Other writers: Spying is the new normal

Other Writers

Government spying the new normal

Andrew Napolitano in Reason: Here is a short pop quiz: When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress earlier this month about the parameters of the secret negotiations between the United States and Iran over nuclear weapons and economic sanctions, how did he know what the negotiators were considering? Israel is not a party to those negotiations, yet the prime minister presented them in detail.

When Hillary Clinton learned that a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives had subpoenaed her emails as secretary of state and she promptly destroyed half of them — about 33,000 — how did she know she could get away with it? Destruction of evidence, particularly government records, constitutes the crime of obstruction of justice.

When Gen. Michael Hayden, the director of both the CIA and the NSA in the George W. Bush administration and the architect of the government’s massive suspicionless spying program, was recently publicly challenged to deny that the feds have the ability to turn on your computer, cellphone or mobile device in your home and elsewhere, and use your own devices to spy on you, why did he remain silent?

And when two judges were recently confronted with transcripts of conversations between known drug dealers — transcripts obtained without search warrants — and they asked the police who obtained them to explain their sources, how is it that the cops could refuse to answer? The government has the same obligation to tell the truth in a courtroom as any litigant, and in a criminal case, the government must establish that its acquisition of all of its evidence was lawful.

The common themes here are government spying and lawlessness. We now know that the Israelis spied on Secretary of State John Kerry, and so Netanyahu knew of what he spoke. We know that the Clintons believe there is a set of laws for them and another for the rest of us, and so Hillary Clinton could credibly believe that her deception and destruction would go unpunished.

Wealth fosters entrepreneurship

Walter Frick in the Atlantic: In 1988, Ronald Reagan traveled to the Soviet Union and gave a speech at Moscow State University, making the case for capitalism. America’s secret, he argued, was its entrepreneurs, whose “courage to take risks” was responsible “for almost all the economic growth in the United States” and much of its technological edge. This risk-taking was made possible, he continued, by economic freedom, which he associated with “limited, unintrusive” government.

Entrepreneurs are actually more likely than other Americans to receive public benefits, after accounting for income, as Harvard Business School’s Gareth Olds has documented. And in many cases, expanding benefit programs helps spur new business creation.

Take food stamps. Conservatives have long argued that they breed dependence on government. In a 2014 paper, Olds examined the link between entrepreneurship and food stamps, and found that the expansion of the program in some states in the early 2000s increased the chance that newly eligible households would own an incorporated business by 16 percent. (Incorporated firms are a better proxy for job-creating startups than unincorporated ones.)

Interestingly, most of these new entrepreneurs didn’t actually enroll in the food stamp program. It seems that expanding the availability of food stamps increased business formation by making it less risky for entrepreneurs to strike out on their own. Simply knowing that they could fall back on food stamps if their venture failed was enough to make them more likely to take risks.

Fund each student equally

Tim King in the New York Times: In education, money matters. While the topic of school funding should not eclipse productive conversations about pedagogy or school culture, those conversations can’t mean much without the funding needed to implement the insights that come from them. We could greatly improve the landscape of education in America today by increasing funding, and by funding each student equally.

We love to spend a ton of time arguing about education, but we don’t actually like to spend that much money on education.

Public finance records show that we spend only around 2 percent of our federal budget on education each year. If education merits the level of conversation that it gets from policymakers (and it does), we need to put our money where our mouths are.

Even if children live on the same block, there’s a chance there will be inequity in the way their public schools are funded. Certain districts provide less funding to charter schools — sometimes around $7,000 to $10,000 less per pupil — than traditional public schools, even though they are serving kids in the same neighborhoods.

It seems reasonable to many people that their tax dollars should be spent in their own communities, on the schools that their kids attend.

But if education is to be a vehicle for the realization of a more equal society, educational policy cannot be an enterprise governed by the logic of think locally, act locally.