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Betsy DeVos Strikes a Blow for Religious Freedom

Last week, Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that the U.S. Department of Education will stop enforcing a provision in federal law that has long barred religious organizations from contracting with private schools to provide federally funded “equitable services,” like tutoring and professional development. In a letter to Congress, DeVos explained that she was acting in accord with the Supreme Court’s 2017 verdict in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer. In Trinity Lutheran, the Supreme Court ruled that the state of Missouri had engaged in unconstitutional discrimination by denying a church-run preschool access to a publicly funded program for playground improvement. Under the Constitution’s free-exercise clause, the Court found, otherwise eligible entities cannot be disqualified from a public benefit “based solely on their religious status.” In a press release accompanying her announcement, DeVos declared that, “Those seeking to provide high-quality educational services to students and teachers should not be discriminated against simply based on the religious character of their organization.” This is not a theoretical problem. To take but one example, up to now, parochial-school teachers could not attend a federally funded workshop at Catholic University. In that sense, DeVos’s policy change is long overdue. Indeed, the prohibition on religious providers was not some recent move by the Obama administration. Since its inception, the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was held to require that school districts must provide comparable services to educationally disadvantaged private-school students and educationally disadvantaged public-school students. Washington determined that those dollars could not flow directly to private schools, however, meaning that local districts had to provide the services or find a contractor to offer them. As implemented, federal law dictated that religious organizations were summarily barred from working as contractors with private schools — even when well suited for the work. But the ban on providers was remarkably inconsistent. Bizarrely, under the law, religious organizations have been permitted to provide services like after-school tutoring to public-school students, even as they’ve been barred from providing the same services to private-school students. The secretary’s decision corrects the government’s puzzling policy of intermittent religious discrimination. Predictably, some portrayed DeVos’s modest step to obey Supreme Court jurisprudence as part of a shadowy effort to entangle church and state. (“DeVos Moves to Ease Church-State Rules in Education,” one New York Times headline blared.) But the Department’s decision seems more aptly described as an effort to correct a kind of reflexive, anti-faith discrimination that had been in place for decades, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike. As Chief Justice Roberts wrote in his decision for the 7–2 majority in Trinity Lutheran, “There is no question that Trinity Lutheran was denied a grant simply because of what it is—a church.” DeVos is applying the same logic, consistently. There’s no need to overcomplicate this. If the prohibitions in question were being applied to religious organizations that had spent funds inappropriately or engaged in proselytizing while on the federal dime, that would be one thing. But the issue here is wholesale, categorical discrimination against organizations of faith, simply because they’re organizations of faith, when it comes to non-religious programs such as English tutoring and professional development for math instruction. Discrimination of that sort has no place in the American system, and DeVos was right in moving to stamp it out. The new policy has the potential to immediately benefit many of the millions of educationally disadvantaged students who attend private schools, and its significance will only grow if efforts to expand private-school choice continue to flourish. It didn’t spark the commentary or contention that have greeted so many of DeVos’s other actions, but it’s a sensible, overdue act of good stewardship and we ought not overlook it.

 

Thanks to both Frederick M. Hess and Brendan Bell for bringing this to our attention, and major kudos to Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos for making this happen!  This is a HUGE win not only for religious freedom, for the education of our kids.  Frederick M. Hess is the director of education-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Brendan Bell is the education-policy program manager at AEI.    🙂

Analysis: Fact Check: No, Democrats — The Electoral College Was Not Created Because of Slavery

