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Is Money Too Easy…or Too Tight?

Managing director Clark S. Judge explained the trouble with the housing market.

Last week, I posted a summary to a New York Times op-ed by financial crisis expert Peter Wallison. Wallison had argued that a new housing bubble was developing.  I included with my summary a chart that he circulated privately to back up his claim.

In a comment on my post, J Climacus wrote: “I’d like to see a debate between you and [American Enterprise Institute scholar and Ricochet contributor] Jim Pethokoukis, who seems convinced that the problem is that there hasn’t been enough easy money, not that there is too much.” To me Mr. Climacus’ comment pointed to some of the most urgent issues in the economy today and widely spread confusion about them. I felt the response deserved a full post.

Read the full piece here.

Remembering Judge William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Personal Emissary

Managing director Clark S. Judge describes a man who was an integral part of the Reagan administration.

William P. Clark — Judge Clark, as he was known in Washington during the Reagan years — passed away on Saturday.  He was a deeply good man and an essential contributor to the successful resolution of the Cold War.  The obituaries will tell you the main parts of his story, but on one point all those I have seen so far are wrong.

Noting that no aide was personally closer to Mr. Reagan than Bill Clark, they all say that after serving as Deputy Secretary of State, National Security Advisor and Interior Secretary, in 1985 he left government and returned home to California.  Here is how I discovered that this last detail — left government and returned home in 1985 — wasn’t true, or at least, wasn’t the whole truth, by a long shot.

Read the full piece here.

What 2016 GOPers Need: Knowledge and Power

In a recent USNews.com article, White House Writers Group Senior Director Joshua Gilder discusses the book “Knowledge and Power,” written by George Gilder, and why Republicans today should internalize its message.

The full article can be found here.

No Wedding Bells for Catholic Priests

U.S. News & World Report

The Catholic Church has received ample focus in the last two months, between Pope Benedict’s surprise resignation and the election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis, the first pope from Latin America.

These dramatic events have evoked torrents of commentary about the Church, ranging across issues far beyond the papal succession. And, predictably, a good many of those commentaries have revealed Catholicism’s remarkable capacity to drive some otherwise sane men (and women) absolutely nuts.

Take Bret Stephens’ March 14 Wall Street Journal column, “A Church, If You Can Keep It.” Stephens, to my mind, is an almost unfailingly insightful columnist whose arguments are generally penetrating and trenchant. More often than not, I agree with his analysis, and I almost never fail to learn from his columns.

To be fair, Stephens opened his pre-papal-election commentary with the admonition that non-members of a religion should comment on it in much the way that porcupines make love: very carefully. So, while carefully tripping through Catholicism’s recent years of sex abuse scandals and revelations—as heart-breaking and dispiriting for the faithful as they’ve been lucrative for trial lawyers and glee-filled for those who glory in sneering at others struggling to live righteously—Stephens came to this startling curative: “The obvious and needful solution is to abolish the celibacy of the priesthood, a stricture that all but guarantees the sorts of sordid outcomes” that he had just chronicled.

But wait a minute! The John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s exhaustive study of sexual misconduct by Catholic priests, commissioned in 2002 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (and accurately cited by Stephens) makes clear that just over 80 percent of the victims in these abuse cases are males, mostly between the ages of 11 and 17. In the 52 years between 1950 and 2002 (with most cases having occurred between 1960 and 1984), the 4392 priests against whom at least one abuse allegation had been made represented 4 percent of the total number of priests serving in the U.S. during those years. This is roughly the same rate at which sexual misconduct charges against men occur in society at large and is comparable to the experience of clergy of other faiths.

The priestly abuse problem has clearly and preponderantly been a homosexual one. So, the solution is … married priests? Or at least permitting priests to marry? Certainly,  nobody thinks that homosexually inclined men are going to be ‘converted’ by marriage. Apart from being contradicted by all experience, such a notion would be laughable to adherents of the contemporary cannon of homosexual ideology. What a quaint and condescending notion!

Enlarging the pool of ‘eligibles’ to those who want to marry might make it easier for the Catholic Church to say ‘no’ to homosexual candidates for the priesthood. But, ironically, the Church—thanks to lawsuit settlements and moral imperatives—is being impelled toexclude homosexuals from ministry at a time when, in every other walk of life, the impetus is to include homosexuals in everything and to prevent discrimination against them.

And what of the implication that homosexual priests manifestly prey on and victimize underage young men? How is it that this is such an acute problem only when homosexual men train in seminaries and are ordained? Because it’s a cardinal tenet of contemporary social policy and jurisprudence that homosexuals pose no danger, moral or otherwise, to the welfare of children. To suggest the contrary—something that only the bravest or most foolhardy would do—would imply that today’s widespread homosexual adoption and child-rearing would be tantamount to state-sanctioned child endangerment, another anathema within homosexual ideology. This ‘sleeping dog’ implication of the priestly sex abuse scandals will, predictably, remain undisturbed.

Of course, marriage would completely change both the economics and the priorities of Catholic priesthood. Every married man’s family must be his first priority. This means satisfying the economic needs and demands of wife and children—a fundamental challenge to the cost-structure of ministering to the Catholic faithful. Priesthood would become much like any other job, with motivations for higher paying positions and ways to eke more money out of the role taking precedence. Pondering this possibility reminds us of one of the chief reasons—besides sacrifice, mortification, discipline and tradition—that Catholic priests are unmarried in the first place: their first and over-riding priority is ministering to the faithful. Changing priests’ civil status will change their priorities, inevitably.

Naturally, those who suggest abolishing the stricture of priestly celibacy claim to have only the best interests of the Catholic Church in mind, helping it save itself from a tradition-bound cul-de-sac freighted with recurrent, tragic implications. But in light of the paradoxes and contradictions between the nature of the problem and the proposed remedy, and the implications of that remedy for the Church’s future operation, it makes one wonder.

The Cynical Motives of a ‘Department of Peace’

US News

Last week, Democratic California Rep. Barbara Lee introduced the Peace and Nonviolence Act—a bill to create a cabinet-level department dedicated to these laudable goals. And that’s where the Washington fun begins.

The congresswoman’s office got to issue high-minded, pious-sounding press releases and declarations about how this initiative is needed to address not only wars and conflict abroad but every sort of violence—criminal, gang, domestic, mass murderers—here at home.

Fox News Channel got to run a morning show segment decrying the expense and waste that would be involved—a cabinet secretary and under secretary, seven assistant secretaries, plus other officials and staff. Its commentators could mock the hopeless idealism of supposing that world and domestic peace, no less, can be brought about by the advising, educating, and policy-kibbitzing activities of a federal department.

Presiden Obama’s antiwar constituency can be appeased; conservatives can be appalled. But what’s really appalling is the cynicism of all this.

First of all, the idea is not new. It’s old. Ultra-liberal Democrat Rep. Dennis Kucinich has introduced this bill in every Congress since two months before the 9/11 attacks. (He was lucky, in 2001, to get it in under the wire; if he’d waited another eight or 10 weeks to introduce it, he’d have looked like a cross between the biggest squish imaginable and an active protector of Osama bin Laden—at the moment when the entire country was screaming for retaliation.)

Second, the idea is completely redundant. For 30 years, we’ve had an almost entirely federally-funded U.S. Institute of Peace. It occupies a shiny new building next door to the State Department on the National Mall. Originally dreamed up as a counterweight to the Pentagon’s War Colleges and defense think tanks, studying how to make war (instead of peace), it’s programs have long since expanded beyond interstate conflict to research, teaching, and training on sources of and antidotes for societal violence— including forays into more effective approaches to policing. Practically everything Representative Lee’s new federal department would do, the institute already does. But the proposal isn’t to elevate the institute to cabinet rank; it’s to build something new on top of it. Just the thing to do in a time of out-of-control deficits and run-away debt.

And then there’s the fact that we already have a “Department of Peace.” It’s called the State Department. Ask anyone who works there—or ever has. They’ll tell you: It’s their professional mission to keep the United States at peace and to achieve its aims in the world peacefully.

Finally, of course, there’s the recognition by everyone in this little Washington footnote drama that there is virtually zero chance of Ms. Lee’s bill becoming law at all—at least for now. It’s well-known that only 2 percent or so of bills submitted by our 535 enterprising legislators ever get enacted. (After all, that’s how the U.S. Institute of Peace got started—a 1976 Senate bill to create a “Peace Academy” that went nowhere until it became a 1979 Carter-era study and, finally, a law acceded to by President Reagan in the midst of the Soviet’s election-year-long boycott of the START nuclear arms talks.) So tossing this little feel-good bone to the antiwar left is costless.

But is it costless? Our nation remains in crisis: over four years of unemployment hovering between 7.5 and 8 percent; sluggish economic growth; run-away deficits, ballooning national debt; a federal government operating without a formal budget for four years, and near gridlock in Congress and between the executive and legislative branches. At such a time, that Rep. Lee apparently felt no inhibitions about introducing a transparently frivolous, wastefully duplicative piece of legislation during the run-up to last Friday’s sequester deadline underscores that attitudes in Washington really haven’t changed. Members of Congress still act like they can propose spending on anything from a vanity project back home to a symbolic fillip to a core constituency and the taxpayer will foot the bill.

Lofty goals proffered from the most cynical of motives. Sacred cow projects that nicely provide fodder for the 24-hour news channels’ outrage mills—whether of Fox or MSNBC. No wonder the American public is alienated and cynical about Washington. It’s hard to find a starting point to address such a profound and wide-spread … dare we say malaise?. But one small step might be for congressional leaders to drive a stake through the heart of Rep. Lee’s proposed new federal department.

The original article can be found here.

Rand’s Stand

In a piece for U.S. News, senior director Anneke E. Green discussed Republican reactions to Senator Paul’s filibuster:

Wednesday night in Washington was a big one for the future of the Republican Party. At the Capitol building, Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, was filibustering the nomination of John Brennan as director of the CIA. At the swanky Jefferson Hotel, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, was convening a dinner with President Barack Obama and 12 other Republican senators. These simultaneous events revealed while elephants are no closer to resolving their party-wide identity crisis, there is a way forward.

Read the full piece here.

Sequestration

In a piece for U.S. News, senior director Anneke E. Green explored some of the history behind the sequester deal:

Sequestration is slated to hit March 1. The automatic cuts in government spending will save $1.2 trillion over 10 years. President Obama has asked Congress for a new deal. The White House says the sequester is a threat to the middle class. They were whistling a different tune less than two years ago.

In a speech last week, Mr. Obama talked about the “the economically damaging effects of the sequester” with a straight face. Nowhere in his remarks did he acknowledge that the impending spending cuts package was his idea from the start.

Read the full piece here.

Second-Term Climate Change

Rupert Darwall, the author of the forthcoming book The Age of Global Warming: A History, writes about the impact of President Obama’s second-term energy policy while examining previous President’s policies on energy, for National Review Online. You can read the full piece here.

Why the TSA Searches Grandmothers and Toddlers

Why does the TSA pat down grandmothers and toddlers. Does it really think they could be terrorists? Turns out, there is a reason, revealed by Mark Davis, Senior Director of WHWG, in this US News and World Report column.

To read the full article, please click here

How Mitt Romney Can Win Over Conservatives

Republicans can’t win in November without winning the independent voters that Obama carried 52% – 44% in 2008. However ‘exciting’ it might be to conservatives to imagine crack debater Gingrich or culture warrior Santorum taking on Obama in the fall, only Romney has a chance of winning independents – instead of scaring and repelling them. But to win the nomination – and the enthusiastic support of his party – Romney needs, even this late in the game, to win the trust of conservative Republicans.

To read the entire U.S. News and World Report article, please follow this link.