Following a period of profound economic prosperity, Americans are staring another recession in the face thanks to the Wuhan coronavirus lockdowns. With the next election right around the corner, the economy is on the ballot as voters decide who will best lead us onward after the shutdowns subside. A new study shows a clear path forward. The most important focus? Jobs, jobs, jobs.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty has a new study out today analyzing the economic recovery of Wisconsin and other Midwestern states following the Great Recession. Hindsight has revealed the longer-term effects of welfare reform under Republican Gov. Scott Walker, and they’re promising.
Emerging from Wisconsin’s Recession
During the Great Recession, Wisconsin and Indiana became eligible for waivers of federal work requirements for food stamp programs. Walker and then-Gov. Mike Pence, however, chose not to seek these waivers, meaning eligibility for these welfare programs was conditional.
In Wisconsin, beginning in April 2015, in order to qualify for the state’s FoodShare program, residents were required to take part in a job-training program or work at least half time, meaning at least 80 hours per month. Iowa, Missouri, and Indiana employed similar policies. Despite these reforms being contentious, hindsight reveals they were successful in decreasing unemployment, growing the labor force, and increasing work.
At their core, these programs prioritized the worker, founded on the principle that Americans’ lives are better when they have a sense of purpose through a job. By adding work requirements to Wisconsin’s food stamps program, Walker’s administration incentivized Wisconsinites to get back into the workforce and returned their sense of personal agency.
“We’re not making it harder to get government assistance,” Walker told The Federalist in an interview. “We’re making it easier to get a job. And that’s really what it was all about was long-term employment, people pursuing their careers knowing that in the end … true freedom and prosperity don’t come from the clumsy hand of the government. They come from empowering people to control their own lives and set their own destinies through the dignity that comes from work.”
Based on the data, he’s right. According to the study, across Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri, unemployment declined 0.53 percent on average as a result of food-stamp reform. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty estimates that since the 2008 Great Recession, these four Midwest states saw an average 0.62 percent increase in the labor force participation rate, with 28,786 people joining the labor force in Wisconsin alone. This figure denotes the number of able-bodied people who are actively working or seeking employment.
Walker’s administration believed that welfare programs, although necessary, should serve as a trampoline, springing people back on their feet, rather than a hammock.
“If you make it easier not to work, not everybody, but some people are going to take that path of least resistance, which is not only not good for the taxpayers,” Walker said, “but it’s ultimately not good for the person because they’re better off controlling their own destiny and not being dependent on the government.”
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
This same focus on workers should guide America’s policy response to the COVID-19 recession, according to Walker. On top of welfare reforms, the former governor said the Paycheck Protection Program is promising because “it’s really about keeping people working. It’s not about helping the business itself.”
“I think one of the most important things government has done at any level has been the Paycheck Protection Program — I think things like that where they don’t just give money to businesses but they tied it directly to keep people staying on the payroll,” Walker said. “I don’t like picking and choosing winners and losers. I don’t like bailing out businesses. But what was unique about the Paycheck Protection Program — and I think elected officials in both parties should be supportive of it — is it’s tied directly into giving an employer assistance but only if they, in turn, have to keep people on the payroll.”
While the former governor was encouraged by worker-centric government responses like the PPP, he also identified problems in our COVID-19 response, namely the government’s tendency to impose serious restrictions and lockdowns without articulating a rationale.
“The biggest problem I’ve had with elected officials … is I think too many government leaders at many different levels — local, state, and even some at the federal — have rushed out to tell people what to do, but they have done little to nothing to explain why,” Walker said in a rebuke to the elitism of the nanny state. “I still felt early on we could have limited the amount and the length of the shutdown of businesses if we’d spent more time talking about why certain things were necessary,” such as wearing masks and social distancing.
Like parenting, Walker said, once your kids get older, if you only tell them what to do and not why, they’re either not going to do what you tell them, or they will stop doing it when you’re not around. Freedom, paired with an explanation, is important.
Our Best Chance for Recovery
In just over a week, Americans must cast their vote for who will lead us into coronavirus recovery. Considering the problem of this elitist authoritarianism and the importance of getting people back to work, the choice seems clear.
