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I Ran Personnel Policy Under Reagan. Here Are Some Steps to Reforming Our Bureaucracies.

Fri, 2019-01-04 15:28

At the very pinnacle of the modern progressive program to make government competent stands the ideal of a professionalized, career civil service.

Since the turn of the 20th century, progressives have sought a system that could effectively select, train, reward, and guard from partisan influence the neutral scientific experts they believe are required to staff the national government and run the administrative state.

Our current system, largely implemented during the New Deal, was designed to replace the amateurism and corruption that were endemic to the old spoils system, wherein government jobs were used to reward loyal partisan foot soldiers, with professionalized, scientific, and politically neutral administration. While progressives designed the merit system to promote expertise and shield bureaucrats from partisan political pressure, it now insulates civil servants from accountability.

As I argue in a new study for The Heritage Foundation, the modern merit system has made it impossible to fire all but the most incompetent civil servants. Complying with arcane rules regarding recruiting, rating, hiring, and firing has replaced the goal of cultivating competence and expertise.

The current system is long overdue for a thoroughgoing makeover. When it comes to basic human resources decisions, employee performance should come first. The federal government should remove red tape that prevents agencies from hiring, promoting, and retaining top talent.

>>> Trump Executive Orders Are Surprisingly Popular With Federal Employees

But the quality of the career civil service is not the only problem. The high operating costs of our bloated federal bureaucracy are equally unsustainable. While the military’s unofficial motto is “do more with less,” the career civil service often does less with more. Agency payrolls are laden by federal employees who are paid more than they could earn in the private sector. This must be changed.

Finally, elected officials must assert firm control over the career civil service. While the federal service is mostly comprised of capable and competent individuals, careerists by themselves should not be tasked with formulating and executing the details of an agenda for major policy change.

The problem goes deeper than bureaucratic administration. The federal bureaucracy’s inefficiency, expense, and irresponsiveness to political leadership are all rooted in the progressive belief that unelected experts should be trusted with promoting the general welfare in just about every area of social life. This belief is the root of the problem.

If political interests continue to force Congress and the president to act directly on all manner of societal problems, as they currently are, the federal bureaucracy will continue to be overwhelmed. It is simply impossible for political leadership to effectively manage a bureaucracy vast enough to fulfill all of the functions now performed by the national government. Unlimited utopian progressive aspirations cannot be squared with constitutional government.

Serious reform must address both the merit system’s failures and the progressive vision of government that has created an overweening bureaucracy unable to meet its own ideals.

The post I Ran Personnel Policy Under Reagan. Here Are Some Steps to Reforming Our Bureaucracies. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

First on Nancy Pelosi’s Agenda: Attacking Free Expression

Fri, 2019-01-04 14:17

I have zero interest in financially supporting any politician, much less ones I find morally unpalatable. Yet Democrats want to force me—and every other American taxpayer—to contribute, as a matter of public policy, to the campaigns of candidates we disagree with.

Believe it or not, this might be an even more dangerous assault on free expression than unpleasant tweets directed at CNN anchors.

One of Nancy Pelosi’s first projects as the new speaker of the House will be passing a government overhaul of campaign finance and ethics rules that would, among other things, “expand voting rights.” One of the new bills—specifics are still cloudy—reportedly would allocate a pool of taxpayer money to match small-dollar donations 6-to-1, as a way of encouraging “grass-roots campaigning,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

The package, fortunately, wouldn’t pass the Senate. But creating government-financed campaigns—empowering the state to allocate money to preferred donors and dissuading non-preferred donors—has been something of a hobbyhorse in progressive circles.

Setting aside the many constitutional concerns, the recent abuses by the IRS when tasked with regulating political speech demonstrate just how easy it is for bureaucrats to manipulate rules meant to govern speech. These are rules that shouldn’t exist, period.

Some big cities have already begun handing out tax-funded “democracy vouchers.” In other words, politicians have passed legislation that subsidizes the speech of people who will, for the most part, support them. It’s quite the racket. Pelosi wants to take this corruption national.

Reducing the power of “special interests” in Washington is always a popular issue with voters. The problem, of course, is that every voter considers another group a special interest. Though as a political notion, campaign finance reform remains popular with Americans, specific campaign finance reform legislation is always about inhibiting someone’s speech.

What many Americans don’t seem to accept, particularly partisans, is that not voting or participating in our political process is also a matter of free expression. There’s nothing, after all, in the Constitution about how the state should encourage “grass-roots activism.”

There is no amendment that calls on us to treat the First Amendment rights of Michael Bloomberg any differently than we do those of the grandmother who foolishly sends her Social Security check to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The word “fairness” isn’t mentioned a single time in the entire document.

There is something about abridging freedom of speech. And money is speech. This fact has been codified by the Supreme Court. Writing is speech. Speaking is speech. Speaking anonymously is speech. Joining a group of other Americans to petition the government is also speech.

Yet Democrats will also include a provision in their package that would make tax-exempt 501(c)(4) charitable groups disclose donors who’ve given $10,000 or more during an election cycle. As I’ve written elsewhere, this obsession with eliminating anonymity is also a transparent attempt to chill speech and undermine minority opinions.

(As an aside, the media’s incessant use of the euphemism “good-government groups” in describing “special interest groups” that campaign to limit “dark money” is itself a political bias. There’s no evidence that “good government” is contingent on handing over donor information to activists or that asking the IRS permission to petition the state engenders better governance. These groups do for “good government” what the Patriot Act did for patriotism and the Affordable Care Act did for affordability.)

Now, you might recall that one of the central criticisms Democrats leveled at the Citizens United free speech decision was that corporate funding would force employees and shareholders to support issues and candidates against their will. This was a facile claim, seeing as in the private sector, workers and shareholders are free to associate with companies that comport with their politics.

At the same time, however, Democrats are perfectly comfortable impelling taxpayers to contribute to campaigns. Liberals simultaneously bitterly complain about the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, which finally stopped public-sector unions from coercing workers to pay “agency fees” to fund their political activities.

This is because, for all their hysterics over President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, Democrats are fully engaged in attempting to control political speech.

The post First on Nancy Pelosi’s Agenda: Attacking Free Expression appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Armstrong Williams Hosts Rare Broadcast From Dubai

Fri, 2019-01-04 13:29

Americans have the opportunity to get a rare glimpse of life in the United Arab Emirates this weekend when veteran TV host Armstrong Williams airs a show taped in the Middle Eastern country.

The program will be broadcast on stations nationwide in 171 markets Jan. 5-6. Williams visited Dubai in December for the televised town hall meeting—one of the first times Americans have been invited to produce such a program in the country.

“They said it’s the first time that an American camera crew has been allowed in there,” Williams said. “I was shocked, I had no idea.”

Williams, who hosts “The Armstrong Williams Show” weekly from the WJLA studios in Arlington, Virginia, said trip came about after an October meeting. One of the meeting attendees invited Williams to Dubai. He’s made 14 trips to Israel but never visited an Arab country.

“They felt my broadcasting was unfair and biased, and maybe it was because no one had ever extended an invitation to me to come and visit the Arab world firsthand,” Williams told The Daily Signal. “And I said, ‘I am biased, it’s true. I’m biased toward Israel.’”

Still, Williams decided it would be a worthwhile endeavor to see life in another Middle Eastern country.

