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DAVID HARSANYI Op-ed: We Don’t Need A ‘National Divorce,’ We Need More Federalism



Caning of Charles Sumner
Get real.

Author David Harsanyi profile




Marjorie Taylor Greene says the country needs a national divorce. “We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government,” she tweeted. “Everyone I talk to says this. From the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrat’s traitorous America Last policies, we are done.”

Generally speaking, I’m sympathetic to the idea that the political left is unable to accept a truly diverse nation. Virtually every legislative policy proposal from modern Democrats — and every policy issued by edict — strengthens federal power and economic control over states. Modern Democrats are champions of direct democracy, an effort to undercut the choices of local communities and individuals. When they don’t get their way, the D.C. bureaucracy steps in to circumvent the will of states. And when courts stop them, Democrats work to delegitimize and weaken the judiciary. Just this week, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., argued states should simply disregard the Supreme Court when they don’t agree with a decision. Ignoring the division of power is far more likely to cause a national schism than any Greene tweet.

None of that means a “national divorce” — really succession, since other states are unlikely to concede to a split — isn’t a reckless thing for someone who took a vow to defend the Constitution to advocate. Even if we took a moment to seriously contemplate the idea, how would it be achieved? We aren’t separated ideologically into large geographic regions or even states, but rather urban, suburban, and rural areas. Conservatives like to share that map showing virtually the entire country painted in electoral red — and it matters more than Democrats like to admit. But we can’t discount that density also matters. A “national divorce” would create even smaller minorities and divisions, but little difference in the way of policy.  (How are the Greenes going to shrink the government when they won’t even reform entitlements?)

For that matter, where will Greene’s Georgia, which Joe Biden won in 2020 and now has two left-wing senators, end up in this split? How about purple states like Virginia or New Hampshire? Will we have 50 separate referendums? Will there be population exchanges like the one India and Pakistan undertook in 1947? If history is any indication, it’s the kind of situation that leads to political violence and economic ruin.

And, you know, you already have the freedom to move about the nation and find a place that suits your lifestyle and politics. That’s one of the reasons we’re a place that has room for a progressive vegan, the evangelical conservative farmer, the suburban moderate, and everyone in between.

During the past 42 years, the federal government has been divided for 30 of them. Over the past three presidencies, the president’s party lost at least one house after only two years. The instinct of the American public is to split power. The organic state of a divided nation is glorious gridlock — which is why the 10th Amendment exists. Now, it’s also true that leftists struggle with the notion of letting people in red states think, speak, and live in ways they dislike. There is a national political and cultural effort to homogenize us. And when Republicans appropriate the existing local power Democrats have used for decades to implement their own choices — as Ron DeSantis has done in Florida — leftists act as if we’re on the precipice of a dictatorship. But they have no power to stop him. Only Florida voters do. This is why federalism exists. It is why some states thrive and others don’t. And federalism is not only a more desirable solution than breaking the country into two, but also far more feasible.

It’s also worth noting that political divisions aren’t static. People can be persuaded. Events change perceptions. It is very likely that our kids and grandkids are going to face a different set of problems and divisions. Are we going to split into four in 50 years?

None of this is to argue there aren’t serious problems facing the nation, but Big Tech’s relentless highlighting of every decisive moment, every rabid voice, and every radical position clouds our view of reality. The nastier and crazier you pretend to be, the more misleading your tweets, and the more partisan you act, the more followers you can expect. The incentive of social media success is corrosive. Most of it just exacerbates political divisions.

In the real world, you probably live in proximity to plenty of people with different religious, cultural, and ideological values, yet, despite what you’ve heard, we’re a nation with negligible political violence. In many ways, despite the mess politicians have made, our lives are better than ever. Let’s keep it that way.

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist, a nationally syndicated columnist, a Happy Warrior columnist at National Review, and author of five books—the most recent, Eurotrash: Why America Must Reject the Failed Ideas of a Dying Continent. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, ABC World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News and radio talk shows across the country. Follow him on Twitter, @davidharsanyi.


Sunsetting Federal Spending Programs Is A Fantastic Idea



Rick Scott
Why do Americans have to live with legislative decisions made nearly 90 years ago?

Author David Harsanyi profile




When Joe Biden accused Republicans of planning to “cut” Social Security and Medicare during his State of the Union address, it was — like virtually all the other things he said — a lie. His claim was tantamount to accusing Democrats of supporting a “plan” to shut down air travel because Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez once proposed it.

The president was referring to Rick Scott’s ill-timed “12 Point Plan to Rescue America,” which included, among numerous other nonstarters, a proposal to sunset all federal spending programs every five years. The proposal, contra Biden’s contention, had no support from Republicans and nothing to do with the debt ceiling fight.

None of that means that asking Congress to reauthorize federal spending bills every few years isn’t a great idea. Why would stalwarts of “democracy” oppose revisiting spending decisions made by legislators nearly 90 years ago? No living person has ever voted on them. And though “liberals” are generally more protective of Social Security than the Bill of Rights, entitlement programs aren’t foundational governing ideas, they do not protect our natural rights, nor are they at the heart of the American project. Government dependency is, in fact, at odds with all of it.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of private-sector establishments go out of business, and yet not a single federal government program ever does. While nearly every facet of society embraces cost-saving efficiencies, the federal government perpetually grows. It is madness. Simply as a function of good governance, it would be reasonable for Congress to review the efficacy and cost of existing federal programs, and then make suggestions for reforms or elimination or — yikes — privatization. Forget entitlements. Is there any reason we shouldn’t revisit the billions spent on the obsolete Natural Resource Conservation Service (created in 1935 to help farmers deal with soil corrosion) or the Rural Electrification Administration (created in the same year, when large swaths of rural Americans did not have electricity) or the counterproductive Small Business Administration or the subsidy sucking Amtrak corporation?

Indeed, there is widespread support for Social Security — a Bismarckian import, first championed nationally by corrupt populists like Huey Long to augment retirement. One suspects this is largely because Americans have been compelled by the state to pay into the pyramid scheme. Many people build their retirements around the program. They have no choice. Compulsion is a hallmark of leftist policy, from entitlements to Obamacare to unionization to public school systems. And by forcing participation, we’ve created a generational trap. Voters have been fearmongered into believing that any reform means something is being stolen from them, when no serious proposal has ever cut existing benefits.

In the 1970s, Biden supported re-upping federal spending authorization every four years and requiring Congress to “make a detailed study of the program before renewing it.” Obviously, Biden hasn’t stuck to a single principled position in his entire career. But it is worth noting there was plenty of bipartisan support for sunsetting bills from 1970 through the 2000s — including from Ed Muskie, Jesse Helms, liberal “lion” Ted Kennedy, and George W. Bush.

Until very recently the center of both parties also agreed entitlement reform would be necessary to keep Medicare and Social Security solvent. In today’s Idiocracy, we have a president who argues that a $5 trillion spending bill costs “zero” dollars, so we’re about a zillion lightyears away from responsible governance.

If Social Security is so deeply popular — and everyone saw cowardly Republicans promise Biden they wouldn’t do anything to fix these programs that are bankrupting the country — what’s the problem? Even with the highly remote chance of a sunset law, the chances of reform would be still more remote. Look at how Washington almost perfunctorily lifts the debt ceiling. The only shared principle in D.C. is risk aversion.

Still, if Congress were automatically impelled to vote on existing law, it would create more political space to at least suggest changes and perhaps revisit mistakes. If nothing else, Congress would be marginally more “productive” if it was forced to occasionally deal with existing problems rather than concocting new ways to create them.

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist, a nationally syndicated columnist, a Happy Warrior columnist at National Review, and author of five books—the most recent, Eurotrash: Why America Must Reject the Failed Ideas of a Dying Continent. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, ABC World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News and radio talk shows across the country. Follow him on Twitter, @davidharsanyi.

Don’t Fall for Joe Biden’s Economic Fairy Tale



Joe Biden delivers state of the union address with Kamala Harris and Kevin McCarthy behind him
The president’s biggest whopper? ‘I’m a capitalist.’

Author David Harsanyi profile




Like Nero bragging about rebuilding Circus Maximus after burning it down, Joe Biden took to the podium tonight to take credit for solving a slew of problems he helped create.

At the top of his State of the Union address, the president boasted that he had “created more jobs in two years than any president created in four years.” No president — not Joe Biden nor Donald Trump — creates jobs. But Biden’s contention was exceptionally misleading, considering he inherited an economy that had been unplugged by an artificial, state-induced shutdown. If the government compels businesses to shutter, it doesn’t “create” jobs when allowing them to open.

On more than one occasion during the night, a mercurial Biden contended that Covid-19 had shut down the economy. No, states did. Politicians did. Biden was an aggressive proponent of those shutdowns. During the 2020 presidential campaign, the president regularly attacked Republican governors for opening too early and for ignoring federal health officials. Even in August of 2021, after it was clear that shutdowns hadn’t saved any lives, Biden was still criticizing Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis for rejecting a new round of Covid authoritarianism, telling him to “get out of the way” of those trying to “do the right thing.”

Three years ago, the unemployment rate was at 3.5 percent. Today, Biden reminded us that it was at a historic low of 3.4 percent. More than 30 million people lost their jobs to Covid lockdowns. Biden claims to have “created” 12 million jobs during the past two years. The one big difference is that the labor participation rate still hasn’t recovered to pre-Covid numbers. It’s great that people are working again. But millions fewer are in the market for jobs.

Biden also boasted that Americans were seeing “near” historic unemployment lows for black and Hispanic workers. These historic lows were achieved before Covid lockdowns. So, if Biden deserves credit for this, doesn’t Trump? Of course, there is no specific Biden economic policy that brought us near-historic unemployment lows for minorities or an unemployment rate 0.1 percent lower than the previous administration. Washington wasted trillions of dollars propping up an economy that it previously shut down.

Speaking of spending, Biden claimed that the preposterously misnamed “Inflation Reduction Act,” which you might recall was initially called “Build Back Better,” had helped alleviate spiking prices. Only when inflation became non-transitory, and a politically problematic issue, did Biden begin arguing that more spending would mitigate inflation. And only then did Democrats rename their bill, which was crammed with the same spending, corporate welfare, price fixing, and tax hikes — all long-desired progressive wish-list items. “The Inflation Reduction Act is also the most significant investment ever in climate change,” Biden said during his address, as if this sentence made any sense.

Presidents are often unduly blamed or given credit for economic events beyond their control. But it is no accident inflation took off as Democrats pumped hundreds of billions into a hot economy (in the case of the “infrastructure” bill, with the help of Senate Republicans) and aggravated foreseeable problems with policies that disincentivize work and undercut energy production. All this led to the biggest inflation spike since 1982. We are still at historic highs. A slew of products that consumers rely on still remain atypically expensive, and fears of additional price hikes have started to seriously corrode consumer confidence.

Biden lied that “25 percent” of the national federal debt was incurred by the previous administration when most of that debt was driven by entitlement programs passed, expanded, and revered by Democrats. And he misled the nation by claiming that his administration had “cut the deficit by more than $1.7 trillion — the largest deficit reduction in American history,” when, in fact, those “cuts” were sunsetting pandemic emergency spending that Democrats had complained wasn’t enough.

Biden went into his well-worn platitudes and myths about how the rich don’t pay taxes — “[n]o billionaire should be paying a lower tax rate than a school teacher or a firefighter!” — and proposed higher rates on the wealthy and corporations. He also promised to micromanage the economy with a slew of new regulations that would interfere in voluntary contracts struck between employees and employers and consumers and businesses.

Biden implored Congress to pass the PRO Act, a bill that would empower the government to impose unions on businesses and workers who want no part of them. Biden hawked an entire menu of crude economic populism — including price controls and protectionist trade policies that would undermine growth, competition, job creation, and innovation while driving up the cost of virtually every construction project in the country.

There were numerous lies, half-truths, and deceptions. There was a slew of antiquated economic ideas and sloganeering. But, surely, the president’s biggest lie of the night was to claim, “I’m a capitalist.”

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist, a nationally syndicated columnist, a Happy Warrior columnist at National Review, and author of five books—the most recent, Eurotrash: Why America Must Reject the Failed Ideas of a Dying Continent. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, ABC World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News and radio talk shows across the country. Follow him on Twitter, @davidharsanyi.

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