The Anti-Big Labor Trend the Media Is Missing

James Sherk /

Last month Wisconsin made national headlines by becoming the 25th right-to-work state. But there’s another equally significant development in workers’ rights that has largely escaped media attention: the rapid flowering of local right-to-work laws in Kentucky.

As of December 1, 2014, no local governments anywhere in the U.S. prohibited forced union dues. Now a dozen Kentucky counties do so. If the courts uphold these laws’ validity, it could mean historic advances for worker freedom.

Right-to-work’s prospects appeared bleak in Kentucky after the midterm elections. A majority of the state senate supported workplace freedom legislation, but proponents had failed to pick up enough seats to move it through the state House. It seemed no progress would occur for at least two years.

Then on December 19, something unexpected happened. Warren County (i.e., Bowling Green) passed a local right-to-work ordinance.

Section 14(b) of the National Labor Relations Act expressly authorizes “state or territorial” right-to-work laws. Unions argue local ordinances thus violate federal law. Until Warren County lawmakers passed theirs, every local government in America simply accepted that interpretation.

However, as my colleague Andrew Kloster and I pointed out last year, this legal argument flouts two Supreme Court precedents. First, the Congressional Record shows—and the Supreme Court has recognized—that Congress passed 14(b) to disclaim federal regulation of right-to-work. If Congress has not prohibited it, local governments can act.

Secondly, the Supreme Court usually interprets the word “state” in federal statutes to include both state and local governments. The Court does so because localities only have powers that their legislature grants them. So the Supreme Court requires that, “absent a clear statement to the contrary, Congress’ reference to the ‘regulatory authority of the State’ [the statutory language at issue] should be read to preserve, not preempt, the traditional prerogative of the States to delegate their authority to their constituent parts.”

No such “clear statement” exists in the National Labor Relations Act. Consequently local governments have a good legal case for having the authority to pass local right-to-work laws.

After Warren County passed its ordinance, two things happened: They saw a surge in interest from new businesses, and other counties began following suit.

Now a dozen counties in Kentucky—including 3 of the 10 largest in the state—allow workers to choose for themselves whether to pay union dues. Local laws now protect half a million Kentuckians from forced union dues.

Unions have filed suit in federal district court. Hardin County (the county the unions sued) just filed their motion for summary judgment. Final arguments are due in to the court in early May; the judge will rule sometime thereafter.

If the courts uphold local ordinances, it will be a game-changer in the workplace freedom debate. In states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois, right-to-work has lacked the support to pass the legislature.

Local right-to-work would shatter the gridlock that has only seen four states move to protect worker freedom in the past 25 years. Instead, localities could bypass union opposition and protect their residents from union coercion.

The media has not paid much attention to this development, but they should.

Originally published in the National Review 

How Innovative is Your State? This Scorecard Tells You. - Daily Signal

How Innovative is Your State? This Scorecard Tells You.

James Sherk / Kate Scanlon /

Is your state a leader in innovation?

The Consumer Electronics Association, a technology trade association, released its first Innovation Scorecard this week, ranking each state on its “innovation performance.”

Consumer Electronics Association evaluated all 50 states and Washington, D.C. on criteria such as “right-to-work laws, policies that support new business models, tax friendliness, Internet speed, and size of the tech workforce.”

The ten “innovation champions” – the states that earned the highest rankings – are Delaware, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

The rest of the states are sorted into three categories: innovation leader, innovation adopter or modest innovator.

Users can also use the scorecard to examine specific criteria for each state, such as which states have the best Internet speed or have passed right to work laws. The scorecard also enables users to tweet their state’s score to their governor and legislators.

“I want to congratulate our ten Innovation champions – nine states and D.C. – whose proactive support for innovation enables startups and established businesses in these states to thrive,” Gary Shapiro, the president and CEO of CEA, said in a statement. “The future of growth and economic prosperity in this country is most vibrant in places where policies and political climates serve to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit and can-do attitude that is part of our American DNA. Our hope is that states will use our scorecard as a measurable guidepost to improve their policies supporting innovation.”

See how your state ranks here.

Why Is China Building Artificial Islands? - Daily Signal

Why Is China Building Artificial Islands?

James Sherk / Kate Scanlon / Peter Brookes /

Check this: In a brazen move, the People’s Republic of China is now building “islands” in the South China Sea to bolster its position against several other East Asian countries—and the United States.

Yes, I said “building.”

