Republican Health Care Plans Don’t ‘Steal’ From the Poor

by David French

Here’s the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson with an odd attack on Republican health care plans:

The “health-care bill” that Republicans are trying to pass in the Senate, like the one approved by the GOP majority in the House, isn’t really about health care at all. It’s the first step in a massive redistribution of wealth from struggling wage-earners to the rich — a theft of historic proportions.

Not to be too pedantic about this, but the government isn’t “redistributing” wealth when it lets a citizen keep more of his money, and it isn’t “stealing” from the poor when it cuts benefits they didn’t actually own. Welfare programs like Medicaid represent a forcible transfer wealth. Welfare is the redistribution. And if there’s any actual argument for “theft,” it’s the theft of money from the private citizen by the government.

But that would be hyperbole. In civilized societies, people understand that a certain degree of taxation is necessary for a nation to function. Safety nets are compassionate and prudent. But it is dangerous and wrong to get confused about who owns what. I own the money I earn. America’s less fortunate citizens don’t own Medicaid. It’s a privilege, not a right — a privilege that is subject to the same budgetary and fiscal concerns inherent in any other government program, including national defense. 

Entitlement culture plagues this nation, and it plagues America’s poorest communities. So let’s speak accurately about ownership and redistribution. Medicaid is a program, not property, and it’s not theft to attempt to moderate its enormous financial cost. 

 

Drawing a Line on Federalism: Who Should Do It?

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Jake Curtis, writing on the home page, brings attention to an issue that deserves it: the way the federal government uses money to get the states to do what it wants. But I don’t think he makes the case for having the federal courts curtail the practice.

He’s writing on the thirtieth anniversary of South Dakota v. Dole, a case in which the Court upheld the federal government’s power to condition highway funding for the states on their adoption of a law prohibiting alcohol purchases for those under 21. I agree that it was wrong for Congress to pass that law and for President Reagan to sign it. It’s less obvious to me that the seven justices who allowed the law to stand—including the two most conservative justices on that court, Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia—were wrong.

The problem, as I see it, is a simple one: The Constitution lays out no explicit rule for distinguishing between permissible and impermissible conditions for federal aid to states, and no such rule can be plausibly inferred from it.

To my mind, the Court illustrated this point in NFIB v. Sebelius (2012), when it forced a modification of Obamacare’s provisions on Medicaid. The law said that states had to expand Medicaid or lose all their Medicaid funds. The Court—with seven justices in the majority, admittedly including all the conservatives—said that the federal government could not force the states to make that choice. It could, however, tell states that refusing to expand the program would keep them from getting some new Medicaid funds from the federal government. The distinctions the Court drew between permissible and impermissible conditions, however, are labored and their grounding in the constitutional text basically non-existent.

For the Court to become more active in striking down conditions on federal funding for the states, the justices would have to rely on some extra-constitutional sense that “this condition seems to go too far, while that one doesn’t.” There being no constitutional basis for drawing that distinction, responsibility for the line should be left to the legislature, the president, and the voters who elect both.

Trump Administration Must Reform Flawed System Allowing MS-13 to Recruit Unaccompanied Minors

by Austin Yack

The Trump administration is prioritizing the prosecution of those who are affiliated with MS-13, an international criminal gang formally known as Mara Salvatrucha. “We are targeting you. We are coming for you,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last month. If the Trump administration is committed to eradicating MS-13 in the U.S., it ought to look no further than the way in which the U.S. immigration system unintentionally allows for the recruitment of unaccompanied minors into gangs.

Upon catching unaccompanied minors at the border, U.S. Border Patrol agents have 72 hours to bring the minor to the Justice Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). From there, he or she is placed with a sponsor. According to the Washington Times, “That usually leaves the children with no federal supervisions once they are released to sponsors — where they are often prime recruiting targets.”

In a Senate judiciary committee hearing on Wednesday, Republican senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the committee, grilled officials from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Justice Department’s ORR.

