**Written by Doug Powers
Another Sunday cavalcade of odds and ends is here. We’ll kick it off with the story of how one of America’s highest profile socialists and his wife are sharing their wealth… with defense lawyers:
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) wife Jane Sanders has booked top notch lawyers to defend her against allegations of bank fraud.
The FBI launched an investigation into loans Sanders applied for when she was president of Burlington College, alleging that she lied to qualify for them.
A January 2016 complaint filed by Donald Trump’s Vermont campaign chair, lawyer Brady Toensing, originally requested the investigation.
The complaint alleged that Mrs. Sanders lied on a 2010 loan application from People’s United Bank for $10 million to expand Burlington’s campus.
Any good socialist critic of capitalism knows that owning multiple homes is worth the allegations of hypocrisy because you never know when you’re going to need a s***load of collateral for a legal retainer.
However, Bernie might want to rethink his rule that the mere existence of an investigation is enough to assume the allegations are true:
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 6, 2013
Feel the Bern!
The effort to establish health care utopia in California has stalled. At this point only one thing is holding back progressive legislators in the state: Reality:
A high-profile effort to establish a single-payer healthcare system in California sputtered Friday when Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) decided to shelve the proposal.
“SB 562 was sent to the Assembly woefully incomplete,” Rendon said in a statement. “Even senators who voted for SB 562 noted there are potentially fatal flaws in the bill, including the fact it does not address many serious issues, such as financing, delivery of care, cost controls, or the realities of needed action by the Trump administration and voters to make SB 562 a genuine piece of legislation.”
Under the measure, California would have paid the healthcare costs for all residents, eliminating premiums, copays and deductibles that are common fixtures in the current healthcare system.
Several key details were unresolved in the measure — most significantly how to pay for it. The program, which carried an estimated price tag of $330 billion to $400 billion, would have required new taxes to pay for it, but no sources of tax revenue were specified in the legislation.
The current challenge is finding a way to make nearly a half trillion dollar state expenditure sound “free,” but I’m sure they’ll come up with something.
Keeping the focus on California for the moment, the state’s attorney general is vehemently opposed to “travel bans” — unless he isn’t:
California’s attorney general blocked state-funded travel to Texas and three other states on Thursday in response to what he considers anti-LGBT rights laws enacted this year.
Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra added Texas, Alabama, South Dakota and Kentucky to the list of places where state employee travel is restricted. Lawmakers passed legislation last year banning non-essential travel to states with laws that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. North Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi and Tennessee are already on the list.
California taxpayers’ money “will not be used to let people travel to states who chose to discriminate,” Becerra said.
But no problem with millions of state taxpayer dollars spent on abortions, naturally.
Trump saying he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement has provided some high profile alarmists with the opportunity to reinvent themselves as “let’s save the planet together” superheroes:
French President Emmanuel Macron has taken another swipe at Donald Trump over the US president’s policy on climate change – this time backed up by the muscle of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In a video on social media, Mr Macron is joined by the Terminator star as he vows to “make the planet great again”.
The video lecturing/mocking Trump for not taking emissions seriously enough would have made a much better statement if they’d have filmed it aboard Arnold’s private jet:
Hillary Clinton leads by example like no other:
Your operating system vs. the operating system your programmers told you not to worry about. pic.twitter.com/18SyLfAgGp
— Jimmy (@JimmyPrinceton) June 23, 2017
Her basket of deplorables overfloweth.
Oh no, he’s running in 2020, isn’t he?
Mark Zuckerberg is in Iowa. "Iowa is my kind of place." pic.twitter.com/75IDG3mKrV
— Yashar Ali (@yashar) June 24, 2017
Saved for possible filing under “I’m just chillin’ in Cedar Rapids, v2.0.”
Have a good Sunday all!
**Written by Doug Powers
**Written by Doug Powers
Obama’s previous pledge to try and remain on the sidelines like his predecessors had all the promissory integrity of “if you like your plan you can keep it,” and the ex-prez will start hitting the road soon on behalf of Dems seeking office, starting in Virginia:
Former President Obama plans to return to the political spotlight this fall by hitting the campaign trail for Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, the Democratic nominee running for Virginia governor.
This will be Obama’s first time campaigning since he left the White House and stumped for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election, Obama and Northam’s offices confirmed to the Huffington Post.
Hey, if Obama wants to continue to lead the Democratic Party, who are Republicans to argue?
The GOP might welcome Obama’s involvement in upcoming elections as much as they’re encouraging Nancy Pelosi to stay involved.
**Written by Doug Powers
Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz has shaken his nation’s closed political system by making his youngest son his heir. Although heralded as a “modernizer,” 31-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, is the architect of Riyadh’s disastrous attack on Yemen and disingenuous campaign to turn Qatar into a Saudi satellite. Given President Donald Trump’s warm embrace of the monarchy, Prince Salman’s recklessness is likely to draw the U.S. more deeply into destabilizing regional conflicts.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an anachronism, an absolute monarchy in a democratic age. A few thousand princes sit atop a society of roughly 32 million, treating the nation’s wealth as their family’s piggy bank. The royals live a generally licentious lifestyle outside of public view, but buy off the KSA’s fundamentalist Muslim clergy by promoting the intolerant Islamic sect of Wahhabism worldwide. The kingdom’s population long has been a generous source of people and money for radical and terrorist groups, including those attacking the West.