President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden laid out clear and starkly contrasting visions for life after the election. While Biden warns of a “dark winter” and promises masks and further lockdowns (not to mention his pledge to eradicate the oil industry, which employs more than 600,000 people in the United States), Trump says, “We’re learning to live with it. We have no choice. We can’t lock ourselves up in a basement. … We’re opening up our country.” Like Walker, the president understands the importance of getting people back to work:
We have to open our country. We’re not going to have a country. You can’t do this. We can’t keep this country closed. This is a massive country with a massive economy. People are losing their jobs. They’re committing suicide. There’s depression, alcohol, drugs at a level that nobody’s ever seen before. There’s abuse, tremendous abuse. We have to open our country. I’ve said it often, the cure cannot be worse than the problem itself, and that’s what’s happening. And [Biden] wants to close down. He’ll close down the country if one person in our massive bureaucracy says we should close it down.
The difference is “night and day” between how Trump and Biden would handle the economy, Walker noted. Unlike Trump, Biden wants “significant tax increases, major new regulations, higher cost for energy — those things would be job-killers at a time when, now more than ever, Americans need to just get back to work.”
A radical proposal to enforce 18-year term limits on the Supreme Court was endorsed by former Sen. Ted Kaufman, who is now the leader of Democratic Nominee Joe Biden’s transition team.
As head of the transition team, Kaufman oversees the staffing of a potential Biden administration, and would play a close role in selecting the White House’s most powerful figures. The former senator is a longtime adviser of Biden’s, having spent nearly 20 years as his chief of staff.
The Democrat signed on to an endorsement from leftist advocacy group, Fix the Court, which is pushing for hard term limits for justices in order to “depoliticize” and “reform” the Supreme Court. Fix the Court is also known for buying website domain names with Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s name, and linking them to sites providing information about rape.
The proposed legislation would implement Supreme Court term limits in spite of Article Three of the Constitution. It would also put in place a system wherein older justices could return to the Supreme Court without Congressional or Presidential approval if a different justice left an open seat.
👀Ted Kaufman signed this. Biden’s longtime chief of staff who is leading the transition. https://t.co/08tTniatCO
— Alex Thompson (@AlxThomp) October 25, 2020
The endorsement comes as questions amass on whether Biden blow up the current Judicial Branch as we know it. The former vice president has repeatedly and explicitly refused to answer questions about whether he would support court packing, but in a “60 Minutes” interview with CBS’s Norah O’Donnell, Biden said he said he wants to establish a commission to evaluate “how to reform the court system” because it is “getting out of whack.”
In 2016 the New York Post, the most conservative daily in Gotham, declined to endorse either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president of the United States. It was a curious move given that the paper had endorsed Trump in the GOP primary. The likely reason for the non-endorsement in the general election was that Trump had not managed to moderate his tone, something that the Post warned about when picking Trump in the primary. In 2020, any reservation seems to be gone as the Post published a full-throated endorsement of the president on Monday (Full disclosure I am frequent columnist at the Post).
There are a lot of conservatives, myself included, who shared the Post’s reservations about Trump in 2016 but have now come around to, if not loving his personality exactly, and understanding that his presidency has resulted in remarkable wins not just for the right, but for the nation as a whole. The pitfalls we imagined, for the most part have not come to pass.
The Post’s endorsement focuses heavily on Trump’s free market, deregulatory approach to the economy that created enormous growth and low unemployment prior to the pandemic, and promises to again. But also foreign policy, keeping us out of war and fostering once unthinkable deals between Israel and Arab nations in the Middle East.
On the courts, Trump’s three appointments to the Supreme Court look to keep that venerable institution conservative for the foreseeable future, barring shenanigans like court packing from the Democrats. For the nearly half of all Americans who are pro-life, it is difficult to overstate just how important these justices are.
In the penultimate section of the full page endorsement (a picture of Trump suitable for framing adorns the facing page in the print edition), the Post does address its problems with Trump’s tone and tweeting. But ultimately they reason, correctly, that “actions matter more than words.”