“No one takes responsibility for these children after they are placed with a sponsor,” Grassley said. “Your agencies repeatedly pass the buck to each other. As a result, children are allowed to disappear. When these children disappear without any supervision, they are vulnerable to join dangerous gangs like MS-13.”

MS-13 is increasingly recruiting unaccompanied minors who are heading to the U.S. According to ORR, 39 of the 138 unaccompanied minors who are being held by the U.S. at secure facilities — nearly 30 percent — are affiliated with MS-13 and other gangs. And just last week, 41 alleged MS-13 gang members were arrested in Nassau County, N.Y. Nineteen of the 41 arrested came to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors.

Nassau County district attorney Madeline Singas said that while recruiting, MS-13 members “surround a vulnerable child, ask him or her which gang they belong to, and while displaying machetes or guns, or other weapons, they demand that they join their gang or else they’ll suffer violence, or their families will.”

Grassley is right — our immigration system’s failure to properly handle these unaccompanied minors is partly to blame for MS-13’s rise in recent years. It’s time that one of the agencies involved steps up to the plate.

Evidently, the Left Hasn’t Calmed Down Yet

by Sapna Rampersaud

Johnny Depp, acclaimed American actor, producer, and musician, recently played with the notion of assassinating President Trump. At the Glastonbury arts festival in England on Thursday, he asked “When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” He followed up this question by proposing that “it’s been a while and maybe it’s time.”  

Just last month, Kathy Griffin, American comedian, writer, actress, and television host agreed to a photoshoot in which she was photographed holding up a bloody, severed head of President Trump. She was subsequently fired by CNN.

This month, the Public Theater in Central Park put on productions of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” play which depicted the murder of a Caesar who bore an uncanny resemblance to Trump.

Back in January, Madonna expressed her discontent with the new administration and stated at the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. that she “thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House” following a slew of profanities.

These comments are rightfully protected under the First Amendment. Nevertheless, they represent an ugly trend in American culture — just listen to the cheers from the crowds when Depp and Madonna suggest murdering the president. And that trend does not look as if it’s coming to a close. It’s been nearly seven months since Trump was elected and nearly five since he took office, and, although it has nothing to show for its anger the Left has not yet calmed down.

Fourteen Things that Caught My Eye Today (June 23, 2017)

Moderate Republicans Blink on Health Care

by Ramesh Ponnuru

My new Bloomberg View column:

For most of the last decade, moderate Republicans have sounded just like their conservative colleagues on Obamacare: The law was a disaster and had to be replaced. Once Republicans were in a position to do something about the law, though, they were forced to think, apparently for the first time, about specific health-policy decisions. At that point the moderates decided that they want to keep Obamacare but make it cheaper. . . .

 

How Handel Won

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Henry Olsen concludes that the biggest factor was that Ossoff fell far short of the percentage of Gary Johnson/Evan McMullin voters he needed.

The Most Dangerous Places in America (for Un-P.C. Ideas, Anyway)

by George Leef

The Left used to dominate film, but in recent years, conservatives and libertarians have been catching up. Since fewer and fewer Americans read much any more, using film to make a point is increasingly effective.

Dennis Prager (who is well known to NR readers) and Adam Corolla plan to do a film entitled “No Safe Spaces” about the terrible condition of free speech on college campuses for anyone who challenges the supposed wisdom and compassion of the Left. They are crowdfunding their effort and for more information about it (including how to contribute), go here.

What Should Become of Steven Donziger?

by Jack Fowler

Neither persistence nor determination are virtues. Yes, people value them: We all want to cheer for The Little Engine that Could and Rudy. But Steven Donziger, the environmental-activist lawyer, is no Rudy. Actually, he’s more of Bernie. As in Madoff.

Donziger has been written about frequently here, for his crusade to conduct what has been called the legal fraud of the century: A contrived and calculated green-scamming operation to fleece Chevron over alleged rain-forest polluting in Ecuador (for alleged unremediated well sites that allegedly caused cancer for local peasants), masterminded by Donziger, who orchestrated a brazenly corrupt trial against the oil giant.