To maintain journalistic standards, Williams insisted on handling the arrangements and determining who would appear on the TV program. He said it was particularly important to have a female perspective and to talk about Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian who was murdered in Turkey.

When it airs this weekend, the TV program will feature a discussion of faith’s influence on the lifestyle in the UAE, what attracts people to Dubai, family values and traditions in the UAE, and the culture of tolerance and openness.

“During the town hall meeting, which was an hour, I asked tough questions about women and I asked tough questions about their attitude toward alternative lifestyles,” Williams said.

Guests on the program include Khalaf Al Habtoor, founding chairman of the Al Habtoor Group; Nada Mourtada, secretary general of the University Leadership Consortium; Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, an author and professor of political science; Faisal Jalal, editor-in-chief of Arab News; Habib Al Mulla, chairman, Baker & McKenzie Habib Al Mulla; and Issa Al Bastaki, president of the University of Dubai.

Armstrong Williams, left, interviewed Pervez Musharraf, who now resides in Dubai after serving as Pakistan’s president from 2001 to 2008. (Photo courtesy of Armstrong Williams)

While on the trip, Williams interviewed former Afghanistan President Pervez Musharraf, a resident of Dubai who rarely speaks to the media.

Williams said the weeklong visit gave him a new understanding of the Arab world.

“The biggest disappointment is that very few Americans visit Dubai,” he said. “You see the blessing of the economy, the blessing of the people, how they’re blessed as a result of their moral striving.”

The post Armstrong Williams Hosts Rare Broadcast From Dubai appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Democrat Leader Jerry Nadler Distances Himself From Rep. Tlaib’s Comments on Impeaching Trump

Fri, 2019-01-04 11:59

Democratic Party higher-up Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York distanced himself Friday from a new congresswoman’s comments on impeaching President Donald Trump, including calling him a “motherf—-r.”

Democratic Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib promised to go after Trump and “impeach the motherf—-r” during remarks at a MoveOn rally in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

“I don’t like that language. More to the point, I disagree with what she said. It is too early to talk about that intelligently. We have to follow the facts and get the facts,” Nadler told CNN’s John Berman, according to a Friday morning tweet from CNN’s Manu Raju.

Nadler has been in office for nearly 30 years and became the chair of the House Judiciary Committee when the 116th Congress was sworn in Thursday.

“This is not just about Donald Trump. This is about all of us. In the face of this constitutional crisis, we must rise,” Tlaib tweeted Friday morning after the coverage over her profane remarks.

This is not just about Donald Trump. This is about all of us. In the face of this constitutional crisis, we must rise.

— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) January 4, 2019

Other members of the Democrat brass have also been noncommittal about pursuing impeachment.

“Well, we have to wait and see what happens with the Mueller report. We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason. We just have to see how it comes,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during a television interview Thursday.

Tlaib and Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar became the country’s first two Muslim congresswomen Thursday. Tlaib was sworn in on Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Quran while wearing a traditional Palestinian dress called a thobe, reported CNN.

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, contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

The post Democrat Leader Jerry Nadler Distances Himself From Rep. Tlaib’s Comments on Impeaching Trump appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

The Facts Show the US Actually Had a Pretty Good Year in 2018

Fri, 2019-01-04 11:53

The year 2018 will be deplored by pundits as a bad year of more unpredictable Donald Trump, headlined by wild stock market gyrations, the melodramas of the Robert Mueller investigation and the musical-chair tenures of officials in the Trump administration.

The government is still shut down. Talk of impeachment by the newly Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is in the air. Seemingly every day there are sensational breakthroughs, scandals, and bombshells that race through social media and the Internet–only to be forgotten by the next day.

In truth, aside from the Washington hysterias, 2018 was a most successful year for Americans.

In December, the United States reached a staggering level of oil production, pumping some 11.6 million barrels per day. For the first time since 1973, America is now the world’s largest oil producer

Since Trump took office, the U.S. has increased its oil production by nearly 3 million barrels per day, largely as the result of fewer regulations, more federal leasing, and the continuing brilliance of American frackers and horizontal drillers.

It appears that there is still far more oil beneath U.S. soil than has ever been taken out. American production could even soar higher in the months ahead.

In addition, the United States remains the largest producer of natural gas and the second-greatest producer of coal. The scary old energy-related phraseology of the last half-century–“energy crisis,” “peak oil,” “oil embargo”– no longer exists.

Near-total energy self-sufficiency means the U.S. is no longer strategically leveraged by the Middle East, forced to pay exorbitant political prices to guarantee access to imported oil, or threatened by gasoline prices of $4 to $5 a gallon.

The American economy grew by 4.2 percent in the second quarter of 2018, and by 3.4 percent in the third quarter. American GDP is nearly $1.7 trillion larger than in January 2017, and nearly $8 trillion larger than the GDP of China. For all the talk of the Chinese juggernaut, three Chinese workers produce about 60 percent of the goods and services produced by one American worker.

In 2018, unemployment fell to a near-record peacetime low of 3.7 percent. That’s the lowest U.S. unemployment rate since 1969. Black unemployment hit an all-time low in 2018. For the first time in memory, employers are seeking out entry-level workers rather than vice versa.

The poverty rate is also near a historic low, and household income increased. There are about 8 million fewer Americans living below the poverty line than there were eight years ago. Since January 2017, more than 3 million Americans have gone off so-called food stamps.

Abroad, lots of bad things that were supposed to happen simply did not.

After withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, the U.S. exceeded the annual percentage of carbon reductions of most countries that are part of the agreement.

North Korea and the U.S. did not go to war. Instead, North Korea has stopped its provocative nuclear testing and its launching of ballistic missiles over the territory of its neighbors.

Despite all the Trump bluster, NATO and NAFTA did not quite implode. Rather, allies and partners agreed to renegotiate past commitments and agreements on terms more favorable to the U.S.

The United States–and increasingly most of the world–is at last addressing the systematic commercial cheating, technological appropriation, overt espionage, intellectual-property theft, cyber intrusions, and mercantilism of the Chinese government.

The Middle East is still chaotic, but it is a mess that is now far less important to the U.S. for a variety of reasons. Energy-wise, America is not dependent on oil imports from corrupt Gulf monarchies or hostile Islamic states. Strategy-wise, the new fault lines are not Arab and Islamic cultures versus Israel or the United States. Instead, it is internecine strife within the Islamic world, mostly with Iran and its Shiite satellites opposing the Sunni Arab monarchies and more moderate Middle Eastern regimes.

For all the pro- and anti-Trump invective and media hysteria, the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation circus, and the bitter midterm elections, the U.S. was relatively calm in 2018 compared with the rest of the world. There was none of the mass rioting, demonstrations, and street violence that occurred recently in France, and none of the existential and unsolvable divides over globalization and Brexit that we saw in Europe

Europe’s three most powerful leaders–Angela Merkel or Germany, Emmanuel Macron of France, and Theresa May of the United Kingdom–have worse approval ratings than the embattled Donald Trump.

In sum, the more media pundits claimed that America was on the brink of disaster in 2018, the more Americans became prosperous and secure.


The post The Facts Show the US Actually Had a Pretty Good Year in 2018 appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Sweden Isn’t Socialist

Fri, 2019-01-04 11:45

For years, I’ve heard American leftists say Sweden is proof that socialism works, that it doesn’t have to turn out as badly as the Soviet Union or Cuba or Venezuela did.

