I Understand Scientific American is Changing Its Name…

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it's considering Popular Nonsense.

Ha! Just kidding. That's the headline on Jonah Goldberg's recent column. Excerpt:

For the last week, Washington’s chattering class has been obsessed with Joe Biden’s politically successful exchange with Republicans over Social Security and Medicare. During the State of the Union, he maneuvered the GOP into a standing ovation to “protect” these entitlement programs. But while his admirers cheer and his detractors grumble about Biden’s framing of the politics—the GOP never signed on to Sen. Rick Scott’s proposal to “sunset” entitlement programs every five years and did not threaten to hold the debt ceiling debate “hostage” to cuts—there’s been precious little attention to the lies about the policy underneath the alleged lies about politics.

Biden suggested that he could pay for sweeping infrastructure programs and keep entitlements solvent simply by finally making the wealthiest and biggest corporations begin to pay their fair share. He alluded to the fact that workers have paid into Social Security and Medicare from their “very first paycheck they’ve started.”

It was nonsense—popular nonsense. Sure, workers have paid into these programs all their lives, but they get more out of them than they pay in, which is why Biden’s own Social Security trustees predict insolvency in the next decade. And suggesting that raising taxes on the rich and biggest corporations will save these programs from insolvency is demagoguery, popular demagoguery. (Never mind that low corporate tax revenues are the result not of greed, but of the tax code.)

Also weighing in with some sense is Jeff Jacoby: As Social Security races toward a cliff, both parties refuse to act.

Republicans and Democrats these days are unanimous that Social Security not be reined in. "There's not a single soul on either side [who supports] cutting benefits," Representative Kevin Hern, an Oklahoma Republican, told Bloomberg Law last week. Former president Donald Trump declared that "under no circumstances" should the GOP "vote to cut a single penny" from entitlement programs like Social Security. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy vows that cuts to Social Security "are off the table."

On countless issues — crime, gender, immigration, energy — the parties are miles apart. On Social Security, they march in lockstep. Which is another way of saying that both parties are committed to doing nothing as the government's costliest spending program careens toward insolvency.

Is there anyone in Congress deserving a chapter in an up-to-date edition of Profiles in Courage?

Briefly noted:

  • One cheer for the Sun King at Reason: New Hampshire Gov. Sununu Announces Massive Occupational Licensing Reform.

    For years, New Hampshire has been luring new residents with the promise of low taxes and a generally libertarian ethos. Soon, migrants to the state will be spared a significant relocation headache: getting permission from the government to do the same job you did somewhere else.

    New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, launched a bold occupational licensing reform effort during his annual budget address on Tuesday by promising to sign legislation that broadly recognizes occupational licenses issued by other states.

    He also proposed "outright elimination of 34 licenses currently issued by various boards". I can't find a list of them anywhere.

    Disclaimer: Mrs. Salad was a prime mover in getting the state to license dietitians years back. Somehow, our marriage survived.

  • But let's offset that cheer with a boo from Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review Governor Sununu Is Wrong about Dobbs. At issue was this comment about abortion regulation relayed by David Weigel:

    “The court said the federal government should stay out of it, right?” said Sununu. “So the federal government should stay out of it. I think the federal government should stay out of most everything.”

    Ramesh begs to differ:

    The Supreme Court didn’t say that. As Justice Kavanaugh noted in his concurrence, the ruling “leaves the issue for the people and their elected representatives to resolve through the democratic process in the States or Congress.” (Kavanaugh makes this point twice.)

    The dissent is also accurate on this question: “No language in today’s decision stops the Federal Government from prohibiting abortions nationwide.”

    If Governor Sununu wants to argue that federal abortion legislation violates the Constitution, let’s have the argument. The Supreme Court hasn’t made it for him.

    As someone said: "It Ain’t What You Don’t Know That Gets You Into Trouble. It’s What You Know for Sure That Just Ain’t So." Put that on the wall where you can see it, Governor.

  • And another boo for the Gov: Sununu Denies Issuing Any 'Stay at Home' Orders During COVID Crisis.

    During a testy exchange with radio host Jack Heath on Wednesday, New Hampshire Governor — and possible 2024 presidential candidate – Chris Sununu claimed he never issued any stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 crisis.

    In reality, the governor’s website shows he issued multiple stay-at-home orders in the first months of the pandemic, a fact that was well publicized at the time.

    To Sununu's credit, he did keep the state liquor stores open.

  • I just love the headlines on Jacob Sullum's columns at his syndication service. Try to read this aloud without taking a breath. The Perils of Trying to Curtail Hazily Defined 'Disinformation': The Global Disinformation Index's Controversial Ratings Illustrate the Challenge of Deciding Which Speech Belongs in That Category.

    NewsGuard, a service that rates adherence to basic principles of good journalism, gives my employer, Reason magazine, its highest possible score. Yet the Global Disinformation Index, a British organization that aims to steer advertisers away from disreputable websites, claims Reason is one of the 10 "riskiest" online news sources in the United States.

    The stark contrast between those two assessments illustrates the challenge of defining "disinformation," an increasingly nebulous concept that invites subjective judgments driven by political allegiances and policy preferences. That problem is especially acute when the government demands that websites take steps to curtail "disinformation," portraying it as a grave threat to public health, democracy and national security.

    Robby Soave has more on the opaque and dodgy "Global Disinformation Index" here. And also notes the US State Department has indirectly contributed taxpayer money to GDI. Bottom line:

    If a self-described disinformation-tracking organization wants to loudly proclaim, in partisan fashion, that advertisers should only use mainstream and liberal news sites, it has that right. But advertisers should take note of its obvious bias, total lack of transparency in detailing media outlets' scores, and other methodological issues. And the State Department certainly has no business helping to fund it.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:40 AM EDT