Holy Week: Hate in the heartland

As Christians observed Palm Sunday, marking the beginning of Holy Week and Jews finished removing the chametz (leavened foods) from their homes in preparation for Passover, hate was rearing its ugly head in Americas heartland.

Frazier Glenn Cross, who also uses the last name of Miller, a former grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, allegedly approached two Jewish facilities, reportedly with multiple firearms, presumably looking to kill Jews.

Three dead later, including a 14-year-old boy, the apparent assailant, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a known anti-Semite, yelled “Heil Hitler” toward media cameras as police took him into custody.

Like millions of Americans, I learned of what had unfolded in the Heartland after returning from church. That spiritual feeling of fulfillment and hope that so many people of faith feel after leaving their house of worship, immediately turned into concern and, dare I say, anger, after hearing about this act of terror and the victims. But even more so is where it happened.

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The Gawkerization of Media

Like a well-baited hook, Gawker’s latest “report” of trumped-up “scandalous” goings-on at Fox News predictably snared its intended audience. To the surprise of…well… no one, Gawker’s story on staff turnover at Fox was inadequately sourced and riddled with half-truths, speculation, and outright fiction, yet legitimate news outlets were quick to pounce on Gawker’s work and report it as truth without bothering to check the facts themselves. It’s a sad commentary on the state of our free press that the Internet’s gossip page has become the go-to source for once-reputable legacy publications.

Gawker’s most recent Wile E. Coyote-esque attempt to “expose” FNC was, in fact, a resuscitation of a story that media outlets had attempted, to no avail, to press earlier this year. As I wrote in August, after Fox News chairman Roger Ailes fired longtime communications executive Brian Lewis over financial irregularities and other breaches of his contract, the media had a field day attempting to twist the story of a routine firing into a broader narrative about Ailes being “isolated” atop his own business.

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Minimum wage hikes hurt workers they try to help

A new Gallup poll found that over 75 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour, suggesting that more people are looking at this issue with their hearts rather than their heads. Raising the minimum wage feels like a great way to offer a hand to the working poor, but it’s just as likely to cut off the hand that feeds them and tighten the job market for young and otherwise low-skilled workers.

When governments raise the minimum wage, advocates often argue that the hike will combat poverty and inject more money into the economy, but most data shows these claims are simply untrue. Economists at Cornell and American University found that, of the 28 states that raised their minimum wages between 2003 and 2007, there was no discernible associated reduction in poverty. Moreover, studies show that minimum wage increases have no significant effect on the economy on the whole.

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To Achieve Real Immigration Reform, Put The Free Market Front And Center

One hundred years removed from its peak, Ellis Island continues to represent all that America has done to open its arms to immigrants. Unlike today’s broken immigration system, the focus was on hard work, and we allowed the market, rather than the federal government, to determine how many immigrants passed into America each year. Washington can start to fix our immigration system by returning power to employers through expanded guest-worker programs–letting the free market do the job federal bureaucracies are failing to.

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A media law that stifles the press

There is a sad irony in the proposed media shield bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month.

Lawmakers introduced the bill after the federal government violated press freedom by probing the phone records of Associated Press reporters without permission last year. According to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the proposed law “ensures that the tough investigative journalism that holds government accountable will be able to thrive.”

Yet an amendment attached to the bill does the very thing the legislation purports to stop: Rather than providing a “shield” so that the government cannot force those who do journalism to reveal confidential sources, it determines who is and is not legally a journalist, offering protection only for those who fit a too-narrow definition of the term.

Taxes Are Not a Sober Response to Alcohol Abuse

On the heels of a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that sent shockwaves through the media by declaring that alcohol abuse costs America more than $200 billion in “lost productivity” each year, a task force is recommending that states increase taxes and restrictions on alcohol sales. Although the CDC’s numbers look scary, the science behind them is even scarier, and new sin taxes would be a gross overreaction to some questionable data.

The CDC study at the center of the uproar relies on lost productivity metrics, a dubious field of statistics that many analysts believe grossly overstates the impact of common behaviors. By these same measures, “disengaged employees“ cost the economy about twice as much as alcohol abusers, and parents pull more than $300 billion from the economy when they are stressed about child care.

Instead of taking these statistics with a grain of salt, the CDC’s “Community Preventative Services Task Force” seized on the opportunity to make recommendations – including raising alcohol taxes, restricting weekend sales, opposing privatization of liquor stores and tightening regulations on where alcohol can be sold – that empower government bureaucrats and reduce consumer choice.

Nevertheless, should state lawmakers follow these recommendations, they’re likely to be highly disappointed with the results. New taxes and restrictions on alcohol sales would do little to reduce consumption in general, and certainly not among the drinkers who are causing economic problems. Research by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has found that hardcore alcohol abusers are affected little by increases in price, which have a greater effect on light and moderate drinkers. Additionally, studies show that beer taxes have an insignificant effect on underage drinking.

By targeting responsible adults instead of addicted alcoholics and underage drinkers, the CDC’s proposed laws miss the point. Those most likely to be dissuaded from purchasing alcohol under these laws are the people least like to abuse it.

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Clyburn wrong about role of media in America

On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-SC, made comments that worked directly against King’s message of tolerance and understanding.

Clyburn lambasted the media for reporting on government scandals and equated their work to propagandists in Nazi Germany.

The congressman’s belligerent and reckless statements belie his fundamental misunderstanding of the media’s role in America.

Although Nazi comparisons are, without exception, insensitive and entirely inappropriate in American political discourse, Clyburn’s invocation of the Third Reich is ironic because Hitler consolidated power by restricting free speech and bringing the press under state control.

In authoritarian states, the press is not allowed to report on government scandals or criticize the administration — precisely the actions that Clyburn seems to discourage in America.

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Sen. Durbin ushers in new era of McCarthyism

Earlier this month, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) sent letters to hundreds of groups–charities, think tanks, trade associations, restaurants, car dealerships, and many more–requesting that they disclose their ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and their position on “stand your ground” laws for a Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee hearing on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. After similar abuses of power at the Internal Revenue Service were met with broad public condemnation earlier this year, it’s baffling that Durbin would choose to take this course of action. These strongly-worded requests, on official Senate letterhead, were a step beyond any of the IRS’s inappropriate actions, and miles outside Durbin’s responsibilities as a senator.

Watchdog.org series leads to EB-5 investigation

This past December, Watchdog.org, a project of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, launched an investigative series on Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe and his affiliation with green-energy car manufacturer GreenTech Automotive.

The notion that journalists were investigating and exposing the facts did not sit well with the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee or his colleagues at the car company he founded.  Today, we have a clear understanding why.

Early in their investigation, reporters at Watchdog.org began uncovering predictions McAuliffe made that raised doubts about his business acumen – a focal point of his campaign for governor.

In a 2010 interview with Bloomberg News, McAuliffe claimed that his company’s first vehicle would go on sale in mid-2011, and the company would be employing thousands of workers in its Tunica, Miss., plant – assembling tens of thousands of vehicles a year. Two years after this economic boom was supposed to materialize in the impoverished Mississippi town, the predictions are nothing but a pipe dream. One of the few employees at the plant claims those hired are strictly for show.

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Talking points won’t fix the national debt

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s appearance on Meet the Press last Sunday gave him an excellent opportunity to encourage Washington to get serious about tackling our national debt. Instead, he defended the fiscal irresponsibility of the last 5 years, and even offered that we “are actually overperforming expectations in terms of how quickly we’re reducing the deficit.” With the national debt approaching $17 trillion and growing by $2.25 billion each day, Lew and other politicians need to raise their expectations and at least admit that Washington has a spending problem.

The root of the national debt–the total amount of money owed by the U.S. government to its creditors–is budget deficits, which occur when the federal government spends more money than it takes in. To pay down our debt, Washington must first balance the budget and put an end to the deficit spending that administrations of both parties have made the status quo since 2000.

Calls to “cut spending” are a popular campaign refrain, but the type of reforms needed to pay down the debt aren’t even on the table right now. Politicians may pat themselves on the back for reaching “grand bargains” to reduce the deficit, but these cuts have about as much effect on the national debt as a butter knife would on an iceberg. The hyped “sequester,” for example, will cut only 2.4 percent of federal spending over the next decade, leaving the drivers of the debt untouched.

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