Tuesday links

90,000 Christians Killed a Year?

by Wesley J. Smith

Christian martyrdom may be the world’s most underreported story. But if a study conducted by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity is true, we are in the midst of a terrible international pogrom against Christians, with 90,000 reportedly killed a year because of their faith.

The Center for the Study of Global Christianity has done extensive research on Christian martyrdom, both historical and contemporary. We estimate that between 2005 and 2015 there were 900,000 Christian martyrs worldwide—an average of 90,000 per year.

That’s a stunning number that doesn’t include the Christians imprisoned or otherwise persecuted. 

This should be the subject of headlines and calls to action. Instead, well, you know.

Tonight Is a Really Big Moment for the Repeal-and-Replace Effort

by Jim Geraghty

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Tonight Is a Really Big Moment for the Repeal-and-Replace Effort

Brace yourselves… the Not-The-State-of-the-Union-Address is tonight! (The first address of a new president is not considered a “State of the Union Address” but merely a “Joint Address to Congress.”) What’s the over/under on the number of times some Congressional Democrat emulates Joe Wilson and yells out during Trump’s speech? Does that lawmaker send out his first fundraising e-mail before the speech ends?

It is not reassuring to hear President Trump declare, “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Er, yes, Mr. President, just about anyone who spent more than ten minutes looking at the issues involved could see that coming.

You need enough young people to purchase health insurance that they’re not likely to need and effectively overpay in order to cover the costs of the elderly and sick who will underpay. You need competition in plans in order to reduce prices, except most people find too many choices confusing and aren’t great at predicting what kind of health care costs they’ll have in the future. You want to ensure no one is rejected from insurance for preexisting conditions and can afford their premiums, copays and deductibles, but health insurance companies will tell you there’s simply no way for them to make money on a customer like that.

You have a customer base that wants their insurance plans to cover all of the costs of birth control, neonatal care, breast pumps, trips to the emergency room, prescription drugs, pediatric services, lab tests, mental health care and therapy… and they want low premiums.

Ideally, you would enact some kind of tort reform, to make it harder for ambulance-chasing lawyers to sue doctors; this would reduce doctors’ expenses on malpractice insurance… but you don’t want to make it too hard to win damages in cases of genuine malpractice.

The House Freedom Caucus wants to get rid of all of the taxes enacted in Obamacare: the medical device tax, reduced deductions for generous “Cadillac” health insurance plans, a ten percent tax on tanning salon customers. Of course, without those, you have less money coming in to pay for everything the bill includes.

As noted in last week’s interview with Scott Walker, one option is to take away the subsidy under Obamacare but replace it with a tax credit, ranging from $2,000 to $4,000. If that sounds like swapping out one form of government assistance for another to you, a couple of North Carolina Republican members of Congress agree with you.

After examining a draft proposal that included that option, Rep. Mark Walker declared,  “the bill contains what increasingly appears to be a new health insurance entitlement with a Republican stamp on it.” Rep. Mark Meadows said Monday, “I’m opposed to refundable tax credits in the way the current draft, as I understand it, lays it out because it actually increases – provides for a new entitlement program.”

If President Trump comes down heavily on one side or the other of this issue, it would probably persuade a portion of Congressional Republicans. Trump could say, “look, the people who elected me are angry because they feel like they can’t afford anything anymore, including their health insurance. I’m not going to make my first major act as president to yank away the financial assistance they’ve got.”

Or he could say, “a major reason health insurance is such a mess is the endless perception that somebody else will pay for most of the costs.  Everybody’s got to take responsibility for paying for their own health care. If we get enough competition among insurance providers, costs will go down.”

Or he could just say, “it’s gonna be terrific, you just wait and see,” and not provide any details on these issues.

Majors, Deans, and Other Figures

by Jay Nordlinger

Today’s Impromptus touches on many subjects, including Trump, Russia, and the fate of conservatism. It begins as follows:

For Navy secretary, President Trump nominated a man named Philip Bilden. Major Garrett of CBS reported that two people had told him that Bilden would probably withdraw.

I thought of changing that, because, when you’re reading about the military, “Major” seems like a rank, not a first name. But I was too lazy. I did think of a story, to relate here on the Corner.

