Readers should first acquaint themselves with Brian Doherty’s excellent work over at Reason surveying the long-running debate regarding how we should conceive of defensive gun uses. Contrary to the implications of gun control advocates, the positive utility of a firearm for self-defense should not be limited to the bad guy body count: Believe it or not, guns can and do help ensure personal safety or at least provide an insurance policy of sorts toward the time one might want or need to ensure your or your family’s personal safety even if you don’t actually plug some human varmint dead. Certain anti-gun folk seem to sincerely believe that the only reason Second Amendment advocates want to have a gun, or want other people to have the right to have a gun, is because guns are so great at killing people; that a gun not used to kill someone isn’t really worth having. But it isn’t true. But we have plenty of reason to believe that Americans use a gun in the service of deterring a crime or potential crime over 2 million times a year. That does not require killing someone with the gun—about three-fourths of the time the gun does not need to be fired much less kill to deter. That should be blindingly obvious to anyone not looking for some new “scientific” excuse to disarm Americans. Even accepting the scope of the study, there are still problems. First and foremost, the study uses unreliable data. The FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports, from which the number of justified homicides was tabulated by the VPC, are voluntary submissions from state and local law enforcement agencies. The vast majority of law enforcement agencies do not participate, and the data that does come in is often unreliable. For example, several instances of justified homicides were reported to the FBI as criminal homicides. For more than a dozen states, the FBI received no data at all on justified firearm homicides by civilians between 2008 and 2012, while only four states (Texas, California, Michigan, and Tennessee) account for nearly half (44%) of the reported justifiable gun deaths. Instead of deciding that the dearth of reliable data should breed hesitation, the authors arrive at a figure that implies there were no justified firearm homicides in non-reporting states during the study period. A quick glance at Cato’s map of defensive gun uses would have shown the authors several justified firearm homicides in those states. Lastly, theVPC study makes absolutely no effort to distinguish the legality of the firearm possession that led to the homicide. Insofar as these figures are being used to advocate for additional gun control regulations, isn’t it pretty important to distinguish the guns that are illegally-owned and thus not subject to regulation in the first place? The VPC’s own website reports fewer than 200 criminal homicides by licensed firearm carriers over the entire eight year period between 2007 and 2015. That’s a far cry from 8,234 per year, and yet that data point didn’t make it into the study. All that said, it’s important not to get lost in a statistics war over a fundamental right. As Brian Doherty notes: The opposing armies in the [defensive gun use] war are roughly staked out with these dueling positions: 1) “There are a really large number of defensive gun uses, so many that any reasonable person would have to admit that private gun ownership is some kind of social good” and 2) “While there may be a fair number of DGUs, the number is dwarfed by the number of violent crimes committed with guns, so never mind the people who save themselves with guns, we should let politicians concentrate not on speculative and uncertain defensive uses, but on the crimes and loss of life and limb that we can see and count which accompanies gun possession and use.” Left out of any policy decision based on these sorts of macrostatistics, as always, is how much having a gun mattered to the specific individual person able to defend himself. However large the number of DGUs, or how small; and however large the number of accidents or tragedies caused by guns, or how small, the right and ability to choose for yourself how to defend yourself and your family—at home or away from it—remains, and that numerical debate should have no particular bearing on it.
My King v. Burwell recap is up at SCOTUSblog. Excerpt:
In King v. Burwell, all nine Supreme Court Justices agreed on one thing. The King challengers claimed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) authorizes the Internal Revenue Service to issue tax credits and impose the related penalties only “through an Exchange established by the State,” and not through exchanges established by the federal government. “Petitioners’ arguments about the plain meaning of Section 36B are strong,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, and their interpretation is “the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase.” Justice Antonin Scalia agreed, finding the meaning of that phrase “so obvious there would hardly be a need for the Supreme Court to hear a case about it.”
There was no dissent about the plain meaning of the phrase “through an Exchange established by the State.” All seven of the other Justices joined one of those two opinions. Nor was there dissent about the fact that that phrase, used repeatedly in the statute, is the only provision of the Act that speaks directly to the question presented. Not a single Justice lent credence to the government’s assertions that this was a meritless case, or one that the Court should never have accepted. Nor was there dissent about the consequences of that provision’s plain meaning in the face of broad state resistance to the ACA. All agreed that withholding tax credits in the thirty-four states with federal exchanges could lead to adverse selection in those states, with premiums climbing higher and higher in a “death spiral.”
Where disagreement emerged was over the question of whether the former should alter the latter – whether the potential for adverse consequences “compels” the Court to disregard the universally acknowledged meaning of the operative text. The Court split six to three in favor of rewriting plain text, and rendering the requirement “established by the State” a nullity…
Roberts managed to conclude that “by the State” could be read to mean “by the federal government,” even though he acknowledged Congress explicitly defined “State” in a way “that does not include the Federal Government.” So perhaps spending more time with the statute would not have helped.
Negotiations in Brussels to resolve the Greek fiscal crisis appear deadlocked, with Athens heading toward default. German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted that Greece make a deal before the markets open Monday. The Eurogroup will meet again tomorrow on the issue.
The European Union was supposed to create a de facto United States of Europe. But after last January’s Greek election it was obvious that the EU does not speak for Greece, or perhaps anyone else other than the Eurocrats, an amalgam of bureaucrats, academics, journalists, businessmen, politicians, and lobbyists who dominate Brussels.
To most EU leaders common people are an impediment. The Eurocrats reflexively intone “more Europe” in answer to every question, but voters increasingly are supporting protest parties, some populist, some worse.
Advocates weren’t shy about their ambitions. In 1992 German Chancellor Helmut Kohl predicted “creation of what the founding fathers of modern Europe dreamed of after the war, the United States of Europe.”
The Euro was one step in the unification process. A more powerful EU was expected.
Alas, the organization has three presidents, who compete for attention and authority. The parliament has only passing connection to the people of Europe. No European would die for Brussels, not even the Belgians, who barely averted the break-up of their badly divided nation.
But the EU carries on, secure in the support of the vast majority of the continent’s elite. The Euro crisis has shaken this political foundation, however.
Until January the popular revolt was contained. But then radical left-wing Syriza won a near majority. The new government rejected the Brussels consensus and default threatens, which most likely would mean a Greek exit from the Eurozone (“Grexit”) and possibly even from the EU.
However the crisis is resolved, the march toward ever greater power in Brussels appears over. Euroskeptic and radical parties are on the rise.
Among the most spectacular Euro villains?
1. Helmut Kohl. The first chancellor of a united Germany, Kohl agreed to sacrifice the legendary German Mark for the Euro.
2. The Greek political establishment. Both the dominant parties, Pasok and New Democracy, profited from the sclerotic and venal state they created.
