Saturday, February 25, 2017

In ObamaCare Repeal Debate, Who is the Real ‘Taker’

Federal lawmakers, especially Republicans, have been hit with contentious town hall meetings in recent days. Perhaps the top issue in these town hall meetings, which often degenerate into mindless disruptive shouting, has been ObamaCare “repeal and replace.” New Jersey representative Leonard Lance held one such meeting on February 22.


On the morning of the day of Lance’s meeting, the New Jersey Star-Ledger “reported” on the upcoming event. I didn’t have to read very far into the article before I found a statement that got my back up. In Obamacare anger has hit Republicans in town halls across U.S. Tonight, it comes to N.J., Jonathan D. Salant, “reporting” for NJ.com, opened his “news” article with:


In a mirror image of protests that erupted after President Barack Obama proposed expanding health insurance eight years ago, House Republicans holding town hall meetings have faced angry constituents upset over GOP plans to take away their coverage.


The emphasis is mine, for the purpose these comments, edited for clarity:


This is inaccurate on both counts. No GOP proposal that I have seen would empower the government to take away anybody’s coverage. In fact, it was ObamaCare that, under the guise of “expanding health insurance,” literally took people’s coverage away, as millions of existing health insurance policies were outlawed by ObamaCare’s rules and mandates. GOP proposals, like one introduced by Senator Rand Paul, incorporate several features that would in fact expand, not take away, the range of policy choices and price ranges insurers could legally offer and consumers could legally choose from. The entire first paragraph is a double-lie. (Under GOP proposals, private insurers can, of course, stop offering policies for which there is weak consumer demand. But that is a market decision, and there is a fundamental moral difference between voluntary market decisions and coercive government mandates.)


The fact is, the ObamaCare recipients are the real takers, by way of the subsidies they receive that are paid for by taking money from other people’s pockets through inflated insurance premiums or taxes. Where were these protesters when ObamaCare actually was taking away people’s coverage? The ObamaCare subsidies should be phased away, in conjunction with the adoption of free market reforms that increase competition and reduce mandates on insurers and doctors. A real free market reform agenda is a pro-rights formula that basic economics and practical experience tells us will lead to expanded choices, greater quality, and lower cost policies.


America should have a rewind of the past 7 years. ObamaCare didn’t address the causes of the problems is was allegedly intended to “fix.” Government policies were largely to blame for the problems of pre-existing conditions and high cost. But the Democrats rammed ObamaCare through without even considering Republican proposals to address those problems. ObamaCare did nothing to fix anything. It just expanded government control, making matters worse in the insurance market while creating a whole new class of parasites who are now fighting tooth and nail to keep their handouts. This is morally and economically wrong. Instead of ObamaCare, which took away even more individual freedom from an already government controlled healthcare marketplace, we should have had less government control and more individual and patient freedom. We should have had reforms that not only didn’t have middle class subsidies or expanded Medicaid but would have led to more affordable healthcare and health insurance in the first place.


I don’t necessarily blame all of the ObamaCare recipients who took the subsidies. Many are victims of ObamaCare itself, or of the decades of government intrusion into healthcare that had brought on this mess. I do blame the ones who oppose replacing ObamaCare with a moral, pro-liberty approach to healthcare. It’s not at all certain that Republicans will move in that direction. My hope is that the Republicans will begin the process of reversing the trend from self-reliance to dependence—from middle class to welfare class—and legalize real health insurance through pro-freedom reforms. Government intrusion won’t be eliminated in total or overnight. Far from it. But that should be the long term vision that guides “repeal and replace.”


We have heard from the Left ad nauseum that Republicans don’t “have a plan” to replace ObamaCare. But the real debate should not be, “Which plan should we have?” It should be, “Who plans—individuals and patients, or government officials and politicians?” The Republicans have been answering “individuals and patients” for years. Now is their chance.


It is said that “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned.” But sorry, ladies. It’s time to step aside. There is a greater fury—a parasite whose government handouts are threatened. Republicans should ignore the protesters screaming to keep their ObamaCare subsidies. These protestors are the voice of failure and dependency. It’s time that they got some backbone, stuck to their principles, and legalized the free market reforms they’ve been promising since ObamaCare became law.


