December 9, 2016

Trump’s Job-Killing Carrier Deal

trump-carrierDonald Trump has not taken office and already he is delivering on his promise to keep manufacturing jobs in the United States. Yesterday, he visited Indiana to celebrate his part in persuading Carrier to keep 1,100 jobs slated to move to Mexico at its Indiana facility. Speculation of bullying, tax-funded quid pro quo (Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies, holds large defense contracts) and corporate welfare were plentiful.

Today, Zero Hedge reports Carrier was persuaded by none of the above. Instead, the company received “$700,000 a year for a period of years in state tax incentives.” That means keeping the jobs cost the government about $636 per job annually in tax revenues.

It would seem a win-win. 1,100 Americans keep their jobs, Carrier gets lower taxes to avoid having to pass on the cost difference to its customers and all the local businesses in Indiana benefit from the purchasing power that remains there with the domestic Carrier employees instead of being exported to Mexico.

That, as 19th century political economist Frederic Bastiat would say, “is what is seen.” What is not seen is all the consequences of Carrier not moving those jobs to Mexico, where they could produce their products at a lower cost. When those consequences are considered and the ledger is balanced, the deal will have made the United States as a whole poorer and will have cost it jobs.

Let’s first consider the decision in a vacuum, without the tax incentive. Carrier was moving the jobs to Mexico because it could produce the same air conditioner there at a lower cost, which it could then pass on to its customers. Keeping the jobs in Indiana raises the cost of production above what it would be with the move. That forces Carrier to raise its prices.

And we must assume Carrier would have saved more than $636 per worker per year in tax breaks had they moved those jobs to Mexico, or the move wouldn’t have made financial sense. With each worker on average producing many air conditioners per year, saving $636 per worker works out to a negligible cost savings per unit. So, Carrier is likely absorbing some of the higher costs of keeping the jobs in Indiana, over and above what they are receiving from the government. Those costs must be passed on to customers or taken out of profits, the latter resulting in either lower dividends or less money reinvested in future improvements to production.

“Ah,” says the supporter of this move, “but many people are willing to pay a little more to keep those jobs in America!” Perhaps, but the economic consequences remain. Assuming the price of an air conditioner would be $5,000.00 if produced in Mexico and keeping the jobs in America only raises prices by the $500, Americans are now paying $5,500.00 for an air conditioner instead of $5000.00. They get no more for their money than they would have paying $5,000.00. All they have in exchange for the $5,500.00 is the same air conditioner.

Had the job moved to Mexico and that same air conditioner been available for $5,000.00, the customer would have been able to afford an air conditioner and a bicycle, or an air conditioner and a new carpet, or an air conditioner and a new suit, for the same $5,500.00 he now spends to get the air conditioner only. The consumer is poorer because of the deal. His standard of living is lower. And let’s not forget that for every one employee producing air conditioners, there are hundreds or thousands of people consuming what those employees produce.

At the end of the day, the ledger balances to this: the same number of air conditioners are being produced, but at a higher cost. That difference in the cost of production is lost. The standard of living of everyone who consumes air conditioners is lowered by however much more it costs to produce air conditioners in Indiana instead of Mexico. We assume it is $500, but the exact figure is not important. They are poorer by whatever amount the diminished efficiency increases production costs.

“But kind sir!” says the apologist, “you have missed something. You have forgotten the purchasing power of those 1,100 employees, which will help local businesses and keep that wealth in America. That creates jobs that otherwise would have been lost!”

No, it is not forgotten. It is merely balanced against purchasing power lost by all those consumers of air conditioners and against all the jobs they would have created with the $500.00 they would have spent with local businesses, had they saved it in purchasing the air conditioner. The air conditioner customer who also bought a bicycle, a new carpet or a new suit also created jobs or supported existing jobs, which are now lost. And not one in a million knows where they went. The unseen killer of those jobs is the decision to make the same air conditioner at a higher cost in Indiana than at a lower cost in Mexico.

