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Updated: 38 min 49 sec ago

Why the Abortion Rate Is Declining

16 hours 21 min ago

Over the most recent decade for which data are available (2001–2011), the overall U.S. abortion rate, calculated as the annual number of abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15 to 44), has dropped, continuing a trend that first appeared in 1980. The decline has been steeper since 1990, with a brief plateau in the middle of the past decade. The 2011 rate for the nation is the lowest since 1973.

>>> The 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity

Discussions of U.S. abortion trends must always be accompanied by caveats. The United States has an incomplete national abortion reporting system and what is published by government agencies is subject to wide variation regarding both content and time frames. The most comprehensive report, from the Guttmacher Institute, is not issued each year; is voluntary, like the national surveillance reports issued annually by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control; and is subject to omissions that, the authors acknowledge, make estimates necessary. Several U.S. jurisdictions with particularly permissive abortion laws, including California, Maryland, and New Hampshire, gather little or no official information.

Nonetheless, the overall direction of U.S. abortion practice is clear. A closer look at individual states that have consistent data confirms this trend. Between 2001 and 2011, the U.S. abortion rate, based on Guttmacher Institute data, declined by 19.1 percent from 20.9 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, to 16.9 per 1,000, the lowest rate since 1973 when it was 16.3. Of the jurisdictions (including the District of Columbia) whose abortion facilities reported data to Guttmacher between 1999 and 2011, a total of 45 reported reductions in their abortion rates, while only five states— Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—reported increases. Overall, 33 states have abortion rates below the national average; 11 are consistently above the national norm, including California and New York.


Explanations for the long-term decline in U.S. abortions involve both impressionistic and medico-legal factors, each of which may be making a contribution. Michael New (2014) has shown that abortion laws like parental notification, Medicaid funding restrictions, and properly designed informed consent all reduce the incidence of abortion. At the same time, the Guttmacher Institute notes a recent increase in the use of long-lasting or fixed forms of family planning (e.g., intrauterine devices and injectables that have lower failure rates than alternative methods that are more subject to user error).

Perhaps more importantly, six of the 10 most recent Gallup polls (between May 2009 and May 2014) that examine the question have demonstrated that a majority of respondents self-identify as pro-life. That increase may be both cause and effect of parental decisions to respond to unexpected pregnancies by carrying the child to term. James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal has described this as the “Roe Effect”—the shift in the belief characteristics of a population where birth rates, while declining overall, show strong divergence between parents indisposed to abortion and parents for whom it is an acceptable response.

Nonetheless, the U.S. abortion rate continues to rank near the highest quartile among Western nations. Our laws are among the globe’s most permissive, and the continuation of a positive three-decade trend cannot be presumed.

This essay is from The Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity.

The post Why the Abortion Rate Is Declining appeared first on Daily Signal.

How Cities and Counties Can Free Workers from Bullying Unions

16 hours 22 min ago

Under the National Labor Relations Act, states may pass right-to-work (RTW) laws. In jurisdictions without these laws, unions can force workers to pay dues (although they cannot force them to actually join the union). Almost half of all states have passed worker-friendly RTW laws to protect workers from union coercion.

What about the employees in the 26 states with no right-to-work law? Are they out of luck? Not quite.

In a new Heritage paper we conclude that cities and counties in non-right-to-work states have the authority to pass their own RTW ordinances. Many local city councils could protect the freedom of their workers by passing RTW ordinances. This would also attract employers since many businesses will not consider locating in places without a RTW law.

Unfortunately, many local government officials have simply assumed they cannot pass RTW laws. Labor law is complex, and many local officials instinctively avoid rocking the boat. Federal law overrides or “preempts” conflicting state or local laws, so local officials are often unduly afraid of lawsuit. And Section 14(b) of the National Labor Relations Act expressly authorizes states and territories to pass RTW while saying nothing about local governments. So many local government leaders assume Congress has prevented them from passing Right-to-Work.

But a closer look at the Congressional record shows Congress passed § 14(b) simply to make it clear the National Labor Relations Act does not override RTW laws. Back then only states had passed RTW laws so Congress only expressly authorized them. But §14(b) does not mean Congress prohibited local RTW laws. It might mean Congress decided not to regulate them at all. And it seems the U.S. Supreme Court has taken this view:

“[A] section, which later became 14 (b), appeared in the House bill – a provision described in the House Report as making clear and unambiguous the purpose of Congress not to preempt the field. That purpose was restated by the House Conference Report in explaining 14(b). Senator Taft in the Senate debates stated that 14 (b) was to continue the policy of the Wagner Act and avoid federal interference with state laws in this field.”

In our federal system, courts interpreting federal law apply a presumption against preemption “unless that was the clear and manifest purpose of Congress.” And, in context, it would seem strange to interpret a provision meant to support state RTW laws as clearly prohibiting local ones.

Of course many cities and counties have no authority to regulate unions, no matter what federal law allows. Local governments have only the powers the state gives them. If a state does not permit its counties to pass labor regulations then they can’t pass right-to-work laws.

However, many non-RTW states—like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky—have “charter” or “home rule” localities. Such cities and counties can pass any law the state legislature has not said they cannot, including right-to-work laws. Further, regular counties can usually vote to become charter counties.

If you’re a local activist and you think you can’t influence national politics, and you even think you can’t influence state politics, one thing you can do is read up on RTW. Your local government might be able to improve your community in this area of the law, and you might be able to help out.

The post How Cities and Counties Can Free Workers from Bullying Unions appeared first on Daily Signal.

Why ‘Holly Hobby Lobby’ Changed Her Mind About Owning Guns

16 hours 22 min ago

Holly Fisher, a mom of three from West Virginia, never thought she would be a gun owner. But when her husband joined the military in 2006, that all changed.

Now, almost 10 years later, Fisher calls herself an avid supporter of the Second Amendment.

She has attracted some fierce critics for posting photos of herself holding legal firearms, including a pink handgun. She is unapologetic.

“My husband fought for those rights,” she told The Daily Signal.

>>>Tolerant Left? ‘Holly Hobby Lobby’ Vulgarly Attacked on Twitter

This summer, after using Twitter to showcase her pro-life position and support for the Supreme Court’s June 30 Hobby Lobby decision, Fisher became notorious for her outspoken conservative views, garnering almost 50,000 followers and the nickname “Holly Hobby Lobby.”

ATTENTION LIBERALS: do NOT look at this picture. Your head will most likely explode. #HobbyLobby #UniteBlue

— Holly Fisher (@HollyRFisher) July 1, 2014

Her husband, David Fisher, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, served with the Army’s 4-23 Infantry Division.

A native of Charleston, W. Va., Holly grew up  attending the same church as her future husband.

The couple got married in 2006, when David was in basic training. Later that year, he was deployed to Washington state. They packed up their lives to move across the country.

At first, Holly was “absolutely” against keeping a pistol in the house, she told The Daily Signal during an exclusive interview while in Washington last week to speak at the Bloggers Briefing at The Heritage Foundation.

“I thought we were going to accidently shoot ourselves,” she said.

But after living on the West Coast with no family or friends, Holly agreed to go to the range with her husband. She was 22.

Holly recalled:

I hesitated for several minutes before pulling the trigger the first time, but after I did, I learned more and more, and started realizing guns aren’t scary.

What changed her mind, she said, was learning how to safely store and use a gun.

“Education is key,” David said.

“A vehicle is a dangerous tool if you don’t know how to use it properly.”

>>> What ‘Holly Hobby Lobby’ Has Learned, and Her Next Move

Today, Holly and David own firearms ranging from handguns to semi-automatic rifles.

“My favorites are the AR-15 and the .40-caliber handgun,” Holly said.

David bought the couple a safe that requires their thumbprints to open.

“That’s the only way you can get into our guns,” Holly said. “With our thumbprints.”

Although some of her online detractors tell Holly it’s irresponsible to own guns when the Fishers have small children, she said the firearms gave her the peace of mind and protection she needed while her husband was serving in Afghanistan.

The Fisher kids: Jenna (8/10/11), Norah (8/14/13), and Ruston (9/15/09)

“I think it’s irresponsible to not have guns in your house when you have kids. because it is your job to protect your kids,” she said, adding:

I hope the need never arises for me to use my gun on an intruder or someone trying to harm my family, but I’m prepared, I’m ready and I know how to do it.

The post Why ‘Holly Hobby Lobby’ Changed Her Mind About Owning Guns appeared first on Daily Signal.

Taxpayers Shouldn’t Have to Support Leftist Foreign Policy Centers at Universities

16 hours 22 min ago

The foreign crises that have challenged the Obama Administration this summer are not the result of a happenstance outbreak of global chaos, but of bad policy choices. From the Middle East to our own border to the Eurasian steppe, President Obama’s “lead from behind” chickens—his wanton abandonment of America’s leadership role—have come home to roost.

Obama, alas, is not alone in spurning American influence and power, or traditional support for world actors like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who identify with American values. Standing behind him is an entire philosophical and theoretical framework, born in academia,that guides his actions. In other words, as American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Rubin wrote in Commentary regarding one of the crises, Obama,

“embraced poli­cies widely supported by the academics and diplo­mats never mind that those policies completely mis­understand the realities of international relations. … The culture that has led Obama to fail completely in his assessment of Vladimir Putin isn’t going to end in 2016, when Obama exits the White House.”

Given that the academic problem is pervasive and that Rubin’s right that the culture will not end in 2017, we must look for systematic solutions. One modest but easy step is to cut off funding for Title VI of the Higher Education Act, which subsidizes area studies centers at universities throughout the country. This Heritage has decided to call for, and our rational can be found here.

>>> First Look: Mike Gonzalez’s ‘A Race for the Future: How Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic Americans’

Title VI is but one way that the tax payer subsidizes academic nuttiness. A much greater source for funding and support comes through the government-guaranteed loan program and through the accreditation system.

The area studies centers themselves are just one part of the problems at the academy, of course. The study of international affairs in general is steeped in an antipathy to American power that has become uber-influential with Obama, the president most beholden to the ideologies of the faculty lounge since Woodrow Wilson.

Sometimes this “blame America first” mentality displays such un-self-awareness that it can border on self-parody, as when Harvard lecturer Samantha Power in 2003 called for “instituting a policy of mea culpa” which would,

“enhance our credibility by showing that American decision-makers do not endorse the sins of their predecessors. When Willie Brandt went down on one knee in the Warsaw ghetto, his ges­ture was gratifying to World War II survivors.”

It’s less funny when you consider, however, that this is exactly the thinking that led six years later to Obama’s maiden “apology tour,” or that as recompense for her abject comparison of America’s actions to Nazi crimes, Power now represents our country as ambassador to the United Nations.

Cutting off funding to the 125 or so area studies at universities across the country won’t solve all this, to be sure, but the centers are themselves particularly egregious. For starters, they were set up in the 1950s and continue to be funded explicitly to meet “national needs.” For a while that worked, but consensus on what constituted national interest broke down in the 1960s.

Since then, the centers have progressively been taken over by what is known as “the left-over left.” The worst offenders have been the Middle East Centers, which in the 1970s came under the baleful influence of Columbia University professor Edward Said. As Martin Kramer wrote in Ivory Towers in 2002, Said “has crippled Middle Eastern studies to this day.”

Dissent from the reigning ideology was systematically stamped out. The discipline became systematically anti-Israel and so embarrassed about asking the right questions as to become blind to the threats we face as a society.

Together with Latin American centers and those from other areas, the centers became the entry points for ideologies inimical to our national interest, while failing to carry out the main task of academic work: truth discovery.

The cost of these centers to the U.S. tax payer is less than $100 million a year– almost a rounding error, we are aware. But federal funding has a powerful multiplier effect, as the universities then use government’s imprimatur to raise private money.

Ending Title VI will not fix the international fix we’re in at the moment. That will take time. But it’s an important first step.

The post Taxpayers Shouldn’t Have to Support Leftist Foreign Policy Centers at Universities appeared first on Daily Signal.

State Supreme Court to Decide if Washington Will Allow Charter Schools

16 hours 22 min ago

Washington state’s Supreme Court will determine whether charter schools will be allowed in the state. A hearing is scheduled in October.

The charter school law, approved by Washington state voters in 2012, allows for about 40 charter schools to open during the next five years. This fall, the private school First Place will be the first to serve students as a charter school. It already serves families in extreme poverty by offering  counseling, housing, advocacy and access to other resources.

If First Place can operate as a charter school, it could serve more students. A coalition of plaintiffs has sued the state of Washington, hoping to disallow schools such as First Place.

Seven other charter schools have been authorized and are expected to open in the fall 2015. All eight schools are geared toward underserved students who struggle in traditional schools, said Lisa Mcfarlane, spokesperson for Washington Charter Schools Association. The state’s charter law gives priority to schools serving at-risk students, she said.

In 2013, a coalition including the Washington Education Association, the League of Women Voters, El Centro de la Raza, the Washington Association of School Administrators and a few individuals sued the state in an attempt to overturn the charter-school law.

“We welcome that review,” Mcfarlane said, “because we’re confident the law will pass constitutional muster.” A trial court decision in Decemberupheld the substance of the law, knocking out one provision pertaining to construction funding, though none of the prospective charter school administrators had planned to use the construction funding.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not return calls for comment.

The post State Supreme Court to Decide if Washington Will Allow Charter Schools appeared first on Daily Signal.

Iowa Not Sure How Many People Got Extra Unemployment Benefits by Accident

16 hours 22 min ago

DES MOINES, Iowa — Bureaucrats at Iowa Workforce Development admit they don’t know how many people were paid extra unemployment benefits in March, nor can they say whether any of the overpayments were handed back to the state.

Exactly 85 people contacted the agency to report receiving extra unemployment benefits, so IWD officials claim the computer problem that caused it to issue those benefits resulted in overpaying exactly 85 people.

But testifying under oath before the Iowa State Senate Government Oversight Committee recently, IWD Unemployment Insurance Division Administrator Michael Wilkinson and Regional Operations Manager David Eklund reluctantly conceded the agency doesn’t actually know how many people received extra benefits.

A computer problem prevented IWD from updating its list of qualified unemployment benefit recipients for the week ending March 8, so the agency used the previous week’s list instead, even though that meant benefits might be paid to people who didn’t request them.

An email written by Eklund, and obtained by the committee through an open records request, laid out the agency’s solution to the overpayment problem: Wait to see if anyone voluntarily returned the payments. “We can gladly accept their offer to return the benefits, with a ‘thank you,’” Eklund wrote in the email dated March 13. But Eklund admitted he didn’t know how many of the 85 people who contacted IWD actually returned the extra benefit.

“We didn’t force anyone to pay it back,” Eklund said.

“If an individual honestly asked me, ‘Do I have to pay this back,’ I was equally honest and told them they were not required,” Eklund explained.

“My fear, in essence, was that we would be penalizing the honest and rewarding the dishonest who did not come forward,” Eklund told the committee. “And to my own personal compass of fairness, that did not seem right.”

“I don’t even know what to think of what he said,” Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said. “I was surprised by that. Clearly it’s not the best way to administer the unemployment program.” Still, Wilkinson assured the committee it was legal. “The actions that we took were within the Iowa code, precedents and administrative rules,” Wilkinson said.

Petersen said the committee will to press IWD to provide more information. “Basically what we’ve found out today is that we don’t know how many people received an overpayment. And I believe IWD is trying to keep it that way.”


The post Iowa Not Sure How Many People Got Extra Unemployment Benefits by Accident appeared first on Daily Signal.

5 Charts That Explain Millennial Voters

16 hours 22 min ago

The Cold War ended long ago, and according to one survey, it’s time for politicians to leave Cold War-era terms such as “big government,” “socialism” and “capitalism” behind. The reason: Such words mean little to the millennial generation, who came of age during the Great Recession.

The 18- to 29-year-old demographic played a crucial role in the 2008 and 2012 elections. These millennials were instrumental in electing Barack Obama to the presidency not once, but twice. In 2008, Obama won 66 percent of voting millennials; in 2012, he captured 67 percent.

Emily Ekins, polling director for Reason Foundation, says that had those ages 18 to 29 not voted in 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney would be in the White House.

Polling firms, marketers and politicians continue to have put millennials under the microscope to determine their political leanings and what drives them to the polls.

A recent survey by Reason-Rupe found that many millennials don’t understand the words “big government,” “socialism” and “capitalism” — language that emerged after World War II and during the Cold War. Generation Y, Ekins says, simply doesn’t extract much meaning from such terms.

Ekins discussed the importance to communicators of the findings of Reason-Rupe’s Spring 2014 Millennial Survey during last week’s Bloggers Briefing  at The Heritage Foundation.

Check out some key results of the poll in the five charts below:

1. Millennials say “capitalism” is a better economic system than “socialism” by only a small margin. However, when asked if they believe a free market economy is better than a government-managed one, the margin widens substantially.

(Chart: Reason-Rupe Spring 2014 Millennial Survey)

2. Millennials don’t quite know what “socialism” means.

3. Millennials say they prefer a “larger government” that provides more services. They don’t tend to think of “big government” leading to higher taxes and heavier regulation. Once the possibility of higher taxes to support a larger government is mentioned, though, millennials’ support shifts. 

(Chart: Reason-Rupe Spring 2014 Millennial Survey)

4. Under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, the cost of health insurance increases for young people to subsidize the cost of health insurance for the elderly and less affluent. Millennials covered under their parents’ plans — they can remain so until 26 under Obamacare — support others helping pay to insure the uninsured. However, those paying for their own plans disagree.

(Chart: Reason-Rupe Spring 2014 Millennial Survey)

5. Millennials are fiscal centrists and social liberals, Ekins says. On fiscal issues, millennials see themselves as closer to Republicans such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie than to President Obama, and are centrists. However, millennials rate themselves closer to liberal Democrats such as Obama on social issues.

(Chart: Reason-Rupe Spring 2014 Millennial Survey)

The post 5 Charts That Explain Millennial Voters appeared first on Daily Signal.

Rep. Pete King: Islamic State Does Plan on Attacking U.S.

August 31, 2014 - 1:18pm

During an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., reminded viewers al-Qaeda didn’t need an “excuse” to attack the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 and said the Islamic State wouldn’t need one either.

“They will attack us whenever they can,” he said.

King criticized President Obama for waiting to act against the Islamic State and said he strongly believes the terrorist group plans on attacking the United States.

Since the Islamic State began making advancements in Iraq, the president has ordered a number of airstrikes against the terrorist group. Many wonder if the United States will put combat troops back on the group in Iraq, though President Obama has adamantly been opposed.

Also appearing on “Face the Nation,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said there should be “additional U.S. troops” assisting in the fight against the Islamic State, but said they should not be involved in combat.

McCain also warned viewers of the severity of the terrorist group.

“This is a direct threat to the United States of America,” he said. “It may be one of the biggest we’ve ever faced.”

The post Rep. Pete King: Islamic State Does Plan on Attacking U.S. appeared first on Daily Signal.

Rep. Mike Rogers: ‘Hundreds’ of Americans Connected to Islamic State

August 31, 2014 - 12:41pm

One of the concerns other countries have regarding the Islamic State is citizens who have trained with the terrorist group using their passports to return home and carry out an attack. On “Fox News Sunday”, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told host Chris Wallace there are “hundreds” of Americans connected to the Islamic State.

“The problem is there is no sure number,” Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said. “It’s in the hundreds that we believe have at least [at] one time traveled and participated and trained with them.”


The post Rep. Mike Rogers: ‘Hundreds’ of Americans Connected to Islamic State appeared first on Daily Signal.

Report: These Five States Have Highest Liability Per Taxpayer

August 31, 2014 - 3:01am

Taxpayers in Alaska who enjoy keeping their money will be happy to see a new report that claims the country’s 49th state is best able to fund its obligations.

Residents of Connecticut may not feel as good.

The Truth in Accounting report ranks the states by “taxpayer burden,” a measure that represents the amount each taxpayer would have to pay his or her state’s treasury to fill its financial hole.

Truth in Accounting, a Chicago-based nonprofit, determined that the states with the highest taxpayer burden — deemed “Sinkhole States” — are, in descending order, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Hawaii.

The “Sinkhole States”

The states with the largest “taxpayer surplus” — called “Sunshine States” based on having assets available to pay their bills — are, from the top:  Alaska, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah and South Dakota.

The “Sunshine States”

Taxpayer burden is calculated by determining each taxpayer’s share of state debt after setting aside capital-related debt and assets.  Remaining debt is primarily unpaid pension and retirement health promises.

In its fifth annual report, released this month, Truth in Accounting says states that have unfunded pension liabilities put a burden on future taxpayers, even though “they will not receive any services” from the retired employees who earn those pensions.

States with taxpayer surplus, on the other hand, fund pension costs during the year employees earn the benefits, and the money is set aside for that year.

Connecticut, which the report considers to be in the worst financial shape, has an overall budget shortfall of $61.4 billion, which breaks down to $48,100 per taxpayer.

Truth in Accounting reports that most of Connecticut’s retirement benefits have been promised but not funded.

A Connecticut law requires the legislature to pass a balanced budget. This likely explains why the state chose not to report its entire retirement benefit liability. The report says:

One of the reasons Connecticut is in this precarious financial position is state officials use antiquated budgeting and accounting rules to report Connecticut’s financial condition. Since employee retirement benefits are not immediately payable in cash, the related compensation costs have been ignored when calculating balanced budgets.

Alaska, reported to be in the best financial shape, has an overall budget surplus of $13.5 billion, which breaks down to $46,900 per taxpayer. The report says Alaska has enough money to pay state employees’ retirement benefits and other outstanding bills:

Alaska is in good financial shape because the legislators and governors have only promised citizens and employees what they can afford to deliver.

See how your fared state by reading the Truth in Accounting report.

The worst performing states

The post Report: These Five States Have Highest Liability Per Taxpayer appeared first on Daily Signal.

China, With an Eye to the U.S., Is Aggressively Building Up Their Military

August 31, 2014 - 3:01am

China recently conducted its third land-based missile-intercept test. These tests, most likely designed to facilitate “hit to kill” technologies critical for China’s missile defense and anti-satellite programs, are part of a well-planned, enormous military buildup in which the Chinese have been engaged for nearly 20 years.

Here are some features of that effort:

  • They have created a large and modern navy, which, by 2020, will be substantially larger than America’s. Its vessels are highly capable and armed with long-range, advanced, anti-ship missiles and air-defense missiles.
  • They are upgrading their nuclear arsenal and are on track to more than double the number of their nuclear warheads capable of striking the U.S. homeland over the next few years.
  • They already have the world’s largest and most lethal inventory of conventional ballistic missiles as well as large numbers of highly capable and long-range ground-, air- and sea-based cruise missiles. They will continue to expand, diversify, and improve their missile inventory, enhancing their ability to coerce or use force against the United States and its allies and partners in Asia. China now is able to threaten U.S. bases and operating areas throughout the region, including those that it previously could not reach with conventional weapons, such as Anderson Air Force Base on Guam.
  • They have almost 2,000 capable fighter aircraft and are on track to introduce two new fifth-generation fighters, which they will likely add to their inventory between 2017 and 2019. China also appears to be developing a new long-range stealth bomber.
  • They are significantly upgrading their intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems and improving their amphibious capabilities.
  • According to the Defense Science Board, they already have offensive cyber capabilities that can inflict existential damage on America’s critical infrastructure.

China’s military modernization is aimed primarily at one country: the United States. The Chinese have carefully studied America’s military and the wars it has fought over the past 20 years and have tailored their buildup accordingly. China’s leaders know that almost the entire firepower of America’s surface navy is centered on its aircraft-carrier task forces. It costs $13.5 billion to build an aircraft carrier but only about $10 million to build a missile with the range, velocity, and accuracy to sink an aircraft carrier. The Chinese have created a “missile centric” military in pursuit of a highly effective asymmetric strategy designed to keep America’s surface navy from intervening in a potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait or in the East and South China Seas.

The Chinese also know that America’s armed forces depend almost completely on space satellites for targeting, intelligence, and communication. Hence the recent missile-intercept test and, more generally, China’s rapid development of anti-satellite capabilities designed to destroy or severely disrupt America’s space assets in every orbital regime. They will have that capability by 2020, if they don’t have it already.

How is America responding to all this? In the years when China’s military modernization first began to bear fruit, America’s armed forces were completely focused on counterinsurgency in the Middle East. In 2011, then–secretary of defense Bob Gates proposed a ten-year budget with modest increases designed primarily to increase the size of the navy in response to the Chinese buildup. Congress and the president responded by cutting a half trillion dollars from the Gates budget and imposing another $500 billion in reductions by sequester.

As a result, both present and future readiness are declining across the force. The Navy, which currently has no effective defense against China’s missile strategy, is shrinking. The Air Force has fewer planes and an older inventory than at any time since the inception of the service. The Army is being reduced to pre–World War II levels. All of this, and more, was recently detailed in the unanimous report of the National Defense Panel, which found that unless the defense cuts were reversed, the armed forces would in the near future be at high risk of not being able to carry out their missions.

China, of course, has watched all this carefully, drawn the obvious conclusion, and stepped up its provocations in the western Pacific.

The Chinese government, which means the leaders of the Chinese Communist party, insists that the purpose of their military buildup is defensive, but anyone who believes that is not familiar either with China’s policy in the western Pacific or the strategy it is using to execute it.

I don’t believe the Chinese intend war with the United States. What they intend is to credibly threaten war, while continuing to shift the balance of power decisively in their favor and thereby achieve their objectives by intimidation. So far they are succeeding.

Originally published on National Review Online.

The post China, With an Eye to the U.S., Is Aggressively Building Up Their Military appeared first on Daily Signal.

How Obamacare Affects Transgender People

August 31, 2014 - 3:01am

Transgender Americans who previously wrestled with the high cost of gender reassignment surgery may find relief now under the Affordable Care Act.

Before implementation of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, transgender Americans struggled to find jobs that offered health insurance, according to Kaiser Health News. Plans available on the private market were expensive, and some consumers were denied coverage because insurance companies considered “gender identity disorder” a pre-existing condition.

Obamacare, however, prohibits health insurance providers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Section 1557 of the law also blocks companies from discriminating against transgender people.

Devin Payne, who was born a man, was able to undergo gender reassignment surgery because of the Affordable Care Act. Undergoing surgery without insurance, she said, would have been costly and difficult.

“It is not a simple, easy, magical surgery,” Payne told Kaiser Health News. “Trying to do this without insurance is a big risk. Things can go wrong … not having the money to pay for it would be awful.”

Payne qualified for subsidies through Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace, and signed up for a Blue Shield plan.

The plan costs $230 per month.

Under Obamacare, some insurance policies cover gender reassignment surgery, though patients must meet specific guidelines. Payne had to be diagnosed with gender identity disorder and “have an ‘expressed desire’ to live as a member of the opposite sex.”

Blue Shield covered some costs of the surgery, but not all. Payne recently received a bill for $17,000 of the total cost.

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow at the Family Research Council, said taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used to pay for gender reassignment surgery. He told Kaiser Health News:

We would oppose sex change operations all together. But as a public policy issue, we would feel particularly strongly that taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to pay for it.

Oregon, Massachusetts, California and Vermont currently cover transgender medical services, including gender reassignment surgery, in state insurance programs. Under Medicaid, the states cover treatment for gender dysphoria, which can be treated only with medical care, according to the American Medical Association. Oregon and Massachusetts made the decision to cover the services this summer.

In May, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ended a 1981 ban on Medicare coverage for gender reassignment surgery. The ruling did not apply to Medicaid.

The post How Obamacare Affects Transgender People appeared first on Daily Signal.

Don’t Assume Millennials Couldn’t Step Up to Plate in World War II Scenario

August 31, 2014 - 3:01am

“I’d bet they’re asleep in New York. I’d bet they’re asleep all over America,” bemoans Rick the saloonkeeper in the classic 1942 film “Casablanca.”

As Humphrey Bogart mumbled those words on a Hollywood backlot, the world could not have been in worse shape. The swastika waved over Rick’s beloved Paris. Nazis boots were on the march everywhere. Nevertheless, “Casablanca” did a huge box office.

The story of Rick’s transformation from pacifist to patriot mirrored the shift in the national mood. In 1942, after Pearl Harbor, Americans were ready for a fight.

And fight they did.  Monday, August 25 marks the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Paris, one of the greatest symbols of the world winning back its freedom from Nazi domination.

Today, as on every occasion associated with the war, we pause to marvel at the accomplishments of the “Greatest Generation.”  They are silver-haired and stoop shouldered, now.  It is hard to imagine that passengers unloading from an Honor Flight (a tribute that flies veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the national World War II memorial), were once leaping into the early morning darkness that shrouded Normandy.

Freedom’s future was won by youth. In the U.S., those between 18 and 41 were considered eligible for military service, but the average age of a combat soldier was around 26.

And it wasn’t just American youth that went to war. The first troops into Paris were units of the Free French. Their way was paved by the French Resistance, whose ranks were also filled with young men and women who fought to take freedom back.

At the time they had no idea that their generation was great or even good. Before WW II, many wondered if Americans still had the right stuff—if a GI could ever match-up to a doughboy.

The novelist James Michener, who served in the Pacific during World War II recalled, “Many observers considered us a lost generation and feared we might collapse if summed to some crucial battlefield.”

And there was measure of guilt that Americans had done too little to match the fascist menace from Germany and Japan. Army chaplain Russell Cartwright Stroup, another veteran of the Pacific war, wrote that he chose overseas service because he felt that, “as part of a generation that failed to prevent this war, I should suffer with those who are victims of our failure.”

But measure up they did. Sixteen million Americans put on a uniform. They fought on every continent except Antarctica. Almost half the U.S. economy was diverted to the war effort.

Many might say never again. By some estimates, about 75 percent of American youth are not even qualified for military service.

They also say Americans are sick of war. That America has no stomach for boots on the ground. They say America can’t afford to defend itself.

Hopefully, America’s youth will never have to liberate Paris again. But, it would be unwise to assume that this generation could not.

America has never been the same country. It has been weak and agrarian. It has been powerful and industrialized. The only common characteristic is that—whatever the era—they were all Americans. And, yet, every generation of Americans has proved to be the greatest generation. Every generation has answered the call to arms when it came.

Americans can and should always debate what are the best steps to take to keep Americans free, safe and prosperous. Nor should we ever take lightly the decision to answer the call of the trumpets.

From Continental Army soldiers enduring the privations of Valley Forge to GIs marching down the Champs Elysees, Americans have evidenced an enduring commitment to fight for freedom.

There is no reason to sell this generation of America’s youth short. That is not just a hope. It’s a fact. After over a decade of war, the fact that our armed forces continue to recruit and retain a high quality all-volunteer forces speaks volumes.

As we remember Paris, it is not just an opportunity to praise the past.  It is a time to remember we should never sell our nation—especially our young people—short.

The post Don’t Assume Millennials Couldn’t Step Up to Plate in World War II Scenario appeared first on Daily Signal.

Did Obamacare Raise or Lower Wages?

August 31, 2014 - 3:01am

Before many of the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act took effect earlier this year, pundits and economists on both sides lined up their predictions of how the new health insurance law would affect wages. While it is still early, a new report from the Economic Policy Institute indicates that wages fell in 2014 despite an otherwise growing economy. Correlation does not prove causation, but the unexpected drop in wages scores a point for those who said that the ACA would lower wages.

So who said what?

Predictably, fans of the ACA claimed it would raise wages. David Cutler, Karen Davis and Kristof Stremikis projected that health care costs would fall and the savings would be passed on to workers in the form of higher wages. Dean Baker, Josh Barro, Polly Cleveland, and Donald Marron all argued that because the ACA lowers labor supply, it must raise wages.

In response, Greg Mankiw pointed out that this conclusion can be drawn only if all else remains equal, which is surely not the case under the ACA.

Skeptics and opponents of the ACA argued either that increasing labor costs would specifically lead to lower take-home pay for affected workers or more generally that the ACA would decrease efficiency in the economy. Michael Cannon and Paul Howard argued that in order to keep their existing health insurance plans, some employers would have to cut real wages. Henry Aaron and Gary Burtless wrote that higher costs for health insurance would lower non-health insurance compensation.

Casey Mulligan and Trevor Gallen modeled the ACA and predicted lower wages due both to lower productivity and the (still-looming) employer penalty. Reihan Salam and my colleagues James Sherk and Patrick Tyrrell argued that the ACA will encourage companies to shift from labor to capital, reducing payrolls. Another colleague, Curtis Dubay, predicted wage suppression due to the many taxes in the ACA. The Economist warned that the ACA subsidizes low-wage work, shifting the wage distribution downward.

And now we have wage data for the first half of 2014.

Elise Gould, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) report’s author, highlighted in a blog post just how bad a year it has been for wages. There are some caveats: Her data describe the wage distribution, which combines changes in individuals’ wages with changes in the composition of the workforce. But, regardless of the cause, Table 1 shows that for 9 out of 10 percentiles measured, the past year was worse than the average wage change since 2007.

The initial evidence is thus firmly in favor of the ACA’s skeptics. Its proponents should at least be reconsidering their rosy predictions.

(Wonkish note: Ms. Gould’s report uses the Consumer Price Index, an upward-biased measure of inflation, to deflate wages over time. For a single year, it matters little. Over long horizons it should not be used.)

Originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

The post Did Obamacare Raise or Lower Wages? appeared first on Daily Signal.

Does Obama Get This? The Oval Office Isn’t Just a Day Job.

August 31, 2014 - 3:01am

Not a day off since Christmas. The president deserved a real vacation — to sit on the newly screened back porch, daydream for an afternoon, then enjoy a quiet supper.

All was well … until the phone rang that night. “Mr. President,” said Secretary of State Dean Acheson, “I have very serious news. The North Koreans have invaded South Korea.”

Harry Truman’s summer break in Independence, Mo., came to a screeching halt. Within days, he ordered American troops into the fight. The Korean War had begun.

No one should fault any president for trying to take time off. On the other hand, presidents know full well what they’ve signed up for. The Oval Office is not just a day job.

As he boarded the helicopter for Martha’s Vineyard, President Obama acknowledged that he would have to do a lot of homework during the break. After all, Iraq was melting down.

“I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks,” said President Obama. “This is going to be a long-term project.”

Bedlam in Baghdad, however, is only one of the many issues pressing on the president. Another one that requires a lot of thinking about long-term strategy is what to do about Moscow. Even if Putin doesn’t try to slice off more territory from Ukraine, another round of Russia-generated crises in that part of the world is all but inevitable.

Russian natural gas supplies still transit through Ukraine. Normally at this time of the year, Northern European nations are stockpiling energy supplies for the coming winter, which starts in October. But that’s not happening. A European fuel shortage seems inevitable — and that will lead to much nastiness. Moscow will accuse the Ukrainians of stealing gas. Kiev will blame Moscow for manufacturing the emergency.

If the White House is to help keep that crisis-in-waiting from blowing up, it must first acknowledge that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a thoroughly unreliable strategic partner, and that sanctions alone won’t get the job done.

Naming, shaming, and punishing Putin’s pals and flunkies with sanctions have only limited effects. The Russian economy is integrated with the West, which makes imposing broad economic sanctions much like scratching an itch. The more you scratch, the more inflamed and irritated everything gets — and it cures nothing.

Before coming back from the beach, the president should put in place three pillars of a new policy. They may not resolve the crisis over the Ukraine, but they would go a long way toward putting Putin in his place and putting relations between Russia and the West on a predictable and stable course.

First, a sound strategy has to start with pushing a free-market energy policy now. For example, announcing that the United States will loosen all restrictions on natural gas exports would jolt the market and put Russia on notice that its power to bully Europe by threatening to withhold energy is on the wane.

Second, the United States needs to get back into the information war. Moscow is peddling lies to its own people, Russian-speaking populations in Western Europe, and anyone else around the world who will listen. Meanwhile, Putin is making an unprecedented effort to silence dissenting voices by placing new restrictions on Internet access in Russia. America’s voice has been muted far too long. That must change.

Third, Washington needs to make the prospect of escalating conflict far less appealing to Moscow. That means establishing a strong presence in Europe with conventional forces, a modern nuclear force, and comprehensive missile defense.

Originally appeared in the Washington Examiner

The post Does Obama Get This? The Oval Office Isn’t Just a Day Job. appeared first on Daily Signal.

PBS to Air Documentary ‘Humanizing’ Late-Term Abortion Doctors

August 30, 2014 - 3:01am

Taxpayer-funded broadcaster PBS is airing a documentary this Labor Day weekend highlighting the lives of the four remaining late-term abortion doctors in America.

The Public Broadcasting Service describes the film, “After Tiller,” as a “deeply humanizing and probing portrait” of late-term abortionists who remain “absolutely dedicated to their work” in the wake of the 2009 slaying of Dr. George Tiller.

At the time of his murder, Tiller was the nation’s pre-eminent abortion practitioner. He was known for his willingness to perform late-term abortions, doing so hundreds of times each year. At 67, he was shot in the head in Wichita, Kans., by abortion opponent Scott Roeder, who later was convicted of first-degree murder.

“After Tiller” focuses on the “intense protest” from pro-life supporters about the four known doctors who continue to  abort babies after the 24-month mark face.

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Sarah Torre, a policy analyst in Heritage’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, said Americans should be concerned about themes of the PBS-endorsed documentary. She said:

Large majorities of Americans generally oppose abortions in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy — and for good reason. Gruesome late-term abortions endanger the health and safety of women and brutally take the lives of children capable of feeling pain.

The film’s producers, Martha Shane and Lana Wilson, openly admit the documentary is focused on the doctors’ experience, stating in a press release: “We decided to represent the anti-abortion movement as it is experienced by the doctors themselves.”

They added:

It is a given, of course, that mainstream news coverage related to abortion must allot equal time to both sides of the issue, but as independent filmmakers, we chose to limit the scope of our film primarily to the point-of-view of the doctors because it allowed us to tell much deeper and more intimate stories.

“After Tiller” will have its national broadcast premiere on Monday, Sept. 1, at 10 p.m on PBS’s “Point of View” series. “POV” bills itself as  television’s longest-running showcase for independent, non-fiction films and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which directs taxpayer funds to PBS.

In 2013, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting received $445 million in federal appropriations; PBS received about $300 million of that.

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Torre also addressed another of the filmmakers’ stated goals: Helping audiences to understand the “desperate” situation that leads to women choosing a late-term abortion. Torre countered the notion that they’re left with no other choice, saying:

Women facing difficult situations should be given compassionate care and empowered with life-affirming options — the kind they can find at thousands of pregnancy centers across the nation. We should protect the lives and health of women. And we should not deny the most fundamental human right to life to the most vulnerable children in our society merely because they are small, dependent, disabled or simply inconvenient.

PBS could not be reached for comment.

The post PBS to Air Documentary ‘Humanizing’ Late-Term Abortion Doctors appeared first on Daily Signal.

What Conservatives Must Understand About Hispanic Voters

August 30, 2014 - 3:01am

Half a century ago we saw the spark of powerful ideas that changed the face of America. Some became legislation, such as the War on Poverty. Others became potent cultural trends, like the sexual revolution. Less noticed but no less impactful was the onset of a radical change in our nation’s demographic makeup.

That millions of immigrants, the majority from Latin America, began arriving just as the United States was being hit by a social and cultural tornado receives surprisingly little analysis. This whirlwind, after all, ripped up norms that had been in place for generations.

These new immigrants had no memory of what the country had been like. In the media, in schools and in entertainment, they began to hear dubious reinterpretations of America and a denigration of traditional values. For many of them, “assimilation” meant adopting the emerging standards of a rapidly evolving country.

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We’ll soon mark the 50th anniversaries of the two major changes that brought this wave of new immigrants. On Dec. 1, 1964, Congress allowed the Bracero guest worker program to expire. The economic need for these workers didn’t go away, however, so illegal immigrants began streaming in – hundreds of thousands annually, for decades. Unlike under Bracero, these were not circular migrants; they stayed.

On Oct. 3 the following year, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act. Supporters like President John F. Kennedy had said the change would benefit primarily Southern Europeans, but it was Latin Americans who experienced the biggest gains. Close to 25 million of them have legally immigrated here since 1965, including my family and me.

These legal and illegal immigrants, and their progeny, spearheaded a demographic tsunami. Hispanics – a label the federal bureaucracy created in the 1970s for the express purpose of affirmative action – went from just about 3 percent of the American population in 1960 to 16 percent today.

And they are expected to account for about one third of the population by mid-century. Half of the demographic growth so far this century has been Hispanic.

Unless conservatives can share their message with these new Americans, they will encounter electoral difficulties and won’t be able to enact their policies. But the confluence of forces of the past 50 years is making it easier for liberals to be elected, and change America further.

Because they are almost shut out of the knowledge-making industries of media, culture and the academy, conservatives must make a greater effort to get their message across. To do this, they must shed their axiomatic fear that newcomers will negatively affect the culture, lest it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Theirs should be an upward mobility message. Or, to use less wonky and more aspirational language, they should speak of attaining the American Dream. But they have to be aggressive, too, in showing that many of the political and cultural changes brought in by the 1960s have erected roadblocks that bar Hispanic success.

That means showing how minoritizing these new immigrants under the “Hispanic” bureaucratic label has hurt Hispanics, rendering them dependent on government for their success.

The sexual revolution heralded what Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute calls “the unmarriage revolution,” eroding one of the mainstays of Hispanic stability, the family. The rise of government assistance, which the bureaucracy unstintingly pushes on Hispanics, also chipped in. As Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute, discovered long ago, welfare undermines the family.

And so today the Hispanic out-of-wedlock birth rate is a stratospheric 53 percent, second only to the African-American rate of 72 percent. This is worrying, as the rate stands upstream from other pathologies.

Illegitimacy is tied to another problem holding Hispanics down: an education gap with non-Hispanic whites. Broken families beget under-education, and under-education begets broken families.

With education, the prescriptions are easy: school choice is already popular among Hispanics; conservatives should unite with them to fight the teachers’ unions standing in the way. Putting the family together is far tougher, many argue. But it’s not impossible. Politicians should use their bully pulpit to underscore its importance to success.

None of the usual nostrums from the left or the right will help Hispanics, or our country, unless conservatives first grasp that we have undergone a perfect storm in the past 50 years.

Originally distributed by McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Read more here:

The post What Conservatives Must Understand About Hispanic Voters appeared first on Daily Signal.

Want Your Biggest Pay Raise Ever? Here’s the Step You (Probably) Need to Take

August 30, 2014 - 3:01am

Labor markets in the U.S. have become steadily less dynamic for the last few decades. In a dynamic labor market, there is more hiring, more firing, more promoting, and more quitting. All that churning leads to a stronger economy on average: more employment, higher productivity, and higher wages.

In a paper presented at the Kansas City Fed’s Jackson Hole symposium, economists Steven J. Davis and John Haltiwanger documented the decline. “The loss of labor market fluidity suggests the U.S. economy became less dynamic and responsive in recent decades,” they conclude.

The simplest explanation is that the U.S. workforce is aging, and older workers tend to change jobs much less. But that is not the whole story. The most fascinating finding of the research is that fluidity seems to spill over across demographic groups: Just having more young people in a state raises the employment rate and job-shifting behavior of workers of all ages.

The new findings and previous research paint a grim picture of declining dynamism in business, with fewer startups and fewer fast-growing companies. The sclerosis is not just bad news for economic indicators like U.S. gross domestic product. The most harm is felt by young workers and workers with little education. Young or less-educated workers are the first to be squeezed out whenever the labor force shrinks, denying them current income and the upward mobility encouraged by experience.

The good news is that individuals can help themselves and the economy at the same time. Workers often get their biggest pay raises when switching jobs. Trying different occupations and employers makes workers more likely to find something they do extremely well. And Davis and Haltiwanger’s research suggests that employers might be a little more aggressive in hiring when labor fluidity rises.

So brush up your resume and read over a few job listings: When a job change helps you, it makes the rest of us better off as well.

Originally published in the Wall Street Journal.

The post Want Your Biggest Pay Raise Ever? Here’s the Step You (Probably) Need to Take appeared first on Daily Signal.

Reagan Historian Accused of ‘Invisible’ Footnotes, ‘Sloppy’ Work

August 30, 2014 - 3:01am

The flap over a new book on Ronald Reagan centers on accusations of plagiarism but actually highlights the danger of devaluing what it means to be a historian, a Heritage Foundation scholar says.

Rick Perlstein’s book “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan,” has come under fire not only for passages that resemble those of another Reagan biographer, Craig Shirley, but also for misstating facts and understating sources.

“Mr. Perlstein is calling into serious question the place of the historian at a time where we need to understand the past more than ever before,”  Lee Edwards, the distinguished fellow in conservative thought at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal.

Edwards, author of biographies of Reagan, Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley and other conservative luminaries, is a respected chronicler of the American conservative movement.

While shifting citations of his sources online, Edwards said, Perlstein employs ideologically “loaded adjectives and cheap shots”  — Reagan is “a phony and a hustler,” “the candidate from Disneyland,” a “diarrhea mouth”  — to paint illegitimate pictures of Reagan, Goldwater and Richard Nixon as “dividers” of America.

And that, Edwards said, “is simply not true.”

Shirley, also a prominent Republican strategist, called foul shortly after the Aug. 8 release of “The Invisible Bridge.”

Shirley specified 45 instances in which he said Perlstein, a liberal author and journalist who was a senior fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future, appears to lift, without citation, material from Shirley’s 2004 book “Reagan’s Revolution.”

“There are no footnotes, endnotes, bibliography or other common form of citation in his book,” Shirley told Breitbart News in a detailed critique.

Instead, Shirley said, “buried on page 810, Mr. Perlstein directs readers to access his personal website where, after several clicks, they can uncover ‘A Note on Sources’ for ‘The Invisible Bridge.’ There, Mr. Perlstein credits some — but not all — of his uses of ‘Reagan’s Revolution.’ ”

A spokesman for Perlstein’s publisher, Simon and Schuster, called the allegations “ludicrous.”

Edwards, a leading historian of American conservatism, told The Daily Signal that he isn’t so much concerned with his own work being plagiarized — although his copy of “The Invisible Bridge” is filled with bright pink sticky notes — but rather, about the role of the historian in the modern day.

In a scathing review posted Aug. 13 by the venerable conservative journal Human Events, Edwards gives several examples of Perlstein’s failure to cite a source for a key assertion.

Edwards also notes that a previous Perlstein book “lifted portions of my Goldwater biography without citing my work.”

Soon after his review appeared, Edwards received an email from Perlstein thanking him for pointing out “deficiencies” in his footnotes.

“I’ll be able to correct them,” Perlstein wrote. “Very soon will have a wiki-style system that will record and time-stamp all additions and subtractions and changes, so both mistakes and missing sources, will be transparent in real time.”

He urged: “Keep ‘em coming if you notice others.”

If Perlstein doesn’t shape up, Edwards quipped  to The Daily Signal, he “might be consigned to the ash heap of historians like Edmund Morris.” The Heritage scholar added:

“At worst, it’s plagiarism. At best, it’s sloppy, careless, ideological writing.”

A footnote: Asked to comment on this report, Perlstein at first declined but later  e-mailed The Daily Signal about the three examples of  “loaded adjectives and cheap shots” about Reagan cited above by Edwards, writing:

All three of the sentiments Edwards claims come from me are in fact quotations
of what other people thought about Reagan. The first was a neutral observation:
some Americans do indeed think Reagan was a phony and a hustler. (I don’t ) The
second was quoted precisely in order to hold up to ridicule the tendency of many
liberals to foolishly underestimate him. The third came from his first wife, and
was adduced for the purpose of demonstrating what led to his divorce.

The post Reagan Historian Accused of ‘Invisible’ Footnotes, ‘Sloppy’ Work appeared first on Daily Signal.

Obama’s Divisive Course on Immigration

August 30, 2014 - 3:01am

Is it possible to have a debate on border security and immigration reform that doesn’t descend into an unproductive shouting match? Yes. I’ve been involved in many such debates all across the country, and none of them proved contentious.

In each case the discussion started by identifying the points all sides could agree on. Imagine if Washington tried that. Congress and the president could roll up their sleeves and work on the issues everyone knows need to be addressed. Then, with that work behind them, they could settle down and work out their differences on the really intractable issues.

Unfortunately, it’s very unlikely that this White House and this Congress will ever take a sensible approach toward immigration. President Obama has always insisted that a sweeping amnesty for the millions unlawfully present in the United States must come before any other congressional action. He has never backed off that demand.

Obstructionism from the White House has extended to the absurd. Take extending e-Visa status to New Zealand, one of the most innocuous measures waiting before Congress. These visa programs are designed to promote trade and job growth between like-minded free-market partners with the United States. Including New Zealand in the program is more than long overdue.

But no. Even though it’s a simple legislative fix, it’s stalled. Like other common-sense measures — any legislation that advances visa reforms and improves the lawful migration system and sensible border security — it’s backed up like bottlenecked traffic. And all because no measure can move till the president delivers amnesty.

Obama has increasingly been pushing his amnesty agenda without Congress. He started by loosening up enforcement of immigration laws. Then, in 2012, he initiated his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which implemented an administrative amnesty for minors. Now it’s widely reported that Obama is planning a broader administrative amnesty that could include millions.

The president’s “solution” adds to the problem. It doesn’t solve it. Amnesty only encourages more to seek to enter the U.S. illegally. It does nothing to enhance border security or visa or immigration reforms.

Further undercutting the president’s legitimacy are reports of a series of meetings with pro-amnesty and business groups as a run-up to his proposed amnesty. To many, that smacks of cronyism, buying off or placating special interests. It paints an image of a president intent on pleasing some at the expense of others.

To make matters worse, the president’s actions are riling up Americans. Across the political spectrum, fewer and fewer people feel like Obama is acting in their interests. Even the liberal left is angry, arguing the president’s actions could poison the well for long-term reforms to replace his administrative measures — measures which could be terminated by the next president.

The recent flood of illegal immigrants streaming across the border has sparked outrage among pro-immigration groups. The public’s frustration with the administration’s handling of the issue is actually making lawful immigration less popular. Demands to deport illegal aliens are also becoming more strident.

The intensity of the concern of average citizens is also skyrocketing. A year ago, most Americans thought of immigration as back-burner issue. No more. A new survey by the Polling Company, a Washington-based consulting firm, indicates that more than half of likely voters consider immigration a top-three issue.

Obama’s course is so deeply divisive that even the Oval Office may be wising up a bit. The White House is signaling that it may wait until after the mid-term elections to act, so that congressional candidates in the president’s party won’t suffer a backlash at the ballot box.

If there is a bright side to the current mess, it’s that even as the showdown in Washington gets more acrimonious, the common concerns among people outside the beltway stand out even more starkly.

Americans recognize the need for a more secure border and for more rational and practical immigration policies. They see the need to reduce the backlog of those waiting in line to lawfully immigrate to the United States.

If only the White House started with these concerns, rather than sweeping them aside, then Washington might actually get things done.

Originally distributed by McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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