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Updated: 2 hours 59 min ago

Why Trump’s Not Replacing Bureaucrats Enables the ‘Deep State’

5 hours 16 min ago

Hillary Clinton is urging federal workers to stay in their jobs so they can fight for progressive policies again.

On her book tour, the former secretary of state and presidential candidate told government workers to “stick it out, stick it out, because the tide has to turn.”

“If [Democrats] can take back one or both houses of Congress in 2018, you will have people you can talk to again,” Clinton said.

When Donald Trump was elected president, he promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington and return power to the American people. There is no muddier water to dredge than the mostly unaccountable administrative state.

Over the course of a century, the federal bureaucracy has become large, calcified, and unmanageable. It now carries enormous weight in crafting, implementing, and adjudicating policies that affect all of us.

For instance, the Health and Human Services Obamacare mandate, the transgender school bathroom policy, and numerous other rules and regulations under various departments have been created and carried out by the administrative state. It has become enormously powerful.

Worse, laws designed to ensure that the bureaucracy would be staffed with “nonpartisan” experts have had the unintended consequence of instead sealing numerous incompetents into a job for life. And many of these bureaucrats are hopelessly partisan, wedded to the ideas of big government and progressive reform for reasons of both ideology and personal interest.

According to The Hill, about 95 percent of political donations from federal employees went to Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.

One would think that those numbers would have changed in the nine months that Trump has been president. They haven’t.

A recent review of select federal agencies revealed that contributions from employees overwhelmingly have gone to Democrats in the 2018 election cycle, according to The Washington Free Beacon.

So much for the stories about bureaucrats quitting their jobs en masse if Trump got elected.

And it’s clear that a huge percentage of these civil service employees are hostile to the Trump administration’s agenda.

The Danger of Unaccountable Bureaucrats

While there are certainly many individuals in government who do good work and take their job seriously, there are others who have continually let down the American people, or worse, actively attempt to impede the policies of democratically elected leaders.

Unfortunately, Trump has sometimes equated leaving posts unfilled with shrinking the size of government.

“I’m generally not going to make a lot of the appointments that would normally be—because you don’t need them,” Trump said in a Forbes interview. “I mean, you look at some of these agencies, how massive they are, and it’s totally unnecessary. They have hundreds of thousands of people.”

He’s also tweeted about this issue.

.@foxandfriends We are not looking to fill all of those positions. Don't need many of them – reduce size of government. @IngrahamAngle

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2017

“Every day, career bureaucrats are issuing decisions on guidelines and making interpretations of regulations,” Robert Moffit, a former Office of Personnel Management assistant director who is a senior health policy analyst for The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal. “We need management there to take the bull by the horns.”

The problem is that the few top-level appointments he’d have direct control over are just a tiny drop in the bucket of the federal workforce. But without these executive appointees, agencies are left entirely to their own devices without any kind of political direction.

The “permanent state,” as former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka has called it, is comprised of nearly 3 million federal employees, most of whom essentially can’t be fired by law (more on that later).

And they have certainly found ways to cause problems from the get-go in the Trump administration, such as subversively leaking information to the press, blasting the president on Twitter, and refusing to implement the administration’s immigration policies.

Former employees of the Environmental Protection Agency even created a memo, “A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump De-Regulatory Agenda,” which essentially explains to current EPA employees how to resist the administration’s policy priorities.

The bureaucracy, the so-called “fourth branch of government,” now possesses legislative, executive, and judicial powers never dreamed of by the Founders, which has dealt a blow to the idea of checks and balances in government.

Letting agencies operate on their own with permanent civil service employees and Obama holdovers means that they are free to carry out the previous administration’s agenda virtually unimpeded.

How Did We Get Here?

At one time, the president had far greater power in selecting who worked for him. Initially, federal workers served more or less on an “at will” basis, meaning they could be fired for any reason, though presidents generally kept the limited number of civil servants in place from administration to administration.

Though some presidents were hesitant to fire civil servants for any reason, others were more aggressive in turning out bureaucrats who became problematic, complacent, or generally ineffective.

President Andrew Jackson perhaps most famously warred with federal bureaucrats and was accused of implementing a “spoils system” whereby removals and appointments were made on a purely partisan basis.

As I explained in a paper I co-authored for the American Legislative Exchange Council, many of the attacks on Jackson’s record were distortions or simply untrue.

Nevertheless, Jackson articulated a philosophy on government that should resonate with those frustrated with Washington today.

Jackson believed that “rotation in office” was essential to free government, and that it applied to federal workers. He believed he had to fire a few government employees to better serve the people.

While Jackson and others often used the system of rotation for good, there were undoubtedly abuses that took place over the years in which unqualified people got a job in government simply because of party affiliation.

So civil service reformers, particularly the progressives in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, passed a series of laws that made federal hiring based more on tests, while increasingly restricting the ability to fire or remove those employees. They dreamed that the fast-growing administrative state would be staffed by able, nonpartisan experts.

Today, nearly all federal employees are protected by civil service laws, except for those in the top-level political posts.

Changes Need to Be Made

Winston Churchill supposedly  once quipped that “after a time, civil servants tend to become no longer servants and no longer civil.”

Our laws now make it nearly impossible to fire a federal employee for almost any reason—including criminal behavior. And the process to fire someone is so onerous that few are willing to carry it out.

The result has been that we have a civil service that is neither affected by elections, nor nonpartisan, nor guaranteed to be staffed by experts.

It’s a mess. If Trump is serious about making his populist, “Jacksonian” message work in the nation’s capital, he’s going to have to do more to curtail the relentless power of the administrative state.

Trump has been slow at even dealing with the “shallow” state of political appointments that he has more immediate control over. He needs to make this a more pressing issue, or the swamp creatures will swallow up his administration.

Though Trump took an important step in nominating an Office of Personnel Management director, who is tasked with managing the federal workforce, more can be done.

>>> The Trump Nominee Poised to Be Point Man on Draining Government Swamp

Some states, like Georgia, have already innovated with policies that put employment for government workers on an “at will” basis. There have already been similar reforms of Veterans Affairs, but legislation is needed to apply these ideas to other departments.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., has introduced a proposal that would significantly reduce the wait time for removing bad federal employees, which can take over 300 days.

Curtailing the power of the administrative state can’t be done with the snap of a finger, but it is an issue Trump and Congress must address—not just for the sake of this presidency, but for the sake of our constitutional republic.

The post Why Trump’s Not Replacing Bureaucrats Enables the ‘Deep State’ appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Why Pulling ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ From the Classroom Hurts Students

5 hours 26 min ago

This year, as in years past, eighth-graders in Biloxi, Mississippi, began reading the classic American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

And then, partway through and with little warning, they stopped.

Why? Because, according to the school board vice president, it “makes people uncomfortable.”

If you attended American schools within the last few decades, chances are you read Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It is a staple of American literature and a world-renowned classic, having sold 40 million copies since its first publication in 1960.

It also won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961, and the book’s dramatic on-screen portrayal in 1962 cemented its fame.

America has overwhelmingly embraced “To Kill a Mockingbird,” so its sudden rejection in Biloxi, Mississippi, is noteworthy. And yet, in our day of hypersensitivity and student coddling, it’s hard to be completely shocked at this.

The concern that drove the school board’s decision is clear: “To Kill a Mockingbird” contains some content that is shocking and will indeed make some students uneasy.

Of course, this is by design. Set in 1930s Alabama, the book is replete with use of the n-word and other racial epithets. The entire culture portrayed in the book is marked by prejudice toward African-Americans, with the exception of the main protagonists.

Since the book is a social commentary on racism in the Jim Crow South, this is to be expected.

Yet this is what administrators in Biloxi want to shield their students from. “[We] can teach the same lesson with other books,” Kenny Holloway, the school board’s vice president, told the Sun Herald, a Mississippi newspaper. “It’s still in our library. But they’re going to use another book in the eighth-grade course.”

Having read this book aloud with my own fellow students back in the ninth grade—bleeping out the n-word all the way through—I get the dilemma. This book is not for the fainthearted. Certain characters openly demean the dignity of African-Americans. Evil is put on full display.