That foray ended well for the intrepid barrister: a bribed and coached Ecuadorean judiciary hit Chevron with a $9.5 billion judgment.

Chevron, a National Review advertiser (praised be!), fought back, and took no prisoners. Among other things, the counterattack resulted in a federal court action, and in 2014, as Kevin Williamson wrote at the time, Donziger was on the receiving end of a brutal ruling, rendered by District Judge Lewis Kaplan. National Review’s editorial had this to say about the esquire scammer:

[Donziger is] a politically connected Harvard Law classmate of Barack Obama. Mr. Donziger would come to be the central figure in the legal case against Chevron — a case that, according to a decision just handed down by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, was the product of an ongoing criminal conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. The judge, Lewis Kaplan, found that Chevron’s antagonists had used “corrupt means” to procure a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron in Ecuador, and that those means included falsifying evidence, coercing judges, bribing “independent” expert witnesses and ghostwriting those “independent” experts’ reports to the court, bribing the Ecuadorian judge in the case, and subsequently lying to U.S. legal authorities in an attempt to cover up their misdeeds.

Shot down in the U.S. courts (and getting clobbered internationally, such as earlier this year in Canada), Donziger appealed Kaplan’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. Same old same old: This week SCOTUS handed the leftist his latest defeat.

Donziger’s globe-trotting circus is getting boring — he’s certain to take his action to some nation demanding its legal system enforce the corrupt Ecuadorean ruling to swindle Chevron (he responded to the SCOTUS verdict saying he was seeking “an international judgment enforcement process.” Before he splits for Burundi or Bulgaria, someone should grab his passport, because it is time he possibly conduct his efforts from the confines of a federal prison cell. As Kaplan wrote in his 2014 decision, Donziger engaged in “bribery, coercion and fraud.” Those are harsh claims from a federal judge (backed up by copious facts, and even an amazing confessional video starring Donziger bragging about his scam). We wonder when a U.S. attorney will formally charge this man with criminal RICO charges. The shareholders of Chevron deserve justice, and the criminal Left that Donziger represents deserves as strong a throttling as our laws will permit.

Where the Public Stands on Gun Issues

by Robert VerBruggen

Pew has a big new report on that topic, with this summary of the results being a handy guide:

A few things pop out to me here. Like other surveys it shows broad support for background checks on private sales, even among Republicans. It also shows a clear majority for “assault weapons” bans — which, interestingly, didn’t show up in a 2015 New York Times poll. The biggest gaps between Republicans and Democrats, meanwhile, are on questions of expanding where people can legally carry guns. And I’m not sure how to interpret the question about “shortening waiting periods,” because, well, there isn’t a waiting period, at least on the federal level.

Finally, there are two questions where Republicans surprised me. One, they support a “federal database to track gun sales.” Currently, guns are traced through their manufacturers and the stores where they’re sold to avoid placing those records directly in the government’s hands, but it turns out that most Republicans aren’t so concerned about a centralized registry. And two, by more than two-to-one, Republicans oppose permitless concealed carry, which has expanded quite a bit in recent years and is a major goal of the gun-rights lobby.

Deposing Assad Could Hurt Syria’s Christians

by Nicholas Frankovich

Response To...

Syria in 2017 Is Nothing Like ...

In Syria, most Christians and other religious minorities, primarily Alawites and Druze, support Assad, certainly according to conventional wisdom. Polling data such as they are indicate that a majority of the total Syrian population, not just religious minorities, backs him in the civil war. “Even the Sunnis” will take Assad over “the extremists,” Antoine Audo, the Chaldean Catholic bishop of Aleppo, told reporters in Geneva last year. He estimated that 80 percent of Syria’s Christians would vote for Assad in an election. Syria’s bishops, both Catholic and Orthodox, are adamant in their defense of the secular regime, which they see as the only practical bulwark against greater chaos or the establishment of a Sunni regime that would be hostile to Christianity.

