Expanding Social Security Makes Its Problems Worse: New at Reason

Social SecurityWith blatant disregard for any type of basic math, President Obama recently called for an increase to Social Security benefits. Millennials, who pay into Social Security without realistic expectations of receiving their promised benefits, should be furious that neither the president nor the presidential candidates will tell the truth about Social Security’s broken finances.

As President Obama argued in his June 1 speech in Elkhart, Indiana, “We can’t afford to weaken Social Security. We should be strengthening Social Security. And not only do we need to strengthen its long-term health, it’s time we finally made Social Security more generous, and increased its benefits so that today’s retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they’ve earned.”

There are two main problems with these claims. First, unless Americans are fine with possibly paying a 31 percent payroll tax (up from 15 percent today), entitlement programs cannot afford to maintain their current course—much less be expanded. Second, retirees receive far more than they pay in from the program commonly known as the “third rail” of American politics. Jared Meyer of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research details the many ways Obama’s proposal is terrible.

View this article.

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Democrats Are Uber Hypocrites

It’s in vogue for Democrats to decry the sharing economy as exploitative and unsafe. Cities across the country, nearly all of them headed by liberals, have cracked down on companies like Lyft and Airbnb that allow regular people to earn money by providing rides across town or renting out their spare bedrooms. Austin, Texas, recently regulated ride-sharing out of existence completely, while New York Mayor Bill de Blasio last year tried to require the industry to cease growing. Democratic presidential wannabe Bernie Sanders brags about the “serious problems” he has with Uber. And if you were a Reason subscriber you’d already have access to the July issue, which features a piece on Hillary Clinton’s disdain for the popular ride-hailing app.

Yet according to a new study from Freedom Partners (full disclosure: I worked there in 2014), Democratic congressional candidates spend more money on ride-sharing services than Republicans do.

Chart from Freedom Partners

Hypocritical much?

Researchers Michael Decker and Thomas Kise looked at Federal Election Commission congressional campaign filings and found that five of the top six spenders on ride-sharing so far this election cycle are Democrats. Likewise, that party represents five of the top seven spenders on websites like Airbnb and HomeAway that let travelers rent out a couch, room, apartment, or house rather than shelling out for a hotel, the report says.

“When you look at politicians and policy makers like Secretary Clinton and like Bernie Sanders and others, it’s kind of unfortunate that [despite] being some of the harshest critics, their campaigns continue to use the services,” Krise says. “That’s kind of interesting.”

Overall use of these apps and websites is through the roof: According to the paper, ride-sharing accounts for “more than 80 percent of total rides appearing in campaign committee filings” for the 2016 cycle. In fact, campaigns have gotten more rides through companies like Uber and Lyft so far this election (over 5,000) than there were total combined taxi and ride-share trips four years ago (less than 3,000). This suggests that the new economy isn’t just replacing the old one—it’s actually growing the market.

Chart from Freedom Partners

“As we look at these numbers and we see a growth in usage and overall market share [it seems clear] that these congressional campaign committees have found value in these services,” Kise says. “If they’re finding value, and the American people are finding value, they should not get in the way and stifle that” by pushing for more and stricter sharing-economy regulations.

A guy can hope.

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‘She Looked 18’

Not content to spread false sex-work statistics in the media and legislature, Indiana activists and officials have now put up billboard advertisements to promote their anti-fact, anti-prostitution message. One billboard—emblazoned at the top with “‘She looked 18.’ She’s not” —claims that 13-years-old is “the average age kids are first used in the sex trade.”

Any way you slice it, that’s simply not true: whether we are talking about the average age of entry into prostitution in general or the average age of minors engaging in prostitution, there’s no good evidence to back this assertion and a whole lot to suggest that it’s wrong. Even Polaris Project, arguably the most influential anti-trafficking organization in the United States, says that “this stat is not actually supported by any data.” Its origin story: a non-peer reviewed study, published in 2001, that’s now disavowed by its main author. The age claim is mentioned once throughout the entire 260-page report. It’s based on 107 interviews (from the 1990s) with minors who were living and working on the streets or in the care of social-services agencies—far from a representative sample of sex workers. And just to be clear, the report does not claim that 13 is the all-round average age of entry into prostitution, which studies of adult sex workers tend to place somewhere between 18- and 30-years-old. For instance, a small 2014 study from the non-partisan, nonprofit Urban Institute found that around 53 percent of the sex workers surveyed started between the ages of 18- and 29-years-old. Just 10 percent had started before age 15, around a quarter between the ages of 15 and 17, and around 10 percent at age 30 or above. Arizona State University researcher Dominique Roe-Sepowitz surveyed 500 women who had been arrested for prostitution and found that around 70 percent started selling sex as adults, with an average starting age of around 25 years. Of the 30 percent who did start as minors, the average entry age was around 15.

The misleading ads are made all the more egregious because they’re paid for with taxpayer money. The billboards were a project of the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans Task Force, a group that lists itself on Facebook as a “nonprofit” but is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice and headed up by U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler and Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller. In addition to billboards, the group’s “Not Buying It” campaign also features ads on city buses and elsewhere.

Another Not Buying It billboard claim is that prostitution is not a “victimless crime” because homicide is “the #1 cause of death for those in the sex trade.” This is presented as a reason why prostitution should be illegal, even though the illegality of sex work is precisely what makes it so dangerous; sex workers who can work together, screen clients adequately, and report bad actors to the police are much less likely to fall victim to violence. But beyond that, the claim is completely misleading. While homicide rates are higher for sex workers than the general population, the vast majority of them will eventually get out of the business, grow old, and die of something else. The population we’re looking at for purposes of this stat are current sex workers, whom we can safely assume skew heavily toward younger adult women. Within this population, it’s still dubious that homicide is the number one cause of death—the billboard “fact” is unsourced, so who knows where the data allegedly comes from. But even if it is true, it’s not wildly out of line with general causes-of-death for young U.S. women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, homicide is the third-leading cause of death for all American women ages 20-24 years old, the fourth-leading cause of death for 15- to 19-year-olds, and the fifth-leading cause of death for women ages 25 to 34.

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What Would Success (or Failure) Look Like for the Libertarian Party This Year? New at Reason

The Libertarian Party nominated as their president and vice president two former Republican governors, Gary Johnson of New Mexico and William Weld of Massachusetts, at their convention in Orlando, Florida over Memorial Day weekend. Reason TV was there to ask delegates and candidates what the party aims to achieve this year and what sort of vote totals and electoral breakthroughs would constitute success, or failure, for the Libertarian Party.

Watch the full video above, or click the link at the bottom of this post for downloadable versions. Approximately 3 minutes.  Produced by Zach Weissmueller and Josh Swain. Music by Chris Zabriskie. Subscribe to Reason TV’s YouTube channel for daily content like this.

Watch all of Reason TV’s coverage of the Libertarian National Convention by watching the playlist below.

View this article.

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As President, Gary Johnson Would Consider Pardoning Edward Snowden

SnowdenEarlier in the week, former Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged that Edward Snowden had performed a “public service” by revealing to Americans that their private phone records were being gathered and stored by the National Security Agency (NSA). He nevertheless thinks Snowden should face a trial.

Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson has other ideas. He told Newsmax TV he would consider pardoning Snowden, who faces espionage charges for his information leaks:

“This is someone who has divulged information that we would not know about currently — and that’s the United States government spying on all of us as U.S. citizens,” Johnson, 63, the former Republican governor of New Mexico, told “The Hard Line” host John Bachman. “I don’t want to see him in prison.”

Let’s remind everybody of the positions of our so-much-more-serious major party candidates. Donald Trump has called Snowden a traitor, a word used by many other Republicans as well, so it’s not a case of Trump being Trump.

Hillary Clinton is hardly better. She thinks Snowden should stand trial and has attempted to claim that Snowden could have availed himself of whistleblower protections rather than run away and released the information on his own. The problem with her argument is that it’s simply not true.

Watch the Johnson clip here. And watch Nick Gillespie’s recent interview of Snowden below:

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Friday A/V Club: Your Dad’s Rock Idols Explain Whitewater

Ever since the news broke that Trump plans to use the Clintons’ old scandals in the general-election campaign, us media folk have been dreading the prospect of explaining the convoluted Whitewater affair to young readers and viewers. Fortunately, we have help. From March of 1994, when both Phil Hartman and Kurt Cobain were still alive, here is Saturday Night Live‘s helpful USA for Africa-style primer, “Rockers to Help Explain Whitewater”:

If you’re not sure who all those impressionists are supposed to be, here’s a cheat sheet.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

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Violent California Protesters Play Right Into Donald Trump’s Hand

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 8.47.33 AM

When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor.

– John Lennon

Punches and eggs.

Those are the two words that keep repeating over and over in the numerous articles I’ve read describing the mindless violence inflicted upon Trump supporters in San Jose, California last night. What’s worse, these protesters have undoubtably given Trump a huge boost in public perception.

The violence exhibited by some Trump protesters yesterday evening was so barbaric and so obviously unnecessary and indecent, my first thought was that it may have been Trump operatives who arranged the whole thing. That’s how senseless counterproductive their actions proved to be.

Public perception matters a lot, history proves this. Despite the twisted and corrupt nature of our political system, the fact of the matter remains that there will be an election in November 2016, and Donald Trump will be on the top of the Republican ticket. If your goal is to deal with this reality and defeat him, the last thing you want to do is make him and his supporters look good in front of the entire planet. Yet that’s exactly what these mindless imbeciles did. For the first time in this election cycle, they made Trump and his supporters look decent and upstanding, particularly compared to some of their opponents.

continue reading

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As Fear and Intolerance Of Marijuana Declined, So Did Adolescent Use

Former drug czar Gil Kerlikowske ||| ONDCPA new analysis of data from a government-sponsored survey shows that marijuana use and abuse by teenagers declined as one state after another reduced penalties for possession and legalized cannabis for medical use. In my latest Forbes column, I explain how that outcome contradicts the predictions of leading pot prohibitionists: 

Ever since 1996, when California became the first state to recognize marijuana as a medicine, drug warriors have been warning that loosening legal restrictions on cannabis “sends the wrong message” to the youth of America, encouraging them to use a drug they would otherwise avoid. Twenty years later, with marijuana legal for medical or recreational use in two dozen states and the nation’s capital, there is little evidence that adolescents have responded in the way pot prohibitionists predicted. In fact, data from government-sponsored surveys show that teenagers are less likely to use marijuana and, if they do, less likely to abuse it than they were before this sea change in state policy.

Read the whole thing.

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After Excusing Obama’s Misdeeds, New York Times Now Attacks Trump for ‘Bold Claims of Presidential Power’

The New York Times just published a strong piece explaining why many legal experts believe Donald Trump’s agenda “is a recipe for a constitutional crisis.” As the Times notes, “Trump’s blustery attacks on the press, complaints about the judicial system and bold claims of presidential power collectively sketch out a constitutional worldview that shows contempt for the First Amendment, the separation of powers and the rule of law, legal experts across the political spectrum say.”

It’s nice to see The New York Times sit up and take notice when a presidential wannabe trashes the Constitution. My only complaint is that the Times is not exactly consistent when it comes to shining the spotlight on executive power abuse.

For example, recall that back in 2010 President Barack Obama tried to evade the Constitution and its pesky requirement that all appointments to high office first be approved by the U.S. Senate. Obama sabotaged the Senate’s constitutional role by making several purported recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate was not actually in recess. This flagrant violation of the separation of powers by Obama was ultimately ruled unconstitutional by a unanimous Supreme Court.

Yet the president did have his defenders at The New York Times. “With no sign that Republicans are willing to let up on their machinations, Mr. Obama was entirely justified in using his executive power to keep federal agencies operating,” the Times declared in an editorial defending Obama’s bogus recess appointments.

The New York Times is absolutely correct to examine Donald Trump’s unconstitutional agenda and his blatant contempt for the rule of law. Too bad the misdeeds of a certain sitting president did not face similar scrutiny from this “newspaper of record.”

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A.M. Links: Hillary vs. Bernie, Violent Protests at Trump Rally, Suspected Terrorists Arrested in Germany

  • Hillary Clinton: Donald Trump’s “thin skin” could set off a world war.
  • Hillary vs. Bernie: Among California voters “almost half of Clinton’s supporters said they would enthusiastically support Sanders if he was the party nominee. Just under a quarter of Sanders’ supporters said the same thing about Clinton.”
  • Violent protests erupted outside a Donald Trump rally in San Jose last night.
  • “Authorities in Germany are monitoring almost 500 Islamic extremists they believe pose a potential security threat, officials said Friday, a day after the arrest of three men suspected of planning to carry out an attack in the country for the Islamic State group.”
  • Donald Verrilli is stepping down from his position as solicitor general in the Obama administration.
  • Today is National Donut Day.

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