The Medicaid Spending Caps Are More Complex Than They Seem

by Max Bloom

Much has been said about the per capita spending caps on Medicaid in the Senate health-care bill. But little attention has been paid to the fact that the spending caps are not uniform. Most importantly, there are special rules for the disabled and the elderly, who together account for about one-quarter of Medicaid enrollment.

To get technical, the per capita caps work by penalizing states whose “adjusted total medical assistance expenditures” exceed their “target total medical assistance expenditures.” In other words, states that spend more on Medicaid than they’re supposed to lose some of their federal matching funds the following year.

The calculation for how much states are supposed to spend depends on the composition of the eligible population. For most of the Medicaid population — the non-disabled and the non-elderly — the spending targets are set to increase annually until 2025 by the medical-care component of the Consumer Price Index, which tracks health-care inflation. After 2025, they will increase by the CPI-U, which tracks overall inflation for urban consumers. Based on recent levels of inflation, this would allow spending to increase by about 2–4 percent per year until 2025, and around 1–2 percent afterward, although these numbers could change dramatically depending on inflation.

For the elderly and the disabled, the Senate bill allows the spending targets to increase annually by health-care inflation plus one percentage point until 2025, and, afterwards, at the same rate of urban inflation as for the non-elderly and the non-disabled. This makes sense politically, since it’s harder to publicly cut back on care for the elderly and the disabled than it is to cut, say, care for the middle-aged, but it will also mean higher expenditures over the next eight years. A program that becomes more expensive at a rate of 4 percent every year will cost about 10 percent more in a decade than a program that sees 3 percent annual cost growth. But given how unpopular the Medicaid cuts are already, this is probably necessary.

The other nuances of the spending caps are managed through the “adjusted total expenditures” instead of the “target expenditures” — so certain expenditures don’t count against the spending targets imposed by the Senate bill. These include payments to “disproportionate share hospitals” — hospitals that receive a large number of low-income patients — as well as payments to beneficiaries of the Indian Health Service and a few other categories.

Most notably, expenditures on children who are made eligible for Medicaid on the basis of being blind and disabled are excluded. This too is politically necessary since cuts to health care for disabled children play terribly among virtually all constituencies. But it doesn’t make very much sense: If per capita caps make sense for children and make sense for the disabled, then why don’t they make sense for disabled children? And there are compromise solutions available: The Senate, for instance, could allow spending on disabled children to increase at health-care inflation plus 2 percentage points, for instance. But instead, for more or less understandable reasons, the Senate will preserve the open-ended system of matching funds for disabled children, which will mean that federal funds for this purpose will be primarily directed to the wealthier states that need them least, with little incentive to cut costs.

Reagan on Abortion

by Jonah Goldberg

Yesterday I was on a panel at AEI to discuss Henry Olsen’s new book The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism (we ran excerpt here). I’ll have more thoughts about it later (probably in the G-File), but I should at least say that while I have disagreements with it, I think it’s an important and useful book in many ways.

Anyway, while preparing for the event, I was reading through some other books and articles about the Gipper and I found his radio address on abortion — he did only one — and I thought it was interesting for a few reasons. First, it showed how he thought through complex problems, often in original and creative ways. It showed how he evolved as a thinker. And it’s a pretty interesting argument. You can read the whole text here. As you can see, it’s a bit messy because it was a heavily revised draft that he read aloud and was never intended for publication). But this is heart of it:

Eight years ago when I became Gov. I found myself involved almost immediately in a controversy over abortion. It was a subject I’d never given much thought to and in a sense one upon which I didn’t really have an opinion. In other words as But now I was Gov. and it turned abortion turned out to be something I couldn’t walk away from. A bill had been introduced in the Calif. legislature to make abortion available upon demand. The pro & anti forces were already marshalling their troops and emotions were running high. Then the author of the bill sent word down that he’d amend his bill to anything I felt I could sign. The ball — to coin a cliche — was in my court. Suddenly the it had become necessary for me to take a position & on a subject I’d never before given as I said on a matter I’d never really ever given any thought to I had to have a position on abortion.

To shorten this down I did more studying, researching & soul searching on this matter than on any thing that faced was to face me as Gov. in all my those 8 years in office. I discovered that neither medicine, law or theology had ever really found a common ground on the subject. a com. any consensus on the Views ranged from those On one hand there were those who Some believed an unborn child was like some kind of no more than a growth on the body female & she should be able to remove it as she would her appendix. Others felt a human life existed from the moment the fertilized egg attached itself to the ovary wall was implanted in the womb. I now Strangely enough Calif. had a law passed almost unanimously by the same legis. that was so divided on th this on this subject couldn’t agree on abortion had unanimously passed had passed by a virtually unanimous vote a law making anyone liable guilty of murder it murder to abuse a pregnant woman. to the extent that when so doing to so as to cause the ”death of the her unborn child.” I found further that an unborn child (called a fetus by those who support abortion) has property rights. Another inconsistency-the unborn have property rights protected by law. A man can will his estate to his wife & children & any children yet to be born of his marriage. Now a law is being proposed that Yet the proposed abortion law would let one person for whatever reason take the life of the that unborn child. deny the unborn the protection of the law in preserving its life.

I went to the lawyers on my staff and verified this property right right of the unborn to own property I’ve mentioned. Then I asked if there wasn’t some inconsistency in deny denying the same unborn child the right to life. I posed a hypothetical question. Wouldn’t an What if a wo pregnant woman were widowed and became a widow during her pregnancy & found her husband had left his fortune to her & the unborn child. Under the proposed abortion law couldn’t she abort the child she could take the life of her child & inherit not half but all of her husbands estate. the entire fortune & where-in did was that this different from murder Wouldn’t that be murder for financial gain? The only answer I got was that they were glad I wasn’t asking the questions on the bar exam.

I learned from D the med. profession that from the moment of the a fertilized egg was is implanted in the womb an a individual human being had has been created with its individual physical characteristics & even personallity traits already established.

My answer to the his question of what kind of bill I could sign as a turned out to be a belief I now hold very strongly. An abortion is the taking of a human life. It can only be justified on the same grounds we permit in our Judeo- basis that we recognize the right to take a life in our Judeo-Christian tradition. the taking of a life in self defense That is in defense of our own. I believe a mother has the right to protect her life & I’ll include her health against even her own unborn child if it is threatened by anyone including her own unborn child. I go so far as to say that just as she has the right to protect herself against rape she has the right to protect herself against the result of that rape & therefore can rid herself of a child or refuse to have a child resulting from rape. [Emphasis added.]

Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading a bit of John Locke lately, but I thought this emphasis on property rights to be not only intriguing but pretty compelling. I don’t think it’s the best argument against abortion and I think it runs up against some problems of consistency when he gets to the question of rape. But I thought it was interesting all the same.

Professor Laments Being Forced to Waste Time on Title IX ‘Training’

by George Leef

College administrators love to look busy by doing useless things and often they rope in those on campus who have better things to do than to go along with their notions. One of those notions is that everyone must undergo “training” for lefty enthusiasms like diversity and Title IX compliance.

Most faculty members just take it quietly, but University of Wisconsin-Whitewater English professor Mark Zunac has stuck his neck out, calling his mandatory sexual-assault training a waste of time in today’s Martin Center article.

Reflecting on the Department of Education’s 2011 letter that first caused the furor over the supposed epidemic of sexual assault across the nation, Zunac writes,

I found it a curious fact that, six years after having received the “Dear Colleague” letter, the issue remains so severe as to warrant this anachronistic reeducation on workplace discrimination. And it had never occurred to me that I might need to be “trained” how to avoid committing a crime, or that there is any need to reprise rudimentary lessons in refraining from boorishness in public life.

This “training” was an online program provided by a company that has figured out how to cash in on the artificial market created by the federal mandate. Zunac found the exercise to be condescending.

Professor Zunac concludes,

Having completed the training, I am now presumably able to continue my professional duties. As for another endeavor to validate the victim/oppressor model that animates so much of university life, I would venture that at some point we have either a recognition that respective campus climates are sufficiently improved, or an acknowledgement that this has all amounted to nothing but empty, expensive posturing. In the interim, campus (re)training rolls on.

No doubt some nasty things will be said about him for having taken this deviationist line. Let’s hope Zunac suffers nothing worse than that.

Cosmopolitan Snubs Successful Conservative Women

by Alexandra DeSanctis

Cosmopolitan appears to have determined that conservative women don’t, in fact, count as women. At the very least, the magazine has evidently decided that conservative women’s political views permanently preclude them from receiving praise, even for their objective success.

In a piece yesterday, Cosmopolitan senior writer Rebecca Nelson highlighted seven women who are supposedly “generating 2020 buzz,” and every single woman on her list is either a Democratic politician or a public figure committed to the left-wing cause.

“Unlike past elections, where one woman competed in the primaries against a gaggle of men, this time, there’s a slew of eminently qualified women waiting to run,” Nelson informs us. And yet not a single one of the women included under that umbrella is anything other than a staunch progressive.

Nelson evidently had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to serve up seven sufficiently left-wing options. For politicians, she offers the inexperienced senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Duckworth, and Kamala Harris, none of whom has been in the Senate longer than six years. Two of them — Duckworth and Harris — were just elected last November.

The list doesn’t mention Republican Susan Collins, who has been a GOP senator from Maine for over two decades. It also disregards the GOP’s remaining four female senators, several of whom have been in office longer than the Democratic senators Nelson names.

Likewise ignored are female Republican governors across the country who outnumber their Democratic counterparts four to two. Nelson snubs U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, who served a successful six years as governor of South Carolina and who is widely considered one of the GOP’s rising stars.

Nelson sees fit to include progressive public figures Sheryl Sandberg and Oprah Winfrey, neither of whom has any political experience, but she makes no mention of Condoleezza Rice, the first black woman to serve as U.S. national security advisor and subsequently as secretary of state. Carly Fiorina, the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company and the only female candidate for the Republican presidential nomination last year, is ignored as well.

It’d be completely unsurprising — if irritating — for a left-wing outlet such as Cosmopolitan to compile a list called “7 Progressive Women Who Could Be Our First Female President.” It’s entirely different for the magazine to run a feature claiming to highlight prominent female American leaders and then ignore an entire segment of those women just because of their politics.

Restaurant Workers vs. A Higher Minimum Wage

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Caitlin Dewey writes in the Washington Post:

As the Maine House voted on a bill to reduce the minimum wage for tipped restaurant workers, Jason Buckwalter and a dozen fellow servers huddled in a back room listening to the vote call at the Bangor steakhouse where they work.

They all hoped to hear one thing: that state legislators had voted to lower their wages. Some cried with relief, Buckwalter said, when the final vote ended at 110 to 37 — overwhelmingly in their favor.

What Is It about 17 Percent?

by Rich Lowry

There was a poll a while ago that had the House health-care bill at 17 percent. Now there’s a poll that has the Senate bill at 17 percent. Considering the source of this poll — NPR/PBS — you might want to take it with a grain of salt. But there’s no doubt that the Republican effort is unpopular, in part because it’s largely been an inside game with no one really making the public case (which is what the president usually would do in these circumstances) and the CBO numbers have been crushingly bad PR. As I noted last night, the Senate bill still has a fighting chance, but if Republicans pull this off it will be an extraordinary legislative feat in a truly forbidding political environment.

423 to 4

by Jay Nordlinger

When I was coming of age, learning about Congress, I was always fascinated by lopsided votes — 425 to 3, let’s say. Or 428 to 1. (There are always some abstentions or absences.) The majorities were boring. I was always interested in the 3 or the 1! Who were they and why?

My usual finding — this was the early ’80s — was this: The handful of No votes would be a couple of left-wingers and Ron Paul. Let’s say, John Conyers, Ron Dellums, and Ron Paul.

Usually, the issue would concern foreign policy — support of Israel, for example.

The House has just voted to affirm America’s commitment to NATO, and in particular to the principle of collective defense. The new president has been wobbly or evasive on this subject, and the House apparently felt the need to make a statement. The vote was 423 to 4.

Naturally, I was interested in the four. Turns out, they are all Republicans: Biggs (Ariz.), Duncan (Tenn.), Jones (N.C.), and Massie (Ky.).

Even Maxine Waters voted for NATO and Article 5! Even Jerry Nadler (my congressman, alas)! Even José Serrano!

What times, what times . . .

Memory Lane, with Billy J.

by Jay Nordlinger

It is not like me to bring up Bill Clinton’s State of the Union addresses. I lived through them once — year by year — and am not eager to re-live them. The most famous line, at least in conservative ears, is “The era of big government is over.” (Famous last words.) That was in the 1996 address.

A friend has just sent me a clip from the 1995 address. I listened to it with some amazement. That clip is here, but I will paste from a transcript. I realize that this clip has made the rounds, so it may be old news — doubly old news — to you. But it is remarkable to me.

I’m struck by the language — language that is verboten in President Clinton’s party today (never mind the ideas):

All Americans, not only in the states most heavily affected but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country.

Stop right there. “Illegal aliens”? That phrase is now at the level of hate speech. During the most recent presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton apologized for using the term “illegal immigrant” and promised never to use it again. (Maybe she is free from that promise now?)

Anyway, in 1995, Bill Clinton continued,

The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public services they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That’s why our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more, by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens.

Holy Moses. One more swatch:

We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.

As I recall, the president was reelected the following year.

Characters and Character

by Jay Nordlinger

Last night, I was reading Jonah’s Twitter feed, always a pleasant thing to do. He has a “pinned tweet” (a tweet pinned to the top of the feed). A lady has said to him that she used to enjoy him but “you’ve changed.” He answers, “No, I haven’t. The times have.”

I would like to paste an item I have in my column today:

Lately, a lot of us have been thinking about character. And I thought of a story from the golf world — bear with me, please.

In 1974, the U.S. Open was held at Winged Foot, the famous course in Westchester County, N.Y. The course was set up very, very hard. Nicklaus rolled one off the green. Someone asked Sandy Tatum — the illustrious official of the U.S. Golf Association — “Are you trying to humiliate the best golfers in the world?” “No,” Tatum answered. “Identify them.”

There is an adage, I think: that tough or challenging times don’t shape character; rather, they reveal it. People are as they have always been.

Anyway, something to think about …

Blood: The Story of a Qaddafi

by Jay Nordlinger

In Impromptus today, I talk about a number of things, from the GOP to Putin to cake-bakers to wind turbines to the ballet. But I lead with Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, a son of the late dictator, the one who was supposed to be “good.” The one who broke away — from the family’s clasp. But when the war came, he rushed to his father’s side, to commit war crimes.

The Hague wanted to try him. But Libyan authorities refused to hand him over. They kept him in prison, or under house arrest. (This is unclear.) Now they have released him, which is why he’s in the news, and in my column.