In a proxy war between a U.S.–Sunni alliance and the Russian–Iranian alliance in Syria, the U.S. would be fighting not only Assad, Putin, and Rouhani but, it would appear, also the Christians remaining in or returning to Aleppo, encouraged by the Syrian government’s recapture of the city last December. What persecuted religious minorities perceive to be their self-interest in the Syrian civil war complicates the argument for deposing or weakening Assad.

Or, rather, it should complicate that argument. If an American proponent of going to war against the regime thinks that the cost to Syria’s religious minorities is one that they are tragically doomed to suffer for a greater good, he should say so. Or if he thinks that he knows what’s in their interest better than they do, he should say that. Likewise, an American advocate for Middle Eastern Christians needs to have an explanation if he supports a military campaign to topple the Syrian government.

So I disagree with Max Bloom, although I sympathize with what I take to be his wish to see Putin defeated. Max argues that the parallel between Iraq in 2003 and Syria in 2017 doesn’t stand up, but that’s not how Syrian Christians I read and speak with tend to see it. They are keenly aware that the secular regime of Saddam Hussein gave Iraqi Christians some protection. Since it fell, they’ve been persecuted to the point that the European Union and the U.S. State Department have formally recognized their plight as genocide. Many of the Christians currently in Syria fled there from Iraq. They see history repeating. Are they wrong?

Granted, Syrian Christians are not unanimous in their support for Assad. Many are vocal in their opposition, but they do not speak for the institutional churches in Syria and do not appear to speak for most Christians on the ground. An argument for defending Syria’s Christians while fighting Assad is not impossible, but those who assume it owe it to the rest of us to explain it.

I click on a lot of articles about the Syrian civil war. I search for the character string “chr” and almost always get zero results. Terry Mattingly, a journalist who specializes in media coverage of religion, is an American convert to the Antiochian Orthodox Church, based n Damascus. He expresses frustration at the absence of religious background in otherwise good reporting on events in Syria. “It’s impossible to tell many of these stories without including religion,” he writes. “Why even try?”

Bowled Over by a Book

by Jay Nordlinger

I guess I have more of a political bent than I do a literary one. I wish it weren’t so, but can we help it? All my life, I had read Mario Vargas Llosa — but his journalism. His essays. Interviews of him. That sort of thing. I admired him greatly, and I considered him one of the great classical liberals in Latin America. But I had never read a novel of his — the stuff that got him the Nobel prize.

I suppose I considered Vargas Llosa a political figure, primarily.

A friend gave me a novel by him. I laid it aside (as I do books). Then, some weeks later, I was shirking the reading I had to do, and my eyes fell on the novel. I picked it up, figuring I’d read a few pages.

I did. They were okay. I read a few more. They were okay. Then they were more than okay. And I couldn’t eat, sleep, or breathe until I was finished with the novel.

It is The Feast of the Goat, published in 2000 — a novel of Trujillo and his dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. It is a work of genius, pure and simple. I called David Pryce-Jones. I said, in effect, “Did you know that Vargas Llosa was a flat-out genius?” P-J is polite, but he said, in effect, “Uh, yeah. Where have you been?”

Today on the homepage, my column is devoted to notes on The Feast of the Goat, dictatorship, and man. See what you think, here.

P.S. In recent days, I have had two pieces at The New Criterion that may interest you. Here is one on a Russian pianist — not very well known — who lived from 1908 to 1978. Interesting, impossibly hard life. The pianist is Maria Grinberg, and she is great. There is a story in there about her patronymic — her middle name, so to speak — that you will eat up.

And here is a piece on Swan Lake: its unstalability. A couple of days ago, someone asked me, “What makes a great work of art great? Its universality?” Yes, I said, but also its unstalability: the fact that you can’t wear it out. That you can watch it or listen to it or read it again and again and again.

Dan Hannan and Conservatives International

by Jack Fowler

Our pal, the Conservative MEP and Brexit champion, is determined to engineer an honest-to-goodness global right-wing conspiracy. Minus the conspiracy. And he has done it with the free-market Conservatives International, which launched last month in Miami.

Dan’s keynote speech at the conference is worth your watching:

CI’s next effort is a trade conference next month in Kamapal (details here). 

Friday links

by debbywitt

Tomorrow (June 24) is the birthday of Ambrose Bierce, author of The Devil’s Dictionary.

Caterpillars Recruit Friends with Anal Scraping. If you know of others who use the same method, feel free to discuss in the comments.

Lincoln Memorial Undercroft - A cavernous three-story, 43,800-square-foot basement that was forgotten about for 60 years. 

How To Steal Pizza Without Anyone Knowing.

How Much Businesses Pay To Get On Those Big Blue Exit Signs

These Massive Tunnels Were Dug By Giant Sloths.

ICYMI, Wednesday’s links are here, and include the history of the Aloha shirt, the first day of summer, why it’s called Area 51, the rural mail carriers who count wildlife on their routes, and how cats used humans to conquer the world.

Poetry

by William W. Runyeon

LOST PRAYER

A prayer well known and repeated,

and repeated, the mind focused on the words,

on the words, becomes an internal ceremony,

with little room, and then no room

for another thought; sooner or later

comes the moment when the focus is lost,

the words are lost, when the internal chant

comes up empty, comes to silence;

better silence than the meaning lost.

But when the words are lost,

across that vacant moment,

an image will follow, of Divinity,

of a sacred place, of Benevolence

accepting the devotion of a

weary humanity, prone to loss

of focus and of meaning, to the

wavering use of words, tending to

obscure and not to illuminate.

The silence becomes a light,

the silence turns to light,

that the loss might be redeemed;

picture without words, the figure

surprised in the clearing, become

as a candle of sunlight, by the breath

of contemplation turned to action,

so the loss of words may come to nothing.

– This poem appears in the July 10 print issue of NR.

The Rise of Jeremy Corbyn

by NR Staff

Here’s the cover of the new issue of National Review, out today for subscribers, featuring Michael Brendan Dougherty’s cover story on the rise of Jeremy Corbyn.

For this and more insight from the best conservative writers, subscribe to National Review’s digital magazine here, and print magazine here.

How Badly Do Democrats Really Want to Defeat Trump?

by Rich Lowry

I wrote about this question today in the context of the Georgia special election: 

There’s no doubt that Democrats want to watch TV programs that excoriate the president. They want to give money to candidates opposing him. They want to fantasize about frog-marching him straight from his impeachment proceedings to the nearest federal penitentiary. But do they want to do the one thing that would make it easier to win tough races in marginal areas, namely moderate on the cultural issue? Not so much. 

In retrospect, Jon Ossoff’s loss in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District was overdetermined. He didn’t live in the district. He had no record of public service. Youthful to a fault, he looked like he should have been running for class president. Yet it didn’t help that he was an orthodox liberal who conceded nothing on cultural issues, even though he was running in a Republican district in the South. 

In this, Ossoff merely reflected his party’s attitude. Stopping Trump is imperative, so long as it doesn’t require the party rethinking its uncompromising stance on abortion, guns or immigration. Every old rule should be thrown out in the cause of the resistance—except the tried-and-true orthodoxies on social issues. 

If Democrats had to choose between opposing an honest-to-goodness coup and endorsing a ban on abortion after 20 weeks, they’d probably have to think about it. And if they dared pick opposition to the coup, NARAL Pro Choice America would come after them hammer and tongs.

Harper’s Bazaar Author Peddles Debunked Stat to Promote Overseas Abortion

by Alexandra DeSanctis

In an effort to promote the global legalization of abortion, a number of articles published during the last few years have used the example of El Salvador to argue that “unsafe” abortions lead to the deaths of thousands of women each year. El Salvador prohibits abortion except in the rare cases when a woman’s life is at risk, a policy that is considered “unsafe” by abortion-rights activists.

To illustrate this assertion, each of the authors gestures at one particular data point: the supposed fact that 11 percent of abortions in El Salvador result in the death of the mother. This claim cropped up just this week in Harper’s Bazaar, but it has also been pushed by articles in Marie Claire, National Geographic, Newsweek, Foreign Policy, and Amnesty International.

