20 Years after Welfare Reform, Can We Do It Again?

Vanessa Brown Calder

Monday marks the 20th anniversary of the passage of the 1996 welfare reform law. This landmark event brought to an end the old cash assistance program in favor of the new Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program which, for the first time, imposed work requirements on some cash welfare recipients. The achievement was only possible through the joint efforts of a Republican Congress led by Newt Gingrich and a Democratic president, Bill Clinton — a legislative history that seems both mythical and little short of miraculous in the hyper-polarized political context we live in today.

The question of welfare reform’s success is still hotly debated. Leaving that aside, though, another question weighs heavily: Is there any hope that we could do it again? Can the remaining mishmash of low-performing welfare programs be repaired in the coming years, even in spite of the dysfunctional, hyper-partisan mess that is D.C. politics these days?

Can the remaining mishmash of low-performing welfare programs be repaired in the coming years, even in spite of the dysfunctional, hyper-partisan mess that is D.C. politics these days?

Any further reform in this area should draw from the lessons of the 1990s. Welfare reform then wisely transferred decision-making power from the federal government to the states and emphasized work requirements for recipients. Future reform efforts should aim to do this for the 80 federal welfare programs not impacted by the ‘96 reform. And unlike the ‘96 reform, future efforts must shift more responsibility from government to civil society, which is better equipped to understand the poor’s needs and provide personalized attention to program beneficiaries.

Is any of this possible? If the American public has anything to say about it, then yes.

A recent LA Times / AEI poll provides us evidence: American attitudes towards poverty and welfare haven’t changed much since the era of Gingrich and Clinton.

For instance, almost two-thirds of Americans believe that the U.S. government does not bear the greatest responsibility for caring for the poor. Who does, then? Americans cite various forms of civil society: family, churches, and charity each were mentioned at 10-15 percent apiece, and a little less than 20 percent of respondents described the poor as themselves being responsible.

Americans are also deeply skeptical about the efficacy of welfare programs. A whopping 40 percent of poor Americans surveyed describe the government’s anti-poverty programs as “making things worse,” and 12 percent describe the government’s anti-poverty programs as having “no impact.” So to those government administrators who are forever looking to expand existing programs: More than half of the poor don’t think your existing programs are helping.

Americans who live above the federal poverty line and have a weaker understanding of the on-the-ground impacts of government anti-poverty programs are more likely to be optimistic about the effects of welfare, with only 32 percent describing such programs as having “made things worse.”

Perhaps most telling, skepticism around government’s ability to design effective anti-poverty programs remains strong: a full 7 in 10 respondents believe that even if the government was provided with unlimited money to solve poverty they wouldn’t be able to do it because “officials do not know enough to accomplish that goal.”

So, although welfare advocacy groups would paint a different picture, the American public sees through the hype. If we can find leaders who listen, both to the individuals who are impacted by poverty programs, as well as the American tax-payers who pick up the tab, we are likely to have great success in achieving future federal welfare reform on par with that of ‘96.

If the 2016 campaign is any indication, it seems that finding that type of leadership will be the real test.

Vanessa Brown Calder is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, where she focuses on social welfare, housing, and urban policy.

How Liberal Courts Help Conservatives States Stay Free

David Boaz

A new study says that New Hampshire is the freest state in the country, followed by Alaska, Oklahoma, Indiana, and South Dakota.

New York is the least free state by a large margin, followed by California, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Maryland.

For some readers, the immediate reaction will be that conservative states get the highest ratings and liberal states the lowest. That’s not quite true: New Hampshire and Alaska are generally regarded as libertarian-leaning more than conservative, and very conservative states such as Alabama and Mississippi score pretty far down.

It’s not that the study focuses just on economic freedom, as some analyses do. The “Freedom in the 50 States” report by political scientists William Ruger and Jason Sorens, just published by the Cato Institute, where I work, covers both economic and personal freedom, from taxes and regulation to imprisonment rates, gay marriage, and marijuana.

Maybe if the Supreme Court took economic liberties as seriously as personal freedom, the big Eastern and Western states would once again be the wide-open, fast-growing places they were when they got big and prosperous in the first place.

Those of us in cosmopolitan coastal states may still wonder if places like Oklahoma and Indiana are where we’d find the personal and economic freedom we crave.

Here’s one explanation: The federal courts prevent conservative states from taking away a lot of the freedoms they’d like to, while they’re much more tolerant of intrusions on freedom found in liberal states.

Take Oklahoma, for instance. Its personal freedom score improved in this edition of the report because in 2014 a federal judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. In the next edition, lots of conservative states will have better scores because of the 2015 Supreme Court decision overturning all such state laws.

Marriage bans aren’t the only thing that conservative states are prevented from doing. Another federal court found that Oklahoma’s ban on considering sharia law in judicial decisions was religious discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. In 2008 the Supreme Court struck down Louisiana’s law prescribing the death penalty for the rape of a child. Oklahoma, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, and Montana also had such lawsFourteen states, mostly in the South and once again including Oklahoma, had laws banning homosexual acts until the Supreme Court struck them down in 2003.

Go back another generation, and we recall the Court striking down laws requiring school segregation and banning interracial marriage.

In all these cases, federal courts, interpreting the U.S. Constitution, have prevented conservative states from denying their citizens’ individual rights. And thus those states get higher scores on the “Freedom in the 50 States” ranking.

Courts have been less likely to find that intrusions on freedom by liberal states violate the Constitution. States are generally free to set their own tax and regulatory policies. In 2005 the Supreme Court notoriously declined to restrict a local government’s power to take property through eminent domain.

In two decisions, in 2008 and 2010, the Court did limit a state’s ability to impose restrictive gun control laws. The 2010 decision, striking down a law in Chicago, improved Illinois’s ranking on personal freedom. More generally, the Second Amendment and the Court’s insistence on protecting the individual right to bear arms probably prevent some liberal Democratic states from enacting gun bans.