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THE OBAMACARE ALTERNATIVE OBAMA DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT—Rituparna Basu

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sanders' Brand of Socialism is Old Fashioned Fascism

Glenn Garvin has an interesting article for Reason.com—The Sanders Surprise. Senator Bernie Sanders was the contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 who ran as an avowed socialist. I want to focus on one piece of the article; the part where Garvin focusses on Bernie Sanders’ brand of socialism. Here is Garvin on “Sanders Socialism”:

What Sanders means when he says he's a socialist—a democratic socialist, as he's always careful to add—is one of the great underexamined questions of the campaign [This is definitely true]. Sanders himself usually blows it off with a breezy line that he's not Stalin or Kim Jong-un.

"I don't think Sanders is a socialist by any political science definition I've ever heard," says the Middlebury political scientist Matt Dickinson, who writes the widely followed Presidential Power blog and is a longtime Sanders watcher. "There are different definitions, of course, but they all include some version of government ownership of the means of production. I've never heard him say anything along those lines."

Jack Gierzynski, a University of Vermont political scientist, agrees: "The closest Sanders gets to anything that remotely resembles the government replacing the private sector is on single-payer health insurance, where the government would take over the role of the insurance companies. Beyond that, I've never heard any rhetoric from him about the private sector being taken over or the government owning the means of production."

When asked by a reporter if his definition of socialism includes an "overthrow of the capitalist system,” Sanders responded emphatically, "No, no, no. Now you're being provocative. If you follow my campaign, have you heard me talk about overthrowing the capitalist economic system?"

He doesn’t have to talk about overthrowing the capitalist system. His vision is much more sinister and dishonest. He does call for engineering a government takeover of the private sector means of production, but in a way that looks like he’s preserving the private sector. He’ll just tax and control the private sector into an arm of government, leaving private ownership as a hollow technicality. After all, ownership without the freedom to use, direct, and dispose of what one owns is not ownership at all. There’s a model for Sanders’ brand of socialism:

“Each activity and each need of the individual will thereby be regulated. . .,” announced Adolf Hitler upon taking power. “This is Socialism- not such trifles as the private possession of the means of production. Of what importance is that if I range men firmly within a discipline they cannot escape. Let them own land or factories as much as they please. The decisive factor is that the State . . . is supreme over all, regardless of whether they are owners or workers…Our Socialism goes far deeper. What are ownership and income to that? Why need we trouble to socialize banks and factories? We socialize human beings.” (From Herman Rauschning’s The Voice of Destruction, as quoted in The Ominous Parallels, by Leonard Peikoff, page 231-232. Emphasis added.)

Socialism doesn’t need a technical government takeover of the private sector and the means of production. Fascism is backdoor socialism—“We socialize human beings.” In other words, socialism made palatable to a society that values private property. Fascism is not “extreme capitalism”; a lie fabricated by the Left. Extreme capitalism, better understood as laissez-faire capitalism, features a complete separation of economics and state along the lines of the separation of church and state, and is based on individual rights and  a government limited to protecting individual rights following from the principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence. Fascism, despite a veneer of private property, is totalitarian and unfree.

Don’t be fooled by the “democratic” in Sanders’ democratic socialism. An elected dictatorship is still a dictatorship. Democracy unconstrained by constitutional protections for individual rights is just another form of totalitarianism.

And don’t think Sanders’ ascendance from relative political obscurity to viable presidential candidate came “out of the blue.” He just made explicit the end toward which America has been marching since the so-called “progressive era” of 100 years ago. As Garvin observes:

"Does anyone here think I'm a strong adherent of the North Korean form of government? That I want all of you to be wearing similar-colored pajamas?" [Sanders] asked some New Hampshire school kids last fall. After they finished laughing—the inevitable response—he explained that "democratic socialism" is just a kind of friendly neighborhood clubhouse where everybody's welcome: "a government which represents all people, rather than just the wealthiest people, which is most often the case right now in this country. And it is making sure that all of our people have health care as a right, education as a right, decent housing as a right, child care as a right."

If that's the definition of socialism, it includes just about every Democrat who's run for president in the past 30 years, and a lot of the Republicans, too.

