AEI » Latest Content American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:28:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Education that works Tue, 21 Oct 2014 20:49:30 +0000 AEI’s exclusive Vision Talks series convenes America’s leading scholars, thinkers, and practitioners to offer fresh perspectives on key areas of policy and public debate. These talks will be filmed and disseminated as standalone videos, such as Robert Doar’s “What works in helping the poor?” talk.

In the United States, we think of education as the key to equal opportunity. But while spending on education is higher than ever, student achievement — particularly for disadvantaged students — has not kept pace.

Myriad government efforts to improve educational attainment have shown mixed results at best. Is conventional thought on reforming education misguided? Is there a better way to foster excellence? What can parents, educators, and citizens do about it, and how can they make an effective case for change?

Please join us for four concise talks on why America needs to rethink education, what that thinking looks like in practice, and how compelling communication can turn ideas into action.

This event will not be live streamed.

If you have trouble registering, please contact

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AEI Politics: Experts, highlights, and headlines Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:00:40 +0000 ...]]]>

Politics and public opinion scholars

Karlyn Bowman
Senior Fellow
Research areas: US politics, Public opinion and polls, Media


Michael Barone
Visiting Fellow
Research areas: Politics, American government, Campaigns and elections


Tim Carney
Visiting Fellow
Research areas: culture of competition


Ramesh Ponnuru
Visiting Fellow
Research areas: Health care policy, Economic policy, Constitutionalism

Norman Ornstein
Resident Scholar
Research areas: US Politics, Congress, Elections


Arthur Brooks
Research areas: Culture, politics, and economic life in America, Philanthropy


Jonah Goldberg
Research areas: US politics & culture, Conservative & Progressive movement

Headlines and Highlights

Obama’s immigration goal: Enrage Republicans
Jonah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times 
Obama’s real immigration goal is twofold: Cement Latinos into the Democratic coalition, and force Republicans to overreact.

Obama’s incoherent immigration speech
Ramesh Ponnuru, Bloomberg View  
I count three ways President Barack Obama’s speech on immigration last night contradicted itself.

Obama mows down separation of powers and limits on executive power
Tim Carney, Washington Examiner
Obama’s immigration action is based on no statutory authority, but is instead an expansion of the idea of “prosecutorial discretion” — the notion that federal government can’t catch all scofflaws, and so it must set priorities.

Gruber and Obama’s big lie 
Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online
Obama administration health-care consultant Jonathan Gruber was discovered to have boasted that Obamacare was designed to exploit the “stupidity” of American voters and elude honest accounting by hiding both its cost and the taxes necessary to pay for it.

Will Congress use executive order on immigration as excuse for more gridlock
Norm Ornstein, National Journal  
With the determination of President Obama to issue his executive order on immigration this week, the lame-duck session in Congress takes on a fascinating set of twists.

Let’s really reform immigration–to encourage high-skill immigrants
Michael Barone, Washington Examiner  
America always needs high-skilled immigrants. And we don’t need to tie them to an employer. Despite all the taxes and regulations, this is still a free enterprise system; let them make their own way.

Where the polls were wrong–and maybe, why
Michael Barone, Washington Examiner
Were the polls wrong this midterm election cycle? Nate Silver, the nation’s most assiduous polling analyst, believes it was skewed towards the Democrats this year.

Don’t bet on Jeb
Ramesh Ponnuru, Bloomberg View
It would be better for conservatives if Sen. Marco Rubio ran for president in 2016 and Jeb Bush bowed out.

Election 2014: What the voters said   
Karlyn Bowman
The November issue of AEI’s Political Report provides a comprehensive picture of what voters had to say on Election Day, featuring exit-poll data from national House races since 1986.


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AEI Education: Experts, highlights, and headlines Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:00:08 +0000 ...]]]>

Education scholars

Frederick Hess
Director, Education Policy Studies
Research areas: K-12 and higher education, School reform


Michael Q. McShane
Research Fellow
Research areas: K-12 education, Private and religious schools


Kevin James
Research Fellow
Research areas: Quality of higher ed, Higher ed financing (student loans)

Andrew Kelly
Director, Center on Higher Education Reform
Research areas: Higher education,  Education funding, Student loans


Katharine B. Stevens
Research Fellow
Research areas: Pre-K education, Teacher tenure

Headlines and Highlights

A pivotal shift in the new Child Care and Development Block Grant
Katharine B. Stevens, AEIdeas
The most striking aspect of the newly-reauthorized CCDBG is its pivotal shift from viewing child care solely as a babysitting service for working parents to seeing it, too, as a crucial opportunity for young children’s early development and learning.

