The Fight for Freedom Must Continue Post-Janus

Any day now the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, a case brought against government unions for charging non-members “agency fees.” If unions are prohibited from charging those fees, the cost of members’ dues could soar—by hundreds of dollars in the case of California Teachers Association members. The result? Less money and fewer members.

A favorable ruling would be great news for non-union members, but what about the rest of us?

In his latest California Policy Center column Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher and California Teachers Empowerment Network President, shows there is still plenty of work to be done in the states no matter how SCOTUS rules.


As NBC reported in February, “San Francisco’s nearly 30,000 car break-ins last year shattered previous crime records,” a veritable “epidemic.” Of the nearly 30,000 car break-ins the police department made arrests in just 1.7 percent of cases, totaling 790 arrests and “of those taken into custody, most were never sentenced to jail time.” That is due to Proposition 47, the 2014 measure that, as the Associated Press reports, “lowered sentences for drug possession, theft, shoplifting, identity theft, receiving stolen property, writing bad checks and check forgery from felonies that can bring prison terms to misdemeanors that often bring minimal jail sentences.” Or as NBC noted, no jail time at all. The measure’s implicit message is “do the crime, don’t do the time.” 

It’s the Spending, Stupid!

Following the release of the U.S. Treasury’s monthly statement for May 2018, the Wall Street Journal has some grim news about the U.S. government’s fiscal situation:

The U.S. government’s budget deficit widened in the first eight months of the fiscal year, reflecting lower revenue from corporate taxes combined with ramped-up government spending.

The deficit, or the difference between the amount of money the federal government spent and what it took in, totaled $532.24 billion in October through May, the Treasury Department said Tuesday. That was 23% more than the deficit of $432.85 billion during the same period a year earlier.

Hey Millennials: Here’s the Truth About Socialism, Kim Jong-un, and Nicolás Maduro

A recent story in the New York Times discussed the increasing willingness of political candidates in the United States to run as socialists. Times reporter Farah Stockman wrote that the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is surging, even in conservative-leaning states. “Since November 2016, DSA’s membership has increased from about 5,000 to 35,000 nationwide,” Stockman wrote. “The number of local groups has grown from 40 to 181, including 10 in Texas. Houston’s once-dormant chapter now has nearly 300 members.”

Franklin Bynum, a 34-year-old attorney, avowed socialist, and DSA member, won the Democratic nomination for criminal court judge in Houston. At least 16 other socialists appeared on the ballot in primary races across Texas.

Many of the candidates and much of the support come from millennials, the largest generation of Americans in history. In part, millennials’ attraction to socialism can be traced back to Occupy Wall Street and the 2016 presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist. These well-publicized movements emphasized inequalities in income, access to capital, criminal justice, healthcare, childcare, access to education, and housing affordability. Amy Zachmeyer, a 34-year-old union organizer who helped restart the Houston DSA chapter said that socialism “resonates with millennials who are making less money than their parents did, are less able to buy a home, and drowning in student debt.” Millennials’ attraction to socialism is reflected in surveys.

A 2016 survey of 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics found that 16 percent self-identified as socialists, while 33 percent supported socialism. Only 42 percent supported capitalism, while 51 percent did not. Another survey, in 2017, found that 51 percent of millennials identified socialism or communism as their favored socioeconomic system. Only 42 percent favored capitalism. Jorge Roman-Romero, 24, who leads a new DSA chapter in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said, “It’s not a liability to say that anymore,” referring to calling oneself a socialist candidate.

Trade Wars Put Prosperity in the Cross Hairs

[This post first appeared in the June 12, 2018, issue of The Lighthouse, the weekly newsletter of the Independent Institute. To stay current with all of Independent’s work to boldly advance free societies, enter your email address here.]

Near the end of last week’s G-7 Summit, President Trump, a long-time opponent of trade agreements who believes trade deficits are a sign of national victimhood, did the unexpected: He told his counterparts that the group should consider scrapping all import tariffs and export subsidies. His remark seems akin to when President Reagan proposed that the United States and the Soviet Union scrap all their nuclear weapons—a quip that expressed a far-off aspiration more than a meaningful near-term target to begin working toward. The reality is that Trump’s tariff hikes on aluminum and steel imports, which went into full effect on June 1, have prompted even so close a trading partner as Canada to announce retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. Whatever his latest rhetoric, Trump has thus helped show that—just as economists feared—the idiocy of trade protectionism is contagious.

NEA Grants for Clown College

32993126 - clown robot in clown mask. Of all the strange things that the U.S. government spends money upon, perhaps one of the strangest is a college for clowns located in California’s 12th congressional district, which falls entirely within the city limits of San Francisco and is represented by Nancy Pelosi in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Part of the Circus Center, which provides training to people who would like to pursue careers as circus performers, the Clown Conservatory received a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2017 to help fund a “24-week program, taught by master clowns, circus artists, and circus historians”, which aimed to train “professional and professional-track performing artists in narrative clowning, character creation, circus arts, and performance. The training will help prepare artists to meet the demands of today’s international circus, film, and theater job market.”

FAA Puts “Diversity” Over Safety

According to news reports, during the Obama administration, the Federal Aviation Administration diluted standards for air traffic controllers by screening out applicants competent in science and even those with experience as pilots. This was because of a union group charging that the ranks of air traffic controllers were too white, but critics say it puts “diversity” above the safety of the public. There is a backstory here, one might say a Bakke story.

Allan Bakke wanted to be a doctor and held a GPA of 3.51 with a 3.45 in science. On the quantitative part of the MCAT he scored 94, with a 97 in science and 72 on the general information section, higher than the average for regular admits. Despite such distinguished qualifications, UC Davis rejected Bakke and reserved spots for minority applicants with much lower scores. One of them was Patrick Chavis, hailed by Sen. Ted Kennedy and national media as a champion of affirmative action. Chavis veered into plastic surgery and wound up killing a patient and injuring three during liposuction. The medical board suspended his license citing his “inability to perform some of the most basic duties required of a physician.” 

Homeless Get House Calls, Courtesy of Taxpayers

As taxpayers discovered, they couldn’t keep their doctor or medical plan under Obamacare, and the Affordable Care Act, as it is also known, fails to provide for house calls. Taxpayers might be surprised to learn that house calls are available to certain groups.

Elica Health Centers is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) providing care to “underserved populations, who are confronted with barriers to accessing care.” Approximately 10 percent of Elica’s patients receive care through the “Wellness Outside Walls (WOW) initiative, which includes our Street Medicine and Mobile Medicine programs.” Elica’s Mobile Medicine vans have been providing care to a homeless population along the Sacramento River. It is not a volunteer effort but driven by government money, just how much Elica seems reluctant to reveal. The federally approved center is providing what amounts to house calls for the homeless, all funded by taxpayers who can access no such thing. This is hardly the only health care discrepancy now in play. 

Convicted murders also get better health care in California prisons. These convicts include Shiloh Heavenly Quine, who as Rodney Quine gunned down Shahid Ali Baig, a father of three, then stole his car. He not only gets on-site medical care but taxpayers have been footing the bill for his sex-change surgery, as they say, the elective procedure that got the murderer into the women’s prison at Chowchilla. 

And thanks to judge Jon Tigar, a one-man robed politburo, taxpayers will now be springing for Shiloh Heavenly Quines jewelry and sartorial needs, right down to bracelets, earrings and “compression tops.” In the Golden State, there’s never a shortage of change taxpayers can’t believe in. 

As we noted back in 2012, the California Public Utilities Commission gives cell phones to homeless and low-income people in the hope that they will be better able to look for jobs. The state is providing 250 minutes of call time a month and 250 free text messages. Just so you know, “free” means paid for by taxpayers. 


K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute.

Adrift Testifies to the Strength of the Human Spirit

The intensity ratchets up somewhat late in the survival movie Adrift, a largely true account of 24-year-old Tami Oldham’s 41 harrowing days stranded at sea. The magnitude of Oldham’s (now Tami Oldham Ashcraft’s) accomplishment is a testimony to the strength of the human spirit when facing seemingly impossible odds. This story is told well in Adrift although the intensity of the film might challenge those who have actually experienced trauma in the outdoors or in isolation.

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur is no stranger to the survival genre, having directed the 2015 blockbuster Everest. In Adrift, he has chosen a more intimate approach to filming. The vast majority of the movie takes place in or on the water, most of it on sailboats. The story is also tightly focused on Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley, The Fault of Our Stars, the Divergent series) and her fiance Richard Sharp (Sam Caflan, The Hunger Games series, Their Finest, My Cousin Rachel). The effect is to magnify the trauma and the hurdles they face to survive.

Should Uncle Sam Set Up a GoFundMe for the National Debt?

8651494—uncle sam with cup in hand looks for money There are a lot of debt-strapped nations across the world, where a few have turned to some pretty unusual tactics to reduce their national debt burdens.

One such nation is Malaysia, which has turned to crowdfunding to try to reduce its ballooning national debt. Reuters has the story:

Malaysia has set up a fund for members of the public to donate cash to help the new government repay its hefty national debt, the finance ministry said on Wednesday, providing a bank account number for deposits.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has made it a priority to cut Malaysia’s debts and liabilities—estimated at 1 trillion ringgit ($250.8 billion) or 80 percent of GDP—since he mounted a surprise win over scandal-plagued Najib Razak in a May 9 general election.

The move comes after a private fundraising initiative ‘Please Help Malaysia!’ received more than $3,500 of donations on website GoGetFunding in a campaign to help the Southeast Asian country reduce debt.