Democrats are complaining about the Electoral College once again. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who is running for president, told a CNN town hall on Monday night in Mississippi that she wanted to abolish it because it meant that candidates avoided states that were not “battleground states.” Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) followed suit on Tuesday, telling CNN the Electoral College was “conceived in sin” to “perpetuat[e] slavery.” Fact Check: FALSE. They are both wrong. The Electoral College is an institution created by Article II of the Constitution for the election of the president. It provides that each state will appoint a certain number of “electors,” equal to the number of representatives it has in Congress (House plus Senate). The electors are to meet in their respective states and cast their votes for president. The votes from all the states are then counted in Congress, and the person who wins a majority is elected president. The primary purpose of the Electoral College was to serve as a brake on populism. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 68: “A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment” necessary to select a person with “the requisite qualifications,” who would not use “low intrigue” or “little arts of popularity” to sway the masses of the people to support him. In other words, the Electoral College was designed as an anti-populist measure. Over time, the votes of the electors became more or less automatic — that is, all of a state’s electors generally cast their vote for whichever presidential candidate wins the majority of votes in that state. Few were particularly bothered about that, until George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in 2000 despite losing the popular vote. Even after that, Democrats did not change the system. Then came the election of Donald Trump, which Democrats still regard as illegitimate. Many cling to conspiracy theories that Trump somehow conspired with Russia to steal the presidency. The real (non-)secret was that Trump campaigned in Midwestern states Democrats had taken for granted. (Hillary Clinton did not even visit Wisconsin in the general election.) Warren, Cohen, and others now want to undo the system that allowed Trump to win. But their diagnosis of the problem is wrong. The reason candidates avoid states like California, Mississippi, and Massachusetts during the general election campaign has less to do with the Electoral College and more to do with the fact that they consistently choose one party over another. (Candidates do campaign vigorous in those states during the primary stage, and visit wealthy liberal states during the general election to hold political fundraisers.) It is true that a national popular vote would mean that voters who are in the minority in any given state would see their votes “count.” But it is untrue that candidates would therefore spend more time in rural states or small states. Quite the opposite: presidential campaigns would shift to focus on the country’s dense population centers, such as the New York tri-state area and Southern California. Elections would probably be less, not more, representative. As President Trump tweeted Tuesday: “With the Popular Vote, you go to … just the large States – the Cities would end up running the Country. Smaller States & the entire Midwest would end up losing all power.” A national popular vote would also enable cheating. Democrats know the voting rules are loosest in states they control, like California. In the 2018 midterm elections, for example, they used “ballot harvesting,” in which activists delivered thousands of mail-in ballots for other people. The practice is illegal in many states, but Democrats legalized it in California. They want to run up the score there, then use their “National Popular Vote Interstate Compact” to award other states’ electoral votes to the popular vote winner. Republicans cannot accept that. Then there is Cohen’s argument about slavery. He claims that the Electoral College was preferred by southern states because it allowed them greater clout than a national popular vote. Northern states could, theoretically, allow all of their adult residents to vote (though few did at the time). Southern states denied slaves the right to vote — but were allowed to count them, due to the infamous three-fifths compromise, in the size of their congressional delegations. That is part of the history of the Electoral College — even after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, when Democrats in the South continued to restrict the right of blacks to vote until the latter half of the twentieth century. But that is not the reason the Electoral College was created, and at this stage it has no effect whatsoever on the way we elect presidents. (Arguably, it is Democrats today that want to disenfranchise black voters, and other citizens, by counting illegal aliens in the Census toward the apportionment of congressional representatives to the states.) If anything, the current system favors the Democrats, because they are virtually guaranteed to win New York, California, and other large “blue” states with large numbers of electoral votes. (And it is quite possible that if the Electoral College functioned as originally designed, the electors would have stopped Trump from taking office.) The Electoral College is clumsy and archaic. But its replacement would likely be worse. The simple reason Democrats want to abolish the Electoral College is to rig the system so that they cannot lose. It is self-interest masquerading as civic virtue.

Exactly!!  And well said, Joel.  Joel B. Pollak is the author of that outstanding history lesson, and providing such great insight and perspective.  Joel is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.      🙂

Greenpeace co-founder tears into Ocasio-Cortez, Green New Deal: ‘Pompous little twit’

Patrick Moore, the co-founder of the environmentalist group Greenpeace, ripped into New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over the weekend as a “pompous little twit,” saying the Green New Deal plan she’s advocating is “completely crazy.” In a series of tweets, Moore argued Ocasio-Cortez, who has called for drastically reducing fossil fuel production, doesn’t realize what would happen across the world if the radical plan were implemented. “If fossil fuels were banned every tree in the world would be cut down for fuel for cooking and heating,” Moore said in a tweet Saturday directed at Ocasio-Cortez. “You would bring about mass death.” Moore left Greenpeace after 15 years and is now critical of the group, later writing the book, “Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist.” Greenpeace, years ago, distanced themselves from Moore and say he overstates his past affiliation with them. Referring to the New York Democrat as a “pompous little twit,” Moore said, “You don’t have a plan to grow food for 8 billion people without fossil fuels, or get food into the cities.” Moore also unloaded on her for calling climate change “our World War II.” “It’s her @GND that would be worse than WW2,” he said. “Imagine no fuel for cars, trucks, tractors, combines, harvesters, power-plants, ships, aircraft, etc. Transport of people & goods would grind to a halt.” In another tweet, Moore called the Green New Deal “so completely crazy it is bound to be rejected in the end.” He also referred to Ocasio-Cortez as a “garden-variety hypocrite,” in response to a New York Post story that said the Democrat frequently used gas-guzzling Uber and Lyft rides during her 2018 campaign instead of taking the subway station near her campaign office. “You’re just a garden-variety hypocrite like the others. And you have ZERO expertise at any of the things you pretend to know,” Moore said. Ocasio-Cortez responded to that story over the weekend saying she’s “living in the world as it is.” But she said that shouldn’t be “an argument against working towards a better future.”

What a weak response!  Kudos to Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, for calling AOC out like that.  Excellent!!    🙂

NY Times Admits: Tight Labor Market Raises U.S. Wages on Dairy Farms

President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration in the United States is producing higher wages and better working conditions on American dairy farms, the New York Times admits. Though 1.5 million legal immigrants continue to be admitted to the country every year, and illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border soars to historic levels, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency efforts to go after employers who hire illegal aliens are proving to be an economic surplus for lower-wage workers. The latest New York Times report on immigration details complaints from dairy farmers who argue that they needed illegal aliens to survive as a viable business. Recent ICE raids of dairy farms, they claim, have made dairy farming more difficult as they can no longer readily rely on cheaper, foreign workers. Dairy farm workers, on the other hand, are seeing the benefits of Trump’s “Hire American” tight labor market through increased wages and better working conditions: Without a legal alternative to informal migrant labor, the competition between dairy farms to retain migrant workers is so fierce that farm owners, once notorious for underpaying and mistreating workers, are now improving working conditions and wages to entice employees to stay on their farms, workers said. Victor Cortez is an immigrant who has worked on a dairy farm in western New York for 18 years. A few years ago, farm owners “wouldn’t let us leave the farm,” he said, adding, “They wouldn’t pay us as much as they promised they would.” “But the good thing about it now,” he said, “is that we get paid more and this farmer is good to me.” For decades, a flooded labor market for America’s working and middle class due to mass legal and illegal immigration has produced generations of low-wage workers, stagnant salaries, and a cheaper labor economy — a benefit to employers at the expense of American workers. Center for Immigration Studies Director Mark Krikorian said that rather than U.S. dairy farms relying on an endless flow of cheaper, foreign workers, the federal government ought to provide subsidized loans for smaller dairy farmers to invest in robots and machines that can do the work more efficiently and without Americans having to subsidize the cost of illegal alien labor. A Bloomberg report from 2015 highlighted the effectiveness of dairy farmers mechanizing: A recent analysis by Goldman Sachs revealed how Trump’s tightened labor market for America’s working and middle class helped grow wages by four percent in 12 months. ICE has played a crucial role in carrying out Trump’s “Hire American” economic nationalist agenda by indirectly reducing the foreign competition, which U.S. workers have been subjected to. Last fiscal year, for example, ICE agents deported more than a quarter of a million illegal aliens, including more than 95,000 deportations of illegal aliens who were living in the interior of the country. Currently, the nation’s Washington, DC-imposed policy on mass legal immigration — where about 1.5 million unskilled legal immigrants are admitted to the U.S. every year — is a boon to corporate executives, Wall Street, big business, and multinational conglomerates, as working and middle-class Americans have their wealth redistributed to the country’s top earners through wage stagnation. Research by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has discovered that immigration to the country shifts about $500 billion in wages away from working and middle-class Americans to new arrivals and economic elites.

Jay Leno says he likes domestic cars because ‘I’m American’

Jay Leno can, and pretty much does own any car he wants to. The legendary comic has over 150 of them in a collection that runs the gamut from an original Fiat 500 microcar to a McLaren F1 worth over $17 million. You’ll also find plenty of Bugatti, Lamborghini, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz models parked in the two warehouses he stores them all in. “I’ve got a lot of different cars. I don’t use cars for anything practical at all,” Leno told Fox News Autos. “When my wife and I go out to eat, if there’s not a parking space in front of the restaurant that I can’t see from my table, we are not eating there – thank you very much, okay?” But while he’s often seen driving around L.A. and across the TV screen in foreign classics, when it comes to new cars, he roots for the home team. “I like domestic cars myself because I’m American and I’d like to see the money stay here,” Leno said. So, what are his favorites? Leno said he thinks the high-performance Ford F-150 Raptor is “terrific.” “It’s a really, really good vehicle – I like that a lot.” He’s also such a fan of the Ford GT supercar that he was one of the first people to plunk down $450,000 to buy one. But when it comes to bargain sports cars, he says the Chevrolet Corvette is the world’s best. “You get Lamborghini performance at Chevrolet prices. I mean, the Corvette [ZR1] has 755 horsepower for a third of the price you’d get for a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, and since it’s a Chevy – you can fix it with a hammer and BOOM.” Leno knows what he’s talking about, because he works on his cars himself. Including the 1955 Buick Roadmaster he bought in 1972 for $350 when he moved to California and that he still owns today.

🙂

 

Budweiser-branded meats are coming to stores this summer

Beer is a classic beverage for barbecues. But this summer, one of America’s best-known beers, Budweiser, is cozying up with Coleman Natural Meats to offer pulled pork, smoked ribs and bratwurst accented with the familiar taste of Bud. “Introducing classic Coleman Natural Budweiser products to a new younger audience will bring generations of consumers from the beer aisle to the prepared meat case,” Mel Coleman Jr., founding family rancher of Coleman Natural Meats, said in a statement. “Our great tasting product and recipes will continue to bring them back time and time again.” The five new products include St. Louis-style pork spareribs in full and half racks, pulled pork, jalapeno cheddar bratwurst and beer brats. The spareribs and pulled pork are coated in Budweiser sauce, and both varieties of bratwurst are made with Budweiser American lager. All the new products are made with slow-roasted, all-natural Coleman pork, with no antibiotics or added hormones. And if you’re a millennial – meaning you were born between approximately 1981 and 1999 – Budweiser and Coleman think you’ll want to put down your avocado toast and pay attention. “Budweiser is an iconic brand that is recognized throughout the U.S. with impressive advertising and marketing,” Bart Vittori, general manager of Coleman Natural Meats, said in a statement. “The Coleman and Budweiser partnership will help create awareness for the millennial consumers to stop and shop in the processed meat case.” Is that true, millennials? You can decide for yourself this summer, as that’s when the new product line will appear in stores nationwide. Or preview the line and learn more about it at BudweiserMeats.com.While awaiting the new Budweiser-Coleman product line, toast to the upcoming summer with one of the 101 best beers in America.

CNN Poll: 71 Percent of Americans Say Economy Doing Well; Majority Credits Donald Trump

A CNN poll released Monday shows an overwhelming majority of Americans believe the economy is doing well during President’s Donald Trump’s presidency. Seventy-one percent of Americans now believe that the economy is in good shape, according to the poll. Only 27 percent rated the economic conditions as poor. CNN reports that the number is the highest positive number since February 2001 and the best of Trump’s presidency. The poll shows that 51 percent of Americans give Trump positive ratings for his handling of the economy, while 42 percent disapprove. The CNN poll shows that Trump’s overall approval rating is at 42 percent, the highest recorded in the poll since August of 2018. Fifty-one percent disapprove. Eight percent had no opinion. The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS March 14 through 17 from a random national sample of 1,003 adults with a plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News last week, President Trump cited the economy as his biggest accomplishment so far in his presidency. “Look at jobs. Best jobs record in 60 years. Best individual records for Asians, for African-Americans, for Hispanics ever,” he said. Trump indicated that he looked forward to running for re-election in 2020. “We’ve done a good job,” he said. “So, in theory, it’s easier because I can say, ‘Look what I’ve done,’ as opposed to the first time where I said, ‘I can do this.’”

Good point!  Kinda hard to argue with that!      🙂