Cami Anderson and the forces of unreason
Rick Hess, Rick Hess Straight Up 
Rick Hess reflects on the point of public debate in light of Cami Anderson’s visit to AEI in November 2014.

Bigger isn’t better for New York City pre-K  
Katharine B. Stevens, AEIdeas
While adding tens of thousands of pre-K slots in a matter of months makes for good headlines, unfortunately for New York City it does not make for good pre-K.

Education: A natural issue for Republicans 
Rick Hess, Michael McShane, National Review Online
The Republicans’ wave in the midterms might have had little to do with education, but an ascendant Republican party would do well to think about a coherent reform plan going forward.

What the GOP’s win means for education 
Rick Hess, Michael McShane, U.S. News & World Report
The midterms weren’t about education, but the GOP’s wave could have a big effect on schools.

What the midterm elections mean for pre-K
Katharine Stevens, AEIdeas
The outcomes of the governors’ races will make much more of a difference for pre-K than who controls the US Senate.

Don’t want more higher-ed regulation? Then we need more transparency
Andrew Kelly, Kevin James, National Review Online
Better student outcomes data would not cure every market distortion created by government’s involvement in higher education. But it would help consumers’ market discipline. And a more competitive market would actually reduce government intervention in the sector.

Higher ed on the campaign trail
Rick Hess, Forbes
At most, higher education has been on the agenda in about half of the races for governor and senator. Where it has come up, the discussion has been more of the same crowd-pleasing themes that are all too familiar—more funding, new scholarships, lower interest rates on new student loans, and loan relief for current borrowers.

Teacher quality, not quantity
Rick Hess, National Review Online
A NYC charter school makes the case that good teachers matter more than administrators.


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AEI Defense Policy: Experts, highlights, and headlines Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:00:00 +0000 ...]]]>

Defense scholars

Thomas Donnelly
Co-Director, Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies
Research areas: Defense, National security


Mackenzie Eaglen
Resident Fellow
Research areas: Military readiness, Defense budget, Military personnel, Defense industrial base


William Inglee
Visiting Fellow
Research areas: Building partner capacity, Business of defense, National security policy


Jim Talent
Senior Fellow, Director, National Security 2020 Project
Research areas: Congress, US-China security relations

Gary Schmitt
Co-Director, Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies
Research areas: Intelligence, Europe, National security, American citizenship


William Greenwalt (Bill)
Visiting Fellow
Research areas: Defense acquisition/industry, Aerospace industry, Government procurement


Phillip Lohaus
Research Fellow
Research areas: US and foreign intelligence [capabilities], Middle Eastern and South Asian insurgencies


Roger I. Zakheim
Research Fellow
Research areas: National security legal issues, Impact of Congress on defense

Headlines and Highlights

Hagel’s departure more about policy than the person
Mackenzie Eaglen, The Hill
Unfortunately, it is likely that not much will be different three months from now regarding U.S. strategy to combat Islamic extremists even after a change at the top of the Pentagon.

The legacy of Chuck Hagel 
Mackenzie Eaglen, The National Interest
While he was not a noisy regular on all the Sunday talk shows, Secretary Hagel was competently managing the largest federal agency’s drawdown at a time of great global unrest.

The Hagel Opportunity 
Thomas Donnelly, The Weekly Standard
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s resignation gives congressional Republicans the opportunity to review our declining defense budget and create a measuring stick for the next president.

Hagel’s out: 4 key points to consider 
Danielle Pletka, AEIdeas
Secretary of Defense is a terrible job for anyone with any self-respect. The administration won’t listen to the military, won’t do what’s necessary to fight ISIS, al Qaeda or other groups.

A budget road map for rebuilding US military strength
Mackenzie Eaglen, The American
There is an emerging bipartisan consensus that Congress must overturn the entire Budget Control Act and not just sequestration. In the near term, the president and the military have outlined priorities on which Congress can take immediate action.

Politics is killing the Pentagon
Mackenzie Eaglen, The Hill
As growing crises abroad build momentum for reversing America’s latest builddown, there is a real risk policymakers will spend any new money on the wrong priorities.

News flash to the new Congress: Tiered readiness is here now
Mackenzie Eaglen, Real Clear Defense
The new Congress should recognize that tiered readiness is here now, and it will be their job to fix it.

Challenges to the US rebalance to Asia
Gary Schmitt
Until Washington admits it is engaged in a strategic competition with Beijing, the pivot to Asia likely will not have sufficient political backing to be carried out as needed.

