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Point: Congress Is Right to Call for the Strategic Divestment of TikTok

For a different point of view see: “Counterpoint: Banning TikTok Is a Blow to Free Speech”

The Chinese Communist Party in Beijing is nervous — and it ought to be. The U.S. Congress has targeted a significant tool the CCP uses to spread disinformation among Americans, and the rulers in Beijing are not happy about it. The House has voted to require TikTok to be divested from Chinese ownership, not banned, as its critics charge. This effort will protect free speech, not limit it, as the same, often well-paid, critics claim.

Of course, the tool is TikTok, a popular app that millions of Americans use to promote their companies and reach new audiences. “It’s harmless,” you might say. Only it isn’t. The app is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, which is under CCP control. Beijing has an iron grasp over the platform’s algorithm and all user data. Your data. And it is a major U.S. national security risk.

Remember, this is the Chinese government that executed a comprehensive theft of 24 million American government and military officials’ records held by the Office of Personnel Management. It cannot be trusted with access to an even greater number of Americans’ personal data and cannot be trusted to keep from attempting to influence U.S. elections.

It’s a government that, according to respected international human rights organizations, is “waging a targeted campaign against Uyghur women, men and children” and conducting human rights abuses that include “coercive population control methods, forced labor, arbitrary detention in internment camps, torture, physical and sexual abuse, mass surveillance, family separation, and repression of cultural and religious expression.”

Of even greater concern is the disinformation and manipulation campaign that the CCP is already running on the TikTok platform, which could potentially accelerate into a contingency or conflict between the United States and China. A group of Rutgers University researchers have clearly demonstrated that the app promotes CCP interests, and they assess that there is “a strong possibility that content on TikTok is either amplified or suppressed based on its alignment with the interests of the Chinese Government.”

By comparing the volume of TikTok posts with those of Instagram, you can see how access to views on issues such as the invasion of Ukraine and October 7 and its aftermath is manipulated in a way that is helpful to Chinese national security interests. This algorithmic manipulation is even clearer and over-the-top when applied to sensitive political topics in China, such as the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Uighur genocide, and Hong Kong.

Knowing this, lawmakers in Congress passed a bipartisan bill to divest TikTok from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. The legislation now heads to the Senate for action.

Critics of the legislation claim lawmakers want to “ban” TikTok. But it is not a ban. The House legislation calls for divesting TikTok from its Chinese parent company. The bill is a balanced and feasible solution that safeguards innovation, strengthens U.S. national security, protects the Bytedance/TikTok investors, and helps keep private information from being collected by the CCP.

In a nutshell, this divestment ensures that American users can enjoy TikTok for creative expression and to grow and market their businesses — but under new ownership that respects U.S. laws and values.

This is not about stifling speech. It is about keeping China from suppressing free speech. Remember, the Chinese Communist Party has established counterintelligence laws that give it unfettered access to data held by Chinese companies and openly practices its preference for state sovereignty over personal privacy. The CCP does not adhere to core American principles like free speech and assembly.

Divesting TikTok from ByteDance ensures the platform can continue operating in the United States, free from Beijing’s influence and without impeding individual Americans’ right to express themselves.

It’s also good for the U.S. economy. TikTok investors, including American financial services and private equity firms, stand to reap billions should TikTok be acquired by a non-Chinese company. These funds could be reinvested in new technology start-ups or other business ventures. Moreover, divestment, rather than an outright ban, ensures greater competition. Users can expect greater innovation, safer services, and a richer and more diverse social media experience — all while blunting Beijing’s ability to leverage TikTok to undercut fair elections and free speech.

Beijing is not taking this lying down. As Craig Singleton, an expert on Chinese lobbying, has observed, ByteDance has an immense lobbying machine in Washington — and the company is not lobbying for your values. It has a bottomless budget, and it is spreading that cash around to stop the House bill before it gets traction in the Senate.

Congress is right to end Beijing’s efforts to sow political discord in the United States and harvest Americans’ personal data. The House was right to pass the TikTok/ByteDance divestment legislation, as was President Biden in his pledge to sign any such bill that comes to his desk. Now, it’s up to the Senate to protect America from China’s malign influence.

