Insane Fourth Circuit: Muslims’ Feelings Trump National Security

Actual rights — such as life, liberty, property, and conscience — are denied by the courts. American Christians cannot run their own property in accordance with their conscience — the most sacred of all property rights. “Bake the damn cake,” they say!

Yet, these same courts have created an affirmative right to immigrate based on religious liberty for Muslims living in a shack on some Somali hilltop.

Now, the Fourth Circuit has taken this debauchery a step further and has created a right to not feel perceived stigma – to the point that such a grievance can overturn national security and, presumably, diplomatic and military policies. The sky is the limit, if we are to hold the Fourth Circuit to a consistent reading of its own ruling.

As I noted in my first piece analyzing the Fourth Circuit’s immigration ruling on Thursday, this case was not about letting a foreign national into the country. Indeed, none of the relatives of the plaintiffs were even denied entry. What the court did was nullify the intangible executive policy, rhetoric, and directive in general about fighting Islamic terror because the plaintiffs felt stigmatized.

This is the only way they were able to obtain standing and assert an injury-in-fact to satisfy an Establishment Clause violation. Thus, the court has now opened the door for any Muslim American or even Muslim LPR (legal permanent resident) to shoot directly at a national security policy in court — even beyond immigration — assert the injury of feeling a negative stereotype and a stigma, and have the court “overturn” that policy.

Take a look at this footnote from Page 60 of the opinion, whereby the courts essentially say the Justice Department can’t collect data on honor killings because it stigmatizes Muslims:

Plaintiffs suggest that EO-2 is not facially neutral, because by directing the Secretary of Homeland Security to collect data on “honor killings” committed in the United States by foreign nationals, EO-2 incorporates “a stereotype about Muslims that the President had invoked in the months preceding the Order.” Appellees’ Br. 5, 7; see J.A. 598 (reproducing Trump’s remarks in a September 2016 speech in Arizona in which he stated that applicants from countries like Iraq and Afghanistan would be “asked their views about honor killings,” because “a majority of residents [in those countries] say that the barbaric practice of honor killings against women are often or sometimes justified”). Numerous amici explain that invoking the specter of “honor killings” is a well-worn tactic for stigmatizing and demeaning Islam and painting the religion, and its men, as violent and barbaric.

Judge Thacker, in his concurrence, also cited the “stereotype” of honor killings as reason to make the president’s policy rise to the level of an Establishment Clause violation.

There are no words to describe the infinite and insane consequences that flow from this decision. By definition, almost all of our key diplomatic, military, homeland security, and national security policies are focused on the threat of Islamic terrorism. The consummate threat of our time will always involve, in some form, the recognition of a threat within the religion of Islam.

Any smart lawyer could now use the language of this ruling to strike down almost any foreign policy or homeland security policy on behalf of a Muslim by contending that such a policy violates the Establishment Clause because it stigmatizes Muslims.

What is to stop a Muslim LPR from suing our government for engaging in war almost exclusively in “Muslim” countries? Every major military engagement is against a Muslim-majority country or Muslim entity.

Plaintiffs could cite the same “data” and anecdotes suggesting that these policies cultivate an anti-Islam bias in this country and make them feel “anxious,” “stigmatized,” “stereotyped,” and “like an outsider.” This is the new threshold for determining whether a policy violates the Establishment Clause. And it could now apply to foreign policy and national security.

Most certainly, they could lodge lawsuits against any FBI policy of data collection and basic law enforcement actions because they are primarily focused on one religion as it relates to terrorism. Also, it’s quite clear from this decision that the DHS couldn’t ask basic questions to determine whether a visa applicant is a Sharia supremacist, practices honor killings, or believes in performing female genital mutilation. That is a prima facie violation of the Establishment Clause, according to these judges.

That means that the courts have now codified the Obama-era policies of willful blindness into law. And not only into law, but into the Constitution, thereby preventing even Congress from implementing basic protections.

Entry of aliens is just as much a part of foreign affairs as military and diplomacy

Lest you think my hypothetical case of a Muslim suing against military or diplomatic policy is an exaggeration or even an extrapolation of this case, think again. The decisions governing aliens entering this country are not only controlled by the delegated authority Congress has given over through statute to the president; it is also inherent in the president’s own Article II powers to conduct foreign affairs.

Here are a few quotes from past court decisions demonstrating this point:

The exclusion of aliens is a fundamental act of sovereignty. The right to do so stems not alone from legislative power but is inherent in the executive power to control the foreign affairs of the nation. * * * When Congress prescribes a procedure concerning the admissibility of aliens, it is not dealing alone with a legislative power. It is implementing an inherent executive power.” [930 F. Supp. 1360, 1365 (N.D. Cal. 1996)]

“It is pertinent to observe that any policy toward aliens is vitally and intricately interwoven with contemporaneous policies in regard to the conduct of foreign relations, the war power, and the maintenance of a republican form of government. Such matters are so exclusively entrusted to the political branches of government as to be largely immune from judicial inquiry or interference.” (Harisiades v. Shaughnessy, (1952).

“When Congress prescribes a procedure concerning the admissibility of aliens, it is not dealing alone with a legislative power. It is implementing an inherent executive power.

“Thus, the decision to admit or to exclude an alien may be lawfully placed with the President, who may, in turn, delegate the carrying out of this function to a responsible executive officer of the sovereign, such as the Attorney General. The action of the executive officer under such authority is final and conclusive. Whatever the rule may be concerning deportation of persons who have gained entry into the United States, it is not within the province of any court, unless expressly authorized by law, to review the determination of the political branch of the Government to exclude a given alien.” (Knauff v. Shaughnessy, 1950)

Thus, to grant standing to a Muslim to shoot down an immigration policy under the pretense of an Establishment Clause violation is tantamount to granting standing to sue against any foreign policy. This would mean that an American Jew should be able to sue the State Department for promoting a Palestinian state — a policy that would uproot Jews from Judea and Samaria.

No other diplomatic policy directly targets a religion to the point that the outcome and purpose of such a policy is to make a land — the Jewish homeland of all places — Jew-free. The stigma of Israel as an occupier is directly responsible for the violence and persecution of Jews on college campuses. There is a much stronger case to be made for suing on these grounds, along with FBI hate-crime data on attacks against Jews, than the claim before the Fourth Circuit … once we accept their maniacal premise.

The precedent this decision sets on vetting immigrants is also breathtaking. What flows seamlessly from this opinion is that any American immigrant relative of someone who was denied a visa could sue and assert a religious liberty right.

Whereas for the first 200 years of our history we only admitted people who shared our values, now the courts are saying you can only deny entry to someone with absolute, unqualified known ties to terror. His values system is out of bounds. Support for honor killings or FGM, notwithstanding. As I note in Chapter 6 of “Stolen Sovereignty,” this not only violates the legalities of sovereignty, it violates the philosophy behind our immigration system since our founding of only bringing in “meritorious.”

In Federalist No. 69, when contrasting the role of a president from that of a king, Alexander Hamilton observed that “[T]he one [a president] can confer no privileges whatever; the other [a king] can make denizens of aliens.”

Now, unelected lower-court judges have more power than a king. (For more from the author of “Insane Fourth Circuit: Muslims’ Feelings Trump National Security” please click HERE)

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Appeals Court Deals Blow to Trump Administration Travel Ban

A federal appeals court dealt another blow to President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban targeting six-Muslim majority countries on Thursday.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that blocks the Republican’s administration from temporarily suspending new visas for people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th Circuit is the first appeals court to rule on the revised travel ban, which Trump’s administration had hoped would avoid the legal problems that the first version encountered. (Read more from “Appeals Court Deals Blow to Trump Administration Travel Ban” HERE)

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Trump Signals New US Approach to China With Tough Actions

Two developments in the past few weeks suggest that America’s China policy is on a cusp.

The more publicly discussed event involves the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Dewey, which conducted a freedom of navigation operation near Mischief Reef in the Spratlys island group.

This is the first freedom of navigation action conducted by the Trump administration. It is the first true freedom of navigation conducted since at least 2012.

By contrast, the Obama administration had undertaken a handful of “innocent passage” activities in the South China Sea, which failed to demonstrate the critical issues at stake.

The actions carried out in the previous administration were intended to argue that the U.S. did not need permission from China to enter the waters around its artificial islands—while ignoring the bigger question of whether China’s artificial islands exerted any sovereign claim to water at all.

Recommitting to Freedom of Navigation

The contrast is telling. With the Obama administration actions, there was an implicit endorsement that China’s artificial islands were, in fact, islands, because “innocent passage” involves rapid transit through the territorial waters of another nation.

Moreover, in an “innocent passage” operation, the transiting ship cannot conduct any kind of military activity, in deference to the idea that the waters being transited are not international in nature.

The Obama administration further muddied the waters by choosing features whose sovereignty was in dispute—and therefore could claim that it was not singling out Chinese-claimed features.

Even after the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that the various features in the South China Sea were not, in fact, islands and therefore could not lay claim to a 12-nautical mile territorial sea, the Obama administration nonetheless refused to reinforce the point by conducting a genuine freedom of navigation operation.

By contrast, the USS Dewey not only transited within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, but more importantly, conducted a “man overboard” drill. Such an action would contravene an “innocent passage” exercise, but is perfectly within the scope of a “freedom of navigation” operation. Indeed, it underscores the message that Mischief Reef is not an island, and therefore does not merit a claim to exerting territorial waters.

For the first time since at least 2012, the United States is signaling Beijing that its efforts to dominate the South China Sea will not be meekly accepted, but will be challenged.

Defending Human Rights

In the same period, the family of Chinese dissident lawyer Xie Yang was successfully smuggled out of a Thai prison, where they were being held for extradition to China. Xie is one of several lawyers and human rights activists who have been arrested as Beijing has cracked down on dissent.

The decisive American action stands in contrast to the fumbling by American embassy officials in the case of Chen Guancheng. When the blind human rights lawyer sought refuge in the American embassy in May 2012, American officials were diffident about his status. Chen himself indicated in contemporary interviews that he felt pressured to leave the embassy, as American officials were unable to offer guarantees of his wife’s safety.

It remains unclear what the Trump administration’s overall strategy is for Asia. North Korea continues to push development of longer range missiles able to reach the United States.

The People’s Republic of China, despite promises by President Xi Jinping to President Donald Trump to pressure Pyongyang, has demonstrated limited impact on North Korea; Chinese statistics even suggest that trade between China and North Korea has increased.

While the administration has suggested bilateral trade deals in the region in place of U.S. membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, whether there are any takers and what exactly its new trade strategy is remains unclear.

But for one Chinese dissident’s family, the United States has demonstrated that its commitment to basic principles can take concrete form. And in the middle of the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy appears to be back in the business of defending freedom of the seas. The auguries seem to be improving. (For more from the author of “Trump Signals New US Approach to China With Tough Actions” please click HERE)

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Recent Voter Fraud Cases White House Commission Could Review

Last week, a former Florida mayor was escorted to the Orange County Jail after a jury convicted him on a felony voter fraud charge.

Eatonville is a suburb of Orlando, where in the 2015 municipal race, former Mayor Anthony Grant lost by just 15 votes on election day, but won 196 to 69 among mail-in ballots.

State prosecutors reportedly convinced a jury that Grant and a campaign aide coerced voters on how to fill out their mail-in ballots. Grant, who had also served as mayor from 1994 to 2009, was removed from office last year after a state grand jury indictment.

This is one of many cases the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity should consider reviewing regarding voter intimidation and fraud-prone mail-in ballots, said Logan Churchwell, spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which investigates voter fraud cases.

President Donald Trump established the commission through an executive order earlier this month. The commission’s final report will be completed by 2018, according to the White House.

Trump’s order charged the commission with studying registration and the voting process used in federal elections. It has set out to discover what laws and policies “enhance the American people’s confidence in the integrity of the voting process,” and those that “undermine the American people’s confidence.”

It’s not necessary to go back to elections from two years ago to find evidence of voting irregularities.

Nevada uncovered at least three cases of noncitizens voting in last year’s election, according to a continuing investigation by the Nevada secretary of state’s office, and at least 21 noncitizens registered at the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections announced that at least 41 noncitizens cast ballots in 2016, another 441 were felons serving an active sentence, 24 voted more than once, and two voted under names of dead family members.

Two Colorado women allegedly cast absentee ballots in someone else’s name.

Not all of the action was in battleground states.

The Dallas County, Texas, District Attorney’s Office opened an investigation into allegations of voter fraud with mail-in ballots from a mayor’s race earlier this month. Some voters said they got mail-in ballots despite never requesting them.

A Wyoming county clerk reportedly found possibly 11 felons and 16 noncitizens were registered to vote on Election Day.

Meanwhile, an Illinois woman was reportedly charged last month for allegedly voting twice.

“A cataloging effort of 2016 illegalities and irregularities would be useful, but a deeper look into underlying system flaws is also important,” Churchwell told The Daily Signal. “Our voter registration systems should be mapped to identify breakdowns that allow bad data entry and an extended lifespan thereafter because reasonable maintenance efforts are lacking.”

Vice President Mike Pence is heading the commission with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, who is serving as the vice chairman.

Asked if the commission will be about policy recommendations to reform voting laws, or an audit of the 2016 election, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told The Daily Signal it would be both.

“The executive order that the president signed, and the vice president and Secretary of State Kobach are leading, is a bipartisan commission of state elections officials that are going to look at all aspects of election integrity, including voter fraud and proper registration, and allegations of voter suppression,” Spicer responded during a press briefing last week. “So I think they’re looking at this holistically.”

Besides Kobach, the top elections officials from the states of Indiana, New Hampshire, Maine, and a member of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission have been named to the commission so far. More announced members are pending.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes voter ID laws, is investigating through the Freedom of Information Act whether any of the officials have made pre-judgements on the matter of voter fraud.

“We believe the outcome of the commission’s investigation is preordained,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement last week. “It’s time to shed light on whether any commission members were crafting policy recommendations before their investigation was launched or the commission was even formally announced. If they’ve got evidence, it’s time to stop hiding and start sharing.”

Churchwell said if the White House wants “a holistic approach,” then there should be more information sharing among the federal agencies, such as the Department of Justice, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sharing with state and county election officials.

“Want to know how many noncitizens are registered to vote in America today? DOJ could bounce all 50 states’ voter rolls against immigration databases and find out,” Churchwell told The Daily Signal in an email. “Want to know how you could streamline this into an ongoing process, instead of creating herculean research tasks? Pipe USCIS, CBP, and ICE data to the states in real time.”

He also said the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, better known as the motor voter law, should be updated because it was adopted at a time when noncitizens didn’t have access to voter registration through motor vehicles, social services, and other avenues.

“Outmoded procedures risk trapping unwitting noncitizens into systems that can lead to their deportation, while others can willfully register and vote regardless of consequences,” he said. (For more from the author of “Recent Voter Fraud Cases White House Commission Could Review” please click HERE)

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Sharing the Stories of Heroes This Memorial Day

Many nations set aside days to celebrate the end of wars or major battles, and to honor those who fought in them.

Memorial Day in America is different in that it doesn’t celebrate veterans—we have a different day set aside for that. This federal holiday was designed to celebrate and honor those who have died while in uniformed service to our country in times of peace or war.

While noble in nature, the day presents a unique challenge to those of us who look for ways to show our gratitude.

Every year, my church goes long in its efforts to meet that challenge. In the heart of every Memorial Day service, our pastor asks those who have served in the military to stand, and as they do, the church body thanks them with a rousing, heartfelt round of applause.

The choir lifts the entire sanctuary with a battery of some of the most patriotic music you can imagine, and yet no matter how wonderful the veterans and congregation may feel at the end of each service, our collective efforts miss the mark.

As well intended as they are, my church isn’t alone in giving gestures that fall short.

Furniture stores and car dealerships use the occasion to offer special deals to serving military members. Pools open, and communities put on parades that feature local celebrities, marching bands, and veterans from the wars of our age.

Clans of family and friends gather in homes and parks throughout the United States to revel in the first of two holidays that frame the summer.

But almost all our Memorial Day revelry focuses on the living. There is little talk of those who gave their all, and even less about what that phrase might mean to one who has never leaned into the thought.

I guess we all need reminders.

I stumbled onto a collection of photos a few weeks ago that rekindled those thoughts in me. It was a site called the Wall of Faces. There, the names of the pictured men and women we lost in Vietnam are revealed with the move of a cursor.

As the arrow touched each picture, my mind raced to calculate the time that separated their birth and casualty dates. Some were a bit older and Vietnam was at least their second war, but the majority were under 20 when they died.

That’s when the second piece of math hit me.

In the 37 years beyond my 20th birthday, I met and married the woman I had been searching for my entire life.

I was there to welcome our two sons into this world, and I’ve been right by their side to celebrate those birthdays for all but a fraction of their years.

Somewhere along the way, I managed to climb into the dream I dreamed of as a child and, while the highs I’ve enjoyed as a man have been immeasurable, they don’t quite measure up to my all.

I’ve been given time enough to be a loving partner in life for my wife, and a doting father, shepherd, and coach for my two sons.

When I think about all that I’ve been given, I begin to get a sense of what others gave up when they gave us their lives.

Two men died of exposure during Gen. George Washington’s march on Trenton in the winter of 1776. Just over a year ago, 12 Marines were killed during a training mishap off the coast of Hawaii. And on Jan. 29 of this year, a Navy SEAL fell to enemy fire in Yemen.

Like those we’ve lost in every other conflict, incursion, or mishap, their stories run the gamut. Some were immortalized as heroes, and others have faded into near anonymity, save for the memories they left with the living.

In the course of my years in the service, I received the contagious laughter, the loves, and aspirations of 11 different men who laid down their lives. While each willingly gave up everything for this nation of ours, our gratitude is what will carry them forward in memory.

When you wake up Monday morning, take a moment to do your own math, then lean into your family and friends with a story about one of our Memorial Day heroes.

And when you hit your knees Monday night, say a prayer for those who long for the company, the loving touch of one who gave his or her all for you and me. (For more from the author of “Sharing the Stories of Heroes This Memorial Day” please click HERE)

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Major Insurance Company Ditches Obamacare in Kansas City

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City announced Wednesday morning it will no longer offer or renew insurance plans on the city’s Obamacare exchange next year in Kansas or Missouri.

The fallout is likely to affect some 67,000 Blue Cross customers in 30 counties in Kansas City, according to a statement from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City. The company provides insurance to over 1 million individuals in the Kansas City area.

Blue Cross customers who get insurance through their employers will not be affected, nor will customers who have “a Medicare supplement, Medicare Advantage, a Short-Term Policy or a Student Health Plan.”

The company is experiencing rising operating costs which have made it such that providing plans on the Kansas City Obamacare exchange is no longer profitable.

“Like many other insurers across the country, Blue KC has faced many challenges in this market,” the statement said. “Through 2016, the company lost more than $100 million in this market, which is unsustainable.” (Read more from “Major Insurance Company Ditches Obamacare in Kansas City” HERE)

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Appeals Court Deals Blow to Trump Administration Travel Ban

A federal appeals court dealt another blow to President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban targeting six-Muslim majority countries on Thursday.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that blocks the Republican’s administration from temporarily suspending new visas for people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th Circuit is the first appeals court to rule on the revised travel ban, which Trump’s administration had hoped would avoid the legal problems that the first version encountered. (Read more from “Appeals Court Deals Blow to Trump Administration Travel Ban” HERE)

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This 1962 Novel Predicted Western Collapse and Islam’s Takeover

Following the news, I get more and more outraged. Not at God. Nor at Islam. Not even at my fellow man. The person I really resent is whatever satirical novelist is scripting our daily events from Hell. Or Purgatory, at best. No writer in Heaven would be cruel enough to inflict all this on us. Or would he? Perhaps to teach us a lesson. …

Love Among the Ruins

Is it you, Evelyn Waugh? You predicted our transgender madness, the euthanasia craze, and the toxic, infantilizing effects of the welfare state in Love Among the Ruins. Now are you pulling strings to make it all come true? Is this payback for that lousy movie adaptation of Brideshead Revisited? Enough, already.

That Hideous Strength

Or you, C.S. Lewis? Yes, you laid out to the letter what would become of our sexual culture in That Hideous Strength. You imagined a race that inhabited the Moon, who lost all interest in actual intercourse, and instead began to mate with technological images of each other. That’s how deep their disgust for God’s physical creation had become. Now married couples are shunning each other, while porn websites flourish. So yes, okay, you were right. But lay off already!

The Camp of the Saints

I would ask Jean Raspail, who wrote The Camp of the Saints, to accept that we’ve learned our lesson. Yes, you were dead-on right that self-loathing Europe would die not with a bang but a simper. The same glum hedonists who won’t have any children and warn that the slightest upsurge in Christian practice could lead to the Inquisition: they’re falling over themselves to show how “open” and “welcoming” they can be to Dark Ages-haunted theocrats, who have families of six and seven kids at taxpayer expense. I expect no mercy from you, Raspail. The French are an unforgiving race.

The Wanting Seed

But really I’m angriest at Anthony Burgess (most famous for A Clockwork Orange — far from his best book). If there is a single culprit, one writer who sketched out what would happen to us today, it’s you, Anthony. In The Wanting Seed you laid out a compelling theory of history: That the back and forth of ideologies and religions in the West acts like a see-saw. We always are either at or on the way to one extreme or the other. We oscillate between two theories of man.

Man Is Perfectible

One theory is that we can engineer man to be better, and make earthly life close to perfect. All we need to do is follow secular reason, impose more controls, and allow our enlightened elites to shepherd us forward to Eden. You dubbed this “Pelagianism,” after the English heretic who believed that God’s grace is optional and Jesus was just a really, really uplifting example. You linked it with socialism, Malthusianism, science-worship, and population control.

A society in its grips, you cannily predicted, will try to suppress the family, and hold up as heroes not just homosexuals, but actual eunuchs. Did you see Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner offering President Trump advice in some crystal ball you consulted?

Man Is Unfixable

The other extreme is that man’s animal instincts and inborn evil are fundamental to his being. They will always overwhelm attempts to perfect human society. War, hierarchy, cruelty, and other historic evils: baked into the cake. There is no sense in trying to wipe them out, or even limit them. Instead we should harness and use them, and try to make sure that our group holds the whip hand instead of other people’s. Unfairly, I think, you labeled this “Augustinianism.”

In the novel, you pictured the Malthusian/Eunuch state collapsing all right — as indeed it is, before our eyes. You imagined a resurgence of fundamentalism, militarism, bloodlust, and primitive tribal hatred. On all that you were dead right. But you pictured it happening among Westerners, even Anglicans! What your visions didn’t tell you, at least in this novel, is that its agents would be Islamic. That they would be newcomers welcomed in by the pallid, Malthusian optimists. To give you credit, some twenty years later you did see the Muslim takeover coming, and wrote about it in your novella 1985.

The Wanting Seed is the creepiest, most chillingly prescient piece of literature I’ve ever come across. Plug in “Islam” for “Augustinianism,” and the novel flat-out predicted the events that wouldn’t happen till 50 years later. About how many other books can we say the same?

Pope Benedict on Technology vs. Islam

For the last piece of the intellectual puzzle, see Pope Benedict XVI’s famous speech at Regensburg. He pointed out that the dark shadow cast by the West’s obsession with godless speculation and technology was Voluntarism: the grim belief that Will, not Reason, is the ultimate force in the universe. That is the theory of God that most of Islam clings to. It feeds the cult of violence which has always accompanied that religion, wherever it conquers. The individual terrorist channels the capricious wrath of God.

Burgess’ novel is grim, alarming, funny, and deeply pessimistic. It needs to be made into a miniseries for Netflix. At the very least, it should be required reading for every Western college student. It’s only fair to warn them what they’re in for.

And Anthony, we get the point. Please cut it out. (For more from the author of “This 1962 Novel Predicted Western Collapse and Islam’s Takeover” please click HERE)

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Trump’s Food Stamp Reform Would Close the Trap of Dependency

President Donald Trump’s newly released budget contains a proposed food stamp reform, which the left has denounced as a “horror” that arbitrarily cuts food stamp benefits by 25 percent.

These claims are fundamentally misleading.

In reality, the president’s proposed policy is based on two principles: requiring able-bodied adult recipients to work or prepare for work in exchange for benefits, and restoring minimal fiscal responsibility to state governments for the welfare programs they operate.

The president’s budget reasserts the basic concept that welfare should not be a one-way handout. Welfare should, instead, be based on reciprocal obligations between recipients and taxpayers.

Government should definitely support those who need assistance, but should expect recipients to engage in constructive activity in exchange for that assistance.

Work Requirements

Under the Trump reform, recipients who cannot immediately find a job would be expected to engage in “work activation,” including supervised job searching, training, and community service.

This idea of a quid pro quo between welfare recipients and society has nearly universal support among the public.

Nearly 90 percent of the public agree that “able-bodied adults that receive cash, food, housing, and medical assistance should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving those government benefits.”

The outcomes were nearly identical across party lines, with 87 percent of Democrats and 94 percent of Republicans agreeing with this statement.

Establishing work requirements in welfare was the core principle of the welfare reform law enacted in the mid-1990s. That reform led to record drops in welfare dependence and child poverty. Employment among single mothers surged.

Despite the harsh impact of the Great Recession, much of the poverty reduction generated by welfare reform remains in effect to this day.

Unfortunately, though, welfare reform altered only one of more than 80 federal means-tested welfare programs. The other programs were left largely untouched. Trump’s plan is to extend the successful principle of work requirements to other programs.

Restoring State-Level Accountability

The second element of Trump’s plan is to restore a minimal share of fiscal responsibility for welfare to state governments.

As noted, the federal government operates over 80 means-tested welfare programs providing cash, food, housing, medical care, training, and targeted social services to poor and low-income persons. In addition, state governments run a handful of small separate programs.

Last year, total federal and state spending on means-tested aid was over $1.1 trillion. (This sum does not include Social Security or Medicare.)

Some 75 percent of the $1.1 trillion in spending comes from the federal government. Moreover, nearly all state spending was focused in a single program: Medicaid.

Excluding Medicaid, the federal government picks up the tab for nearly 90 percent of all means-tested welfare spending in the U.S.

The United States has a federal system of government with three separate levels of independent elected government: federal, state, and local. Under this three-tier system, the federal government already bears full fiscal responsibility for national defense, foreign affairs, Social Security, and Medicare.

It makes no sense for the federal government to also bear 90 percent of the cost of cash, food, and housing programs for low-income persons.

But for decades, state governments have increasingly shifted fiscal responsibility for anti-poverty programs to the federal level. As a result, the federal government picks up nearly all the tab for welfare programs operated by the states.

This is a recipe for inefficiency and nonaccountability.

One of the key lessons from welfare reform—now 20 years ago—is that both blue and red state governments spend their own revenues far more prudently than they spend “free money” from Washington.

Efficiency in welfare requires state governments to have some fiscal responsibility for the welfare programs they operate.

The food stamp program is 92 percent funded by Washington. Washington sends blank checks to state capitals—the more people a state enrolls in food stamps, the more money Washington hands out.

A dirty secret in American politics is that many governors, both Republican and Democrat, regard this type of “free money” poured from Washington as a benign Keynesian stimulus to their local economies. The more spending, the better.

The Trump budget recognizes that the food stamp program will become more efficient if the state governments that operate the program have “skin in the game.” Therefore, it raises the required state contribution to food stamps incrementally from 8 percent to 25 percent.

By 2027, this would cost state governments an extra $14 billion per year. Half of the so-called “cuts” in food stamp spending in the Trump budget simply represent this modest shift from federal to state funding.

The remaining savings in food stamps in the Trump budget come from assumed reduction in welfare caseloads due to the proposed work requirement.

A Proven Policy

Today, there are some 4.2 million nonelderly able-bodied adults without dependent children currently receiving food stamp benefits. Few are employed. The cost of benefits to this group is around $8.5 billion per year.

In December 2014, Maine imposed a work requirement on this category of recipients. Under the policy, no recipient had his benefits simply cut. Instead, recipients were required to undertake state-provided training or to work in community service six hours per week.

Nearly all affected recipients chose to leave the program rather than participate in training or community service. As a result, the Maine caseload of able-bodied adults without dependent children dropped 80 percent in just a few months.

A similar work requirement for able-bodied adults without dependents, imposed nationwide, would save the taxpayer $80 billion over the next decade.

Even this would be a pittance compared to the $3.6 trillion the federal government will spend on cash, food, and housing benefits over that period.

The Trump policy is the exact opposite of so-called “block grants” in welfare.

In a welfare block grant, the federal government collects tax revenue and dumps money on state governments to spend as they will.

Welfare block grants have always been failures. In fact, the Trump budget would eliminate two failed block grant programs—the Community Development Block Grant and the Community Services Block Grant.

Instead of block grants, Trump is seeking to reanimate the principles of welfare reform from the 1990s that emphasized work requirements and renewed fiscal responsibility from state governments.

Deeply Needed Reforms

Of course, the left adamantly opposed welfare reform in the 1990s. In their view, welfare should be unconditional. Recipients should be entitled to cash, free food, free housing, and medical care without any behavioral conditions.

No wonder they have proclaimed Trump’s proposal to be “devastating” and a “horror.”

Contrary to protestations from the left, the U.S. welfare state is very large and expensive. For example, federal spending on cash, food, and housing benefits for families with children is nearly three times the amount needed to raise all families above the poverty level.

But the current welfare state is very inefficient. Trump seeks to reform that system.

In Trump’s unfolding design, welfare should be synergistic. Aid should complement and reinforce self-support through work and marriage rather than penalizing and displacing those efforts.

A welfare state founded on this synergistic principle would be more efficient than the current system. It would reduce both dependence and poverty.

More importantly, it would improve the well-being of the poor who have benefited little from the fractured families, nonemployment, dependence, and social marginalization fostered by the current welfare state. (For more from the author of “Trump’s Food Stamp Reform Would Close the Trap of Dependency” please click HERE)

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Trump’s Budget Puts Medicaid on a Path to Long-Needed Reform

Medicaid, the huge government health program for the poor and the indigent, is broken.

Both the Trump administration’s recent budget submission and the House-passed American Health Care Act, designed to partially repeal and replace Obamacare, propose Medicaid fixes.

Dubious assumptions burden the Trump budget proposal, and the House health care reform bill labors under some serious deficiencies. Both are correct, however, in resetting the general direction on Medicaid policy.

Medicaid is beset by two serious problems.

The first is a fiscal problem. Medicaid is an “open-ended” federal entitlement, and thus it contributes, like other major federal entitlements, to deficits and dangerous levels of national debt.

As the Congressional Budget Office has described current Medicaid financing:

All federal reimbursement for medical services is open-ended, meaning that if a state spends more because enrollment increases or costs per enrollee rise, additional federal payments are automatically generated.

America can no longer afford automatic federal entitlement spending. This is a bipartisan conclusion.

In 2008, for example, a politically diverse group of senior analysts and economists, in “Taking Back Our Fiscal Future,” concluded:

The first step toward establishing budget responsibility is to reform the budget decision process so that the major drivers of escalating deficits—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—are no longer on autopilot.

The signatories included top analysts from The Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Brookings Institution, Progressive Policy Institute, New America Foundation, and Urban Institute.

These analysts issue a further recommendation:

Congress and the president enact explicit long-term budgets for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security that are sustainable, set limits on automatic spending growth, and reduce the relatively favorable budgetary treatment of these programs compared with other types of expenditures.

Both the Trump budget proposal and the House health care reform bill are taking a first big step in that direction: capping the annual growth in Medicaid spending. This is a fundamental and fiscally responsible decision. Medicaid should no longer be an “open-ended” entitlement.

The second Medicaid problem is its programmatic performance.

Medicaid serves the poor and the indigent—mostly poor women and children, the disabled, and the poor elderly, including nursing home care as part of its long-term care supports and services.

The program is not doing a good job. Compared to the privately insured, based on various studies, Medicaid patients have less access to care, longer hospital stays, and higher mortality rates.

This is not surprising since Medicaid pays doctors about 66 percent of what Medicare pays, and Medicare already pays doctors about 20 percent below private market rates.

Medicaid is not delivering the value commensurate with its rising cost. The best way to secure value—better care at lower costs—is to encourage competition based on personal choice and control over the dollars and decisions.

Obviously, such a market-based model is not appropriate for all Medicaid beneficiaries. A block grant approach, with ample state flexibility to manage care in their interest, may be the best option.

For able-bodied persons, however, Congress and the administration should go beyond block grants and create a new Medicaid option, harnessing the market forces of choice and competition.

This can best be done through a defined contribution (a “premium support”) to competing private health plans and providers that able-bodied Medicaid beneficiaries choose.

With broader networks of doctors and other medical professionals, such a policy would offer Medicaid beneficiaries superior coverage and better access to care than they have today. That kind of change would be transformational. (For more from the author of “Trump’s Budget Puts Medicaid on a Path to Long-Needed Reform” please click HERE)

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