James Madison, the principal author of the Constitution, said that “independent tribunals of justice will consider themselves in a peculiar manner the guardians of those rights; they will be an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive.” Judges don’t get it right in every case, but over the years they have protected Americans’ rights and freedoms from lots of intrusions by legislatures and executives.

So take heart, my coastal cosmopolitan friends. Maybe the flyover states aren’t really more libertarian in spirit than the East and West coasts. Maybe they’ve just had their own bad ideas slapped down by the Supreme Court more often. And who knows, maybe if the Supreme Court took economic liberties as seriously as personal freedom, the big Eastern and Western states would once again be the wide-open, fast-growing places they were when they got big and prosperous in the first place.

David Boaz is executive vice president of the Cato Institute and author of The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom.

Why Can’t We See That We’re Living in a Golden Age?

Johan Norberg

‘We have fallen upon evil times, politics is corrupt and the social fabric is fraying.’ Who said that? Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders? Nigel Farage or Marine Le Pen? It’s difficult to keep track. They sound so alike, the populists of the left and the right. Everything is awful, so bring on the scapegoats and the knights on white horses.

Pessimism resonates. A YouGov poll found that just 5 per cent of Britons think that the world, all things considered, is getting better. You would think that the chronically cheerful Americans might be more optimistic — well, yes, 6 per cent of them think that the world is improving. More Americans believe in astrology and reincarnation than in progress.

Johan Norberg and Fraser Nelson discuss the doom delusion:

If you think that there has never been a better time to be alive — that humanity has never been safer, healthier, more prosperous or less unequal — then you’re in the minority. But that is what the evidence incontrovertibly shows. Poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, child labour and infant mortality are falling faster than at any other time in human history. The risk of being caught up in a war, subjected to a dictatorship or of dying in a natural disaster is smaller than ever. The golden age is now.

If you look at all the data, it’s clear there’s never been a better time to be alive.

We’re hardwired not to believe this. We’ve evolved to be suspicious and fretful: fear and worry are tools for survival. The hunters and gatherers who survived sudden storms and predators were the ones who had a tendency to scan the horizon for new threats, rather than sit back and enjoy the view. They passed their stress genes on to us. That is why we find stories about things going wrong far more interesting than stories about things going right. It’s why bad news sells, and newspapers are full of it.

Books that say the world is doomed sell rather well, too. I have just attempted the opposite. I’ve written a book called Progress, about humanity’s triumphs. It is written partly as a warning: when we don’t see the progress we have made, we begin to search for scapegoats for the problems that remain. Sometimes, in the past and perhaps today, we have been too quick to try our luck with demagogues who offer simple solutions to make our nations great again — whether by nationalising the economy, blocking imports or throwing out immigrants. If we think we don’t have anything to lose in doing so, it’s because our memories are faulty.

Look at 1828, when The Spectator was first published. Most people in Britain then lived in what is now regarded as extreme poverty. Life was nasty (people still threw their waste out of the window), brutish (corpses were still displayed on gibbets) and short (30 years on average). But even then things had been improving. The first iteration of The Spectator, in 1711, was published in a Britain whose people subsisted on average on fewer calories than the average child gets today in sub-Saharan Africa.

Karl Marx thought that capitalism inevitably made the rich richer and the poor poorer. By the time Marx died, however, the average Englishman was three times richer than at the time of his birth 65 years earlier — never before had the population experienced anything like it.

Fast forward to 1981. Then, almost nine in ten Chinese lived in extreme poverty; now just one in ten do. Then, just half of the world’s population had access to safe water. Now, 91 per cent do. On average, that means that 285,000 more people have gained access to safe water every day for the past 25 years.

Global trade has led to an expansion of wealth on a magnitude which is hard to comprehend. During the 25 years since the end of the Cold War, global economic wealth — or GDP per capita — has increased almost as much as it did during the preceding 25,000 years. It’s no coincidence that such growth has occurred alongside a massive expansion of rule by the people for the people. A quarter of a century ago, barely half the world’s countries were democracies. Now, almost two thirds are. To say that freedom is still on the march is an understatement.

Part of our problem is one of success. As we get richer, our tolerance for global poverty diminishes. So we get angrier about injustices. Charities quite rightly wish to raise funds, so they draw our attention to the plight of the world’s poorest. But since the Cold War ended, extreme poverty has decreased from 37 per cent to 9.6 per cent — in single digits for the first time in history.

This has not happened through the destruction of the western middle class. Times have been rough since the financial crisis, yet for all the talk of Americans ‘left behind by globalisation’, median income for low- and middle-income US households has increased by more than 30 per cent since 1970. And this excludes all the things you can’t put a price on, such as advances in medicine, an extra ten years of life expectancy, the internet, mass entertainment, and cleaner air and water.

Speaking of water, Disraeli described the Thames as ‘a Stygian pool reeking with ineffable and intolerable horrors’. As late as 1957, the river was declared biologically dead. Today it is in rude health, with scores of different species of fish. The idea of the environment as a clean canvas being steadily spoilt by humanity is simplistic and wrong. As we become richer, we have become cleaner and greener. The quantity of oil spilt in our oceans has decreased by 99 per cent since 1970. Forests are reappearing, even in emerging countries like India and China. And technology is helping to mitigate the effects of global warming.

Parts of the world are falling to pieces but fewer parts than before. Conflicts always make the headlines, so we assume that our age is plagued by violence. We obsess over new or ongoing fights, such as the horrifying civil war in Syria — but we forget the conflicts that have ended in countries such as Colombia, Sri Lanka, Angola and Chad. We remember recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have killed around 650,000. But we struggle to recall that two million died in conflicts in those countries in the 1980s. The jihadi terrorist threat is new and frightening — but Islamists kill comparatively few. Europeans run a 30 times bigger risk of being killed by a ‘normal’ murderer — and the European murder rate has halved in just two decades.

