Back-to-School Blues: Droves of Americans Ditching Public School

This summer, students aren’t the only ones dreading going back to the classroom. According to staggering enrollment data, parents appear to have had a case of back-to-school blues over public education since COVID-19’s onset in early 2020.

In the past two years, a mass exodus of over 1.2 million students has left the public school system as parents seek alternative education routes, such as public charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling.

In particular, major American cities have seen a notable decline in public school enrollment. For example, New York City is experiencing “massive hemorrhaging of students,” according to Mayor Eric Adams, the New York Post reports.

Having lost upward of 64,000 enrollments since the start of the pandemic, the city is forecasting the loss of an additional 30,000 students this upcoming fall semester. On the other hand, New York City charter school enrollment has seen an uptick.

Elsewhere in the country, Michigan is still 56,000 students shy of its pre-pandemic public school enrollment numbers. Orange County, Denver, Kansas City, and Chicago are just a few of the many more cities around the country realizing nose-diving numbers.

Through the pandemic and the transition from classrooms to virtual learning, many parents became disillusioned with their local public schools.

For some, they believed the school’s handling of the pandemic was unsatisfactory, due to lockdowns, which inconvenienced many families, as well as masking and vaccination policies. Others were unhappy after taking a closer look at their local public school curriculum and wanted more say in what their children were learning.

Loudoun County, Virginia, has been a prime example in the media over the past few years of local school boards pushing gender ideologysexualized reading materials, and critical race theory in classrooms. Many national headlines have followed parents pushing back on the Loudoun County School Board time and again in a struggle over children’s educations.

Meg Kilgannon, Family Research Council’s senior fellow for education studies, gave her take to The Washington Stand:

There are more and more challenges for public school systems across the country: teacher shortages, medical overreach, falling test scores, disciplinary issues, and even violence. Add to that the fact that parents rightly felt betrayed not only by prolonged closures in some regions, but also by overly political and sexual content in curricula.

Kilgannon outlined her analysis of why the drastic drop in public school enrollments:

Parents who engage at school board meetings demonstrate a version of protest; removing your children from public school altogether is another. Voting with your feet sends a powerful message. And we need to make sure that even though our kids might be gone, our voices and worldview are still represented in the system.

If not public school, where are Americans turning for education? Ginny Gentles, director of the Education Freedom Center at Independent Women’s Forum, explains the demand for education alternatives and school choice.

“When parents realized that government schools prioritized unions and activists over students, they chose other education options,” Gentles told The Washington Stand. “Public school enrollment is plummeting, especially in the urban areas that abandoned children during the pandemic. Parents are flocking to alternative options, with charter school enrollment increasing by 7%, Catholic school enrollment increasing by the largest amount in 50 years, and parents exploring an array of homeschool options.”

With midterms in the near future and the issue of school choice in the viewfinder for voting parents, many expect education to be a driving factor in upcoming elections.

The elections of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, both Republicans, have shown that parents have concerns about what goes on in the classroom and they will vote accordingly. With declining public school enrollment and satisfaction, Americans are hitting the polls with their kids’ education at the forefront of their minds.

Originally published by The Washington Stand

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Everything Is Political—Even Star Wars, Apparently

Does watching a leftist activist dressed like an elf lecturing you about feminism for an hour sound like a good time? How about watching “Star Wars” dump on Donald Trump and the MAGA movement? If not, I’d recommend avoiding TV for a while.  

As much as it seems like parody, these are apparently plot points for two upcoming programs.  

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” and “Star Wars” spinoff “Andor” have both revealed they plan to revel in modern left-wing politics at the expense of good storytelling.  

During a recent appearance at San Diego Comic-Con, a yearly convention celebrating all things nerdy, one of the actresses from “Rings of Power” claimed her character on the show was an activist and that the show writers were giving her the opportunity to be a female character with agency. 

Nazanin Boniadi, who plays the character Bronwyn, is a prominent human rights activist focusing on women’s rights in Iran. She has previously advocated for expanding government action on LGBT issues and reauthorizing the contentious Violence Against Women Act.  

Boniadi told a group of gathered journalists at the convention, “What I love about the writers on this show is that they have given every woman on the show, every female character, such agency.” 

In a later interview with ShowBiz Junkies, Boniadi added, “I call Bronwyn the fantastical version of myself because she’s an activist; I’m an activist. She’s a healer, I was premed. We have so much in common.”  

Keep in mind that Boniadi’s character is in Middle-Earth, not 2022 San Francisco. Seems like she should be more concerned about orcs and Sauron than pushing radical feminism on TV.  

Then we have “Andor,” focusing on lead character Cassian Andor as played by Diego Luna. 

In addition to not being super creative (Andor is basically a cheap knockoff of Han Solo), the show is apparently going to be a Trump bash fest. 

Actress Fiona Shaw, who plays a character named Maarva on the show, raved in an interview with Empire magazine that writer/director Tony Gilroy “has written a great, scurrilous (take) on the Trumpian world.” 

Shaw adds, “Our world is exploding in different places right now, people’s rights are disappearing, and Andor reflects that. (In the show,) the Empire is taking over, and it feels like the same thing is happening in reality, too.” 

Wow, what a new and creative take! Donald Trump is, like, actually evil. And he’s basically Darth Vader.  

This is garbage, pure and simple. But it’s a frustratingly familiar type of garbage.  

Like a swarm of perpetually outraged locusts, the left devours cultural properties including “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings.” The end result is always desiccated husk, devoid of any of the charm that attracted people to the show or movie in the first place.  

Dogma replaces fun, and each piece of media regurgitates the same tired talking points.  

And when fans of the original property are rightfully angry that their shows are being hijacked to disseminate propaganda, they’re accused of gatekeeping or bigotry.  

But it’s not gatekeeping or bigoted to expect your show based on “The Lord of the Rings” to, you know, resemble “The Lord of the Rings.” 

On that point specifically, the “Rings of Power” team has blatantly demonstrated they couldn’t care less about Tolkien’s story and are only interested in wearing the property like a skin suit.  

Last month, Amazon fired preeminent Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey from his consulting gig on “Rings of Power,” reportedly for frequently telling the showrunners they were “polluting (Tolkien’s) lore.” 

Shippey isn’t some nobody. His book, “The Road to Middle-Earth,” is widely considered to be the definitive work on Tolkien and his written worlds.

The radical left doesn’t care about the lore; it’s window dressing to the main message, which is political zealotry wrapped in a thin veneer of pop culture.  

None of this is to say that there’s no place for politics in media. When done well, shows and movies can be elevated by tying their stories to political issues and reasoned social commentary.  

Back in the 80s and 90s, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” deftly handled political issues by weaving them into the narrative. The show never got preachy, though, and U.S.S. Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard was able to transmit a message or moral that resonated with viewers each week. 

But that’s not what modern shows are doing. Activists do not belong in “Lord of the Rings,” and attacks on Donald Trump definitely don’t belong in “Star Wars.”

The popular internet adage “go woke, go broke” hopefully applies here, and companies will realize that killing a property for leftist adulation is not a recipe for success.  

Middle-Earth and a galaxy far, far away are not the places to stand on your political soapbox. 

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It’s ‘Not Moral’ to Request Abstinence to Stop Monkeypox: LGBT Activists

New CDC data confirms that monkeypox overwhelmingly occurs in men who identify as gay or bisexual and who engage in risky sexual behavior—yet LGBT activists have said it is “not moral” to ask men to refrain from sex until the government can get the virus corralled.

Virtually all cases reported through last month involved men who have sex with men. “Among U.S. monkeypox cases with available data, 99% occurred in men, 94% of whom reported recent male-to-male sexual or close intimate contact” within three weeks before they developed symptoms, according to CDC report released on Friday.

Of that number, one-third of men said they had sex with five or more partners in the previous three weeks. In all, 27% had sex with one other male sexual partner; 40% reported two to four partners; 14% reported five to nine partners; and 19%—nearly one in five—reported 10 or more sexual partners within the previous 21 days.

The report also noted that monkeypox infections often took place in group settings: 38% “reported group sex, defined as sex with more than two persons, at a festival, group sex event, or sex party,” according to the CDC data, which cover May 17 through July 22.

The Biden administration’s survey confirms a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month, which found “98% of the persons with infection were gay or bisexual men” and that transmission “was suspected to have occurred through sexual activity in 95% of the persons with infection.”

While the CDC explains that “the best way to protect yourself and others is to avoid sex of any kind,” it also recommends having virtual sex or “having sex with your clothes on.” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also counseled “for the moment, reducing your number of sexual partners.”

Despite such a stark number of monkeypox cases tied to homosexual or bisexual activities, the notion that men who identify as gay should momentarily abstain from having sex hardly received a hearing from the LGBTQ community, the public health establishment, and the legacy media. At best, a number of men offered to restrain themselves to “sex pods”—having group sex with the same people. Some LGBT activists denounced the notion of chastity as immoral.

Public “messaging from the CDC and others suggesting gays people simply have less—or distanced —sex has been met with eye rolls by many in the community,” admitted two self-described “queer” writers, Chris Stedman and Aditya Chandorkar, in a recent GQ article.

They asserted that “calling for abstinence is not effective. It’s also, we would argue, not moral to tell queer people, who have been told time and again by the world not to fulfill what is a basic human need, to simply do so again.”

Christian conservatives say that response confirms their contention that public health often rests on public ethics. “This is not just a medical issue. This really is a moral issue,” said David Closson, director of the Center for Biblical Worldview at the Family Research Council, on Friday’s episode of “Washington Watch.”

He accused health officials of engaging in “moral evasion” in order “to avoid the unfortunate reality that there are certain types of behaviors that are making this disease so rampant in certain communities. It’s not bigoted to point out basic facts of science and epidemiology.”

Sexual continence would have prevented all but 6% of known U.S. monkeypox cases, yet The Washington Post reported: “Sex is a major driver of the global outbreak. But health officials and longtime HIV activists say calls for abstinence don’t work.” The paper quoted one such official, WHO advisor Andy Seale, urging politicians to share monkeypox data in “a stigma-free, moral-free, not-making-any-judgments manner.” Yet epidemiologist Dr. Andrew G. Bostom recently told “Washington Watch” that any honest analysis would reveal that the monkeypox “outbreak has been fueled … by gay bacchanalia.” 

Not only have leaders in the areas most affected by the virus refused to call on men who identify as gay to exercise self-restraint, they have not even canceled public LGBT events. On Sunday, San Francisco continued its annual “Up Your Alley Fair.”

“Located in front of the legendary Powerhouse bar, an anything-goes gay leather bar, nearly 15,000 fellow leather men and fetish enthusiasts engage in BDSM play at over 50 adult vendor spaces!” explains a gay website. “Spanking, punching, whips and floggers, bondage, domination and submission, creative water-sports, toys and so much more are in full effect.” The San Francisco AIDS Foundation advised the event is the place to “get your fill of hot hairy daddies, hungry pigs, BDSM babes and kinks of all kinds.” The foundation’s mascot—“Douchie,” an animated douche — shared “some hot tips for a fun and filthy weekend—free of anxiety.” None involved abstinence. It closed by telling readers, “You may choose to use one or two of these suggestions—or none at all.”

The foundation did not explain how taking no precautions would slow the spread of monkeypox.

The openness to willingly risk exposure to the extraordinarily painful virus shows the emptiness at the center of the gay lifestyle, said Joseph Sciambra, a former porn star and escort who left the lifestyle after his converting to Christianity. “Straight people wonder why gay men risk their lives in the midst of the monkeypox endemic, in order to take part in a sex fair,” he said. “Many Christians rightly wanted to attend church during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the same thing. For some gay men these events are religious experiences.”

California Democrats apparently regard the hypersexualized thirst for large numbers of anonymous sexual partners as deserving of greater protection than actual religion. California Governor and potential 2024 Democratic presidential candidate Gavin Newsom fought all the way to the Supreme Court to defend a COVID-19 lockdown order keeping churches closed in his state.

Yet the Bay City’s left-wing political leadership has greeted monkeypox with exceptionally lax personal demands. “If people want to have sex, they are going to have sex,” California state Senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat, told the Post. “People will make their own decisions about their own risk levels.” he tweeted, “Lecturing people not to have sex isn’t a public health strategy. It didn’t stop HIV—it made it worse—and it won’t stop monkeypox.” Wiener also called closing gay bathhouses in the 1980s “an epic blunder.”

That’s a significantly more laissez-faire attitude than he took toward the coronavirus. In February, Wiener and Assemblyman Buffy Wicks, a Democrat, co-authored a bill that would mandate every employer in California require every employee to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. “The path to normalcy is through broad vaccination. Period,” Wiener tweeted.

“It is difficult to follow the science, as we were repeatedly told to do [during COVID-19], when we consistently see the science so faithfully following the politics,” said guest host Joseph Backholm on Friday.

For its part, the Biden administration, which declared monkeypox a public health emergency on Thursday, has shared LGBTQ activists’ emphasis on finding a medical remedy rather than addressing the underlying behavior spreading the virus. While the U.S. has recorded 7,509 total cases of monkeypox as of this writing, the Biden administration plans to ship out 950,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine by September.

Liberals’ hostility toward the free exercise of religion on one hand, and the embrace of anonymous group sex on the other, reflects America’s shifting sense of priorities and what professor Charles Taylor referred to as the building blocks of a modern identity. “Increasingly, whether you identify as gay or straight in America today, we now view our sexual behaviors, our sexual desires, our sexual urges as really at the core of who we are. It’s central to your being, to your self-identification,” said Closson. Any suggestion for you “to regulate your behavior” is seen as “an assault” on the most pivotal part of our being.

As the public response to the monkeypox outbreak shows, many American political leaders consider sexuality a far more central aspect of our lives—and their jobs—than the constitutionally protected freedom of religion.

Originally published by The Washington Stand.

The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation.

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Government, Not Investors, to Blame for Affordable Housing Crisis

With so much attention fixed on soaring prices for gasoline and groceries, one can almost overlook the fact that we’re also enduring an affordable housing crisis. The question is, why?

Spanning the pandemic era from February 2020 through May 2022, home prices soared 43.5%. Over the past 12 months, home prices are up 19.7%, while residential property prices in the United States, adjusted for inflation, are now 6.7% above the prior all-time record levels of the 2006 bubble.

Home prices are increasing far greater than family income growth is. The home-price-to-median-income ratio now stands at more than 8.1, significantly higher than the levels of well under 5.0 experienced from 1980 to 2000. The mortgage-payment-to-income ratio hit 42% in May—tied for the highest level since the creation of the index in 2006.

The mortgage payment on a median-priced home with a 20% down payment jumped from under $1,300 to more than $2,000 in just the past year as interest rates and home prices surged—a whopping 56% increase.

Median apartment rental costs, meanwhile, have jumped 12% this past year. Because leases often roll over annually, the Consumer Price Index data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not yet fully reflect this surge. Since March 2020, numerous cities experienced rent increases well over 30%.

So what’s to blame for these surging prices? Politicians are scapegoating “institutional owners” and other investors in rental properties. But the evidence doesn’t support this. According to mortgage giant Freddie Mac, “Overall investor share of home sales stands at 27.6% in December 2021, which is only slightly higher than 26.7% in 2019.”

Large investors (10 or more homes) account for only 6% of all home purchases. The proportion of home sales to investors is actually smaller today than in 2006. CoreLogic reports that from 1999-2018, “mom and pop” investors actually accounted for a growing portion of the homes purchased relative to private equity investors. Although the share of sales to institutional investors (pension funds, insurance companies, banks) and iBuyers (large corporate buyers that often remodel and flip) rose from under 2% in 2018 to 4% of home sales since 2021—this is still only a small portion of all rental homes purchased.

Institutional investors own just two out of every 1,000 (0.21%) of all residential real estate, and just 1% of all single-family rental homes nationwide. Over the past five years, rental housing as a share of total housing declined.

Far from leading the surge in home prices, both institutional and smaller investors are alleviating the affordable housing shortage. And by often paying below list price —29.4% less, according to a recent RealtyTrac report—institutional investors may actually be a counterweight to home price appreciation.

So who are the main culprits? Government mortgage subsidies, the Federal Reserve and local regulations.

Government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs)—namely, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—continue to dominate the mortgage market. Investors who purchase GSE bonds and mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) ultimately provide funds for people to finance homes, and these bondholders and MBS investors enjoy implicit government backing.

Approximately 90% of GSE volume is currently devoted to refinances, investor purchases, lower loan-to-value loans and pricier homes purchased by higher-income earners. Government-subsidized GSEs enable borrowers to take on bigger loans and spur housing demand, leading to higher home prices and increased taxpayer risk.

Since March 2020, the Federal Reserve has driven down mortgage interest rates and fueled a rise in housing costs by purchasing $1.3 trillion of MBSs from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae. The $2.7 trillion the Federal Reserve now owns is nearly double the levels of March 2020. Artificially increasing the amount of capital available for the residential home mortgage market and distorting interest rates has exacerbated home unaffordability.

On the local level, stringent zoning restrictions, density limitations and aggressive environmental regulation limit the supply of housing while increasing the costs of construction. Regulations often account for more than 30% of the costs of rental housing construction. Rent control further compounds the problem by deterring new construction, giving landlords fewer incentives to spend on upkeep and remodeling, and reducing the future supply of housing. New construction the past decade remains far lower than in the decade preceding the prior housing price bubble in part because of these restrictions.

Blaming real estate investors for the resulting misery may score political points. But demagoguery does nothing to alleviate it. Lawmakers can start to restore this bedrock of the American dream by removing federal subsidies from the housing market, restricting the Federal Reserve’s power to purchase a limitless quantity of mortgages, and eliminating the artificial barriers to housing supply erected by local leaders. It’s time to stop home prices from going through the roof.

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Meet the California Gun Law That Copies the Texas Heartbeat Law’s Unique Feature

Well, we can’t say we weren’t warned.

In keeping a promise he made last year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom just signed a bill modeled on the Texas Heartbeat Law. Their unique feature? Both laws seek to evade pre-enforcement judicial review by eliminating the power of state officials to enforce the law. Both the California and Texas laws can only be enforced by “private civil actions” seeking damages, and not by the public officials normally tasked with enforcing state and federal law.

While the Texas law is designed to prevent abortions, the California law instead takes aim at gun ownership.

California’s law allows people to sue anyone who distributes so-called assault weapons (particular models of pistols, shotguns, and rifles defined in section 22949.61 (b) of the law), parts that can be used to build weapons, guns without serial numbers, or .50-caliber rifles. The law declares it is illegal to “purchase, sell, offer to sell, or transfer ownership of any firearm precursor part in this state that is not a federally regulated firearm precursor part.”

Under this new law, private citizens in the state of California can file lawsuits against those who violate the act and recover up to $10,000 per violation.

Here’s how it normally works.

Ordinarily, parties who are potentially adversely affected by a new law and believe that it is unconstitutional will file a lawsuit, seeking to enjoin officials from enforcing the law—thereby preventing it from taking effect—while its constitutionality is litigated. That’s what happened in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—before the Supreme Court ultimately reached its decision overturning Roe v. Wade and upholding the constitutionality of Mississippi’s law.

But prior to Dobbs, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, a case involving the Texas Heartbeat Law, abortion providers filed a pre-enforcement challenge to prevent state courts from handling any private civil actions to enforce the Texas abortion ban.

The case was fast-tracked to the Supreme Court which decided, based on sovereign immunity and the inability of state officials to enforce the law under the terms of law, that the case against most of the named defendants (with the sole exception being some licensing officials) should be dismissed. The court did not address the underlying constitutionality of the law, leaving that to the lower courts to decide if and when any private lawsuits were filed once the law went into effect.

In fact, in its earlier order denying the petitioners’ application for injunctive relief, the five conservative justices in Whole Woman’s Health commented, “[T]his order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts.”

A few months after the Supreme Court issued its decision in Whole Woman’s Health, Idaho became the first state to adopt a copycat law. It went even further, allowing the family of the “preborn child” to sue the abortion provider, establishing a reward of at least $20,000 plus legal fees and allowing lawsuits against providers for up to four years after an abortion. Oklahoma followed suit, enacting its own civil-enforcement heartbeat law

So far, the Texas heartbeat law has flummoxed opponents because of its unique enforcement mechanism. Despite multiple legal challenges (including three trips to the Supreme Court), it has been in effect since Sept. 1. Newsom is no doubt hoping for the same result in California.

Assuming the California law does, in fact, shield any and all state officials from the power to enforce it (leaving no procedural questions regarding state actors, as Whole Woman’s Health did), then the law would be insulated from any pre-enforcement challenge. A challenger to the law would then have only one option: let the law go into effect, subject themselves to a private party’s lawsuit, and then raise as an affirmative defense the constitutionality of the law itself.

And that’s where California may have failed.  

While the procedural mechanism of using private citizens to keep the law out of court before it goes into effect is the same in both laws, the underlying conduct is not. And any challenger to the law after its enforcement is likely to succeed for that reason.

The two laws are critically different, as evidenced by two seminal opinions from the recently completed term: the right to keep and bear arms is a constitutional one, rooted in the Second Amendment; the right to obtain an abortion, on the other hand, is not a constitutional right.

In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization the Supreme Court held that its longstanding precedent Roe v. Wade—a decision that manufactured a purported right to abortion in the Constitution—was “egregiously wrong,” and then overturned it. But in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Supreme Court held that New York’s “proper-cause” handgun requirement prevented citizens from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public.

Texas State Sen. Bryan Hughes, a Republican, the author of the Texas heartbeat law, pointed out this distinction when the California governor made the promise to pass a citizen-enforced handgun law:

I would tell Gov. Newsom good luck with that. If California takes that route, they’ll find that California gun owners will violate the law knowing that they’ll be sued and knowing that the Supreme Court has their back because the right to keep and bear arms is clearly in the Constitution, and the courts have clearly and consistently upheld it.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health addressed only procedural questions surrounding the Texas Heartbeat Act—including an inquiry into whether state licensing officials would have the power to enforce the law, regardless of its delegation to private citizens. Had Texas excluded every state official that could enforce the law and in that way, prevented it from being challenged before enforcement? That, the Supreme Court determined, was a question for the Texas Supreme Court.

But if California has met all its procedural burdens—a court could go right to the heart of the constitutional issue in assessing the California law if challenged. Two questions arise. First, can a State insulate itself from federal court review of a state law that prohibits the exercise of a constitutional right by delegating to the general public the authority to enforce it?

The left-leaning ACLU seems to think it cannot, calling California’s law “an attack on the constitution” for deliberately trying to sidestep judicial review by empowering enforcement by citizens and not government actors, and for undermining due process rights. But assuming this kind of regime is constitutional, the second question would then be is the gun restriction itself constitutional?

These will be questions for the courts. But a recent case might provide a hint on the answer to the second one.

California has already struggled with its weapons ban efforts. Just a few days ago, in its second ruling on California gun laws in a week, the Supreme Court ordered a lower court to revisit its previous ruling upholding the state’s ban on high-capacity gun magazines. While the ban had been upheld in 2021 by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the high court ordered the 9th Circuit to revisit that decision, this time, applying its rationale in New York Rifle v. Bruen.

That means that in analyzing the constitutionality of the weapons ban after enforcement, the reviewing court must examine whether California’s law is consistent with both the text of the Second Amendment, and the history of gun regulations. Whether it can do so remains to be seen, but it is highly doubtful.

At least for now, by “chilling” the ability of gun manufacturers, sellers, and distributors in California to buy and sell these weapons, the state of California has found a way to prevent a court from even getting to that point—that is, unless a gun seller is willing to accept facing a lawsuit and potential damages of $10,000 per violation in the hopes of having the law ruled unconstitutional in the end.  

At the very least, Newsom and crew’s gun law is a master class in political grandstanding. In fact, Section 22949.71 of the California law explicitly references the Texas heartbeat law, flagging a possible battle royale at the Supreme Court if a lower court decides that such a civil enforcement mechanism is itself unconstitutional—no matter the purpose of the law, or prohibited conduct:

This chapter shall become inoperative upon invalidation of Subchapter H … of Chapter 171 of the Texas Health and Safety Code in its entirety by a final decision of the United States Supreme Court or Texas Supreme Court, and is repealed on January 1 of the following year.

By incorporating a “we’ll invalidate ours, if a court invalidates yours” provision, Newsom is proving that it’s not really about saving lives, as he’s claimed, but about sticking it to pro-life lawmakers. The Democratic state senator who carried the California bill, Robert Hertzberg, said as much: “It’s all about these two big issues that are facing us. And you can’t have a double standard. You can’t have one standard for guns and another standard for women’s reproductive health. It’s not right.”

When questioned about the new law, Newsom had strong words.

“We’re sick and tired of being on the defense in this movement,” Newsom said. “It’s time to put them on the defense. You cannot sell, you cannot manufacture, you cannot transfer these illegal weapons of war and mass destruction in the state of California. And if you do, there are 40 million people that can collect $10,000 from you, and attorney fees, for engaging in that illegal activity.”

Now, with yet another attempt at advancing his gun control agenda, Newsom may have won the day, but could have just set himself up for a constitutional challenge down the road. After New York Rifle, Whole Woman’s Health, and Dobbs, California’s civil enforcement law’s viability is anything but certain.

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‘Inflation Reduction Act’ Should Be Renamed Economic Freedom Reduction Act

On Sunday, all 50 Senate Democrats voted in lockstep to push through the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, the Biden administration’s big government tax-and-spending bill that will unambiguously undermine America’s economic freedom.

The deal between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.,  resuscitated key elements of President Joe Biden’s euphemistically named Build Back Better plan. The final vote on what should be called the Build Back Broke bill was 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.

The Inflation Reduction Act is the legislative embodiment of big government socialism that undercuts America’s fiscal health and overall economic freedom.

If it were accurately titled, it would be the Economic Freedom Reduction Act.

Amid a cost-of-living crisis that is getting worse, with soaring year-over-year inflation of more than 9%, the Inflation Reduction Act would do great harm to our economy by imposing tax increases, manipulative federal subsidies, and price controls on every American family.

The Senate-passed bill would deepen the growing recession, continue to depress household incomes, and continue to increase overall price levels.

In other words, America’s already deteriorating level of economic freedom and vitality will be further debilitated by bad policy choices that have been knowingly made.

As succinctly noted by my colleagues at The Heritage Foundation:

The Biden administration and its liberal allies in Congress have gone out of their way to impose new burdens and to bloat the government.

The result has been the ensuing inflationary crisis and now a recession.

Instead of heeding the economic warning lights, they have offered this bill, which is identical in purpose and philosophy to what created the current economic mess.

If enacted into law, this bill would exacerbate the economic crisis and lead to a longer and much more painful stagflation.

(The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)

For more than a quarter-century, The Heritage Foundation’s annual Index of Economic Freedom has measured the impact of free enterprise buttressed by the rule of law, limited government, regulatory efficiency, and market openness in countries around the globe. The strongly positive correlation between a nation’s level of economic freedom and its citizens’ overall standard of living and competitiveness underscores just how critical economic freedom is in practice.

Yet, after reaching a high score in 2006, the United States fell from the “Free” category to “Mostly Free” in 2010. Economic freedom has continued to slide, hitting an all-time low this year, ranking America behind 24 other nations.

America’s economic freedom is under assault from massive government spending bills that drive the country and its citizens deeper into ever-growing debt. The taxes that must ultimately pay for the government’s spending spree shift the freedom to choose from the individual to the government.

The latest example of that is the Inflation Reduction Act. According to Heritage research, the politically driven tax-and-spend bill would hike taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 a year, with the act disproportionately raising taxes coming from people making less than $75,000 a year by $136 billion.

Economic freedom is also eroded through numerous layers of politically motivated regulations. Contrary to what some politicians argue, America’s competitive position is not threatened because the federal government is not spending or regulating enough. Instead, the problem is that government has grown too big in terms of its scale, scope, and power over people’s daily lives.

America needs limited government, not expanded and expensive government, to ensure a transparent and competitive economic environment in which citizens enjoy the freedom and opportunity to prosper to the fullest possible extent.

As Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts pointed out, “Support for the Inflation Reduction Act from [Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.], Manchin, and Schumer is further evidence that the Left has lost sight of the broader goal of public policy: improving the lives of real Americans.”

This should be the year to correct that regrettable, often-trod path of Washington’s policymaking, and now is the time to do that to restore America’s economic freedom.

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Democrat Defectors Imperil Biden’s Future

President Joe Biden is confronting a record-low job approval rating and a growing calls from within his own party to abandon a reelection campaign.

Last week, congressional Democrats from Minnesota and New York cast doubt on Biden’s political future, suggesting it was time for a new generation to step forward. Those public statements came on the heels of Gallup’s poll, which put Biden’s job approval rating at a personal low 38%.

History doesn’t bode well for incumbent presidents who face intraparty challenges, according to presidential historian Tevi Troy. His recent Washington Examiner cover story, “Biden faces a mutiny,” examined six examples of 20th-century presidents who faced intraparty challengers—all losers.

Troy, director of the Presidential Leadership Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former senior White House aide, joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to talk about Biden’s future, frustrations plaguing his White House, and interesting tidbits about presidential history. 

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:

Rob Bluey: I am fascinated by your work as a presidential historian. You have a couple of recent articles, including one from The Wall Street Journal and another from the Washington Examiner that I want to delve into. They cover topics that are on the minds of a lot of Americans right now, particularly as we look at the White House and President Joe Biden’s leadership. Some big questions that have come up about what his future holds. 

For The Wall Street Journal, you wrote a piece called “Biden’s Dithering Irks White House Staff,” and I’d like you to walk us through what some of the issues are there—why there’s this frustration, and how a lack of decision-making has impeded some of the administration’s agenda. 

Tevi Troy: And let’s just say, as conservatives, maybe it’s not the worst thing if he’s indecisive, but as Americans, we want a president who can make good decisions for the country, even if we might disagree with where he is going politically.

But there have been some news media articles. And again, this is mainstream media complaining about decisions that are sitting in the White House, some of which, like student loans and something on climate change that have sat around for an entire year. And so the staff is concerned that these things go on and on, and that Biden has this habit of asking difficult, challenging questions, factual questions. 

And then if a staffer says, “Well, I don’t know the answer to that, sir.” They say, “Well, let’s go back and get the answers before we make the decision.” And it becomes an excuse for not making decisions.

And I put out in The Wall Street Journal piece this famous rule from Colin Powell that you can’t make a decision before you have 40% of the information. But if you’re waiting until you have more than 70% of the information, you’re letting the fence define you instead of you defining events. 

Bluey: One of the things that I thought was interesting is you take us back to something that Biden himself wrote about his experience of serving as vice president under President Barack Obama. And at a time, he was critical of Obama for having a lack of decision-making. What was that dynamic like? 

Troy: It’s a good question. In the title of the piece, which I did not choose, the word dithering refers to a comment that former Vice President Dick Cheney made about Obama, who was sometimes slow to make decisions. And Biden in his memoir, which is very complimentary of Obama, as you would imagine, has one minor criticism, is about sometimes decisions wouldn’t get made in a timely manner.

Biden seemed to be saying, “You need to make decisions quickly in the White House,” and then he gets to the White House. … And to be fair, he was more decisive in the earlier months. And he seems, perhaps because of the weight of the presidency, to have slowed down his decision-making process, and I understand it. 

With the weight of the world on you, sometimes think more deliberately about these things. But at the end of the day, you have to make decisions, that’s what a president does. And so it’s an interesting dynamic that he criticized Obama for not being decisive and now as president, he has some issues with decision-making himself. 

Bluey: Do you think his indecisiveness is contributing to the historically low poll numbers that he’s experiencing? 

Troy: Actually, I think it’s the historically low poll numbers that make him wonder about his decisions and slow down his ability to choose because he wonders about what the implications will be for him politically. So I wonder if it’s the poll numbers that drive the indecision rather the other way around. 

In fact, I say in the Journal piece that he made a couple of early decisions, for example, on Afghanistan that did not turn out so well. And so now maybe he’s being a little more careful in his decisions, but you just can’t overdo it. 

Bluey: I want to get into the future of Biden’s tenure in the White House. But before I do so, I’d like you to put on your presidential historian hat. You’ve written several books about past presidents. Who were some of the best presidents when it came to making decisions? 

Troy: In this Wall Street Journal piece, I intentionally point to Democrats who were good at making decisions because I thought it would be more likely that Biden would listen to advice if it’s coming from previous Democrats.

And Franklin Roosevelt was just a master at making decisions. In fact, his wife told the journalist John Gunther once, “The president doesn’t think he decides,” which I thought was a great encapsulation of FDR’s method. 

And then Harry Truman, I argue in the piece, had to make more tough decisions per year of presidency perhaps than any other president, including about dropping the atomic bomb on Japan, which is a weapon he hadn’t even heard of when he was vice president; whether to recognize Israel in the face of disagreements from his advisers; whether to pursue the Berlin airlift, which was fraught with peril and a necessary decision, but a tough one. 

And then what to do about Korea, whether defend Korea from the North Korean invasion, and then what to do about MacArthur, who was popular, but also unmanageable as a general. So he had some really tough decisions and he was willing to make them.

And I argue in the piece that Lyndon Johnson, who had his own decision-making problems with Vietnam, marveled at Truman’s ability to make decisions and then move on, which I think is the essence of decision-making with a great leader. 

Bluey: One of the biggest decisions that President Biden will have to make is whether or not to pursue a second term. And as we’ve seen in recent days, there are members of his own party who suggest they need a new generation of leadership to step forward. You have a cover story in the Washington Examiner, “Biden faces a mutiny.” 

Tell us about the decision that he needs to make in this particular case and some of the historical facts that you brought to light about what it might mean if he does face an intraparty challenge. 

Troy: We’ve seen some Democrats making quiet moves, although in the case of Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, not so quiet moves that seem to suggest that they’re positioning themselves for a run in 2024. And so I looked at the history of people who challenged an incumbent president from within the party. And I found six major instances since the 20th century began. 

And in all of those cases I found, and we could talk about the individual ones, but in all of those cases I found that the challenger did not win the nomination, and did not become president in that cycle. And the incumbent president, as a result of either the challenge itself or the fact that the challenge revealed weakness, the incumbent president in all six cases did not win election a second time. Two of them, Truman and Johnson, stepped down and four of them lost their reelection efforts. 

Bluey: It would be helpful to walk through in some detail, maybe not all of the six, but pick a couple. Let’s start with the most recent in 1992. Tell us what happened there in the case of George H.W. Bush, who was the incumbent president, and Pat Buchanan. 

Troy: I would just say people should get the print edition of the Washington Examiner because it has a terrific chart showing each one of these, who the challenger was, who the incumbent was, and what happened.

In this particular case, which interestingly is the last time it happened, Pat Buchanan challenges George H.W. Bush with a, I would say, kind of a Trumpy-type campaign talking about trade and immigration. 

And Bush was kind of coming down off a high after the first Gulf War where his approval rating was in the high 80s, but then it dropped, there was a recession plaguing the country. And Buchanan challenges Bush with a bunch of hard-hitting ads and a lot of hard-hitting rhetoric in the New Hampshire primary, gets 38% of the vote, which was a shocking total. He did not win, but it revealed a weakness that Bush had within his own party. But the Bush people did push back with their own hard-hitting ads. 

Buchanan gets a speaking spot at the Republican convention, which was a very well-known and long-remembered speech. And Bush loses his reelection effort to Bill Clinton. And Bill Clinton makes some of the same arguments against Bush that Buchanan had already tried out in his efforts against Bush. 

Bluey: And then in 1980, of course, you have Jimmy Carter, who’s the incumbent president, facing a challenge from Sen. Ted Kennedy. That also had high drama at the convention. Walk us through what happened in that particular case. 

Troy: This one was a particularly nasty one. Ted Kennedy runs against Jimmy Carter from the left and Carter is besieged by all kinds of problems, including a recession and energy crisis, inflation, and then later the Iran hostage crisis. And Kennedy is unrelenting in his attacks on Carter.

And then even at the convention, once it’s clear that Kennedy has no shot to win, and that Carter will be the nominee, his people continue to press and hold up the convention plan, which is carefully, carefully planned out so that you get the maximum of the primetime TV minutes. 

And there’s almost a fist fight on the floor over some of the Kennedy people’s efforts to slow down things. And then later Kennedy himself while on the stage carefully and obviously avoids Carter when Carter is trying to do the raised hand in the air gesture to show unity, and Kennedy pointedly will not do it, and it’s an awkward and embarrassing moment. 

Bluey: You also note that many of these intraparty challenges happened between the years of 1968 and 1992. And over the course of the last three decades, there hasn’t been nearly the appetite to do so. Do you think that might change in 2024? 

Troy: Yeah. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I wrote this piece for the Examiner. Look, that period of ’68 to ’92, especially the first 12 years, was a period of great tumult, there was economic uncertainty. We weren’t sure where things were going in the Cold War. We’d had a rash of assassinations in the 1960s. America seemed to have been knocked off its moorings. And I think that period of tumult is what contributed to some of the intraparty challenges. Now, things did calm down in the country, especially in the period from, let’s say, for the ’90s, for example. 

And also, I think this message got absorbed that if you’re going to challenge your incumbent president from the flank of the party, the party is probably going to lose in the next presidential election, and you will be blamed for it. And you probably won’t even win the nomination to begin with. So it’s a very low-reward, high-risk strategy and smart politicians try to avoid it. 

So I think that’s why we’ve seen fewer of these intraparty challenges over the last three decades. But I think the combination of Biden’s low approval ratings, the many challenges the country is facing, and the fact that people don’t always remember the lessons of history may make this year ripe for one of those intraparty challenges. 

Bluey: It’s also interesting that it’s not just Biden’s approval ratings with independents or Republicans, which obviously are low, but Democrats themselves are lower than, say, in comparison to where George W. Bush was heading into 2004 or where Donald Trump was heading into 2020. What do you make of this phenomenon? In recent history, those incumbent presidents were able to solidify a lot of support within their party, and Biden has not. 

Troy: These days when presidents seem to be going for the 50.1% strategy, meaning shore up your base and get enough of the middle to get over the top, you really need to keep your party’s base. And the polls reveal that a large percentage of Democrats, even a majority, do not want Biden to run again, which is worrisome.

Now, that doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t get the majority of Democratic support if he did become the nominee, but it does indicate that there’s some weakness in the base. 

Bluey: I’d like to ask about some of the previous work you’ve done. Your most recent book is “Fight House: Rivalries in the White House from Truman to Trump.” Is this White House as tumultuous as the Trump White House was? Are we just not hearing about it or is it a well-oiled machine that does not necessarily have the types of rivalries you’ve studied in the past? 

Troy: It is true that it is a less tumultuous White House than the Trump White House, but that’s kind of a low bar. We also, we don’t hear about it quite as much because I think the media kind of reveled in reporting every infight and every disagreement within the Trump White House.

But I also think that the Biden team has a plan for really narrowly controlling information, and controlling the flow of decisions, and keeping it within a very, very tight group that does lead to less infighting in cases. But it also sometimes leads to a bubble mentality where you’re not getting outside information.

And then the other thing I would say is that there’s clearly tumult within the Vice President [Kamala] Harris staff, both within her staff and with her, and the rest of the White House. So it’s not like this White House is completely devoid of infighting, but there is probably less of it than, and we’re hearing about it last. 

Bluey: One of the interesting things that happened recently was that White House communications director Kate Bedingfield announced that she was leaving and then at the 11th hour decided to stay, which is something that’s quite rare in our day and age. Any insight as to what might have happened there and what that might signal for Biden’s presidency? 

Troy: I thought that story was fascinating and I did look into it. It is incredibly rare that you have someone announce that they’re leaving and then stay on.

I think there’s a combination of factors. One, from her perspective, you don’t get that many chances to be at this senior level in the White House, and you don’t give it up lightly. So maybe she was having some buyer’s remorse about moving on. And then I think that the Biden administration didn’t necessarily want to lose a prominent woman in a spot as valued as the communications director. 

And so I think there are a couple of factors leading to her kind of change decision, but I completely agree with you that you don’t see this happen often.

In fact, more likely is, there was this situation in the Obama White House, I love this story where Christina Romer, who was the chairman of the economic advisers, kind of expressed some concerns about maybe she wasn’t happy in her job, maybe people weren’t listening to her. 

And within a day, the Obama communications team had prepared the press release announcing her departure, which is not exactly what she intended. I think she kind of wanted to be shored up and told that things were going great, and instead she was kind of ushered out the door.

So I think once you start to signal you’re heading out the door, I think there’s often an effort to push you the rest of the way. 

Bluey: Very interesting, indeed. You’ve also studied popular culture in the White House. You have a previous book, “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.” Do you have any sense of how this particular White House views popular culture, and maybe how it has shaped President Biden’s opinions on certain issues? 

Troy: I just find presidents fascinating. I’ve loved them since I was a kid. I got a Ph.D. in presidential history, then I have the pleasure and honor of a lifetime to work in the White House. So I just like sharing all these great stories about the White House.

With each of my books, and I appreciate you mentioning them, I try to find an aspect of White House life that nobody has written about previously and then really dive into that. So that’s why I did the pop culture thing. That’s why I did the infighting. I also did a book on disasters and how presidents have handled them and then one on intellectuals who’ve served in the White House. 

And then in terms of pop culture, look, the White House, when it’s a Democratic White House, obviously gets a big boost from Democratic entertainers. But it’s really hard to see what Biden’s interests are in terms of pop culture. I’ve looked into this issue. I mean, he does seem to like Irish poetry.

I don’t really have a good sense of what songs he likes or certainly not popular songs. Movies, he’s kind of quiet about it. It’s a little strange how little we know about Biden’s pop culture interests. 

Bluey: Particularly for somebody who spent so much of his life in the public spotlight, being elected as a U.S. senator at the age of 29, it is truly fascinating that it’s not discussed or talked about nearly as much as previous presidents. 

Tevi, as we wrap-up here, I’d like you to tell our listeners about the Presidential Leadership Initiative that you direct at the Bipartisan Policy Center, and some of the work that you do there. 

Troy: I do this, as you know, I’m a conservative, I’ve worked for Republican administrations, but I’m interested in this issue of presidential leadership. And I thought that from the Bipartisan Policy Center, I can talk to both parties and across the spectrum about this important issue of the presidency, and maintaining the power and majesty of the presidency because the presidency is one of our few shared institutions. 

Now, you talk about pop culture, Rob, and we’re now in this world of narrowcasting where there’s no one show that everybody watches, there’s no one type of music that everybody listens to, but everybody knows who the president is.

And I think the president can be a beacon for freedom and help pushing against either authoritarianism on the right or socialism on the left. And is also a beacon for people around the world who look to America as a place that promotes freedom. 

So I really want to promote the presidency as the appropriate institution that really promotes American democracy and American freedom, and I want to maintain those things. So that’s what I write about from that perch.

And I’ve written a number of pieces, including the one you mentioned in The Wall Street Journal, on presidential leadership. And leadership, I think, is an essential thing to study when it comes to the president and I think it has applicability in many other fields, including in business and the nonprofit world. I think many people can learn leadership lessons from what has happened, and what has gone right at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and also what has gone wrong. 

Bluey: I can’t let you go without asking a baseball question. You and I are both big baseball fans. I, of course, a long-struggling Pittsburgh Pirates fan, but we just to have the, this huge seismic trade deadline in which Juan Soto left the Washington Nationals for the San Diego Padres, really shaping up for a strong pennant race. Obviously, the playoffs are expanded this year. Any predictions on what to see here as we head down to the home stretch of the baseball season? 

Troy: Yeah. I think the Padres now have a very dangerous lineup going into October. I think it’s a little top-heavy. I don’t know where they go after four and five in the lineup, but that first couple of people in it. And remember they did also get Josh Bell from the Nationals. There’s a bit of a Murderers’ Row in the first half of the lineup. I think the Yankees improved themselves a little bit. I think they made marginal improvements. 

I think the Dodgers have been on such a tear they didn’t feel like they needed to do much at all. And I’m just not sure about the Astros. They’re obviously a very good team, but bringing in a new catcher at this point I’m not sure was the best move with Christian Vazquez. But I think it’s set up for a real interesting October.

I just think the way that baseball is set up, but you’ve got some real super teams, and then you’ve got a lot of teams on the outside looking in, makes for a strange October. But there’s definitely three or four teams to watch, including now the Padres, but also the Dodgers, Astros, Yankees, and Mets I think would be the five teams to look at. 

Bluey: It’s certainly going to make for an exciting fall. And you wrote an excellent piece at the start of the season, “Welcome to Baseball’s Gold Age.”

Tevi Troy, thank you so much for being with “The Daily Signal Podcast.” 

Troy: Thanks so much. I always love the show. 

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