Unfortunately for proponents of this argument, the 11-percent figure is incorrect, and the origin of these claims becomes evident after a careful review of the data in question. To begin with, nearly all of these articles cite a 2011 World Health Organization (WHO) study, which doesn’t in fact provide any details about El Salvador’s abortion rates or maternal-mortality rates.

The 2011 WHO study links to a maternal-mortality trend report, estimating that 110 expectant mothers in El Salvador died for every 100,000 live births in 2008. That yields .11 percent, and it doesn’t consider specifically abortion-related maternal deaths. So far, the oft-cited figure has yet to appear.

A closer look at the Harper’s Bazaar article provides us with some further clues. To bolster her use of the 11-percent statistic, the author cites a report from the pro-abortion group Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), where we do find the claim that 11 percent of abortions in El Salvador between 1995 and 2000 were fatal for the mother.

The CRR then directs us to a Global Health Council (GHC) report, which estimates that there were 246,275 abortions in El Salvador from 1995 to 2000. If the 11-percent claim were correct, it would mean that, in a five-year span, over 27,000 Salvadoran mothers died as the result of abortion procedures.

That figure is almost absurd enough to dismiss on its face, but the GHC report goes on to put the final nail in the coffin, noting that during this five-year span only 209 women died from abortion. That’s .08 percent of 246,275, not 11 percent.

Another interesting note: The GHC report lists 1,885 total maternal deaths in El Salvador for the same period, which allows us to calculate that 11 percent of the country’s total maternal deaths were abortion-related. That statistic is evidently distinct from the claim that 11 percent of the country’s total abortions lead to maternal death.

Leaving aside the complicated questions surrounding maternal-mortality rates and abortion policy, it’s impossible to take abortion-rights activists seriously when they fail to substantiate their arguments with actual data and instead propound unfounded statistics to score political points.

Editor’s note: This article has been amended since its initial publication.

The Perverse Incentives in University Science Funding

by George Leef

When Troy Camplin and a co-researcher sought funding for a university institute devoted to the study of spontaneous orders, they were turned down. The provost declared that he just didn’t believe that complexity was worthy of scientific study. End of story.

That unhappy experience provides the back ground for Camplin’s Martin Center Clarion Call: “Perverse Incentives in Science: 21st Century Funding for 20th Century Research.”

Camplin explains,

Our institutions are dominated by those doing science in the current paradigm. Which is what we should in fact expect. But that means that most funding sources — whether government or private — are going to be conservative and fund the already-established rather than investigations into something that may not work out. And scientists tend to protect their turf against new ideas that could replace them.

One consequence is that lots of money flows into ideas that have already been researched well past the point of diminishing returns. Another is that science professors spend an inordinate amount of time writing grant proposals, at the expense of actually doing research.

Worse still, we are seeing the increasing politicization of science. Camplin writes,

Such politicization is also a perhaps unsurprising result of the breakdown of the old paradigm in science. When those with institutional power feel threatened, they tend to politicize the situation to try to retain that power. This is part of what happened with the recent March for Science, held in large cities around the country. It wasn’t really a march for science, but rather a march for politicized science in the current paradigm.

Camplin has identified a serious problem, but doesn’t have a solution for it. Eventually, he thinks, a new paradigm of funding will emerge, but until then we will suffer through a lot of waste and folly. (Dr. Michael Mann comes to mind as an example.)

Summer Reading

by Yuval Levin

Summer is here, and so is the new summer issue of National Affairs. It’s filled with thoughtful, timely essays on policy and political thought, from Sally Satel on how to understand the opioid crisis to Andy Smarick on how education is changing, Oren Cass on the mirages of “evidence-based policymaking,” Joshua McCabe on our polarized federalism, Arnold Kling on the state of economics, Richard Reinsch on our competing majorities, Michael Cooper on the fate of the rust belt, and much more—from taxing marijuana to the radicalization of our understanding of discrimination, the rhetoric of Black Lives Matter, and the legacy of Edward Banfield.  

Some are open to all, others only to subscribers—and hey, why not?