Life, Liberty, Property #27: Rule of Law, R.I.P. if the use of lawfare to criminalize politics succeeds.
IN THIS ISSUE:
- Rule of Law, R.I.P.
- Is Unemployment Really Too Low?
- Political Shot Block
Rule of Law, R.I.P.
Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of former president Donald Trump on charges of conspiracy to obstruct “the lawful federal government function by which the results of the presidential election are collected, counted, and certified” is just the latest in a long series of offenses against the rule of law committed by all levels of government in this country. That Trump has been the target of so much legal warfare is meant to send a message to all of us: the U.S. government and those who control it will do anything and everything to maintain and increase their power.
I will stipulate that Trump led the way in stirring up an extraordinary amount of resentment among his supporters in the days and weeks leading up to January 6, 2020, that a man of greater self-discipline and prudence would have handled the situation far more gracefully, and that his rhetoric was often irresponsible and contributed to a mood that fostered emotional turmoil among much of the public. None of that, however, is illegal.
Regardless of whether Trump is a good man or would make a reasonable choice for president next year, the accelerated destruction of the rule of law in this nation since 2016 is a disgrace and a threat to one and all.
The intent behind the concerted campaign of attack against a former president is obvious. It has nothing to do with ensuring a just application of law. The premise that the Biden administration and the rest of the progressive Left have any respect whatsoever for legalities is risible. With Trump currently the leading contender for the Republican nomination for president by a large margin, and ahead of President Joe Biden in some public opinion polls, the continual stream of criminal and civil charges against Trump is an obvious in-kind campaign contribution to Biden by way of characterizing the sitting president’s most formidable potential opponent as lawless, dangerous, and unfit to be president.
Undeclared campaign contributions are illegal and in fact do real damage to the nation by giving selected candidates an unfair advantage. Given the pervasive role of the media in skewing coverage of candidates and elections, these undeclared campaign contributions are the most common form of election interference in this country. Indictments in the present matter will not be forthcoming, regardless.
The background of the latest Trump indictment, repeated in nearly all press accounts, is the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Smith is not charging Trump with causing that, nor of conspiring to cause it. The U.S. Senate already exonerated Trump of that charge in the second impeachment trial. Instead, Smith is letting the Jan. 6 riot sit there as an implied consequence of the alleged conspiracy.
After all, a conspiracy that accomplishes exactly nothing does no harm that requires redress. That was the case with the reported attempts by Trump to convince Vice President Mike Pence to refrain from certifying some states’ electoral votes: the count went forward after a few hours’ delay. That is true of all the activities set out in the indictment: “The purpose of the conspiracy was to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election by using knowingly false claims of election fraud to obstruct the federal government function by which those results are collected, counted, and certified,” and an attempt to disrupt an official proceeding (the electoral vote count) and to deny people’s rights to have their votes counted.
It is true that the vote count was disrupted for some hours, and Smith uses selected statements by Trump on Jan. 6 to characterize him as having incited and enabled that disruption, yet the Senate exonerated Trump of that, as noted above.
The alleged conspiracy accomplished nothing.
As the great defense attorney Clarence Darrow said, “Conspiracy, from the days of tyranny in England down to the day the General Managers’ Association used it as a club, has been the favorite weapon of every tyrant. It is an effort to punish the crime of thought.”
And as we say on the basketball court: No harm, no foul.
Smith’s case against Trump rests on two premises: one, that Trump made claims about the 2020 election that were false, and two, that Trump knew those statements to be false.
The first claim opens the door to an investigation of the 2020 elections. The presiding judge’s choices in this matter will be critical. If the judge allows reasonable latitude to the defense to depose witnesses and examine documents, Trump’s team will have an opportunity to raise doubts about the validity of the 2020 elections. That is the opposite of what the prosecution is ultimately trying to accomplish: the undermining of Trump’s credibility. The defense would have an opportunity to undermine the credibility of the nation’s elections.
It seems a risky plan on Smith’s part, but it is the only way to make the charges stick.
Perhaps getting a conviction before next year’s election, or ever, is not the intention.
The second claim is simply unprovable beyond reasonable doubt. Testimony that people told Trump he legitimately lost the election is not proof Trump knew he lost. At best, it is only proof Trump is stubborn—something we all know. In the indictment, Smith claims Trump “deliberately disregarded the truth.” That, however, is not a valid conclusion from the evidence but instead a slick change in terms: what “the defendant was notified repeatedly” by advisors is magically transformed into “the truth.”
Trump disbelieving what others claim to be the truth is not proof of him disregarding “the truth.” It is only proof of him disregarding other people’s opinions. That is legal and not only should be legal but must be legal in any just society.
Trump was consistent in saying, in public and in private, that the election was stolen. I am not stating that Trump did not believe he lost the election fairly. I am saying I do not know, cannot know, and neither Smith nor anybody else in the world can know that on the basis of what is presented in the indictment. It simply cannot be shown beyond reasonable doubt.
Smith is saying Trump should have believed those advisors and not his own observations of the matter. Drawing your own conclusions about things is not a crime, however, nor should it be.
Here’s my conclusion: this indictment is a glaring example of the degeneration of respect for the rule of law in the United States. Maybe I’m wrong, but I sure do believe it.
Is Unemployment Really Too Low?
Get ready for another interest rate hike. The U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) bases its interest rate decisions mainly on the inflation rate and the unemployment rate. If the latter looks too low, it overrides the inflation rate in the Fed’s thinking.
The inordinate price inflation of 2021 and 2022 is over, Cato Institute Senior Fellow Alan Reynolds notes: “In the first half of 2023, the annual rate of inflation was 0.6% for the PPI, 1.5% for CPI less shelter, and 2.2% for HICP [the EU’s Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices for the U.S].” Inflation has fallen below the Fed’s 2 percent target, Reynolds’ graph shows:
[HICP-European Union’s Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices for the U.S.; CPI-Consumer Price Index; PPI-Producer Price Index. Source: Alan Reynolds]
Problem solved, right?
Not according to the Fed. The July reports show unemployment is “too low,” as the Fed would say. “The unemployment rate fell to 3.5% last month from 3.6% in June,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “Employers raised pay at the same rate as June, with average hourly earnings growing 4.4% in July from a year earlier, slower than last year but remaining well above the prepandemic pace.”
This means workers are enjoying salary gains and steadier employment. To the Fed, it means workers are becoming too powerful and will cause price inflation by asking for more money and forcing employers to raise their prices.
That ignores a critical part of the equation: employee productivity. Productivity is back on the increase after a strong decline in the first six quarters of the Biden administration:
If labor productivity is rising, we are getting more goods and services from each worker employed in the private sector, on average. The rise in productivity means we have more goods and services from which to choose in spending the dollars in the money supply and increasingly lucrative places in which to invest the rest of our after-tax dollars. The increase in the supply of goods and services from the same number of workers does not in itself increase the money supply. Productivity increases are naturally price-deflationary.
In addition, the overall employment rate and total private-sector employment (which produces the goods and services) are both rising:
Added to positive productivity gains, that means a further increase in the amount of goods and services.
It is only fair that workers share in the increase in national wealth they are helping to create.
The Fed, however, does not see it that way. The Fed looks at the decrease in unemployment and apparently sees an unearned rise in workers’ bargaining power.
Thus, the Fed views low unemployment as a sign there is too much investment in the U.S. economy, which must be discouraged by raising interest rates and using its two other policy tools (open market operations and reserve requirements).
People are thrown out of work, businesses go bankrupt or cut back production, wages stagnate, increases in the supply of goods and services slow down or reverse into decreases, government debt becomes more expensive and places a greater tax and debt burden on the people, government spending rises (to pay the debt interest and to buy votes from help the unemployed and others affected by the economic retrenchment), and so on.
Whom does that benefit? Certainly not workers, and not the public. Banks and large multinational businesses will weather the storm, and some will thrive. Government will grow. The nation will become poorer both in material wealth and in the enjoyment of liberty. The Fed will then slash interest rates, inflation will rise, and the cycle will begin again, with the same results.
The accumulated effect of this process is a long, steady rise in income inequality since President Richard Nixon effectively decoupled the dollar from gold in 1971 and followed up with a move to floating exchange rates in 1973:
[Gini index measures the extent to which the distribution of income or consumption expenditure among individuals or households within an economy deviates from a perfectly equal distribution. A Lorenz curve plots the cumulative percentages of total income received against the cumulative number of recipients, starting with the poorest individual or household. The Gini index measures the area between the Lorenz curve and a hypothetical line of absolute equality, expressed as a percentage of the maximum area under the line. Thus a Gini index of 0 represents perfect equality, while an index of 100 implies perfect inequality.]
The same is true when we correct for taxes and transfer payments (as we should):
Source: Wikimedia Commons
It is fair to note that income and wealth have been increasing overall for every income quintile in the United States, as seen in the chart immediately above. What we don’t see is what everything would look like if the Fed (created and sustained by the federal government) were not continually tampering with the economy via the money supply and the federal government were not picking winners and losers through tax and regulatory policies.
Given all the evidence above, one might well imagine that, without these manipulations, economic growth would be greater and steadier and income growth would be more evenly distributed among the nation’s households.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
Political Shot Block
The National Basketball Players Association has released a statement condemning the Orlando Magic franchise for donating to a political candidate:
I’ll give you a few hours to guess what political party the candidate belongs to.
Hey, you guessed it!
Source: Front Office Sports @ Twitter