Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
“Our long national nightmare is over,” President Gerald Ford declared at his swearing-in, marking the end of the most dangerous constitutional crisis since the Civil War – Watergate.
After becoming the only U.S. president to ever resign, Richard Nixon revealed in an interview his mistaken belief that “When the president does it, that means it isn’t illegal.”
Thankfully, our constitutional system and watchdog media proved Nixon wrong, having investigated, judged and expelled the rogue president for abuses of power and obstruction of justice. Even Nixon’s fellow Republicans didn’t Think Again before putting country and the rule of law before party.
“Our Constitution works,” Ford reassured. “Our great Republic is a government of laws and not men. Here, the people rule.” Unfortunately, absent this consensus, 2016’s menacing clouds forecast another nightmare.
Today’s revolt against Washington signals voters’ belief that the people no longer rule. Worse, many citizens feel betrayed and villianized by a “ruling class” (elected and bureaucratic officials and their corporate and media cronies) that’s presided over the greatest scandal – an explosion of government, an avalanche of debt and the imperiling of our children’s future.
As government has grown, so have its anti-competitive powers, forcing those who “work hard and play by the rules” to subsidize elites who don’t. Incentivized to invest in political influence, not innovation, Big Business reaps trillions in spending, tax and regulatory favors, resulting in a heavily indebted citizenry and a warped and stagnant economy.
Consider these corporate welfare policies, sold to the public as economic saviors: bailouts, farm and energy subsidies, cash-for-clunkers, Export-Import Bank loan guarantees, Dodd-Frank’s “Wall Street reform,” and Obamacare.
Not surprisingly, five of the nation’s seven wealthiest counties surround Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, with the economy growing at half its 100-year historic average and small business failures exceeding starts, working Americans suffer stagnant wages, job uncertainty, rising health-care costs and reduced living standards.
Yet neither party’s front-runner is proposing to dismantle the cronyist system that’s the source of this despair. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have harvested fortunes from it – she from selling influence, and he from investing in lucrative political favors.
Most worrying, majorities of Americans hold “stubbornly low opinions of the leading figures in the Democratic and Republican Parties,” reported Michael Barbaro in the New York Times.
The first words voters associate with Clinton are “dishonest” and “liar,” while a large plurality of Republicans would consider a third party if Trump is the nominee. Hence, campaign aids predict, “a Clinton-Trump contest would be an ugly and unrelenting slugfest,” Barbaro wrote.
If that isn’t nightmarish, consider the fallout if FBI Chief James Comey recommends Clinton be prosecuted for Espionage Act violations related to her private email server, which he’s reportedly close to doing.
Of Clinton’s Nixon-like lapses, Watergate sleuth Bob Woodward said recently, “It shows that she…feels immune, that she lives in a bubble and no one’s ever going to find this out.”
Is Ford still right, that we’re a nation of laws, not men? If not, is another constitutional crisis looming?
That the presidential frontrunners are famously flawed confirms the advantage of brand ID, and the adage, “any publicity is good publicity.” Do supporters of campaign finance limitations realize they’re helping transform our political system into a reality show in which self-funding honchos and celebrities are the survivors?
Though Trump has “one of the smallest campaign budgets,” the New York Times reported he’s “earned close to $2 billion worth of media attention, about twice the all-in price of the most expensive presidential campaigns in history.” Wall-to-wall Trump coverage “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” confessed CEO Les Moonves.
Despite Trump’s free media bonanza and “believe me” appeals, he’s yet to persuade Republican majorities who share his supporters’ political, cultural and economic anxieties, but not their confidence in Trump.
“Not-Trump” voters – the one’s he’ll ultimately need to win the nomination and unite the party – find Trump incoherent and inconsistent, worry that his “cures” will intensify the disease, and reject his campaign-by-insult tactics.
Yet just as the field winnowed to finally allow substantive discussion between candidates, Trump refuses to debate, suggesting he’s entitled to the nomination, even if he doesn’t attain the delegate majority threshold met by all Republican nominees since 1856.
Consider that, except for this nomination rule, there’d be no President Abraham Lincoln. He won the Republican nomination on the third ballot, despite entering the 1860 convention behind front-runner William Seward.
Foreshadowing a nightmare from a similarly contested convention that enforces the rules, Trump warned, “’cause we’re way ahead of everybody, I don’t think you can say we don’t get it automatically. I think you’d have riots.”
Think Again – to avoid political nightmares and riots, shouldn’t we insist on remaining a nation of laws not men by upholding the principles that brought Nixon to justice and Lincoln to the presidency?
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
In this topsy-turvy election year, wonders never cease, as Americans Think Again about how to throw the bums out, even unelected bureaucrats.
The willingness to break with long-standing political norms isn’t surprising, considering voter anger, pessimism and spiking anxieties. Recent surveys of Americans show overwhelming majorities believe the country is on the wrong track, the American Dream is unachievable, and our powerful, unaccountable government is America’s biggest threat.
Consequently, political dynasties have been rendered passé, as mega-donor darlings Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton discovered en route to their coronations. Not even their powerful Super PACs (funded by unlimited individual, corporate and union support) can assure their victories.
The standard trump cards aren’t working either, including the gender card, played recently by former Secretary of State and Hillary-backer Madeleine Albright who admonished, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
For Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson, the normally formidable race card trumps nothing. But a blustering and incoherent Donald Trump trumps everything, thanks to the limitless free airtime the ratings-hungry media grant him. ”I’m winning by a lot,” the self-funder boasts, but “I spent almost nothing.”
Meanwhile, the media leaves unexamined Trump’s assertion that his wealth is a scorecard of his abilities. Some analysts calculate the present value of Trump’s inheritance would approximate his current net worth, if he’d simply invested it in the S&P 500.
Undermining Trump’s inevitability, the self-described winner’s first electoral outing was a loss to Cruz and near-upset by Rubio, as 76 percent of Iowa caucus-goers voted not-Trump. His New Hampshire victory was impressive, capturing all demographic groups, but two-thirds still voted not-Trump.
As under-performing contenders like Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina exit the crowded field, the eventual consolidation – and Trump’s record-breaking unfavorability in the general population – bode poorly for his candidacy.
Nevertheless, the ratings-magnet is well positioned to parlay popularity into a Trump network, like the media platform that made Michael Bloomberg – who’s contemplating his own self-funded presidential campaign – one of the world’s richest.
Another surprising result was Cruz’s defeat of King Corn in Iowa. The anti-Washington agitator won record numbers of votes in a historic GOP turnout while arguing that farmers are hurt by government ethanol mandates – not helped, as powerful agribusiness lobbyists allege.
Most extraordinary is Bernie Sander’s durability. Polls show the septuagenarian-socialist tied with Clinton nationally, after narrowly losing Iowa but routing her in New Hampshire where 93 percent of Democrats prioritizing honesty preferred Sanders.
Are voters drawn to Sanders’ socialism, or is he the beneficiary of a “no more Clintons” mindset, especially after reports the Clintons “earned” $153 million in speaking fees since leaving the White House?
It’s probably both, since Sanders’ support skews young. Thirsty for trustworthy leadership, “Sandernistas” have witnessed government bailouts and rampant cronyism, while suffering through the feeblest economic recovery since the Great Depression.
According to Pew Research, this generation is “the first in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty, and unemployment and lower levels of wealth and personal income.”
No wonder they find political revolution tempting. But they should study the American Revolution before accepting Sanders’ plan to concentrate ever-growing government power in the name of “social justice.”
As founder James Madison explained, “The essence of government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” Concerned that a government would eventually encroach on rights and liberties, Thomas Jefferson forecast “debt, corruption and rottenness,” absent constitutional guardrails.
That’s why, after overthrowing King George’s arbitrary and unfair rule, America’s founders established a government with limited powers to protect the equal rights of the people, believing the boundless potential of individuals operating in a free society would “make America great” – and they were right.
Yet as government has grown, so have its anti-competitive powers, corrupting our founders’ liberty-preserving system with cronyism that rewards political connections over competitive excellence.
Using massive powers to legislate, tax, spend and regulate, policymakers have rigged the economy and undermined the principles on which freedom, fairness and opportunity rely – equality under the law, property rights and sound money.
Given America’s heritage and Big Government’s dismal track record, it’s stunning that Sanders and Trump -- both advocates of using unprecedented government power to centrally plan and control economic life – could win New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” state. Have its freedom-loving voters forgotten the national purpose their state helped found – the democratic self-rule of a free people?
Hopefully, America is in revolt and casting about for outsiders not because they want more government, but because of the failures of our hyper-politicized, unaccountable government: contaminated water, terrorist attacks, dying vets, IRS harassment, illegal immigration, health care chaos, and murdered U.S. diplomats and border guards.
Think Again – in this anti-conventional wisdom year, may our founders’ wisdom about the dangers of Big Government ultimately prevail.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
“All the great inspiring leaders and organizations…think, act and communicate the exact same way… opposite to everyone else,” Simon Sinek revealed in his famous TED talk. They “start with why they do what they do.”
Consider how these transformational Whys moved masses to Think Again: “All men are created equal,” declared America’s founders; “I have a dream” – not a five-point plan – proclaimed Martin Luther King; “Think different” and “Just do it” urged Apple and Nike en route to brand domination.
In 2008, Barack Obama’s “Hope and Change” mantra quenched a thirst to challenge the status quo, helping him become the political equivalent of an iPad whose novelty rendered Hillary Clinton a vintage desktop.
As Obama predicted in his autobiography “Audacity of Hope,” he became a human Rorschach test, serving ”as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views."
Chanting “yes we can” while staring at Obama’s inkblot, supporters agreed with him that his nomination was “the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless… when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal… when we ended a war, secured our nation and restored our image.”
Obama’s inkblot sent a “thrill up my leg” for MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and convinced conservative David Brooks he’d be “a great president.” Newsweek compared the new president to Abraham Lincoln, and 65 percent of voters believed they’d be better off in four years.
Reflecting on the media’s role in creating the Obama phenomenon, CBS’s Bob Schieffer recently acknowledged, “Maybe we were not skeptical enough.”
The same is true of the soaring candidacies of anti-Washington insurgents Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. In their inkblots, supporters see trustworthy leaders whose Whys resonate. To voters hurt by our cronyist political system, and revolted by self-dealing politicians and their special interests, Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and Sanders’ “A Political Revolution Is Coming” are the “Hope and Change” of 2016.
Hard-working Americans play by the rules and resent politicians who don’t. They’ve watched Wall Street and Washington boom while enduring stagnant wages, job insecurity, rising health-care costs and reduced living standards.
Now, with the economy growing at half its 100-year historic average, small businesses failures exceeding starts, U.S. debt approaching Greek proportions, and national security threats looming, many fear we’re bequeathing our children a less secure and prosperous America.
