President Joe Biden delivered his first State of the Union address Tuesday night. (Biden’s address last April 28 was to a joint session of Congress, a distinction admittedly without much of a difference.)
The Heritage Foundation’s policy experts weighed in with reaction and analysis on a variety of topics. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
The commentary from Heritage experts, rounded up below, was updated throughout the evening.
Championing Big Government, Not Economy
President Joe Biden positions himself as a champion of workers, families, and small business in pledging to reduce household expenses, nurture entrepreneurs, and foster good-paying jobs.
But strip away the rhetoric from his address and what remains is a massive spending agenda that ignores policy reforms that would actually benefit all Americans.
Missing from the president’s address was any meaningful plan to ease the crushing regulatory burden that constitutes an enormous tax on the entire U.S. economy.
The United States cannot “outcompete China” as long as the administration’s dubious global warming schemes drive up energy costs, and access to credit for investment is restricted by reams of federal do’s and don’ts.
The pressure on household budgets will remain as long as the Biden administration drives up the cost of groceries with unnecessary strictures on food production, federal dictates on the design of every conceivable appliance, and the stranglehold on housing construction of unnecessary environmental permitting and land-use controls.
Repairs to the nation’s roads, bridges, airports, and railways will be slowed and more costly unless the president remedies the regulatory flaws in the National Environmental Policy Act, including politicized science, arbitrary standards, and protracted litigation.
Fewer small businesses will be launched—and fewer will survive—unless the Biden administration lowers regulatory barriers to entry that disproportionately disadvantage the little guys.
The president also needs to ease access to credit for would-be entrepreneurs that has been held back by the flood of regulation under the Dodd-Frank Act.
Alas, the Biden agenda for 2022 lists 2,678 “active” regulatory actions, which exceeds by 35% the number of prospective rulemakings by the Trump administration in the same period.
It signals a return to the regulatory excesses of the Obama years—when the private sector regulatory burden increased by an astonishing $122 billion annually.
Notwithstanding all the costly nostrums from the president tonight, the state of the union is under threat from the administration’s unchecked regulatory impulses and allegiance to Big Government.
—Diane Katz is a senior research fellow in regulatory policy.
Inflation, Deficits: Gasoline on the Fire
As usual, President Joe Biden isn’t just wrong about inflation, he’s dead wrong.
We’ve had decades of federal subsidies for health care and college education, resulting in price inflation markedly higher than the rest of the economy.
Biden wants to extend that flawed mindset to areas like child care and “green” energy, creating new subsidies and entitlements that will increase costs and make overall inflation worse.
His proposed welfare expansion would shrink the workforce and thus increase costs for businesses, which would in turn increase costs for consumers.
Coupled with inflationary federal mandates such as a $15 minimum wage, dramatically higher wage requirements for child care providers, and already-enacted executive orders to pay more for infrastructure and the federal workforce, we can see that the Biden agenda consistently involves benefiting his political interests in ways that would pour gasoline on the inflationary fire.
Biden gets half a cheer for belatedly acknowledging that big federal deficits make inflation worse.
Unfortunately, the Biden agenda blames deficits on Americans not being taxed enough, rather than Washington spending too much.
His solution is to drain more resources from the economy (discouraging investment when we need it most), and use those new taxes to pay for even more spending. Further, his legislative proposals to date have relied on budget gimmicks that hide the true cost, meaning they actually add to deficits and thus make inflation worse.
Biden and Congress have embarked on a wildly destructive spending spreesince the start of the pandemic, and the State of the Union speech shows that Biden wants to keep the gravy train rolling without recognizing the serious consequences that will have on the country.
Fortunately, The Heritage Foundation has solutions to the federal government’s financial woes and America’s inflation crisis. Legislators shouldn’t wait until after the election to do the right thing, and certainly shouldn’t make these problems worse.
—David Ditch is a policy analyst specializing in budget and transportation policy in the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget.
Doubling Down on Policies Fueling Inflation
President Joe Biden acknowledged that “many families are living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to keep up with the rising cost of food, gas, housing, and so much more.”
And the president outrageously instructed businesses to simply “lower your costs, not your wages.” The president refused to acknowledge that the highest inflation in 40 years, supply shortages, and decline in real wages are a direct result of government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions suppressing supply, trillions of dollars in additional government spending inducing demand while the Federal Reserve “financed” this spending by printing trillions of dollars to purchase government debt.
Biden’s proposals will make it worse. Although he claimed again that he won’t raise taxes on the middle class, inflation is a tax—and middle-class families are paying dearly.
He also misleadingly suggested that the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act benefited only the top 1% of Americans—although the average American married couple with two children saved more than $2,800 annually.
Meanwhile, gasoline has soared 52% since Biden became president. And yet he persists in blocking energy infrastructure and denying drilling permits on federal land.
The way out of high energy prices is increased supply, not by pretending American isn’t rich in energy resources.
—Joel Griffith is a research fellow in financial regulations.
Tiptoeing Around Fast-Rising Food Prices
American families are getting slammed by higher prices. And for most Americans, that pain is usually most evident when buying food.
Yet President Joe Biden didn’t talk about the unusually high rate of rising food prices, beyond a passing reference.
It’s easy to see why. Over the past 12 months, food prices rose 7%, the largest year-over-year increase in 40 years.
Here’s something that shouldn’t be surprising: If the federal government imposes costs at almost every step of the food supply, then food prices are going to increase.
The Biden administration’s war on conventional fuels (i.e., coal, oil, and natural gas) and affordable energy, for instance, are driving up energy costs, which affects the entire economy, including the food sector.
Across the food supply, there’s also concern over labor costs. So, what is the Biden administration doing? New labor and employment regulations, such as the Department of Labor’s final rule raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 an hour, will only exacerbate higher labor costs, which will likely then get passed on to consumers. And Tuesday night, Biden called on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, presumably across the board.
Then there’s the Biden administration’s inexcusable decision to propose a new regulation to define “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. This is a term that is critical because it lays out what waters the federal government can regulate under the law.
The new proposed definition rejects the reasonable Trump administration definition and would in effect try to regulate almost every water imaginable.
This proposed rule would be devastating to farmers and ranchers, who would have to worry about this federal overreach and not be able to engage in even ordinary farming activities.
Policymakers should be trying to identify policy reforms that will help reduce food prices, not make them worse.
That means that policymakers should stop the war on conventional fuel, stop flawed labor and employment policies, and stop harmful and intrusive environmental regulation.
Further, policymakers should get rid of policies such as the federal sugar program, which intentionally drives up food prices by restricting the supply of sugar. That program alone costs consumers as much as $3.7 billion a year.
During the peak of the pandemic, the food supply chain was incredibly resilient and adapted quickly to unprecedented challenges.
The Trump administration, and for that matter, government at all levels, identified ways to get the government out of the way so that farmers, truckers, meatpackers, grocers, and everyone across the food supply chain could do what they do best: provide Americans safe and affordable food.
The Biden administration and Congress don’t need to look back very far to recognize that reducing government intervention—not increasing it—will help the food supply chain and reduce food prices.
—Daren Bakst is a senior research fellow in regulatory policy studies.
>>>DEFENSE, FOREIGN POLICY
‘Buy American’ Only Could Hurt Military
When President Joe Biden says the United States will “buy American to make sure everything from the deck of an aircraft carrier to the steel on highway guardrails are made in America,” he’s directly hurting the U.S. defense industrial base.
Our defense industrial base and our military depend on trade and commerce with our friends and partners.
If we constrain free trade and limit our purchases to just those defense goods made in America, we will pay more and get less.
Some of our key partners, such as Israel, make high-quality defense goods that help our service members succeed on the battlefield.
Policies like these make our military weaker.
—Thomas Spoehr is director of the Center for National Defense.
Missed Opportunity on Russian Sanctions
We should not forget that Russia is the aggressor, and Ukraine is the victim.
The people of Ukraine are fighting for their future and for the security of the free world.
Over the past few weeks, the United States has imposed severe economic sanctions against Russia, sent more troops to bolster NATO’s Eastern flank, and provided more weapons to Ukraine.
However, the Biden administration waited until the tanks were outside Kyiv before implementing strong sanctions.
We cannot afford to wait until Russian tanks are inside Kyiv before hitting Russia with even tougher sanctions.
The existing unprecedented economic sanctions should be expanded to sanction in its entirety—and without any exemptions—the Russian Central Bank and Russia’s energy sector.
Also, maximum pressure must be placed on Europeans to fully and finally disconnect Russia from SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.
It was disappointing that these new and tougher sanctions were not announced tonight when the whole world was watching.
Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot be allowed to get away with his crimes in Ukraine. Everything Putin has done since coming to power has been designed to undermine all values that Americans hold dear: freedom, safety, prosperity, and opportunity.
Every country has a sovereign right to self-defense. Ukraine needs and deserves our help because a free Ukraine keeps us and our allies safe.
—Alexis Mrachek is a research associate on Russia and Eurasia.
‘China Bills’ Would Do Little to Counter Threat
In his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden made a pitch for the giant so-called China bills making their way through Congress.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act—and especially its companion bill in the House—has very little to do with countering the threat from China.
They give away hundreds of billions of dollars to special interests and big companies, such as Intel, that already have the money and motivation to make investments themselves.
What’s more, these bills give out this corporate welfare without effective guardrails for ensuring the technology doesn’t go to China, or otherwise compensate companies for their investments there.
Let’s look at a few other things that what Biden calls the Bipartisan Innovation Act will do.
- Hands out billions to labor unions under the guise of trade adjustment assistance.
- Expands the use of trade remedy laws to protect uncompetitive American businesses and stick working Americans with the bill.
- Provides billions of dollars for the green climate slush fund.
- Spends well over $100 billion on research and development that is not only better left to the private sector, but in fact is duplicative of existing government initiatives.
If you really want to know what this call for congressional action is about, read the press release put out last year by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s office.
It’s a compendium of more than two dozen endorsements from constituencies in New York state that stand to benefit from the bill’s passage.
Multiply that by the many other members who were able to leave their fingerprints on these bills, and you begin to get the picture.
The so-called bipartisan Innovation and Competition Act is a political bill, in a political year. It’s not foreign policy. For a bill that gets at the real threats China poses to the U.S., punt this effort and start again next year.
—Walter Lohman is director of the Asian Studies Center of the Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy.
Wrong Answer to Rising Challenge of China
The rise of China is the most persistent and consequential challenge that will confront the United States for the foreseeable future.
President Joe Biden pressed Tuesday night for passage of vastly different proposals that have passed out of the House and the Senate that have yet to be merged and offer a slew of “solutions” that have nothing to do with the rising challenge of China—or in some ways could even further empower the Chinese Communist Party.
Specifically, he noted the need for vast sums of industrial policy subsidies and policies to help rebuild America from the “middle out.”
The recently House-passed COMPETES Act included almost $100 billion to well-connected businesses without regard to their ties to China. In his Tuesday night address, the president promoted the idea that these industries need substantial long-term subsidies for the semiconductor industry to bring chip manufacturing back to U.S. soil.
This was without discussing the vast sums of money the industry has already been spending and allocating for future development on its own, nor noting its current and long-term investments in China.
Samsung, Intel, and Taiwan-based TSMC have all announced major investments in Texas, Ohio, and Arizona, respectively, in recent years.
Little does the American taxpayer know that these companies generally refuse to accept guardrails that would prevent semiconductor-subsidy takers from turning around and increasing their investments in China.
Expedient and robust policies are needed to tackle the near- and long-term challenge of China, including possible targeted investments, but the debate on the “China Bill” has become more convoluted and bloated overtime without tackling its original mission.
Many members in Congress have turned it into an earmark exercise for their states’ research institutions or labs, with many—including this administration’s own Statement of Administration Policy—unable to say the word it was supposed to be about: China.
As The Heritage Foundation’s president, Kevin Roberts, mentioned this week at an event with former national security adviser Robert O’Brien discussing how to win the 21st-century tech race with China: “It is about whether America’s adversaries, especially the Chinese Communist Party, will look at the United States in the coming months and years as a formidable adversary, or a weakening and irresolute superpower.”
Let’s hope members of Congress remember this.
—Dustin Carmack is a research fellow in technology policy.
China Was All but MIA in Speech
President Joe Biden gave his first State of the Union address Tuesday evening. In his roughly hourlong speech, he talked about Ukraine extensively and ran through a litany of programs and issue areas from a $15/hour minimum wage to border issues to fighting cancer.
He called for action on a variety of legislation covering abortion, COVID-19, and infrastructure.
But he made almost no mention of China.
Like Arthur Conan Doyle’s hounds of the Baskervilles, this is the dog that didn’t bark, and the silence was thunderous. The People’s Republic of China poses the single greatest geopolitical challenge to the United States. It is a factor in a variety of issues that Biden chose to raise.
China has maintained support for Russia despite Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. China has played a role in the COVID-19 pandemic, withholding vital information in the early stages.
China’s military has tested weapons clearly intended to target the United States. Then there are the many areas where China poses threats that were not touched upon in the president’s speech, but should have been.
Yet, in a speech that is meant to address the state of the union, and therefore, threats to the union, China was reduced to references in two sentences.
Those wondering how the United States will deal with China in the coming year apparently will have to wait for a different speech in a different forum.
—Dean Cheng is a senior research fellow for Chinese political and military affairs.
Biden $140B Off on Defense Budget
President Joe Biden’s claim: “The federal government spends about $600 billion a year to keep the country safe and secure.”
The facts: According to Biden’s own budget, defense activities were appropriated $741 billion in fiscal year 2021.
—Matthew Dickerson is director of the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget.
Illegal Aliens, Drugs, Human Smuggling Surge
President Joe Biden called on Congress to beat the opioid epidemic. He suggested increasing funding for prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery.
True prevention would mean securing the border so that opioids, including fentanyl, wouldn’t enter our country in the first place.
Instead, Biden wants to throw good money after bad.
He wants state and local law enforcement to go after traffickers. He should be supporting Customs and Border Protection officers to secure our border and prevent traffickers from entering and bringing poisonous drugs into the U.S. to kill Americans.
With respect to immigration, Biden’s comments were divorced from reality. Biden gave lip service to securing the border and fixing the immigration system, but he has opened the border and burned down our immigration system, like so many other institutions the left is intent on dismantling.
Biden touted installing new technology at ports of entry to detect drug smuggling. Yet a record 100,000 Americans died last year from drug overdoses.
Biden also ignores the border between the ports. He has Border Patrol officers process hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens into the U.S. instead of properly removing them.
The result is Border Patrol agents are pulled off the line to do paperwork. This opens vast swaths of the border for cartel traffickers and smugglers to bring illegal aliens from more than 150 countries and fentanyl into the U.S.
Biden said his administration has set up joint patrols with Mexico and Guatemala to catch more human traffickers. It is not hard to “catch more human traffickers” when his open-border policies increase the human trafficking business.
Biden touted securing commitments from and supporting partners in South America and Central America to host more refugees and secure their own borders, while he himself fails to secure our border.
He called on Congress to provide a pathway to citizenship (green cards) for so-called “Dreamers,” those here on “temporary” status, farmworkers, and essential workers. Such amnesty is terrible policy, because it encourages more illegal migration, which fuels more trafficking of people and drugs.
Biden said Congress should revise our immigration laws so businesses have the workers they need and so families don’t wait decades to reunite.
The reality is Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has already erased employment verification, allowing businesses to have whatever aliens they want, whether legal or not.
Likewise, Mayorkas has created multiple programs for family reunification among illegal aliens.
Finally, Biden claimed reforming our lawful immigration system is the right and economically smart thing to do. Unfortunately, because Biden has put the U.S. into such a deep illegal immigration hole, Americans are not interested in also raising lawful immigration numbers.
Instead, Congress should stop the damage, secure our border, end the abuse of asylum and other immigration benefits, significantly fund immigration enforcement agencies to uphold the law, and get America back onto a path of immigration integrity.
—Lora Ries is director of the Center for Technology Policy and a senior research fellow in homeland security.
On COVID-19, a Missed Opportunity
While acknowledging that the COVID-19 situation has improved, the president missed a critical opportunity to launch a new direction in pandemic policy.
He should have been clear that “zero COVID” is not a realistic policy aim and that the disease will likely be with us for some time, as discussed in recent Heritage Foundation research.
Cases may rise again. But we are much better equipped today than at any previous time to deal with new increases in cases without restrictive government interventions.
- Most Americans have some acquired immunity.
- The Food and Drug Administration has authorized antiviral oral medications to treat COVID-19. One of these, Paxlovid, was found to reduce hospitalizations by 88%.
Natural and vaccine-acquired immunity, coupled with new treatments, will reduce hospitalization levels well below levels associated with seasonal flu.
Instead of adapting pandemic policy to March 2022, the president remains stuck in March 2020 by not fully rejecting a return to mandates and restrictions if cases and hospitalizations spike again.
He should instead have called for a real return to normalcy in our communities, schools, and places of commerce, urged state and local governments to shelve restrictions and mandates, and declared that the U.S. is moving on from COVID-19.
—Doug Badger is a senior fellow in domestic policy. Kevin Dayaratna is principal statistician, data scientist, and a research fellow.
Government Intervention Isn’t Health Care Reform
President Joe Biden’s speech echoes more of the same when it comes to health care: More government intervention. This approach to health reform is a recipe for ruin.
Just look at the government’s track record.
Under Obamacare, premiums for individual health insurance more than doubled since it was first enacted, and more than half (53%) of all U.S. counties have two of fewer insurers selling coverage in the Obamacare exchanges.
The Medicare trustees have repeatedly warned that without reforms, Medicare will be unable to pay its promised benefits, further burdening seniors and taxpayers.
Worse yet, the Biden administration and its congressional allies want to make the situation worse, not better, by pushing for the massive tax-and-spend welfare bill.
The Build Back Better plans would expand government control over health care; undermine private health insurance, including employer-based coverage; and strip states of the flexibility they need to best address the health care issues facing their individual states.
Even on prescription drugs, the Biden solution is more government. Yet, that solution will only lead to less access and fewer lifesaving drugs.
Rather than more of the same—less choice, higher costs, and greater federal control—Congress should focus on expanding affordable, private coverage options, removing barriers that fuel rising health care costs, and realigning incentives to empower patients, not the government, to control dollars and decisions.
—Nina Owcharenko Schaefer is a senior research fellow in health policy.
Federal Pre-K Won’t Prepare Kids for K-12
President Joe Biden’s proposal to require taxpayers to pay more for a federal pre-K system would continue the trend of expanding the reach of Washington into education, restrict supply, and increase costs with no long-term benefit to children.
There’s strong empirical evidence against the claim that government pre-K programs produce benefits for children. In multiple long-term studies, researchers did not find lasting improvements in academic and behavioral outcomes for participating children who attended a government pre-K program.
Universal pre-K won’t grow the economy, either.
Evidence finds that any small increase in maternal labor participation will not cover the costs of the program. Additionally, a universal pre-K system would limit the supply of child care providers by increasing the regulatory costs of running a child care business.
Small, private, and family child care providers would be crowded out in favor center-based child care, an option that most parents don’t want.
The proposal will penalize the 70% of mothers with a child under the age of 18 who prefer child care to come from a parent or relative.
Parents should be empowered to make the best decisions for their children, and such flexibility requires a low-regulation environment free of federal mandates.
Lawmakers should reduce the current regulatory burden on providers, and Congress should make existing funding for the federal Head Start program fully portable for families who need it—and then phase out this failing program.
—Jonathan Butcher is a fellow in education at the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity.
More Federal Subsidies Won’t Solve College Cost Problem
President Joe Biden proposed expanding the Pell Grant program, recycling an idea from the Obama administration.
Yet, as Heritage research explains, such increases to Pell Grants would not improve the problem of increasing tuition costs and skyrocketing federal student loans.
Every time Washington increases the subsidies available to college students, colleges have fewer reasons to rein in tuition costs. Students will need more money to cover tuition and expenses—and the cycle continues.
The president is ignoring the real solution, which is to reduce and ultimately eliminate the federal footprint in higher education lending.
Nearly all discussions of federal policies in postsecondary and graduate education among liberal lawmakers fall back on forgiving student loans—which is, in fact, also a subsidy using taxpayer money.
Such proposals would disproportionately help students from wealthier families. Graduate students, such as those in law schools and medical schools, borrow $24,000 per year, on average, compared with undergraduates, who borrow an average of $7,000 annually. Furthermore, the wealthiest 40% of borrowers hold some 60% of all student loan debt.
If Washington wants to help students—including students at historically black colleges and universities—succeed in school and in life, federal lawmakers should consolidate student loan and loan repayment programs.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers and college officials should consider innovative solutions, such as income share agreements, to give students options outside of the black hole of federal loans.
—Jonathan Butcher is a fellow in education at the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity.
Washington’s COVID-19 Response Failed Students
After the prolonged closures of assigned schools around the country, reports rolled in from many districts that forcing students into full-time virtual learning, regardless of a child’s learning needs, resulted in steep learning losses.
Washington sent some $190 billion in taxpayer spending through the COVID-19 relief packages.
To date, state officials have spent a small fraction of this spending. California school officials have used only one-third of their allotment, and New York school leaders just one-quarter, while no state school leaders have approached half.
Reports find that instead of helping students recover from learning losses, some school officials have used COVID-19 relief funds to renovate athletic facilities and hire more administrators.
Increases in federal spending on K-12 schools did not help students who struggled before—and during—the pandemic.
The percentage of students earning D’s and F’s has increased, while researchers have found that students who had no choice but to learn online at their assigned schools for longer periods had steeper learning losses in math than their peers who returned faster to in-person instruction.
State lawmakers should move quickly to consider proposals that give every child the chance to succeed and provide options for parents to decide how and where their children learn.
This year, lawmakers in states across the country, including South Carolina and Oklahoma, are considering such options.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., has introduced a proposal to give students from low-income families better access to their child’s share of federal education spending.
These are the solutions families need—not more spending on an assigned system that failed to meet student needs during the pandemic.
—Jonathan Butcher is a fellow in education at the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity.
Expansion of Welfare State
President Joe Biden suggests resuming the cash payments from the IRS to parents that were in effect in the latter half of 2021.
The superficial value of this program is $3,000 per child per year ($250 times 12 months). But these payments replace the existing child tax credit, which has a value of $2,000 per child per year for most working- and middle-class families.
For most families, every dollar in government cash is offset by 67 cents in higher income taxes.
Biden’s real goal is not middle-class support, but expansion of the welfare state.
He would eliminate the current child tax credit work requirement and pay the full $3,000 per child to parents who simply choose not to work.
Under existing law, the child tax credit has a welfare component that sends cash grants to lower-income families with children that owe no income tax. But critically, these payments are linked to a work requirement. Families that perform no work in the year receive no cash.
And, to encourage work and marriage, the cash payments start low and increase steadily as annual family earnings increase.
Middle- and working-class families need good jobs, higher wages, and lower inflation, not more government handouts.
Lower-income families need a welfare system that encourages, not discourages, work and marriage.
The Biden plan fails on both counts.
—Jamie Hall is a research fellow in quantitative analysis.
>>>ELECTIONS AND VOTING RIGHTS
Misleading Us Again on Voting Rights
When it comes to voting and elections, President Joe Biden continued his assault on the truth in his State of the Union speech tonight when he once again repeated his deceitful claim that the right to vote is “under assault.”
He insulted the legislators and voters of the many states that have passed beneficial election reforms when he bizarrely claimed that those reforms (like requiring a voter to authenticate his identity with an ID) are intended “to suppress the vote” and “subvert entire elections.”
That’s an absurd claim. It is easier to register and vote today than at any time in our history, and we have seen record registration and turnout in recent elections.
Polling shows voters support the state reforms Biden is criticizing, another sign of just how out of touch he is.
Congress should reject Biden’s call to pass federal legislation that would lead to a federal takeover of the election process and override state laws that protect voters and the security of elections.
The legislation Biden supports would destroy the honesty and integrity of American elections.
—Hans von Spakovsky is the manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative and a senior legal fellow at the Institute for Constitutional Government.
Biden Avoided Supreme Court Nominee’s Judicial Philosophy
President Joe Biden tonight made but a passing reference to his Supreme Court nominee, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
He skipped what he has emphasized for two years, that his first nominee would be a black woman, an exclusionary approach that three-quarters of Americans oppose.
The most important thing about a Supreme Court nominee is not race, sex, or where she once worked, but how much power she thinks she will have.
Senators must ascertain Jackson’s answer to that question.
We must assume that Jackson will be the kind of Supreme Court justice that Biden, Senate Democrats, and left-wing groups obviously expect.
Biden says that constituencies should be “represented” on the Supreme Court, and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., says that judges should apply the law “equitably,” rather than equally.
Left-wing groups such as Demand Justice want to pack the court—and a justice who will reliably deliver liberal political results on key issues. It is troubling that Jackson was Demand Justice’s pick.
Jackson has twice sworn to administer justice “without respect to persons” and to “impartially” discharge her judicial duties. Senators must determine whether she really means it or will instead, as the left-wing groups that promoted her nomination demand, favor certain persons and deliver partial justice to further certain political interests.
When he chaired the Judiciary Committee in 1990, Biden told then-appeals court nominee Clarence Thomas that there is a “fundamental distinction” between lower court judges and Supreme Court justices. For that reason, senators must uncover the judicial philosophy that Jackson claimed she did not have when appointed to the lower courts.
After her appeals court nomination hearing last year, Jackson insisted that “empathy should not play a role in a judge’s consideration of a case” and that she does not “draw upon, reference, or consider my personal views” on issues, including on “systemic racism.”
Senators must establish whether she has honored that commitment throughout her judicial career and whether this would be her commitment if she is confirmed to a seat on the Supreme Court.
—Thomas Jipping is a senior legal fellow at the Institute for Constitutional Government.
Promises on Police Reform Ring Hollow
During his State of the Union speech, President Joe Biden voiced opposition to defunding the police and vowed to take back our streets and to make our neighborhoods safer by putting more police with better training and accountability back onto those streets.
He said the answer “is not to defund the police,” adding, “The answer is to fund the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.”
He’s exactly right, but actions speak louder than words. And so far, his administration’s actions have not matched his words. In fact, his lack of action or using the bully pulpit of the presidency has arguably made matters worse.
Clearly, Americans are sick of rising crime rates and the general culture of lawlessness that has been allowed to fester for much of the past two years in key cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore, and elsewhere.
Things have gotten so bad that a few big-city Democratic mayors, such as San Francisco’s London Breed and New York City’s Eric Adams, have even distanced themselves from some of their own party’s soft-on-crime policies, especially those pushed by the radical, rogue district attorneys in their cities (Chesa Boudin in San Francisco and Alvin Bragg in Manhattan).
Biden talked about visiting the New York Police Department days after the funeral of two officers who were killed by a criminal. He was right to go to New York City; presidents do that. But one of those officers’ widow blasted the soft-on-crime policies of Bragg—policies that the Biden administration has tacitly endorsed.
One of the most despicable policies is the refusal by rogue prosecutors—such as George Gascon, Larry Krasner, Kim Foxx, and Marilyn Mosby, among others—to prosecute those who resist lawful arrest attempts by police officers. No wonder police across the country think the president doesn’t have their backs.
So, while the Biden administration likely recognizes that the political winds favor funding the police, Biden’s actions speak louder than his words. And those actions show that his words are largely worthless for at least three reasons:
- Biden nominated Rachael Rollins, one of the most extreme rogue district attorneys in the country, to be the U.S. attorney—the chief federal law enforcement officer—for Massachusetts.
- A leaked draft executive order on the subject of police reform contained many items that don’t appear to be designed to help the police—and that Congress wouldn’t pass—but appear instead to be designed to demoralize them (even if not to defund them).
- No serious discussion of crime control can occur so long as the southern border remains unsecured. Among the 2 million-plus illegal aliens who have crossed the border illegally are scores of hardened criminals—not to mention that conditions at the border provide the perfect conditions for human and drug trafficking to flourish.
As Shakespeare wrote in “Richard III,” “Talkers are no good doers.” Talk is cheap.
The American people deserve a president who stands behind law enforcement, in words and actions. Sadly, Biden, who is clearly beholden to the so-called squad in Congress and other leftists who loathe the police, has failed to show the moral courage to stand behind the police and to call for an end to the rogue prosecutor movement and the lawlessness it promotes.
—Zack Smith is a legal fellow with the Institute for Constitutional Government. Cully Stimson is the deputy director of the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and a senior legal fellow.
Inaction on Fentanyl Smuggling Indefensible
Mr. President, you said that you are troubled by the empty chairs in American homes due to COVID-19.
Well, Sir, there are more than 100,000 empty chairs in American households due to narcotic overdoses, principally fentanyl.
China ships fentanyl (or its constituent elements) to Mexico, and from there the drug cartels use “mules” to transport it into California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
Mr. President, you need to stop the influx of drug mules across the border from Mexico, or the number of overdoses will exceed the 100,000 we have already seen.
So, the question that President Joe Biden should answer is this: How many Americans have to die before you stop the influx of fentanyl into the United States?
—Paul J. Larkin is the John, Barbara, and Victoria Rumpel senior legal fellow at the Institute for Constitutional Government.
>>>SOCIAL ISSUES: ABORTION, LGBT RIGHTS
Extremist Positions on Roe, Equality Act
Tuesday night during his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden offered a roundup of leftist policy goals—many of which have been pet projects for his administration since taking office in January 2021.
Among them was a continued call to pass the Equality Act—a bill that would unilaterally alter the state of civil rights law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity across numerous sectors of American life. Those would include employment and housing, public education, and even the credit markets and jury service.
It would simultaneously gut the protections offered by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Biden repeated the call for the Equality Act’s passage even though it has continually stalled in the Senate due to its prohibition on invoking the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a legal defense, something that even one of its authors recognized would “crush” religious dissenters.
Biden also addressed the “constitutional right affirmed in Roe v. Wade,” claiming it’s “under attack as never before.”
Perhaps recognizing the Supreme Court’s potential to limit or overturn that precedent in the soon-to-be-decided Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s HealthOrganization case, Biden blew a familiar leftist dog whistle on abortion as “health care.”
But considering the failure of the Women’s Health Protection Act to advance on a cloture vote late Monday night, it appears that even some Democrats lack his appetite for abortion without restriction.
And, though he advanced talking points on the bipartisan legislation advanced during the past year, Biden promised to “strengthen the Violence Against Women Act.”
Though he first authored the bill almost 30 years ago, the 1993 Violence Against Women Act wasn’t the progressive stalking horse it is today, one rife with gender identity provisions, special-interest grants, and the constitutionally prohibited expansion of Indian tribal court jurisdiction.
Those provisions are in addition to a nowhere-to-be-found religious exemption—one that would allow faith-based battered women’s shelters to maintain sex-segregated spaces in accordance with their faith, and in the very places that women need protection most.
—Sarah Parshall Perry is a legal fellow in the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.
Backing Abortion Bill the Senate Rightly Killed
President Joe Biden addressed abortion during the speech without actually saying the word “abortion.”
Instead, he name-checked Roe v. Wade and alluded to abortion by talking about women’s “right to choose.”
In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court created a “right” to abortion out of thin air in 1973. This term, the court finally has a chance to correct that grave error.
Roe v. Wade has poisoned our laws, our courts, and our culture. Our laws should protect innocent human lives, including those not yet born, and society should support women who face challenging or unplanned pregnancies.
Instead, Biden and pro-abortion members of Congress have pushed a radical and extreme bill called the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would go far, far beyond Roe and overturn essentially all existing state pro-life laws and prohibit future pro-life laws.
This dangerous bill passed the House last year, but failed to advance this week in the Senate.
Biden and many members of Congress should acknowledge that most Americans don’t support the abortion-on-demand regime imposed by Roe. In fact, they support life-affirming policies that aren’t allowed under Roe.
The Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence has distorted our Constitution, and it’s time for a course correction.
—Melanie Israel is a policy analyst in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society.
Biden’s Appeal for ‘Unity’ Rings Hollow
President Joe Biden called for a new “Unity Agenda” for the nation. Those are nice words, but to give them meaning, he’d have to undo almost everything he did during his first year in office.
Biden issued more executive orders in his first year than any other president by far. And many of those orders pushed radical culture war issues that bitterly divide the country.
There can be no unity when Biden issues unilateral orders that could never pass Congress.
Neither can there be unity when Biden’s administration acts with hostility to religious Americans. He has fought them as they try to live out their lives according to their faith. He has fought to regulate the internal affairs of houses of worship, and he has sided with liberal governors who treated houses of worship worse than they treated their large corporate donors during the pandemic.
Biden called for an end to partisanship around COVID-19, saying that we should stop looking at each other as “enemies.” But it has been Biden’s allies in government and in the media who have mocked or derided as “enemies” those who refuse to be vaccinated or those who simply want to maintain a balance between COVID-19 lockdowns and our civil liberties.
There can be no unity when his liberal allies disparage and look down on conservatives.
Biden called for unity while reaffirming his commitment to a radical “transgender” agenda that has led to the erosion of spaces set aside for women to thrive and to be safe.
There can be no unity when men who “identify” as women rape girls in their bathrooms and deny women a fair chance in sports.
Neither can there be unity when Biden continues dividing Americans on the basis of race. Whether it’s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying that members of some races should be given priority treatment over others, Biden’s decision to allocate government benefits on the basis of race, his administration’s defense of Harvard’s racial discrimination against Asians, or his refusal to consider qualified Supreme Court candidates who aren’t the right color and sex, there can be no unity when the president divides Americans by their skin color.
If Biden is serious about unity, he must stop the unilateral actions on radical culture-war issues and he must treat all Americans—regardless of their beliefs, views, or skin color—equally.
So far, Biden has proved incapable of doing that, but we would welcome a change in direction.
—GianCarlo Canaparo is a legal fellow in the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.
Hypocrisy of Biden’s Gun Control Agenda
President Joe Biden opened his State of the Union speech by praising the courage of countless Ukrainian civilians bravely taking up arms to defend democracy.
He touted “the triumph of freedom over tyranny” and called for the world to ensure that dictators pay a price for their aggression.
And then, remarkably, he called on Congress to pass a slew of constitutionally questionable restrictions on the right of American citizens to keep and bear arms.
Biden presented three aspects of a plan that he says are “proven measures to reduce gun violence.”
In fact, not a single one of these actions is likely to save a single life. They would, however, greatly undermine the fundamental right of the people to keep and bear arms.
Let’s take these three proposals in order.
‘Universal Background Checks’
Biden implied that Congress needs to pass universal background checks because “why should anyone on a terrorist watchlist be able to purchase a weapon?”
That’s an odd question to ask, since universal background check laws would not expand federal prohibitions on gun ownership to include those on a terrorist watchlist.
Moreover, as we have explained many times, it’s already illegal for prohibited persons (such as felons and those who have been involuntary committed to mental health facilities) to buy or possess firearms.
Federal law already requires that all gun sales go through a background check process, except for a small subset of private sales between residents of the same state.
The problem with the universal background check bills touted by the Biden administration and other gun control activists is that they go far beyond regulating private sales, criminalizing low-risk, temporary, and sometimes even lifesaving transfers of firearms.
Moreover, even if universal background checks were 100% enforceable—a dubious assumption—it’s a low-reward endeavor. Private commercial sales simply are not a major way in which would-be criminals obtain their firearms.
Banning Commonly Owned Firearms and Magazines
Biden once again called for Congress to ban so-called assault weapons and “high-capacity magazines.”
These types of firearms and factory-standard magazines are precisely the type of bearable arms “commonly possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes” that the Supreme Court has repeatedly held are protected by the Constitution.
They are neither uniquely dangerous nor functionally different from “non-assault weapons.”
Biden scoffingly asked whether citizens needed these guns against deer in Kevlar vests. No. Americans have a right to these arms because a well-armed citizenry is necessary to the security of a free state.
The Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms is centered on the natural, inalienable right of self-defense, whether against foreign invasion, tyrannical governments, or criminals.
The fact that the Second Amendment protects these types of commonly owned firearms should be the end of the discussion. But beyond such a measure’s doubtful constitutionality, it would also constitute bad policy.
Semiautomatic rifles are, by far, the type of firearm least likely to be used to perpetuate criminal violence, and account for only about 3% of gun-related homicides every year.
Even assuming that every criminal turned in his or her “assault weapon” and never obtained a different type of firearm to commit the same crimes in the future, there would likely be no noticeable drop in gun-related crime as a result of this policy.
That is, in fact, exactly what the official study of the original federal assault weapons ban found in 2004.
Attacking Gun Manufacturers
Finally, Biden called for Congress to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which he says makes gun manufacturers the only industry in America that can’t be sued. That’s wrong in several ways.
First, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act doesn’t make gun manufacturers completely immune from all lawsuits. It protects companies that manufacture and sell guns in compliance with the law from lawsuits seeking to hold them liable when third parties criminally misuse those firearms.
Congress granted this immunity because the lawful gun industry was routinely barraged with these types of frivolous lawsuits by gun control advocates, who hoped to mire them down in expensive litigation.
Companies can still be held liable for selling defective products, for failing to abide by federal and state laws regarding sales and recordkeeping, for false advertising, and for other widely recognized tort claims.
The real aim of repealing the law is not to promote the public safety, but to weaponize the court system in the hopes of kneecapping a lawful industry, thereby making it harder and more expensive for Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
In short, nothing Biden proposed in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address would actually make Americans safer from gun violence. But they do highlight the hypocrisy of gun control advocates, who tout the staunch defense of democracy against tyranny on one hand, while trying to undermine the right of Americans to keep and bear arms on the other.
—Amy Swearer is a legal fellow at the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.
Aiming to Make a Bad Bill Worse
While President Joe Biden touts potential improvements to infrastructure following last year’s spending package, his administration consistently makes choices that reduce the value of infrastructure spending for hardworking families.
That includes special carve-outs and dubious lawsuits to benefit Big Labor; a naked power grab aimed at subverting the will of legislators for the sake of anti-road activists on the left; and an initiative for “Complete Streets” that will mostly serve to turn car lanes into bike lanes.
The infrastructure bill had many problems, and Biden is only making them worse.
Rather than continue the failed strategy of putting Washington in charge of infrastructure, we should take the power back from federal bureaucrats and get rid of senseless red tape.
—David Ditch is a policy analyst specializing in budget and transportation policy in the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget.
>>>ENERGY, CLIMATE CHANGE
Fight Authoritarianism With Energy Freedom
Russian President Vladimir Putin has weaponized energy to achieve his selfish political ends and weaken the ability of Europe to respond.
At the same time, high oil and gas prices fill the coffers of the Russian government. The way to dilute Russia’s money stream and the way out of high energy prices is increased supply and innovation.
President Joe Biden took a clear stand against Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine, as well he should have. But he is turning a blind eye to some of the best policy tools when it comes to the energy sector, and good words need to be backed up by real action.
Over the past year, Biden has directed federal regulatory agencies to put into place policies opposing at every turn the energy resources that meet 79% of Americans’ total energy needs and fuel more than 90% of transportation in the U.S.
While asking American energy companies for short-term increases in production to bail the administration out of political trouble, Biden has made it very clear that his administration intends to put the coal, oil, and perhaps even natural gas industries in America out of business.
In addition to regulations that make it harder and more expensive to produce and use conventional energy, the White House has advocated sapping the American economy by spending hundreds of billions of dollars in tax favors and hundreds of billions more in government spending on a narrow set of politically preferred energy technologies that the administration presumes are the solution to global warming.
In reality, this isn’t pro-growth innovation policy. It’s not even climate policy. This is old-fashioned cronyism.
As Europe has experienced, such a foolhardy approach comes with incredible financial costs, political vulnerabilities, and deep concerns about the reliability and stability of energy supplies.
It’s also not based in reality: Such a command-and-control approach has not worked in the past, and it’s likely not to work in the future, given that Biden’s Energy Information Administration projects no scenario in which global demand for oil and natural gas do not increase through at least 2050.
It’s time to fight the authoritarianism of Putin’s energy weaponization with energy freedom.
American energy providers have been punching above their weight despite the administration’s anti-energy policy.
Biden needs to reevaluate, reprioritize, and unleash the American energy sector.
—Katie Tubb is a senior policy analyst on energy and the environment.
Damage From Combating Climate Change
President Joe Biden has said that he would seek to “cut energy costs for families an average of $500 a year by combating climate change.”
But Heritage Foundation research has found that proposals that he and colleagues have proposed to combat climate change will raise energy prices, kill jobs, and stifle economic growth, all for a negligible impact on the climate.
For example, Heritage Foundation modeling found that over a 20-year time horizon, one such policy, the Green New Deal, would result in:
- An overall average shortfall of more than 1.1 million jobs.
- A peak employment shortfall of more than 5.2 million jobs.
- A total income loss of more than $165,000 for a family of four.
- An aggregate gross domestic product loss of more than $15 trillion.
- Increases in household electricity expenditures averaging 30%.
Heritage Foundation modeling also found that the policy would result in less than 0.2 degrees Celsius of temperature mitigation by 2100.
—Kevin Dayaratna is principal statistician, data scientist, and a research fellow.
Need to Rein in Tech Titans
It is true that Big Tech companies purposefully poison the next generation by targeting American youth with highly addictive content and that these practices result in deleterious effects on our young Americans.
We agree these companies must be held accountable for these pernicious practices. They have pushed the American people too far.
Solutions can rightly take the form of data-privacy legislation, as well as scrutiny of Big Tech’s ad-tech practices. Tech companies could also take action to strengthen parental controls, as well as to expand and enforce age requirements.
Yet, it is vital that genuine cases of Big Tech’s abuse not be used by the left as pretext for action that reifies the relationship between Big Government and Big Tech, especially to censor conservatives, to police speech, and to target, surveil, and silence mainstream Americans.
—Kara Frederick is a research fellow in technology policy.