Pluralism and Equality Need Educational Freedom

Neal McCluskey

Americans recoil at “discrimination.” The word connotes
exclusion for not just superficial, but also hateful reasons, which
Americans experienced for decades in the form of racial segregation
– often government-mandated – from schools to lunch
counters. This shameful history is no doubt why Secretary of
Education Betsy DeVos set off a firestorm recently when she refused
to say that she would prohibit potential federal vouchers from
going to private schools that don’t accept all comers.

But we should not let our immediate, understandable feelings
keep us from asking: Might there be acceptable, perhaps even good,
reasons that schools would not work with some people?

There may be. Pluralism, academic achievement, and authentic,
sustainable integration are all important considerations.

First pluralism. Ours is a nation of greatly diverse people –
myriad religions, ethnicities, languages, cultures – and we must
allow unique communities to educate their children in ways that the
political majority, which controls public schools, might not
select, and do so without having to sacrifice their education tax
dollars. We must enable people to choose schools that share their
values, or cultures, or views of history, on a level playing field.
If we do not, we doom them to unequal status under the law, and
even risk their withering away in a generation or two.

We should not let our
revulsion for malevolent discrimination snuff out the ability of
the country’s countless, cherished communities to live on by
teaching their children as they see fit.

Religion is the most obvious, widespread sticking point. By law,
public schools cannot inculcate religious values. But there are
millions of people who believe that religion is inseparable from
education; that all life and learning is centered on God.

For more than a century public schools were de facto Protestant
institutions for this reason, but that marginalized atheists, Roman
Catholics, and many others. Schools also must take sides on issues
with inescapable religious implications, such as evolution and sex
education. These are huge reasons that millions of people enroll
their children in
private
or
home
schools – Southern Baptists have even debated an

“exodus” from public schools
– but they must sacrifice their
tax dollars to do so.

Of course, it is not just religious communities that are
handicapped and rendered unequal under public schooling. Racial,
ethnic, and linguistic minorities often are, too. For instance, in
Tucson, Ariz., a battle has raged for years over classes for
Mexican-American students that focus on the community’s unique
history and culture. They were eventually outlawed for advocating,
among other things, “ethnic solidarity,” which may just be another
way of saying, “trying to sustain their community.”

It now seems clear that equality and pluralism necessitate that
communities be able to offer schooling on an equal footing with
public schools. But the question remains: Does this also require
that private schools be able to exclude some students?

For a school to truly stand for things central to the community
it serves, those who enter the community must share those values.
For instance, being forced to accept a large influx of families
hostile to a community’s views on, say, the role of
Mexican-Americans in the United States, or marriage, would threaten
the demise of such a school.

It could also smother a school academically. As sociologist
James Coleman famously surmised after studying Roman Catholic
schools, the key to their success was their high level of social
capital; essentially, their internal cohesion from administrators,
teachers, and families all voluntarily accepting the same norms and
values. That enabled them to teach clear, rigorous curricula, and
uphold well-delineated norms of behavior.

There is one last consideration when it comes to communities
deciding whom they will and will not accept: freedom of
association.

While prohibiting schools from turning some families away is
utterly understandable given our history, it may be
counterproductive, essentially creating unsustainable tolerance
theater. As social psychologist
Patricia Devine has noted
, coercing prejudiced people to act in
unprejudiced ways can fuel “anger and resentment, and sadly, this
anger fuels their prejudice and their tendency to show a backlash
against the pressure.”

Of course, we should not stand idly by while people cruelly
discriminate. We should expose, criticize, and shun bigots. But we
should not let our revulsion for malevolent discrimination snuff
out the ability of the country’s countless, cherished communities
to live on by teaching their children as they see fit.

Neal McCluskey (@NealMcCluskey) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is the director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom and maintains Cato’s Public Schooling Battle Map.

ObamaCare by Another Name Is Still ObamaCare

Michael F. Cannon

Senate conservatives, and ObamaCare opponents broadly, have
panned the Senate healthcare bill as a charade. If conservatives
help enact this or any other bill that leaves ObamaCare’s central
architecture in place, they will take responsibility for the
ongoing harm it causes, squander their one best shot at repeal and
imperil other conservative priorities.

For seven years, Republicans have pledged to repeal ObamaCare
in full. Donald
Trump
put it
in writing
. The Senate bill would instead
preserve and even expand ObamaCare
. Like the
substantially-similar bill that already passed the House, the
Senate bill is a snub to all who voted Republican because of that
pledge.

Trump and other GOP leaders are intensifying the pressure on
Senate conservatives to vote for the bill precisely because their
hand is weak. Republican leaders need conservatives more than
conservatives need to vote for this bill.

If Republicans fail to
repair the damage ObamaCare is causing, pressure to do so would
only grow

Let’s game out the scenarios.

The Senate bill could exacerbate what are already likely GOP
losses in the 2018 midterm elections. The nonpartisan Congressional
Budget Office
projects
the Senate bill would cause premiums to be 20-percent
higher in 2018 and 10-percent higher in 2019 than under ObamaCare
alone.

Democrats are already united and energized. If the Senate bill
delivers two separate premium hikes leading up to the 2018 midterm
elections, deflated GOP voters would stay home while angry
consumers turn out to vote Democratic. Republicans would lose even
more seats in Congress, jeopardizing the Senate bill’s tax cuts and
spending constraints, not to mention other conservative priorities,
like Supreme Court nominees.

If conservatives refuse, GOP leaders would have to offer them
concessions. The longer they hold out, the larger the concessions.
Why?

If Republicans fail to repair the damage ObamaCare is causing,
pressure to do so would only grow. ObamaCare’s harmful government
regulations would continue to drive premiums skyward,
reduce quality
and
cause insurance to disappear in parts of the country
.

Consumers would keep demanding relief. The GOP base would
continue to demand its leaders follow through on their
most prominent and long-standing
campaign promise. Anti-tax
conservatives would demand Congress take up ObamaCare again to
repeal its tax hikes and facilitate tax reform.

GOP leaders would have little alternative but to work with
conservatives. If they work with Democrats to rescue ObamaCare,
they would face a rebellion that would also depress GOP turnout on
Election Day. If Trump continues to bail out ObamaCare with
payments to private insurance companies that
two of his cabinet officials
– not to mention
a federal court
– have declared unconstitutional, he would
spark a similar revolt.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus won concessions only after
showing they were willing to
let a phony repeal bill fail
. (They quickly decided they
preferred losing to winning, though. The concessions
did not materially improve the House bill
, and most HFC members
voted for it anyway.)

What changes would make the Senate bill worth passing?

Conservatives could demand an expansion of tax-free health
savings accounts (HSAs) along the lines of
legislation
by Sen. Jeff Flake
(R-Ariz.) and Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.). Unlike ObamaCare and the
Senate bill, which merely subsidize unaffordable care, “Large HSAs”
would drive prices down.

Designed properly, Large HSAs could fit within the Senate bill’s
revenue-loss figure and even have a tax-cut-multiplier effect.
Since they would free workers to control $700 billion dollars of
their earnings that employers currently use to choose and purchase
their health benefits, they could deliver an effective tax cut
larger than all Reagan and Bush tax cuts combined.

Alternatively, conservatives could agree to keep some ObamaCare
Medicaid spending in exchange for structural reform and greater
spending constraints. A system of block grants where federal
outlays would not grow at all would allow Congress to give states
greater federal funds in the initial years than they would get
under ObamaCare.

If Congress included ObamaCare’s exchange subsidies, which would
otherwise go to insurers, states could get far more than under
current law, which would allow states to address preexisting
conditions themselves. That would free Republicans to repeal
ObamaCare’s regulations, as they promised to do, which would
instantly stabilize the individual market and could reduce average
premiums by
an estimated

90 percent
.

These options would materially improve on the status quo, even
if they fall short of full repeal. The Senate and House bills would
do neither. Those bills are not going to get better if Senate
conservatives throw away their one best shot to repeal
ObamaCare.

Michael F. Cannon is
“ObamaCare’s single most relentless antagonist” (The New Republic)
and director of health policy studies at the libertarian Cato
Institute.

The Danger of Mission Creep in Syria

Emma Ashford

On Sunday, a U.S. Navy fighter jet shot down one of Bashar al-Assad’s warplanes
attacking U.S.-allied Syrian forces, drawing the United States
deeper into that conflict. Raising tensions with Russia and
potentially placing American troops in danger, this action was just
another in a long line of tactical decisions which increase U.S.
involvement in Syria without any viable long-term strategy for
resolving or exiting the civil war.

Much of the criticism has focused on President Donald Trump’s
impulsive and pugnacious personality. While Trump has accelerated
this process, he is not wholly to blame for the slippery slope that
the United States is now sliding down in Syria. The Obama
administration resisted large-scale escalation, but their choices
nonetheless contributed directly to today’s haphazard Syria
strategy. The Trump administration needs to decide what it wants to
achieve in Syria now, or the inevitable logic of mission creep may
rob them of the ability to choose.

Obama’s Syrian Wars

A common narrative among hawks in Washington is that Barack
Obama’s failure to escalate in Syria—most notably his
decision not to follow through on his “red line” comments about chemical
weapons—reduced U.S. credibility and worsened the conflict
there. These criticisms are largely unjustified: the red line
comment may have been foolish, but the Russian-brokered chemical
weapons deal succeeded in preventing the further use of chemical
weapons during Obama’s term, and was likely more effective
than air strikes would have been.

The United States has no
viable long-term strategy for resolving or exiting the civil
war.

Obama does deserve some credit for his willingness to avoid
large-scale escalation against the Assad regime in Syria in 2013
and again in response to Russia’s 2015 intervention. Whether
he feared a repeat of the 2011 Libya intervention—where
narrow humanitarian goals quickly and almost seamlessly
transitioned into regime change—or he simply acknowledged the
complexity of the Syrian conflict, the former president repeatedly
resisted pressure to commit U.S. forces against Damascus.

Yet his administration did get involved in other ways, recognizing the Syrian opposition in 2012, and
later supplying arms and training to anti-Assad rebels. Meanwhile,
the campaign against ISIS was characterized by mission creep.
Initially portrayed as air strikes in support of local forces,
Operation Inherent Resolve quickly saw the deployment of troops in
both Iraq and Syria: as early as May 2015, U.S. Special Forces were
engaging in ground raids against ISIS, and by May 2016, they were
fighting alongside Syrian rebels to take the town of
al-Shaddadi.

To support these missions, the United States helped to seize and
expand an airfield near Kobane in northern Syria, staffing it with
civil engineers, intelligence and support personnel. By the time
Obama left office, the United States had 500 Special Forces
personnel on the ground in Syria in addition to support staff. This
gradual escalation went largely unnoticed at the time, with U.S.
forces often seemingly “plugged-in” to fill a temporary
gap in local partner capacity.

Indeed, Obama never appeared to have a good strategy for the
endgame. As long as the fighting in Syria’s civil war stayed
geographically segregated from the campaign against ISIS, both
could proceed without raising difficult questions about territorial
control. Perhaps the biggest problem with the
administration’s Syria policy was its failure to more
aggressively pursue the diplomatic steps that could have begun the
peace process. Rather than admitting America’s limited
strategic interests in the Syrian conflict, ambivalence and gradual
escalation ultimately laid the groundwork for Trump’s more
impulsive escalations.

Trump Hits the Afterburner

If Obama’s involvement in Syria could be characterized as
“creeping escalation,” Trump appears to be sprinting
towards heavier involvement in the conflict. In his first months in
office, the new president authorized substantial new
deployments—almost doubling the number of Special Forces in
Syria—and has begun to deploy conventional forces too,
sending around 400 marines to establish fire bases in northern
Syria.

Trump has also proved far less willing to draw a clear line of
distinction between ISIS and militias associated with the Assad
regime. In April, in response to a chemical-weapons attack, Trump
authorized a tomahawk missile strike on a Syrian air base. Since
that time, U.S. troops have struck Assad-linked militias several
times, bombing convoys and drones that entered into
the exclusion zone near the U.S. base at al-Tanf.

This increase in incidents inside Syria is the inevitable result
of Trump’s choice to speed up the fight against ISIS. Since
weaknesses in local partners can no longer be built-up slowly, U.S.
forces are needed instead to provide required capacity (such as
recently deployed marine artillery units) in key areas. This then
produces new problems for force protection: recent strikes on
regime-allied forces are largely aimed at protecting U.S. and
allied forces. As U.S.-backed and regime-backed forces come into
contact more frequently, these tensions will only grow.

Danger, Will Robinson

Worryingly, unlike the Obama administration, Trump’s approach to
Syria does not appear to be driven by a coherent strategy. Though
far from perfect, Obama’s slow-and-steady approach to the anti-ISIS
campaign, coupled with a concerted international diplomatic effort,
had the potential to yield a substantive rollback of ISIS and at
least a managed ceasefire process in the rest of Syria. But in
rushing the end of the campaign, substituting U.S. forces for local
ones, and effectively ignoring diplomacy, the new administration is
merely increasing the chaos in Syria.

Worse, the Trump administration is reportedly considering using
its involvement in Syria to push back on Iran, a step that will
increase the risks to U.S. troops in Syria and Iraq while producing
no obvious policy benefits. Aside from ISIS, the United States has
never had strong interests in the Syrian conflict; in contrast,
Iran, Russia and the Assad regime are all heavily invested in the
outcome of the conflict.

Indeed, the recent mission creep in Syria effectively refutes
the long-running hawkish position on Syria which argued that
targeted strikes would force other actors to take a more
conciliatory approach to ending the conflict. Trump’s missile
strikes have not stopped the Assad regime’s attacks on civilians,
and militias continue to probe U.S.-associated forces on the
ground—even after the recent strikes. The recent shootdown is
of particular concern, as it highlights that the Trump
administration is willing to retaliate for attacks on local
partners, not just for direct attacks on U.S. forces.

With neither side willing to back down in Syria, the potential
for further escalation is high. Trump is accelerating fast, but
with no clear goal in sight. The White House needs a coherent Syria
strategy soon, before events spiral even further out of its
control.

Emma Ashford
is a research fellow in defense and foreign policy studies at the
Cato Institute.

What Americans Really Want from Health Care Reform Is Impossible

Michael D. Tanner

It is an old joke among health policy wonks that what the
American people really want from health care reform is unlimited
care, from the doctor of their choice, with no wait, free of
charge.

For Republicans, trying to square this circle has led to panic,
paralysis, and half-baked policy proposals such as the ObamaCare
replacement bill. For Democrats, it has led from simple disasters
such as ObamaCare itself to a position somewhere between fantasy
and delusion.

The latest effort to fix health care with fairy dust comes from
California, whose Senate voted to establish a statewide
single-payer system. As ambitious as the California legislation is,
encompassing everything from routine checkups to dental and nursing
home care, its authors haven’t yet figured out how it will be
paid for. The plan includes no co-pays, premiums or deductibles.
Perhaps that’s because the legislature’s own estimates
suggest it would cost at least $400 billion, more than the
state’s entire present-day budget.

Adopting a single-payer
system would crush the American economy, lowering wages, destroying
jobs and throwing millions into poverty.

In fairness, legislators hope to recoup about half that amount
from the federal government and the elimination of existing state
and local health programs. But even so, the plan would necessitate
a $200 billion tax hike. One suggestion being bandied about is a 15
percent state payroll tax. Ouch.

The cost of California’s plan is right in line with that
of other recent single-payer proposals. For example, last fall,
Colorado voters rejected a proposal to establish a single-payer
system in that state that was projected to cost more than $64
billion per year by 2028. Voters apparently took note of the fact
that, even after figuring in savings from existing programs,
possible federal funding, and a new 10 percent payroll tax, the
plan would have still run a $12 billion deficit within 10
years.

Similarly, last year Vermont was forced to abandon its efforts
to set up a single-payer system after it couldn’t find a way
to pay for the plan’s nearly $4 trillion price tag. The state
had considered a number of financing mechanisms, including an 11.5
percent payroll tax and an income tax hike (disguised as a premium)
to 9.5 percent.

On the national level, who could forget Bernie Sanders’
proposed “Medicare for All” system, which would have
cost $13.8 trillion over its first decade of operation? Bernie
would have paid for his plan by increasing the top US income-tax
rate to an astounding 52 percent, raising everyone else’s
income taxes by 2.2 percentage points, and raising payroll taxes by
6.2 points.

Of course, it is no surprise that Medicare for All would be so
expensive, since our current Medicare program is running $58
trillion in the red going forward. It turns out that
“free” health care isn’t really free at all.

How, though, could a single-payer system possibly cost so much?
Aren’t we constantly told that other countries spend far less
than we do on health care?

It is true that the US spends nearly a third more on health care
than the second-highest-spending developed country (Sweden), both
in per-capita dollars and as a percentage of GDP. But that
reduction in spending can come with a price of its own: The most
effective way to hold down health care costs is to limit the
availability of care. Some other developed countries ration care
directly. Some spend less on facilities, technology or physician
incomes, leading to long waits for care.

Such trade-offs are not inherently bad, and not all health care
is of equal value, though that would seem to be a determination
most appropriately made by patients rather than the government. But
the fact remains that no health care system anywhere in the world
provides everyone with unlimited care.

Moreover, foreign health care systems rely heavily on the US
system to drive medical innovation and technology. There’s a
reason why more than half of all new drugs are patented in the
United States, and why 80 percent of non-pharmaceutical medical
breakthroughs, from transplants to MRIs, were introduced first
here. If the US were to reduce its investment in such innovation in
order to bring costs into line with international norms, would
other countries pick up the slack, or would the next revolutionary
cancer drug simply never be developed? In the end, there is still
no free lunch.

American single-payer advocates simply ignore these trade-offs.
They know that their fellow citizens instinctively resist rationing
imposed from outside, so they promise “unlimited” care
for all, which is about as realistic as promising personal unicorns
for all.

In the process, they also ignore the fact that many of the
systems they admire are neither single-payer nor free to patients.
Above and beyond the exorbitant taxes that must almost always be
levied to fund their single-payer schemes, many of these countries
impose other costs on patients. There are frequently co-payments,
deductibles and other cost-sharing requirements. In fact, in
countries such as Australia, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and
Switzerland, consumers cover a greater portion of health care
spending out-of-pocket than do Americans. But American single-payer
proposals eliminate most or all such cost-sharing.

Adopting a single-payer system would crush the American economy,
lowering wages, destroying jobs and throwing millions into poverty.
The Tax Foundation, for instance, estimated that Sanders’
plan would have reduced the US GDP by 9.5 percent and after-tax
income for all Americans by an average of 12.8 percent in the long
run. That is, simply put, not going to happen. So Americans are
likely to end up with a lot less health care than they have been
promised.

Santa Claus will always be more popular than the Grinch. But the
health care debate needs a bit more Grinch and a lot less Santa
Claus. Americans cannot have unlimited care, from the doctor of
their choice, with no wait, for free. The politician who tells them
as much will not be popular. But he or she may save them from
something that will much more likely resemble a nightmare than a
utopian dream.

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

Health Care Bill Would Rescue ObamaCare and Take Democrats off the Hook

Michael F. Cannon

Senate Republicans have released their supposed ObamaCare-repeal
bill, the “Better Care Reconciliation Act.” Like its counterpart,
the House-passed “American Health Care Act,” the Senate bill would
not repeal ObamaCare. Indeed, it’s not even fair to call it a
partial repeal or “ObamaCare-lite.”

The Senate bill fails to repeal ObamaCare’s major provisions.
Its purported repeal and reform provisions, particularly those tied
to Medicaid, are phony. Indeed, the bill would actually expand
ObamaCare in significant respects.

Let’s start with what it will do to the cost, quality and
stability of private health insurance.

ObamaCare’s “community rating” price controls are causing
premiums to rise, coverage to get worse for the sick and insurance
markets to collapse across the country. The Senate bill would
modify those government price controls somewhat, allowing insurers
to charge 64-year-olds five times what they charge 18-year-olds (as
opposed to three times, under current law).

But these price controls would continue to make a mess of
markets and cause insurers to flee. The bill would also preserve
other ObamaCare mandates and regulations that contribute to higher
premiums.

On top of that, the Senate bill wouldn’t even repeal the parts
of ObamaCare Republicans claim it would. On paper, it would repeal
ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid — but not until 2024.

There will be three federal election cycles, three new
Congresses and potentially a brand new president between now and
then. It is almost certain Democrats will control at least one of
those Congresses, and could then rescind this “repeal” as if it
never happened.

The Senate bill fails to
repeal ObamaCare’s major provisions. Its purported repeal and
reform provisions, particularly those tied to Medicaid, are
phony

The rest of the bill’s supposed Medicaid cuts are no less phony.
The bill wouldn’t cut traditional Medicaid by one penny. It would
reduce the rate of growth in traditional Medicaid spending, but
Medicaid spending would still grow, year after year, forever. Yet
even those changes are phony. They would not take effect until
2025, giving four future Congresses the opportunity to rescind
them.

Republicans have been promising full ObamaCare repeal for seven
years. That means repealing all of ObamaCare’s regulations,
mandates, bailouts and subsidies, including the entire Medicaid
expansion. Instead, the Senate bill actually expands ObamaCare in
at least two ways.

First, it expands eligibility for ObamaCare’s so-called
“premium-assistance tax credits” to 2.6 million people in the 19
states that didn’t expand Medicaid, which is effectively a Medicaid
expansion by other means.

Second, the bill would fund ObamaCare’s “cost-sharing” subsidies
— something not even Democrats ever did. The Democratic
Congress that enacted ObamaCare authorized but did not fund those
subsidies — which, a federal judge ruled, makes the Obama and
Trump administrations’ payment of those subsidies to insurers
unconstitutional.

Rather than let those unconstitutional subsidies die, the
Republican bill would expand ObamaCare beyond what a Democratic
Congress created.

Finally, rather than let Democrats outdo them when it comes to
budget gimmicks, Senate Republicans ordered the nonpartisan
Congressional Budget Office to “score” their bill against spending
and revenue projections that overestimate the number of exchange
enrollees and exchange spending. Comparing their bill to inflated
spending estimates allows Republicans to spend more ObamaCare money
than honest budgeting would.

We may never know for sure, but Senate Republicans could be
hiding that their bill would increase federal deficits and/or even
increase actual spending on exchange subsidies.

Nevertheless, Senate Republicans will claim that their bill
repeals ObamaCare and replaces it with free-market reforms. Perhaps
the worst part is that ObamaCare supporters would be able to blame
the ongoing harm their law causes on free markets rather than the
actual culprit.

Michael F. Cannon is director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute.

Laurence Tribe’s Impeachment Hysteria

Gene Healy

In a way, you can’t blame conservatives for thinking the fix is
in on impeachment. A broad swathe of the liberal intelligentsia has
been hell-bent on removing Donald Trump from office since before
Day One of his presidency. The worst among them seem to have taken
a cue from Marlon Brando in The Wild One: What are the
charges? “Whaddya got?”

Former labor secretary Robert Reich says we should impeach Trump
for “abridging the freedom of the press” by …
calling the media names and “choosing who he invites to news
conferences.” In his rushed-to-publication tome, The Case for Impeachment,
American University’s Allan J. Lichtman argues that Trump can be
removed for the “crime against humanity” of global-warming
skepticism.

Are these really the sorts of offenses that qualify as “high
Crimes and Misdemeanors”? To divine the meaning of that phrase, it
would help to have the guidance of a preeminent constitutional
scholar — someone such as Harvard’s
Laurence Tribe, whose treatise American
Constitutional Law
has been “cited more than any other legal text since
1950.”

Unfortunately, Trump’s election seems to have rattled Tribe hard
enough to knock loose both his constitutional standards and his
sense of proportion. The dean of con-law professors has spent the
administration’s opening months frantically hurling charges at
Trump, and managing mainly to impeach his own reputation in the
process.

The Harvard Law
professor’s arguments for removing President Trump from office have
grown increasingly unhinged.

Impeachment “Should Begin On Inauguration Day,” Tribe declared in December; by January 28, he had
concluded that Trump “must be impeached for
abusing his power and shredding the Constitution more monstrously
than any other president in American history” — pretty
impressive for a man entering the second week of his
presidency.

In the first months of
Trump’s tenure, Tribe floated everything from violations of the Emoluments Clause to the “cruel brand of bigotry”
that supposedly motivates the travel ban to a State Department blogpost touting the
“winter White House” at Mar-a-Lago, even suggesting that the president
could be defenestrated on the basis of a single tweet: his March 4
claim that Obama had his wires tapped” in Trump Tower. When law
professor Johnathan Turley laughed off the idea on Morning
Joe
, back in March, Tribe had a mini-conniption on Twitter: “Using power of WH to
falsely accuse [Obama of an] impeachable felony does qualify as an
impeachable offense whether via tweet or not,” he huffed.

What’s funny about all this is, when it was Bill Clinton’s
political life on the line, Tribe nearly threw his back out trying
to raise the constitutional bar for removal. In his November 1998
testimony before the House Judiciary Committee,
Tribe insisted that “an impeachable offense must itself severely
threaten the system of government or constitute a grievous abuse of
official power or both.” Perjury and obstruction to cover up an
illicit affair weren’t nearly grave enough.

Hell, back then even murder was a close call in Tribe’s
eyes, if the president did the deed himself, for personal reasons.
In his testimony, Tribe emphasized the fact that “when Vice
President Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in July
1804 … Burr served out his term, which ended in early 1805,”
without getting impeached. “There may well be room to argue,” Tribe
grudgingly conceded, that a contemporary president could be
impeached for an extracurricular homicide — but that
exception “must not be permitted to swallow [the] rule.” Whack a
guy in Weehawken and we might have to let you get
away with it; lie about him on Twitter, though, and you’ve got to
go.

Charges of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” are often jus a debater’s dodge, used to change the subject
from the president’s behavior to his critics’ alleged hang-ups.
Spend any time following Laurence Tribe on social media, though,
and you’ll begin to think of it as an actual, clinical
condition.

It turns out that Donald J. Trump isn’t the only septuagenarian
who’s too excitable to be trusted with a Twitter account. Tribe’s
feed has become a “vector of misinformation and conspiracy theories on
Twitter
,” as Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan puts
it. The distinguished professor of constitutional law has become a
sucker for crackpot theories about the Trump-Russia
connection, and a fan of those who spread them, such as “the incomparable Louise Mensch.” “Incomparable”
is right. Mensch, the “paranoid bard of the age of Trump,” claims,
among other things, that Vladimir Putin had Andrew Breitbart assassinated, and that
the Marshal of the Supreme Court” has notified
President Trump of secret impeachment proceedings that are already
underway. (I like to think that the mysterious “Marshal” sports a
Stetson and swaggers around like Raylan Givens.)

More conventional grounds for impeachment emerged in May, when
the president sacked FBI director James Comey over “this Russia thing.” As that story was breaking,
Tribe took to the Washington Post op-ed page to insist that “Trump must be impeached” for
obstruction of justice. Trump’s actions, Tribe argued, read like a
replay of the charges against Richard Nixon: “making misleading
statements to, or withholding material evidence from, federal
investigators or other federal employees … [and] dangling carrots
in front of people who might otherwise pose trouble for one’s hold
on power.” “To say that this does not in itself rise to the level
of ‘obstruction of justice,’” Tribe thundered, “is to empty that
concept of all meaning.”

Not quite: Reasonable legal minds differ about whether Trump’s
behavior rises to that level. Besides, those charges
also read like a replay of the rap against Clinton. And as Tribe
stressed during that imbroglio, whether obstruction is
impeachable depends in part on how serious a thing the president
was trying to cover up. It’s entirely possible that further investigation
won’t yield evidence of collusion, and the entire episode will end
up looking less scandalous than Clinton’s romp with Monica
Lewinsky. By Tribe’s own indulgent standard, then, without “the
threat of substantial harm to the nation required to establish a
high crime or misdemeanor,” Trump should get a pass.

As it happens, the scope of the impeachment power is
considerably broader
than partisans such as Tribe led people to
believe back when they were trying to save Clinton’s hide. But
that’s the problem with tailoring your constitutional
interpretations to the political needs of the moment: As Tribe put
it in 1998, it’s “short-sighted … to approach the task of
defining ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ from a narrowly
result-oriented perspective,” because you “may live to regret” the
standard you’ve set when the presidency changes hands.

Gene Healy is a
vice-president of the Cato Institute and the author of The Cult of the Presidency.

Trump Would Further Damage U.S. Manufacturing if He Restricts Steel Imports

Daniel R. Pearson

President Trump has asked the Department of Commerce to conduct a seldom-used Section 232 investigation to determine whether steel imports are harming U.S. national security. And although statute allows the study to be conducted over 270 days, Secretary Wilbur Ross’s stated intention is to complete the report by the end of June. The president then would have 90 days in which to decide whether and how to “adjust the imports.”

How would those adjustments look? In a recent hearing on the investigation, Secretary Ross made clear that highly protectionist measures are under consideration. What Ross didn’t address is whether additional steel import restrictions would harm the U.S. economy.

Unfortunately, they certainly would. Our country may be only weeks away from presidential action that would further damage the competitiveness of the broad manufacturing sector.

Five points are particularly relevant:

First, it’s not clear there is any legitimate national security justification for invoking Section 232. There is no doubt that much U.S. military equipment requires steel. The key question is how best to obtain specific types of steel needed for various national-security applications.

Most steel used by the military comes from domestic suppliers, such as United States Steel Corp., AK Steel Holding Corp. and Nucor Corp. or from countries with which the United States has amicable relations. Keeping the U.S. market open to steel imports would assure that the military will have access to both foreign and domestic steel products needed to maintain national security. If the Pentagon wishes to ensure domestic sources for some products, it could establish long-term contracts with U.S. mills — no import controls are required.

Second, potential Section 232 restrictions must be viewed in the context of the existing U.S. steel marketplace. Roughly 200 antidumping or countervailing duty measures already are in place on steel products, making steel one of the country’s most protected sectors. As a result, U.S. prices for many steel products are significantly higher than world prices, greatly disadvantaging American manufacturers that require steel as an input.

[pullquote]Using national security as justification isn’t credible, and retaliation would hit export-competitive industries.[/pullquote]

Third, any additional import restrictions would do far more harm to steel-using manufacturers than any benefit that could accrue to steel mills. That is simply due to the raw numbers. Steel mills employ just 140,000 workers. Manufacturers that use steel as an input employ 6.5 million, 46 times more. Steel mills account for a rather narrow slice of the overall U.S. economy: $36 billion in 2015, equaling only 0.2% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). By contrast, the economic value added by firms that use steel as an input was $1.04 trillion – 29 times more – or 5.8% of GDP.

Any government action to drive steel prices even higher by further restricting imports will hurt steel-consuming manufacturers. Their costs will rise, thus reducing their competitiveness relative to companies in other countries. Carrier, the company that in December said it wouldn’t shift 800 jobs from Indianapolis to Mexico after all, is hardly the only firm that could reduce its steel costs by shifting production overseas.

Fourth, other nations likely would retaliate. When a foreign power acts arbitrarily to curtail its imports, negatively affected exporting countries aren’t amused. Since the United States is only a minor exporter of steel, retaliation likely would be focused on innocent, export-competitive sectors. The United States is the world’s largest exporter of military equipment, so those firms may be targeted. The United States also is the world’s largest agricultural exporter; farm and food products would be vulnerable across the board.

Fifth, a country that imposes import restrictions always reduces its own economic welfare. This is true even if other countries don’t retaliate. Economists have understood since the work of David Ricardo that it is unwise to try to be self-sufficient when others are able to provide products at lower costs. Import restrictions lead to inefficient resource use, lowering national economic welfare in the process. In other words, consumers are hurt more than protected industries are helped.

The Section 232 process may be intended to inflict pain on foreign nations by curtailing their exports. We can’t be sure whether U.S. import restrictions will hurt other countries, but we can be certain that restrictions will hurt America. Limiting steel imports creates a genuine threat to economic growth and prosperity. It is very difficult to build a stronger national defense when the economy is getting weaker.

But shouldn’t something be done to help steel mills and their workers as they deal with import competition? The Department of Commerce should think seriously about proposing enhanced economic adjustment assistance. It would be good public policy to encourage this historically protected industry to restructure and adapt to free trade in steel.

Secretary Ross should resist the temptation to use the Section 232 report to recommend more protection for the steel market. Instead, he should advocate that President Trump seek removal of all U.S. import restrictions on steel. This would build a firm foundation for a vibrant and growing manufacturing economy that is essential to America’s national security.

Dan Pearson is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, and served as chairman of the U.S. International Trade Commission during the George W. Bush Administration.

Student Activists Hurt the Workers They Try to Help

Chelsea Follett

During the student activity fair for freshmen, you may have
noticed organizations like United Students Against Sweatshops urging you to
protest so-called sweatshops in poor countries. Maybe you’ve
seen posters around campus calling for boycotts of goods made in
such factories. Perhaps you yourself have engaged in anti-factory
activism alongside your classmates.

Yet experts across the political spectrum—including Nobel
Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
Nicholas Kristof, and Columbia University
professor Jeffrey Sachs—have argued that opposition
to “sweatshops” in poor countries hurts the very
workers that activists seek to help. Student activists would do
well to read Benjamin Powell’s concise and persuasive defense
of such factory work, “Out of Poverty: Sweatshops in the Global
Economy
,” published by Cambridge University Press in
2014. The book focuses solely on the well-being of factory
workers—not what would be best for factory owners or economic
efficiency.

People in developing
nations deserve the chance to industrialize and achieve the same
prosperity the West gained through its own Industrial
Revolution.

Factory workers routinely garner more publicity than the
world’s poorest people, who are overwhelmingly rural and live
lives of destitution precisely because they are largely untouched
by global capitalism. Powell devotes his second chapter to showing
that anti-factory activism receives generous funding from labor
unions in the United States and Europe. These unions pay lip
service to “solidarity” with workers in poor countries
but are primarily focused on keeping manufacturing jobs away from
poor countries. Powell suggests that unions manipulate idealistic
student activists to push for high labor standards that only rich
countries can meet, including “sweat-free” labeling for
clothing made under those standards.

Powell presents two main arguments for why activists should
change their approach: (1) taking away the option of factory work
harms factory workers, and (2) factories can serve as a step in the
process of economic development that ultimately cures poverty.

If someone chooses to work in a factory, she must see that as
her best option. Taking away her best option without offering
anything better makes her worse off. As Powell shows, prematurely
raising of labor standards and wages by governments results in
worse options for factory workers. In the early 1990s, Indonesia
more than doubled the real value of its minimum wage in response to
U.S. threats of trade restrictions—a policy pushed by U.S.
student activists. This led to the closure of many manufacturing
plants, and Indonesian employment fell by at least 12 and as much as 36 percent.
Similarly, when Nike and Adidas limited working hours at Chinese
supplier factories to ease the consciences of U.S. activists,
“many workers quit, complaining that the overtime pay was no
longer enough.” In South Africa, when government officials
tried to shut down rural garment factories for failing to comply
with minimum wage laws in 2010, “desperate clothing workers threatened to assault
officials
and burn their vehicles rather than lose their
jobs.”

As Paul Krugman has eloquently put it, “Bad jobs at bad
wages are better than no jobs at all.” (Or, as in the Chinese
example, jobs at bad wages are better than jobs at even worse
wages.) Yet the campaign against factories in poor countries
routinely ignores the wishes of the workers themselves, limiting
workers’ options.

Factory work is not only a stepping-stone out of extreme poverty
for workers, but can help grow an entire economy and eradicate
extreme poverty altogether. Remember, today’s wealthy
countries once had their own factories with conditions often worse
than those in poor countries today. In the United Kingdom, the
first country to industrialize, “the process of development
involving sweatshops lasted from 130 to 160 years. In the United
States, the process was faster, taking around 100 years.”
Powell notes that legal labor standards and the introduction of a
minimum wage in those countries largely mirrored what factories
were already doing—essentially codifying preexisting norms
instead of prompting a change in industry practices.

The development process has gotten faster. In South Korea,
Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, the process of moving from
industrialization to First World living standards took less than
two generations, as opposed to a century in the United States.
Factories helped workers in those countries escape poverty and
their children achieve postindustrial prosperity. As Powell says,
“Sweatshops themselves are part of the very process of
development that will lead to their own elimination.”

Instead of opposing factories, activists might consider
campaigns to buy goods manufactured in impoverished parts of the
world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, in the name of ending poverty.
“My concern is not that there are too many sweatshops but
that there are too few,” Jeffrey Sachs has stated.
“Those are precisely the jobs that were the steppingstone for
Singapore and Hong Kong, and those are the jobs that have to come
to Africa to get them out of their backbreaking rural
poverty.” Foreign aid has never lifted a single country out
of poverty, and in Africa aid may actually discourage needed reforms by propping up
dictators. “If Africa’s economies are to take off,
Africans will have to start making a lot more things,”
The Economist declared three years ago. “Few
countries … have escaped poverty without putting a lot of workers
through factory gates.” Unfortunately, despite its growing population and need for jobs, Africa
has been deindustrializing. The continent’s poor
business environment and faulty institutions are partially to blame
for reducing Africa’s competitiveness relative to the rest of
the world.

Activists who want to help the poor should refocus their efforts
on ending forced labor (slavery), corruption, and economic
restrictions that stifle growth and perpetuate poverty. Governments
in many poor countries score poorly
in economic freedom
and may violate their citizens’
property rights. Africa, the world’s poorest continent, also
has the worst record on economic freedom and business
environment.

People in developing nations deserve the chance to industrialize
and achieve the same prosperity the West gained through its own
Industrial Revolution. Infringements upon economic freedom hinder
the process of development and prevent people from lifting
themselves out of poverty. That is an injustice worth
protesting.

Chelsea
Follett
is the managing editor of HumanProgress.org, a project
of the Cato Institute.

Does Classical Liberalism Have a Chance in South Africa?

Marian L. Tupy

Last week, the Cato Institute hosted a policy forum with Herman Mashaba, a self-made
millionaire businessman and libertarian, who serves as the
executive mayor of South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg.
Reason interviewed him shortly after Mashaba’s
political party, the Democratic Alliance, unseated the African
National Congress in a number of South African metropolitan areas
during the 2016 local elections. Since then, Mashaba has made some
progress in tackling corruption and failing public service delivery
in Johannesburg, but he has his work cut out for him.

Over the last 23 years, South Africa has been run by a
tripartite alliance consisting of African nationalists (the African
National Congress), communists (the South African Communist Party)
and trade unionists (the Congress of South African Trade Unions).
Since 1994, the government has done some good. Millions of houses,
for example, have been built and either given or sold (at a heavy
discount) to poor Africans. Drinking water and electricity were
delivered to shantytowns and far-flung rural areas.

The bad news,
unfortunately, does not end there.

Being a relatively rich country, South Africa could afford to
finance public works out of the general tax revenue. In normal
countries, people buy houses (including piped water and
electricity) with the money they earn in the market place.
Providing jobs to the populace, alas, is something that governments
in general and South African government in particular are very bad
at doing.

The country is in a recession and the overall unemployment rate
is 36 percent. Close to 50 percent of South Africans between the
ages of 15 and 34 are unemployed. In the last 23 years, incomes per
person rose by about 1 percent per year. In neighboring Botswana,
they rose (cumulatively) by over 80 percent.

Over the same time period, life expectancy in Botswana rose by 7
years. It declined by 5 years in South Africa. Both countries were
hard hit by HIV/AIDS, but whereas the government of Botswana did
everything it could to stop the spread of the disease, the
government of South Africa denied the link between HIV and AIDS and
actively hindered the distribution of anti-retroviral drugs. (It
does not help that South Africa also has eighth highest homicide rate in the world.)

The bad news, unfortunately, does not end there. The World
Economic Forum in Davos has ranked South Africa’s healthcare as
132nd out of 144 countries surveyed. The country’s Corruption
Perception Index ranking fell from 21st in 1994 to 62nd in 2015.
And, according to The Economist, South Africa’s
education system is “one of the worst in the world.”

It is, perhaps, unsurprising that the ANC-led government is
increasingly unpopular, with much of its remaining support coming
from rural areas, where the least educated and most traditional
people live. The question on everyone’s mind, therefore, is: What
will the ANC do before the next general election in 2019? Will it
observe South Africa’s democratic Constitution, freedom of the
press, and the independence of the courts and of the Electoral
Commission?

If so, it will almost certainly be defeated and have to retreat
into opposition. A break-up of the tripartite alliance, which is
held together by political patronage, would be certain to follow.
Or, will the ANC-led tripartite alliance opt for the “Zimbabwe option” and attempt to steal the 2019
election? Either way, expect to hear more from Herman Mashaba, and
his principled stance for freedom and classical liberalism in South
Africa.

Marian L. Tupy
is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global
Liberty and Prosperity and editor of www.humanprogress.org.

Trump’s Massive Afghanistan Mistake

A. Trevor Thrall and Erik Goepner

After President Trump gave Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis the
authority
to set troop levels in Afghanistan, the Pentagon
announced it will send an additional 4,000 troops to the embattled
nation. Mattis, who has acknowledged that the United States is
“not winning in Afghanistan right now,” is believed to
favor a more aggressive strategy that would require thousands more
troops beyond the 9,800 already deployed.

The goal, Mattis told Congress, is to reduce the threat to the
Afghan government to a non-existential level.

The fact that the United States has made so little progress
toward this goal in the 16 years American troops have been in
Afghanistan is bad enough. The fact that the general strategy under
consideration — surge more American forces — has yet to
achieve any enduring gains since 2001 is even worse.

The honest reason for
America’s enduring military commitment is that no President wants
to be the one who “lost Afghanistan.”

But worst of all is the fact that the Trump administration, led
by a commander in chief who campaigned for President by expressing
consistent skepticism about overseas engagements, hasn’t
offered a single serious argument for the continued U.S. mission in
Afghanistan.

The main argument advocates make for sticking it out in
Afghanistan — preventing terrorism against the U.S. —
no longer holds water. After disrupting Al Qaeda’s operations
and dispersing its members in the wake of 9/11, Afghanistan itself
represented little threat of terrorism.

This is not to say that there are no terrorists there. But
terror groups that pose a threat to America currently operate in
Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia and Pakistan at a much higher rate than in
Afghanistan. If the threat to America drives where U.S. forces are
sent, then surge forces should be sent into those four other
countries first.

Another unpersuasive argument is that the U.S. must keep troops
in Afghanistan to prevent the Taliban from ending the
country’s experiment with democracy. The truth is that even
if the U.S. is willing to make unprecedented efforts, it will have
little control in the long run over political outcomes in
Afghanistan.

Freedom House assessed Afghanistan as “Not Free”
this year, the same rating it gave Afghanistan in 2001 when the
Taliban was in control. For the brief period of 2006 to 2008, the
country was assessed as “Partly Free,” a time that
predates the U.S. surge that began in 2009.

Eventually, the U.S. will leave. The Taliban will not. A
continued U.S. military presence in the near term may give it some
leverage over any potential peace talks between the Afghan
government and the Taliban. But to date, that leverage has bought
little or no progress and has merely extended the ongoing conflict,
which killed 3,500 Afghan civilians in 2016 alone. Meanwhile, the
Taliban control more territory than at any point since 2001.

More to the point, American security does not depend on who runs
Afghanistan. The U.S. learned this lesson in Vietnam, a conflict
both Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster have
studied extensively. Despite monumental efforts, the U.S. could not
prevent South Vietnam from falling to the Communist North. Even
though the loss was a psychological blow, the Communist dominoes
did not continue to fall, and America’s fundamental security
remained strong.

Although no one wants to see the Taliban back in control, the
hard reality is that preventing that future is not worth the costs
the U.S. has already paid, much less the additional costs that will
accrue from another surge.

The honest reason for America’s enduring military
commitment is that no President wants to be the one who “lost
Afghanistan.” Though pundits and partisans criticized both
George W. Bush and Barack Obama for their records in Afghanistan,
each of them maintained just enough of a military and rhetorical
commitment to avoid getting blamed for losing the war.

Trump thus inherits a war and nation-building project that he
had long criticized, but which he must now continue or find an
honorable way to end if he wants to avoid getting tagged with the
loser label. That conundrum may help explain why he recently gave
Mattis the authority to handle the Afghanistan strategy from the
Pentagon. That way, when progress fails to materialize or things go
south, Trump will have someone to blame.

Trevor
Thrall
is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s defense and
foreign policy department and associate professor at George Mason
University’s Schar School of Policy and Government. Goepner is a
retired U.S. Air Force colonel who commanded units in Afghanistan
and Iraq.