Merkel’s Mess

by Andrew Stuttaford

In their editorial on Angela Merkel’s failure (for now) to form a new government, NR’s editors drew attention to the decisive role played by the Free Democrats (FDP), a party that once came as close as Germany could manage to classical liberalism and may finally both be returning to those roots and daring to deviate from the Kamikaze consensus over immigration that has come to define Merkel’s dismal and destructive era.

As NR’s editors noted, the proposed ‘Jamaica’ coalition between the FDP, the Greens and Merkel’s increasingly fractious CDU/CSU would have been a ‘coalition of incompatibles’, something that was never likely to work out well for the FDP:

The Greens want greater openness to immigration and more reliance on “renewables” in Germany’s already expensive energy policy; the Free Democrats want lower taxes, especially on business, fewer migrants, and protection of the German taxpayer from further payments to Europe’s South to keep the euro afloat. [FDP leader] Chistian Lindner walked out because he could see that the FDP in a Jamaica coalition would be the party making the concessions.

Free Democrats had done exactly that in Merkel’s earlier CDU-CSU-FDP government and as a result had fallen below the 5 percent “hurdle” a party needs to leap over in order to enter the Bundestag. They felt wounded by this previous experience and suspicious of Merkel whose usual political strategy is to lean left (at their expense). And though one should never say never in politics, still it will be hard to persuade them to change their minds. That’s also true for the [center-left SPD], who were so shocked by their loss in the recent election that they decided to retreat into opposition and renew their ideology in the dim light of a vote share of only 20 percent. If neither a Jamaica nor a grand coalition is on the cards, then what?

A good question.

There are two things that should be said straightaway.

The first is that there is no crisis. Germany’s economy is doing well, the country’s constitutional  mechanisms are operating smoothly. Germany can function perfectly satisfactorily under a caretaker government for now.

The second is that it’s too soon to write off Merkel. She may have been the worst postwar German chancellor, but she remains a tough political fighter. Her decision to fling open Germany’s doors in 2015 was one of her many policy disasters, but it was unusual in being a political disaster too.

My best guess is that we will eventually see a resumption of the existing grand coalition—the GroKo— between the CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats, however much the latter’s leader might object to the idea (the party has, like the FDP, discovered that being in a coalition with the wily Merkel comes at a cost). They might try to demand that Merkel herself stands down in exchange, but that would be a sacrifice too far. As The Economist notes, the CDU won’t give up a leader who remains a huge electoral asset (58% of Germans want her to remain chancellor).

Additionally she has no obvious challenger within her own ranks.

The Economist:

A more promising method would be to guide the [SPD’s] membership [who would have to approve a deal]  towards the idea incrementally. That could start with talks on SPD “toleration” of a minority government of the CDU/CSU, possibly including the Greens, offering legislative support on big subjects like the budget, Europe and Bundeswehr deployments, in exchange for limited consultation and amendment rights. Discussions on this theme might then develop into full-blown coalition talks, possibly with a vote of the SPD membership beforehand blessing this shift.

The Economist still believes that a new election is the most likely outcome, but I would be surprised.  The fear that the populist right AfD might make further gains means that Germany’s political establishment will do what it can to avoid going back to the voters. And Germany’s political establishment usually gets what it wants.

But this won’t be great news for Germany. In some respects, the Merkel years can be compared with Brezhnev’s ‘era of stagnation’ in the Soviet Union. That might like seem like an extraordinary claim to make given Germany’s impressive economic performance, but, just as the USSR squandered the gift it was given by surging oil prices, so Merkel is slowly squandering the immense advantage Germany was given by the concealed devaluation of the Deutsche Mark after that currency was merged within the euro.

Merkel has not followed through on the impressive economic reforms launched by her SPD predecessor.  And, as a result of her attempt to squeeze out the SPD, economic policy has drifted leftwards, a move that (characteristically for Merkel) was shrewd politics, but bad policy. I would never underestimate the resilience of the German economy, but it does not appear to be well placed to deal with challenges heading its way, not least towards its critical auto sector. That German industry is also weighed down by the high energy costs resulting from Merkel’s Energiewende, a lunatic exercise in central planning if ever there was one, doesn’t help.

And there is the question of how the country will manage the consequences of her reckless, panicked and self-indulgent decision to throw open its doors in 2015. That’s a story that has far from run its course, but is unlikely to end well. That Merkel, who retains the authoritarianism (if not, certainly, the communism) of her East German youth, seems so focused on narrowing the ways in which this topic can be discussed bodes ill both for free speech, democracy and any realistic approach to the problem she has created.

