Battleground

The phrase battleground state has taken on a whole new meaning. 

As reports from various urban battlefields come in, the picture of what is happening is becoming clear. Let’s summarize. (1) In a number of American cities protests turn into organized violence once nightfall arrives. The violence does not appear to come from protesters, but appears to come from organized groups intent on stoking and escalating violence.  (2) Federal law enforcement officers have been ordered to some areas by the Trump Administration with orders to protect federal property. It appears that at least some federal law enforcement officers  have engaged in conduct that is clearly illicit. That conduct includes but is not limited to detaining citizens, handcuffing them and then releasing them without any justification or charges. Further, the evidence strongly suggests that some of these detentions were conducted by federal officers without proper identification using unmarked vehicles. Moreover some of these detentions have taken place well beyond perimeters established for protecting federal property. (3) Local authorities have been unable or unwilling to contain the violence. 

For some perspective, it is worth taking a look at what is going on in some (but not all) cities. The You Tube video (below) taken in Portland is an example of the violence; but it is not necessarily generalizable to other cities. On the other hand it is worth noting that the national media has been reluctant to characterize this type of violent behavior as violent as … violent.

Protest in Portland Oregon

Further complicating matters is the legal situation.  The extent of federal authority to intervene  to establish order absent a request from local authorities is unclear. Certainly the federal government may use federal law enforcement to protect federal property. But that authority is  narrow. It seems reasonably clear that federal law enforcement lacks the authority to free-lance and expand its mission beyond the narrow one of protecting specific federal properties. It certainly does not empower law enforcement to go searching for alleged miscreants outside of narrow perimeters established to protect lives and federal property. 

It is also clear that local law enforcement is not enforcing state and local laws. And the reason for it is that they have been instructed not to do so by locally elected officials. In the U.S. system it is elected officials, not police who are charged with determining the extent to which the laws will be enforced. Moreover the police have no legal obligation to protect lives or property, which is to say they are not vulnerable to a civil lawsuit for a willful refusal to protect lives or property. This is further complicated by the legal doctrine of “qualified immunity” which makes it virtually impossible for police officers to be sued individually for their behavior, no matter how outrageous. 

Let’s also note that it is highly probable that the Trump Administration has escalated the situation simply for political advantage in the upcoming election. It is also the case that  Democratic office holders are fairly silent about the violence because (1) they see no need to comment while Trump is busy committing political suicide and (2) they see no profit in antagonizing the party’s left wing, which they need to prevail in November. 

So what is to be done?

The simple answer is that the remedy lies at the ballot box. Local officials are for the most part responsible for managing police and setting policy. They have the legal authority to determine the extent to which public resources will be deployed to enforce state and local laws. The line of both authority and accountability runs straight from the citizenry to the ballot box to elected officials. The same logic applies to federal elections. 

Citizens, who are sovereign, have a democratic choice to make. They can elect federal, state and local officials who promise to enforce the laws on the books to protect lives and property when they are threatened. Or they can elect officials who think it is more important to deploy public resources in other ways they deem to be more important. Citizens can also choose to elect local public officials who will take responsibility for the management of public agencies like police departments and education bureaucracies, or they can continue to vote for officials beholden to public sector unions. Citizens who don’t like the results can leave. 

Those are the harsh realities; but they are realities. To govern is to choose. Unless citizens hold elected officials accountable for conditions on the ground over which they have control, results will not change. We will simply have more of the same until the next explosion. That seems to be where we are headed. 

JFB

A Failure of Governance

“The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea.”

Mao Zedong

“It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.”

Edmund Burke

________________________________________

Two months after the killing of George Floyd in police custody, cities in America are still besieged by unrest, often violent, that civil authorities are either unwilling or unable to contain. 

From the Washington Post.

“[The Seattle Police declared a riot…] after protesters set fire to a construction site for a juvenile detention facility and as the police department reported that one person had breached the fencing surrounding the East Precinct, the site of nightly clashes in June that led to a nearly month-long protest occupation, and officers saw smoke in the lobby.” July 26, 2020.

From the New York Times.

“Carrying signs such as “Feds Go Home” and shouting chants of “No justice, no peace,” some among the crowd of about 5,000 protesters stopped at the site of a future youth detention center and lit buildings there on fire. Some smashed windows of nearby businesses, ignited a fire in a coffee shop and blew an eight-inch hole through the wall of the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct building, the police said.” July 26,2020.

Since May 25, 2020 when George Floyd was killed in police custody, America has been roiled by protests. And rightly so. But in short order citizen protests against police misconduct were hijacked by violent revolutionaries with an entirely different agenda. 

The use of violence, torching buildings and tossing fireworks at police officers is not protest. It is thuggery. The radicals among the protesters are obviously trying to get law enforcement officers to over react. “Worse is better” is the battle cry of all revolutionaries. And so local police departments, for the most part, have backed off. Partly as a result there has been a spike in violent crime in America’s large cities. 

As arrest rates have fallen violence has risen, sometimes dramatically. In Atlanta 93 people were shot from May 31 to June 27 of this year. That compares with 46 in the same period 1 year ago. In Minneapolis activations of ShotSpotter and 911 gunshot calls have more than doubled from a year ago. While overall crime is down in Chicago and New York from the year ago period, there has been a rise in gun violence. 

Much of the June spike in New York’s gun violence occurred in 10 precincts. According to NYPD Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael Li Petri, “Those communities are being overrun by the small percentage of gang members who have no regard for their own life and absolutely zero regard for the community.” See stories here and here in National Review.

We should be clear what is going on here. Radicals have hijacked the movement to reform policing and have shifting it toward “defunding the police” and a whole host of left wing causes. In response, police departments have retreated and effectively abandoned some neighborhoods. The result has been a spike in violent crime. And that spike is not taking place on Park Avenue. 

In the meantime, the largely Democratic political machines that have mismanaged city governments for decades have cynically joined the cry against “institutional racism” as if they were not the people in charge of those institutions to begin with. Moreover they have pointedly refused to make a distinction between  peaceful protestors exercising their constitutional rights and the radicals who have fomented violence.  But plenty of them, like Mayor Bill DeBlasio, are plenty eager to shut down religious services. 

Come to think of it, using the coercive force of government to attack political enemies, while refusing to protect the constitutional rights of citizens is exactly how the Jim Crow South worked, with the KKK as its enforcer.  

Kind of makes you wonder. 

JFB

The Ongoing Cultural Disaster

Q: What accounts for the grotesque state of American politics?  

A: The grotesque state of American culture. 

Politics is, and always has been, downstream from culture. Sure, politics and policy can influence culture, but that influence is largely ephemeral. Cultural attitudes are far more deeply embedded in the polity than, for instance, party affiliation.  Margaret Thatcher had it exactly right when she said “Win the argument, then win the election”. Conservatives and classical liberals ought to think about that because they have spent a good deal of time playing electoral politics only to have the cultural ground shift underneath them. 

Which is something that conservatives and classical liberals ought to be thinking about. 

The cultural ground did not shift overnight and it was not by an accident of nature. The cultural foundation of U.S. society came under relentless attack by radicals who sought to undermine Western liberal institutions. The strategy, articulated by the Marxist Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci, was to begin “a long march through the institutions” to achieve control of the commanding heights of the culture.  Once achieved the project of turning America into a socialist paradise would go into full swing. 

Which is where we are now. 

There is not one important facet of American life or civil society that has not come under full scale attack by the cultural left, most of it disingenuous to say the least. Let us look at a few examples.

The bedrock of Western Society is the nuclear family. While our legal doctrines are expressed in terms of individuals, social organization is, and has been, with respect to the nuclear family. And the nuclear family is the transmission agent of culture. It is through the nuclear family that parents—both of them—teach their children what is right and wrong, and why. Parents raise their children in their faith tradition, if they so choose. Children learn about love, loyalty, respect, manners, rights, responsibility and authority.  They begin to learn the skills they will need to flourish and thrive. 

The family is not simply a temporary agglomeration of randomly chosen individuals. The husband and wife choose to form a family unit and vow its permanence. They choose to have children. Not only that, there are very strong biological ties among family members.  As a result, the nuclear family is the primary unit of civil society that stands between individuals and the coercive power of the State. 

For that reason the nuclear family is a primary target of radicals who seek to break individuals to the yoke of the State, which they mean to control.  The first instinct of a totalitarian, (and a Progressive State is a proto-Totalitarian State) is to break the family. Anyone who doubts that the Totalitarian State means to crush the traditional family needs only look to China’s one-child policy. And if you can stand it, read this article about what Communist China’s regime is doing to Uighur Women. See the Uighur article here.

In the West, the assault on the family takes on a different form. One of the earliest manifestations of the subjugation of the family to State power was to deny to people (actually to criminalize) the right to marriage between people of different races. Another was to deny welfare benefits to women when a man was present. Government substituted itself for the traditional male breadwinner. 

Not surprisingly, illegitimacy rates soared. In 1965, 24% of  black infants and 3% of white infants were born out-of-wedlock. Now out-of-wedlock births of black children are around 70%; the white rate is approaching 30%. The extraordinarily high black rate of out-of-wedlock births is an entirely new phenomenon. In 1940, for instance, the black illegitimacy rate was 14%. The reason for this is clear. The welfare state first lowered the cost of producing illegitimate children, and then the social stigma was erased. The result was an explosion of out-of-wedlock births and the destruction of the traditional family structure, especially among low-income groups. (See this article by Walter Williams).

While tactics have changed, the goal of destroying the family remains the same. Anybody who doubts this simply has to look at the Black Lives Matter website. Among other pronouncements there is this:

“We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”

The preferred tactic is to destroy the family unit by redefining it. So we have same-sex “marriage” which somehow became a constitutional right. The transgender movement completes the picture by institutionalizing the idea that there is no such things as biologically determined sex; that sex is just a social construct.  As part of this parental authority is denied. In many states parents do not have the right to prevent their young children, some as young as 12, from getting state financed gender reassignment hormone treatments. 

The coup de grace is a woman’s right to abortion on demand. That serves two goals. First it places married men and women in positions which are legally adverse to each other, each possessing different rights and responsibilities defined by the State. So much for the two became one. Second, it makes sustaining the life of an unborn child contingent on the wishes of the mother for any reason or no reason at all. In so doing it denies the intrinsic worth and dignity of that child. 

Closely related to the attack on the family is the ongoing attack on the first amendment, particularly the free exercise clause. The attack currently takes place under the guise of “reproductive rights” and public health. In the name of stopping the pandemic Democratic Governors across the country have imposed restrictions on religious practice that are far more severe that those imposed on “essential businesses”. Those essential functions include such life and death operations as state liquor stores and lottery sales. 

The restrictions that Governors have placed on religious practice have been pretty consistently swatted down by various courts. But keep in mind that Senate Democrats, led by Sheldon Whitehead, have threatened to pack the Supreme Court. Which leads us to the next attack on the free exercise clause. The Obama Administration (that would be the Obama-Biden Administration) attempted to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to supply insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients for their employees, a clear violation of their first amendment rights. That too was swatted down by the Court in a 7 -2 ruling. 

But this is not going away. There are now cases in the courts where government is trying to force Catholic hospitals to engage in practices that are directly contrary to their religious beliefs. One case seeks to force a Catholic hospital to perform a hysterectomy on a “transgender woman”. It is a clear violation of Catholic teaching to harm or remove a healthy organ unless if it is medically necessary.  

Why the attack on religious belief and especially, religious practice? It is because in the United States legal system and (pre-progressive) tradition, unalienable rights are natural rights endowed by the Creator. Those rights are a fundamentally at odds with progressive ideology, which asserts an all encompassing State sovereignty.  Religious institutions, the family, and individuals must be broken to the yoke of the State. And to accomplish that, the free institutions of civil society must be crushed by the State. 

What is to be Done?

We face a serious, perhaps existential, problem. But the solution is not simply to win an election. It is to persuade. The prerequisite for doing that is to wrest control of the schools from the propagandists who run them today. That will require taking two steps. First: Bust the teacher’s unions. There is no reason why they should hold a monopoly over the education of American kids. Especially given the appalling results they have produced, most particularly in big city schools which are essentially propaganda mills.

Second, American kids should be getting a first rate education; that can be accomplished by financing charter schools for primary and secondary education, and using vouchers. Another way to do it would be to provide education credits through the tax system. They key to reform is to bust the monopoly that the unions have and in so doing  provide parents with choice. In a word, fund the students, not the schools. 

This is a long term project that will require a lot of time and effort. It will require fighting the bureaucracy and launching lawsuits. It will require organizing. It will require winning local school board elections, avoiding the small stuff and keeping an eye on the big picture.  There is already a lot of good work being done here by conservative and libertarian think tanks. It is work that is absolutely essential to reclaim the schools, our Western liberal culture and our freedom. 

JFB

Minneapolis–Progressive Paradise

Minneapolis has long been one of, if not the, most progressive city in America. It also is the city where George Floyd was killed in police custody. And it is home to one of the widest income gaps between white and black Americans. Progressives are perplexed by this. They shouldn’t be. Their policies caused it. See the video below.

John Stossel on Minneapolis

JFB

Defunding the Police

People misunderstand what “activists” mean by “defund the police”. It doesn’t mean the abolition of policing. It does mean moving the jurisdiction of policing to another larger political entity—for instance moving the jurisdiction (and management responsibility) from the city to the county. It also means that the taxing locus will be the county. But the city will not reduce its spending by the amount its police budget has been reduced. It will use that money for more “social services” which is to say income transfers and vote buying. 

So the Minneapolis city council, which for eons has been one of the most liberal cities in the country, has now voted to disband its police department by a veto-proof majority. 

They have, in effect, conceded that they are incapable of managing their own police department. The same is largely true of its public school system; they just haven’t gotten around to admitting it yet. 

This raises several rather obvious questions that Progressive cheerleaders in the press have thus far been reluctant to ask. 

  1. Is Minneapolis somehow significantly different from other big U.S. cities, and if so, how?
  2. Does the Minneapolis experience represent a failure of governance and government? If not, why not?
  3. How can it be that in Minneapolis (and everywhere else) the same one-party political machines that have consistently produced the same failures in policing and schools have been continuously re-elected for 50 years or so?
  4. How can it be that Progressives, who claim to represent the interests of minorities and the poor, and who have presided over this disaster, have any credibility left at all? 

JFB

Wealth, Poverty and Politics: A Discussion with Dr. Thomas Sowell

One of the problems we face in the public square is that “argument” consists largely of assertions without regard to facts, evidence, or logic. It is commonly assumed, for instance, that differences in outcomes result from unequal treatment, and that were it not for unequal treatment differentiation in outcomes would be essentially non-existent. Things like taste, interest, ability, discipline, industriousness and even biology are mere social constructs that reflect the preferences of an oppressive class hierarchy. 

There is a further underlying assumption that were it not for this oppressive class system, otherwise known as capitalism, poverty could be eliminated and the wants and needs of people could be fulfilled. (Note: material poverty has been largely eliminated in the West by…capitalism).  

The common thread in all this is the assumption that wealth and income derive from external resources rather than from the development of human capital; that wealth should be distributed rather than created and earned. Most importantly, it assumes that wealth is the default position of mankind.

It isn’t. The default position of mankind is existence under conditions of poverty and scarcity. The reason why the West lives in abundance is because over the centuries it has created institutions that protect property rights, individual agency and the rule of law, all of which are necessary preconditions for liberal market capitalism. 

Dr. Thomas Sowell, a pre-eminent economist with the Hoover Institution, discusses wealth, poverty and politics in a wide ranging interview with Peter Robinson in the video below. 

JFB

Dr. Thomas Sowell

We Need to Talk about… Joe Biden

His name is not Donald J Trump.

That is all it takes, apparently, for a Democratic challenger to command the loyalty of the party faithful. It doesn’t matter what he thinks, assuming he is capable of it. After all his supporters refuse to think. They just know his name isn’t Donald Trump. 

But there is a problem that goes way beyond the usual foolishness that accompanies political campaigns. The problem concerns the mental acuity of the almost certain Democratic Party nominee for president, former vice president Joe Biden. It is obvious to all who are willing to see that the mental faculties of the former vice president, never strong to begin with, are in a state of rapid decline. The man can barely get through a sentence without losing his train of thought. He routinely begins to rank order proposed solutions to problems but almost never manages to get past the first on the list before wandering off. 

But his name is not Donald Trump. 

Joe Biden’s campaign, which now largely consists of boiler plate coming from a makeshift TV studio in his basement, is a pretty joyless affair. Were it not for his campaign’s center of operations at 620 8th Avenue in Manhattan, the campaign would be invisible. However, behind the scenes the campaign is working feverishly to unite the Party. The effort is instructive. 

During the primaries the voters went out of their way to signal that they were decidedly not interested in having a left-wing radical on the model of Jeremy Corbyn at the top of the ticket. And so beginning with South Carolina and then on Super Tuesday, Joe Biden trounced Bernie Sanders (I. Rolling Stone) at every step of the way. There were strategic elements to the vote as well. Joe Biden looked safe compared to wild man Bernie Sanders and he looked normal compared to the schoolmarmish Elizabeth Warren (D MA) who, it must be said, annoyed pretty much everyone she came into contact with. 

You would think that set of circumstances would lead the almost certain nominee to try to unite the party around a center-left ticket. But you would be wrong. Because few really voted for Joe Biden with any kind of enthusiasm. They just voted against all the rest; Biden was just the one left standing. And all the rest, possibly excepting Amy Klobuchar (D, MN), were (and are) radical lefties. They control a large chuck of convention delegates, and more importantly, they control the policy conversation. So Biden is moving to the left, not the center, to unite the Party around his candidacy. 

There are two parts to the Biden strategy. The first is picking a female running mate. That’s what he promised to do, and this appears to be one of those rare promises he means to keep. The issue he facers is that there is a behind the scenes pitched battle to influence his choice. According to the gossip around DC, Bernie Sanders vetoed Biden’s choice of (heaven help us) Elizabeth Warren. Apparently Sanders and Warren are no longer besties. 

Amy Klobuchar has distinguished herself by occasionally taking reality into consideration. For the Bernie Bros, that is disqualifying, so it is unlikely that Biden would tap her, no matter how sensible a choice it would be given all the rest. That leaves Stacey Abrams, professional grievance monger, whose chief qualification for high office is that she ran for governor of Georgia and lost. She lost and has to this day has refused to concede, maintaining without a shred of evidence, that the election was stolen. Of the 3.9 million votes cast, she lost by just under 55,000, a margin of 1.39%, insufficient to trigger a recount. 

The important thing about Stacey Abrams is not that she, like Hillary Clinton, is a sore loser. The important thing is that her name is not Donald Trump, which is all that matters.

Let’s leave personnel matters aside for the moment and turn to the second problem the fledgling Biden campaign has to face as it attempts to unify the Party. Biden has a policy problem. 

The machinery of the Democratic Party is dominated by its left wing, which is also where its enthusiasm lies. It is this ideological bloc that is determined to set the policy agenda. And so it is gearing up to instruct Biden on what he is supposed to believe. Since Biden’s core belief is that he should be President he will say and do pretty much whatever he thinks will unify the Party so he can win in November. 

The balancing act will be determined by calculating how far left he has to move to placate his socialist allies (and let’s not pretend that they are not socialists) without losing moderates who vote Democratic, particularly in the upper Midwest. These are the voters who are the salt of the earth when they vote for Democrats and deplorables when they don’t. 

So how far left is Biden prepared to go to fulfill his life long ambition? One clue is that his campaign has created in partnership with Bernie Sanders, a series of panels with a mandate to hammer out policy positions for the fall campaign.  The six panels formed so far will explore “possible policy initiatives” with respect to climate change, criminal justice, the economy, education, health care and immigration. 

Biden named 5 members of each committee; Sanders named 3. Each committee has 2 co-chairs, one named by Biden and one by Sanders. Inevitably, the Sanders picks are radicals with allegiances to outside groups. (Sanders remember is not even a Democrat). For instance, the co-chair of the climate change panel is non-other than Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) who has pledged her allegiance to the “Climate Justice Community” to whom she pledges to be “fully accountable”. 

Other task force members are outspoken in their views favoring an end to fracking, adopting Medicare-for-All, “free college”, welfare benefits for illegal aliens and defunding the Border Patrol.  Not surprisingly an economist on the panel, Stephanie Kelton (PhD, the New School, 2001) is an advocate of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). She claims that governments no longer have to worry about where they will get the money to pay for things, they can just print the currency. No problem. (See Kelton interviewed at the CFA Institute at this link). She gets to the heart of MMT at about 1 minute into the video.

It is, or should be, perfectly obvious that all the movement in the Biden campaign is to the left, and in all probability will continue to be. What is so bizarre about all this is that up until this point campaigns would iron out their policy positions and announce them before hand. Biden is waiting to be told what his policy positions are after having effectively won the nomination. 

But that is how things park in the People’s Republic. 

Then again, his name is not Donald Trump. 

Just like 300 million other Americans. 

JFB

Progressive Fascism

“Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.” Benito Mussolini

“State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved. This intervention may take the form of control, assistance or direct management. (pp. 135-136)

—Benito Mussolini, 1935, “Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions”, Rome: ‘Ardita’ Publishers.

————————————————————————————-

Nancy Pelosi couldn’t have said it better. 

It is more than a little ironic that as Progressives continue their utterly predictable march into the arms of fascism they continue to cry out about the dangers of — Fascism. The wonder is why. After all, Mussolini himself began his trip as a socialist before deciding he was a Fascist after all. 

It is (or should be) clear to anyone who has studied American history and politics that the classical liberalism of the American founding was thrown overboard by Woodrow Wilson and replaced by a Bismarckian flavored collectivism that, with intermittent and fleeting interruptions, has steadily gained ground at the expense of liberty. There are now few facets of American life that are not under the thumb, either directly or indirectly, of  the Administrative state, so painstakingly created by progressives. 

Consider how progressive politicians have been trampling on the Bill of Rights using the Covid-19 crisis as a pretext.  For example, Lousiville, KY Mayor Greg Fischer unilaterally banned drive-in Easter services even when they conformed to social distancing policies. When NJ Governor Phil Murphy was asked by Tucker Carlson where he got the authority to nullify the Bill of Rights in order to prevent people in New Jersey from going to church, Murphy responded “That’s above my pay grade.” Then he added “I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this… The science says people have to stay away from each other”. 

Virginia’s Governor Northam issued an executive decree making it a crime (Class 1 misdemeanor) to attend a religious service with more than 10 people in attendance, even when keeping social distance. However, in Virginia, state liquor stores remain open as “essential”. Nobody has explained how customers are to maintain social distancing while handing a bottle of whiskey and cash to a sales clerk.  

Add to that clear violations of the right to assemble and petition the government by rules limiting the number of people who are permitted to assemble outside. 

Then there are the many attempts by progressives to shut down gun stores as “non-essential” businesses. Somehow or other though, state lottery sales count as essential. Obviously said governors do not consider the 2nd amendment to be essential. 

But what about businesses that some governor arbitrarily decides is non-essential? Closing down many small businesses dooms them to failure; they will never re-open, and the owner’s equity in the business, perhaps built over a lifetime, is reduced to nothing. 

Fortunately at least some of the more outrageous restrictions that violate the 1st amendment free exercise clause and the 2nd amendment right to bear arms have been batted down by judges. But let’s not forget that progressives have promised to pack the court should they gain the power to do so. People who regard this as an empty threat are just deluding themselves. 

It isn’t really necessary to search around looking for a hidden agenda. It is right out in the open. For example look at the $3 trillion wish list that Speaker Pelosi rammed through the Congress Friday with only 1 Republican vote—that vote belonging to the retiring Peter King of New York. And that would be on top of the $4 trillion that has already been approved. 

Consider some of the items contained in the bill, the so-called Heroes Act.

A pledge of $1 trillion in virtually unrestricted funds to state and local governments. Keep in mind that the major ongoing financial problem faced by (some) state and local governments is funding state pension programs, which has absolutely nothing at all to do with the coronavirus. Needless to say, public sector unions applauded mightily when the bill passed. 

The bill hands out $25 billion in aid to the U.S. Postal Service. 

The bill requires federal banking regulators to regularly report on “the availability of access to financial services for minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses.”

The bill extends an additional $600 per week in unemployment relief until January of 2021, thus ensuring that unemployment will last longer than it otherwise would,

It provides $850 million for states to provide child and family care for those deemed “essential workers”. Keep in mind that selling lottery tickets is typically deemed essential. 

It provides an additional $100 billion to low income renters and $50 million to farmers. 

It lifts the SALT Cap for two years.

The passage of this monstrosity does serve a purpose though. It should serve to eliminate the fiction that there are moderates in the Democratic caucus who matter. There were all of 13 “moderates” who voted against the bill, compared to 206 Democratic Members who voted “Aye”. 

Like Obamacare it is going to take a while to see what else is in the bill; unlike Obamacare it is not going to get through the Senate. 

But this bill together with other proposed legislation makes clear what the priorities of the Democrats are and what they will attempt to do if they retain the House and recapture the Senate. They will attempt (once again) to amend the Bill of Rights; enact a regime of economic command-and-control; intimidate the judiciary; eliminate the filibuster and the electoral college. Which is to say, centralize economic and political power in Washington, DC. 

If the Progressives get their way, the State will reign supreme in all matters, big and small. Not to worry they say; they will just be pragmatists and do what works. Kind of like the way Mussolini got the trains to run on time. 

JFB

Ben Sasse Interviewed by Peter Robinson

In the video below Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution interviews Senator Ben Sasse (R,NE) about his latest book, entitled “The Vanishing American Adult”.  In 2016 Sasse announced that he would not support Donald Trump for President if he won the Republican nomination. Well, Trump won the nomination and Sasse refused to support him. As Wikipedia puts it, Sasse “questioned Trump’s commitment to the U.S. Constitution, in particular accusing him of attacking the First Amendment; stated that Trump had refused to condemn the Ku Klux Klan; and suggested that Trump “thinks he’s running for King”.[46] “

Sasse has remained one of Trump’s harshest critics. Although Sasse’s detractors complain that he votes with Trump most of the time, it is clear (or ought to be) that Sasse understands that the supporting good policy should not be sacrificed for the sake of personal pique. 

In the 2016 Presidential election I wrote in the name of Ben Sasse. Unfortunately, he fell about 65 million votes short. Undaunted, I will vote for him again in 2020. If you watch the interview below, it will be clear why I did and will do so again. Maybe you will too. 

JFB

Ben Sasse Interviewed by Peter Robinson

What Do Democrats Believe?

A long time ago in a faraway place—the United States circa 2016–Democrats rightly criticized Republicans for tolerating Donald Trump’s appalling behavior. Despite—or maybe because of said behavior—Trump managed to squeak past Hillary Clinton in the electoral college to win the White House. And now the Republican Party is full of sycophants who are perfectly willing to defend pretty much whatever Trump does, no matter how outrageous. 

Democrats, unable to believe that they actually lost the election, went into full denial and launched the ResistanceTM.  Since then they have waged a non-stop campaign to delegitimize the 2016 election results and Trump’s ascendency to the White House. Partly because of the personas involved, in the aftermath political struggles have (mostly) been about personalities. 

Most of the policy disputes, with a few notable exceptions like the border wall and trade with China, have been pretty standard stuff that Republicans and Democrats have traditionally fought over.  Except that Trump has essentially scuttled the Republican’s traditional defense of free trade and adopted the Democratic argument in favor of managed trade. Moreover, there is no prayer that Trump will act to restrain the exercise of governmental power, particularly in the Executive Branch. 

So, we are left with a President (1) who barely understands the powers, duties and constraints of his own office, much less the other two branches, and (2) who has no philosophical understanding of our Constitutional structure. His policy pronouncements are therefore a philosophical void, untethered to a coherent weltanschauung. But they have a common thread, which is to say they are not random. The common thread is that whatever Trump believes redounds to his benefit is the definition of good policy. This is the Trumpian version of “my truth”. 

What about the Democrats? What do they believe, if anything? 

Well, here we have a situation in which a non-Democrat named Senator Bernie Sanders (I. Rolling Stone) is the clear front runner for the Democratic Presidential nomination. And the Democratic party establishment, which up until this point has tied itself up in knots pretending that Sanders is not a “real socialist” is in full panic mode trying to figure out a way to make sure that the pesky voters don’t vote to give the party’s nomination to the non-socialist democratic socialist who really is a socialist, named Bernie Sanders. 

The interesting question is: why is the establishment so concerned?

By all accounts the party grandees are fearful that Sanders will not only lose, but that he will lose big McGovern style. Further, they fear, he would take down the House and with it, dreams of a Senate majority. Note that there has been little by way of a substantive objection to the Senator’s policy pronouncements.  Pretty much all the objections are tactical and technical. 

The Democratic establishment has been selling Bernie light for years. They have no argument to use against Sanders style socialism because they have not been able to articulate a difference between progressive ideology and “democratic” socialism. We should have some sympathy for the grandees here. They haven’t been able to articulate a difference because there isn’t much of one, if there is any difference at all. 

And despite all the pointed remarks about Sanders not being a Democrat, the fact is, he is on Chuck Schumer’s leadership team in the Senate. Registration aside, it’s pretty hard to make the case that Sanders isn’t really a Democrat at heart when he is part of the leadership team. 

So, it should be no surprise that there has been no principled objection voiced to a federal take-over of the health care system; to abolishing legal private insurance; to writing off all student loans; to increasing social security benefits even though the current system is insolvent. The party is unwilling to censure the blatant anti-Semitism of the Squad. And even the Senators who signed on as co-sponsors of the fantastical Green New Deal declined to vote for it on the Senate floor. 

What Democratic Senators actually believe and where they are willing to draw a line is a bit of a mystery. Just as it is for Republicans. 

Ben Sasse

But there is one issue where the respective positions of the political parties were made crystal clear in a vote on the Senate floor the other day. Senator Ben Sasse introduced a bill aptly named “The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act”. The bill would apply to health care providers present when a child is born alive during an attempted abortion. The bill would require providers to deliver the same care as they would to “any other child born alive at the same gestational age.”

The bill needed 60 votes to break a filibuster to get the Senate floor.  It only got 56. All Republicans voted in favor of sending the bill for a vote. With the exceptions of Bob Casey (D, PA), Doug Jones (D, AL) and Joe Manchin (D, WV) all the Democratic Senators voted to block sending the bill to the Senate floor for a vote where a simple majority would suffice for passage. One of the Senators voting to block the bill was none other than Senator Elizabeth Warren (D, MA), who was last seen at the Democratic debate Tuesday night loudly proclaiming her intention to abolish…the filibuster. 

So now we have clear evidence what the Democratic Party establishment really stands for and where it is willing to draw the line. They are abortion rights fanatics. They voted to permit medical professionals to withhold care from an already born baby so that it dies if the birth occurred as a result of a botched abortion. Otherwise, medical professionals are required to care for the newly born baby as is medically indicated. 

Think about that the next time you hear the speech about how they are “defending our values”. 

JFB