• No More Fair-Weather Federalism

    No More Fair-Weather Federalism

    The Republicans are supposed to be the party of state autonomy and strict limits on federal power. But you would not know it based on the first six months of the Trump administration. On a variety of major issues involving immigration, law enforcement, and the “war on drugs,” the administration’s policies exemplify the phenomenon of “fair-weather federalism”: respecting limits on federal power only when politically convenient.

    Last week, the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s plan to coerce “sanctuary cities” into helping enforce federal immigration law. The Justice Department policy threatens to deny cities some federal law-enforcement grants in order to compel obedience. The plan blatantly violates the constitutional requirement that conditions on federal grants must be clearly stated in advance by Congress, so that state and local governments can make an informed choice. They cannot be imposed after the fact by the executive. READ MORE...

  • Desire for Liberty in China Will Outlive Liu Xiaobo

    Desire for Liberty in China Will Outlive Liu Xiaobo

    Before Xi Jinping became China’s president in 2012, some observers hoped he would be a liberal reformer. But today he increasingly looks like at best a civilized Mao Zedong. Imprisoning the dying Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo showed Xi to be equally cruel, if not quite so crazy, as Mao. Indeed, the last Nobel Peace Prize winner to die under state control was Carl von Ossietzky in Nazi Germany.

    The desire to create a democratic China is not new. Sun Yat-sen’s revolution a century ago offered the Chinese people hope of a transition from decrepit empire to liberal republic. Sun, a Christian convert, studied medicine in America. He called for a three-phase process of “national reconstruction.” READ MORE...

  • When Protectionism Is Not Protectionism

    When Protectionism Is Not Protectionism

    In the Wall Street Journal last week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross shared some of his views about free trade and  protectionism, which were widely and deservedly criticized for their misguided obsession with trade deficits and their mercantilist disregard for U.S. consumers. But Ross also offered a more nuanced take on what does and does not constitute protectionism, which is a matter of great relevance in this atmosphere of increasing trade frictions.

    Attempting to offer an explanation for U.S. goods trade deficits with China and the EU, Ross presents a bar chart showing the average tariffs for 22 manufacturing industries in the United States, Europe, and China. U.S. tariffs are lower than China’s in 20 of 22 industries and lower than the EU’s in 17 of 22 industries. Does that mean that China and the EU are more protectionist than the United States? In the category of applied tariffs, yes, it does. Does that means that China and/or the EU are engaging in “protectionism,” which might warrant a ruling from the Dispute Settlement Body of the World Trade Organization, and possibly authorization for the United States to retaliate? No, it doesn’t. READ MORE...

  • Planned National Living Wage Surges Defy Economic Reality

    Planned National Living Wage Surges Defy Economic Reality

    They would say that wouldn’t they?

    I expect that was the average reader’s reaction to the weekend story that the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) wanted forthcoming rises in the National Living Wage (NLW) to be delayed.

    Currently £7.50, the NLW (effectively a higher minimum wage for over-25s) is projected to rise to £8.75 by 2020, under plans to automatically link the rate to 60 per cent of median hourly earnings from then on.

    But strip away the self interest for a second, and the FSB has highlighted an extraordinary feature of the NLW: it takes no account of the health of the economy, or the ability of firms to pay. With GDP growth weak, and real incomes falling, the FSB believes further increases should be delayed. READ MORE...

  • U.S. Drone Strikes in the Philippines Would Be a Massive Mistake

    U.S. Drone Strikes in the Philippines Would Be a Massive Mistake

    Here we go again. The United States is on the verge of carrying out military operations in yet another country as part of the war on terrorism. The Philippines — specifically the southern island of Mindanao — may soon become the latest target of the world’s busiest and most powerful military. The goal will apparently be to strike Islamic State elements that “could be a threat to allies in the region.” So far, U.S. officials have made no mention of a threat to the United States.

    Conducting drone strikes in the Philippines, however, would be a serious mistake. READ MORE...

  • Racist Policies Need to Go

    Racist Policies Need to Go

    Like Vida B. Johnson, I was outraged at the t-shirt worn by a Metropolitan Police Department officer that glorified the use of “jump-out cars” and contained a common white supremacist symbol. Police and political leadership should actively identify and root out white supremacists from police departments throughout the country. At the same time, community leaders should examine policies that have disparate racial impacts in communities of color, even though those policies are facially color-blind or race neutral. Even without the taint of explicit white supremacy on the MPD officer’s t-shirt, the policy that produces jump-out cars in D.C. is racially problematic by itself. Although not publicly discussed as “jump outs,” the D.C. Metropolitan Police has been taken to court over the heavy-handed tactics associated with its Gun Recovery Unit (GRU). READ MORE...

  • Debt-Ceiling Fight Looms as next Big Test for Congress

    Debt-Ceiling Fight Looms as next Big Test for Congress

    If you thought the recent fight over health-care reform was fun, get ready for the next big Washington circus: raising the debt ceiling.

    In October of 2015, Congress chose to avoid the usual fight over setting a symbolic debt target by agreeing to waive any limit on the debt for 17 months, until March of this year. For the past few months, the Treasury Department has engaged in what it calls “extraordinary measures” to extend the deadline through the end of September. By that time, the U.S. national debt will officially exceed $20 trillion. READ MORE...

  • Derp: The New York Times Leaks a Publicly Available Climate Report!

    Derp: The New York Times Leaks a Publicly Available Climate Report!

    On Tuesday, The New York Times breathlessly reported it “obtained” a draft of an upcoming federal climate report. It even provided a link!

    Actually, anyone who wanted to could have “obtained” the same document. It’s been available online since January, making this hardly “news that’s fit to print.”

    The text is more circumspect, even as it sometimes suffers from cherry-picking of data in the service of an alarmist picture.

    The document, the “Climate Science Special Report” (CSSR) from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, is a “state of the science” summary on climate change. It’s a prelude to the fourth “National Assessment” of climate change impacts on the U.S. These are quadrennially mandated by the U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990. READ MORE...

  • Looking for Bigotry? Try Public Schooling History

    Looking for Bigotry? Try Public Schooling History

    Polling reveals that parents, especially African Americans, want school choice. Studies show choice students pulling even with public school kids even in laggard programs, and often surpassing them. And states keep expanding choice initiatives as families flock to them.

    Perhaps because of all this good news, opponents of expanding the options available to parents and their children have launched a new strategy, one employing grossly cherry-picked history to imply that school choice is fueled by bigotry. It is both hugely inaccurate history, and hugely ironic, because if any education system has been shot-through with bigotry, it is public schooling. READ MORE...

  • The Real Victims of Class-Warfare Taxation

    The Real Victims of Class-Warfare Taxation

    Remember John Kerry, the former Secretary of State and Massachusetts Senator, the guy who routinely advocated higher taxes but then made sure to protect his own wealth? Not only did he protect much of his fortune in so-called tax havens, he even went through the trouble of domiciling his yacht outside of his home state to minimize his tax burden.

    I did not object to Kerry’s tax avoidance, but I was irked by his hypocrisy. If taxes are supposed to be so wonderful, should not he have led by example? READ MORE...

  • Legal Background Might Have Shaped Incentives for Google In Memo Case

    Legal Background Might Have Shaped Incentives for Google In Memo Case

    Because Google and Silicon Valley are cutting-edge workplaces, there’s a tendency to assume that the premise of the Google memo furor – “Your erroneous opinions are making my work environment hostile” — is somehow new as well.

    But it isn’t the least bit new. The application of hostile work environment law to workplace speech — including basically political or ideological discussions, not just vulgar jokes or unwanted personal talk — goes back decades.

    I had a chapter on it 21 years ago in my book on employment law, The Excuse Factory. Others wrote about it then and earlier. READ MORE...

  • OPM Just Made It Harder to Drain the Swamp

    OPM Just Made It Harder to Drain the Swamp

    President Donald Trump took office with a promise to drain the swamp, but the federal agency that manages the government’s two million civilian employees is making it harder to do that. Under a new policy, the Office of Personnel Management recently stopped reporting data on employees terminated for wrongdoing or poor performance.

    This information is critical because the data inform the public about incompetent and, in some cases, corrupt government employees. Without it, systematic government wrongdoing and poor performance may go unnoticed and unreformed. READ MORE...

  • The Government's Hidden Housing Subsidy for the Rich

    The Government’s Hidden Housing Subsidy for the Rich

    In the long-running debate over housing subsidies, experts tend to focus on the mortgage interest deduction, a $70 billion tax break that functions as an expensive subsidy for wealthy Americans. But there are lesser-known government programs that also have the same problem—and are ripe for reform. We don’t think of them this way but one of them is flood insurance.

    Since 1968, the federal government has provided subsidized insurance for homeowners who live in flood-prone areas—a program known as the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It was created after a Department of Housing and Urban Development study in 1968 recommended the federal government provide flood insurance, arguing that a government insurance program could better balance goals of mitigation and economic development in flood plains than the private market. As of 2016, the NFIP has over 5 million policies in force and saves policyholders around $3 billion annually. But the program is out of control: It is currently $24 billion in debt; future costs will be much higher. READ MORE...

  • Meet the DF-31AG and the DF-26: The Big Ballistic Missiles at China's Military Anniversary Parade

    Meet the DF-31AG and the DF-26: The Big Ballistic Missiles at China’s Military Anniversary Parade

    China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) recently celebrated its 90th anniversary with a large parade of personnel and equipment at the Zhurihe training base in Inner Mongolia. While the vast majority of systems in the parade are for conventional combat, there were two nuclear-capable ballistic missiles on display, the DF-26 and DF-31AG.

    China’s approach to nuclear deterrence and changes in its nuclear forces have not received much attention, given the rapid and dramatic development of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. But developments in China’s nuclear deterrent should not be ignored given the flash points that could draw the United States into armed conflict with China. READ MORE...

  • There Is No Justification for Regulating Online Giants as If They Were Public Utilities

    There Is No Justification for Regulating Online Giants as If They Were Public Utilities

    Should Google and Facebook be regulated like an energy company? Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, seems to think so. He purportedly sees public utilities as a regulatory model for the tech giants.

    This seems odd, given how unpopular utility companies are on both sides of the pond. But armed with a caricatured view of what competition means, many politicians and commentators seem to
    believe these companies are monopolists running essential resource platforms unfairly.

    Utilities regulation sets a precedent for dealing with them, whether through enforced data and information sharing, neutrality rules on searching functions, restrictions on content or even price controls. READ MORE...

Page 1 of 8812345...102030...Last »