I will go from memory. Dean Rusk had been secretary of state. He was at a college, being led on a tour by a student. The student thought that he was a dean: a university dean. So he called the former secretary of state, all through the tour, “Dean.”

“Now, Dean, what we’re doing here is …”

Bye Bye Columbus

by John J. Miller

Pepperdine University has removed its statue of Columbus because seeing it on campus was too “painful,” according to the school’s president. Nathan Rubbelke of The College Fix has a firsthand report from Malibu.

Trump Quota Alert

by Roger Clegg

Monday afternoon, the White House posted on its website a news story on an imminent executive order on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), timed to correspond with the end of Black History Month and the Washington visit of many of the schools’ presidents. Such an order might be fine, but it also might not be, and it is disturbing that the White House website chose to excerpt part of the article that discusses the desire of some to set numerical, percentage goals here for the federal government’s contracting and other funding. You can try to put lipstick on this pig, but these would be racial quotas. Here’s hoping the Trump administration will just say no.

Germany’s Military: Looking a Little, Well, Obsolete

by Andrew Stuttaford

In a post the other day I mentioned how German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel (a Social Democrat from the left-hand side of Angela Merkel’s governing coalition) seemed to hint at foot-dragging over his country’s commitment to boost its military spending up to the NATO target of two percent of GDP (the EU’s richest nation currently spends 1.2 percent). Well, Gabriel has  (Spiegel Online reports) since taken things up a notch, counseling against “blind obedience” to the US:

Gabriel is now using the battle over increased defense spending as a symbol of resistance against the unpopular President Trump, a man who most German voters view with a significant distrust. For the SPD, the debate has great potential: the enemy is clear and, at its core, the debate is about morals and values. It also has the advantage that it pushes Merkel’s conservatives into the Trump camp and puts them in the uncomfortable position of having to insist on spending more money on arms, which has never been politically palatable for a broad swath of the electorate.

Gabriel has warned of a ‘rearmament spiral’, wording that implies that Germany is already spending plenty on defense and that, therefore, the military is in pretty good shape, a claim that is hard to sustain. In 2015 I noted this report from the Washington Post:

On Tuesday, German broadcaster ARD revealed that German soldiers tried to hide the lack of arms by replacing heavy machine guns with broomsticks during a NATO exercise last year. After painting the wooden sticks black, the German soldiers swiftly attached them to the top of armored vehicles, according to a confidential army report which was leaked to ARD.

But back to 2017 and Spiegel Online:

The best overview of the state of the German military is provided once a year in a report submitted by Armed Forces Commissioner Hans-Peter Bartels. As an SPD member of parliament for many years, Bartels is a credible voice from the perspective of the Social Democrats. And the image that he paints of the Bundeswehr is dark indeed.

One year ago, he described how the Saxony-based 371st tank battalion, prior to taking on its role as “spearhead” of the NATO Response Force, had to borrow 15,000 pieces of equipment from 56 other German military units. In another example, the 345th artillery training battalion, based just west of Frankfurt, was officially supposed to have 24 armored artillery vehicles at its disposal. In reality, though, it had just seven, of which six were on standby for NATO and could not be used. And the seventh was in reserve for the six on standby. Troops reported to Bartels that they hadn’t been able to carry out training exercises at the site for the last three years.

There is an endless list of such examples: A mountain infantry unit had only 96 pairs of night-vision goggles available instead of the 522 it had been allotted — of which 76 had to be loaned out to other units. Which meant they only had 20, of which 17 were damaged.

The lack of equipment, Bartels wrote in his most recent report, has led to a system of sharing by necessity. “It is often the case, with Navy units that are returning from a mission, for example, that as soon as they dock in their homeport, pieces of equipment are immediately dismounted from ships and then remounted on those vessels heading out to replace them, such as (radar devices). The components wear out much more quickly due to the frequent mounting and dismounting, such that the process becomes self-reinforcing.”

One can imagine the Bundeswehr as a fire department which, due to a lack of money, has no hoses, too few helmets, hardly any ladder trucks and no oxygen masks. But the department isn’t eliminated entirely just in case a fire breaks out.

Following cabinet consultations back in 2010, then-Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s CDU, rejoiced at the government’s decision to cut 8.3 billion euros from the defense budget by 2014, referring to it as a “unique opportunity” for “realignment.” The German military still hasn’t recovered.