China is actually dredging sand and piling it up on existing reefs to create new islands that, according to Beijing, will have both civilian and—more troubling—military purposes.

According to analysts, China has started work on some seven artificial islands—so far.

Obviously, land reclamation is common, but it’s usually adjacent to a country’s coastline, such as a new harbor facility or airport or even an island within a state’s territorial waters.

This isn’t that. Most of this land fill activity is around 1,000 miles from China.

In response to being roundly criticized for reclaiming land outside what is customarily considered national waters (that is, 12 miles from the coast) Beijing essentially says, “What? It’s already ours.”

Indeed, China claims about 80 percent of the South China Sea as “indisputable” Chinese national territory—that’s probably 1 million square miles of water.

According to Reuters, a Chinese spokesman recently said: “The relevant [island] construction is entirely within the scope of China’s sovereignty. It is fair, reasonable, lawful, it does not affect and is not targeted against any country. It is beyond reproach.”

To ensure “clarity,” Beijing marks its territorial claims in the South China Sea on regional maps with a “nine-dash line” that encloses what it considers to be Chinese territory.

Further, according to Beijing, its sea-based claims are historical, based on the belief that ancient Chinese sailors plied Southeast Asia’s waters and landed on its islands.

Well, there you have it. Case closed.

But why is China doing this?

First, Beijing likely believes that building outposts in the disputed area will work to solidify its claims to the South China Sea.

Since this sort of “sand,” er, “land grab”—to my knowledge—has never been done before, Beijing may decide that it has a legal advantage in international law by doing so.

Instead of warfare, think of it as “lawfare,” essentially using legal means instead of force to advance your political, economic and security interests.

If the international community rolls over, Beijing may insist on—backed by warships and planes—exclusive economic rights around these new islands, despite going against international law.

That could mean that the natural resources for 200 miles around these “instant islands” would be Chinese; no fishing or exploration or drilling for oil and gas without Beijing’s say-so.

Second, the building of military bases on these man-made islands would push Chinese influence far into the Pacific Ocean, projecting Beijing’s military might, especially if airstrips are built.

These new defense outposts could be used to control the area, including trade and air/sea traffic (e.g., U.S. warship movement) in and through the region.

It’s hard to see the good news in this.

Considering what is going on in the South China Sea already, we probably shouldn’t be shocked if China makes robust claims elsewhere to advance its national interests.

Oh, yeah?…?China is already calling itself a “near Arctic” state, a region of increasing geostrategic, trade and natural resource importance—what a surprise.

Originally published in the Boston Herald 

Why Obama Cozying Up to Castro’s Cuba Will Backfire - Daily Signal

Why Obama Cozying Up to Castro’s Cuba Will Backfire

James Sherk / Kate Scanlon / Peter Brookes / Peter Brookes /

With the “historic” clasp of hands in Panama City, Panama last week with Raul Castro, President Obama took the next fateful step toward normalizing relations with the Western Hemisphere’s most repressive regime.

Seemingly desperate to move beyond a series of foreign policy flubs such as Iraq, Russia and Libya, cozying up to Castro’s Cuba—now officially removed from the U.S. terrorism list—still boggles the mind.

The idea that engagement is going to change Cuba is folly.

While we as Americans should have no issue with the Cuban people, who are victims of their government’s hard-line policies (like the Iranians, North Koreans and others), we should hold Havana’s jefes accountable for their authoritarian actions.

Normalizing relations won’t do that.

Indeed, let’s be sober about this: We’re dealing with a dictatorship that will gladly gobble up our generosity—but Castro & Co. completely comprehend that liberalizing Cuban politics, society and economy will mean the end of their sad socialist story.

Period.

Worse, by legitimizing the cult of the Castros—who harass and imprison Cubans for their political views and have done so for decades now—we’re vacating bedrock American moral and ethical principles.

Make no mistake about that.

Indeed, while almost unfathomable, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Castros jailed more than 1,000 Cubans for political reasons just since President Obama announced the start of a normalization process in December.

And yet the U.S. president strangely saw it as savvy—despite the reported crackdown on dissidents—to sit down with Cuba’s presidente for an hour-long meeting at the Summit of the Americas.

What does that tell the regime?

It signals that Washington is willing to look the other way as the Cuban people continue to suffer at the hands of Havana’s Ministry of Interior, responsible for Cuba’s brutal domestic security.

There’s reason to be concerned about Cuba’s activity abroad, too. It was fingered in sending weapons to North Korea in 2013 in violation of U.N. sanctions; Havana has long had ties with the Colombian narcoterrorists, FARC.

And yet the Obama administration saw fit to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, where it has been since 1982.

In a message to Congress, Obama said the Cuban government “has not provided any support for international terrorism” in the last six months and “has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.”

Cuba’s promises aside, it has also been reported that Russia may amp up its presence in the Caribbean Sea, including possible ship visits, long-range bomber flights and joint military exercises with its Cuban compadres. Arms sales are also possible.

We seem to forget the trouble Cuba caused in this hemisphere when it was flush with Soviet support during the Cold War. With Moscow eager to make mischief for Washington, what use might it make of Havana today?

Equally troubling, it’s not clear what Team Obama’s end game with Cuba is other than let’s see what happens if America alters course. The problem is that Washington will change—if the White House gets its way—but Havana won’t.

In other words, it sounds like we’re talking about a lot of U.S. “give” without a lot of U.S. “get”—that’s not at all what we should be striving for in our Cuba policy, especially when effecting change on the “island prison” is so important.

Originally published in the Boston Herald 

Who Are the Biggest Foreign Buyers Benefiting from Export-Import Bank Loans? - Daily Signal

Who Are the Biggest Foreign Buyers Benefiting from Export-Import Bank Loans?

James Sherk / Kate Scanlon / Peter Brookes / Peter Brookes / Melissa Quinn /

Supporters of the Export-Import Bank often argue the agency supports small businesses and allows such firms to compete in the global market. However, a new analysis of the bank’s transactions found those benefiting the most on the buyer side are large foreign corporations.

Veronique de Rugy, senior fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, and Diane Katz, research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, released a joint analysis this week exploring Ex-Im’s top foreign buyers.

“[T]he subsidies lavished on these foreign firms actually undercut American companies and workers that must compete without such government assistance,” de Rugy and Katz wrote in their analysis.

Ex-Im provides taxpayer-backed loans and loan guarantees to foreign countries and companies for the purchase of U.S. products. The bank’s charter expires June 30, and policy makers are debating whether to reauthorize the agency or allow it to end.

>>> The Export-Import Bank’s Top Foreign Buyers

150416_ExIm_Chart1_v2

(Chart: Kesley Harris)

 

(Chart: Kelsey Harris)

(Chart: Kelsey Harris)

The Obama Worldview and Cuba - Daily Signal

The Obama Worldview and Cuba

James Sherk / Kate Scanlon / Peter Brookes / Peter Brookes / Melissa Quinn / Mike Gonzalez /

“It is my strong belief that if we engage, that that offers the greatest prospect for escaping some of the constraints of the past. I think the Cuban people are extraordinary and have huge potential. And what’s encouraging is, is that the overwhelming majority of Cubans are interested in ending … the last vestige of the Cold War—and moving forward.” –President Barack Obama, speaking on April 9 in Kingston, Jamaica 

If there is such a thing as a Barack Obama worldview—a statement of purpose that encapsulates what drives his foreign policy—it is certainly reflected in this declaration given at a “town-hall” meeting in the Jamaican capital on his way to meet with Cuba’s dictator Raul Castro. The historic meeting—and that oft-used, though morally neutral, cliché can indeed be employed here—took place in Panama on April 11 at the Summit of the Americas.

There, President Obama and the dictator he deferentially refers to as “president” sat and talked for about an hour. As Obama repeated a version of the apologies he nearly always offers while meeting with foreign despots abroad—the Panama City version being “I’m certainly mindful that there are dark chapters in our history”—Cuban government henchmen were beating up Cuban dissidents and their American supporters, calling them “worms” and “mercenaries,” thereby exporting to Panama the level of oppression they have practiced with impunity on the island for decades.

Then two days after the President’s return, on Tuesday April 14, the White House announced what everyone expected: President Obama will take Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism. This was one of Castro’s preconditions to setting up diplomatic relations. Castro’s assuming that he can set preconditions on the world’s sole superpower has been proven valid by the fact that we meet them.

This, despite the fact that, speaking at the summit, Castro openly acknowledged that his regime has indeed consorted with terrorists and issued a veiled threat that this would continue until his tyranny is legitimized. “Yes, we have conducted solidarity with other peoples that could be considered terrorism,” our new man in Havana said. “When we were cornered, when we were harassed, we had no other choice but to give up or to fight back.”

As former State Department official Jose Cardenas put it in a tweet, the Panama summit has shaped up to be “the Castro Lobby’s Superbowl, World Cup and World Series all rolled into one.”

The administration’s foreign policies have dramatically destabilized the Middle East. Now Obama is bringing those failed policies to this hemisphere. Suddenly, we are getting in bed with our worst adversaries—both philosophical and actual—while taking to task long-term friends who share our values.

To call it a doctrine would be to take it too far, as it would imply a level of rigorousness that clearly is missing. It is more a frame of mind, or if you want to borrow a foreign word, a weltanschauung. Let’s parse the three components of this creed one by one.

#1: “It is my strong belief that if we engage, that that offers the greatest prospect for escaping some of the constraints of the past.”

This does require belief—as in “a leap of faith”—since previous experience would certainly convince an objective observer of the opposite. If the 19th-century British statesman Lord Palmerston was right that states do not have friends, but only interests, then it follows that no amount of currying friendship would sway governments from the cold pursuit of their interests.

This is doubly the case with absolutists, such as Castro, for whom relaxing his grip on the captive population he and his brother have dictated to for 57 years would pose an existential threat. The Obama gambit requires believing, for example, that “engaging” Philip II at his cloistered study at the Escorial palace would have made him less likely to suppress the Dutch, intervene against the Huguenots, attempt to invade England or inflict the Inquisition on his own people. It is highly unlikely, too, that appeasing Napoleon would have turned him away from his dream of dominating Europe and beyond.

The 20th century was in many ways a tragedy whose central moral lesson was that appeasement is unrequited love played out on an epic scale. The most famous examples, of course, were the concessions made to Hitler, which only fed his lust for more and more lebensraum. But there was also Stalin, whose friendly terms with Franklin Roosevelt didn’t certainly prevent him from drawing an Iron Curtain across the middle of Europe. No amount of engagement with “Uncle Joe” prevented him from having his way with peoples between the curtain all the way to the Pacific, where millions perished and those who survived lived in fear.

Much closer to the present, Obama’s own experience in a short six years is a testament to the inefficacy of conciliating dictators. His infamous “reset” policy with Vladimir Putin has not dissuaded the Russian autocrat from destabilizing his neighbors. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s de-emphasizing of human rights with China has only emboldened the Communist Party leaders in Beijing. In Burma—that other success of engagement with despots—those close to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi tell me she privately complains that recognition of Rangoon’s military junta has been a grave mistake that is preventing, not encouraging, a transition to democracy.

And so it is already with the Castro regime, whose appeasement dates back only to December 17. In the three months since Obama informed the world that he knew better than 10 of his predecessors how to bring freedom to Cuba, the Castros have only tightened their fist further. The Wall Street Journal reports that there were 178 political detentions in January, 492 in February and 610 in March. (At that level of compounded growth, the entire population of the island would be detained in a few years, though of course wags would point out they already are.) The beating of dissidents in the streets of Panama City while President Obama met with their tormentor in air-conditioned rooms at the Summit of the Americas offers further proof that Castro and his affiliates are not in the least bit interested in “escaping the constraints of their past”—other than to be able to consort with naïve or morally challenged American politicians and businessmen.

As for foreign relations, Cuba’s communists have been caught in illicit weapons transfers with Asian communists twice in the past two years—the last one being after the Dec. 17 speech by Obama that announced his desire to normalize relations with Cuba. On Feb. 28, Colombian authorities intercepted the Chinese-flagged Da Dan Xia in the Caribbean port of Cartagena. It was carrying 100 tons of gunpowder, 2.6 million detonators, 3,000 artillery shells and 99 missile heads—all labeled as “grain shipment.” The affair has been kept hushed up both by the Colombian government, which is busily attempting its own appeasement of the FARC terrorist group (the talks are taking place in Havana), and by the Obama administration, which seems determined to let no display of obduracy by Castro sway the United States from the path set by Obama.

The other illicit transfer took place less than two years ago, and it violated a U.N. resolution. In July, 2013, the North Korean-flagged Chong Chon Gang was captured in Panamanian waters on its way to North Korea from Cuba. It was carrying “six trailers associated with surface-to-air missile systems and 25 shipping containers loaded with two disassembled MiG-21 aircraft, 15 engines for MiG-21 aircraft, components for surface-to-air missile systems, ammunition and miscellaneous arms-related materiel,” according to the website Capitol Hill Cubans, which added that it “constituted the largest amount of arms and related materiel interdicted to or from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since the adoption of resolution 1718.” This aborted transfer of weapons took place after the Obama administration had initiated secret talks with Castro’s agents.

Last month, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported that in February, the Spanish government demanded that Castro extradite José Ángel Urtiaga Martínez and José Ignacio Etxarte Urbieta, two masterminds of the Basque terrorist group ETA, classified by the State Department as a terrorist organization. Castro has given the Mother Country the back of his hand, proving once again that his regime’s “solidarity with other people that could be considered terrorism” really has little to do with a rat being cornered.

#2:  “I think the Cuban people are extraordinary and have huge potential.”

This is doubtless the case. People inventive enough to keep 1940s and ‘50s Fords and Chevys running today are indeed extraordinary and resourceful. As for their potential, Obama need look no further than how Americans of Cuban heritage have been able to transform Miami or how they have succeeded across all fifty states. Given the proper economic environment, rule of law and political culture, Cubans in America have demonstrated an uncanny ability to succeed.

But if Obama has any illusion that he is dealing with the Cuban people, he may need to be reminded that in this case, as in Iran, he is facing an illegitimate government ruling without the consent of the people, as expressed through elections. In Raul Castro, as with the Ayatollahs Rohani and Khamenei, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are shaking hands with leaders of harsh police states who are only in power because a slavish, but ruthless, minority around them has a monopoly on guns, which they use to terrorize the population into submission.

President Obama has, in fact, demonstrated little regard for the Cuban or the Iranian people. His first big foreign policy decision, one that presaged his conduct in office for the following five years, was his steadfast refusal to give any comfort, moral or otherwise, to Iranian demonstrators who flooded the streets of Tehran in 2009 demanding democracy. It isn’t hard to divine the reasons for his allergy to intervention: again, he sees “dark chapters in our history” that embarrass him.

In the case of Iran, Obama is the first U.S. president to implicate the United States in the 1953 overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh, the elected prime minister of Iran, which occurred because of fears of growing Soviet influence. At his Cairo speech in June 2009, Obama said, “For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.”

In the case of Cuba, President Obama and his team have again turned their backs on Cuba’s dissidents. These brave individuals, who routinely face government mobs that come to their homes to insult and aggress them and their families, have said that Obama has “betrayed” them and Cuba by going over their heads and establishing relations with Raul Castro.

Breaking with long-standing U.S. policy on Cuba, Obama said in Panama City on Saturday that “[w]e are not in the business of regime change,” which is clearly his sentiment on Iran as well. He should be reminded, however, that in both countries, he is following the lamentable approach of another liberal predecessor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who said of the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, “[He] may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch,” with nefarious consequences.

#3:  “And what’s encouraging is, is that the overwhelming majority of Cubans are interested in ending … the last vestige of the Cold War—and moving forward.”

The first part of this sentence has more to do with the component of his speech we have just reviewed: Obama clearly confuses a ruthless government with the people they actually oppress. He may also be referring to a poll released last week by the Miami-based Bendixen and Associates, which purported to show that an overwhelming majority of people on the island supported his rapprochement with Cuba. Media coverage of this poll has largely omitted two key points: one, there are no free opinions polls in Cuba, where people fear giving their opinion on anything that differs from the official government line; two, Bendixen is closely tied to the administration—it was Obama’s official pollster in the 2012 campaign.

The interesting part, however, is the second part of the sentence: “ending the last vestige of the Cold War—and moving forward.” There are two things to be said about this. The suffering of Cubans is not some historical event that ended with the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 or the disappearance of the Soviet Union in 1991. Cubans are repressed by their own government today. If Obama wants to be convinced of this, he need only search “Cuba” and “Ladies in White” in YouTube to see how this dignified dissident group of middle-aged women are harassed, beaten and incarcerated in Cuba on a regular basis. Or better yet, he could have taken a stroll outside his hotel in Panama City to see first hand how those associated with Cuba’s government behave, even when they are overseas.

Worse is his morally neutral treatment of the “Cold War,” a sentiment he repeated in his closing news conference in Panama City. There he said, “Sometimes those controversies date back to before I was born. We’re caught in a time warp, going back to the 1950s and gunboat diplomacy, and ‘Yanquis’ and the Cold War, and this and that and the other.”

Obama is awfully selective about which historical events matter and which do not.

America’s “dark chapters” in Latin America and the overthrowing of Mossadegh do, and they have consequence today. The “Cold War” apparently does not. For the record, the period he refers to was in effect a battle between democracy and totalitarianism, capitalism and communism—or good and evil, if you want to get right down to it. The country he leads won that struggle, after much sacrifice in blood and treasure—a signal achievement for humankind.

President Obama is clearly conflicted by the history of his own country, misreads the balance of power in dictatorships and the historical record of engaging despots who have an existential stake in continuing to be despots. This does not bode well for his “engagement” of regimes that, for decades, previous American presidents have considered beyond the pale of civilized behavior.

Originally published in The National Interest 

We Tax Small Businesses More Than Big Businesses And Other Reasons We Need Tax Reform - Daily Signal

We Tax Small Businesses More Than Big Businesses And Other Reasons We Need Tax Reform

James Sherk / Kate Scanlon / Peter Brookes / Peter Brookes / Melissa Quinn / Mike Gonzalez / Ed Feulner /

Getting Americans to agree on anything isn’t easy. So let’s hand it to our tax code.

When asked in a recent survey to rate it, only 5 percent of the public said it’s “working just fine.” When 95 out of every 100 Americans say you’ve got a problem, well—you’ve got a problem.

Even Congress averaged a 15 percent job approval rating last year, according to Gallup. It takes a special talent to chart lower than our lawmakers in Washington.

You might think that’s where the consensus ends, but no. More than two-thirds agree not only on the need for “major” reform, but also that “taxes should be kept as low as possible to stimulate investment and growth.”

The question, of course, is how best to go about that. There are several alternatives, including a flat tax, a business transfer tax, and a national sales tax.

But first things first. It would be a mistake to decide, for example, what mode of transportation to take before you decide where you want to go.

The tax rate on small businesses is even higher than it is for large ones. The top federal rate on small business income is 43.4 percent, versus 35 percent for large corporations.

We need to start by asking what we want tax reform to achieve. Here are five basic objectives, courtesy of tax experts Curtis Dubay and David R. Burton:

First, lower tax rates on individuals and businesses. It never hurts to state the obvious, especially when dealing with such a fundamental step, but yes, the first major component of true tax reform starts with lowering rates. In particular, the top marginal rates are too high, discouraging work, saving and investment.

Second, establish the right tax base. You can lower rates all you want, but if you’re taxing the wrong thing, it won’t do much good. We can encourage economic growth by moving toward a consumption tax—one that taxes income that is spent, not income that is saved or invested. Our current system is tilted far too heavily toward the latter, and we all end up paying the price—literally—with a more sluggish economy.

Third, eliminate the bias against saving and investment. Yes, the right tax base helps in this regard. Gone, for example, would be the double taxation of capital gains and dividends under a consumption tax. But we also need to lower our corporate tax rate, which at 39.1 percent is the highest in the developed world.

It’s worth noting that, under our current system, the tax rate on small businesses is even higher than it is for large ones. Thanks in part to the 2013 tax increases and to Obamacare, the top federal rate on small business income is 43.4 percent, versus 35 percent for large corporations. This needs to change.

Fourth, get rid of tax preferences. Simply put, our tax system should be neutral. It shouldn’t pick winners and losers. A key part of any serious reform will be eliminating the current polyglot system of deductions, credits and exemptions.

Fifth, simplify the system. One of the main reasons so few Americans think our tax system is working well is the fact that it’s so ludicrously complicated. But we need simplicity not only to reduce aggravation and errors—we need it because reducing the size and scope of government without transparency is practically impossible.

“Because of income and payroll tax withholdings, and the hidden costs of corporate, employer payroll, and excise taxes, most Americans have little idea how much they are paying to fund the federal government or how proposed policy changes will affect them,” Dubay and Burton write. “The sheer complexity of the system makes it difficult to understand the true impact of the tax system. Tax reform should strive to make that cost explicit to taxpayers.”

There are a lot of important issues on the table as we approach the next presidential election, but it’s obvious that true tax reform should be one of them. Let’s not just complain at tax time. Let’s turn that animus into positive, concrete change—for all Americans.

Originally published in The Washington Times 

How Our North Korea Negotiations Should Guide Our Iran Negotiations - Daily Signal

How Our North Korea Negotiations Should Guide Our Iran Negotiations

James Sherk / Kate Scanlon / Peter Brookes / Peter Brookes / Melissa Quinn / Mike Gonzalez / Ed Feulner / Bruce Klingner /

The interim Iranian nuclear framework is a vague accord with significant shortcomings. Moreover, the ink had barely dried before Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei disputed the Obama administration’s depiction of what had been agreed to.

