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TOOMEY: Farewell to The Senate (Part Two)

As a general matter, as a body, I think we all understand we are not that popular, but I don’t think I have ever worked with a more impressive group of individuals. So I appreciate having had that chance.

I also have to thank the people o this great Commonwealth of Pennsyl- vania that my family and I get to live in. Leader McConnell  used my line. It is true, and I say it all the time, and will always be true; representing Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate for these 12 years has been the greatest honor of my professional life. I will always be enormously grateful to the wonderful people of this great State for their entrusting me with this awesome responsibility.

I am also uniquely grateful to the people, the volunteers, who made those campaigns successful.

When I think about my mission in the Senate, I think about two complimentary aspects of it. First, it is to represent and defend the specific interests of Pennsylvania, and I tried to do that to the best of my ability.

You know, I think sometimes we are such a big and diverse state that what is good for Pennsylvania is usually good for America and vice versa, but it has also been important to me to defend and advance the cause of personal freedom. In the hierarchy of political values, freedom is first for me.

I think the purpose, the real purpose of government is to secure the blessings of liberty, and government too often is the source of restrictions on our freedom instead. But in this category of defending and advancing personal freedom, my focus has tended to be the economic realm.

Economic freedom is a fundamental aspect of personal freedom, and there is awell-documented high correlation between a society’s economic freedom and the level of prosperity and th standard of living of the people in that society.

So you probably won’t be surprised to learn that I think my biggest legislative accomplishment was that opportunity that I had to be a part of a small group of Senators, Finance Committee members, who got a chance to develop and help pass the 2017 tax reform. That group included Sen. Portman, Sen. Scott, Sen. Thune, and countless hours that we spent in a conference room dealing with what was a very complex product. We took our draft, and we presented it to our colleagues, and over a course of many weeks, we kind of iterated our way to what became the most sweeping tax reform in at least 30 years. And we expanded economic freedom with that product. Honestly, I have to tell you, I think the results were even better than what we had hoped for.

By the time the tax reform had been fully implemented—I think calendar year 2019—we had the strongest economy of my lifetime. We had strong eco- nomic growth, a 50-year low unemployment, all time record-low unemployment for African Americans, all time record-low unemployment for Hispanic Americans and other ethnic minority  groups. Wages were growing, and they were growing faster than the rate of inflation, which means that workers  were able to see a rise in their standard of living. And wages were growing fastest for the lowest income Americans so we were also narrowing the income gap.

We ended corporate inversions. There hasn’t been one since. Remember how frequently they were occurring?

And with a lower corporate tax rate but also fewer deductions, business boomed. The corporate tax rate was down to 21 percent. This year, with a 21-percent top rate, we are exceeding the revenue projections that were made prior to tax reform when the rate was 35 percent. This is not just about inflation.  As a share of our economy, total federal tax revenue is at a multi-decade high. So much for the thought that we were going to increase the size of the deficit from the tax reform.

Oh, and by the way, we also made the Tax Code even more progressive than it was. That is right. Higher earners now pay a greater portion of the total tax burden than they did before our tax reform.

I know my Democratic colleagues were skeptical about this, and I understand. But I would like to suggest, the data is in, and it is really good. There are important provisions that are scheduled to expire, and I do hope that Congress and the administration can find a bipartisan path to extending—or better still—making permanent these otherwise expiring provisions.

(Please look for Part 3 of Sen. Toomey’s remarks in an upcoming issue of the Delaware Valley Journal.)

 

GUINEY: Your Freedom Is on the Ballot This November

For an alternate viewpoint see WHITE: It’s Time for Voters to Let Democrats Know That Enough Is Enough

The choices in this year’s election have never been clearer.

Democrats want to protect your freedom while Republicans claim “freedom” in soundbites, while actually taking away your freedoms and liberty.

Democrats are working to protect eligible voters’ access to the ballot box – your freedom to have your vote counted. In Congress, Democrats voted to certify the 2020 presidential election while all but one PA Republican (who were elected on the same ballots) voted to overturn that election, nullifying the majority of Pennsylvania votes. Some Republicans continue to push false election conspiracies and threaten to decertify your voting machines. These ultra-MAGA election deniers threaten your freedom to elect your leaders.

Democratic candidates Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman and local candidates up and down the ballot are working to protect bodily autonomy for women. They have pledged to protect a woman’s right to reproductive health care – including access to contraception and healthcare during miscarriage and therapeutic abortion. Republicans in Washington and Harrisburg have been trying to take those rights away from women for decades and have promised to do so if elected. Republicans want to take away this freedom. Democrats will continue to defend it.

