Saturday, May 25, 2019

What Georgia And Alabama Voters Think Of Their New Abortion Laws

The new laws restricting abortion in Alabama and Georgia made a big splash in the news over the past few weeks. Since the laws were passed there have been numerous polls showing that voters nationally oppose the measures. Of course, the new laws won’t affect most Americans so I wondered what the citizens of Alabama and Georgia who will actually live under the laws, assuming they are allowed by the courts to take effect, thought of them.

When you look for polls of Georgia and Alabama voters about the new laws, it’s quickly apparent that few have thought to check the opinion of local voters. In March and April, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution surveyed Georgia voters about the fetal heartbeat bill that was pending in the legislature at the time. The poll found that Georgia voters were closely split on the bill, with 43 percent in favor and 48 percent opposed. In addition to the plurality of total voters, opponents of the bill also felt more strongly about it. Thirty-nine percent were strongly opposed while 25 percent strongly supported the legislation.

On the larger question of abortion, 70 percent of Georgia voters opposed overturning Roe v. Wade, however, only 22 percent said that abortion should be legal in all cases. Voters who oppose all abortions were also a minority at 10 percent. The majority of voters supported legal abortion with restrictions. Thirty-five percent said it should be legal in most cases and 25 percent said it should be illegal in most cases.

There does not seem to be any recent public polling of Alabama voters available about the abortion law. Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood released details of a 2018 poll by ALG Research, a Democratic polling firm, that showed results similar to the AJC poll of Georgia voters.

In the poll, slightly less than a third of Alabamans supported positions that were consistent with the state’s new law. Sixteen percent said that abortion should only be permitted when the mother’s life is in danger and 15 percent said that it should be banned outright.

Again, most voters took a moderate position with 49 percent favoring restricted abortion. Twenty percent said that abortion should be legal in most cases while 29 percent said that it should be allowed only in limited cases, “such as rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is endangered.” Only 16 percent favored unrestricted abortion.

The lion’s share of support for the laws is from Republicans, who Morning Consult recently found support the measures by a 57-31 percent margin. Even among Republicans, however, there is widespread support (45 percent) for exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. These exceptions are notably lacking from the Alabama law.

The bottom line is that passage of the laws was a principled stand for pro-life principles by state Republicans, but it wasn’t a popular stand. Even at home, the new restrictions are outside of the mainstream. This is particularly true of the Alabama law.  

When a party goes against public opinion to force through legislation that is popular with the base, but unpopular with voters at large, it often leads to a backlash. This raises the possibility that Republican legislators will pay a political price for their votes next year, even if courts strike down the new laws before they even take effect.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, May 24, 2019

Democrats Lack Votes To Force Pelosi To Impeach

There has been a lot of talk about a possible impeachment of President Trump lately, but it appears to be just talk. New comments from a key Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee indicate that Democrats who favor impeachment are far short of the votes to force Speaker Pelosi to take up the issue.

In an interview with a Yahoo News podcast, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said that about 40 House Democrats now support impeachment. Cohen added that about 90 percent of Democrats on the Judiciary Committee would support impeachment. Nevertheless, with a Democratic caucus that numbers 235, the uprising against Speaker Pelosi’s decision to focus on the upcoming election rather than impeachment is too small to force a policy change.

While a revolt by 40 congressional Democrats is unusual, Speaker Pelosi has a long history of keeping a tight rein on her caucus. She is a shrewd politician who has had much luck controlling her party’s representatives than recent Republican speakers.

Nancy Pelosi has said numerous times that she opposes impeachment unless there is overwhelming bipartisan support. She echoed that opinion again yesterday, telling reporters, “The president’s behavior in terms of his obstruction of justice... yes, these could be impeachable offenses. If we can get the facts to the American people through our investigation, it may take us to a place that is unavoidable in terms of impeachment or not. But we’re not at that place.”

Thus far, only one Republican, Justin Amash, has announced his support for impeachment. With a Republican majority in the Senate, Pelosi would want to see support from significant numbers of Republican senators before she moves in the House. So far, that has not happened.

As I predicted last year, Nancy Pelosi is unlikely to enter into a battle over impeachment that she cannot win. Although the House would certainly vote to impeach, Donald Trump would survive a Senate vote and might well emerge from the process stronger.

President Trump senses this as well and seems to be attempting to goad Democrats into impeachment with increasingly obstructive behavior with respect to House investigations. The unpopular president likely hopes that impeachment would be even more unpopular and would salvage his hopes for re-election.

The speaker intends to have it both ways. Although beating Trump in the election is far more likely than impeaching him, Pelosi will keep up the pressure on Trump by trolling him incessantly and keeping the impeachment option on the table. The president typically takes the bait and fires back at her barbs, making him look erratic and unhinged, as he did this week when he stormed out of an infrastructure meeting with Democratic leaders after three minutes.

If unforced errors like that one continue, the Democrats won’t need to impeach Trump. Voters will send him packing next year.

Originally published on the Resurgent

Drunk Pelosi Video Is a Fake

If you happen to see a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stammering through a press conference as you make your rounds through social media, be aware that the video is a fake. The video of Pelosi at a press conference was altered to make it appear as though the speaker was stammering and repeating herself. Accompanying descriptions often claim that she was intoxicated when she gave the remarks.

None other than Fox News is on record with a description of the fake news video’s origins. Fox reports that the three-minute clip was from a speech yesterday at the Center for American Progress in which Pelosi described President Trump’s angry exit from a meeting with Democrats about infrastructure. Per Fox, the video was uploaded to Facebook on a page called “Politics WatchDog.” At press time, the video is still posted on the page and has 2.4 million views. Similar videos have been removed from YouTube and Twitter.

Fox cites the Washington Post, saying that the video was apparently “slowed down to 75 percent from the original speed and that her pitch was also manipulated in order to present her under the influence.”

“It is striking that such a simple manipulation can be so effective and believable to some,” Berkeley computer science and digital forensics expert Hany Farid told the CNN. “While I think that deep-fake technology poses a real threat, this type of low-tech fake shows that there is a larger threat of misinformation campaigns -- too many of us are willing to believe the worst in people that we disagree with.”

A separate fact-check article by Politifact notes that unaltered audio is available from C-SPAN and is noticeably different than the audio accompanying the video, which has “more slurred and lisping than the one on C-SPAN.”

The original altered video posted to Facebook is captioned, “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on President Trump walking out infrastructure meeting: ‘It was very, very, very strange.’” The clip closes with Pelosi saying that the meeting with Trump was very strange.

In a subsequent post, Politics WatchDog seemed to acknowledge that the video was fake, saying, “Just for the record [sic] we never claimed that Speaker Pelosi was drunk. We can’t control what the people in the comments think. It’s a free country. For your information [sic] we are not a conservative news outlet.”

The fake nature of the page is also apparent by a poll that the group posted which asks, “Should the Pelosi video be taking [sic] down?” Legitimate news sites rarely leave obvious grammatical errors uncorrected.

A spokesman for Pelosi told CNN, “We're not going to comment on this sexist trash.”

Yesterday, President Trump tweeted a different video of Pelosi that had also been altered under the caption “PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE.” This video, which was originally aired on Fox News’ “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” strings together a series of the speaker’s flubs in a speech. Although altered through selective editing, this video does not appear to be digitally manipulated.

While I am no fan of Speaker Pelosi and don’t agree with her policy prescriptions, I do value truth over blatant lies, even when they are about the opposition. The “drunk Pelosi” video is an example of the worst inclinations of the right-wing media. The fact that some conservatives and Republicans actually believe that the video is authentic is a far worse reflection on the right than the doctored video is on Mrs. Pelosi.

Fake news remains a real problem, as do blatantly false attempts at character assassination on both sides. Remember, kids, when surfing the internet, if it seems too stupid to be true, it probably is. However, in this day and age, you should probably check the source just to be sure.

Originally published on The Resurgent

May Ends Early In The UK

British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that she will step down from her role as leader of the Conservative Party on June 7. May has presided over six months of failed negotiations with parliament for passage of a Brexit deal to leave the European Union. In her speech, she conceded that a new leader is needed to complete the deal. Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on Oct. 31.

“I feel as certain today as I did three years ago that in a democracy, if you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide,” May said, as quoted by Politico. “I have done my best to do that,” she added. “I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so. It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.”

May said that she will remain on the job until a new leader is selected, which means that she will still head the government when President Trump visits the UK next month. Unlike the long American presidential election process, the process to select a new leader will begin the following week and will be decided quickly.

The leading contenders to replace her Michael Gove, currently environment secretary and another member of the Conservative Party, also called the Tories, Boris Johnson, a conservative member of Parliament and formerly foreign secretary, and Dominic Raab, a Conservative and former Brexit Secretary.

The next prime minister will face the difficult task of bringing together a sharply divided country in time to pass a Brexit deal. A Brexit with no deal would mean that Britain leaves the EU with no agreements in place. This would have a number of effects that could severely curtail travel and trade between Britain and EU countries. The effects on Britain’s economy could be devastating. Many members of Parliament want to keep close ties with the EU, but the Brexit Party, led by populist Nigel Farage, prefers a hard Brexit with no deal to maintain relations.

"A lot depends on whether they are serious about no-deal,” said former Brexit Secretary David Davis. “If we go at this properly and say we are going to do this properly, in my judgment the Brexit Party will step back because this is a real, serious existential moment for the country.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Trade War

The tariffs designed to protect American steel and aluminum have led to lower prices. 

It has been a year since President Trump placed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum to protect American producers. Since then, the import taxes have not worked as expected. Rather than driving up the price of the metals and boosting the stock prices of the companies that produce them, prices of both aluminum and steel have declined in the past year. The same is true of the stock prices for steel and aluminum companies.

The intent behind Trump’s protective tariffs was to drive up prices. Increased costs are a feature, not a bug, of protectionism. In theory, the taxes on imports will make foreign products more expensive and allow domestic producers to raise prices and reap more profits in turn. That is not what happened.

In reality, steel prices spiked in the months after the tariffs were implemented and then crashed in late 2018 before rebounding slightly over the past couple of months. Overall, the trend has been slightly downward since the beginning of 2018.

The story is similar for aluminum prices.  There was a spike in April 2018 followed by a long decline to a current price level that is lower than pre-tariff prices.

The slump also applies to stock prices. Steel producers US Steel and Nucor both have stock prices that are far lower than their highs from last spring. The same is true of aluminum producer Alcoa.

So, what happened? The answer seems to be found in decreasing demand. As you may remember from Econ 101’s price curves, as prices go up, demand falls. Fewer goods are sold as prices rise higher.

CNN points out that expectations of rising prices and possible supply problems led to a glut of orders in 2018. This surge in demand led to the price spike last summer and helped steel companies post nice profits.

When faced with rising prices and demand, the steel producers did the logical thing. They boosted production in order to maximize their profits. Some mills reopened and others added capacity, which led to about 9,000 new steel jobs, which reportedly cost American consumers about $900,000 each. Production in the first quarter of 2019 increased by approximately 1 million tons over the same time last year.

That’s when another economic law kicked in: the law of supply and demand. The increased steel output led to another glut, this time in supply. As steel inventories piled up, prices fell drastically.

“We observe that supply exceeded demand ... over the last six months," UBS analyst Andreas Bokkenheuser said. “This explains the corresponding 25% price correction.”

There were other reasons for softening demand as well. Steel purchasers had built up their own inventories, expecting possible interruptions in supply. When those interruptions never materialized, purchasers slowed new orders while they worked through their inventories.

The Fabricators and Manufacturers Association also notes that “steel’s major end-use markets, construction and automotive, show signs of slowing compared to last year.” This softening demand may be due to the trade war’s effects on other manufacturers who use steel and aluminum as a component in their products. Other buyers are watching prices and keeping inventories lean as they prepare to place orders when the price finds a bottom.

Despite the falling prices, US steelmakers are still adding capacity. Per CNN, both US Steel and Nucor are spending billions on projects that will add a combined 2.6 million tons of production capacity in coming years. If other factors remain the same, the new capacity could drive prices even lower. Investors who would have preferred dividends and stock buy-backs voted on the investments in new capacity by selling off stocks.

With the new investments, the American companies will be more dependent on continued tariffs to protect them from foreign competition.

“We're among the lowest-cost producers. We're extremely competitive if we're operating on a level playing field. But there is massive overcapacity of steel from China, multiples of US capacity, and it's heavily subsidized by the government. That's led to a very distorted global market for steel,” said Kevin Dempsey, senior vice president of public policy for the American Iron and Steel Institute. “If we lifted the all the tariffs, I think we'd see another flood of imports.”

That is already happening. President Trump announced this week that he would lift tariffs from Canadian and Mexican imports. The US imports far more steel and aluminum from these two North American neighbors than it does from China and the rest of the world.

The bottom line is that the tariffs have failed to protect the steel and aluminum industries and, ironically, have left them more vulnerable than they were before. Steel producers invested their windfall in more capacity which will be of little use in a market with declining prices. As competition from foreign imports returns, the future of American steel and aluminum companies appears to be difficult.

 Originally published on The Resurgent

Women Consider Adoption ‘More Emotionally Painful’ Than Abortion

The Atlantic recently ran a piece on adoption versus abortion. While most conservative outlets and readers focus on the money quote, a subtitle that reads, “Some American women see giving up their babies as more emotionally painful than terminating their pregnancies,” the excerpt doesn’t do the article justice and really doesn’t reflect the tone of the article.

The implication from the blurb is that many women choose abortion over adoption because they are self-centered and would rather inflict pain on an unborn baby than to go through the process of pregnancy and suffer emotional pain themselves as a result. That was my initial reaction, but then I actually read the piece by Olga Khazan, which turned out to be quite interesting.

Preconceptions are shattered almost immediately when Khazan points out that, while rates for both adoption and abortion have fallen in recent decades, births to unmarried children have risen. This suggests that, rather than making a choice to abort over placing their baby up for adoption, many women are choosing to become single parents. As single-parenting has become more socially acceptable, more women have decided to keep their babies rather than allow them to be adopted.

While this does contribute to the welfare state since children of single-parent families are more like to be raised in poverty, it is a better choice than abortion. It also works against the declining birthrate in the United States, which is another longterm problem that needs to be addressed.

Khazan cites the Turnaway Study of women who were denied abortions between 2008 and 2010. Of 956 women interviewed, 161 went on to give birth, but only 15 chose adoption. Khazan doesn’t say, but presumably, the remainder had successful abortions on subsequent attempts.

The study found that when women were denied an abortion, usually for financial reasons or lack of access, they often considered adoption. Fourteen percent of mothers who were denied an abortion considered adoption in the weeks following their abortion attempt, but ultimately, only nine percent decided to adopt. Most of those who carried the baby to term simply decided to raise the child themselves.

On the other hand, none of the mothers who aborted had any interest in adoption. The authors of the study wrote, “Adoption was often ruled out because they felt it was not right for them, because their partner would not be interested, because they had health reasons for not wanting to carry to term, or because they believed there were already enough children in need of homes.”

While the mother’s health might preclude an adoption, the other reasons relate more to the fact that the baby was an inconvenience. For example, having children already has nothing to do with putting a different child up for adoption but does raising children while pregnant is more difficult.

The study did find that mothers who chose adoption were satisfied with the choice but that it was very traumatic initially.

“Uniformly, the birth mothers experience grief after placement,” said Gretchen Sisson, a sociologist at the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health research group of the University of California at San Francisco. “It’s a very hard choice and one that a lot of women are not interested in making. By the time they are delivering the child, women feel bonded to their pregnancies and their children.”

One study participant said, “I had too many feelings for her to give [her] to someone I barely knew.”

These types of comments underscore the truth that unborn babies are living human beings, a fact denied by many in the pro-choice camp. Nevertheless, most mothers inherently understand that the child inside them is just that: a child.

Khazan also cites a small study performed by Sisson on mothers who placed their children up for adoption between 1962 and 2009. In the study, she wrote, “Rarely was adoption the preferred course of action; it emerged as a solution when women felt they had no other options.” Most of the women interviewed described their experience with adoption as “predominantly negative.” Khazan notes that this may be because most of the participants were involved in closed adoptions where no contact was allowed between the birth mother and the adopted child.

Finally, Khazan cites a third study which does lend credence to the money quote cited above. A 2008 study found that a quarter of women considering abortion found adoption to be too emotionally distressing. “Respondents said that the thought of one’s child being out in the world without knowing whether it was being taken care of or who was taking care of it was more guilt-inducing than having an abortion,” wrote the authors.

While it seems barbaric and wrongheaded – and more than a little reminiscent of Nazi Germany – to kill an unborn baby because you are concerned about its wellbeing, this statement again cuts against the claim that a fetus is not a human being. If an unborn baby is nothing more than a lump of cells then there is no reason to be concerned about whether it will be taken care of in the future.

If I go that far, I’m attached. I cannot just give my baby away to someone,” said the unmarried, 24-year-old mother of two who was considering abortion over adoption.

Khazan also points out that neither pro-choice nor pro-life counseling centers are doing a good job of selling expectant mothers on adoption. According to the National Council for Adoption, the referral rate to adoption agencies is only about one percent.

While Khazan’s article is not pro-life by any means, she is objective enough to confront some uncomfortable truths. “Rightly or wrongly, very few women who desire abortions actually see adoption as a favorable alternative,” she writes, but adds, “The reason the women don’t choose adoption is not great for the pro-choice side, either. Some of these women report feeling bonded with their fetuses, or at least too attached to give up the resulting baby. That’s an inconvenient point if you feel that a fetus is nothing more than a collection of cells and that what happens to it before viability is basically immaterial.”

If the pro-life movement wants women to see adoption as a viable alternative to abortion, there is a lot of work to be done. Crisis pregnancy centers could do a better job of informing women about adoption and there should be more methods through which the mother can stay involved in the child’s life if she chooses. This may help to reduce the emotional stress of giving a child away. Campaigns should also be undertaken to make the public see adoption as a positive choice and spouses should be encouraged to support women who want to carry their children to term and place them with adoptive parents.

One of the most difficult problems to overcome is the fact that abortions can take place in secret while carrying a baby to term is difficult to conceal. Many women probably choose abortion to keep others from ever knowing that they were pregnant in the first place.

In the end, Khazan’s article contains both good news and bad news for the pro-life movement. Rather than attacking the messenger or ridiculing the women who choose abortion over adoption, we should learn from their experience and tailor the pro-life message to address their concerns.

The only way to resolve the national issues that divide us is to talk to each other and find common ground. Olga Khazan may be a pro-choice advocate, but I applaud her for looking past the rhetoric to find out what mothers on both sides of the issue think.
 Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Why Justin Amash Is Right About Impeachment

Justin Amash has generated quite a stir with his comments about President Trump having committed impeachable offenses. Most Republicans and many conservatives are distancing themselves from his tweets, but I believe that Amash hit the nail on the head.

If you’ve read the Mueller report, or even if you read about only the most reported-upon sections of it, you know that Mueller’s team did not find “nothing.” While Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy with the Russians, he did find numerous undisclosed contacts between the Russians and the Trump campaign as well as a pattern of deception about those contacts. Even more alarming, Mueller found that the president did attempt to obstruct justice. Mueller’s pointed note that Trump could not be exonerated should be translated to read that the president obstructed justice but could not be prosecuted under DOJ policy.

From all this, what the president and his supporters have gleaned is “no collusion, no obstruction.” In reality, the findings against Trump are much more serious. Despite “no collusion,” the president showed himself to be dishonest with the American people about his dealings with a foreign power in his attempt to cover up negotiations for a Moscow Trump Tower that were ongoing during the campaign. The president has demonstrated a habit of attempting to cover up anything potentially embarrassing such as the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya in the New York Trump Tower as well as defying legal requests from Congress for his tax information. While the lies weren’t illegal because the president did not lie under oath (as some of his staffers did), it underscores the fact that Donald Trump is fundamentally dishonest and cannot be trusted by the American people.

What was illegal were the president’s attempts to undermine the Russia investigation. Some, such as Ben Shapiro, say that the law requires either successful obstruction or an underlying crime to be criminal. There are many others on the right, including Judge Andrew Napolitano and former prosecutor Renato Mariotti, who disagree. In fact, hundreds of federal prosecutors say that Trump would have been indicted if he had not been president.

In his tweet thread, Amash, who is himself an attorney points out that there were underlying crimes uncovered by the Mueller investigation but that obstruction of justice does not require the investigation to have found a crime.

As Amash points out, the president could not have known for certain what Mueller’s team would find. It was entirely possible that some members of the campaign could have been Russian agents without Trump’s knowledge. It is also possible – because it actually happened – that Mueller’s investigation would uncover other crimes.

Add to Mueller’s findings the president’s attempt to undermine the will of the voters and Congress by declaring a national emergency. David French explained in February why Trump’s national emergency violated existing law, calling it “contemptuous of the rule of law.” This is a far cry from the party that attacked President Obama’s circumvention of Congress on DACA and that spent years pointing out that the House, not the president, held the purse strings of government.

We are left with no criminal conspiracy and no prosecutable obstruction because the DOJ has a policy against indicting a sitting president. That’s quite a difference from “no collusion, no obstruction.” Unconstitutional abuses of power add to the mix. There obviously was wrongdoing by the president that deserves some sort of penalty. The options on the table are for the DOJ to amend its policy, to indict Trump after he leaves office, impeachment, or a congressional vote of censure.

Amash is also correct that the Constitution’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” do not require the commission of a crime. The Constitutional Rights Foundation points out that the original meaning of the phrase, as the framers would have understood it, included both criminal acts as well as noncriminal offenses with the “common denominator… that the official had somehow abused the power of his office and was unfit to serve.”

In Federalist No. 65, Alexander Hamilton wrote that impeachable offenses are “those offences [sic] which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

Donald Trump’s actions fall under the categories of abuse of power, even if one does not acknowledge that they were criminal on their face. In the best case scenario, the president directed his subordinates to undermine a federal investigation. This is a clear breach of the public trust.

The most palatable option for Republicans should be a censure vote. It would acknowledge that the president acted improperly and hopefully restrain him in the future. Unfortunately, loyalty to Trump is now a litmus test in the GOP. Republican congressmen cannot vote for censure without incurring the wrath of both the party’s base and the president.

With most Republicans unwilling to follow Amash’s lead, most GOP officials are stuck with the additional option of whistling the tune “no collusion, no obstruction” as they tiptoe past the graveyard and pretend nothing is wrong. The problem with following this option is that the media and Democrats are holding up Trump’s misbehavior for voters everywhere to see. I’ll wager that presidential ads next year will quote the Mueller report verbatim. Polls show that Mueller is more trusted than Trump even after two years of vicious Republican attacks and that Mueller’s findings changed few minds about Trump.

If Republicans choose to ignore Donald Trump’s misdeeds out of either misguided loyalty to the president or an affinity for his policy, then it will be up to voters to hold both the president and the Republican Party accountable. Ideally, Republican voters would oust Trump in the primary, but if not, it appears that general election voters will be up to the job.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, May 17, 2019

Abortion Clinics To Alabama: Drop Dead

Alabama had three abortion clinics prior to this week’s passage of a new law that essentially banned the practice. Now the state has… three abortion clinics. The law doesn’t go into effect for six months, but the Alabama abortionists say that even then they have no plans to close their doors.

“We've been through this fight over and over again,” Dalton Johnson, owner of Alabama's Women's Center in Huntsville told “Our main goal is to keep the women apprised that we will be challenging it in court.”

At Johnson’s abortion clinic, two doctors perform about 2,000 abortions annually. Alabama’s Women’s Center is the only abortion clinic in the state that performs abortions up to the state’s previous limit of 20 weeks. As a result, the center sees women from across Alabama as well as surrounding states. After the law takes effect, performing abortions illegally will be a Class A felony punishable by between 10 and 99 years in prison.

“We don't see any interruption in any kind of service whatsoever,” agreed an employee of Reproductive Health Services in Montgomery.

The abortion providers are gambling that the courts will issue an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect on schedule. An employee at the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa said, “If the law goes into effect . . . we're not criminals; we would not be able to stay open, but until it's all resolved, we will be here.”

The ACLU has already announced plans to file a lawsuit to prevent the law from going into force. Rebecca Seung-Bickley told, “This will never go into effect, as long as ACLU is in litigation.”

Indeed, the purpose of the Alabama law seems to be to troll for legal challenges in order to send a test case to the Supreme Court. After the appointment of two new justices by President Trump, pro-life legislators believe that the time may be right to launch a challenge to Roe v. Wade.

Rep. Terri Collins, the Republican member of Alabama’s House of Representatives who sponsored the bill, told the Washington Post, “This bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection. I have prayed my way through this bill. This is the way we get where we want to get eventually.”

Incidentally, Collins, the author of the bill, is a woman.

Whether the Court reviews the Alabama abortion ban or not, it is likely that an abortion case will be reviewed over the next few years. Several states have recently enacted heartbeat bills that prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. Other states are considering similar legislation. All are likely to be challenged by pro-abortion activist groups.

The best-case scenario for the pro-life movement would be for the Court to take at least one of the pending abortion cases and strike down Roe in its entirety. This would send the abortion battle back to the states. Some states, such as New York, would enact very liberal abortion policies while others, such as Alabama, would ban the practice.

A more likely outcome is that Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh take a more incremental approach. The narrow constitutionalist majority will likely agree that Roe was a bad decision but will be reluctant to toss it out abruptly after almost 50 years. We can expect the Court to allow states more latitude in restricting and regulating abortion but still stop short of allowing a full ban.

In either case, the abortion battle is far from over. In one case, statehouses will become the new battlefield while, in the other, the focus will continue to be on the Supreme Court. The new abortion laws are merely one more skirmish in a long war.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Trade War Gets Real As Walmart Increases Prices

In the latest sign that the trade is starting to affect the greater economy, Walmart has announced that President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods will lead to increased prices at the giant retail chain.

“We're going to continue to do everything we can to keep prices low. That's who we are. However, increased tariffs will lead to increased prices, we believe, for our customers,” CNN reported that Walmart Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs told reporters on a conference call discussing earnings for the first quarter of 2019.

Biggs did not say which products would be subject to the price increases, but President Trump’s most recent round of tariffs, which applied a 25 percent import tax to $200 billion of Chinese goods, affects a wide range of products that are purchased by a large number of Americans. Per CNN, Walmart imports about 26 percent of its merchandise from China and with a Walmart store within 10 miles of 90 percent of Americans, the vast majority of the country will be paying more for consumer goods.

Walmart’s announcement undercuts the president’s claim that China is paying the tariff taxes. Instead, Chinese manufacturers have largely kept their old pricing structure and American importers have paid the tax. Importers pass the tax along to retailers like Walmart, who are now passing it along to their customers.

The Walmart price increases will hit a core segment of the Trump coalition. Walmart is known for its blue-collar clientele and the fact that its stores are often the only option for many items in rural areas. It is these blue-collar, rural voters who have formed the most stable part of Trump’s base as support for Republicans among most other demographics has declined since 2014.

Depending on the length of the trade war and whether more tariffs are applied in coming months, Trump may find that his rural base fracturing. Already farmers, who are among the hardest hit from the trade war, are showing their discontent with the policies that have closed off Chinese markets for American agricultural products.

“We’re in a free fall out here in agriculture. We've seen a 30 percent decrease in prices of soybeans, and this isn't all about soybeans,” Christopher Gibbs, an Ohio farmer said on CNN. “With the geopolitical turmoil that the president has thrown into the mix over the last year, the markets just don't have anywhere to go.”

Now, with Walmart and other retailers raising prices to pass along Trump’s tariff tax to their customers, farmers and other exporters are being squeezed from both sides. They are earning less as foreign markets find cheaper, untaxed alternatives to American goods and they are paying more due to price increases.

As we’ve reported previously, Morning Consult tracks presidential approval across the 50 states. Polling this year shows Trump underwater across the Rust Belt and with a net approval of fewer than five points in many typically Republican farm states such as Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, and Texas. Unless the president gets a deal to resolve the trade war with China soon, we may find out how low he can go.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, May 16, 2019

No Abortion Restriction Is Reasonable Enough For Pro-Choicers

Much of the debate on the new anti-abortion laws in Georgia and Alabama has centered on Alabama’s lack of an exception for rape and incest victims. While the Georgia law does contain such an exception, some pro-abortion advocates argue that it is not broad enough. After watching the abortion debate over the past 30 years or so, I can say without reservation that no matter what exceptions the authors of the bill had carved out, it would not be enough for the pro-abortion lobby.

Since I first became aware that abortion was legal, a mind-blowing revelation to an elementary school student, I’ve followed the debate and legal wrangling that has been involved with probing the limits of Roe v. Wade. In that time, I cannot recall a single example of any restriction on abortion, no matter how trivial or rational, that has not been opposed by the abortion special interest groups.

Among the first challenges to Roe were attempts to require that minors get the permission of their parents before having an abortion. Pro-choice groups, often led by Planned Parenthood, fought these common sense restrictions, but, beginning in 1979 with Bellotti v. Baird, the Supreme Court began to allow these laws that protected parental rights if they included an exception that allowed pregnant minors to get approval from a judge instead of their parents. This was affirmed in Planned Parenthood of Kansas City v. Ashcroft (1983) and Planned Parenthood of S.E. Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992).

The original Roe v. Wade ruling essentially prohibited restrictions on abortion in the first trimester and required that laws covering the second trimester be focused on the health of the mother, per Pew Research. Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in the decision that the state has an interest in protecting “potential life” in the third trimester and could ban abortions at that point as long as exceptions were made for the life and health of the mother. These guidelines were later overhauled by Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

Despite the original decision that allowed some regulation of abortion, decades later pro-abortion activists were fighting restrictions on partial-birth abortion, a barbaric procedure in which the abortionist dilated “the woman's cervix, then pulling the fetus through it feet first until only the head remained inside. Using scissors or another sharp instrument, the head was then punctured, and the skull compressed, so it, too, could fit through the dilated cervix.” The abortion community fought attempts to ban partial birth abortion, technically called a “D&X,” dilation and extraction, despite the fact that there seems to be no medical necessity for the procedure, which NPR notes, was developed “to perform second-trimester abortions without an overnight hospital stay, because local hospitals did not permit most abortions after 18 weeks.”

As technology has improved, the pro-abortion community has resisted attempts to require that abortion clinics inform women about the choice for abortion. Several states require that mothers be presented with an ultrasound image of their baby before the make the choice for an abortion. Again, the advocates for women’s rights fought to keep women from seeing the scientific evidence that the child within them is a living human being.

The pro-choice community also fought to prevent health and sanitary standards for outpatient surgery centers from being applied to abortion clinics. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016), the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that required that abortionists have admitting privileges at a local hospital and that abortion clinics meet the same health and sanitary standards as an outpatient surgical center.

The Texas law was passed after a woman died in Kermit Gosnell’s Philadephia abortion clinic. Philadelphia’s NBC-10 reported that Karnamaya Mongar, 41, died after experiencing severe pain at the clinic. It took an hour for an ambulance to arrive to take Mongar to the hospital and firefighters had to cut bolts off the clinic’s emergency door to extricate her. Gosnell was convicted of manslaughter in the case in addition to three counts of murdering infants that were born alive. He was also accused of allowing extremely unsanitary conditions in the clinic and hiring unqualified workers who he then allowed to perform abortions unsupervised.

In about 30 years, I can’t recall a single instance where pro-abortion groups voluntarily submitted to even the most reasonable of abortion restrictions. Even the NRA has occasionally bowed to pressure for more gun controls as it did earlier this year when President Trump ordered bump stocks to be banned, but the abortion advocates seem to have never given an inch. We can reasonably conclude that if the new laws allowed unrestricted abortion access to victims of rape and incest that the pro-abortion crowd would find something else to complain about.

The truth is that the debate about rape and incest exceptions is a red herring. The Guttmacher Institute found that only one percent of abortions were due to rape and less than half a percent were due to incest. The vast majority of abortions are elective procedures that are performed as a method of birth control. It is these hundreds of thousands of abortions annually that the pro-abortion acitvists are fighting to protect.

Rape and incest victims will not be without options under the new laws. Heartbeat bills and even the Alabama law do not outlaw morning-after pills. There are also charities that provide transportation for mothers to areas where abortion is legal and clinics still operate. In Georgia, the law specifically provides an exception up to 20 weeks for women are willing to file a police report alleging rape or incest.

The fight over abortion and protecting the lives of pre-born humans is not over and won’t be for a long time, regardless of what courts decide about the current crop of laws. There is little doubt, however, that whatever laws are passed to limit the killing of babies, the pro-abortion groups will be there to oppose them, whatever they are. For pro-choice groups, it’s all about unrestricted access.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Brace Yourself: More Abortion Laws Are Coming

It has been a bad week for abortion proponents and it just keeps getting worse. After Georgia passed its heartbeat bill last week, Alabama followed with an even more restrictive bill that was signed into law on Wednesday. Now it seems that more states are poised to follow in passing bills that severely limit abortions within their borders.

The Associated Press reports that the Missouri Senate approved a bill by a 24-10 vote that would ban abortions after eight weeks. The bill contains exceptions for medical emergencies but not for cases of rape or incest. The bill must now be approved by the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans, before it can be signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson, also a Republican.

Another state, Louisiana, is also considering a heartbeat bill that would ban abortions on unborn babies old enough to have a detectable heartbeat. The Louisiana bill contains exceptions to prevent the mother’s death, if there is “a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function,” or if the pregnancy is deemed “medically futile,” but also omits exceptions for rape and incest per the AP. The bill has been approved by House and Senate committees but has not yet been voted on by either chamber.

While much of the recent abortion debate is centered on the lack of exceptions for rape and incest, the Guttmacher Institute found that abortions are rarely performed for those reasons. In a large study that ranged from 1987 through 2004, only one percent of abortions were due to rape and less than half a percent were due to incest.

In addition to Georgia and Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio have also passed new laws aimed at reducing the number of abortions. The laws are designed to test the Supreme Court’s adherence to the Roe v. Wade precedent in the wake of the addition of two new Trump-appointed justices, Neal Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. It is likely that the Court will strike down portions of the laws, if not rule them entirely unconstitutional, but a ruling would let legislators know how far they can go in regulating abortion in their states.

Regardless of the uproar, the laws have strong support among Republicans who control the state legislatures in these states. With the failure of the national GOP to defund Planned Parenthood and two new friendly justices on the Supreme Court, pro-life advocates hope that the tide may finally be about to turn.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, May 13, 2019

Democrats: Trump Wants To Be Impeached

Why haven’t Democrats begun impeachment hearings against President Trump after the special counsel could not exonerate the president on charges of obstruction of justice? The answer that many Democrats are giving is that they think that Donald Trump wants to be impeached.

“The President is almost self-impeaching because he is, every day, demonstrating more obstruction of justice and disrespect for Congress' legitimate role to subpoena,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday to CNN. Yet despite Trump raising the stakes, Pelosi still resists launching a formal House impeachment effort. The speaker has stated on several occasions that she does not support impeachment and that seems unchanged, but why?

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff answered that question Sunday on ABC News, saying, “Part of our reluctance is we are already a bitterly divided country and an impeachment process will divide us further. He [Trump] certainly seems to be trying and maybe this is his perverse way of dividing us more ... He thinks that's to his political advantage, but it's certainly not to the country's advantage.”

Why would impeachment be to Trump’s political advantage? The most obvious answer would be to shore up his base as the trade war heats up and core parts of the Trump coalition feel more and more economic pressure. A Morning Consult poll from early May showing state-by-state approval of the president found that Trump’s approval was underwater all across the vital Rust Belt as well as soft in many traditionally Republican farm states. President Trump has a net approval of fewer than five points in Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, and Texas. Impeachment hearings might cause Republicans in these states to circle the wagons and defend Trump from the Democrats just as they rallied in support of Brett Kavanaugh last year.

Impeachment would also lend credence to Trump’s claims that the Mueller investigation was part of a coup attempt aimed at removing him from office. The president may hope that he could spin an impeachment attempt as the preordained conclusion to a corrupt investigation. This might not sway independents, but it would help to stoke support from Republicans.

Both Trump and the Democrats might also be looking back at the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998. CNN polling in December 1998 found that Clinton’s approval jumped 10 points after his impeachment by House Republicans while approval of the GOP fell by 10 points. Gallup reported that Clinton received a record-high approval rating at 73 percent after his impeachment. Donald Trump, a longtime friend of Bill Clinton, likely remembers how impeachment backfired on the GOP and hopes to repeat history.

Both Trump and the Democrats can also read polls and the data shows that most Americans do not favor impeachment. A Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll from early May that, while 56 percent of Democrats supported impeachment, 65 percent of the total were opposed to the idea. More recently, Reuters/Ipsos poll found more support for impeachment but still only a minority of 45 percent. The president may hope to goad Democrats into following an unpopular strategy that would become the major issue of the 2020 campaign.

Finally, Trump is probably willing to take the embarrassment of impeachment in the House because he understands that it would be meaningless. Democrats lack the votes to remove him from office in the Senate where Republicans retain a majority. The president may well be willing to go down in history as one of the few presidents to be impeached if he could turn the tables on Democrats by remaining in office and possibly rallying voters to give him a second term.

It is most likely the last reason that prevents Nancy Pelosi from giving the go-ahead to the impeachment effort. The risk that Trump’s impeachment would have a Clintonian effect on the president’s reelection effort is one that she is unwilling to take unless the president goes so far that even Republicans abandon him in large numbers.
Originally published on The Resurgent

Trade War Escalates As China Responds With New Tariffs

The Trump Administration implemented a new 25 percent tax on $200 billion of Chinese imports last Friday. This morning the Chinese responded with their own salvo of additional trade taxes that will be applied to American-made goods. The Chinese government announced that it would increase tariffs on more than 5,000 US-imports effective June 1. The tax on American goods will rise from 5-10 percent to between 20 and 25 percent.

CNBC reported that many of the new duties attack US agricultural products, which have proven especially vulnerable to the trade war. Despite a $12 billion bailout last year, farm incomes fell by $11.8 billion in the first quarter of 2019. The drop was steep enough to sap national figures on personal income growth even though farmers make up only two percent of the nation’s workers. The effects of the trade war on farmers may be contributing to the softness of Trump’s approval in many red states where agriculture makes up a large part of the economy.

President Trump responded to the Chinese announcement with a tweet that warned, “China will be hurt very badly if you don’t make a deal because companies will be forced to leave China for other countries.”

Contrary to the president’s statement, the new US taxes on Chinese goods will ultimately be paid by American consumers and will not make Chinese goods more expensive elsewhere. Likewise, the Chinese retaliatory tariffs on American goods will apply only to American goods imported to China. The trade war will affect on trade with other countries except that prices will rise due to decreased competition.

Prior to last week, US officials sounded confident on the progress of trade talks with China, but there were hints that the picture was not as rosy as it was depicted. In March, President Trump signaled his resistance to lifting the tariffs, saying, “We’re not talking about removing them, we’re talking about leaving them for a substantial period of time, because we have to make sure that if we do the deal with China that China lives by the deal because they’ve had a lot of problems living by certain deals.” At the time, The Resurgent pointed out that a deal would be difficult if the tariffs were not removed.

Similarly, US demands that China change its laws have been met with resistance. The South China Morning Post reported earlier this month that China wanted to provide verbal assurances and small concessions on issues such as government subsidies, intellectual property rights, and technology transfers, but the US was standing firm.

Now China says that it will not agree to Trump’s demands. “At no time will China forfeit the country’s respect, and no one should expect China to swallow bitter fruit that harms its core interests,” said a commentary in Communist Party newspaper. “If they weren’t being seriously provoked, the Chinese people would not favor any trade war. However, once the country is strategically coerced, nothing is unbearable for China in order to safeguard its sovereignty and dignity as well as the long-term development rights of the Chinese people.”

Over the weekend, White House Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow also contradicted President Trump’s claims that the tariffs would be paid by China. Speaking to Fox News, Kudlow agreed with host Chris Wallace’s statement that China “may suffer consequences, but it’s U.S. consumers and businesses who pay.” Kudlow added that “both sides will suffer.”

Indeed, the pain may spread beyond American farmers to become more widespread under the current round of tariffs. A report by Trade Partnership Worldwide found that the taxes on trade have offset the gains from the tax reform. Goldman Sachs noted that consumer prices have risen sharply since President Trump implemented his policy of tariffs last year. The increasing cost of taxes on trade means that The trade war is costing American consumers money, both directly through higher taxes and indirectly through higher costs resulting from less competitive markets.  

As the trade war continues to escalate, it will become harder for both President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to back down and reach an agreement. As both sides suffer the effects of the trade war, President Trump may find it that the economic pain makes his reelection campaign difficult.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Myth Busted: Georgia Heartbeat Bill Would Not Imprison Women For Miscarriages

Rumors have been going around that Georgia’s new fetal heartbeat law contains a number of onerous provisions. Opponents of the law claim that it would allow authorities to lock up women who have miscarriages or cross state lines to get abortions. If that sounds stupid enough to raise red flags with you, you aren’t alone. Rather than taking the internet’s word for it, I decided to go straight to the source to find the truth.

The text of HB 481, the “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act,” is readily available and the full bill runs less than 10 pages. With much of the text struck through from previous versions, it’s a quick read so I encourage others to read the bill as well. Quotations in this article are taken from the Georgia General Assembly website’s current version of the bill as of May 11, 2019. Here’s what the law actually says.

 The core provision of the law is the statement, “ Unless otherwise provided by law, any natural person, including an unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat, shall be included in population based [sic] determinations.” This means that unborn children with a detectable heartbeat are considered to be people for legal purposes. For example, the law specifically states that “any unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat… shall qualify as a dependent minor” for purposes of filing a Georgia income tax return.

The law also defines what an abortion is and is not. The new law defines abortion as the “act of using, prescribing, or administering any instrument, substance, device, or other means with the purpose to terminate a pregnancy with knowledge that termination will, with reasonable likelihood, cause the death of an unborn child.”

Further, the law provides two exceptions that it says will not be considered to be an abortion. These are “removing a dead unborn child caused by spontaneous abortion” and “removing an ectopic pregnancy.”

The law defines “spontaneous abortion” as “the naturally occurring death of an unborn child, including a miscarriage or stillbirth.” This definition puts lie to the claim that women could be prosecuted for a miscarriage.

The law is not a total abortion ban as it does provide limited exceptions that allow an abortion to take place after a heartbeat has been detected. These include cases of “rape or incest in which an official police report has been filed alleging the offense” and the “probable gestational age of the unborn child is 20 weeks or less” or when a “physician determines, in reasonable medical judgment, that the pregnancy is medically futile.”

The law defines “medically futile” to mean “in reasonable medical judgment, an unborn child has a profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal anomaly that is incompatible with sustaining life after birth.” Note that abortions performed when the pregnancy is deemed to be medically futile are not subject to the 20-week limitation.

The law further stipulates that “if the child is capable of sustained life, medical aid then available shall be rendered” and requires that abortions “performed after the first trimester” take place “in a licensed hospital, in a licensed ambulatory surgical center, or in a health facility licensed as an abortion facility by the Department of Community Health” and be performed by a licensed physician. If abortions are performed in violation of these requirements, the woman is entitled to collect civil damages, but this excludes the accidental results of treatment or if a “woman sought an abortion because she reasonably believed that an abortion was the only way to prevent a medical emergency.”

“Medical emergency” is defined as “a condition in which an abortion is necessary in order to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or the substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.” This exception does specifically exclude mental and emotional conditions as well as the threat that the “that the pregnant woman will purposefully engage in conduct which she intends to result in her death or in substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.”

Penalties under the law are focused on abortionists, not mothers. The bill states, “In addition to any criminal or civil penalties provided by law, failure by any physician to conform to any requirement of this Code section constitutes unprofessional conduct for purposes of… to medical licensing sanctions."

The law does amend the Georgia code to stipulate, “For the homicide of an unborn child, the right to recover for the full value of the life of such child shall begin at the point at which a detectable human heartbeat.” This does open the question of whether an abortion can be considered homicide when the law goes into effect next year. The law does not specifically address this question, but the implication considering a child to be a person is that it would.

While the new law does not specify penalties for the “homicide of an unborn child,” previous Georgia law already declared “feticide” and “voluntary manslaughter of an unborn child” to be a felony with a penalty of between one and 20 years. As previously written, the law excluded abortions, people providing medical treatment, and “any woman with respect to her unborn child” from prosecution. The State of Georgia would obviously have no jurisdiction in abortionist that take place in other states.

The outlandish claims being propagated by the pro-abortion crowd are easily debunked by reading the law’s text. The law contains reasonable exceptions for rape, incest, stillbirths, and medical emergencies. The law specifically protects women in the case of miscarriage and when their life is deemed to be in danger. Finally, the law does not create a criminal penalty for either abortionists or women who seek abortions. Instead, the focus is on preventing physicians from performing elective abortions under the threat of losing their medical licenses and facing civil penalties.

This myth is busted.

Originally published on the Resurgent

We Aren't In A Constitutional Crisis. We're In Several.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said this week that she agrees with House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler that the United States is undergoing a constitutional crisis due to Attorney General William Barr’s refusal to provide an unredacted version of the Mueller report to Congress. Pelosi is correct that the US is in a constitutional crisis – a series of constitutional crises to be exact – but not in the way that she means.

There have been many explanations of why the Democrats are off base with their contempt vote against Barr so I won’t cover that ground here except to say that Barr is following the law in his actions. Certain parts of the report cannot be released because federal law prohibits it. President Trump’s claim of executive privilege, which will most likely only last until Barr can ready a more lightly redacted version of the report for congressional distribution, is justified in this case.

When it comes to the congressional request of President Trump’s tax records, the shoe is on the other foot. The IRS code requires the Treasury Secretary to provide certain congressional officials with any taxpayer’s return and tax information. Nadler has provided a legitimate, if contrived, reason for the request, but Secretary Mnuchin has refused to comply. Since the request falls under congressional oversight of the executive branch and the separation of powers specified in the Constitution, Mnuchin’s refusal could be considered as fomenting a constitutional crisis.

Yet the congressional fishing expedition with respect to Trump’s personal financial data is transparent. Even though House Democrats are acting within the law with respect to the subpoenas of Mnuchin and Trump’s tax returns, their unspoken rationale of finding dirt, possibly criminal wrongdoing, on the president or simply using the information to embarrass him is outside the scope of congressional powers. Congress has rights to the information for certain reasons but not for the purpose of seeking revenge on the president. Nevertheless, “because it will embarrass the president” is not a legal ground to refuse a legitimate congressional request. If Congress abuses its authority to oversee the president then that is also a constitutional crisis.

A third constitutional crisis regards President Trump’s tariff war. The first salvo in the trade war was fired on March 1, 2018, when the president announced his intention to impose protective tariffs on steel and aluminum. The tariffs were imposed under section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 which allows the president to impose national security tariffs. While the rationale was doubtful given the strength of the US steel and aluminum industries, a court did declare these tariffs constitutional earlier this year. Further, CNN pointed out that under a series of laws such as the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977, and the Trade Act of 1974, the president has almost unlimited authority to declare tariffs without congressional approval.

The constitutional crisis, in this case, is that Congress has abrogated its authority to “lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises” under the Constitution. Congress has delegated this important power away to the president and the country is now feeling the effects of congressional impotence. Congress needs to reclaim this authority, if not now, then soon after President Trump leaves office.

Yet another constitutional crisis concerns the internal Department of Justice memo that prevents indictment of a sitting president. The special counsel’s decision to abide by the DOJ policy and then pointedly state that he could not say that Donald Trump did not obstruct justice left America in limbo. The claim of “no collusion, no obstruction” is obviously incorrect, but as yet there is no resolution to the president’s unethical, quasi-illegal behavior. The president should not be above the law. If he committed an act that would be a crime for an ordinary, nonpresidential American then he should be prosecuted just as they would. The DOJ memo was intended to prevent baseless persecution of the president by the opposition, but it unintentionally created a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card for presidents without respect for the rule of law.

Next is President Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency to bypass Congress. When the emergency was announced in February it was big news, but this crisis has since been forgotten with the onset of a number of succeeding scandals. Yet the national emergency is a constitutional crisis that undermines the very existence of Congress. Under President Obama, Republicans were adamant that the House had the “power of the purse,” but now most feel that it is fine for President Trump to ignore a Congress that won’t do his bidding. Regardless of whether building the wall is a good idea or not, claiming a national emergency to procure funds for it against the express will of Congress is a horrible precedent, but one that is sure to be repeated by future presidents if it is not quashed by either Congress or the courts.  

The final constitutional crisis (at least so far) is Congress’s failure to rein in the imperial presidency. Donald Trump figures prominently in many of the ongoing constitutional crises but not all are unique to him. For example, Barack Obama’s executive decisions on DACA usurped congressional authority and his executive agreement with Iran undercut the Senate’s constitutional role of ratifying treaties. The abdication of congressional authority to levy tariffs goes back decades. The presidency will continue to become ever more powerful unless Congress takes steps to assert itself.

A major part of the problem is that congressional partisans have an attitude that the end justifies the means. Partisans of both sides refuse to hold their own presidents accountable because they like the results of their expansion of executive power. Democrats approved of Obama’s DACA deal and Republicans love Trump’s national emergency. If Congress is going to successfully limit presidential authority, it will require both sides to cross the aisle and work together to uphold the constitutional limits on the executive branch.

Reaching across the aisle is often considered traitorous these days, but the Congress has a higher duty to the Constitution than to the political parties. If Congress doesn’t act to defend the Constitution, presidents of both parties will keep chipping away at it until there is no need for the legislative body at all.

Benjamin Franklin famously said at the close of the constitutional convention that the delegates had decided on “A Republic if you can keep it.” The slow erosion of congressional authority shows that the struggle to keep the Republic must go on.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, May 10, 2019

Bernie And AOC Team Up To Attack Credit Cards

An epidemic of economic illiteracy seems to have inflicted both parties. While Republicans suffer from President Trump’s fixation on taxing imports to make America great again, Democrats, eager to prove that they also fail to understand basic economic principles, have unveiled a proposal for price controls on credit cards.

The proposal is the brainchild of the Democratic Party’s two leading democratic socialists, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and is targeted at what the pair call “exorbitant credit-card interest rates” in a statement. Their “Loan Shark Prevention Act” would a 15-percent federal cap on interest rates and empower individual states to establish lower limits.

Channeling Ron Paul’s references to “banksters,” Sanders said, “The reality is that today’s modern-day loan sharks are no longer lurking on street corners breaking kneecaps to collect their payments. They wear three-piece suits and work on Wall Street, where they make hundreds of millions in total compensation and head financial institutions like JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and American Express.”

Per the statement, the pair claims that the median credit card interest rate is currently 21 percent and argues that there is no reason for banks to charge such a high interest rate.

“There is no justifiable reason that a person—no matter their background—should be charged an interest rate higher than 15 percent,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Rates higher than 15 percent are predatory debt traps, designed to keep working families underwater and allow predatory companies to enrich themselves off the misfortune of others.”

Like many bad ideas, this one sounds good on the surface. Bankers make an easy target for populists and everyone hates paying credit card bills.

In reality, however, high interest rates on credit cards do serve important purposes. One of the most important purposes is to discourage consumers from carrying even larger amounts of revolving debt. By March 2018, Americans carried $1.027 trillion in debt on their credit cards. Without high interest rates, the amount of indebtedness would be even higher.

By making revolving credit expensive, banks encourage consumers to only charge to their cards what they can pay off at the end of the month. If you pay off your balance every month, you don’t pay any interest at all.

High interest rates also signal the risky nature of credit card loans. Credit card default rates are down from a high of 6.7 percent during the Great Recession, but credit card payments are often one of the first things to stop when times get hard. With an average balance of $6,354, banks can be left on the hook for many thousands of dollars when credit card holders default.

Even though credit card debt can be hazardous to your financial health, credit cards are a near-necessity of modern life. The availability of high interest rate cards allows many people who are considered credit risks to get a card that would not be available to them otherwise. If the Sanders-Ocasio-Cortez bill becomes law, the effect would be a shortage of credit for many Americans. It is axiomatic that price controls, such as an interest rate cap, lead to market shortages.

In the early days of credit cards, the now-ubiquitous plastic payment devices were used almost exclusively by the wealthy. It has only been in recent decades that credit cards became commonplace among the middle- and lower-income groups. Under the Democratic proposal, it’s likely that the trend of easily available credit for the common man would be reversed.

Some would argue that reducing credit card use would be a good thing. I have sympathy for this argument as a guy who has paid off thousands of dollars in credit balances more than once. Credit cards are a financial tool that can be very destructive if used improperly.

The problem with the Bernie-AOC solution is that government intervention in the markets would inhibit people who need access to credit from getting it. Rather than reducing credit card use overall or capping interest rates, a better solution would be to teach consumers to use credit responsibly.

Until then, I'm sure that Bernie and AOC would give voters the guarantee, "If you like your credit card, you can keep your credit card."

Originally published on The Resurgent