That this is so difficult for some conservatives who stand against Trump to understand is perplexing, but it underscores something important. Most of the movement by conservatives who did not vote for Trump in 2016 is moving towards him, not farther away. The number of natural Republicans who stayed home or voted against Trump in 2016 are not only voting for him this year, but are doing so enthusiastically, is enormous no matter how many times MSNBC and CNN trot out the same handful of “conservatives” who still hate Trump.
The one thing that most conservatives who shied away from Trump in 2016 feared was that he would be an existential threat to the country, or at least could be given his lack of political experience. That just flat out hasn’t happened, like, at all. His detractors still claim it has, that he has somehow damaged the American experiment nearly beyond repair, but they have no specifics beyond his pugnacious tone to back any of that up. They simply will it into existence.
Let’s be honest, the choice to endorse Trump this time around was a slam-dunk for the New York Post as it is for many, many Americans. Their greatest fears regarding Trump did not come to pass, and their greatest hopes were far exceeded. This reflects the reality of the vast majority of right-leaning Americans. President Trump has for many of us been a welcome, sometimes wonderful surprise. He deserves this endorsement and the Post was right to give it.
In what they claim was a glitch, Facebook issued a warning to users who searched “Let Us Worship,” a Christian worship organization, on Wednesday that the search “may be associated with the dangerous conspiracy movement called QAnon.”
The group in question, Let Us Worship, organizes worship rallies in cities across the United States, most notably in cities recently stricken by violent protests, or under extreme COVID-19 lockdowns banning Christians from attending church. Sean Feucht, the founder, told The Federalist he has never publicly or privately spoken about QAnon.
“We have literally nothing to do with Q,” he said, adding that Facebook’s warning label is “a straight-up lie.”
Feucht said he feels the social media giant’s censorship is targeted, following a Daily Beast hit piece on Let Us Worship for organizing a worship rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. this weekend.
“They do have an agenda,” he said. “They’re targeting the church.”
Feucht said they reported the misleading label, and it has since been taken down, but Facebook never issued an explanation, an apology, or an answer on what they plan to do to prevent it from happening in the future.
A spokesperson for Facebook told The Federalist the dangerous search label was a “mistake” and that “the bug impacted a large variety of stakeholders.”
When we first launched the Redirect Initiative for QAnon today there was a glitch that caused people to see information about this topic when they searched for unrelated terms. We’ve paused this Redirect while we fix the issue. https://t.co/YJb4E46BJf
— Facebook Newsroom (@fbnewsroom) October 21, 2020
Facebook announced in August they would be taking action to limit content from Facebook Groups, Pages, and Instagram accounts they deemed tied to “anarchist groups that support violent acts amidst protests,” like QAnon. On Oct. 21, they updated the policy, announcing that searches for terms related to QAnon on Facebook and Instagram would direct users to a link with information on the group from the Global Network on Extremism and Technology.
This latest incident comes just one week after Facebook publicly announced they would be censoring and limiting the distribution of the New York Post’s reporting on Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian business interests. Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee demanded Facebook explain their censorship policies.
“Isn’t such a public intervention itself a reflection of Facebook’s assessment of a news report’s credibility?” asked Sen. Josh Hawley of Facebook’s actions. Hawley and other lawmakers seek to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, under which big tech companies operate and claim they are only platforms, not publishers.
Feucht said he supports reforming Section 230 and hopes to have this incident of censorship against Let Us Worship included in lawmakers’ investigations of Facebook and Twitter.
“This is a peaceful movement from across the political spectrum and they are suppressing it by linking us to Q,” he said.
CNN’s Jake Tapper peddled a disproven theory on Sunday that Dr. Nancy Messonnier, MD, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), was silenced by the White House for urging American preparedness in the early stages of the pandemic.
Tapper suggested that, instead of listening to Messonnier about the potential for community spread and school closures at the end of February, President Donald Trump “downplayed the threat and lied to the American people about government preparedness.”
“Just imagine if eight months ago today, if Dr. Messonnier had been encouraged, heeded, amplified, instead of silenced,” Tapper said. “If everyone had started preparing for the worst-case scenario as she advised, how many Americans might be alive today? How many more will die unnecessarily because President Trump silences and intimidates those who attempt to correct his lies about the pandemic with facts? The facts we all benefit from and we all could have benefited from if Dr. Messonnier had been supported and not treated as if facts and truth were the actual virus to be isolated.”
Tapper said his sources confirmed Messonnier was silenced by officials at HHS after being told to “lay low.” He also said that the CDC briefings used by Messonnier to communicate information were curbed by Vice President Mike Pence.
“The public has not heard from Dr. Messonnier since March. She has not even tweeted since then,” Tapper said. “To this day, as much as Dr. Messonnier loves communicating with health care providers in the public, sources tell me she does not want to do it anymore because to do so would put her on the important work of the CDC in jeopardy.”
.@jaketapper on Dr. Messonnier, a CDC official who sounded the alarm on the severity of the pandemic months ago and was silenced by the administration: Sources say she doesn’t want to speak publicly because doing so “would put her and the important work of the CDC in jeopardy” pic.twitter.com/NuIQHxby6P
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) October 25, 2020
Tapper’s claims, however, simply echo the false and unsubstantiated talking points from the Biden Campaign in early March about Messonnier, along with others, being silenced and removed from giving public briefings soon, which were already debunked by factcheck.org and given “four Pinocchios” by the Washington Post.
“The President and the White House sent a clear message to scientists in the government: there will be a price for speaking out and speaking up,” Ron Klain, former White House Ebola Response Coordinator and Biden’s former chief of staff in a video posted to Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden’s Twitter page.
“The coronavirus is not Donald Trump’s fault. The fact that our country was not ready for it and responded so slowly, well…” he added.
Everyone knows that we’re facing a real crisis from the coronavirus. But do you know how we got here and what we need to do next? Ron Klain, former White House Ebola Response Coordinator, breaks it down for us: pic.twitter.com/XRkIw2EzM4
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) March 21, 2020
As both fact checks note, however, Messonnier was not part of the White House Coronavirus task force which is why she no longer attended public briefings following Feb. 25.
The fact checks also note that, contrary to Klain and Tapper’s claims, Messonnier did stay active in sharing information and offering her advice about COVID-19 mitigation.
“Meanwhile, far from being silenced, Messonnier kept doing her telephone briefings with reporters — on Feb. 28, Feb. 29, March 3 and March 9. She also appeared in four videos shared on social media, such as this one from March 14,” WaPo notes.
Messonnier also did a podcast in July, spoke at a meeting at the CDC in early September, gave an interview to WebMD on September 21, spoke at a conference on September 24, and recently shared a virtual stage with CNN’s own Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta.
CDC Director Robert Redfield even testified in a House Appropriations Committee in June that Messonnier “has not been sidelined” in the government’s response to COVID-19.
In addition to Tapper’s erroneous claims about Messonnier, his not-so-subtle criticism of the Trump Administration’s response was also riddled with contextual problems.
While Tapper claimed that Trump “downplayed the threat and lied to the American people about government preparedness,” ignoring Messonnier’s cautionary words, he failed to acknowledge that Messonnier and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also offered the same sentiment in late February, telling Americans that “we are reasonably well prepared.”
“We’ve had a pandemic preparedness plan that we put together years ago,” Fauci said on Feb. 26. “Mitigation means to be prepared to do things that would slow down the spread if we had an influx of infections, such as closing schools, social distancing, teleworking, and things like that. We need to start thinking about that now, even though it isn’t absolutely necessary to implement it now.”
“To date, our containment strategies have been largely successful,” Messonnier noted.
Tapper also cited a Columbia University study that claimed 130,000 to 210,000 lives “could’ve been saved” if Trump listened to health experts’ warnings such as Messonnier’s. The CNN segment, however, never mentioned that Fauci, a health expert, contradicted some of these proposed mitigation techniques.
“Right now, at this moment, there’s no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day by day basis,” Fauci said on Feb. 29.
“This could be a major outbreak. I hope not. Or it could be something that’s reasonably well controlled. At the end of the day, this will ultimately go down,” Fauci said.