But that is exactly the point, and it’s what the Biloxi school board fails to grasp.

There is grave injustice in our world. And in order to confront those things as citizens, young people must be morally well-formed. They need to learn what evil is, and then be shaped into the kinds of people who can live out virtue for the betterment of society.

This does not come naturally for us. Human beings are born ignorant, narrow, and morally incompetent. The whole purpose of education is to move young people out of their infantile state into moral and intellectual maturity. It’s a process of liberation.

But students will never reach the point of liberation if their teachers shield them from evil.

Part of moral maturity is being able to stare evil in the face, to look on it with mourning, and to respond by doing what is right—even at great personal cost.

That’s the kind of maturity embodied by Atticus Finch, a main protagonist in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” This man stared evil in the face and, at great cost to himself, made a stand for justice.

If our students can’t even read lines from “To Kill a Mockingbird,” how do we expect them to grow up into the kinds of Atticus Finches we want serving our society?

The great irony is that in shielding their students from “uncomfortable” things, school administrators are not actually protecting them. They are consigning them to lives of moral weakness and mediocrity, and doing a disservice to society as a whole.

The other irony, of course, is that “To Kill a Mockingbird,” with its “uncomfortable” language, was a tremendous force for good in the 20th century. It played a role in moving public opinion toward the cause of civil rights.

A similar dynamic played out with “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which contained even more severe scenes of brutality against blacks. That book helped fuel the abolitionist movement in the 1850s.

Were the readers of these books scandalized? Were their consciences marred beyond repair? Would they have been better off sticking to more polite literature?

If America is a better place today because of abolition and the civil rights movement, then we should rejoice that these books were widely read. And heaven forbid we should see ourselves as somehow above them.

The task of education is the task of citizen-making, and in an important sense, soul-making. If we want to mold students into citizens who are morally competent, then we must lead them out of infancy by helping them grow thick skin and large souls.

Sometimes, that just means making them “uncomfortable.”

The post Why Pulling ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ From the Classroom Hurts Students appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

3 Senators Talk Next Steps on Health Care

5 hours 40 min ago

As two Senate lawmakers float yet another plan to fix problems with Obamacare, another wants to revisit legislation that he says would more substantially repeal the health care law.

“Actually, we could have more coverage under Graham-Cassidy than under the status quo,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said Wednesday at an event hosted by online media company Axios, referring to the bill he co-authored with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.  “For example, if you actually think about what we proposed, we would allow states to do so-called ‘automatic enrollment.’ You’re in, unless you’re out.”

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who was also at the event, said the bipartisan plan that Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., reached Tuesday represents good progress.

“We need to show the American public we can do something bipartisan on health care,” Kaine said. “I have been making the argument that even something modest that is bipartisan in this very controversial area will be a really good sign from Congress to the American people.”

The Alexander-Murray bill would provide more than $100 million to the Obamacare exchanges and allow states to apply for waivers to work around rules of the Affordable Care Act, CNN reported.

Alexander, the third and final speaker at the Axios event, said President Donald Trump was supportive of the plan.

“He called me to say that, No. 1 …  to be encouraging about the bipartisan agreement that Sen. Murray and I announced yesterday,” Alexander said of Trump. “No. 2, he intends to review it carefully to see if he wants to add anything to it. No. 3, he is still for block grants, sometime later, but he is going to focus on tax reform this year.”

Trump, however, later signaled a lack of support for the plan.

I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co's who have made a fortune w/ O'Care.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017

The Graham-Cassidy bill, which did not get a vote when it appeared it would not pass the Senate, would give states the freedom to waive Obamacare regulations, protect patients with pre-existing conditions, and provide block grants to states by “equalizing the treatment between Medicaid expansion and non-expansion states through an equitable block-grant distribution,” as The Daily Signal previously reported.

Cassidy, who was a physician before running for office, said he has yet to thoroughly review the Alexander-Murray bill, but said he hopes his own legislation will be revived.

“Under Graham-Cassidy, there will be billions—with a ‘b’—more in Virginia to care for working families,” Cassidy said, adding:

Similarly, in Missouri, would get billions more under Graham-Cassidy.

People have said this is a partisan bill. I have just listed two states represented by Democratic senators, but I could also list Maine, Florida, Wisconsin, Indiana, and others that would do far better under Graham-Cassidy than under the status quo, and they are represented by Democratic senators.

Regarding the Alexander-Murray plan, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday that the Wisconsin Republican “does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare.”

Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, said the Alexander-Murray plan was “unacceptable.”

Chairman @repmarkwalker: "The GOP should focus on repealing & replacing Obamacare, not trying to save it. This bailout is unacceptable." https://t.co/Sjooq9ituF

— RSC (@RepublicanStudy) October 17, 2017

Regardless of how the bill he co-authored with Murray plays out, Alexander said, he’s convinced Trump is dedicated to putting states, rather than federal bureaucrats, in control of health care.

“I think [Trump’s] big goals are the same as my big goals, which is to move more decisions about the kinds of policies that are for Americans to buy health insurance out of Washington and back to the states, so people have more choices and lower prices,” the Tennessee Republican said.  

Ed Haislmaier, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies, said the plan does not do enough to address Obamacare’s shortcomings.

“What is instead needed to stabilize the unsubsidized market is the removal of Obamacare’s cost-increasing insurance mandates and misguided regulations,” Haislmaier said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal. “To fix that Obamacare-caused damage and lower the cost of insurance, Congress will need to make other policy reforms.”

The post 3 Senators Talk Next Steps on Health Care appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

A School Named After Jefferson Davis Will Be Renamed After Obama

7 hours 54 min ago

A predominantly black public school in Mississippi named after Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States in the 1860s, will be renamed after former President Barrack Obama, according to a report released Wednesday.

Stakeholders in the school voted earlier this month at the Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees meeting to change the elementary school’s name from Davis Magnet IB to Barack Obama Magnet IB, The Clarion-Ledger reported.

“Jefferson Davis, although infamous in his own right, would probably not be too happy about a diverse school promoting the education of the very individuals he fought to keep enslaved being named after him,” Davis Magnet IB PTA President Janelle Jefferson told the board.

Jefferson said the school, where 98 percent students are black, wanted to rename the campus after Obama “to reflect a person who fully represents ideals and public stances consistent with what we want our children to believe about themselves.”

This announcement comes as several other schools named after confederate leaders across the U.S. have changed their names or are in the process of renaming them.

The name change will take effect during the 2018-2019 school year.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

The post A School Named After Jefferson Davis Will Be Renamed After Obama appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Foiled Terror Plot Raises Number of Plots, Attacks to 98 Since 9/11

8 hours 16 min ago

The Justice Department unsealed criminal charges earlier this month against three men for plotting to attack New York City in 2016.

The plotters were arrested at different times in 2016 and 2017, in different parts of the world.

Since this plot occurred in the past and the first plotter was arrested in May of last year, it will be inserted into the Heritage Foundation timeline as the 87th Islamist terror plot against the U.S. since 9/11. This brings the total number of such plots to 98 since.

The Department of Justice reports that Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, a 19-year-old Canadian citizen, and Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen residing in Pakistan, communicated with an undercover FBI agent in the spring of 2016 via a cell phone messaging application.

The two men expressed their allegiance to ISIS and were plotting terror attacks against New York City during Ramadan, which fell between June 5 and July 5 in 2016.

They considered multiple potential targets around New York City, with special interest in exploding a suicide bomb on the subway, a car bomb at Times Square, and attacking concerts with firearms.

While in Pakistan, Haroon met with an explosives expert to learn how to construct bombs. Meanwhile in Canada, El Bahnasawy was purchasing a variety of bomb-making tools and materials, including 40 lbs of hydrogen peroxide, batteries, thermometers, and electrical wiring.

Russell Salic, a 37-year-old Philippine citizen, offered to help fund the attack and sent $423 for this purpose to the undercover agent. He promised to send more money for ISIS operations in the future.

