Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all who come by here

May this Holy time bring you all its blessings

I will be posting over the Christmas New Year period but not as much as usual


What the USMCA does

After nearly a year of delay, this gift for the American people represents an opportunity for freer trade and a chance to grow our economy, reduce prices on many goods, and increase our exports to the world, creating more and higher-paying jobs in the process.

As we all know, just like with other Christmas gifts, you can also get the occasional ugly sweater that you really didn’t want. The same is true here. Some compromises were made to get the USMCA through Congress, like labor and environmental provisions that actually will create some barriers to trade and cause cost increases with certain goods.

However, just like you wouldn’t cancel Christmas gift-giving because you might get one of Aunt Janice’s homemade reindeer sweaters, the effect of these extra provisions doesn’t outweigh the fact that the overall agreement is truly in the best interest of America’s families, workers, businesses and farmers.

The USMCA would update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). When NAFTA was passed in 1994, it created one of the largest free-trade zones in the world, allowing America to export more products and services, create more jobs and grow the economy.

Additionally, NAFTA allowed American businesses to develop better supply chains where they could draw from the best and most competitively priced products and raw materials from throughout North America. Businesses could trade them across borders without tariffs, lowering the overall costs of the end products. That process has helped many American products become even more competitively priced around the world.

The USMCA continues NAFTA’s benefits while also opening up new markets for American farmers to sell their goods. Specifically, U.S. agricultural producers will have better access to the Canadian market to sell products such as milk, cheese, wheat, chicken, eggs and turkey.

Moreover, one of the most significant gains with the new USMCA agreement is the assurance that an ever-growing way of doing business — digital trade — will remain free. When NAFTA was created, e-commerce didn’t really exist and buying and selling freely over the Internet wasn’t an issue. USMCA prohibits our member governments from imposing protectionist regulations that could inhibit companies and individuals from trading online across borders.

The USMCA also includes new protections for patents, copyrights and trademarks. This will benefit consumers by bringing more innovative products and services to market, as inventors and investors are able to create them without fear of them being stolen by others within the free-trade zone.

Finally, moving forward with the USMCA should allow many businesses to get back on track with expansions of their facilities and the hiring of new workers — plans that had been put on hold because of the uncertainty involved in waiting for the details of a new trade agreement. Knowing the rules helps to alleviate the uncertainty that businesses have felt.

As to the ugly-sweater part of this agreement, compromises were made to get it through Congress. The USMCA contains some provisions that actually create barriers to trade rather than free it up — making goods and services more expensive or stifling trade altogether. While certain environmental standards and labor standards, like imposing minimum wages and standards for working conditions in Mexico, may seem well-intentioned, they create an anathema to free trade — more government interference — and also weaken Mexico’s sovereign ability to determine its own laws.

Another provision increases the “rules of origin” requirements for automakers that could actually increase prices on automobiles. USMCA would require that 75 percent of auto content be made in North America. If automakers couldn’t get or didn’t use parts that met that threshold, they would be required to pay a tariff on them.

While this provision is meant to drive more automotive production into North America, it could actually have the unintended consequence of increasing costs and making auto manufacturing less competitive in the global marketplace, leading to lower sales.

Because of these provisions, USMCA should not be considered a model for future agreements. Free-trade agreements should focus narrowly on facilitating free trade. However, these compromises reflect the realities of our divided government and they don’t outweigh the fact that the overall agreement remains a solid win for the American people.

The bottom line: USMCA means freer trade, and freer trade means billions of dollars in new economic activity, new jobs, higher wages, and lower prices for the American people and for our North American neighbors. That’s a win-win-win everyone can get behind.



Warren ducked the toughest questions in the Democratic debate

Jeff Jacoby

[Note: This comment was written immediately following the sixth televised Democratic presidential debate in Los Angeles on Thursday night.]

Seven of the Democratic candidates for president took the stage in a debate sponsored by PBS and Politico. They were former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, as well as three lower-tier candidates: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, and billionaire activist Tom Steyer.

There was a moment, just before the end of last night's Democratic debate at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, when Elizabeth Warren seemed to be on the point of directly answering an awkward question.

One of the PBS moderators had asked the debaters if, in the spirit of the season, there was another candidate on the stage to whom they would like to give a gift or from whom they wished to ask forgiveness. Andrew Yang cheerfully offered to give each candidate a copy of his book. Pete Buttigieg lamely announced that his "gift" would be for "literally anybody up here to become president." Then Warren, looking earnest, said she was going to ask for forgiveness.

"I know that sometimes I get really worked up," the Massachusetts senator began. "Sometimes I get a little hot." But that, she said, is because when you take 100,000 selfies with fans on the campaign trail, you hear a lot of sad stories, like the one about the people in Nevada who have to split their insulin three ways. "And that's why I'm running."

So whom would she ask for forgiveness? Warren never actually got around to answering that question.

It wasn't the only question she never actually got around to answering.

Early on, Warren was asked about critiques of her much-touted plan to soak the rich with steep new wealth taxes. Many analysts — including former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and experts at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School — have been pointing out significant shortcomings in her plan, which would raise far less revenue than she claims and inflict considerable damage to the economy. How, Warren was asked, would she answer "top economists" who say her tax plan would stifle growth and investment?

"Oh, they're just wrong," she asserted. But she didn't respond to any of their arguments. She merely pivoted to her standard talking points about all the pie in the sky her "two-cent" tax will pay for.

At another point, the candidates were asked to answer Barack Obama's recent jab that the world's problems are usually caused by "old people . . . not getting out of the way." How would Warren — who, if elected, would be the oldest president in history — answer legitimate concerns about age? The senator tossed off a quip ("I'd also be the youngest woman ever inaugurated"), but then ducked the question and talked about her 100,000 selfies.

Why is Warren proposing free college tuition even for the wealthy? No answer. If Warren donated to Buttigieg's campaign, would the fact that she's a millionaire "pollute" his campaign? No answer.

For a long time, Warren has been laboring to sell herself as the candidate with all the answers. Instead, she's acquired a reputation as the politician likeliest to duck tough questions. In last night's debate, Warren had plenty of sass and attitude and stage presence. What she didn't have, even after all these months, was the courage to give clear answers to direct questions.



The Right to Destroy Cities

This week, the Supreme Court effectively mandated continued legal tolerance for homelessness across major cities on the West Coast of the United States.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that Americans have a right to sleep on the streets, and that it amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Constitution to levy fines based on such behavior.

That court—a repository of stupidity and radicalism, the Mos Eisley of our nation’s federal bench—decided that writing a $25 ticket to people “camping” on the sidewalk is precisely the sort of brutality the Founding Fathers sought to prohibit in stopping torture under the Eighth Amendment.

That ruling was so patently insane that even liberal politicians such as Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined the appeal attempt. “Letting the current law stand handicaps cities and counties from acting nimbly to aid those perishing on the streets, exacerbating unsafe and unhealthy conditions that negatively affect our most vulnerable residents,” he explained.

But the 9th Circuit ruling will stand. That ruling followed a separate 2006 ruling from the same court, which found that cities could not ban people from sleeping in public places. In this case, Judge Marsha Berzon, in language so twisted it would make yoga pioneer Bikram Choudhury jealous, wrote that “the state may not criminalize the state of being ‘homeless in public places'” and thus could not criminalize the “consequence” of being homeless.

It is worth noting that being homeless is not a “state” of being. It is not an immutable characteristic. It is an activity and can certainly be regulated.

That doesn’t mean the best solution is prosecution of those living on the street—a huge swath of homeless people are mentally ill or addicted to drugs and would benefit from better laws concerning involuntary commitment or mandatory drug rehabilitation. But to suggest that cities cannot do anything to effectively police those sleeping on the streets is to damn those cities to the spread of disease, the degradation of public spaces, and an increase in street crime.

Hilariously, Berzon contended that this 9th Circuit ruling would not mandate cities to provide full housing to the homeless; it would just prohibit them from moving or arresting the homeless for living on the streets. Which is somewhat like Tom Hagen telling Jack Woltz that while he doesn’t have to cast Johnny Fontane in his new war film, he can’t stop the Corleones from rearranging the family stable.

But here’s the problem: Cities that have attempted to provide increased housing for the homeless, despite some early successes, have seen their problems return.

Cities like Seattle and Los Angeles have attempted to build new housing. It’s been an expensive failure. It turns out that the carrot of housing must be accompanied by the stick of law enforcement. If you cannot compel drug addicts to enter treatment, or paranoid schizophrenics to take their medication, or those who refuse to live indoors to do so, homelessness will not abate.

As it is, the Supreme Court has damned America’s major cities to the continuation of the festering problem of homelessness. And that problem won’t be solved by judges who attempt to force social policy through deliberately misreading the Constitution, or who believe they are championing “freedom” for tens of thousands of Americans who are seriously mentally ill or addicted to drugs.




POLITICAL THEATER: It's official: House Democrats close up shop without sending articles of impeachment to the Senate (PJ Media)

WANDERING MINDS WANTS TO KNOW: If impeachment articles are not delivered, did impeachment happen? Sure, it's a stupid question ... but we're living in stupid times. (National Review)

"THIS LEGISLATION TOUCHES ALL 50 STATES": Senate sends 2020 budget to Trump's desk (National Review)

FOR THE RECORD: Twenty-one things 18-year-olds can do under spending bill before they can legally buy cigarettes (The Federalist)

IN CASE OF BOREDOM... Here is everything you intentionally missed during Thursday night's Democrat debate (The Daily Caller)

WHAT DID HE KNOW, AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT? U.S. Attorney John Durham is scrutinizing ex-CIA Director John Brennan's role in Russian-interference findings (The New York Times)

SENATE SHOULD PASS IT EARLY NEXT YEAR: United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal passes House with broad bipartisan support (National Review)

MORE EVIDENCE OF RACISM: Trump signs "groundbreaking" legislation supporting historically black colleges and universities (The Daily Caller)

POLICY: Big teacher-pay proposals are missing the mark (The Hill)

POLICY: Russia's Eastern Mediterranean strategy — implications for the U.S. and Israel (Hudson Institute)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is here


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