In almost every way human beings today lead more prosperous, safer and longer lives — and we have all the data we need to prove it. So why does everybody remain convinced that the world is going to the dogs? Because that is what we pay attention to, as the thoroughbred fretters we are. The psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky have shown that people do not base their assumptions on how frequently something happens, but on how easy it is to recall examples. This ‘availability heuristic’ means that the more memorable an incident is, the more probable we think it is. And what is more memorable than horror? What do you remember best — your neighbour’s story about a decent restaurant which serves excellent lamb stew, or his warning about the place where he was poisoned and threw up all over his boss’s wife?

Bad news now travels a lot faster. Just a few decades ago, you would read that an Asian city with 100,000 people was wiped out in a cyclone on a small notice on page 17. We would never have heard about Burmese serial killers. Now we live in an era with global media and iPhone cameras every-where. Since there is always a natural disaster or a serial murderer somewhere in the world, it will always top the news cycle — giving us the mistaken impression that it is more common than before.

Nostalgia, too, is biological: as we get older, we take on more responsibility and can be prone to looking back on an imagined carefree youth. It is easy to mistake changes in ourselves for changes in the world. Quite often when I ask people about their ideal era, the moment in world history when they think it was the most harmonious and happy, they say it was the era they grew up in. They describe a time before everything became confusing and dangerous, the young became rude, or listened to awful music, or stopped reading books in order to just play Pokémon Go.

The cultural historian Arthur Freeman observed that ‘virtually every culture, past or present, has believed that men and women are not up to the standards of their parents and forebears’. Is it a coincidence that the western world is experiencing this great wave of pessimism at the moment that the baby-boom generation is retiring?

So who did say those words at the start of this article, about how we have ‘fallen upon evil times’? It wasn’t Trump. It wasn’t Farage. A century ago, an American professor found them inscribed on a stone in a museum in Constantinople. He dated them from ancient Chaldea, 3,800 BC.

Johan Norberg’s Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future is published next week. He also appears on this week’s Spectator podcast: spectator.co.uk/podcast

Today’s Olympics: Are You Not Entertained?

Ilya Shapiro

In these dog days of summer, political observers despair that not even the Olympics can help us escape from a disenchanting election year. After all, if the “choice” between the least popular presidential candidates ever is bad, wait ‘til you see the depths of the economic and political crisis in host nation Brazil (where the president was impeached and House speaker suspended). That’s not to mention shoddy venue construction and other logistical snafus, toxic water for outdoor aquatic events, apparently more polluted air than even during the 2008 Beijing Games, and the omnipresent threat of the Zika virus.

Then you have the Russian track and field squad’s disqualification for systemic doping, although the International Olympic Committee (IOC) let the rest of the team off.

More broadly, the media again remind us of how hyper-capitalism and the threat of terrorism have spoiled the world’s preeminent athletic event. Pundits lament the passing of a purer age, when doctors trained in their spare time—I just came across another encomium to “Chariots of Fire”—and competition was about more than endorsement contracts. These Cassandras habitually predict the demise of the Olympics as modern society wreaks havoc on the sacrosanct traditions of the ancients.

Counter the conventional narrative, the symbiotic relationship between sports and society has reverted to its original, proper status under the ancient Greeks: A rollicking good time.

Yet this idea that the games should promote a kinder, gentler world, the apotheosis of human progress, reflects sentimentalized history. Since the end of the Cold War, the Olympics have thrown off the corrosive chains of ideology to revert to the values of the original games, among which were the dominance of sports for their own sake rather than as a metaphor for national advancement.

Suspending Politics for Games

The standard view of the Greek Olympics as a halcyon festival bringing amateur sportsmen together in the name of peace and brotherhood is a remnant of nineteenth-century Romanticism institutionalized by aristocrats like modern Olympics founder Pierre de Coubertin. Adolf Hitler, who staged the 1936 Berlin games, was taken in by a similar vision of nationalism via physical perfection.

The ancient reality could not have been further from these modern misconceptions, as Greek armies routinely violated the Olympic truce—sometimes battling in the Olympic sanctuary itself—and competitors ingested whatever performance-enhancing substances were available. Individual achievement was valued much more than participation, and wealth superseded philosophical ideals.

Pindar, the lyric poet whose odes tell us much of what we know about the early Olympians, wrote at the behest of moneyed athletes, who sought personal glory rather than the vindication of their city-state’s political system. The great champion Alcibiades used his prestige to gain fame and riches, often at the expense of “national interest.” Further, the ancient heroes were Panhellenic—Athenian kids cheered for Spartan Michael Phelpses—and the victors’ olive wreaths were intrinsically worth as much as the medals doled out in Rio. (Although the authorities didn’t force the winners to pay tax on them, as does the IRS.)

The modern Olympics, in allowing politics to overshadow sports, broke with their predecessors. After the Munich tragedy, the 1976 Montreal event left a trail of debt that took three decades for Quebecois taxpayers to pay off and saw the first of a series of boycotts. The Olympics had lost their ancient bearings.

Nobody knew it at the time, but the 1988 Seoul Olympics were a watershed. These games were the first to be free from major turmoil since Tokyo 1964. More importantly, they represented the last Olympiad of the Cold War, with the Berlin Wall falling the next year, followed by the dissolution of the Evil Empire.

The twentieth century took us through almost continual political upheaval, most of it defined by bipolar geopolitics and the specter of nuclear Armageddon. With that edifice of pretension eroded, the games were free to become athletic spectacles again.

A Return to the Joy of Sports

Under today’s conditions—the populism we see is a response to an historic cultural homogenization, economic interdependence, and relative decline of the nation-state even with respect to our enemies—international athletic competition assumes an ever-more parallel course to that of the world at large. As with all sporting events, the Olympics of the past quarter-century have become exponentially more entertainment-oriented. Even the proliferation of “crass commercialism” is a positive step because it returns the Olympics to the role they fulfill best: providing a forum for the globe’s finest athletes to show the rest of us a good time.

The Olympics now bring us the absolute best, without regard to color, creed, or iron curtain. The nature of the Olympic “movement,” meanwhile, has returned to the entertainment, ritual, and indeed athletic value of the original games—meaning it’s not a movement. Gone is the sham of amateurism, as athletes are once more individuals, not tools of the state.

Tradition, meet meritocracy; Coubertin, meet Milton Friedman (who would’ve turned 100 on July 31). Counter the conventional narrative, the symbiotic relationship between sports and society has reverted to its original, proper status under the ancient Greeks.

Returning to 2016, the various Rio “scandals” are mere sound and fury compared to the Cold War-era misuse of sports for political purposes—or, more prosaically, the lack of snow at the 2014 Winter Games in subtropical Sochi. Even concerns over the origin of team attire betray a lack of understanding about international trade. The very reason consumers don’t have to be polo-playing scions to afford the iconic wares of Ralph Lauren—which is outfitting the U.S. team at no cost to taxpayers—is because the company seeks out low-cost manufacturing.

The grandees of both the IOC and elite media peddle utopian myths when they should recognize that the Olympics are nothing more than the very best the sports world has to offer. Everyone should just relax, grab a caipirinha, and watch some more digital streaming.

Ilya Shapiro is a senior contributor to the Federalist. He is a fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute and Editor-in-Chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review.

Donald Trump and the National Debt

Michael D. Tanner

Imagine that your family was so deep in debt that your credit-card bills exceed your entire paycheck. Every week you spend more than you take in, with no respite in sight. And you still haven’t figured out how you are going to fulfill your promise to send your kids to college. But in today’s mail comes one of those credit-card offers with a low introductory rate. Sounds like the perfect time to borrow some more and take that Caribbean vacation you’ve been dreaming of, right?

Paul Krugman thinks so — and, unfortunately, so does Donald Trump.

No sooner had Krugman published yet another column arguing that “Right now there is an overwhelming case for more government borrowing” than Donald Trump agreed, telling CNBC, “This is the time to borrow.”

Trump, of course, has had his struggles with the national debt before. It was just a couple of months ago that he was arguing that our $19.4 trillion debt wasn’t a problem — “You never have to default because you print the money.” Before that, he was suggesting that borrowing more was fine, since “if the economy crashed, you could make a deal” to pay bondholders less than full value on the debt owed to them.

Donald Trump seems to believe that handling the national debt is no different from taking out a mortgage on one of his casinos: borrow, invest, and, if you lose money, walk away.

Now Trump has gone full Krugman, calling for massive new borrowing “while interest rates are low,” in order to finance new spending on infrastructure and other government programs.

There are more than a few problems with this “borrow and spend” approach to government finance. First, our national debt already exceeds 105 percent of GDP. We owe more than the value of all the goods and services produced in this country over the course of a year. That is not only hugely unfair to our children and grandchildren; it is slowing economic growth today. Adding more debt, even at low interest rates, is not going to make that problem go away.

Second, even with low interest rates, a lot of money is being wasted on interest payments. This year, the federal government will pay more than $250 billion in interest on the debt. That is money that buys nothing, accomplishes nothing. Every trillion that Trump would add in new debt would mean a commensurate increase in interest payments.

Moreover, while interest rates are low now, there is no reason to believe that they will stay this way, especially if our total debt explodes and a President Trump threatens default, undermining the faith of our creditors. If interest rates are one percentage point higher than CBO projections, that could cost an additional $1.6 trillion through 2026. Assuming he doesn’t pay off the debt before then — a pretty safe bet — Trump’s new borrowing will eventually come due, and presumably be rolled over into new debt at potentially higher interest rates.

Trump — and Krugman — justify this cost by assuming that government spending on infrastructure and other projects will stimulate the economy, increasing growth and generating more in revenue than we have to pay in interest. But we’ve seen how inefficient government stimulus spending really is.

Consider the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), President Obama’s $825 billion stimulus bill passed in February 2009 to combat the recession. The CBO estimated that each permanent job created would cost taxpayers as much as $755,000. Despite five separate stimulus bills under Bush and Obama, we are still in one of the slowest economic recoveries on record.

Maybe under President Trump government will miraculously become better at picking winners than it has been over the previous 240 years of our Republic. Or maybe not.

Maybe under President Trump government will miraculously become better at picking winners than it has been over the previous 240 years of our Republic. Or maybe not.

That’s not to say that Hillary Clinton would be any better. She would spend as much or even more than Trump. If she didn’t increase the debt as much, it would only be because she proposes more than $1 trillion in new taxes. That would be a disaster all its own.

Donald Trump seems to believe that handling the national debt is no different from taking out a mortgage on one of his casinos: borrow, invest, and, if you lose money, walk away.

Unfortunately, in this case, it would be American workers, taxpayers, and their children who would be left holding the bag.

Michael Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of Going for Broke: Deficits, Debt, and the Entitlement Crisis.

A Post-Trump Path on Immigration

Alex Nowrasteh

More than any other issue, Donald Trump’s stance on immigration will have the biggest impact on post-2016 national politics. His opposition to immigration is his signature and most consistent opinion during the entire campaign. Trump’s rise was fueled by nativism — from his early statements on Mexican rapists to his first position paper to his current campaign. Similarly, his likely defeat in November will be due to the limited electoral appeal of Know-Nothingism — opening the way for more liberal immigration laws.

Trump’s nativism and his way of expressing it powered his rise. The anti-immigration opinion of Republican primary voters was the best predictor of their individual support for Trump. Ann Coulter said, “Americans have been begging their own party to shut it down, to stop this endless immigration for decades.” Even the anti-Trump editors of the National Review wrote that “His signature issue is concern over immigration … He has exploited the yawning gap between elite opinion in both parties and the public on the issue.”

Trump’s likely defeat should convince conservatives and Republicans that instead of standing athwart immigration yelling “stop,” they need to start saying “welcome” and really mean it.

While the Republican Party has become increasingly anti-immigration, public opinion has swung the other way. A 2016 Gallup poll found that 38 percent of Americans want to decrease immigration — a 27 point decline from its peak in 1993. Meanwhile those who are happy with the current levels or support an increase are up by the same amount. Tellingly, the percentage of those who want more legal immigration has more than tripled to 21 percent. An increasing Republican share of a shrinking anti-immigration opinion will not serve the GOP well.

Immigration restrictionists who blamed Trump’s rise on politicians who ignored the voters on this issue have locked themselves into a bind. It’s true that Trump’s rise can be credited to his anti-immigration position. But that also means that his drop in the polls and likely loss in November will also be blamed on his nativism.

Some people will try to deflect a loss by blaming Trump’s style rather than his substance. Mark Krikorian, executive director of the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies, said he’s glad Trump “aired these issues” but that “it would be nice if we had a different messenger.” National Review editor Rich Lowry implored Republicans to pander to Trump on immigration without his bombastic rhetoric. Both misunderstand populist movements and their frequent anti-immigration roots.

Successful nativist populists cannot be soft spoken and polite. Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker all had similar immigration positions to Trump’s yet they lost because they lacked his boorish personality and vulgarity. For nativism to advance, it must appeal to nativists and they do not want to hear soft-spoken, measured and articulate arguments for limiting immigration. They want Trump-speak: crude name-calling and a projection of toughness. It’s impossible to separate Trump’s substance from his style and win a GOP primary.

Trump is destroying the intellectual respectability of immigration restrictionism. It’s not fair, but from now on the smarter, politer and better spoken critics of immigration will be lumped in with Trumpism and its probable electoral defeat. Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are ascendant, buoyed by their relative support for immigration and Trump’s position on it, thus reinforcing the pro-immigration opinion trend among Democrats and independents. Republicans scarred by this election will work double to avoid more Trumps in the future.

Remarkably, the GOP has been here before. California turned blue in the mid-1990s because the Republican Party pitted themselves against immigrants and, in the court of public opinion, Hispanics. That won the GOP an election in 1994 and lost them virtually every one since (Schwarzenegger was a fluke). Trump’s Republican Party is repeating this mistake on a national level — just like the Federalist and Whig parties did shortly before their downfalls.

Instead of copying the playbook of the nearly extinct California GOP and other failed political parties, the Republican Party and its voters should copy Texas. Hispanics are 38.6 percent of the populations in both states but the politics are worlds apart. That’s because Texas Republicans like George W. Bush and Rick Perry ignored the California model and realized that demographic are not political destiny. By courting immigrants and publicly refusing nativism they made Texas even more conservative.

Donald Trump will almost certainly lose this election, taking down Know-Nothingism and any intellectual respectability it may have left. This will not just be an opportunity for the Democrats but also one for conservatives who want to embrace America’s proud history of welcoming immigrants and assimilating them. Trump’s likely defeat should convince conservatives and Republicans that instead of standing athwart immigration yelling “stop,” they need to start saying “welcome” and really mean it.

Alex Nowrasteh is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute.

Western Whining Won’t Stop North Korea’s Nukes

Doug Bandow

Washington has long told the rest of the world what to do. But the world usually pays little attention. When ignored, U.S. officials typically talk tougher and louder, with no better result.

This approach describes American policy toward North Korea. It would be better for Washington to say nothing than to frantically denounce every provocation. The United States and its allies typically respond with angry complaints and empty threats, which only encourages the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to provoke again.

North Korea recently launched two missiles. One exploded shortly after launch, while the other landed about 160 miles from Japan. It was more of the same, barely worth a second thought.

However, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that he was “deeply troubled” by the North’s action. The United Nations Security Council met, at which there were “strong condemnations across the board,” according to U.S. ambassador Samantha Power.

No one knows how to push North Korea onto a more responsible path. But complaining and caterwauling after every Pyongyang provocation certainly won’t do so.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest announced that “The United States continues to believe that our response to North Korea’s destabilizing activities is stronger when the international community remains united.” Pentagon spokesman Gary Ross said “This provocation only serves to increase the international community’s resolve to counter prohibited activities.” Pyongyang should “focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its commitments and international obligations.”

Japan’s UN representative, Koro Bessho, called North Korea’s actions “totally unacceptable” and advocated international unity against the DPRK. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe termed the test “is an unforgivable act of violence toward Japan’s security.” He said he expected “resolute measures” in response.

South Korea’s UN representative, Oh Joon, denounced Pyongyang, contending that the latter’s missile program “is not only a grave challenge to the global nonproliferation system but also poses a clear and present danger to the security of all countries in the region.” Everyone, he added, had an interest in stopping “this dangerous series of provocations immediately.” The South Korean military warned that North Korea “directly and blatantly demonstrated its provocative ambition to target seaports and airfields across South Korea.”

Even NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg joined the chorus, taking the “North Atlantic” Treaty Organization way out of area. He declared that North Korea should “immediately cease and abandon all its existing nuclear and ballistic missile activities” and “refrain from any further provocative actions.”

It’s almost charming to think that Stoltenberg imagined his words would shame into repentance North Korea’s communist emperor Kim Jong-un, fresh from executing the managers of a Chinese restaurant whose staff had defected. How very Norwegian of Stoltenberg.

Alas, the rebuke from the Pentagon, which positions nearly thirty thousand troops in South Korea, was even less likely to cause Pyongyang to reverse course. Kim and his advisers seem far more likely to enjoy than regret Japanese ululations over the horrid threat posed by Tokyo’s former colony.

Just what do the allies believe they are achieving? Over the last five years the DPRK has shot off thirty-one missiles. Everyone violated a Security Council resolution. And each one was denounced in equally florid language.

None of the denunciations had slightest impact on the North’s behavior.

No doubt, Pyongyang has noticed that many of its chief critics and military antagonists deploy such missiles without apparent shame. The Security Council has strengthened sanctions over time, but so far the North can rely on People’s Republic of China to limit their worst impacts.

As for the tsunami of verbal criticism, the DPRK is far better at unleashing insults. The regime may be isolated, but remains unbowed. Indeed, Western whining plays to Kim’s worst instincts.

After all, the DPRK ably fills the role of a “shrimp among whales,” far smaller, poorer and less powerful than South Korea, let alone Japan, China and Russia. Yet the Kim dynasty has gained the world’s attention, causing wailing and gnashing of teeth in capitals across the world—and now even in the headquarters of NATO, the world’s greatest military alliance. From the regime’s standpoint, it obviously is doing something right.

In fact, despite the ill words which greeted its latest missile shots, observers predict that the North is preparing a fifth nuclear test. Pyongyang has dismissed American threats. Last month Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho criticized the United States for its “never ending nuclear blackmails.” As a result, America “will have to pay dearly a terrifying price.”

Nor can Washington count on the PRC to “solve” the North Korea problem. After the latest DPRK provocations, Beijing’s ambassador to the UN, Liu Jieyi, chose not to focus on North Korea, but instead said, “the situation is tense and we need to do everything to de-escalate the situation.” He implied that the United States and its allies had provoked the North to arm, noting that “the factors contributing to the tension in the Korean peninsula” are “self-evident.”

Obviously neither North Korea’s neighbors nor anyone who imagines themselves in Pyongyang’s gunsights wants the DPRK to develop missiles or nuclear weapons. However, if the allies lack a means to disarm North Korea, they should stop wailing after every weapons test. Doing so reinforces North Korea’s inflated sense of importance and perception of allied weakness.

Better would be to greet such tests with silence. Any policy response, such as tightened sanctions, should be adopted with little rhetorical fanfare. Questions about the North’s tactics should be answered dismissively. The allies should react in ways which diminish the benefits to Pyongyang from confrontation. That wouldn’t make the North Korea problem go away. But it might at least stop encouraging the DPRK to do more.

No one knows how to push North Korea onto a more responsible path. But complaining and caterwauling after every Pyongyang provocation certainly won’t do so. The United States and its allies should give the North the attention that it truly deserves.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

How Safe Are We? Asking the Right Questions about Terrorism

John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart

“Are we safer?” might be the most common question asked about terrorism, but it is the wrong one. A better place to begin is with this question: “How safe are we?”

In evaluating the threat from terrorism, it seems difficult to escape the conclusion that, although such violence presents a concern for the United States, the scope of the hazard is so limited that it is a considerable stretch to even label it a “threat.”

For a time, of course, this perspective was severely challenged by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which inflicted damage that was decidedly not limited. If attacks like that had become common, even routine, everything would have changed. But it didn’t. Although “we can’t have another 9/11” remains a conversation stopper, that event remains an extreme outlier: scarcely any terrorist deed before or since has visited even one-tenth as much destruction, even in war zones where terrorist groups have plenty of space and time to plot and assemble.

Much of the public fear about terrorism centers on the possibility that radical groups, particularly al Qaeda, might acquire nuclear weapons—the imminent danger of which we have been warned about for 15 years. However, no terrorist group has gotten anywhere near going atomic, and, even more telling, none seems to have really even tried.

In the years since 9/11, Islamist terrorists have managed to kill about seven people a year within the United States.

In the years since 9/11, Islamist terrorists have managed to kill about seven people a year within the United States. All those deaths are tragic of course, but some comparisons are warranted: lightning kills about 46 people a year, accident-causing deer another 150, and drownings in bathtubs around 300.

During that period, al Qaeda Central’s achievements have been rather meager, even taking into consideration that it has been isolated and under siege. An analysis of the major terrorist plots against the West since 9/11 finds only two—the attempted shoe bombing in 2001 and the effort to blow up transatlantic airliners with liquid bombs in 2006—that could be said to have been under the command and control of al Qaeda Central, and there are questions about how full its control was even in these two instances. What’s more, both plots failed miserably. There have also been a few attempts by al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen. The most notable is the underwear bomber of 2009, who was outfitted by a Yemeni who is constantly called a “master bomb-maker” with a device that was almost impossible to detonate and (like the shoe bomb) far too small to bring down the airliner if it had gone off.

Al Qaeda has been quite good, however, at issuing videos threatening violence. Thus, it was over a decade ago that bin Laden denied that the “delay” in carrying out operations in the United States was “due to failure to breach your security measures” and then ominously revealed that “operations are under preparation, and you will see them on your own ground once they are finished, God willing.” God, apparently, has not been willing.

It is possible to argue, of course, that there actually is a terrorist threat and that the damage committed by jihadists since 9/11 is so low because “American defensive measures are working,” as the journalist Peter Bergen wrote in his book United States of Jihad. Although these measures should be given some credit, it is not at all clear that they have made a great deal of difference.

To begin with, one can look at the dozens of plots by Islamist extremists, many of them inspired by al Qaeda, seeking to commit terrorism in the United States. A few of these have been carried out, but most have been rolled up by authorities. In general, the capacities of the people involved are singularly unimpressive. A summary assessment by RAND’s Brian Jenkins is apt: “their numbers remain small, their determination limp, and their competence poor.”

Indeed, most of these plots were at best embryonic or facilitated by infiltrating FBI operatives—as in the case of the Rochester panhandler who planned in the name of ISIS to wreak havoc at a local restaurant (where he had been treated with less than full courtesy) with a machete bought for him at Walmart by one of the three FBI operatives who had formed something of a cell around him. Left on their own, it is certainly possible that a few of the plotters would have been able to get their acts together and actually do something. But it seems unlikely that the total damage would increase by anywhere near enough to suggest that terrorism is something that could justifiably be said to present a threat.

In addition to those prosecuted on terrorism charges, authorities have encountered a considerable number of loud-mouthed aspirational terrorists within the United States, and, lacking enough evidence to convict them on terrorism charges, the authorities have levied lesser ones to jail or deport them. For the most part, these plots or aspirations are even less likely to lead to notable violence than the ones that have led to terrorism trials. Further, the bulk of people who are jailed on terrorism-associated prosecutions serve short terms and, accordingly, are soon set free to commit terrorism if they want to do so. Yet, none have attempted to do so.