But that’s not what Swedish historian Johan Norberg says in a new documentary and Stossel TV video.

“Sweden is not socialist–because the government doesn’t own the means of production. To see that, you have to go to Venezuela or Cuba or North Korea,” says Norberg.

“We did have a period in the 1970s and 1980s when we had something that resembled socialism: a big government that taxed and spent heavily. And that’s the period in Swedish history when our economy was going south.”

Per capita GDP fell. Sweden’s growth fell behind other countries. Inflation increased.

Even socialistic Swedes complained about the high taxes.

Astrid Lindgren, author of the popular “Pippi Longstocking” children’s books, discovered that she was losing money by being popular. She had to pay a tax of 102 percent on any new book she sold.

“She wrote this angry essay about a witch who was mean and vicious–but not as vicious as the Swedish tax authorities,” says Norberg.

Yet even those high taxes did not bring in enough money to fund Sweden’s big welfare state.

“People couldn’t get the pension that they thought they depended on for the future,” recounts Norberg. “At that point the Swedish population just said, enough, we can’t do this.”

Sweden then reduced government’s role.

They cut public spending, privatized the national rail network, abolished certain government monopolies, eliminated inheritance taxes, and sold state-owned businesses like the maker of Absolut vodka.

They also reduced pension promises “so that it wasn’t as unsustainable,” adds Norberg.

As a result, says Norberg, his “impoverished peasant nation developed into one of the world’s richest countries.”

He acknowledges that Sweden, in some areas, has a big government: “We do have a bigger welfare state than the U.S., higher taxes than the U.S., but in other areas, when it comes to free markets, when it comes to competition, when it comes to free trade, Sweden is actually more free market.”

Sweden’s free market is not burdened by the U.S.’s excessive regulations, special-interest subsidies, and crony bailouts. That allows it to fund Sweden’s big welfare programs.

“Today our taxes pay for pensions–you (in the U.S.) call it Social Security–for 18-month paid parental leave, government-paid childcare for working families,” says Norberg.

But Sweden’s government doesn’t run all those programs. “Having the government manage all of these things didn’t work well.”

So they privatized.

“We realized in Sweden that with these government monopolies, we don’t get the innovation that we get when we have competition,” says Norberg.

Sweden switched to a school voucher system. That allows parents to pick their kids’ school and forced schools to compete for the voucher money.

“One result that we’ve seen is not just that the private schools are better,” says Norberg, “but even public schools in the vicinity of private schools often improve, because they have to.”

Sweden also partially privatized its retirement system. In America, the Cato Institute proposed something similar. President George W. Bush supported the idea but didn’t explain it well. He dropped the idea when politicians complained that privatizing Social Security scared voters.

Swedes were frightened by the idea at first, too, says Norberg, “But when they realized that the alternative was that the whole pension system would collapse, they thought that this was much better than doing nothing.”

So Sweden supports its welfare state with private pensions, school choice, and fewer regulations, and in international economic-freedom comparisons, Sweden often earns a higher ranking than the U.S.

Next time you hear democratic socialists talk about how socialist Sweden is, remind them that the big welfare state is funded by Swedes’ free-market practices, not their socialist ones.


The post Sweden Isn’t Socialist appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Place Your Bets: Decision Time Approaching on Brexit

Fri, 2019-01-04 11:30

LONDON–To Brexit, or not to Brexit, that is the question (apologies to Shakespeare). The answer to whether the U.K. will pull out of the European Union as a majority of voters favored in a 2016 referendum will be decided this month. Maybe.

Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament that debate on the deal would resume on Jan. 7. She has scheduled a vote for the following week. The vote had originally been set for Dec. 11, but May pulled it, fearing the measure would be soundly defeated.

She has been engaged since then in intense lobbying with parliamentarians who favor staying within the European Union. She has offered special posts to those who end their opposition. This tactic appears to have worked with several members of Parliament who have flipped from “no” to “yes,” prompting strong criticism from anti-Brexit members.

There is no guarantee May has the votes to proceed and some are speculating she may again call for a delay, further demonstrating a leadership weakness that was revealed last month when she barely survived a no-confidence vote.

London Times columnist Matthew Parris is a leading anti-Brexit voice. In a Dec. 29 column, Parris claims voters were “misled” in the run-up to the 2016 vote. He favors another vote, believing the outcome would be different.

Liam Fox, the international trade secretary and a leading Brexit supporter, told The Sunday Times the chances of Britain leaving the EU are “50-50,” if MPs reject the deal.

The issue is complicated because it involves money, power, and the future of Northern Ireland. No one wants to see the restoration of a border between the North and the Republic of Ireland, which almost certainly would lead to the violence that mostly ended following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, negotiated with the help of the Clinton administration.

There is a “backstop” strategy in case next week’s vote goes against May. It would effectively keep the entire U.K. in the EU customs union for a limited period until another vote could be taken, which, the government hopes after perhaps more horse trading, would produce a positive outcome.

As with the U.S. government shutdown, passions are strong on both sides when it comes to Brexit. One side fears Britain will effectively be shut out of Europe should the break occur, while the other is fed-up with Brussels dictating policies that contribute to what they see as diminished British sovereignty.

May was saddled with an issue about which she was not fully, or even mainly, on board. She has bravely (some critics say foolishly) pressed ahead anyway, saying that she is simply carrying out the wishes of a majority of voters.

History can be amusing. This is not the first referendum on Britain’s relationship with Europe. That occurred in 1975 when the Conservative Party–now favoring withdrawal–enthusiastically supported Britain’s continued membership in what was then called the European Economic Community. The party’s new leader, Margaret Thatcher, called for a “massive Yes” to remain in the European Economic Community and led a nationwide campaign in its favor. On the withdrawal side was the liberal Labour Party, which now wishes to remain. Several leading newspapers that now favor a divorce from Europe, then campaigned to keep Britain aligned with Europe.

Scheduled implementation of Brexit is set for March 29, but that presumes a yes vote in Parliament, assuming there are not more delays. The prime minister’s call for a snap election last year caused a loss in her party’s overall majority, necessitating negotiations with Parliament’s various factions to produce a deal that can pass.

Bookies are not a reliable guide. In 2016, they claimed a 60 percent chance voters would reject Brexit. They lost.

Today, as Liam Fox says, the odds are just 50-50. Place your bets and take your chances seems to be the attitude.

(c) 2019 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The post Place Your Bets: Decision Time Approaching on Brexit appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

‘Impeach the Motherf—-r’: Democratic Lawmaker Goes After Trump on Her First Day in Office

Fri, 2019-01-04 11:24

Editor’s note: Adult language included in tweets in this article. 

Just hours after being sworn into Congress on Thursday, Democratic Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib promised to go after President Donald Trump, telling a group of left-wing supporters she would help Democrats “impeach the motherf—-r.”

Tlaib, who was one of two Muslim women sworn into Congress, made the remarks at a rally held by MoveOn near Capitol Hill, according to reporters at the event.

We got congresspeople out here calling the president a mother fucker pic.twitter.com/GCXSPQbPb8

— Barstool News Network (@BarstoolNewsN) January 4, 2019

Rashida Tlaib to a crowd of cheering supporters in DC: “We’re gonna go in there and impeach the motherfucker!”