Angela Merkel has been Germany’s chancellor since 2005. 

Jake Tapper’s Brutal Truth For the Iranian Foreign Minister

by Ericka Andersen

After the Iranian Foreign Minister tweeted this: 

Jake Tapper had a few things to say in response: 

Any questions? 

Krauthammer’s Take: Trump’s Tax Cuts May Need to Be Reduced to Cover Military Rebuilding

by NR Staff

Charles Krauthammer argues that the collapse in military spending has been catastrophic, and that Trump’s desire to change that will conflict with his plan for large tax cuts:

Eight years ago, defense spending was 4.6 percent of GDP. Today it’s 3.2 percent. That is a catastrophic collapse. That is a huge decrease. Remember the stories that you had just months ago about the cannibalizing of some of our airplanes to keep others in the air, the decrease in training. There has been a ruinous decline in defense spending and what this is going to be is a minor beginning to the rebuilding. I support it entirely but as of now, I tend to side with John McCain that this may not be enough. When you read the stories about this being an enormous increase — and to put it in larger perspective, under the sainted John Kennedy, defense spending was 10 percent of GDP — we are about at a third of that level. And we are in dire need with Russia, China, and Iran rising, of correcting that. This is the down payment on what’s really needed.

You’ve got to find the money someplace, I don’t think they really have it right now. The Reagan buildup, which essentially won the Cold War for us, didn’t happen overnight either. It took a decade, and this probably will take something like a decade. But I think the administration is going to have to find something and it may have to reduce some of the tax cuts in order to have the money for the military to be rebuilt.

The Wishful Thinking of the Border-Adjustment Tax’s Advocates

by Veronique de Rugy

Economist Martin Felstein has an article in the Wall Street Journal arguing that those who are opposed to the Border Adjustment Tax (BAT) are simply misunderstanding it. He claims that we are wrong to warn lawmakers and the American people that under the very complex tax that would only apply to imports, some of the tax burden will raise the cost of doing business for American retailers, which will in turn shift part of the burden to consumers. Not to worry, Feldstein argues, “what would happen instead is a 25% increase in the dollar relative to other currencies, enough to offset the tax on imports and the subsidy on exports.”

I am sorry to say that while Mr. Felstein’s overconfidence may be a good tool for advocacy, it needs to be treated with extreme caution. For one thing, this is simple speculation as there are no real-world examples for any countries adopting a BAT. That’s right — as I have written before — despite the implied claims made by pro-BAT people, no countries actually adjust their corporate income tax. They border-adjust their Value Added Tax (VAT), a tax that sits on top of their own corporate income tax.

Under the circumstances, the closest thing we can look at to understand how currencies will adjust in the real world — as opposed to how they will adjust in the friction-free pages of economic textbooks — is to look at the adoption of VATs around the world. My colleagues, Adam Michel and Jason Fichtner, and I just did that. In a paper released last week, we reviewed the empirical literature of currency adjustments after the introduction of a VAT. The results are pretty clear: In a majority of cases, currencies certainly do not adjust entirely or quickly.

Better yet, I am surprised to see such assertions coming from Felstein, whose own academic research finds that “in reality, VATs will not be neutral in the effects on trade,” because imperfect implementation undermines the idealized academic models that show no trade effects.

Another selling point of the border-adjusted tax, Feldstein argues, is that it will raise a lot of revenue. He is not the only one making that claim. However, even that may be a disappointment if his perfect academic assumptions aren’t true in the real world. If the real world remains as messy as we know it is — meaning there is a less than perfect currency adjustment, there is foreign retaliation in the form of higher tariffs on American exports, or even a WTO challenge, which would affect currency adjustment — then revenue projections may not come through as currently expected levels.​

The bottom line is that Mr. Felstein’s overconfidence seems unjustified. As we conclude in our paper:

The academic and policy debate on DBCFTs is generally fragmented, overly confident, and lacking in evidence, as there are no real-world examples of a destination-based cash flow tax. In this paper, we explore just a few of the most pressing questions that threaten to undermine the theoretical benefits of such a reform. Given the uncertainty and large downside risk to a DBCFT, we conclude that the proposal is not yet ready to be implemented and policymakers should focus on more traditional and straightforward reforms.