There is, I suppose, some justice in the fact that Merkel will have to preside over her own legacy, but, in the meantime, I will be keeping a hopeful eye on the FDP’s Christian Lindner.

‘It’s better not to govern, than to govern falsely,’ tweeted Lindner when he quit the coalition talks. To hear words like that after more than a decade of Merkel is at least a start.  

Happy Thanksgiving links

by debbywitt

Time to invite the neighbors to dinner, kill them, and take their land. 

Here’s a huge roundup of Thanksgiving links: how turkey got its name, why the Lions and Cowboys always play, Ben Franklin’s account of the first Thanksgiving, Buffy Thanksgiving episode (“ritual sacrifice, with pie”), Mark Twain, science, the Thanksgiving birthday pattern, WKRP turkey giveaway (“as God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly”), Cicero, the best turkey fryer PSA ever, and lots more.

‘A Day of Thanksgiving and Praise’: Remembering President Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation.

Weird Incidents Involving Wild Turkeys, and a Scientific Look at How Female Turkeys Choose Their Mates (and avoid the unwanted ones).

The traditional drunken turkey recipe.

Calls from the Butterball Turkey help-line, and here’s the Butterball Turkey help-line help-line.

A definitive ranking of Thanksgiving sides, taking into account the availability theorem and the leftover theorem. Related, this map of side dishes by region.

The Onion’s 11 Steps For Cooking a Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey and their Comprehensive Guide To Thanksgiving.

Manly Ways to Prepare Turkey. Related: Video: Watch this guy cook a turkey using Lamborghini exhaust fire.

From the American Chemical Society: What Happens When You Eat Too Much?

Have an excellent Thanksgiving, and be good to all of those people you’re thankful for!

Republicans Against the Tax Bill

by Jibran Khan

A number of Republican senators have expressed strong reservations about the tax-reform bill currently under consideration in the upper house. While there are only a handful of dissenters, the narrow 52–48 majority in the Senate means that the party cannot afford to lose more than two if it is to push the bill through.

Most of the skeptics are concerned about debt. Susan Collins (Maine) questions the inclusion of individual-mandate repeal and the removal of SALT deductions. And Ron Johnson (Wis.) opposes the different treatment of different kinds of business taxes. Senators Bob Corker (Tenn.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Todd Young (Ind.), and James Lankford (Okla.) have emphasized the dangerous effects of further expanding the deficit. Flake, speaking to an Arizona radio station, noted that “we desperately need tax reform,” but that “it [needs to be] really tax reform and not just tax cuts.” Corker has said outright that he will not vote for a bill unless it ”reduces deficits and does not add to deficits with reasonable and responsible growth models. And unless we can make it permanent, I don’t have any interest in it.”

Some have also taken issue with the argument that tax cuts will fund themselves. Young, in particular, has complained that “we can’t assume unreasonable rates of economic growth or we’re being fiscally irresponsible,” a criticism that has been echoed even by some — Charlie Dent (Pa.), for example — who are more supportive of the bill.

These concerns have largely been ignored by the White House. The president’s budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, has suggested that the skeptics are “ignoring reality.” “You lower tax,” Mulvaney insists, “it has impact. It just does.” Evidently Mulvaney was not among the Republicans who spent years criticizing the awful deficit expansion of the Obama presidency.

Alone among Senate Republicans, Collins has criticized the state-and-local-tax-deduction repeal, though this appears to be based on a misunderstanding that it benefits middle and lower-income families, when in fact it is claimed almost entirely by the rich. Collins has also criticized the inclusion of individual-mandate repeal in the tax bill, preferring that it be kept separate from tax reform, as it is in the House bill. Given that the mandate repeal is essential to the Senate bill (because it counteracts some of the deficit effects), I’m inclined to assume the Maine senator will end up voting against the bill.

Senator Johnson has emphasized the Senate tax bill’s treatment of pass-through businesses as the reason for his opposition to the bill as currently written. Pass-throughs are over 90 percent of American businesses and “generate over half of U.S. business income,” per a 2015 NBER paper. While they would face a lower tax rate under the reforms than they do now, pass-throughs would still face higher taxation than corporations. Johnson, whose family runs such a business, thinks this is unfair.

If any three of these senators votes against the bill, the measure will fail – unless, of course, it garners support from Democrats. While it is unlikely that amendments will satisfy all of the dissenters, the Senate GOP ought to take their concerns seriously as the bill enters debate next week. If they don’t, tax reform may go the same way as did health-care reform. And then? All bets are off.

Roy Moore’s Polling: An Update

by Jibran Khan

A new FiveThirtyEight polling roundup reveals that the drop in Moore’s support immediately after allegations emerged of molestation and improper relationships by the former judge was not a one-off.

He has seen a steady decline in support since, moving from a large lead before the allegations to dead heat just after to clearly falling behind his opponents in the most recent polls, which average 47 percent for Jones and 43.5 percent for Moore.

It is possible that Moore will rally his base in the remaining weeks before December 12’s special election, but the decline could well continue, especially if additional allegations emerge. If all Moore is left with is the handful of his supporters who outright celebrate the acts he is accused of, it is hard to imagine him being able to carry off a victory.

The New York Times vs. Alliance Defending Freedom

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Jeremy Peters writes in the New York Times:

“We think that in a free society people who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman shouldn’t be coerced by the government to promote a different view of marriage,” said Jeremy Tedesco, a senior counsel and vice president of United States advocacy for the group, which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz. “We have to figure out how to live in a society with pluralistic and diverse views.”

But civil liberties groups and gay rights advocates say that Alliance Defending Freedom’s arguments about religious liberty and free expression mask another motivation: a deep-seated belief that gay people are immoral and that no one should be forced to recognize them as ordinary members of society.

And what does Alliance Defending Freedom say about what the motivations of the “civil liberties groups and gay rights advocates” are? Just kidding, Peters isn’t interested in asking that question. And he’s 100 percent behind the Left’s characterization of the conservative group. Exhibit A, the headline: “Fighting Gay Rights and Abortion With the First Amendment.” The Times wouldn’t want to leave the impression that the arguments the Alliance makes about free speech and religious freedom might have some actual merit. Exhibit B, this thesis statement in paragraph three: “The First Amendment has become the most powerful weapon in the legal arsenal of social conservatives fighting to limit the separation of church and state and roll back laws on same-sex marriage and abortion rights.”

The news in this article is that a major group defending the free-speech and free-exercise rights of social conservatives is itself made up of social conservatives. This revelation is about as shocking as learning that the New York Times is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of the Left.

DNC Posts Lowest October Fundraising Numbers Since 2003

by Philip H. DeVoe

The Democratic National Committee posted its lowest October fundraising numbers since 2003 — in which year committees began filing with the FEC monthly — at just $3.9 million. The year-to-date numbers are grim as well: So far in 2017, the DNC has raised a total of $55 million and spent all but $5 million, while racking up a $3.2 million debt. The Republican National Committee, on the other hand, has raised $111 million, against no debt.

The numbers don’t tell the whole story, however. When it comes to candidates and the committees that financially support them, the Democrats are doing fine. In October, for example, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee actually outraised its Republican counterpart, the NRCC, by $3.1 million.

Low fundraising numbers for the DNC indicate a lack of support for and faith in the national committee, stemming from divides in the party over the 2016 election. (November’s report will certainly be worse, considering Donna Brazile’s confirmation of the depth of party corruption.) This isn’t a new problem — I wrote about this for NRO back in September — and if the DNC wants to get its fundraising back on track, committee chair Tom Perez needs to find a way to reunite the party.

Trump’s Disappearing Populism

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Henry Olsen asks a good question in the New York Times: “Whatever Happened to Trump’s Populist Agenda?” Contrary to his claim that “Mr. Trump and some of his supporters had good ideas for a reformed Republican Party that fuses conservative and populist elements into an alloy stronger than either on its own,” I think the basic answer is that Trump didn’t have much of a populist agenda to begin with.

Olsen implicitly agrees, I think, which is why he spends most of his op-ed trying to devise an agenda that doesn’t look much like one that Trump has ever embraced. Olsen’s preferred trade policy — targeted sanctions against countries for specific trade practices to which we object, combined with the pursuit of expanded trade generally — seems, for example, much more sensible than what we have seen from Trump.

Should Tenure Depend on ‘Collegiality’?

by George Leef

Tenure is supposed to protect college faculty from termination if their speech or writing disturbs school officials. That protection is getting weaker and weaker. For example, Marquette is trying to get rid of tenured political-science professor John McAdams because of a blog post that criticized an instructor’s handling of a controversy with a student.

Now there is a proposal being pushed by officials in the University of Arkansas system to make tenure there about as secure as walking a tightrope.

In this Martin Center article, law professors Joshua Silverstein and Robert Steinbuch explain that academic freedom is facing an “existential threat” in their university system. How so?

Under this proposal, a lack of “collegiality” alone could be grounds for dismissal. That renders tenure almost meaningless. If a professor were to say something critical of the latest SJW fad or write that the administration’s new diversity initiative is a waste of money, he could be called “uncollegial” and that would suffice to terminate him.

Furthermore, faculty members could also be terminated for failing to “cooperate” with the administration. The authors write, “The upshot of this change is striking: if a faculty member resists a single negative review, appeals that decision internally, or objects to colleagues or administrators about that review, he can be fired for lack of ‘cooperation.’”

Who would need to worry if the University of Arkansas adopts this proposal? Silverstein and Steinbuch explain:

The impact of the changes will be felt most keenly by minorities — racial minorities, religious minorities, and political minorities. That is what happens when individual rights are limited as in the proposal, whether in higher education or other institutional settings. Thus, one of our greatest fears is that the proposal will put conservative faculty in the cross-hairs because they are a distinct minority on campus.

If this proposal is adopted, it will do a lot of damage to higher education in Arkansas, and if such an undermining of tenure can be adopted there, I fear it will spread to other states. Thanks to Steinbuch and Silverstein for raising the alarm.

Trump Defends Roy Moore: At Least He’s Not Democrat Doug Jones

by Alexandra DeSanctis

Yesterday afternoon, President Trump addressed press questions about Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who in mid November was accused of having sexually assaulted two teenage girls when he was in his thirties. Perhaps predictably, Trump did more to defend Moore than to acknowledge the apparent credibility of his accusers.

“He denies it. Look, he denies it,” Trump said of Moore. “If you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours. He totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen. And look, you have to look at him also.”

The president is right that Moore has categorically denied the allegations. In fact, he has become more intensely combative than ever and refused to end his campaign, despite calls from high-profile Senate Republicans and the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s decision to stop supporting his candidacy.

Trump went on to tacitly endorse Moore, attacking his opponent, Democrat Doug Jones. “We don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat, Jones. I’ve looked at his record. It’s terrible on crime. It’s terrible on the border. It’s terrible on military,” Trump said. “I can tell you for a fact we do not need somebody who’s going to be bad on crime, bad on borders, bad for the military, bad for the Second Amendment.”

In these remarks, Trump endorses the exact logic that countless Republicans used to justify supporting his own presidential candidacy, even after his seemingly endless missteps and his own well-verified history of sexual misconduct.

For the last couple of years, our political sphere has become infected by the insidious view that, if one’s opponent is bad enough on any given policy issues, that’s reason enough to justify voting for anyone who occupies the other spot on the ballot — it’s a binary view that has been much denounced by many thoughtful people before me. Alabama is just the latest example.

Who cares what felonies our candidate may or may not have committed, what sex crimes he may or may not have committed against minors? Sure, he might be a bad guy, but he’s our bad guy. At least he’s on our side. At least he’ll vote right. At least we’ll be winning.

This is the argument playing out right now in Alabama, in much the same way that it played out across the nation last year. Trump’s comments are the new iteration of the endless charge levied against the “Never Trump” movement last year: If you aren’t willing to vote for Trump, and enthusiastically to boot, you must be a bona fide supporter of Hillary Clinton. If you won’t vote Moore, you must love Jones.

Unlike last year, though, the stakes in Alabama are remarkably low. It was understandable that some on the right believed they should hold their noses and cast a vote for Trump to save the country from spending four years under the iron thumb of a virulently progressive Schoolmarm-in-Chief.

But in Alabama, for one Senate seat, not even for a full term? This is a special election; whoever is elected will serve only until 2020. Not to mention the fact that a few GOP votes in the Senate are already very much on the fence. What good is Roy Moore’s — potentially unreliable; he opposes Obamacare repeal, for example — Republican vote when Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain stand poised to cross the aisle on any number of big issues?

And yet so many on the right — including our president, it seems — are willing to elevate a man credibly accused of sexual assault against minors, to preserve that one seat. Alabama governor Kay Ivey acknowledged last week that she has no reason not to believe Moore’s accusers but that she plans to vote for Moore anyway because we need his vote in the Senate.

Democrat Doug Jones is not a suitable candidate, either, of course. Most concerning to me, he occupies the farthest-left section of the pro-abortion-rights spectrum. But the desire to keep Jones out of office surely can’t justify voting for anyone who runs against him. There must be a line somewhere. For reasonable Republicans, one would hope that credible allegations of sex assault against minors would be on the far side that line. For President Trump, apparently, they’re not.

KPMG Analysis on Tax-Base Erosion: Senate vs. House

by Veronique de Rugy

During the battle against the Border Adjustment Tax, the Senate was always the most responsible party. The tax writers on the House side, on the other hand, created and, for far too long, fully embraced that bad idea (thus delaying significantly the necessary unification around tax reform in our broadly defined movement).

The same can be said about anti–base-erosion provisions that are now in both the House and Senate proposals. You can read all about it in this very informative KPMG document about the Senate tax-reform bill. The whole document is worth spending time reading, but the anti–base-erosion section starts around p. 127. The report notes:

Both the House bill and the Finance Committee bill include a number of international tax incentives and anti-base erosion provisions aimed at achieving this goal. Significantly, each mark includes a novel levy focused on deductible payments by large U.S. groups to foreign affiliates. In the House bill, this was the Sec. 4303 Excise Tax on “Specified Amounts.” The Finance Committee bill’s corollary proposal is a new base-erosion-focused minimum tax (the “BEMT”) that differs in several key respects from the House proposal.

I could spend many words lamenting the fact that Senate and House tax writers (and the bean counters at the Joint Committee on Taxation) don’t appreciate how a lower corporate tax rate will reduce the incentive to engage in tax avoidance. But I won’t. Instead, I will note that while the BEMT in the Senate bill is not a good idea (it discriminates against companies that do business in low-tax jurisdictions), the excise tax in the House plan is egregious, and much worse. As KPMG explains:

The inclusion of cross-border product flows where the payments were recovered through COGS was a surprising feature of the Excise Tax. Under the BEMT, however, U.S. payments treated as COGS (Cost of Goods Sold) do not appear to be within scope, except for inverted groups (which are given more restrictive treatment in a number of the Finance Committee bill provisions). The treatment of cross-border payments for COGS is a key difference between the affected classes of taxpayers for the two proposals. For example, payments for inventory by foreign-owned U.S. distributors of goods that are manufactured outside the United States would be subject to the Excise Tax but would not be subject to the BEMT.

I like how KPMG notes that the inclusion of the House’s excise tax was “surprising.” No kidding. After the gigantic battle we had just had about the BAT, the House went ahead and introduced a BAT-like provision, which would apply a 20 percent tax on currently deductible payments made from a U.S. corporation to related business units that are outside of the country if the corporations don’t submit their foreign subsidiaries to our tax jurisdiction. In that case, when companies account for the cost of production of the final good in the U.S., they wouldn’t be able to deduct the cost of materials or other goods used in the process of production if made outside the U.S. With today’s supply chain being global, it would affect many companies — including those who have no intention of inverting abroad.

Same kind of tax provision, same results, as Matthew Kandrash explains in a recent piece:

Similar to the aforementioned BAT, industries from technology to pharmaceutical to automotive would be negatively impacted by this provision — and consumers would see prices in these areas rise dramatically. For example, if a car part is made in Mexico by a Mexican subsidiary of an American company, then that part would be taxed 20 percent when purchased by the U.S. company. The automotive company would be forced to raise the price of the car to offset these tax increases — passing the cost on to consumers — similar to what would happen under the BAT.

Foreign companies that operate in the U.S. and significantly contribute to the U.S. economy will also be punished by the provision. According to Bloomberg BNA, this provision would “force certain foreign corporations that have no connection to the United States other than selling or licensing or providing services to a U.S. affiliate to become (quasi-) net basis U.S. taxpayers with respect to the income generated from such transactions.” For instance, Samsung and Toyota could both be taxed 20 percent on goods, services, and intellectual property that is imported into the U.S. for sale.

Additionally, according to Reuters, some companies could end up paying the tax twice. Even if the company paid the excise tax in the United States, it would then pay it in the country where the foreign affiliate operates. Again, these companies have no choice but to pass the costs onto consumers, and will no longer be competitive against international businesses.

To be sure, its scope is smaller than the original BAT and it would raise significantly less revenue, especially after being stripped of most of its power during markup. But its features are unmistakable, and the outcomes are too. While it didn’t exempt from the corporate tax profits from export, this excise tax would still have some of the punishing aspects of the BAT.

With the House bill’s 4303 excise tax, companies didn’t fail to notice the destination-based consumption tax’s nose under the tax-reform tent. However, now is the time to wonder what will happen when the House and the Senate are ready to iron out differences. I suspect that any inclusion of a BAT-like provision, limited or otherwise, will seriously jeopardize the passage of a tax reform.

Proponents justify these bad provisions because they help make it possible to shift from worldwide taxation to territorial taxation. That’s a very good idea in theory, as Dan Mitchell explains, but it may not be desirable in practice if accompanied by bad ideas that have the potential to become very bad features of the tax code.

Alabamians Should Reject Both of Them

by Ramesh Ponnuru

If you’re a voter in Alabama who can’t in good conscience vote for either Roy Moore or Doug Jones — because Moore is most likely a serial sexual predator, and Jones supports a grave injustice — don’t try to overcome your conscience.

Poll: 33 Percent of Minnesotans Want Franken to Resign

by Theodore Kupfer

Multiple allegations of sexual harassment have turned Minnesotans against Senator Al Franken, according to a poll conducted by KSTP and SurveyUSA. The pollsters found that

only 22 percent of 600 Minnesotans surveyed said he should remain in office. Another 33 percent say he should resign, while 36 percent say he should wait for results of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent.

Franken’s approval rating also dropped from 53 percent to 36 percent.

Women who once worked on Saturday Night Live with Franken defended his character and called him “an honorable public servant.” Michelle Goldberg at the New York Times, after initially condemning Franken, is walking back her condemnation. At least a plurality of Minnesotans have higher standards than that.

Euthanasia Virus Spreads to Australia

by Wesley J. Smith

One hundred years ago, people did often die in agony, and yet there was very little talk about legalizing euthanasia.

Today, suffering can be greatly ameliorated in almost all cases, and yet the cause of “death with dignity” is promoted more energetically than suicide prevention. Indeed, a suicide-prevention nonprofit has even stated that terminally ill people requesting doctor-prescribed death should not receive prevention services — spitting in the face of the hospice approach founded by the great medical humanitarian, Dr. (Dame) Cecily Saunders.

Now Victoria, Australia, is on the verge of legalizing euthanasia (in some cases) and assisted suicide.

Why? Because for many of us, eliminating suffering has become the primary purpose of society. That premise, once widely accepted, quickly metastasizes into eliminating the sufferer.

By the way, Victoria infamously requires all doctors to be complicit in abortion, being forced by law to either do it upon request or procure the abortionist if the doctor has a moral objection.

That tyranny was not included in this bill, as conscience protections were required to gain passage.

But eventually, that will change because the message that killing the sick is wrong communicated by doctors when they refuse to terminate patients eventually becomes intolerable to those mired in the nihilistic values of the culture of death.

On the positive side, New South Wales, a different Australian state, defeated the death agenda a few days ago. Barely.

The Virtues of Giving Thanks

by Fred Bauer

Thanksgiving is upon us, so it might be helpful to take a few minutes to reflect on the virtues of giving thanks. In his 2013 Bradley Prize remarks, Yuval Levin offered this succinct definition of conservatism: “Conservatism is gratitude.” There’s something elegant and true about that. One of conservatism’s great insights is that esteem for the noble and good is a valuable sentiment. Gratitude is in part the admiration of the goods we have been given and a sense of respect for those who have given them. Gratitude, then, reminds us of the good and of our commitments to others. Both reminders can be useful in our present time.

A sense of esteem for the good is both cognitively informing and spiritually nourishing. While criticism of wrongs is important, we need to have a sense of what is good in order to inform that criticism. Having a sense of the good helps us rank-order wrongs and thereby make the messy compromises that are part of life. But it is also healthy to reflect on the good. An endless meditation on wrongs can make us feel mentally harried and under constant assault, so we need to balance anger at the negative with joy at the positive. In our present time, it’s easy but also unhealthy to be washed along by the torrent of outrage. Social media presents us with a parade of iniquities. Wrongs need to be confronted, of course, but we also need to recognize that we cannot solve all wrongs (at least on this earth). We need to remind ourselves of what should be cherished — and not only what should be deplored.

And many of the good things in our lives are ones that we have done nothing to earn, whether they be loving parents, natural abilities, good health, or something else. Our choices can help us make the most of the gifts given to us, but we did not choose many of the gifts that we have. In time, if we’re lucky, we get to give to others. We live in a nexus of gifts and obligations, and our commitments to others sit at the core of who we are.

A year later, it seems that the 2016 election was not the culmination of a crisis but merely the next step of a continuing crisis, which has metastasized in 2017. The new wave of sexual misconduct allegations stretching from Hollywood to Washington is the latest iteration of a sustained assault on institutional trust, much of which has been fueled by the poor decisions of many institutional stakeholders. Part of the remedy to this crisis is making reforms in order to confront what has failed. But part of that remedy is also to keep the good — for ourselves and for others — in mind. We should seek what is worth preserving and see that our connections to other people need not just be variations on alienation and suspicion.

Issuing his Thanksgiving proclamation in 1863, Abraham Lincoln underlined the importance of giving thanks for the good during a time of great trial: “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.”

Easily Overlooked Signs of a Gradually Improving Country

by Jim Geraghty

Before all of us head out and hit the roads on the busiest travel day of the year, an optimistic note in the Morning Jolt . . . 

Those Easily Overlooked Signs of a Gradually Improving Country

Two key details are buried deep in a Washington Post article about how the Trump administration is “following a blueprint to reduce the number of foreigners living in the United States — those who are undocumented and those here legally — and overhaul the U.S. immigration system for generations to come.”

Arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement are up more than 40 percent this year, and the agency wants to more than double its staff by 2023, according to a federal contracting notice published this month. ICE is calling for a major increase in workplace raids and has signed more than two dozen agreements with state and local governments that want to help arrest and detain undocumented residents.

. . . Illegal crossings along the border with Mexico have plunged to their lowest level in 45 years, and U.S. agents are catching a far greater share of those attempting to sneak in.

Republicans are going to face tough midterm elections in 2018, whether they pass tax reform on not. But they probably will be able to point to some improvements in the quality of life of Americans even without passing big bills: a more secure border and dramatic drops in illegal immigration, the elimination of the Islamic State as a state, an unemployment rate around four and a half percent, a stock market that has increased 28 percent since Election Day 2016, and a more accountable and better-performing Department of Veterans Affairs. (Right now, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are made in the private sector, and one of the long-term ideas on the table is merging the VA programs with TRICARE, the Pentagon’s insurance plan that allows active-duty military personnel to use private health-care providers.)

Round-up of Thanksgiving links

by debbywitt

A Thanksgiving miscellany: Mark Twain, science, WKRP, Cicero and the best turkey fryer PSA ever.

10 Thanksgiving Words With Bizarre Origins.

In 1939, the U.S. celebrated Democrat Thanksgiving and Republican Thanksgiving.

A bird in a bird in a bird in a bird in a bird in a pig: the TurBacon Epic.

What’s a Wishbone, and Why Do We Crack It? Related, Tyrannosaurus Rex Had a Wishbone.

This Man Made the First Canned Cranberry Sauce.

Benjamin Franklin’s account of the First Thanksgiving.

How Much Stuffing Would It Take to Stuff Your House Like A Turkey?

8 Thanksgiving Flowcharts.

How Turkey Got Its Name.

Why Do The Lions & Cowboys Always Play On Thanksgiving?

For those of us born between the 22nd and 28th and have always wondered, here’s how it works: the Thanksgiving Birthday Pattern.

Thanksgiving in 1810, 1910, and 2010. Related: Celebrating Thanksgiving in the 1800s.

For the kids, a virtual field trip to the first Thanksgiving.

Dave Barry Thanksgiving columns from 199619982004… feel free to add more in the comments.

Buffy Thanksgiving episode: ”Ritual sacrifice, with pie.

Tax ‘Reform’: Good for Senator Collins

by Andrew Stuttaford

Veronique, like you, there are plenty of things I do not support in the House and Senate tax bills (bills that, at the moment, are, overall, of  (I’ll be kind) uncertain economic value, but will come in very handy politically for the Democrats in 2018). However, I am afraid that I don’t even like some of the things you do like.

You like the reduction in the corporate tax rate, and so do I, although I do not see any magic in the 20 percent number. A reduction in the rate to, say, 25 percent would be likely to deliver similar advantages and, by reducing the cost, make the overall package easier to sell, not least to fiscal conservatives. I agree with you that lower rates will “improve competitiveness, and reduce corporate malinvestment and tax avoidance”, but I am unconvinced that they will mean higher wages any time soon. I also doubt that they will generate (at least in the short term) much in the way of additional growth or, for that matter, investment. US companies are already enjoying historically high profit margins and have plenty of cash in the till. If they wanted to invest more now, they could and they would. A tax cut that could easily—look at the polls—be reversed within 2-4 years is not going to alter the planning of investments when the desired rate of return is typically calculated over periods of five years, ten years or longer.

Ideally, a sharply lower corporate tax rate should be funded (at least in no small part) by steep cuts in the corporate tax breaks (I use the loaded term ‘break’ with reservations) for which lawmakers have been so well paid over the years. That does not appear to be on the agenda for now.

Instead, the war on tax breaks is directed mainly at individuals, and, in an example of quite astounding political naivete, often at tax breaks that, up until now, have enjoyed bipartisan support. By turning against them now, the GOP has, I fear, removed some of the last defenses that might have held up in the face of the next Democratic raid on taxpayers, a raid that will be coming along sooner or later, and, if I had to guess, sooner, not least if anything resembling the House plan goes through.  This is true of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction that the GOP is, of course, proposing to scale back (full disclosure: I’m a New York City taxpayer), a change you support. I agree with you that removing or reducing that deduction makes the tax code even more progressive than it already is (and, believe it or not, the tax code is very progressive for all but the richest taxpayers), but I see no particular advantage in that.  And if it is an attempt at virtue-signaling, it will not change the minds of those already convinced that the GOP tax plan is a giveaway to the rich.

I’ve heard the argument that slashing the SALT deduction will persuade voters in Blue States (particularly on the coasts) to rein in the taxing and spending of their state and city governments. That would be great, but, looking at your numbers, there won’t be enough voters hit by this change to make, say, a Bill de Blasio change course. We both believe that higher taxes hit growth. Well, the result of this policy will (effectively) be to increase taxes on some of the more economically productive and thus, following our shared logic, pose a danger to growth in a not insignificant slice of that shrinking part of the country able to boast growth in new businesses or new jobs. That’s unwise.

Worse still, those affected by those higher tax rates will not blame local taxers and spenders, but, almost certainly, the GOP that changed the status quo. On a rough count, New York, New Jersey and California send just under 30 Republicans to the House of Representatives. Ahead of likely tough midterms in 2018, that is a total worth remembering. Those who believe that a substantial cut in the SALT deduction is economically and/or fiscally beneficial need to face the uncomfortable reality that those benefits will be more than canceled out by the consequences of a Democratic win.

More work to be done, I reckon.

Do NeverTrump Disagreements Matter?

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Republicans and conservatives who are highly critical of President Trump disagree with one another about nearly everything else. That was the main point of my Bloomberg View column yesterday: noting an interesting fact about “never Trumpers” that hasn’t occasioned much comment. People sometimes speak as though there is an anti-Trump faction within the Right. But it does not have the coherence that factions usually do.

Rachel Lu says she disagrees with me. She writes of me, “he suggests that anti-Trump Republicans have rendered themselves futile and irrelevant through their inability to get on the same page.” But she counters that the range of views among them should not “be regarded either as a failure or as a problem.” Instead it makes for potentially interesting and fruitful debates.

I wouldn’t say that anti-Trump Republicans had rendered themselves “futile and irrelevant.” I did observe, though, that the divisions among anti-Trump conservatives impose limits on their political impact. I gave an example of how this works. But even without the example I think the point is inarguable. A party or a majority faction of a party can be successful while containing diverse viewpoints. A sizable minority can be effective if it is cohesive. Anti-Trump Republicans are currently neither a large nor a unified group.

Some of them, nonetheless, have ambitions to be more than just a debating society. From time to time there is talk of a primary challenge to Trump in 2020. If a challenge is to be at all viable, Trump’s Republican opponents will both have to grow in numbers and overcome their disagreements. On immigration, for example, either they will have to arrive at a generally shared position or many of them will have to be willing to support a candidate with whom they disagree. Ignoring the problem will not speed this process along.

A Professor Gets a Lesson on the First Amendment

by George Leef

A pro-life student group gets permission from the university to write messages in chalk on a campus sidewalk. After they’ve done so, along comes a bossy, officious prof who tells them they can only exercise free speech in the school’s free-speech zone — but the speech-zone policy no longer exists. He goes to his morning class and comes back with a number of students who want to confront the pro-life group. They all begin to erase the chalked messages. Will this brazen assault on free speech just be forgotten?

Apparently not. I write about the case in my latest Forbes article.

Costs and Benefits

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Dylan Scott starts a Vox article this way:

Senate Republicans are gambling that repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate will make the math work on their tax bill.

But the $340 billion in savings comes at a huge cost: 13 million fewer Americans are projected to have insurance in 2027, and premiums are expected to rise.

The fact that 13 million fewer people are projected to have health insurance without the mandate is not a cost of repealing the individual mandate; it is much closer to being a benefit. If the projection is right, then the vast majority of those 13 million people will be leaving the insurance rolls because they want to leave it. They are currently signing up for insurance only because the federal government fines people for not signing up. Ending the fines will leave them, by their own lights, ahead.