What amounts to a totalitarian state-there is no religious or political liberty and only limited social freedom, at least in public-has no popular appeal other than its open checkbook. Which makes political Islam so threatening: a country like Iran is an awful model, but life revolves around something other than money. For that people are willing to fight and die. In contrast, the Saudi royals buy domestic loyalty while hiring foreigners to do the dirty work. With little to fight for, even the Saudi military performs poorly despite the best American weaponry.
The kingdom confronts a multitude of challenges. For years a group of elderly brothers held the kingship and other top positions among themselves. This self-aggrandizing gerontocracy lost what little public appeal it had when oil prices dropped, reducing the financial benefits for the average Saudi. Riyadh’s cash reserves have fallen by almost a third since 2014.
Prince Salman’s recklessness is likely to draw the U.S. more deeply into destabilizing regional conflicts.
In 2015 King Salman succeeded to the throne. He appointed his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, as Crown Prince, and his favorite son, MBS, as Deputy Crown Prince. But the king emasculated his nominal successor, merging Prince Nayef’s court with his own and stripping the Crown Prince’s other positions of authority. The 81-year-old king introduced his son to Washington, seeking unofficial blessing for his plans to anoint MBS his successor.
The young prince, whose experience had been limited to serving his father, had the latter’s ear and effectively ruled. MBS won praise for seeking to diversify the economy. Last year he initiated Project 2030, which promotes development beyond oil. He also imposed an austerity program, cutting benefits for the entitlement-minded population-only to restore some of them recently, to quiet discontent. Moreover, he loosened some social strictures and restricted the religious police, to the applause of many younger Saudis.
However, his highly-touted liberalism does not extend to religion or politics. There is not one church, synagogue, or temple in the entire kingdom. No public worship or other activity is allowed any other faith, even though the KSA is filled with contract workers, many of whom are Christians or Hindus. The Shia minority worships only at sufferance, while facing persistent discrimination and repression. Saudi Arabia ranks with North Korea in its extraordinary hostility to religious liberty. MBS has changed nothing.
As for politics, the reigning prince has demonstrated no inclination to allow those not of royal blood to have any say in their own government. Freedom House ranks the KSA as “Not Free,” with the lowest possible rating for both political freedom and civil liberties. The human rights group declared simply: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia restricts almost all political rights and civil liberties through a combination of oppressive laws and the use of force.”
The U.S. State Department detailed Riyadh’s manifold crimes in its latest human rights report, explaining: “The most important human rights problems reported included citizens’ lack of the ability and legal means to choose their government; restrictions on universal rights, such as freedom of expression, including on the internet, and the freedoms of assembly, association, movement, and religion; and pervasive gender discrimination and lack of equal rights that affected most aspects of women’s lives.” Other than that, life in the KSA is great.
Indeed, the kingdom’s hated enemy, Iran, looks like a democratic paragon compared to Riyadh. Saudi Arabia does not hold elections. Or allow organized political opposition. Or tolerate media criticism, or criticism of any sort. Dissident blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to ten years and 1000 lashes for his writing; his attorney then was tossed into jail for 15 years. Observed Maya Foa of the human rights group Reprieve, “The reality is Prince Mohammed has stood alongside and publicly defended the king as young men have been tortured and executed for peacefully protesting.” Where is MBS the reformer?
Of greater concern to the U.S. is the crown prince’s international aggression. He is pushing a quasi-war against Iran, pledging to “work so that the battle for them is in Iran.” Antagonism toward Tehran sparked Riyadh’s destabilizing support for radical jihadists in an attempt to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
MBS orchestrated the invasion of Yemen two years ago to restore to power a friendly autocrat ousted in the latest iteration of that nation’s endless internecine conflict. What was supposed to be a brief cakewalk morphed into a lengthy sectarian struggle in which more than 10,000 civilians have died, most from Saudi bombing-for which the U.S. provided the weapons, refueled the planes, and suggested the targets.
After Riyadh sowed the wind, Iran encouraged the whirlwind, providing modest aid to Riyadh’s Houthi opponents. Tehran seeks not to “win” but to bleed its Saudi antagonist. There is no end in sight to the immoral, counterproductive conflict into which Washington is being ever more deeply drawn. In contrast, Prince Nayef, well regarded as interior minister by foreign governments, was skeptical of MBS’s Yemeni misadventure.
The young ruler-in-waiting also apparently is the driving force behind the Saudi-led assault on neighboring Qatar. Although Saudi Arabia has done more than any other nation to fund and staff anti-Western terrorist organizations, Riyadh accused Doha of supporting terrorism.
The Saudi royals were angered by Qatar’s friendly relations with Iran, growing naturally out of their shared natural gas field. These ties also encourage the world’s most populous Shia nation’s more responsible participation in the international system. The Saudis criticized Qatar for backing the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s most important exponent of political Islam, a diverse activist (not terrorist) group whose members serve in at least two governments and are well integrated into other Arab nations. Riyadh’s war on the Brotherhood threatens to drive its activities underground and radicalize even more young Muslims, who find no appeal in a discreditable corrupt monarchy.
