At the end of January, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., introduced the Agricultural Export Expansion Act aimed at removing restrictions on United States agricultural exports to Cuba. Following the steps of 16 other states, Virginia also launched its Engage Cuba State Council, an initiative of the Cuba Engagement Coalition that seeks to promote trade and travel with Cuba and eventually lift the embargo.
Supporters of these initiatives believe ending the embargo will alleviate Cuban poverty while helping state economies grow. The president of Engage Cuba, James Williams, said the Agricultural Expansion Act would “increase US agricultural exports, create jobs across the country, and provide the Cuban people with high-quality American food.” While these efforts are an important step in improving American relations with the Caribbean country, Cuba also needs to reform its system of import taxation for trade liberalization to have its desired effect.
The U.S. embargo against Cuba has been controversial since it was implemented in the 1960s. Opponents of the embargo argue that restricting the population’s access to cheap foreign goods makes the country poorer and gives the government someone to blame for its widespread poverty. Proponents of the embargo believe that it is the one thing keeping the Communist Party of Cuba in check, providing justice for dissidents and keeping money out of the pockets of regime officials.
While they have valid arguments, advocates on both sides are missing an important factor: whether or not an external embargo exists, most goods will never reach the Cuban people because of a state-imposed internal embargo.
Continue reading at Washington Examiner.
The city of Philadelphia is pushing new rules to fight discrimination. Eleven bars in the Gayborhood, the city’s LGBT hotbed, will be required to participate in fair business practice training and implicit bias training. The bars will also be required to post fliers made by the city’s Human Relations Commission about the city’s fair practice ordinance.
These efforts come as a response to a report released by the city in January, which found that women, minorities and transgender people have been discriminated against in the Gayborhood for decades. The city’s heavy-handed approach, while well-meaning, adds yet another expense and burden to local businesses. Mandating these implicit bias trainings will take workers away from their actual productive duties and force the bars to pay employees to attend diversity training sessions that have largely been found to be ineffective.
Meanwhile, residents of Philadelphia are doing a better job of preventing discrimination than the city’s government. Individuals and the market have already acted to scale back the level of discrimination in the Gayborhood, before the government ever could.
Continue reading at Watchdog.
Last Friday, the Dean of Brooklyn Law School, Nicholas Allard, published an op-ed in The Hill that theorized a recent minor uptick in the number of law school applications was due to “the intense interest among many Millennials in issues of social justice and the urge to make a positive difference.”
More specifically, Dean Allard pointed to the hordes of attorneys and law students that packed airport terminals in January to provide counsel to visitors caught up in President Trump’s poorly conceived immigration ban. In the dean’s opinion, these activists inspired new law school applicants “like the generation inspired by Woodward and Bernstein to pursue careers in journalism.”
There are entrenched, systemic problems in legal education — over-valued sticker prices, nearly insurmountable student loan debt, curricular requirements that skimp on teaching real lawyering practices — that guarantee law school is a bad choice for many or most students. Dean Allard is making an emotional appeal, but the truth is that legal education is undergoing permanent changes. These changes mean that fewer students should go to law school, constitutional crisis or not.
Continue reading at Learn Liberty.
Now that President Donald Trump is in office, the temptation to pass legislation to either raise or remove the spending caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) is enormous, and Senator John McCain recently released a proposal that would do just that.
McCain’s proposal comes in response to claims that the American military has been neutered by the Obama administration’s inattention to proper funding. These claims have been a central part of the narrative employed not only by Trump during his campaign but also by rank-and-file legislators eager to demonstrate their commitment to a renewal of American strength and vitality.
The premise that underlies this crusade is deeply flawed. American military spending is already sizeable, and though the military’s footprint has declined, it remains strong. Repealing the BCA would unnecessarily boost military spending while leaving less funding available for other increasingly costly areas of the budget like healthcare, education, and infrastructure spending.
In 2011, a deeply divided Congress, in an effort to produce a legislative mechanism so grim that both parties would have no choice but to engage in bipartisan deficit reduction, passed the BCA. The bill was designed to trim a projected $984 billion from the budget over the next decade.
Continue reading at RealClearDefense.
In early January, Senator Rand Paul reintroduced the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, and Representative Thomas Massie introduced companion legislation in the United States House of Representatives, thereby continuing the “Audit the Fed” movement started by then Congressman Ron Paul.
The Paul-Massie bills are part of a push to impose greater accountability upon the political class responsible for the value of the American dollar through their monetary policies. Their argument is, essentially, that human beings are fallible, and the more eyes watching over momentous decisions, the better.
If the Republican Party truly value small government and fiscal responsibility, then now is the time to use their majority in Congress to audit the Federal Reserve System. The Audit the Fed movement offers an alternative to the prevailing regime of secrecy. The Paul and Massie bills, which are identical in wording, would expose the Fed’s international transactions, especially those undertaken with foreign governments or central banks. They would also look into monetary policy deliberations by the Fed’s Board of Governors and the Federal Open Market Committee’s transactions. Specifically, the proposed legislation directs the Government Accountability Office to complete, within 12 months, an audit of the Federal Reserve Board and Federal Reserve banks.
Continue reading at American Thinker.