El Bahnasawy planned to meet the undercover agent and Haroon in late May in a rural area outside New York. There, he planned to build the explosives and practice with firearms if possible.

El Bahnasawy entered the U.S. on May 21 to prepare for the attack. He was arrested by the FBI later that night in Cranford, New Jersey. Haroon would be arrested in September of 2016, and Salic in April of 2017.

Since then, El Bahnasawy pled guilty to seven terrorism charges and faces life in prison. Haroon and Salic are currently being processed for extradition from Pakistan and the Philippines. They also face life in prison.

This foiled plot brings the total number of terror plots and attacks against the U.S. in 2016 to 14, making 2016 the second most active year for Islamist terrorism after 2015.

It also represents the 13th plot that did not involve a significant homegrown element. Instead, it was carried out by American and foreign terrorists abroad. It also represents the 28th plot or attack that was either inspired by ISIS or had links to ISIS.

Congress and the Trump administration should make sure the government has the intelligence tools it needs to find and stop terrorists or other bad actors who would harm the United States or her interests. This includes renewing programs like FISA Section 702, which is up for reauthorization by the end of this year.

Strengthening such tools will ensure that America remain vigilant amid the continuing threat of terrorism.

The Department of Justice reports that Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, a 19-year-old Canadian citizen, and Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen residing in Pakistan, communicated with an undercover FBI agent in the spring of 2016 via a cell phone messaging application.

The two men expressed their allegiance to ISIS and were plotting terror attacks against New York City during Ramadan, which fell between June 5 and July 5 in 2016.

They considered multiple potential targets around New York City, with special interest in exploding a suicide bomb on the subway, a car bomb at Times Square, and attacking concerts with firearms.

While in Pakistan, Haroon met with an explosives expert to learn how to construct bombs. Meanwhile in Canada, El Bahnasawy was purchasing a variety of bomb-making tools and materials, including 40 lbs of hydrogen peroxide, batteries, thermometers, and electrical wiring.

Russell Salic, a 37-year-old Philippine citizen, offered to help fund the attack and sent $423 for this purpose to the undercover agent. He promised to send more money for ISIS operations in the future.

El Bahnasawy planned to meet the undercover agent and Haroon in late May in a rural area outside New York. There, he planned to build the explosives and practice with firearms if possible.

El Bahnasawy entered the U.S. on May 21 to prepare for the attack. He was arrested by the FBI later that night in Cranford, New Jersey. Haroon would be arrested in September of 2016, and Salic in April of 2017.

Since then, El Bahnasawy pled guilty to seven terrorism charges and faces life in prison. Haroon and Salic are currently being processed for extradition from Pakistan and the Philippines. They also face life in prison.

This foiled plot brings the total number of terror plots and attacks against the U.S. in 2016 to 14, making 2016 the second most active year for Islamist terrorism after 2015.

It also represents the 13th plot that did not involve a significant homegrown element. Instead, it was carried out by American and foreign terrorists abroad. It also represents the 28th plot or attack that was either inspired by ISIS or had links to ISIS.

Congress and the Trump administration should make sure the government has the intelligence tools it needs to find and stop terrorists or other bad actors who would harm the United States or her interests. This includes renewing programs like FISA Section 702, which is up for reauthorization by the end of this year.

Strengthening such tools will ensure that America remain vigilant amid the continuing threat of terrorism.

The post Foiled Terror Plot Raises Number of Plots, Attacks to 98 Since 9/11 appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Trump Says ‘I Can’t Support Bailing Out’ Insurance Companies Profiting From Obamacare

11 hours 14 min ago

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he could not support the bipartisan proposal to shore up Obamacare and stabilize the health insurance markets through 2019.

“I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co’s who have made a fortune w/ O’Care,” the president tweeted Wednesday morning.

I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co's who have made a fortune w/ O'Care.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017

Trump said Tuesday evening at The Heritage Foundatation that he supports the efforts of Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., to fix the problems with Obamacare, but he insists that lawmakers “find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies.”

The Trump administration announced last week that it will no longer fund a crucial feature of Obamacare that helps low-income Americans purchase health insurance on the Affordable Care Act state exchanges, known as cost-sharing reductions. The president and a number of conservative members of Congress label these subsidies as welfare, or bailouts, for insurance providers.

“The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system,” the White House said in a statement. “Congress needs to repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare law and provide real relief to the American people.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

The post Trump Says ‘I Can’t Support Bailing Out’ Insurance Companies Profiting From Obamacare appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

House Conservative Leader Calls Obamacare Bailout Bill ‘Unacceptable’

11 hours 35 min ago

The latest attempt at a legislative fix to Obamacare was met with a mixture of hesitance and outright opposition by Republicans who have repeatedly vowed to pass a comprehensive repeal and replace bill.

A bipartisan bill, which was introduced Tuesday by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., would temporarily reinstate the federal payments to insurers that President Donald Trump cut off days ago and, in a nod to Republicans, would allow states limited flexibility in offering cheaper, less comprehensive plans.

The legislative fix was met with recrimination by top Republican lawmakers hours after its release. Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., who chairs the Republican Study Committee, publicly criticized the bill and said he could not support legislation that does not fully repeal Obamacare.

“Obamacare is in a ‘death spiral.’ Anything propping it up is only saving what Republicans promised to dismantle,” Walker tweeted. He elaborated further in a statement posted on Twitter, saying, “The GOP should focus on repealing & replacing Obamacare, not trying to save it. This bailout is unacceptable.”

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., cast the bill as a costly continuation of Obamacare.

“None of our guys voted for Obamacare,” Cole told The Washington Post. “They’re not very interested in sustaining it.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., refused to commit one way or the other, telling reporters, “We haven’t had a chance to think about a way forward yet,” when asked about the viability of the bill Tuesday afternoon. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., refused to comment.

After casting the bill as a short-term fix to stabilize the market Tuesday, Trump reversed course, tweeting Wednesday that he could not support a bill that reinstates cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers, which he recently discontinued.

I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co's who have made a fortune w/ O'Care.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017

Trump’s Wednesday tweet represents a significantly more definitive rebuke of the legislation relative to statements he made Tuesday night while addressing The Heritage Foundation.

“While I commend the bipartisan work done by Sens. Alexander and Murray,” Trump said during the Tuesday night speech, “I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies.”

Earlier in the day, speaking at the White House, Trump described the bill as a “short-term deal” that would help “get us over this intermediate hump.”

A number of Republican senators insisted on waiting to give their opinion until more details have been released. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., dismissed the idea that the bill represents a quick fix.

“Most of the members of the conference are finding out about the details for the first time. I don’t think anybody beyond Lamar and a few others know,” Kennedy told Politico. “The details are important.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, echoed Kennedy’s sentiment, telling Politico, “I’m going to wait and examine the details.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

The post House Conservative Leader Calls Obamacare Bailout Bill ‘Unacceptable’ appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Trump Says Congresswoman ‘Fabricated’ Story About His Call With Special Forces Widow

12 hours 1 min ago

President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused a Florida congresswoman of misrepresenting the nature of his phone call to the widow of a special forces soldier who was killed in Niger last week.

Trump claimed Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., who was with the wife of deceased Army Sgt. La David Johnson at the time of the call, “fabricated” a story about what he said as he offered condolences.

“Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!” Trump tweeted Wednesday.

Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017

Wilson had previously told reporters that Trump’s call, which was placed shortly before Johnson’s coffin arrived in Miami, was insensitive and made Johnson’s wife cry. Johnson “knew what he signed up for,” Wilson also reportedly said Trump told the widow.

In response to Wilson’s claims, Trump said he had proof that the congresswoman was misrepresenting his remarks. It is likely that the White House has a recording and a transcript of the phone call, CNN’s Jake Tapper noted Wednesday morning.

In an appearance on CNN’s “New Day” Wednesday morning, Wilson claimed she also has proof of what was said during the call, attacking Trump as a “sick man” who has “no sympathy.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

The post Trump Says Congresswoman ‘Fabricated’ Story About His Call With Special Forces Widow appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

The Facts About Who Pays the Most in Taxes in America

23 hours 42 min ago

Politicians exploit public ignorance. Few areas of public ignorance provide as many opportunities for political demagoguery as taxation.

Today some politicians argue that the rich must pay their fair share and label the proposed changes in tax law as tax cuts for the rich.

Let’s look at who pays what, with an eye toward attempting to answer this question: Are the rich paying their fair share?

According to the latest IRS data, the payment of income taxes is as follows.

The top 1 percent of income earners, those having an adjusted annual gross income of $480,930 or higher, pay about 39 percent of federal income taxes. That means about 892,000 Americans are stuck with paying 39 percent of all federal taxes.

The top 10 percent of income earners, those having an adjusted gross income over $138,031, pay about 70.6 percent of federal income taxes.

About 1.7 million Americans, less than 1 percent of our population, pay 70.6 percent of federal income taxes. Is that fair, or do you think they should pay more?

By the way, earning $500,000 a year doesn’t make one rich. It’s not even yacht money.

But the fairness question goes further. The bottom 50 percent of income earners, those having an adjusted gross income of $39,275 or less, pay 2.83 percent of federal income taxes.

Thirty-seven million tax filers have no tax obligation at all. The Tax Policy Center estimates that 45.5 percent of households will not pay federal income tax this year.

There’s a severe political problem of so many Americans not having any skin in the game. These Americans become natural constituencies for big-spending politicians. After all, if you don’t pay federal taxes, what do you care about big spending?

Also, if you don’t pay federal taxes, why should you be happy about a tax cut? What’s in it for you? In fact, you might see tax cuts as threatening your handout programs.

Our nation has a 38.91 percent tax on corporate earnings, the fourth-highest in the world. The House of Representatives has proposed that it be cut to 20 percent—some members of Congress call for a 15 percent rate.

The nation’s political hustlers object, saying corporations should pay their fair share of taxes. The fact of the matter—which even leftist economists understand, though they might not publicly admit it—is corporations do not pay taxes.

An important subject area in economics is called tax incidence. It holds that the entity upon whom a tax is levied does not necessarily bear its full burden. Some of it can be shifted to another party.

If a tax is levied on a corporation, it will have one of four responses or some combination thereof. It will raise the price of its product, lower dividends, cut salaries, or lay off workers. In each case, a flesh-and-blood person bears the tax burden.

The important point is that corporations are legal fictions and as such do not pay taxes. Corporations are merely tax collectors for the government.

Politicians love to trick people by suggesting that they will impose taxes not on them but on some other entity instead. We can personalize the trick by talking about property taxes.

Imagine that you are a homeowner and a politician tells you he is not going to tax you. Instead, he’s going to tax your property and land.

You would easily see the political chicanery. Land and property cannot and do not pay taxes. Again, only people pay taxes. The same principle applies to corporations.

There’s another side to taxes that goes completely unappreciated. According to a 2013 study by the Virginia-based Mercatus Center, Americans spend up to $378 billion annually in tax-related accounting costs, and in 2011, Americans spent more than 6 billion hours complying with the tax code.

Those hours are equivalent to the annual hours of a workforce of 3.4 million, or the number of people employed by four of the largest U.S. companies—Wal-Mart, IBM, McDonald’s, and Target—combined.

Along with tax cuts, tax simplification should be on the agenda.

The post The Facts About Who Pays the Most in Taxes in America appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Trump: Tax Reform ‘Will Lift Our People From Welfare to Work’

Tue, 2017-10-17 22:10

President Donald Trump promoted his tax reform plan at The Heritage Foundation’s President’s Club, and also touted American values, the Constitution, and “God-given rights.”

“We will lift our people from welfare to work, from dependence to independence, and from poverty to total beautiful prosperity,” Trump told an audience of about 1,000 people Tuesday night gathered at the Marriott Marquis in Washington.

“Our tax plan will ensure that companies stay in America, grow in America, and hire in America,” the president said. “At the heart of our plans is a tax cut for everyday working Americans.”

The tax reform proposal backed by Trump and congressional Republicans would increase the deduction for child care and caring for elderly adults; make the first $12,000 for individuals and first $24,000 for married couples income-tax free; eliminate the penalty for businesses bringing back earnings to the United States; simplify the tax filing process so that most Americans can file on a single sheet of paper; cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, which the White House Council on Economic Advisers estimates would boost wages by $4,000 for the average American household; and eliminate the death tax.

“So let’s give our country the best Christmas present of all: massive tax relief,” Trump said. “And speaking of Christmas, yes, you want to hear it, I’m talking about Christmas presents, I’ll give you a bigger Christmas present. You are going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

Trump predicted if tax reform passes, it would bring $3 trillion back in the American economy.

Trump said Democrats will vote in blocks to obstruct, but said he hoped to get the Republicans needed.

“We need the help of The Heritage Foundation and everyone here tonight to get our tax cuts through the House, through the Senate, and to my desk for signature,” the president said. “So, call up your local senator and say ‘Senator, don’t give him a hard time.’”

Trump is only the fourth president to address The Heritage Foundation in the think tank’s 45-year history. The others were Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.

Thank you @Heritage! This is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to revitalize our economy, revive our industry & renew the AMERICAN DREAM! pic.twitter.com/HI30nojsGo

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017

Using terms from previous speeches on the tax plan, Trump said the plan would be a “middle class miracle” and presents a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to revitalize our economy.”

“The Heritage Foundation can once again help make history by helping to take this incredible idea,” Trump said. “This proven idea, this tax cut, making it a reality for millions and millions of patriotic Americans.”

Trump talked about the bipartisan deal with Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. and Patty Murray, D-Wash., to continue subsidies for Obamacare for two years, but warned Democrats to fix what he has called an unworkable plan.

“I’m pleased the Democrats have finally responded to my call for them to take responsibility for their Obamacare disaster and work with Republicans to provide much-needed relief to the American people,” Trump said. “While I commend the bipartisan work done by Senators Alexander and Murray–and I do commend it–I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies.”

Trump said Americans “must hold fast” to its tradition as a “nation of laws” by respecting law enforcement. He also defended symbols of history

“Now they’re even trying to destroy statues of Christopher Columbus. What’s next?” Trump asked. He added, “We believe that our great American flag should be treated with reverence and respect.”

The president also said “Freedom is not a gift from government, freedom is a gift from God,” and “We believe the Constitution is the greatest political document ever written and we believe in the Constitution as it is written.”

He praised The Heritage Foundation’s role in preserving history, and noted the organization’s influence in his biggest success, the nomination and confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

“We are strengthening our own freedom by appointing judges to the bench that will support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Trump said.

He also talked about the achievements of his administration’s deregulatory agenda.

“Our regulatory reductions will put more Americans back to work and more lobbyists out of work,” Trump said.

The post Trump: Tax Reform ‘Will Lift Our People From Welfare to Work’ appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

EPA Pushes Back on Practice That Environmentalist Groups Used to Dictate Agenda

Tue, 2017-10-17 18:40

When environmental pressure groups can promote their agendas through closed-door rule-making with the Environmental Protection Agency, something has gone seriously wrong with the regulatory process.

This is precisely what has been happening at federal agencies in recent years—but not for much longer at the EPA. On Monday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a directive to put an end to this process, which is called “sue and settle.”

On the surface, sue and settle doesn’t sound bad. An organization sues a federal agency to compel it to issue regulations, which the agency was already required to do under the law. Instead of litigating, the agency just settles the dispute.

If only that was how it worked in practice. In reality, sue and settle has many problems. Under sue and settle, environmental pressure groups have been able to file cases, meet with the agency in private, and then settle with the agency, effectively dictating the agency’s agenda.

Even when the agency is merely agreeing to meet a deadline as required by law, the agency and the environmental group will enter into agreements that create unrealistic timelines that can lead to bad policy. They can set deadlines to avoid many of the regulatory safeguards that exist, such as proper cost-benefit analysis.

In many of these cases, there is often a question of whether a federal agency is even required to issue regulations—yet the agency simply caves to the environmental group and does as the group desires.

Even worse, agencies have worked with these environmental groups to develop the substance of regulations before they are even proposed to the public.

And very often, the public is not even aware that the agency is being sued, and will find it very difficult to intervene or have any real voice in providing a different perspective on the lawsuit.

This closed process stands in stark contrast to how the federal regulatory system is supposed to work.

The Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the federal rule-making process, was designed to provide notice to the public, allow for public participation, and give the public a meaningful voice in the regulatory process. Sue and settle circumvents this entire process.

The EPA, though, is taking action. Here’s what the EPA directive says:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the states, serves a vital role in protecting human health and the environment. When conducting agency action to achieve these objectives, the EPA must strive to promote transparency and public participation to provide the American public with due process, accountability, and a sense of fair dealing.

To stop sue and settle, the EPA explains it will do the following, among other things:

  • Inform the public that the agency is being sued.
  • Reach out to affected parties about proposed settlements.
  • Provide sufficient time for rule-makings, including to receive public comments.
  • Allow the public to comment on any proposed settlements and request public hearings.
  • Ensure that the EPA is actually required by law to issue regulations as requested by the special interests. The agency won’t take what isn’t a requirement and make it one through a settlement agreement.
  • When settling a case, seek to exclude the payment of attorney’s fees and costs to plaintiffs.

The EPA should be commended for taking this much-needed action against sue and settle. Other agencies, such as the Department of Interior, need to follow the EPA’s lead.

Congress also needs to pass legislation to do away with this sue and settle abuse so that it can’t happen in the future.

The post EPA Pushes Back on Practice That Environmentalist Groups Used to Dictate Agenda appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Trump Backs Temporary Obamacare Fix, but Thinks Votes Are There for Obamacare Replacement

Tue, 2017-10-17 18:02

President Donald Trump said Obamacare is “virtually dead,” but appears ready to keep it on life support for another two years.

Just days after ending subsidies to insurance companies, an executive policy put in place under President Barack Obama with no approval from Congress, the Senate appears to have a bipartisan agreement to restore subsidies for two years.

In that time, Trump believes there will be the votes to pass a bill similar to the Graham-Cassidy legislation that would have block granted Obamacare money to states.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and ranking member Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., announced they reached a bipartisan deal backed by Senate leadership for a two-year extension of subsidies for insurance companies.

The deal would also allow states to experiment with different standards for insurance plans that don’t conform to federal requirements. Still, insurance companies would be required to cover pre-existing conditions.

“For Congress, the most important thing is to recognize that funding the cost-sharing reduction subsidies—as many are now calling for—would prop up the subsidized Obamacare exchange market, but would do absolutely nothing to stabilize the broader, unsubsidized individual market,” said Ed Haislmaier, a health care policy expert at The Heritage Foundation, in a statement.

“What is instead needed to stabilize the unsubsidized market is the removal of Obamacare’s cost-increasing insurance mandates and misguided regulations. To fix that Obamacare-caused damage and lower the cost of insurance, Congress will need to make other policy reforms,” he added.

“We have been involved,” Trump said of the deal Tuesday during a Rose Garden press conference with Greece Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “This is a short-term deal, because we think ultimately block grants going to the states is going to be the answer. That’s a very good solution. We think it’s going to not only save money, but give people much better health care with a very, very much smaller premium spike.”

Trump said the deal will “get us over this intermediate hump.”

“It is a short-term solution so that we don’t have this very dangerous little period, including dangerous period for insurance companies, by the way,” Trump said.

Earlier in the press conference, Trump predicted Obamcare’s demise.

“Obamacare is a disaster. It’s virtually dead. As far as I’m concerned, it really is dead,” Trump said. “It’s a concept that doesn’t work, and we are very close. We feel we have the votes—and as soon as we’re finished with taxes, we really feel we have the votes to get block grants into the states where the states can much better manage this money and much better take care of the people, rather than the federal government.”

Congress has failed to deliver on a seven-year promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The post Trump Backs Temporary Obamacare Fix, but Thinks Votes Are There for Obamacare Replacement appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Deduction for State and Local Taxes Stunts Economic Growth, Group Warns

Tue, 2017-10-17 17:48

Congress should get rid of federal taxpayers’ deduction for state and local income taxes because it ends up costing most taxpayers billions of dollars, an organization that advocates state-level reforms says in an open letter to lawmakers.

Removing the deduction will save $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, the American Legislative Exchange Council said in the letter, published Monday.

“In a show of unity from across the nation,” ALEC said in a press release, more than 100 affiliated state legislators signed the open letter to Congress urging elimination of the state and local tax deduction and passage of “real tax reform.”

“The legislators from 34 states represent millions of constituents from all corners of the country, including high-tax states such as Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota,” the group said.

The open letter comes as President Donald Trump and Republican members of Congress hope to pass tax reform before the end of the year.

According to the Tax Policy Center, the state and local tax deduction is for taxpayers who itemize their real estate, personal property, and either income or general sales taxes.

The state and local tax deduction “is one of the largest federal tax expenditures,” the Tax Policy Center said on its website, “with an estimated revenue cost of $96 billion in 2017 and $1.3 trillion over the 10-year period from 2017 to 2026.”

But many Americans aren’t seeing the benefits, ALEC argues in the open letter:

Only 30 percent of tax filers itemize at all for the simple fact that individuals must choose between the ‘standard deduction’ of either $6,300 or the total of all other allowable deductions. In other words, all workers pay state and local taxes; but only the minority of workers who itemize deductions see a partial ‘refund’ of those taxes paid.

In a teleconference Monday, ALEC’s chief economist, Jonathan Williams, argued that the state and local tax deduction “gives states the incentive to overspend and over-tax.”

Economic policy analyst Stephen Moore said he worked on the original Trump tax plan, and one of the concerns addressed in the plan was the state and local deduction. Moore, distinguished visiting fellow for the Project for Economic Growth at The Heritage Foundation, said the deductions are “quite unfair to the low-tax states.”

Supporters of the deductions say they allow states to collect more revenue to benefit local communities.

The National League of Cities, an organization of municipal governments, for example, argues that local governments get “the flexibility to raise needed revenues without concerns of double taxing their residents.”

But the term “double tax” isn’t being used correctly, said Joel Griffith, director of ALEC’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force.

During the teleconference, Griffith used the corporate income tax as an example of an actual double tax. Corporations pay a tax on income, and then shareholders pay another tax on the same income.

Constitutionally, Griffith said, the federal and state governments are sovereign, providing different benefits to citizens. For example, while some state tax revenue goes to building and fixing state highways, some federal tax revenue goes to strengthening the military or providing Social Security. Citizens, he noted, aren’t being taxed twice for the same benefits.

State Sen. Jim Buck, R-Ind., said during the teleconference that the deductions make it “highly unfair” to states trying not to use the system to raise their own taxes. He called for states to take more responsibility.

“The only way to make America great again is to make our states great again,” Buck said.

The post Deduction for State and Local Taxes Stunts Economic Growth, Group Warns appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Trump’s Hard Line on Border ‘Takes Handcuffs Off’ Law Enforcement, Immigration Chief Says

Tue, 2017-10-17 17:06

Enforcing laws already on the books helps significantly to fix the illegal immigration crisis, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Tuesday.

“If we keep sending this message, ‘It’s OK to violate the laws of this country and … not be worried about enforcement,’ then we’re never going to solve the border crisis,” ICE’s Thomas Homan said in a speech at The Heritage Foundation.

“It’s never going to be solved as long as people think they get a free pass,” Homan said.

Homan became acting director of ICE on Jan. 30, 10 days after President Donald Trump took office.

“I get asked all the time, ‘Why do you arrest somebody that has been here for 10 years, for 15 years in the USA and has kids?,’” Homan said, reinforcing his point. “Why? Because if we don’t, we continue to send the message [that] ‘You are exempt from federal law.’ If that is the message we want to send, you are never going to solve the border crisis.”

Homan credited Trump with the success the agency has seen in confronting illegal immigration.

“We have already made great progress on the border issue [with] this president,” Homan said, adding:

His policy, whether you like the president or not, whether you like his policy or not, you can’t argue with the results [of] what’s going on on the border right now. Why? Because we are enforcing the rule of law and we are communicating a strong message that nothing is off the table.

This includes the president’s executive orders on border security and immigration enforcement. One order withheld certain funding from sanctuary cities, those jurisdictions that do not comply with U.S. immigration law. Trump also directed the hiring of “10,000 additional immigration officers” and set in motion plans for a border wall, as The Daily Signal previously reported.

The New York Times reported Oct. 12 that apprehensions of unlawful border-crossers declined by 40 percent from the same month last year. The Washington Times reported in May that illegal border crossings had declined by 76 percent.

“This president signed a series of executive orders, a lot of papers, a lot of words, a lot of sentences, but he could have done the executive orders in one sentence: ‘ICE will now enforce the laws enacted by Congress and on the books,’” Homan said.

Not enforcing the law is a waste of resources as well as a security risk, the acting ICE director said.

“This country spends billions of dollars a year on border security, detention, immigration courts, attorneys, appeals courts, circuit courts, and at the end, a judge issues a final order [immigration officials] need to execute, because if they are not, there is absolutely no integrity to this entire system. Might as well just open the border,” Homan said.

But he said he is used to pushback.

“I have had long [conversations] where people say, ‘Why are you so heartless?’”

Homan said his personal experience working in law enforcement for almost 30 years has made him see the vitalness of adhering to the law.

“I was at headquarters … when I got a phone call to get on a plane and go immediately to Victoria, Texas, to lead the investigation of 19 dead aliens in the back of a tractor-trailer,” he said, adding:

I immediately got on a plane and went down there. The crime scene was kept secure until I got there. I actually walked into the back of that tractor-trailer and was surrounded by 19 dead aliens. …

They suffocated in the back of the tractor-trailer, one a 5-year-old boy. That haunts me to this day, because I had a 5-year-old boy at the time.

Illegal immigration is dangerous both for American citizens and the illegal immigrants themselves, Homan said, and that’s why he wants reform.

“The aliens-smuggling organization didn’t care about them,” he said of the 19 dead border-crossers. “So when people say that I am cold and I am heartless, you have not seen what I have seen. We got to stop, we got to end this stuff. This president has taken [it] seriously.”

The post Trump’s Hard Line on Border ‘Takes Handcuffs Off’ Law Enforcement, Immigration Chief Says appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Ukraine’s Combat Veterans Dig in for the War Against Corruption

Tue, 2017-10-17 17:04

KYIV, Ukraine—Thousands of protesters massed in front of Ukraine’s parliament building Tuesday, underscoring a simmering level of frustration among Ukrainians—particularly the country’s war veterans—with the slow pace of anti-corruption reforms that has persisted since the 2014 revolution.

According to initial estimates, Tuesday’s protests drew about 6,000 people. The chief rallying cry was a demand to strip Ukrainian lawmakers of their judicial immunity from prosecution; a fixture of Ukrainian law that many say promotes corruption among government officials.

Ukrainian police and National Guard troops stand guard in front of Ukraine’s parliament building in Kyiv on Tuesday. (Photos: Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)

Speakers leading the protests enumerated their demands to the applause of the gathered crowds. Apart from rescinding lawmakers’ judicial immunity, the demands also included the establishment of anti-corruption courts and electoral reforms that would diminish the influence of oligarchs.

Yet, the driving forces behind Tuesday’s protests were more deeply rooted than those bullet point demands. The number of protesters, and the high percentage of combat veterans among them, underscored the brewing disappointment among many Ukrainians with the outcome of the 2014 revolution. Recent polls, for example, suggest an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians think that life has gotten worse since the 2014 revolution.

Members of the Donbas Battalion, a National Guard unit, among the protesters on Tuesday.

Standstill

On Aug. 31, 2015, four Ukrainian National Guard troops were killed during protests in front of Ukraine’s parliament when a protester—a war veteran—tossed a hand grenade into the police line. That lethal incident still has law enforcement personnel on edge. Consequently, Tuesday’s protests brought the government quarter of central Kyiv to a standstill, reflecting concerns among Ukrainian officials that the protests outside of parliament could ignite more widespread anti-government uprisings.

According to government officials, about 500 police officers and National Guard troops were deployed to guard the parliament building on Tuesday. Mykhaila Hrushevskoho Street, which runs in front of parliament, was overrun with protesters for blocks. The road—normally clogged with bumper-to-bumper traffic on a weekday afternoon—was sealed off at either end of the gathered crowds by metal police barricades.

Protesters stopped traffic on a street adjacent to parliament on Tuesday.

A few blocks away from parliament on both Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred Street and on the parallel Liuteranska Street, hundreds more police and National Guard personnel stood guard in front of the dual entrances to the presidential administration building.

And in the surrounding city streets for blocks in different directions, police officers and National Guard troops stood in small groups, concealed in alcoves and archways.

By rush hour on Tuesday, the feeling in front of parliament was tense, yet still festive in some respects. At times, the thousands of protesters began singing Ukraine’s national anthem. Then, they intoned the popular national rallying cry: “Glory to Ukraine,” to which one responds, “Glory to heroes.”

A member of the Donbas Battalion speaks to the media outside Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday.

Some protesters, even those wearing balaclavas, were taking selfies. Some flashed peace signs, or gave a thumbs up. Others seemed to be digging in for a sustained presence, setting up tents on the adjacent road and in nearby Mariyinsky Park.

“I believe that peaceful manifestations are an important element of democracy, and I understand and respect their participants,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told a Ukrainian news program on Tuesday.

However, around 4:00 p.m. one police officer was wounded in a melee with protesters, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Bellwether?

The age of the protesters ranged from young to old, and included men and women.

Among them, there were many military veterans from the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine—where Ukrainian military forces have been engaged in combat against a combined force of pro-Russian separatists and Russian regulars since April 2014.

Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula just weeks after the 2014 revolution. Not long thereafter, Russian special operations forces and intelligence units launched a proxy war in Ukraine’s southeastern Donbas region. The war still simmers as a static, frozen conflict, with no serious chance for a durable peace deal on the horizon.

Russia’s proxy war in eastern Ukraine has, so far, killed more than 10,100 people, and displaced about 1.7 million more from their homes.

About 500 Ukrainian police officers were deployed to stand guard in front of parliament on Tuesday.

In the wake of the revolution, Ukraine’s war effort initially diverted the energy of its most patriotic citizens away from focusing on reforms. Now, after more than three and half years of combat, the war is stuck in a sustainable if still lethal limbo as a frozen conflict. Consequently, the war effort no longer monopolizes Ukraine’s political conversation, and reformers are increasingly able to zero in on fighting government corruption.

Combat veterans are playing a key role in that rekindled anti-corruption push.

“We’re here to protest against corruption,” Volodymyr Pavlovych, a Ukrainian combat veteran, said at Tuesday’s protests. “We deserve to be heard.”

Among the protesters were dozens of members of the Donbas Battalion—one of the civilian militias that were key to Ukraine’s early war effort and were later incorporated into the National Guard. Many of the Donbas Battalion members at Tuesday’s protests wore military uniforms. They marched in lockstep holding a line of steel shields.

The prolific presence of military veterans at Tuesday’s protests highlighted how Ukraine’s political landscape might change as tens of thousands of combat veterans cycle out of military service commitments and return to civilian life. One line of thinking is that returning veterans who become politically active will be more aggressive in holding elected leaders to account for their post-revolution promises.

Recent polling suggests that many Ukrainians think their lives have gotten worse since the 2014 revolution.

At times on Tuesday, the protesters chanted “revolution.” Once, a speaker on a bullhorn led the crowd to chant “Maidan” over and over—referring to the 2014 revolution that overthrew Ukraine’s pro-Russian former president, Viktor Yanukovych.

“The revolution begins today,” a Ukrainian regular army war veteran named Andrey said on Tuesday. He asked that his last name not be published due to security concerns.

“We want justice,” Andrey said. “We want our leaders to obey the law. That’s what we fought for.”

The post Ukraine’s Combat Veterans Dig in for the War Against Corruption appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Citing National Debt, Need for Reform, 69 GOP Lawmakers Vote Against Disaster Relief Bill

Tue, 2017-10-17 16:14

Sixty-nine Republican lawmakers voted against a $36.5 billion bill for disaster relief, citing concerns about the growing national debt and the lack of reforms for the National Flood Insurance Program.

“I voted to provide more money for emergency hurricane relief a few weeks ago, and I’m happy to provide additional aid for Puerto Rico in the devastating situation they face,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, in a statement provided to The Daily Signal. Jordan was one of the 69 lawmakers who voted against the bill Oct. 12.

“But at some point we have to look for offsetting cuts elsewhere in the budget instead of continuing to borrow and add billions more to our $20 trillion debt, and we also need to look for ways to reform the National Flood Insurance Program so that in the future it is more solvent,” Jordan added.

Jordan, a former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus voted no on the package along with current House Freedom Caucus chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows, and Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

A document released by the Republican Study Committee detailed the concern conservatives had with voting for the bill.

“Conservatives may be concerned that the bill essentially wipes the slate clean on $16 billion the National Flood Insurance Program’s debt owed to the Treasury’s general fund,” the document read. “Conservatives may also be concerned that despite the fact the NFIP is roughly $25 billion in debt, this bill does not contain any reforms to begin the task of getting the program on solid financial footing.”  

The document also noted the $36.5 billion bill was “larger than the administration’s supplemental request of $29.3 billion.”

Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., said he voted against the bill because it was an inappropriate use of funding.

“I support aid for Puerto Rico,” Duffy said in a statement to The Daily Signal. “But sadly, the recent bill was not just direct relief to the Island. It included $16 billion in debt forgiveness for the National Flood Insurance Program without any reforms to the program.”

The Republican Study Committee also laid out several other concerns, including the fact the bill increases the deficit and that the bill was “expected to be considered as a suspension bill, and accordingly members will not be able to offer amendments.”

In an op-ed published Oct. 11, the Republican Study Committee’s Walker wrote that “Ideally, the government should run a surplus each year and put the extra money into a rainy-day fund.” He added:

“ Congress should plan for worst-case scenarios to avoid last-minute scrambling. Governing by crisis is irresponsible, especially considering the national debt is already at $20 trillion. As then-Rep. Mike Pence said after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005: ‘Congress must ensure that a catastrophe of nature does not become a catastrophe of debt.’”

A list of the members who voted against the bill are listed here.

A vote on the bill in the Senate is expected this week.

The post Citing National Debt, Need for Reform, 69 GOP Lawmakers Vote Against Disaster Relief Bill appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

As Trump Renegotiates NAFTA, Intellectual Property Rights Should Top the Agenda

Tue, 2017-10-17 16:03

It now appears that President Donald Trump’s intention regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement is to mend it, not end it.

That’s good news because the trade deal has been a stunning economic success for Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Freer trade has meant steady increases in the volume of trade, greater competitiveness, and lower prices.

But as Trump’s negotiators craft a NAFTA 2.0 deal, some things need to be fixed to assure America’s continued commanding heights in technology and innovation. Intellectual property rights—patents, copyrights, and so on—need to be better safeguarded.

There have been abuses. In an unprecedented move, Canadian regulators recently ordered an American pharmaceutical company to lower the price of the company’s breakthrough treatment for a rare blood disorder.

Canada is inventing new rules to avoid paying American pharmaceutical and technology companies for their innovations and inventions. This is also happening in Europe, where bureaucrats are trying to expropriate funds from American technology leaders, including Google, through bogus charges of monopoly activities.

The Trump administration should vigorously repel these economic attacks against American companies.

This is a very big deal for the American economy. Intellectual property is increasingly the lifeblood of our economy. Intellectual property-intensive industries support 28 million American jobs—or about 1 in 5 workers. About $6 trillion of our gross domestic product now is in intellectual property-related industries, including almost all of Silicon Valley.

Many of NAFTA’s intellectual property provisions do not prevent infringement of patent rights and, in some cases, outright theft (as in the case of China). This costs American consumers and businesses an estimated $200 billion annually.

Consider our drug companies.

American pharmaceuticals recorded $47 billion in exports in 2015. Yet despite this and the fact that the vast majority of drug breakthroughs come from America, the U.S. currently has a $700 million trade deficit with Canada and only a tiny trade surplus with Mexico in biopharmaceuticals.

Our trade partners do not want their citizens to pay for the costs of the research and development required to invent these breakthrough medicines in the first place. It typically requires $500 million to $1 billion to develop a new drug or vaccine, and American consumers shouldn’t bear the entire burden of those costs.

It drives up drug and health insurance costs in America, and it jeopardizes world health by delaying the development of future cures for cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and other terrible diseases.

Even worse, Mexico is producing “knockoff” drugs that are copycats of American pharmaceuticals. This is stealing, too, and negotiators should get tough on these practices south of our border.

The same abuses are happening with American trademarks and copyrighted materials. NAFTA doesn’t sufficiently protect movies, music, and games from theft and distribution online.

NAFTA should impose civil and criminal penalties for illicit access to cable and satellite signals and other preventable infringements in which American firms are not compensated for use of the product.

The future of free and fair trade depends on rigorous enforcement of America’s multitrillion-dollar intellectual property industries. This is about jobs—millions of them—and the rule of law.

It is also about encouraging the very innovation that promotes prosperity and better health in America—which we then export across the globe to the betterment of mankind.

It will also help boost public and business support for trade as a driver of growth in the years to come.

The post As Trump Renegotiates NAFTA, Intellectual Property Rights Should Top the Agenda appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

In Our System, Punishment Should Fit the Crime

Tue, 2017-10-17 15:20

Violent crime did increase in the United States in 2016. But not everywhere.

Baltimore, Chicago, and St. Louis have all suffered a large increase in murders the past few years, while communities like Omaha, Austin, and Miami have seen crime go down.

There are many explanations for why crime increased in some cities but declined in others, including the opioid epidemic and gangs.

But there is another explanation for why some cities have seen large spikes in violent crimes: Their residents no longer trust the criminal justice system.

“There are any number of theories on what causes crime rates to swell, but nearly everyone agrees that public trust is essential to successful law enforcement,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck wrote recently in the Los Angeles Times.

“Police alone cannot reduce crime. Community partnerships, joint problem solving, and open communication with the public are critical. When those links are weak, police are less effective, particularly at preventing crime.”

Beck’s wisdom is corroborated by a 2016 survey of more than 2,000 Americans. That study found that 81 percent of people with a high level of trust in police said they would definitely report a crime, compared to just 54 percent of people with low trust.

In other words, if a community does not believe its criminal justice system is fair, then it is far less likely to cooperate with that system. And when a community does not cooperate with law enforcement, crime goes up.

That is why I’ve co-sponsored three criminal justice reform bills—the Smarter Sentencing Act, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, and the Mens Rea Reform Act.

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 is a bipartisan bill that would eliminate mandatory life sentences for three-strike drug offenses, give judges discretion when sentencing non-violent drug offenders, and allow federal prisons to create more programs to reduce recidivism.

The Smarter Sentencing Act of 2017 would give judges additional discretion when sentencing nonviolent drug offenders and allows for more cases in which judges have to retroactively reduce sentences for nonviolent offenders.

The Mens Rea Reform Act of 2017 would require federal prosecutors to prove defendants actually had criminal intent when they violated a federal statute.

I would proudly vote for any of these bills, individually or packaged together, because I believe reforming our criminal justice system is good policy—and a moral imperative.

The United States has experienced a 500 percent increase in the number of inmates in federal custody since 1980. Almost 50 percent of those federal inmates are serving sentences for drug offenses.

Mandatory sentences, particularly drug sentences, can force judges to impose one-size-fits-all sentences without taking into account the details of individual cases.

Frequently, the results of these policies are lengthy sentences for minor nonviolent drug offenses that are far longer than the sentences given to criminals convicted of rape, assault, or even murder. These sentences disproportionately affect minorities and foster distrust of the criminal justice system.

We must safeguard the legitimacy of our criminal justice system by ensuring that the punishment fits the crime, while continuing to protect the public. Each of these bills is a step toward that ultimate goal.

If we can ensure that time given to criminals matches the crimes they commit, I am confident trust will be restored in our criminal justice system and crime rates will fall again.

The post In Our System, Punishment Should Fit the Crime appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Senate Must Act on Long-Overdue Reforms to Department of Homeland Security

Tue, 2017-10-17 14:53

It’s time to reform and reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security, says the department’s acting secretary, Elaine Duke.

On that score, she has the support of her predecessor, retired Gen. John Kelly, now the White House chief of staff.

In Sept. 27 testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Duke addressed the threats to the homeland and the need for “a more integrated approach, bringing together intelligence, operations, interagency engagement, and international action like never before.”

Responsible for a wide array of missions and facing threats that are often evolving, the Department of Homeland Security must adapt in order to effectively and efficiently deal with those threats. Reauthorizing DHS is integral to doing that.

The House of Representatives in July passed the DHS Authorization Act, taking important steps to reform and reauthorize the department—the first such reauthorization since DHS was created in 2003.

Since that time, the DHS has been criticized for not effectively managing its various missions as a consequence of internal divisions, inefficiencies, and myriad poor policies.

The reauthorization bill tackles some of those problems. The House measure would improve the organizational structure within the department and clarify the responsibilities of DHS leadership.

It would eliminate overlap and duplication in various programs by merging or getting rid of unnecessary ones, decreasing the number of direct reports to the secretary, and providing incentives to boost employee morale. Surveys have found morale at the DHS to be the lowest among all of the federal government’s biggest agencies.

The Senate should take further steps to improve the DHS. As part of reauthorizing the department, senators should privatize airport-security screening, improve DHS’s research and development, and reform the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Senate should look to the airport-security models used in Canada and Europe and privatize the Transportation Security Administration’s screening workforce to increase efficiency and lower costs, while still maintaining security.

DHS’s research-and-development program should be reformed to better equip DHS personnel with the tools they need, especially in the field of cybersecurity, where  the threat is constantly changing.

Additionally, the R&D should focus more on timely research that can yield usable technology. The DHS should continue to expand collaboration with the private sector through the SAFETY Act, which will allow for more innovative solutions to the threats facing the nation.

Following the recent catastrophic natural disasters, now more than ever it’s time to reform FEMA. FEMA needs to be reformed so that the disaster-relief fund actually has more money put aside for large disasters.

The program spends too much money on smaller calamities that can and should be handled at the state level, leaving little money for when large amounts of aid are needed after large disasters.

Leaving money for big disasters would decrease the need for supplemental spending bills and all the accompanying congressional pork they entail.

These reforms would improve the efficiency of the DHS and make the department better prepared to handle threats and natural disasters.

With the House having done its part, and with Duke and many other leaders calling for changes, it is now up to the Senate to reform and reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security.

The post Senate Must Act on Long-Overdue Reforms to Department of Homeland Security appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

More Cases of Voter Fraud Pile Up As Liberals Look the Other Way

Tue, 2017-10-17 14:05

The Heritage Foundation added another round of cases this week to our ever-growing Election Fraud Database.

Accounting for these new additions, the database now documents 1,088 proven instances of election fraud, including 949 cases that have resulted in criminal convictions, 48 that have ended in civil penalties, and 75 that have seen defendants enter diversion programs.

Americans should be alarmed, not only because Heritage has compiled so many examples of fraud—impacting nearly every state and elections for all levels of government—but because this figure is likely just the tip of the iceberg.

The Heritage database is not a comprehensive tally of election fraud. That figure would almost certainly be substantially larger.

Most states, after all, lack the robust procedures needed to detect fraud when it occurs. Even when fraud is detected, prosecutors often opt not to pursue cases because their priorities lie elsewhere.

Put simply, American elections are vulnerable and fraudsters know it. Not content to leave their ideological causes or their own careers up to the unpredictable will of voters, many fraudsters choose to act on this knowledge.

Here are two examples from the 2016 election, added in this week’s update:

1. Gladys Coego

Gladys Coego was a temporary worker in the Miami-Dade County elections department during the November election. She had been hired to open mail-in ballots, but she decided to go a step further: She deliberately altered these ballots to steer more votes toward Republican mayoral candidate Raquel Regalado.

Fortunately, Coego’s fraud did not alter the outcome of the election. She pleaded guilty to tampering with ballots and was sentenced to two years of house arrest.

2. Toni Lee Newbill

Toni Lee Newbill, a resident of Colorado, cast two ballots in the name of her deceased father, one in the 2013 general election and another in the 2016 Republican primary. She pleaded guilty and was given 18 months of probation and ordered to complete 30 hours of community service, as well as pay a $500 fine.

Consider the consequences of the actions of these two individuals. Newbill used her late father’s name to double her influence as a voter, and in the process she canceled out the lawful vote of someone else. Coego took advantage of her position to literally replace the opinions of voters with her own.

Both Coego and Newbill effectively disenfranchised their fellow voters in pursuit of their own aims.

Now, these cases join more than 1,000 others in the Heritage database, which documents all manner of fraud from vote-buying conspiracies to corrupt politicians rigging elections, to illegal voting by aliens and felons.

These cases constitute incontrovertible evidence of election fraud—which is perhaps why the Heritage database has found itself in the crosshairs of the left. After years of insisting that fraud is a myth perpetrated by vote suppressors, inconvenient contrary evidence is the last thing some want to see.

Last month, the Brennan Center for Justice released a report purporting to explain away virtually every case of fraud in the database. But the Brennan Center appears to have confused obfuscation with analysis.

Any reasonable and fair-minded reader would have difficulty concluding that its mischaracterizations and inaccuracies regarding the Heritage database were anything less than a deliberate attempt to mislead the public on the issue.

What is it that anti-election integrity activists fear?

Voter identification laws have been shown time and again not to suppress voter turnout. In fact, minority voter turnout has been shown to actually improve in many states after they adopt a voter ID law.

Claims that such laws discriminate and disenfranchise voters have been similarly debunked. Justice Department attorneys challenging voter ID laws in Texas and North Carolina could locate nobody who was unable to vote on account of these laws.

At the same time, evidence continues to mount that serious vulnerabilities in our election system are permitting non-citizens to illegally register and cast ballots in American elections. The Heritage database also documents many cases where convicted felons have illegally voted.

Asking for proof of identification at the ballot box—a precaution deemed necessary when buying alcohol or boarding an airplane—hardly seems inappropriate.

Nor does it seem outlandish for states to routinely inspect their voter rolls to detect and purge inaccurate and out-of-date registrations, a requirement under the National Voter Registration Act intended to cut down on the possibility that someone—like Newbill, for example—can vote in the name of deceased individuals, or vote twice in multiple states.

One recent report concluded with “high confidence” that 45,000 duplicate votes were cast in the 2016 election.

Somehow, innocuous measures like these seem to inflame liberal activists. In New Hampshire, for example, efforts to require voters to demonstrate they had established a domicile in the state when registering to vote prompted outrage. The New Hampshire Democratic Party accused supporters of instituting a “literacy test.”

At least one Democrat did endorse the measure, however: Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who noted that citizens deserve an electoral process they can trust. Kudos to him.

Gardner is exactly right. Election fraud is a serious issue that undermines public trust and confidence in the political process. In tight elections, even a small number of fraudulent ballots—sometimes even a single illegal vote—can swing the outcome and override the will of voters.

We, as a nation, should not willfully blind ourselves to this threat to the core of our democracy.

As The Heritage Foundation’s Election Fraud Database proves, America has a problem, and it’s time to take the steps necessary to solve it.

The post More Cases of Voter Fraud Pile Up As Liberals Look the Other Way appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

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