Khamenei declared that all sanctions against Iran must be removed immediately upon signature of a final accord in three months. He also insisted that Iran would not permit inspections of its military sites. Khamenei’s comments run counter to Obama administration claims that “international inspectors will have unprecedented access” to all Iranian nuclear facilities. The administration had also asserted that Tehran agreed that United States, EU, and U.N. sanctions would be “retained for much of the duration of the deal” and only incrementally reduced.

We’ve been down this path before … with North Korea. In September 2005, the Six-Party Talks joint statement was followed by dueling U.S. and North Korean press statements. Portrayals of how quickly Washington would lift sanctions and remove Pyongyang from the state sponsors of terrorism list diverged widely.

Given the similarities between the two sets of nuclear negotiations, the Korean experience should provide hard-earned guidance for American negotiators on how the Iranian agreement should be completed.

Don’t Do Your End-Zone Dance Too Early

Clinton administration officials initially claimed the 1994 Agreed Framework had resolved the North Korean nuclear problem. The Obama administration entered office thinking it would achieve dramatic breakthroughs with North Korea (and Russia, the Muslim world, etc.) and proclaimed the U.S. would never accept a nuclear North Korea or Iran.

A Bad Cop Is Good to Have

The Agreed Framework was not the immaculate diplomatic conception that its supporters claim. Talk of war with North Korea was rife in the mid-1990s, and Clinton administration officials claim they were debating attack options when surprised by a preliminary agreement midwifed by a rogue Jimmy Carter. Israel’s threats of attack similarly focused Tehran’s leaders on the penalties of defiance.

Vague Text Begets Vague Progress

Experts still debate whether the Agreed Framework prohibited North Korea’s covert uranium program. The Six-Party Talks relied on a diplomatic gimmick whereby the plurality of “nuclear programs” was cited by U.S. negotiators as clearly proscribing uranium weapons. Pyongyang, not surprisingly, disagreed. Vaguely worded agreements may, in the words of U.S. Six-Party Talks negotiator Christopher Hill allow the “bicycle to keep moving forward lest it fall over,” but papering over loopholes merely postpones an inevitable collapse of the agreement.

Even a “Final” Agreement is Never Final

Vague text also allows countries to cheat while still semi-legitimately claiming compliance. Like a good defense lawyer, Pyongyang uses ambiguity to obfuscate and avoid punishment. To prevent a crisis, negotiators even become willing to negotiate away their laws and previous treaties.

Verify, Verify, Verify

President Ronald Reagan’s dictum “Trust but Verify” was reflected in the extensively detailed verification protocols that enabled the United States to have arms control treaties with the Soviet Union. Precisely defining verification mechanisms and responsibilities of all parties may hinder completion of negotiations, but is critical for ensuring the long-term viability of an agreement. Claiming “unprecedented access” is no substitute for unambiguous inspection rights.

Violations Make a Shaky Foundation for Negotiations

Nuclear diplomacy with North Korea and Iran was precipitated by their violating previous agreements and U.N. resolutions—hardly the basis for confidence they will abide by yet more accords. Negotiators should remember the adage, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

Arms Control Advocates Reject Evidence of Cheating

Pyongyang serially deceived, denied, and defied the international community. Yet arms control proponents responded to growing evidence of North Korean cheating by doubting, dismissing, deflecting, denouncing, deliberating, debating, dawdling, delaying, demanding, and eventually dealing.

These “experts” initially rejected intelligence reports of North Korea’s plutonium weapons program, its uranium weapons program, complicity in a Syrian nuclear reactor, and steadily increasing nuclear and missile capabilities.

Evidence of Cheating Doesn’t Arrive Gift-Wrapped

After decades of debating whether Iran even had a nuclear weapons program, experts now claim that U.S. intelligence will be able to unequivocally identify and then convince U.S. policymakers and U.N. representatives to impose sufficient penalties to deter Iran from nuclear weapons, all within one year.

The International Community Doesn’t “Snap-Back” 

The U.N. has shown a remarkable ability to emit a timid squeak of indignation when its resolutions are blatantly violated and then only after extensive negotiations and compromise. Hampered by Chinese and Russian obstructionism, the U.N. Security Council has been limited to lowest-common denominator responses.

Negotiations Allow Inching Across Redlines

Alternating provocative behavior and a willingness to negotiate enabled North Korea to manipulate the international community into timidity about imposing penalties and acquiescence to repeated violations.

By maintaining strategic ambiguity on their nuclear programs, Pyongyang and Tehran, like the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent, are gaining international acceptance of activities that were previously declared “unacceptable.”

Proponents for diplomatically resolving the North Korean and Iranian nuclear problems argue that, without negotiations, Pyongyang and Tehran would continue to develop nuclear weapons. Yet, North Korea continued to augment its arsenal while negotiating and even after signing numerous agreements not to do so. It is expecting too much to assume Iran has not learned that lesson from North Korea—a friendly tutor who has done so much to help Tehran advance both its nuclear and missile programs.

Originally published in The National Interest 

Marco Rubio Describes His Vision of ‘A New American Century’ - Daily Signal

Marco Rubio Describes His Vision of ‘A New American Century’

James Sherk / Kate Scanlon / Peter Brookes / Peter Brookes / Melissa Quinn / Mike Gonzalez / Ed Feulner / Bruce Klingner / Kate Scanlon /

NASHUA, N.H.—Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., outlined his vision for “a new American century” during his first visit to New Hampshire since announcing his presidential campaign.

“I believe with all my heart that America’s greatest days are right around the corner,” said Rubio at today’s First in the Nation Leadership Summit.

Rubio said America should remain a place where hard work and freedom result in opportunity and prosperity.

Americans must understand they’re in a “global completion for investment, for innovation and for talent,” Rubio said, and that a burdensome tax code his “crushing innovation and holding people back.” He said Obamacare must be repealed and replaced, and that America’s energy policy must be reformed so that we can utilize more of our natural resources.

“These are our challenges, they are also our opportunities,” said Rubio.

He said fixing these issues would result in better-paying jobs.

The 2016 election, according to Rubio, is a “referendum on our identity.”

“The fundamental question before us is: What kind of country do we want to be? Do we want to remain special or are we prepared to become just like everybody else?” he asked.

“I believe with all my heart that America’s greatest days are right around the corner,” says @MarcoRubio.

Rubio also poked fun at potential Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

“Scott Brown tonight let me know that Hillary Clinton is going to raise $2.5 billion,” said Rubio. “That’s a lot of Chipotle, my friends.”

Asked by an audience member which Democrats he gets along with, Rubio responded, “Well, I think I get along personally with everyone, even with people that call me a loser.”

Why Rick Perry Is Optimistic About America’s Future - Daily Signal

Why Rick Perry Is Optimistic About America’s Future

James Sherk / Kate Scanlon / Peter Brookes / Peter Brookes / Melissa Quinn / Mike Gonzalez / Ed Feulner / Bruce Klingner / Kate Scanlon / Kate Scanlon /

NASHUA, N.H.—Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in a speech today that hinted he might run for president again, said he is “optimistic” about the future of the United States.

“This is an incredibly resilient country,” said Perry. “We lived through a civil war, two world wars, we lived through the Great Depression, we lived through Jimmy Carter. We’ll live through Barack Obama.”

Perry, addressing the audience at the First in the Nation Summit hosted by the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, said the next president shouldn’t be “of Washington” or “from Washington.”

“Change is only going to come from the outside from my perspective,” said Perry. “There is nothing wrong in America that can’t be fixed with new leaders. I believe that with all my heart. We are only a few good decisions away—and a leadership change at the top—from the best days this country has ever seen.”

He criticized leaders in Washington, whom he referred to as “elites,” for failing to listen to the will of the American people on issues like Obamacare, Common Core, national security and the tax rate.

“A congressional majority is a terrible thing to waste,” said Perry, adding that “liberals in Washington have spent 30 years criticizing Reaganomics while delivering what I refer to as trickle down liberalism.”

“Change is only going to come from the outside from my perspective,” says @GovernorPerry.

The next president, said Perry, must know how to address the threat of radical Islam, grow the economy and ease the tax burden.

Perry outlined his résumé as the former governor of Texas, highlighting achievements in the state of Texas like job growth and efforts to secure the border.

Perry added that a “young, first-term senator” may not have the necessary executive experience to be president, a possible allusion to his potential Republican opponents Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.

Asked by an audience member what would differentiate his second White House run from his first, Perry cited his own health.

Perry said that in 2011 he had “major back surgery,” but he is now healed, and has used the years since to study the issues facing the United States and gain more executive experience.