3. Greece’s creditors. They lent money at near-German interest rates to a nation unlike Germany.
4. The International Monetary Fund. Originally created to support a system of fixed exchange rates, it has become one of the primary financiers of Greece.
5. Alexis Tsipris and Syriza. This disparate movement of the left believed in fiscal alchemy—more government spending, taxing, and regulating would turn into a roaring economy.
6. The European Central Bank. The ECB shifted from economics to politics when it began buying the bonds of deeply indebted European states, most notably Greece, to subsidize the improvident.
7. The Greek people. Euro-subsidized borrowing allowed them to prosper despite their economy being littered with bloated bureaucracies and privileged cartels, and hamstrung with debilitating regulations and profiteering politics.
8. The French political elite. France’s people suffer from stultifying state controls and high taxes. The right is as statist as the left.
9. The European Parliament. More often than not voters use EP contests as an opportunity to protest against unpopular rulers at home.
10. Angela Merkel. She has spent her years in office doing as little consequential as possible. A Eurocrat to the core, she opined: “We have a common currency, but no common political and economic union. And this is exactly what we must change.”
The European story is reaching its climax and no one knows how it is going to end. Greece and the European establishment might yet come to terms and the Euro might stagger along. But this almost certainly is not the Eurozone’s last crisis.
As I point out in Forbes: “It appears that many Europeans have had just about as much Europe as they can stand. In coming months and years the debate is likely to be over how much and how fast they can roll back ‘Europe’.”
Just because today’s opinion was expected by all doesn’t make it any less momentous. A five-justice majority writing through Justice Kennedy finds that there’s a constitutional right for gay and lesbian couples to get marriage licenses – at least so long as everyone else gets them. (We’ll set aside the question of why the government is involved in marriage in the first place for a later time.)
In sometimes-soaring rhetoric Kennedy explains why the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of both substantive liberty and equality means there is no further valid reason to deny this particular institution, the benefit of these particular laws, to gay and lesbian couples.
Not surprisingly, all four conservative justices dissented. Indeed, it’s interesting that each of them wrote his own dissent, each riffing on the same theme. That is, regardless of your views of how to define marriage this is a decision that should be left to the people in their states, not to courts.
Chief Justice John Roberts in particular said that people who benefit from today’s ruling should celebrate it, should celebrate this development in our society. But make no bones about it, this doesn’t relate to the Constitution. (Where was this principled logic yesterday?)
In any event, this will be a case that is studied for generations. There aren’t clear, bright-line rules about levels of scrutiny or any other legalisms – avoiding that artifice is all to the good – and it’s a landmark ruling that shows how far we’ve come. It was in 2003 that the Court had to invalidate the criminalization of gay sex and a mere 12 years later it commands state officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Good for the Court – and I echo Justice Kennedy’s hope that both sides now respect each other’s liberties and the rule of law.
Justice Anthony Kennedy has been called the most libertarian member of the Supreme Court (though Ilya Shapiro finds his libertarianism “faint-hearted”). So maybe it’s no surprise that in the Lawrence (2003), Windsor (2013), and Obergefell (today!) cases, Kennedy wrote a majority decision finding that gay people had rights to liberty and equal protection of the law.
As I note in The Libertarian Mind and in an article just posted at the venerable gay magazine The Advocate, libertarians and their classical liberal forebears have been ahead of the curve on gay rights for more than two centuries:
As the Supreme Court prepares for a possibly historic ruling, most of the country now supports gay marriage. Libertarians were there first. Indeed John Podesta, a top adviser to Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton and founder of the Center for American Progress, noted in 2011 that you probably had to have been a libertarian to have supported gay marriage 15 years earlier.
Just seven years ago, in the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton all opposed gay marriage. The Libertarian Party endorsed gay rights with its first platform in 1972 — the same year the Democratic nominee for vice president referred to “queers” in a Chicago speech. In 1976 the Libertarian Party issued a pamphlet calling for an end to antigay laws and endorsing full marriage rights.
That’s no surprise, of course. Libertarians believe in individual rights for all people and equality before the law. Of course they recognized the rights of gay people before socialists, conservatives, or big-government liberals.
In the article, and more so in the book, I talked about some of the history of classical liberal-libertarian thinking on gay rights in earlier centuries, perhaps beginning with the pioneering criminologist and reformer Cesare Beccaria in 1764.
The Declaration of Independence promised life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to Americans. Of course, not everybody enjoyed those rights at first. But eventually those ideas took root and led to the abolition of slavery and later to civil rights and women’s rights. It took even longer for people to take seriously the idea of homosexual activity as a matter of personal freedom and to recognize gays and lesbians as a group deserving of rights.
It was the classical liberals, the ancestors of libertarians, who first came to that recognition. From Montesquieu and Adam Smith in the 18th century to the Nobel Prize–winning economist F.A. Hayek in 1960, it was libertarians who insisted that (in Hayek’s words) “private practice among adults, however abhorrent it may be to the majority, is not a proper subject for coercive action for a state whose object is to minimize coercion.”
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced today that he was cancelling Baltimore’s Red light-rail line while approving suburban Washington’s Purple Line. However, that approval comes with some caveats that could still mean the wasteful transit project will never be built.
The latest cost estimate for the Purple Line is nearly $2.5 billion for a project that, if done with buses, would cost less than 2 percent as much. The Purple Line finance plan calls for the federal government to put up $900 million, the state to immediately add $738 million, and then for the state to borrow another $810 million.
Instead, Governor Hogan says Maryland will contribute only $168 million to the project, and that local governments–meaning, mainly, Montgomery County but also Prince Georges County–will have to come up with the rest. It isn’t clear from press reports whether Hogan is willing to commit Maryland taxpayers to repay $810 million worth of loans, but it is clear that local taxpayers will have to pay at least half a billion dollars more than they were expecting.
Local Purple Line advocates claim that the line will pay for itself by increasing property values along the route and therefore property tax revenues. In fact, this is a zero-sum game: any increases along the route would be matched by decreases in property values elsewhere in the county. But from the rhetoric, it seems likely that they will propose to use tax-increment financing–which takes all of the tax revenues from increased property values–to pay the county share of the Purple Line. But that may not even be enough to cover the cost.
So it is possible that the Purple Line will never get built. That would be a win for Maryland taxpayers; a win for commuters, because the Purple Line is predicted to increase traffic congestion; and a win for transit riders, because the Purple Line is so expensive it will almost certain force Maryland Transit to cut bus service.
Some say that today’s decision maintains business as usual for Obamacare, taxpayers and consumers. The Supreme Court upheld the subsidies (also known as the Premium Tax Credit) to consumers in the 34 states that rely on the federal exchange. Proponents of these subsidies argue they help keep health insurance affordable.