Those straightforward reforms are well-known to those who have worked on this for decades: Lower the corporate tax rate, which is currently the highest of all the OECD countries, and move to a territorial tax system. The current 35 percent corporate tax rate doubled with our worldwide tax system explains why U.S. companies keep their money abroad rather than bringing it to the U.S. To eliminate our companies’ competitive disadvantage, we should move to a territorial tax system and lower our corporate tax rate. The United Kingdom and Japan did just that in 2009 to their benefit — without resorting to a complicated tax increase like the border-adjustment tax.

Yes, It’s Time to Increase Defense Spending

by David French

President Trump is declaring an intention to increase defense spending and pay for it in part with cuts to other agencies. Here’s the Washington Post:

President Trump will propose a federal budget that dramatically increases defense-related spending by $54 billion while cutting other federal agencies by the same amount, according to an administration official.

The proposal represents a massive increase in federal spending related to national security, while other priorities, especially foreign aid, will see significant reductions.

According to the White House, the defense budget will increase by 10 percent. Trump will also request $30 billion in supplementary military spending for the fiscal year 2017, according to an administration official.

Given our current battlefield supremacy, most voters don’t really understand how old most of our weapons are. Key systems date back to the Cold Wars. Fathers and even grandfathers of current pilots have flown fighters and bombers still in front-line service. Consider the age of these key platforms:

-The M1 Abrams main battle tank was designed in the 1970s and entered service in 1980. The army has upgraded it substantially, but the once “unkillable” tank has proven vulnerable to jihadists’ best weapons, and Russia’s newest tank may well be an M1 peer:

Russia’s new T-14 Armata tank finally does present a peer challenge to the Abrams. While the Abrams still appears to have a slight edge in conventional armor, the Armata compensates with a combination of explosive-reactive armor and a sophisticated radar-guided Afganit Active Protection System (APS) intended to shoot down incoming projectiles. The T-14’s new 2A82 125mm also has improved armor penetration, meaning the Abrams’s frontal armor may be vulnerable at shorter combat ranges (possibly 1,500 meters and less).

While it’s still debatable which is the superior tank—they clearly both are capable of destroying one other—the point is that the Abrams can no longer assume the inferiority of opposing tanks.

-The Bradley Fighting Vehicle is almost as old as the Abrams, entering service in 1981. It also may now have a close Russian peer.

-The B-52 entered service in 1955, more than 60 years ago. Even the Air Force’s most modern bomber, the B-2 Spirit, dates back almost 30 years. 

This is hardly an exhaustive list of aging systems, and while the cumulative effect of American technology and firepower can still dominate the battlefield (even with aging systems), we’re not just losing the qualitative edge in key respects, our numerical advantage is waning as well. In May, the Army shrunk to its smallest manpower level since before World War II:

The Army’s latest headcount shows that nearly 2,600 soldiers departed active service in March without being replaced, an action that plunges manning to its lowest level since before World War II.

During the past year the size of the active force has been reduced by 16,548 soldiers, the rough equivalent of three brigades.

End strength for March was 479,172 soldiers, which is 154 fewer troopers than were on active duty when the Army halted the post-Cold War drawdown in 1999 with 479,424 soldiers, the smallest force since 1940, when the active component numbered 269,023 soldiers.

It’s important to remember the extent to which peace depends on overwhelming American military superiority on multiple fronts, from Europe to east Asia. The deployment of peer or near-peer equipment by potentially hostile powers could be destabilizing unless we maintain our generational edge in equipment and sufficient numbers of troops to engage foes with decisive force. 

That’s not to say that we’re in such military need that we should increase spending without regard to the deficit. Spending increases should be paid for with cuts in less-essential government agencies. National defense is a core constitutional function of government, and other agencies can and should sacrifice to maintain American deterrence.

Puppies Freezing and Abandoned in the Aftermath of the Dakota Access Pipeline Protest

by Paul Crookston

Dakota Access Pipeline protesters were finally evicted from their camp last week, but workers in the immense cleanup operation have had to help out some freezing four-legged residents that were abandoned. Volunteers with the Furry Friends Rockin’ Rescue have found eight abandoned dogs — six of which are puppies — since campers vacated the premises.

