Reason:”Joe Biden’s ‘Bold’ Thinking Shredded Civil Liberties and Destroyed Lives”

Justin Monticello @ Reason looks at the record of the presumptive Democrat Nominee for President:

“Joe Biden became the presumptive Democratic nominee in the 2020 election by running as a moderate unifier, hoping to win over voters with the promise of business-as-usual politics from the pre-Trump era.

Now the COVID-19 pandemic has led him to rethink his platform of a return to the days of bipartisan consensus, and his campaign is seizing the opportunity to offer what the Los Angeles Times described as “bold change” on such issues as climate change, health care, social welfare, and infrastructure.

But it’s worth remembering that in his 44 years in the Senate and then as vice president, Biden repeatedly took advantage of moments of crisis to push through policies that have exacerbated some of the most critical problems afflicting American society.

Biden has been a prominent figure in the bipartisan War on Drugs for decades, he helped the Clinton administration pass disastrous crime and immigration bills, he laid the foundation for the PATRIOT Act, he assisted the George W. Bush administration in making the case for the war in Iraq, and then as vice president he oversaw the deportation of a record number of people.”

Full Post with Video @ Reason https://reason.com/video/joe-bidens-bold-thinking-shredded-civil-liberties-and-destroyed-lives/

“Why Taiwan Hasn’t Shut Down Its Economy”

Javiar Caramez Sanchez & William Hangsong Wang @ F.E.E

As the Austrian school of economics demonstrates in the calculation theory of socialism, no central planning body has the capacity to organize society based on coercive mandates. The main reason is that the central planner is unable to obtain all the necessary information to organize society in this way, as information has subjective, creative, dispersed, and tacit qualities. This principle is fully applicable to the containment of a pandemic. Individual responsibility along with transparency of information are crucial to stopping a pandemic. Taiwan makes a very good case for how individualism and voluntary cooperation work effectively in resisting the coronavirus pandemic.

At the moment in Taiwan, the infection has been completely contained despite being one of the countries with the highest risk of suffering a pandemic, given that the Republic of China (ROC) is very close to the Chinese mainland (the People’s Republic of China (PRC)). Until January there were flights between Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, and the epicenter of Wuhan, China. However, as of March 21 there were only 153 infected at the same time that Europe, far away from the Chinese mainland, has more than ten thousand affected by the coronavirus. However, in Taiwan and other parts of Asia, including Singapore and Hong Kong, no massive mandatory quarantine or containment has been applied so far.

How did Taiwan achieve this?

The first cause of Taiwan’s success is the transparency of information, which stopped the rapid growth of infection. The containment in Taiwan has been carried out with relatively high transparency. As early as December 31 of last year the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Taiwan began to take serious the potential danger of the Wuhan pneumonia, informing citizens every day about the developing trends of the infection and its status. The information provided by the Taiwanese authority also includes whether the infected in Taiwan contracted the illness from overseas input, which helps people take measures to protect themselves in a timely manner. In the constant press conferences, the Taiwanese government provides different options and recommendation that people can choose to adopt voluntarily but are not imposed coercively. The abundant information provided continuously has allowed individuals to make their own informed and balanced decisions under conditions of uncertainty.

Full Post by Javiar Caramez Sanchez & William Hangsong Wang @ Foundation for Economic Education https://fee.org/articles/why-taiwan-hasnt-shut-down-its-economy/

“Why The U.S. Should Scrap The Useless, Noxious Saudi Relationship”

by Daniel Larison @ The American Conservative

Gil Barndollar and Sam Long do an excellent job of making the case against the noxious U.S.-Saudi relationship:

These attacks on individuals, however, paled in comparison to the Kingdom’s military misjudgments. The war in Yemen, pushed by Mohammed bin Salman when he became Minister of Defense in 2015, was expected to be a quick triumph. Instead it has become the worst humanitarian disaster on earth. American-made missiles and bombs have killed thousands of civilians due to some combination of Saudi carelessness, incompetence, and malice. The campaign has also been an embarrassment for Saudi Arabia’s paper tiger military, outfought by Yemen’s Houthi militia and trapped in an unwinnable war — a war backstopped by the support of both the Obama and Trump administrations.

These decisions ultimately damage the United States, rightly seen as Saudi Arabia’s unblinking protector. Though Congress took belated steps to end the Saudi campaign in Yemen, most Americans could and did ignore Saudi Arabia’s recent actions in its own neighborhood. But as job losses mount, ordinary Americans will finally face the consequences of our toxic relationship with the Saudi monarchy.

The U.S. has worked with some very nasty authoritarian states over the decades, sometimes out of genuine necessity in WWII and sometimes because it was deemed expedient for the sake of a larger policy goal. The U.S. has usually come to regret the compromises that it has made by cooperating with these governments, and the benefits from these relationships have usually been few and limited. The U.S.-Saudi relationship serves no such purpose now if it ever did, and the U.S. gets no benefits from it at all. Now there are only costs and risks, and they continue to increase as the reckless Mohammed bin Salman consolidates his hold on power.

It would have been difficult to identify any real benefit to the U.S. from this relationship five years ago before the start of the war on Yemen. Over the last few years, it has become even more obvious that the relationship is a costly and embarrassing liability. The U.S. has not only implicated itself in the kingdom’s many war crimes with unstinting support for the war, but it has also contributed to the destabilization of the region and the destruction of Yemen that has put millions of lives in jeopardy from famine and disease. I can’t imagine what strategic benefit could be “worth” helping to facilitate mass starvation in any case, but there is no question that the U.S. gains nothing from participating in this horror.

Now that the Saudi government is openly attacking the U.S. oil industry as part of its feud with Russia, they have gone from being a bad and reckless client to a government that is deliberately and directly hurting U.S. interests. There used to be a weak argument that selling weapons to the Saudis at least created some jobs, but the jobs created by these arms deals are very few. This made for a terrible excuse for enabling the slaughter of civilians, but now the Saudi oil price war will wipe out far more jobs and businesses than their weapons purchases have ever created. Throughout all of this, the Trump administration has remained resolutely pro-Saudi and shows no signs of changing. The administration’s Saudi First foreign policy has been extremely bad for the U.S. and for the region, and it makes me wonder if there is anything that the Saudis could do that would cause them to change course.

If there were a realistic chance that the Saudi government’s behavior might significantly improve in the future, that might support an argument against making major changes to the relationship, but we know that the current crown prince is likely to become the next king and he is expected to rule for several decades. Judging from his first few years in power, there is no reason to expect Mohammed bin Salman to become less destructive and heavy-handed over time. The U.S. should move as quickly as possible to put as much distance between us and the Saudi kingdom as we can now. If we don’t, we will very likely regret it later. Remaining so closely aligned with such a regional menace will only embroil us in their wars and make us complicit in their many crimes and abuses. Whatever value the U.S.-Saudi relationship may have had, it is not worth keeping in its present form any longer.

Source:Daniel Larison @ The American Conservative https://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/why-the-u-s-should-scrap-the-useless-noxious-saudi-relationship/

“The National Debt Is ‘Unsustainable’ and the Pentagon’s Finances Are a Total Mess, Federal Audit Says”

Eric Boehm @ Reason Magazine reports:

The federal government’s books are in such bad shape that auditors can’t even do their jobs, and the national debt is growing at an “unsustainable” rate, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned in its annual comprehensive review of the government’s financial statements.

The GAO singled out the Pentagon—as it has every year since 1990, when federal auditors first started trying to peer into the black hole of military spending—for “serious financial management problems.” That includes more than 1,300 new issues raised during this year’s incomplete audit of the Defense Department. Despite those persistent financial problems, the Pentagon has seen a huge boost in spending under the Trump administration.

Of the 24 federal departments and agencies subject to annual audits under a 1990 law, only the Pentagon and the Department of Housing and Urban Development failed to get a clean review this year. Note that a clean review does not mean there was no wasteful spending—merely that auditors at least were able to see where the spending was going.

“Resolving the problems outlined in our audit report is of utmost importance given the federal government’s reported fiscal path,” wrote Gene L. Dodaro, U.S. comptroller general and the head of the GAO, in a letter to Congress and President Donald Trump. “Absent policy changes, the federal government continues to face an unsustainable long-term fiscal path.”

Measured as a share of the entire U.S. economy, the national debt has doubled in just 12 years and is on pace to grow to historical highs within the next decade. The federal government’s budget deficit—the gap between how much revenue it raises and how much money it spends—is expected to exceed $1 trillion this year.

“While the estimated magnitude of the fiscal gap is subject to a substantial amount of uncertainty, it is nevertheless nearly certain that current fiscal policies cannot be sustained indefinitely,” the GAO’s report concluded. The sooner the growth of the deficit and debt can be slowed or reversed, the less those policies are likely to affect economic growth.

But is anyone listening? Lawmakers from both major parties have worked together in recent years to pass budgets that exploded annual deficits and added to the debt. Democrats running for president are promising to hike federal spending by trillions of dollars to pay for free college, government-run health care, and the fight against climate change—and even though they are also promising to raise taxes, the math doesn’t add up. That means deficits will continue to grow. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has abandoned any pretense of fiscal conservatism, and most of his party has followed suit.

But the report is right there for them to see. When the past decade’s fiscal recklessness hits the fan, they won’t be able to claim that no one saw this coming.

Source:Eric Boehm @ Reason Magazine https://reason.com/2020/02/28/the-national-debt-is-unsustainable-and-the-pentagons-finances-are-a-total-mess-federal-audit-says/

“Senator Sanders Is Wrong on Cuban Education and Healthcare”

by Marian L Tupy & Chealsea Follett @ Cato Institute:

The current frontrunner among the contenders vying to become the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (D‑VT), sang Cuba’s praises in a recent 60 Minutes interview on CBS. Senator Sanders applauded Cuba’s education and healthcare system. Potential Sanders supporters should know that Cuba’s literacy rate and healthcare system are nothing to lionize.

First, consider literacy. According to Sanders, “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing?” Sanders is surely old enough to know that all communist dictatorships throughout history have ensured that their people were literate—in part so that the people might take in the disinformation printed by government propaganda ministries.

Furthermore, a look at the data reveals that all of the progress regarding literacy that happened under communism in Cuba would almost certainly have happened under a different political and economic system. While trustworthy data, defogged of Cuban propaganda, are difficult to come by, the U.S. Department of State tried to do just that by comparing improvements in human well‐​being in Cuba between the 1950s (the last decade of the hated Batista regime) and 2000.

Accordingly, Cuba’s literacy rate rose by 26 percent between 1950/53 and 2000. But literacy rose even more, by 37 percent, in Paraguay. Food consumption in Cuba actually declined by 12 percent between 1954/57 and 1995/97. It rose by 19 percent in Chile and by 28 percent in Mexico over the same time period. Between 1954/57 and 1995/97, the rate of change in car ownership per 1,000 people in Cuba declined at an annual rate of 0.1 percent. It increased at an annual rate of 16 percent in Brazil, 25 percent in Ecuador and 26 percent in Colombia.

Next, consider healthcare. Sanders has repeatedly extolled Cuba’s healthcare system, opining that in Cuba the communist revolutionary and dictator Fidel Castro “gave them [the Cuban people] health care, totally transformed the society, you know?” Yet a recent study has found that Cuba’s seemingly impressive health performance is partly due to data manipulation and coercion.

Life expectancy is the best proxy measure of health. According to Cuba’s official data, it rose by 25 percent between 1960 and 2017. Yet life expectancy increased even faster in comparable countries: in Mexico it improved by 35 percent, in the Dominican Republic by 43 percent, and in impoverished Haiti by 51 percent.

The data make clear that Cuba’s education and healthcare system are unremarkable. Cuban‐​Americans and others familiar with Castro’s record are rightly appalled by Sanders’ apparent affection for socialism on the island.

Full Commentary @ Cato Institute https://www.cato.org/blog/senator-sanders-wrong-cubas-education-healthcare?utm_source=feedotorg&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=fee_partners

Larison:”Bloomberg’s Warped Perception Of China”

Center for American Progress/Flickr

FEBRUARY 27, 2020|

11:04 AMDANIEL LARISON

Bloomberg is determined not to call Xi Jinping a dictator:

In a CNN town hall on Wednesday, Bloomberg declined to call Chinese President Xi Jinping a dictator, saying “it’s a question of what is a dictator,” and that while China is not a democracy, leaders are still chosen by a small group of people and are replaced periodically.

“I think the question is, if your definition is a democracy where people vote and pick their leaders, that is not what China is about,” Bloomberg said. “They like their system, and I think they’re wrong, I think they’d be better off opening things up.”

Bloomberg’s unwillingness to use the word dictator to describe the head of a one-party authoritarian state is strange. This isn’t a matter of diplomatic politesse. It is possible to call things by their right names and still pursue cooperation with another government when our interests and theirs overlap. The former mayor is sticking to his Politburo defense:

Well it’s a question of what is a dictator. They don’t have democratic — a democracy in the sense that they have general elections, that is true. They do have a system where a small group of people appoint the head, and they churn over periodically.

If you go back and look at the last two or three decades there’ve been a number of people that had the same position that Xi Jinping has.

It’s true that Xi has had predecessors in the same role. It’s also true that this periodic change in leadership doesn’t make their system any less of an authoritarian dictatorship. Bloomberg also ignores how much Xi has consolidated power over the last seven years. Under Xi, they have removed term limits, so he will probably be able to remain in that position for the rest of his life. Xi has cultivated a cult of personality around himself more than any previous leader since Mao:

President Xi Jinping, poised to rule over China indefinitely, is at the center of the Communist Party’s most colorful efforts to build a cult of personality since the death of People’s Republic founder Mao Zedong in 1976.

Xi’s image dominates the front pages of state newspapers, hours of state television broadcasts, magazine covers, posters sold at markets, billboards around parks and signs posted along sidewalks.

On television, Xi is often depicted as being wildly adored by anyone from factory workers and farmers to space engineers and soldiers who typically applaud Xi for several minutes.

This is common knowledge, and it has been going on for years. Bloomberg must know this, but he hides behind this idea of a periodic “churn” in leaders as if that matters. The problem here is not just that Bloomberg refuses to use the accurate term, but that his refusal reflects an unwillingness to tell the truth about what the Chinese government is because so much of his business is tied up in their market. This is not Bloomberg’s failing alone, but he is representative of business leaders that bend over backwards to avoid offending the Chinese government. Bloomberg’s perception of the Chinese government is unavoidably warped by his dealings with them, and it raises the fair question of why anyone should trust his judgment about the U.S.-China relationship.

Source:Daniel Larison @ The American Conservative https://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/bloombergs-warped-perception-of-china/

Harsanyi:Why Bernie Sanders’s Praise of Fidel Castro Matters

He’s defended virtually every Communist tyrant he’s ever been asked about over the past 50 years.

Did you know that infamous Nazi Hermann Göring was a great lover of animals, a protector of birds, and head of the forestry service in Germany? Unless you’re a history buff, probably not. After all, almost no one feels the need to preface their comments about the Third Reich with “Sure, the authoritarianism was pretty bad, but, boy, that Göring was one hell of an environmentalist!”

Western elites, however, like to use this kind of absurd criterion whenever they talk about socialism, ignoring its vast failures and praising its piddling and alleged successes — you know, “Denmark,” but not Algeria, Albania, Angola, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burma, Cambodia, China, Congo, East Germany, Ethiopia, Hungary, Latvia, Mongolia, Romania, Somalia, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, and so on and on.

And unlike many modern progressives, Bernie Sanders is old-school, still in the habit of praising old comrades. “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing?” Bernie told 60 Minutes this past weekend, reacting to criticism of his near-complete praise of the dictator back in the 1980s.

The answer is: Yes, massive literacy programs instituted using the machinery of a tyranny are, indeed, a bad thing. For one thing, you can institute massive literacy programs without authoritarianism, just as you can build impressive highways without fascism or alleviate most poverty without collectivism. Just ask the United States, or any other capitalistic nation with wealth and high literacy rates.

Even then, Sanders is regurgitating Communist propaganda. Cuba already had the highest literacy rate in Latin America before the revolution, and it basically kept trending in the same direction as every other nation in the region. When Castro triumphantly entered Havana in 1958, he didn’t bring truckloads of books; he ordered thousands of arrests and summary executions. When Castro “came into office,” he canceled elections, terminated the free press, and turned Cuba into the island prison that still exists today.

Full Commentary by David Harsanyi @ National Review https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/02/bernie-sanders-praise-fidel-castro-why-it-matters/#slide-1