The subsidies lower the out-of-pocket cost to consumers who get them, but at what cost? Consider a 64-year-old consumer in Hialeah, Florida (one of the largest areas impacted by King v. Burwell) who is receiving the maximum subsidy of $7,488 per year. Of the 87 plans offered in the marketplace, 16 entail zero cost to the consumer. Premiums for these “free” plans range from $6,300 to $7,200. There is no incentive for the consumer to shop prudently from these 16 plans. The consumer does not get to keep any unused subsidy, creating incentives to choose health plans with additional features of only marginal value. The taxpayer – not the consumer – picks up the cost of the imprudent choices.
In addition to discouraging shopping based on plan value, the premium tax credit offers a set of perverse incentives, especially on the decision to earn more than 400% of the poverty line and on reporting your income for the upcoming year.
Today’s decision may very well mean business as usual, but there are serious economic issues with how the subsidy is set up.
Stop calling it fair housing law. If it was ever a matter of fairness, it isn’t now.
Under today’s 5-4 Supreme Court holding in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, you can be held liable for housing discrimination whether or not you or anyone in your organization intended to discriminate. Instead – to quote Justice Anthony Kennedy, who joined with the Court’s four liberals in a 5-4 majority – you might have been influenced by “unconscious prejudice” or “stereotyping” when you lent money or rented apartments or carried on appraisal or brokerage or planning functions. What you did had “disparate impact” on some race or other legally protected group, and now you’re caught up in potentially ruinous litigation in which it’s up to you to show that you had a good reason for what you did and could not have arranged your actions in some other way that had less disparate impact.
The decision is quite broad in its implications. For example, in employment discrimination law, where disparate impact has long been legally established, it is increasingly legally dangerous to ask job applicants about criminal records, or carry out criminal background checks on them before a job offer, for fear of disparate impact. Is it still safe to ask such questions of prospective tenants in your apartment building? Better ask your lawyer.
The case hinged on statutory interpretation, and as Justice Alito’s dissent makes clear, King v. Burwell wasn’t the only case decided today in which a majority mangled the clear meaning of a law’s text to get the result it wanted. As Justice Ginsburg was frank enough to note at oral argument, “”If we’re going to be realistic about it…in 1968, when the Fair Housing Act passed, nobody knew anything about disparate impact.” On the contrary, the law’s text specified that it was banning decisions taken “because of” race, and to find a loophole the majority was obliged to fall back on an incidental clause banning the making “unavailable” of a “dwelling,” which we are meant to believe snuck in a huge new area of liability. As the majority stresses, many appeals courts did go along with a liberal interpretation. But the Executive Branch did not – in 1988 it took the position before the Court that the law did not permit disparate impact claims – while Congress hedged the issue in later enactments so as to keep all sides on board a compromise.
Despite ridiculous claims (like that in a Vox headline) that the Court today “saved” the Fair Housing Act or that a contrary decision would have “gutted” it, the great majority of litigation under the Act has been on disparate-treatment complaints (which, as Alito notes, can already use disparate impact as evidence of pretext.) But the Obama administration, as I’ve documented elsewhere, has launched a huge effort to turn disparate-impact law into an engine of revolutionary changes in local government and housing practice, introducing, for example, such concepts as a local government obligation to pursue subsidized federal housing grants and to enact laws forcing private landlords to accept Section 8 tenants.
As the four dissenters make clear, a compliance and litigation nightmare now looms for many in real estate, finance, and local government as they try to dodge liability. “No matter what [Texas] decides” in the case at hand on locating low-income housing, for example, one or another group “will be able to bring a disparate-impact case” based either on the theory that projects should be put in poorer areas (which enables building more of them) or in affluent areas (which will benefit some future residents).
If you have time to read only one bit of today’s opinion, read Justice Clarence Thomas’s separate dissent. Thomas brilliantly recounts the EEOC’s successful subversion of its own founding statute, culminating in the Court’s profoundly mistaken opinion in Griggs v. Duke Power, the employment case that founded disparate impact theory. “We should drop the pretense that Griggs’ interpretation of Title VII was legitimate,” he writes. It’s a tour de force – and already being denounced vehemently on the Left.
“If we give the phrase ‘the State that established the Exchange’ its most natural meaning, there would be no ‘qualified individuals’ on Federal Exchanges.” You’d think that I pulled that phrase from Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion in today’s big Obamacare ruling—it makes clear that Congress said what it meant in the ACA, giving states the incentive to create exchanges by making their citizens eligible for tax credits if they do—but you’d be wrong.
It comes from the pen of Chief Justice Roberts, who admits, as he did three years ago in the individual-mandate case, that those challenging the administration are correct on the law. Nevertheless, again as he did before, Roberts contorts himself to eviscerate that “natural meaning” and rewrite Congress’s inartfully concocted scheme, this time such that “exchange established by the state” means “any old exchange.” Scalia rightly calls this novel interpretation “absurd.”
Of course, Roberts explains his transmogrification by finding it “implausible that Congress meant the Act to operate in this manner,” to deny subsidies to millions of people as part of legislation intended to expanded coverage. But it’s hardly implausible to think that legislation that still says that states “shall” set up exchanges—the drafters forgot to fix this bit after lawyers pointed out that Congress can’t command states to do anything—would effectively give states an offer nobody thought they’d refuse. It was supposed to be a win-win: states rather than the federal government would run health care exchanges (yay federalism!) and all those who need subsidies to afford Obamacare policies would get them (yay universal healthcare!).
But a funny thing happened on the way to utopia, and only 14 states (plus D.C.) took that too-tempting offer, perhaps having been burned too many times before by the regulations that accompany any pots of “free” federal money. And that’s why we ended up with King v. Burwell: Obamacare the reality doesn’t accomplish Obamacare the dream. That may not be the absolutely, 100-percent correct reading of the Affordable Care Act. But it’s nothing if not plausible.
That should’ve been the end of the story: the clear text of the statute produces a plausible result, so courts should enforce that “natural meaning.” Alas, as Justice Scalia put it, “normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved.”
The best that can be said about today’s ruling is that it explicitly disclaimed any reliance on so-called Chevron deference, the idea that courts should almost always defer to executive-agency interpretations of statutes—including on questions of their own authority. That pernicious bit of 1984 jurisprudence has enabled the administrative state to explode in the last three decades and, had Roberts relied on it, would really have allowed the executive branch to legislate without any real limit. Instead, again like three years ago, we have a horrendous bit of word play that violates all applicable canons of statutory interpretation to preserve the operation of a unpopular program that has done untold damage to the economy and health care system.
No, instead of allowing agencies to rewrite the law, the Supreme Court today gave itself that power. We might as well call the law at issue RobertsCare.
A few additional broader thoughts on the Court’s King v. Burwell ruling today. First, technically, this is an administrative law ruling. That is, the Court did not apply so-called Chevron deference and uphold the IRS’s reading of the provision of the Affordable Care Act that provides tax credits to eligible individuals who buy insurance on exchanges “established by the State”—even though, as a practical matter, the Court agreed with the IRS’s interpretation of that provision as allowing tax credits for those who buy on exchanges established by the federal government.