With the volume of refuse left by protesters prompting cleanup teams to use heavy machinery, the conditions in the camp challenge even these experienced animal-rescue workers. “It’s a mess down there, so it’s really, really hard to find these animals and get them,” Julie Schirado told KYFR, a station based in North Dakota.

Credit to the Furry Friends Rockin’ Rescue: They have been helping to get the dogs warm, fed, and healthy, and they are doing what they can to connect with any of the animals’ owners:

Despite how bad it has become, the good news is that the protesters have left, and now volunteers and the authorities can finally start the process of bringing normalcy back to the area. The mess they left in their wake is in keeping with the protesters’ general disregard for their impact on everything in the vicinity. Their protests impeded traffic and disrupted the Standing Rock tribe’s casino revenue, while hurting the environment with dangerous levels of trash that threaten the water as the seasonal melt arrives. And of course, when the state finally required them to leave, they burned much of the camp in protest. Leaving dogs abandoned on site to be rescued is a fitting epitaph.

SLIDESHOW: Pipeline Protest’s Fiery Finale

 

Why the National Debt Is a Tiny Bit Smaller Than Before

by Jim Geraghty

Last week, Donald Trump boasted on Twitter, “the National Debt in my first month went down by $12 billion.”

The fact-checkers scolded him, declaring that “people shouldn’t read much into the numbers. Nor should Trump be popping champagne.” They’re right in the sense that no president has that much direct influence on federal spending in his first month in office, and that the shift in the numbers reflects natural month-to-month fluctuation in the amount of money coming in and the amount going out – but they didn’t get into much into why those numbers are fluctuating.

The day President Trump took office, January 20, the national debt was $19,947,304,555,212.49 – what we usually would write as $19.9 trillion.

The last day the debt was totaled by the Treasury Department on Friday, February 23, it was $19,913,901,120,188.15. No need to break out the calculators – that’s $33,403,435,024.34 less than on Inauguration Day, or what we would usually refer to as $33 billion.

So the debt is $33 billion lower than on Inauguration Day! Hurrah! Of course, that could end up being a short-lived reduction.

The amount of money coming into the government and the amount going out can vary by a surprising amount, day by day, month-by-month and year-by-year. For example, in February 2016, the federal government collected only $169 billion. But by April, as taxpayers’ checks to the IRS came in, it increased to $438 billion. The U.S. government collects individual income taxes, Social Security and other payroll taxes, corporate taxes, and a slew of other duties, fees and other taxes. They spend it each month on Social Security, Medicare, defense, interest payments on the debt, and “other,” which covers everything else.

Dan Mitchell, a libertarian economist and senior fellow at the Cato Institute quoted in the PolitiFact report, noted that “revenues tend to be more volatile. If you track down historical data, you’ll see expenditures jump around a bit when something big happens — faux stimulus, wars, etcetera.”

He added a point that that didn’t make it into the PolitiFact story: “I suppose there may be some legitimacy to the argument that the stock market has jumped since Trump’s election and this may be producing some higher-than-expected spin-off revenues, presumably from capital gains.” In other words, tax revenues from the booming stock market might be shrinking the debt a bit… a tiny, tiny, tiny bit in relation to the total level.

In the coming weeks, a slew of Baby Boomers may start collecting Social Security, or fewer elderly social spending recipients may die off, or another payment on an aircraft carrier may come due, or the government could have some other big expenditure that boosts the daily outlays. In other words, U.S. government revenue could decline and expenditures may increase. But considering how rarely we see the federal debt numbers decline, it’s hard to begrudge the administration celebrating some unexpectedly good numbers, even if it is short-lived and basically a rounding error on the total level of government debt. 

New DNC Chairman Tom Perez Is No ‘Moderate’ At All

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week…

New DNC Chairman Tom Perez Is No ‘Moderate’ At All

One of the amazing things about the now-completed Democratic National Committee chairman’s race was how former Labor Secretary Tom Perez became perceived as the “moderate” or “centrist” choice. This occurred in part because he was aligned with Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Democratic primary, and partially because his biggest rival was Rep. Keith Ellison, former member of the Nation of Islam, the congressman who meets with radical terror-sponsoring Saudi clerics, the one with the anti-gay imam, the one who used to “go on all the time about ‘Jewish slave traders.’”