Nor is it likely that much terrorism has been deterred by security measures. Extensive and very costly security measures may have taken some targets—commercial airliners and military bases, for example—off the list for just about all terrorists. However, no dedicated would-be terrorist should have much difficulty finding other potential targets if the goal is to kill people or destroy property to make a statement—the country is filled with these.

And, even though billions of foreigners have entered the United States legally since 2001, al Qaeda appears to have been unable to smuggle in any operatives at all. No-fly lists and other security measures have doubtless contributed to that agreeable result, but the perfect success rate rather suggests inadequacy or lack of dedication on the part of the terrorist organization as well. Europe is clearly more accessible to the Middle East, but terrorism there during the al Qaeda period was mostly quite limited, and there were no major attacks for a full decade after 2005.

We have now endured a decade and a half in which it has been confidently, authoritatively, and repeatedly proclaimed that al Qaeda presents an existential threat to the United States (or even to the world system or civilization as we know it). It is time that such serial alarmists were questioned about their extravagant proclamations rather than being given ever more air time. This is all the more important given that history may now be repeating itself with the Islamic State (ISIS), the vicious insurgent group in Iraq and Syria.

Americans have decided that the group constitutes a major problem. A poll conducted in the spring of 2016 asked the 83 percent of its respondents who said they closely followed news stories about ISIS whether the group presented “a serious threat to the existence or survival of the US.” A full 77 percent agreed—more than two-thirds of them strongly.

And over the last year, people apparently inspired by ISIS did kill 63 in attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando—a bit more than lightning during the same period and far more people than other Islamist extremists killed in the United States in the entire decade and a half after 9/11. However, such attacks are unlikely to become common, and the appeal of ISIS is decidedly on the wane.

After its heady advances in the Middle East in 2014 and early 2015, ISIS now appears to be in considerable disarray. The flow of foreign fighters may have dropped by 90 percent, and the group has progressively been losing territory. Indeed, there are strong indications that, two years after proclaiming its caliphate and the start of a glorious new epoch, the group is preparing its supporters for the possibility, even likelihood, of total territorial collapse.

Meanwhile, continuous failure on the battlefield is having a dampening effect on enthusiasm and recruitment—the group no longer projects jihadist cool. By one count, there were two plots by locals to commit terrorism in the United States in 2014, neither of them ISIS-related. In 2015, the figure rose to 19, of which 14 were ISIS-related—that is, both plots related to and unrelated to ISIS increased very significantly. Thus far in 2016, however, there have been but two (both ISIS-related). In addition, the FBI reports that the trend for Americans seeking to join ISIS is decidedly downward.

ISIS has a “genius for making enemies,” Georgetown Professor Daniel Byman noted in a recent essay. In its decline, it has extended its perfect record by encouraging and then celebrating acts that are profoundly mindless (to put it oxymoronically) such as slitting the throat of an 85-year-old French priest. But the damage its inspirees commit is likely to remain limited, if tragic and disgusting. Even if all the terrible outrages committed in Europe in 2015 are taken to be ISIS-related, far more people on that continent perished yearly at the hands of terrorists in most years in the 1970s and 1980s. The continent was scarcely imperiled.

However, as with al Qaeda, the incentives are to play to the galleries: if 77 percent of the people appear to be convinced that ISIS presents “a serious threat to the existence or survival of the US,” there is likely to be considerably more purchase in servicing the notion than in seeking to counter it. You’ll get plenty of air time.

John Mueller is a political scientist at Ohio State University and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute.. Mark Stewart is an engineer at the University of Newcastle in Australia.

Real Police Reform Requires National Policing Standards

Nat Hentoff and Nick Hentoff

Does the U.S. Justice Department have a form template it uses when reporting on its civil rights investigations of police departments? It sure seems like it does. Because there are disturbing similarities between the DOJ’s report on the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) released this week and the reports the DOJ released on the Ferguson Police Department in March 2015 and the Cleveland Police Department in December 2014.

The DOJ’s report concluded that the BPD engaged in a “pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law.” As was the case with the DOJ reports on the Ferguson and Cleveland PDs, the Baltimore PD’s unlawful police conduct included the “making of unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests,” the routine use of excessive force, and “retaliating against people engaging in constitutionally protected expression.”

Of particular concern is the report’s conclusion that these systemic police practices — including a lack of adequate discipline and a lack of adequate training — resulted in violent conflict between community members and the police.

“Officers frequently used excessive force in situations that did not call for aggressive measures,” The Baltimore Sun’s analysis of the DOJ’s report concluded. This included the use of excessive force against “individuals with mental health disabilities or in crisis.” The report blamed “a lack of training and improper tactics” for causing “unnecessarily violent confrontations with these vulnerable individuals.”

Among the more egregious examples of constitutional violations cited by the DOJ included a black woman who was forced to submit to a public anal cavity search on the side of the road after being pulled over for a minor traffic violation. The report also cited the case of a black motorist who was pulled over by the police 30 times in less than four years without ever being cited for a traffic offense.

In another incident, when an officer questioned his sergeant’s order to disperse a gathering on a public street corner because he had no reason to do so, the sergeant told the officer to “make something up.” The fact that the sergeant gave such an illegal order in the presence of a DOJ observer reflects just how deeply the culture of confrontation is ingrained in many police departments.

Any attempts at meaningful police reform must include programs to transform the culture of confrontation into a culture of conflict resolution. This can be done without compromising a police department’s mission to protect the public or endangering its officers.

That was the conclusion of “Guiding Principles on Use of Force,” a report released earlier this year by the nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a prominent Washington, D.C.-based policing policy think tank.

The report, authored by PERF’s executive director Chuck Wexler, encourages a new approach to policing. According to The Washington Post, PERF’s guidelines focus on “retraining officers to avoid conflict whenever possible and stressing the ‘sanctity of life’ of everyone involved, not just the officers’.”