Rather, this is a statutory ruling—as if the IRS has never interpreted that provision and the Court were doing so as a matter of first impression. And the tangled web the Court weaves in reading “established by the State” as meaning “established by the State or by the federal government” is reduced to shreds by Justice Scalia’s devastating dissent. It is a tour de force that must be read.
Toward the end of his dissent, however, Scalia waxes more broadly, on the proper roles of Congress and the Court. “Our task,” he writes, “is to apply the text, not to improve upon it.” “Rather than rewriting the law under the pretense of interpreting it, the Court should have left it to Congress to decide what to do about the Act’s limitation of tax credits to state Exchanges.” “The Court’s insistence on making a choice that should be made by Congress both aggrandizes judicial power and encourages congressional lassitude.” And he concludes this important section of his dissent with Hamilton in Federalist No. 78: “What a parody today’s decision makes of Hamilton’s assurances [that the Court has] ‘neither FORCE nor WILL but merely judgment.’”
With Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion for the Court, therefore, we have a perverse blend of the opposing positions of the judicial restraint and activist schools that reigned a few decades ago. To a fault, the Court today is deferential to the political branches, much as conservatives in the mold of Alexander Bickel and Robert Bork argued against the activism of the Warren and Burger Courts. But its deference manifests itself in the liberal activism of a Justice Brennan, rewriting the law to save Congress from itself. As Scalia writes, “the Court forgets that ours is a government of laws and not of men.”
You Ought to Have a Look is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science posted by Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. (“Chip”) Knappenberger. While this section will feature all of the areas of interest that we are emphasizing, the prominence of the climate issue is driving a tremendous amount of web traffic. Here we post a few of the best in recent days, along with our color commentary.
This week, we feature three analyses of the top climate stories of recent weeks—the papal encyclical, the carbon tax, and the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Each of these analyses provides uncommon insight.
The first is an article penned by the always insightful Roger Pielke Jr. appearing in the typically non-insightful U.K.’s The Guardian. Roger’s piece is titled “Is science policy a theological matter?” and is a reminder that Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’ is “just the latest intervention in a debate over technologies that has been going on for centuries.”
Roger reviews some of the historic highlights of this debate and the philosophical roots of Pope Francis’ way of thinking—basically that “human roots of the ecological crisis” are grounded in a “technocratic paradigm.” In other words, technology (spurred by capitalism) is leading to the downfall of humanity through ecological deterioration. Not everyone agrees with the pope on this. But even for those who do, Roger points out they are often inconsistent when it comes to embracing (or disavowing) the fruits of technology. Roger provides this example:
But for many, embracing an overt religious framing for existential debates over technology can quickly become problematic, or at least deeply inconsistent. Consider technologies of family planning. Consistent with Catholic history, Pope Francis largely dismisses concern about global population as a contributor to environmental problems, “To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.”
…Our views on whether certain technologies are good or bad are a reflection of what kind of world we collectively want.
And this is where politics comes in. Roger continues:
Nuclear power? GMOs? Birth control pills? Fracking? Human germline editing? Solar thermal stations? Vaccinations? Coal power? Good luck finding someone, anyone, with a consistently pro- or anti- technology position across just this small set of innovations. People around the world show a remarkable degree of inconsistency when applying religious principles to technological innovation. Of course, one person’s inconsistency is another’s pragmatism, and the pragmatic way to settle conflicts in through the difficult and frustrating process of politics.
Which leads back to the articles title “Is science policy a theological matter?”
The whole 1300-word piece is well-worth a read both for its historical reflections as well as questions that it provokes. Roger concludes:
With his encyclical Pope Francis has done the world a service by helping us to see that our choices about technology and economic growth are part of a deeper set of questions focused on what kind of world we wish to live in together. Answering such questions collectively through action will be messy, inconsistent and deeply political. If history is any guide, religious teachings will inform these answers but not determine them. That will mean disappointment for fundamentalists of all stripes.
The next piece that you ought to have a look at is a well-argued, critical look at the arguments forwarded for a carbon tax—supposedly a grand bargain for Republicans and Democrats to come together and “do something” about climate change. But the Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass doesn’t see it that way at all. His article, “The Carbon Tax Shell Game” in the summer issue of National Affairs is perhaps the most complete and thorough take down of the myriad excuses as to why it’s okay for conservatives (libertarians, even) to support a carbon tax. Oren leads:
Support for a carbon tax has become the height of fashion among some on the right, and an express pass to “strange new respect” from the left. It even earned former congressman Bob Inglis (a Republican from South Carolina) the 2015 JFK Profile in Courage Award. Supposedly, the tax is at once a free-market economist’s efficient approach to combatting climate change, a savvy fiscal reform for promoting economic growth, and a statesman-like grand bargain poised to break through the political gridlock. But as with most fads, it makes little sense when scrutinized closely.
He shows why the popular pro-carbon tax memes such as “US should be a global leader,” “we must be concerned with the negative externalities,” “we need to take out an insurance policy for catastrophic events,” “let’s swap a carbon tax for other forms of taxation,” etc. all fall flat.
Oren concludes, astutely:
The almost total lack of support for a price on carbon by elected representatives across the political spectrum, including by President Obama in his re-election campaign, is perhaps the best evidence for the true level of public support and likelihood of an attractive deal. As White House press secretary Jay Carney explained, days after the President had secured a second term, “We would never propose a carbon tax.”
A good policy does not repeatedly hide in the alternative. When the carbon-tax shells finally stop moving, one turns them over to find a sharply regressive tax likely to harm the economy while failing to meaningfully reduce emissions or insure against catastrophe, poorly suited to the important goals of spurring innovation and protecting public health, and deeply unpopular and inconsistent with basic principles of policymaking. Supporters inevitably commit themselves to the project of costly and superficial climate action while achieving no concessions in return. And this is before Congress gets involved.
If one is looking for a poorly designed consumption tax to pair with a corporate-tax cut in a politically implausible package, a carbon tax might be the answer. But surely no one is looking for that.
And finally, we end with something you don’t see every day—a cost/benefit analysis of greenhouse gas regulations that uses a domestic social cost of carbon (SCC), rather than a global SCC estimate preferred by the Obama Administration.
Recall that the SCC is a wildly gameable estimate of the damages that accrue between now and the year 2300 resulting from each of carbon dioxide emitted from human activates.
In our recent set of Comments on the latest in a series of proposed federal regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions, we point out the problem of the federal use of the global SCC to justify the costs of the proposed regulations (an increasing frequent practice).
The [federal task force] only reports the global value of the SCC which the [task force] determines to accrue from continued carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. This is in direct violation of existing OMB [Office of Management and Budget] guidelines.
OMB Circular A-4 (September 17, 2003) regarding Regulatory Analysis explicitly states:
“Your analysis should focus on benefits and costs that accrue to citizens and residents of the United States. Where you choose to evaluate a regulation that is likely to have effects beyond the borders of the United States, these effects should be reported separately.”
In reporting the SCC, the [task force] argues away the need to “focus on benefits and costs that accrue to citizens and residents of the United States” and instead bases its SCC solely on its determinations of “effects beyond the borders of the United States.” Rather than reporting the latter “separately,” as recommended by OMB guidelines, the [task force] only reports the global costs in its tablature and makes no determination of the domestic costs (providing only approximate guidelines). Considering that the majority (if not all) of the federal regulations incorporating the SCC into cost/benefit analysis apply to rules regulating domestic activities, reporting only the global impact—the knowledge (in all areas, i.e., economics, social, environmental, etc.) of which is far less constrained than potential U.S. impacts—imparts a huge degree of uncertainty and is a grossly misleading. Thus, the [task force’s] determination of the SCC is not appropriate for use in federal regulatory analyses such as this one.
During the public comment period associated with new regulations such as this one which incorporate the SCC, a distinction should be made between domestic costs/benefits and foreign cost/benefits—and numerical calculations of each provided (not merely a mention as to how to calculate the domestic costs) in all cost/benefits analyses included in the proposal—such that the public can judge for itself the value of the regulation. As it currently stands, the public likely has little idea as to how large a percentage of the benefits of the proposed EPA regulations on domestic activities are conferred upon foreign nations under the guise of the SCC. This is clearly not a “transparent” situation.
While the Obama Administration remains deaf to these calls, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has not.
Last week, the Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy released a report whose title pretty much sums up the findings “EIA Analysis Shows EPA’s Carbon Regulations All Economic Pain for No Climate Gain.” In that report, they compared the economic losses from the EPA’s power plant carbon dioxide regulations with the supposed “benefits” from avoided damages resulting from the lowered CO2 emissions. Using Administration’s preferred global social cost of carbon, the Chamber found that the costs of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan exceeded the benefits to the tune of some $899 billion over the period 2020-2030. The net loss was even greater when the Chamber used the more relevant domestic SCC value. In that case, the net costs ballooned to a whopping $1.16 trillion.
The Chamber thus concludes:
No matter how one slices and dices the data, EIA‘s analysis leaves little room for doubt that EPA’s Clean Power Plan flops badly as a climate policy, even on the administration’s own terms and using the administration’s own methods, data, and exaggerated SCC.
Maybe creating a huge new bureaucracy to implement carbon dioxide regulations that would highjack well-established state authority, disrupt the entire U.S. electricity sector, jeopardize the reliability of the electric grid, raise electricity costs on struggling families, and yield an estimated net loss in wealth of $899 billion to $1.16 trillion is appealing to EPA. But for the rest of the country, it’s a decidedly bad deal.
 We note, that for embracing global warming, Inglis lost his 2010 primary in a heavily Republican South Carolina district by an 70-29 margin, a margin of defeat unprecedented for an incumbent congressman with no scandal.
Today the Supreme Court allowed itself to be intimidated. Afraid that ObamaCare as written would throw the sickest patients out of their health plans a second time, the Court rewrote ObamaCare to save it—again. In doing so, the Court has sent a dangerous message to future administrations: If you are going to violate the law, make sure you go big.
The Court today validated President Obama’s massive power grab, allowing him to tax, borrow, and spend $700 billion that no Congress ever authorized. This establishes a precedent that could let any president modify, amend, or suspend any enacted law at his or her whim.
ObamaCare will continue to disrupt coverage for sick Americans until Congress repeals it and replaces it with reforms that make health care better, more affordable, and more secure. Despite today’s ruling, ObamaCare remains unpopular with the American public and the battle to set in place a health care system that works for all Americans is far from over.
Justice Scalia’s final paragraph in his dissent today in King v. Burwell pretty much says it all. Read the opinion and weep.
Perhaps the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will attain the enduring status of the Social Security Act or the Taft-Hartley Act; perhaps not. But this Court’s two decisions on the Act will surely be remembered through the years. The somersaults of statutory interpretation they have performed (“penalty” means tax, “further [Medicaid] payments to the State” means only incremental Medicaid payments to the State, “established by the State” means not established by the State) will be cited by litigants endlessly, to the confusion of honest jurisprudence. And the cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.
We’ll have more on the decision in due course.
If you think that the Fed isn’t involved in the Greek mess, you may want to think again. Paul-Martin Foss, our good friend at the Carl Menger Center, wrote a very nice post a few days ago concerning how the Fed may be getting itself tangled-up in an impending Greek default, through its swap lines with the ECB.
According to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, those swap lines were first established in December 2007 “to improve liquidity conditions in U.S. and foreign financial markets by providing foreign central banks with the capacity to deliver U.S. dollar funding to institutions in their jurisdictions during times of market stress.”
Those original swap facilities, never meant to be permanent, were shut-down in February 2010. But — wouldn’t you know it? — similar facilities were announced in May 2010 in response to “the re-emergence of strains in short term funding markets in Europe.” Those facilities were also supposed to be temporary, but then, in October 2013 — what do you know! — they were made permanent. According to the Fed, that step
further supports financial stability by reducing uncertainties among market participants as to whether and when these arrangements would be renewed. This action results from the ongoing cooperation among these central banks to help maintain financial stability and confidence in global funding markets.
What has all this got to do with Greece? Here is Paul-Martin:
If you want to get a sense of the Fed’s involvement in Europe, watch the swap lines. Swap line data is published every Thursday afternoon on the Fed’s balance sheet, the H.4.1 release. If you look at the St. Louis Fed’s charts and data on swap lines, you’ll see the huge amount of swaps during the financial crisis, and then a smaller but still significant increase in swap lines during the first iteration of the Greek financial crisis back in 2012. While swaps have been relatively non-existent this year, there was a small blip back in April, likely Greek-related, and more importantly, another blip this week. While the amount, $114 million, is a drop in the bucket compared to what it has been in the past, this number needs to be watched. It could very well be an indicator of the Fed getting involved in Europe again. And if the doomsday scenario ends up taking place next week, expect that $114 million figure to skyrocket. The Fed seems to want the conversation to revolve around a possible upcoming interest rate hike, so it’s been relatively silent on the topic of Greece and its involvement in bailing out Europe. But even if the Fed doesn’t say anything about Greece, its money-printing to pump up the swap lines will do plenty of talking.
That was on June 19th. Well, the CMFA’s champion Fed watcher, Walker Todd (who you will be hearing from shortly on these pages) has been keeping a sharp eye on those swap lines. On June 11th — a week before the transaction showed up on the Fed’s own H.4.1 release — Walker reported that “Someone in Europe drew a small amount on a dollar swap with FRBNY”:
ECB website today has details below on a swap line drawing this week against the US dollar swap line with FRBNY. It says that there was one bidder; one wonders whom. Amount is $113 million. There has been no swap line activity for several months now. These numbers should show up on FRBNY next week (due to timing of swap drawings and time zone differences, there usually is a one-week lag between a drawing in Europe and the FRBNY report of the same drawing).
(The $1 million difference between the numbers mentioned by Paul-Martin and Walker reflects a Bank of Japan draw of that amount.)
The day after Paul-Martin’s post came out, Walker alerted us to another transaction that had not yet been reported by the Fed:
It won’t show up until next week in Fed statistics, but ECB statistics show that an unnamed entity (one suspects the same one as last week) borrowed again for a week under the dollar swap line for $115 million. The drawing was $113 million the last time I checked. As a purely hypothetical example, a Greek bank could be borrowing dollars under the swap line. Other than a token $1 million to $2 million that Bank of Japan borrows from time to time to reassure itself, this is the only borrowing outstanding under the Fed’s swap line, according to FRBNY statistics. The notable thing is that it is still there and growing.
Today the swap was rolled over yet again.
Yesterday, I blogged about the 70 million Americans President Obama is subjecting to illegal taxes, who would be freed from those taxes by a ruling for the challengers in King v. Burwell. Many of the victims of those illegal taxes are teachers. Kevin Pace, for example, is a jazz musician and music professor in Northern Virginia who lost $8,000 of income in one year alone when the Obama administration unlawfully imposed ObamaCare’s employer mandate on his employer.
A group called American Commitment has produced a short video telling the stories of two more victims of these illegal taxes. One says these illegal taxes reduced his hours worked by 40 percent, calling it “absurd” and “unfair.” Another says a ruling for the King v. Burwell challengers would be a “godsend” and asks Congress to “come to its senses and give me back my hours, please.”
The long process featured hyperbole, demagoguery, fallacy, posturing, horse trading, unexpected tactics, strange political alliances, and several reversals of momentum. But congressional passage of the Trade Promotion Authority bill was only the warm-up act. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the headliner, and the process of concluding, ratifying, and implementing it promises more drama.
The TPP is a prospective trade agreement between the United States and 11 other nations, which has been under negotiation for 6 years. The Obama administration made the TPP the economic centerpiece of its “pivot to Asia,” encouraged the participation of other countries, and expanded the scope of the negotiations. Beyond reducing tariffs and other border barriers, the TPP will include rules governing labor and environmental standards, government procurement, intellectual property protection, investment, supply chains, state-owned enterprises, and much more. The scope of the deal is so broad that the final agreement will likely include 29 separate chapters.
For the better part of a year, the word from TPP negotiators has been that a deal was close and that the main obstacle to its completion was the absence of TPA. Logically, U.S. trade negotiating partners would be unwilling to put their best offers on the table unless the president could guarantee them that the deal was final and would not be picked apart and amended by Congress. With TPA now secure, that impediment is gone – and the credibility of those “TPP-near-completion” claims is about to be tested. Just last week, Australia’s Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the TPP was “literally one week of negotiation away from completing.” In about 8 days, that will be proven too rosy a promise.
For starters, a 29-chapter trade agreement negotiated between 12 countries over several years, where final offers have yet to be presented, is a venue ripe for discord. The “end game” of trade negotiations often reveals distance between parties where none had been assumed. It features unexpected demands – Hail Marys and otherwise – that can reverse progress and unravel other commitments. And it is typically the case with trade agreements that the most difficult issues are left until the end. So there’s that.
Now consider that over the course of the past 6 years, negotiators identified numerous sticking points between parties that struck trade policy observers as difficult to resolve. In many of those cases, it’s not apparent that resolution has been achieved.
For example, will the TPP include a “tobacco carve-out” and, if so, what will it entail? A few years ago the United States floated the idea of entirely excluding tobacco products from the agreement. Then the Obama administration backed away from that position at the urging of tobacco state policymakers – including the Senate Majority Leader – as well as those who argued that excluding products was a slippery slope that would lead to certain junk food exemptions, then alcohol exemptions, and so on.
So, the administration retreated and proposed that the agreement include language specifying that governments are free to regulate tobacco, as they see fit, for the purpose of protecting public health and safety. While that effort was dismissed as toothless by anti-tobacco crusaders, it was criticized by trade lawyers because, well, governments’ authorities to regulate for the purpose of protecting public health and safety is already sacrosanct under global trading rules and is clearly articulated in Article XX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Including specific language in TPP to affirm that governments can regulate tobacco would call into question the force of GATT Article XX, which already grants that authority. Meanwhile, at about this point, Malaysia announced its support for the original U.S. proposal, which was the total exemption of tobacco from the TPP.
It is unclear whether and how this issue has been resolved among TPP negotiators. The most recent position associated with U.S. negotiators – although not the official position, reportedly – is that tobacco-related claims should be excluded from access to the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process.
But will ISDS even be a part of the final deal? At the outset of negotiations, Australia was dead set against including an ISDS provision in the agreement. The current government seems to have reversed course, but there is a great deal of antipathy toward ISDS in the parliament and among the public in Australia, where Phillip Morris is suing the government under the ISDS provisions of a Hong Kong-Australia bilateral investment treaty for depriving it of the benefits of its intellectual property (use of its logos, etc.) by way of Australia’s plain (cigarette) packaging law.
What about imports of clothing from Vietnam? Will garments made from textiles produced in non-TPP member countries be accorded the preferential duty rates of the agreement? Vietnam is a large apparel producer that relies heavily on Chinese fabric. Restricting duty preferences to clothing made from TPP-originating textiles would increase the cost of inputs and the cost of paperwork and compliance for Vietnamese clothing producers, which could render the “preferential access” too expensive to even bother obtaining. As is the case with textile provisions in many U.S. trade agreements, the cost of complying with the onerous rules of qualification often doesn’t justify the effort, so the full duty is paid and the “on-paper” benefits of the agreement go unrealized. Resolution is complicated further by the fact that Mexico – another TPP party – is a large apparel producer and exporter to the United States that sees Vietnam as a major competitor and threat.
How will Malaysia’s government procurement project set-asides for its ethnic Malay population affect the effort to open bidding on government projects to firms in all TPP countries? And for that matter, how will U.S. negotiators agree to open U.S. government procurement projects to firms in TPP countries without broaching the “Buy American” provisions identified as red lines by many members of Congress?
Numerous other issues seem to remain unresolved.
Will the agreement provide for a single set of tariffs and rules of origin for all countries, or will it amount to a less liberalizing series of bilateral agreements?
Will the United States insist on, and other countries submit to, the U.S. process of certification, which conditions entry-into-force of the agreement on the U.S. president’s certification that the trade partner’s laws are in compliance with the terms of the agreement?
Will Japan, Canada, and the United States open their various agricultural markets to the satisfaction of one another and other agricultural product exporters, such as Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico?
Will improved dairy, beef, and sugar export market access be enough to compel New Zealand and Australia to accommodate U.S. pharmaceutical access and intellectual property protection demands? And will those U.S. intellectual property demands accommodate terms of compliance that aren’t too onerous for developing countries and that don’t impede access to medicines?
It’s good that U.S. negotiators can return to the table with Trade Promotion Authority in hand because now the TPP “end game” can begin. But there is a lot of heavy lifting ahead. The issues above and many others will have to be resolved before TPP can conclude. And once it does conclude, the real scrutiny of its provisions will begin.
Most provisions will be trade liberalizing. Some will be protectionist. Where the congressional battle lines are drawn on the implementing legislation of TPP remains to be seen. But the whole process is likely to unfold in the midst of primary election season, ensuring TPP (and trade policy, in general) is a boisterous 2016 campaign issue.
In his new encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis challenges people to adopt a new “ecological spirituality.” But his economic and policy prescriptions are more controversial than his theological convictions.
The Pope’s commitment to the poor and our shared world is obvious. Yet when he addresses policy, his grasp is less sure.
The Pontiff ignores the flawed nature of government. He is disappointed with its present failings, but appears to assume that politics, unlike humanity, is perfectible.
Most environmental problems result from the absence of markets and property rights. For instance, since no one owns the great common pools of air and water, “externalities” abound.
When possible, government should create quasi-markets or apply market incentives. In contrast, where government acts as property manager, it typically performs badly. For example, at the behest of business interests, Washington subsidizes grazing and timbering on its lands, opening up areas which otherwise would not be developed.
Politics does no better in caring for future generations. Politicians have a short time horizon, usually to the next election.
There’s even a more basic point. The Pope notes how hard it is “to find adequate ways of solving the more complex problems of today’s world,” which “cannot be dealt with from a single perspective or from a single set of interests.” He goes on to complain how hard it is “to take into account the data generated by other fields of knowledge.”
However, officials often come from “a single perspective” and cannot consider the mass of knowledge available in the world beyond. In contrast, markets act–imperfectly to be sure–with the widest number of participants, arrays of information, and variety of perspectives.
While Laudato Si largely ignores government’s woeful record as environmental steward, it does express frustration at politicians’ failure to pass the kind of program the Holy Father advocates. Public choice economists long ago explained how interest groups with concentrated benefits so often defeat a disinterested public bearing diffuse costs.
As I point out for the Acton Institute: “Apparently unrecognized by the encyclical, not everyone claiming to speak for the common good does so. Many ecological interest groups seek to impose their visions and policies on others, rather than achieve a responsible balance, in this case of ecological values, human liberty, and economic prosperity.”
Moreover, it is not enough to blame special interests for influencing government. Politicians are no more virtuous than the people they represent.
In spite of all this, the Pontiff pushes for not just more government, but more global government. He does so despite recognizing that this approach has failed in the past. While universal problems may require global solutions, international bureaucracies are least accountable to the poor and dispossessed.
Despite the many well-documented reasons for questioning both the severity of environmental problems and wisdom of entrusting government with new powers, Laudato Si appears to doubt the legitimacy of opposing views. The document complains that “Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions.” This lack of openness to dissenting viewpoints is evident in the encyclical’s brief discussion of climate change.
The Pope offers a detailed policy agenda and then insists that his proposed program should not be subject to electoral change or oversight, since “continuity is essential.” This undermines the democratic principles so important for those without economic and social influence.
True, the Pontiff hopes for a new kind of politics and politician, but that runs against thousands of years of experience. There is no guarantee increasing the power of parliaments, officials, and agencies will solve problems.
Despite his failings as a policy analyst, Pope Francis is right to ask, “How much is enough?” But expanding government power will not fill the empty hearts that he sees.
A fun thing about making predictions is ultimately finding out how wrong you were, and why. The chart below depicts the actual growth in charter school enrollment from 2000 to 2011, presented in Richard Buddin’s paper “The Impact of Charter Schools on Public and Private School Enrollments.” Now, as the old investment adds exhorted “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” But such a definitive pattern cried out for a regression fit. The dashed blue line in the chart below represents the “predicted” growth of Charter schools since 2011 (which I calculated three years ago from the 2000-to-2011 data). But how good was the prediction? As a test, I have plotted the actual data for 2012 to 2015 as red dots, using this and this as sources.
Well. Not bad. The accelerating growth in charter school enrollment could be excellent news for children and families–expanding the breadth of their educational options. Or (in the long term) it might reduce the variety of educational choices if charters become re-regulated (and thus homogenized) after having “eaten” a substantial number of diverse and much freer private schools. As Richard Buddin showed, charter schools are drawing students away from the freer independent school sector. And as the news routinely informs us, there are regular efforts to pile regulations onto charters to make them behave more like conventional state-run schools. In 2011, I raised the concern that this cycle could reduce educational liberty.
Two things are likely to happen over time: more private schools will be forced by economic expediency to convert to charter status as the number of competing charter schools grows, and the charter law is very likely to accrete regulation as charters enroll a larger share of the total student population. After all, the conventional U.S. public schools of the mid-to-late 1800s generally had more parental power and more autonomy than do typical charter schools today, but they have succumb to ever more extensive and more centralized regulation. If charter public schools follow the pattern set by conventional public schools, and if private schools continue to convert to charter status, what will be the end result? We could well see a heavily regulated state education monopoly that enjoys not a 90 percent market share, as it does now, but a 95 or even 99 percent market share. The end point would be worse than the situation we have today. While it is possible that charter schools will not accrete regulation like other public schools have as they begin to enroll a larger share of students, there is no reason to be hopeful in that regard.
With attempts to regulate charter schools more like state-run district schools continuing to this day, reasons for hopefulness remain scarce.
This, admittedly is a long-run concern. And as Keynes observed, “In the long-run, we’re all dead.” While that is literally true of any given generation, policy must be made with a view to functioning well not simply for us, now, but also for subsequent generations, decades hence. Having spent years studying the history of education systems, it’s hard not to be concerned with the long-run.
Following the protests and riots in Ferguson last year, President Obama created a Task Force on 21st Century Policing to examine policing problems and make recommendations. The Task Force issued its final report last month. In this post, I want to highlight the numerous ways in which the report would expand the role of the federal government.
By way of background, policing is supposed to be the near-exclusive province of state and local government under the U.S. Constitution. The federal government is nevertheless constantly seeking to expand its jurisdiction. The number of federal crimes and the number of federal law enforcement agents keeps rising. Members of Congress also like to throw millions and millions of dollars at local police departments. Of course, having accepted the money, local policymakers are now swamped with myriad federal conditions and mandates. On top of that, the feds have entwined themselves with local police with the creation of hundreds of permanent joint federal-state police units that operate to enforce narcotics, guns, and immigration offenses.
President Obama’s Task Force is now recommending a host of actions to expand the role of the federal government even further. Here is an excerpt from the final report (pdf):
The President should support and provide funding for the creation of a National Crime and Justice Task Force to review and evaluate all components of the criminal justice system for the purpose of making recommendations to the country on comprehensive criminal justice reform.
The President should promote programs that take a comprehensive and inclusive look at community-based initiatives that address the core issues of poverty, education, health, and safety.
The Federal Government should develop survey tools and instructions for use of such a model to prevent local departments from incurring the expense and to allow for consistency across jurisdictions.
The Federal Government should create a Law Enforcement Diversity Initiative designed to help communities diversify law enforcement departments to reflect the demographics of the community.
Discretionary federal funding for law enforcement programs could be influenced by that department’s efforts to improve their diversity and cultural and linguistic responsiveness.
The Federal Government should incentivize this collaboration through a variety of programs that focus on public health, education, mental health, and other programs not traditionally part of the criminal justice system.
Policies on use of force should also require agencies to collect, maintain, and report data to the Federal Government on all officer-involved shootings, whether fatal or nonfatal, as well as any in-custody death.
The Federal Government could further incentivize universities and other organizations to partner with police departments to collect data and develop knowledge about analysis and benchmarks as well as to develop tools and templates that help departments manage data collection and analysis.
The Federal Government should create a mechanism for investigating complaints and issuing sanctions regarding the inappropriate use of equipment and tactics during mass demonstrations.
The Federal Government should support the development and delivery of training to help law enforcement agencies learn, acquire, and implement technology tools and tactics that are consistent with the best practices of 21st century policing.
The Federal Government should support the development of new “less than lethal” technology to help control combative suspects.
The Federal Government should make the development and building of segregated radio and increased bandwidth by FirstNet for exclusive use by local, state, tribal, and federal public safety agencies a top priority.
The Federal Government should assess and evaluate zero tolerance strategies and examine the role of reasonable discretion when dealing with adolescents in consideration of their stages of maturation or development.
The Federal Government should support the development of partnerships with training facilities across the country to promote consistent standards for high quality training and establish training innovation hubs.
The Federal Government should encourage and support partnerships between law enforcement and academic institutions to support a culture that values ongoing education and the integration of current research into the development of training, policies, and practices.
The Federal Government, as well as state and local agencies, should encourage and incentivize higher education for law enforcement officers.
The Federal Government should create a loan repayment and forgiveness incentive program specifically for policing.
The Federal Government should support research into the development of technology that enhances scenario-based training, social interaction skills, and enables the dissemination of interactive distance learning for law enforcement.
The Federal Government should support the continuing research into the efficacy of an annual mental health check for officers, as well as fitness, resilience, and nutrition.
This litany fits right into Mr. Obama’s big government philosophy. Congressional Republicans, for their part, seem dazed and confused. Instead of trying to scale back the role of the federal government, they seem to focus on steering federal funds to their districts.
It is true that the report only makes recommendations, but you get the drift of it. The next concrete legislative bill to expand the federal role will likely be federal funding for police body cameras. It is expected to attract strong bipartisan support.
Great Britain long reigned as the globe’s greatest maritime power, determined to maintain a navy as strong as those of its next two competitors combined. However, by the end of the 19th century, America and Germany had ended London’s economic primacy.
Britain chose to accommodate the United States and confront Germany. The result was an enduring alliance during the first and two world wars before the global order was settled after the second.
Washington faces a similar choice in dealing with the People’s Republic of China. There are many differences in circumstances, of course, but again the globe’s dominant force, accustomed to premier status, faces a serious challenge from a new power mixing rapid economic growth, nationalistic exuberance, and powerful grievances. Increasingly the United States faces a choice between accommodation and confrontation.
Into this imbroglio steps Lyle Goldstein, a professor at the National War College. In his new book, Meeting China Halfway: How to Defuse the Emerging US-China Rivalry (Georgetown University Press) he offers a strategy of cooperation for the two nations, which includes recognizing natural but much-reviled “spheres of influence.”
Goldstein encourages both nations to reward reach other’s good behavior. Forging a successful relationship requires Americans to honestly confront the past, which continues to color Chinese attitudes. From there, Goldstein discusses several difficult issues between the two nations and proposes policies which would encourage “cooperation spirals.”
Some matters, such as economics and environment, are politically contentious but not so freighted with emotion. Others reflect America’s and China’s roles in the world.
Goldstein begins with Taiwan. In a series of reciprocating steps, he urges the PRC to reduce military threats and allow expansion of Taipei’s international presence. In turn, he pushes the United States to end arms sales and encourage final status negotiations. His proposals are painful to both sides but would reduce tensions between the United States and the PRC.
In Southeast Asia, Goldstein suggests that Washington encourage greater Chinese naval participation, recognize the legitimacy of Beijing’s territorial claims, and reduce American military activities. China should offer greater naval cooperation and transparency, moderate promotion of its territorial claims, and scale back military activities.
The toughest suggestion concerns relations with Japan. He notes that “the capabilities and preparedness of the US-Japan Alliance have been ratcheted up to such an extent that the alliance itself is now triggering … acute security anxiety” in Beijing, thereby “feeding China’s vast appetite for new and more capable military systems.”
That still doesn’t make his ideas easy to accept. He advocates that the United States reduce troop levels, push for joint Chinese-Japanese naval patrols, urge a Japanese visit to Nanking, press for joint administration of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, and turn the bilateral alliance into a more normal relationship.
For China, he proposes accepting trilateral negotiations, guaranteeing supplies of rare earths minerals, settling East China Sea disputes, accepting Japanese constitutional reform regarding the military, and backing Japanese membership on the UN Security Council. American policy changes should come easily since it reduces a military role that no longer serves American interests. In contrast, Beijing would have to confront deep nationalist antagonisms toward Tokyo.
The many difficulties in making such a cooperative approach work are obvious. But Goldstein creatively challenges the confrontation ethos which appears to be taking over Washington.
As I explain in National Interest: “Compromise and cooperation are the only realistic choice. And they are fully consistent with American security. The U.S. is the world’s strongest military power, allied with or friendly to most industrialized states worldwide and most of the growing nations in Asia. The path forward should help Beijing feel similarly secure.”
Today American foreign policy is dominated by a bipartisan consensus that what Washington says should go. There’s no way such an approach will work against a rising nation like China. As Goldstein ends his remarkable book, “for America, there is no viable alternative to meeting China halfway.” He’s right.