• Wednesday July 10, 2019 1:54 PM PDT •
If things go as analysts at the Bipartisan Policy Center expect, the U.S. government will face a heightened risk of defaulting on its $22 trillion debt in early September. That’s when the extraordinary measures employed by the Treasury Department, designed to keep the nation’s total public debt outstanding within a narrow range of that credit limit, will no longer be effective.
The Bipartisan Policy Center now forecasts a risk that the debt limit “X Date”—the date when the federal government can no longer pay all of its bills in full and on time—could occur in the first half of September. This “X Date” risk falls earlier than BPC’s previous projection range, based on new data and analysis.
As the summer progresses, the Treasury Department will continue to expend its cash on hand and extraordinary measures—legally permissible accounting maneuvers that enable limited additional borrowing authority when the debt limit is reached, as it was in March.
“The latest data reveal a serious risk that the ‘X Date’ could fall in early September, particularly if federal revenues underperform,” said Shai Akabas, BPC’s director of economic policy. “The alignment of certain payments in the first two weeks of the month, prior to when Treasury will receive a cash influx of quarterly tax payments, could exhaust Treasury’s borrowing room.”
K. Lloyd Billingsley
• Wednesday July 10, 2019 10:32 AM PDT •
Back in 2004, real estate tycoon Robert Klein authored the $3 billion Proposition 71, a California ballot measure that promised a host of life-saving cures and therapies for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases through embryonic stem-cell research. The cures and therapies, promoters said, would generate royalties for the state, so it was billed as a win-win for California. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger backed the measure, which created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
CIRM bosses bagged huge salaries, but as the San Francisco Chronicle observed last September, “not a single federally approved therapy has resulted from CIRM-funded science. The predicted financial windfall has not materialized.” No royalties appeared until May, 2018, when a check for $190,345.87 arrived, less than the $225,000 salary of former state senator Art Torres, a CIRM hire.
Raymond J. March
• Tuesday July 9, 2019 11:30 AM PDT •
A 2015 report released by the Centers for Disease Control found that nearly thirty million people in the United States had diabetes (about ten percent of the total population). The same report also found an additional seventy million people are at risk to develop diabetes in the next five years. These alarming figures are only expected to increase in the near future.
Managing diabetes usually entails a restrictive diet, regular physical activity, and regularly taken medication. Approximately 30 percent of diabetics require regular insulin injections to manage their condition. Those with type 1 diabetes are unable to produce insulin and typically require multiple daily injections to prolong their lives.
K. Lloyd Billingsley
• Tuesday July 9, 2019 8:27 AM PDT •
The victory of Cori Gauff, 15, over Venus Williams, 39, stunned Wimbledon and the tennis world. If this underdog success story fails to register with any sports fan, imagine a 15-year-old blocking a dunk by LeBron James, then nailing a jumper to win the game. Imagine a pitcher of only 15 striking out Aaron Judge, then hitting a home run to win the game. Image a linebacker of 15 sacking Tom Brady, forcing a fumble, and running the ball into the end zone to win the Super Bowl.
However she fares at Wimbledon and on the professional circuit, Cori Gauff’s achievement will stand forever. But imagine if “Coco” Gauff was forbidden to profit from her victory or market her own image. Imagine if Gauff was instead offered only free admission to tennis tournaments. That is the case with athletes under the rules of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Samuel R. Staley
• Monday July 8, 2019 2:21 PM PDT •
The movie Yesterday is a tribute to the enduring legacy of popular music and its ability to bring joy to the human heart. Indeed, the movie succeeds as entertaining summer diversion. But it succeeds on another level as well by exploring the meaning and the dignity of work.
The movie opens as struggling musician Jack Malik (British television actor Himesh Patel) bounces from unpaid gig to unpaid gig, hoping to make it big. Living at home, he has given up his job as a teacher to pursue his dream as a singer-songwriter with the encouragement of his life-long friend Ellie (Lily James, Darkest Hour, Mama Mia! Here We Go Again, Baby Driver). Ellie is his voluntary, part-time manager whose full-time gig is as a school teacher.
When a power outage puts the entire world in the dark, Jack is hit by a bus during a nighttime ride back to his home. (Yes, this is a worn-out plot device, but accept it and enjoy the movie.) When Jack wakes up in the hospital, the world is off a bit. Most notably, the Beatles apparently never existed (as well as a few other significant cultural icons). When Jack plays a Beatles song for his friends during his recovery, he begins to realize that some sort of time discontinuity associated with the outage has erased the Beatles from popular music but not his memory. He has access to a repertoire of brilliant music that no one else has experienced.
K. Lloyd Billingsley
• Monday July 8, 2019 1:16 PM PDT •
“My concern is that the Democrats are using – sometimes – language of the right as a way to push policies of the left,” said pollster Frank Luntz, speaking with Fox News. Luntz was responding to 2020 Democrats who say health care is a “human right, so you don’t have to debate it anymore” and “you have to give it to them.” Luntz has a reputation as a sage, but he gets this one wrong.
The foremost proponent of health care as a right is Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders, who is echoing the language of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, where Sanders chose to spend his honeymoon. Soviet bosses offered the right to a job, and the right to health care. In the Soviet view, these were substantive rights, a contrast to the rights of free speech, free assembly, free association in the democratic capitalist nations. In the Socialist view, those were only bourgeois, formalistic rights.
• Friday July 5, 2019 11:48 AM PDT •
On this Fourth of July, Americans are polarized even on the merits of the nation’s Independence. As Nike pulls a sneaker with the patriotic Betsy Ross flag, it does so in response to Colin Kaepernick’s criticism that the flag and Independence Day are offensive to the descendants of slaves. In contrast to Kaepernick, past civil rights champions extolled a strain of anti-racism that we very much need today: criticism of America with a deep appreciation for the principles we share in common.
The great figures in America’s civil rights tradition fought for racial justice without abandoning love for America and the principles embodied by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Today, when Americans divide themselves into conservative and radical factions, it helps to remember that many great champions of civil rights were conservative radicals. Thus, the great lion of civil rights, Frederick Douglass, aligned patriotism with civil rights: his Fourth of July speech was a jeremiad tearing down America’s racial wrongs while ending with hope and the fervent belief that the Constitution was a “glorious liberty document” then and a buttress to civil rights in the future. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Dream” speech, with its radical demand for America to make good on a “promissory note” to African Americans, was wrapped in patriotism as well. Conservatives are wrong to claim Douglass and King as conservatives, just as the Left is wrong to emphasize only their radicalism; in truth, both men were conservative radicals. Their view was not the conservative “My country, right or wrong” or the radical “My country, more wrong than right”; the views of Douglass and King might be characterized as “My Country, Wrong and Right.”
• Wednesday July 3, 2019 12:02 PM PDT •
After decades of acquiescence to vast expansion of executive power, since at least the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a complacent Congress recently has been stirring to mount at least some symbolic pushback against presidential aggrandizement. After the Trump administration’s declaration of a questionable national emergency to transfer funds from defense programs to pay for its border wall after Congress declined to provide funding for it and the administration’s flirtation with declaring another emergency to impose tariffs on Mexico, Congress is mounting resistance to the administration’s declaration of an emergency to get around required congressional approval for $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In its notification to bypass the Arms Export Control Act’s normal requirement for a 30-day congressional review period for a sale, the administration cited another questionable emergency to expedite the export—that of Iran’s behavior in the Middle East. The administration needs some opposition to this excessive use of “emergencies” to get what it wants.
• Wednesday July 3, 2019 8:52 AM PDT •
During his 2016 election campaign, President Trump pledged to avoid unnecessary wars. Surprisingly, a recent legislative effort by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) would help him better fulfill that pledge. Congresswoman Lee has once again put forth a bill ending the congressionally passed 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which allowed the president to use force against those nations, organizations, or persons that committed or aided those attacking the United States on September 11, 2001 or harbored the attackers. In reality, this congressional resolution limited the use of U.S. military force against only the main al Qaeda group–then primarily in Afghanistan and Pakistan–and the Afghan Taliban, then in control of the Afghan government, which harbored al Qaeda.
Since 9/11, Republican and Democratic presidential administrations have used the 2001 AUMF to conduct a worldwide war on many other Islamist groups around the world. The abuse of this narrow congressional resolution is even more egregious than that of the broad Gulf of Tonkin (GOT) Resolution (1964) by Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson and Republican Richard M. Nixon during the war in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and 1970s. Because of congressional negligence in passing a broad authorization of the use of force in the GOT Resolution, LBJ could plausibly argue that it allowed him to massively escalate U.S. participation in Vietnam and Nixon to similarly assert that it allowed him to further escalate the war into neighboring Laos and Cambodia. Of course, such escalations were ruinous policy, but at least fig leaf legal arguments could be made in their defense. In contrast, the legal arguments for stretching the very narrow 2001 AUMF to justify a worldwide “war on terror” always have been paper thin. Congress simply abdicated its responsibility to strictly enforce the constraining AUMF.
Raymond J. March
• Tuesday July 2, 2019 9:53 AM PDT •
Since last September, the Food and Drug Administration has engaged in a “historic crackdown” of the vaping industry to curb an alleged “epidemic” of underage vaping. A short list of its heavy-handed crackdowns included demanding that five e-cigarette companies provide it with comprehensive plans on how they will prevent teen vaping and raiding e-cigarette company headquarters and confiscating their documents. The agency also fined over 1,300 retailers for allegedly selling to minors.
But the FDA planned to intervene further. Then FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb also proposed banning flavored e-juices, banning convenience stores from selling e-cigarettes, and imposing age-verification mechanisms for online sales. Although never enacted, vaping industry leaders were preparing for these and other changes to take effect. However, Gottlieb resigned from his position this April. With his departure, the agency’s involvement in regulating the vaping industry has stalled.
But where Gottlieb and the FDA have stopped, the city of San Francisco has continued and doubled-down.