The PERF proposals resulted in an immediate, intense backlash from police unions, whose lobbying for parochial interests has become the single biggest obstacle to meaningful police reform.

“I don’t understand what the uproar is,” Michael Chitwood, the police chief in Daytona Beach, Florida, told the Post. “Wexler’s proposal that a supervisor be summoned to every tense scene has been shown to reduce violence, Chitwood said, as have the proposals to increase crisis intervention training for dealing with the mentally ill, prohibiting the use of force on people who are a danger only to themselves, and administering immediate aid to someone who has been shot.”

Meanwhile, some police departments have begun issuing citations to officers who prevent conflict. “More than 40 Philadelphia officers have received awards since December for defusing conflicts without shooting, clubbing or otherwise using maximum force against anyone,” the Associated Press reported in May.

“An officer going home is of paramount importance to us, but everybody should have an opportunity to go home if that presents itself,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross told the AP. “This is an effort to slow down situations for the sake of everybody concerned.”

The same issues that were found in DOJ reports concerning the Baltimore, Ferguson and Cleveland police departments have also been documented by civil rights groups as systemic within the New York City and Chicago police forces. It is likely that some of these same problems, to a greater or lesser degree, would be found in investigations of a majority of the approximately 18,000 police departments in the U.S.

In 1998, Human Rights Watch conducted an exhaustive investigation of policing in America that it documented in its report “Shielded From Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States.”

“Police brutality is one of the most serious, enduring and divisive human rights violations in the United States,” HRW’s report concluded. “The problem is nationwide, and its nature is institutionalized.”

Congress should mandate national standards for constitutional policing, including civilian oversight.

The standards would be enforced, like past civil rights legislation, through the threat of withholding federal funding to those police departments who refuse to adopt the national standards.

It is long past time for the U.S. government to acknowledge that police misconduct is not a series of isolated problems that can be solved by a series of individual civil rights enforcement actions. As HRW concluded almost 20 years ago, it is a systemic nationwide problem that must be addressed on a national level.

Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. He is a member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Cato Institute, where he is a senior fellow. Nick Hentoff is a criminal defense and civil liberties attorney in New York.

Obama Is Letting the Drug War Rage on Pointlessly

Adam Bates

This week the Obama Administration rejected the application of a pair of governors who asked the federal government to lower the federal restrictions on marijuana. The administration concluded that marijuana should remain a “Schedule I” controlled substance under federal law. Schedule I is the most restricted category of illicit drugs, which the government considers to have a high potential for abuse and no legitimate value.

This ruling flies in the face of President Obama’s previous statements indicating that he would allow science, rather than drug war ideology, to determine the legal status of marijuana. It is virtually impossible to overdose on marijuana, and despite centuries of recreational use, the harm caused by marijuana is infinitesimal compared to much harder, yet legal, drugs like alcohol.

The dangers the government insists on associating with marijuana are, in fact, dangers caused by prohibition itself.

Regardless of its legal status, there remains a substantial demand in the U.S. for marijuana. That market will either be served by legal businesses or illegal ones. There is no “none of the above.”

When drugs are illegal, that money goes to the cartels. When drugs become legal, that money stays in local economies and governments.

The data bears this out. In the last few years, several states have legalized recreational marijuana. As a result, marijuana seizures at the border have plummeted as the necessity of importing marijuana from abroad has begun to collapse. The free market is doing what billions of wasted dollars and millions of wasted lives under drug prohibition could not.

The administration’s decision this week suppresses that fantastic development, and instead guarantees more violence.

Unlike legal disputes in a free market, black-market disputes often involve violence because most peaceful means of dispute resolution are unavailable.

In 2016 if two alcohol distributors have a dispute, they settle it in court with lawyers. When two alcohol distributors had a dispute in 1928, they settled it on the street corner with Tommy Guns and Molotov Cocktails. Prohibition demands it. The murder rate spiked under alcohol prohibition, and dropped every year for a decade after prohibition ended.

The same was true for killings of police officers.

Prohibition doesn’t just increase violence against police officers, it also increases violence by the police against the citizenry. There are now anestimated 80,000 SWAT raids annually in the U.S., the vast majority of which are serving mere search warrants, usually for drugs. A paramilitary institution that was developed to answer hostage situations and active shooters has become a routine, yet potentially violent tool for keeping people from smoking pot. Far too many harmless Americans have died as a result.

President Obama, whose administration has seen an explosion of national concern about street violence, as well as violence by and against police officers, has repeatedly vowed to find answers to these problems while continually ignoring the obvious solution staring him in the face.

The administration’s ruling also represents the continuation of a bizarre federalism problem.

Under our constitution, criminal law has historically been left to state and local governments, not Congress. That is why, when the misguided government opted to prohibit the manufacture and distribution of alcohol in the 1920s, prohibitionists sought a Constitutional amendment granting the federal government the authority to ban alcohol. Alcohol prohibition ended, after years of corruption and unnecessary bloodshed, when the constitution was amended again to correct the mistake of the earlier amendment.

When the federal government wanted to ban drugs, however, it merely passed a federal law banning drugs, creating an obvious tension between the federal government and the states that have traditionally made their own decisions about what substances to permit or prohibit.

The result is a legal quagmire in which 42 states and the District of Columbia allow either medicinal or recreational use of marijuana, while the federal government insists that a nationwide prohibition remains in effect.

It is immensely disappointing that President Obama, who ran as an advocate of “common sense” justice reforms, has again decided to shoot down a desperately needed reform to federal drug law. This ruling guarantees that the drug cartels will continue to profit off the U.S. marijuana market, that American citizens will continue being subjected to police violence and lengthy prison sentences for engaging in a harmless behavior that the majority of Americans believe should be legal, and that the drug war that has done so much damage to our law, our society and our individual liberty will continue.

Adam Bates is a policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice.