Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) turned 21 this year, an appropriate time to evaluate its successes and failures and to apply those lessons to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement recently signed and under review by the U.S. Congress. The 12-nation TPP has, after all, been called “NAFTA on steroids.” To do so is to recognize that Mrs. Clinton, who recently flipped from supporting TPP to opposing it, has unfortunately reached her position for political and not sound policy reasons.
NAFTA, implemented in 1994, generated plenty of anxieties and attacks in its day. It was not only the largest free trade agreement at the time, but also the first to tie together developed nations (Canada and the U.S.) with an underdeveloped country (Mexico) in such a treaty. The idea of reducing tariffs and trade barriers among the countries led to fears of widespread job losses. Remember Ross Perot’s “giant sucking sound” in the 1992 presidential debate? That was supposed to be from the 5.9 million jobs he claimed would go south to Mexico.
In fact, NAFTA at 21 looks pretty good, in some ways really good. Trade among the three countries is up 300% to $1.2 trillion and the three members are now each other’s largest trading partners. Real wages are up in all three countries. Due in large part to NAFTA, North America has become something of an economic power region, now producing one-fourth of global GDP. North America is becoming an energy exporter and the long-needed energy independence from Middle Eastern oil is now a realistic possibility. In order to increase trade and attract foreign direct investment, Mexico has democratized, another significant benefit. Improved political relations among the three countries is, in some ways, the biggest gain of all.
But didn’t America lose manufacturing jobs as a result of NAFTA? The record on this is difficult to read, since there are so many other factors—especially globalization—in the picture. The U.S. has steadily lost manufacturing jobs but the “problem” is not NAFTA but increased productivity, which rose 92% between 1993 and 2013. American jobs have gone not just to Mexico but to China, India and elsewhere because of cheaper labor, not lower import costs. What NAFTA did was shift jobs from lower skills and wages to higher ones. The Congressional Budget Office studied NAFTA and concluded its effects on employment have been small.
Despite speaking in favor of TPP 45 times in recent years—even calling it “the gold standard in trade agreements”—Mrs. Clinton now says she cannot support it, citing concern about jobs and wages, national security, and specific provisions about currency manipulation and drug companies. Objective studies about NAFTA confirm that the jobs and wages argument just doesn’t fly. And let’s face it, you don’t change your position on an entire treaty because of two relatively minor provisions such as the ones she referenced.
Sadly, as was the case with NAFTA, opposing TPP turns out to be about politics and not policy. Having been outflanked on the left by Obama in 2008, Hillary obviously feels a need to cover her left perimeter against Bernie Sanders, who has opposed the TPP. And, running in states like Ohio and Michigan where manufacturing and jobs are key, you want to be able to make a lot of noise about protecting American workers.
If you read the fine print, however, what Mrs. Clinton actually said was: “What I know about it, as of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it.” So watch for her position to “evolve.” The “gold standard of trade agreements” recently, she cannot support “today,” but if she becomes president, or even the Democratic nominee, look for her to review it and reach yet a different conclusion, just as she and Obama did in 2008, opposing NAFTA as candidates but supporting it later. The sucking sound Clinton fears turns out to be votes going left, not jobs leaving the country.
Read the column at Forbes.com:
Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
The Obama administration’s Department of Justice is full of surprises, the latest being their opinion that city ordinances banning public sleeping constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Constitution. Although this was merely an opinion submitted to the federal court in Idaho about Boise’s ordinance, cities all over America are right to be concerned.
Local regulations about sleeping in public places are among the few tools cities have in managing the huge problem of the homeless taking over public parks and sidewalks at night. While there is legal precedent that you should not punish someone for their status (addiction, for example), here it is conduct the ordinances deal with.
Yes, we need more shelters and additional tools to deal with homelessness. But we don’t need Washington lawyers trying to engage in social engineering by issuing edicts. As Chief Justice Roberts said in his dissenting opinion in the gay marriage case, “Federal courts (and we could add lawyers) are blunt instruments when it comes to creating rights.”