5 national security priorities for Congress
Mackenzie Eaglen, US News & World Report
There will be no shortage of pressing national security issues to address when Washington returns to business.

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Immigration is a good thing, but who pays? Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:46:35 +0000 ...]]]> There is an important but unanswered question associated with President Obama’s executive order on immigration. Will the approximately five million undocumented immigrants covered by the President’s action be eligible to receive welfare benefits? And if so, how much will those benefits cost?

In his speech announcing the new policy, the President said not to worry. While he was clear that undocumented immigrants would not be eligible for Affordable Care Act subsidies, the President appeared to deny the new group (mostly parents of children born in the United Sates) other kinds of federal benefits. “This deal does not,” the President said, “offer the same benefits that citizens receive.”

The official policy released by the Department of Homeland Security backs up the president’s words — and lack of detail. “This memorandum confers no substantive right, immigration status or pathway to citizenship. Only an act of Congress can confer those rights,” says Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security in the November 20 memo announcing the new policy.

But that is not the end of the story. There is a lot of wiggle room in the term “benefits” especially when some benefits are provided through the tax system. Low wage workers covered by the President’s plan are likely to be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit – one of our nation’s largest transfer programs for low income Americans. Even if there is an attempt to prevent eligibility for the EITC, I doubt the Internal Revenue Service, which admits that the current program has 20% payment error rate, is capable of discerning this group of non-citizen immigrants who would not be eligible from another group that is eligible.

But an even bigger question is what will happen at the state level. States are sure to come under pressure to offer state-funded benefits to the covered group. State law in New York, for example, requires that anyone residing in the state “under the color of the law” cannot be denied state funded assistance for which they are otherwise eligible. This would include the group of immigrants who will now be determined to be here legally because of the President’s new program. Receiving benefits will, of course, be contingent on whether they are otherwise eligible due to low income and other factors, but a high proportion of those eligible under the President’s plan have incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level which means it is likely that a significant proportion of the covered group could be eligible for means tested benefits.

In 2013, when Congress was seriously considering the proposed comprehensive immigration reform, which also expressly denied federal welfare benefits to undocumented immigrants who were to be offered a path to citizenship, New York City’s welfare agency (which I used to run) examined the cost to state and city welfare programs of including this new group in state funded welfare expenditures, an outcome we were convinced would be required by state law. The conclusion was not cheap – $540 million in annual costs by 2019 if the legislation had passed. As is always the case when examining welfare spending, the overwhelming bulk of these costs were due to higher Medicaid expenditures and since Medicaid is so expensive in New York City, the increased costs accounted for less than 2 percent of the annual Medicaid cost of more than $28 billion.

This discussion will play out in other states in different ways with different results but at least for some it will lead to higher welfare costs and caseloads, and for all, there will be great pressure to offer benefits to the covered group. “Coming out of the shadows,” as the President calls what will happen for the people he is trying to help, may also mean deciding it’s safe to apply for welfare.

The best part of the President’s speech last week was when he spoke approvingly of our country’s long history of welcoming and benefitting from immigrants, and he is right. Immigrants have clearly helped to make our nation great. I saw their contributions every day during my time as New York City’s welfare commissioner. The growth in foreign born population in New York City is, along with less crime and welfare and improved schools, one the essential keys to that city’s resurgence during the past twenty years.

But the President notably left out any mention of why immigrants would want to come to the United States in the first place — greater freedom for instance, or the rule of law, or a democratic form of government that works better than what they had lived under. That kind of pro-United States rhetoric is probably too much for the President’s lack of enthusiasm for American exceptionalism. But there is one aspect of American life that the President and his supporters would herald — the extension of government provided welfare benefits. The determination to extend government benefits is why the policy the President announced last week will lead to an increase in the size and cost of welfare.

Robert Doar is the Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. From 2007 to 2013, he was the commissioner of the New York City Human Resources Administration, the city agency responsible for the cash welfare, food stamp and Medicaid programs.

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AEI Foreign Policy: Experts, highlights, and headlines Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:20:56 +0000 ...]]]>

Foreign policy scholars

Danielle Pletka
Senior Vice President, Foreign & Defense Policy Studies
Research areas: Terrorism, Middle East, Iran, South Asia


Michael Auslin
Resident Scholar & Director, Japan Studies
Research areas: Japan, US-Japanese relations, Asian maritime security


Dan Blumenthal
Resident Fellow
Research areas: China, Taiwan, East Asia, US-China relations


Sadanand Dhume
Resident Fellow
Research areas: S. Asian security, Political economy, Business, Radical Islam in
S. Asia, India & Pakistan


Frederick W. Kagan
Christopher DeMuth Chair & Dir., Critical Threats Project
Research areas: National security, US military, Afghanistan & Iraq


Michael Mazza
Research Fellow
Research areas: US Asia-Pacific defense policy, Cross-strait relations, Chinese military


Michael Rubin
Resident Scholar
Research areas: Iran, Syria, Middle East regional politics, Turkey, the Kurds, the Persian Gulf


Marc Thiessen
Research areas:  Counterterrorism issues, American presidential leadership


John Yoo
Visiting Scholar
Research areas: International law, Constitutional law


Leon Aron
Resident Scholar & Director, Russian Studies
Research areas: Russia, US-Russian relations


Roger Bate
Visiting Scholar
Research areas: Performance of aid agencies and NGOs


John Bolton
Senior Fellow
Research areas: Foreign policy, International organizations


Nicholas Eberstadt
Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy
Research areas: Poverty, Demographics, Entitlements, North/South Korea


Ahmad Majidyar
Senior Research Associate
Research areas: Afghanistan, Rise of terrorism & religious extremism in Pakistan, Iran


Roger F. Noriega
Visiting Fellow
Research areas: The Caribbean, Latin America, Canada


Derek Scissors
Resident Scholar
Research areas: US-China economic relations, Chinese investment, international finance (Asia)


Paul Wolfowitz
Research areas: Public-private partnerships, Entrepreneurship, Development issues, Africa


Katherine Zimmerman
Research Fellow & Sr. Analyst, Critical Threats Project
Research areas: Jihadist organizations, terrorism

Headlines and Highlights

Thanksgiving week, Iran edition
Danielle Pletka, AEIdeas
From now on, all nuclear wannabes can simply say that “military dimensions” of their nuclear weapons programs are off limits. Look at the precedent.

ISIS, Israel, and nukes: Iran faces crises
Matthew McInnis, American Enterprise Institute
More fully understanding the red lines that guide Iran’s security behavior could give American policymakers an enormous advantage in anticipating, shaping, and mitigating Iranian diplomatic and military activities.

Mexico’s security crisis: Will Iguala be a wake up call?
Roger Noriega, American Enterprise Institute
The recent kidnapping and probable murder of 43 students at the hands of corrupt local officials in Iguala, Mexico, should prompt the United States to invigorate security cooperation with Mexico to fight crime and secure the border.

How to check the president
John Yoo, National Review Online
By allowing as many as 5 million illegal aliens into the United States for the remainder of his term, Obama is violating the Constitution and Congress, and the courts must respond.

Nuclear talks with Iran falling apart as deadline nears: Bolton on Fox News’ ‘America’s Newsroom’
John Bolton, Fox News
The Iranians have a strong sense that they can get more out of the Obama administration. Iran is under no sense of urgency, and the letter to Iran’s Ayatollah illustrates that President Obama is desperate to make a deal.

Foreign policy and the new Congress
Danielle Pletka, AEIdeas
The 114th Congress will have a much tougher time than it did during the Clinton era. Barack Obama doesn’t respect the Congress and doesn’t believe the legislative branch matters.

Why a good nuclear deal is so hard for Iran
Matthew McInnis, AEI Top Three
The Iranians want and need a nuclear deal, but politics and the complicated dynamics of the Iranian leadership will make this exceedingly difficult. AEI Resident Fellow J. Matthew McInnis explains why he thinks Iran’s negotiators may end up shooting themselves in the foot.

Talks with Iran failing? What? Don’t be ridiculous
Danielle Pletka, AEIdeas
Despite the initial timeline of six months to a year for nuclear negotiations, Iran talks will most likely continue to stall as a result of the policies of the current administration and its allies.

