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Russian Pensions and the Risk of War - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

17 hours 55 min ago

In the streets of more than 80 Russian cities, thousands of men and women have turned out for antigovernment rallies in the past few months. They aren’t the usual malcontents—the middle class, intelligentsia or students—but rabotyagi, blue-collar working stiffs. Both the cause of the rallies and their political context reveal the impoverishment of Russia and the fragility of Vladimir Putin’s regime, despite its outward appearance of toughness. The West, however, shouldn’t gloat; facing problems at home, Mr. Putin could try to create new problems abroad.

The demonstrators are protesting Mr. Putin’s pension law, introduced in June. The law is meant to save the Russian treasury $15 billion a year by 2024 by gradually increasing the retirement age to 65 from 60 for men, and to 60 from 55 for women. At first glance, the reform doesn’t seem dramatic enough to stir such passions. Russian pensions are skimpy anyway, averaging around $220 a month. That’s barely above the Russian poverty line of $171 and among the lowest rates in Europe.

Yet for millions of Russians, an extra five years of work is a hard blow. At $592 a month, the average Russian salary is puny. That’s why Russia today can have near-full employment, while 14% of the population, or 20 million Russians, are in poverty, as per official statistics. Independent experts from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow estimated last year that 41% of Russians have trouble paying for clothing and food. For many, the choice is between near-poverty while working or near-poverty while staying home.

Life expectancy for Russian men is under 67, not even two full years past the new, higher-than-ever retirement age. Many men fear they’ll literally be worked to death. “With this pension reform, with everything pushed back, I feel like I’ll never get out,” a railway worker said last month.

The protests exposed a fissure in what might be called Mr. Putin’s contract with the Russian people: You stay out of politics and I’ll give you stability. The contract held up in past tough times, most notably in 2008-09, when the Russian economy contracted almost 8% after oil prices fell. Then, difficulties could be blamed on external factors. No such excuses exist today. Incomes have declined for four consecutive years, and the pain is self-inflicted—Russians feel that Mr. Putin’s regime has stabbed them in the back.

Hence Mr. Putin’s unprecedented nationally televised appeal on Aug. 29. In 18 years in power, Mr. Putin had never made a plea for support for a specific policy like this. The speech was heartfelt, animated, cajoling—and not nearly enough. According to Russian polls, 6% were in favor of the pension reform before the speech and 80% opposed it. After Mr. Putin had spoken, the numbers were 11% and 75%.

Mr. Putin’s approval ratings—his regime’s only claim on legitimacy—have been steadily sliding, from 79% in May, before the reform was announced, to 67% in September. These would be astronomically high numbers in a democracy, but they’re bad news in a country where Mr. Putin is effectively the only politician and no critic is ever allowed on television.

Mr. Putin’s headache can quickly become the West’s. At the end of 2013, when his ratings were his lowest in 13 years (and only 6 points below today’s), he boosted them with the outrageous Winter Olympics—doping en masse—followed by the seizure and annexation of Crimea and the war against Ukraine. Since then, militarized patriotism has become the key to Mr. Putin’s popularity. Tens of millions of Russians have been swayed by his narrative: Russia is surrounded by enemies but not only will the president protect the Motherland, he will also restore Russian glory lost in the Soviet collapse.

The Russian people have tolerated a lot: the upkeep and economic development of Crimea to the tune of nearly $3 billion a year; the estimated $100 billion to $150 billion direct and indirect costs of Western sanctions; and two defense modernization programs, together totaling around $650 billion. In addition to these programs, spending on military and police is projected to grow by 33% in the next three years. Yet the protests indicate Russian patience has limits.

Mr. Putin has been riding the tiger of patriotic fervor, but the beast is difficult to dismount and it demands fresh meat, the bloodier the better. Today, as pension reform threatens Mr. Putin’s support, it might be feeding time again. The obvious targets for engineering another Crimea or Ukraine are Narva and Latgale, the heavily Russian-speaking enclaves in Estonia and Latvia, respectively. In addition to unleashing a patriotic flood, Mr. Putin would undoubtedly hope to expose the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as dithering and ineffectual. A risky step to be sure, but in Mr. Putin’s political calculus, foreign adventurism may be less perilous than domestic turmoil.

A candle worth a kopek once set Moscow ablaze, a Russian saying goes. That’s the pension reform: Its $15 billion in alleged annual savings—tiny compared with Russian spending on defense and aggression in Crimea—are a one-kopek candle that may leave the country in flames. Let’s hope the West has its fire engines ready should the conflagration spread.

If Republicans won’t confront entitlements, who will? - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 18:44
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If the GOP doesn’t address the rising costs of middle-class entitlement programs, then who will?

The National Republican Campaign Committee is running an ad warning voters that Democrats will cut Medicare. The ad tells workers that from their paychecks “the government withheld your money to pay for your Medicare,” and characterized “DC liberals” as “raiding our Medicare.” “That money,” the ad argues, “belongs to you.”

This campaign-season rhetoric stands in sharp contrast to Republicans’ general approach to entitlements. The party’s elected leaders have traditionally advocated changing the way the programs are structured and reducing their projected spending.

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How to explain this contrast in GOP messages? A lot of it is simple politics.

Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 18:28

Available February 19, 2019 

Preorder the book.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump proclaimed, “The American dream is dead,” and this message resonated across the country.

Why do so many people believe the American dream is no longer within reach? Growing inequality, stubborn pockets of immobility, rising rates of deadly addiction, the increasing and troubling fact that where you start determines where you end up, and heightening political strife — these are the disturbing realities threatening ordinary American lives today.

The standard account points to economic problems among the working class, but the root was a cultural collapse. While the educated and wealthy elites still enjoy strong communities, most blue-collar Americans lack strong institutions that bind them to their neighbors. And outside of the elites, the central American institution has been religion. That is, it is not the factory closings that have torn us apart; it is the church closings. The dissolution of our most cherished institutions — nuclear families, places of worship, and civic organizations — has not only divided us, but eroded our sense of worth, belief in opportunity, and connection to one another.

In “Alienated America,” Timothy P. Carney visits all corners of America, from the dim country bars of Southwestern Pennsylvania to the bustling Mormon wards of Salt Lake City, and examines the most important data and research to demonstrate how social connection is the great divide in America. He shows that Trump’s surprising victory was the most visible symptom of this deep-seated problem. In addition to his detailed exploration of how a range of societal changes have, in tandem, damaged us, Carney provides a framework that will lead us back out of a lonely, modern wilderness.

November’s promised ‘blue wave’ might be receding - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 18:00

Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke smashed all fundraising records with a $38 million haul in the last quarter, reflecting both the enthusiasm generated by the charismatic young challenger to Ted Cruz and the deeper antipathy toward Ted Cruz from Democrats (and even Republicans!) around the country. But he is trailing in every significant poll. Republican Rep. Scott Taylor of the Eastern Shore of Virginia has been embroiled in a voting fraud scandal, where his aides manipulated signatures to get an independent on the ballot to draw votes from his attractive Democratic challenger Elaine Luria. But she is trailing in recent polls.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speak during a briefing in reaction to Republican legislation to overhaul the tax code on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

These are two contests, very different ones, which will test the strength of Republican tribal pull in a Democratic year. If Texas were at this point in history a purple state, competitive for both parties at the state level, Beto O’Rourke would be headed to a landslide win. At some point down the road, Texas will be purple. But it is still very red, and that fact, combined with a Texas voter ID law that allows people to vote with a concealed weapon permit but not with a state-provided student ID card, makes O’Rourke’s journey still one with a substantial headwind.

Virginia is a purple state, but its 2nd congressional district is bright red. Still, the heinous and manipulative behavior of the Taylor campaign trying to tilt the election should be enough to defeat the incumbent. Indeed, Luria was ahead in polls a few weeks ago. But the new poll from a very reputable source, Christopher Newport University, shows her down by seven, well beyond the margin of error. It may be an outlier, and it may be that the Blue Wave will be enough to alter the result. But right now, Republican loyalty is trumping charges of scandal.

The playing field meant that it was always going to be a challenge for Democrats to win the House and Senate — not to mention governorships, state legislatures, and the all-important contests for secretaries of state. They will need to carry virtually all the districts that Clinton carried two years ago and win a bunch in those carried by Trump, and they need to win Senate seats in red states like Tennessee and Texas to withstand the potential losses for their own incumbents in bright red states like North Dakota, Indiana, Montana, and West Virginia. The road to a majority in the House is there, but the size of any majority will depend on carrying a number of districts like VA-2. And even if Texas was always a stretch, either winning a majority in the Senate or keeping it within one or two depends on staying competitive and winning in places like Tennessee.

Join the AEI Election Watch team on November 8 for lunch to discuss what happened and what it means. Click here for details.

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Sears’s demise spells trouble for local businesses and governments - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 17:38

Yesterday morning Sears, once a dominant retail chain, filed for bankruptcy after years of financial dire straits. It had closed 300 of its 1,000 stores over the past half year, and will close at least 200 more before the end of 2018. While many retail chains have struggled over the past decade, the conventional wisdom on Sears, expressed yesterday by president Trump, is that its fate was sealed by a number of self-inflicted wounds under the leadership of CEO Eddie Lampert and a board that until recently included Lampert’s college roommate, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

A empty Sears shopping cart is seen inside a store in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., October 10, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton – RC1E0F17AE40

Sears’s demise will not only hurt its shareholders, suppliers, and remaining employees and customers. In a paper published last year in the Review of Economics and Statistics, Danny Shoag of Case Western University and I studied what happens to neighborhoods around a large retailer that goes under. Using detailed geographical data on millions of business establishments, we investigated the local impact of the nationwide bankruptcies of Borders, Mervyn’s, Circuit City, CompUSA, and Linens ‘n Things. Within a quarter mile of a defunct store, the number of businesses fell gradually by about 10 percent, and so did employment, both compared to similar neighborhoods around non-defunct large retail stores. This corresponds to about 20 stores and 300 employees in the typical neighborhood. Much of this decline was, as one would expect, driven by the fact that households that used to visit nearby stores whenever they went to the big-box stores stopped coming.

The damage doesn’t stop there. In recent work Shoag, Cody Tuttle of the University of Maryland, and I highlighted the implications of a negative shock like this for local governments. We found that sales tax revenue dropped by about 1.6 percent to 5.6 percent when a large retailer goes under, while total own-source revenue decreased by 1.5 percent to 3 percent. It took many municipalities years to recover from these shocks. Let us hope that this time is different.

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Episode 65: Too much pluribus, not enough unum - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 16:47

Is nationalism good? Are nations better than empires? Is John Locke bad? In conversation with Yoram Hazony, author of “The Virtue of Nationalism,” Jonah attempts to answer these and other questions on the latest Remnant.

You can subscribe to The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, and TuneIn. You can also download this episode here.

This podcast was originally published by National Review.

The sun sets on Sears — and that’s OK - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 15:52

Zombie retailer Sears has finally filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and observers are delivering a catalog of explanations about what it all really means. Perhaps the gradual-then-sudden decline of the 125-year-old retailer reflects the harmful financialization of the U.S. economy. Or maybe it symbolizes the decline of the American middle class. How about the job-killing impact of Big Tech? Probably all of the above. “Late-stage” capitalism is a complicated business.

But this much the critics are certain of: Something somewhere has gone terribly wrong. What that something is exactly … well, take your pick.

A store closing sale sign is posted next to a Sears logo in New Hyde Park, New York, US, October 10, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Of course, little of this navel gazing is particularly satisfactory. After all, Sears was troubled before hedge-fund billionaire Eddie Lampert — once touted as the “next Warren Buffett” — became its CEO, largest shareholder, and largest creditor. Sears failed to meet the Walmart challenge and then that of internet shopping. Lampert’s 13-year tenure is a story at least as much about business incompetence and long-term retailing trends as Wall Street greed and financial engineering.

Equally underpowered is the notion that the collapse of the middle class greatly contributed to the collapse of Sears. This theory is undermined by the reality that the American middle class has not actually collapsed, unless one thinks a 42 percent rise in middle-class incomes since 1979 qualifies as a collapse.

And while Sears, like many other retailers, has failed to meet the Amazon challenge, the so-called retail apocalypse is so far a myth. Research by economist Michael Mandel has found that e-commerce jobs well exceed job losses at brick-and-mortar retailers. Thankfully, it is just this sort of “creative destruction” that seems to be the Sears analysis most favored by the Trump White House. As America’s businessman president told reporters on Monday, the Sears bankruptcy — while a “very, very sad” moment for nostalgic baby boomers like himself — is the result of the company having been “obviously improperly run for many years.” Trump economist Lawrence Kudlow put it this way: “Things happen; they change. New companies come in and take out the older companies.”

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So for once, thankfully, the head of what is supposed to be America’s pro-market political party is embracing the constant churn necessary for the proper functioning of a dynamic market economy. It was hardly obvious he would do so. Consider: The core belief of Trumponomics is that free and open trade has made America a poor country. America’s golden age? When it was a pre-globalization industrial powerhouse of steel and coal, the factory floor of the world. Trump seems unable to grasp that America is a far wealthier nation than it was when Sears was the original “everything store” in communities across the country. If Trumponomics is trying to save the jobs of 70,000 coal miners, why not the nearly 70,000 remaining employees of Sears?

It’s not hard to find folks proposing just that. Greg Petro, a retailing consultant and Forbes blogger, has argued that the American retailing sector is undergoing a depression akin to the one suffered by automobiles and banking during the 2007-2009 financial crisis. “A bailout would give debt relief and a chance for traditional retailers and brands to innovate,” he says.

Unlikely, sure. But it’s really not that much crazier than what’s happening now with American agriculture, where the U.S. government is borrowing money from China to help farmers hurt by Trump’s trade war with China. Once government starts subsidizing the losers from the creative destruction of market capitalism — at least the corporate losers — it can be tough to figure out where to stop. That’s one important lesson from the Sears denouement. Another is that history continues to remind us that there are no forever companies, at least no companies that are forever dominant even if they hang around for a long while. Not even Big Tech. The sun is setting on Sears just as it surely will also eventually on the supposedly unstoppable companies of today.

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Trump can win back Central Europe - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 14:19

Until the mid-2000s, Atlanticism was the unquestioned guiding light of foreign policy across post-communist “New Europe.” Not anymore. It is not that the region has become openly anti-American. Rather, its elites and publics have lost interest in the United States, just as interest in Central and Eastern Europe has dissipated in Washington.

With the “pivot to Asia,” the plans for a missile defense shield for Poland and the Czech Republic were shelved. Central Europe was treated largely as an afterthought during Obama’s tenure, even when aspiring authoritarians in Budapest and Warsaw started tightening the screws. At a critical time in Hungary, the ambassadorial post was handed over to Colleen Bell, the former producer of “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

Things have not improved under Donald Trump’s presidency. The criticisms of corruption and rule of law and the scolding over infringements of gay and minority rights has been replaced by the opposite extreme: a complete obliviousness to Viktor Orbán’s and Jarosław Kaczyński’s agendas and their implication for U.S. interests. “Had I witnessed that the freedom of any individual or institution was put in danger, I’d be the first one to raise concerns,” says David Cornstein, Trump’s new Ambassador in Budapest and a former jewelry retailer.

Yes, there has been some pressure exerted to increase defense budgets, though the positive results have largely been homegrown and confined to Poland and the Baltic countries. Overall, however, the attempts to keep the transatlantic conversation meaningful feel more and more forced. And with so much else happening in the world, it is not clear why Central Europe, increasingly prosperous and integrated into the EU and NATO, should be at the forefront of American foreign policy.

But it should.

Keep reading at The American Interest.

Think professors are liberal? Try school administrators - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 13:33

I received a disconcerting email this year from a senior staff member in the Office of Diversity and Campus Engagement at Sarah Lawrence College, where I teach. The email was soliciting ideas from the Sarah Lawrence community for a conference, open to all of us, titled “Our Liberation Summit.” The conference would touch on such progressive topics as liberation spaces on campus, Black Lives Matter and justice for women as well as for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and allied people.

@andreeas via Twenty20

As a conservative-leaning professor who has long promoted a diversity of viewpoints among my (very liberal) faculty colleagues and in my classes, I was taken aback by the college’s sponsorship of such a politically lopsided event. The email also piqued my interest in what sorts of other nonacademic events were being organized by the school’s administrative staff members.

I soon learned that the Office of Student Affairs, which oversees a wide array of issues including student diversity and residence life, was organizing many overtly progressive events — programs with names like “Stay Healthy, Stay Woke,” “Microaggressions” and “Understanding White Privilege” — without offering any programming that offered a meaningful ideological alternative. These events were conducted outside the classroom, in the students’ social and recreational spaces.

The problem is not limited to my college. While considerable focus has been placed in recent decades on the impact of the ideological bent of college professors, when it comes to collegiate life — living in dorms, participating in extracurricular organizations — the ever growing ranks of administrators have the biggest influence on students and campus life across the country.

Today, many colleges and universities have moved to a model in which teaching and learning is seen as a 24/7 endeavor. Engagement with students is occurring as much — if not more — in residence halls and student centers as it is in classrooms. Schools have increased their hiring in areas such as residential life and student centers, offices of student life and success, and offices of inclusion and engagement. It’s not surprising that many of the free-speech controversies in the past few years at places like Yale, Stanford and the University of Delaware have concerned events that occurred not in classrooms but in student communal spaces and residence halls.

Intrigued by this phenomenon, I recently surveyed a nationally representative sample of roughly 900 “student-facing” administrators — those whose work concerns the quality and character of a student’s experience on campus. I found that liberal staff members outnumber their conservative counterparts by the astonishing ratio of 12-to-one. Only 6 percent of campus administrators identified as conservative to some degree, while 71 percent classified themselves as liberal or very liberal. It’s no wonder so much of the nonacademic programming on college campuses is politically one-sided.

The 12-to-one ratio of liberal to conservative college administrators makes them the most left-leaning group on campus. In previous research, I found that academic faculty report a six-to-one ratio of liberal to conservative professors. Incoming first-year students, by contrast, reported less than a two-to-one ratio of liberals to conservatives, according to a 2016 finding by the Higher Education Research Institute. It appears that a fairly liberal student body is being taught by a very liberal professoriate — and socialized by an incredibly liberal group of administrators.

The severity of this trend varies among different types of academic institutions. My research found that two-thirds of administrators at public institutions and schools with religious affiliations self-identified as liberals, which was lower than the three-quarters of administrators at private, secular institutions who did. I found no real differences among school types, such as small, private liberal arts colleges as compared with large research universities. School ranking did make a small difference, with administrators at more selective institutions reporting a higher percentage of liberals than did lower-ranked schools.

The most pronounced difference was regional. New England has the most liberal college administrators in the nation, with a 25-to-one ratio of liberals to conservatives. The West Coast and Southeast have ratios of 16-to-one, whereas the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes all have ratios closer to 10-to-one. The only region with anything close to a balanced ratio is the Southwest, with two-to-one.

This warped ideological distribution among college administrators should give our students and their families pause. To students who are in their first semester at school, I urge you not to accept unthinkingly what your campus administrators are telling you. Their ideological imbalance, coupled with their agenda-setting power, threatens the free and open exchange of ideas, which is precisely what we need to protect in higher education in these politically polarized times.

MBS, Khashoggi, and the new fork in the road - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 13:25

Let’s face it, the fork in the road from Saudi Arabia came some time ago. Was it in Yemen? The Hariri kidnapping episode? The corruption crackdown? The execution of Sheikh Nimr? The arrest of prominent women reformers? The question is moot. Word is that today, the Kingdom will announce that “rogue elements” were responsible for accidentally murdering Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi while interrogating him at their consulate in Istanbul. This was the inevitable outcome following the hemorrhaging of support from the US and elsewhere. Addressing, even falsely, the Khashoggi crime will bring Saudi Arabia and its young de facto leader, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), to another fork in the road.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visits in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 16, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/Pool

Before you throw your hands up in disgust at their “getting away with it,” a few points:

  • This hypocrisy is a staple of Western foreign-policy. China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Turkey, and many of that ilk are responsible for similar crimes. Apart from Turkey, we can say that the others are not members of the club of civilized nations; Turkey, of course, is a member of NATO. Sure, Saudi should be better. It is a nominal ally. But please. This is the country that is among those most responsible for this era’s spread of Sunni Islamist extremism. Riyadh has moved far in the right direction in recent years, but it is no Jeffersonian democracy.
  • Many have given into the great temptation to suggest this is all Donald Trump’s fault. That’s rubbish. Neither he, nor Jared Kushner, nor anybody in the United States is responsible for MBS’ decision. The Crown Prince didn’t need encouragement to make one bad call after another. This is the nature of youth,  inexperience, and autocracy. And if you can’t restrain yourself from blaming Trump, spare a moment to blame Obama for the war in Syria, expansion of Iranian influence in Lebanon, escalation in Yemen , and . . . Well, you get the picture. This is just the politics of catharsis, not a terribly productive way to manage a foreign policy challenge.
  • Saudi Arabia will lie, and much of the world will want to be lied to. It’s not just the oil. It’s the oil, regional politics, Iran, a new alignment with Israel, and so many other regional imperatives. There is no other Saudi Arabia — no regional power which has the resources and the will to provide a counterweight to Iran and help lead us out of the current morass. Egypt is no longer that nation; the UAE is too small. Iraq is too riven. The key question is that new fork in the road. Will MBS take the right turn?

What would a new direction for Saudi Arabia look like? How would lessons learned manifest themselves? For starters:

  • A thorough scrub of political prisoners, and the release of those who have committed no real crimes.
  • A national commission (I would say international, but I’m trying to be realistic) to assess the conduct of the war in Yemen.
  • A real ambassador in Washington so that messages are flowing not just between Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and the White House. (The Crown Prince’s younger brother seemed a nice enough fellow, but 28 is not the age or the experience for this job. Word is he’s leaving, but who will come next?)

There’s obviously much more to do if MBS is to hang on and complete the transformation of Saudi Arabia into a “real” and modern country. Horribly, and ironically, the Khashoggi killing could provide that opportunity if MBS is man enough, leader enough, and kingly enough to take it. We shall see soon enough.

Learn more:

Social from birth - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 21:00

A growing body of research has revealed that infancy is a far more critical period of life than previously recognized, laying the foundation for future development and lifelong ability. Perhaps the most significant new understanding is the degree to which babies are inherently social from birth.

Image via Twenty20

In the first weeks of life, infants are already highly aware, communicative beings, born with the capacity to seek out, perceive, and respond to even tiny, fleeting shifts in caregivers’ verbal tone, facial expression, and body movement. Indeed, infant development is shaped by an environment of face-to-face social relationships; the nature of those relationships — the ongoing one-on-one back-and-forth with caregivers — interacts with the infant’s unfolding genetic predispositions as the primary driver of social, emotional, and cognitive growth.

Dr. Beatrice Beebe, a major pioneer of infant study, will join us at AEI this Friday to share highlights from her decades of groundbreaking research “decoding” the surprisingly complex, nuanced nature of babies’ nonverbal communication. Her work provides a unique and fascinating window into children’s earliest development.

Dr. Beebe’s laboratory at Columbia University studies infant communication using video microanalysis as a “social microscope,” allowing researchers to see details too subtle to grasp with the naked eye. Her team closely observes and analyzes the rapid, mutually responsive shifts in tone, expression, and movement that occur as four-month-old babies interact with their mothers. These patterns of instantaneous action and reaction take place within fractions of seconds — imperceptible in real time but detectable in frame-by-frame video microanalysis.

Using a second set of observations conducted eight months later, Dr. Beebe has further demonstrated that the quality of the interactions between a mother and her four-month-old baby strongly predicts the character of their relationship when the baby reaches one year of age. In turn, longitudinal research suggests that the nature of infants’ relationships at one year predicts a broad range of academic, social, and emotional outcomes into adulthood.

More broadly, Dr. Beebe’s research has shown that by four months of age babies are intensely communicative and responsive to the emotions and behavior of those around them. Even as babies’ earliest interactions appear mundane in the “real time” of caring for children, the quality of those moment-to-moment, day-to-day interactions — whether with parents or other caregivers — matter much more profoundly to children’s healthy development than we’ve fully understood.

Please join us at AEI this Friday as Beatrice Beebe presents her pioneering research on mother-infant interactions, followed by a discussion with Katharine Stevens. Click here for details.

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Don’t punish the UAE and Bahrain for Saudi misdeeds - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 19:37

The alleged murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a disaster for U.S.-Saudi relations. Whereas Saudi authorities could dismiss Saudi involvement in the Sept. 11 terror attacks by arguing that the hijackers were al Qaeda and hence a mutual enemy, there is no shirking responsibility for what happened in the Saudi consulate: If the Turkish information is true, it was a Saudi death squad acting on the commands of the Saudi crown prince who ordered the hit.

Already in Congress and the White House, talk has turned to retaliation. Senators now talk not only about scaling back U.S. aid to Saudi Arabia’s disastrous campaign in Yemen, but also about cutting off all military aid to Saudi Arabia. PresidentTrump, for his part, promises “severe punishment” if Saudi Arabia was responsible. Overnight, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has gone from A-list to pariah; he could not be less popular in Washington if he had Ebola. Authorities in Riyadh may believe they can wait for the storm to blow over. Washington, after all, will soon be consumed by midterm elections. Yet the stink associated with Crown Prince Mohammed may linger. Even seasoned American officials and longtime friends of Saudi Arabia question his judgment. Frankly, the only hope for any quick repair in bilateral ties may come only with the crown prince pushed aside and replaced by a man not only ambitious but wise.

It’s important, however, not to punish allies of Saudi Arabia for the misdeeds of Crown Prince Mohammed, or to throw the strategic baby out with the bathwater. Consider Yemen: The imprecision of Saudi bombing is a huge problem, but Yemen is far more complicated than the bellicose Saudi vs. peaceful Yemen narrative would hold. The Iranian-backed Houthis seized the government. They too impede the free flow of food and aid to a needy civilian population. Their acquisition of ballistic missiles and their use against Saudi targets such as the international airport in Riyadh cannot be excused. Should anyone launch missiles at an American airport, the response would be far more devastating than Saudi Arabia’s. Would it be best if the Saudis stopped their bombardment, and the Houthis ceased their ties to Iran, withdrew from the capital, and laid down their arms? Yes. But Houthi ambition and overreach is not Saudi Arabia’s fault; it is the fault of the Houthis and their Iranian backers.

But, put aside the Saudi vs. Houthi narrative: The Yemen war is much more complicated than Western media portrays. While the Saudis oppose the Houthis in northern Yemen, the Emiratis have taken lead on battling al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in southern Yemen. And, while the Saudis have floundered, the Emiratis have not. They have ousted al Qaeda from southern Yemen’s ports, and driven them inland. While al Qaeda once successfully recruited against the foil of the Houthi rise and Iranian influence, a string of losses at the hands of the Emirati military has tarnished their reputation and led many opportunistic recruits to go home. If Osama bin Laden once said everyone loved a strong horse, then the Emiratis have convinced much of the Yemeni population that al Qaeda was a hobbled pony.

More broadly, Saudi Arabia is Bahrain’s largest partner. During the Pearl Monument uprising, it was Saudi Arabia who came to Bahrain’s defense to protect the monarchy against outraged protesters. And while Bahrain’s Shiite community has legitimate grievances, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has co-opted many opposition groups and poses a very real threat to Bahrain’s security and stability. Intercepted Iranian weapons shipments and improvised explosive devices do not lie.

Here’s the point: Crown Prince Mohammed should not get away with murder, but Saudi Arabia is not alone in countering Iranian influence or fighting al Qaeda. It’s easy for journalists and maybe even some diplomats to lump Saudi Arabia with allies like the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, but they are not carbon copies. They may face similar threats and act in coordination with each other, but they are not the same. Anger at Saudi Arabia may be real and it is essential to hold Saudi to account but, at the same time, it is important to reduce the collateral diplomatic damage to other regional allies who, regardless of what happens in Riyadh, face very real threats.

Iraq has moved on. Will our foreign policy debate? - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 18:16

“If it bleeds, it leads” is a common adage about television news. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that Iraq has fallen so far from the headlines. Civilian casualties from terrorism are down an order of magnitude from just two years ago, according to United Nations statistics. Baghdad International Airport is busy with traffic from around the Middle East; its biggest problem is not insurgents taking potshots at landing aircraft but rather ridding the terminal of the pigeons which stroll among passengers eating snacks from the café or taking advantage of the airport’s free Wi-Fi. Driving from Najaf to Baghdad, there are still multiple checkpoints along the road, but traversing them now takes minutes rather than an hour or more. Iraq is getting back to normal. It may not be the same as it was in the 1970s, but that’s not a bad thing.

Members of the Iraqi parliament gather to vote on Iraq’s new government at the parliament headquarters in Baghdad, September 8, 2014. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani/File Photo

How many other Arab countries have now had four successive changes in power by democratic means and, in many cases, among political parties? The answer is simple: none.

Politics dominated the news and teahouse conversation during my recent visit to Iraq. Iraqis are both speculating as to the makeup of the new government and its longevity, as well as to what might happen to the Da’wa Party when out of power. Contrary to Sen. Marco Rubio’s reaction to the pick of a new Iraqi president and prime minister-designate, the new government is not any more a clear victory for Iran than it is for the United States. True, Mohamed al-Halbousi, a Sunni governor of al-Anbar, reportedly bribed his way to the speakership and may be beholden to Iran. But President Barham Salih is British-educated and spent years in Washington, D.C. True, he has a better relationship with Tehran than many of his American friends realize, but that can be as much an asset as a liability. As for Adil Abdul-Mahdi, he is a chameleon: Through his political career, he has been a communist, Baathist, Islamist, and democrat, though now he professes to be a technocrat. His colors may change (and some Iraqis doubt he will last more than a year), but he has never been for rent to outside powers in the way Shiite firebrand Muqtada al-Sadr has been. Rather than push for their own dream team — Badr Corps head Hadi Ameri and Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, for example—Iranian authorities signed off on both Salih and Abdul-Mahdi in part because they understood they needed to be pragmatic and find politicians with whom both they and the Americans could work.

Iraqis also make comparisons between their own politics and America’s. If al-Sadr’s business interests, populism, and volatility make him an Iraqi equivalent of Donald Trump, then former Prime Minister al-Maliki has become the country’s Hillary Clinton, always believing a comeback is possible, and unwilling to admit defeat and step out of the limelight to allow it to shift to a new generation.

As Abdul-Mahdi forms the government, the question now before Iraqis is whether political parties will insist on a division of political spoils in the form of ministerial appointments, or whether Abdul-Mahdi will be free to form a more technocratic government. In many other Arab countries, this would be a no-brainer: patronage would win out above all. But riots in Basra at lack of government services stymied incumbent Prime Minister Haider Abadi’s attempts for a second term, and the independent religious establishment in Najaf and Karbala withheld their moral endorsement of a government widely seen as ineffective.

The point is that Iraq today is a country of multiple constituencies, and each matters. While Iraqis still embrace religious parties because of the importance of religious identity, such parties no longer have a blank check. About 40 percent of Iraqis were born after Saddam Hussein’s ouster; they are no longer willing to take reference to how bad life was under Saddam Hussein as a reason to excuse inefficiency or corruption today. Nor are they willing to allow religious parties to dictate morals or impose their will. Alcohol, for example, has returned to the Baghdad airport’s duty-free. Iraqis embrace diversity of ethnicity, religious practice, and thought.

Any American who served in Iraq but left in 2004, 2007, or 2011 would find portions of the country unrecognizable today. Megamalls dot not only Iraqi Kurdistan, but have come to Baghdad as well. New businesses proliferate, and new buildings arise where there were none before. In Karbala, virtual reality arcades and swimming clubs have sprung up to give residents and visitors alike an outlet other than shrines. Even in more conservative cities, women are seen with other women hanging out and having a good time over a pizza or hookah. When Iraqis head home, they can choose from dozens of Iraqi television channels in addition to myriad Arabic satellite choices. Unlike in Turkey, for example, where all media outlets must now toe the government line, Iraqi news shows and channels are home to vigorous, if not always professional, debate.

The point of this is that Iraq is not perfect — far from it. The coming year will be a real test for the new government. Legitimacy is transitory, bestowed on a provisional basis. If the government fails to deliver, violence could reoccur. But, in comparison to Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt, Iraq is a breath of fresh air. It is a place where politics is for real, and not simply a sideshow to keep diplomats busy. It is a country where leaders rise up, and then step aside peacefully. It is that rare Arab country where retired ministers outnumber those still serving, and where 70 percent of parliament is new after each election. Iraq will never be Switzerland, but it will be normal.

It is long past time the U.S. political debate moved on to address the reality and potential of Iraq today rather than continuing to treat it merely as a political football in the American context or a diplomatic and military game board on which to confront Iran.

Senate election watch: What is going on in Nevada? - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 18:00

If there was one thing you could have gotten election analysts to agree on back in the summer, it was that Senator Dean Heller of Nevada was on life support. The only Republican representing a state that Hillary Clinton carried, Heller was trailing his opponent, Rep. Jacky Rosen, by a small amount in the polls. Given the tilt of the state and the fact that incumbents who trail have a poor track record, many thought Heller’s goose was cooked.

US President Donald Trump and Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) embrace at a campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, US, September 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

But Heller’s campaign is showing signs of life, of late. Three of the last four polls have actually shown him leading, although he is still under 50 percent. The most recent Emerson poll shows him up seven (though few would agree with this). Overall, he leads by nearly two in the RCP Average. Heller is very much in this.

At the same time, careful analysts should note that Nevada is a notoriously difficult state to poll, as casino workers work irregular schedules. Polling has traditionally overstated GOP performance by 3–4 points. At the same time, we know that pollsters do adapt to changing conditions on the ground, and (more ominously for Democrats) Hispanic enthusiasm is low this cycle. So while there are reasons to doubt Heller’s lead, it would be wrong to dismiss it. This race appears to be going down to the wire.

Join the AEI Election Watch team on November 8 for lunch to discuss what happened and what it means. Click here for details.

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Subsidies to power plants are no substitute for a national-security plan - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 17:47

In an effort to deal with the market and non-market forces inflicting economic losses on coal- and nuclear-power plants, the Trump administration is seeking through regulation to force state and regional grid operators to purchase bulk power from coal- and nuclear-power producers to slow the (early) retirements of those facilities. The administration is justifying this policy on national-security grounds: “The Nation’s security and defensive capabilities . . . depend on an electric grid that can withstand and recover from a major disruption, whether from an adversarial attack or a natural disaster.” And: “Resources that have a secure on-site fuel supply . . . are essential to support the Nation’s defense facilities . . . and other critical infrastructure.”

Power lines in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, lead away from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant (C rear) in Vernon, Vermont August 27, 2013. Entergy Corp. announced it will will shut down the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in 2014 citing high costs tied to regulation and competition from cheap natural gas, bringing to an end a long battle with state politicians and environmentalists seeking to close the plant. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES – Tags: ENVIRONMENT ENERGY) – RTX12Y5P

It is true — and unsurprising — that foreign powers would test their ability to disrupt the U.S. power grid, a crucial component of the economy generally and of our national-defense infrastructure in particular. Nor are natural threats to that infrastructure unimportant. The question is whether this indirect measure — federal intervention in wholesale electricity markets — to address this national-security problem is a sound substitute for federal policies designed to deal with those threats directly. Moreover, states have nontrivial incentives to address reliability and resiliency threats so as to minimize the possibility of blackouts or service disruptions. Is it obvious that the federal intervention proposed by the Trump administration would yield an improved national-security outcome?

It is hardly the case that the federal government, state and regional authorities, and the private sector are ignoring this problem. Are there strong reasons to believe that ongoing and expected actions are insufficient? Nowhere has the Trump administration attempted to make that argument. Indeed, even the Department of Energy has responded to the cybersecurity threat, with its “Multiyear Plan for Energy Sector Cybersecurity” (March 2018). Does the federal government’s right hand know what its left hand is doing?

More generally, it is clear that pipeline operators recognize the importance of the cybersecurity threat to the resiliency of the natural-gas/power-grid nexus and are working with federal officials to address cybersecurity threats through planning efforts and investments. The gas industry last year participated for the first time in the GridEx IV training exercise, in which industry participants were tested with a set of simulated cyber and armed assaults on U.S. electric networks. In March, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) released an updated version of its pipeline-security guidelines, in which it outlines the measures that should be taken to protect pipeline assets in the cybersecurity context.

It must be the case that TSA has access to the same classified information on cyber and physical threats that is available to the Department of Energy. It is far from clear that a new DoE regulatory policy on power purchases would improve on the evolving policy of the TSA, particularly since the latter is designed specifically in terms of the threats, while the Energy Department proposal is a far cruder effort, one designed merely to keep the coal and nuclear generating plants open. It is the TSA guidelines that are consistent with the security objectives and standards established by the government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, which in April updated its official framework of cybersecurity objectives and standards that includes protection, defense, resilience, and recovery methods.

Back to ongoing federal efforts: Through the National Energy Technology Laboratory, the Energy Department has implemented a research-and-development program to develop technology for cyber-security protection across the power-generation sector. Representative Fred Upton (R., Mich.) has introduced legislation (HR 5175, the Pipeline and LNG Facility Cybersecurity Preparedness Act) “to require the Secretary of Energy to carry out a program relating to physical security and cybersecurity for pipelines and liquefied natural gas facilities.”

Such a program would address the cyber and physical threat directly. Why would an indirect program of subsidized purchases from coal and nuclear generators be a superior approach? Mandated purchases would not address the stated threats to pipelines at all, at least conceptually; they would merely shift the national electric-generation mix away from gas generation, thereby creating a new class of “stranded” assets with sales smaller than anticipated and therefore unable to earn the economic returns anticipated when the investments were made.

That outcome would create its own set of problems, foremost among them a system less flexible in terms of adjustments to changes in demand and supply driven by such variables as weather and unanticipated outages. The national-security argument promoted by the Trump administration in support of the proposed purchase mandates applies in equal force to that reduced flexibility for the regional and national grids, and it is far from obvious that the net national-security effect of the Trump proposal would prove to be positive. This is particularly the case given that the Trump proposal would increase costs in ways both explicit and hidden. Because industries contributing both directly and indirectly to national security would bear part of those adverse effects, the aggregate cost of national-security efforts would rise. Accordingly, the net effect of the Trump proposal on U.S. national-security endeavors would be unlikely to prove salutary.

The administration claims authority for this regulatory action under the Defense Production Act of 1950 and the Federal Power Act of 1920, both as subsequently amended. Under various interpretations of those laws, the federal government can order that power plants that store 90 days of fuel — that is, coal and nuclear plants — recover all of their (historical) costs, even when selling power in wholesale power markets in which sales and purchases are made at market prices, and which traditionally have been overseen by state and regional power authorities.

Some suspicion about the invocation of the national-security rationale for this proposal is justified. Why not ask Congress to authorize these subsidies explicitly? It is far from obvious that any such proposal would pass Congress, and it is not irrelevant to point out more generally that the legislative process — negotiating, writing, and enacting laws — is hard work. The end result yielded by the compromises and side promises required to move bills through both houses of Congress can be unsatisfying, to say the least. That is the case a fortiori for efforts to subsidize particular economic sectors, in that the scent of such largesse inexorably elicits demands, on the basis of exceedingly creative rationales, from innumerable interest groups and their political representatives for inclusion among the beneficiaries.

In pursuit of objectives viewed as necessary by presidents and executive-branch agencies, a president not devoted viscerally to the separation of powers and the U.S. constitutional system may be disposed to find the use of executive orders an attractive alternative to the messiness and distasteful components certain to characterize actual legislation. In the famous words of a former presidential aide: “Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kinda cool.”

Barack Obama exemplified such thinking, and the erasure of much of his policy legacy is one predictable result. Ironically enough, even as the Trump administration is the active eraser, it seems to be following much the same path in its approach to the economic problems confronting coal- and nuclear-power generators.

If there are serious cyber and physical threats to the national power grid, and if federal actions to deal with them are appropriate, then those threats should be confronted directly. An attempt to circumvent them by subsidizing some segments of the power-generation sector at the expense of others is likely to yield the usual array of adverse unanticipated consequences for which federal-government machinations are famous. Too clever by half in a national security context, the Trump policy proposal has a real potential for counterproductive outcomes. However messy the process of legislative negotiation, it would be better for the administration to work with Congress to craft policies aimed directly at the problem, rather than attempt to impose a crude solution driven by an executive deus ex machina.

Benjamin Zycher is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Discussing Trump’s response to Hurricane Michael: Thiessen on Fox News’ ‘America’s Newsroom’ - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 15:40
Resident Fellow Marc Thiessen discusses the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on Fox News' 'America's Newsroom.'

Discussing foreign relations with Saudi Arabia: Goldberg on CBS News’ ‘Face the Nation’ - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 15:09
Fellow and Assness Chair in Applied Liberty Jonah Goldberg discusses the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on 'Face the Nation.'

Regaining the Joy of Family Life: A Review of How to Be A Happier Parent - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 14:23

It is hardly a new observation to say that parenting has become an exercise in martyrdom. From the time a child is born, mothers (mostly but some fathers, too) complain about how little sleep they’ve gotten, how they had no time to shower, how they’ve been wearing the same clothes for three days, how they have been subsisting on a diet of Cheerios and cold pizza. When the kids get older, it becomes a contest among moms to see who had to supervise the most homework projects or drive to the baseball game furthest away or how many months it has been since mom and dad had a date night.

Twenty20 License

KJ Dell’Antonia, for one, has had enough. In her new book, How to Be a Happier Parent, the former editor of the New York Times’ Motherlode blog writes that she doesn’t want to spend the 20-something years of raising her four kids:

in a haze of resigned exhaustion, longing to be or do something else. I want to raise my family, have my life, and love almost every minute of it. I am lucky to have all this, the house and the SUV and the washer-dryer and the healthy loving kids. I want to like it.

Dell’Antonia’s guiding rules for living the dream of happy parenthood are not complicated. She recommends, for instance, getting enough sleep. Not just enough to get by, but enough to remain in a relatively good mood while your kids test your patience. There’s a big difference.

She recommends cooking (or microwaving) one meal each night for your whole family—not a different meal to suit each child’s needs—and ensuring that it is food you enjoy, too.

She suggests that you don’t need to keep up with the Joneses. Just because another family wants to schlepp their kids to four different extracurricular activities a week doesn’t mean you have to. Homework, she says, should be done by children and not their parents.

Frankly, there is almost no advice in this book that my grandmother would not have offered if she were given a glimpse into the homes of most middle-class American families today. And it boils down to this: Adults should be in charge.

Don’t get me wrong. All of my grandparents were devoted to ensuring that their children got a good education, were kind to other people, understood the importance of their religious traditions, and eventually got married and had children of their own. But the idea that they would have given up showers, or unnecessarily subsisted on cold cereal, or completed their children’s school projects for them, or driven them to hockey practice at 5:30 AM several days a week is unfathomable!

To certain parents, Dell’Antonia’s advice will sound selfish—like when she says, “you can be happy when your children aren’t.” She notes that “sympathy and empathy don’t mean that our worlds come crashing down around us when that’s how it feels to our kids. Usually, we have something our children don’t: perspective.”

Like many of Dell’Antonia’s suggestions, this one has the benefit of not only making parents happier but of making kids happier in the long term, too. You need to “give your child the distance she needs to experience her own emotions without a sense of being responsible for yours,” she writes. Helicopter parenting is bad for parents and for children.

Most middle and upper-class parents today have little experience with a kind of older authoritarian model of childrearing. It’s unlikely that their Boomer generation parents were particularly strict with them. But when we lost the discipline—corporal punishment, strict curfews, getting grounded—we also seem to have lost a certain sense of decisiveness. As Dell’Antonia puts it, “Being a parent can mean doing a lot of waffling. TV or no? Candy? Snack? Rabbit? Sleepover? Hoverboard? Scary movie? Concert? We weigh alternatives. We reconsider.”

But all this reconsidering is killing us. Without clear rules laid out for daily questions like how much screen time or how many snacks, we are subject to a constant barrage of begging and whining. And it is making us much less happy as parents.

None of the advice in How to Be Happier Parent is earth-shattering, but it is entertaining. And Dell’Antonia is right. We are, for the most part, very lucky to be raising our families in this place and this time, and we should enjoy it.

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Tech policy and the 2018 midterm election - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 12:00

Tech policy generally gets short shrift in an election year. Voters tend to focus on the perennial policy issues — such as health care, the economy, security, and so on — instead of tech policy, which enjoys considerable bipartisan agreement and offers few opportunities to highlight differences between parties. Two exceptions this year are net neutrality and online privacy. The former is fiercely partisan; the latter, widely bipartisan. With the midterm election one month away, I’ve written an AEI report investigating the role of tech policy in the midterm election and reviewing the tech policy accomplishments of the two parties over the past two years.


Even within this heightened political environment, Congress has achieved significant bipartisan legislation, including the bill to address the opioid crisis, the reauthorization of (and budget increase for) NASA, and a reauthorization of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Net neutrality is a prime exception to this bipartisanship but is entirely consistent with the parties’ platforms.

Republicans have promoted private investment in next-generation broadband networks, and Democrats have defended internet regulation. In response to the FCC’s repeal of misguided net neutrality regulation that was demonstrated to harm consumers, investment, and innovation, state-level internet policymaking has skyrocketed. Most recently, California passed its own net neutrality law exceeding the FCC’s rules, and the Justice Department immediately sued to block it. The Washington Post’s Editorial Board said that the California effort is a step too far and called on Congress to resolve the issue once and for all. In any event, state-level internet policy is illegal because of the Constitution’s Dormant Commerce and Supremacy clauses, the Communications Act, and the FCC’s preemption authority. Just as it would have been illegal for a state to disobey the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order while it was in effect, it is illegal for states to disobey the FCC’s policy now.

As my new report demonstrates, the net neutrality battle is waged in part as symbolic politics, meaning that the ideas behind the policy proposals and the audiences to which they are directed matter more than whether the policies are adopted. These actions are reported to be the centerpiece of a wedge strategy to bring millennial voters to the polls, a group with historically low turnout in midterms who will outnumber baby boomers by 2020. While there is statistical support for wedge strategies to target persuadable voters in swing states, it is doubtful that internet regulation will move people on November 6. No tech policy issue has ever featured in importance during an election as measured by the Pew Research Center. In any case, this election season features even more salient and emotionally divisive wedge issues than internet regulation.

Although driven by different political frustrations with the tech industry, momentum for updated consumer online privacy legislation has emerged and offers a win-win opportunity for both parties. Congress can enable the information economy’s continued prosperity by ensuring that consumers can access privacy education to make informed choices, that safe harbors for privacy-enhancing innovation protect testing and learning for new technologies, and that common standards for competition and consumer protection online are equally guaranteed for all Americans by the Federal Trade Commission, preempting efforts of self-interested states.

The report shows that both parties get something right. Democrats are smart to recognize the long-term political value of cultivating millennials, even if the policy might not pan out. Republicans’ support of private investment is vital for long-term economic growth. The size of the American information technology industry is staggering and comprises 9.2 percent of GDP. The US accounts for 31 percent of the global tech market, which is expected to reach $4.8 trillion in 2018. Bipartisanship has fostered effective policymaking and American preeminence in the technology industries over the years. To ensure America’s internet leadership going forward, both parties should remember this.

To read the full paper, click here.

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