I would say, for at least the last 80 years, ever since FDR first crafted his “second bill of rights,” which reads like a rehash of the economic elements of the Nazi Party platform of 1920. And that’s the problem. "A government which represents all people, rather than just the wealthiest people,” is called laissez-faire capitalism. Capitalism feature true individual rights; rights understood as guarantees to freedom of action in pursuit of personal flourishing, not an automatic claim on material benefits that others must be forced to provide. A government that can guarantee “health care as a right, education as a right, decent housing as a right, child care as a right," or any other kind of “right” to material benefits that others must be forced to provide like a job, paid sick leave, paid family leave, a minimum wage, or profits guaranteed by government subsidies is a government that must trample actual rights (life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness) by controlling the means of production through nationalization or regulation and taxes. Sanders’s “rights” ultimately require a totalitarian socialist state.

Yes, Bernie Sanders is a socialist. He is also a fascist. That is to say, Bernie Sanders is a national democratic socialist.

The election is over. Sanders lost his bid for president. Donald Trump is president. But the long-simmering debate between socialism and capitalism he brought to the public forefront is still to be decided. The result will determine the ultimate fate of America as a socialist slave state or a free capitalist society.

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We Need a Deeper Understanding of Socialism

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Budding Grassroots Campaign Against ‘Hate Speech’ is shallow, childish . . . and Dangerous

There is a campaign gaining momentum across America against so-called “hate speech." This campaign reared its head in New Jersey. As Rebecca Everett reports for NJ.com (How you can join hundreds in N.J. saying 'hate has no home here'), the campaign apparently started in Chicago with a slogan created by two elementary school students, “Hate Has No Home Here.” The slogan was adapted to a poster that repeats the message in six languages.


According to the activists' website, the campaign is needed because “Hate, unchecked, can make neighbors feel fearful and unwelcome in their own communities. The Hate Has No Home Here project reminds us what it means to be American. The . . . project seeks to declare neighborhood residences, businesses, and places of community free from hate speech and behavior, providing safe places for conversation, work, learning, and living.”


The emphasis is mine so as to highlight the irony of the campaign. I’ll explain later. Everett continues:


Red and blue lawn signs are popping up around New Jersey, but they're not for any politician or political party.


The signs reading "Hate Has No Home Here" in six languages are intended to send a message of peace and inclusion while denouncing hate speech, said Robin Coyne, who proudly displays a sign on her Audubon lawn.


The topic seems especially relevant this week, as homes in nearby Maple Shade, Cinnaminson and Moorestown received Valentine-themed KKK fliers on their doorsteps over the weekend. Police and local civil rights groups have condemned the fliers as hate speech.


I left these comments:


This campaign against so-called “hate speech” is childish and shallow-minded. It’s like attacking the symptom rather than the cause—like taking pain pills instead of attacking the cancer. Shutting down disagreeable speech will not defeat the ideas behind it. They’ll just drive the bad ideas underground. Furthermore, an anti-hate speech campaign will just elevate bigots and their tactics, like the KKK flyers, to a status of respect that they don’t deserve. The KKK flyers should be ridiculed, not treated like meaningful discourse with such threatening power that it must be banned. Bigotry and ignorance has no power other than what we grant it.


But this campaign is also dangerous. “Hate speech” is in the eye of the beholder. How does one even define it? The term “hate speech” is really an anti-concept—an undefinable catchphrase intended to lump different forms of expression into a single package. Around the country, anti-hate speech crusaders are trying to shut down legitimate critical analysis even to the point of trying to ban speakers and books simply because to them the topic or title sounds offensive or hateful, even though they haven’t heard the speech or read the book. There is a huge difference between, for example, rational criticism of Islamists who believe their religion entitles them to impose a theocracy or commit acts of terrorism, and outright bigotry against all Muslims. Yet the rational critics are often lumped in with the bigots as purveyors of hate speech or “Islamophobia.” Anti-hate speech is a victory for superficiality over substance.


Perhaps the racist distributors of the KKK fliers can be prosecuted for harassment or invasion of privacy, since the perpetrators had to trespass on private property to drop off their stupid fliers. That’s legitimate. And it’s legitimate to critique the KKK and its ideas and mission—and the activists should use the fliers as an opportunity to do just that. But the fliers should not be opposed simply on the grounds of hate speech. That’s meaningless, and dangerous. An attack on the KKK itself for what it stands for is free speech. Attacking the KKK for hate speech is a cowardly attack on the very principle of the right to free speech.


The campaign against hate speech is the leading edge of a war on free speech and expression. The activists may not know it, but the intellectual leaders of the movement certainly do. How can they not? This campaign will eventually result in hate speech laws that overturn the First Amendment’s guarantee of our inalienable rights to free speech, and put government in charge of deciding which ideas are acceptable and which aren’t. Book-burning won’t be far behind. This is a fascist tactic more in line with a Castro or a Mussolini, not an American. If you want to stop what you see as “hate speech,” you need to defeat and discredit the bad ideas that generate it. To do that, you first have to listen and critically think. To listen and think, you have to allow unfettered freedom of expression. Freedom of expression, so long as it isn’t tied to actual danger, violence, and force against others—such as crying “fire” in a crowded theater or plotting to overthrow a legitimate government—is a critical foundation of a civil and enlightened society. It should be protected, even when—indeed, especially when—it means defending ignorant bigots’ right to their freedom of expression.


I prefer to confront bad ideas openly and intellectually, using my own free speech as my weapon. I don’t want bad ideas driven underground where they can fester and metastasize and resurface as something worse. I don’t want good ideas driven underground because some fool labels it “hate speech.” I don’t want any ideas driven underground. I don’t want a “safe space.” I want the freedom to rebut what I consider bad ideas and advance the good ones. I want openly respectful airing and debate of all ideas. That’s how a free enlightened society operates. That’s what the anti-hate speech crusade is against. Count me out of this childish, shallow-minded, and dangerous anti-free speech movement masquerading as anti-hate.


To once again quote from the activists' website, the campaign is needed because “Hate, unchecked, can make neighbors feel fearful and unwelcome in their own communities. The Hate Has No Home Here project reminds us what it means to be American.” Thus the message, “The Hate Has No Home Here project seeks to declare neighborhood residences, businesses, and places of community free from hate speech and behavior, providing safe places for conversation, work, learning, and living.”


How do you “check” the hate by ignoring its source? How is shutting down speech that is subjectively labeled “hate speech” consistent with being American. And notice the gross equivocation of speech and behavior, which essentially means there is no difference between the pen and the sword! And how does banning speech one disagrees with foster conversation?


The dangerous campaign must be met with a principled defense of free speech in the spirit of the ACLU’s defense of the rights of self-avowed Nazis to peacefully March through Skokie, Illinois. Our motto should be Voltaire’s belief in freedom of speech as summed up in Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s famous quote, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."


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Protecting Rights vs. Sanctioning Action

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Is Andrew Puzder ‘Anti-Worker’ for Opposing Labor Laws?

Donald Trump’s Labor Secretary-designate Andrew Puzder, who recently withdrew from consideration, came under withering attack by the Left because his “far right views”—i.e., pro-free market views—don’t conform to its welfare statist agenda. Typifying the attack is a New Jersey Star-Ledger guest column by Yasmeen Holmes, a member of 32BJ, a property services union. Here are some excerpts from Low-wage N.J. mom: Trump's Labor pick says he doesn't care about me:


While TV pundits debate the political and financial market implications of President Trump's pick for secretary of labor, I worry how it will impact my family and millions of other low-wage workers, who Andrew Puzder has deemed not worthy of a $15 minimum wage, overtime or sick pay.


As the CEO of CKE Restaurants, Puzder makes 294 times what an average person earning the minimum wage makes in a year.  


So how could he possibly understand my struggle? I am a single mother from Newark raising five children and one grandchild.  I work at Newark Liberty International Airport. The pay is low, but I take pride in my work.


My emphasis. Holmes, a contracted airport worker, goes on:


Puzder told the Los Angeles Times in 2016, "There's no way in the world that scooping ice cream is worth $15 an hour, and no one ever intended it would ever be something a person could raise a family on."


What he fails to realize is that these low-wage service-oriented jobs require a lot more work than JUST scooping ice cream.  And that a significant number of fast-food workers are adults with families, not teenagers who live at home and work a summer job to earn a little extra money.


Puzder is also a vocal critic of a host of other policies that low-wage workers like me deserve and need to have a decent life. Among them, the Department of Labor's new overtime rules, federal government assistance programs like SNAP or food stamps and federal housing assistance. And he has strong views against the Affordable Care Act.


Puzder's history and anti-worker beliefs should give us all pause. . .


As federal lawmakers consider whether to approve Puzder's nomination, I ask them to remember my family and the tens of millions of other Americans whose lives hang in the balance. . .


Notice how Holmes brushes off as insignificant “teenagers who live at home and work a summer job to earn a little extra money.” This line is typical for proponents of the minimum wage. But that first job for that teenager is the first rung of the economic ladder that leads to better paying jobs later. The minimum wage kicks those lower rungs out. And they accuse Puzder of “anti-worker beliefs.”


Holmes claims that low-wage service-oriented workers “deserve” higher wages and benefits. There may actually be some truth to that: The repressed economy brought on by intrusive government policies of recent years have certainly held back job creation and competition for labor, which in turn holds back workers’ compensation gains. But that shouldn’t and in fact can’t be fixed by more government interference. The path to a stronger economy is more freedom through pro-growth reductions in government controls and spending.


Also, notice Holmes’s claim of need as a justification for coercive, rights-violating government policies.


I left these comments, edited and expanded for clarity:


It is morally obscene to smear as “anti-worker” a man who runs a company that creates and maintains over 20,000 jobs, all of which are filled by people who voluntarily took their jobs based on mutually agreed, mutually advantageous terms.


A person who opposes minimum wage, overtime, sick pay, and other government labor mandates is actually taking a positive moral and practical stand.


No worker “deserves” to get by government policy—by force—what she cannot gain by voluntary agreement, no matter her level of wages or struggles. Need is not a license to steal, with or without government as your hired gun. That’s just cronyism no different from corporate cronyism. When government forces these mandates down the throats of employers, it violates the moral rights of employers and job-seekers to forge their own voluntary agreements. That is immoral, but also economically destructive. A person whose services are worth only $8.00 per hour does not miraculously become worth $15.00 simply because some politicians pass a law to mandate $15.00. He just becomes unemployable. Add to that other mandates that raise the cost of hiring, and it gets worse. Consumers of labor are no different from any other kind of consumer: Price matters.


Statements like Puzder’s claim that many low-wage workers are “not worthy of a $15 minimum wage, overtime or sick pay,” if he actually said that, is not a moral slam on workers’ work ethic or character but an objective assessment of what the market will allow. What a person is worth is not what Andrew Puzder or anyone else arbitrarily “deems.” Nor is it what Yasmeen Holmes thinks she “deserves.” A person’s economic worth is based on what she contributes to the productive mission of the business, as determined by what the employer is willing to pay based on the cost of maintaining the job (compensation, capital investment, etc.) relative to what consumers are willing to pay for the end product or service. An employer who overpays her workers—that is, pays more than consumers are willing to return in purchases—won’t be in business for long. An employer who underpays will, in a healthy economy (which we haven’t had for a long time), lose his best employees to better paying competitors. Reality, not whim, ultimately determines pay levels. Political interference can’t overcome reality.


Holmes’ claim that Puzder “could [not] possibly understand my struggle” because of his salary is irrelevant to the issue. What Holmes ignores are the many job-seekers who will never get a job because jobs conducive to their skill and experience levels have been outlawed. A worker whose productive skills fit an $8.00 job will never get or keep—and thus have no chance to advance to—a $15.00 job. I wonder if Holmes understands the struggles of being artificially unemployed by laws that outlaw jobs at the lower end of the skill and experience scale. What right does Holmes have to stop employers from offering and job-seekers from accepting that $8.00 per hour job? What right does the government have to outlaw such jobs, or any honorable jobs? One motive Holmes can’t claim is to be pro-worker.


As of this writing, I read that Puzder has withdrawn his Labor Secretary nomination due to tax issues regarding a former housekeeper. But Puzder’s tax problems are irrelevant, as is Holmes’s mention of his salary (which was a sneaky appeal to envy and resentment). The morally reprehensible attacks on Puzder in this article highlights something that is increasingly wrong in America; something that includes people up and down the income scale—the growing numbers of people who, resentful of the personal responsibility that life requires of them, believe they “deserve” to get from others by force of government’s guns—by law—what they cannot earn by merit and voluntary market agreement.  


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Work Is a Means of Rising From Poverty, Not an Entitlement to Rise Above Poverty

Friday, February 17, 2017

Democrat Senator Corey Booker Turns His Back on Longtime School Choice Ally DeVos: Politics or Principle?

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker was interviewed for the NJ Star-Ledger on a host of issues. The question that most interested me was this one:


Q. Betsy DeVos is a big supporter of charter schools, as you are. But she's resisted the kind of oversight we have in New Jersey, and charters in her home state are not doing nearly as well. Will she help the charter movement or hurt it?


I left this comment:


This is a rigged question. The basic philosophical divide in education today is government oversight based on political control versus parental oversight based on market freedom. The question assumes the first, implying that without government oversight there is no oversight. By what standards are “charters in her home state are not doing nearly as well?” Government standards? Did anyone bother to consider the parent's’ judgement as to how their children are doing in their respective charters?


School choice is not about granting parents a choice of only government-approved schools, with government as the final arbiter of whether the school of the parent’s choice is “working” for her child. It’s about switching accountability to the parents. Charters are a positive step—but only a step. I don’t know if DeVos is the best advocate for school choice. But the more flak she gets from the Left, the more I believe she is.


For the record, here is Booker’s answer to the above question and a follow-up question:


A. I worry she'll hurt the kind of school reform I've been supporting for years, the kind that has allowed Newark to build the second-highest performing charters in the country.
I say that because the toxicity of some of her views was shocking to me, her views on carrying weapons into schools, on the federal government protecting those with disabilities, her views on civil rights and bullying. If you look at our calls, people from New Jersey are finding her the most objectionable nomination, even more than Jeff Sessions.


Q. What about charters in particular?


A. President Obama did a lot to help charters. And this would have been a great chance for Trump to appoint a Democrat. And yes, I worry she could set back charter schools by inflaming the resistance.


Booker’s vote against Devos for Education Secretary is interesting. According to Jonathan D. Salant of The Star-Ledger, Booker and Devos are longtime allies for school choice, including charter schools:


As mayor of Newark, Cory Booker joined Betsy DeVos on the board of Alliance for School Choice, which advocated using taxpayer dollars for charter, private and religious schools.


He's known her for years.


But when DeVos was nominated to be U.S. secretary of education by President Donald Trump, Booker (D-N.J.) voted no.


Booker claims his reasons for turning on Devos were that “her [Senate confirmation] hearing was rushed though [sic] so she couldn't properly be questioned, and was troubled by the answers she did give.” salant also reported that “Despite their past history of working together, DeVos refused to meet with him.”


These seem more like excuses that substantive reasons, given the importance Booker attaches to school choice. Booker, a former mayor of Newark, NJ, has no friend in the teachers union—a good indication of how strong a supporter of school choice he is. As Savant reports:


Booker's advocacy of school choice put him in conflict with the Newark Teachers Union, which opposed his 2010 re-election as mayor.


Union President John Abeigon said he was "kind of surprised" that Booker voted against DeVos.


"He's a strong advocate for school choice," Abeigon said. "We never saw him much as a supporter of traditional public schools and don't see him as one now."


School choice supporters were also surprised:


"He's turned into a partisan political player," said Peter Denton, founder and a trustee of the Clark-based school choice advocacy group, Excellent Education for Everyone, which Booker worked with. "It's extraordinarily disappointing."


Why would Booker turn on school choice allies? Politics, apparently. Said Krista Jenkins, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickenson [sic] University:


There has been some backlash against Democratic senators who have not opposed nominees in the Trump administration. I would not understand this as a wholesale rejection of his embrace of vouchers. This is a broad rejection of the Trump administration and the type of people he's trying to put together in government.
In other words, politics over principle—and an important principle at that, school choice. Booker is already considered a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination—the leading contender, according to a savvy political observer, Paul Mulshine. Is he already pandering to the fascist hard left base of the Democratic Party? Sad for education in America, if true. Booker that rare Democrat that I could actually seriously consider voting for. Now, maybe not.


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