Latest media appearances from our foreign policy scholars

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AEI Health: Experts, highlights, and headlines Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:20:44 +0000 ...]]]>

Health scholars

Joseph Antos
Wilson H. Taylor Scholar
Research areas: Federal budget policy, Health care policy and financing, ACA


Scott Gottlieb
Resident Fellow
Research areas: Trends in medicine, FDA policies, Medical technology development, CMS policies


Sally Satel
Resident Scholar
Research areas: Political trends in Medicine, Mental health/Transplant/ Domestic drug policy


Ramesh Ponnuru
Visiting Fellow
Research areas:
Conservatives and health care policy


Tomas J. Philipson
Visiting Scholar
Research areas: Economics of pharmaceuticals, Health care trends

James C. Capretta
Visiting Scholar
Research areas: Market-based alternatives to the ACA


Thomas P. Miller
Resident Fellow
Research areas: Market-based alternatives to the ACA, Health insurance regulation, ACA


Roger Bate
Visiting Scholar
Research areas: international environmental and health agreements, Counterfeit pharmaceuticals


Thomas Peter Stossel
Visiting Scholar
Research areas: Medical innovation, Health care and health care policy

Headlines and Highlights

Unfulfilled Political Promises
Joe Antos, Debate Club
The Obama administration has wisely decided to lower expectations about new health coverage under the Affordable Care Act in the hope that by setting the bar low enough even mediocre enrollment gains become a political victory. That can hardly be considered a sign that Obamacare is working.

How to prepare for Obamacare’s collapse
Ramesh Ponnuru, Bloomberg View
Several million Americans could find their health insurance becoming vastly more expensive if the Supreme Court rules against the Obama administration in a pending case.

Obamacare hedges its bets
Joe Antos, AEIdeas
For once, the White House has decided not to over-promise what it can’t deliver in Obamacare.

Is the White House cooking the numbers on Obamacare?
Scott Gottlieb, Forbes
The HHS has lowered its expected 2015 enrollment to 9 million from 9.9 million lives. An earlier estimate from the Congressional Budget Office pegged that figure at 13 million. Is the HHS trying to lower enrollment expectations in the hopes of obscuring future failures?

Health care policy after the midterm elections
James C. Capretta, Health Affairs Blog
Republicans have been largely shut out of the health care policymaking business for the past six years. That will change modestly in 2015 as the party takes control of the Senate. But Republicans must be realistic about what they can do while President Obama remains in office. What the GOP can and should do is agree on where it wants to go, and begin to make progress toward that goal

Republican wave puts Obamacare in surgery, and these parts could be amputated
Scott Gottlieb, Forbes
Because the health care marketplace is rapidly changing to accommodate Obamacare, it could be harder to eventually implement market-based schemes. Conservatives have to start injecting more competition and choice into the market sooner rather than later.

Will a growing economy  waste health dollars?
Joe Antos, The American
Congress is unlikely to take on large-scale health care reform, but Americans don’t have to wait until policymakers get their act together. Changes in the employer-based insurance market have begun to give consumers greater control of health care spending.

Obamacare’s red ink
Joe Antos, The Morning Consult
When he signed the bill into law, the President said that the ACA is paid for and will help lift a decades-long drag on the economy.  More likely, the taxpayers will be doing the heavy lifting.

4 rules for replacing Obamacare
James C. Capretta, Politico
A Republican-controlled Congress would bring new opportunities to roll back Obamacare, but there would be risks too.

As the courts turn: The continuing legal perils of Obamacare
Thomas P. Miller, AEIdeas
A look at the recent ruling on State of Oklahoma v. Burwell and the legal journey of Obamacare.

Latest media appearances from our health scholars

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AEI Poverty: Experts, highlights, and headlines Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:20:11 +0000 ...]]]>

Poverty scholars

Robert Doar
Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies
Research areas: Welfare, Poverty, Federal programs


Kevin Corinth
Resident Fellow
Research areas: Poverty, Homelessness assistance programs

Arthur Brooks
Research areas: Social entrepreneurship, Free enterprise, Philanthropy


Michael R. Strain
Resident Scholar
Research areas: US economy, Labor market policy, Labor economics, Federal budget

Headlines and Highlights

4 charts that expose the invisible side of homelessness
Kevin Corinth, AEIdeas
Using newly released data, these four charts go beyond the official numbers to expose what’s really going on with homelessness across America.

Start helping the helpers
Arthur Brooks, The New York Times
What is a “helping industry”? Technically, Airbnb — like Uber, Lyft and other innovative companies — is helping people by tackling the problem of “dead capital.”

Where’s the outrage?
Robert Doar, Inside Sources
Half a decade after the Great Recession, too many Americans are not earning their way out of poverty.

If DC closes its largest homeless shelter, where will it send the homeless?
Kevin Corinth, AEIdeas
DC Mayor Vincent Gray announced a plan Tuesday to shut down the district’s largest homeless shelter. He plans to replace it with several smaller shelters in “thriving neighborhoods.” But some are calling the plan unrealistic.