But on what rational basis do Trump and Sanders merit such unbridled loyalty? Even Trump is amazed, joking recently, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn't lose any voters.”
History shows that when politicians are elevated before winning in the marketplace of ideas, they stop answering questions and being held accountable, and then everybody gets trumped.
Case in point: Trump. The reality-TV star now refuses to appear at the last pre-primary debate, drawing plaudits from minions who celebrate his bullying and bombast. Meanwhile, inquiring minds want him to persuade his way to victory.
How would the self-described insider-dealer dismantle the cronyist system that rewards political connections over competitive excellence? If he’s free of special interests, why not end corporate welfare, such as ethanol subsidies favored in Iowa?
How does Trump reconcile his penchant for unilateral action with the constitution’s separation of powers, never mind America’s founding purpose – democratic self-governance of a free people?
How can Trump defend religious liberty while proposing a blanket ban on Muslims entering the US? How does he justify “eminent domain” whereby government can seize an individual’s property, even for private use, such as a casino parking lot?
Sanders is similarly vague. At CNN’s town hall, he described democratic socialism as “an economy that works for all,” a benign vision -- especially for younger voters -- considering its devastating track record. Socialism is a discredited idea because, Time’s Joe Klein wrote, “it dampens incentives, which dampens creativity, which leads to poverty.”
That’s why the Scandinavian social-democracies Sanders touts reformed their economies, reducing taxes and regulations. Doesn’t Sanders worry that his ideas will disincentive the very entrepreneurialism that transformed America from an agrarian backwater into history’s greatest economic wonder?
Sanders argues “the 1%” will pay for trillions in new government spending, though they rarely do. Instead, they pay lobbyists and lawyers to avoid taxes, and often stop working or move overseas. These are luxuries unavailable to the middle class and debt-saddled future generations who invariably pay when government grows.
America’s founders understood what Sanders doesn’t. Poverty is humanity’s natural state, and free enterprise is the best system for moving people toward productive and prosperous lives. What government-planner can design “an economy that works for all” that's better than the free market, where endless autonomous decisions are made efficiently, creatively and cooperatively?
Think Again – Sanders is right. A few rich people shouldn’t run America. Hopefully, voters willing to look beyond 2016’s inkblots will insist that a handful of politicians shouldn’t run the country either.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
If only Pope Francis were in my Buenos Aires taxi last Christmas.
I could have used his moral authority (and Argentine-accented Spanish) in negotiating with a driver who’d forgotten the “Golden Rule.” And in witnessing my struggle, the self-described “very allergic to economics” pontiff might have gleaned a moral lesson, helping him Think Again about the free enterprise system he’s criticized.
Perhaps he’d grasp why the life-enhancing innovations that America continuously exports – cars, vaccinations, refrigerators, iPhones, 3-D printers, and the cheap and reliable taxi-alternative Uber, for which I longed – don’t happen in Argentina.
Nor do they spring from other Latin American countries, like Venezuela where a protest sign encapsulated people’s contempt for the social-justice espousing frauds who run many Latin nations: “These Castro-Chavistas speak like Marx, govern like Stalin, and live like Rockefeller, while the people suffer.”
Would His Holiness recognize how Argentina’s corporatism – the unholy alliance between government and conglomerates – corrodes social trust, rendering his countrymen voiceless and crucifying their wellbeing and dignity?
After successive governments eroded the rule of law, property rights, and sound money, replacing free enterprise with central planning and a debt-financed welfare state, Argentina slid toward the bottom of the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World Index.
Once the world’s breadbasket and fourth-richest nation per-capita – hence the saying “rich as an Argentine” – the Pope’s native land is now a basket case with economic wellbeing (GDP per-capita) only one-third America’s.
If the Holy Father had heard our cabdriver despair over widespread deprivation, corruption and distrust of everyone except the pontiff, might he agree with fellow rock-star Bono about how to lift up the masses? “In dealing with poverty,” Bono stresses, “welfare and foreign aid are a Band-Aid. Free enterprise is a cure.”
The patient is mending, the World Bank reported: For the first time in history, extreme poverty afflicts less than 10 percent of world population. Meanwhile, people in economically freer countries enjoy higher living standards, cleaner environments, longer lives, and better-protected civil rights. They also have less corruption, child labor and unemployment.
In his new book, “The Conservative Heart,” American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks calls the free enterprise system “America’s gift to the world,” enabling more people to pursue their happiness through earned success derived from work.
“It was the free enterprise system that not only attracted millions of the world’s poor to our shores and gave them lives of dignity, but also empowered billions more worldwide to pull themselves out of poverty,” Brooks asserts.
At home, however, America’s asymmetric recovery “has cleaved the country into winners and losers like never before,” he writes. Consequently, Americans fear our free society’s trademarks – opportunity and social mobility – are disappearing, imperiling our children’s security and prosperity.
We may be better off than Argentines, but with median income down 6.5 percent since 2007, record numbers out of the workforce, poverty and government dependency rates at all-time highs, and deaths of small businesses (job creation’s primary engine) exceeding starts for the first time on record, it feels like we’re slouching toward Argentina.
While Wall Street and Silicon Valley have boomed, the richest and most generous nation on earth contains pockets of destitution and immiseration – like Baltimore – where millions are deprived of the dignity and fulfillment of work.
Brooks’ snapshot of the last seven years is “deja-vu all over again,” Argentine-style: “People see corporate cronies getting rich because of their cozy relationship with the government. They see bailouts for huge banks but small businesses going bust. They see government loan guarantees for big companies with friends in high places, but hear ‘No loans for you’ from their local bank.”
Ranked among the world’s most economically free nations for decades, America has fallen to 16 in Fraser’s Index, due to these unfair government policies. Consequently, US annual growth is projected to be half its 3 percent historic average.
That His Holiness is unaware of the relationship between economic freedom and human flourishing is a sin, though not original. After all, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders sins similarly, arguing for greater government control of our lives, even at the expense of economic growth.
“You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants,” Sanders declared, “when children are hungry in this country” – as if narrowing deodorant choice could decrease hunger.
The truth is, poverty is humanity’s natural state, and free enterprise is the most merciful economic system yet designed for moving people toward productive and dignified lives. No central planner exists who’s capable of improving on the endless autonomous decisions made efficiently, creatively and cooperatively in the free market, as if divinely guided.
Think Again – as long as we enjoy the blessings of economic freedom, we have the choice not to attend the Pope Francis & Bernie Sanders School of Economics where the tuition is free, but extraordinarily costly, as my Argentine cabbie would confirm.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Amid unending political horserace punditry – who’s up, who’s down in the wake of Supreme Court rulings, Congress’ Trade Promotion votes, Iranian nuclear negotiations, and the racist Charleston massacre – let’s Think Again about the most important concern: are the American people winning or losing?
Are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – the national promise Americans celebrate on July 4th – secure in this year of the Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary? That watershed moment in the annals of human liberty curbed a tyrannical monarch, like the American founding it helped inspire.
Initially an agrarian backwater in a socially stratified world, America unleashed boundless creativity and industriousness by asserting human equality, becoming history’s greatest economic wonder. While Great Britain’s well-being (real GDP per capita) increased 14-fold between 1800 and 2007, America’s grew 32-fold.
Today, as Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Washington aristocracies prosper, Americans are suffering crisis levels of job insecurity, economic stagnation and poverty. Will immigrants who’ve left societies where one’s start pre-determined one’s end discover that social mobility isn’t much better here?
With the Congressional Budget Office projecting Greek-proportions of U.S. debt within 25 years, and a nuclearized Iranian terrorist state looming, are we bequeathing our children lower living standards and a weaker and vulnerable America?
The author of our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, captured the dilemma: “The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history. Whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.”
Echoing Jefferson in his recent Time commentary, former presidential candidate and Colorado senator Gary Hart lamented the erosion of America’s founding purpose – the democratic self-governance of a free people.
“Our European ancestors came to these shores to escape social and political systems that were corrosive and corrupt. Two and a quarter centuries later, we are returning to those European practices,” Hart argued, concluding, “We are in danger of becoming a different kind of nation, one our founders would not recognize and would deplore.”
Considering the unaccountability of Washington’s increasingly powerful and unelected ruling elite – from nine Supreme Court justices with lifetime appointments to the colossal administrative state – is government’s power still citizen-driven?
Are Americans as free to control how we live, what we believe, and where we dedicate our labor and its fruits, or must we slavishly defer to elites wielding uninhibited power?
Given calls to abolish the tax-exempt status of religious institutions whose definition of marriage now diverges from the Supreme Court’s, will individual dissidents be similarly hounded, jeopardizing their careers and reputations?
If a female photographer can discriminate, choosing not to photo-shoot a bachelor party featuring a female stripper, can a Christian photographer decline to shoot a same-sex wedding?
Saved twice by the Supreme Court’s judicial rewriting, will Obamacare deliver the affordable, patient-centered health care its supporters promised, or will skyrocketing costs and narrowing provider networks impede access, disproportionally hurting sick Americans?
Though an Obamacare and same-sex marriage supporter, Georgetown University law professor Jonathan Turley argued “there are valid concerns when the Court steps into an issue with such great political, social and religious divisions.”
Moreover, in ignoring its constitutional duty to implement laws – writing them instead – the Court circumvents the political process our constitution’s separation of powers was designed to facilitate, undermining the people’s consent upon which government legitimacy depends.
Unlike the blindfolded Lady Justice on whose objectivity and impartiality our free society relies, the Court jeopardizes its integrity and imperils civil society when it operates more like a political institution than a legal one, concerned less with the rule of law and constitutional adherence than winning agendas.
Thankfully, in South Carolina – the state that moved first to secede from the Union in 1860 because it denied “all men are created equal” – we’re witnessing the ordered liberty our founding ethic was expected to foster.
They’re showing the world how to “combat hate-filled actions with love-filled actions,” as Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of the murdered reverend Daniel Lee Simmons Sr. put it. In Charleston’s diverse melting pot, prejudices are dissolving through exposure to disparate voices and moral suasion, as freedom of expression is respected.
Inspired by the magnanimity of grieving Emanuel AME Church families, Gov. Nikki Haley proclaimed “a moment of unity in our state, without ill will.” Declaring no winner or loser in respecting those who wish to display the confederate battle flag on private property, Haley announced, “it’s time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds.”
The people of South Carolina are winning as they prove a righteous and thoughtful citizenry dedicated to society’s safety and happiness, can indeed self-govern.
