TGIF: The Coming New and Improved IRS

The brilliant people in the Biden administration and the U.S. Congress have decided that one thing America really needs is an Internal Revenue Service (!) fortified by 87,000 more employees and 80 billion more dollars so it can help reduce the inflation that currently menaces us.

You don’t believe it? Oh, ye of little faith!

How is that to be accomplished? By auditing rich individuals and corporations, of course, thereby harvesting tons of hitherto uncollected revenue and forcing the shirkers to pay their “fair share.” (No one ever says how we know they aren’t already paying it.) The law’s advocates also say that with its outright tax increase on corporations and cutting of energy and health care costs, inflation will be lowered still more. I wouldn’t take that too seriously.

You might suspect that the government’s story is not exactly kosher — and you would be right. Even though the Biden people insist that the IRS provisions of the just-enacted Inflation Reduction Act will leave people making less than $400,000 unscathed, nothing in the law guarantees that, and the defensiveness of the White House and congressional spokesmen seem to confirm that the nonrich are not safe. Last year the Congressional Budget Office said all taxpayers would face higher audit rates under an earlier, larger version of the Inflation Reduction Act. (It was then called Build Back Better.)

This stands to reason that all taxpayers will be at risk. The highest earners have battalions of the best tax lawyers and accountants who surely advise their clients how to (legally) avoid, not evade, taxes. (News flash: the tax code is complicated, even vague, and will become even more so under the new law.) When you combine that fact with the regrettably small number of really, really rich people, you have to figure that the newly beefed-up IRS won’t be anywhere near able to squeeze out the expected sums without going after lower hanging fruit. That’s the rest of us: additional audits of people of more modest means. (Just for the record: with the exception of any actual thieves, wealthy people also have a right to their money.)

How many times before have presidents and legislators promised to raise badly needed, deficit-shrinking revenue by stepping up IRS enforcement against the rich? It’s how progressives lull the middle class into accepting always-increasing spending.

But strangely, the deficits never shrink and stay shrunk. So either the revenue estimates were unalloyed bunk or the government spent the additional revenue on new projects. I’m sure it was a combination of both. Surprise, surprise! Birds gotta fly. Fish gotta swim. Politicians gotta spend.

At any rate, the deficit and debt (monetized by the Federal Reserve, our inflation engine) have grown without relief. Isn’t that likely to be the case this time? It’s surely the way to bet.

According to Forbes, “Democrats say the legislation will raise close to $740 billion in tax revenue over the next 10 years and devote $300 billion of that money toward reducing the federal deficit.” That’s 2 percent of the deficits expected over the next 10 years. You should realize that last year’s budget deficit was $2.77 trillion, the second highest after the 2020s $3.13 trillion.

But let’s remember that these revenue projections are really predictions about how people will behave — and how much taxable income they will produce — in an altered institutional environment. The prognosticators make their predictions with inherently dodgy computer models. Remember how well such models predicted the climate and covid catastrophe? In truth, we don’t know how creative, entrepreneurial people will adjust to changing tax and regulatory conditions. Individuals discover things when they face new situations. They are not robots.

Another thing to keep in mind is that corporations do not pay taxes. They collect them. Only people pay taxes. So which people pay the corporate income tax, which will go up under the new law? Economists have long known that the tax is paid by consumers through higher prices, employees through lower wages, and shareholders, most of whom are not wealthy, through lower returns to their retirement funds. The corporate tax is one of those great political deceptions that seems to be a permanent fixture of the landscape. By the way, taxes on savings and investment invariably constitute double and even triple taxation, stifling innovation and wealth creation. Thus the general welfare, and not only justice, suffers.

Will the Inflation Reduction Act really act to reduce inflation? No bloody way. Inflation is not merely a general price rise. That’s only the symptom. The cause is an inflation of the money supply by the government’s central bank.

When the government spends more than it collects in taxes, it borrows money to cover the budget deficit. The Federal Reserve will buy the government debt, creating money out of thin air to do so. When the conjured-up money is spent or lent, we have the proverbial more dollars chasing the same amount of goods and — voila! — a general rise in prices. The new money also will tend to push interest rates lower than the free-market level, which in turn will distort the calculations of investors — interest rates are key signals to producers, after all — resulting in unsustainable malinvestment. (This is one of the monumental theoretical achievements of the Austrian school of economics, featuring Ludwig von Mises’s and F. A. Hayek’s work on money and banking.)

It’s even worse. This century’s massive money creation has been accompanied by the depressed production of goods brought about by the economic lockdowns during the covid pandemic. It’s not just more money chasing the same supply of goods, but a smaller supply of goods. Thank you, politicians throughout America, for your service.

A real inflation reduction act would do nothing but slash spending — assuming we think the government should spend anything at all. After all, it ultimately obtains its money at gunpoint, that is, by theft. Slashing spending means rethinking big government, that is, — top of the list — the warfare and welfare state.

So the touted Biden achievement is the just same old snake oil in new packaging. The government is out of control, and I don’t see how that will soon end. Taxation is a blank check for politicians. The income tax is especially bad because it requires all to account to the government for their income-earning activities under threat of penalty. This inquisitorial device ought to be seen as intolerable in a theoretically free country. (For more, see my book Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax.)

Veteran Says Good Riddance to Liz Cheney

Yesterday was a very important day.
It’s the day the America First movement exiled the most despicable, most debased Swamp Monster on Capitol Hill.
Yesterday Liz Cheney lost renomination for Congress after three terms of using and abusing the people of Wyoming.
The reason is simple: voters are tired of fighting endless wars.
They’re tired of spending trillions of dollars in the Middle East and Central Asia while they struggle to fill their own gas tank or complete a grocery shopping list.
They’re tired of seeing their sons and daughters in uniform come home physically, mentally, and spiritually broken by war.
Or often, not come home at all.
Liz Cheney has been a face of the War Party for years.
In 2003 the Bush-Cheney administration fabricated intelligence to lie our country into a disastrous war where over a million people were killed.
Liz Cheney says “Good.”
The Bush-Cheney administration set up an international collection of secret prison camps where thousands were tortured, some to death.
Liz Cheney says, “Good.”
Barack Obama gave billions of dollars in cash and weapons to Jihadists in Syria, the same terrorists who would later start ISIS.
Liz Cheney says, “Good.”
Joe Biden is inching us dangerously close to World War III with Russia to protect his family corruption in Ukraine.
Liz Cheney says, “Good.”
And yesterday the conservative voters of Wyoming kicked Liz Cheney out of office right back to her military-industrial complex mansion in Northern Virginia.
And I say, “Good.”
Smedley Butler said “War is a racket.” And I say that Liz Cheney is a war profiteer. And someday we may rid our nation and ourselves of the former, but yesterday we rid ourselves of the latter.
Good riddance to the Beltway Butcher.

Did the FBI Win Joe Biden the 2020 Election?

Joe Biden won the 2020 election as a result of 43,000 votes in three states. The election was far closer than the media has usually admitted. There were plenty of dubious factors that could have tipped the scales for a Biden victory, including machinations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Long History of FBI Abuse

Though the media usually portray the FBI as the ultimate good guys, the bureau has long history of intervening in presidential elections. Shortly after taking office after Franklin Roosevelt’s death, President Harry Truman commented in his diary: “We want no Gestapo or Secret Police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail…This must stop.” But FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover outfoxed Truman and every subsequent president.

In the 1948 presidential campaign, Hoover brazenly championed Republican candidate Thomas Dewey, leaking allegations that Truman was part of a corrupt Kansas City political machine. In 1952, Hoover sought to undermine Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson by spreading rumors that he was a closet homosexual.

In 1964, the FBI illegally wiretapped Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater’s presidential headquarters and plane and conducted background checks on his campaign staff for evidence of homosexual activity. The FBI also conducted an extensive surveillance operation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention to prevent embarrassing challenges to President Lyndon Johnson.

In 2016, the FBI whitewashed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, protecting her despite her various crimes regarding handling of classified information and destruction of emails and other evidence from her time as secretary of state. An Inspector General report revealed in 2018 that the key FBI agents in the investigations were raving partisans. “We’ll stop” Donald Trump from becoming president, lead FBI investigator Peter Strzok texted his mistress/girlfriend, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, in August 2016. One FBI agent labeled Trump supporters as “retarded” and declared “I’m with her” [Hillary Clinton]. Another FBI employee texted that “Trump’s supporters are all poor to middle class, uneducated, lazy POS.” The FBI failed to make any audio or video recordings of its interviews with Clinton aides and staffers. It also delayed speaking to Clinton until the end of the investigation and planned to absolve her “absent a confession from Clinton,” the Inspector General noted.

The FBI failed to stop Trump from winning in 2016, but FBI officials devoted themselves to crippling his presidency with fabricated evidence implying that Russia had illicitly intervened in the presidential election. One top FBI lawyer was convicted for falsifying evidence to secure a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to target Trump campaign officials. FBI chief James Comey leaked official memos to friendly reporters, thereby spurring the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Trump. Mueller’s investigation generated endless allegations and controversies and helped Democrats capture control of the House of Representatives in 2018 prior to admitting in 2019 that there was no such Russian conspiracy. Not one FBI official has spent a single day in jail for the abuses.

The Ongoing Hunter Biden Laptop Scandal

In December 2019, FBI agents came into possession of a laptop that Hunter Biden had abandoned at a Delaware computer repair shop. That laptop was a treasure trove of crimes, including evidence that Hunter and other Bidens had collected millions in payments from foreign sources for providing access in Washington and other favors. That laptop provided ample documentation that Joe Biden could be compromised by foreign powers.

When news finally leaked out about the laptop in October 2020, 50 former intelligence officials effectively torpedoed the story by claiming that the laptop was a Russian disinformation ploy. The FBI knew that the laptop was bona fide but said nothing to undercut the falsehoods by the former spooks. The Justice Department commenced an investigation of Hunter Biden in 2019, but Attorney General William Barr made sure that information did not surface publicly before the 2020 election. (The investigation is ongoing.)

The FBI Has Continued Its Pro-Democrat Campaigns

The FBI’s most brazen intervention in the 2020 election consisted of fabricating a ludicrous plot to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, one of Biden’s favorite governors. Michigan was a swing state in the election. Whitmer enraged many Michiganders by placing the entire state under house arrest after the outbreak of COVID-19. Anyone who left their home to visit family or friends risked a $1,000 fine, and business owners faced three years in prison for refusing to close their stores. Unemployment soared to 24 percent statewide, but Whitmer’s policies failed to prevent more than 2 million Michiganers from contracting COVID.

The FBI exploited the anger against Whitmer to try to add some scalps to their collection. A few weeks before the 2020 election, the FBI announced the arrests of individuals who had been lured by FBI informants and undercover agents to talk about capturing Whitmer and putting her on trial. After the arrests were announced, Whitmer speedily denounced Trump for inciting “domestic terrorism” and declared, “When our leaders meet with, encourage, and or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions. They are complicit.”

Joe Biden claimed that the arrests showed President Trump’s “tolerance of hate, vengeance, and lawlessness to plots such as this one.” Former FBI official Frank Figluzzi told MSNBC that Trump should be investigated for “aiding and abetting” the Michigan plot. Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe announced on CNN: “The person most responsible for fomenting this kind of unrest, this sort of division, this sort of violence in this country right now is the president of the United States.” Law professor Jonathan Turley noted:

The media went into a frenzy, declaring that the case proved that: ‘Trump’s rhetoric and policies have unleashed a second pandemic in the form of far-right domestic terrorism.’ The breathless accounts of this plot by three ‘Boogaloo’ militiamen fit like a glove with the narrative just before the election.

There was plenty of reason to doubt the plot from the start. As I noted in an American Institute for Economic Research article on the day after the arrests were announced, “The alleged Michigan plot is almost too idiotic to believe.”

A Michigan jury in April effectively concluded that the plotters had been entrapped in an FBI-fabricated plot. There were as many FBI informants and undercover agents involved in the plot as private citizens. From the start, the FBI steered the participants into saying and doing things that would supposedly seal their legal doom. Stephen Robeson, an FBI informant with a list of felonies and other crimes, organized key events to build the movement. Dan Chapel, another FBI informant who was paid $54,000, became second-in-command and masterminded the military training for the group, even as he helped the feds wiretap their messages.

FBI operatives took the participants, who prattled idiotically about stealing a Blackhawk helicopter, for drives near Whitmer’s vacation home, which supposedly proved they were going to nab the governor and unleash havoc. Shortly before that excursion, an FBI agent texted instructions to Chapel: “Mission is to kill the governor specifically.”

The conspiracy began unraveling even before the trial began in March. Robert Trask, the lead FBI agent and “the public face” of the kidnapping case, was fired after he was arrested for “beating his wife during an argument over an orgy that the two had attended at a hotel in Kalamazoo, Mich.,” the New York Times reported. Two other key FBI agents were sidelined from the case for misconduct (including creating a side hustle with their own cybersecurity firm).

Thanks to Supreme Court rulings minimizing entrapment defenses, federal Judge Robert Jonker blocked defense attorneys from informing the jury of almost all the evidence of federal misconduct in the Whitmer case.

As BuzzFeed’s Ken Bensinger reported, the jury refused to convict “despite the government’s extraordinary efforts to muzzle the defense…Prosecutors went to extraordinary lengths to exclude evidence and witnesses that might undermine their arguments, while winning the right to bring in almost anything favorable to their own side.” BuzzFeed also noted that the judge “ruled that defendants could not inquire about the past conduct of several FBI agents, though the government would be allowed to question the defendants about episodes in their own past.”

The jury saw enough to smell a federal rat. As Turley wrote:

The Whitmer conspiracy was a production written, funded, and largely populated by FBI agents and informants. At every point, FBI literally drove the conspirators and controlled their actions. That is worthy of investigation by Congress, but neither house seems even marginally interested.

The Michigan jury verdict spurred plenty of howls by the friends of Leviathan. Former Justice Department lawyer Barbara McQuade lamented, “This verdict concerns me because it could embolden other anti-government extremists to engage in dangerous conduct in the name of vigilante justice. In a time when we see a growing number of threats of violence against public officials, it is important to hold such conduct accountable.” But the establishment media has perennially disregarded holding government officials accountable for violating Americans’ rights.

The Ongoing FBI Threat to Liberty

Shortly before the Michigan trial began, The New York Times noted that it was “being closely watched as one of the most significant recent domestic terrorism cases, a test of Washington’s commitment in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to pursue far-right groups who seek to kindle a violent, anti-government insurgency or even a new civil war.” FBI chief Christopher Wray told Congress last year that the FBI has 2,000 ongoing domestic terrorism investigations. How many additional crimes or conspiracies is the FBI fomenting at this moment? Will Americans ever learn what role, if any, the FBI had in goading some of those arrested in the Jan. 6 Capitol clash into committing a crime? And what about Team Biden’s efforts to continually expand the definition of “dangerous extremist” to sanctify its power? Last June, the Biden administration revealed that guys who can’t get laid may be terrorist threats due to “involuntary celibate–violent extremism.” No wonder the terrorist watch list is expanding at breakneck pace.

The Founding Fathers wisely did not create a national police force, but federal law-enforcement agencies have multiplied like mushrooms. Almost 100 years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union warned that the FBI had become “a secret police system of a political character.” Neither Congress nor federal courts have since effectively reined in the most powerful domestic federal agency. What mischief will the FBI commit to influence future elections? And what are the odds that Americans will know about it before the polling booths close?

This article was originally featured at the Future of Freedom Foundation and is republished with permission.

‘Coup’ Means Whatever the Regime Wants It to Mean

In the immediate aftermath of the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, many pundits and politicians were eager to describe the events of that day a s a coup d’etat in which the nation was “this close” to having some sort of junta void the 2020 election and take power in Washington.

The headlines at the time were unambiguous in their assertions that the riot was a coup or attempted coup. For example, the riot was “A Very American Coup” according to a headline at the New Republic. “This Is a Coup” insists a writer at Foreign Policy. The Atlantic presented photos purported to be “Scenes from an American Coup.”

This general tactic has not changed since then. Just this month, for example, Vanity Fair referred to the January 6 riots as “Trump’s attempted coup” Last month, Vox called it “Trump’s cuckoo coup.” Moreover, anti-Trump politicians have repeatedly referred to the riot as a coup, and “attempted coup” has become the standard term of choice for the January 6 panel.

At the time, it was obvious that if the riot was a coup at all, it failed utterly. Thus, the debate is now over whether or not it was an attempted coup. On January 8, 2021, I argued the riot was not an attempted coup. Now, 18 months later, after months of “investigation” and testimony to the January 6 committee, we’ve learned new details about the events that occurred that day. And now I can say with even more confidence: the January 6 riot was not an attempted coup.

It was not an attempted coup because it simply wasn’t the sort of event that historians and political scientists—the people who actually study coups—generally define as a coup. Even the Justice Department admits that virtually all of the rioters were, at most, guilty only of crimes such as trespassing and disorderly conduct. Among the tiny minority of those charged with actual conspiracy—11 people—they lacked any sort of institutional backing or support that is necessary for a coup attempt to take place.

Nor is this just some meaningless debate over semantics. Words matters and definitions matter. This should be abundantly clear to anyone in our current age of debates over what terms like “recession” or “vaccine” or “woman” mean. In fact, the use of term “coup” has been thoroughly weaponized in that outside academic circles it is employed largely as a pejorative to discredit political acts designed to register discontent with a ruling regime or to oppose a ruling coalition. For many, the term coup is now used increasingly to describe political acts one doesn’t like. But if the term “coup” ultimately means “political thing those bad guys did” then it ceases to have any precise meaning at all. But, the use of the term in this way does explain why so many pundits and politicians routinely use the term to label their opponents coup plotters. It’s basically name calling, and really only tells us about the user’s political leanings.

What Is a Coup?

In their article for the Journal of Peace Research, “Global Instances of Coups from 1950 to 2010: A New Dataset,” authors Jonathan M. Powell and Clayton L. Thyne provide a definition:

A coup attempt includes illegal and overt attempts by the military or other elites within the state apparatus to unseat the sitting executive.

Although the terms “military” and “coup” are routinely employed together, Powell and Thyne emphasize military involvement at early stages is not necessary:

[Other definitions] more broadly allow non-military elites, civilian groups, and even mercenaries to be included as coup perpetrators. This broad definition includes four sources, including [a definition stating that coup] perpetrators need only be ‘organized factions’. We take a middle ground. Coups may be undertaken by any elite who is part of the state apparatus. These can include non-civilian members of the military and security services, or civilian members of government.

Moreover, it is not necessary that violence actually be used. The presence of a threat issued by some organized group of elites is sufficient.

This definition is helpful because there are many types of political actions that are not coups, even if the intended outcome is a change in the ruling regime. The definition offered by Powell and Thyne is useful because it avoids “conflating coups with other forms of anti-regime activity, which is the primary problem with broader approaches.”

For example, popular uprisings that force ruling executives from power are not generally coups. Intervention by a foreign regime is not a coup. Civil wars initiated by non-elites or other outsiders are not coups.

Why the Jan 6 Riot Was Not a Coup

In the case of the January 6 riot, the rioters had no institutional backing, no promises of help from elites, and no reason to assume they had access to any coercive tools necessary to seize and hold control of a state’s executive apparatus. Nor was Donald Trump even in a position to promise such things. As noted by Elaine Kamarck at the Brookings Institution:

we now know that Trump did not even have the support of his own family and friends nor his handpicked White House staff. To pursue his plans, he had to rely on a close group of advisors known as “the clown show” led by Rudi Giuliani, a pillow manufacturer, and a dot-com millionaire—none of whom was in government and none of whom controlled the most important “assets” (guns, tanks, planes etc.) needed to take over a government. In contrast to most successful coups in history, Trump had no faction of the military, no faction of the National Guard, and no faction of the District of Colombia Metropolitan Police at his disposal.

In other words, the rioters had no avenue to calling upon any faction of the state or group of elites to secure backing. Kamarck continues:

As we learned in some of the most recent hearings, it was Vice President Mike Pence who was in contact with the military and the police, and most importantly, the military and the police were taking orders from Pence not Trump, the commander in chief!

Given that Trump didn’t attempt to actually attempt to secure any government agency to secure power for himself, we can guess Trump knew no branch of the federal government was about to step in to illegally secure an extension to his tenure as president. We can never know for sure what Trump was really thinking on that day, but even if Trump sought to encourage a group of protestors to somehow put pressure on Congress—even if by violent means—that’s not a coup. It’s a popular uprising.

The Bolivian “Coup”: The Anti-Morales Protestors in Bolivia 

The protests that followed the 2019 elections in Bolivia provide an interestingly similar case to the January 6 riot and demonstrate that it’s often quite debatable as to what constitutes a coup.

As the Bolivian election neared its end on October 24, sitting president Evo Morales began to claim victory. Numerous opponents, however, claimed Morales’s supporters had engaged in electoral fraud. Both sides refused to accept the results of the election, and protests and riots soon erupted across the nation. Morales and his supporters accused the opposition of staging a coup. The opposition accused Morales of the same. Or, more precisely, they accused Morales of attempting an “autocoup”—autogolpe in Spanish—in which Morales was attempting to hold on to power via illegal means.

Ultimately, Morales ended up resigning after he failed to maintain control over the police and military. High ranking officials from those institutions “recommended” Morales resign, and Morales did so soon after. Morales went into exile and Mexico and the opposition became the de facto governing coalition in Bolivia.

There remains no agreement, however, as to whether or not the actions of either side in Brazil constituted a coup (or autocoup.) Morales’s supporters—mostly leftists—refer to the political crisis following the election as a coup. Those who are convinced Morales did indeed lose the election refer to his efforts as an autocoup. But many also refer to the events as a popular uprising.

For many, the situation in Bolivia in 2019 remains ambiguous, and we can see how it shares many elements in common with the events surrounding the January 6 riot at the Capitol. It began with claims of election fraud, and ended with a group of protestors attempting to pressure congress to change the outcome. This is not fundamentally different from the popular uprisings in Bolivia, except that in the US the outcome was never really dubious. There was never really any doubt as to whether the Pentagon would he helping Trump push through an autocoup. Trump never had any real reason to believe he could hold on to power, even with 900 mostly unarmed protestors trespassing in the Capitol.

“Coup” Now Means “Thing I Don’t Like”

The Bolivia situation also helps to illustrate how the term “coup” is used selectively for political effect. The fact that Morales’s leftist supporters are generally those who favor the use of the term to describe Morales’s removal from office is no coincidence. Those who support one side say it’s a coup, while the other side does not.

We see the same dynamic at work in the U.S., and we should not be surprised that the media has rushed to apply the term to the riot. This phenomenon was examined in a November 2019 article titled “Coup with Adjectives: Conceptual Stretching or Innovation in Comparative Research?,” by Leiv Marsteintredet and Andres Malamud. The authors note that as the incidence of real coups has declined, the word has become more commonly applied to political events that are generally not coups. But, as the authors note, this is no mere issue of splitting hairs, explaining that “The choice of how to conceptualize a coup is not to be taken lightly since it carries normative, analytical, and political implications.”

Increasingly, the term really means “this is a thing I don’t like.” It’s clear the January 6 panel in Congress, and countless anti-Trump pundits use the term in this way to express disapproval and also to justify regime crackdowns against pro-Trump opponents of the regime. It’s easier to justify harsh prison sentences for a disorganized group of vandals if their acts can be framed as a nearly successful coup and therefore a threat to “our democracy.” Moreover, if the situation were reversed, and if protestors invaded the Capitol to support a leftwing, pro-regime candidate, we can be sure that the vocabulary used to describe the event in the mainstream press would be quite different.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

Why I Won’t Vote For Donald Trump in 2024

Will he or won’t he? That was the question on people’s minds as news broke last month of former president Donald Trump suggesting he has made up his mind on running for president again.

Grover Cleveland first won the presidency in 1884, and won the popular vote in the 1888 presidential race against Benjamin Harrison, but fell short in the electoral college. But thanks to the Populist Party’s 8% draw in the 1892 rematch, Cleveland went on to win re-election and remains the only president to serve non-consecutive terms. For Donald Trump to accomplish the same feat, he will need to do more than rely on a third party to siphon votes from his opponent.

According to reports, Trump and his allies plan to overhaul the government and fire thousands of government employees should he win re-election. This sounds incredibly reminiscent of his 2016 promises to “drain the swamp” of Washington DC, a feat which proved too daunting of a task the first time around. Will a second Trump administration somehow achieve those political goals and make good on the promises that the first one failed to? The fact of the matter is Trump is a known commodity. With four years on the books, Americans have the tale of the tape, and below are four of the biggest reasons not to vote for Donald Trump in 2024.

Right alongside the famous (or infamous) slogan of “MAGA” (Make America Great Again) were the claims that a Trump presidency would result in the “draining of the swamp,” or otherwise a significant reduction of the bureaucratic state and the career politicians who revel in it. Unfortunately, the candidate who ran on a platform of draining the swamp brought in three guys that would make Shrek blush.

Take John Bolton for instance, Trump’s third National Security Advisor and the man responsible for talking Trump out of the Iran nuclear deal. The same John Bolton who has enjoyed several decades of warmongering under multiple administrations, railed against the UN’s attempt to enforce the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention which would have applied inspections of suspected weapons sites to the U.S. in the same manner as the U.S. advocated for nations like Iraq or Iran, and whose only issue with George W Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech was that it didn’t name enough new targets. More recently, Bolton had this to say in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper about orchestrating coup d’etats:

As somebody who has helped plan coup d’etats… Not here, but you know, other places… It takes a lot of work. And that’s not what he (Trump) did. It was just stumbling around from one idea to another. Ultimately, he did unleash the rioters at the capitol.”

Not only does Bolton flippantly admit to interfering in sovereign nations across the globe the way you or I would say we’re out of mustache cream, but he also sounds like his only problem with January 6 was how amateur it was. Hey, you leave the insurrections to the professionals!

Next up you have Mike Pompeo, who served as Donald Trump’s Secretary of State. From where did the Great Swamp Drainer find this appointee? Why, he was only working a small desk job…as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Trump acolytes have blustered since his political rise about meeting the Deep State head on, yet the former president appointed the veritable king of the deep state to one of the most important positions in his administration.

Just last week, Pompeo suggested a buddy-cop duo with Nancy Pelosi in regards to her Taiwan junket political stunt:

“Nancy, I’ll go with you. I’m banned in China, but not freedom-loving Taiwan. See you there!”

Many believe it was his deference to Trump and his “America First” rhetoric that won him the position in Trump’s administration. He may have “talked the talk” with the America First crowd, but it’s hard to say you’re putting America first while also courting World War III.

Last but not least you have Trump’s attorney general and everyone’s least favorite Keebler Elf, Jeff Sessions. The same Jeff Sessions who has made a career out of being a War on Drugs stalwart, seeking to destroy lives over marijuana, as well as strengthening the government’s use of civil asset forfeiture, also known as stealing the private property of citizens who have not been found guilty of a crime.

The Trump Administration added more than $7 trillion to the national debt. Now, before you go blaming Congress since it is they who have their fingers on the purse strings, know that Trump signed every spending bill put on his desk. There was never any serious challenge or veto offered. And before you go blaming the unspecified virus of unknown origins (or more aptly the lockdowns and mandates associated with it), he had one of the biggest annual budget deficits ever, $984 billion in 2019, a year before the pandemic.

Speaking of the pandemic, it was Trump who supported lockdowns long before he ever opposed them, even criticizing state governors who he felt “opened up too quickly.” I can’t imagine where he got all of those ideas from

Which brings us to the pardons. A blowhard like Dinesh D’Souza managed to get a pardon.

But there were no pardons to be had for the likes of Ross Ulbricht, serving consecutive life sentences for building a website, or Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, who helped to expose the crimes of the American Empire and its Deep State that Trump was presumably elected to combat.

The point I’m trying to make for all you infected with MAGA-pox is this: if the only reason you have left to vote for Donald Trump is you want to “own the libs,” then don’t wait for the general election to make your voice heard. Vote in the primaries and nominate a better candidate before it’s too late and you’re left with another situation like this.

This is a partial transcript taken from the opening monologue of the August 3, 2022 episode of the It’s Too Late podcast. It is reprinted with permission.

TGIF: About Those January 6 Committee Extravaganzas

I admit it: I watched nearly every moment of the House committee extravaganzas on the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. I did more than that. I was transfixed. I couldn’t even multitask.

Were the mislabeled “hearings” beyond all criticism? Of course not. They were choreographed, but only mildly so; the production effort lent an orderliness that I appreciated. I accept the point that the presentations had nothing to say about FBI-informant intrigue if it took place. Such mischief has occurred in the past, and if credible allegations exist, they should be pursued vigorously. Of course, it wouldn’t let off the hook anyone who followed the directions of an agent provocateur. The same goes for other government misfeasance and malfeasance apart from Donald Trump’s.

Still, even given all that, I see no good grounds for dismissing the presentations as worthless partisanship. The reason ought to be obvious. The presentations enabled us to watch senior White House, Justice Department, and Trump campaign lawyers and other key staff describe Trump’s horrifying complacency as he entertained himself before, during, and after the violent outburst. Gruesomely riveting!

One need not be a small-D democrat to be concerned about what took place on January 6, 2021. The source of rational concern is not only the target of the violence. It is the violence itself. We’ve seen a good deal of domestic political violence in recent years, and I’m confident that no good would come from more. On the contrary, to the extent that violence becomes an acceptable political tactic, we will be in deep trouble. As Leonard E. Read, founding president of the Foundation for Economic Education, wrote in “On that Day Began Lies”:

Consider the mob. It is a loose-type association. The mob will tar and feather, burn at the stake, string up by the neck, and otherwise murder. But dissect this association, pull it apart, investigate its individual components. Each person, very often, is a God-fearing, home-loving, wouldn’t-kill-a-fly type of individual.

What happens, then? What makes persons in a mob behave as they do? What accounts for the distinction between these persons acting as responsible individuals and acting in association?

Perhaps it is this: These persons, when in mob association, and maybe at the instigation of a demented leader, remove the self-disciplines which guide them in individual action; thus the evil that is in each person is released, for there is some evil in all of us. In this situation, no one of the mobsters consciously assumes the personal guilt for what is thought to be a collective act but, instead, puts the onus of it on an abstraction which, without persons, is what the mob is.

Apart from the direct threat from the violence, we must also consider the secondary threat: namely, that of the government’s inevitable crackdown. If the violence becomes more widespread, average people will understandably demand safety, and the politicians will be only too happy to comply with less-than-discriminate force. A weak state response could prompt the emergence of a “strong leader,” a Bonaparte, who promises to restore order forthwith.

This is why the peaceful transfer of power after elections is desirable. To be sure, representative democracy places a distant second to complete and authentic individualist, free-market liberalism, but it beats gangs fighting in the streets.

So think back now to January 6. Trump clearly lost the election. His 60 attempts to persuade judges that the election had been stolen had failed. (Many of the judges were appointed by Trump or other Republican presidents.) He was told repeatedly by senior officials that he had appointed, from the attorney general on down, including expert investigators in election security, that he had no case — but to no avail. A conspiracy to perpetrate such an election fraud and its coverup would make any other alleged conspiracy look like child’s play.

Undeterred, Trump merely brought in a small group of toadies led by the faithful Rudy Giuliani to press his worthless case. Trump insisted he actually won the election by a landslide and set out to gaslight the American people into thinking there was something to that claim. Considering the lack of proof and all the contrary information he had been given, we are entitled to conclude that Trump never actually believed that he had been reelected. This was no delusion; rather I suspect it was merely a grand Trumpian scam that would surely rake in lots of money; it was also a what-the-hell longshot at retaining power. He apparently didn’t care about anything else. In other words, he was playing with fire. At best it was gross negligence.

When he got nowhere with his staff and the courts, he encouraged a mob, which he had every reason to think would be unruly, to gather in Washington, D.C., on the day that Congress was to certify the states’ electoral counts. Trump and his small circle worked every angle, including encouraging supporters to fraudulently pose as alternative electors in their states and trying to convince Vice President Mike Pence that he could exclude Biden electoral votes or at least delay Congress’s certification by sending the matter back to the states — when no vice president has any such power. Pence deserves credit here. I shudder to think what might have happened in the streets had Pence slavishly done what Trump pushed him to do.

The mob assembled as Trump requested, and he lifted their hopes that they could “stop the steal.” Informed that some supporters had weapons and so wouldn’t go through metal detectors for Trump’s speech, he told security to remove the detectors because “they’re not here to harm me.” Then he urged the mob to march to the Capitol. Tens of thousands did so, breaking through doors and windows and signaling that they meant to threaten or harm those who stood in their and Trump’s way. Thwarted by the Secret Service in his wish to go to the Capitol, Trump went back to the White House and watched the show from his dining room.

Repeated pleas by his staff that he call for an end to the riot fell on deaf ears. On the contrary, he tried to turn up the heat by condemning Pence on Twitter for his lack of courage. When his supporters chanted that Pence should be hanged, he was heard to say that maybe those supporters were onto something. Late in the day, when he finally made a video appeal to the rioters, he couldn’t resist telling them: “We love you…. You’re very special.”

All in all, this was a sad day that capped a sad few months — again, not because democracy is sacred, but because violence is uncontrollably toxic. Does the record establish Trump’s legal liability for incitement to violence? I am not qualified to say. Moreover, we who distrust political power must be wary of vaguely defined offenses that originate in speech.

But Trump does seem to have left himself open to charges related to his failure to secure the Capitol despite repeated desperate pleas and to his obvious attempts to obstruct Congress. It was at least a dereliction of duty. (I highly recommend Walter Olson’s “The Jan. 6 Committee’s Findings Have Met the Appropriately High Bar for Prosecuting Trump.”)

Mob violence isn’t the only thing to be feared in this world, but it ranks pretty high up there.

The Loneliness of Ron Paul: By the Numbers, 1975-1985

In 2022, the ideological landscape of American foreign policy opposition is the most dynamic and diverse it has been in over eight decades. This newfound disorder is especially true for the right, as a new crop of libertarian-leaning and populist Republicans are challenging fundamental precepts of America’s mission in the world. For those who know their foreign policy history or are old enough to remember the Cold War, this represents a sea change in the American right.

While the right has a long history of “isolationism,” that tradition of foreign policy restraint waned for much of the early Cold War. Caught under political pressure, generational turnover, and internal tension between anticommunism and restraint, right-wing noninterventionism effectively vanished from the GOP by the early 1970s. And it is in that vacuum that Ron Paul began his congressional career in 1975.

When Ron Paul launched his political career in the 94th Congress, he was a man after his time. With the retirement of Iowa Congressman H.R. Gross, the last of the so-called “Old Right” departed office. In their place arose the “New Right,” a new generation of conservatives more aligned with the goals of the Cold War and the technocratic liberal vision which undergirded them. During his first two stints in Congress (1975-1977 and 1979-1985), Paul served as the lone voice of right-wing opposition to U.S. foreign policy and act as a bridge between an earlier era of ubiquitous right-wing foreign policy restraint and our current era of debate and disorder.

Paul’s unique opposition can be measured and displayed using computational analysis of congressional voting records on diplomatic and military policy. This article will use computational methods on a corpus of congressional roll call votes compiled from UCLA’s Voteview database. The dataset used for this article is comprised of 3,680 votes associated with U.S. foreign aid, diplomacy, and military policy from 1935 until 1992.

Each roll call was coded into one of three categories, foreign aid, diplomatic policy, or military policy. To evaluate changing attitudes on U.S. foreign policy I generated percentages of opposition to roll call votes for parties, wings, chambers, and individuals. Statistics were generated per congress or over the course of an individual career. To generate these statistics, I divided the number of noninterventionist votes by the total vote. Running these basic statistics reveals that Paul’s voting career on U.S. foreign policy was truly unique for his time.

Of all 473 Representatives or Senators who began their careers between 1975 and 1985, Ron Paul posted the highest career opposition to U.S. foreign policy, at 72.8%. Of the 202 Republicans, his next highest competitor was Claudine Schneider (RI-2), a liberal GOPer who voted in opposition a relatively lower 47% (see Table 1).

Paul’s uniqueness was especially stark given his generation (Silent, born 1935) and ideology (libertarianism). The 35 right-wing Republicans of the Silent generation who began their careers between 1975 to 1985 averaged a career opposition percentage of a mere 29.4%.

Name Wing Opposition Percentage Generation Chamber State
PAUL, Ronald Ernest Right 72.8% Silent House TX
SCHNEIDER, Claudine Left 47.3% Boomer House RI
LEACH, James Albert Smith Center 45.2% Silent House IA
CAPUTO, Bruce Faulkner Center 44.9% Silent House NY
TAUKE, Thomas Joseph Center 43.4% Boomer House IA
EVANS, Thomas Cooper Center 43.1% Greatest House IA
KELLY, Richard Right 42.8% Greatest House FL
ATKINSON, Eugene Vincent Center 42.5% Greatest House PA
CRANE, Daniel Bever Right 42.4% Silent House IL
SENSENBRENNER, Frank James Jr. Right 41.8% Silent House WI

Table 1: This table shows the ten rank Republicans by opposition percentage to U.S. foreign policy who began their careers between 1975 and 1985. Paul ranked number one, with an opposition percentage of 72.8%.

During the height of the Cold War’s re-escalation, he was the sole right-wing Republican consistently in opposition to the excesses of U.S. foreign policy. By the mid-1970s, the poles of opposition to U.S. foreign policy flipped. This seismic change in the ideological polarity of opposition effectively broke the political continuity of the interventionist right…save for the presence of Ron Paul. In this new political landscape, he was essentially on his own. Plotting Paul alongside his Democratic colleagues who posted similar opposition from 1975 to 1985, his political loneliness becomes clear (figures 1 and 2).

congressional opposition in foreign policy chart

Figure 1: These two graphics compare the ideological landscapes of congressional opposition to U.S. foreign policy between those who began their careers between 1935 and 1945 (above) and those who started their careers between 1975 and 1985 (below). Each dot represents a House member or Senator who voted in opposition more than 50%. Each member is located on a two-dimensional political axis. The x-axis depicts a member’s position on economic policy, with further to the left, the more liberal, and the further right, more conservative. The y-axis represents a member’s social policy position, the lower their position, the more liberal, the higher, the more conservative. Each member is colored by their party, red for Republican, blue for Democrat. Each member is sized by their career opposition percentage. The ideological landscape of congressional opposition to US foreign policy from 1935 until 1945 was ideologically and politically varied. While the GOP was the primary party of opposition a number of Democrats and members of other political parties recorded significant opposition.

congressional opposition chart 2

Figure 2: By the time Ron Paul began his career, the ideological diversity of foreign police opposition had all but disappeared. Opposition to U.S. foreign policy became associated with the Democratic Party and particularly it’s left wing. Paul was the only Republican to oppose U.S. foreign policy more than 50% of the time during his first two stints in Congress (1975-1977, 1979-1985).

The uniqueness of his voting record on military policy is even starker given his generation, party affiliation, and ideology. While 41 Democrats posted higher military policy opposition than Paul (see below), his 69% opposition percentage was the highest in the GOP. And while several leftwing and centrist Republicans resisted the excesses of the military-industrial complex, his was the only right-wing Republican who posted significant opposition. Paul’s closet competitor on the Republican right, Jim Sensenbrenner, voted in opposition to defense policy only 39% of the time.

Paul’s position as a right-wing opponent of excessive defense spending was unique among his peers and generationally out of place. While earlier generations of right-wing Republicans opposed U.S. defense budgets, the draft, and other programs, such figures were exceeding rare after WWII. Until Paul, the last right-wing Republican to fight defense policy was Senator William Langer (ND, 51% opposition), who left Congress in 1959. Again, Paul was on his own in advocating for defense restraint from a uniquely right-wing or libertarian perspective.

congressional opposition chart 3

Figure 3: This graphic depicts the generational voting patterns on defense policy for the Republican party. Each dot represents a Republican Senator or House member as indicated by shape. Each dot is colored by the member’s wing, green for the left, red for centrists, and blue for those on the right. Each member is located on an x-axis that shows their first congress served, and on a y-axis depicts their career opposition to defense spending and policy (between 1935 and 1992). When Paul entered Congress in 1975, he was the first right-wing Republican to consistently oppose the excesses of defense spending in 16 years. The last such political figure, Senator Herman Welker (R-ID) began his career in 1951.

On foreign aid and diplomatic policy, Paul was similarly the sole consistent right-wing voice of restraint. On issues of foreign aid (which includes all forms of economic, military, and technical assistance) Paul posted 78% opposition, number one overall. Paul was similarly the sole consistent voice of right-wing restraint on foreign aid and diplomatic policy. Similarly, on issues of Diplomatic policy (defense pacts, economic arrangements, overseas military deployments), led the oppositional pack and posted with 72%.

He opposed U.S. covert operations in Nicaragua. He voted against military assistance to El Salvador. He sought to limit the presence of U.S. troops in Central America and fought to bring American troops home from Lebanon. In all of these actions, he was among a mere handful of Republicans and still fewer who could be considered conservative or libertarian.

While some in the liberty movement view Ron Paul as a controversial figure, it is undoubtedly true that he was the single political thread that attached the Old Right to this new era of political transformation. Of the 2,404 Senators and Representatives who served between 1935 and 1992, Paul ranks #30 in all-time opposition to U.S. foreign policy. Of Republicans, he ranks #23. And of those born after 1930, he’s at the top of the hill at #1. Regardless of what some may think of his legacy, he kept the lights on for a vision of foreign policy restraint based on sound money, national sovereignty, and nonviolence. For those that desire a retrained foreign policy, regardless of ideology, that alone should warrant gratitude.

This article was originally featured at Brandan P. Buck’s blog and is reprinted with permission.

TGIF: The Limits of Ideology

I have defended the idea of ideology per se and have disparaged the idea that anyone can operate without an ideology. The self-proclaimed non-ideological person is really one who has an implicit and therefore unexamined or underexamined ideology. No one really judges everything case by case as if nothing were related to anything else. We all have principles of some sort.

I have never implied, however, that ideology cannot be abused or pushed too far. It most certainly can be. One way to do this is to imagine that an ideology can be squeezed to produce complete answers to empirical, including historical, questions. That belief might be a central feature of fanaticism: the delusion that all questions are ultimately ideological. This is what gives the word ideologue a foul odor.

This is not the say that ideology has no empirical ingredients. We couldn’t form concepts or use them to construct worldviews and strategies for achieving human well-being without using knowledge acquired from experience, starting with sense perception and introspection. We cannot work it all out in our heads. We cannot even make good moral decisions without information from the external world; one need not be an orthodox consequentialist to know that consequences matter. So Cartesian rationalism will not do. (Neither will it suffice to rely on an empiricism unguided by inescapable, self-validating a priori principles of logic and human action, which are indispensable to understanding and organizing sense perception. This is one of Ludwig von Mises’s important contributions to social science.)

Two clues that a person thinks that ideology has all the answers are 1) the automatic assumption that the quantitative and nonquantitative facts about a matter surely must be consistent with one’s “priors” and 2) the conclusion that conflicting data are either erroneous or corrupt.

There simply are no libertarian, socialist, progressive, or conservative answers to questions such as:

  • Are police shooting and killing more, fewer, or the same number of unarmed black people in recent years as compared to an earlier period?
  • Is the annual number of such deaths closer to 1,000 or 20?
  • Is the percentage of lethal police shootings of unarmed black people 0.18 or 18 percent of all murders of black people?
  • Have recent spikes in the murder rate followed reductions in policing in low-income black inner cities?
  • Do most residents of inner cities favor less, more, or the same amount of policing?
  • Whom do those residents fear more: the police or street criminals?
  • Do disparities in racial, ethnic, or sexual representation in various walks of life indicate bigotry and discrimination?
  • Do disparities in average group scores on standardized tests prove that the tests are biased?
  • What happens to the income gap between men and women when the raw data are disaggregated to permit comparisons of like situations?
  • Is the average warming of the global climate or increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide necessarily bad things?
  • Are there more than two sexes?
  • Do men and women on average display differences in temperament and preferences across a large range of activities?
  • Are the observed differences the outcome of pernicious socialization or do evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology provide reasonable explanations?
  • Do masks work and are vaccines safe?

Many more such questions could be listed. All I want to say here is that no ideology, however compassionate, can answer those questions. One must honestly look at the world to see what’s going on, even if that requires leaving one’s comfort zone. “He who knows only his own side of the case,” John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty, “knows little of that.” To their credit, social scientists occasionally acknowledge their surprise when publishing findings that conflicted with their expectations. (Roland Fryer Jr., who researches the extent of anti-black violence by police, comes to mind.)

Why does this matter? Aside from simple honesty in truth-seeking, it matters because if more people took this point to heart — if fewer people relied on ideology for empirical answers —  they might find some common ground with their opponents and then have more productive conversations. That wouldn’t hurt, would it?

The alternative is what we see every day: the choosing of sides based on tribal criteria and the quick resort to ad hominem attack at the first sign of disagreement.


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