It doesn’t end there. Let us not forget the 1,100 jobs lost in Mexico, the third largest importer of U.S. exports. Because of the lost purchasing power of Mexican consumers, U.S. companies who export to Mexico lose revenue and must lay off workers.

When the whole ledger is balanced, the jobs lost in the U.S. at least equals those 1,100 retained and likely far exceeds them, as inefficiency grows exponentially as its effects ripple throughout the economy.

Finally, the apologist for the deal makes his last stand. “Yes, good sir, you make many fine points. But this deal involved lowering taxes for Carrier, which bestows upon them the same savings they would have realized by moving the jobs to Mexico. And even you must agree that lowering taxes and paying productive workers is better than allowing the government to use it less efficiently!”

Well, there is the rub. The government is doing with those lost taxes precisely what the apologist said. It is using them less efficiently than the market would have. The market would have moved those jobs to Mexico and lowered the cost of air conditioners. The government has used its taxing power to keep the jobs in Indiana and raise the cost of air conditioners above what it would otherwise be if the jobs moved to Mexico, with or without the tax incentive.

But even on the tax incentive there is more that is not seen. It is not as if the $700,000.00 in tax revenues were left in the hands of the taxpayers, who might use it productively. 100% of it went to subsidize the higher cost of producing an air conditioner in Indiana instead of Mexico. And the government went on spending the same amount as before, simply collecting the $700,000.00 Carrier doesn’t pay from others, now or in the future.

So, while the cost of the tax break is not added to the sticker cost of the air conditioner, the public is still paying that additional $636 per worker per year in the additional taxes collected to make up the government’s loss on Carrier. The public is also poorer by whatever price increase or profit reduction is necessary to offset the additional costs the company agreed to absorb to make the deal work.

No matter what defense the apologist offers, there is no escaping this. By keeping those jobs in Indiana instead of letting them move where the market is directing them, the net effect is the United States as a whole is at least $636 poorer per year for every employee kept in Indiana by the deal. It also loses jobs due to the higher prices it still pays for air conditioners, over and above what the tax break could alleviate, or the wealth lost in dividends or reinvestment Carrier sacrificed to absorb whatever additional cost savings it had to forego to keep the jobs in Indiana.  And this is one little company and just 1,100 jobs. Imagine if Trump delivers on his promise to keep or bring back millions?

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

The Irony Everyone’s Missing in the Hamilton-Pence Controversy

hamilton-penceFour days after Mike Pence was lectured by the cast of the hit musical Hamiltonand booed by its audience, the controversy rages on. President-elect Trump sent out the expected angry tweet demanding an apology. The left melodramatically gasped, “freedom of speech,” even though no one has suggested government action against the actors. And, suddenly, the right is more offended than an SJW at an Ann Coulter lecture. Even Trump whined about the theater being a “safe space.”

The only person who doesn’t have a strong opinion on this is Mike Pence. He handledthe situation with uncommon grace, shrugging off the boos from the crowd with a line for the ages: “That is what freedom sounds like.”

All of this pales in comparison to the supreme irony everyone is missing in this whole overblown controversy. Here we have the cast of a musical that holds Alexander Hamilton in an admiring light expressing deep anxiety about a president who just won a stunning upset victory after running his campaign largely based on the political ideas of – wait for it – Alexander Hamilton.

Read the rest at the Foundation for Economic Freedom…

The Electoral College is Vital to Freedom and Peace

400px-1992prescountymap2Retiring U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) filed legislation proposing an amendment to the Constitution abolishing the electoral college. She and many across the United States believe the president should be chosen by direct popular vote. This would be a huge mistake. The electoral college is vital to freedom in a republic the size of the United States.

Lest this be taken as a partisan argument for Donald Trump, let me clear the air. I did not vote for Mr. Trump. I understand the aversion many in both parties have for his style and even the substance of some of his policies. I understand the disappointment of Clinton supporters. I’m a libertarian from Buffalo, NY. My team never wins, neither in politics nor anywhere else – believe me, I understand!

But regardless of my reservations about Trump, the manner in which he was elected must be preserved as the only way to preserve a nation this large and culturally diverse.

Michael Moore recently called the system antiquated and only created to protect the dubious “rights” of slave states. Not so. In fact, it was created to protect smaller states from domination by the largest, including slave state Virginia. Let’s remember, the people of the original thirteen states did not have to accept the Constitution. Rhode Island, which passed laws to gradually emancipate its slaves from 1784-87, didn’t ratify it until 1790.

It’s primary reason for holding out was the addition of a Bill of Rights to the Constitution, measures which clarified the restrictions on the power of the federal government, but did not protect slavery. What it did ensure was that larger states like Virginia and Pennsylvania were not able to dictate how Rhode Island governed its internal affairs. The very first clause of the First Amendment, properly understood, prohibited the federal government from establishing a national religion, like the Church of England. Rhode Island, founded in the name of freedom of religion by a man kicked out of Massachusetts because of his religious beliefs, was especially concerned about this.

While some of the particulars are different, the underlying principle remains the same. The United States is a diverse federation of drastically different cultures. Those who believe New York City, Atlanta, GA, Boise, ID and Los Angeles, CA aren’t different cultures just aren’t being honest with themselves. As President Obama is so fond of saying, E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one).

There are some laws the federal government enforces within the states, based on its power to regulate interstate commerce. But the executive who enforces those laws must represent the people of every state, especially given how culturally diverse they are. That’s why we have an electoral college. That is why the people of Idaho, many of whom may find the societal values in places like New York or California abhorrent, agree to abide a chief executive who most likely comes from a place like that – because they and their culture have an equal say in electing him, even if they’re outnumbered.

If the shoe were on the other foot and Midwestern evangelical states had a population advantage, you can bet New Yorkers and Californians would be defending the electoral college to the death.

The beauty of our system is that it allows people with vastly different beliefs and values to live together in one federal republic dedicated to protecting their freedom to hold those beliefs, right or wrong, so long as they do not infringe the rights of others. To transform the republic to a pure democracy and allow a few, cosmopolitan states to rule over people who don’t share their beliefs would truly be tyranny and a threat to domestic peace.

The Constitution guarantees “to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government,” not a democratic one. The founders were wise in this respect. In the name of diversity, freedom and peace, we should keep the electoral college.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

New York Times already pushing Hillary Clinton’s Internet Regulation Plans

hillary_clinton_by_gage_skidmore_6Hillary Clinton hasn’t even won the general election yet, but the New York Times is already pushing her legislative agenda. And while she is likely to meet stiff resistance on headline issues like immigration and health care, regulating the internet is one even her Republican adversaries might work with her on. As Repubican Sen. Marco Rubio warned, the sword cuts both ways.

“Adolescent suicide as likely as death in traffic accident,” reads the headline of the article, which goes on to describe “an accumulating body of evidence that young adolescents are suffering from a range of health problems associated with the country’s rapidly changing culture.” And just what are some of the elements of the culture that have changed in the past two decades?

Is it the huge increase in prescription of behavioral drugs, which all list “suicidal thoughts” among their side effects?

Could it be the trend towards locking up children in those juvenile detention centers called “schools” at earlier and earlier ages and loading them up with homework for the few hours of leisure time left when they get out?

The pressure of government-mandated tests?

No, neither the Times’ Sabrina Tavernise nor the CDC researchers she cites appear to have been curious about any of these likely causes. For them, it’s all because of social media.

“The pervasiveness of social networking means that entire schools can witness someone’s shame, instead of a gaggle of girls on a school bus. And with continual access to such networks, those pressures so not end when a child comes home in the afternoon,” writes Tavernise.

With the plethora of human activity Hillary Clinton aims to tax and regulate, one might not be aware of her plans for the internet in general and social media in particular. Bullet point three on her five point plan to “Created Safer Schools for our Kids” reads:

Make the Internet a safer space for kids by addressing cyberbullying. While the Internet is essential to helping students learn and communicate, cyberbullying has become a harmful extension of bullying in the classroom. The ease with which demeaning and damaging content can be posted on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter make it difficult for our kids to ever really escape bullying. We need to invest in innovative solutions that allow students, parents, educators, and other adults to make the Internet safer, while respecting First Amendment rights.”

Quite a coincidence, isn’t it, that the New York Times ran a story suggesting a rise in teenage suicides might be caused by something Hillary Clinton plans to regulate? And if you believe that, I have a…

The assault on freedom in the village always starts with the children. It doesn’t take much imagination to anticipate what’s next. First, social media must be regulated to “save the children,” followed by the internet in general to curb the dissemination of false information that “degrades our national conversation.” Or something. Because established media like NBC never disseminates anything blatantly false, right?

So, who benefits from the proposed regulation? For starters, The New York Times and other traditional media benefit. The more their competition is regulated, the less of it there is and the less those competitors can differentiate their content from that offered by traditional media. Limiting competition helps stop the kind of bleeding the Times reported last month while trying to compete with an unregulated, diverse media marketplace.

Government itself benefits, by decreasing the scrutiny unregulated internet freedom subjects it to. President Obama didn’t lament the “wild west media” because he’s concerned about journalistic standards. He did so because for every wild conspiracy theory posted somewhere on the internet, there’s likely three accurate stories on government misdeeds that would otherwise go unreported.

Let’s not forget established social media companies like Facebook themselves. Even if they feign opposition to the initial regulatory proposals that come out, companies like Facebook will eventually embrace and likely help write the regulations that will limit their own activities. Why? Because other existing social media aren’t their most dangerous competition.

Tomorrow’s start-up poses the greatest danger to any established business and for every new regulation, the cost of starting a new business increases. When the cost to launch a start-up goes up, the number of start-ups launched goes down. The established players with existing market share can absorb the cost of increased regulation into their operating expenses. But the company that might have disrupted the whole industry may not be launched at all, if entry costs due to regulation rise high enough.

See how that works?

This is by no means unique to social media or the internet. This is the real story behind the entire regulatory state. When you research the true history of virtually all regulation, whether historically significant like the Sherman Anti-Trust or Wagner Acts or the ones that regulate your light bulbs or toilet bowls, the players and their motivations are virtually always the same.

Unsuspecting citizens generally believe well-intentioned politicians write regulations to protect consumers, especially poor ones, from unsafe products or unfair treatment. In reality, corrupt politicians write regulations to protect special interests, usually wealthy ones, from completely fair competition. And when they can invoke the safety of the children, it always works.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Earth to Washington, D.C.: Russia will never give up ports in Syria and Ukraine

sevastopolThere are four days to go before the election and voters are up to their ears in the usual cries of “most important election of our lifetimes” and “we’re at a crossroads,” the latter suggesting, as usual, that the very nature of the republic is at stake.

In reality, there are very few policy differences between the two major party candidates. Both are protectionists. Yes, Trump presents his protectionism with the rhetoric of a classic conservative mercantilist, while Clinton tries to sound more like a socialist unionist. But in the end, they are both willing to champion destructive trade policies to appease specials interests.

Both promise to sign family leave legislation, forcing employers to provide this compensation, which they will either subtract from monetary compensation or add to the prices of their products. Neither Trump nor Clinton have said anything remotely suggesting they will rein in government spying or protect civil liberties in general. And they both promise yet another war of some sort in the Middle East, this time against paper-tiger-boogeyman-of-the-month, ISIS.

But there is one significant policy upon which the candidates appear to disagree, relations with Russia. Trump has stuck by his position to attempt to negotiate with Vladimir Putin, despite the ammunition it has given Clinton in portraying him as being influenced by a foreign power and even a Putin “puppet.”

Clinton has maintained the Establishment position: Putin is aggressive, seeks to expand Russia’s borders and the U.S. must remain firm on curbing this ambition, including military intefvention in the Ukraine.

There is only one problem with the Establishment narrative: It has no basis in reality. A quick glance at maps of NATO in 1991 and 2016, respectively/ makes it abundantly clear that it is not Russia that has expanded over the past 25 years. On the contrary, NATO has expanded eastward, breaking well-documented promises to then-Premier Mikhail Gorbachev it would not do so if he acquiesced to the reunification of Germany. Gorbachev kept his promise; U.S.-led NATO did not.

With NATO now literally on its border, Russia has two things left to lose: it’s only two warm water ports in Tartus, Syria and Sevastopol, Ukraine. And guess where the U.S. has focused its latest “regime change” efforts? The $100 prize goes to the nice lady in the second row who said, “Syria and Ukraine.”

Aggression doesn’t get any more naked than this and, in case you haven’t noticed with all the e-mail servers and groping dominating the news cycles, the Russian’s have zero sense of humor at this point. Yes, there are cover stories on both sides for what is going on in Syria and Ukraine, but the bottom line is this: Russia is not going to give up those ports without a fight. And with a GDP roughly the size of Italy’s, they can’t fight a conventional war against the U.S.

Do the math.

The scariest part is the indifference with which beltway elites seem to be treating the overt preparations for war in Russia. That any intervention by the “exceptional nation” might be resisted with force by a major power seems completely beyond the comprehension of the enlightened ones, as evidenced by the stunned reaction to joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford’s blunt answer to Republican Sen. Roger Whicker on why a no-fly zone over Syria might not be such a swell idea:

Right now, Senator, for us to control all of the airspace in Syria it would require us to go to war, against Syria and Russia. That’s a pretty fundamental decision that certainly I’m not going to make.

Yes, there are many in the national media pooh-poohing “alarmism” over Russia’s recent moves, writing them off as election-year posturing or mere coincidence. Who ever heard of a world war starting due to major powers butting heads over a tiny country, right?

Maps don’t lie. Whatever Washington and Moscow says or does today, they are both involved in conflicts involving assets the Russians are not going to relinquish, in places the United States have no legitimate reason to be in the first place. This doesn’t end well unless the U.S. changes course, something Hillary Clinton has firmly resolved not to do.

She cannot be allowed to ascend to the presidency. If Trump is too flawed, there is still a chance for peace with Libertarian Party Nominee Gary Johnson.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Diana Kastenbaum’s support of Obamacare more outlandish than anything Trump or Clinton has said

kastenbaumJames Madison warned New Yorkers that in a representative republic, Congress posed a much greater threat to liberty than the presidency. Proving his point, here is a jewel from Diana Kastenbaum’s website. She’s the Democratic Party Nominee to represent New York’s 27th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“For Diana, health care reform is about giving American families and small businesses — not insurance companies — control over their health care. For far too long, America’s health insurance system has made health care more costly, less accessible, and less efficient for families and small businesses. No one in America should have to declare bankruptcy because they can’t afford to pay their medical bills. Premiums should not be increasing at a rate of six times the rate of our GDP. That is why Diana is a supporter of the Affordable Care Act.”

Statements like this have a way of washing over most people without making more than a vague, emotional impact. Let’s unpack what she’s said here.

First, she says health care reform is about giving American families and small businesses – not insurance companies – control over their health care. This in support of a law requiring every soul in America to purchase health insurance, whether they want it or not. Not only does the ACA mandate insurance, but it mandates the services insurances will cover, meaning a smaller portion of total healthcare is left outside the purview of insurance companies.

Does this give insurance companies more or less control over health care?

She claims insurance companies have “made health care more costly, less accessible, and less efficient for families and small businesses.” Even if that were true, the ACA would only make things worse. But have insurance companies made health care more expensive? No.

Insurance companies reflect rising healthcare costs; they don’t drive them. Health insurers have all the same self-interested motivations of home insurers, automobile insurers and liability insurers.  But we don’t see the premium rates of those other insurers outpacing inflation like health insurance premiums. Why?

Kastenbaum isn’t at all curious about this. But clearly, something besides the profit motives of health insurers is increasing the cost of healthcare disproportionately. Assuming the same laws of supply and demand apply to the price of healthcare as to other products, could it be the artificial limitation of supply caused by medical licensing laws, the FDA and other disproportionate regulatory burdens on healthcare? Could it be the gross artificial stimulation of demand by huge entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid?

If the government gave a trillion dollars to clothing shoppers next year, would you expect the price of blue jeans to go down, remain the same or go up?

Kastenbaum says health insurers have made health care less accessible and efficient. But the ACA hasn’t increased the supply of doctors and hospitals; it’s decreasing supply. And major insurers are dropping out of the program en masse, specifically because of the burdens imposed upon them by the ACA. In many states, there will be only one insurance option for consumers next year. All this in exchange for subsidizing coverage for a tiny portion of previously uninsured consumers, some of whom were uninsured by choice.

As for efficiency, the law imposes a one size fits all plan on everyone in the country, prohibiting efficiency-enhancing discrimination on the basis of gender, medical history and local risks. Is it really more efficient to force men without dependents to purchase OB/GYN coverage? Wouldn’t healthcare be less expensive for society as a whole if they weren’t?

Kastenbaum then makes the emotional appeal, “No one in America should have to declare bankruptcy because they can’t afford to pay their medical bills.” Agreed. How is this an argument for the ACA?

Finally, Kastenbaum says, “Premiums should not be increasing at a rate of six times the rate of our GDP. That is why Diana is a supporter of the Affordable Care Act,” which is driving premiums up faster than ever before our very eyes. Media everywhere are reporting premiums increasing as much as 25% for many next year, also specifically because of the ACA.

While Kastenbaum’s ideas on healthcare markets might be particularly obtuse, electing her less delusional Republican opponent is by no means a silver bullet. If Americans truly want to make healthcare affordable again, they’ll have to change their expectations. As long as massive entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid make demand virtually unlimited and massive regulatory burdens severely limit supply, the price of healthcare is going to continue to skyrocket. And as long as we keep sending people like Kastenbaum to Washington, Congress will remain the greatest threat to our liberty.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

What Trump and His Accusers Didn’t Say

trump_in_2013Forget foreign policy, economic policy, civil liberties or “muh roads.” With three weeks to go before Election Day, discussion of the so-called “issues” is over. From here on in, the candidates seem determined to do nothing but fire volleys of character assassination at the two easiest targets who ever ran for office.

Thank goodness for that, too, for as libertarian icon Lew Rockwell, wrote, “In contrast to campaign “substance” which is mostly always wrong, or skewed, the invective is mostly entirely true.” Never has this been truer, as both candidates have made compelling cases the other is unfit to serve as a garbage collector, much less president.

But while the candidates’ accusations have been mostly true, a goodly portion of the media reporting is demonstrably false. The most egregious example is the ubiquitous assertion that Trump admitted to “grabbing women by the …” on a recording made by Billy Bush. Trump never admitted to such on the video and, if you think you heard him do so, then you should watch the video again.

Read the rest at LewRockwell.com…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Did the media really “cover” the Trump sexual assault allegations?

trump_in_2013The cast of MSNBC’s Morning Joe conducted a self-examination of sorts on Tuesday on whether media coverage of the election has been biased against Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. The segment was refreshingly sincere and former advisor to Sen. Rand Paul Elise Jordan made a point that’s been lost throughout much of the coverage thus far: the so-called “little people” are as angry at the national media as they are at the government.

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post admitted with a smile that he is, indeed, a “coastal elite,” having attended a prep school prior to Georgetown and now residing “inside the beltway.” But he disagreed the coverage has been biased against Trump, saying, “How do we not cover when nine women come forward against one of the two people who’s the nominee?”

Joe Scarborough gave the obvious, answer: the media should cover that story. But did they? Let’s look at just one of the allegations and try to determine that.

The New York Times broke Jessica Leeds’ story on October 12, providing an edited video interview of Leeds accompanying their print story. Leeds gave the by now well-known account of Trump raising the arm rest between their first class seats and proceeding to kiss and grope her on a flight to New York. Having watched the video and read the accompanying print story, it doesn’t require extraordinary curiosity to wonder:

She says she had been traveling in the “middle West” and was now on a flight to New York. From what city/airport?

What airline was she traveling on?

In what year did this happen? Does the airline have any record of the crews working flights from City X to New York that year? Can they be reached for comment? Do any of them remember Trump on their flights?

Is it possible to obtain a passenger list and can any of the passengers be contacted (privacy concerns makes this one unlikely)?

Leeds says that if Trump had confined his contact to the upper body, she “may not have gotten that upset.” Why did she make that startling statement? Was the contact consensual up to that point? Isn’t that an unusual statement for an alleged victim of sexual assault to make?

Let’s be clear. None of the answers to the questions above may have helped Donald Trump. The problem is there is no evidence from the reporting the questions were even asked. Had the report contained statements like, “Leeds was unable to tell this reporter what airline she was flying or what city the flight originated from,” at least readers would know Leeds was asked and couldn’t remember. And they’d likely consider that information, for whatever its worth, in deciding whether to believe Leeds or Trump.

So, did the New York Times really “cover” that story or did they simply take Leeds’ account at face value, with no attempt to verify its facts? They did perform the bare minimum due diligence in obtaining a response from Trump, who denies the incident ever happened. Besides that, they seem to have just taken Leeds completely at her word and published her account without a hint of skepticism.

Hey, it’s not like vivid accounts of sexual assault ever turn out to be false, right?

One might argue it is unreasonable to try to track down flight crews or other details about a flight from three decades ago. But isn’t it incumbent upon a news organization publishing such serious charges to make every effort to do so and report those efforts along with the information they do have?

And where in any of the reporting is the acknowledgment that Leeds’ and most of the other allegations are based upon their completely unverifiable accounts? Why is it immediately assumed Trump is lying, in the absence of any corroborating evidence? Granted, the media is not a courtroom, but is the presumption of innocence completely foreign to it?

When the New York Post reported an equally unverifiable claim by Anthony Gilberthorpe saying he was on the flight in question and the allegations aren’t true, there was an immediate investigation into his past. A search on his name returns pages of stories attacking his credibility, many published the same day as the New York Post story. Apparently, Gilberthorpe has a history of making extraordinary claims to the press and there is at least some reason to question his credibility.

But what about Jessica Leeds’ credibility? Did the Times reporters investigate it? Does she have any political connections, especially to the Clinton campaign or the Democratic Party? Has she ever had any disputes with Trump or any of his businesses? With the Republican Party?

Again, the answers to the questions above may not be helpful to Trump. But there is no evidence in the New York Times story they were even asked of Leeds or investigated secondarily before the story was published.

It’s not unreasonable to say the other accusers have similarly been taken completely at their words. There is a well-intentioned tendency to believe women who allege sexual assault because many in the past have been reluctant to seek justice because they feared the consequences of making their accusations. But we should recognize the danger in that tendency for completely annihilating the rights of the accused. Our legal traditions compel us to not believe the accuser until the defendant has been proven guilty.

At the very least, professional reporters who were aware the Leeds story would have a monumental impact on a presidential election should have taken more pains to verify their facts and presented their story in a way that made their due diligence apparent to the reader. Since they did not, it’s hard to blame Trump supporters for believing the media is biased against their candidate.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Isn’t Hillary Clinton’s Syria no-fly zone worse than Donald Trump’s lewdness?

ap_16284103255269Unsurprisingly, Sunday’s presidential debate opened with a question on Trump’s “locker room talk” scandal. Neither Trump nor his supporters raised any serious objection. It had to be asked and Trump handled it about as well as anyone could expect to handle his indefensible comments. There is even an argument for it being charitable to Trump to open the debate with it, allowing him to address it and get it out of the way, instead of it hanging over the debate like a Sword of Damocles, waiting to torpedo any momentum Trump might have built later in the evening. John King made exactly that argument for why he opened a presidential debate with a Newt Gingrich scandal back in 2012.

And while the “debate” never got far out of the gutter for long, the two candidates did manage to move on and discuss other issues, one of which is getting surprisingly little emphasis from the media or the public at large: the candidates’ positions on Syria and Russia. Here, we have one of the few genuine issues of substance upon which the candidates fundamentally disagree, one far more important than any idiotic statements either of them may have made when they thought no one was listening.

Clinton has stuck by her position that deposing the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria is a foreign policy priority for the U.S. She has not backed away from her support for a no fly zone over Syria, despite Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford’s unqualified statement that it would “require us to go to war” with Russia.

Read the rest at Rare…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Earth to Bill Weld: Trump’s foreign policy is more libertarian than Clinton’s

william_weld_by_gage_skidmoreLibertarian Vice-Presidential Nominee Bill Weld has a legitimate beef with the media. On Tuesday, the Boston Globe reported Weld “plans to focus exclusively on blasting Donald Trump over the next five weeks.” Weld denied that claim in an interview with Reason, adding, “No, somebody’s making that up,” in reference to a further claim by the Globe that Weld would henceforth be focusing exclusively on red states.

But libertarian talk show host Kennedy wasn’t entirely satisfied with Weld’s explanations, and with good reason. For while the Boston Globe and other media may have exaggerated or even distorted Weld’s statements, they didn’t just make all of this up out of thin air. Weld himself admits he has been less antagonistic towards the campaign of Hillary Clinton, a personal friend, since accepting the nomination.

Weld says he does not want to see Trump gain the White House because his “proposals in the foreign policy area are so wrongheaded that they’re in a class by themselves.” Bill Kristol and other neoconservatives may agree with him, but virtually no libertarians would. On the contrary, many libertarians ignore Trump’s many odious positions and support him precisely because his foreign policy is so much less hawkish than Clinton’s.

Even Weld’s running mate recognizes this. He’s said on numerous occasions, including during an interview with this writer, that he considers Clinton “a major architect of the conflict going on around the world.” He also said during that interview he agrees with Trump that the next U.S. president should sit down and negotiate with Russia, and went as far as to say he is willing to go “all the way down that road” regarding withdrawing troops from Europe, Japan, and Korea.

Weld has on occasion muddied the water on what “foreign policy proposals” consist of, lumping trade policy in with military intervention, possibly to justify his preference for Clinton. But that dog won’t hunt, either, as Clinton is as protectionist as Trump at the end of the day, with only superficial differences in emphasis and rhetoric. The real difference in foreign policy between Clinton and Trump is on military intervention and Trump’s stance most closely aligns with Johnson/Weld’s. If foreign policy is the chief measuring stick, Clinton is the worse of two bad choices for libertarians, not Trump.

To say Libertarians were skeptical of Weld at the party’s convention in May would be an understatement. Presidential runner-up Austin Petersen endorsed Gary Johnson during his concession speech, but refused to endorse Weld, who failed to gain the nomination on the first ballot. Kennedy’s openly hostile interview of Weld crystalized the accumulated frustration with Weld’s many disappointing statements (from a libertarian perspective) since then. Her charge that Weld was merely using the Libertarian Party for personal advancement may have been unfair. To his credit, Weld handled it well.

What is more concerning for libertarians is that Weld may truly believe his positions are libertarian, rather than merely “centrist” or “moderate Republican.” Contrary to Johnson/Weld rhetoric, libertarianism is not merely “fiscally conservative and socially accepting.” It certainly is not a combination of the “best from both sides” of the Democrat/Republican divide. It is a self-contained political philosophy with its own first principles, most of which depart completely from conservatism and progressive liberalism.

Neither Johnson nor Weld have demonstrated a firm grasp of those principles during the course of their campaign, leading them to positions most libertarians outright oppose. And while there is still a strong case for libertarians to support the ticket, Weld needs to come up with a more believable argument on why he’s #NeverTrump, rather than #NeverHillary. His foreign policy argument for Clinton makes no sense at all.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.