Mid-Day Digest

Jul. 11, 2018


“But if we are to be told by a foreign power … what we shall do, and what we shall not do, we have independence yet to seek, and have contended hitherto for very little.” —George Washington (1796)


  • Trump’s NATO focus is on balancing the economic playing field.
  • A political science professor supports “breaking some norms” by expanding SCOTUS.
  • Absent corrective action, Social Security and Medicaid will hurt our economic future.
  • Headlines touting extreme temperatures aren’t telling the whole story.
  • SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh is widely respected. He’s the right man for the job.
  • Daily Features: Top Headlines, Memes, Cartoons, Columnists and Short Cuts.


Trump Takes on NATO

If we’ve learned anything about President Donald Trump, it’s that he hates bad deals. He especially hates those bad deals that are costing the American taxpayer. Trump has repeatedly blasted how unfairly the U.S. has been treated in international trade. These unfair trade deals have been his primary justification for imposing tariffs. But Trump has also voiced criticism of America’s historical military alliances, specifically regarding the U.S. having borne the lion’s share of defense costs. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in particular has been one of Trump’s favorite targets, as he again made clear last week in Great Falls, Montana, stating at a rally, “I’m going to tell NATO, ‘You got to start paying your bills. The United States is not going to take care of everything.’”

On Tuesday, Trump headed to the NATO summit where many of Europe’s leaders have been wondering just how serious he is about balancing the scales. If last month’s G7 summit indicated anything, it’s that Trump will not be moved simply because of historical precedent. For Trump, the U.S. has been getting a raw deal and he intends to rectify it. But it would be a mistake to see this as simply a play by Trump to get NATO allies to spend more on their military defense. For Trump, this ultimately is about rebalancing the U.S.‘ economic relationship with Europe.

After arriving at the NATO summit, it didn’t take the president long to deliver his message. Trump once again aired his grievance to NATO’s European leaders that the U.S. was “spending far too much” on defense. But Trump aimed his most pointed criticism at Germany. Speaking to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump said, “Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia. Explain that. We’re supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.” Trump added, “I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia.”

Trump was referencing a pipeline deal that Germany and Russia have brokered. Germany is the European Union’s leading importer of natural gas from Russia, amounting to 40% of the country’s annual natural gas purchases. Trump further noted, “The former chancellor of Germany is head of the pipeline company that’s supplying the gas. You tell me, is that appropriate? I’ve been complaining about this from the time I got here.”

Trump’s complaint is legitimate and NATO nations know it. But like when a new boss comes in calling for changes to an underperforming, recalcitrant company, the old management will often chafe angrily against those demands. While several European leaders have expressed concerns that Trump is not committed to NATO, the facts simply don’t support this accusation, as White House officials recently noted that Trump had done more to secure NATO allies than Obama did in his “first six years in office.” For example, it was Trump who gave the green light to supply Ukraine with long-requested weapons to defend itself against Russian aggression, something Barack Obama repeatedly refused to do. Far from abandoning NATO, Trump is working to reform it, to whip it back into shape. And in so doing, he’s rebalancing our military alliance commitments with NATO nations as well as working to pave the way for a level economic relationship between the U.S. and Europe.

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The Left’s 'Grand’ Idea: Expand SCOTUS

Jordan Candler

We knew this week’s Supreme Court nomination would result in renewed calls from leftists to eradicate long-standing norms in order to resist an originalist makeup on the Court. Sure enough, in a Washington Post op-ed, Roosevelt University political science professor David Faris surmises that “saving the court’s legitimacy requires breaking some norms.”

According to Faris, “The GOP’s brazen act of democratic sabotage will almost certainly deliver the high court to the far right for a generation. In the years ahead, the court will probably further erode reproductive rights, gay rights and voting rights, ushering in the darkest era in American history since the post-Reconstruction period.”

Faris observes, “The remaining conservatives on the court are young — Clarence Thomas is the oldest at 70 — and Trump is insistent on naming young justices.” Which means “a two-term Democratic president could serve from 2021 to 2029 without being able to replace a single Republican-appointed justice.” So what might #Resistance entail?

According to Faris, “That grim reality is leading many on the left to contemplate radical ideas, including an idea considered and discarded 80 years ago: court-packing. The idea of court-packing — adding extra justices to the Supreme Court to change its ideological makeup — causes most Americans to blanch. But if done right, it would actually offer a crucial avenue for safeguarding American democracy.”

The Roosevelt University professor goes on to argue:

Court-packing has a dim reputation in American politics, largely because of a flawed understanding about President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1937 effort to pass a law authorizing the president to add a justice to the Supreme Court for every existing justice over the age of 70. …

Roosevelt repeatedly rejected entreaties from his backers to tone down the proposal. After he unveiled it, Vice President John Nance Garner and Democratic congressional leaders offered a compromise plan that would add two or three justices to the court. The president flatly refused. …

Before contemplating such unprecedented action, Democrats should offer Republicans a truce in the decades-long judicial wars: the illegitimate Neil Gorsuch resigns, and both parties support a constitutional amendment eliminating lifetime tenure on the Supreme Court, capping service at 18 years. Routinizing court appointments would eliminate their zero-sum character and ensure all presidents get to influence the future of jurisprudence, rather than relying on the randomness of retirements and deaths. …

[I]f the offer falls flat, Democrats should move to implement exactly the sort of narrow court-packing plan that Roosevelt refused to accept.

The New York Times’ David Leonhardt writes, “Progressives can still win many of these issues. They simply will have to do so in a small-d democratic way, by winning elections.” But that’s the problem — the Left’s radicalism is a major turnoff to voters. Yet Democrats continue to believe that the Supreme Court’s makeup, not the Left’s radicalism, is the problem. It’s not “fairness” leftists are after; it’s control via judicial diktat.

No wonder Thomas Jefferson warned, “The Constitution … is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please.” Faris says “saving the court’s legitimacy requires breaking some norms.” On the contrary, expanding the Court with jurists who desire to turn the Constitution into “a mere thing of wax” will further undermine its legitimacy.

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Top Headlines

  • As NATO summit begins, Trump says allies “must pay more,” the U.S. “must pay less” (CNS News)

  • Trump’s “fresh eyes” spark massive federal reform (Washington Examiner)

  • Dems attack, but know they don’t have the votes on Brett Kavanaugh (The Hill)

  • Illegal border crossing would be felony offense under proposed GOP bill (Fox News)

  • Trump hits two more countries with visa sanctions for refusing to take back deportees (The Daily Caller)

  • Trump administration details $200 billion in new tariffs on China (Washington Examiner)

  • Jeff Flake says Senate will vote on resolution opposing Trump’s tariffs (Washington Examiner)

  • The case for civil disobedience in Oregon (National Review)

  • U.S. will become world’s top oil-producing country (Bloomberg News)

  • YouTube will use “quality news” sources to fight fake news (The Daily Signal)

  • Policy: A “balanced” Supreme Court isn’t the point (Washington Examiner)

  • Policy: Costly prevailing wage laws harm minorities and younger workers (E21)

For more of today’s news, visit Patriot Headline Report.

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For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.



For more of today’s top cartoons, visit the Cartoons archive.


For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.


Social Security, Medicaid Rapidly Nearing Collapse

Louis DeBroux

For years, fiscal conservatives have warned of the ticking time bombs that are America’s entitlement programs and were rewarded with mockery and contempt, dismissed as “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Unfortunately, as readers of Aesop’s fables recall, in the end the wolf actually existed, and it devoured the sheep.

Several recent reports combine to paint a frightening picture for America’s economic future if corrective action is not taken swiftly.

The first is a recent report by the Social Security Board of Trustees. It reveals that for the first time since 1982, the program must dip into its trust fund to pay benefits because the fund is now running a $200 billion annual deficit even as the number of beneficiaries (60 million and rising, with an average of 10,000 Baby Boomers a day retiring through 2029) continues to skyrocket.

This skyrocketing increase in beneficiaries is occurring at a time when Americans are having fewer children, or none at all (a staggering 60 million children have been aborted since Roe v. Wade, equivalent to killing the entire populations of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Georgia). These are children who will never live to enter the workforce or have families.

When FDR established Social Security, there were 42 workers for every beneficiary. Today that ratio is 3:1 and quickly approaching 2:1. There are simply not enough workers to fund the full benefits for 60-80 million retirees.

Even worse, bankruptcy is even nearer than we thought. According to researchers from Harvard and Dartmouth, the Social Security Trustees have been using antiquated accounting methods (which they describe as “steering by sextant and dead reckoning” rather than using “global-positioning-systems”) and outdated demographic information to paint a rosier picture of Social Security’s future than is warranted. Updated projections from the Trustees report that the program will be insolvent within 16 years, but with their outdated accounting methods, insolvency is likely to occur within the next 10 years.

Politicians talk of a Social Security “trust fund,” but as the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein notes, the trust fund is “an accounting fiction that pretends that spending doesn’t ultimately all come from the bank accounts of taxpayers.” He further notes that, with politicians borrowing from it for decades to cover general budget expenditures, the “trust fund” is nothing more than $3 trillion in IOUs, meaning the money is gone unless we raise taxes on current workers to repay the IOUs.

This is nothing more than “generational theft.” We must either slash benefits to current retirees by 25% or more, or raise payroll taxes significantly on current workers, placing a tremendous burden on working families.

Up through 2010, retirees received more in benefits than they paid in contributions. That year, a couple received about $20,000 less than they paid in, and that ratio is getting worse each year. That is compounded by the fact that inflation drains even more from retirement accounts. According to a new study, Social Security benefits, due to rising costs and inflation, provide 34% less purchasing power than just 18 years ago.

Clearly, the answer is private retirement accounts, which not only accrue wealth far greater than Social Security benefits (which are now losing money for retirees), with even modest returns on investment “allow[ing] middle-income earners to retire on six-figure incomes,” but unlike Social Security, there are property rights in private accounts.

Americans would be shocked and outraged to discover that the Supreme Court has twice ruled that there is no right to Social Security benefits, regardless of how long or how much has been paid into the system. In Helvering v. Davis (1937), the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Social Security, agreeing with Asst. AG Robert Jackson’s argument: “There is no contract created by which any person becomes entitled… [to] a claim for any particular sum of money. Not only is there no contract implied but it is expressly negatived, because it is provided in the act, section 1104, that it may be repealed, altered, or amended in any of its provisions at any time.”

The Supreme Court further expanded that ruling in Flemming v. Nestor (1960), concurring with the government’s argument that a beneficiary acquires no property right to benefits, stating that the claim that Social Security benefits are “fully accrued property rights” is “wholly erroneous.” For those who still doubt that Congress can reduce or even eliminate benefits at any time, the Social Security Administration states it right there on its website.

So, barring a rare display of political bravery, which President George W. Bush and Speaker Paul Ryan were politically crucified for attempting with partial privatization, Congress will kick the can down the road until the house of cards collapses. Social Security is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme, legal only because it is run by the government and more despicable because government forces us to participate in the fraud.

The situation with Social Security is bad enough, but Medicaid is even worse, projected to be insolvent in just eight years. Couple this with a $20 trillion national debt, rising federal spending and an estimated $91 trillion in unfunded entitlement liabilities, and the situation is dire.

The time to act is now, before the wolf eats us.

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Walter Williams: “Whom do we see spending the most resources lobbying for tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum? Is it American users of steel and aluminum, such as Harley-Davidson and John Deere? Or is it United States Steel Corp. and Alcoa? Of course it’s U.S. Steel and Alcoa. They benefit from tariffs by being able to sell their products at higher prices. Harley-Davidson and John Deere lose by having to pay higher prices for their inputs, steel and aluminum, and their customers lose by having to pay higher product prices. There’s a lot of nonsense talk about international trade, which some define as one country’s trading with another. When an American purchases a Mercedes, it does not represent the U.S. Congress’ trading with the German Bundestag. It represents an American citizen’s engaging in peaceable, voluntary exchange, through intermediaries, with a German auto producer. When voluntary exchange occurs, it means that both parties are better off in their own estimation — not Trump’s estimation or General Motors’ estimation. I’d like to hear the moral case for third-party interference with such an exchange.”


Insight: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.” —C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Hypocrite: “Considering the ample evidence that President Trump will only select a nominee who will undermine protection for Americans with preexisting conditions, give greater weight to corporate interests than the interests of our citizens, no what matter what president says, and vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the next nominee has an obligation, a serious and solemn obligation, to share their personal views on these legal issues, no matter whom President Trump selects tonight.” —Chuck Schumer on Monday (“There is a grand tradition, that I support, that you can’t ask a judge who was nominated or a potential judge who was nominated for a judgeship about a specific case that might come before them.” —Chuck Schumer in 2017)

Non Compos Mentis: “Sen. McConnell told the president that there were other nominees who could have been confirmed more easily. Why did the president stick with Kavanaugh? Because he’s worried that [Robert] Mueller will go the Court and ask that the president be subpoenaed and ask to do other things necessary to move the investigation forward. And President Trump knows that Kavanaugh will be a barrier to preventing that investigation from going there.” —Chuck Schumer

And your point? “When the Constitution was written in the late 18th century, people were expected to die in their 50s. The Framers never contemplated that these terms would regularly go to 30-plus years as they do now. I’m glad everybody’s living longer, but that’s what raises the stakes on these nomination fights so much more, because they serve for so long.” —CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin

Braying Jackass: “Hey, Texas! I suppose you’re going to re-elect Ted Cruz, but I hope you don’t. Beto O'Rourke is mega-cool. Smart, too. Also, jeez, do we have to look at Ted for another six years? The mind reels.” —author Stephen King

And last… “When they lose the White House, we must change the electoral college. When they lose the Supreme Court, we must change the number of justices. When they win one congressional seat (from themselves), the people have spoken and we must change our entire economy to socialism.” —Twitter satirist @hale_razor

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Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis

Nate Jackson, Managing Editor
Mark Alexander, Publisher

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