— Daniel Marans (@danielmarans) January 4, 2019

Raucous reception for @RashidaTlaib at MoveOn reception near the Hill. Her closing remarks: “We’re gonna impeach the motherfucker.”

— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) January 4, 2019

Tlaib’s remarks show just how eager some Democrats are to remove Trump from office. Earlier on Thursday, just after Democrats officially took over the House, Democratic California Rep. Brad Sherman reintroduced articles of impeachment against Trump.

Democratic leaders shied away from impeachment talk leading up to Thursday’s handover. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has not committed to impeachment, saying it would be divisive for the country. In an interview that aired Thursday morning, Pelosi said she will withhold a decision until special counsel Robert Mueller issues his report in the Russia investigation.

“Well, we have to wait and see what happens with the Mueller report. We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason. We just have to see how it comes,” Pelosi said.

Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman to be elected to Congress, made news earlier in the day when she took her oath of office using Thomas Jefferson’s Quran.

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, contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

The post ‘Impeach the Motherf—-r’: Democratic Lawmaker Goes After Trump on Her First Day in Office appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Those Fretting About the Economy Can Rest Easy After December Jobs Report

Fri, 2019-01-04 11:17

After a disappointing month for the stock market, few could have predicted just how strong the rest of the economy would hold up. But for those concerned about the state of the economy, Friday’s jobs report will come as reassurance.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the U.S. economy added a whopping 312,000 jobs, shattering expert predictions and once again vindicating the pro-growth policies of the Trump administration.

In addition, the bureau revised its jobs numbers from October and November, adding 58,000 jobs previously not reported.

This report represents a record 99-straight months of job creation. Since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, we have seen almost 5 million Americans find jobs.

Continuing the good news, the labor force participation rate rose to the highest level since the president took office, increasing from 62.9 percent to 63.1 percent and adding 419,000 people to the labor force.

In addition, average hourly earnings rose 11 cents to $27.48. Over the year, average hourly earnings have now increased by 84 cents, or 3.2 percent. This is slightly higher than expert predictions, and potentially shows that employers are getting serious about filling the nearly 7 million open jobs in America by offering higher wages.

The job gains continue to tell the story of a strong economy. The report showed gains in critical sectors like manufacturing (32,000 jobs), construction (38,000 jobs), food service and drinking (41,000 jobs), retail trade (24,000), and health care, with the largest monthly increase in the history of the jobs report (50,000 jobs).

Among the major worker groups, unemployment increased for adult men from 3.3 percent to 3.6 percent, and for African-Americans from 5.9 percent to 6.6 percent. Unemployment rates for adult women (3.5 percent), teenagers (12.5 percent), whites (3.4 percent), Asians (3.3 percent), and Hispanics (4.4 percent) showed little or no change over the month.

While the unemployment rate increased slightly from 3.7 to 3.9 percent, we saw the number of job leavers increase by 142,000. This reflects people who quit or otherwise voluntarily left their previous job and immediately began looking for new employment.

This report continues to demonstrate that a posture of pro-business policy like tax cuts, reducing harmful regulations, and a willingness to reduce Washington’s involvement within our everyday lives inspires confidence in the private sector.

If you turn on the news, you will often hear that the economy is doomed for destruction. And while we remain concerned about the uncertainty tariffs create, nervous about the long-term impact of the Federal Reserve’s monetary experimentation in the wake of the Great Recession, and want Congress to tackle the out-of-control debt, Main Street America is continuing to push forward.

Let’s keep the good news coming. Kudos to America’s job creators.

The post Those Fretting About the Economy Can Rest Easy After December Jobs Report appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

I’m a Conservative Female College Student. Here’s How I Overcame Fear and Became Confident.

Fri, 2019-01-04 10:34

“I’m not usually friends with Republicans, but I guess I’ll make an exception for you.”

The words were said in jest to me, but I knew there was truth in them. They confirmed my biggest fear, going into my freshman year of college—that my conservatism would create a barrier to forming true and lasting friendships.

When I arrived on campus, I danced around the topic of politics in conversation, but it was difficult.

For students at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., politics is the driving force behind a lot of social engagement.

Making matters worse, my first year in college came as animosity and division over the election of President Donald Trump was palpable not only on campus, but across the nation.

With that, I stayed silent as disparaging jokes were made about Republicans. I didn’t raise my hand in class during political discussions for fear of being ostracized by my peers and penalized by my professors.

When peers asked me about myself, I avoided talking about politics. I was so careful, I didn’t find out one of my roommates was conservative until mid-October.

But the situation more than nagged at me. As time wore on, I realized my behavior was unsustainable. I knew I was not being my true self. Politics is infused into the social atmosphere at my college, and all too often I was forced to bite my tongue or keep new friends at arm’s length.

I decided I was not going to let a hostile political environment control my college experience.

I started to make some changes. First and foremost, I sought out and connected with groups I knew shared my beliefs, including the College Republicans and the Network of enlightened Women.

Over time, I came to understand that I let my fears mislead me, hold me back, and stop me from engaging with other students in the way I wanted. I began to speak up. I started to defend my beliefs.

By the end of my freshman year and throughout my sophomore year, I grew and evolved by engaging in courageous conversations with peers and professors.

It was a personal decision, but an important one, to decide to stand up for unpopular opinions on campus. I became unwilling to be cowed into silence by those who use personal attacks instead of facts to defend their positions.

As a conservative woman, I am confident, sure of who I am and what I believe—and why.

Speaking up against the tide of political correctness and emotion-based rhetoric on campus is a hurdle—especially for freshmen—in a world where defending the Constitution, free markets, and individual liberty is no longer considered an intellectually honest position on campus, but instead one that brands someone as “heartless.”

Taking conservative political positions has been transformed into a sign of moral depravation by the left.

That’s why freshmen are so fearful to speak up. They arrive on campus to make new and possibly lifelong friends, and instead are cowed into silence for fear of being “othered” and bullied. It’s something I faced, and I know many others do, too.

One of the most harmful narratives pushed by the campus left is that conservatives are morally bankrupt. That is why so-called “social justice warriors” don’t try to get to know who we are and why we support certain positions.

On campus and beyond, conservatives need to stand up to this poisonous narrative. We need to be open about our beliefs and show how proud we are that our ideas have been proven to help people.

As a leader of my campus chapter of the Network of enlightened Women, I encourage my conservative female friends who face the same battles I did to stand strong, be brave, and resist the temptation to temper our beliefs out of fear of social rejection.

That’s easier for me today as a junior with a solid base of friends, which is why connecting with other like-minded friends is a key component of standing one’s ground in college.

My advice to freshmen? First, recognize your political beliefs are nothing to be ashamed of, and anyone who thinks otherwise is not worth your investment.

Second, join campus groups that can back you up. For me, the Network of enlightened Women has provided a great social base of women who share my beliefs, and much of my confidence in owning my conservatism came from the friendship and mentorship I received from the network’s president my freshman year.

Finally, engage in dialogue with others who don’t share your beliefs, especially those who have been manipulated into believing exaggerated or false claims about conservative ideology.

I’m grateful for my journey from fear to confidence, and I know my footsteps can and should be followed by others.