Counterpoint: Let’s Cut the Military Budget, Just Don’t Call It ‘Defund’

EDITOR’S NOTE: For another view see: Point: We Should Reform Bot Defund Necessary Institutions.


There is an excellent argument that the “defund” trope has become so politicized that it now gets in the way of, rather than advances, policy advocacy of any stripe.

But that doesn’t mean we should reflexively dismiss the underlying idea that government funds should be shifted away from wasteful or counterproductive purposes and redirected to beneficial ones.

Case in point: The United States spends far too much on the Pentagon. The country would be more secure, safer, healthier and more just if we shifted some of the nearly one trillion dollars in Pentagon spending to priority domestic and human needs.

Let’s start with the first half of the equation: The Pentagon budget is far too big.

The United States spends far more on its military than other nations. U.S. military spending is more than the next nine countries combined; it is 12 times the amount Russia spends.

Yet demands persist from the military-industrial complex to spend ever more. For the coming fiscal year, the Biden administration requested an increase in Pentagon spending to more than $800 billion.

Congress is poised to add even more to that total — with some saying the U.S. should spend a trillion dollars on the military budget.

The lobby to spend more, more and more on the Pentagon is completely disconnected from any legitimate national security needs.

Not only does the United States vastly outspend other nations but it also doesn’t effectively manage what it does spend. The Pentagon is unable to pass an audit, and Pentagon spending is replete with waste and fraud. The Pentagon identifies more than $100 billion in administrative waste in its budget.

The Pentagon throws unfathomable sums at needless and/or ineffective weapons. According to the Project on Government Oversight, the defective and dysfunctional F-35 program will cost more than $1.7 trillion over its projected 50-year lifespan.

The Pentagon squanders tens of billions on overpriced contractors to perform jobs that should be done by government employees. One spare parts maker reports a 3,800 percent profit level.

Indeed, you can better understand the size of the Pentagon budget not through the lens of national security but as a reflection of the lobbying prowess of military-industrial contractors, who collect more than half of all Pentagon spending.

Now to the second half of the equation: We have a long list of urgent needs in this country that we don’t address for lack of funding.

Take one specific example: Congress increased Pentagon spending last year by $28 billion over the Biden administration’s request. That same amount could instead have been spent to scale up global vaccine production and end or at least diminish dramatically the pandemic.

Did the extra $28 billion for the Pentagon do anything to make us safer?

By contrast, is there any doubt that our national security would have been massively improved if we had helped vaccinate the world — an investment that may have prevented the Omicron variant from ever coming into existence?

To take another example, there is no greater threat to national security right now than the fast-worsening climate crisis. In the historic Inflation Reduction Act, Congress agreed to spend $40 billion a year to reduce carbon emissions. That’s less than one-twentieth of the annual Pentagon budget!

Moreover, the Inflation Reduction Act spending is wholly paid for with new tax revenues. By contrast, Congress routinely throws billions more at the Pentagon without worrying about how the costs will be covered.

The list of transformative, 100 percent-paid-for investments rejected in the Inflation Reduction Act includes universal daycare, a tax credit that reduced child poverty by one-third, dental and hearing coverage for seniors, free community college, and more.

Why does it make more sense to tolerate waste, fraud and military contractor profiteering at the Pentagon when so many pressing needs go unattended?

It does not.

Let’s skip the tired arguments about “defunding” and instead focus on what really matters: It’s time to end wasting money on the bloated Pentagon budget.

We will make our nation stronger and better by shifting some of the Pentagon’s excessive funding to other needs.

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WISSMAN: Here’s Why Pennsylvania Needs More Natural Gas, Pipeline Infrastructure

As Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and most recent action to cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, continues to impact already volatile energy markets, the European Union (EU) is looking to the U.S., the world’s largest producer of natural gas, for help.

In an effort to diminish Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas, President Biden and the EU announced an agreement establishing a joint task force to expand U.S. liquified natural gas (LNG) exports. Additionally, the Department of Energy recently approved four new LNG permits for projects in Texas and Louisiana.

Welcome news, certainly.

Yet, while the White House strikes a deal to send more LNG to Europe, the administration unveils astoundingly contradictory policies that undermine America’s energy leadership and ability to deliver cleaner, reliable U.S. LNG across the Atlantic, including:

  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s proposed policy statement on the certification of new interstate natural gas facilities, which will generate significant uncertainty and impede the development of the pipeline capacity needed to serve new export terminals, and
  • The administration’s revised National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Phase 1 regulations that dramatically slow the permitting process for critical energy infrastructure and create new obstacles for natural gas development.

More mixed signals like these from Washington do not help encourage much-needed industry investment – and at a critical time when the world needs more energy, not less.

As the second-largest producer of natural gas in the nation, Pennsylvania has the potential to help alleviate natural gas shortages and aid our allies. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, while natural gas production growth in the Appalachia region over the past decade has been aided by improved productivity from wells drilled, pipeline buildouts and increased takeaway capacity, regional transportation capacity limits have been reached.

Without adequate pipeline and energy infrastructure, Pennsylvania is missing a massive opportunity to boost our economy while bolstering energy security here and abroad. Poor policy decisions at the federal level and numerous legal challenges have led to pipeline constraints in Pennsylvania and neighboring states, affecting access to abundant, reliable natural gas in New England and beyond.

Given the vast supply of shale gas in Pennsylvania, policymakers should support policies that encourage new investment and the build-out of energy infrastructure. Advancing natural gas and pipeline infrastructure in southeast Pennsylvania could make the region a leading LNG exporter in a matter of years, meeting the increased demand overseas while helping reduce carbon dioxide emissions with cleaner natural gas.

The U.S. could do even more to support long-term energy security in America and abroad with effective policies such as expediting LNG permits and the review process for interstate natural gas pipelines. This one-step-forward, two-steps-back approach to energy policy is not encouraging investment and impeding access to abundant, reliable, American-made energy that can help provide stability and security in the U.S. and abroad.

As Europe turns away from Russia as a source of natural gas, the ability of the U.S. to further ramp up its export capabilities will likely be critically important to global energy market stability as well as climate goals. Pennsylvania-produced natural gas – in the form of LNG – can help meet the dual challenge of powering the world while lowering greenhouse gas emissions if we allow it.

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RUBIO: Re-Shore Rare Earths to Keep America Strong

A country incapable of providing for itself isn’t much of a great power. To ensure America stays strong for generations to come, we need to bring production of goods essential to our national security back home. That starts with re-shoring rare earth manufacturing.

For some, “industrial policy” is a dirty term associated with planned economies. But Americans have long accepted government action to help maintain domestic manufacturing in critical industries. It makes sense that we buy ships from General Dynamics, airplanes from Boeing, and missiles from Raytheon –– even if it would be cheaper to import them from abroad –– because it is clear they are goods vital to our national security. Well, the last two years have taught us that the list of such goods needs to be expanded.

One urgent addition to that list is rare earth minerals. In the 21st-century economy, rare earth minerals are crucial for powering advanced electronics. They form essential components of everything from batteries and household computers to wind turbines and military weapon systems. Without them, our modern way of life and capacity for self-defense would be crippled.

North America contains a considerable quantity of unprocessed rare earth minerals. However, the vast majority of rare earth manufacturing occurs in China. Even rare earth minerals mined in America are shipped to China for processing. In the wake of COVID-19, the invasion of Ukraine, and the supply chain disruptions that followed, it should be clear to everyone that relying on hostile regimes for basic goods is dangerous.

Just look at Western Europe’s predicament. Nations like Germany remain addicted to Russian natural gas, giving Vladimir Putin leverage over them. Cutting off Russian energy will require tremendous sacrifice on their part.

With expansive energy reserves, America is better positioned to counter Putin. But if China cut us off from rare earth products –– which Beijing has restricted in the past and could easily do again –– the effects would be catastrophic. That’s why I have introduced legislation to bring rare earth manufacturing back to America.

If passed into law, the Obtaining National and Secure Homeland Operations for Rare Earth (ONSHORE) Manufacturing Act will provide financial assistance to entities building rare earth manufacturing plants on U.S. soil and create initiatives to secure our international rare earth supply chain from foreign disruption. The ONSHORE Manufacturing Act will also prohibit taxpayer dollars from funding rare earth manufacturing in designated “entities of concern.” Americans’ hard-earned money should not be used to prop up the industrial capacity of China, Russia, or Iran.

I hope my colleagues in the Senate will join me in passing this piece of legislation, which is vital to keeping our country safe. However, we can’t stop with rare earth metals. There are other industries equally essential to our national and economic security that need re-shoring. In the coming months, it is critical that we begin rebuilding our capacity to produce pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, and more.

This is the kind of targeted industrial policy America needs to maintain its status as a great power. The threats we face from our adversaries, especially China, are wide-ranging and immense. We will need a whole-of-society effort to ensure the 21st century is another American century, and securing supply chains will have to be a part of it.

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CASTOR: The Key to Unlocking Our Country’s Energy Bounty Can be Found in the Keystone State

While Texas and the other Gulf States often dominate the narrative around energy production, one of the most vital locations for domestic energy production lies in the mid-Atlantic region. Pennsylvania is home to an enormous amount of natural resources that are integral to the energy supply of our country. Despite being one of the top 10 states in natural gas, petroleum and electricity consumption, Pennsylvania is the third-largest net exporter of energy in the country. The Keystone State has also seen its gas reserves quadruple in the last 10 years, thanks to the increased development of the largest natural gas field in the U.S., the incredible wonder, Marcellus Shale.

The war in Ukraine has highlighted in neon the danger of reliance on foreign—and often hostile—nations for energy production and delivery. The Biden administration’s embargo on Russian oil, coal, and natural gas was a necessary decision in response to its invasion of Ukraine. The administration’s recent announcement that it wants to send more U.S. natural gas to Europe is the next logical step, but because of longstanding and misguided opposition to energy exports, that entire effort could be hampered by the lack of terminals for shipping the gas.

European Union leaders backed plans to buy gas jointly if the United States supplies it, but the lack of immediate infrastructure capacity (frankly, the ability) to fulfill our promise makes it all largely symbolic, unless we act now.

There is good news, however.  Learning of this strategic deficiency provides an opportunity to reinvest in America’s energy sector we should not waste. The legacy of pushing aside the oil and gas sector while simultaneously talking about the need for energy independence is inconsistent and doesn’t work.  We must seize the opportunity to strengthen our country’s economy and energy security.  Placing faith in Saudi Arabia or the UAE will not solve our energy dependence, but domestic production and infrastructure can do so.

Pennsylvania is poised for this chance. The Mariner East pipeline system currently transports natural gas liquids across the state, delivering energy across Pennsylvania and throughout the southeast. As of February 2022, Mariner East 2 and its parallel counterpart Mariner East 2x have completed the final step in the construction process and is now awaiting commissioning. These pipelines generated 9,500 construction related jobs per year over six years, as well as $122 millionin generated taxes for the commonwealth. Continued reliance on foreign energy resources going forward could never come close to producing the same amount of economic benefits as these domestically produced resources and pipelines have already proven attainable.

Pipelines are shown to be the safest, most technologically advanced method of transportation for petroleum and natural gas liquids. In order to continually verify the Mariner East pipeline system, there are certified controllers who monitor the pipeline 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition to these precautions, an automated system is also detects potential leaks and can shut down the pipeline automatically.

In January, two protesters temporarily halted the construction of the new pipelines when they trespassed on the property and locked themselves onto the equipment. Not only have the systems been proven to operate safely but trespassing on an active construction site increases the very risks these protestors want to limit. As foolish as these acts were then, they seem even more foolish now given the state of domestic and global affairs making increased production a strategic national security issue for all Americans and our allies.

Now is the time to invest in Pennsylvania’s natural resources and encourage new infrastructure projects as the Keystone State continued to be a driving force in our nation’s domestic energy production. The solution to our country’s energy crisis is not turning to adversarial nations abroad, nor in letting our allies rely on countries that oppose us. The answer is at home, and Pennsylvania should lead the way.


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