means that blacks, on average, have less of a personal safety net to cushion against the shock of a job loss or death of a breadwinner.
This is one of the reasons why, according to studies, black children born to middle-class parents are more likely than their white counterparts to fall out of the middle class as adults.
Still, from racial attitudes to actual outcomes, the arrow is pointed up. That is in large measure due to King’s legacy – of convincing courts and legislatures to repeal discriminatory laws, and more importantly, changing hearts and minds.
In the supercharged environment of Washington during a government shutdown, BuzzFeed’s Friday bombshell that President Donald Trump instructed attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress was like igniting dynamite next to a gas pump.
The more-or-less constant murmurs about impeachment exploded into shrill screams.
And for good reason, because if the BuzzFeed report is true, is the clearest grounds for impeachment that have been leveled against Trump to date.
The problem is, there is serious reason to question whether the report is true.
The office of independent counsel Robert Mueller took the extraordinary step of publicly rebuking the report. Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr, released the following statement: “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”
BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith later indicated that the news organization stands by its report. But it is hard to overstate how unusual Mueller’s decision to slap it down is. While BuzzFeed relied on anonymous “law enforcement officials involved in an investigation,” Carr’s statement was on the record.
Neither Mueller nor his team have uttered much about the investigation of Russia’s 2016 election interference, preferring to let court filings and courtroom statements do the talking. If the BuzzFeed report were true, it is impossible to surmise what value there would be for Mueller to deny it.
Under ordinary circumstances, the chances are that Mueller’s team would not publicly comment even if were not true. Solomon Wisenberg, who was an attorney on independent counsel Ken Starr’s team during the Whitewater investigation, told Fox News last year that much of what was reported in the media during that investigation was false.
Starr rarely, if ever, bothered to correct the record.
Unless the skill and standards of reporters have improved vastly since then – and there is a good bet the opposite is true – then it is likely many reports about Mueller’s investigation have been wrong. The fact the independent counsel chose to push back against this particular report is significant.
Most impeachment talk involving Trump has fallen into three categories – unproven, esoteric and questionable.
The most serious allegations – that Trump conspired with Russian agents to fix the 2016 presidential election lack proof. Trump’s detractors have offered up a bunch of circumstantial evidence that Trump has not taken a hard enough line with Russia and that his aides had contacts with Russians during the campaign. But no evidence has emerged that Trump offered a specific commitment in exchange for help like hacking into the Democratic National Committee computer system to posting memes on Facebook designed to heighten negative feelings toward Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
The esoteric category includes such allegations that Trump is violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by earning revenue from foreign government officials staying at his hotels, or that buying porn star Stormy Daniels’ silence through a nondisclosure agreement amounts to a campaign finance violation. It is hard to imagine the Senate convicting Trump on such chares as long as he remains popular among rank-and-file Republican voters.
The final category involves obstruction of justice allegations over official acts that otherwise are within his authority. For instance, many people have screamed “obstruction” over his decision to dismiss FBI Director James Comey. Everyone agrees that the president has the right to fire the head of the FBI. But some Trump critics argue that it constitutes obstruction of justice in this case because he did it for a corrupt reason – to stop the Russia investigation.
The argument seems plausible in theory. But even Trump critics concede there are legitimate reasons to terminate Comey, and the investigation has proceeded on course. As the head of the executive branch, Trump had the authority to simply order the Department of Justice to shut it down.
The BuzzFeed report is different. It contends that Trump told Cohen to lie to Congress by claiming that negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow ended months earlier than they actually did. Unlike firing Cohen, there can be no argument that the president has the authority to instruct aides to mislead Congress about a material fact.
That is the very definition of suborning perjury, and it virtually would compel the House of Representatives to bring impeachment charges. Of course, there is no guarantee that even that would result in Trump’s removal from office. Then-President Bill Clinton successfully beat obstruction charges during his impeachment trials. The House credibly accused him of encouraging his lover, White House intern Monica Lewinsky, to lie. The House also accused him of permitting his lawyer to make false statements about Lewinsky’s affidavit and attempting to tamper with the possible testimony of his office secretary.