This essay is one of 22 included in “She’s Conservative: Stories of Trials and Triumphs on America’s College Campuses” published by the Network of enlightened Women. The book is available for purchase here

The post I’m a Conservative Female College Student. Here’s How I Overcame Fear and Became Confident. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Podcast: Our Memories of Bre

Fri, 2019-01-04 03:01

We usually feature our “Problematic Women” segment on Friday’s podcast. But in the aftermath of the sudden death of “Problematic Women” co-host Bre Payton, we spent today’s episode remembering Bre, and how great she was. We talk about what a unique person Bre Payton was in the Washington, D.C., scene, and some of the million little things that made her such a wonderful individual.


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Had so much fun being #problematic with @kelseyharkey and @laurenelizevans at @CPAC today! If you’re not subscribed to our podcast, do that now! Link in bio.

A post shared by Bre Payton (@bcpayton) on Feb 22, 2018 at 5:47pm PST

If you want to contribute to the scholarship fund her family has set up in her memory, donate here.

We also cover these stories:

  • Nancy Pelosi is officially House speaker, again.
  • Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine being held in Moscow, has now officially been charged with spying.
  • Mississippi’s new license plate design includes the phrase “In God We Trust.”

The Daily Signal podcast is available on Ricochet, iTunesSoundCloudGoogle Play, or Stitcher. All of our podcasts can be found at DailySignal.com/podcasts. If you like what you hear, please leave a review. You can also leave us a message at 202-608-6205 or write us at letters@dailysignal.com.

The post Podcast: Our Memories of Bre appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

House’s Biggest GOP Caucus Now ‘Counterweight’ to Democrats, New Leader Says

Thu, 2019-01-03 17:59

The new leader of House Republicans’ largest caucus says he plans to “streamline” its operations to effectively counter the Democrats as they take control of the lower chamber of Congress.

For starters, the Republican Study Committee no longer will have a dozen or so task forces, Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., said in a recent phone interview with The Daily Signal as the group’s incoming chairman.

“We’re going to streamline that into seven core working groups,” Johnson said of the RSC, a caucus of about 178 GOP lawmakers.

After their midterm election victories, Democrats now have 235 seats in the House, compared with Republicans’ 199. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., again became speaker of the House after the 116th Congress convened Thursday.

Johnson, 46, said he sees an opportunity for the Republican Study Committee to build its presence and influence.

“We’re also at the same time going to be working on our messaging strategy because we feel like it’s going to be vitally important, as we move into the minority position in the Congress, to articulate what our conservative ideals and answers are,” Johnson said.

“It will be the counterweight to what Pelosi and the Democrats are going to do,” he said.

The Louisiana lawmaker said his goal is to unite RSC members so they can continue making headway on issues that matter most.

“We’ve got so many talented people in our caucus and all of them bring so much to the cause and to the movement,” he said. “And we want to give more and more opportunities for our rank and file members to be a part of that, developing the mission and defining what the conservative movement looks like for the next decade or more.”

Johnson, who assumed office in 2017, said each RSC task force will have specific objectives and goals, and that their leaders will be chosen based on expertise and interests.

Although Johnson wasn’t ready to announce the new task forces, he said people can expect the caucus to stay true to key priorities such as its budget and spending task force, which produces an annual budget proposal.

The RSC will have a “vibrant” task force on health care and related entitlements and will continue to have a task force on foreign affairs and national security, Johnson said.

He also indicated that the Values Action Team, which works with outside groups and focuses on traditional family values such as religious freedom and the sanctity of life, will continue to be “another one that RCS is really well known for.”

Johnson, who received his law degree in 1998 from Louisiana State University, was a litigator for almost 20 years. He worked on what his official bio calls “high profile constitutional law cases in district and appellate courts nationwide.”

Johnson said he was hired as one of the earliest lawyers at Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal defense organization launched in 1994 that works to safeguard religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family. He said his work there helped shape who he is as a person.

“That sort of started my journey in all this and it became primarily a religious liberty defense litigator,” Johnson said.

When he would attend a meeting of the Values Action Team, he said, he’d look around the table and see  “20 or 25, 30 different organizations” represented, and “at some point in my career, I represented almost everybody in that room once.”

Johnson and his wife Kelly have been married almost 20 years and have four children:  Hannah, 17; Abigail, 16; Jack, 13; and Will, 8.

He didn’t want his children to grow up in the Capital Beltway area, he said, and so opted to stay in Bossier Parish in northwestern Louisiana, and travel back and forth rather than relocate.

“We didn’t want to raise our kids in the Beltway, so we’ve been pretty insistent about that. So far it’s worked out,” Johnson said. “So yeah, I travel. I go back and forth constantly, so it’s a sacrifice on everybody’s part. But we’re blessed because … we have really great kids and they’re all into this.”

His children are relatively young, but Johnson said he is inspired by their expressed interest in his career.

“It’s so bad that three out of four of my children say they want to be constitutional law attorneys when they grow up, so we’ll see how far that gets,” he said.

The post House’s Biggest GOP Caucus Now ‘Counterweight’ to Democrats, New Leader Says appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

The Woke Moral Panic of Today

Thu, 2019-01-03 17:48

2018 was a chaotic year. It was a chaotic year for the markets, for domestic and international politics, and for social mores. 2019 promises more of the same, if the end of the prior year was any indicator. And it promises something else: the continued rise of the Wokescolds.

Wokescolds are the new representatives of moral panic. We’ve seen plenty of moral panic before in the United States, from worries about violent video games, to concern about allegations of sex abuse at day care facilities.

But never have we seen a moral panic of the stunning breadth of today’s woke moral panic. It’s a moral panic that insists we change fundamental characteristics of our society, from biology, to language, to politics, to religion, to romantic relations, to art, to comedy.

We’re told that if we fail to rewrite biology to suggest there are more than two sexes, or if we don’t use preferred pronouns rather than biological ones, we will inevitably create emotional and mental instability among certain vulnerable groups.

We’re told that if we fail to silence members of groups who haven’t suffered sufficiently in the United States, we will be contributing to the perpetuation of power hierarchies that target minorities.

We’re told that if we don’t force religious people to violate their own standards in order to cater to those engaging in what they consider to be sinful activity, we will be bolstering religious oppression.

We’re told that the only proper type of sexual relationship is one initiated via contractual levels of affirmative consent, rather than mere affirmative body language or acquiescence.

We’re told that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and “The Philadelphia Story” are deeply troubling hallmarks of our sexist past (modern rap, replete with brutal degradation of women, is just fine, in case you were wondering).

And we’re told that if we consider politically incorrect jokes funny, we’re strengthening regressive stereotypes.

If we fail to abide by these new strictures, we will be attacked by the Wokescolds.

These “woke” inquisitors have apparently mastered the ever-shifting dynamics of leftist power politics and are willing to scour everyone’s online history and interpersonal relationships for signs of heresy. Once such heresy is uncovered, the Wokescolds truly go to work: They demand apologies from the supposed sinners and boycotts of those who refuse to disassociate from them. They discourage decent people from speaking up–better to stay silent so as to avoid the wrath of the Wokescolds.

The Wokescolds deliberately pick marginal cases–cases on which good people may be split. This allows the Wokescolds to consistently narrow the boundaries of safety for those who disagree with them.

The latest victim of the Wokescolds: Louis C.K.

Now, C.K. has a reprehensible personal history; by his own admission, he used his position of fame and power to lure up-and-coming female comedians backstage, where he would then ask them to watch him touch himself. C.K. has apologized for that behavior. But now he’s back on the road, and he’s beginning to make jokes again.

This must not be allowed, particularly when his jokes are about such taboo topics as gender pronouns and the alleged expertise conferred by experiencing tragedy. And so C.K. has been pronounced Unwoke.

See, before his #MeToo moment, he was sufficiently politically leftist to avoid the Wokescold wrath–after all, he once called Sarah Palin a “c—.” But now, C.K. must pay the price for not being sufficiently woke. Those who watch his comedy must be shamed. And we must suggest that he is no longer Funny.

Now, the difference between being funny and being Funny is that when you’re funny, everyone knows it–when you’re Funny, as defined by critics, you don’t have to be funny. You just have to be woke, like the awfully unfunny Hannah Gadsby. Real humor requires only satisfying the Wokescolds. We’ve all just been misdefining comedy for a few millennia.

If all this sounds dull, obnoxious, and frustrating, that’s because it is. And while the Wokescolds may win temporary victories, those victories will surely be Pyrrhic: As it turns out, we tend to like our biology, language, politics, religion, romantic relationships, art, and comedy.

The Wokescolds will certainly lose. But not before they destroy a lot of people and fray the social fabric nearly beyond repair.


The post The Woke Moral Panic of Today appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Americans Don’t Agree On Education. That’s Why We Need More Options.

Thu, 2019-01-03 17:41

When it comes to education, Americans are divided on what quality and accountability in our schools actually look like.

Although we’re unlikely to all agree anytime soon, increased school choice could help satisfy everyone.

Two December surveys from leading education research organizations spelled out the reasons for this sharp divide. One report from Echelon Insights found that millennial parents in particular largely disagree on the purpose of education.

“We asked respondents to discuss what they viewed as the purpose of a ‘good education,’” Echelon wrote, but “across all of our focus groups, there was little consensus around any particular answer.”

When Echelon put the question directly to their survey respondents, that disagreement became obvious.

Thirty-eight percent of young parents said the purpose of education was “to prepare students for further learning, like college or trade school.” But others prioritized preparing children for the workforce, developing their social skills, or encouraging them to participate in civic life.

Millennial parents aren’t alone in their divided views on education.

An annual report from education-reform advocacy organization EdChoice found that American parents and teachers as a whole are divided on what education should look like—and especially what educational accountability should entail.

Alternative education options, however, could accommodate those differences and satisfy all Americans.

Education savings accounts, for example, provide parents with savings accounts into which the state government deposits a portion of that state’s public education funding that corresponds to each child. Parents can use these accounts to help pay for private-school tuition, online education programs, therapeutic programs for disabled learners, instructional materials, future college expenses, and other limited education purposes.

These accounts unshackle parents from having to send their children to any one kind of school, allowing parents to select the education options that best fit their vision for a high-quality education.

Today, with such polarized parental views on the meaning of education, programs like education savings accounts are the only way to satisfy everyone.

With education savings accounts, schools are encouraged to compete for parents’ attention, offering opportunities for parents to choose one that matches their varying educational priorities.

“The first thing that me and my husband both look for would be safety,” said Aimee Hairr, a Nevada mother of five adopted children. “Second would the small classroom size for children, and third would be the close-knit community that our private school is offering our son right now.”

With education savings accounts, Hairr and her husband could afford to give their children the school environment that they value most. Without them, the Hairrs’ children are left attending schools they think are unsafe or providing impersonal education—something no child should have to accept.

Meanwhile, Lena Boyd of Charlotte, North Carolina, says she would look for opportunities to use education savings account funding to pay for new learning technology for her two special-needs children.

“My children attend a small private school, and I’m helping pay for extra curriculum and learning tools they need,” Boyd told Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina.

“My children are also sharing educational technology, and funds from the [education savings account] would allow us to purchase their own devices,” she said. “This would allow them to do extra one-on-one work outside of school hours.”

But available public education programs are not accommodating Boyd’s family’s unique needs. Education savings accounts certainly would.

Education savings accounts are available in Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee, but for the sake of parents like Hairr and Boyd, that number needs to grow.

This year’s EdChoice report found that 76 percent of parents and even 78 percent of public school teachers supported education savings accounts when given a description of the program. That’s the highest level of support since EdChoice began polling on the issue six years ago.

“There are so many families out there that have children that have unique, special needs that they really need to be met,” Hairr said. “And that [education savings accounts] money is an opportunity to change the life of the child, and the trajectory of the child’s future.”

American families should not have to settle on an educational system that fails to meet their varying needs and values. School-choice programs like education savings accounts can provide the flexibility to accommodate everyone.

The post Americans Don’t Agree On Education. That’s Why We Need More Options. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

New Mexico’s ‘Suicide Tourism’ Bill Would Hurt the Entire Country. Here’s Why.

Thu, 2019-01-03 16:44

A new bill introduced in New Mexico could make “suicide tourism” a reality.

HB 90, or “The Elizabeth Whitefield End of Life Options Act,” would allow non-residents to travel to New Mexico to pursue physician-assisted suicide. Three state municipalities have passed resolutions endorsing the legislation.

This bill could have disastrous, nationwide consequences. It also reminds us why physician-assisted suicide is so poisonous to our culture.

The U.S. suicide rate hit a 50-year record high last year—so drastic that it lowered overall average life expectancy. Our society needs to put more emphasis on the inherent dignity of every human life, not less.

Not only would this bill remove the current residency requirement on physician-assisted suicide, it also lacks many of the already insufficient so-called safeguards on the practice.

For example, the bill would allow patients to receive a diagnosis that qualifies them for physician-assisted suicide via telemedicine—no in-person visit required. That means that patients across the country could simply consult an activist group to find one of the doctors who are willing to kill those entrusted to their care, and with one phone call, procure a guaranteed referral.

That essentially means physician-assisted suicide would become accessible to every American with the means to travel.

If adopted into law, this loophole could set a dangerous precedent and lead the other five states that have legalized physician-assisted suicide to follow New Mexico’s steps.

Physician-assisted suicide is a direct attack on the inherent dignity of every human being because it treats some lives are more valuable than others. No one is safe in a culture that embraces physician-assisted suicide. Once we accept the premise that death is a legitimate “treatment” for suffering, who qualifies for physician-assisted suicide becomes a moving target.

Canada and Europe have already gotten a head start down the slippery slope. In recent months, a hospital for sick children in Toronto, Canada, debuted a plan for how to terminate the lives of terminally ill kids—with or without parental consent. Meanwhile in Europe, many countries have continually expanded who qualifies for physician-assisted suicide and even practice euthanasia—the non-voluntary killing of patients.

In places within the U.S. where physician-assisted suicide is already legal, supposed “safeguards” like waiting periods, written requests, and physician sign-offs do absolutely nothing to remove cultural pressure on patients to take their own lives or protect patients from abuse. So long as physician-assisted suicide is on the table, so too are less-than-pure motives to choose—or pressure someone to choose—death over life.

HB 90 would only exacerbate these problems by further relaxing current practices and making physician-assisted suicide available to patients across the nation.

No one should receive suicide assistance instead of suicide prevention. Instead, our culture should affirm that every human life has inherent dignity and strive to protect those who are most vulnerable: the sick and the weak, the very young and the very old.

Suicide tourism is a Pandora’s Box that would usher in untold cultural evils. It is imperative that we stop this legal loophole before it can wreak havoc on the most vulnerable in our society.

The post New Mexico’s ‘Suicide Tourism’ Bill Would Hurt the Entire Country. Here’s Why. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

This Organization is Preparing a New Generation of Conservative Activists Across Texas

Thu, 2019-01-03 11:56

A Texas nonprofit whose missions is to “promote and defend liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise” in the state and nation held a two-day public policy conference in November to train young conservatives to be effective leaders in their communities.

The Liberty Leadership Council, a project of the Austin-based conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation, convened more than 60 young people under the age of 40 to learn about the inner-workings of the Texas Legislature and how to advocate for conservative ideas in their circles of influence on Nov. 15-16.

The council has five chapters in the state’s major cities: Austin, Houston, Dallas, Fort-Worth, and Midland.

Jennifer Carter, the director of the Liberty Leadership Council, said she hoped attendees left the summit empowered to initiate change in their own neighborhoods.

“We really hope that after they hear the program and after we give them the breakdown of how the government works… they will feel empowered to engage with their peers and elected officials to effect change,” Carter told The Daily Signal.

On the first day of the event, participants went on a tour of the Texas Capitol, followed by a dinner featuring Texas Public Policy Foundation Director Kevin Roberts and a networking reception for “like-minded conservative people.”

Carter said participants dug into policy on Friday, receiving briefings on how the Texas Legislature operates, local governance, the state budget, issues in K-12 education, criminal justice reform at the state and national level, and effectual communication.

Attendees also heard from state Rep.-elect Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston, a young Texas businessman who also serves on the board of Texas Public Policy Foundation. Middleton, Carter said, played an instrumental role in setting up the Houston Liberty Leadership Council, and shared his experience in his speech to attendees.

Summit-goers also heard testimonials from other activists in the state who have benefited from the Liberty Leadership Council.

The summit took place a month after Republicans lost 10 seats in the Texas House of Representatives and three seats in the Texas State Senate, but held on to their majorities in both chambers with an 83-67 seat majority in the House and 21-10 seat majority in the Senate.

The post This Organization is Preparing a New Generation of Conservative Activists Across Texas appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Thanks to Senate Democrats, Our Judicial Vacancy Crisis Is More Out of Order Than Ever Before

Thu, 2019-01-03 11:40

Some people in government don’t even need a shutdown to avoid work.

Consider how Senate Democrats are handling President Trump’s judicial nominees. Or, to be more precise, not handling them.

Just before the Christmas break, The Hill reported, Democrats vowed to “reject any end-of-the-year deal on judicial nominations, signaling they’ll toe a tougher line on court appointments amid heavy pressure from the left.”

Typical politics, you say? Sure, partisanship is found on both sides of the aisle. No one can deny that. But the obstruction going on now with judges isn’t a tit-for-tat situation.

Consider what happened in 2014, the last midterm election year. As legal expert Thomas Jipping writes in National Review: “By the last two weeks of the 113th Congress, the Senate had confirmed 115 of President Obama’s judicial nominees, and judicial vacancies were down to about 65. Yet in those last two weeks, the Senate found time to confirm 17 more judges—15 of them without a roll call vote.”

That was no anomaly. The Senate has confirmed judges during 10 of the 11 lame-duck sessions following a midterm election since World War II. In 2014 and 2010, the Senate confirmed an average of 23 judges.

Today, however, with the vacancy situation clearly worse, there’s been no year-end push to confirm judges and to clear out some of the backlog.

That “heavy pressure” is really working. So much so, in fact, that what used to be a crisis magically isn’t anymore, even when it comes to what the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts calls “judicial emergencies”—that is, vacancies that have been open the longest and have the most negative effects on the caseloads of sitting judges.

In March 2012, Democratic Whip Richard Durbin, senator from Illinois, said that 35 judicial emergency vacancies would cause the administration of justice to suffer “at every level.” Judicial emergencies are 80 percent higher today, yet we’re to believe everything is fine, judicially speaking?

This isn’t about judges, of course. These foot-dragging politicians aren’t failing to do their duty because the nominees aren’t qualified. The main thing wrong with them, as far as Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and his colleagues are concerned, is who nominated them.

Politics, plain and simple, is throwing sand in the gears of the federal bench.

Today, more than 130 positions on the U.S. District Court and U.S. Court of Appeals are vacant. To put that in perspective, it’s more than twice as many vacancies as there were under President Bill Clinton or President George W. Bush.

Vacancies are 52 percent higher today than they were in July 2016, when Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said we faced a “vacancy crisis.” What makes today’s vacancy situation any less of a crisis in Booker’s eyes, other than the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Vacancies are 88 percent higher today than they were in September 2015, when Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., warned that “we are heading into a judicial vacancy crisis.” He’s oddly silent now, despite the situation becoming roughly twice as serious. Or is it only a crisis when his party controls the White House?

This isn’t just about Trump, though. Democrats are trying to avoid having any more judges such as Reed O’Connor slip by. Confirmed in 2007 when they were in the majority, U.S. District Judge O’Connor recently struck down Obamacare in what Schumer called “an awful ruling.”

Yes, isn’t it awful when judges actually apply the Constitution and threaten to undo the legacy of bad laws such as Obamacare?

In the end, there’s no excuse for the road-block approach to judicial nominees. As Sen. Leahy put it in 2014: “Such obstruction is not worthy of the Senate, and the resulting judicial vacancies do great harm to the judicial system.”

It’s just as true today.

Originally published by The Washington Times

The post Thanks to Senate Democrats, Our Judicial Vacancy Crisis Is More Out of Order Than Ever Before appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Despite Tainted Elections, US Should Embrace Pro-Western Bangladesh

Thu, 2019-01-03 11:20

Bangladesh just held a national election that produced an overwhelming victory for the incumbent Awami League—but also allegations of rampant voter fraud, intimidation, and corruption.

A large, Muslim-majority democracy situated between India and Myanmar, Bangladesh is the world’s eighth-largest country by population with 170 million people, and it has an outsized impact on South Asian stability and Indian Ocean security.

As such, the results of the Dec. 30 elections should be closely watched in Washington.

Contemporary Bangladeshi politics have been framed by a sharp political rivalry between the ruling Awami League and the principal opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Of the two, the Awami League is seen as the more moderate, pro-Western, pro-India, and pro-market reform, while the Bangladesh Nationalist Party has earned a reputation for making bedfellows with Islamist fundamentalist groups.

To their credit, the Awami League and its leader, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, have overseen an impressive run of economic growth since taking power in 2009.

Bangladesh is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Gross domestic product growth has averaged more than 6 percent annually for more than a decade and may reach 8 percent in 2018.

That’s despite the fact the country still confronts high levels of corruption and scores poorly on The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, ranking 128th out of 170 countries and as “mostly unfree.”

In the election, the coalition led by the Awami League was awarded a stunning 287 of 298 seats in parliament, while the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which led a ruling coalition from 2004 to 2009, won just six seats.

Unlike in the 2014 elections, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party did not boycott the poll outright, but levied a series of reliable complaints about widespread fraud, vote-rigging, intimidation, and violence.

Seventeen people were killed in election-related violence across the county. Ahead of the balloting, the State Department condemned Bangladesh’s refusal to grant credentials for election monitors.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party claims that more than 100 of its candidates were attacked while campaigning, while thousands of its activists were detained by security forces in the weeks preceding the vote.

The party’s website and Facebook page were also shut down by authorities ahead of the vote. The head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Khaleda Zia, was imprisoned earlier this year on corruption charges.

While suboptimal electoral conditions are not uncommon in developing countries, and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party was widely accused of using similar tactics during its last term in power, the reports are troubling nonetheless.

Those reports follow years of complaints of creeping authoritarianism by the Awami League government, which was widely condemned earlier this year for detaining a prominent journalist who dared to criticize the government in a public interview.

Those trends are unfortunate because, in the foreign policy arena, the Awami League has made some promising strides. The government has taken a tough line against Islamist extremist groups, particularly since the July 2016 terrorist bombing of a Dhaka cafe that claimed 22 lives, the deadliest terrorist attack in the country’s history.

It has generously provided refuge to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims that have fled genocide conditions in neighboring Myanmar in recent years. It also has significantly improved relations with India, even resolving two long-standing territorial and maritime border disputes with New Delhi in recent years.

Relations with the U.S. also have been strengthening. The two countries signed a counterterrorism cooperation initiative in 2013, and U.S. officials have praised cooperation in that arena.

The two nations currently have a high-level partnership and dialogue on security issues in place. America transferred two Coast Guard cutters to Bangladesh in 2013 and 2015, while the Bangladesh navy has participated in U.S.-led naval training exercises.

Public polling indicates that Bangladesh’s population is one of the most pro-American in the region, and officials in Dhaka are generally enthusiastic about further strengthening ties with the U.S. They are particularly eager to increase bilateral trade, reduce tariffs, and encourage more U.S. investment in the energy and power sectors.

America is already the top importer of Bangladeshi goods (garments account for 80 percent of its exports), and the two have a bilateral investment treaty and double taxation avoidance agreement in place.

All of this suggests a promising future for Bangladesh, but the Awami League must do more to address concerns about its repressive domestic policies, which risk turning international opinion against it and radicalizing opposition groups.

Working in tandem with India and other international partners, the U.S. must encourage further political and rule-of-law reforms, and urge Dhaka to follow proper procedures for addressing electoral-fraud complaints.

If Bangladesh can get its house in order, there can be a bright economic and geopolitical future for Dhaka and Bangladesh-U.S. ties.

The post Despite Tainted Elections, US Should Embrace Pro-Western Bangladesh appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

5 Foreign Policy Headlines You Can Expect in 2019

Thu, 2019-01-03 09:34

America’s allies and enemies alike will place their 2019 foreign policy bets on a hunch: whether or not President Donald Trump will win a second term in 2020.

Despite the troublesome tweets and sometimes reprehensible rhetoric, in practice the Trump administration has largely stood by its friends and stiff-armed its enemies.

But the 2020 elections raise a big question: What if the “anti-Trump” candidate is elected? It could bring anything from “Trumpian policies by other names” to “whatever Trump did, just do the opposite.”

Around the world, some may just mark time and wait and see. Iran, for instance, might stand pat, waiting to see if former Secretary of State John Kerry’s prediction—that the next occupant of the Oval Office will meekly walk back Trump’s withdrawal from Obama’s nuclear deal with the mullahs—comes true.

Similarly, Russian President Vladimir Putin might be hoping the next American president will extend arms control agreements like the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

And will North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un keep his nuclear weapons for now? No telling.

There are, however, big foreign policy issues that are bound to see major decisions and actions in 2019. Here are five headlines I think you’ll see next year.

5. Israel and Hezbollah clash. 

Brace for it. This not just about the U.S. pulling up stakes in Syria. One could interpret the readjustment of U.S. and Turkish positions in Syria as clearing the way for Israeli action against the Hezbollah terrorist group.

The Israelis have long signaled zero tolerance for Iran adding long-range precision missiles to Hezbollah’s arsenal, or allowing the Lebanon-based terrorists to establish a long-term presence in Syria. The U.S. role will be to prevent the messy conflict from escalating into a wider war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently called snap elections for April 9. His coalition will win, giving Netanyahu a mandate for action. If all goes well, Hezbollah will be dealt a serious blow that leaves its already overstretched sponsors in Tehran in an even more difficult spot.

4. America stays in Afghanistan.

Administration sources insist that Trump still has not made a decision on future force levels in Afghanistan. There is a strong argument not to back off the American commitment now.

Don’t expect the president to repeat the mistake President Barack Obama made in withdrawing from Iraq. Trump and our allies are unlikely to pull the rug out from under Kabul in 2019. A complete walk-away would seriously destabilize the region. The Taliban who cheered reports of a U.S. withdrawal will be disappointed—and most likely targeted by a drone.

3. The dragon sleeps.

China has as much, if not more, to lose from a trade war than the U.S. China’s expansive Belt and Road Initiative has met with as many jeers as cheers, with many European ambassadors criticizing the initiative.

Moreover, Beijing has suffered setbacks in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Ethiopia—countries where, just a year ago, China seemed to be on a diplomatic roll.

Best guess is that China takes a timeout to rethink how to deal with a recalcitrant U.S. and rising friction caused by its aggressive foreign policy. Look for Chinese President Xi Jinping to hit the pause button in the trade war.

2. Viva Latin America.

The best news Trump will get in regaining control of our southern border is better, albeit quiet, cooperation from Mexico and Brazil—the two powerhouses of Latin America.

While well short of an overt partnership, quiet cooperation on issues of mutual concern will help mitigate thorny problems like the Venezuelan meltdown and caravans headed toward the U.S. border.

1. Goodbye Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The U.S. will pull out of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, an arms control treaty reached between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (succeeded by Russia) in 1987. That decision will trigger a six-month withdrawal process.

But don’t expect a post-withdrawal rush to build new U.S. nuclear weapons. And don’t expect Moscow and Beijing to jump on the chance to negotiate a replacement treaty.

In the short term, the U.S. will start looking to field more conventional precision-strike weapons to help offset the threat Russia’s “tactical” nukes present to Europe. Meanwhile, it is even odds whether the U.S. agrees to a short-term extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty or lets it expire outright.

Originally published by Fox News

The post 5 Foreign Policy Headlines You Can Expect in 2019 appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy

Podcast: A Veteran’s Powerful Story on Healing After PTSD

Thu, 2019-01-03 03:01

More and more soldiers are being affected by post-traumatic stress disorder—and horrifyingly, 20 veterans die by suicide every day. But Lt. Col. Damon Friedman, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and has experienced the struggle of PTSD personally, has a message of hope: There can be healing. He joins us to talk about what worked for him, and the brutal realities soldiers must contend with in the field.

We also cover these stories:

  • President Donald Trump says the shutdown may continue for a “long time.”
  • Incoming Sen. Mitt Romney and Trump are already exchanging fighting words.
  • Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of The New York Times, reportedly calls out her old employer for bias in a forthcoming book.

The Daily Signal podcast is available on Ricochet, iTunesSoundCloudGoogle Play, or Stitcher. All of our podcasts can be found at DailySignal.com/podcasts. If you like what you hear, please leave a review. You can also leave us a message at 202-608-6205 or write us at letters@dailysignal.com. Enjoy the show!

The post Podcast: A Veteran’s Powerful Story on Healing After PTSD appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Categories: Public Policy