“Less radical than Keith Ellison” is an awfully low bar to clear. Relax, fans of the Nation of Islam, Perez says he wants to make Ellison “the face of the Democratic Party,” and I am sure many Republicans are ready and willing to help him out in that task.

But consider the possibility that Perez is no less radical than Ellison, and merely focuses his energies in a different area. Last year, when there was some buzz about Perez being Hillary Clinton’s running mate, I took a long look at the Labor Secretary’s relatively unexamined career:

Perez’s liberal credentials are as impeccable as they come. Mother Jones called him “one of the administration’s most stalwart progressives.” Conservative policy experts who have followed his work in the Justice and Labor Departments consider him perhaps the Obama administration’s most radical and relentless ideologue.

Iain Murray, the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s vice president of strategy, calls Perez “possibly the most dangerous person in the administration right now.”

“His rewriting of U.S. labor law is probably the most fundamental attack on the free-enterprise system going on at present,” Murray says. “If he has his way, we won’t just revert to the 1930s. We’ll do things that even Franklin Roosevelt couldn’t do, like eliminate vast numbers of independent-contractor jobs and unionize those that remain.”

Murray sees Perez’s ideological vision as driven by an arrogant insistence that most workers are oblivious to their own exploitation by employers, and need the state to intervene to help them understand proper “work-life balance” or to make basic choices about work. His work in the Justice Department was just as extreme.

“He essentially operationalized Eric Holder’s radicalization of the Department of Justice,” says Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute. “No civil-rights theory too crazy to pursue, no litigants too awkward to pay off.”

“Perez has shown a glaring inability to tell the truth and dispassionately apply the basic constitutional tenet of ‘equal justice under law,’” declared Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. Long before Obama stepped into the Oval Office, Perez stood out as a Democratic lawmaker willing to ignore or contravene laws that impeded his agenda. As a member and then chairman of the Montgomery County Council, Perez promoted driver’s licenses and in-state tuition eligibility for Maryland illegal immigrants. 

In 2006, Perez ran for state attorney general and pushed for one of his favorite ideas at the county level, a program to have state residents import low-cost prescription drugs from Canada. But the federal Food and Drug Administration said the program would be illegal, and county attorneys concurred in a formal review, adding, “one need not be a lawyer nor clairvoyant to see the potential for civil liability.” Perez responded that, “Sometimes you have to push the envelope in pursuit of the right thing.”

Throughout his career, Perez has touted “disparate-impact theory” in discrimination law, which contends that discrimination exists in just about any circumstance where statistical data point to a racial disparity, regardless of whether discriminatory intent can be proven. He was willing to go to unprecedented lengths to protect this touchstone of his legal thinking.

Back in 2014, Perez was asked about inequality in America and in particular, whether the Department of Labor was doing enough to ensure interns weren’t being exploited as free labor by unscrupulous employers.

Perez responded:

I was in the U.K. and Germany and went to Volkswagen and learned about their apprenticeship model—young people become paid apprentices in trades. It’s not a coincidence that youth unemployment is far lower in Germany than the United States because there are paid opportunities for young people to get experience. So, yes we need to and do investigate [internship violations], but I think the broader solution will help more people faster to transform the culture of America around this earn-while-you-learn idea.

If he believes in the “earn while you learn” idea, does this mean the interns at the Democratic National Committee will be paid? Right now they aren’t, even if they’re working 40 hours a week in the summer.

Justice Taylor

by Jay Nordlinger

Stuart Taylor is possibly the outstanding legal journalist of our time. And he is my guest on Q&A. That podcast is here.

With KC Johnson, he is the author of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities. Before, they wrote a book about the infamous Duke lacrosse case.

There are more pleasant topics, to be sure. But this is a vitally important one. Taylor and I talk about it, of course. But we also talk about other topics, including the most recent Supreme Court nominees: Merrick Garland and Neil Gorsuch. One didn’t make it; one will.

As I say at the end of this podcast, Stuart Taylor is sort of a supreme court himself. He tackles the hardest, thorniest cases — and he does so with absolute scrupulousness. He is a journalist of integrity, one who reports without fear or favor, letting the chips fall where they may.

Ethically speaking, I am against cloning, but sometimes I waver.

Peter Singer Can’t Hear the “Music of Humanity”

by Wesley J. Smith

Response To...

Peter Singer Thinks Intellectually Disabled ...

I have had a bit of reaction to the post I wrote the other day, quoting Peter Singer as admitting he wouldn’t raise a child with Down, and justifying the killing of the developmentally and cognitively disabled because, in his view, their lower mental capacities renders them of less moral worth than pigs.

One correspondent, the parent of a child with Down syndrome, wrote me such an evocative note that so beautifully stands against such thinking, I thought it worth sharing with The Corner readers (made public with permission):

I have a daughter with Down’s syndrome. Two other families in my neighborhood do, too.

Just as there are people who lack the capacity to appreciate any music (Milton Friedman, for instance, was one of them), there are people with the far more serious lack of capacity to appreciate the worth of other human beings.

The music of humanity that most of us hear is just noise to them. So it is with Singer… 

I love the term, “the music of humanity.”

Indeed, Peter Singer’s invidiously discriminatory views against the most vulnerable among us are worse than tone deaf. They are bigoted.

Prebutting the New York Times on Immigration

by Ramesh Ponnuru

The New York Times editorializes today against cracking down on illegal immigration:

Now let’s examine the cost to the economy.

If you do back-of-the-envelope calculations, you’re gonna need a big envelope. The American Action Forum last year estimated that expelling all unauthorized immigrants, and keeping them out, would cost $400 billion to $600 billion, and reduce the gross domestic product by $1 trillion.

I just happen to have written a post a few days ago about why this is a foolish way of thinking about the economics of immigration. What the number mostly tells us is the completely uninteresting fact that if you assume illegal immigrants leave the U.S., they will do their producing and consuming elsewhere. George Borjas has calculated that more than 97 percent of illegal immigrants’ additions to GDP accrue to the illegal immigrants themselves.

The Times editorialist comes closer to quantifying the economic benefit that illegal immigrants provide to the rest of the population in the next sentence:

Mr. Trump describes immigrants as rapist-murderer-terrorists, but what they really are is a pillar of the American economy, producing a net benefit of about $50 billion since 1990. 

This link takes you to an article where you learn that Borjas is the source of this estimate of the annual “surplus” that native-born Americans, in aggregate, derive from illegal immigrants. But Borjas knows that our economy is roughly $19 trillion. Here’s how Borjas himself put it in Senate testimony last year:

Finally, the economic gains from immigration accruing to natives are relatively small—less than three-tenths of one percent of GDP, or roughly around $50 billion annually. 

Some pillar.

Remembering Trump’s Anti-Elitist Brand

by Peter Augustine Lawler

So a fair number of people are asking me how I stand on President Trump.

Well, he’s our president. And our country will benefit if he succeeds.

Before the election, I flatter myself that I was on the cutting edge of those who urged Republicans to learn from the insurgency of Trump and Sanders.

The lesson: Both parties were the hollow project of complacent elitists. And so they were both ripe for takeover. Sanders, of course, fell short, but only because he couldn’t figure how to make headway among African-American and Latino voters in time. Trump won the Republican nomination very easily, even though the donor class of his party wanted anyone but him. One thing we learned from both Donald and Bernie: Political success is much less dependent on big money than we supposed. The Koch brothers, for example, had budgeted about a billion dollars to spend on the election, and ended up with no one to spend it on. And they remain, last time I looked, a huge but seemingly rather impotent center of resistance to the agenda of our president.

I was, to say the least, not alone in thinking Trump couldn’t win in November. Not only was his personal fitness a huge question, how could his amateurish and somewhat impoverished campaign prevail against every respectable elite in the country? Another thing we learned: It turns out the system wasn’t rigged. Sure, some think it was rigged by the Russians. But that’s not really true either.

Now, I didn’t vote for Trump, and I’m still spooked by much of his administration on the fronts of both competence and ideology. On the competence level, I certainly appreciate the willingness of Generals McMaster and Mattis to serve, and I hope they can win the confidence of our commander-in-chief. There’s a lot to worry about if those relationships don’t develop. Still, we can also see that “America first” begins as a national-security message. Trump is right to emphasize the need for our country to achieve energy self-sufficiency, to restore morale to our armed forces, and to arm up by technologically upgrading weapons systems and cybersecurity to make our nation less vulnerable. As Walter Russell Mead points out, those can hardly be construed as policies favorable to Russia or China — our leading rival nations.

On the ideological front, I would urge Republicans to remember that Trump was an opponent of the elitists of both parties — as well as of the bipartisan interlocking directorate of elites in undisclosed locations symbolized by Wall Street and Silicon Valley.

It’s easy to see the hostility between Trumpism and the Democrats’ “politically correct” and progressive experts.

But there’s also the hostility between Trumpism and the Republicans’ oligarchic libertarians.

Thinking along those lines even allows us to remember that just as Sanders ran to the left of Clinton and her identity politics, Trump ran to the left of the Republicans who think of American citizens as nothing but productive individuals.

So it would be, to say the least, inauthentic for Trump to suddenly become just another conventional Republican all about nothing but getting rid of Obamacare, cutting taxes, deregulating everything, and trimming entitlements. This “liberty agenda,” after all, has served some Americans much better than others. Let me remind Republicans:

First, the inconvenient truth is that Obamacare is more popular than ever. And what working-class Trump voters heard their candidate saying was: I’m going to replace Obamacare with a better deal. That is, precisely, “repeal and replace,” but replace with something that helps out the ordinary guy at least as well.

Second, Trump did tout his pro-growth tax policy, but in this way: The growth will be so huge that it will be easy to pay for the entitlements on which Americans depend. That, of course, probably won’t happen. But he has to try. Meanwhile, the entitlements — Medicare, Social Security, and so forth — stay in place for now in hope.

Third, we hear from Mr. Bannon that Trump is out to deconstruct the “administrative state.” It’s hard to know what that means. It might mean, in part, take out all those “crony capitalist” monopolistic regulations that keep the ordinary guy from accessing the marketplace and the professions. Well, it should. It might also mean returning political decisions to civic deliberation and not administrative fiat. Again, it should. But Trump has no mandate to deconstruct the welfare state.

Well, let me say one more ambiguously leftist thing: Trump has no mandate to go to war against unions as such. He was elected, in large part, because he convinced union families — with the help of Bernie, of course — that he is more about having their backs than was the Goldman Sachs toady Clinton.

The theme of Trump’s campaign was “civic equality” as opposed to elitist manipulation. I don’t deny for a moment that this theme was deformed by xenophobic tribalism and racist nativism. But surely we can all agree that what G. K. Chesterton called “the romance of the citizen” is a key antidote to the inevitable vast disparities of wealth and status.

Get In

by John J. Miller

The top-grossing movie this weekend will be a satire of liberal racism: Get Out is a suspense-horror movie whose villains include a wealthy white man who boasts of his admiration for Barack Obama. It would be a mistake to label the movie conservative, but conservatives will smile at certain aspects of it. Here’s what writer/director/producer Jordan Peele said about his intentions, according to Deadline Hollywood:

“It was very important for me for this movie not to be about the Black guy going to the South and going to a red state where the presumption for a lot of people is that everyone is a racist there,” added Peele, “This was really meant to take a stab at the liberal elite that tends to believe that we’re above these things.”

Also, whatever audiences make of its politics, Get Out is a pretty good movie. If you enjoy the genre, you’ll enjoy this creative entry.

The Monica Monicker

by Fred Schwarz

Today’s New York Times Book Review contains a letter from Daniel Okrent, who was the Times’ inaugural “public editor” a decade or so ago, complaining that President Clinton’s notorious dalliance with his intern should not be called “the Lewinsky scandal.” Okrent quotes Miss Lewinsky’s mother: “She was a college-age intern. He was the most powerful man in the world. Why is the scandal named after her?”

That’s fine, except (1) scandals are not always, or even usually, called by the name of the chief villain. They are just as often named after victims (the Dreyfus affair), companies (Crédit Mobilier), code names (Fast and Furious), beneficiaries (Iran-Contra), or even buildings (Watergate). And, more to the point, (2) if you ever did make reference to “the Clinton scandal,” the inevitable response would be: “Which one?”