But only 50 senators voted to convict, 17 shy of the necessary margin
Still, Trump is in a perilous position if, despite the independent counsel’s denial of the story, BuzzFeed’s report is accurate. If the story is false, though, it is a black eye for journalism.
The New York Times this week published a provocative op-ed column titled, “Actually, the Numbers Show That We Need More Immigration, Not Less.”
Author Shikha Dalmia, a senior analyst at the libertarian Reason Foundation, argues that America needs to at least double the number of immigrants coming into the United States every year.
“But by any reasonable metric, the idea that America is experiencing mass immigration is a myth,” she wrote. “The reality is that we desperately need to pick up the pace of immigration to maintain our work force and economic health.”
Dalmia cites a lot of statistics in making the case that the U.S. economy is suffering from an aging population that is growing more slowly because of declining birth rates. But she makes the mistake of assuming that all immigration is equal.
And, clearly, that is not the case.
Suppose, for instance, the country admitted 100 English-speaking entrepreneurs, scientists and doctors. It would be hard to argue that they would add no more value to the economy than 100 high school dropouts who do not speak English.
In fact, the former group would make the country richer, while the latter would be a net drain on government resources.
A large body of academic research has shown this to be true, including a massive 2017 study by the National Academies of Sciences, Medicine and Engineering.
That is not a comment on the work ethic or morality of low-skilled, lesser-educated immigrants. It merely is a confirmation of what it takes to succeed in a modern economy. People without skills and education, on average, are likely to use more in government assistance and cost more in general government services like roads and schools than they pay in taxes.
Dalmia cites political demographer Jack Goldstone, who estimates that without a big increase in birth rates or immigration, average economic growth will fall to 1.6 percent a year. But the overall size of the gross domestic product is much less important than the per capita GDP. Mexico’s GDP is higher than Switzerland’s, but no one would argue that Mexico is a richer country.
Dalmia ignores these obvious facts and suggests no variation among immigrants. She argues that “mass immigration” in America is a myth because the foreign-born population is lower as a percentage of the overall total than 33 other wealthy countries.
She speaks favorably of Canada and Australia, both of which have more immigrants per capita than the United States.
But neither country’s immigration system resembles America’s, which primarily is based on family ties. The majority of legal immigrants to the United States get their tickets punched on the basis of relatives who previously immigrated. That is the primary reason why America’s immigrant population skews so poor.
Canada, on the other hand, admits the majority of its immigrants based on economic considerations. As a result, immigrants to Canada are younger, better-educated and perform better economically than those in the United States.
Dalmia maintains that America does not have too many immigrants because the unemployment rate of immigrants is lower than natives. But the jobs dominated by low-skill immigrants often happen to be the occupations where wage stagnation has hit the hardest. Simple supply and demand dictates that increasing the number of workers competing with the most vulnerable Americans will reduce the value of their labor.
But what about the birth rate? Dalmia points out that fertility rates of native-born Americans are declining and that the Census Bureau has reduced population growth projections as a result.
But as the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies has found, immigration is not the solution to America’s demographic time bomb. For one thing, immigrants are not exclusively young. They tend to span the age range. And while the fertility rate of immigrants is higher than for natives, the rate has been declining among immigrants, as well.
In addition, according to the research, the differences disappear in subsequent generations. The difference simply is not great enough – even if the immigrant population were much larger – to save programs like Social Security and Medicare that face a future of fewer tax-paying workers and more beneficiaries.
The foreign-born share of the U.S, population today, 13.7 percent, is not out of line with previous eras. In fact, it was slightly higher at the turn of the 20th century, Dalmia notes. The difference, however, is that the booming industrial economy of the United States in the 20th century required large numbers of workers. And the sills and education required for those factory jobs was not particularly high.
The modern economy, with its premium on advanced skills and college education, is completely different. Today, the kinds of immigrants matter much more than the numbers.