Link to audio at Townhall.com:
Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
Big surprise: the Republican debate at the Reagan Library did not produce a clear winner, or even a single compelling narrative. That’s not really the point when you put 11 candidates on a stage for three hours more than a year before the election. But, since I watched for three hours so you would not have to, here are a few winners and important narratives for you to take away from this event.
(1) Thanks to Donald Trump, immigration has become the “elephant” in the room. Trump claimed that, were he not in the race, the media and others would not be asking questions about border walls, birth citizenship, or deporting illegals, all of which were front and center at the Reagan Library. On this issue, and perhaps others, Trump has connected with Richard Nixon’s old “silent majority.” While the politicians on both sides talk about paths to citizenship or legal status, Trump says we should start by enforcing the laws on immigrations in all respects. In today’s politically correct era, people have been afraid to say that, and Trump has spoken for them in ways that have changed the debate. This one is not over yet.
(2) A year away, this campaign is still dominated by the outsider and disrupter candidates, not by the politicians. The big story on the Republican side is that the outsiders—Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina—are leading or, in Fiorina’s case, in the ascendancy. The debate moderator pointed out that those three candidates in total have more than 50% support in the polls. The problem is that debates are mostly questions about how a candidate would govern, not disrupt, so that makes for an awkward, uneven stage. Trump, for example, was forced to admit when some of his answers to questions on international affairs were a little thin, that he is not a sitting senator and will know a lot more about that on Inauguration Day than he does today. Trump, Fiorina and Carson wanted to talk more broadly about leadership, whereas the questions and comments by others were about specific policies. These are strange times, but I still have to believe that the outsiders and disrupters will not be there at the end.
(3) In one of the mini-races within the larger contest, Ohio governor John Kasich made some ground against the other moderate candidate, Jeb Bush. While Bush continues to insist that he is a “conservative reformer,” as Donald Trump was quick to point out, Bush’s ideas of reform are big-government or liberal policies, such as Common Core in education or more welcoming policies toward illegal immigrants. In personal style, Bush is plagued with some of his father’s so-called “wimp factor” with a dash of his brother’s smugness. By contrast, Kasich was surprisingly clear, strong and positive and underscored his extensive federal and state leadership. Kasich entered the race late and has a long way to go, but he made some ground against Bush on stage.
(4) My winners in terms of debate performance were Marco Rubio, who was well-informed and articulate; John Kasich, the only one who seemed able to make governing experience sound favorable; Carly Fiorina, who continues to be strong and clear, acquitting herself well in her first appearance among the top tier candidates; and Donald Trump, who was in the center of the stage and everything else, made no real blunders and was himself, which is one reason voters like him. Ben Carson is plenty smart, but is so soft-spoken that a debate with 11 strong people is not his strong-suit.
So-called great debates rarely turn out to be great and, with 11 people on stage, they are not even truly debates. Some candidates, who are not as well funded, need a home run in the debates to get sufficient traction—it was difficult to see that candidates like Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Chris Christie or Scott Walker scored well enough to add much fuel to their tanks.
To view the column at Forbes.com:
Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
This is David Davenport of the Hoover Institution for Townhall.com.
California has provided for us yet another case study in the never-ending saga that big government solutions rarely work.
A billionaire bankrolled a California proposition in 2012 called the “California Clean Energy Jobs Act.” Oh, it was going be great—promising job creation, improving public schools and combating climate change.
Three years later, an AP report says it has created barely 10 percent of the jobs it promised and more than half the money spent by public schools has gone to energy consultants and auditors. The state agency that oversees it had no data about it, but somehow is sure it is on track. And the citizens oversight board to track it has never met.
Sounds just like the cash for clunkers report awhile back showing that not only did we not create car sales, but the government program actually inhibited sales with misguided regulations.
When will we learn the truth of Ronald Reagan’s 9 most dangerous words in the English language? “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
I’m David Davenport.
To listen to the audio: http://townhallreview.com/2015/09/davenport-big-government-solutions-dont-deliver/
Posted by daviddavenport in Newspaper Columns/Essays, Op/Eds.
It seems like everybody has something bad to say about Donald Trump—everyone except Republican voters who are speaking through the polls. One headline says he is a “mortal threat” to the GOP. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner calls him “outrageous.” Jeb Bush screwed up his courage and charged that Trump is a “germophobe” over his reluctance to shake hands. Trump piñatas are flying off the shelves in immigrant communities in California. And that’s just this week.
So let me tell you what’s good about Donald Trump and why his candidacy makes sense at this stage of the presidential campaign. Republicans can thank him later.
First, Trump is the voice of midlife crisis, the answer to voters’ disappointing question, “Is this all there is?” Voters are obviously tired of the same old roster of candidates talking about the same things in the same ways. We all recognize if there was a place on the ballot for “none of the above,” that listing would win a lot of races. It’s no accident that joining Trump at the top of the polls right now is the other political novice and outsider, Ben Carson, with businesswoman Carly Fiorina charging hard from the rear. Voters in midlife crisis need a voice and Trump provides it. But they won’t marry him later.
Second, Trump is talking about things that some voters care about. While everybody else discusses building a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, Trump speaks for those who are still concerned about the rule of law in rewarding those who are in the country illegally. Voters hear his cockiness and bluster and think, “Well, at least he won’t be leading from behind in the world.” A guy who has made a ton of money might know something about economic growth, instead of the stagnation we’ve been living through for years. So rather than Common Core or teacher unions or issues other candidates are advancing, Trump seems to articulate things at least some people would like to hear.
Third, Trump is reminding the other Republican candidates of how to run to the right. Richard Nixon, who campaigned twice for the vice presidency and three times for the presidency, used to say that in order to win, a Republican had to first run to the right to consolidate his own party, then run to the center to win the general election. Today’s Republicans are having trouble with the first part, running to the right. Presumed front-runner Jeb Bush, who has characterized himself as a reform candidate, wants a lot of the same big government reforms as liberals and Democrats in education and immigration, for example. As Mitt Romney learned in 2012, Republicans will not win without energizing their conservative base and a candidate like Trump will force the conversation in that direction.
A classic political book, E.J. Dionne’s Why Americans Hate Politics, sets up Trump’s early success beautifully. Dionne points out that typically in political campaigns, candidates run around chanting and beating their chests about things voters don’t care about. Then, when they win, they go back to Washington or their state capitols, do nothing, and then go back out in two or four years for more pitched battles. It is precisely this paradigm that Trump breaks through—a guy who is not a professional politician who is talking about things that at least some regular people care about.
Of course the professional politicians won’t like a candidate like Trump. Who could like the star of “Donald Trump and the Sixteen Dwarfs,” especially if you are one of the dwarfs? As Jeb Bush whined, “He should be treated like a front-runner, not like some kind of alternative universe to the political system.” But that’s the point isn’t it? A year out, people who are frustrated about the political system and those who lead it have the time, and thanks to Donald Trump, the opportunity, to fantasize about life in an alternate political universe.
Read Column at Forbes.com:
Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
This is David Davenport of the Hoover Institution for Townhall.com
A faculty and student committee at the University of New Hampshire has published a “Bias Free Language Guide” and boy (oops I can’t say that), is it a doozy!
“American” is a problematic word there now, along with mothering, fathering, illegal alien, older people, rich person and poor person. As an older, rich American who has done his share of fathering, I’d be in real trouble there.
Speech codes have been a problem on college campuses in recent years. In order to promote political correctness, these codes limit First Amendment free speech. And even when they aren’t mandatory, such as the one in New Hampshire, they limit the terms of debate. How can you really discuss immigration, for example, if you can’t talk about Americans or illegal aliens?
Unfortunately, limiting debate is the point. The Committee that drafted this admitted they were trying to get at “the truths of hierarchy and oppression.”
Colleges need to be open to broad ideas and language as tools of learning.
I’m David Davenport.
For audio link to Salem/Townhall:
Posted by daviddavenport in Newspaper Columns/Essays, Op/Eds.
At first I didn’t even read the story about whether laws against the homeless sleeping in public places violated the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. I figured it was just one more crazy story to filter out in the effort to retain my sanity when reading our local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle. Boy was I wrong. This wasn’t just another “only in San Francisco” story—this was the Obama administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ) telling the Federal District Court in Idaho that Boise’s ban on public sleeping as applied to the homeless was cruel and unusual punishment. And it’s getting the attention of cities everywhere.
You really have to appreciate all those lawyers back in Washington acknowledging that homelessness is a huge problem, pointing out that on any given night in America half a million people are homeless, with 42% sleeping in public locations. And then going on to tell the nation’s cities and mayors, “Sorry, but the way you are dealing with it, banning public camping and sleeping, is unconstitutional. Oh, and by the way, good luck with figuring out a different solution to this huge social problem. We’ve got your back—with a sharp legal filing sticking in it.”
Let’s agree that homelessness is a huge and complicated issue, compounded in recent years by the recession, tight housing markets, and less money for mental health, public housing and other social services. While cities, churches and nonprofits try to establish shelters and services, local governments also seek to keep the problem away from public parks and spaces, with laws against camping or sleeping in public or in vehicles. The latter is admittedly a bit of a defensive holding position while trying to build up the resources to tackle homelessness in more productive ways.
So into that delicate policy balance steps a team of federal lawyers from Washington, D.C.—“I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” Ronald Reagan liked to joke. And with the crudest of instruments, a legal filing, they seek to change hundreds of local policies with a creative interpretation of the constitution and a word processor. Historically, there is judicial precedent for the notion that one should not be punished for one’s condition (for example, addiction), but obviously what cities are seeking to ban is certain conduct. Now the argument becomes more complicated when you weigh whether the homeless, in certain cities at particular times, have a choice in where to sleep. But this feels more like a dilemma to be managed than a law seeking a ban. We await the court’s decision on this, but already many cities are nervous about the DOJ’s opinion.
This is but the latest example of a growing problem—lawyers and courts as engines of social change. As Chief Justice Roberts recently wrote in the his dissenting opinion in the gay marriage case: “Federal courts are blunt instruments when it comes to creating rights. . .[T]hey do not have the flexibility of legislatures to address concerns of parties not before the court or to anticipate problems that may arise from the exercise of a new right.” This is far too complicated a matter to resolve with a quick and relatively easy constitutional ban.
Let’s face it, these DOJ lawyers are, as our son used to say about his big sister, throwing their weight around. Courts have gone from being “beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power,” as Alexander Hamilton put it in Federalist 78, to the strongest. As recently as 1989, legal scholar Bruce Ackerman described courts as sitting in the last car of the train and deciding whether to throw on the brakes—now they’ve moved to the engine, powering social policy and deciding which track to take. Courts are now the quick and easy route to change, but representative government, with its ability to study matters, engage in debate and experimentation, is the better way to tackle social problems.
To read story at Forbes site: http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2015/08/17/ordinances-banning-public-sleeping-are-unconstitutional-cruel-and-unusual-punishment-seriously/
Posted by daviddavenport in Newspaper Columns/Essays, Politics.
How do you make sense of a Republican presidential race with 17 candidates running 15 months before the election? It’s a lot like making sense of the Major League Baseball season in August, two months before the World Series. My logic parallels that of former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda who said: “There are three types of baseball players: Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happens.”
For starters, you have to know what you are trying to “make happen” at this stage of the season. No team is trying to win the World Series in August; instead the goal is to get in position to be one of the 10 (of 30) teams to make the playoffs where, as they say, anything can happen. Likewise, 17 Republicans are not trying to be the final party nominee this early, they’re just trying to be one of the 3-5 candidates left standing next summer. As in baseball, that’s really about developing momentum and finding the money to remain in the race as long as possible.
Then to understand baseball at this stage, you’d have to look at the races within the race: which teams are competing for the automatic playoff berths of division championships and which teams are realistically positioning themselves for the less secure wild-card slots? Fewer people understand that, among 17 candidates, there are mini-races as well. Jeb Bush and John Kasich are vying for the “moderate” slot in the final rounds. Donald Trump can afford to stay in the race as long as he wants, holding the special “reality star” berth. All the rest are competing to be among two or so “conservatives” left standing a year from now.
Of course, many teams are not realistic contenders this year and are positioning themselves for the future, and so too are some of the candidates. Some are staking out particular issues and constituencies, such as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum with conservative Christians. As a woman, Carly Fiorina is useful in attacking Hillary Clinton and her record. Some are really running for vice president (Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, and even Marco Rubio come to mind) and several are building war chests and name recognition for the future.
So in Tommy Lasorda’s trilogy, who is making it happen? I would say Bush, Walker and Trump, with Rubio still a possibility. Bush will be the moderate finalist, Walker the conservative, and Trump the reality wild card. Rubio, or someone else, might join Walker as a conservative near the end.
Notably, Donald Trump is this year’s wild card who may become a new norm. As a reality television personality, he uses his platform to connect with people’s anger and frustrations about politics. He has the money to stay in the race as long as he wants to and you know what? Staying in the race helps build his personal “brand” no matter how well he fares politically. The last time we had a candidate of this sort was Ross Perot in 1992, who ran as an independent and collected an amazing 19% of the popular vote but none of the all-important electoral votes. He arguably did split the Republican votes sufficiently to prevent George W. Bush’s reelection, which is a problem for the party again this time if Trump continues next fall as an independent candidate. Imagine 2020’s version of the Kardashians or Jenners running next time.
A few are, in Lasorda’s words, at least watching it happen: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and perhaps Carly Fiorina. And the rest, well no one is likely to even remember that they ran once it’s all over. Polls are already at work deciding who will be in the field when the next debate moderators say: Play ball. Like baseball, presidential politics is a long season.
See the article at Forbes.com:
Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
No wonder many Americans question the value of sending their kids to universities for four years. Oh wait, I better not say “Americans” since, at least at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), that is now a “problematic” word. The “Bias-Free Language Guide” at UNH also has problems with mothering, fathering, illegal alien, older people, rich person, poor person, etc. It’s a good thing I don’t teach there since, by now, I might well be charged with being an older rich American who has done his share of fathering.
Speech codes have been a problem on college campuses in recent years, with their direct clash with First Amendment rights to free speech. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education produces an annual report on the subject, finding most recently that 55% of 437 colleges and universities studied had such codes. They come in all shapes and sizes, but the University of New Hampshire guide is especially rich (oops, I should have said “an individual of material wealth”). Apparently a group of students and faculty, concerned with “the truths of hierarchy and oppression,” spent considerable time developing it. It was on the University’s official website in a section on “inclusive excellence” until it blew up in the media this week and the University removed it, or at least restricted access to it.
The school motto “Veritas” (truth) at Harvard University. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg
Although this particular “guide” was not a mandatory or enforceable speech code, it is nevertheless troubling. At the core, colleges and universities are supposed to be engaged in the difficult, and often messy, search for truth, as promoted with the motto “Veritas” at the entrance to Harvard University . Yale’s statement on “freedom of expression” captures this search well when it says students must be able to “think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable.” Acknowledging that students will encounter people who think differently than they do, at Yale everyone is expected “to honor their free expression, even when what they have to say seems wrong or offensive to you.” In a debate on immigration, for example, if I am not supposed to comment on the illegality of someone’s presence in the country, that rules out an essential portion of the debate.
But limiting the nature of substantive debate is precisely the effect, and arguably the underlying purpose, of such a guide. On the surface it purports to be a speech code about “awareness of any bias in our daily language,” but the guide goes on to say that it is also about the deeper questions of “hierarchy and oppression.” Since debates are about ideas, and ideas are expressed in language, limiting the language necessarily limits the debate. If students are not supposed to argue policies pertaining to the “rich” and “poor,” or should avoid talking about “Americans” or “illegal aliens,” obviously a lot of robust debate is lost. The chilling effect on free speech is precisely why the First Amendment guarantees it, and a government-run university is especially vulnerable to constitutional challenges to speech codes.
College stakeholders who read such a guide or policy would also wonder what in the world they are doing with all that time and taxpayer funding at UNH. The New Hampshire Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley quite reasonably said in response to the guide: “The University System of New Hampshire should concentrate on educating students to compete in the 21st century economy rather than taking political correctness to farcical levels.”
Colleges and universities are supposed to be the realm of ideas where students learn. Unfortunately they have become bastions of political correctness, championing seemingly every kind of diversity except the most important educational diversity of all: a diversity of ideas.
Link to article at Forbes.com:
Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
“My country ‘tis of Thee, sweet land of Secularity” will be our new national hymn as America enters the uncharted territory of a post-Christian era. Long known as “a Christian nation,” the U.S. has turned sharply in a secular direction, thanks to the trickle-down influence of elites and handed-down dictates from courts. This historic shift will affect everything from elections to education to ethics and beyond.
How can a nation be Christian (or post-Christian) in the first place? America has never been a theocracy, following the direct rule of God in the manner of the Islamic Republic of Iran or the Vatican (or Israel in Old Testament times). Rather America has been referred to as a Christian nation because of the core beliefs and world view of a majority of its people and an acknowledgement of God by its public leaders and symbols. But as Americans, especially the young, move away from faith in large numbers, and courts systematically dismantle religious symbols and influences, the post-Christian era has arrived.
Recent polls confirm the increasing secularization of our people, especially the young. A poll by the Pew Foundation shows that the number of Americans describing themselves as Christian has declined by about 10% between 2007-2014. Meanwhile, those professing no religion grew by 50% in that same time frame. Fewer than 6 in 10 millennials (ages 18-33) affiliate with any branch of Christianity. A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that 66% of those age 65 and over believe being Christian is an important part of being American, while only 35% of those ages18-29 agree. These numbers are changing remarkably quickly as Americans are seemingly losing their faith and becoming more like secular Europeans.
Another lens into post-Christian America is the declining impact of traditional Christian teaching on social mores. The sexual revolution continues to redefine the nature of sex, relationships and the family away from orthodox Christian teaching. Young people increasingly see science as a challenge to the teachings of the Bible. The rise of tolerance as the ultimate value in society sometimes clashes with religious notions of absolute truth. In short, a new and more liberal orthodoxy is tipping the scales of public dialogue and conventional wisdom away from the narrower views of traditional religion.
Finally, the courts have begun to chip away at religious influence and symbolism in the public square. I mean, when the Oklahoma Supreme Court votes 7-2 that a monument of the Ten Commandments must be removed from the state Capitol, as it did recently, you know times are changing. It probably will not be long before “one nation under God” in the pledge and “in God we trust” on the currency will be ruled unconstitutional by courts. Of greater significance was the Obergefell v. Hodges decision about same sex marriage, in which the traditional Christian understanding of marriage received so little attention and support that the justices could only uphold Christians “teaching” and “advocating” their views, rather than quoting the more muscular language of the First Amendment about “free exercise.” In his dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito warned that the court’s opinion “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.”
In one sense, Christians need not despair. Christianity has survived governments and societies of all kinds throughout the ages. But the losers in this may be less the Christians than the larger society. The Founders consistently warned that in order for a free republic to work, a virtuous people would be needed, and the source of that virtue, in their experience, was religion. So the question we must answer in post-Christian America is this: What will be the sources of our virtues and values? My own uneasiness about this was reflected on a bumper sticker I saw on a Los Angeles freeway: “THERE IS NO HOPE (but I could be wrong).”
Link to column at Forbes.com: