Why Keep Colleges from Being Responsible Lenders?

by George Leef

Putting the federal government into the business of financing higher education was a great blunder, with adverse consequences daily. Among those consequences is the fact that some 8 million Americans are now in default on loans that probably would never have been made by real lending institutions with their own money at risk.

In an effort at looking “responsible” several years ago, our wonderful politicians decided to punish colleges that have too many students defaulting. That had a big impact on some lower-end colleges where a high percentage of the students are of doubtful academic drive and ability. In order to protect their eligibility for federal Pell grants, they decided to stop allowing students to attend if they are also taking out federal loans. In North Carolina, a majority of the state’s community colleges have decided to do that.

But why make them either drop out or accept the federal loan programs entirely? Wouldn’t it make sense to allow school officials to decide whether or not to allow a student to take out federal loans based on their assessment of each student’s likely prospects for success — that is, graduating, finding employment, and paying off the debt? You might think so, but that isn’t allowed.

In today’s Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins writes about all of this.

“Leaving federal loan programs ,” she writes, “is the only option many colleges have to protect their Pell Grant eligibility. That’s because another option — minimizing default risk on the front end of the financial aid process — is not open to them.”

The Education Department ran a pilot program for several years that did allow schools to discriminate on the basis of a student’s likelihood of defaulting, but that program has been terminated and the Department apparently won’t continue it. Leftists are cheering that decision, such as the New America Foundation, which frets that many low-income students will be excluded from loan eligibility if colleges say, “No federal loans if you want to enroll here.” To the Left, excluding any student is bad, but most of those students who might be excluded have other options for the post-high-school training they need.

Watkins’s conclusion makes good sense: “Penalizing schools for high student loan default rates is sensible, but only if they are given flexibility to try to stop the problem before it arises.”

Three Thoughts on the Masterpiece Cakeshop Cert Grant

by David French

Today the Supreme Court granted review in Masterpiece Cakeshop v.  Colorado Civil Rights Commission. This is an important — and dangerous — case for civil liberties. It involves a bakery owner who refused to bake a custom cake for a gay wedding, and Justice Kennedy may well be the swing vote. I have three initial thoughts:

First, don’t let anyone tell you that this case is about status-based discrimination. The bakery is no more discriminating against gay people than a baker discriminates against white people if he declines to bake a Confederate flag cake. The baker bakes cakes for gay customers. He didn’t want to lend his talents to send a specific message — namely, approval of gay marriage.

Second, don’t let counterfactuals dissuade you from embracing liberty. A number of people are asking whether the state should “let” a baker decline to bake a cake for an interracial marriage. Here’s the bottom line: Creative professionals should never be required to lend their unique talents to express any form of message they dislike. Don’t make black lawyers oppose civil rights, don’t make liberal fashion designers design clothes for conservative politicians, and don’t require racists to design cakes for interracial couples. Some people use liberty wisely. Some people abuse liberty for immoral ends. But we can’t limit liberty only to the wise and just. 

Third, if Justice Kennedy views this case primarily through the LGBT lens, then the First Amendment may well lose. Kennedy is obviously proud of his long line of LGBT-friendly precedents, and that pride has even led him to a relatively rare First Amendment misstep, so it will be critical to explain to him (and the other justices, of course) that this isn’t a case about “discrimination” but rather about forced speech. Framing matters, and the other side will wrongly frame the case as raising the specter of Jim Crow. The right framing is found in the First Amendment. 

My Twitter timeline is already filling with people talking about this case — with far more heat even than the Supreme Court’s travel ban decision. Expect a building media frenzy, one dominated by allegations of hate and bigotry. The sexual revolutionaries are butting heads with the First Amendment. May free speech prevail. 

In the U.K., Normalcy Returns to the Tory Administration

by John O'Sullivan

Today’s deal between the Tories and the Democratic Unionists is one more sign that at least a limited normalcy is returning and that the Tory administration is likely to remain in office for several years, possibly for a full parliamentary term of five years — as argued in yesterday’s column. It guarantees DUP support for the government on “confidence and supply” terms and is renewable at the end of each parliamentary session. That means it will last until Brexit — and its key domestic votes on the Great Repeal bill — is through parliament.

It also seems to have been reached without the Tories surrendering anything very much — certainly nothing that they would not be surrendering anyway as a result of their not getting the hoped-for landslide. Everyone knew that the “dementia tax” and the proposed cuts in social spending on the elderly were doomed anyway. This agreement means that the Tories can now claim they got something — i.e., several years of power — in return for ditching them. And, finally, the financial cost of the deal — about $2.2 billion — is modest in terms of today’s debased political economy.

Nothing is certain, but this deal gives the government an effective majority of 22 votes. Since a handful of Labor MPs will cross the floor to support Brexit if it’s in trouble, a serious government defeat on it would need a career-ending rebellion by between twelve and 20 Tory Remainers. And since all the Tories ran on a manifesto pledge to implement a “clean Brexit,” that would require a dishonorable suicide by all concerned. Suicide by Tory pols I can imagine; dishonorable conduct too; but the two combined? That would take us into strange depths of the Tory imagination that even an experienced clinician like myself cannot plumb or, on this occasion, quite envisage.

Does that mean that Theresa May is out of the woods and can now look forward to remaining Tory leader and prime minister indefinitely? Not quite. My guess is that if she is still PM at the time of the Tory conference in October, she will still be in office until Brexit is safely accomplished in a little over two years. The overwhelming need for stability until then will keep her in Downing Street. What will happen then will be determined by how well she has performed in matters additional to Brexit in that period. If her reputation has recovered, she may stay on and even fight an election. But if not, the achievement of Brexit would enable her to retire honorably amid restrained applause. We’ll see. But her position is currently strengthened by a series of other developments. In short order, therefore:

1. As we move on from election night — when the shock of the result discombobulated the Tories — people are examining the statistics of recent elections and noticing that Mrs. May not only did not actually lose but even improved the Tory popular vote considerably. As the blogger Backencher pointed out:

The Tories have been, ever since 2005, increasing their share of the vote on an almost linear scale. Michael Howard, in 2005, gained 32.4% of the national vote for the Tories. From then onwards, the electoral figures speak for themselves: 36.1% (2010) ⟶ 36.8 (2015) ⟶ 42.2% (2017). It is clear that the Tories increased their vote most under Mrs May, not her immediate predecessor. David Cameron increased the Tory vote by 3.7% in 2010, then barely 0.7% further in 2015. Mrs May, however, increased the Tory vote by 6%. Her share of the vote is exactly that of Mrs Thatcher in 1987, and only 0.2% lower than Thatcher’s 1983 landslide.

The landslide didn’t happen this time because the Labour vote rose too — though to 2.4 percent behind Mrs. May’s total. Those figures make nonsense of much Tory journalism post-election, which has been lamenting that Toryism no longer appeals to the electorate and that some new form of Cameronian “modernization” is needed. The above statistics show that analysis to be the opposite of the truth — especially when we recall that the only memorable slogan of modernization was that Tories should “stop banging on about Europe and immigration” (which now looks like the worst political judgment since Ted Heath asked Britain, “Who governs Britain?” and the voters replied, “Not You.”). As all of this sinks in, the Tory party is likely to slowly reassemble behind May for the medium term.

2. Indeed, the “Big Beasts” of Toryism are already urging this course with increasing firmness. Brexit secretary David Davis, who would probably win a leadership election held now, did so on the Sunday television shows — yes, we have them in Britain too — in unmistakable terms. He declared very simply that he believed May to be a good prime minister who deserved to remain in office. That reflects, among other things, the belief of Brexiteers (now the overwhelming majority of Tories in and outside parliament) that May is committed to a “clean Brexit” by her record. She simply can’t betray the Leave camp without destroying herself. None of the presumed Remainers in the Cabinet — home secretary Amber Rudd, chancellor Philip Hammond — have anything like the status or popularity to challenge her with any prospect of benefiting themselves. Hammond in particular, who has been successively a strong Euroskeptic, a weak Remainer, a strong Remainer, and now a worried, head-shaking, equivocal Leaver, gives opportunism a bad name.

3. Jeremy Corbyn’s rock-star moment is unlikely to last — no, that’s too weak: Jeremy Corbyn’s rock-star moment cannot last. He’s a courteous and even charming extremist, but his extremism is real and on the record. To put it as bluntly as I can, he was a friend of Adams and McGuinness when the IRA was bombing London and Manchester. Not even the middle-class rock-star groupies who were cheering him at the Glastonbury festival this weekend can blind themselves to that record indefinitely. And it will be drawn to their attention. On the Reaction website, Bruce Anderson speculates that the second explanation of a Tory victory in the next election will be Jeremy himself — and his supporters:

Now that he appears to be a candidate who could win the Premiership, he and his closest associates will come under scrutiny. This will not be the crude, cack-handed nonsense that we saw during the last campaign . . . Some of the Cor-bennites are very nasty indeed. The SWP seems to have infiltrated their presence in the social media and to be determined to perpetrate vile abuse. That will not work for long. Most British voters have a sense of how politics ought to be conducted, and the adolescent rabble which now worships Mr Corbyn will put enough people off to help kill his chances.

4. In the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell fire — which was also the aftermath of the election — a mood of anti-Tory hysteria gripped the parties, the media, and the voters. It became the conventional wisdom that the fire had been the responsibility of the “Tory cuts’” and de-regulation by the national government and the local authority. That view explains in large part why May was booed when she visited the Grenfell site. Since then it has become clear that this “narrative” is nonsense. Other local authorities — notably, Labour-controlled Camden Council — and the National Health Service had installed the same cladding on their buildings. This was the result not of de-regulation but of (perverse) regulation; it was not the result of cost-cutting — indeed it was part of the expensive rehabilitation of these properties; and it occurred under governments of both parties. As the Left’s narrative dissolves — perhaps to be followed by a very different explanation of the fire — so will the anti-Tory narrative evaporate.

5. Indeed, it’s already happening — and for a very British reason: the weather. Britain, especially London, has been suffering from an unaccustomed heatwave since the election and the Grenfell fire. It raised the temperature politically, too. People living through it, as I did not, say that it gave political life a nightmarish quality, as during the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death, with an atmosphere of suppressed violence and hostility to authority. The temperature is now declining sharply as Britain regains its usual summer coolness.

Along with all the above developments, politics may be entering a cooler phase, too.

A Space Needle, Spaciness, Needles . . .

by Jay Nordlinger

In Impromptus today, I have a few notes on Seattle — about its go-go capitalism, for example. (There is more than flakiness in Seattle.) I have received several e-mails from Seattle — not from City Hall, but from residents. I would like to publish one of them. But first, some quoting — some quoting from my column:

On the streets of Seattle, there are almost as many beggars and vagrants as there are in San Francisco. Why is this? The welcoming of it, of course. But a lady I talk to also ventures another explanation: the relaxation of drug laws. People are strung out, lying there. Or they are reasonably awake, trying to get money for their next hit.

I don’t know. I do know this: People who are in favor of drug legalization tend to see no evil — no evil in consequence of legalization. And people who are against legalization probably see too much evil.

One more note from my column, before I get to the e-mail:

I understand, very well, the freedom arguments in favor of drug legalization. I have a wide libertarian streak. But let me tell you: Drug users are some of the least free people I have ever seen. They are in bondage.

Okay, the e-mailer from Seattle (who is a longtime and canny correspondent) says,

Giuliani governed New York on the “broken window” theory. Seattle is experimenting with the opposite. The city is littered with broken windows, so to speak.

I was one of those libertarian-leaning Washingtonians who voted to legalize pot a few years ago. I regret it. I don’t care if people smoke it in their homes or other places that aren’t public, but it has become very common to see it almost anywhere. I spend a lot of time in our beautiful parks and it’s really annoying to have to steer my kids away from the stoners. The initiative itself banned public pot-smoking, but the powers-that-be don’t care.

A while ago, a Seattle cop was disciplined (and pilloried publicly) because he was writing too many citations for public pot-smoking. That sent quite a message to his colleagues, I’m sure.

Recently, a local radio host reported that at an event (protest) dealing with the homeless, a junkie shot up heroin in sight of several officers. A reporter asked what they were going to do about it and they responded with something like, “It’s not a departmental priority.” I bet that the cops were frustrated by this, but when the city gets cops in trouble for enforcing drug laws, they will stop doing so.

I don’t take my kids to downtown Seattle parks much anymore and worry a bit about my wife working there. I could go on about the homeless tents, but I have some serious summer playing to do with my boys . . .

Serious summer playing with one’s boys. That is one of the things these months were made for.

Senator Sanders’s Wife Lawyers Up after Allegations of Bank Fraud

by Austin Yack

Senator Sanders’s wife, Jane, has hired two prominent attorneys — Burlington, Vt.-based attorney Rich Cassidy and Washington, D.C.-based attorney Larry Robbins — as she continues to fight long-standing allegations of bank fraud.

During Mrs. Sanders’s seven-year tenure as president of Burlington College, a now-defunct liberal-arts college, the college sought to expand its campus by purchasing 33 acres of land near Lake Champlain for $10 million. But Burlington College had nowhere near $10 million to spend; its total annual budget was less than $4 million. As a result, Vermont’s Educational and Health Buildings Finance Agency offered Burlington College $6.5 million in tax-exempt bonds, and People’s United Bank agreed to give Burlington College a $6.5 million loan to purchase the bonds. That bank loan was contingent on Sanders’s promising that she had secured $5 million in donations and $2.4 million in confirmed pledges (i.e., donations that Burlington College officials had not yet received but that would be coming soon).

Despite her promise, it seems that Sanders had not secured these funds before accepting the loan.

“Burlington College ran into trouble almost immediately after the loan repayments were due,” Politico reports. “For the first fiscal year after the deal was signed, Jane Sanders signed documents that confirmed pledges of $1.2 million. But according to Burlington College financial records obtained by VTDigger, the college received only $279,000.”

The FBI is currently investigating whether Mrs. Sanders committed fraud when she told People’s United Bank that she had confirmed pledges. One confirmed pledge of $1 million, it turned out, was to be paid after the donor’s death, not in the next few years, as Sanders had stated. It is also possible that Senator Sanders will find himself under FBI investigation for involvement in securing the bank loan. In a letter sent to federal prosecutors in early 2016, Brady Toensing, an attorney and former chairman of Trump’s Vermont campaign, “alleged that Senator Sanders’ office had pressured the bank to approve the loan application submitted by Jane Sanders,” Politico reported. It is “a serious ethical violation” for a sitting U.S. senator to pressure a bank, the letter concluded.

Mrs. Sanders resigned from her role as president shortly after securing the loan in 2011. Between 2010 and 2016, Burlington College raised only $676,000 in donations, a small percentage of the $2.4 million promised. In May 2016, Burlington College went bankrupt.

Color-Coded Meds

by Roger Clegg

Professor Mark J. Perry has posted some important data that show graphically (in both senses of the word) the extent to which racial preferences are used in medical-school admissions. “Bottom Line: Medical school acceptance rates in recent years suggest that medical schools must have ‘affirmative discrimination’ and ‘racial profiling’ admission policies that favor black and Hispanic applicants over equally qualified Asian and white students.”

And, as is almost always the case with university admissions (see numerous studies by the Center for Equal Opportunity here), race is weighed not lightly but heavily indeed:

For students applying to medical school with slightly below average GPAs of 3.20 to 3.39 and slightly below average MCAT scores of 24 to 26 . . . , black applicants were more than 9 times more likely to be admitted to medical school than Asians (56.4% vs. 5.9%), and more than 7 times more likely than whites (56.4% vs. 8.0%). . . . Compared to the average acceptance rate of 16.7% for all applicants with that combination of GPA and MCAT score, black and Hispanic applicants were much more likely to be accepted at rates of 56.4% and 30.5%, and white and Asian applicants were much less likely to be accepted to US medical schools at rates of only 5.9% and 8.0% respectively.

We find the same pattern of acceptance rates by ethnic/racial groups for applicants with slightly above average academic credentials. . . . For example, for applicants with MCAT scores of 30 to 32 (slightly above average) and GPAs between 3.40 to 3.59 (average) . . . , the acceptance rates for blacks (86.9%) and Hispanics (75.9%) were much higher than the acceptance rate for whites (48.0%) and Asians (40.3%) with those same academic credentials.

Professor Perry also notes, “Even if factors other than GPA and MCAT scores (which are probably the two most important ones) are considered for admission to medical school, wouldn’t it still be very hard to conclude that admissions policies to medical schools are completely ‘race-neutral’ and completely free of any ‘racial profiling’ practices that favor blacks and Hispanics over equally qualified Asians and whites?” Yes, professor, it would.

This discrimination is obviously a bad thing for the white and Asian students who were denied admission and now may not become doctors. It’s bad for patients who will not have doctors as good as they might have had otherwise. It’s bad for future medical research and teaching. And, because of the mismatch problem, it’s not even a good thing for many of the black and Latino students who do get admitted. This unfair and pernicious discrimination should stop.

Uncommon Knowledge: Governor Bruce Rauner and the Budget Crisis in the Land of Lincoln

by Peter Robinson

The 42nd governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, is my guest on Uncommon Knowledge to discuss Illinois’s budget crisis. With the end-of-the-fiscal-year deadline (June 30) looming ever closer, Governor Rauner and Illinois House majority Democrats will have to come to an agreement to get the budget passed and prevent Illinois’s bond rating from being downgraded to junk, causing Illinois to lose investment-grade status. Peter Robinson and Governor Rauner discuss this financial crisis and Rauner’s goals for the budget. He insists that no budget will be passed unless it is a balanced budget that includes, but is not limited to, term limits, consolidating the government, and pension reform.

There’s No Such Thing as Just Short on the GOP Health-Care Bill

by Rich Lowry

This feels like one of those dynamics where if there are three hard Republican “no’s” on the bill (which is quite plausible), another dozen or so senators will oppose it, too. So, it’s either 50 votes for it, or 35.
 

‘It is not sufficient for us simply to add more people to Medicare or Medicaid to increase the rolls, to increase coverage in the absence of cost controls and reform.’

The U.S. Should End Its OECD Subsidies: It’s Good Policy and Self-Protection

by Veronique de Rugy

Tomorrow, the Committee on Appropriations’s Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs is having a “United Nations and International Organizations — Budget Hearing.” The witness will be U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley.

I, for one, am very much looking forward to this hearing. As a reminder, the Trump budget called for reducing spending on contributions to international organizations by approximately $786 million. We will still be spending $900 million in Fiscal Year 2018 on international bureaucrats, according to the Major Savings Document (pg. 71). But that’s down from the $1.68 billion we spent in Fiscal Year 2017. For the figures from the analytics tables, check pg. 14 of this document (or pg. 778 of the book).

It called for an interagency strategic review to prioritize payments to organizations “that most directly support U.S. national security interests and American prosperity. NATO, for instance, would continue to be fully funded. In contrast, funding for organizations that work against U.S. foreign policy interests could be terminated.”

As I wrote a few weeks ago, while the level of spending cuts as envisioned by the Trump administration is unlikely to occur, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation (OECD) should be placed first on the chopping block for its use of American taxpayer dollars to push for higher taxes and bigger government in the U.S. and around the world. In that post, I wrote about many of the ways the OECD works against U.S. interests.

This morning, Dan Mitchell at the Cato Institute has a good summary of why we are so eager to see America’s OECD subsidies cut. He writes:

My main gripe is that the OECD, in hopes of propping up the European welfare states that dominate its membership, tries to enable big tax increases by undermining tax competition.

It also galls me that the bureaucracy reflexively embraces just about every kind of tax hike, including class-warfare taxes on income, big new energy taxes, business taxes, and money-vacuuming value-added taxes.

Additionally, I get irked when the OECD advocates other big-government policies such as Keynesian spending, green energy, and government-run healthcare.

I also don’t like the OECD’s dodgy, dishonest, and misleading use of data on issues such as poverty, pay equity, inequality, and comparative economics.

And, to add insult to injury, the bureaucrats at the OECD get a special exemption so their gold-plated salaries are tax free, even though they spend so much time trying to impose higher taxes on the rest of us.

For all of you who wonder why we should care about a report-writing organization, I would say that the OECD, which is dominated by Western European welfare states, has actually been leading aggressive real-world campaigns such as he anti-tax-competition one mentioned above. The reality is that their efforts have had very negative ramifications for lower-tax jurisdictions. In addition, the OECD continues pushing an awful multilateral convention that was signed by President Obama, which if ratified by U.S. Senate (down the road when the Democrats are back in power), would force us to automatically share personal-financial information with some of the most corrupt and unsavory governments around the world.

In other words, no, the OECD isn’t just your usual wasteful international bureaucracy with a preference for big government. These bureaucrats are actively meddling in the world of policy, always on the side of bigger government and less privacy, with real-world consequences for the rest of us.

Hopefully, tomorrow’s hearing will get us closer to the goal of defunding them.

Finding the Roots of Violent Campus Protests

by George Leef

As our campus “progressives” (actually, they’re primitive tribalists) grow increasingly bold and violent, it’s worth asking where such behavior has its roots. In Friday’s Martin Center article, Assumption College political-science professor Geoffrey Vaughan suggests that it has been taught to them. After noting that Vice President Pence had a large number of students walk out of his commencement address at Notre Dame last month, Vaughan writes,

The real power of political correctness that legislators and even the vice president would like to combat does not reside in particular offices or paid positions. The power resides in faculty and administrators who almost universally support it and increasingly see their jobs as developing support for it among students.

He’s right. Many professors and administrators see themselves as “change agents” who care more about inculcating what they think are the correct values rather than to have them master fields of knowledge and understand how to use reason. (All the talk you hear about how colleges teach students “critical thinking” is just a smokescreen for indoctrination.) They want to change students, not educate them.

There lies the root of the problem. Higher education has been thoroughly infiltrated by the Left, which uses it for its goals of remaking America according to its collectivist/authoritarian notions.

Vaughan concludes, “Free speech is important, but without a culture willing to engage in what others say, it merely provides a podium in an empty room. So two cheers for legislation that protects our freedom to address it, but hold that third cheer for a while. We need to address the very idea of what education is before this problem can be solved.” The “progressives” have their idea about what education is and (using vast amounts of other people’s money), they have pretty much succeeded in imposing it on the entire nation. Those of us who have a different idea need to either retake the institutions or create new educational models that don’t involve immersing students in the leftist view of the world.

Why Argue That ‘Collusion with Russia’ Isn’t a Crime?

by Jonah Goldberg

So far there is no evidence of “collusion” between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. And if they ever find any, I suspect the culpability will land at the feet of politically expendable characters such as Roger Stone or Paul Manafort and not the president.

To date, the best argument the Russia-obsessed have is Donald Trump’s own words and actions: His obsession with the unfairness of the investigation, his refusal to acknowledge that Russia meddled in our election (at least until his latest tweets on the subject), and his odd reluctance to speak ill of Vladimir Putin and his desire to be more chummy with the dictator.

None of that, however, is proof of anything other than the well-documented habit of the president to say things that don’t help him.

But there’s a new argument coming down the pike these days that I find particularly odd. A number of people are starting to make the case that even if Trump did collude with the Russian government, that wouldn’t be a crime. My friend Brit Hume made that case on Fox News Sunday. From a Newsweek story:

“Can anybody identify the crime? Collusion, while it would be obviously alarming and highly inappropriate for the Trump campaign, of which there is no evidence by the way, of colluding with the Russians,” said Hume, “It’s not a crime.”

Last week on his radio show, Sean Hannity made a similar argument:

“They might say as a Trump campaign representative, ‘wow you have that? Tell the American people the truth. Let them see it themselves, release it.’ Is that a crime, to say ‘release it’? To show the truth? To show damaging information?”

Now, the Newsweek article asks a bunch of legal experts who think this is wrong: Colluding with Russia could run afoul of several laws. Maybe those experts are wrong. I honestly don’t know, but it’d hardly shock me if Newsweek went quote-shopping for the story.

Still, I think this argument is a dead-end. One could also just say, as many have, that it doesn’t matter because the Department of Justice as a rule won’t indict a sitting president. The fact remains that if Donald Trump did actually work with the Russians — again there’s no evidence that he did — it would be an enormous calamity for his presidency. It would certainly fall under the entirely elastic and political definition of impeachable offenses — at least if the Democrats take over Congress.

Moreover, I don’t see how this argument helps the Trump White House. “Even if I did it . . . ” is never a strong defense and it comes across as a grudging confession of wrongdoing.

We know the president often takes his cues from Fox News and supportive pundits elsewhere. Mainstreaming the argument that it’d be no big deal if Trump conspired, even after the fact, with the Russians over the hacking of the DNC server etc. amounts to giving the president terrible political advice.

A Groundbreaking Minimum-Wage Study

by Robert VerBruggen

Basic economics holds that when you mandate a higher price for something, you get less of it. But reality is a bit messier than that, and there’s a robust debate over the effect that the minimum wage has on employment. Few deny that, say, a $30 wage floor would cause enormous job losses, but it can be hard to detect much of an impact from smaller increases.

A working paper released today improves on prior research and suggests that there are indeed substantial employment losses as you approach the Left’s target of $15 an hour — and that those losses far outweigh the higher wages paid to the workers who stay employed.

Economists at the University of Washington were given access to administrative data that include the earnings and hours of individual workers in Washington State, allowing them to precisely identify workers by the wages they made. (Previous studies usually relied on more roundabout methods, like looking at stereotypical low-wage workers such as teens or those in the retail or restaurant industries.) They were able to see what happened to low-wage workers — defined as those making up to $19 an hour — as Seattle’s minimum wage grew from $9.47 to $11 in 2015 and then to $13 the next year.

Generally, what you expect to see from the minimum wage is that (A) wages increase, because legally they have to; and (B) workers put in fewer hours, some losing their jobs entirely, because it has become more expensive to employ them. The relationship between these two effects — the “elasticity” — tells you whether more or less money is flowing to low-wage workers in general.

An elasticity of -1, for example, means that when wages go up 1 percent, hours fall 1 percent and this group of workers breaks even money-wise. Even that may not be a good tradeoff, of course, because losing money can hurt more than gaining money helps. If two people make the same amount of money, you will do more harm than good if you double one of their salaries but put the other out of work and break up his marriage.

The new study says that Seattle’s first minimum-wage increase, to $11, created an elasticity of right around -1: break-even at best. The next one, to $13, had an elasticity of -3, with hours falling 9 percent while wages grew just 3 percent. This “lowered low-wage employees’ earnings by an average of $125 per month in 2016.” A policy with this latter effect is obviously indefensible.

But there are a couple of caveats here. One, Seattle started from a high minimum wage; the federal minimum is just $7.25. Since the overall effect gets worse as the mandated wage gets higher, it’s likely that more modest increases (say, to $8 or $9) would have elasticities closer to 0 and would thus be easier to justify on cost-benefit grounds.

Second, there was a big limitation to the authors’ data. Many employers have multiple sites, some inside Seattle and some outside, and they have the option of reporting data for all their operations at once, instead of separately for each location. Employers that did this are excluded from the analysis, which ends up including 89 percent of employers but only 62 percent of employees.

However, survey data suggest that bigger employers were more likely to reduce employment in response to the wage hike. (Single-site employers, after all, by definition don’t have the option of moving jobs to a different site; their only choices are to pay workers more or let them go.) Of course, that might turn out differently if a minimum-wage hike were enacted on the state or federal level instead of just the local one.

Third, and finally, the authors “estimate an effect of zero when analyzing employment in the restaurant industry at all wage levels, comparable to many prior studies.” This suggests that restaurants, at least, replaced low-wage employees with those earning more than $19 an hour. This evokes the old cliché about sawing off the bottom of the income ladder; when low-skilled workers are too expensive to hire, they lose opportunities to higher-skilled employees.

This isn’t the end of the discussion. But it’s a rigorous and groundbreaking study that strongly suggests a $15 minimum wage, which Seattle is still phasing in, would be a really, really bad idea.

 

SCOTUS’s Good News for Medical Conscience

by Wesley J. Smith

The State of Missouri cannot discriminate against a church school’s request for a generally available grant based on religion, the SCOTUS has ruled.

Having very quickly read the ruling–I won’t get into most of its intricacies–the Court’s ruling seems to be very good news for situations involving religious liberty that extend well beyond the rather mundane facts of the case at bench about which I am concerned–such as medical conscience.

Specifically, the following positive assertion offers great hope.  From Trinity Lutheran Church v Comer (my emphasis):

Neither do I see why the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause should care. After all, that Clause guarantees the free exercise of religion, not just the right to inward belief (or status)…And this Court has long explained that government may not “devise mechanisms, overt or disguised, designed to persecute or oppress a religion or its practices.”

Yes! So much for the “freedom of worship” shriveling of the First Amendment so often posited by Barack Obama and the political left.

And this statement is an even more directly relevant to medical conscience:

The Free Exercise Clause protects against “indirect coercion or penalties on the free exercise of religion, not just outright prohibitions.”

Thus, the ruling should give great pause to those who would seek to pass laws, promulgate regulations, or publish medical association ethics rulings that punish medical professionals who refuse to abort, assist suicide, and/or participate in other controversial actions in the medical context that violate their religious beliefs.

It’s a Fake, Fake, Fake, Fake World

by Rich Lowry

Matt Continetti had a good column last week on the group think, speculation, and innuendo that inform so much of our political world at the moment. Add to the count the story CNN had to retract fingering Anthony Scaramucci as under investigation in the so-called Russia scandal. CNN is now establishing new standards for its Russia coverage. This comes on top of James Comey’s debunking of one of the explosive New York Times reports that spread widely. And Chuck Grassley’s remarks the other day that Chuck Schumer was deliberately misleading about the Russia probe. Further to all this, don’t miss Andy’s column from over the weekend.

Victory for Trump: SCOTUS Restores Vast Majority of Travel Ban

by David French

Today, in a per curiam ruling, the Supreme Court restored the vast majority of the Trump administration’s temporary travel ban — including the temporary ban on refugee entry. The lower courts’ injunctions remain only in the narrowest of categories — where the person seeking entry has a “bona fide relationships with a person or entity in the United States.”

And what is a “bona fide relationship?” The court’s guidelines were strict:

For individuals, a close familial relationship is required. A foreign national who wishes to enter the United States to live with or visit a family member, like Doe’s wife or Dr. Elshikh’s mother-in-law, clearly has such a relationship. As for entities, the relationship must be formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading EO–2.

In other words, SCOTUS made short work of the claim that a person’s desire to bring their mother-in-law to the U.S. (or a university’s desire to admit a few students or have a lecturer travel for a seminar) granted them the ability to stand in for every single citizen of every affected country:

Denying entry to such [an unconnected] national does not burden any American party by reason of that party’s relationship with the foreign national. And the courts below did not conclude that exclusion in such circumstances would impose any legally relevant hardship on the foreign national himself.

More:

At the same time, the Government’s interest in enforcing §2(c), and the Executive’s authority to do so, are un- doubtedly at their peak when there is no tie between the foreign national and the United States. Indeed, EO–2 itself distinguishes between foreign nationals who have some connection to this country, and foreign nationals who do not, by establishing a case-by-case waiver system primarily for the benefit of individuals in the former category . . . The interest in preserving national security is “an urgent objective of the highest order.” Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U. S. 1, 28 (2010). To prevent the Government from pursuing that objective by enforcing §2(c) against foreign nationals unconnected to the United States would appreciably injure its interests, without alleviating obvious hardship to anyone else.

Notably absent from the court’s decision is any analysis of Trump’s campaign statements. Moreover, the only dissenters from the opinion (justices Gorsuch, Alito, and Thomas) wanted the injunctions vacated in their entirety. They are correct that the court’s ruling will invite further litigation as litigants test the boundaries of the “bona fide relationships,” but the difference between the dissenters and the six remaining justices was only over the proper extent of Trump’s legal victory. For now, the constitutional and statutory primacy of the executive and legislative branches over national security and immigration has been restored.

The judges in the courts below have been celebrated as heroic resistance figures. Yet now even the Supreme Court’s most liberal justices have rejected the lower courts’ overreach. The Trump administration is free to conduct its global review to determine whether foreign governments provide sufficient information about foreign nationals applying for entry to the U.S., it’s free for now to impose its new refugee caps, it’s free to temporarily pause entry from Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia, and it’s free to pause refugee entry (unless refugees and applicants for entry have a “bona fide” U.S. relationship.) That’s a win for Trump.

The court will hear the full case during its October term, but the majority of the case may well be moot by that time (indeed, that’s one question the court will consider). The administration will have had time to complete its reviews, and in the meantime the travel pause will apply to the vast majority of the citizens of the affected states. Indeed, the administration will have time to issue new immigration guidance based on the results of its review. The resistance’s greatest legal victory has been gutted, and not even Ruth Bader Ginsburg accepted its most extreme arguments.

Death and the Parties

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Hillary Clinton said passing the health bill would make Republicans the “death party.” I don’t think it has quite the same ring as The Party of Death, the title of a book I wrote about a decade ago about abortion and related issues. At Bloomberg View, I defend provocative rhetoric such as hers and mine: The problem with what she said isn’t that it’s uncivil, but that it’s wrong.

Nancy MacLean vs. Tyler Cowen

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Nancy MacLean has a book on the libertarian economist and political theorist James Buchanan. It seems to conduct a drive-by on another libertarian writer, Tyler Cowen (who is among other things a fellow columnist for Bloomberg View). Russ Roberts has the goods.

Here, for example, is Cowen commenting on proposals to change the Constitution for libertarian ends: “While weakening checks and balances would increase the chance of a very good outcome, it also would increase the chance of a very bad outcome.”

And here’s MacLean’s description of Cowen’s views: “The economist was creating, it seems fair to say, a handbook for how to conduct a fifth-column assault on democracy.

“‘The weakening of checks and balances’ in the American system, Cowen suggested, ‘would increase the chance of a very good outcome.’”

Roberts documents several other distortions, none of which lend themselves easily to innocent explanations. It’s enough to make you wonder whether MacLean’s attacks on her main subject, Buchanan, which have been credulously received by liberals, are on the level.

Bill at the Ballgame

by Jay Nordlinger

Impromptus today is a variety show, traversing politics, policy, Islam, Russia, Seattle, music, and more. Something to please and displease everyone.

I spend a little time anathematizing the ACLU — but I note that Ira Glasser, its onetime head, was a friend of WFB’s. “In fact, it was Glasser who took Bill to the only baseball games he ever attended: a Yankees game and a Mets game. (I think Bill was at each game only very briefly.)”

Here on the Corner, I thought I’d say a little bit more. To one of those games, Glasser made WFB take the subway, in order to have a more “authentic” experience, I suppose. But I’m pretty sure that Bill agreed to take the subway only one way. He went home by his more accustomed means.

And something happened at one of those games, which relates to the nutty fussiness of our age. Quick as he could, Bill went to get a beer. And the girl behind the counter asked for ID. Bill looked at her blankly and said, “I’m 74 years old.”

I remember him saying something else, relating to a nutty security-consciousness (as opposed to the wise kind). After 9/11, he’d enter a building and a guard would say, “Hello, Mr. Buckley, great to see you. Could I see your ID?”

Rules are rules. But sometimes rule-following is strange, or embarrassing.

The Trump Non-Catastrophe

by Rich Lowry

The coverage of Trump has had a catastrophic tone since the election, shared by some of his critics on the right. In the NBC poll at the end of last week, according to First Read at NBC News, I was struck by this breakdown of where the parties stand on the question of “which party would do a better job”:

Dealing with health care: Democrats 43 percent, Republicans 26 percent (D+17)

Looking out for the middle class: Democrats 42 percent, Republicans 29 percent (D+13)

Dealing with immigration: Democrats 38 percent, Republicans 32 percent (D+6)

Dealing with transit, roads, and highways: Democrats 24 percent, Republicans 22 percent (D+2)

Dealing with foreign policy: Democrats 34 percent, Republicans 33 percent (D+1)

Dealing with taxes: Democrats 29 percent, Republicans 33 percent (R+4)

Dealing with the economy: Democrats 29 percent, Republicans 36 percent, (R+7)

Changing how things work in Washington: Democrats 18 percent, Republicans 27 percent (R+9)

Dealing with ISIS: Democrats 17 percent, Republicans 35 percent (R+18)

There is softness here to be sure. You’d hope Trump would be doing better on the middle class, and the tie on foreign policy is a poor showing for the GOP. But this isn’t exactly the picture of a party in a state of collapse.

As for Trump’s approval rating, it’s at 40 in the NBC poll. We always hear that that number is a historic low for a president at this point. True, but no president has ever been elected despite his unpopularity the way Trump was last November. If the next presidential election were held tomorrow, Trump would start about where he was last year at 46 percent, with a fighting chance at reelection.

Finally, there’s the state of the 2018 midterms. Democrats are up 8 on the generic ballot. This is good for them, but not great. As First Read notes:

When Democrats have scored big midterm wins, their advantage in congressional preference has been in the double digits. What’s more, Republicans on this measure enjoy a 52 percent–41 percent lead in GOP-held districts vs. Democrats’ 62 percent–28 percent lead in Dem districts, which helps explain what happened in GA-6 on Tuesday. Democrats may very well have the political winds at their backs, but those gusts haven’t blown into Republican areas — at least not yet.

In short, Trump has hurt himself in all sorts of unnecessary ways and is in middling shape, but, as usual, the catastrophic tone is unwarranted.