The US economic recovery is still on food stamps
Robert Doar, Real Clear Markets
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is supposed to respond to difficult economic conditions by providing financial assistance to purchase food to poor Americans. And as the economy strengthens, the number of SNAP recipients should decline – at least in theory…

Inequality is a partisan issue the central bank should avoid
Michael R. Strain, New York Times Room for Debate
It is perfectly appropriate for the Federal Reserve chair (occasionally) to discuss the size of the rich-poor gap, its trend over time, and its economic causes and consequences. But the Fed chair should do so as an impartial, dispassionate analyst.


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Obama’s immigration goal: Enrage Republicans Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:41:23 +0000 Maybe President Obama is just trolling?

For those who don’t know, in Internet parlance, trolling is an effort to elicit outrage from a specific group or the public generally. As the always useful — but not always G-rated, or spell checked — Urban Dictionary explains, “Trolling requires decieving; any trolling that doesn’t involve decieving someone isn’t trolling at all; it’s just stupid. As such, your victim must not know that you are trolling; if he does, you are an unsuccesful troll.”

I don’t like the president’s executive action on immigration. I think it’s constitutionally dubious — for exactly the reasons Obama has insisted more than 20 times in the past. “I’m not a king. My job as the head of the executive branch ultimately is to carry out the law,” Obama told Telemundo in 2013. “When it comes to enforcement of our immigration laws, we’ve got some discretion. We can prioritize what we do. But we can’t simply ignore the law.”

If all King Obama was doing was opting not to deport some immigrants here illegally, he’d be on safer ground. But his new proposal would allow an estimated 3.5 million “undocumented Americans” to get all sorts of documents — Social Security numbers, work permits, drivers licenses, etc. That’s not prosecutorial discretion, that’s a rewrite of existing law.

Still, the fine print of what Obama is doing is far less dramatic than many of its defenders and critics claim. Some are comparing it to the Emancipation Proclamation, which is ridiculous. People who voluntarily come to America illegally are in no way comparable to poor souls kidnapped abroad and forced into eternal bondage. Moreover, the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t have a two-year time limit or require slaves to fill out paperwork and pay back taxes.

Others claim it’s no big deal and perfectly consistent with executive orders taken by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. This goes too far the other way. Reagan and Bush were mostly cleaning up problems with laws passed by Congress. In the other instances, they were responding to specific foreign crises.

Meanwhile, the only “crisis” Obama is responding to is Congress’ “failure to act.” This is a dangerous standard. We all know there is an entitlement crisis is America. Should the next Republican president, for example, unilaterally privatize Social Security because Congress refuses to fix it?

Even some on the right believe this is the equivalent of the Emancipation Proclamation — in its sweep, if not its moral stature. But roughly half of immigrants here illegally will remain unaffected by the measure. And, there’s very good reason to believe many of those eligible will not take up the offer. Indeed, the distinctions Obama draws between, say, long-term residents and short-term ones shouldn’t matter all that much if you favor family reunification, “getting out of the shadows” or “getting right with the law.”

A more plausible criticism is that Obama is trying to lay down precedents and create facts on the ground that will make it impossible to reverse his ratchet toward amnesty.

I’m sure that’s part of his thinking. Indeed, he says that’s his ultimate goal. He’s said several times that all Congress has to do is pass a bill that does what he wants and he’ll stop doing what he wants without Congress.

Which points to why I think he’s trolling. As Robert Litan of the Brookings Institution notes, Obama “could’ve done all this quietly, without making any announcement whatsoever.” After all, Obama has unilaterally reinterpreted and rewritten the law without nationally televised addresses before. But doing that wouldn’t let him pander to Latinos and, more important, that wouldn’t achieve his real goal: enraging Republicans.

As policy, King Obama’s edict is a mess, which may explain why Latinos are underwhelmed by it, according to the polls. But that’s not the yardstick Obama cares about most. The real goal is twofold: Cement Latinos into the Democratic coalition and force Republicans to overreact. He can’t achieve the first if he doesn’t succeed with the second. It remains to be seen if the Republicans will let themselves be trolled into helping him.

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They couldn’t charge officer Wilson, but American society gets indicted Wed, 26 Nov 2014 10:00:59 +0000 We’re debating two different questions here.

The question before the Ferguson, Mo. grand jury was whether sufficient evidence existed to prosecute police officer Darren Wilson for manslaughter or murder in the shooting and killing Michael Brown on August 9.

The question was whether there was probable cause to believe Wilson broke the law. To be more specific, the question was whether it was unreasonable for Wilson to believe “that the use of deadly force was immediately necessary to effect the arrest of the offender.”

The grand jury answered these questions in the negative, and so there was no indictment.

Ferguson erupted at this news. It erupted into tears, into prayers, into chants, and then into violence and flames. It was an outrage that a white cop shooting an unarmed black kid to death in broad daylight wouldn’t even face a trial.

For many of those who cursed the ruling, bigger questions were at hand: Did Michael Brown die an unjust and pointless death? Do cops constantly hassle black youths? Do police more readily shoot at black youths than at whites? Did the police overreact to the summer protests? Is the criminal justice system less fair to blacks than to whites?

These aren’t tough questions if you’re a black person in Ferguson — or almost anywhere else. Yes, the system is rigged. Black people bear the costs. And white people don’t.

But Officer Wilson isn’t the one who rigged the system, and you can’t put a cop on trial for the injustice of society.

Wilson’s case became, in the public imagination, a symbol for everything wrong with our criminal justice system, and for the inequities and depredations minorities and the poor suffer daily. But for the grand jury, this case wasn’t a symbol. It was a very specific potential defendant, a very specific victim, and a very specific body of evidence.

Different sides were asking different questions. I lay this out not so much to defend the grand jury as to prod those who agree with its decision to see what the protestors see, and to address the underlying problems.

President Obama put it well on Monday night after the prosecutor announced Wilson would not stand trial. After praising the progress this country has made on race relations, Obama said, “what is also true is that there are still problems and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up. Separating that from this particular decision, there are issues in which the law too often feels as if it is being applied in a discriminatory fashion.”

Obama was right to separate the underlying issues from the particular case. And he was right that these are real problems. Blacks are about 30 times as likely as whites to be shot by police. Think of it this way: If you’re a white parent, fears about your kid being shot are basically limited to muggings. If you’re an urban black parent, that fear is expanded to include police. “It shouldn’t be dangerous to be a young black male,” read one sign a protestor held in Ferguson this summer.

Another problem highlighted by this case, but not up for indictment: Ferguson’s police, and St. Louis County’s police, is not of Ferguson. The police are almost all white in a town that is mostly black. They arm themselves as if they are an invading army, and they clearly lack positive relationships with the majority of the town. So much is broken here: how police are recruited, trained, and armed; how the people and the local government interact.

One hurdle to indicting Wilson (besides the evidence) was a perverse Missouri law. Missouri law explicitly allows police to use violent force — to shoot people — if they believe they need to shoot in order to arrest someone they believe committed a felony.

In the interpretation of the facts most sympathetic to Brown — he scuffled with Wilson, then ran away while getting shot at — Wilson still probably comes down on the right side of the law as written. But government officials, trained and empowered by the state, should be at least as constrained as private citizens in their lawful use of deadly force.

Darren Wilson’s guilt was the issue at hand for the grand jury. That case is closed. An unjust, dysfunctional, discriminatory regime is the issue at hand for Americans going forward. That case may never be wrapped up, but at least something can be done to make the laws better.

Timothy P. Carney, a senior political columnist for the Washington Examiner, can be contacted at This column is reprinted with permission from

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The right and campus rape Wed, 26 Nov 2014 09:00:48 +0000 Editors’ Note: This article has been updated since its initial publication.

It’s been a terrible semester at Mr. Jefferson’s University. Suicides. The apparent kidnapping, rape, and murder of Hannah Graham. And now this: allegations of not one but at least three gang rapes at one of the University of Virginia’s most prestigious fraternities: Phi Kappa Psi.

The latest horror story to emerge from UVA was chronicled in Rolling Stone by Sabrina Rubin Erdely. Her story, filled with multiple accounts of rape and sexual assault in and around Rugby Road, the university’s fraternity row, reveals an almost unbelievably dark underbelly to fraternity life at UVA, where I teach sociology.

In the face of stories like this, the reflexive response of many on the right has been way too dismissive. We are told of a “vast feminist-industrial complex that is addicted to institutionalized panic” on such matters. In an article touching on sexual assault, George Will contends that “victims proliferate” because victimhood has been made “a coveted status that confers privileges.” And Camille Paglia inveighs against “hysterical propaganda about our ‘rape culture,’” propaganda which does not come close to capturing what’s happening most of the time on the nation’s college campuses: namely, “oafish hookup melodramas, arising from mixed signals and imprudence on both sides.”

I understand, and share, my fellow conservatives’ concerns about the ways in which federal and university responses to the sexual-assault crisis can trample the rights of the accused in cases of sexual assault. Both here at UVA and elsewhere, media reports suggest that students — usually men — are being suspended or expelled without due process. And the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is pushing a minimal “preponderance of evidence” standard for sexual-assault cases that would lead to even more miscarriages of justice. What’s more: Conservatives are certainly right to point out the ways in which alcohol-fueled hookups on college campuses muddy the waters of justice around cases of assault.

And yet: I cannot shake the image of “Jackie” being serially raped on a broken glass table by a fraternity gang a few hundred yards from my office at UVA, perhaps by men who have taken a class by me, especially knowing that her rapists have paid no legal or educational price for their heinous deeds. My own sense of horror and outrage is only deepened by what I found out yesterday: In my Sociology of the Family class, in an anonymous survey, seven of the 103 female students that I am teaching reported that they had been “forced into a sexual act against [their] will,” and an additional 33 of these students reported that a “UVA friend” has experienced such a violation. So, in one large class at the University of Virginia, fully 39 percent of the female students report having been directly affected by forcible sexual assault. To be sure, there are important debates about the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses, but UVA’s experience indicates that there are more cases of campus rape than many might expect.

To suggest, as many on the right have, that we should simply hand over the prosecution of felonious cases of sexual assault to the police, and get colleges and universities completely out of the business of addressing sexual assault, is not enough. It’s not enough because we know that all too many victims of campus rape are too scared of the social or psychic costs to risk a trial. It’s not enough because too many students and administrators actively or tacitly discourage victims from seeking justice. And it’s not enough because we know that the combustible mix of fraternities, undergraduate women, and copious alcohol consumption creates an ideal hunting ground for sexual predators on our nation’s campuses, including Mr. Jefferson’s University.

What, then, is to be done? Four steps could go a long way to reducing the incidence of rape on campus.

1) When presented with credible cases of sexual assault, college administrators should drop any posture of neutrality, such as the one they seem to have adopted at UVA. They should not present victims with a menu of choices: seeking criminal charges, pursuing a university sanction, and/or counseling. They should instead do all they can to encourage, and assist, victims of rape to press criminal charges.

2) But college administrators, and faculty, must do a lot more than encourage victims to go to the police. They must also change the culture on our college campuses. We must encourage students, including the men in our fraternities, to exercise the virtues of fortitude and justice — to step in and stop abusive behavior, to call out fellow students who they think may be abusive, and to encourage the victims of and witnesses to assault to bring charges against campus predators.

3) Administrators must also rein in and redirect the party, so to speak, both in the fraternities and in college dorms. At UVA, for instance, every fall large numbers of first-year women head to Rugby Road, both because it’s the biggest social scene on campus and because it’s an easy place for underage students to get alcohol. The problem, of course, is that the combustible mix of booze, female freshmen navigating college for the first time, and male-dominated fraternities on Rugby Road can prove to be an attractive hunting ground for sexual predators. Indeed, the research suggests that women from less-privileged backgrounds are particularly vulnerable to being targeted, as was the case for Jackie, a student from a rural Virginia community, in her first-year experience at Phi Psi. UVA, and other institutions of higher education, should require proctors at these parties whose job it is to watch out for and step in to stop abusive behavior. They should also provide more non-fraternal social outlets for students looking to have fun so as to reduce the social power of fraternities.

4) Finally, colleges and universities should target what Caitlin Flanagan has called the “dark power” associated with some fraternities. On most college campuses, some fraternities have a reputation for misogyny and bad behavior. Plugged-in students and administrators usually know which fraternities treat women badly. These fraternities should be identified and reformed or shut down.

Other ideas — such as Ross Douthat’s suggestion that the drinking age be lowered to 18, so as to reduce fraternities’ monopoly on underage drinking on college campuses — are worth considering. But something must be done, not just for the sake of future Jackies, but also for the sake of future Hannah Grahams.

The record suggests that Hannah Graham’s suspected murderer, Jesse Matthew Jr., was twice kicked out, in 2002 and 2003, of Virginia colleges for sexual assault. But he was never charged or publicly identified as a rapist. And he appears to have gone on to murder Morgan Harrington and Hannah Graham after assaulting women on these Virginia campuses. As Erdely suggests in her Rolling Stone story, we can only wonder if Harrington and Graham might still be living if Matthew’s predatory behavior had been addressed more forcefully a decade ago.

It’s past time for all of us who lead, teach, or study at one of the nation’s colleges or universities to take a more active role in ending campus rape, and to make sure that the likes of “Drew” — the Phi Psi ring leader who put Jackie through a living hell — don’t go on to graduate to murder.

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