Finally, Riyadh, which allows no media freedom, targeted Al Jazeera, the Qatar-backed television network which publicized the 2011 Arab Spring and criticized the Saudi royals, among others. MBS is seeking to impose his own nation’s totalitarian controls abroad. No independent state could accept Saudi Arabia’s outlandish demands. Again, Prince Nayef was more cautious, urging a diplomatic resolution. His opposition to MBS’ international thuggery reportedly triggered his ouster as royal heir.
Even Riyadh’s Sunni neighbors are not entirely comfortable with MBS’s outsized ambitions. Warned Chas Freeman, George H.W. Bush’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia: “Some of the neighbors regard it as a drive for Saudi hegemony in the region.” Which could be as unpleasant as Iranian domination.
Despite the good press received by MBS as a dynamic new ruler, so far he has demonstrated an unerring ability to fail upward. Yemenis continue to successfully resist Saudi aggression, Qatar so far has withstood Riyadh’s attempted extortion. The government has had to retreat from last year’s budget cuts. Only the young heir’s modest social reforms have survived. With MBS poised to officially rule, the U.S. should back away from a relationship which has simultaneously undermined American values and security. The Saudi regime is destined to fall. Then Washington will pay a heavy political price for having supported the oppressive royals for so long.
The new Saudi crown prince’s pleasant countenance cannot disguise the brutal character of the system he represents. Even assuming the royal family is truly united-and there likely is greater disquiet than publicly known-anointing a younger, more vibrant ruler in Saudi Arabia is like putting lipstick on a pig. The essential problem remains the dictatorial theocracy’s lack of public legitimacy and appeal. The only question is when the Saudi people will finally free themselves.Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan.
Wednesday, President Trump argued that “those seeking immigration into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years.” That law is already on the books, but Trump’s instincts are correct on this issue. Congress can do a lot more to restrict access to welfare for immigrants, but it should go even further than Trump recommends — by denying access to welfare for all noncitizens.
Immigrants don’t come to the United States for welfare, they come to work. It’s bad enough that taxpayers have to support bloated, ineffective welfare schemes for U.S. citizens. They should not be forced to do so for recent arrivals.
Preventing non-citizens from accessing welfare will save taxpayers money and calm the concerns of many taxpayers.
Lower-income immigrants are less likely to use means-tested welfare programs than lower-income native-born Americans. When lower-income immigrants do use those programs, the dollar value of the benefits they consume is far below their native-born counterparts with similar income.
If natives consumed Medicaid at the same rate and dollar value as lower-income immigrants do, the program would be 42 percent smaller. Relatedly, immigrant labor force participation rates tend to be higher than for natives and they are about twice as likely to start a business.
Immigrant welfare use is a small problem relative to the size of the welfare state. In addition to their relatively lower use rates and the small value of the benefits they consume, immigrants pay about $14 billion a year more into Medicare Part A than they consume in benefits, compared to the roughly $31 billion a year deficit that natives impose. Medicare needs serious reform, but immigrants are helping to keep the system solvent in the meantime.
Regardless of the truth, polls show that immigrant use of welfare is a very real concern to many Americans. Immigrants clearly don’t need welfare, but the false perception that they consume it in massive quantities dampens public enthusiasm for liberalizing immigration laws. A Cato Institute policy analysis from a few years back described how Congress could end this perception by simply barring non-citizens’ access to large portions of the welfare state, from food stamps to Medicaid.
Ending non-citizen access to welfare can address these concerns. If false public perceptions of immigrant welfare use led to welfare reform that diminished their access then taxpayers, including those who are immigrants, would benefit at a very low cost. Such a proposal would separate those honestly worried about immigrant welfare use from those who use it as an excuse to oppose immigration.
Trump’s statements in favor of restricting welfare access did not include many details. However, there is no shortage of means to restrict non-citizen access to welfare.
For instance, there are some minor reforms, such as enforcing documentation requirements for Medicaid applicants, and improving the accuracy and frequency of use for the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program that checks whether welfare applicants are actually eligible for benefits. Some reform suggestions go further, such as preventing all non-citizens from receiving cash benefits through the Temporary Aid to Needy Families program and food stamps, as well as reforming the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit so only citizens have access.
Current law already bars immigrants from receiving many welfare benefits, but states have the authority to spend their own tax revenue on aid for immigrants ineligible under federal rules. As much as this rightly rankles many voters, principles of federalism and the Constitution make it difficult for Congress to ban that practice, except when federal funds are involved.
Preventing non-citizens from accessing welfare will save taxpayers money and calm the concerns of many taxpayers. Congress can and should expand upon Trump’s idea to further restrict immigrant welfare use by barring all non-citizens from accessing benefits.
Everyone will win under such a policy, and there will be no doubt that immigrants continue to flock to our shores to achieve the American Dream, rather than receive a welfare check.Alex Nowrasteh is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute.