The Twitter Files: Lenin Would Be Proud thumbnail

The Twitter Files: Lenin Would Be Proud

By Brian Balfour

The vast majority of commercial and industrial establishments are now working not for the free market but for the government.” V.I. Lenin, State and Revolution; 1917

This Lenin quote leapt to mind amid the recent revelations coming from the “Twitter files” and exposed over the past several weeks. Among other disclosures, the files revealed direct lines of communication between government agencies, including the FBI and Department of Defense, and the social media company.

Twitter was found to not only be a landing spot for many agents in the government intelligence community, but also doing the bidding of agencies to suppress information deemed to be antithetical to the agencies’ goals and preferred narratives. Indeed, journalist Matt Taibbi went so far as to describe Twitter as an “FBI subsidiary.”

And it wasn’t just Twitter that the government targeted. Late last month Elon Musk tweeted “*Every* social media company is engaged in heavy censorship, with significant involvement of and, at times, explicit direction of the government,” illustrating his point by saying, “Google frequently makes links disappear, for example.”

Such revelations undercut many defenders of tech giants, who insist “they’re private companies, they can do what they want.” Instead, we must ask: are these truly ‘private companies’ in any meaningful sense?

Indeed, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrup Grumman are all nominally “private companies.” But they are private in name only because they are in reality appendages of the state, relying on defense contracts (not market transactions) for their success.

We should treat big tech companies with the same skepticism we apply to tools of the military industrial complex. Certainly so after the “Twitter file” revelations.

In his quote above, Lenin was, of course, bragging about the progress made toward complete nationalization of industry in the Soviet Union of the time.

But we can also consider his statement as descriptive. When your main mission is to do the bidding of the state, rather than serving consumers in the voluntary marketplace, you are not really a private company in the true sense of the term. Your company is not a market phenomenon.

It’s no longer possible to defend social media corporations on the basis of private property rights, because big tech are what Michael Rectenwald would describe as “governmentalities,” not private companies.

Michael Rectenwald, former professor of liberal studies at New York University and author of the book “Google Archipelago: The Digital Gulag and the Simulation of Freedom,” provided context for how he believes tech goliaths like Google and Twitter come to do the state’s bidding in a November 2020 lecture.

“In a series of lectures entitled Security, Territory, Population, the postmodern theorist Michel Foucault introduced the term ‘governmentality’ to refer to the distribution of state power to the population, or the transmission of governance to the governed,” Rectenwald noted.

“Foucault referred to the means by which the populace comes to govern itself as it adopts and personalizes the imperatives of the state, or how the governed adopt the mentality desired by the government—govern-mentality,” he added.

Rectenwald, however, went even further than Foucault. “I adopt and amend the term to include the distribution of state power to extragovernmental agents—in particular to the extension and transfer of state power to supposedly private enterprises.”

What transpires, then, is a form of ‘governmentalization’ of nominally private enterprises, rather than the privatization of government functions that free market advocates prefer.

How intertwined with the government are the tech giants? The relationship predates the more recent phenomena revealed by Elon Musk’s divulgences.

“First, both Google and Facebook received start-up capital—both directly and indirectly—from US intelligence agencies,” Rectenwald informs us. In their early days, Google in particular was heavily reliant on CIA contracts and deals with other U.S. intelligence agencies.

As Lenin boasted, “The vast majority of commercial and industrial establishments are now working not for the free market but for the government.” And work for the government, including shutting down dissident voices, is what big tech has indeed been doing for years.

As a result, they can no longer be defended with cries of “but they’re private companies,” and instead be called out for what they really are: tools of state oppression.

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This article was published by American Research for Economic Education and is reproduced with permission.

Weekend Read: Soul Dysphoria [A Trans and GenZ Disaster] thumbnail

Weekend Read: Soul Dysphoria [A Trans and GenZ Disaster]

By Spencer Klavan

Understanding the “trans” phenomenon means recognizing it’s about more than gender.

In 2013 the DSM-V, an authoritative diagnostic manual for therapists and clinicians published by the American Psychiatric Association, defined gender dysphoria as “the distress that may accompany the incongruence between one’s experienced or expressed gender and one’s assigned gender,” where “gender” refers not to one’s biology but to “the public (and usually legally recognized) lived role as boy or girl, man or woman.”

The psychologist John Money popularized this way of speaking in the mid-20th century—it is the lasting legacy of his highly disreputable career. The word “gender” draws a stark—some might say Platonic—dividing line between “sex,” meaning one’s biological characteristics as male or female, and “gender,” meaning the ways in which one behaves, feels, and is perceived. The runaway success of the philosopher Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble in 1990 helped sunder these two ideas more starkly among the leftist intellectual class. Butler was wrestling with French poststructuralists like Michel de Foucault and post-Freudian feminists like Simone de Beauvoir, who had famously written that “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” Pushing Beauvoir’s idea further, Butler suggested that “sex does not cause gender, and gender cannot be understood to reflect or express sex.”

But then, still more radically, Butler proposed that sex too is an invented idea applied to the body, so that even the most basic facts of our physical selves are subject to transformation and reinterpretation: “gender is not to culture as sex is to nature; gender is also the discursive/cultural means by which ‘sexed nature’ or a ‘natural sex’ is produced.” Gender is a performance; binary sex is a social construct; our bodies are objects of hostile interpretations fabricated by the powerful. At the time these were explosive statements. Today, they are practically commonplace.

With this new vocabulary came new awareness of a painful split between body and soul. By all accounts, dysphoria is agony—a jagged perceived mismatch between flesh and spirit. In 2016, Buzzfeed asked gender dysphoric people to depict what it was like to feel as they did. Women drew their breasts as balls and chains shackled to their legs; men imagined unzipping their own skin and emerging, newly female, from their old unwanted exoskeleton. In children with gender dysphoria, puberty can be a time of acute distress when the maleness or femaleness of the body suddenly asserts itself in a dramatic way. The thoughts of gender dysphoric adolescents often turn to suicide, which is why many parents are willing to do anything—including irreversible surgery and hormonal intervention—to help alleviate the discomfort.

But it is telling to read in the DSM-V that gender dysphoria occurs in just 0.005 percent to 0.014 percent of natal males, and 0.002 percent to 0.003 percent of natal females. In 2013, those numbers were current. They are already wildly out of date. Girls, especially, are developing gender dysphoria at an alarming pace: between 2006 and 2016, the number of referrals to London’s Charing Cross “Gender Identity Clinic” nearly quadrupled. Between 2008 and 2015, another such clinic in Nottingham saw its referral numbers jump from 30 to 850. A Gallup report in 2020 found that 1.8 percent of Gen-Z kids in the United States (born between 1997 and 2002) identified as transgender. By 2021, it was up to 2.1 percent. A shocking uptick in gender dysphoria, especially among girls, has blown the DSM-V’s figures out of the water. We are simply more uncomfortable in our bodies than we were before.

Perhaps some of this is because gender dysphoric people are more comfortable sharing their feelings as it becomes commonplace, not to say required, to accept and validate transgender people in American culture and society. But it is just as likely, if not more so, that causation goes the other way: maybe boys and girls feel more uncomfortable about their bodies as they are increasingly taught by adults and peers to view their physical sex as something detachable from their gender. Brown University health researcher Lisa Littman caused enormous controversy when she surveyed 250 families with dysphoric children and observed that 80 percent of the kids were female. What Littman called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” is a new phenomenon, a sudden self-identification as trans in girls who never showed signs of bodily discomfort before. Littman was attacked because her results suggested that our massive dysphoria epidemic might not be entirely spontaneous.

More and more public schools have adopted the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s “gender snowperson,” or other similar infographics✎ EditSign, to teach that sex, sexuality, and gender are unmoored from one another. But this kind of messaging goes beyond classrooms. One 2020 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found evidence that in areas where kids are exposed to more media coverage of transgender-related issues, gender therapy clinics receive more referrals. Kids increasingly shape their political beliefs and values (including their sense of gender identity) in conversation with one another in online forums. “Online engagement is not just isolated,” said Tumblr’s director of outreach Liba Rubenstein, “it really is attached to people’s offline identities.”

Typically, this kind of peer-to-peer discussion is represented as a victory for liberation and inclusion. But online life is not just allowing kids to vent their discomfort with their bodies: it’s also creating that discomfort where previously there was none. In this broader context the rise in transgender identification and gender dysphoria seems less like an authentic phenomenon in and of itself, and more like one symptom of an ancient conflict between body and soul, kicked into hyperdrive by the experience of internet life.

Abigail Shrier, a journalist who documents the rise of gender dysphoria in young girls in her book Irreversible Damage, interviewed one teenager whose anorexia morphed naturally into gender dysphoria as if the two sprang from the same source: “My goal went from diet pills to testosterone…. From fantasies about slicing off my thigh fat to slicing off my breasts. I bound them with duct tape. I couldn’t breathe. It made me panic, but I felt brave.” Buck Angel, a transsexual internet celebrity, speculated to Shrier about the association between widespread gender dysphoria and a disgust at the body more generally among teens, who are having less sex than previous generations and seem more comfortable in virtual than physical space. Shrier concludes that adolescent transgenderism “very often seems to be a sad cult of asexuality, like the hand-painted sign in an antique shop reading ‘Please Do Not Touch.’”

Persona Creata

Given the explosion of gender dysphoria among adolescent girls, this phase of the body crisis suggests a particular horror at the idea of womanhood. “Perhaps forever,” writes Shrier, “but at least since Shakespeare’s Viola arrived shipwrecked in Illyria and decided to pass herself off as a man, it has occurred to young women: it’s so much easier to be a boy.” The feminist injunction for women to “lean in”—to hunt out positions of power and dominance in traditionally male industries and pursuits—comes freighted with the implication that traditionally female pursuits are weak, contemptible, and dull. “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession,” sniffed Hillary Clinton, in a classic summation of this idea, during her husband Bill’s first presidential campaign.

Both implicitly and explicitly, our ruling classes express contempt for homemaking and motherhood. But this closes off the most primal path to resolving the body crisis. Women, by creating new life, bear witness to the possibility that body and soul can in fact be reconciled: in childbirth, human flesh becomes the medium of the divine. Poets have expressed this as the “eternal feminine,” the strangely luminous power of women like Dante’s Beatrice or Faust’s Margarete to act as physical conduits for the life-giving power of God. “Woman, eternal, beckons us on,” wrote Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the closing lines of his Faust. This is the meaning of the Virgin Mary’s consent to bring God into the world: her body will become the medium to deliver divine life, God made flesh.

Not that pregnancy and labor are some sort of cakewalk that we should regard with misty-eyed sentiment. Ever since Adam and Eve left Eden, creating life has also meant facing pain. The delicate challenge of growing from girl to woman involves coming to terms with the blood and the sorrow of what it means to have a body in a fallen world. Now, though, that hard task is made harder by the constant social implication that to be a mother is to be brainwashed and oppressed. Small wonder girls are fleeing womanhood, and small wonder this has intensified our sense that the human body is nothing more than a dead weight. Childbirth is not the only way to be fulfilled, nor the only way out of the body crisis. But if our bodies are not at least potentially a source of life as well as death, of blessing as well as discomfort, then they are simply a burden. Shucking off that burden means turning women into mere body parts that can be removed, reconfigured, or appropriated at will, reducing the female body to its functions and recasting women themselves as “menstruaters,” “chest feeders,” and “birthing people.”

Thus trans activism increasingly comes along with the implication that the body has no inherent integrity; that its meaning is entirely at the whim of its inhabitant. “Here’s the thing about chest surgery,” said Dr. Joanna Olson-Kennedy, a trans youth specialist and director of the Center for Transyouth Health and Development at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles: “If you want breasts at a later point in your life you can go and get them.” Reacting with alarm to Olson-Kennedy’s statement, British journalist Douglas Murray, asked: “Are people like blocks of Lego onto which new pieces can be stuck, taken off and replaced again at will?”

Not yet, but perhaps that is the longing upon which trans extremism plays. Increasingly the objective is to abolish the boundaries of the body altogether, to liberate the human spirit and let it mold the flesh as it chooses. This is what critic Mary Harrington calls “biolibertarianism”: the aspiration to remove bodily constraints, to turn our physical form into a set of customizable parts that can be interchanged or reshaped. Harrington notes an anonymous 2018 paper, Gender Acceleration, which argues that surgical transition from male to female “breaks [a] lucky few free from the horrid curse of being human.” A woman who goes by the handle “whorecress” expressed a very similar attitude in a video that went viral on TikTok: “I’m not body-positive,” she declared, “I’m not body-neutral. I’m body-negative. I wanna be vapor. Or like, a plume of blue smoke. Or mist. Or a rumor—I’d be a rumor… ’cause like, gender? Humiliating. An ache, a pain? Needing to sit down? Spatial awareness? The vulgarity…. Every day I wake up and I’m subject to the burden of embodiment. How dare I be a shape? Disgusting.”

Obviously this monologue was delivered with a certain irony. But like all successful humor, it articulated a real sentiment that the online audience connected with. Whorecress’s cri de coeur against embodiment featured on a Reddit discussion thread called r/voidpunk, which “is a subculture for those who often feel rejected or disconnected from humanity” and prefer to associate themselves with a more spectral or robotic form of life. r/voidpunk has 21,600 subscribers as of this writing, but the trend is much bigger than that: “transhumanism” is a growing movement among technologists, many of whom imagine a future where gene editing, virtual reality, and bionic enhancement render us free from the limitations of physical existence. This is the modern culmination of our extreme body crisis.

The connection between transgenderism and transhumanism is made explicit by transgender activist and scientist Martine Rothblatt. Rothblatt’s book, From Transgender to Transhuman: A Manifesto on the Freedom of Form, argues expressly that gender transition is just the beginning:

I am convinced that laws classifying people as either male or female, and laws prohibiting people’s freedom based on their genitals, will become as obsolete in the twenty-first century as the religious edicts of the Middle Ages seem absurd in America today…. Over the next few decades we will witness the uploading of human minds into software and computer systems, and the birth of brand new human minds as information technology. As we see our selves and our loved ones in these transhuman beings, and they make us laugh and cry, we will not hesitate long to recognize their humanity with citizenship and their common cause with us in a new common species, Persona creatus (the “created person”).

And so the most cutting-edge current expression of the body crisis is not the hormone injection but the digital avatar: pick and choose how you will move through imagined digital space. The movement that began with “gender neutral” pronouns has now produced an enormous constellation of totally invented identities, going far beyond ze and zer to include neologisms like “pupself” and “demonself,” for those who identify spiritually as animals or demons. What’s going on here is bigger than gender: we are dreaming not simply of making men into women, and vice versa, but making ourselves into anything, at a whim.

Desire and Happiness

“Gender? Humiliating.” Whorecress was on to something. “How dare I be a shape? Disgusting.” There is the body crisis in a nutshell.

And yet we can’t escape the body except at a great and terrible cost. Much like virtual reality and online life, transhumanism holds out glittering promises on which it is singularly ill-equipped to deliver. It’s not just that sex-change technology currently comes with gruesome risks and lifelong complications. Even if we imagine that rearranging or reconstructing body parts becomes painlessly easy, will it make us happy? What will “happy” even mean? Already Andrea Long Chu, a major transgender writer, has emphasized that happiness is not the point: “My new vagina won’t make me happy,” Chu wrote in the New York Times, “and it shouldn’t have to.” This is because “desire and happiness are independent agents.” Really? If our desires have no governing aim, such as happiness or virtue, what is the use of them—or us—at all? Surely we follow our desires because they point us toward something desirable—if not, we are just aimless hunks of flesh pulled randomly in all directions by wants that have no connection to goodness or joy. This total dissolution of purpose would be one of the real wages of transhumanism, were it ever to become reality.

If we become fully free from the constraints of physical form, if we even develop the technology to “feel” whatever we want, then we really will become nothing more than the chemistry sets that the crudest materialists imagine us to be: joy will be an electro-chemical occurrence, unrelated to any objective excellence or achievement. In our effort to liberate our spirits from our bodies, we will make our spirits and our very consciousness into the mere mechanical illusion that machinists already imagine it to be. Dissolve the boundaries of your body and you dissolve the boundaries of yourself. If you feel an instinctive disgust at this dystopian futuristic prospect, it is because you have a felt intuition of what we really are.

We can have compassion for gender dysphoric people without making them the central ideal of all our aspirations. Without a trace of malice toward them, we may observe that the measures they take to transform their bodies are not steps in a direction we find particularly attractive or healthy. Treating the body like an endlessly permeable and cumbersome appendage is just as degrading as ignoring it in favor of constant online entertainment, and for the same reasons. Both are means of seeking escape from our physical forms, and both promise liberation while actually leaving us sick, remorseful, and listless. We have indulged for too long in the vague fantasy that if these kinds of life are pushed to the extreme, they will suddenly become fulfilling—that if we just proceed down this path that is currently making us sick and miserable, we will eventually be happy and free. This, as always, is a dubious proposition.

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This article was published by The American Mind and is reproduced with permission.

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Poll: Americans Say Economy is in Trouble

By Casey Harper

Americans think the U.S. economy is in trouble, according to a new poll.

Released by CBS News and YouGov, the poll found that 64% of those surveyed said the national economy is doing “fairly bad” or “very bad.”

The survey found 56% disapprove of the job Joe Biden is doing as president. Those two figures are likely intertwined. Inflation has soared since Biden took office. Gas prices hit record highs last summer and are expected to rise again this year. Food prices have soared as well and show little sign of returning to their previous level.

Notably, 49% of those surveyed say they feel “scared” about the fate of the U.S. in the next year.

The poll also found 65% of Americans said things in the U.S. are going “very badly” or “somewhat badly.” That pessimism is similar to the sentiment found in a recent Gallup poll that found that that about 80% of those surveyed expect a higher deficit, higher taxes, and a worse economy in 2023.

“More than six in 10 think prices will rise at a high rate and the stock market will fall in the year ahead, both of which happened in 2022,” Gallup reports. “In addition, just over half of Americans predict that unemployment will increase in 2023, an economic problem the U.S. was spared in 2022.”

But it’s not just the economy. Americans are also worried about crime with Gallup reporting that 72% of surveyed Americans predict crime rates will increase, not decrease, this year.

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This article was published by The Center Square and is reproduced with permission.

Study Shows Government’s Family Leave Mandates Have Thwarted Women’s Wage Gains thumbnail

Study Shows Government’s Family Leave Mandates Have Thwarted Women’s Wage Gains

By Rachel Greszler

Men and women alike should be able to take time off from work for family and medical needs without the risk of losing their jobs. Unfortunately, when policymakers turn something that should be voluntarily offered by employers into a rigid legal mandate, unintended consequences ensue.

In the case of family and medical leave laws in the U.S., a recent economic study found that those laws have led to lower relative wages for women and thwarted the convergence of women’s wages relative to men’s.

In the decade prior to the passage of the Family Medical Leave Act in 1993—a federal law that guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected family or medical leave to workers in companies with 50 or more employees—white women’s wages had been converging relative to white men’s at a rate of 0.70 percentage points per year.

In the decade after passage of the FMLA, the rate of convergence fell to 0.03 percentage points. The rate of convergence for black women to white men fell from 0.30 percentage points per year prior to passage of the FMLA to 0.05 percentage points after.

It’s important to note that the raw, so-called gender wage gap—which claims that women made only 82 cents on the dollar compared to men in 2021—is not a scientific metric because it simply compares the wages of all full-time women to all full-time men. After factoring in observable characteristics like occupation, experience, and education, the so-called gap shrinks considerably.

After accounting for changes in such observable characteristics, however, the study authors found that “the introduction of [family leave laws] can explain 94% of the reduction in the rate of gender wage convergence that is unaccounted for after controlling for changes in observable characteristics of workers.”

The authors estimated that “if gender wage convergence had continued at the pre-family leave rate, wage parity between white women and white men would have been achieved as early as 2017.”

These findings were based not only on the introduction of the federal FMLA, but more precisely by comparing wage convergences in 12 states that enacted family leave laws prior to the federal FMLA to convergences in states that did not enact such laws.

This study confirms the basic economic principle that there is no such thing as a free lunch, meaning that with any supposed government-created benefit, there are trade-offs. And it demonstrates the impossibility of providing flexibility to employees and their employers via one-size-fits-all government mandates.

That’s an important lesson for policymakers who, understandably, want to help more Americans benefit from access to paid family and medical leave. If laws that mandate access for some workers to unpaid family and medical leave end up hurting women’s wages, how many more unintended consequences could ensue from laws that impose paid leave mandates or create new government entitlements?

Fortunately, inertia—more aptly, the free market working as it should to reflect workers’ desires—is on our side. Between 2016 and 2021, the percentage of private sector workers who have access to paid family and medical leave increased 77%.

That figure will undoubtedly continue to grow, but government mandates could thwart its rise and cause many other unintended consequences.

Employer-provided paid family leave programs can always be more flexible and responsive to the needs of employees than one-size-fits-all government programs that must establish strict rules, rigid eligibility criteria, and immovable benefits.

And while the vast majority of employers know the value their workers contribute and see them as fellow humans who need time off for personal family and medical reasons, government programs managed by bureaucrats can only know applicants as claimant numbers with leave requests expressed through leave codes.

Additionally, state government-run paid family leave programs—which impose taxes on workers and/or employers to fund government benefits—also crowd out more flexible employer-provided programs because employers who may otherwise have implemented a program are unlikely to add one if they or their workers are already forced to pay into a government plan.

Further, as has already happened in states that have government paid-leave programs, employers that do provide their own programs will typically require their workers to first jump through hoops to get what they can from the government program before they can receive their employer’s benefits.

That could include waiting weeks or months to find out if a worker is eligible to take leave, requiring employees to submit loads of paperwork and receive doctors’ sign-offs, not allowing employees to take unexpected leave, and workers having to pay back government benefits they received if they answer an email or respond to a pressing work need while on leave.

Despite their intent, government-paid family leave programs are regressive. They tax everyone but predominantly benefit middle- and upper-income families. In California, for example, fewer than 4% of claims went to workers in the lowest-income bracket while nearly 21% went to workers in the highest-income bracket.

And government programs are costly. A Congressional Budget Office analysis of Democrats’ proposed Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act found that it would create yet another unfunded entitlement program, with costs exploding to 240% of the program’s revenues within just six years and necessitating about $700 a year in new taxes for the median household. And that’s for a program that would cover only 42% of workers’ paid family leave needs.

Paid family leave is something Americans want, but not with the costs and consequences that federal programs and mandates entail.

Instead, policymakers should help expand access to paid family leave through policies that make it easier and more economically feasible for private employers to offer their own programs. They can do that by passing legislation such as the Working Families Flexibility Act, by enacting Universal Savings Accounts, and by removing costly and unnecessary regulations so that employers have more resources to provide paid family leave that’s better tailored to their businesses and to their employees’ needs.

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This article was published by The Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.

MMT Is Dead. It Must Now Be Buried for Good thumbnail

MMT Is Dead. It Must Now Be Buried for Good

By David Sukoff

In the late 1960s Milton Friedman clarified his famous quip by stating that “In one sense, we are all Keynesians now; in another, nobody is any longer a Keynesian.”

In the first part, we are all Keynesians because the government’s out of control spending has forced us to be. In the latter sense, we are not Keynesians because that spending has decimated our financial well-being. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is essentially an offshoot of Keynesianism in that government can spend ad nauseam and commensurately print money without any ill effect. With the historic inflation we are now experiencing, MMT has been thoroughly repudiated. MMT is dead–it must now be buried.

In his basic economic textbooks, Professor Paul Krugman preaches Keynesianism. He teaches students about a government spending multiplier. In his fairy tale, the government spends a dollar and the economy grows by more than a dollar. The student’s first question should be: Where does that dollar of spending come from? The student’s next question should be: If this mystical multiplier were in fact real, then why not spend and spend and spend? The answers are straightforward and form the basis of the repudiation of MMT. A dollar of government spending must come from a dollar of taxation, at some point. On the second, the federal Government believed in both Krugman’s myth as well as MMT, and spent as much as they possibly could. Eventually, the inevitable ending came, and it was not a fairy tale.

If there were no discernible consequence to government spending, then the incentive for any government would be to spray money in every direction. Keynesianism, Krugman’s multiplier, and MMT all attempted to provide cover, and enable government to spend. It is simply impossible, and not in dispute, that at some point, that dollar of spending must come from a dollar of taxation. If there is a budget deficit, the government borrows dollars to make up the shortfall. The government mostly borrows dollars by issuing government bonds. To sustain its insatiable desire to spend money, and to not raise current taxes to unappealing levels, the government issues substantial debt.

In recent years, the debt to GDP ratio has crossed the 100 percent level and is now at a historic high. This creates numerous problems, not least of which is rising interest rates. If the government adds to the supply of bonds, the price should go down, and the yield (interest return) would go up. With that gargantuan debt, rising yields would force the government to spend even more on interest payments, resulting in all kinds of other negative effects on the overall economy.

Enter the magic of Quantitative Easing (QE) and MMT. The Government wants to spend, but not raise taxes too much. It then must issue debt, but not cause interest rates to rise. Well, the Federal Reserve can just step in and buy bonds! Sounds perfect – certainly to government officials who want to spend, and claim they are stimulating the economy. Even better, there is no real limit to how many dollars-worth of bonds the Fed can buy. Trillions upon trillions are possible. The Fed balance sheet rose by approximately $8 trillion over the past 20 years, with more than $4 trillion of that in the last two years alone. There is a crucial problem, and this is where MMT is used to obfuscate: When the Fed buys bonds, it is printing money.

It is a rather straightforward printing press. The Federal Reserve purchases a bond from a seller. The seller delivers the bond to the Fed, and the Fed hits a button to deposit money into the seller’s account. That money is created with a keystroke. The sound of this printing press is Enter-Enter-Enter, click-click-click. And just like that, in the last two years, the Fed “printed” $4 trillion new dollars. The Fed is also by far the largest holder of United States Treasury bonds – with a current balance sheet of more than $8 trillion. But MMT said this is not a problem, and for years and years it seemed to be correct as the Fed was growing its balance sheet with no discernible sign of inflation.

But there was inflation. It simply manifested itself in other places besides consumer prices. Inflation is a monetary phenomenon. It is basic math. If new dollars are added to the total supply of dollars, then the price of everything a dollar can be exchanged for must go up. That is just a mathematical fact – not an economic theory like a multiplier, or printing and spending ad nauseam. Dollars are added, prices in dollars go up. While the Fed was performing QE by adding to its balance sheet and printing dollars, the price of financial assets was shooting to the moon. We witnessed one of the greatest transfers of wealth imaginable to holders of financial assets, from the public at large. Ironically, many who promoted Keynesianism and MMT are the same who grouse the loudest about the wealth inequality that their policies directly caused. Bubbles are inflated with dollars. And since the implementation of QE was the cornerstone of Fed policy, that bubble was not in danger of bursting, because the Fed would simply buy more bonds, and print more money. MMT said it was okay.

Like water, though, money eventually finds its way and breaks the dam. With stocks and crypto and real estate headed to the moon, it was only a matter of time before all that money found its way to consumer goods. Inflation, as we commonly understand it, had arrived. It was mathematically pre-ordained, and yet still somehow unexpected. Historically high. We’re talking 1970s high. Family budget-busting high. Economic growth-crushing high. And all because of the failure to loudly ask and understand those two very basic questions: Where does the money come from, and if the theory actually worked, shouldn’t the government just spend infinite money?

Perhaps those in government simply did not want to ask or understand those questions. It was fun, for some, while it lasted. But it’s over now. Those questions need to be asked, over and over again. Because the answers are obvious, and clear, and indisputable. Sadly, so is the painful solution to our current inflation crisis. The government needs to dramatically reduce spending, and the Fed needs to unwind its balance sheet.

Weaning the government and the Fed off spending and printing will be a lengthy and agonizing process. And entirely necessary. Nobody should be a Keynesian anymore. Certainly not if the goal is to reduce inflation and have a growing, robust, and free economy.

Keynesianism, Krugman’s multiplier, and MMT have all been empirically, logically, mathematically, and thoroughly repudiated.

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This article was published by FEE and is reproduced with permission.

A Little More Poison thumbnail

A Little More Poison

By David Lewis Schaefer

Taking “the hair of the dog that bit you” means curing a hangover with another drink in the morning. Nobody follows that principle as public policy, but current government practice regarding gambling and drug use subscribes to the same logic.

For instance, there haven’t been too many Puritans around in a long time who objected to horse racing or social, Friday-night poker games. And though the “numbers racket” was often under the control of organized crime, the fact that many, mostly poor, people played a number each week, knowing the odds were against them but just wanting to indulge a dream of riches, didn’t bother most of us. When casino gambling was first legalized early in the Depression, creating the potential for much larger losses, it was limited to a remote, underpopulated, and largely resource-free state, Nevada.

All this began to change in the sixties. First, New York State introduced off-track betting, which enabled people to gamble on the ponies from offices scattered around urban areas, without having to go to the track. It became far easier to blow large sums on the races. Next came the 1964 introduction in New Hampshire of a state lottery in order to generate revenue on a “voluntary” basis; other states got in on the lottery game, too, and today only Alabama and Utah lack legalized gambling. Nevada doesn’t offer a lottery, either, but only because the powerful gaming industry doesn’t want competition.

Here is where the “hair of the dog” principle began to make its appearance. Television ads urged people to play the lottery regularly, while also counseling bettors to “bet responsibly,” and even giving toll-free phone numbers for new gambling addicts to turn for help. In fact, a small portion of the proceeds of state gambling receipts were set aside for such counseling programs. It was as if in their pursuit of revenues, the governments had begun to promote cigarette smoking, coupled with an exhortation not to overdo it, and an 800 number to connect lung-cancer patients with medical treatment.

In the next stage, revenue-hungry governments around much of the country legalized casinos. Slot-machine casinos were especially popular since they require no experience and give no advantage to those with skill. The latest generation of slot machines, electronic rather than mechanical, has been designed to turn players into addicts, with fancy gimmicks designed to give them the feeling they are winning even as they keep losing, as MIT Professor Natasha Dow Schull showed in her thoroughly researched 2014 book Addiction by Design. Again, players are offered ineffectual counsel against overdoing it.

Aside from raising hopes of a personal bonanza, the gamblers, and the public at large, were told that the revenues generated by taxes on the casinos would help finance public goods. Indeed, in New York State, former governor Andrew Cuomo, while refusing to allow fracking in the Marcellus Shale (from which people in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania have gained a considerable boost in employment), authorized several casinos to be opened in the impoverished western part of the state as a substitute. (The casinos have not so far delivered any portion of the promised wealth, any more than they brought prosperity to Atlantic City, where they opened decades earlier). Now, New York City is preparing to open casinos in Manhattan to share the good fortune of being able to try your luck. To listen to its advocates, gambling is almost a public duty. Don’t you want your state to prosper?

The most dangerous iteration of the legalized-gambling craze is the spread of sports gambling, advertised on every major televised sports event and accessed through smartphones. Bettors can wager not only on which team will win, or beat the “spread,” but on all sorts of mini-bets within the game, like whether a particular player will hit a home run. Minors are technically banned from betting, but sports journalism and commentary has now become so saturated by the culture of sports gambling that sports fans cannot avoid the message that the real thrill of sports is in the supposed financial gains from gambling on the outcome. Of course, in the long run it’s always the “house”—including the state—that wins. And every ad comes with a mandated warning to gamble “responsibly” and a number to call if you need help in curing your addiction.

The legalization—or at least the effective decriminalization—of drugs, an undoubted vice that has the potential to cause severe physical as well as psychological harm, is either being downplayed (in the case of marijuana) or “decarcerated” (in the case even of the often-fatal drug fentanyl), for the sake of enhancing public revenues (through taxes on pot); supposedly assisting the past “victims” of the now-regretted War on Drugs, or supposedly mitigating the dangers of an overdose in the form of “safe” injection centers, which are taking root in major cities.

In 2018 (following a popular referendum legalizing marijuana), Massachusetts’s newly established Cannabis Control Commission adopted a “social equity program” in the name of compensating individuals and communities that had been “disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs.” Under the program, state authorities prioritize giving “professional training, technical services, mentoring,” and “access to capital” to individuals who had previously been convicted of drug crimes (most of whom will have been found guilty of selling drugs considerably more harmful than marijuana), are married to or the offspring of such persons, or inhabit an area where the War on Drugs (not drugs themselves!) had “disproportionate impact.”

Leave aside the fact that to the extent the War on Drugs—including manifestly life-threatening and life-ruining substances like heroin and fentanyl—has succeeded in mitigating the rate at which such drugs are used, it has particularly benefited, not harmed, the areas where such use was most widespread. How can anyone seriously maintain that the way to combat poverty, family instability, and crime in low-income or minority neighborhoods where drug sales and use are most widespread is to train residents of those neighborhoods to more effectively manufacture, market, and profit from a mind-weakening and potentially addictive drug that also serves as a “gateway” to harder drugs?

As reported in the New York Times at the time Massachusetts initiated its program (since imitated in New York and elsewhere), a scholarly analyst of the problems associated with marijuana, Professor Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon University, observed that beyond the drug’s correlation with a wide variety of negative outcomes in terms of physical and mental health, “the real issue is that more than half of marijuana is consumed by people who are high more than half of all their waking hours,” while “Americans with a household income of less than $20,000 accounted for close to 30 percent of all marijuana use, even though they make up less than 20 percent of the population.” Do poor people really need to be encouraged by state-trained drug pushers to consume even more marijuana? And to think of drug-pushing as a respectable career choice?

Promoting the sale and use of marijuana in poor and minority communities is just one more instance of misguided social policies in which public officials, ostensibly aiming to serve the public good, in fact threaten to do the greatest harm to those who can least afford to endure it. Our poor and minority communities stand in need of improved public schools (including more charter schools and expanded programs of vocational training), effective law enforcement, and opportunities to succeed in legitimate, pro-social occupations. They also need encouragement to marry before becoming parents; to work their hardest both on their jobs and as parents so as to benefit both themselves and their offspring; and to become sober, thoughtful, and public-spirited citizens—not people who aim to spend their lives in a drug-filled haze.

But in perhaps the ultimate expression of the “hair of the dog” principle, the New York Post reported on December 4 that three major nonprofit agencies that provide services designed to assist addicts to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction had just won licenses from the state to sell marijuana. The CEO of one of the organizations, Housing Works, told Politico that he aimed to employ “justice-involved” individuals (that is, people with previous criminal records) and create a “vocational training” program that would enable them to open their own “weed businesses.”

In 1714 the Anglo-Dutch political theorist Bernard Mandeville famously argued in The Fable of the Bees that private vices (may) lead to public benefits. He had chiefly in mind such vices of character, condemned by both classical and Judeo-Christian morality, as vanity and avarice. (Both of those vices, unattractive in themselves, benefit others, for instance, by providing employment to others who serve their material desires.) Modified (less shocking) versions of Mandeville’s thesis were subsequently taken up by such liberal political thinkers as Montesquieu, Adam Smith, and Friedrich Hayek. But none of these thinkers can have meant that it would be beneficial to encourage poor people to gamble their earnings away, let alone blow their minds, damage their bodies, and waste their lives using addictive drugs—or even worse, to provide capital and training to assist them in purveying such drugs to others. This dog will just keep biting you, your family members, and your country.

*****
This article was published by The American Mind and is reproduced with permission.

They Really Believe You’ll Be Happy thumbnail

They Really Believe You’ll Be Happy

By Michael Watson

As the World Economic Forum (WEF) hosts [hosted] its annual conference of political officials, corporate bigwigs, and leaders of the professional Left-dominated nongovernmental organization world, the organization has come into focus. We brought some of the scrutiny, examining recent writings of WEF leader Klaus Schwab and critics of his “Great Reset.”

But when scrutinizing Schwab and the Forum it is important to separate the true from the false and observe distinctions, not only to not “look crazy” to normal people but also to better understand the professional-managerial class adversaries of individual, limited government. It is important to keep in mind that the WEF, Schwab, and its associates sincerely believe their efforts and managerial ideology will lead the world to a better place. Far from comic-book-movie villains, they would be the “omnipotent moral busybodies” about which C.S. Lewis warned.

So is the WEF a secret conspiracy to replace private ownership with utopian Marxism? No, though there’s less distance between a Danish MP’s infamous op-ed that the WEF published and the vision laid out by Schwab in The Great Narrative than critics will find comforting. WEF is hardly secret, given that it publishes its advocacy in book form and is best known for a highly public conference. But it is at least somewhat misleading for the WEF to defend itself, as WEF executive committee member Paul Smyke did, as just a place of discussion among ideologically diverse stakeholders.

Will We Own Nothing?

Much of the criticism of the Forum falls on its vision of a world in which “you’ll own nothing, and you’ll be happy,” possibly because the citizenry will eat bugs instead of meat. Here the Forum’s defenders have ground to stand on; the Forum does not explicitly advocate these things. It has, however, offered prominent public figures space to opine about the future. In the notable case of an op-ed written in 2016 about a possible future set in 2030, the writer was Ida Auken, a former Danish environment minister and sitting member of parliament.

And when people write about the future, it is reasonable to think that they are, at least to some degree, writing about a future that they hope and expect to make and see. That is, after all, what Klaus Schwab did at book length in The Great Narrative. So it is worth looking at what that former minister thought the world of eight years from now might look like six years ago, in a piece the WEF thought worthy of publication.

The headline is stark: “Welcome to 2030: I Own Nothing, Have No Privacy and Life Has Never Been Better.” The piece suggests that a mere decade and a half from its writing, a Star Trek–style non-economy economy will be in full swing, with free communication, free transportation, free housing, and free food—all underwritten by free clean energy.

Now, from the vantage point of slightly less than halfway to this vision, one question arises: “How?” How did humanity develop free energy from almost nothing in only a decade and a half? And if it would have been so easy, how did the entire world—not just recalcitrant Americans, who occasionally elect Florida men to high public office, but even good Europeans, even Danes!—miss this boat to utopia?

Well, like Schwab’s own predictions about inflation and unemployment in the wake of COVID-19, it was just a bad prediction. But it was a predictably bad prediction: There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there has never been one since humanity entered this vale of tears. Why would one appear ex nihilo in less than half a generation? But if it reflects what the social-democratic green movement (often called “watermelons” by critics) sincerely believe is on the horizon, heaven help us.

That assumes the piece is in fact a prediction; the op-ed reads like a dorm-room bull session product. (The author’s apparent channeling of Karl Marx’s The German Ideology in her musing “When AI and robots took over so much of our work, we suddenly had time to eat well, sleep well, and spend time with other people” also seems worthy of the dormitory.) The concerning thing about this is that the writer is not a sophomore undergraduate writing for a campus literary magazine, but a former cabinet minister published under the auspices of a multi-million-dollar nonprofit.

Auken concedes her utopia is not perfect. “Nowhere can I go and not be registered,” asserts the citizen of 2030’s “our city,” which goes unnamed and un-located; one assumes it is not Copenhagen, since “in the past we filled all free spots in the city with concrete.” Or New York. Or Washington. Or Boston. Or Paris, or London, or Berlin. Or Mexico City, or Cape Town, or Kyoto. Come to think of it, where is this formerly all-concrete “our city” anyway?

But the surveillance dystopia is not the darkest part of the vision. That honor lies with “all the people who do not live in our city”—the narrator’s “greatest concern.” All who “felt obsolete and useless when robots and AI took big parts of our jobs” or who “got upset with the political system and turned against it” live beyond a sort of invisible city wall, in “little self-supplying communities” or in “empty and abandoned houses in small 19th century villages.”

At least it isn’t the gulag. Or rather, it isn’t the gulag yet—our citizen whose dreams are recorded betrays fear that “I just hope nobody will use it against me” even as our citizen asserts “all in all, it is a good life. Much better than the path we were on.”

One can award the same partial credit to Auken that one might give to Schwab for acknowledging that surveillance might very well lead to dystopia, while wondering why they suggest the world will and perhaps ought to employ this “one ring” anyway. Perhaps, like Tolkien’s hobbits, the “little self-supplying communities” have the better of the world of 2030 than the citizens of the dehumanizing, dystopian “our city.” The best that can be said is that at least the WEF isn’t trying to build it.

Yes, The WEF Has an Agenda

So, if the World Economic Forum isn’t about surveilling our dreams and using our living rooms for other people’s business meetings, what is its agenda? If you, like the Washington Examiner did, ask WEF executive committee member Paul Smyke, the answer is that the Forum doesn’t have one. This is an odd position to take for a man whose other title is WEF head of the regional agenda, North America.

To the extent what Smyke told the Examiner is true, it is true only in an incredibly misleading rules-lawyered literal sense in that the WEF does not have a formal policy program that all attendees endorse. It does have an ideology, and creditably, Klaus Schwab has been open about that ideology for 50 years, since he published the first Davos Manifesto on stakeholder capitalism, a forerunner to today’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) movement.

As is made clear in COVID-19: The Great Reset and The Great Narrative for a Better Future, the Forum’s leader is a stakeholder capitalist who hopes to advance ESG, to see greater power lie with organized labor and the (overwhelmingly professional managerial class-oriented and politically liberal-to-socialist) nonprofit sector, and to harness the technologies of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” which he believes is now upon the world, to advance his ski-chalet environmentalist and chardonnay socialist policy goals.

It is true that the annual Forum meeting at Davos meeting is a place for policymakers and businesspersons of various ideologies to gather and discuss. But the people with whom one discusses determines the outcome of those discussions. If, as Schwab and co-author Thierry Malleret did in The Great Narrative, one discusses the path to a better future with left-of-center academics, former officials involved in the Chinese Communist Party–aligned Chinese People’s Consultative Conference, and environmentalist campaigners, one will find one answer. If one consulted with Republican governors; Hungarian, Polish, and Italian government ministers; industrialists (even soft-environmentalist ones like Elon Musk); or Abrahamic religious leaders, one would receive a quite different answer. When one discusses the world with left-wing, utilitarian, environmentalist, and animal liberationist philosopher Peter Singer, one knows (or should know) to expect different answers than if that discussion is with Catholic conservative philosopher Robert George. To choose a discussant is to decide the discussion.

Conclusion

The World Economic Forum’s position and aspirations—think “Great Reset”—invite justified scrutiny. Schwab may be one of the most influential nongovernmental figures in the world, simply because events like the Davos meeting put him and his organization adjacent to the “room where it happens” in dozens of countries and corporate boardrooms.

To the Forum’s credit, its ideology and events are largely public and subject to public criticism. To the Forum’s discredit, when that scrutiny is hostile, the Forum has hidden behind its most “out-there” critics to invalidate by association more level-headed disputation. But while it is not the secret governance of the whole world some claim, it is more than just a discussion forum for the world’s high and mighty.

Davos man,” a reference to the annual WEF Davos meeting, has become a common metonym for a certain bien-pensant, liberal, trendy environmentalist, and redistributionist ideology because that is the technocratic ideology that underpins the World Economic Forum, even if not all Davos attendees subscribe to it. (During his presidency, Donald Trump, who does not hold that ideology, attended Davos twice, in 2018 and 2020.) One can discern the ideology that underpins Davos because one can read Schwab’s books, look at the WEF’s marketing materials that promote possible breakthroughs toward an environmentalist future, and read op-eds the Forum saw fit to publish. That that ideology might lead to places the public does not want to go—something Schwab admitted in The Great Reset about digital COVID contact-tracing surveillance regimes and something Auken’s narrator concedes about “our city”—does not make it a conspiracy.

*****
This article was published by Capital Research Center and is reproduced with permission.

Our National Debt Crisis – Let’s Begin by Throwing  Big Bird Off The Cliff thumbnail

Our National Debt Crisis – Let’s Begin by Throwing Big Bird Off The Cliff

By Neland Nobel

The initial sparring and positioning over the debt limit have begun and not surprisingly, the Democrats are pulling out their past winning arguments that have kept any of the huge entitlement programs off limit to any kind of reform. The past arguments can be summarized as “pushing Granny off the cliff”, a theme derived from the famous TV commercial where a Paul Ryan lookalike kills his grandmother. It was one of the most deceptive, yet effective political TV ads ever.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGnE83A1Z4U&t=2s

Voters will be told that any kind of proposed cut is equivalent to ruining Social Security and Medicare. This effectively ties the attempt to cut spending to cutting off the elderly who have been given government promises, around which they have planned their retirement.

The counterargument would be to tie cuts in spending to egregious programs which only help rich liberals.

At one time, Republicans had a slogan of “defund the Left.” It basically was designed to cut programs where progressives have mobilized tax dollars to use on their side of the political fight. This can range from NPR and PBS, and government agencies funding nonprofits for “voter registration”, to funding UNESCO and other UN left-wing initiatives. How about cutting funding for research so Chinese scientists cannot make new plagues to harm mankind? Is there not a dollar of waste in the defense budget? How about cutting all funds for Critical Race Theory in the Pentagon? I mean, talk about a target-rich environment!

It is also possible to roll back any program not associated with Social Security and Medicare, such as ObamaCare and Medicaid expansion. That could include a modest cut in so-called discretionary spending (spending other than entitlements, defense, and interest payments.)

In truth though, the long-term deficit problem cannot be addressed without eventually getting around to these two demographically flawed programs as they are growing at such speed and consume so much of the budget already that they are becoming the blob that will eat the entire budget.

Looking at the chart above, it really is amazing how little is spent on law enforcement, for example, a primary function of government, and how much is spent on income transfer programs.  Today, the government has largely become a mechanism not to protect safety and liberty but to move money from one taxpayer to another and move money from one generation to another.

But for the time being, baby steps are necessary.

America has not exercised its budget-cutting muscles in a long time. They are so completely atrophied, that success should first be realized with more modest steps. We need to show the political parties, the populace, and the markets; that actual cuts, however modest they may be, can be accomplished. Right now cynicism dominates because previous attempts have led to political disaster for those daring to cut any kind of government spending.

We suspect Republicans will learn from past mistakes and will use the debt ceiling to effectively cut wasteful, politically motivated spending. If we are reading the political tea leaves correctly, it appears that McConnell understands the newly elected House has the power in the negotiations to be had and that in turn, a hard core of conservatives holds excessive power because of the very narrow victory. Let’s hope they use that power wisely and in a politically savvy way.

What could be the argument to maintain NPR and PBS? Not only is its biased coverage lavishly funded by tax-free foundations and the public donations, but its fundamental purpose was also designed in the era of three dominant TV networks. But today, there are so many channels, podcasts, streaming services, and networks that have educational and nature-inspired programming, news programming, and cultural programming, it is redundant and outmoded.

Before we even attempt to reform Social Security, let’s throw Big Bird off the cliff first.

Op-Ed: Social Security’s impending bankruptcy doesn’t resonate with voters, yet thumbnail

Op-Ed: Social Security’s impending bankruptcy doesn’t resonate with voters, yet

By Brenton Smith

I am not a constitutional lawyer, but I see nearly zero chance that funding Social Security out of the general fund would be allowed for any significant length of time. It is at best a fool’s errand to hold out hope that Congress will be able to float the program’s imbalances out of the general fund.

This thought comes to mind because of the 2022 midterms and the inherent contradiction between the importance of Social Security and the weight that voters have placed on the program on Election Day despite two decades of continuous financial decline.

No group should be more interested in the prospects of the program than women who are over 50 years old. Yet, an AARP poll revealed that Social Security placed a distant fifth in voting priority in the 2022 midterm elections among people in this segment of the population.

At this point, a woman turning 77 today expects on average to outlive the system’s ability to pay scheduled benefits. If that voter doesn’t care, no one does.

The only explanation for the indifference to the program’s ability to keep its promises that I can imagine is voters have reached the conclusion that Congress will simply never allow Social Security to fall into crisis.

Apparently, Americans have faith in politicians that would make the Pope covet.

To provide an example, one of my readers wrote to me, “And, as I pointed out, the general fund is already going to be on the hook for the SS shortfall, one way or the other.” The reader reasons that no matter what happens, he will get paid. Hence, he has nearly zero interest in the prospects of the system.

It is a misplaced faith. The general fund is not on the hook, and likely never will be. Funding Social Security from the general fund would likely be deemed unconstitutional in court.

Yes, Social Security was determined to be constitutional in 1935 in Helvering v. Davis. That doesn’t mean that a legislative change in the way that the program is financed would be exempt from judicial review.

Just because the law is called the Social Security Act does not grant the pieces and parts of the law a special status.

The Supreme Court is not interested in the wisdom of how the power is exercised. Rather it deals with deciding whether that power is granted by the Constitution to Congress. In the Helvering case, the Supreme Court held that “Congress may spend money in aid of the ‘general welfare.’” Further, the Court held that the “concept of welfare is shaped by Congress, not the states.”

The Court added a caveat that earns your attention: “The (definition of welfare) belongs to Congress, unless the choice is clearly wrong, a display of arbitrary power is not an exercise of judgment.”

Here is the problem. Social Security is not universal nor equal. The highest payment goes to the man or woman who had the best job over the longest period. It is very difficult to explain taking money from the working poor to provide a stipend to the wealthy retiree particularly when many of our poorest seniors are not even eligible for benefits.

When the money for benefits comes from the general fund, someone is going to ask whether giving money to the idle rich is a sound way to aid the general welfare of the nation. The benefits formula works when the money comes from workers who are contributing to a plan that pays them a future benefit. It is very different when we take money that could be spent on other priorities.

Back in 1935, the Court indicated that it wasn’t terribly interested in the wisdom of the benefits arrangement. According to the Court, the law was a well-researched solution to a well-established problem. In its decision, the Court cited congressional studies, presidential commissions, advisory councils, and extensive public hearings.

The Court ruled, “A great mass of evidence was brought together supporting the policy which finds expression in the act. “

Imagine if this standard were applied to an annual subsidy from the general fund. Funding would require a similar exercise of judgment demonstrating that Congress thoughtfully valued this expense against every other expense that money might have served. That is every year, where the reasoning is we are spending the money today because the politicians of the past didn’t do their job. In the coming years, it would behoove voters of all ages to take this issue more seriously.

In 1935, the Supreme Court allowed Congress the power to provide a legislative solution to a well-documented problem that threatened a growing number of Americans. Today, the Court would be tasked with considering whether Congress should be given the power to deal with a very different problem: voters have not paid attention.

*****
This article was published by The Center Square – Opinion and is reproduced with permission.

Election Fraud Database Tops 1,400 Cases thumbnail

Election Fraud Database Tops 1,400 Cases

By Hans von Spakovsky

The Heritage Foundation’s Election Fraud Database now includes 1,412 proven instances of election fraud, and our legal center is monitoring many other ongoing prosecutions.

The database, which provides a sampling of recent election fraud cases, demonstrates the vulnerabilities within the electoral process and the need for reforms to secure free and fair elections for the American people.

The database doesn’t list potential fraud discovered by election officials and others that is never investigated or prosecuted, and it obviously cannot list fraud that goes undetected when states with poor security don’t have the tools in place to even realize such fraud is occurring.

But states—especially now that many state legislative sessions are beginning—should make stopping fraud and ensuring the integrity of their elections a top priority.

Here are a few examples of cases that were recently added to the database.

We’ve written before on the ballot-trafficking scheme orchestrated by Leslie McCrae Dowless, a political operative who was working on behalf of North Carolina 9th Congressional District candidate Mark Harris, a Republican, in 2018 involving stuffing the ballot box with fraudulent absentee ballots for Harris.

State election officials determined that Harris had no knowledge of what Dowless was doing.

Dowless, who died last April, was known in Braden County for ballot trafficking. He would “assist” certain candidates who hired him as a consultant for their campaigns, and those candidates or causes that Dowless supported seemed to have a sure way to win elections.

Authorities finally caught up with Dowless after his absentee-ballot trafficking scheme caused so much election fraud that, for the first time in 40 years, a congressional race was overturned, and the North Carolina State Board of Elections had to order a new election.

Dowless instructed his hired fraudsters to mark blank absentee ballots for Harris, complete unfinished absentee ballots, forge signatures on absentee ballots for individuals who were unaware ballots were being cast in their name, and then mail the ballots to election officials.

Officials became suspicious when 61% of the vote-by-mail ballots were cast for the Republican candidate, despite the fact that only 16% of the ballot-by-mail voters were registered Republicans.

Ginger Shae Eason, Tonia Gordon, Rebecca Thompson, Kelly Hendrix, James Singleton, Jessica Dowless, and Caitlyn Croom all pleaded guilty to felony charges related to this absentee-ballot fraud scheme. They were all sentenced to probation, ordered to complete community service, and assessed fines and court fees for their involvement in the fraud scheme.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only example of absentee-ballot fraud by an activist among our latest cases added to the database.

Janet Reed, an Evansville, Indiana, Democratic Party activist, sent illegally pre-marked absentee-ballot applications to voters ahead of the 2020 primary election. To make matters worse, Reed pre-selected the Democrat Party where voters were supposed to choose to receive either a Republican or Democratic primary ballot. Reed included instructions with the applications stating the party affiliation “needs no input.”

Despite receiving several warnings from election officials and even from the Democratic Party to knock it off, Reed kept sending out the pre-marked applications that interfered with the ability of voters to decide which party primary they wanted to vote in.

Reed pleaded guilty to a felony charge of unauthorized use of absentee ballots, was sentenced to 18 months of probation, and was ordered to pay restitution of $2,740 and court costs of $925. She was also barred from working on any elections while on probation.

Our latest update also features several instances of convicted felons voting.

In Florida, Marc Crump and Dedrick De’ron Baldwin were felons who were recently convicted of illegally voting in the 2020 general election.

Crump, who voted in the August 2020 primary and November 2020 general election, pleaded guilty to one count of false swearing and one count of illegal voting. He was sentenced to 10 months in jail and assessed $668 in costs and fees.

Baldwin was charged with two felonies after he voted in the 2020 Democratic primary and 2020 general election. He pleaded no contest to both charges and was sentenced to 364 days in prison on each count. Baldwin was already serving a 12-year sentence for manslaughter and aggravated battery.

The fraudulent conduct of those two ineligible voters was discovered following an investigation by Florida Department of Law Enforcement of Alachua County election supervisor Kim Barton, a Democrat, who organized voter-registration drives that improperly registered felons to vote.

In Arizona, Victor Aguirre, a convicted felon, registered to vote and then voted in the 2020 general election. Aguirre pleaded guilty to a felony charge of attempted illegal voting and was sentenced to a minimum term of six months in prison, to be followed by a period of supervised release, and was assessed fees and fines.

In Texas, Francisco Tamez Jr., another convicted felon, voted in the 2017 city of Edinburg municipal election. Tamez pleaded guilty to the felony charge and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.

In Minnesota, Linda Maria Stately, of Little Falls, a convicted felon, registered and voted in the 2020 general election. Stately pleaded guilty to a felony charge of ineligible voting and was sentenced to five years of probation and assessed fines and fees. Her charges will be reduced to a misdemeanor if she successfully completes the terms of her probation.

A new case from Florida demonstrates the importance of implementing safeguards in the voter-registration system to detect election fraud, particularly in states that use online voter registration.

Anthony Guevara was charged with two felonies after he changed the voter-registration address of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the state’s voter-registration database online.

After the fraudulent address change was registered in the system, it was flagged, and law enforcement officers were able to trace the IP address to Guevara’s home. He pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced to two years of probation, 100 hours of community service, fined $5,421.39, and assessed $515 in court and prosecution costs.

Another example from Florida demonstrates how system safeguards of the type recommended in The Heritage Foundation’s Election Integrity Scorecard can prevent fraudulent votes from being counted in the first place. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)

Larry Wiggins, a registered Democrat from Sarasota, requested a mail-in ballot on behalf of his late wife during the 2020 general election. Election staff discovered the fraud during a routine check of the voter rolls, which revealed that his wife had died two years earlier.

Wiggins forged his deceased wife’s signature on the ballot-request form and admitted that he intended to mail it back once he received it, but he was stopped by law enforcement. He pleaded no contest to one count of vote-by-mail fraud, and was sentenced to 24 months’ probation, 100 hours of community service, and assessed $738 in court costs, fees, and fines.

If Florida hadn’t had such safeguards and preventative checks in place, that ballot very well could have been cast and counted in the election.

It should come as no surprise that Florida—tied with Louisiana for the No. 6 ranking on our Election Integrity Scorecard—has demonstrated a commitment to improving its laws, regulations, and procedures to ensure secure elections.

We also recently added a couple of instances of ineligible aliens voting to the database.

In Ohio, Irnatine Boayue, an ineligible alien, registered and voted in the 2016 general election. Boayue pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of attempted false voter registration and was sentenced to one day in the Franklin County Correction Center. The court waived fines and court costs on account of the defendant’s indigency.

In Minnesota, Abdihakim Essa, also an alien, forged his father’s signature as a witness when submitting absentee ballots in Hennepin County. Essa pleaded guilty to four felony charges and was sentenced to 180 days in an adult correctional facility, 90 days of which were stayed pending successful completion of two years of supervised probation. He was also assessed $78 in court costs.

Zameahia Ismail, another alien, registered and voted in person in two different precincts in a Hennepin County, Minnesota, election in 2017. She voted in St. Louis Park, where she actually lived, and a second time in Minneapolis after being encouraged by an acquaintance to vote for Abi Warsame, a Democratic candidate for Minneapolis City Council.

She was not required to provide any identification in Minneapolis because her acquaintance vouched for her identity. Ismail, who pleaded guilty to the charge of registering in more than one precinct, was sentenced to a year in prison, with all but 20 days stayed pending successful completion of two years of supervised probation. She was also assessed fines and fees totaling $78.

As the latest updates to our Election Fraud Database illustrate, threats to fair and free elections continue to exist. As the more than 1,400 cases in the database should make abundantly clear, states should get to work implementing election reforms designed to improve the integrity of the election process.

*****
This article was published by The Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.

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How Individuals Enable Tyranny

By Barry Brownstein

It is easy to think the roots of tyranny lie outside of ourselves, but perhaps we are looking too far away.

In Milan Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a Czech refugee living in Paris joins a protest march against the 1968 Soviet invasion of her homeland. To her surprise, the refugee could not bring herself to shout with the other protesters and soon left the rally. Her French friends didn’t understand her reluctance. The refugee silently mused that her friends could never understand that “behind Communism, Fascism, behind all occupations and invasions lurks a more basic, pervasive evil and that the image of that evil was a parade of people marching by with raised fists and shouting identical syllables in unison.”

Beware of groups marching in lockstep, even for a seemingly good cause, Kundera warns.

In On Liberty, John Stuart Mill pointed us in a similar direction when he observed a tyranny as terrible as any imposed by “public authorities.” Mill called it the “tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling.”

Mill described “the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them.” Mill counseled, “individual independence” protected from “encroachment” from the tyranny of the majority “is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.”

The tyranny of societal mandates, Mill warned, can be “more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, … it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.”

On Liberty was published in 1859. Sadly, the tendency Mill described is all-too-common among individuals living in 2023 who believe “their feelings… are better than reasons, and render reasons unnecessary.”

Often such “feelings” are based on the prevailing orthodoxy disseminated by The New York Times, NPR, and other such media outlets.

Worse, feelings-driven individuals up the ante and demand others conform. Mill explained, “The practical principle which guides them to their opinions on the regulation of human conduct, is the feeling in each person’s mind that everybody should be required to act as he, and those with whom he sympathises, would like them to act.”

Others may share your feelings and preferences. Yet, Mill reasoned, even when shared, individual preferences are not elevated to a guide for living for others:

No one, indeed, acknowledges to himself that his standard of judgment is his own liking; but an opinion on a point of conduct, not supported by reasons, can only count as one person’s preference; and if the reasons, when given, are a mere appeal to a similar preference felt by other people, it is still only many people’s liking instead of one.

Here is Mill’s bottom line: “[T]he only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” Your feelings, your opinions, your sense of what is good for you, your sense of what will make you happier “is not a sufficient warrant” to interfere with the individual sovereignty of any one else.

Mill was unequivocal about the wrongness of silencing dissenting voices: “If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”

There has never been a dystopian novel, nor a totalitarian society, where freedom of speech was not suppressed.

The haunting question is why do so many enable totalitarians by demanding others conform to their personal feelings?

Mill taught us how to resign as an enabler of tyranny. Our feelings about an issue, no matter how widely shared, are never justification for coercing others or censoring competing views. Mill wrote, “All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.” He argued that suppressors of other views “have no authority to decide the question for all mankind, and exclude every other person from the means of judging. To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty.”

Those who believe they should impose their opinions on others are probably not reading this essay. Among them are people who act as though they are infallible.

Hearing Mill’s arguments, some readers may see they silence themselves, believing their opinions are socially unacceptable. When we remain silent we co-create “collective illusions” which Todd Rose wrote are “social lies” occurring “in situations where a majority of individuals in a group privately reject a particular opinion, but they go along with it because they (incorrectly) assume that most other people accept it.”

Rose explained, “We often conform because we’re afraid of being embarrassed. Our stress levels rise at the thought of being mocked or viewed as incompetent, and when that happens, the fear-based part of the brain takes over.”

The choice to remain silent, to self-censor, is connected to the erroneous belief that by going along with the majority our “personal responsibility for our decisions” is diffused, “making it easier to bear mistakes.”

A person who values liberty understands the high costs of assuaging feelings by eschewing responsibility.

Václav Havel was a Czech playwright, dissident, and the first president of Czechoslovakia after the fall of communism. In his essay “The Power of the Powerless,” Havel explored the dynamics of mindlessly going along with prevailing sentiments. A grocery manager places in his shop window a sign: “Workers of the world, unite!” Havel revealed the manager placed the sign, not out of real support for the slogan, but to avoid “trouble” and “to get along in life.” No big deal, the manager may think: “It is one of the thousands of details that guarantee [me] a relatively tranquil life ‘in harmony with society.’”

Havel’s shop manager hopes his sign signals, “I am obedient and therefore I have the right to be left in peace.”

Havel wrote his essay in 1978. Could Havel have imagined that virtue signaling would be the norm in the West in 2023?

Had the sign read “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient,” Havel reasoned, the grocer would not eagerly degrade his “dignity” by signaling his fear.

“Ideology,” Havel wrote, “is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality while making it easier for them to part with them.”

Havel revealed a purpose in adopting an ideology you do not believe in: you can live under the “illusion that the system is in harmony with the human order and the order of the universe.”

Havel called this a “post-totalitarian system,” filled with “hypocrisy and lies,” in which “the lack of free expression [is claimed to be] the highest form of freedom.”

Havel was clear: to prop up hypocrisy and lies, we must behave as though we believe the lies. Individuals, he wrote, “confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, are the system.”

Havel kindled hope as he ended his essay: “The real question is whether the brighter future is really always so distant. What if, on the contrary, it has been here for a long time already, and only our own blindness and weakness has prevented us from seeing it around us and within us, and kept us from developing it?”

Mill, Havel, and Kundera all point us to a terrible truth: our moral weakness, desire to evade responsibility, and illusion that the majority makes right have led us down the slippery slope of forfeiting our freedom.

How do we respond to those working to undermine human rights? The solution is simple, but not without personal costs. Stop lying, stop degrading yourself, stop pretending to believe what you don’t, and resign from the role as an enabler of tyranny.

*****
This article was published by AIER, American Institute for Economic Research and is reproduced with permission.

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Shadows on the Wall [A Start to Defeat Woke Tyranny]

By Auguste Meyrat

With each new batch of the “Twitter Files,” it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Twitter censors were not only duplicitous scoundrels aiming to advance an agenda but also incompetents who failed to see the consequences of their actions. Whether it was suppressing the Hunter Biden story, shadow banning and de-amplifying popular conservative figures and certain medical professionals, and removing a sitting president of the United States from the platform, they convinced themselves that they were making the world a better place.

At no point did they seriously question themselves beyond violating their own rules. It never dawned on them that their constant gaslighting jeopardizes the freedom, health, and safety of all Americans. It seemed to matter little that they oversaw a platform that promised open public discourse but degenerated into a leftist propaganda outlet infested with bots and child pornography.

Not only did these censors do real damage at the bidding of a corrupt FBI but they ruined a potentially successful business. Before Elon Musk bought Twitter, there were few real conversations happening on the platform, and Twitter was relatively small compared to other social media platforms. For the great majority of users, scrolling through one’s Twitter feed was never an enlightening, connective, or even fun experience but more a mindless habit to pass the time.

Seeing that this is the case, it’s fair to ask what really drove the moderators to do what they did. They could have easily let the First Amendment be their standard for content moderation and sipped their lattes while attending useless meetings. Why did they feel the need to risk their cushy careers by setting into motion a hostile takeover by Elon Musk and an incoming onslaught of lawsuits from users?

From any angle, this seems utterly foolish—that is, except from the woke angle. While rational actors would have understood the sheer destructiveness of censoring users without cause, facilitating the rigging of elections, and endangering the public by denying them important information on a pandemic, woke actors lack this capacity. They operate on feelings and self-regard, not evidence and logic.

Elon Musk famously called wokeness a “mind virus.” It infects people’s mental faculties and drives them to act and express themselves irrationally. Gad Saad expounds upon this in his book The Parasitic Mind. He bemoans the decline of academic scholarship and intellectual debate at today’s universities all in the name of establishing social justice. Of course, rather than create a more equitable and just world, the woke swarm only achieves the opposite—a world of unforgiving hierarchy and hypocrisy. But instead of learning from their failure, they double down and become ever more unreasonable.

For Saad, this is less an ideology and more an “idea pathogen.” In his scientific opinion, victims of wokeness specifically suffer from “Ostrich Parasitic Syndrome (OPS),” substituting for reality a fiction in which “science, reason, rules of causality, evidentiary thresholds, a near-infinite amount of data, data analytic procedures, inferential statistics, the epistemological rules inherent to the scientific method, rules of logic, historical patterns, daily patterns, and common sense are all rejected.”

Unfortunately it’s still an open question of how to “defeat wokeness,” as Elon Musk recently declared. Anyone who has experienced an encounter with the woke infected knows that exposing their falsehoods and contradictions (“sunlight is the best disinfectant,” or, in the new favored expression, “democracy dies in darkness”) only makes them sicker and more dangerous. This is why the “Twitter Files” have mostly elicited silence from the corporate media. Maybe a few of them are pleading the Fifth and hoping the story goes away, but it’s more likely that most don’t understand what these revelations mean, nor do they really care.

So does that mean that releasing and discussing the “Twitter Files” is worthless? Not at all. Even if it doesn’t cure the woke censors or their woke supporters, it fortifies the intellectual immune system of everyone else. Americans now know that they are not crazy; in truth, they are living through a new kind of totalitarianism where Big Tech platforms control speech, impose a social credit system, and fabricate overarching narratives out of thin air.

While this is not exactly a consoling thought, it’s at least the beginning of a solution. The problem has now been identified, and there are now enough informed members of society to have a constructive conversation about the issue. This in turn could lead to finding a cure to the woke pandemic. If these problems continue going ignored and unchecked, the civilized world will surely crumble into ruin, adopting the same chaos, stupidity, and hypocrisy inherent in today’s woke culture.

*****
This article was published by FEE, Foundation for Economic Education and is reproduced with permission.

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Where Did All the Workers Go?

By Bret Swanson

In a November 30, 2022, speech on “Inflation and the Labor Market,” Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell blamed most of the 3.5 million estimated shortfall in the US labor force on premature retirements. He also blamed a large portion – between 280,000 and 680,000 – on “long Covid.” In a footnote, however, Powell acknowledged a far more somber factor: an estimated 400,000 unexpected deaths among working age people.

It’s easy to blame these deaths on Covid-19. The virus is of course one significant cause. But it’s not nearly the only cause, especially among young and middle-age workers. We need better government data transparency to make a full assessment. Until then, we can proceed with others who track mortality for a living – life insurance companies.

The Great Divide – 2020 vs. 2021
In 2020, Covid-19 took many lives, even among select groups of middle-age people, specifically those with comorbidities such as diabetes. In 2020, Covid did not take very many lives of healthy young and middle-age people – for example, the types of people who are employed at large and mid-size companies and who have group life insurance. As you can see in the chart below, group life insurance benefit payments in 2020 were barely higher than in 2018.

In 2021, however, group life payments exploded by 20.7 percent over the five year average and by 15 percent over the acute pandemic year of 2020. Why would healthy young and middle-age people suddenly begin dying in large numbers in 2021 when they’d navigated 2020 with relative success?

Especially when we consider that in 2021, the US administered 520 million Covid-19 vaccine doses. Shouldn’t healthy people employed in good jobs with good benefits, now protected with vaccines, have fared better in 2021 than in 2020? Surely, overdoses and suicides have risen in recent years. But those causes of death are less prominent among the group life cohorts in general, and the latest data confirm these were not drivers of the group life surge. Curiously, two of the largest spikes in 2021 came from deadly automobile accidents and non-automobile accidents.

Millennial Mortality
Let’s look at a few of these young adult age groups in more detail. In the charts below, we’ve broken out total all-cause deaths into three groups – 30-34, 35-39, and 40-44. Eyeballing the age group charts alone shows that factors other than Covid-19 itself must have driven large portions of the mortality spike in young and middle-age workers. (We are using official statistics, which likely overstate Covid mortality and understate non-Covid mortality. It’s the best we’ve got for now.)

The most important overall point is that 2021 was far worse for young and middle-age people than 2020.
Another key point is that 2022 was also worse than 2020, though not as bad as 2021.
Mortality rates in 2022 were still dramatically higher than the pre-pandemic baseline.

Covid-19 hit hard in 2020, especially for the old, vulnerable, and comorbid. In other words, Covid-19 took many of the most unhealthy from us in 2020. In principle, therefore, a smaller number unhealthy people might have been susceptible to Covid-19 in 2021 and 2022. High mortality years are often followed by low mortality years. After two successive high mortality years, the third year is even more likely to be low-mortality. For 2022 to be as bad, or somewhat worse, than 2020, is thus a big surprise. Last year’s milder Omicron variants make 2022’s stubbornly high mortality rate even more baffling.

All-cause mortality is crucial to understand whether public health policies are working. All-cause numbers can also help expose faulty reasoning when overly narrow, overly complicated, or overly clever analyses miss or hide important signals. For example, an analysis which purported to show lockdowns reduced Covid deaths but which neglected to show other deaths rose even more, would not reflect the totality of the policy’s effects. Likewise, a chemotherapy which shrinks tumors but kills patients may be successful in its narrow task yet fail the larger mission. Most analysts and health authorities studiously ignored all-cause over the last three years. The all-cause figures above show our Covid policies were far from successful.

For other purposes, however, it’s helpful and even necessary to drill down on specific causes. Important signals can also be lost in large groupings – Simpson’s paradox, for example, is a common statistical illusion. (Few have dug deeper, with as much specificity, as John Beaudoin, an engineer from Massachusetts who gained access to his state’s digital death records for the last eight years. He shows that specific causes of death spike and fall at important moments and periods. CDC data is not organized with such granularity. More on Beaudoin’s analysis in coming weeks…)

We know that recent years saw an upswing in drug overdoses and suicides, which accelerated with the pandemic lockdowns. Although these troubling trends cannot explain the enormous and unprecedented all-cause mortality seen above, we should attempt to account for them. Likewise, although Covid-19 did not cause all these record deaths, it was a significant factor.

Employment Aberration
So we dig deeper. If we remove both Covid-19 and unnatural deaths (homicide, suicide, overdose, etc.), we see a dramatic spike of natural, non-Covid-19 deaths among working age people beginning in the spring and summer of 2021. The CDC then stopped publishing the detailed data breaking out these particular categories.

But we know this trend continued. In fact, it got much worse. The life insurance companies told us so. On a December 30, 2021, videoconference with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, OneAmerica CEO Scott Davison reported with shock:

“And what we saw just in third quarter, we’re seeing it continue into fourth quarter, is that death rates are up 40% over what they were pre-pandemic.”

“40% is just unheard of.”

“It may not all be COVID on their death certificate, but deaths are up just huge, huge numbers.”

Several months later, Lincoln National reported its 2021 payouts were $1.4 billion, versus $548 million in 2020, a 164 percent rise.

As you will remember seeing in our three all-cause charts, August, September, and October of 2021 showed a gigantic upward bubble – the worst ever period of concentrated young and middle-age deaths, at least in modern times.

Heart attacks, strokes, pulmonary embolisms, accidents, and many seemingly-inexplicable sudden deaths, which continued into 2022, and now in 2023. Here is the Society of Actuaries November 2022 update, which goes through June 2022.

It’s true that the late summer and fall period of 2021 coincided with the Delta wave in the US, which was more infectious and appeared to be more pathogenic than previous variants. (We’ve suggested the mass vaccination programs may have, by exerting extreme evolutionary pressure, driven convergence onto more infectious, vaccine-evading variants. Brand new research just published in the New England Journal of Medicine continues to bolster our escape variant thesis: Substantial Neutralization Escape by SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Variants BQ.1.1 and XBB.1.)

Federal officials and the medical establishment, you will recall, argued in 2021 that it was a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Even the Society of Actuaries attempts to explain away its alarming findings by implying the deaths are due to lack of vaccination. It does so with crude regressions of excess mortality and bulk statewide vaccination totals as of June 30, 2021.

But remember those 520 million vaccine doses. How can you generate far more deaths in 2021 – ascribing them to unvaccination – with a dramatically smaller number of unvaccinated people? In 2021, perhaps 20-40 percent of these group life insureds were unvaccinated. In 2020, 100 percent of them were unvaccinated, yet mortality barely rose. The math doesn’t come close to working.

The 40-44 age group, for example, suffered 21.5 percent more total deaths in 2021 than 2020. This terrible outcome occurred with less than half the so-called susceptible population due to their unvaccinated status. It’s difficult to assert robust vaccine effectiveness when both doses-delivered and deaths are skyrocketing.

On the other hand, the group life insurance data show vaccinated groups may have suffered the worse outcomes. By August, most large and mid-size companies and organizations across the country had vaccine mandates, and most employees complied. Yet these workers suffered extraordinary – indeed, totally unprecedented death rates – in 2021, especially the second half of 2021.

Ed Dowd, a former BlackRock portfolio manager, points to a crucial peculiarity in his book Cause Unknown. Employed people with group life insurance policies are far healthier than their overall population cohort. They typically die at a significantly lower rate, just 30-40 percent of the overall population. This is an iron actuarial law. In 2021, however, as you can see in the chart directly above, these employed Americans died at excess rates far higher than their larger pool of less healthy peers.

We could also point to fast-rising disability as a key factor in the worker shortage. Fed chair Powell blames it on long Covid. Once again, however, the timing doesn’t fit that story very well.

To overgeneralize:

In 2020, the vulnerable died of Covid at unusually high rates. In 2021 and 2022, Covid continued its assault, but the young, middle-aged, and healthy also died in aberrantly high numbers of something else.

These patterns are repeating across the high-income developed world – Germany, the UK, Japan, South Korea, Australia.

*****
This article was published by Brownstone Institute and is reproduced with permission.

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WEF Is Partnered with 47 CCP-Controlled Entities (Rogue Review)

By Catherine Salgado

The World Economic Forum, which plans a world where you “own nothing, have no privacy” and enjoy it, is officially partnered with at least 47 Chinese entities, with five of those officially owned by the CCP and at least three others directly tied to the CCP. Since all companies in China are directly answerable to the genocidal, authoritarian Chinese Communist Party (CCP), however, that means that WEF is partnered with the CCP even as it runs its tyrannical, murderous regime. I guess that’s why Chinese state propaganda was so excited to make more “friends” at WEF’s Davos 2023 conference (Jan. 16-20) and uphold the “dazzling” “Davos Spirit.”

The CCP is the greatest mass murderer in history. It also runs a terrible censorship regime, keeps its people in poverty, runs internment and forced labor camps, committed a Tiananmen 2.0 massacre against the recent anti-regime protestors, and is still committing ethnic-based genocide.

In China, all companies are directly answerable to the Chinese government and the major ones have government employees planted in their buildings. Furthermore, as I reported for Media Research Center, “China practices ‘civil-military fusion,’ where everything in the economic and tech spheres is accessible to the Chinese military.” That means any company in China, whether it is officially state-owned or not, is required to give any information to the CCP—and the CCP military—at any time.

The main point is that when WEF partners with Chinese companies, particularly with state-owned companies, it is knowingly partnering with branches or satellites of the worst genocidal, tyrannical regime in world history.

WEF’s Chinese partners include China Huaneng Group (which is explicitly listed as “state-owned”), Bank of China (“wholly state-owned”), China Merchants Group (CMG—also state-owned), Guangzhou Automobile Group (“state-owned”), State Grid Corporation of China (“a pilot state holding company”), Tencent Holdings (has many and deep ties to the CCP), TikTok (owned by ByteDance, in which the CCP has a board seat and financial stake), and Hong Kong Airport Authority (under the authority of the Hong Kong Government, which is totally controlled by the CCP).

What benefit is WEF getting from the mass murdering CCP that makes it so committed to its 47 CCP-controlled partners?

*****
This article was published by Pro Deo et Libertate and is reproduced with permission.

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DeSantis Goes to War

By Thomas D. Klingenstein

On election night, I was half-watching Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s victory remarks when something quite extraordinary and encouraging caught my attention. DeSantis evoked Churchill’s “fighting on the beaches” speech, in which Churchill stirred the resolve and patriotism of the British people in anticipation of the invasion of their homeland by the Nazis. DeSantis, of course, was not warning against Nazism: he was warning against wokeism, which he was implicitly equating with Nazism. I had never heard a national political figure treat wokeism with such (deserved) gravity.

Before rephrasing Churchill, DeSantis said:

States and cities governed by leftist politicians have seen crime skyrocket. They’ve seen their taxpayers abused, they’ve seen medical authoritarianism imposed, and they’ve seen American principles discarded. The woke agenda has caused millions of Americans to leave these jurisdictions for greener pastures.

People do not uproot themselves and leave the rhythms of home “for light and transient causes.” These people are not coming to Florida just for the weather. They are fleeing the woke regime of blue America—an abusive, lawless, totalitarian regime which is waging war against American principles and the American way of life.

DeSantis continued:

Now, this great exodus of Americans, for those folks, Florida, for so many of them, has served as the promised land. We have embraced freedom. We have maintained law and order. We have protected the rights of parents. We have respected our taxpayers, and we reject woke ideology. We fight the woke in the legislature. We fight the woke in the schools. We fight the woke in the corporations. We will never, ever surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where woke goes to die.

In evoking Churchill’s speech, DeSantis lets us know that the woke regime is bearing down on America. In the urgent cadences of war, DeSantis tells us that America will not survive unless she defeats the woke regime. He believes this regime is so evil and powerful that he can, without bathos, compare it to the Nazi regime.

Some Unsolicited Advice

DeSantis has made a good start. He has told us that we are at war with a deadly regime, the woke regime. You cannot win a war unless you know you are in one.

But at some point soon, he must go further. He must show a voting majority of Americans that wokeism is the challenge of our generation, as Nazism was the challenge of the WWII generation and Communism for two generations thereafter.

And he must back up his claim. He has given us at least one piece of substantial evidence: in large numbers, people are fleeing their homes. Still, we need more. We shall not address the problem with the right strategies and people or the necessary resolve until we believe the country’s life truly is at stake. DeSantis needs to put America on a war footing.

In today’s environment, where there is a keen and deepening generalized awareness of danger, I think there is a hunger for a reasoned account of that danger. DeSantis’s most important role—the role of any statesman who is to rise to the historic challenge of this crisis—is to give such an account, one that calls a morally indifferent nation back to the principles of the founding.

So far as I can tell, there is no national Republican elected official who fully understands the threat except for Trump and DeSantis. The national figure not in politics who best gets it probably is Tucker Carlson. Night after night, in artful, insightful monologues, Carlson flays some aspect of the woke regime. He is the best we have, but he is not going to lead a major political movement. For that we need a statesman. That could well be DeSantis. And so I presume to offer him advice he hasn’t asked for:

He should make defeating wokeism his central purpose, with the goal of making it the central purpose of the Republican Party (which currently has no central purpose). Presumably DeSantis will run for the presidency. But even if he doesn’t, his first goal should be the mobilization of America. He should make anti-wokeism (and its opposite, pro-Americanism) the theme of the next Republican administration, whether it is his administration or not.

To develop an anti-woke (pro-American) agenda, DeSantis must first help us understand the woke regime, the woke way of life. He must explain that this way of life cannot possibly coexist with the American way of life. The two regimes have utterly irreconcilable understandings of a just society.

For the American regime, a just society is one in which free men and women pursue happiness according to their abilities and according to nature. Such a society is one where merit rules. For the woke regime, on the other hand, a just society is one where the regime imposes identity group quotas based on victimhood rankings. Such a regime makes war on merit.

It’s one regime or the other. You can’t offer admission to college (or anything else) according to group quotas and, at the same time, offer admission according to merit. I suggest DeSantis frame the debate accordingly: the merit regime vs. the group quota regime (or simply, merit vs. group quotas).

DeSantis should be very clear: woke revolutionaries attempt not to improve our culture, or remake aspects of it, but to destroy it or lead us to destroy it ourselves—not partially but completely. Like (crazed) revolutionaries everywhere, they believe the world must be purified, no matter the cost.

But DeSantis should not overestimate the threat either. The woke regime is a totalitarian regime in the making. Our side is outgunned almost everywhere, but there is still room to maneuver. America is not yet a one-party state; we still have some open communication channels; our intelligence agencies can (conceivably) be reformed; wokeness in the military can probably be reversed by a strong president, and businesses (one must hope!) will come around if they see America gaining the upper hand on woke tyranny. Even in education, where the woke revolutionaries have us tied to a chair, our hands are still free.

In addition to a framing, we need a simple theory or model of the woke regime: its composition, its goals, and the means for achieving those goals. Without a model we cannot anticipate where the woke revolutionaries are going next, and so we are always playing whack-a-mole, each new woke initiative catching us by surprise.

DeSantis might use the 2020 riots as an example of the woke regime in action. Radicals, intellectuals, media, businesses, Democratic politicians, and the criminal justice system conspired to create mayhem. They ignited, justified, hid, funded, fanned the flames of, and freed the rioters. There is no overarching organization. There is some informal coordination among players, but mostly the regime is a revolutionary cabal of the anti-American elite, who want us to believe they are liberating innocent victims.

The objective of the woke regime—group quotas—requires the woke revolutionaries to make Americans deeply ashamed of their past, thereby making them inclined to trade in the merit regime for the group quota regime. This requires a big lie. Every totalitarian regime has one. The woke regime’s big lie is that America is systemically racist and about to be overrun by racists, a.k.a. Trump voters. (That Trump voters are racist is, regrettably, a view also held by many neoconservatives.)

DeSantis should call this the “Big Lie” and, like Trump, dismiss it without apology or qualification. DeSantis should explain that the phony white guilt of the elite is killing the rest of us, black and white, that racism is low on the list of problems confronting black citizens, and, as Frederick Douglass counseled, the way to help blacks is to encourage them to help themselves.

DeSantis must tell Republicans they should forget about defending themselves against charges of “racism” (it cannot be done). Instead Republicans need to explain that the central problem facing the nation is not racism, but the trumped-up charges of racism that hound us from morning to night. The goal of conservatives should be, as David Azerrad has pointed out, “not to solve the race problem but to prevent the race problem from crushing the country.”

DeSantis needs to explain that the doctrinaire egalitarianism of wokesism denies the natural differences in abilities among people and so is evil. DeSantis should say just that: “evil.” Although the elite will cringe, as it did when Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union “evil,” most Americans will find it both bracing and reassuring.

In addition to telling lies, the woke revolutionaries must, as most everyone knows by now, censor anyone who challenges the lies. In a totalitarian regime there can be no space for dissent. This requires, among many other things, erasing from memory totalitarian regimes and their evil. DeSantis gets it. To his great credit, he signed a bill last year that requires the teaching of “communism and totalitarianism.”

Republicans recognize the Big Lie, censorship, and the corruption of education, but like many pieces of the woke regime, these are not usually seen as part of the larger woke strategy. We see the pieces but not always the picture. That’s DeSantis’s role: to put the pieces together.

DeSantis should make us understand all the woke regime’s actions through this totalitarian lens. Take, for example, Biden’s decision to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. The woke revolutionaries tell us this has to do with climate change, but it is difficult to see how destroying American energy independence can be other than part of an attempt to destroy America. Whether done with conscious intent or simply allowed to happen, the result is the same.

Or take open borders. We usher in millions of illegal immigrants, distribute them around the country, encourage them not to assimilate, and sometimes even allow them to vote. This too is an attempt to destroy our country with the additional benefit for the woke revolutionaries of swelling Democratic voting rolls. Another example is the breaking of the country into identity groups (tribes), each competing for the highest ranking in the victimhood sweepstakes. This will almost certainly lead to tribal warfare. When has it not?

Yes, Republican politicians usually object to such policies. But they don’t generally identify and denounce them as parts of the woke strategy for destroying our country. Unless they do, we will lose our country without even a fight.

A Time for Statesmanship

DeSantis should help us follow the logic of wokeism. For example, if we know group quotas for innocent victims is the goal of the woke regime, then we know that the woke revolutionaries need to bring the black prison population (currently about 33 percent of the total prison population) more in line with blacks’ percentage of the overall population (13 percent). That is the purpose of defunding the police and failing to prosecute certain crimes and other criminal justice “reforms.” For the most part, people with common sense—in particular black Americans who must endure the consequences in their own neighborhoods—see these things simply as very stupid ideas. But DeSantis should keep reminding us that wokeism is not a jumble of stupid ideas but a coherent set of stupid ideas in the service of the group quota regime, one that is completely at odds with the merit regime.

And DeSantis should help us anticipate the woke revolutionaries’ next steps. In the case of prison population, the next step might be disparate sentencing, where blacks get lighter sentences than whites for the same offense, or perhaps the elimination of prison altogether. As loopy as these ideas sound, they are logical extensions of woke theory. Moreover, each has been talked about by leading woke revolutionary intellectuals like Ibram X. Kendi. Sometimes all we have to do is listen.

Very importantly, DeSantis must keep reminding us that war requires different strategies than peace time. War is not a time for trying to persuade the independents, reach across the aisle, or even reach out to the Republican accommodationists. DeSantis knows the best way to get these groups on board is not to woo them but to win the war. He knows as well that any concessions made to the woke revolutionaries will be pocketed, not reciprocated—something even Trump may have failed to fully appreciate.

War also requires different personnel. Trump, an almost unthinkable option at any other time in American history, was the right man for these times, and may still be the right man. Trump was a great war time president. DeSantis must help us understand that Trump’s flaws were not—perhaps are still not—disqualifying.

The easy way out for Republicans, and the temptation for DeSantis, will be to say Trump’s policies were good, but not the rest of him. I think this assessment of Trump is wrong. As I have written elsewhere, Trump advanced many important policies, but the “rest of him” is where one finds the virtues that have inspired a movement. His willingness to fight, his abundant courage, strength, independence, optimism, confidence in America, and absence of white guilt are examples of virtues that made him both effective and dear to patriotic Americans. DeSantis should resist his advisors who tell him he should not speak well of Trump. Now is the time for statesmanship.

And when the Republican establishment dismisses the Trump movement as “populist,” DeSantis should demur and explain to that establishment that when the elite undermines the American way of life, and the voices of ordinary people cannot be heard, populism is not only healthy but vital. Trump’s populist base has just what the Republican Party lacks: purpose, the passion that can match the ideological zeal of the woke revolutionaries, optimism, and confidence in itself and the country. And the base doesn’t have what the party has altogether too much of: white guilt. Trump’s base is a fighting force we cannot afford to lose.

In his election night victory speech DeSantis imagined that he, like Churchill, was a great leader fighting the forces of evil. If DeSantis is to actually follow Churchill (and Lincoln), he must be magnanimous, as they were. Voters will rally to magnanimity coupled with courage and resolution.

DeSantis’s immediate goal is to make America vs. the woke regime (merit vs. group quotas) the central theme of American political discourse. Perhaps that begins with a speech. Like Churchill and Lincoln, DeSantis should appeal to our patriotism in order to stir our resolve. We are still a patriotic people. Where patriotism has waned, I suspect its embers would burst into flames. DeSantis must remind us we are part of a noble and honorable tradition. He must call attention to the great successes of our past. In doing so he reminds us that we are still capable of greatness. As in times before, the future of freedom everywhere rests on our shoulders, a fateful burden we carry as the “almost” chosen people. DeSantis must give us hope but not let us forget the possibility of darkness. As a peroration, he cannot improve on Lincoln who faced a crisis not so dissimilar to the one we face today:

LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.

*****
This article was published by The American Mind and is reproduced with permission.

What the January 6 Videos Will Show thumbnail

What the January 6 Videos Will Show

By Julie Kelly

The jury trial of Richard Barnett, the man famously photographed with his feet on a desk in Nancy Pelosi’s office on January 6, 2021, is underway in Washington, D.C. Nearly two years to the date of his arrest, Barnett finally had a chance to defend himself in court on multiple charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding.

But it was not the fiery, outspoken Barnett who provided the most jaw-dropping testimony in the trial so far. To the contrary, one of the government’s own witnesses confirmed under defense cross-examination that “agents provocateur” were heavily involved in instigating the events of January 6.

Captain Carneysha Mendoza, a tactical commander for U.S. Capitol Police at the time, testified Wednesday how a group of agitators destroyed security barriers and lured people to Capitol grounds that afternoon:

Defense Counsel Brad Geyer: Isn’t it true that you had a lot of people, a large quantity of people walking down two streets that dead-ended at the Capitol?

Mendoza: Yes, sir.

Geyer: And would it be fair to say that at least at some of the leading edges of that crowd, they contained bad people or provocateurs; is that fair?

Mendoza: It’s fair.

Geyer: Dangerous people?

Mendoza: Yes.

Geyer: Violent people?

Mendoza: Yes.

Geyer: Highly trained violent people?

Mendoza: Yes.

Geyer: Highly trained violent people who work and coordinate together?

Mendoza: Yes

It was a stunning admission, representing the first time a top law enforcement official stated under oath (to my knowledge) that a coordinated, experienced group of agitators engaged in much of the mischief early that day. Under further questioning, Mendoza acknowledged those same individuals “pushed through barriers, removed barriers, threw barriers over the side, removed fencing, and eased the flow of people into places where they shouldn’t be.” This happened around 1:00 p.m., the same time the joint session of Congress convened to debate the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Hiding the pivotal role of still unidentified—and uncharged—agitators on January 6 is just one reason why the government has successfully sought to conceal thousands of hours of footage captured by the Capitol police’s security system before, during, and after the protest.

As I explained in May 2021, Capitol police immediately designated roughly 14,000 hours of surveillance video as “security information” that should not be released to the public.

Thomas DiBiase, general counsel for Capitol police, the technical owner of the video trove, signed an affidavit in March 2021 objecting to the widespread dissemination of footage “related to the attempted insurrection.” DiBiase claimed the agency wanted to prevent “those who might wish to attack the Capitol again” from accessing interior views of the building.

The Department of Justice subsequently labeled the footage as “highly sensitive government material” subject to strict protective orders in court proceedings. Defendants must comply with onerous rules before viewing any surveillance video associated with their case.

There are, of course, exceptions for any party helping to enforce the “insurrection” narrative. For example, the House committee handling Donald Trump’s post-January 6 impeachment was allowed to use portions of the super-secret reel. So, too, was HBO in producing its January 6 documentary. The January 6 select committee aired extensive if highly selective surveillance footage during their televised performances.

And that brief clip of Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) running in a hallway on January 6? It was clearly an image intended to mock his alleged cowardice that day. And, of course, it was Capitol surveillance video.

If it’s safe to place the video in the hands of Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the biggest deceiver in Congress, and random HBO film producers, then it’s safe to place all the footage in the hands of the American people. Which is why calls by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) to fully release the surveillance video are a welcome, and necessary, step in providing a complete account about the events of January 6 to the public.

(The Committee on House Administration, now under Republican control, is one of two congressional committees with access to the full library of video.)

The recordings, Gaetz said in an interview this week, “would give more full context to that day rather than the cherry-picked moments that the January 6 committee tried to use to inflame and further divide our country.”

That demand undoubtedly will be met with fierce resistance by the same lawmakers, government agencies, and media organizations incessantly bleating about the need to “tell the truth” about what happened before and on January 6.

So, what exactly will the tapes reveal?

The footage, which captured the inside and outside of the building, will show how many agitators and/or federal assets were staged at various locations early in the day. Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) might finally get an answer to the question that FBI Director Christopher Wray refused to answer during a congressional hearing last year—whether FBI informants disguised as Trump supporters were planted inside the building prior to the initial breach.

To that end, the video could show who instructed two men how to open the two-ton Columbus Doors on the east side of the Capitol Building, creating an access point for hordes of protesters. Ditto for entry points at other locations.

Will the video identify the individuals who erected the “gallows” featuring an orange noose allegedly built to “hang” Vice President Mike Pence? Just like the identity of the suspect who allegedly planted the pipe bombs at the DNC and RNC, no one has been identified or charged with constructing that stage on government property—another unanswered question the footage will answer.

The public undoubtedly will be shocked to see police officers from Capitol police and D.C. Metropolitan Police Departments viciously attacking crowds of people assembled outside the Capitol. Mendoza’s testimony also confirmed that Capitol police officers used nonlethal “munitions” on hundreds of individuals beginning shortly after 1:00 p.m. Weaponry included pepper balls—projectiles containing a chemical irritant shot from a launcher similar to a paintball gun—gas, rubber bullets, and flashbangs, a less-than-lethal grenade that likely caused the fatal heart attacks of two Trump supporters that afternoon.

Not only will the public see what happened to those two men, Kevin Greeson and Benjamin Phillips, but they will also see evidence of the numerous, serious injuries inflicted on dozens of people, including children and elderly women, at the hands of police. Are Americans prepared to see how law enforcement handled the dead bodies of Ashli Babbitt and Rosanne Boyland?

It will be tough to watch.

More importantly, the footage will indicate which cameras were disabled before the protest. The government’s claim that security cameras are not installed outside the Columbus Doors is questionable at best. A full comparison between the Capitol’s closed-circuit television system and the cameras operable on January 6 is a must.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday endorsed Gaetz’s calls to release the footage. “I think the American public should actually see all what happened,” McCarthy told reporters. “Yes, I’m engaged to do that.”

If McCarthy follows through on his promise, the world will see the biggest inside job—an actual coup—in U.S. history unfold before their eyes. Not only is it necessary to expose the truth of January 6 but to exonerate innocent Americans whose lives have been destroyed in the aftermath.

Roll the tapes.

*****
This article was published by American Greatness and is reproduced with permission.

Arizona Senate Panel Debates Parental Rights’ School ‘Pronouns’ Bill thumbnail

Arizona Senate Panel Debates Parental Rights’ School ‘Pronouns’ Bill

By Tony Kinnett

The Arizona state Senate Education Committee met Wednesday [1/18/23] to consider SB 1001, The Given Name Act, a one-page, 21-line bill that states that any individual involved in the Arizona public education system would be required to use the pronoun associated with a student’s biological sex unless the student’s public school or charter school received other instructions from the student’s parent or parents.

No public or charter school staff member, full time or contractor, would be able to use alternative pronouns for a student without the written permission of the student’s parents.

The legislation would reinforce parents’ ultimate authority in deciding what names their children should and should not be called by staff members, providing a stopgap via parental approval before public districts attempt to treat or affirm gender dysphoria with only the minor’s limited understanding of what they are going through.

State Sen. John Kavanagh, Scottsdale Republican, the sponsor of SB 1001, said that if a child had serious psychological distress as a result of the gender dysphoria he or she was dealing with, then parents need to be alerted immediately so that the child can be given immediate medical and psychological care parents deem necessary.

Kavanagh disputed the common counterargument that many parents would be unsupportive and would therefore be a danger to their “transgender child.”

“The vast majority of parents will want to help their child,” he said, “What a horrible condemnation of the average American parent” to suggest otherwise. He added that Child Protective Services was still obligated, as always, to investigate any concerns of child abuse.

At no time during the committee hearing was Kavanagh’s concern for the high rate of student-suicide correlation addressed by Democratic members.

State Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales, Tucson Democrat, said, “For lots of indigenous children, their names were changed without parental permission—Maria got changed to Mary, Roberto got changed to Robert. I think that’s wrong for that to be happening. I’m not sure what the intent is for allowing … contractors and employers also not to say their names.”

Kavanagh responded that the bill would allow students to go by nicknames.

State Sen. Christine Marsh, Phoenix Democrat, suggested that the bill would go against the rights of parents who might agree with a child wanting different pronouns. “What if the parent agrees to a child having alternative pronouns?” she asked.

Kavanagh countered by citing the first sentence of his bill, which states that parental permission would allow a child to go by whatever pronouns the parent wishes.

Marsh took issue with the second portion of the bill, which states that a teacher or contractor could not be required to use a student’s pronouns, protecting their religious and moral liberties. She said that as a teacher for 33 years, she never had to fall back on “religious beliefs” as a standard for how she would respond to a student. “Are there other examples or situations in which a teacher’s religious beliefs override the parent’s?” she asked.

Kavanagh responded with an example of a Jewish or Muslim cafeteria worker being exempt from having to serve pork to students at school lunches. He also cited dress code considerations for students of different religions. After providing those examples, Kavanagh asked whether Marsh would agree with him that parents should be notified of potential mental health issues associated with gender dysphoria.

“No, I don’t agree, I just want the hypocrisy of the bill to be pointed out,” Marsh replied.

Several testimonials were offered by concerned parents, students, and activists, both for and against the bill.

One educator from Scottsdale praised the bill, claiming that as a Jew, she has religious objections to using pronouns or names that conflict with a student’s biological sex.

One activist claimed that parents should be involved and be aware of what their kids are going through, but suggested that students should be allowed to decide when their parents are ready to find out about it.

One critical point ignored by those opposing the bill is the inability of a minor under severe mental distress to safely self-treat gender dysphoria or any severe mental health issue or trauma. Encouraging minors to decide how best to treat themselves sets a dangerous precedent—and risks a very real threat of suicide or self-harm without the parent having an opportunity to aid his or her child.

One transgender advocate claimed that “no one commits suicide because they are gender dysphoric,” but implied that bullying was the cause.

While 20.2% of students claim to have been bullied, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 8.9% have admitted attempting suicide. In contrast, while 51% of transgender individuals have claimed to be victims of bullying, 40% of transgender individuals admitted attempting suicide.

One opponent of the bill called Kavanagh “Senator Coward,” during his testimony, to which Kavanagh quipped, “You’re free to call me that [under this bill], as long as you get written permission from my parents.”

With only a one-seat advantage on the Senate Education Committee, Republicans will likely revise The Given Name Act and clarify a few points of language via amendments over the next several weeks.

*****
This article was published by The Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.

The Long Odds of Solving the Budget Crisis thumbnail

The Long Odds of Solving the Budget Crisis

By Neland Nobel

The budgetary crisis in the US has reached a critical phase. The debt ceiling fight about to unfold will simply be the latest phase.

Experts say it is irresponsible to “play a game of chicken” with the debt ceiling. In the past, this means, Congress should increase the debt limit without resistance.

The Democrat Congress has played a game of chicken with a blowout budget and now we will be told the only reasonable thing to do is fund it. But the debt ceiling can be used as a lever to get spending concessions. To use it in this way is considered by Democrats as more dangerous than excessive spending. Is it really worse than a giant omnibus bill passed in the dead of night? A bill, hardly anyone even read? Are all previous spending decisions forever untouchable? Under pressure, can’t Congress go back and cut some spending? If Congress was balancing the budget we would not have to raise the debt ceiling in the first place. Let that last point sink in.

Is not raising the debt ceiling like facilitating a “spendaholic” and giving him the booze for another bender? Unlike the failed attempt to stop the spending done last session, the new Republican House majority will not be frozen out of the process.

It is too bad it comes down to this but every previous attempt to restrain spending has failed so why not use this tool for leverage to get some budgetary sanity? It is only because of a lack of alternatives that we find ourselves where we are in this process.

Yes, it runs the risk of destabilizing markets and politics but so does national bankruptcy. It is only a question of when we get destabilized.

As we recently pointed out,  we now have a series of positive, self-feeding feedback loops operating simultaneously and largely outside of normal political control. Any one of these trends such as the increase in interest costs or the demographic crisis hitting Social Security would be sufficient cause for alarm. But to have so many negative trends operating at the same time is really quite unique and dangerous.

The political machine in the US certainly has tried on occasion to restrain itself but deficit spending has been the norm since the mid-1960s with the adoption of the Great Society. Much of the expansion of government is simply an extension of that original idea. And the Great Society itself was an addition to FDR’s New Deal.

Some may fondly remember the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, which briefly gave us a short interlude of balanced budgets because Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich had some maneuvering room after the end of the Cold War. Then there was Pay Go, a Congressional rule that any party suggesting an increase had to show from whence they would get the money. And remember the spending caps? Congress has broken free of all of these attempts to restrain them.

Nothing tried previously has worked, in part because America decided that they desired a very large and very expensive government. After a few budget surplus years in the late 1990s, we got back to the long-term deficit spending trend which has now reached the parabolic stage. That is why the debt ceiling fight is now so important. There may not really be an alternative to having this fight right now.

Conservatives and Libertarians see government playing a diminished role in the personal life of Americans, greater freedom, greater personal responsibility, and a smaller and less expensive government. Except for funds to defend the homeland and run the courts and the like, they see a small  Federal Government. The bulk of the social safety net should be on a state level because states must balance their budgets because they don’t have the power to print and borrow as does the Federal government. Further, if states become too oppressive, citizens can move.

As attractive as we think that vision is, it has not been embraced by the American people for a long time. Pitting self-responsibility against free stuff from the government has been hard to sell.

Some say it is because we have done a poor job of explaining our vision and the consequences of progressivism. It is true we have been shut out of institutions such as schools, the clergy, and the mainstream press.  It does not alter the outcome. We are losing.

We think it goes deeper than even that.Our voice is being heard, maybe not to the extent we think it should.  But the sad fact is the public is not buying what we have been selling. Americans have not wanted a small government and self-responsibility. They want a welfare state. They want to be taken care of and they don’t want to pay for it.

Progressives and Liberals want an almost total government with a government providing welfare, healthcare, education, child subsidies, a huge military for international intrigue, changing the climate of the earth, reformulating families and sexual relationships, a national security state, and a censorship state, a reparations state, a union with both labor and capital in a fascist like structure. Government should play a role in every aspect of life and individuals are to be cared for by the state.

This by its nature, requires a huge and expensive government. Democrats remain convinced it can be funded by taxing the rich, without negative consequences to productivity and incentives. They also maintain the fiction that all this can be achieved without compulsion.

Rolling debt out to the future plays into the Progressives’ hands. They get to promise the benefit and the cost is pushed mysteriously onto everyone through inflation and the debt onto future generations No wonder the American people think a welfare state can be a free lunch.

The Progressive view has largely prevailed, and the conservative forces have put up ineffectual rear guard action.  We have not convinced people this financial shell game will end in ruin.

Democrats have their own internal divisions but they are much less consequential. Democrats largely move lockstep with one another and centrist elements have largely been purged from the party.

So-called nonpartisan organizations such as the Concord Coalition, The National Taxpayers Union, and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget crank out very interesting commentary and statistics but they too have also been ineffectual at stopping the spending and the piling up of debt.  

In the end, the American people are largely at fault for desiring the warm embrace of government payments without the real desire to pay for it. They wish to borrow production from the future for the benefit of today, largely forgetting what burden they leave on future generations.

Sadly, it seems no amount of argument seems able to innoculate us from the very real human foible of wanting things for free. Get what you can for yourself, as long as someone else is paying for it. It never dawns on many who that someone else would likely be.

We are sorry to reach such a dour conclusion but even if we are wrong, we are likely now too far along in the process to stop it before serious consequences hit.

The hope is the coming financial crisis itself will awaken many of the problems and the crisis itself will be the catalyst to finally get reforms that put America back on a sound financial path. However, the pain of such a crisis is no guarantee the political ball will bounce our way. Often such crises simply make the government even bigger and more draconian because the crisis will require self-responsibility from a population that has forgotten what that is.

Educating the public is the best way to ensure the political ball bounces into the possession of those wanting freedom and limited government and that it does not bounce into the hands of those that want total government intervention.

In that regard, the Concord Coalition put together a list of lessons after observing years of budget battles that the American people need to understand.

White House, DOJ Agreed to Hide Classified Document Scandal thumbnail

White House, DOJ Agreed to Hide Classified Document Scandal

By The Editors

The White House and Justice Department (DOJ) reportedly agreed to hide President Joe Biden’s classified document scandal from the American people until it leaked to the press, despite their repeated claims of transparency.

Not only did the White House and DOJ try to obscure the scandal from public view, but they also refused to divulge that the second trove of classified documents were already unearthed at Biden’s home in Wilmington when CBS News first contacted the White House about the initial leak of classified documents apparently illegally stored at the Biden Penn Center, according to the Washington Post: “Early on, Biden’s attorneys and Justice Department investigators both thought they had a shared understanding about keeping the matter quiet,” the Post admitted, noting the Biden administration’s attempt to conceal revelations of the second trove of stashed documents.

“CBS News was the first news organization to learn of the matter, contacting the White House on Jan. 6 to ask about the Penn Biden Center documents,” the report continued. “White House officials confirmed the scoop, but since the investigation was ongoing, they decided not to offer any additional details — including the critical information that a second batch of documents had been discovered at Biden’s home.”…..

*****

Continue reading this article at Breitbart.

Read more…

SHEILA NAZARIAN: It’s Time For Jews To Take Advantage Of The Second Amendment thumbnail

SHEILA NAZARIAN: It’s Time For Jews To Take Advantage Of The Second Amendment

By Sheila Nazarian

If you are Jewish and live in America, now is the time to carry a firearm. Thanks to a recent National Rifle Association victory in NYSRPA v. Bruen, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects our right, any law-abiding American’s right, a Jew’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside our homes.

God willing, we will never have to use our guns. But just in case, we should be armed.

A few years ago, I was sitting in a lecture hall, watching a Holocaust survivor tell her heartbreaking story. I vividly remember one thing she told the audience.

“Arm yourselves,” she said, making eye contact with us. “In Germany, they took away our guns. It was the first step. Get as many guns and as much ammunition as you can.”

I wasn’t a gun owner. I hadn’t ever considered it. We were in America, which, at the time, seemed much safer than my homeland, Iran. I had to escape Iran after the Revolution. Iranian border guards shot at our getaway vehicle as we crossed the border into Pakistan, and I will never forget feeling so defenseless.

I thought I would be safe in Los Angeles. But that all changed once I experienced the crime crisis over the past few years. I started receiving death threats on social media because I posted my political opinions and am very publicly a proud Jewish woman. People don’t like me for being outspoken, and there are a lot of antisemites online. I thought I escaped that when I left Iran, but antisemitism is a societal disease that will never disappear.

Once the Tree of Life massacre and other shootings in Jewish communities happened, and I saw graffiti in Beverly Hills during protests saying “Kill the rich,” I knew that I couldn’t rely on the government to protect me.

I decided to take my self-defense into my own hands. I purchased a firearm, received training from an NRA Certified Firearm Instructor, and applied for a concealed carry weapons license (CCW) in California. This license will allow me to defend myself, my family, and my community.

“An estimated 6 million American adults carried a loaded handgun with them daily in 2019, double the number who said they carried a gun every day in 2015,” The Guardian reported, citing an American Journal of Public Health study.

Antisemitism is coming at us from all sides. “The Jews” and “Jewish people” are constantly trending on Twitter. The hateful rhetoric is disgusting. The worst appears on message boards like 4chan and 8chan, which spread conspiracy theories, lies from “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and vile memes of our people.

Antisemites aren’t just posting conspiracies. They believe them. Some even act violently against us and want us dead – like the Tree of Life murderer. I will not go into a synagogue unless it has armed security. Evil monsters target Jews and innocent people of all religions. We are seen as weak. To them, we are easy targets as we are in our place of worship.

According to a 2020 Pew Research Center study, 71% of U.S. Jews lean toward the Democratic Party, which tends to support restrictive gun policy. So it makes sense that Jews have the lowest rate of gun ownership among all religious groups. But if we in the Jewish community know we are frequent targets, why do we support politicians and laws that make it harder to defend ourselves?

After the Holocaust, we knew that “Never Again” meant not only remembering what happened to the Jews who were murdered but also making sure that we had a strong homeland and military in Israel. We had to ensure that a haven would be available when needed. The times of assimilating in the diaspora and thinking we would be okay are gone. We have to be strong and outspoken, as that is the only thing have gone well for us. The Jewish community in America needs to take a cue from Israel.

In our country, I’d like to think we have protection, but at the current rate, the current crime crisis has no end. Our country and cities have revolving-door criminal justice systems, no cash bail, and increased resistance to law enforcement. We need to look out for ourselves. That means exercising responsible gun ownership and fighting for our right to defend ourselves.

There are certainly going to be dark days ahead with this antisemitic trend. But we don’t have to be vulnerable, quiet, and afraid. Not anymore.

This article originally appeared in the Daily Caller.