Firearm injuries are now the leading cause of death in the United States for children age 1 to 19. Democrats in D.C. have passed the first firearm safety legislation in decades (with only one Republican vote from Pennsylvania).  The Republican majority legislature in Harrisburg continues to block sensible gun safety legislation that could protect our children. Following intensive efforts by the office of Democratic Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, the rate of gun violence homicide has decreased by 44 percent from 2020 to 2021 in the city of Chester. Democrats protect our children’s freedom to live their lives. Republicans look the other way and rely on “thoughts and prayers.”

Democrats like Mary Gay Scanlon have voted to support the economy and create jobs with the Infrastructure Act. Most Republicans voted against this measure that is helping working families. We are struggling with the effects of COVID and the ongoing effects of the war in Ukraine on our economy. Democrats are doing all they can to strengthen the economy for middle and working-class people and make corporations pay their fair share. Meanwhile, Republicans support tax breaks for the wealthy and have no plan to help the rest of us.

Social Security and Medicare are a lifeline for our seniors. Democrats enacted these programs, and the official Republican Senate and House plans will put them on the chopping block. Democrats support the freedom to enjoy a reasonable retirement for our seniors – who have paid into the system. Republicans threaten that.

Democrats vote to support your voting rights, protect reproductive rights, create good-paying jobs, enable a dignified retirement for our seniors, and more. Please vote for our Democratic candidates so they can support your freedom to choose and shape your own future.

 

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Counterpoint: Mandatory Voting Is a Bad, Unconstitutional Idea

For another point of view see: Point: Universal Voting Makes Sense for a Full, Healthy Democracy

A handful of countries, most notably Australia, impose mandatory voting, with citizens facing fines and punishments if they don’t appear at the polls. And every few years, somebody proposes bringing this practice to the United States as a good-government reform that would allegedly improve the health of our democracy.

Luckily, Americans remain unimpressed by the idea. A report advocating mandatory voting by the Brookings Institution and Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center acknowledged as much. When polled, they found only 26 percent of Americans favored the idea, with 64 percent opposed.

The claimed benefits of mandatory voting are highly dubious. All available evidence is that it would have little effect on election outcomes since non-voters tend to break down about the same as for voters in their partisan preferences. The main effect visible in Australia is the frequency of the so-called “donkey ballot,” where voters randomly pick a candidate or party without giving it any thought, often simply choosing the option listed first on the ballot. Others return a blank ballot, clearly going through the motions only to avoid punishment.

Beyond the lack of clear, practical benefit, mandatory voting sits uneasily with American principles. The First Amendment protects not only freedom of speech but also freedom from compelled speech. And even if a coerced voter shows up and casts a spoiled ballot, participating in an election is a speech act. It implies affirmation of the legitimacy and desirability of the electoral system and our current constitutional order. That might be a correct opinion, in my view, but it is not one Americans should be forced to affirm.

There is a long history in the United States of principled abstention from voting, including groups such as the Quakers and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are motivated by a thoroughgoing religious faith in strict pacifism. Others, such as anarchists ranging from libertarians to socialists, reject the moral legitimacy of all governments and do not want to lend their endorsement to the state. Faced with the need to accommodate such groups or at least some of them, compulsory voting faces two bad options. Either any person can invoke a religious or philosophical exemption, rendering the whole exercise pointless, or must put the government in the untenable position of judging which reasons are good enough.

Even if the First Amendment argument doesn’t convince you, the last thing our bloated criminal justice system needs is yet another reason to impose fines and enforcement actions on Americans, especially when such burdens will fall disproportionately on minorities and the poor. Every law must be enforced, and the police in our country already have more than enough laws to enforce.

Even if the political will could be mustered to pass a compulsory voting law, the courts are unlikely to permit it under longstanding First Amendment principles. During World War II, the court faced another attempt at coercing civic affirmation: mandatory recital of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. Again, Jehovah’s Witnesses refused, believing that this was an act of flag-worship akin to idolatry.

Justice Robert H. Jackson, writing for a 6-3 court, offered one of the most stirring articulations of America’s radical free speech jurisprudence: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional firmament, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion.”

Showing up to vote may well be a laudable act, one to be encouraged, an admirable exercise of civic duty and participation in our system of government. But as a matter of opinion, it is not the government’s role to impose that view as compulsory orthodoxy. If you don’t want to vote, it’s your right not to vote.

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Happy Birthday, America; Now Mind How You Go

Martin Walker, the gifted former Washington correspondent of The Guardian, used to start his speeches saying that the Fourth of July wasn’t a time for sorrow for him, as it was a time when good British yeomen farmers in the colonies revolted against a German king and his German mercenaries.

Walker — who now lives in France and writes the hugely successful “Bruno” detective books set in the Perigord region — once told me, “It’s exciting living in a country where the president can order up an aircraft carrier to settle a dispute.”

He, an Englishman, and I, a former British colonial, shared our admiration for the United States. For America’s birthday, I have counted some things I most like and admire about this country of endless experimentation. Also, alas, I admit it is getting harder to feel as proud of it as I once did.

America, for me, has always embodied a special freedom: the freedom to try. The wonderful thing about it is that you can try a business, an idea, a way of living, or even a way of thinking. I read in “The Waist-High Culture,” the 1958 book by Thomas Griffith, that Europe was a “no” culture and the United States was a “yes” culture. So true.

In my first year here, I wrote to a family member in England, marveling at the size and scope of the American market. I wrote to her, “You could make a fortune here making glass beads, so long as they were good glass beads.” I still believe that.

The other great freedom, which I treasure, is that you can move across the country and start all over again. If you feel you have failed in New York, you can take a fresh sheet and try again in Chicago, Austin or San Francisco. You can have failed in marriage, in business, in a career, and in some very public way, but you can go on anew somewhere else.

You can’t do that in what are, in many ways, city-states — for example, in the way England is dominated by London and France by Paris. There is geographic freedom in the United States that has an exhilaration all its own.

I was intoxicated by America from the first. I didn’t dwell on the sins of the past, from the cruelty of the Puritans, the pioneers and the planters to the folly of Prohibition. When I arrived, I embraced all that was in the present; the civil rights movement was underway and gathering strength, and it was possible to believe that the United States would continue to be the shining example of how you get it right, how you correct big and small errors, and how you let people prosper. John F. Kennedy was president, and it was a new day.

When I covered Congress, I was enchanted with it: the committee power centers, the indifference to party discipline, and a system where you really did need majority approval to get a law passed.

Overall, members of Congress were among the hardest-working (and some were the hardest-drinking) around. They sought to understand issues from atomic energy to cancer. Congress wasn’t perfect, but it aspired to get things right.

For many years, I participated in the Humbert Summer School — a think tank — in the west of Ireland. I used to enjoy talking up the presidential system as superior to the parliamentary one, where a simple majority can wreak havoc.

Now, alas, Congress is experiencing the evils of parliamentary government and none of the virtues, particularly swift legislating. Party discipline — as in the case of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California shunning Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — has supplanted the old tolerance for differences within the party. It began with the 1994 Gingrich Revolution, abetted by the proliferation of single-point-of-view talk radio.

Like all unchecked decay, it has gotten worse.

America the Beautiful, I wish you a happy birthday. I thank you for your generosity over these decades, and I say sincerely, “Mind how you go.” The world needs your seeking to be fair and just, and full of possibility, not divided and rancorous, and a threat to yourself.

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ROLLINS, ROGERS: Besieged by the Most Left-Wing Democratic Party in History, Americans Must Fight Back

American freedom is under assault. From inept White House leadership to a radical congressional agenda and an emboldened federal bureaucracy, never before have the tenets of America’s founding—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—been so fundamentally besieged by the left.

Let’s be clear: Today’s Democrats, the most left-wing party in U.S. history, are responsible for threatening individual rights. In our many combined decades of watching and working at the highest levels of American politics, we have never seen the nation so divided from within. The current iteration of the Democratic Party is so obsessed with ramming leftist proposals—punctuated by the $1.75 trillion “Build Back Better” tax-and-spend package—down the throats of everyday Americans that they cannot come up for air.

Leadership (or the lack thereof) starts at the top. Months after a botched withdrawal that saw 13 U.S. service members killed by the Taliban, hundreds of Americans remain stranded in Afghanistan. As new details continue to emerge, it is clear that President Joe Biden ignored his military generals, who requested that thousands of American troops remain in the unstable country. Instead, the Biden administration retreated on all fronts, diminishing America’s standing in the world and disheartening our allies. And, still, Biden either defends his actions or dodges the question.

Is it any wonder that our enemies are so emboldened?

Meanwhile, at home, Biden and other Democrats continue to preside over the worst border crisis in two decades. In 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported nearly two million illegal immigrant encounters—most of them along the U.S.-Mexico border and a whopping 202 percent increase from 2020. Last month alone, CBP reported almost 200,000 illegal immigrant stops—more than double from 2020. The Biden administration is even smuggling underage migrants from Texas to New York and Florida under cover of darkness. And, of course, there are the infamous $450,000 payouts to illegal immigrants.

Throw in the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, which has led Democrats to tread all over the Constitution to impose vaccine mandates on tens of millions of Americans. Levying five- and six-figure fines on private employers, the federal government’s interference in private medical decisions is now the law of the land. “Constitutional” means nothing; only power does.

As Congress debates trillion-dollar spending proposalsdebt ceiling suspensions, and a laundry list of middle-class tax hikes, we are seeing a Democratic Party run amok. Inflation is above five percent—the highest in 30 years. Elevated price levels are expected to last well into next year, while millions of Americans refuse to work, content with government handouts that undermine small business job creation.

The “Great Resignation” is widely used to describe the Biden economy. That economy is sputtering, and Democrats are out of ideas. Americans expected “unity” and received recklessness.

Democrats, led by Biden, are failing America domestically and internationally. We are being failed across every level of public policy—from government spending and tax policy to crime and border security. We deserve much better, as do our allies across the world.

However, we can only change the status quo by fighting back in 2022 and 2024. That’s why we have joined forces to launch a new political organization, Restore Our Freedom PAC, that can check the worst impulses of today’s Democratic Party. America must get back to the basics, focusing on the core principles of our American republic.

It’s not rocket science: The Constitution matters. Individual liberty matters. Freedom matters.

The “red wave” that swept through Virginia and New Jersey is no coincidence. Americans are starting to fight back. With President Biden’s approval rating in the tank, Americans are beginning to fight for America again. And we applaud them.

These are unprecedented times. Stand up for rights, not mandates. Stand up for security, not chaos. Stand up for strength, not weakness. Stand up for jobs, not handouts. Stand up for freedom, not tyranny.

Stand up to President Biden and his enablers in power. Keep fighting back—before it’s too late.

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FISCHER: A Chanukkah Lesson for Biden

Jews are in the midst of celebrating Chanukkah. Marking the holiday, President Joe Biden called Chanukkah a “undeniably American” festival. But, with policies he and his supporters are pushing on a resistant population, he doesn’t seem to realize the half of it.

Chanukkah is a lesser Jewish festival, lasting eight days from the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar. It commemorates the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees in 165 BC after its desecration by the Syrians. Many refer to it as the “Festival of Lights.” Some mistakenly call it Jewish Christmas.

Biden celebrated the start of Chanukkah with his “undeniably American” statement, adding the lessons it offers are akin to America’s democratic founding. Biden said “[i]t teaches us that even a little bit of light, wherever it is found, can dispel the darkness and illuminate a path forward” and “reminds us that whether it is the Holy Temple in Jerusalem or the temple of our democracy, nothing broken or profaned is beyond repair.”

If Biden understood the history of how Chanukkah came to be, his choice of words might be more guarded.

Chanukkah is a joyous time in Jewish communities. It includes the nightly lighting of candles, gift-giving, parties, and family gatherings. Treats such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (donuts filled with cream or jelly) are devoured in great quantities. But its roots are far from joyous and can be compared to what’s occurring here today.

Starting around 200 BC, Judea – now Israel – came under Syrian (Hellenistic) rule. When Syria came under Roman rule and levied oppressive taxes, a substantial part of that burden was placed upon Jews who already shouldered the heaviest burden. By 174 BC, Syria – including Judea – was ruled by the tyrant Antiochus IV. He “tried to rule out individualism of the Jews” and destroy all Jewish tradition and rules. According to the Chabad story of Chanukkah: “Jewish worship was forbidden; the scrolls of the Law were confiscated and burned. Sabbath rest, circumcision, and the dietary laws were prohibited under penalty of death.”

Thousands of Jews who opposed these rules were punished – to the extent of being put to death.

The Jews were divided into two camps: The Torah-based (adhering to the first five books of the Bible), and Hellenistic Jews who took on the laws and customs of their tyrannical Syrian-Greek rulers. The latter adopted practices like idol worship. Jews who pushed back were became known as Maccabees. They fought the Syrian armies, eventually liberating Jerusalem and the Temple. When they went to light the menorah as part of its rededication, there was only enough oil for one day. By a miracle of G-d, the oil burned for a total of eight days.

So, what does all this have to do with Biden and why should he be nervous?

For many of us in the Jewish community, the original precept of Chanukkah has taken on a new and deeper meaning. Many of us are watching as a large number of Americans, including Jews, are forced to submit to mandates or face consequences ranging from not being able to eat in restaurants or go to the store – to the point of losing one’s livelihood.

We are watching as government agencies intimidate parents who want more control over their children’s education. We watched last year as retailers and casinos were allowed to reopen while schools and houses of worship remained closed or limited. We are watching as our government slowly chips away at Americans’ individualism.

Some of my fellow Jews balk at Biden’s statement that the Chanukkah story is undeniably American. But Biden is correct since America came about after throwing off the tyrannical rule of the British. The king burdened the colonies with taxes and tried to rule out individualism as well.

So – fast-forwarding to today – this administration needs to take heed of the same spirit and dedication to freedom, especially freedom of worship and freedom of the individual, arising under similar circumstances.

No one rational calls for insurrection. But the foundations of a political realignment are obvious. November showed the pushback is real.

And the supply of oil is running low!

We all know those who do not truly study history – and try to erase it – are bound to repeat it. This is an undeniably American Chanukkah lesson.

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