In the Corner, I would like to do a little quoting, from Children of Monsters, my book about sons and daughters of dictators:

I myself encountered Saif once, in 2005. It was at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Qaddafi’s son was the guest at a “media coffee.” With about ten of us sitting around a table, he discoursed on a range of issues, including his pet theme, democracy. He said — and here I paraphrase, but closely — “Do you know why we Arabs have lost all our wars against Israel? Because Israel is democratic, and we are undemocratic. So, in one of our states, the worst general becomes army chief of staff, because he is no threat to carry out a coup d’état. Loyalty to the strongman is all that matters. Democracy, on the other hand, is a competitive mechanism — and that’s why Israel wins.”

An Israeli at the table said, humorously but nervously, “Please don’t ever have a democracy.”

I have more for you:

Something else interesting happened at that session. Toward the end of it, someone asked Saif about the Holocaust, and the widespread Arab denial of the same. Saif began his answer hesitantly: “I am not a historian. I don’t know all the facts.” He then trotted out the familiar line that Arabs cannot be anti-Semitic, being Semites themselves. The Jews and Arabs were cousins, he said. Being an astute fellow, he sensed that his answer was not working in this room. A person should not deny the Holocaust, or give the appearance of doing so, in a room full of international media. So he said, “It is incorrect to deny the Holocaust.” And why was that? Because it was the Red Army that liberated Auschwitz. “We learned about it from the Russians, not from the Zionists, not from the New York Times. So, if Arabs deny this, it is incorrect.”

The World Economic Forum official who was running the session said, “On that conciliatory note, we must adjourn.” You and I may not regard an admission that the Holocaust occurred, because the Soviet Union said so, as conciliatory, but in some atmospheres it evidently is.

Let me lay aside the semi-sardonic tone. To a degree, all the sons and daughters of dictators are tragic, as so many people in other circumstances are. But Saif al-Islam is more tragic than most, I would say, because he truly strove to break away — to rise above dictatorship — but the pull of blood or power or something simply proved too strong.

Understanding Russia

by Jay Nordlinger

Like other readers around the world, NR readers are familiar with David Satter, the authority on Russia. His latest book — arresting title — is The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep. And he is the latest guest on my Q&A podcast (here).

Chicago-born, he is a lifelong student of Russia. Why? What sparked his interest? For one thing, his father was on the Left, and sympathized with the Soviet Union (as did millions around the globe). David wanted to find out what it was all about. And he did.

He is a bold writer about Russia — un-punch-pulling. Over the years, Arabs have come up to David Pryce-Jones and said, “Why do you care about us so much that you should write so honestly about us?” This is the spirit I’m talking about.

With Satter, I explore a host of issues, including Putin, of course, and democracy, and the diaspora, and Trump, and so on. We end on a little literature: Tolstoy and the boys (and some less well-known names).

One point, Satter makes repeatedly: Westerners get Russia wrong when they project their own values and priorities on that country. You have to slip into another person’s skin, or another people’s skin. This, Satter has done, and listening to him is an education, I think.

Again, our podcast is here.

Looting Google: When Mercantilists Turn to Theft

by Andrew Stuttaford


The European Commission issued Google a fine of €2.42 billion Tuesday for abusing a dominant position over internet search, concluding a landmark inquiry that dragged on for seven years and handing Silicon Valley its largest regulatory setback to date.

Margrethe Vestager, the European commissioner for competition, said the company systematically manipulated its results page to promote its own Google Shopping service and push smaller rivals down its search rankings. The Danish commissioner, who has championed a hard line against Google in her enforcement action and in her speeches, gave the American tech giant 90 days to make key changes to the way it does business in Europe — with a warning to get its wider house in order.

It wouldn’t do to have a company promoting its own services, of course. Just wouldn’t be right. 

But wait, there’s more:

The Commission continues to pursue two charges issued last year against Google’s Android operating system and its advertising business. The Commission’s decision instructs Google to ensure its give “equal treatment” rival comparison shopping services equally to its own Google Shopping service — although how it does so is up to the search engine, which has 60 days to inform the Commission of its plans.

Reuters explains:

In effect, the Commission is forcing Google to demonstrate that rivals have made substantial inroads into its businesses before there is much chance of it being let off the regulatory hook. EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager promised Google was in for years of monitoring to guard against further abuses.

Because who better to decide what is a truly competitive market than an unelected bureaucrat?

 Okay, okay, that’s a bit harsh: Vestager was an elected politician, quite a senior one in fact, prior to her arrival in Brussels.

Before that she was a political apparatchik.

Wikipedia puts it likes this: “Vestager has been a professional politician since the age of 21.” To say Vestager’s direct experience of the private sector is limited may be something of an overstatement.


Vestager also warned Google that it must refrain from “any measure that has the same or an equivalent object or effect,” in what appears to be a veiled reference to concerns over Google’s other vertical search services, like local, flights or news.

Google must comply to the Commission’s satisfaction or risks daily fines capped at around €12.5 million a day.

Now, Google can be irritating and all that, but this seems, well, a bit much…

Robert Atkinson, the president of ITIF, a science and technology think tank, had this to say:

Today’s ruling is bad for consumers and bad for innovation. The Commission has effectively decided that some companies have become too big to innovate. The Commission’s actions have created a cloud of uncertainty that will make large tech companies overly cautious about making changes to the user experience and service offerings that would benefit consumers.

The decision in this case shows the fundamental problem with the EU’s approach to antitrust issues: It is willing to take heavy-handed actions to protect competitors, at the expense of consumers. This is evident in the Commission’s decision to levy a record €2.4 billion fine against Google in a case where consumers were helped, not hurt, by the development of a product-comparison tool that allowed users to shop online more effectively. The only real beneficiary of today’s ruling is the EU’s treasury.

It is, of course, only a coincidence that Brexit threatens to leave something of a hole in the EU’s finances (the UK is a major contributor to the EU budget).

Reading Atkinson’s words made me think of something else, of a depiction of a society in which no one, however gifted, however innovative, is allowed to do too well, because that would be unfair, the society described in Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron. If you haven’t read it already,  bow your head in shame and then take the time to read it now, and then, the next time you read what Vestager has to say, think back to one of the characters in that story, one Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, because that, in essence, is who Vestager is.

But what’s also at play here is the fury that the EU’s leadership feel about their failure to keep up, about Europe’s failure to develop Googles, Amazons, or Facebooks of its own. 2000 saw the unveiling of the Lisbon Strategy. It was designed to make the EU “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion,” and all by 2010.

How did that work out?

So if the EU could not central plan its way to success, it could at least try to take those pesky Americans down a peg or two. Yes, I’m familiar with and understand the principles underlying the antitrust argument the Commission is trying to make (essentially abuse of a dominant market position), but the decision to proceed with the case was political, not legal, and the motives blended the anti-Americanism that is never too far from the EU’s agenda with the mercantilism that has always been a part of it.

Here’s Quartz reporting from 2015:

If anyone thought European Union digital commissioner Günther Oettinger was bluffing when he recently suggested… the EU might rein in big internet companies like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo, they may not think so now. According to leaked documents from Oettinger’s office, the EU has been mulling the idea of establishing a new regulator to aggressively go after dominant (and mainly US-based) web platforms, essentially clearing the way for European competitors.

I’ve commented on this topic a few times before on this very Corner, noting in 2014 how the European parliament was poised to cast a (symbolic) vote calling for the break-up of Google (the measure passed), and then, in another post, quoting this from an article in the Library of Economics and Liberty:

The day before the charges against Google were announced, Günther Oettinger, the EC’s so-called “digital commissioner,” publicly complained that “our online businesses are today dependent on a few non-EU players,” warning that “this must not be the case again in the future.”

The message was clear. Vestager’s actions today are just the latest example of how it continues to be acted upon.

So what to do? There would be a certain pleasure in seeing Google and America’s other tech giants simply pull out of the EU leaving that miserable union to its own inadequate devices, but there’s still too much money to be made over there for that. A spot of retaliation would not, however, be entirely inappropriate from an American administration that purports to believe in free and fair trade, because those are not the rules Brussels is playing by — or will play by.

This is not the last heist that the EU has in mind.


On Senate Bill, All Is Not Lost

by Rich Lowry

Just as the House health bill had to be pulled, the Senate bill has now been delayed. Taking another couple of weeks to pass the thing certainly makes more sense than trying to jam it this week and probably losing, potentially quite badly. McConnell is pushing hard to get to a deal for 50 votes by the end of the week, then leave for the break, get a new CBO score, and vote on it when they are back.

A deal won’t be easy or simple, but it is certainly doable: a few more structural reforms in the individual market and more robust HSAs for the conservatives, more spending for the Medicaid moderates. Everyone seems to think Rand Paul and Susan Collins are “no” regardless, which means there is literally no margin for error. Is Dean Heller gettable? If not, the bill is very likely to go down. It seems to me that he’s put himself in an awkward spot with his very public posture. If he comes along, no matter what concessions he gets, it’s going to play like a climb-down.

This process is almost entirely a matter of the caucus negotiating with itself, with no meaningful input from the president. Trump was his boosterish self at the meeting with Republican senators this afternoon, but he knows and cares so little about the details that I’m told he would agree with whatever was said, even if senators were directly contradicting one another. Pence, meeting with conservative senators tonight, is playing a more hands-on role.

This is all a version of what happened in the House, when the bill seemed dead and then was resurrected with member-to-member dealmaking. You have to be less optimistic about the Senate’s chances because the caucus needs near-unanimity, but this isn’t over yet.

Nancy MacLean’s Methods

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Response To...

Nancy MacLean vs. Tyler Cowen

Nancy MacLean has written a harshly critical book about the late libertarian economist and political theorist James Buchanan, whom she portrays as an enemy of democracy, friend of segregation, and tool of plutocrats. Yesterday I noted that Russ Roberts had documented how her book twists the words of another libertarian writer, Tyler Cowen, to portray him as having written “a handbook for how to conduct a fifth-column assault on democracy.” I said that this example of scholarly misconduct was so clear-cut as to justify skepticism about her treatment of Buchanan, too.

Since then, David Henderson has shown that MacLean also twists Buchanan’s own words; more credulous treatments of MacLean’s book have appeared on left-wing sites; and MacLean has issued a response to Roberts’s criticism, which Roberts appended to his initial post.

MacLean’s response has several components. First, she says that Roberts distorted her own words in characterizing her stance toward Buchanan — which is irrelevant to the question of whether her book distorts Cowen.

Second, she dismisses certain Cowen statements that appear favorable to democracy and skeptical of anti-democratic reforms. She writes, “To say that nondemocratic forms of government can have unfavorable outcomes and that ‘I explicitly favor more democratic forms,’ is not the same as saying that I support and would not be involved in any attempt to overturn the American democratic system of majority rule.” Since she hasn’t established that Cowen wants to “overturn the American democratic system of majority rule,” however, or provided a shred of evidence for that contention, it is unclear why he should have to make such a statement.

Third, she says that Cowen has tried to promote policies that he knows are unpopular. She offers no evidence that he has advocated overturning the American democratic system in order to impose these policies.

Fourth, she says that Buchanan, Cowen, and other libertarians “have posed democracy as a problem for their arch version of capitalism.” Maybe they have. That democracy and libertarian capitalism are in tension is not an especially controversial point. (Democracy is also in tension with many other political philosophies.) “Democracy makes it hard to enact some good capitalist policies” is not the same as “we should curtail democracy to some extent in the interest of having a successful capitalism,” which is itself not the same as “we should overturn democracy and here’s my handbook on how to do it.” 

Fifth, she says that libertarians funded by Charles Koch favor “‘interrelated plays’ designed to alter the very nature of our society and government.” (Not “interrelated plays”! Anything but that!) But it is obviously possible to advocate substantial changes to our society and government, even interrelated ones, that do not involve “overturn[ing] the American democratic system of majority rule.”

I’m sure it would be possible to write a critical study of James Buchanan that is competent, thoughtful, and honest. Judging from the course of this controversy, it seems highly unlikely that MacLean has written it.

“Hate Group” Fatwas from SPLC’s Ayatollahs Are Losing Their Sting

by Mark Krikorian

As Ericka Andersen points out below, Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz has been targeted as an “extremist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center and is planning to sue the left-wing group for defamation. He’s crowdfunding the lawsuit, and he’ll need a big crowd, because the SPLC is sitting on a war chest of more than $300 million amassed via junk mail by its founder Morris Dees, a member of the Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame. (This hoard of cash is why my Center for Immigration Studies couldn’t sue when the SPLC added us to its “hate group” fatwa earlier this year; as Peter Thiel might say, small nonprofits have no effective access to our legal system.)

Whatever the outcome of Nawaz’s lawsuit, the SPLC — whose pronouncements were once accepted without question by right-thinking people — is clearly losing its luster. Perhaps that started when the SPLC’s chief hate-sniffer, Mark Potok, started openly and repeatedly acknowledging that the point of the “hate group” designation “is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them.” Or when it became clear that the Nazis, skinheads, Klansmen, and other weirdos on the list were merely window dressing designed to taint the SPLC’s political opponents, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, added in 2007 (in response to the failure of the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill) and the Family Research Council in 2010 (as part of the push for gay marriage).

The SPLC’s most recent setback came this week as GuideStar, the nation’s leading clearinghouse for information on nonprofits, removed the recently added “hate group” designation from the profile pages of targeted groups. Here’s what the header on CIS’s profile page on this supposedly neutral, non-political site looked like until yesterday:

When you clicked on the information button, you saw this text: “The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a respected [sic] hate group watchdog. There is disagreement on some of SPLC’s specific choices, but on balance GuideStar believes the analysis is strong enough to share. We leave it to you to come to your own conclusions.”

When my attorneys and I met with Guidestar a week and a half ago, the organization’s president, Jacob Harold, was adamant that they would not remove the SPLC scarlet letter. Ensconced in a liberal cocoon, he was soon taken aback by the furious backlash, including a scathing piece in the Wall Street Journal and objections from Guidestar’s own donors (it is itself a nonprofit). Harold did the Left’s blame-the-victim thing by claiming he was forced to remove the offending designation because of concern for “staff safety.”

Another sign of the weakening of the SPLC’s “hate” voodoo came last week from a former head of the ACLU. Yes, that ACLU. Nadine Strassen, president of the organization until 2008, was on a Washington Post Live broadcast recently alongside Ann Coulter, with columnist Charles Lane moderating. This excerpt is interesting, starting at about 10:00:

Coulter: …but do not start saying to me “illegal alien” is the same as the N word, “slant” is the same as the N word – no, nothing is the same as the N word…that is how people shut down speech.

Strassen: There are also two different kinds of expression that you’re talking about, Ann. One is a face-to-face insult or insulting people by using a derogatory term. The other is an idea that people dislike, and that’s a whole different kettle of fish, right? And one of the things that really disturbs me, is how the H word – “hate” – which is being overused and abused, we’re hearing the term “hate speech” and even “hate crime” for policy positions that people dislike.

Lane: Well, sometimes it’s more than a mere policy…

Strassen: No, but, very often, seriously, people who take certain positions on immigration, who take certain positions on gay marriage, who take certain positions on abortion, even on voting. … There was actually a professor somewhere in California, not Berkeley, who actually said that voting for Trump was a “hate crime.” And she took pains to say I meant that literally. And there are many examples like that. And what scares me is that it’s not just rhetoric, right? There are consequences. Because if something is a crime – and somebody else said the whole election was “terrorism” – well we punish terrorists, we outlaw them. And I think that is the analogy that’s being made, is that there are certain ideas that are considered tantamount to violence, and therefore just as we outlaw and punish violence, we have to outlaw and punish those ideas, or take vigilante justice into our own hands.

Coulter: “Right. Or shoot them.”

Strassen’s point about vigilante justice is what I was getting at in describing the SPLC’s “hate group” designation as a hit list, a point that was underlined shortly after my post by James Hodgkinson.

Despite these promising signs, we’ll only really know the SPLC has been knocked off its pedestal when mainstream news media always, as a matter of editorial policy, insist that reporters put “hate group” in scare quotes, like “illegal immigrant” or “partial birth abortion” or “death tax.” An especially comical example of the current state of play in the media is an NBC piece from a couple of weeks ago, which put sharia law — an actually existing thing — in scare quotes, but did not put them around the made-up advocacy term of “hate group.” So we still have a ways to go.

The John McEnroe-Serena Williams Controversy Shows the Insanity of Radical Gender Politics

by David French

Watch this extraordinary exchange between the CBS This Morning crew and tennis great John McEnroe:

At issue was his “controversial” response to an NPR reporter who pointedly asked him why he called Serena Williams the greatest “female” tennis player who’s ever lived. Here’s the NPR exchange:

Lulu Garcia-Navarro: We’re talking about male players but there is of course wonderful female players. Let’s talk about Serena Williams. You say she is the best female player in the world in the book.

McEnroe: Best female player ever — no question.

Garcia-Navarro: Some wouldn’t qualify it, some would say she’s the best player in the world. Why qualify it?

Let’s pause for a moment and ponder the strangeness of this question. Has Garcia-Navarro never actually watched men and women play professional tennis? Besides, why does it matter? Am I ageist if I suggest that 28-year-old NBA MVP Russell Westbrook is currently a better basketball player than 54-year-old Michael Jordan? Of course not. Biology is biology. That’s life.

McEnroe was obviously surprised by the question and made the “mistake” (at least in PC terms) of answering honestly.

McEnroe: Oh! Uh, she’s not, you mean, the best player in the world, period?

Garcia-Navarro: Yeah, the best tennis player in the world. You know, why say female player?

McEnroe: Well because if she was in, if she played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world.

People are losing their minds. I’m reminded of the absurd recent “debate” over whether female UFC star Ronda Rousey could beat — of all people — Floyd Mayweather, Jr. That debate ended when Holly Holm knocked out Rousey with the “kick heard ’round the world.” 

I’d be tempted to simply shake my head and laugh, but then I remember that radical gender politics are so ingrained in our national life that our military is even now in the process of integrating women into the infantry — a decision that will decrease the combat power of mixed-gender units and increase the physical risks to both men and the women alike. 

Serena Williams is a tremendous athlete, a historic talent. There is no shame in being the best athlete in her sport, and her sport is women’s tennis. Let’s honor people for who they are, not for who they aren’t. In the meantime, it would behoove members of the so-called “party of science” to remember that biology actually does trump ideology. No amount of wishful thinking will change the facts of athletic life.

The Redhunter Catches You

by Jack Fowler

As Corner readers know, NR is moving, downsizing, and discovering in the process — we have come across 17 copies of the beautiful hardcover edition of Bill Buckley’s acclaimed 1999 novel, The Redhunter, a novel based on the life of WFB’s late and famous/infamous friend, Senator Joe McCarthy.

Would you like a copy? This is from WFB’s private stash. We aren’t taking them with us (no room for these big books, well over 420 pages each!) so we are happy to sell you a copy for $20.00. That will include shipping and handling charges. Get your copy of The Redhunter direct from the NRO Store, and we humbly suggest you act now, because when we make these offers, everything goes in a flash.

Anti-Radical-Muslim Activist Group Labeled a ‘Hate Group’ by Southern Poverty Law Center

by Ericka Andersen

Maajid Nawaz runs Quilliam, a London-based organization that aims to counter jihadism and extremism around the world. Nawaz, who considers himself a former Muslim radical (and still identifies as Muslim), is now fighting back against the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has labeled his organization a “hate group” for its strong stance against radicalism. For the record, the SPLC also put Ayaan Hirsi Ali on their list.

Nawaz has filed a lawsuit against SPLC and many are left wondering how Quilliam could have received such a label in the first place. He has admitted he feels like there already is a target on his head from certain people in the Muslim community.

Nawaz appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday to explain the controversy — and point out how well-meaning liberals are often way off the mark when it comes to their criticism. He calls it “the bigotry of low expectations,” saying that liberals fight for causes like gay rights and women’s rights in America but refuse to allow people like him to fight for those issues within their own communities. Some liberals commonly ignore the fact that gays are often murdered by being thrown off of buildings — or that countries such as Pakistan support spousal abuse.

Maher pointed out that most Muslims are not extremists, but there are many who are. Nawaz said that London police have said they need to be monitoring 23,000 jihadists in London in order to adequately prevent more terrorist attacks. The problem? They only have the capacity to monitor 3,000 — and that’s in London alone. Nawaz then points out there are even more ideological Muslims who won’t attack, but would support the attacks. The numbers are staggering.

It’s a scary shame that leftist extremists aren’t willing to take Nawaz — or Hirsi Ali — seriously. Just recently, Hirsi Ali and another anti-extremist, Asra Nomani, testified before the Senate. Nomani told Fox News that Democratic female senators refused to even look her in the eye when she addressed them about the abuse happening to women at the hands of Muslim extremists. Watch:

“Just as we are invisible to the mullahs at the mosque, we were invisible to the Democratic women in the Senate,” the two women wrote in a New York Times op-ed following the hearing, in which they were asked no questions. “When it comes to the pay gap, abortion access and workplace discrimination, progressives have much to say. But we’re still waiting for a march against honor killings, child marriages, polygamy, sex slavery or female genital mutilation.”

When will progressives join Nawaz, Hirsi Ali, and Nomani in their fight to against Islamic radicalism destroying lives around the globe?

Some Progress against the Evils of Civil Asset Forfeiture

by George Leef

Kevin Williamson nailed the truth in his recent essay — civil asset-forfeiture laws are indeed the death of due process. Justice Thomas sees that clearly and perhaps a majority will be persuaded the next time a case involving those laws reaches the Supreme Court.

However, the widespread opposition to allowing police to seize an innocent person’s property simply on suspicion that it was somehow involved in or resulted from a crime is having an impact at the state level. In Colorado, Connecticut, and Illinois, bills have either been signed or have reached the governor’s desk that make their laws less amenable to abuse by police who want to engage in some legal plunder. And in Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court has ruled in an ugly case (a 72-year-old woman was going to lose her house because her son sold some drugs in it) that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against excessive fines applies to such forfeitures. That decision will cut into the profitability of civil asset forfeiture.

I discuss those advances in my latest Forbes article.

Sadly, Congress is sitting on its hands. A bill that would defang this viper as practiced by the federal government, the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act, is stuck in its respective Senate and House committees. Yes, Congress is busy, but in the past there has been heavy support from Democrats and Republicans for the legislation. Getting the FAIR Act passed shouldn’t be terribly hard. Months ago, President Trump (after meeting with some sheriffs in Texas) indicated his opposition to reforming civil asset forfeiture, but it might be possible to get him to see that signing a reform bill into law would be most popular in lower-income and minority communities. If he wants to increase his support there, that would be a good move. In any case, repairing the damage civil asset forfeiture does to due process of law should need no political calculus.

How the Logic of Tribalism Is Driving the Health-Care Debate

by Jonah Goldberg

I’m just thinking out loud here. But it seems to me this is one of those moments in American politics where no one can simply say what they really think or want. As Yuval noted yesterday, big chunks of the GOP-controlled Congress just don’t want to deal with health care or repeal Obamacare. As both the House and Senate legislation demonstrate, they’d rather tinker with it than tear it down. But they can’t say that. So, they’re claiming this is a repeal of Obamacare. It’s not. But it is a repeal of the Medicaid expansion that was glued onto Obamacare.

This is odd in many ways. Donald Trump vowed not to touch Medicaid. He also doesn’t seem to like either bill on the merits, but he desperately wants a big legislative win and the ability to say he repealed Obamacare. So, in policy terms, the voters who believed Trump when he said he wouldn’t touch Medicaid are getting screwed, but it seems many of them — or their anointed representatives in right-wing media — don’t care, because they too want Trump to have a big political win more than a much more difficult policy win (and for the Democrats to have a big political loss).

Meanwhile, the Democrats know that Obamacare has been a huge albatross for their party and understand that the best thing that could happen for them is if the Republicans agreed to keep Obamacare in name (i.e., abandon the rhetoric of “repeal”) but do whatever is necessary to make the thing work. But the GOP is doing the opposite. It’s largely keeping Obamacare in terms of policy (at least the really popular parts) but rhetorically its claiming to destroy Obamacare utterly. So, both the Democrats and the Republicans end up claiming this is a repeal of Obamacare when it’s not. It’s all a war for the best spin, not the best policy.

In different times, a Republican president might have come in and, like Eisenhower did with the New Deal, say, “We’re not going to throw away all that stuff, but we are going to fix it and shave the rough edges off.” A mend-it-don’t-end-it rhetorical approach to Obamacare would win over enough Democrats and moderate Republicans to pass a serious (albeit way-too-statist for me) health-care bill that gave Obama credit while reworking the whole thing.

But in our universe both sides are locked into psychological positions and they cannot stomach the idea of not winning the zero-sum rhetorical war of “we won and they lost!”

I’m not saying that alternative universe would be better. For instance, I wish Eisenhower had been more hostile to the New Deal. But I do think it’s an interesting example of how rhetoric and the logic of tribalism is driving the debate far more than policy is.