Think Again – as Americans look beyond fireworks this July 4th, may we see more than political horseraces, perceiving our nation’s enduring notion that free and virtuous citizens – not ruling elites – are our fate’s best masters.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
“If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” is perhaps the most famous closing argument in American criminal justice history. Decisive in rendering a not-guilty verdict for OJ Simpson, it also summarizes our free society’s reliance on “due process” and “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
So that no innocent defendant is wrongly convicted, a guilty defendant may occasionally go free – like Simpson, who was later found liable by a civil jury applying a lower standard of proof.
Reflecting on the criminal trial’s not-guilty verdict, several jurors conceded that though they thought Simpson was guilty, the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, hampered by suspicions that police tampered with evidence. To African-Americans, the Simpson verdict leveled the justice system’s playing field; to others, it was a miscarriage of justice.
Two decades later, despite pervasive African-American political power throughout society and into the White House, race relations are tense and perceptions of justice diverge. Fueled by the tragic deaths of young black males after run-ins with law enforcement, protestors proclaim “no justice, no peace” while demanding authorities Think Again about upholding due process.
Like Ferguson, Baltimore raged after last month’s mysterious death of Freddie Gray while in police custody -- not without justification. Baltimore’s corruption and incompetence-plagued police department appears to have denied Gray the presumption of innocence and due process.
Now under the spotlight, a once-vibrant and safe Baltimore has become a synonym for mismanagement, catastrophic institutional failure and societal collapse, like much of big-city America. Neither afforded due process or their just due, many residents languish in cesspools of poverty and despair, despite per-pupil educational expenditures and a social safety net that far exceed national averages.
After decades of ever-increasing taxes and spending -- and a cronyist system that rewards the politically connected while blocking public-sector reforms, though claiming to protect the poor -- Baltimore is a tale of two cities where the privileged few are enriched at the expense of the disenfranchised many.
In America’s fifth-most-deadly city, the unemployment rate exceeds the national average by 50 percent and one-in-four Baltimoreans live in poverty -- a rate 250 percent higher than in 1960, before the $20 trillion “War on Poverty.” Gray’s blighted neighborhood suffers even greater poverty, fatherlessness, school dropouts, unemployment, crime, and dependency.
It’s a miscarriage of justice -- and the civil rights struggle of our time -- that the wealthiest and most generous country on earth contains pockets of destitution and immiseration where millions are deprived of the dignity and fulfillment of work.
Sparked by Gray’s death, legitimate frustration morphed into lawless rage, as looters and arsonists became the threat officials are elected to thwart. Yet, rather than uphold her duty to safeguard the equal rights and property of all citizens, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake asked the police to “give those who wished to destroy, space to do that.”
Unfortunately, when rioters believe they can misbehave without consequence, order is lost and job-creating businesses – many black-owned -- flee. To curb the mayhem last week, Chief Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced the arrest of six police officers, including three for manslaughter and one for second-degree murder. “To the youth of this city,” Mosby proclaimed, “I will seek justice on your behalf.”
Famed civil rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz called the indictments “crowd control,” not justice. “Under our constitution,” he explained, “the only people entitled to justice are the defendants,” not the victim or community. Given the abandonment of procedural justice, Dershowitz predicts acquittals -- and more rioting.
However satisfying, OJ-type verdicts won’t solve urban America’s plight, nor will pouring more money into failed government institutions. But kids can overcome the real source of their angst – opportunity and values deficits – by following a three-step plan: graduate high school; get a full-time job; and wait until 21 to marry and have children.
“Our research shows that of American adults who followed these three simple rules, only about 2 percent are in poverty and nearly 75 percent have joined the middle class,” the Brookings Institution’s Ron Haskins wrote. They’re also less likely to require due process in criminal court, though there’s no guarantee, considering OJ.
To steer fatherless children toward opportunity’s 3-step Holy Grail will take a village of mentors, and a phalanx of moms – not police. Toya Graham became a national hero after retrieving her rampaging son so he wouldn’t “become another Freddie Gray.”
Graham’s plea is every mother’s hope, one that can’t be realized by government power, but rather through a government that empowers. Politicians could begin by not condemning children to failed schools, and by reforming the unfair system that enslaves innocents so guilty gatekeepers of union and other public-sector privileges reign freely.
Think Again – Human history is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that without equality under the law and due process, there can be no liberty and justice for all.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Fleeing East Africa for Italy in a rickety rescue boat, 15 Christian asylum seekers were thrown to their deaths last week by fellow refugees because they weren’t praying to Allah.
We’re shocked by reports of innocents murdered for their beliefs, and orange-jump-suited victims marching to their deaths because, as Americans, we’re safe from such persecution.
Our freedoms evolved in part from an infamous, hysteria-induced episode in 17-century Puritan Massachusetts where anyone suspected of witchcraft was persecuted. The Salem witch trials became a cautionary tale about the dangers of false accusations and contempt for due process, and an allegory for the anti-Communist “witch-hunts” led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s.
While heads don’t literally roll in America, the reputations of those refusing to Think Again often do, the result of character assassinations that corrode our civil society.
Witness the defamatory antics of Sen. Harry Reid while Senate majority leader. Like McCarthy, Reid regularly hurled false accusations at adversaries, including his 2012 election-year claim that Mitt Romney “hasn’t paid taxes for ten years.” Asked recently if he regretted his charge, the man entrusted with leading the world’s greatest deliberative body crowed, “Romney didn’t win, did he?”
Accused of having “no sense of decency,” McCarthy’s recklessness was eventually halted and the Senate later censured him. However, Reid was not censured. Neither was Sen. Edward Kennedy, who notoriously smothered in its crib the 1987 Supreme Court nomination of eminent jurist Robert Bork – called highly qualified by Sen. Joe Biden before he joined Kennedy in reputationally beheading the judge.
Explaining later why Bork needed to be cast as the devil, anti-Bork activist Ann Lewis acknowledged that an open debate “would have deep and thoughtful discussions about the Constitution, and then we would lose.” Hence, Kennedy’s outrageous claim that in Bork’s America, “women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters.”
New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wrote, “the line from Bork to today’s ugly politics is a straight one.” Toxic political discourse is now standard, as dissenters are isolated, scorned and even silenced. To paraphrase George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” these days it’s hard to tell man from pig.
For example, those who believed Police Officer Darren Wilson didn’t kill Ferguson teenager Michael Brown while Brown had his hands up -- a myth discredited by the Justice Department – were labeled racists.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears less esteemed by the Obama administration than Iran’s “Death to America”-spewing Ayatollah -- and is persona non grata at the White House for doubting the emerging Iranian nuclear deal.
To oppose the coerced participation of service providers in same-sex weddings is deemed anti-gay, the label attached to former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich who lost his job last year for believing that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Righteously indignant at the purging of dissidents, gay-marriage advocate Andrew Sullivan said, "If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us."
With dissident scientists in their crosshairs, environmental bullies Rep. Raul Grijalva and Sen. Edward Markey are also threating free speech -- and academic freedom and scientific inquiry. Their witch-hunt has already bagged Professor Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado.
Despite supporting policies to combat climate change, Pielke’s offense was finding no increase in extreme weather due to global warming, a conclusion endorsed by the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change. “The incessant attacks and smears are effective, no doubt,” he said after deciding to abandon climate research.
As a columnist, I’m a target for vilification that attempts to escort contrarians from polite society. I’ve been branded a bigot for applying Abraham Lincoln’s “absence of malice” vision to our culture’s civil wars; an extremist and warmonger for asking, “Why coexist with a mortal Iranian threat?” and an elitist leech for decrying our economy’s uneven playing field, warped by cronyism. For breaking with “settled science” orthodoxy, pitchforked prosecutors urged my editors to censor me.
Though I crave more reasoned debate that illuminates, even unifies, I recognize that my detractors’ right to unconstructive criticism is the flip side of my right to free expression. Individual liberty is the reason my persecuted grandparents came to America in a wave of huddled masses, not unlike those crossing dangerous seas today.
Though jeopardized, the open, diverse and vibrant society we’ve become is the source of America’s creativity, prosperity, generosity… and decency. We’re still the greatest continuing experiment in human history, founded on the unique idea that people from different places with differing backgrounds and values could forge a civilized and free nation. It’s an idea that all Americans have a responsibility to sustain.
Think Again - to preserve our decency and vitality, people don’t need to change their minds, just open them.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Aired-out uproariously on Saturday Night Live, “Deflate-gate” has been a national fixation since word broke that the New England Patriots used under-inflated footballs in their Super bowl birth-clinching victory over Indianapolis. The alleged cheating controversy has even pumped up the lovability of the oft-despised Seattle Seahawks.
However, Think Again if you believe Deflate-gate is merely hot air. Though overblown, Americans’ disquiet reflects our fairness instinct and commitment to equality of opportunity – the ideal that all competitors in the race of life, no matter their status, can succeed on a level playing field.
Sensing a slanted NFL field, Seahawk Richard Sherman questioned the close relationship between NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Patriot owner Robert Kraft, calling it a “conflict of interest.”
Sherman’s unease resonates in an America increasingly distrustful of society’s umpires. President Obama spoke to this anxiety in last week’s State of the Union address. “This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules,” he declared, labeling this “middle-class economics.”
Yet the story of our five-year-old recovery is how poorly working Americans have fared. With workforce participation at forty-year lows, “America’s wealth gap between middle-income and upper-income families is the widest on record,” Pew Research recently reported. From 2010 to 2013, household incomes fell for all except the most affluent 10 percent, a 2014 Federal Reserve survey revealed, with the bottom 40 percent suffering disproportionately.
So while Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Washington boom, the rest of America suffers crisis levels of job insecurity, economic immobility and government dependency, with a record 50 million living in poverty.
That’s because our economy’s playing field is askew, warped by a cronyist system -- long in the making -- that is neither “middle-class economics” nor Thomas Jefferson’s ideal: “a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement.”
Free to pursue their individual life objectives, American entrepreneurs -- and immigrants fleeing societies where one’s start pre-determined one’s end -- transformed an agrarian backwater into human history’s greatest economic wonder. Between 1800 and 2007, economic well-being (real GDP per-capita) increased 32-fold in America compared to 14-times in Great Britain and 5-times in India.
It’s not a miracle; it’s the free market where rivals meet in open competition, generating a continuous stream of innovation, choice and value. In return for pleasing customers and being good corporate citizens, entrepreneurs earn profits.
As government has grown, so have its anti-competitive powers, corrupting the free market with corporate cronyism -- the incestuous relationship between Big Government and Big Business that rewards political connections over competitive excellence.
Our tax code is a cronyist masterpiece, allowing well-connected individuals and big companies like GE to lobby for, win and exploit tax breaks, rendering their tax bills negligible and affording lawmakers unending contributions.
Equally distortive are corporate welfare programs sold as economic saviors -- the 2009 stimulus, cash-for-clunkers, farm bill, bailouts, Export-Import Bank loan guarantees and Dodd-Frank “Wall Street reform.” Each benefits well-connected private companies, forcing Americans who “work hard and play by the rules” to subsidize elites who don’t.
Then there’s cronyism’s granddaddy, Obamacare, “the product of an orgy of lobbying and backroom deals,” according to Steven Brill, whose new book “America’s Bitter Pill” details how the $3-trillion-a-year health industry’s largest stakeholders – drug and medical device companies, hospitals, insurers – profited, at taxpayers’ expense.
When profits accrue to those with the most to invest in politics -- and the most to lose in the free market -- wealth and opportunity shift from ordinary people to the government and its friends. That’s why Americans struggling to maintain living standards must contend with ever-increasing prices in government-controlled sectors -- housing, health, and education.
Most worrisome, the small business sector, which generates two-thirds of new jobs, is languishing. Unable to grow in a market that protects large corporations from competition, and disproportionately burdened by an explosion of regulatory red tape, small business deaths now exceed business births for the first time in the Brookings Institution’s thirty-plus-year history of data collection.
So who are the greedy Gordon Gekko’s? Those who prudently risk hard-earned money to continuously deliver life-enhancing benefits – iPhones, 3-D printers, medicines, refrigerators – or cronies who relegate competitors, consumers, employees, and investors to the sidelines of a rigged game?
To protect our freedom and broadly share prosperity, shouldn’t we disperse power away from economic leeches, returning it to economic producers whose raison d'être is the fulfillment of needs and desires?
Think Again – It’s human nature to want competitive advantages -- whether tax breaks or deflated footballs. That’s why a free society needs referees with only enough power to assure fair competition, not so much that they become self-interested players in the game.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
In an ironic twist, the long-awaited sequel to the cult-classic “Dumb and Dumber” opened as Americans discovered that in the eyes of our Political Class, we’re like the film’s low-IQ duo – “stupid voters.”
Caught dropping truth bombs in a series of videos, MIT professor and Obamacare co-architect Jonathan Gruber describes how policymakers hid the Affordable Care Act’s true nature. “Call it the stupidity of the American voter,” Gruber chortled, since “that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”
But who’s the dunce considering Gruber is now persona non grata in capitals where he’s earned millions of taxpayer dollars for his wizardry?
Prior to Obamacare’s enactment, Americans overwhelmingly approved their health insurance plans -- 86 percent, according to Time Magazine’s July 2009 poll. Fearing their health system-upending plan wouldn’t survive public scrutiny, Gruberites launched an operation to obfuscate and deceive.
Without a vote to spare, there wasn’t time to Think Again about Obamacare’s numerous taxes, employment disincentives and cross-subsidies from healthy to sick (including those with unhealthy behaviors) and young to old.
"We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what's in it," Nancy Pelosi insisted, demonstrating how raw political ambition trumped the consent of the governed in passing modern history’s most consequential law.
In our era of secretly negotiated lawmaking, “comprehensive” legislation (Obamacare, Dodd-Frank’s “Wall Street reform” and the Senate’s Immigration bill) means complex enough to hide the special interest-laden truth.
“Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” Gruber explained, which is why the 2,409-page “bill was written in a tortured way” to game the arcane Congressional Budget Office’s system for measuring legislation impacts. “If CBO scored the [insurance] mandate as taxes, the bill dies,” Gruber admitted.
Armed with CBO’s contorted conclusions, politicians and their media minions wielded them like weapons, including at the Supreme Court, which upheld Obamacare’s constitutionality by deeming the mandate a tax.
To achieve other politically treacherous measures, like limiting tax deductions on employer-provided health benefits, Gruberites designed the “Cadillac Tax” on expensive plans. “Mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people,” was possible, Gruber contends, because “the American people are too stupid to understand the difference.”
In revealing Obamacare’s deceptions, “Grubergate” upsets Thomas Jefferson’s self-government truism -- “whenever the people are well-informed they can be trusted with their own government.” By conspiring to misinform and manipulate, Gruberites have engendered distrust of the institutions they’re empowered to run.
More interested in advancing partisan agendas than assuring government’s legitimacy and durability, Gruberites endanger the constitutional stability that’s enabled America to become the freest and most productive society on earth, deviating from history’s norm – tyranny, instability and stifled human potential.
Unfortunately, by circumventing the debate and consensus on which pluralistic democracies depend, Gruberites prove Jefferson’s observation that “even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”
As America’s constitutional framers understood, process matters to orderly self-government. To constrain Gruberites, the founders designed a liberty-preserving system founded on popular consent, limited government, and equality under the law. To check abuse, they separated political powers among co-equal branches, pitting “ambition against ambition.”
That’s why President Nixon was wrong to tell interviewer David Frost, “When the President does it, that means it isn’t illegal.” Similarly, President Obama is wrong to claim authority for sweeping legal changes – like amnesty-by-fiat for 5 million illegals -- if Congress doesn’t pass laws he likes. Presidents are entitled to discretion in executing, not vacating, the law.
According to Jonathan Turley, constitutional scholar and Obama policy-supporter, the President’s unprecedented separation-of-powers violations render him “the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid -- the concentration of power in any single branch.” If Presidents can enact consequential changes in defiance of Congress, the law and public will, what can’t they do?
Unilaterally legalizing millions of low-wage workers – a magnet for millions more -- to compete with America’s economically distressed working class mirrors the imperial and unfair rule we overthrew in 1776. Absent rapid job growth, it’s also a recipe for poverty and dependency, straining the society to which immigrants are drawn. Americans aren’t stupid or heartless to insist on the right to control whom we admit and in what numbers, no matter what Gruberites say.
Saturday Night Live mocked Obama’s King George-like views and his “go big or go home” immigration overhaul in its Schoolhouse Rock parody: “How a Bill Becomes Law.” First it passes Congress; then the President signs it. Even lame-duck Presidents must operate within constitutional bounds, using the bully pulpit and the legislative process -- not imperial edicts -- to advance policy goals.
Think Again – Ambitious Gruberites are an enduring threat to government of, by and for the people. Wouldn’t it be dumb not to deploy all available checks and balances to curtail them?
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Archie Bunker-like in frustration, Schendler wants me to stifle myself. If I don’t “dummy up” like Archie’s wife Edith, he suggests Aspen Times editors Think Again before publishing my commentary without peer-reviews -- or risk “being complicit in promoting falsehoods.”
Schendler calls this “ground-truthing of scientific claims,” noting the Los Angeles Times doesn’t publish pieces that “deny established climate science.” Like Robert Kennedy Jr. who recently called for jailing treasonous nonconformists who break with “settled-science” orthodoxy, Schendler insists it’s not censorship when there’s no argument.
My crime – tantamount to “yelling ‘fire’ in a movie theater” – is considering climate change “a naturally reoccurring phenomenon to which mankind has always adapted, and still can.” Apparently, I can’t acknowledge earth’s warming and ice-age cycles without embracing political agendas that require living standard cuts -- lifestyle sacrifices activists won’t acknowledge and elites like Kennedy, Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio won’t obey.
Resisting cataclysmic theorizers and their “starve the peasants to save the pheasants” thinking, I criticized alarmists who “invoke the moral equivalent of Holocaust denial to reject those deeming climate change less dangerous than other threats.” I did so believing an economically robust and energy-secure America is the ultimate threat-deterrent.
Today I’d add to my threat list the failure of public institutions to protect and serve Americans, considering recent incompetence, corruption and unaccountability in government agencies – those Schendler wants to grant unprecedented powers to centrally plan and control economic life.
Though denounced by climate “groupthinkers,” dissidents like me are troubled by “the stunning failure of…doomsday-predicting models to forecast warming’s nearly 18-year pause (confirmed by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) or Al Gore’s 2007 prediction that polar bears’ Arctic habitat would be ice-free by 2013.”
These irrefutable observations riled Schendler. Accusing me of “cherry-picking data,” he contends I’m “willfully blind or statistically illiterate to claim warming has stopped.” Citing a Politifact article to support his contention, he apparently overlooked the fact-checker’s concession that “over roughly the past 15 years, global surface temperatures have plateaued.”
So who’s the “meathead,” considering widespread acceptance of unexpected global temperature stability, and the existence of more Arctic ice than in 2007 – never mind record Antarctic ice levels?
As if answering this question, President Obama’s former Undersecretary of Energy Steve Koonin wrote a consensus-disrupting op-ed -- “Climate science is not settled.” Lamenting how the settled-science claim “demeans and chills the scientific enterprise” and distorts “policy debates on issues related to energy, greenhouse-gas emissions and the environment,” Koonin argues “we are very far from the knowledge needed to make good climate policy.”
Noting warming’s pause amid rising CO2 emissions, Koonin posits, “natural influences and variability are powerful enough to counteract the present warming influence exerted by human activity.” Despite “different explanations for this [prediction] failure … the whole episode,” he concludes, “continues to highlight the limits of our modeling.”
IPCC lead author Kevin Trenberth admitted this in one of the embarrassing emails leaked in the “Climategate” scandal of 2009. “The fact is,” he wrote, “we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty.”
Probing the disconnect between observed temperatures and predictions, the Economist asked, “Who pressed the pause button?” in a March 2014 global warming article. Because “the models embody the state of climate knowledge,” they concluded, “if they are wrong, the knowledge is probably faulty, too.”
Even the LA Times broke with the climate consensus, reporting last month “naturally occurring changes in winds, not human-caused climate change, are responsible for most of the warming on land and in the sea along the West Coast of North America over the last century.”
Meanwhile, amid calls to stifle climate debates, technological breakthroughs have made America the world’s most energy-endowed nation, possessing more oil than Saudi Arabia and more natural gas than Russia.
In substituting lower-carbon resources for coal, we’ve hit the energy jackpot: cheaper energy (a rebate for the poor and an offset of foreign manufacturers’ cheap labor advantages); cleaner air; new jobs; increased governmental revenues; greater energy independence; and CO2 emissions at a 20-year low, outpacing Europe whose expensive renewable-energy strategies have failed.
Despite these advantages, activists refusing to moderate their climate conclusions – no matter the evidence -- rally to curb the development of our cheapest energy resources, denying citizens who can’t afford Whole Foods environmentalism the benefits of our energy bounty.
Unfortunately, except for the rich, Americans are suffering crisis levels of income stagnation, underemployment, economic immobility and poverty. These truths -- not doomsday predictions -- preoccupy Americans.
Think Again – Climate-mongers intent on squashing free inquiry and expression insist dissenters are “dead from the neck up,” Archie Bunker-style. But being “meatheads” is not our destiny, if we refuse to stifle ourselves.